The Reign of James I (Continued) page 12
Matthias was sickly and feeble both in body and mind, but his cousin Ferdinand, who was named as his successor to the empire, a bigot of the very first water, and whose name soon became the rallying cry of all bigotry in Europe, caught at the opportunity as one sent by Heaven, to enable him to exterminate protestantism in Austria. Aided by the archduke Maximilian, the brother of the emperor Matthias, he sent off to the Spanish court in the Netherlands demands for co-operation in this great work, and armies were prepared in Austria; whilst Thurn and the Bohemians, on their part, mustered with all eagerness their forces. Matthias, the emperor, proposed to settle the difference by arbitration, but Ferdinand and Maximilian rejected any such means, seized cardinal Klesel, the emperor's adviser, and sent him prisoner into the Tyrol, so that the poor invalid Matthias remained a puppet in their hands. He died in March, 1619. Ferdinand, the prince of bigots, to whom whole nations of lives were only as so much dust in comparison with the sacredness of his dogmas, mounted the throne, being elected emperor in August of that year; and all Europe stood in expectation of the bloody decision of this quarrel, - a quarrel which was destined to spread over all Germany, draw into its vortex Sweden, Denmark, Holland, France, and England, and to be forever remembered in the world as the most terrible of contests, the "Thirty Years' War."
At this moment, when all the protestants of Germany were united in a union for the maintenance of their principles, but were opposed by the far more powerful League of the catholic princes, when Ferdinand, emperor of Austria, supported by the able and active elector Maximilian of Bavaria, the head of the League in Germany, and by the archduke of Austria, was promised the co-operation of Spain, the crown of Bohemia was offered to Frederick the pal-grave, and he fatally accepted it. He was a mere youth of twenty, with more ambition than ability; and he was spurred on by his wife, Elizabeth of England, who told him he had courage enough to aspire to the hand of a king's daughter, but not to grasp a crown when offered, and who, when reminded by him of the electoral province which they possessed in safety, exclaimed, "Better a crown with a crust, than a petty electorate with abundance."
This fatal crown, which Elizabeth came to wear, and to have the crust speedily afterwards, had been already offered to George, elector of Saxony, who was too shrewd to accept it. Count Thurn had for a time carried all before him, and had even marched into Austria and besieged the emperor in Vienna; but this success was soon over. The catholic princes had armed in defence of the emperor; the students of Vienna and fifteen hundred citizens volunteered in his cause; the distinguished Spanish general Spinola was already on his march to invade the palgrave's hereditary state, so despised by the princess Elizabeth; and count Mansfield, the general of the German protestants, was defeated on the Bohemian soil, when Frederick the palgrave was crowned king of that country in Prague, on the 25th of October, 1619. He reigned only till the 8th of November of the following year, when he was expelled from his capital by the Austrian and Bavarian forces under Maximilian and general Boucquoi. They had defeated the protestant generals in upper Austria and Bohemia, whilst Frederick, who obtained the name of the "winter king," because he only reigned one winter, had lost the confidence of his subjects by his luxurious effeminacy, his inattention to government, his impolitic treatment of the native nobles and generals, and his bigoted partiality to the Calvinistic party. Even the protestant George of Saxony, who had refused the crown, allied himself to the catholic emperor against him. He was roused from table only by the news of the battle before his walls, rushed out only to see his army scattered, and fled. The counts Thurn and Hohenlohe counselled him still to make a stand in Glaz, but he was no hero to fight even for a kingdom; he continued his flight to Breslau, thence to Berlin, and did not stop till he reached Holland. Elizabeth, his queen, now reduced to the crust, accompanied him in his ignominious flight^ far advanced in pregnancy, and deeply pitied by all generous and chivalric minds.
