The following points highlight the seven Stuarts of England. The Stuarts are: 1. James I (1603-25) 2. James I and his Parliament 3. James I and Religion 4. Constitutional Significance of James I’s Reign 5. James I and Divine Right Theory 6. Foreign Relations of James I 7. Colonial Expansion and Commerce under James I.
- James I (1603-25)
- James I and his Parliament
- James I and Religion
- Constitutional Significance of James I’s Reign
- James I and Divine Right Theory
- Foreign Relations of James I
- Colonial Expansion and Commerce under James I
Stuart # 1. James I (1603-25):
Hours before her death Queen Elizabeth unequivocally told the lords who waited upon her, that the king of the Scots was to succeed her. “Who should that be but our cousin of Scotland?”—was her reply to the lords who sought to elicit a declaration from her about succession.
James VI of Scotland, accordingly, was proclaimed King of England as James I on March 24th, 1603. James’ peaceful accession was welcomed with practical unanimity and there was unprecedented rejoicing both in London and all parts of England.
James I did not remember when he was not a king, for he was crowned King of Scotland at the age of one, born in 1566 succeeding to the throne in 1567. He received his education from Scottish humanist George Buchanon and became the most learned of the contemporary crowned heads and came to be known as the wisest fool of the Christendom because of the lack of broadness and wisdom to read the national mind.
His knowledge did not make him anything better than a pedant and a pedagogue, always willing to teach and sermonise. He was authoritative in his temper in politics and was flattered by his own theories and experience. He believed himself to be God’s vice-regent on earth and demanded unquestioned obedience from his subjects.
He gleaned his dogma of Divine Right of Kings then prevalent among the monarchies of the continent.
He knew little of the laws of England and less of the English liberties but with precocious self-conceit proceeded in his own way to antagonise the representatives of the people. He accepted the Presbyterian doctrine but hated the discipline as incompatible with his Theory of Divine Right.
The greatest defect was his inability to recognise the change that time had brought upon England and the English nation and that the keynote of the age was revolt against authority.
“His most fatal defect was that, in spite of great acuteness and some originality in discovering points of vantage for himself and detecting weakness in his adversaries position, he could never tell a good man from a rogue, or wise man from a fool; still less could he distinguish the great currents of opinion and the main tide of political force.”
The seventeenth century, for England, was not an age of ardours and endurances, but of security, ease and plenty. The perils, no less the splendours of the sixteenth century had forged a partnership between the Crown and the people and the predominance exercised by the former was ungrudgingly accorded by the latter.
But with the change of circumstances which mould popular opinion, the constitutional conventions also change and with the dawning of the seventeenth century such a change in the popular opinion took place which the early Stuarts failed to discern.
With James I’s accession the Crowns of England and Scotland were united in that of Great Britain. The succession to the throne was popular and when James removed Raleigh from office and there was a plot in support of Arabella Stuart of the Suffolk line in which Raleigh was implicated received extremely feeble support.
The plot known as the Main Plot failed. James, however, was not in favour of any radical changes among the ministers who had served under Elizabeth. He retained Cecil as his chief adviser. Cecil, like his royal master was impervious of the shifting political gravity and left no mark upon the constitutional annals of the country.
The Bye Plot of 1603 in which a few Catholics proposed to seize the king in order to force him to relax recusancy laws was revealed to the government and it failed. The Papacy which was friendly with James even before accession, fully accepted his establishment on the throne.
In 1604 war with Spain was ended by the Treaty of London. Thus secured against domestic disaffection and external enemies the government of James entered upon a period of unaccustomed tranquility. With peace prosperity returned, and tide of commercial enterprise flowed in increasing volume.
Stuart # 2. James I and his Parliament:
Yet it was unfortunate that James I little understood his people. His disagreement with the people and Parliament centered round his Theory of Divine Right of Kingship, religion, taxation and foreign policy.
The relations of James I and his Parliaments were vitiated because of his firm belief in the Theory of Divine Right of Kings. Even before his accession to the English throne he advanced this theory in a treatise, the True Law of Free Monarchies (1596). This theory regarded hereditary monarchy to be in great favour of God and that no human power could deprive a legitimate prince of his rights.
In short, the king was free from all control. James’ firm belief in Divine Right of Kings ran counter to the new spirit of independence and demand for greater share in governance of the country by the nation, now that it was free from the fear of foreign invasion. This naturally led to grave misunderstanding between the King and the Parliament.
Even as James I was on his way to England in 1603, he was presented with a Millenary Petition demanding abolition of the sign of the cross in baptism, use of ring in marriage, profanation of the Sabbath by games, bowing at the name of Jesus, holding of pluralities, etc.
The king met the petitioners at Hampton Court in a Conference. The arguments put forth by the Puritans did not convince James. He would have nothing short of one doctrine, one discipline and one religion. The Conference came to a stormy close as Dr. Reynolds proposed that the lower clergy should have right to meet in Conference and that the bishops should consult the Synod of his diocese.
