92. RECORDS CONCERNING PARLIAMENT (1626-29)

(A) Letter of Charles I to the Commons (1626)

Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. Our house of commons cannot forget how often and how earnestly we have called upon them for the speeding of that aid which they intended unto us for our great and weighty affairs concerning the safety and honour of us and our kingdoms; and now, the time being so far spent that, unless it be presently concluded, it can neither bring us money nor credit by the time which themselves have prefixed — which is the last of this month — and being further deferred would be of little use. We being daily advertised from all parts of the great preparations of the enemy, ready to assail us, we hold it necessary by these our letters to give them our last and final admonition, and to let them know that we shall account all further delays and excuses to be express denials. And therefore we will and require you to signify unto them that we do expect that they forthwith bring forth their bill of subsidy to be passed without delay or condition, so as it may fully pass that house by the end of the next week at the furthest — which if they do not, it will force us to take other resolutions. But let them know that, if they finish this according to our desire, that we are resolved to let them sit together for the dispatch of their other affairs and, after their recess, to bring them together again the next winter. And if by their denial or delay anything of ill consequence shall fall out either at home or abroad, we may call God and man to witness that we have done our part to prevent it by calling our people together to advise with us, by opening the weight of our occasions unto them, and by requiring their timely help and assistance in those actions wherein we stand engaged by their own counsels. And we will and command you that this letter be publicly read in the house. [9 June, 1626.]

Ibid., III, 670.

(B) Charles I: Ordinance for Levying Customs (1626)[1]

Charles, by the grace of God king of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, etc., to our lord treasurer of England ... , the commissioners of our treasury ... , to our chancellor and under-treasurer of our exchequer ... , to our chief baron and the rest of the barons of our exchequer ... , to the customers, comptrollers, searchers, and all other the officers and ministers of our ports or belonging to our customs ... , and to all other our officers, ministers, and loving subjects ... to whom these presents shall come greeting.

Whereas the lords and others of our privy council have taken into their serious consideration the present state of our revenue arising by customs, subsidy, and impost upon goods and merchandise to be exported and imported out of and into this our realm of England and dominion of Wales and port and town of Berwick, and, finding that it hath been constantly continued for many ages, and is now a principal part of the revenue of our crown and is of necessity to be so continued for the supportation thereof — which in the two last parliaments hath been thought upon, but could not there be settled by authority of parliament as from time to time by many ages and descents past it hath been, by reason of the dissolution of those parliaments before those things which were there treated of could be perfected — have therefore... specially ordered that all those duties upon goods and merchandises, called by the several names of customs, subsidy, and imposts, should be levied, collected, and received for our use in such manner and form as the same were levied, collected, and received in the time of our late dear father, King James of blessed memory ...; and forasmuch as, through the want of a parliamentary course to settle the payment of those duties, many inconveniences may arise which would tend to the impairing of our revenue of that nature, if in convenient time some settled course should not be taken for the prevention thereof: —

Know ye therefore that we ... , by the advice of the lords and others of our privy council, do by these presents declare our will and pleasure to be that all those duties upon goods and merchandises ... shall be levied, collected, and received in such manner and form as the same were levied, collected, and received at the time of the decease of our said late father.... And if any person or persons whatsoever shall refuse or neglect to pay the duties, customs, subsidies, or imposts aforesaid ... , we do further grant by these presents unto the lords and others of our privy council ... , or unto the lord treasurer of England or chancellor of our exchequer ... , full power and authority to commit all and every such person and persons to prison....

And for the better execution of this our will and pleasure herein, and to the end that all our officers and subjects may take notice hereof, our will and pleasure is that these our letters patents shall be transcribed and several copies thereof made and sent into every part of this realm....

Witness ourself at Westminster, the 26th day of July.

Rymer, Foedera, XVIII, 737 f.

(C) Proceedings on the Arrest of Certain Lords (1626)

[14 March.] ... The earl of Arundel, being committed by the king to the Tower, sitting the parliament, the house was moved to take the same into their consideration and so to proceed therein as they might give no just offence unto his majesty and yet preserve the privilege of parliament. The lord keeper thereupon signified to the house that he was commanded to deliver this message from his majesty unto their lordships: viz., that the earl of Arundel was restrained for a misdemeanour which was personal unto his majesty and lay in the proper knowledge of his majesty and had no relation to matters of parliament....

