73. Letter of Charles I to the Speaker of the House of Lords.
[Received by the House of Lords, November 17, 1647. Parliamentary History, iii. 799. See Masson's Life of Milton, iii. £77. See Great Civil War, iv. 24.]
His Majesty is confident, that before this time, his two Houses of Parliament have received the message which he left behind him at Hampton Court the nth of this month; by which they will have understood the reasons which enforced him to go from thence; as likewise his constant endeavours for the settling of a safe and well-grounded peace wheresoever he should be; and being now in a place where he conceives himself to be at much more freedom and security than formerly, he thinks it necessary, not only for making good of his own professions, but also for the speedy procuring of a peace in these languishing and distressed kingdoms, at this time to offer such grounds to his two Houses for that effect, which upon due examination of all interest may best conduce thereunto.
And because religion is the best and chiefest foundation of peace, His Majesty will begin with that particular.
That for the abolishing Archbishops, Bishops, &c. His Majesty clearly professeth that he cannot give his consent thereunto, both in relation as he is a Christian and a King; for the first he avows, that he is satisfied in his judgment that this order was placed in the Church by the Apostles themselves, and ever since their time hath continued in all Christian Churches throughout the world, until this last century of years; and in this Church in all times of change and reformation it hath been upheld by the wisdom of his ancestors, as the great preserver of doctrine, discipline and order in the service of God. As a King at his coronation, he hath not only taken a solemn oath to maintain this order, but His Majesty and his predecessors in their confirmations of the Great Charter, have inseparably woven the right of the Church into the liberty of the subjects; and yet he is willing it be provided, that the particular Bishops perform their several duties of their callings, both by their personal residence and frequent preaching in their dioceses, as also that they exercise no act of jurisdiction or ordination, without the consent of their Presbyters, and will consent that their powers in all things be so limited, that they be not grievous to the tender consciences of others. He sees no reason why he alone, and those of his judgment, should be pressed to a violation of theirs: nor can His Majesty consent to the alienation of Church lands, because it cannot be denied to be a sin of the highest sacrilege; as also that it subverts the intentions of so many pious donors, who have laid a heavy curse upon all such profane violations, which His Majesty is very unwilling to undergo; and besides the matter of consequence, His Majesty believes it to be a prejudice to the public good, many of his subjects having the benefit of renewing leases at much easier rates than if those possessions were in the hands of private men; not omitting the discouragement it will be to all learning and industry, when such eminent rewards shall be taken away, which now lie open to the children of meanest persons. Yet His Majesty, considering the great present distempers concerning Church discipline, and that the Presbyterian government is now in practice, His Majesty, to eschew confusion as much as may be, and for the satisfaction of his two Houses, is content that the same government be legally permitted to stand in the same condition it now is for three years; provided that His Majesty and those of his judgment, or any other who cannot in conscience submit thereunto, be not obliged to comply with the Presbyterian government, but have free practice of their own profession, without receiving any prejudice thereby; and that a free consultation and debate be had with the divines of Westminster (twenty of His Majesty's nomination being added unto them); whereby it may be determined by His Majesty and the two Houses, how the Church government after the said time shall be settled (or sooner, if differences may be agreed), as is most agreeable to the Word of God, with full liberty to all those who shall differ upon conscientious grounds from that settlement; always provided, that nothing aforesaid be understood to tolerate those of the Popish profession, nor exempting any Popish recusant from the penalties of the laws; or to tolerate the public profession of Atheism or blasphemy, contrary to the doctrine of the Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, they having been received by, and had in reverence of all the Christian Churches, and more particularly by this of England, ever since the Reformation.
Next the militia being that right, which is inseparably and undoubtedly inherent to the Crown by the laws of this nation, and that which former Parliaments, as likewise this, have acknowledged so to be, His Majesty cannot so much wrong that trust, which the laws of God and this land hath annexed to the Crown, for the protection and security of his people, as to divest himself and successors of the power of the sword; yet to give an infallible evidence of his desire to secure the performance of such agreements as shall be made in order to a peace, His Majesty will consent to an Act of Parliament, that the whole power of the militia, both by sea and land, for and during his whole reign, shall be ordered and disposed by the two Houses of Parliament, or by such persons as they shall appoint, with powers limited for suppressing of forces within this kingdom to the disturbance of the public peace, and against foreign invasion; and that they shall have power during his said reign to raise monies for the purpose aforesaid; and that neither His Majesty that now is, or any other by any authority derived only from him, shall execute any of the said powers during His Majesty's said reign, but such as shall act by the consent and approbation of the two Houses of Parliament: nevertheless His Majesty intends that all patents, commissions, and other acts concerning the militia, be made and acted as formerly; and that after His Majesty's reign, all the power of the militia shall return entirely to the Crown, as it was in the times of Queen Elizabeth and King James of blessed memory.