James flew into rage for all this democratic system of the Church was contrary to his ideas of kingship.
He burst out in fury:
‘If you aim at a Scottish Presbytery, it agreeth as well with monarchy, as God with Devil.’ ‘No bishop, no king’. It became clear that James was in favour of Episcopalian Church, when the nation had gone Puritan. James’ hostility to Puritanism alienated the Parliament, and in ‘two minutes he had sealed his own fate and that of England for ever’.
It may be mentioned here that in the Parliament of 1604 the Commons supported the Millenary Petition and Dr. Reynolds’ arguments. The estrangement between the King and the Parliament began in this way.
The first disagreement which led to the first clash with the Parliament in which the latter had won came about in 1604. In this year James issued proclamation for election of members to the Parliament and directed that all election returns should be made to the Chancery—where any found contrary to the proclamation would be rejected as unlawful.
When the Parliament met James’ opening speech disclosed at once the wide gulf between the royal policy and public opinion. He eulogised the peace with Spain and union of Scotland and England but denounced the Puritans and the novelists as being ever discontented with the government and impatient to suffer any superiority.
He acknowledged the Roman Catholics by regarding the Roman Catholic Church as the mother Church although defiled by some infirmities and corruptions. All this foretold the future of the reign. The opening speech over, the Commons took up two cases of privilege.
In one, Shirley a member of the Parliament who was arrested for debt and kept confined was released when the Parliament committed the warden of the prison to the Tower and obtained royal assent to acts of Parliament endorsing the privilege of freedom from arrest enjoyed by the members of the Parliament from before.
In the other Godwin, an outlaw was elected a member of the Parliament. The Chancery Court declared the election void and Fortes-cue, the defeated candidate was chosen member at a by election. The Commons summoned Godwin, heard him and ordered him to take his seat in the House. James’ plea that since all Parliamentary privileges were derived from the Crown these could not be used against it.
The Commons maintained a firm, though conciliatory attitude and at last James gave way and admitted that the Commons were the proper judges of their own returns and the Parliament in deference to the king ordered the issue of new writ for Buckinghamshire. Thus the Parliament won the first round of their struggle with the king over the question of Parliamentary privileges.
The Commons then passed to a discussion of grievances relating to purveyance, ward-ship and monopolies and drew up the Apology of the House of Commons which was a firm statement of Parliamentary privileges and a defence of the proceedings in the Lower House. This was of great importance because while it revealed the position taken by the Commons it was maintained for forty years to follow.
After a statement that their privilege had been “more universally and dangerously impunged, than ever, since the beginning of Parliaments, the Commons pointed out that freedom of election had been attacked and freedom of speech prejudiced by reproofs. They, therefore, felt that they must protest since “the prerogatives of princes may easily and daily grow while the privileges of the subject are for the most part at an everlasting stand”.
The Commons, therefore, declared that the liberties of the Commons consisted chiefly:
(i) In free election,
(ii) Freedom from arrest during Parliamentary sessions,
(iii) Freedom of speech and that these privileges were their right and due inheritance, therefore could not be denied,
(iv) The Commons was a Court of Records and above all other courts,
(v) In regard to religion the Commons asserted that the king could not make any alterations or laws except with the consent of the Parliament.
But at the same time they asserted that they did not come in any puritan spirit of subversion of ecclesiastical status quo but for the sake of peace and unity desired the abandonment of some ceremonies of small importance.
They also mentioned that the voice of the people was the voice of God. The king in his prorogation speech scornfully observed that “it was easy to make apologies when no man was present to answer them …. (in the Parliament) there was nothing but curiosity from morning to evening, to find fault with my propositions”.
It goes without saying that James was treating expressions of national grievances as personal insults. His attitude towards the Parliament was authoritative, paternal and contemptuous.
Whatever he did, he thought was for the good of the people and as such any attempt to seek redress of grievances was regarded as disloyalty, ill manners and criticism was seditious and emanated from idle heads or disloyal hearts. Thus began the long conflict between the Crown and the Parliament.
The second session of the Parliament began under the shadow of Gunpowder Plot and was adjourned immediately. But James did not fail to enlighten his hearers about the true nature of monarchy and told them that kings were God’s vice-regents on earth and therefore adorned with sparkles of Divinity.
He warned that Parliament was not the place for every rash and hare-brained fellow” to propose new laws of his own choice. The Parliament met and made a generous grant and extended the Act passed in the previous session for appointment of Commissioners representing England and Scotland to deal with the question of union of the two countries.
The third session that met during 1606-7 in which James laid special stress on the need of the union of Scotland and England, and suggested repeal of all laws which provided for hostilities between these countries, free trade between them and naturalisation of all Scottish subjects born before his accession, in England.
The fear of competition of the Scots led to violent protests by the London merchants. Commons voiced the sentiments of the London merchants and objected to naturalisation of the Scots in abusive language. Bacon’s pleadings were unavailing.