[30 March.] ... The petition of the earl of Bristol for his writ of summons being referred to the lords' committees for privileges, etc., the earl of Hertford reported the same, on this manner, viz.: "My lords, whereas the earl of Bristol hath preferred a petition unto this house, thereby signifying that his writ of summons is withheld from him ... , this petition being referred unto the committee for privileges, and after diligent search no precedent being found that any writ of summons hath been detained from any peer that is capable of sitting in the house of parliament; and considering withal how far it may trench into the right of every member of this house, whether sitting by ancient right of inheritance or by patent, to have their writs detained: the lords' committees are all of opinion that it will be necessary for this house humbly to beseech his majesty that a writ of summons may be sent to this petitioner, and to such other lords to whom no writ of summons hath been directed for this parliament, excepting such as are made incapable to sit in parliament by judgment of parliament or any other legal judgment." Whereupon the duke of Buckingham signified unto the house that, upon the earl of Bristol's petition, the king had sent him his writ of summons....

[19 April.] The lord president reported the petition of the earl of Bristol ...: "To the right honourable the lords of the higher house of parliament, the humble petition of John, earl of Bristol, humbly showing unto your lordships that he hath lately received his writ of parliament ... , but jointly with it a letter from my lord keeper, commanding him in his majesty's name to forbear his personal attendance. And although he shall ever obey the least intimation of his majesty's pleasure, yet he most humbly offereth to your lordships' wise considerations ... how far this may trench upon the liberty and safety of the peers." ...

The lord president also reported the remonstrance and petition of the peers concerning the claim of their privileges from arrests and imprisonments.... May it please your majesty: we, the peers of this your realm assembled in parliament, finding the earl of Arundel absent from his place ... [therefore called for] his presence.... But hereupon a message was delivered unto us from your majesty by the lord keeper, that the earl of Arundel was restrained for a misdemeanour which was personal to your majesty and lay in the proper knowledge of your majesty and had no relation to matter of parliament. This message occasioned us to inquire into the acts of our ancestors ...; and, after diligent search both of all [hi] stories, statutes, and records that might inform us in this case, we find it to be an undoubted right and constant privilege of parliament that no lord of parliament, sitting the parliament, or within the usual times of privilege of parliament, is to be imprisoned or restrained without sentence or order of the house, unless it be for treason or felony or for refusing to give surety for the peace.... Wherefore we, your majesty's loyal subjects and servants, the whole body of the peers now assembled in parliament, most humbly beseech your majesty that the earl of Arundel, a member of this body, may presently be admitted, with your gracious favour, to come, sit, and serve your majesty and the commonwealth in the great affairs of this parliament....

This remonstrance and petition being read, it was generally approved of by the whole house, and agreed to be presented unto his majesty by the whole house....[2]

Journals of the Lords, III, 526-64.

(D) Petition of Right (1628)

The petition exhibited to his majesty by the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons in this present parliament assembled, concerning divers rights and liberties of the subjects, with the king's majesty's royal answer thereunto in full parliament.

To the king's most excellent majesty: Humbly show unto our sovereign lord the king the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons in parliament assembled, that, whereas it is declared and enacted by a statute made in the time of the reign of King Edward the First, commonly called Statutum de Tallagio non Concedendo,[3] that no tallage or aid should be laid or levied by the king or his heirs in this realm without the goodwill and assent of the archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, knights, burgesses, and other the freemen of the commonalty of this realm; and, by authority of parliament holden in the five-and-twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III, it is declared and enacted that from thenceforth no person should be compelled to make any loans to the king against his will, because such loans were against reason and the franchise of the land; and by other laws of this realm it is provided that none should be charged by any charge or imposition, called a benevolence,[4] or by such like charge; by which the statutes before mentioned, and other the good laws and statutes of this realm, your subjects have inherited this freedom, that they should not be compelled to contribute to any tax, tallage, aid, or other like charge not set by common consent in parliament: yet, nevertheless, of late divers commissions directed to sundry commissioners in several counties with instructions have issued, by means whereof your people have been in divers places assembled and required to lend certain sums of money unto your majesty; and many of them, upon their refusal so to do, have had an oath administered unto them, not warrantable by the laws or statutes of this realm, and have been constrained to become bound to make appearance and give attendance before your privy council and in other places; and others of them have been therefor imprisoned, confined, and sundry other ways molested and disquieted; and divers other charges have been laid and levied upon your people in several counties by lord lieutenants, deputy lieutenants, commissioners for musters, justices of peace, and others, by command or direction from your majesty or your privy council, against the laws and free customs of the realm.

