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From James I., 1603, to the death of Charles I. in 1649.
THE reign of James I. forms an epoch in the history of British political literature. His zealous defence of the divine appointment of kings, gave a strong and decided tincture to all the speculations of the times on the nature and offices of general government. Most of the clergy, and even those laymen in any way connected with the administration of public affairs, adopted, with more or less qualification, the political theory of the royal author.
This king wrote a work, “On the Duties of a Monarch," 1605; but, perhaps, the best epitome of his ideas of the nature of a monarchy, and the privileges and prerogatives of the kingly office, is that contained in one of his royal speeches, made on June 20th, 1616, in the Star Chamber, before the judges of the realm*. This speech embraces several political questions of importance; and it is peculiarly interesting to trace the progress of public opinion on many of them.
On the Divine Right of Kings, the monarch expresses himself thus:-"As towchinge the dignitie of a kinge he seyd that they sitt in the throne of God and therefore are in scripture tearmed Godds and that good kinges are to imitate God in justice and sinceritie of hart but wthout private respect for the advancm of their owne endes or vaine glorie for otherwise they are but unjust and unrighteous. And that as good Judges they are to imitate Solamon and Davide the one in wisdome the other in holynes. Kinges are properlie Judges and all Judgemts are theirs how be it they are pronounced by their Judges as their ministers and substitutes by authoritie derived from them as from the ymediate livetenant of God. And althoughe the manner and formes of governmt doe varie accordinge to the divisitie of Kingdomes yet the sentences pronounced by the mouthes of the Judges (elected by the Kinge as interpreters of his lawes) are his and he is to answer for them before God soe as there is a neere league and affinitie betweene the Kinge and God uppward so is there as neere betweene the Kinge and the Judge downewarde whose office and duty is to declare and expounde lawes not to invent and make lawes.”
* " The Kinge's Speech in the Starre Chamber, taken by Ned Wakeman,” London, 1616.
The king gives this explanation of his not having previously appeared before the judges in the Star Chamber, because, “when he came into this kingdome he was an olde Kinge yet was he but a straunger to our lawes and governmt and therefore like one of Pathagoras schollers he thought good to professe silence duringe the first seaven yeres and to passe a prentishippe in learninge before he beganne to teache thinkeinge himselfe oonapt to ascende the seat of Judicature before he had learned howe to judge.”
His majesty divides the charge into three heads.
“1. First the charge he was to give himselfe for a K. cannot give a good charge to his subjects except he doth first beginne wth himselfe for good waters flowe not but from good springes.
“ 2. The second was a caveatt to the Judges.
The king's caveat to the judges runs thus: “Then he spake,” continues the reporter, “ of the Court of Chauncery wch he sayd was ordained for the mitigation of the rigor of the comon lawe and that the Chauncellor was but the dispencer of his conscience, that it was a highe Court, and that Teste meipse was most properly written there. That from thence was no appeale to any other Court, and that he was speciallie bound to maintayne this Court. But yett this Court must keepe it self wth in his limitts and the Chauncellor was not to exceede his authoritie as he sayd he had often given him in charge, but to procede accordinge as he hath been used in the auncient and best times, and if he transgressed his limitts and bounds the Judges of other courts maie not reform it but complaynt thereof to be made to his matie. For the present Chauncellor he sayd at his comeing into the kingdome he found him in that place wherein he had ever sence conteynewed him and wished he might longe conteynewe therein and he sayd that the attempt to bringe the Chauncellor within the compasse of Premunire was odious and absurde for to indite him sittinge as it were in his owne place were to indite himselfe and to tornne himselfe uppon the pointe of his owne sworde.”
The monarch draws the following picture of a justice of the peace in his own day.
“As touchinge the office of a Justice of Peace he sd that although yt seemed to some fantasticall greene headed gentlemen to be in office of litle reputacion, yet it was in his opinion both worshipfull and hon’able and of as great necessitie for the well orderinge of the ffairesa of the countrey as the highest offices and places for managinge of matters of state in the court. But because Justices of the Peace were of two kindes, the one good the other badde, his pleasure was that the judges should from time to time advrtise him of such as did well execute theire offices. ... Of these badde Justices he sd there were fower sortes. The first were such as were loyteringe Justices and laye at home and did nothinge. The second were busiebodies, who did so much embraceinge many businesses for the enlargemt of theire private gaigne and profits. The thirde sorte were factious and contentious justices. The fowerth such as had a puritanicall itchinge to stirre the people against governem' and discipline. All such justices (as unprofitable members and ministers) he would have casheered."
The king's ideas of the papal power were very decided and uncompromising. “The King declared his mind towchinge priests which he would have by all means possible extirpated" :
“Yet would he proceed wth greater severitie against some than against other some for he protested he was lothe to hang a priest for sayinge of masse, or for the mere execution of theire office or function. But for such as refused to take the oathe of allegiance (wch he sd lette the Pope and all the divills of hell say what they will was but a meere temporall oathe) he would have dispatched. In the like manner would he have them deale wth such as haveinge binne formerly banished presume to retorne hether againe. He allsoe signified to the Judges that he would have those priests that broke prison taste of the same cuppe for he sd those men wch could not be kept wthin the walls of a prison, deserved to be helde in the noose of a halter: moreover that they were not like St Peter who went not owt of prison before an angell of heaven called him whereas these are called forth by angell of hell. Then he sd he had given directions for the examination of the priests remayninge in Wisbitche Castle, towardes whom he would proceed eyther favourablie or severely according as they gave him occasion by theyre answers.”
Lord Bacon has the following highly coloured passage on the character of James' work. “I cannot but mention, honoris causa, your majesty's excellent book touching the Duty of a King, a work richly compounded of divinity, morality, and policy, with great aspersion of all other arts; and being, in mine opinion, one of the most sound and healthful writings that I have read; not distempered in the heat of invention, nor in the coldness of negligence; not sick of business, as those are who lose themselves in their order, nor of convulsions, as those which cramp in matters impertinent; not savouring of perfumes and paintings, as those do who seek to please the reader more than nature beareth ; and chiefly well disposed in the spirits thereof, being agreeable to truth and apt for action; and far removed from that natural infirmity, whereunto I noted those that write in their own professions to be subject, which is, that they exalt it above measure; for your majesty hath truly described, not a king of Assyria, or Persia in their eastern glory, but a Moses or a David, pastors of their people. Neither can I leese out of my remembrance, what I heard your Majesty, in the same sacred spirit of government, deliver in a great cause of judicature, which was“ That kings ruled by their laws, as God did by the laws of