They remained unconvinced and took up the position that they should have a perfect union between the two countries with one king and one Parliament or nothing at all. The plan of union was thus abandoned.
In Calvin’s case, however, the court held that a Scotch post-nati, i.e. a Scotch born in England after James’ accession would be regarded as a naturalised citizen of the English king.
The issue came to a close no doubt, but the fact that the Crown obtained partially though, what the Commons did not agree to concede, through the Court created a dangerous precedent and opportunity for the Stuart kings to appeal to the judges for upholding the royal prerogatives.
Regulation of trade with foreign countries by imposition of duties at the port was a power which by custom rested with the king, not with the Parliament. It was regarded more or less as an administrative function rather than as a financial advantage.
John Bate, a merchant resisted a new form of imposition on imported currants. This brought the matter before the court. The judgment in Bate’s case gave justification for the imposition. James at once issued a Book of Rates imposing heavy duties on almost all articles of import.
When the Parliament met in the fourth session (1609-10) the Commons prepared to discuss the question of Impositions, but James prohibited any such discussion by the Commons.
The Commons, however, remonstrated against the prohibition by the king and demanded in a petition abolition of all such impositions, declaration that such impositions were illegal was to be made in an Act, and a bill providing these two demands was actually passed by the Commons.
The Lords, however, refused to pass it. The king naturally relied on the Bate’s case judgment. The Commons were undaunted. They complained against the royal abuse of proclamations by which James prohibited construction of new houses in London, manufacture of starch from wheat as also against the Court of High Commission.
Judge Coke’s opinion was sought as to the points raised by the Commons and he after consultations with other judges opined that the king had no prerogative except what the laws of the land allowed him. The king could not make any new offence by proclamation, nor could make any offence punishable in the High Commission or Star Chamber by issuing proclamation.
Side by side with the controversy over impositions attempts were being made by Salisbury for conciliation with the Parliament. A Great Contract was to be made with the Parliament by which the Commons were to agree to settle permanently a fixed payment of £200,000 in lieu of all vexatious and antiquated feudal dues of the king.
The king was to forego his rights to all impositions. But the attempted conciliation failed due to religious and political misunderstandings that intervened. The king replied by dissolution of the Parliament (1610).
The experience of James I with his first Parliament was important both for the attitude of the Commons towards its own rights and particularly for its being a prototype of many others. Between 1611 and 1614 James ruled without any Parliament and the financial needs of the Crown were met by loans, sale of peerage, creation of baronets, sale of Crown lands, exaction of arrear fines, etc.
But these financial expedients were not capable of meeting the needs of the Crown and its government, and James I was obliged to summon his second Parliament.
Nevill and Bacon saw the necessity of winning over the opposition by granting of concessions and advised the king accordingly. Bacon also planned to influence the election and have a packed Parliament. But the plan took air and the angry voters defeated all royal candidates. Bacon and Nevill undertook to win over the opposition, but their attempt failed.
In his speech in the Parliament James confessed his need for liberal Parliamentary grants for his heavy family expenses, he also denounced the false reports of his having related on the undertakers. But James was to be soon disillusioned in his hopes, for soon the Parliament members individually presented petitions and promptly started consideration of a bill against impositions, instead of granting of supply to the king.
James in annoyance dissolved the Parliament which became known as Addled Parliament for its having transacted no business. James dissolved the Parliament and sent four of its members to the Tower. James’ disillusionment of the Parliament can be easily understood from his remarks to the Spanish ambassador that ‘The House of Commons is a body without a head.
The members give their opinions in a disorderly manner. At their meetings nothing is heard but cries and shouts. I am surprised that my ancestors should ever have permitted such an institution to come into existence. I am a stranger, and found it here when I arrived so that I am obliged to put up with what I cannot get rid of.’
James’ need for money, however, did not end with the dissolution of the Parliament, it survived. During the six years that followed James ruled without Parliament during which he raised funds by a general appeal for benevolence, free gifts, monopolies, forced loans, fines, and exaction of feudal dues.
The only force that James had to fear now was the judiciary, especially Sir Edward Coke. Although the judges usually upheld the king’s prerogatives, Sir Edward Coke was positively on the side of law and tried to uphold the supremacy of the law and naturally came into sharp conflict with both the King and the Council.
Peacham’s treatise while in manuscript stage, contained bitter railing against the king and his ministers, was found in his house. He was tried of treason. The judges of the King’s Bench were consulted, in fact, sought to be influenced by Attorney-General under instruction from the king in the matter. Sir Edward Coke objected to the attempt of the Attorney- General and agreed to give his opinion in writing.
In the opinion given, Coke asserted that mentioning of king’s unworthiness did not constitute treason. The judges made it clear that in their view the king could not control cases pending even if his interests might be involved.
The Chief Justice of the court of King’s Bench asserted in Peacham’s case that the judges should not be consulted individually and privately about a case pending before the court, although in this case he did not protest against their consultation in a body.
