Front Page Titles (by Subject) section III: Of the Government of Scotland, from the Union of the Scottish and English Crowns, to that of the two kingdoms. - An Historical View of the English Government
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section III: Of the Government of Scotland, from the Union of the Scottish and English Crowns, to that of the two kingdoms. - John Millar, An Historical View of the English Government 
An Historical View of the English Government, From the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Revolution in 1688, in four volumes, edited by Mark Salber Philips and Dale R. Smith, introduction by Mark Salber Philips (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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Of the Government of Scotland, from the Union of the Scottish and English Crowns, to that of the two kingdoms.
From the beginning of this third period,33 the political history of Scotland is so interwoven with that of England, that it would be inconvenient to enter into a full examination of the former, before we have also an opportunity of considering the latter. At present, therefore, a few preliminary observations concerning what was peculiar in the state of Scotland, will be sufficient.
The government of Scotland, by the accession of her sovereign to the English throne, experienced a very sudden and important revolution. The monarch, from the sovereignty of a petty state, was at once exalted to the head of an opulent and powerful monarchy, in which the greater part of the feudal institutions had fallen into disuse; and in which, upon the ruins of the aristocracy, the prerogative of the crown, on the one hand, had<74> risen to a considerable height; while, on the other, the people were beginning to lay the foundation of their privileges. In these circumstances, the king of England found little difficulty in extending to the northern part of the island that authority which he possessed in the southern part.
But while the nobles in Scotland were thus easily reduced under subjection to the crown, the people at large were not raised to suitable independence. In England, as well as in many other European governments, where the prerogative advanced gradually and slowly, in consequence of the gradual advancement of society, the king was under the necessity of courting the lower orders of the community, and of promoting their freedom, from the view of undermining the power of the nobility, his immediate rivals. But in Scotland, after James the Sixth had mounted the English throne, neither he, nor his immediate successors, had any occasion to employ so disagreeable an expedient. They were above the level of rivalship or opposition from the Scottish vassals of the crown; and had therefore no temptation to free the vassals of the nobility<75> from their ancient bondage. A great part of the old feudal institutions, in that country, were accordingly permitted to remain, without undergoing any considerable alteration; and the troublesome forms and ceremonies, formerly used in the transmission or conveyance of landed property, continue, even at this day, to load and disfigure the system of Scottish jurisprudence.
The political changes, introduced by James the Sixth, were such as contributed to depress the aristocracy, without exalting the lower classes of the people.
1. This prince enforced the regulation of his predecessor, James the First, by requiring that the representatives of counties should give a regular attendance in parliament. In Scotland, however, this measure, though professedly in imitation of the practice in England, was adopted with peculiar modifications agreeable to the views of the monarch. By the practice in England, all who held lands of a certain value, whether as vassals of the crown or of a subject, and all who enjoyed leases for life of lands to the same amount, were entitled to vote for the knights of shires;<76> whereas in Scotland, none but the immediate vassals of the crown, how extensive soever their landed property might be, obtained a right of suffrage. In England their elective franchise had been brought so low as a yearly rent of forty shillings; and the same rule appears by the regulation of James the First, to have been introduced into Scotland. By the debasement, however, of the money in Scotland, the qualification for voting, according to this nominal rent, would have fallen a great deal lower; but it suited the purposes of James the Sixth to explain this regulation, as if it had required the voters to possess, not merely a real rent of forty shillings, but a rent amounting to that sum, according to an old valuation of all the lands in Scotland, which had long been the rule to the vassals of the crown for the payment of their taxes. This valuation, from the low state of agriculture when it was made, bearing no proportion to the real value of estates, the right of electing the representatives of counties, instead of being communicated, as in England, to people of small property, was confined to a few<77> of the gentry, who might easily be secured in the interest of the crown.
2. The number of burgesses who sat in the Scottish parliament had, from the time of their first introduction, been gradually increasing by the incorporation of additional boroughs. The nobility, at the same time, living in the neighbourhood of particular towns, had often found means to gain an influence over the inhabitants, and to obtain the direction of such incorporated bodies. In all the royal boroughs of Scotland, the distribution of justice, and the management of their public affairs, were committed to a set of magistrates, and a town council, who, according to the primitive regulations, appear to have been annually chosen, in each borough, by the collective body of the burgesses.*
By degrees, however, such individuals as had obtained the patronage of particular bo<78>roughs, whether the king or any of the great barons, endeavoured to establish a permanent influence, by substituting other modes of election more favourable to their interest. Thus, by a statute in the reign of James the Third, it is provided, “that the old council shall annually elect the new; and that the old and new council jointly shall elect the officers of the boroughs.”†
It is probable that this regulation was dictated by the nobility, who had procured an entire ascendant in many of the boroughs, and frequently held the principal offices in those communities. It is, accordingly, further provided in the same statute, “that no captain, nor constable of the king’s castles, shall bear any office in the town where he resides.”†
For securing still more effectually the interest which had been already established in a borough, it was afterwards enacted by the legislature, “that four persons only of the old council should be changed each year”; a regulation plainly intended to relieve the patron from the embarrassment he might be under, in<79> substituting, all at once, an entire new set of adherents to those who had been displaced.
We meet also with other statutes, apparently calculated to limit the effects of the former, and probably suggested by the crown, ordaining that the officers of boroughs should be real inhabitants, and traders of the community; but the frequent repetition of these acts affords undoubted evidence that little regard had been paid to them.
After James the Sixth was invested with the authority of king of England, he found that many of the regulations, introduced by the nobility for the management of the boroughs, were become highly subservient to the maintenance of that influence over them which had then been transferred to the crown; and therefore, instead of abolishing that system of policy, he was disposed to encourage and make improvements upon it. From this time forward, the members of those communities were, by various alterations, more and more stript of the administration and government of their own affairs; while their nominal administrators and governors became, in reality, the agents and tools of the crown. This observation will ex-<80>plain a passage in the claim of rights, presented by the estates of Scotland soon after the revolution of 1688; in which it is said, “That the abdicated family had subverted the rights of the royal boroughs, by imposing upon them the magistrates, the town-council, and the clerks and other officers, contrary to their liberties, and their express charters.”34
3. Notwithstanding the introduction of the presbyterian church-government into Scotland, the king contrived to continue an appearance of the ecclesiastical order in parliament. The prelates, whom James retained in that assembly, were a sort of bishops possessed of small revenue, destitute of all authority, and loaded with the contempt and censures of the church. But after he became king of England, he found means to increase their powers and emoluments, and to lay the foundation of that episcopal government which was completed by his son and his grandsons, but which was finally abolished at the revolution.* <81>
4. The parliament of Scotland was thus, after the union of the crowns, composed of the same orders with that of England; the nobility, the bishops, the knights of shires, and the burgesses. To these different members, however, were added the great officers of state, who sat in parliament, not as in England by representing particular counties or boroughs, but merely in consequence of holding their several offices. It is probable that their admission into that assembly had proceeded, not from any formal regulation, but from the ordinary course of business, which required that, as ministers of the crown, they should make frequent propositions to the legislature concerning those measures which called for its direction. In England, where an act of parliament was passed in the form of a petition to the crown, the king had no occasion to interfere in the business before it was presented to him for his consent. But in Scotland, where the three estates enacted laws by their own authority, and where the crown had no negative, it was necessary that his majesty, if he was to give his opinion at all, should mix in the deliberations of parliament, and take some share in its debates. The<82> dignity of the crown, however, seemed to require that this communication with the national assembly should be made, not by the sovereign in person, but through those great officers to whom the ordinary administration of government was delegated. At what time these officers were first considered as invested with this privilege, is unknown; but in the reign of James the Sixth, if not at an earlier period, it appears to have been completely established.*
5. The appointment of the lords of the articles35 underwent a number of successive alterations, all of them calculated to render it a more effectual engine of parliamentary management. When those commissioners were in the nomination of parliament, it became a natural practice that a certain number of them should be named by each particular estate as its own representatives. At the reformation the suspi-<83>cion entertained of the bishops seems to have introduced a regulation that the spiritual commissioners, though chosen from the dignified clergy, should be nominated, not by their own order, but by the nobles.†
James the Sixth obtained an act of the legislature, ordaining, that, before the meeting of parliament, four persons should be named out of each estate as a committee previously to consider and determine the business to be laid before the lords of the articles; and, as the king appears to have assumed the nomination of this committee, he was thus invested with a previous negative upon those commissioners themselves who prepared matters for the deliberation of parliament. Charles the First superseded this regulation by bringing the appointment of the lords of the articles directly under the guidance of the crown. He procured an act of parliament empowering the peers to choose eight bishops, the bishops eight peers; and those sixteen persons to elect<84> eight knights of shires and eight burgesses; to all of whom were added the eight great officers of state. It is observed by an acute author,* that as at this time the bishops, from the manner in which they were upheld in parliament, were uniformly in the interest of the crown, and as, from the ordinary state of the peerage, the bishops might easily find one or two commissioners of that class in the same interest, a majority of the sixteen, and consequently of the whole committee, would infallibly be the adherents of the prerogative. Upon this footing, unless during the usurpation of Cromwell, the lords of the articles continued until the revolution, when they were finally abolished.
