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HE volume of the HISTORY OF ENGLAND which we have now brought to a close,
narrates the great struggle for the liberties of the nation which commenced with the
accession of the Stuart dynasty, and which closed with it. The history of the reign of that family is the history of our battle for constitutional freedom, and our achievement of it. No volume of any history can be more important-none to us, as Englishmen, so important. James I. began with declaring the doctrine of royal absolutism. He represented himself as much God on earth as God is in heaven. All power of life and deathall command, not only of his subjects, but of the laws themselves, he declared to be in
his hands. If he made the law-makers, he asked whether it was not plain that he made the laws too. His son, Charles I., adopted this grandiose creed of his father, and trod faithfully in his steps ; but the people were not disposed to see their Magna Charta thus royally set aside, and Englishmen reduced to slaves. They fought for it. They conquered ; tried the monarch for his treason against the nation, and beheaded him for it ;—the first example of such a solemn act of justice by a people, on a monarch sinning against the popular rights entrusted to him. The Commonwealth succeeded, but the leaven of royalty working in the realm, Charles II. was restored, and, more successful than his father, destroyed once more the national independence. James attempting to go still further, and to restore rejected popery—thereby, if successful, subjecting this kingdom to the domination of a foreigner—the people finally expelled the Stuart dynasty, and elected William, Prince of Orange; thus cutting off for ever in this kingdom all pretensions of divine right to the throne. The Bill of Rights, which confirms this election, constitutes the modern Magna Charta of England. It is hence we date all the power of our present constitution. Such is the momentous story of this third volume of our History. It is a recital which has engaged the attention of all the great nations of the present world ; has already produced great events on the continent of Europe, and is destined to produce still greater. From the republic of England equally originated the principles, and the very creation of the republic of the United States of America. The story of this time cannot, therefore, be too carefully studied by all Englishmen.
In closing this eventful narrative, we have found ourselves compelled to call in question and refute the attempt of some modern historians of distinction to smooth over the insidious despotism of Charles II., and to represent him as a monarch not at all inclined to overstep the restraints of the constitution (see the review of the Laws and Constitution). In noticing this circumstance, we deem it useful once more to draw the attention of our readers to a few of the great points of historic fact, which we alone, of all our historians, have drawn forth and established.
The first of these is that of Magna Charta being not the work of the barons, but of the people. The great delusion which all our historians, in the face of the plainest facts, have regularly perpetuated, that the barons at Runnymede won the charter, is an aristocratic delusion, which is studiously maintained by that order to sanction its assumption of claims to govern us at will, as the class which achieved our liberties. The assumption is a fiction more airy and empty than a new year's dream. Whoever will refer to any history of the period, will see that the barons who bore arms at Runnymede, in vain attempted to bring John to grant a charter till the people of Bedford and London declared for him. Then John consented to
meet them at Runnymede, when he signed the charter, and again immediately rerudiated it. The barons were thus in the condition of a man who has got an acceptance-good, if taken up;
if dishonoured. Their charter was dishonoured. The debt of liberty had to be fought for, and John beat them. Thus worsted, they committed a most treasonable act in calling in the son of the French king to their aid, promising him the crown. John beat both them and their French king. On his death, Hubert de Burgh, constable of Dover, with a body of English sailors, and William de Collingham, with the archers of Sussex, drove the French prince out of the kingdom, put down the barons, and obtained the confirmation of the great charter from Henry III., with a new charter, the charter of the Forests. Thus the people—not the barons-acquired the charter ; and Blackstone, in his work on the Great Charter, confirms this plain fact, by saying that it is not John's charter, but the charter of Henry III. from which we date our liberties. As to these barons who, under pretence of establishing our liberties, would have reduced England to a French province, Carte says that on John's death a letter, signed by upwards of forty of them, was found in his pocket, offering to give up the charter on condition of a full pardon, and restoration of their estates. It is certain that the remnant left of them were only too glad to receive a pardon from Henry III., and never ceased to pursue the honest Hugh de Burgh for his share in defeating them. They never relaxed their malice till they ruined him with the king, though he was become justiciary of the kingdom-its chief minister-and made his life one miserable martyrdom for his patriotism.
The next great point which we have been able to bring out and place in complete light, is the great epoch of the revolution of our fiscal system, which took place by the bargain of Charles II. with the party which restored him (see our account in his reign, again adverted to under the head of Laws and Constitution), by which he surrendered all the feudal services for the grant of the excise for ever. The operation of this transaction, which transferred the support of his crown from the landholders to the people at large, with all its consequences of extravagant taxation and national debt, will be found first to be fully demonstrated in this present volume. The statute of 12 Car. II., which makes this transfer, has been incidentally referred to by former historians, as we have remarked, but without any clear perception of the grand revolution in our whole system of taxation which it originated ; perhaps, after all, the greatest revolution, as it concerns the rights and property of the community at large, which this country has seen.