Bishop Neille of Lichfield received from James I a living in commendam but two persons disputed it and brought action in the court of King’s Bench. James I was annoyed finding that his prerogative to grant a commendam was challenged and ordered the judges not to proceed with the case until they had conferred with him.
On refusal by the judges, the king summoned them before the Council where they were admonished and told not to deal with any case concerning royal prerogative to which all judges but Sir Edward Coke promised to abide by. Coke who maintained the independence of the judiciary refused to agree to the king’s contention and in consequence was dismissed.
Fall of Sir Edward Coke was a profound shock to the contemporary public opinion. Coke had for ten years been the upholder of common law against royal prerogatives. Coke’s dismissal was a heavy blow to the independence of the judiciary.
The successor of Coke was told by the Lord Chancellor that his dismissal “was a lesson to be learned of all, and to be remembered and feared of all that sit in judicial places”. The subservience of the judiciary continued till men like Hyde upheld the independence of the judiciary again.
James’ third Parliament came into clash with him over foreign policy. He had contempt for opinions of man in the street, i.e. the public and his determination to exclude members of the Parliament from all influence on the direction of foreign affairs were fatal to his relations with the legislature. But James needed money to prevent Catholic powers from over running Palatinate.
This part of his foreign policy was supported by the Parliament, but it did not , approve of James’ willingness to negotiate Prince Charles’ marriage with Infanta of Spain. Yet James would not like to take the Parliament into confidence, on the other hand, he told the House of Commons: “I would not have you meddle with complaints against the king, the Church or State matters nor with Princes’ prerogatives.”
As the Parliament endorsed a part of his foreign policy it made rather perfunctory grant of two subsidies and then addressed itself to the redress of grievances. The Commons remonstrated against the imprisonment of four of their members at the end of the second Parliament for their speeches in the Parliament.
They complained against the issue of monopolies the number of which, according to them had multiplied since the time of Elizabeth and made the burden unbearable.
The court decision in the famous case Darcy vs Allen at the beginning of James I’s reign was in favour of the Commons, and it decided that monopoly was prima facie against both common and statute law. But, patents were issued in 1606, 1610 and 1614 ignoring law.
The Commons now severely criticised the proceedings of the monopolists and summoned monopolists Sir Francis Mitchell and Sir Giles Mompesson on the complaint of extortion as licencers of wine. Mitchell was called to the Bar of the House of Lords and sentenced without a hearing.
In Mompesson’s case the king intervened to tell the Lords to carefully see that charges against him were proved by witnesses, which the Lords did and sentenced Mompesson.
Thus having tasted blood, the Commons flew to higher game and finding evidence that Francis Bacon had accepted presents from suitors revived the Parliamentary right to impeach the erring member of the Crown, which had fallen into disuse since the time of the Tudors.
Bacon was found guilty and even he himself had acknowledged the substantial accuracy of the charges. He was both fined and imprisoned. The king, however, granted pardon but excluded him from all public business. Bacon, however, did not long survive this disgrace.
The Commons now drew up a petition in which they acknowledged that to make peace or war and to marry the Prince of Wales belonged solely to royal prerogative. The king roughly handled the explanation for as he pointed out, ‘it was idle to protest at one place that they did not intend to entrench upon prerogative and yet in reality to usurp it by advice’.
The Commons drew up their famous Protestation of 18 December 1621 in which they denied king’s right to imprison members at his will, for their lives and privileges were “the ancient and undoubted birth right and inheritance of the subjects of England”.
They also asserted that “what concerned the king, state and defence of the realm, and the Church of England were proper subjects for counsel and debate in Parliament and that they had every right to discuss and resolve them”. All this was beyond James I’s patience to endure; he first adjourned and then dissolved Parliament.
Coke and Sir Robert Philips were imprisoned and Pym confined to his house for their share in the Parliamentary proceedings deemed objectionable by the king. James also called for journal of the Commons before the Privy Council and tore off the offending Protestation as a mark of his disapprobation.
James’ failure in his long-drawn negotiations with Spain led him to summon Parliament and handed over the direction of foreign policy to the Commons whom he had recently rebuked. In the opening speech he entreated the Commons’ “good and sound advice”.
The result was that the king and his subjects were now united against Spain although this came after a complete failure on the part of the king. This also proved that the king’s statecraft was wrong and the popular prejudice against Spain was right.
The Commons insisting upon the impeachment of Earl of Middlesex, the Lord Treasurer, for bribery and misdemeanour. Prince Charles also pleaded for impeachment, when James is said to have warned that he (Charles) was going to have belly-full of impeachments in his time and Buckingham “that he was merely picking a rod for his own back”.
The words proved prophetic. Apart from the impeachment of Middlesex the most important achievement of James’ Fourth Parliament was the Act declaring monopolies, grant of patents, licences to do anything in infringement of law, any forfeiture before judgment void.