Meantime, James had been a prey to the most conflicting interests, His protestant subjects, as ill-informed of the state of parties on the Continent, as the unfortunate Frederick himself, had received with an outburst of joy the news of the palgrave being crowned king of Bohemia; and archbishop Abbot gave the very text from the Apocalypse in which this event, so favourable to the reformed faith, was predicted. James was urged to send an army to his son-in-law's support, but he saw no chance of keeping him on the Bohemian throne. The Bohemians were divided into three violent parties - Calvinists, Lutherans, and catholics. The protestants of Germany were equally divided; some of them had voluntarily offered their aid to the emperor, and others had submitted to his victorious generals. Spinola was marching on the Palatinate, and James was distracted by the fear of his daughter and son-in-law being reduced to beggary. Yet if he attempted to prop the king of Bohemia on his tottering throne, he should offend the catholic king of Spain, the sworn ally of the emperor, and with whom he was at this very time seeking an alliance. Without being able to save his protestant son-in-law, he should thus lose a catholic daughter-in-law. If he lay still, all men would call him an unnatural father, all protestants would declare him an apostate to his religion. Never was man in such a strait. One moment he declared to the Spanish ambassador that the palgrave was a fool and a villain, and that he would abandon him to his fate; at another he assured the protestant envoys from Germany that he would support him to the utmost. At length he hit upon the only rational course; which was, not to attempt an impossibility, the support of Frederick on the baseless throne of Bohemia, but to send a force to defend his patrimonial territories from the Spaniards. The first enterprise was, in fact, soon out of the question: Prague had fallen, his son-in-law and daughter were fugitives; but the second object was still possible, and more necessary than ever.
He sent an army of four thousand men under the earls of Oxford and Essex to the rescue of the Palatinate. This force was altogether inadequate to cope with the numerous army of the able Spinola; and yet James had exhausted all his means and all his efforts in raising it. Money he had none, and had been compelled to seek a loan and a voluntary subscription. By the autumn the lower Palatinate was overrun by the Spaniards, Lusatia had submitted to George of Saxony for the emperor, and Bohemia had sought and received pardon from the imperial court.
In this state of affairs James was compelled to summon a parliament. It assembled on the 30th of January, 1621, the king having used all the unconstitutional means in his power to influence the return of members. In his opening speech he now admitted what he had so stoutly denied before, the existence of undertakers in the last parliament, "a strange kind of beasts which had done mischief." In that shallow, wheedling tone, that rather showed the hollowness of the man than conciliated, as it was meant to do, he even went on in his confession, and admitted that he had been swayed by evil counsellors. He then demanded liberal supplies to carry on the war in the Palatinate, for which the people had indeed loudly called. The commons expressed their readiness, but first demanded that the king should enforce the penalties against the papists with additional rigour, observing that they were the papists in Germany who had deprived the elector palatine of his crown, and were now seeking to deprive him of his hereditary domains. They recommended that no recusants should be allowed to come within ten miles of London, that they should not be permitted to attend mass in their own houses, or in the chapels of ambassadors; and they offered to pass a bill, giving to the crown two-thirds of the property of recusants. They then granted him two subsidies, but no tenths or fifteenths - a sum wholly inadequate to the necessities of the war, much less of his expenditure in general. Yet James, to keep them in good humour - hoping to obtain more before' the close of the session - professed to be more satisfied with it than if it had been millions, because it was so freely granted.
The commons showed more alacrity in complaining of the breach of their privileges. They reminded the king of the four members of their house whom he had imprisoned after the last session of parliament, and insisted that such a practice rendered the liberty of speech amongst them a mere fiction. As it was James's policy to remain on good terms with them, he made a solemn assurance that he would respect their freedom in that matter. Yet, the next day, the house, as if to show €hat they themselves were ready to destroy the liberty within, which they so warmly contended against being infringed from without, expelled one of their members named Shepherd, for declaring, in a speech against a bill for restraining the abuses of the Sabbath, that the Sabbath was Saturday, and not Sunday; that the Scriptures recommended dancing on the Sabbath day, and that this bill was in direct opposition to the king's ordinances for the keeping of Sunday.