By the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, the capital city of the former became the usual residence of the monarch; and the latter country was reduced into the situation of a distant province. The baneful effects of this change upon the administration of the government in Scotland will be the subject of a future examination. We may at present take notice of its immediate consequences<85> with respect to the character and manners of the inhabitants, and with respect to their progressive improvements in arts and literature.
The removal of the king and of the court to the southern part of the island, was followed by a correspondent migration of the Scottish nobility and gentry, who naturally resorted to the new seat of government in quest of amusement, or in hopes of sharing the favour of the prince. Deserted by these men of rank and fortune, Scotland lost unavoidably that market which formerly arose from supplying them with the necessaries and conveniencies of life, and consequently that industry which it had put in motion. She lost, in like manner, some of the principal sources of emulation and of exertion in the liberal arts; while the standard of taste and fashion being transferred to a foreign kingdom, her candidates for fame were consequently withdrawn from the day-light of honour and distinction. Her language, I mean that used in the lower parts of the country, originally a branch of the Anglo-Saxon, ceased to be considered as an independent dialect, and was regarded merely as a corruption of English. Her writers, of course, labouring<86> to express themselves in a tongue no longer native to them, and struggling to become acquainted with its idioms, were no more the competitors, but reduced to be the humble imitators of their southern neighbours.
From this change of circumstances, the inhabitants of Scotland were greatly discouraged and retarded in the improvement of manufactures; and remained for a long time in that simple state of society which precedes the minute division of labour among the different kinds of artificers. They were also prevented from cultivating those elegant arts which are the natural offspring of luxury and refinement, more especially those branches of literary composition whose object is merely entertainment.
But though the Scots were left far behind their neighbours of England, in the accumulation of wealth, in the habits of industry, and in those inventions which contribute to shorten and facilitate labour, they had already made some advances in knowledge, and they were surrounded by other civilized nations, from whom they could hardly fail to catch a degree of science and literature. The revival of letters in modern Europe, was attended by<87> a spirit of activity and exertion, which diffused itself, more or less, over the whole; and by imitation or emulation, by a correspondence among persons of genius and enterprize, by the patronage of princes and men of wealth, pushed on the people of every country to a variety of useful and liberal pursuits. The inhabitants of Scotland were affected by the same general causes of improvement which operated upon the surrounding nations; though, in comparison with the English, they lay under disadvantages; but as their objects were varied, so their path was a good deal different. The people of Scotland, so far as they cultivated letters, were directed into the road of general science. Despairing of reputation, either as poets, or fine writers, they advanced by degrees in those branches of learning and philosophy, which had diffused themselves over the rest of Europe.
The peculiar spirit with which the Scots had overturned the Roman Catholic superstition, gave a particular modification to their intellectual pursuits.36 The great ferment excited over the whole nation, the rooted anti-<88>pathy to the former ecclesiastical doctrines, produced a disposition to inquire, and to embrace no tenets without examination. The energy requisite for the accomplishment of the reformation, and the impulse which that event gave to the minds of men, continued after the new system was established; and produced a boldness and activity, not only in examining religious opinions, which were of great extent, but in the general investigation of truth. Even the common mass of the people took an interest in the various points of theological controversy; became conversant in many abstract disquisitions connected with them; and were led to acquire a sort of literary curiosity.
The activity and vigour of mind which had thus been excited, produced a general attention to the propagation of knowledge, by a liberal education. In the reign of James the Sixth, public schools were established in every parish, to teach reading in the vulgar tongue, writing, and accounting; and in those places where it was found requisite, the Latin, or even the Greek language. This institution has been frequently regarded as the cause of the<89> diffusion of knowledge among the lower classes in Scotland; but it seems, in reality, to be the effect of a general demand for instruction, without which, any regulation of this nature would have soon fallen into disuse.
The same circumstances which tended in Scotland to multiply seminaries of education, contributed also to model those institutions according to utility and the conveniency of the inhabitants. While the principal schools and universities of England, from the remains of antient prejudice, confined their attention, in a great measure, to the teaching of what are called the learned languages, those of Scotland extended their views in proportion to the changes which took place in the state of society, and comprehended, more or less, in their plan of instruction, the principles of those different sciences which came to be of use in the world.
While the Scottish nation in general received an intellectual stimulus by the violent impulse given at the reformation, the lower and middling ranks of the people were peculiarly affected by the slow progress of manufactures. In England, a great proportion of<90> the inhabitants, engaging in active employments, and having their attention fixed upon minute objects, acquired, by their situation and habits, great professional skill and dexterity; but in every thing beyond their own trade or profession, remained proportionably destitute of experience and observation. In Scotland, on the contrary, the great body of the people were either idle, or slightly occupied by a coarse trade or manufacture, in which various branches of labour were united; so that the same persons, though less dexterous or skilful in any one department, were not prevented from attending successively to a variety of objects, from applying themselves to different pursuits, and consequently from attaining different kinds of information. From such a difference of circumstances, knowledge, as well as labour, came, in the one country, to be minutely divided; and, though a great quantity of this mental treasure was contained in the whole aggregate, yet from the manner of its distribution, a very small portion commonly fell to the lot of an individual: whereas in the other country, though the sum total of improvement was inconsiderable, yet that little<91> was not appropriated in such diminutive parcels, but remained, in some measure, as a common stock, which every member of the community might bring at pleasure to market.