After this head of the militia, the consideration of the arrears due to the army is not improper to follow; for the payment whereof, and the ease of his people, His Majesty is willing to concur in any thing that can be done without the violation of his conscience and honour.
Wherefore if his two Houses shall consent to remit unto him such benefit out of sequestrations from Michaelmas last, and out of compositions that shall be made before the concluding of the peace, and the arrears of such as have been already made, the assistance of the clergy, and the arrears of such rents of his own revenue as his two Houses shall not have received before the concluding of the peace, His Majesty will undertake within the space of eighteen mouths the payment of £400,000 for the satisfaction of the army; and if those means shall not be sufficient, His Majesty intends to give way for the sale of forest lands for that purpose. This being the public debt which in His Majesty's judgment is first to be satisfied: and for other public debts already contracted upon Church lands or any other engagements, His Majesty will give his consent to such Act or Acts for raising of monies for payment thereof, as both Houses hereafter shall agree upon, so as they be equally laid; whereby his people, already too heavily burdened by these late distempers, may have no more pressures upon them than this absolute necessity requires.
And for the further securing all fears, His Majesty will consent that an Act of Parliament be passed for the disposing of the great offices of State, and naming of Privy Councillors for the whole term of his reign, by the two Houses of Parliament, their patents and commissions being taken from His Majesty, and after to return to the Crown, as is expressed in the articles of the militia. For the Court of Wards and Liveries, His Majesty very well knows the consequence of taking that away, by turning of all tenures into common socage, as well in point of revenue to the Crown, as in the protection of many of his subjects being infants; nevertheless, if the continuance thereof seem grievous to his subjects, rather than he will fail on his part in giving satisfaction, he will consent to an Act for taking of it away, so as a full recompense be settled upon His Majesty and his successors in perpetuity; and that the arrears now due be reserved unto him towards the payment of the arrears of the army.
And that the memory of these late distractions may be wholly wiped away, His Majesty will consent to an Act of Parliament for the suppressing and making null all Oaths, Declarations and Proclamations against both or either House of Parliament, and of all indictments and other proceedings against any persons for adhering unto them; and His Majesty proposeth, as the best expedient to take away all seed of future differences, that there be an Act of Oblivion to extend to all his subjects.
As for Ireland, the cessation therein long since determined; but for the future, all other things being fully agreed, His Majesty will give full satisfaction to His Houses concerning that kingdom.
And although His Majesty cannot consent in honour and justice to avoid all his own grants and acts passed under his Great Seal since the 22nd of May 1642, or to the confirming of all the grants and acts passed under that made by the two Houses, yet His Majesty is confident, that upon perusal of particulars. he shall give full satisfaction to his two Houses to what may be reasonably desired in that particular.
And now His Majesty conceives, that by these his offers, which he is ready to make good upon the settlement of a peace, he hath clearly manifested his intentions to give full security and satisfaction to all interests, for what can justly be desired in order to the future happiness of his people, and for the perfecting of these concessions, as also for such other things as may be proposed by the two Houses; and for such just and reasonable demands as His Majesty shall find necessary to propose on his part, he earnestly desires a personal treaty at London with his two Houses, in honour, freedom and safety; it being, in his judgment, the most proper, and indeed only means to a firm and settled peace, and impossible without it to reconcile former, or avoid future misunderstandings.
All these being by treaty perfected, His Majesty believes his two Houses will think it reasonable that the Proposals of the army concerning the succession of Parliaments, and their due elections, should be taken into consideration.
As for what concerns the kingdom of Scotland, His Majesty will very readily apply himself to give all reasonable satisfaction, when the desires of the two Houses of Parliament on their behalf, or of the Commissioners of that kingdom, or of both joined together, shall be made known unto him.
For the Speaker of the Lords' House pro tempore, to be communicated to the Lords and Commons in the Parliament of England, at Westminster, and the Commissioners of the Parliament of Scotland.
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