And where also, by the statute called the Great Charter of the Liberties of England, it is declared and enacted that no freeman may be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his freehold or liberties or his free customs, or be outlawed or exiled or in any manner destroyed, but by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land; and in the eight-and-twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III it was declared and enacted by authority of parliament that no man, of what estate or condition that he be, should be put out of his land or tenements, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disherited, nor put to death, without being brought to answer by due process of law: nevertheless, against the tenor of the said statutes and other the good laws and statutes of your realm to that end provided, divers of your subjects have of late been imprisoned without any cause showed; and when for their deliverance they were brought before your justices by your majesty's writs of habeas corpus, there to undergo and receive as the court should order, and their keepers commanded to certify the causes of their detainer, no cause was certified, but that they were detained by your majesty's special command, signified by the lords of your privy council; and yet were returned back to several prisons, without being charged with anything to which they might make answer according to the law.

And whereas of late great companies of soldiers and mariners have been dispersed into divers counties of the realm, and the inhabitants against their wills have been compelled to receive them into their houses, and there to suffer them to sojourn, against the laws and customs of this realm, and to the great grievance and vexation of the people: and whereas also, by authority of parliament in the five-and-twentieth year of the reign of King Edward III, it is declared and enacted that no man should be forejudged of life or limb against the form of the Great Charter and the law of the land; and, by the said Great Charter and other the laws and statutes of this your realm, no man ought to be adjudged to death but by the laws established in this your realm, either by the customs of the same realm or by acts of parliament; and whereas no offender of what kind soever is exempted from the proceedings to be used, and punishments to be inflicted by the laws and statutes of this your realm: nevertheless of late divers commissions under your majesty's great seal have issued forth, by which certain persons have been assigned and appointed commissioners, with power and authority to proceed within the land according to the justice of martial law against such soldiers or mariners, or other dissolute persons joining with them, as should commit any murder, robbery, felony, mutiny, or other outrage or misdemeanour whatsoever, and by such summary course and order as is agreeable to martial law and as is used in armies in time of war, to proceed to the trial and condemnation of such offenders, and them to cause to be executed and put to death according to the law martial; by pretext whereof some of your majesty's subjects have been by some of the said commissioners put to death, when and where, if by the laws and statutes of the land they had deserved death, by the same laws and statutes also they might, and by no other ought to have been, adjudged and executed; and also sundry grievous offenders, by colour thereof claiming an exemption, have escaped the punishments due to them by the laws and statutes of this your realm, by reason that divers of your officers and ministers of justice have unjustly refused or forborne to proceed against such offenders according to the same laws and statutes, upon pretence that the said offenders were punishable only by martial law and by authority of such commissions as aforesaid; which commissions and all other of like nature are wholly and directly contrary to the said laws and statutes of this your realm.

They do therefore humbly pray your most excellent majesty that no man hereafter be compelled to make or yield any gift, loan, benevolence, tax, or such like charge without common consent by act of parliament; and that none be called to make answer, or take such oath, or to give attendance, or be confined, or otherwise molested or disquieted concerning the same, or for refusal thereof; and that no freeman, in any such manner as is before mentioned, be imprisoned or detained; and that your majesty would be pleased to remove the said soldiers and mariners; and that your people may not be so burdened in time to come; and that the foresaid commissions for proceeding by martial law may be revoked and annulled; and that hereafter no commissions of like nature may issue forth to any person or persons whatsoever, to be executed as aforesaid, lest by colour of them any of your majesty's subjects be destroyed or put to death, contrary to the laws and franchise of the land (all of which they most humbly pray of your most excellent majesty as their rights and liberties according to the laws and statutes of this realm); and that your majesty would also vouchsafe and declare that the awards, doings, and proceedings to the prejudice of your people in any of the premises shall not be drawn hereafter into consequence or example; and that your majesty would be also graciously pleased, for the further comfort and safety of your people, to declare your royal will and pleasure that in the things aforesaid all your officers and ministers shall serve you according to the laws and statutes of this realm, as they tender the honour of your majesty and the prosperity of this kingdom.

Statutes of the Realm, V, 23 f.

(E) Proceedings on the Petition of Right (1628)

[2 June.] His majesty, being seated on his royal throne, delivered unto the clerk of parliament his answer unto the Petition of Right, exhibited by the lords and commons this parliament. The commons, with their speaker, came. His majesty made a short speech unto the lords and commons. The lord keeper then conferred with his majesty and declared unto the lords and commons.... The lord keeper having ended his speech, the clerk of the crown read the Petition of Right ... , and the clerk of the parliament the king's answer, in haec verba, viz.: "The king willeth that right be done according to the laws and customs of the realm; and that the statutes be put in due execution, that his subjects may have no cause to complain of any wrongs or oppressions, contrary to their just rights and liberties, to the preservation whereof he holds himself ... as well obliged as of his prerogative...."

