Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/183

This page needs to be proofread.


Bohemia. Yet he resolved to summon parliament to support him if he found it necessary to engage in war. In the meanwhile he called on his subjects to furnish him with a benevolence a second time. On 6 Nov. he issued a proclamation summoning parliament to meet on 21 Jan. Before that date the question of the Bohemian crown had been settled. On 29 Nov. it was known in London that Frederick had been defeated on the White Hill, near Prague, and was a fugitive from his new kingdom.

James's chief moral difficulty was now at an end. He sent an embassy to the princes of the union, assuring them that he would do everything possible on their behalf, and in January 1621 appointed a council of war to draw up a scheme for the defence of the Palatinate. The session of the new parliament was opened by James on 30 Jan. with a long, rambling speech, in which he proclaimed his intention to treat for peace, but with sword in hand. For this reason money would be wanted to strengthen his position. The speech sounded so uncertain a note that the House of Commons was not very enthusiastic over it; but they voted two subsidies, and then waited to see what James would do. James, in fact, was falling back on his old policy of mediation, and soon found the difficulty of inducing the various powers embroiled to do precisely what he thought they ought to do. Frederick continued to lay claim to the crown of Bohemia, and refused to go to the Palatinate to defend his hereditary dominions; while Charles IV of Denmark thought scornfully of James's proposal to negotiate first, and to prepare for war only after the negotiation had reached its inevitable stage of failure.

The commons, having no longer to think of preparations for war, fell on the abuses of the court and government. James's indolence and favouritism had made his court a hotbed of corruption, and the attendant evils were popularly believed to be even worse than they were in reality. The commons began by questioning various patents conferring monopolies and regulating trade, and finding that these had been referred, before they were granted, to certain committees of the privy council, they demanded inquiry into the conduct of ‘the referees’—that is to say, of the members of these committees. On 10 March James addressed to them a speech resisting inquiry, finding fault with the commons as disrespectful to himself. The commons, however, persisted in their demand, and Buckingham at last grew frightened, and by his persuasion James sent a message to the commons on the 13th declaring his readiness to redress the grievances of which they complained. Soon afterwards Bacon was charged with corruption [see Bacon, Francis]. On 19 March James asked that the case of his chancellor might be referred to a commission appointed in a special way, but when this plan was resisted he abandoned it. On 26 March he made a conciliatory speech to the house, and protested his readiness to deal strictly with actual abuses. He stood aloof while the monopolists were punished, and Bacon impeached and condemned.

In another matter in which James came into collision with the House of Commons he gained his end. The commons took steps to punish Edward Floyd [q. v.] for using scornful expressions against Frederick and Elizabeth. On 2 May the king denied their authority to punish any one, not being one of their own members, who had neither offended their house nor any one of its members. On this the commons gave way, and left the matter to the House of Lords. On 4 June the houses, by James's direction, adjourned themselves to the winter, to give him time to exercise his diplomatic skill.

Digby, who was sent to Vienna [see Digby, John, first Earl of Bristol], failed to separate the combatants, and before he returned home Frederick's general, Mansfeld, having abandoned the Upper, fell back on the Lower Palatinate. Digby, as soon as he reached England, advised James to ask the commons for supplies enough to pay Mansfeld during the winter, and, unless peace could be obtained, to prepare for war on a large scale in the summer of 1622. On 20 Nov. 1621 the houses reassembled, and it soon appeared that there was a difference between the policies of James and the commons. James wanted to proceed with the Spanish match, and to trust to the honesty of Philip IV, who in 1621 had succeeded his father, Philip III, as king of Spain, to help him to make Frederick again the undisputed master of both Palatinates. The commons, believing that Spain was the real originator of the mischief, wanted an immediate breach with that country. On 3 Dec. they adopted a petition on religion asking that James should take the lead of the protestant states of the continent, should suppress recusants at home, and marry the prince to one of his own religion.

Already Gondomar had called on the king to punish the authors of the petition, and James, willing enough to comply with the request, sent a message to the house telling it that it had entrenched on his prerogative, and threatening the members with punishment if they behaved insolently. On 11 Dec.