Had we only succeeded in establishing these two vital points, we should have deemed them worth all the labour of research and composition, but we think we may refer with pride to the unrarying determination displayed through the whole work, to assert and maintain the great principles of justice and popular right. Whilst adverting to the testimony of Lord Brougham, on a late occasion, to this fact, we must, as a matter of justice to individuals, modify in some degree one of his assertions. It is, that none of the modern historians to whom he alluded, had condemned the French invasion of Henry V., though they bad those of Edward III. This is not strictly true as regards us. In condemning the invasion of France by Edward III., we condemned the invasion of Henry V. at the same time. We condemned those wars in toto. See Vol. I., p. 369. “The invasions of France by Edward III. raised the martial glory of England to the highest pitch. There is nothing in the miracles of bravery done at Leuctra, Marathon, or Thermopylæ, which can surpass those performed at Crecy, Poictiers, and on other occasions; but there the splendour of the parallel ends. The Greek battle-fields are sanctified by the imperishable renown of patriotism ; those of England, at that period, are distinguished only by empty ambition and unwarrantable aggression. The Greeks fought and conquered for the very existence of their country and liberties—the English to crush those of an independent people. The wars commenced by Edward III. inflicted the most direful miseries on France, were continued for generations, and perpetuated a spirit of hostility between the two great neighbour countries, which has been prolific of bloodshed, and most injurious to the progress of liberty and civilisation."
After this and similar denunciations of all those wars, it was not necessary to swell our pages by fresh ones under the reign of Henry V., but we explicitly kept in the reader's view that it was an unauthorised invasion of France. Speaking of Henry V.'s message to the French king, we say, Vol. I., p. 528 : “ This was singular language for a man to hold who was notoriously in a foreign country with a hostile force, come
avowedly to subdue it by his arms, and, therefore, necessarily himself intending to shed the blood of Christians.”
There is another subject to which Lord Brougham alluded on the same occasiɔn, that canrot, without injustice to a highly meritorious historian, be passed over without explanation. Lord Brougham, as well as some of the Reviews, have given to a living author the merit of introducing into history the admirable improvement of reviewing the state of commerce, government, and society, at different periods. That merit undoubtedly belongs to Dr. Henry ; it is a merit of the highest kind, and one of which Lord Brougham would never wittingly have deprived the legitimate possessor. The merit of the historian, to whom his lordship alluded, consists in his having continued Dr. Henry's plan, and in his having continued it well. It is a plan which all modern historians have felt it necessary to follow, and one which we have ourselves a lopted. We have, however, in that department introduced much new matter, together with some corrected statements; and in a spirit of fearless inquiry and justice betwixt man and man, we proceed to trace the path of events before us.
The enormous circulation to which the HISTORY OF ENGLAND has attained—a history confessed by the highest judges to inculcate the soundest and most enlightened opinions—renders our work one, the importance of which cannot, we think, be over estimated, in preparing a healthy and patriotic future for the people at large.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE THIRD VOLUME.
Coronation of King James I. at Westminster 6 intended massacre to Owen O'Conully
Costumes of tbe Stuart Period, 404, 405, 406, 407
An Armourer's Shop
Prison Chamber of Sir Walter Raleigh 18 Prince Rupert, from an authentic portrait... 234 King Charles II. entering London
Ths Gunpowder Couspirators in the Vault... 27 Cromwell proposing the self-denying ordi- Clock Tower in Dunkirk
Arrest of Guy Fawkes
252 denouncing London
Arabella Stuart, from the original picture... 37 Peter Lely
253 Highgate Fields during the Great Fire
Flight of Arabella Stuart in male attire 43 The flight from Naseby
259 Hunting the Moth
Accident to Rubert Carr, the King's favourite 55 the Blue Bour, Holborn
277 Amsterdam flooded
“Keeping Sunday" according to King Cromwell suppressing the Mutiny
Dr. Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury
66 John Bradshaw, from an authentic portrait 289 Charles II, and tbe Duchess of Portsmouth 475
294 Lord William Russell
67 Removal of Charles from Hurst Castle 295 Charles II.
Cork River, in which Raleigh was detained Oliver Cromwell
306 The Duke of Moninouth
Meeting of the Asseinbly in the settlement Great Seal of the Commonwealth
312 Lady Rachel Russell
Balsas, or Boat of Skin, used by the Natives Boscobel House
318 James receiving the French Bribe
The English Jester and the Spanish Ladies, Charles II. hidden in the Onk..
324 Burning of Elizabeth Gaunt
Duke Olivarez, from the original portrait, 90 Cromwell taking the oath as Protector 331 herd
336 The Earl of Shrewsbury, and other Nobles,
Palace at Gaalalajara, near Madrid, as it View in the mountains of Piedmont...
Interview of James I. with Prince Charles Cromwell refusing to accept the Crown 319 The Seven Bishops
Heurietta Maria, Queen of Charles I. 127' A Friends' Meeting, from an engraving of John Bunyan and his Blind Child
375 Roger Williams' Derarture for Salem 579
The Affray in the High Church, Edinburgh 171 Anthony Vandyck
396 Furniture of the time of Charles II.
Strafford, on his way to execution, receiving
A Room in Shakespeare's House at Stratford 401 Old game of Pell Mell