There were also clashes between the King and Parliament over Parliament’s repeated representations for declaring war with Spain in favour of Protestant powers. The Commons also demanded penal measures against the Roman Catholics and showed positive sympathy for the Puritan cause. The Commons used voting of grants as levers against redressing of grievances.
At least in one case the Parliament even exceeded its limits. Floyd, a Roman Catholic Barrister was illegally fined and pilloried for disparaging Elector and Electress of Palatinate. This infringed the privilege of the Lords as judicial power of the Parliament resided in the House of Lords only.
Ultimately Floyd was arraigned before the Lords but king saved Floyd from punishment. When the Parliament took objection to James’ impositions the Parliament was dissolved.
Stuart # 3. James I and Religion:
The succession of Elizabeth by James I raised great hopes among the Roman Catholics that Roman Catholicism would receive toleration from the son of Mary Queen of Scots, and specially because of the supposition that James had some share in the plots against Elizabeth.
The Puritans on the other hand hoped that reared up under the influence of a Calvinist Church James would support Puritanism in England. A moderate policy with regard to religion might have led to reconcilement between the Puritan and Episcopalian Churches.
Even as James I was on his way to England for accession to the throne (1603) he was presented a Millenary Petition, so called because its authors claimed that it expressed the views of more than a thousand ministers, couched in modest language urging abolition of the sign of the cross in baptism, use of ring in marriage, profanation of the Sabbath by games, bowing at the name of Jesus; demanded improvement of the ministry, prohibition of pluralities, and abolition of ex-officio oath.
These demands were debated at Hampton Court Conference in 1604 where James presided over the disputations between the Puritans and four heads of the Church. The arguments advanced by the Puritans did not convince James; he would have, as he declared, nothing short of ‘one doctrine and one discipline, one religion in substance and ceremony’. The session, however, came to a stormy close.
As Dr. Reynold’s proposed that the lower clergy should have the right of meeting in conference and that bishops should consult the Synod of his diocese James flew into rage and burst out in fury, ‘If you aim at a Scottish Presbytery, it agreeth as well with monarchy, as God with devil’ ‘No bishop, no king’. Thus it became clear that James was in favour of Episcopalian Church and was out of sympathy with Puritanism.
Thus in ‘two minutes’ as Gardiner puts it ‘he had sealed his own fate and that of England for ever’. The only good result of the Conference was a hew translation of the Bible generally styled as authorised version. The effects of king’s hostility on Puritanism was to be seen in the Parliament of 1604 in which the Commons supported the Millenary Petition and Dr. Reynold’s argument.
The Church in England might have enjoyed peace had it not been inextricably involved in grave political issues. James who had enjoyed only a lowly position assigned to him by the Scottish Presbyterian Church found in contrast in enjoyment of ecclesiastical supremacy in England and he began to champion the bishops who on their part accepted his theory of Divine Right of Kings and preached passive obedience to the king.
In fact without the support of the Episcopal Church the Stuart system of government would have met with an ignominious failure. James, therefore, created a position in which the Puritans found that any opposition to the Church was regarded as sedition at court and any criticism of the monarchy was denounced as blasphemy in the pulpit.
As soon the session of the 1604 Parliament was over James proclaimed that unless the clergy would conform to all the existing rules of the Church service before December, 1604, they would be deprived of their living.
When the end of the time-limit arrived Bancroft who had in the meantime been made the Archbishop of Canterbury made a clean sweep of non-conforming clergy and three hundred of them had been ejected.
James failed to foresee the results of breaking up the unity of the Protestant national life which Bacon with his broad philosophic mind could. But Bacon’s advice in favour of comprehension was rejected by James.
In the meantime Watson’s plot (1603) or Bye plot to kidnap James with a view to compelling him to grant toleration having failed and in consequence all Roman Catholic priests having been ordered to leave the country and also the Main plot having failed, James had the most propitious time for a rapprochement with the Catholics and win them over.
But James terrified at the phantoms that his first stroke of statecraft had conjured up lost the chance.
To make matters worse Gunpowder Plot (1604-5) was formed by Robert Catesby caused by the repressive policy of the Parliament. Catesby a Roman Catholic country gentleman attempted to secure toleration for the Roman Catholics with the help of the Spanish ambassador. It was joined by Guy Fawkes, Thomas Percy, Francis Tresham and Sir Everard Digby.
The aim of the plot was-to blow up the Parliament House and to kill James. Gunpowder was stored in a cellar underneath the Houses of the Parliament but Guy Fawkes was seized when attempting to set fire to the stored up gunpowder. The conspirators were executed.
The result of the plots was passing of more stringent penal laws by the Parliament. The Roman Catholics were fined £20 a month for recusancy. They were prohibited from adopting any learned profession, and from holding military, naval or any public office.
Their children were to be baptised by Protestant ministers. The Ten Miles Act forbade the Catholics to attend court or to come within ten miles of London unless engaged in business there.