In all parts of the world it is accordingly observable, that the great body of the people, while they remain in a state of rudeness and simplicity, are distinguished by their intelligence, acuteness, and sagacity; and that in proportion to their advancement in commerce and manufactures, they become ignorant, narrow-minded, and stupid. But in the period of the Scottish history now under consideration, the lower and middling classes of the people were placed in the former situation; at the same time that, from the causes already mentioned, the more enlightened part of the nation was not altogether destitute of literature and philosophy. While a great number of all ranks were neither immersed in business nor engrossed by the early pursuit of gain, they were at leisure to procure instruction, to go through a regular course of education at schools and universities, and to spread over the community a relish for such parts of learning as was then fashionable. A strong pre-<92>dilection for what are called the learned professions became thus very prevalent in Scotland; and men of an active disposition, little accustomed to an ordinary routine of employments, were easily induced to change their professional objects, or even to migrate into foreign countries for the purpose of advancing their fortune.*
The intelligence, sagacity, and disposition to learning, in the common people of Scotland, were inseparably connected with that modesty and reserve which makes a distinguishing feature in the manners of all rude and simple na-<93>tions. These qualities proceed from the necessitous condition of mankind antecedent to the improvements of society, when, from the difficulty of supplying their own wants, they have little opportunity or disposition for exercising a mutual sympathy or fellow-feeling with each other; and, consequently, are ashamed and unwilling to disclose the secret emotions and sentiments which they know will meet with little attention or regard. That style of distance and reserve which the Scots possessed in common with all rude nations, was confirmed, we may suppose, and peculiarly modified by the nature of their government and political circumstances. As the common people were extremely dependent upon the higher classes, they became necessarily cautious of giving offence, and desirous of recommending themselves to their superiors by an obliging deportment, by obsequious attention, and by a studied expression of zeal and affection. The habits produced by such a situation are, doubtless, not very favourable to plain-dealing and sincerity; however, they may fit the possessor for the intercourse of the world, and render him expert in smoothing<94> the frowns or improving the smiles of fortune.
The national characters bestowed upon the inhabitants of different countries, must be received with large allowances for exaggeration and prejudice; though, as they proceed upon general observation, they have usually a foundation in truth. In this light we may view the character of the Scottish nation delineated by her English neighbours; and so far as the picture is genuine, it will, perhaps, be in some measure explained by the foregoing remarks.
The shrewdness, cunning, and selfishness, imputed to the people of Scotland, are merely the unfavourable aspect of that intelligence and sagacity by which they are distinguished above the mere mechanical drudges in the southern part of the island, and by which they are more able to discover their own interest, to extricate themselves from difficulties, and to act, upon every occurrence, with decision and prudence.
They are accused of not being over-scrupulous with respect to the dignity of those methods by which they endeavour to better their circumstances. It is to be feared that this ac-<95>cusation has no very peculiar application to the inhabitants of the north. If it has any real foundation, it must undoubtedly be imputed to the debasing effects of the old Scottish government, and to the long continuance of that poverty and dependence, from which the people, in our days, are but beginning to emerge.
The national spirit of Scotchmen has been much taken notice of; insomuch that they are supposed to be all in a confederacy to commend and extol one another. We may remark, that, as candidates, either for fame or profit, in the London market, they are greatly the minority; and it is not surprising, that in such a situation they should feel a common bond of union, like that of strangers in a hostile country.* <96>
The deficiency of Scottish authors, in every department connected with wit and humour, has been universally admitted. This we may ascribe to the sly and cautious temper of the people, which is calculated to repress every exertion of mirth and pleasantry. It may also have proceeded, in some measure, from the difficulty they meet with in attaining such a command of the English language as must be requisite for the forcible and humorous delineation of ordinary life and manners.† <97>
Changes in the Political State of England from the Accession of the House of Stuart—the Advancement of Commerce and Manufactures—Institutions for National Defence—Different Effect of these in Britain, and upon the Neighbouring Continent.
The accession of James the First to the English throne, while it gave rise to such remarkable changes in the state of his ancient hereditary dominions, became the source of great advantages, in common to both countries; from which, however, England, as the ruling power, derived the principal benefit. As far back as we can clearly trace the history of the two kingdoms, we find them engaged in a course of mutual depredation and hostilities, during which, indeed, England was commonly in the end victorious; though, at the same time, from her superior wealth,<98> she was usually the principal sufferer. Upon the Norman conquest, when England was involved in connections with the continent of Europe, her enemies were of course incited to cultivate the friendship of Scotland; and after the pretensions of the king of England to the sovereignty of France had produced a rooted animosity between the two countries, the monarchs of the latter became the constant allies of the Scottish princes.1 In this situation, Scotland was commonly the dupe of French politics; and was found a convenient instrument for creating a powerful diversion of the forces in the southern part of the island. The invasions of England by her Scottish neighbours, being thus directed and assisted by a foreign power, became in many cases alarming and formidable. In the reign of Elizabeth, France had an opportunity of retaliating the vexation and embarrassment she had felt from her ancient enemy, by supporting the claim of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the crown of England. The artful policy of the English queen, in order to counteract and disappoint the machinations practised against her, has been supposed by many to throw an indelible<99> stain upon her character; and even when regarded in the most favourable point of view, can be justified only by its necessity. The intrigues of this wise princess, the expense incurred by her on that account, the extreme vigour, not to say injustice, with which she treated her unfortunate rival, a measure which, she foresaw, was likely to draw upon her the public censure and resentment: all these are sufficient proofs of the danger to which she found herself exposed, and of the mischief which her dominions were liable to suffer through the medium of Scotland.2
By the union of the two crowns in the person of James the First, England was completely delivered from every hazard of that nature. The two kingdoms, having the same sovereign, possessed of the power of declaring war and peace, were reduced under the same administration, and consequently destined for the future to live in perpetual amity. As their whole military force acted under one head, and against their common enemies, they were enabled to assume a superior rank in the scale of Europe; while the insular situation of Britain gave her little ground to apprehend<100> any foreign invasion, and little reason to interfere in the politics of the continent.
The peace and security which England derived from these favourable circumstances contributed to the encouragement of industry, and to the improvement of those commercial advantages which the peculiar situation of the country had bestowed upon her. After the accession of the house of Stuart, therefore, the advancement of trade and manufactures became still more conspicuous than it had been under the princes of the Tudor family; and its consequences, in diffusing opulence and independence, were proportionably more extensive. Towards the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth, the woollen manufacture, which, from the tyranny of Spain in the Netherlands, had been transported into England, gave employment to a number of industrious hands, and put in motion a correspondent amount of capitals, which, upon the extension or variation of the demand for commodities, could easily be diverted into other channels. Various branches of manufacture sprung up, one after another; and found a market for their productions. The prosperity of inland<101> trade produced an inclination, as well as a capacity, for greater commercial enterprizes; and occasioned the formation of colonies in distant parts of the world. To promote such undertakings, the assistance of government was given to the private adventurers; and a number of trading companies, with various exclusive privileges, which at that time proved of general utility, were established.