[7 June.] The king's majesty being placed in his royal throne, the lords in their robes, and the commons with their speaker present; the lord keeper, standing in his place as a peer, spoke as followeth, viz.: "May it please your most excellent majesty, the lords spiritual and temporal and commons assembled in parliament, taking into their considerations that the good intelligence betwixt your majesty and your people doth much depend upon your majesty's answer unto their Petition of Right, formerly presented with an unanimous consent unto your majesty, do now become most humble suitors unto your majesty that you will be pleased to give a clear and satisfactory answer thereunto in full parliament."

This being spoken by the lord keeper, his majesty said: "The answer I have already given you was made with so good deliberation, and approved by the judgment of so many wise men, that I could not have imagined but that it should have given you full satisfaction; but, to avoid all ambiguous interpretations and to show you that there is no doubleness in my meaning, I am willing to please you in words as well as in the substance. Read your petition, and you shall have such an answer as I am sure will please you."

Then the clerk of the crown read the said Petition of Right. And the clerk of the parliament read and pronounced the king's answer, viz.: "Soit droit fait come est d?sir?."[5]

[26 June.] His majesty being placed in his royal throne, the commons were sent for, to hear his royal answer to the bills. The commons being come, his majesty made this speech, viz.: "My lords and gentlemen, it may seem strange that I come so suddenly to end this session. Wherefore, before I give my assent to the bills, I will tell you the cause; though I must avow that I owe an account of my actions to none but to God alone. It is known to every one that a while ago the house of commons gave me a remonstrance — how acceptable every man may judge. And for the merit of it, I will not call that in question; for I am sure no wise man can justify it. Now, since I am certainly informed that a second remonstrance is preparing for me, to take away my profit of tunnage and poundage — one of the chief maintenances of the crown — by alleging that I have given away my right thereof by my answer to your petition, this is so prejudicial unto me that I am forced to end this session some few hours before I meant it, being willing not to receive any more remonstrances to which I must give an harsh answer. And since I see that even the house of commons begins already to make false constructions of what I granted in your petition; lest it might be worse interpreted in the country, I will now make a declaration concerning the true meaning thereof. The profession of both houses, in time of hammering this petition, was by no ways to entrench upon my prerogative, saying they had neither intention or power to hurt it. Therefore it must needs be conceived that I have granted no new, but only confirmed the ancient, liberties of my subjects. Yet, to show the clearness of my intentions, that I neither repent nor mean to recede from anything I have promised you, I do here declare that those things which have been done — whereby men had some cause to suspect the liberty of the subjects to be trenched upon, which indeed was the first and true ground of the petition — shall not hereafter be drawn into example for your prejudice; and in time to come — in the word of a king — you shall not have the like cause to complain. But as for tunnage and poundage, it is a thing I cannot want and was never intended by you to ask, never meant, I am sure, by me to grant. To conclude, I command you all that are here to take notice of what I have spoken at this time, to be the true intent and meaning of what I granted you in your petition. But you, my lords the judges ... , to you only under me belongs the interpretation of the laws; for none of the house of commons, joint or separate, what new doctrine soever may be raised, have any power either to make or declare a law without my consent."

Journals of the Lords, III, 835-79.

(F) Resolutions of the Commons (1629)[6]

(1) Whosoever shall bring in innovation of religion, or by favour or countenance seek to extend or introduce popery or Arminianism, or other opinion disagreeing from the true and orthodox church, shall be reputed a capital enemy to this kingdom and commonwealth.

(2) Whosoever shall counsel or advise the taking and levying of the subsidies of tunnage and poundage, not being granted by parliament, or shall be an actor or instrument therein, shall be likewise reputed an innovator in the government, and a capital enemy to the kingdom and commonwealth.

(3) If any merchant or person whatsoever shall voluntarily yield or pay the said subsidies of tunnage and poundage, not being granted by parliament, he shall likewise be reputed a betrayer of the liberties of England, and an enemy to the same.

Rushworth, Historical Collections, I, 660.


[1] In the previous year the commons had drawn up a bill giving Charles tunnage and poundage for one year — instead of for life as had been customary for over a century (see above, p. 273, n. 1). But parliament was dissolved before the bill was passed by the lords, and no agreement on the matter was reached by the parliament of 1626.

[2] Eventually Bristol was permitted to return to the house, where charges were brought against him by the king. In the case of Arundel, however, the king delayed a specific answer until the parliament was dissolved in June. Both peers occupied their regular places in the next parliament.

[3] See above, p. 165, n. 1.

[4] Cf. no. 69H.

[5] "Let right be done as is desired." On the significance of this whole proceeding, see F. H. Relf, The Petition of Right.

[6] Passed while the speaker was held in his chair and the king waited to dissolve parliament.


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