But in 1616 James I agreed under the influence of the king of Spain to suspend the penal laws against the Catholics and to allow children of the marriage of Prince Charles and the Infanta to be brought up as Roman Catholics. The Parliament strongly opposed toleration to the Roman Catholics and the proposal for a Spanish marriage of Prince Charles and demanded strictest enforcement of the penal measures.
Despite James’ promise to the Parliament that the penal laws would not be repealed he accepted freedom of worship for Roman Catholics as a precondition to the marriage of Charles and Henrietta Maria of France.
Thus strong opposition arose between the Parliament and James I. Both for personal and political reasons James I wanted to tolerate the Roman Catholics but the Puritan Parliament wanted rigid enforcement of the penal laws. Religious question, therefore, was one of the most important factors of the estrangement between James I and his Parliament.
Stuart # 4. Constitutional Significance of James I’s Reign:
Constitutionally the reign of James I marked the period of transition from Tudor monarchy to the Hanoverian. As it occupied a part of the transitional period it is not easy to categorise precisely the advance made by the Parliament under James, for so many things were mixed up together.
Yet, it became evident to all including James I himself that a new power, i.e. the Parliament had arisen in the land. But when enumerated in terms of concrete achievements, the only privilege the House of Commons succeeded in asserting unquestionably was the right to determine the validity of the election of its members.
Freedom from arrest and freedom of speech were asserted by the Parliament indeed, but these were not acknowledged by the Crown and both these privileges did not become doubtlessly established. These were infringed by Charles I during the next reign. Likewise, the right to tender advice freely to the Crown was not achieved by the Parliament on any firm footing.
The Commons, however, succeeded in reviving their claim to call king’s ministers to account by impeachment. Even this privilege won under James I was denied by Charles I who saved Buckingham flouting the Commons.
James was successful in establishing impositions as regular levies on the merchandise, although his attempt to raise money by forced loans and benevolences, did not succeed due to popular resistance, and made himself independent of Parliamentary grants for meeting ordinary expenses, that is in following a peaceful policy, he could not but depend on the Parliament in times of war.
The Parliament thus had the lever of finances in its hands for extra-ordinary expenses.
In another field there was a remarkable constitutional progress under James I. The number of members of the Privy Council which now contained the chief officers of State and of the household and such other persons both Scottish and English as James I thought fit to honour, became quite unwieldy to ensure efficiency. This necessitated formation of committees, some temporary, some permanent.
Under James I the number of standing committees was quite large which gave preliminary consideration to matters concerning navy, foreign policy, Ireland, etc. The committee for foreign affairs was originally appointed in 1615 for discussing the question of Spanish marriage.
But it gradually began discussing matters even not connected with foreign affairs. It was the most important of committees “for this was the direct ancestor of the Cabinet”.
Stuart # 5. James I and Divine Right Theory:
The relations of the early Stuarts and their Parliaments were vitiated because of their firm belief in the Theory of Divine Right of Kings. The theory had its origin in the Papal authority and the Roman law. During the later medieval period the Pope claimed to be the vicar of God on earth and in that capacity superior to all human agencies including the kings.
With the Reformation and the growth of national monarchies monarchs began to control both the State and the Church and it became natural that they should also claim divine authority and regard themselves as God’s anointed. The Roman law also had attributed to the Roman emperors a divine character and their power was supposed to have been founded on divine institution.
Study of Roman law under the Tudors naturally helped application of the Theory of Divine Right of Kings by the English kings. The ecclesiastics also ascribed divine authority to the English kings. Scotland was likewise influenced by this theory. James I, even before his accession to the English throne advanced this theory in a treatise: True Law of Free Monarchies (1596).
It was warmly acclaimed and supported by the high churchmen who taught passive obedience to the monarch, as also by judges who exalted authority of the Crown. In 1616 The Works of the Most High and Mighty Prince James were collected and published.
According to Divine Theory of Kingship, the Supreme Being regarded hereditary monarchy as opposed to all other forms of government, with peculiar favour and that no human power could deprive a legitimate prince of his rights. It also believed in the despotic rights of such princes.
The laws which in England or in any other country limited the royal prerogatives, were in the nature of concession granted by the sovereign by his free will and might resume at his pleasure. Similarly, a treaty which a king might conclude with his people was merely a declaration of his present intentions and not a contract of which performance could be demanded.
Sir Robert Filmer in his work Patricia had thoroughly expounded the Theory of the Divine Right of Kings during the reign of Charles I.
James I would rarely allow an opportunity to be lost when he would not set forth his theories in speech. He acted as “a schoolmaster of his whole land”. By a free monarch he meant one free from all control and however absolute or free he might be, as he owed his duties to his subjects and as the subjects were ordained, for their advantage, even tyranny on the part of the king would not justify resistance by the subjects.
James also claimed the prerogative as the God’s anointed, to make laws without co-operation of the Parliament or suspend laws passed by the Parliament. He fervently held that while a good king should act according to law, yet he is not bound by law except to the extent he bound himself out of his good-will.