By the progress of these improvements, a greater proportion of the inhabitants, instead of living as retainers or servants of the rich, became engaged in various mechanical employments, or in different branches of traffick, from which they could earn a livelihood without the necessity of courting the favour of their superiors. An artificer, whose labour is enhanced by the general demand for it, or a tradesman who sells his goods in a common market, considers himself as his own master. He says that he is obliged to his employers, or his customers; and he treats them with civility; but he does not feel himself greatly dependent upon them. His subsistence, and his profits, are derived not from one, but from a number of persons; he knows, besides, that<102> their employment, or their custom, proceeds not commonly from personal favour, but from a regard to their own interest; and consequently that, while he serves them equally well, he has no reason to apprehend the decline of his business. Rising more and more to this independent situation, artificers and tradesmen were led by degrees to shake off their ancient slavish habits, to gratify their own inclinations or humours, and to indulge that love of liberty, so congenial to the mind of man, which nothing but imperious necessity is able to subdue.
The independence and the influence of this order of people was farther promoted by the circumstance of their being collected in towns, whence they derived an extreme facility in communicating their sentiments and opinions. In a populous city, not only the discoveries and knowledge, but the feelings and passions of each individual are quickly and readily propagated over the whole. If an injury is committed, if an act of oppression is complained of, it immediately spreads an alarm, becomes the subject of clamour and censure, and excites the general indignation and resentment. <103> Every one roused by the example of those around him, loses the sense of his own danger in the ardour and impetuosity of his companions. Some bold and enterprizing leader acquires an ascendancy over their common movements; and while their first impressions are yet warm, finds no difficulty in uniting them to defend their privileges, or to demand redress for their wrongs.
While the tradesmen, manufacturers, and merchants of England, were thus rapidly increasing in number, and advancing to such comfortable situations, many individuals in those classes were, by successful industry in the more lucrative branches of trade, and by a rigid and persevering economy, the natural effect of their habits, enabled to acquire splendid fortunes, and to reflect a degree of lustre upon the profession to which they belonged. In this, as in all other cases, property became the source of consideration and respect; and, in proportion as the trading part of the nation became opulent, they obtained more weight in the community.
The progressive advancement of the freedom and independence of the manufacturing<104> and mercantile people was followed, in the natural course of things, by that of the peasantry or farmers, the other great class of the commonalty. From the multiplication of the trading towns, and their increasing population and riches, the consumption of all the necessaries of life was promoted, and the market for every species of provisions proportionably extended. The price of every article produced by the land was therefore enhanced by a greater competition of purchasers; and the labour of those persons employed in agriculture was called forth and rewarded by an augmentation of profits; not to mention, that the activity and enterprizing genius of merchants, arising from their large capitals, their extensive dealings, and their mutual intercourse, were naturally communicated to the neighbouring farmers; who, from the limited nature of their undertakings, and from their dispersed and solitary residence, trusting to the slow experience and detached observations of each individual, were likely, independent of this additional excitement, to proceed with great caution and timidity, and therefore to advance very slowly in the knowledge of their<105> profession. In proportion to the general improvement of agriculture, it was expected that farmers should undertake more expensive operations in manuring and meliorating their grounds; and to encourage these undertakings, the master found it necessary to give them a reasonable prospect of indemnity, by securing them for an adequate length of time in the possession of their farms. By the extension of leases of land, which became more and more universal, the farmers of England not only were emancipated from their primitive dependence, but acquired a degree of rank and importance unknown in most other countries.
The same causes which exalted the common people, diminished the influence of the nobility, or of such as were born to great fortunes. The improvement of arts, the diffusion of all those accommodations which are the natural consequence of that improvement, were accompanied with a change of manners; the ancient plainness and simplicity giving place by degrees to a relish for pleasure and to a taste of luxury and refinement, which were productive of greater expence in all the articles of living.3 Men of high rank, who found<106> themselves, without any exertion of their own, possessed of great wealth, were not prompted by their situation to acquire habits either of industry or of economy. To live upon their estates, to pass their time in idleness, or to follow their amusement, was regarded as their birth-right. Gaining nothing, therefore, by their industry, and exposed by the growing luxury of the times to the daily temptation of increasing their expences, they were, of course, involved in difficulties, were obliged to devise expedients for raising money, and reduced to the necessity of purchasing an additional rent, by granting long leases, or even more permanent rights to their tenants. The ancient retainers, whom every feudal baron had been accustomed to maintain upon his estate for the purpose of defending him against all his enemies, were unavoidably dismissed; and the military services, which had been formerly exacted from the vassals, were converted into stated pecuniary payments. These conversions, indeed, were at the same time recommended from the change of manners and the alterations in the state of the country; as, by the suppression of private feuds among the<107> great lords, and the general establishment of peace and tranquillity, the maintenance of such retainers, on account of personal defence, was become superfluous.
The nobility, or great barons, were thus deprived of that armed force, and of that multitude of adherents and dependents by which they had formerly supported their authority and dignity. Many individuals among them, from the progress of dissipation and extravagance, were at length obliged, upon the failure of other resources, to contract debts, to mortgage, and to squander away their estates. The frugal and industrious merchant, who had acquired a fortune by trade, was enabled, in such a case, to purchase what the idle and extravagant proprietor found it necessary to sell. Property in land, originally the great source of influence, was in this manner transferred from the higher to the lower classes; the character of the trader and that of the landed gentleman were in some measure confounded; and the consideration and rank of the latter were, by a change of circumstances, communicated to the former.
These gradual changes in the state of the<108> country could not fail to affect the condition of the monarch, as well as the authority of parliament, and, in particular, the relative weight of the two houses.
The improvement of arts, and the progress of luxury and refinement, which increased the rate of living to every nobleman, or private gentleman, had necessarily the same effect upon that of the sovereign. The additional accommodations and pleasures, the various modes of elegance or ostentation, which the fashion of the times was daily introducing, occasioned a proportional addition to the expence requisite for supporting the king’s household, and maintaining the dignity of the crown. The different officers and servants employed in all the branches of public business, finding their subsistence more expensive than formerly, required of course an augmentation of salaries or emoluments. From the advancement of society in civilization, from the greater accumulation of property in the hands of individuals, and from a correspondent extension of the connections and pursuits of mankind, a more complicated set of regulations became necessary for main-<109>taining good order and tranquillity; and the number of different officers and servants in the various departments of administration was unavoidably augmented. Upon all these accounts, the king, who found his ancient revenue more and more inadequate to his expences, was laid under greater difficulties in supporting the machine of government, and obliged more frequently to solicit the aid of parliament for obtaining additional supplies.
These effects of the increasing trade and opulence of the country had begun to be felt in the reign of Elizabeth; who, at the same time, from her peculiar situation, from the number and power of her enemies, and from the intricate and artful policy to which she resorted in order to frustrate their designs, was involved in extraordinary expences. Wishing, however, to preserve her popularity, and having probably little regard to her apparent successor, she was willing to alienate the crown-lands, rather than impose new burdens upon her subjects; insomuch that, upon the accession of James, when the state of the monarchy demanded an augmentation of revenue, the ancient patrimony of the crown had been<110> greatly reduced. From particular accidents, therefore, as well as from the operation of general causes, there was opened at this period a new source of influence, tending, in some degree, to reverse the former channels of authority, and to render the monarch dependent upon the national council. As the king had no ordinary funds for the execution of any important measure, either house of parliament, by withholding its assent to the taxes proposed, might with the utmost facility arrest his most favourite enterprizes, and even put a stop to all the movements of administration.4
It is manifest, however, that the circumstances which had thus contributed to extend the authority of parliament, must have tended in a peculiar manner to exalt the house of commons. In consequence of the growing wealth and independence of the people, the house of commons, composed of the representatives of the people, rose to superior eminence, and assumed more extensive privileges. Its dignity and power were, at the same time, promoted by the king, who, in the long continued struggle with the nobles, had endeavoured to undermine their influence by exalting the lower orders of<111> the community. For this purpose the interest of the crown had been employed in bringing the knights of shires into parliament, in separating them from the great barons, and uniting them in one house with the burgesses. With the same view the kings of England, more especially those of the Tudor family, not only encouraged the frequent meetings of parliament, but promoted the interference of the house of commons in all the branches of parliamentary business, and connived at those forms of proceeding by which it acquired the exclusive right of introducing all bills intended to impose any tax or pecuniary burden upon the people. Wherever the monarch was afraid of hazarding the direct exertion of his prerogative, he had commonly recourse to the lower house of parliament, of whose aid, in opposing the nobility, he seldom had any reason to doubt.