From their own members they next extended their prosecutions to public officers. They had appointed a committee of inquiry into public abuses, and now summoned witnesses. The conduct of public officers, judges, and their dependents, was subjected to a severe scrutiny. They first examined into the abuses of patents, and three of these incurred particular censure: the one for the licensing of ale-houses, another for the inspection of inns and hostelries, and the third for the exclusive manufacture of gold and silver thread. Patents, to secure to inventors the fruits of their discoveries in arts and manufactures, are beneficial, stimulating to improvement and extending traffic. But these patents were of a directly contrary nature, being grants, for money or through court favour, to individuals to monopolise some particular business; thus checking competition, and defrauding the fair trader of his legitimate profits. The inquiry laid open a scene of the most extraordinary fraud, corruption, and oppression. The three patents just mentioned were denounced as national injuries, and Sir Giles Mompesson and Sir Francis Mitchell, a justice of the peace, his partner in them, were arrested as offenders. The culprits sought protection from the government, Buckingham having sold them the patents, and divided the profits with his half-brother, Sir Edward Villiers. The court was in a great tremor, and it was proposed to dissolve parliament to save the patentees. But Williams, dean of Westminster, represented this as a very imprudent measure, and another course was adopted at his recommendation. Buckingham affected a patriotic air, as if he himself had been no way concerned in it, and said if his brother had shared the emolument, let him also share the punishment. But this was safely said, for Villiers was already abroad out of the reach of parliament; and means were not long wanted to let Mompesson escape out of the custody of the serjeant-at-arms. Mitchell was not so fortunate; he was secured and lodged in the Tower.
In these prosecutions Coke was extremely active, for he saw a prospect of taking a signal revenge on Bacon, who had not only supplanted him, but insulted him in his fall. Bacon was notoriously mixed up with the corruptions of the court of chancery; and Coke informed the commons that it was not within their jurisdiction to punish offenders not of their own house, and that they could punish all offences against the state in co-operation with the lords. Accordingly they invited the upper house to take cognisance of these offences, with which they readily complied, and sentenced Mompesson and Mitchell to be degraded from their knighthood, fined, and imprisoned. James, who had done his best to screen the offenders, then, in a fit of affected patriotism, expressed his indignation at having had his credulity imposed on by these men, and by an illegal stretch of prerogative converted Mompesson's sentence into perpetual banishment. Buckingham, the guiltiest party of all, did not quite escape observation. Yelverton, the attorney-general, who was accused of participation in these illegal practices, and who was condemned to severe fines and imprisonment for life, boldly accused Buckingham, before the house of lords, of his master share in them. But that favourite was too strongly fortified by the royal favour, and by those who must have fallen with him, to be seriously endangered. But lesser men did not escape so well. Sir John Burnet, judge of the prerogative court, was impeached, as well as Dr. Field, bishop of Llandaff, for bribery and corruption. Burnet was charged with having granted administration of wills for money, contrary to law; but he escaped his punishment by obtaining time to prepare his defence, during which parliament was prorogued; but he was afterwards fined twenty thousand pounds in the star-chamber, for which, however, he obtained a pardon. Field of Llandaff had bound a suitor in chancery to pay him over six thousand pounds, if he obtained his suit for him, through Buckingham. At the entreaty of the archbishop, however, he, too, escaped, under pretence of being left to the dealing of the church.
But the great offender, at whom Coke and others were directing their main efforts, was the lord chancellor Bacon. Bacon had managed to make his way from an obscure position to the highest honours of the state. He was not only lord chancellor of the kingdom, and a baron, but of late was become lord viscount St. Albans. Besides this elevation, he possessed a far higher one in the fame of his philosophical works; and had he possessed as much real greatness of mind as talent, might have stood in the admiration of posterity as Milton does - poor, but glorious beyond the tinsel glory of courts; and it might have been said of him as of the great poet -
His soul was like a star and dwelt apart.
But Bacon, who had placed his name high on the scroll of immortality by his genius, was destined, like Lucifer, to become more notorious by his fall than by his standing. Brilliant as were his powers, superb as were his accomplishments, he had not hesitated to trail his finest qualities through the mire of courts and corruption, in the eager quest of worldly distinction. He had risen, perhaps, more by his base flatteries, and his calumnious envy of his contemporaries, than by his abilities; and he had continued, whilst rising, to make enemies on all -sides. The king and Buckingham had both conceived a deep dislike to him. James hated all men of genius with the jealousy of a pedant, and was only rendered tolerant of Bacon by his abject adulation, and his services in punishing Coke, and carrying out relentlessly the fiats of prerogative. Buckingham probably never forgot what he had done in the matter of Coke's daughter. The lords hated him for his upstart vanity and ostentation, and the commons for his desertion of the public cause for that of the despotic king. But perhaps not all these causes together would have availed to pull him down, if Buckingham had not wanted the great seal for his creature Williams, now bishop of Lincoln.
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