According to him ‘the state of monarchy was supremest thing on earth, because kings are not only God’s lieutenants here below and sit upon God’s thrones but even by God himself are called gods. Therefore it is blasphemy to dispute what God can do …. it is presumption and high contempt in a subject to dispute what a king can do, and a good subject cheerfully abides by the king’s pleasure revealed in his law.’
But for the ‘Laudians’ or ‘Armenians’as they were called then, none of James’ subjects could be persuaded to accept these views. Specially, the Parliament which formed the audience of many of the king’s utterances, remained wholly unconvinced. James’ persistence to thrust down the throats of his subjects, his theory of the constitution produced just the contrary reaction of what he had desired.
The Parliament formulated their views of the limitations of monarchy and the rights of Parliament which might otherwise have remained undefined for a generation longer. James’ stressing of the Theory of Divine Right had hastened the modest position of the Parliament in the days of A Form of Apology (1604) to the bold Protestation of 1621.
Yet, James’ temperamental reluctance to push matters to extremes and his lack of perseverance postponed the constitutional struggle to the next reign. James’ Theory of the Divine Right of Kings only widened the rift between the Parliament and the Crown and the showdown was to come under his successor Charles I.
Stuart # 6. Foreign Relations of James I:
At the death of Elizabeth I England was strong, self-reliant and able to act as the arbiter of European politics. England stood as the saviour of the Protestants whom the Austrian Hapsburgs sought to crush in Germany with the help of the Spanish Hapsburg and enthused by the effects of the Counter-Reformation. James ended the war with Spain in 1604, which was a legacy of the reign of his predecessor.
James I sought to maintain Elizabethan policy regarding foreign relations partially. But foreign relations during his reign, in fact throughout the seventeenth century were more important in their repercussions at house than in their influence in Europe. James I had some basis in the history of the Tudor England, for his view that the direction of English foreign policy was the special prerogative of the Crown.
In fact, although there were signs that the English people and the Parliament were getting tired of acquiescing in whatever its ruler did, they were yet not ready to dictate the foreign policy. Yet due to the change in the general attitude of the Parliament towards the king abstinence from comment on the foreign policy of the Crown could not naturally be held up longer.
Particularly, James’ policy of friendship with Spain was against the prejudices of most of the Englishmen. James prided over his diplomatic ability and hoped to form an alliance with Spain and thereby to arbitrate in the Catholics and Protestants to ensure peace.
Roman Catholic Spain was perhaps the last power with which the English people would agree to have any friendly relations. James’ policy was based on personal and dynastic considerations.
In the opinion of a contemporary Tuscan resident, Gondomar, fear of Spain whose arms strength England had no power to withstand if war broke out dictated his policy. He, therefore, loved to be called King of Peace or the Peacemaker.
True, there was much to be said in favour of following a policy of peace and an attitude of aloofness from the impending catastrophe of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), but English championship of Protestant cause as followed under Elizabeth was certainly a better course, for after a prolonged warfare Spain, the champion of Catholicism, was sure to get exhausted and must inevitably collapse due to sheer exhaustion.
Of the above two alternatives James I followed neither consistently. He abstained from joining the Protestant side in the Thirty Years’ War. If he had followed the policy of abstinence from war he might have benefited England.
But no sooner the Elector Palatinate, his son-in-law was expelled from his hereditary land James was moved into action and went into war to force reparation for the injuries done to his son-in-law.
James did not consider whether true interest of England or Protestantism demanded a war for the recovery of Palatinate. But defeat of Frederick in 1620 and conquest of Eastern Palatinate by Spain unnerved James and he became more anxious than ever before to effect a Spanish marriage of his son, Prince Charles.
He fondly hoped that this would ensure return of Palatinate to the Elector. He carried on negotiations through Gondomar the Spanish Ambassador who set toleration of the Roman Catholics as a pre-condition for marriage negotiations. But the Parliament now advocated war with Spain to prevent Spanish help from being rendered to the Austrians in suppressing Protestantism in Germany.
It strongly disapproved of the proposal for Spanish marriage and suggested a Protestant marriage for Charles, and demanded war with Spain. Parliament’s Protestation in favour of Parliamentary privilege led to its dissolution by James (1621).
In 1623, James allowed Prince Charles and Buckingham to carry cut a ‘comic opera device’ of undertaking a journey to Spain to finalise the marriage negotiations. In Spain, Charles agreed to grant toleration to the English Catholics and to allow Infanta after her marriage with him to have her own chapel as also to allow her children to be brought up as Catholics.
Despite all this, Philip IV, king of Spain, refused to restore Palatinate to the Elector or to fight against the Emperor. Charles and Buckingham were furious at the way in which they were tricked. The marriage negotiations naturally fell through.
Demand for war against Spain having become persistent James agreed to send a large army under Count Mansfield to the assistance of the Elector Palatinate. It was symbolic of the English help to Protestant cause, for the Elector was a Protestant himself. The expedition failed due to mismanagement. But when the country was at war with Spain James died early in 1625.