But the time was now come when this union of interest between the crown and the house of commons could no longer subsist. The inferior ranks having attained a certain pitch of independence, had no longer occasion for the protection of the sovereign; while the nobili-<112>ty, fallen from their ancient power and grandeur, had ceased to be the objects of terror. The commons were now in a condition to defend those privileges which they had invariably exercised, and which immemorial custom had sanctioned. They represented by far the greatest part of the landed property, and almost the whole personal wealth of the kingdom; and in their measures for promoting their own interest and that of their constituents, they were likely to be supported by the great body of the people. Their apprehension and jealousy, instead of being excited by the peers, was now more properly directed to the monarch, whose power had of late become so exorbitant, and of whom the peers, no longer the rivals, were become, a great part of them, the dependents and subordinate agents.
In the reign of queen Elizabeth this independent spirit of the commons had begun to appear; but, from the accession of James the First, becoming much more conspicuous, it was productive of uniform and repeated exertions for limiting the encroachments of the prerogative, and for maintaining and extending the popular part of the constitution.<113>
Of all the innovations arising from the progress of the arts, and the advancement of civilized manners, that which related to the national defence was the most remarkable. The dismission of the ancient retainers belonging to the proprietors of land, and the employment of a great proportion of the lower people in arts and manufactures, made it no longer possible, in those emergencies when a military force was required, to call out the feudal militia into the field. The vassals of the crown, therefore, unable to fulfil the engagements implied in their original tenures, were obliged, in place of military service, to offer a pecuniary composition, from which a general contribution or tax was at length introduced; and with the money collected in this manner, the king, upon whom was devolved the care of defending the country, was put in a condition to hire soldiers for the purpose. This alteration in the system of national defence, which began upon the dawn of improvement in the kingdom, was gradually making advances till the reign of James the First, when the attendance of the vassals was totally relinquished; and the<114> armies levied for the future came to be composed entirely of mercenaries.
The introduction of mercenary forces was, in different respects, attended with very different, and even opposite consequences.5 It occasioned an immense addition to the former expences of government; and, in proportion, rendered the king more dependent upon that power which had the disposal of the public money. As he could execute no enterprize of importance without obtaining from parliament an adequate supply, he was under the necessity of procuring the concurrence of that assembly in almost all his measures; and when money was wanted, he could seldom find a decent pretence for refusing a redress of grievances, or any other compliance which either house might require as the condition of the grant. The house of commons, in which it was understood that all money-bills must originate, stood forward on such occasions, and availed itself of this privilege for guarding those avenues of the constitution which the inexperience or negligence of the former times had left open to the attacks of the crown.
The changes in the military system had, in<115> another view, a tendency to aggrandize the monarch. An army levied and maintained by the crown, separated by their employment from the rest of the community, and alienated from the interest and pursuits of their fellow-citizens, deriving not only their present subsistence, but all their hopes of preferment from the sovereign, accustomed to obey his orders, and, by the peculiar spirit of their profession, taught to place their punctilio of honour and duty in the implicit strictness of that obedience: a body of men so circumstanced became a powerful instrument in the hands of a master, ready to be moved at pleasure in the execution of his designs. The employment of mercenary troops, in place of the ancient feudal militia, had thus a tendency to exalt the crown in two different ways. In the first place, by affording a beneficial and reputable profession to a multitude of people, it held up to a great proportion of the inhabitants, in particular to the nobility and gentry, who consider themselves as excluded from many other professions, the prospect of attaining a provision, and even rank and distinction, to themselves and their families. It instilled in-<116>to all these persons the habit of looking invariably to the sovereign as the dispenser of those advantages, and consequently disposed them to adhere to his party in all political disputes, and to distinguish themselves by their exertions in support of the prerogative.
But, secondly, this new system of national defence furnished the king with an armed force, which he might commonly govern at his discretion, and which, therefore, if raised to a certain magnitude, might be capable of bearing down and crushing all resistance or opposition to his will. The introduction of mercenaries, which, from similar causes, took place over a great part of Europe, was the more likely to be attended with this fatal consequence; because, in the natural course of things, they were soon converted into regular standing armies. When a body of troops had been enlisted, and properly disciplined for war, it was thought a prudent measure to retain, if not the whole, at least a part of them even in time of peace, that the country might not be left totally defenceless; and that, with the assistance of those veterans, the new levies might the sooner be fitted for service. The farther the<117> improvements of military discipline had been pushed, the more difficult it became, from the progress of trade, to recruit the army upon any sudden emergency; and the more that princes, from their situation, found an interest in being constantly prepared for war, the number of standing forces, in particular countries, was increased; the trade of a soldier was more separated from every other, and rendered more permanent; and the great body of the people, unarmed and unwarlike, were consequently reduced under the power of that formidable class who had come to be constantly and exclusively paid for fighting.
In England, therefore, as well as in the other European countries which had made considerable progress in arts and manufactures, we may discover the operation of two principles which had an opposite political tendency; the independence and opulence acquired by the lower classes of the people, which tended to produce a popular government; and the introduction of mercenary armies for the purpose of national defence, which contributed to extend and support the power of the crown. This gave rise, unavoidably, to a contest be-<118>tween the king and the people; while the former was endeavouring to extend his prerogative, and the latter to maintain or augment their privileges. In tracing the commencement and progress of this contest, which forms an interesting and critical period in the history of those countries, it will be found that the success of either party has frequently depended upon peculiar and accidental circumstances.*
In most of the countries of Europe, the practice of hiring troops was begun at an earlier period than in England, and was pushed to a much greater extent. The kingdoms upon the continent were greatly exposed to the attacks of neighbouring powers; and in those disorderly times, when every ambitious prince aimed at foreign conquest, were obliged to be constantly in a posture of defence; so that when the vassals of the crown began to decline the military service, there was an absolute necessity to surmount every difficulty in procuring a great body of mercenaries. Thus, before the spirit of liberty had risen to a high pitch,<119> the king had obtained an army devoted to his interest, and easily diverted from its original destination, to that of supporting and enlarging his power.
We accordingly find, that, upon the continent of Europe, the disuse of the feudal militia, and the formation of mercenary armies, enabled the sovereign, in most cases, to establish a despotical government. This happened in France during the reign of Louis the Thirteenth, and in Spain during that of Philip the Second. In Germany, indeed, the independence of the different states of the empire had, long before this period, been settled upon so firm a basis, that every attempt of the crown to reduce them to subjection proved ineffectual. But the vigorous efforts which were made for this purpose by the emperor Ferdinand the Second,6 sufficiently demonstrate that the new system of military arrangements, introduced about this time by the monarch, had the same tendency here as in the other European kingdoms.
The circumstances of Britain, however, at this critical period, were a good deal different from those of the countries upon the neigh-<120>bouring continent. By the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, an entire stop was put to the inroads and hostilities between the two countries; which, at the same time, from their insular situation, were little exposed to the attacks of any foreign potentate. When the vassals of the crown, therefore, had withdrawn their ancient military service, there was no immediate necessity for employing any considerable body of mercenary soldiers. The defence of the country was devolved, in a great measure, upon its navy; which, without much difficulty, could be rendered fully sufficient for the purpose. By the maritime situation, and the commercial improvements of Britain, a great part of its inhabitants, becoming acquainted with the navigation and the arts depending upon it, formed a body of sailors capable of manning such fleets as might be necessary to repel any foreign invasion, and requiring little additional discipline or instruction to fit them for that species of military service.
The sea and the land forces may, both of them, no doubt, be properly ranked in the class of mercenaries; yet, when we consider<121> their tendency to support the authority of the crown, they must be viewed in a different light. The soldiers of a land army have usually no other employment, or at least none which, upon being disbanded, they can exercise with equal advantage. But the sailors of the royal navy are usually drawn, and often dragged by force, from the merchant service; to which, being less hazardous, and commonly more lucrative, a great part of them are desirous of returning. The officers, indeed, in the sea and in the land service, are nearly in the same situation, depending entirely upon the crown for their professional advancement; and having no other employment from which they can expect either distinction or emolument. But the great body of the sailors, in the pay of government, are somewhat in the condition of common mechanics; deriving subsistence from their labour and skill; and secure, that whenever they shall be dismissed from their present service, their proficiency in a collateral branch will afford them a comfortable livelihood.
Though sea-faring people, by being peculiarly distinguished from the rest of the com-<122>munity, are usually animated with an uncommon degree of the esprit du corps,7 they are not fitted, either by their situation or dispositions, to act as the tools of a court in supporting the encroachments of the prerogative. From their precarious way of life, exposing them to great and unexpected vicissitudes; exempting them at some times from all care for their own provision, and at others producing such affluence as tempts them to extraordinary dissipation, they become thoughtless about futurity, and little impressed by motives of interest. Their disinterested character, joined to their want of reflection, and habitual contempt of danger, creates a spirit of independence, bordering upon licentiousness, from which they are with difficulty recalled to the obedience and submission consistent with their duty. The fleets in the service of the crown are, besides, at too great a distance, and their operations of too peculiar a nature, to admit of their being employed occasionally in quelling insurrections at home, or in checking the efforts of the people to maintain their privileges. They are confined to a different element.<123>
From these observations it will not appear surprising that the fate of the English government was different from that of most of the other feudal governments upon the continent. At the period when the commons had imbibed a higher spirit of liberty, and acquired an increase of power and influence from the increasing opulence and independence of the people, the sovereign was not provided with an army sufficient to maintain his pretensions. James the First, and Charles the First, appear to have embraced the same political principles with most of the other princes of Europe. They saw the absolute power of the crown exercised in the neighbouring kingdoms, and were not willing to be left behind by their neighbours. But the secure and peaceable state of their dominions afforded no plausible pretence for the imposition of such taxes as would have been requisite for keeping on foot a great body of mercenary troops; and parliament, alarmed at the unusual demands of money, upon the part of the crown, became proportionably circumspect in granting even the most moderate supplies. To accomplish their purpose, those monarchs, in the<124> extreme perplexity arising from their circumstances, were induced to practise a variety of shifts, and to carry on a train of dissimulation very unbecoming their station; but having no sufficient military force to support their claims, they were laid under the necessity of making such concessions, and of permitting the erection of such barriers against oppression, as the awakened suspicion and jealousy of the nation thought indispensable for securing the ancient constitution, and restraining the future abuses of the prerogative.
The ocean with which Britain is encompassed, had thus, at two different periods, a powerful and happy influence upon the course of the English government. During the highest exultation of the feudal monarchy in modern Europe, the safety which England derived from its insular situation, and its remote connection with the disputes and quarrels upon the continent, gave the sovereign, as was observed upon the early part of our History, few opportunities of acting as the general of the national forces; and, consequently, of acquiring the popularity and authority which result from that eminent station. As the great feu-<125>dal superior in the kingdom, he became, therefore, less absolute than the sovereign in any of the great nations upon the continent. When, in a later age, the improvements of commerce and manufactures dried up the ancient sources of the feudal dominion, and turned the course of authority into different channels, the same line of separation between Britain and the neighbouring countries withheld, from the sovereign of the former, that new system of military arrangement which was then introduced into the latter, and which in them became the great instrument of despotism. The feudal king of England saw no other path to greatness than by undermining the aristocracy; and was willing to barter the exaltation of the lower, for the depression of the higher classes. Her commercial sovereign found that he was unable to set bounds to those liberties, which his predecessors had endeavoured to promote, and was thence induced, though with infinite reluctance, to compound the disputes with his people, and to relinquish a part of his prerogative in order to retain the rest.<126>
In what Manner the Political System was Affected by the State of Religious Opinions.
In those European countries which embraced the doctrines of the reformation, religious disputes continued for some time to agitate the minds of men; and the different sects which became prevalent, or obtained consideration, were allied with different parties in the state. The latter, in such cases, derived a prodigious advantage from the former, being supported by that zeal which religion is wont to inspire, and by that animosity which is often the bitter fruit of religious contention.
With those who endeavoured to pull down the fabric of superstition and ecclesiastical tyranny, erected in the dark ages, it was one of the first objects to withdraw that exorbitant power which the Roman pontiff, as the head of the western church, had found the means of usurping. It required but little reflection to<127> discover the inconvenience and absurdity of a foreign prince being permitted to obtain the superintendence and government of religion, in a country whose interest was not only different, but frequently opposite to that of his own dominions; that he should be allowed to interfere in the distribution of justice, as well as in the disposal of the most lucrative offices; and that he should exercise these privileges without limitation or controul, and by virtue of an authority paramount and superior to that of the civil magistrate. In England, the private controversy in which Henry the Eighth was engaged with the court of Rome, led him to view this point in a strong light; and the delivery of himself and his kingdom from the dominion of the holy see, together with the gratification of his avarice, by acquiring possession of the monastic revenues, may be regarded as the sole purpose for which he prosecuted the reformation. So great was the authority possessed by this monarch, and so much afraid was either religious party of pushing him to extremities, that the new system came, in a great measure, to be modelled by his direction; and, upon this account, it retained a<128> greater affinity to the ancient establishment than could otherwise have been expected. The papal supremacy was not extinguished, but only transferred to the king; and in other respects, the hierarchy suffered no material variation.
This plan of church government, which Henry had laboured with all his might to establish, was far from being disagreeable to the temper of Elizabeth; and though not perfectly suitable to the inclination of all that part of her subjects who favoured the reformation, yet, being patronised by the sovereign, and having obtained the sanction of two preceding reigns, it was considered as the system most likely to prevail over the ancient establishment, and was therefore admitted without opposition by every denomination of protestants.