James I’s Spanish policy was as faltering as inconsistent. As it has already been pointed out, any of the two alternatives before James—abstinence from war with Spain, and championing the Protestant cause might have been beneficial to England. But he began with the first and ended with the second alternative.
His policy of peace-making in Europe was forsaken the moment the Elector Palatinate was dispossessed of his hereditary land. For the English Protestants assistance to the Elector was symbolic of the English support to the Protestant cause. But out of personal and dynastic considerations James followed a vacillating policy towards Spain.
His proposal of a Spanish marriage as also his policy of peace towards Spain when the Parliament and the nation demanded war with Spain led to rupture between him and his Parliament.
Even when he persuaded himself to send out an expedition to the assistance of the Elector Palatinate he wanted to avoid open rupture with Spain and hampered Count Mansfield by refusing to allow him to recapture Breda on the way, which the Spaniards had taken from the Dutch. Badly managed and provisioned the expedition was a total failure.
James was wise in wishing to grant toleration to the Catholics but was foolish in allowing himself to be dictated by foreigners. He was unwise in abandoning independent position of England—a champion of Protestantism in his anxiety to maintain friendship with Spain and contract a Spanish marriage for his son. All this was not to the interests of England.
Besides Spain, the other important continental power was France. The French Bourbons were pressed on two sides by the Austrian and Spanish Haps- burg. Henry IV of France, therefore, entered into an alliance with England, which continued to exist even after Henry’s assassination in 1610. The policy of the Bourbons- was Catholic at home and Protestant I abroad.
This pro-Protestant policy led to the alliance between England and France James also pursued a policy of friendship with the Dutch and the German Protestant princes who had all been brought under Henry IV’s leadership. While James maintained this friendliness, he was also maintaining friendship with Spain. This was in pursuance of his policy of Peacemaker in Europe.
James prided over his diplomatic skill and for a time succeeded in playing the role of mediator in Europe. He intervened successfully on behalf of Julich and Cleves and the Evangelical union of the German Protestants. He also arranged for the marriage of Princess Elizabeth with Elector Palatinate an ardent Protestant.
But the results did not justify his policy, for despite his best efforts, he could not save Europe from the scourge of the Thirty Years’ War. Even when the war had begun he followed the policy of aloofness, yet he could not maintain it when Elector Palatinate lost his hereditary land. Thus his policy was essentially vacillating and inconsistent, lacking perseverance and boldness.
During James I’s reign Ireland was equally irreconciled to the English. The hostility of the Irish people to the English settlers in Ireland showed no sign of abating. James sent Chichester who in his efforts to pacify the Irish lifted the martial law.
He also restored some tribal lands occupied by the English hoping this would reconcile the Irishmen to the English. It was during James I’s reign that both the English and Scottish settlers, symbolising union of the two countries was settled in the Ulster province.
James VI of Scotland became James I of England and sought to make the union of two Crowns more real. He wanted to naturalise the Scots in England but this was opposed by the English people who were not well-disposed towards the Scots. Opposition to naturalisation was due to the fear of dumping Scottish people in England.
Likewise free trade between the two countries desired by James I was opposed by the Parliament as this would, it was feared, lead to influx of Scottish businessmen into England and consequent loss on the part of the English business interests. Both the measures were opposed and were blocked by the Parliament. The union of the two countries had to wait for nearly another century.
Stuart # 7. Colonial Expansion and Commerce under James I:
English colonial expansion had for all practical purposes begun in this reign. While discoveries under Elizabeth opened up vistas of colonial expansion, first permanent settlement began under James I.
Earlier attempts to settle in Virginia having failed, James granted (1606) charter to two companies. The Plymouth Company and the London Company to establish colonies there. The Plymouth Company’s attempt to colonise northern part of Virginia however failed.
But the London Company succeeded in laying permanent foundation in North America. Captain John Smith reorganised the colony by bringing in agricultural settlers, labourers, etc.
The false hope of finding gold was got over and the colonies set themselves to agriculture, house building, etc. In 1609, a New Charter was granted and a governor with absolute power was nominated by the king, who induced the settlers to remain there permanently. By bringing in new men and stores, first governor Lord Delawarr gave permanence to the colony in Virginia.
In the mean time in 1605 settlers went to Guiana. This was the initial step in the progressive settlement in the West Indian islands.
In 1620 a group of independents obtained permission from the Plymouth Company and sailed from Plymouth in the vessel named Mayflower and landed on Cape Cod Bay. They founded the colony of Plymouth in the New World under the energetic governor Bradford.
The East India Company during James I’s reign defeated the Portuguese off Surat in India in 1612 which enabled them to open up trade with mainland of India and with the permission of the Mughal Emperor set up a factory in Surat (1613).
But defeat of the Portuguese did not end the colonial and commercial rivalry. The Dutch were in the field in East Indies. They massacred English merchants at Amboyna which compelled the English colonand commercial interests to be confined within the Indian mainland.