Two great religious parties, at this time, divided the whole nation; the Protestants and the Roman Catholics: the former, who, by undaunted resolution and fortitude, and with various success encountering severe trials and bloody persecutions, had at length obtained a decided superiority. The latter, who, though defeated, were not broken; and who, though<129> they had quitted the open field, were still powerful in number, connections, and resources, and were only lying in wait for the first favourable opportunity to retrieve their fortune. These two parties were animated by mutual hatred and resentments. The oppression to which the Protestants had been subjected, and the barbarities which at the instigation of the church, they had suffered from the secular arm, were still fresh in their memory; while they dreaded the machinations of a party, with whose unrelenting dispositions they were well acquainted, and whose activity and power, seconded by the papal influence and authority over a great part of Europe, were still very formidable. The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, could not easily forget the mortifying degradation which they had suffered; the complete overthrow of their faith and worship; the loss of their splendid and lucrative establishment; the insolence and contempt of heretics, irritated by former bad usage; and the hardships which they had reason to expect from adversaries, now triumphant, and supported by the civil magistrate.<130>
After the accession of the house of Stuart, when the terror of popery began to subside, the subordinate distinctions among Protestants were brought more into notice, and their chief differences of opinion gave rise to different sects. According as the terms of the established religion had been limited and circumscribed by the influence of the crown, the sectaries became numerous and powerful. The tide of religious faith and worship, being turned from its natural course, and forced into an artificial channel, was the more likely to overflow its banks, and to find a passage in various collateral streams and currents.
The presbyterians, who had gained the ascendancy in Scotland, were in England, about this period, the most numerous body of sectaries. Their system appears to have arisen from a natural progression of the same views and opinions by which the religious reformation had been originally suggested. They proposed to correct the abuses of the Roman Catholic church, and to guard against the undue influence and domination of the clergy, by the abolition of ecclesiastical dignities, by establishing a perfect parity among churchmen,<131> by restricting them to very moderate livings, and by rejecting that pomp and pageantry of worship which is manifestly calculated to promote superstition, and to create in the people a blind veneration for their spiritual directors.
While the presbyterians disapproved of the ancient hierarchy, there arose another great sect, who considered all ecclesiastical establishments as incompatible with religious freedom. To this description of religionists, the interference of government in favour of any one sect, by maintaining its clergy at the public expence, appeared a kind of persecution of every other, and an encroachment upon the rights of private judgment. As every man employs and pays his own physician or lawyer, it seemed to them equally proper and expedient that every one should be left to choose his own religious instructor, and to bestow upon him such a reward for his labour as might be settled by an agreement between them. In this manner the clergy, it was thought, instead of acquiring an undue influence over the people, would become dependent upon them; and, like men in other professions, prompted to exertion by a regard to their own interest, would commonly be successful in pro-<132>portion to their abilities and good behaviour. The different modes of faith, as well as the forms of public worship, would thus be placed upon an equal and liberal footing; and the community at large being freed, in matters of religion, from the bias either of interest or of authority, would be encouraged to follow the dictates of reason and conscience. The political advantages of such a regulation were supposed to be not less conspicuous. By the simple expedient of leaving the people at liberty to conduct their own religious concerns, the charge of levying taxes, or providing any permanent fund for the support of the national religion, together with the hardship of obliging any part of the inhabitants to pay for maintaining the clergy of a different communion; not to mention the loss that must be sustained, in that case, if the established pastors are deserted by their flock, and remain an useless load upon the public; all these inconveniences would be entirely avoided.
Such was the general system of the independents; 1 which, by a natural progress of reasoning, seems to have grown up from that of the presbyterians, as the latter was an obvious<133> extension of the doctrines embraced by those primitive reformers who continued the hierarchy. The Christian religion had been reduced into a monopoly, under the authority of a governor,2 with extensive territories and numerous forts commanded by regular officers to defend the trade and prevent interlopers. For correcting the evils which had arisen from such an oppressive establishment, the first remedy went no farther than to cashier the governor, to dismiss a number of useless and expensive servants, and to cut off a multitude of pernicious exclusive privileges. To demolish the forts, to disband their opulent and powerful commanding officers, and to strip the corporation of its overgrown territorial possessions, appeared, upon further experience and reflection, an additional improvement. To dissolve the company altogether, and to lay the trade entirely open, was at length suggested as the most effectual means for promoting laudable industry, for discouraging unfair practices, and for communicating an equal benefit to a whole people.
These four religious parties, the Roman Catholic, the Church of England, the Presby-<134>terian, the Independent, which comprehended nearly the whole nation, were led to embrace different political systems, and became allied to different parties in the State. The two first, in a political view, exhibited characters diametrically opposite to those of the two last; and though differing in some respects from each other, their leading features were similar.
The Roman catholic religion may be regarded as a deep-laid system of superstition, which took a firmer hold of the human mind than any other that has appeared in the world.3 It was founded upon a more complicated and national theology than the rude systems of a former period; and gave rise to a multiplicity of interesting opinions and tenets, which exercised and frequently perplexed the pious believer, so as to lay him under the necessity of resorting to the aid of a religious instructor for the regulation and direction of his faith. It represented the Deity as an omnipotent, but an austere and vindictive being, capable of anger and resentment against those who transgress his laws, and intending this world, not for the present comfort and satisfaction of his<135> creatures, but as a place of preparation for a future state of eternal happiness or misery. As all men must be conscious of great weakness and frailty, of not only deviating from the standard of perfect virtue, but of being frequently stained with numberless vices, and even atrocious crimes, which excites self-condemnation and remorse, they could not fail, upon conceiving themselves in the all-seeing eye of this impartial and severe Judge, to be covered with shame and confusion, and overwhelmed with consternation and terror. Under the impression of these feelings, it was natural that they should endeavour to procure consolation from the intercourse of some ghostly father whom they should call upon to supplicate the offended Deity in their behalf, and whose advice and direction they should eagerly solicit in attempting to atone for their transgressions, by submitting to voluntary penances or mortifications, and by every expression or demonstration of humility and abasement, of sorrow and repentance. These dispositions and circumstances of the people had produced a clergy, opulent and powerful beyond example, who had laboured to promote and regulate<136> that superstition which was the original foundation of their authority; and who, in their advancement to riches and dominion, had, like the officers of a regular army, fallen into a subordination of power and rank. The doctrines and the practical conduct inculcated by this clergy, were such as might contribute most effectually to their own aggrandizement. The people were taught to believe in mysteries which their pastors alone pretended to explain, to approach and worship the Supreme Being by superstitious rites and ceremonies, in which the clergy presided, to discover to their spiritual instructor all their secret thoughts and actions, and, upon submitting to the discipline prescribed by the church in such cases, to receive from him absolution and pardon for their sins. In a word, the clergy were understood to have in their possession the keys of heaven; in consequence of which, the treasures of the earth, and the hearts of mankind, were laid open to them.
In the exercise and extension of their power, they were supported, not only by their ecclesiastical leader, the Roman pontiff, but also by their temporal sovereign, who, though on some oc-<137>casions he might quarrel with them for their encroachments upon his prerogative, had commonly an interest to promote their influence over the people; as they, on the other hand, from his having a great share in the disposal of their livings, were induced to employ that influence in promoting and maintaining his authority. Thus, between the great power of the crown and that of the church, both of which were the offspring of ignorance and prejudice, there arose a sort of family compact, which being consolidated by length of time and by mutual habits, proved no less advantageous to either party than it was inimical to the interest of the whole community.
Of all the systems of religion established at the time of the reformation, the church of England approached the nearest to that Roman catholick stock upon which it was engrafted. It rejected, indeed, many absurd opinions adopted by the church of Rome, and, from the greater diffusion of knowledge, it acquired a more limited influence over the minds of the people. But so far as its authority extended, its character and tendency were the same. Though its features were a little softened, it<138> presented the same aspect of superstition, the same pomp and parade of worship, the same dignitaries invested with jurisdiction and authority, the same opulence and splendour in the higher clergy, which tended to procure them consideration and respect, the same train of subordination in the ranks and orders of churchmen, which united them in one compact body, and enabled them, in promoting their common interest, to act with unanimity and vigour.
The constitution of the church of England had even a stronger tendency than that of Rome to render its clergy devoted to the interest of the crown. They were more uniformly dependent upon the sovereign; who, by the annihilation of the papal supremacy, became, without a rival, the acknowledged head of the church, and obtained the entire disposal of the higher ecclesiastical dignities.
The presbyterian and independent systems were of a different spirit and complexion. The adherents of the former, in correcting the errors and abuses of the church of Rome, had acquired a degree of ardour and enthusiasm, which led them, in their acts of pub-<139>lic worship, to reject with indignation all forms and ceremonious observances, and to consider their approaches to the Deity, by prayer and supplication, as a mere sentimental intercourse, calculated to demonstrate and improve those feelings of the heart which were due to their Creator. They regarded the functions of a clergyman, therefore, as of no further importance than to preserve good order in the public exercise of religious worship, to inspect the behaviour of the people under his care, and to instruct them in the great duties of morality and religion. It was consistent with this moderate and rational estimation of the clerical character, that the clergy should be moderately provided in livings, that they should not be exalted one above another by any scale of dignities or jurisdiction, and that their authority, upon the whole, should be inconsiderable. By their activity, indeed, and by their attention to the duties of their profession, they were capable of gaining great influence and respect; but in order to do this, it was necessary that they should recommend themselves to the people rather than cultivate the patronage of men in power. They<140> could, therefore, be of little service to the sovereign in supporting his prerogative, and, of consequence, had little to expect from his favour. On the contrary, as their interest and habits connected them with the populace, they entered with alacrity into the popular feelings and views, beheld with jealousy and apprehension the lofty pretensions of the crown, and sounded throughout the kingdom the alarm of regal usurpation.
As the system of the independents proceeded a step further than that of the presbyterians, by declaring against all ecclesiastical establishments, and rendering the provision of every religious instructor perfectly precarious, their clergy becoming still more dependent upon their employers, were proportionably more interested in courting popular favour, and in struggling for the extension of popular privileges.
The presbyterians, as they approved of a permanent clergy, appointed and paid by the public, and possessed of a certain jurisdiction, so, in their political system, they had no aversion to a hereditary monarch, invested with permanent civil powers, and superintending all the<141> ordinary branches of executive government. But the independents, who held that the appointment of the clergy should be left to the discretion of those who thought proper to employ them, were led, in consistency with this doctrine, to maintain that every civil officer, whether supreme or subordinate, should likewise be elected by the community. The presbyterians, therefore, were the friends of limited monarchy. The independents preferred a democratical constitution. The connection, however, between these religious and civil plans of government, though sufficiently obvious, was not acknowledged, nor perhaps discovered all at once; but was gradually developed and brought to light, during the course of the long contest between the king and the commons. For some time after the establishment of the reformation, the Roman catholics continued to be the object of hatred and resentment to all denominations of protestants; but their disposition to support the prerogative did not escape the two first princes of the house of Stuart, who secretly favoured their interest, as much as they hated the presbyterians and independents. Upon pretence of lenity to tender<142> consciences, these two princes assumed the power of dispensing with the penal statutes against non-conformists; 4 but the real purpose of those dispensations was apparent to all, and the nation felt equal alarm and indignation from considering those exertions of the prerogative as no less direct and palpable violations of the constitution, than they were decided marks of predilection for a party, the apprehension of whose return into power still continued to fill the nation with terror.
Of the two succeeding monarchs, Charles the Second,5 it is now known, was a concealed, as his brother, James the Second,6 was an avowed and bigoted Roman Catholic. The constant favour shewn by the four princes of the house of Stuart to the people of this persuasion, could not fail to procure for them returns of gratitude and affection, and to render them zealous defenders of the prerogative; as, on the other hand, the dislike which those princes invariably manifested to the presbyterians and independents, contributed to strengthen the political bias acquired by those dissenters, and to confirm the original principles by which they were attached to the popular cause.<143>
But although the different religious parties in England were thus disposed to embrace those opposite political systems, their natural dispositions, in this respect, were sometimes warped and counteracted by peculiar circumstances. For some time after the accession of the house of Stuart, the terror of the restoration of popery, which had been inspired into every description of protestants, produced an extreme jealousy of the king, on account of his marked and uniform partiality to the Roman catholics; and united the church of England with the dissenters in opposing the designs of the crown. This was visible through the whole reign of James the First, and a considerable part of the reign of Charles the First, during which the nation, exclusive of the Roman catholics, and a few interested courtiers, acted with wonderful unanimity in restraining the encroachments of the prerogative.
To form a proper notion of the effects arising from this union, we must consider the state of religious differences in those times. How inconsistent soever it may seem with the genuine principles of religious reformation, the primitive reformers, of every denomination,<144> were no less destitute than the Roman catholics, of that liberality of sentiment which teaches men to indulge their neighbours in the same freedom of opinion which they claim to themselves. They were, all of them, so highly impregnated with a spirit of bigotry and fanaticism as to regard any remarkable deviation from their own tenets in the light of a damnable error, which ought, by every possible means, to be corrected or suppressed; and for the attainment of this object, they were easily excited to brave every danger, and to submit to any inconvenience or hardship. Their interference, therefore, was always formidable to the civil power, and became frequently the chief cause of revolutions in government. At a subsequent period, the harshness and asperity attending the first exuberant growth of religious differences, have been gradually mellowed and softened in their progress to maturity; and the prejudices contracted in the dawn of philosophy, have been dissipated by the fuller light of science and literature, and by that cool and dispassionate inquiry which is the natural fruit of leisure, tranquillity and affluence. It may, perhaps, be considered as the strongest proof of<145> those intellectual improvements which mankind have attained in the present age, that we have beheld the most astonishing political changes, to which religion has in no respect contributed, and which have been regarded by the ministers of the altar in no other light but that of pecuniary interest.
In the latter part of the reign of Charles the First, the disputes between the king and the commons began to assume a different aspect. The apprehensions which were so long entertained of the Romish religion, had then, in a good measure, subsided; and the public attention was engrossed by the arbitrary measures of the crown, which produced a very general opinion, that certain precautions were necessary for guarding against the future encroachments of the prerogative. Here the church of England appeared to follow her natural propensity, and her clergy almost universally deserted the popular standard. The presbyterians and the independents, on the other hand, stood forward as the supporters of the national privileges; and while they became powerful auxiliaries to the<146> cause of liberty, they derived a great accession of strength and reputation from the general tide of political opinions.
Of those two sects, the presbyterians were, for some time, the most powerful, and by their exertions, in conformity to their views of government, many regulations, calculated for securing a limited monarchy, were successively introduced. But the progress of the contest, by holding the minds of men in continual agitation, contributed to push the people to greater extremities, both in religion and politics; in religion, by overthrowing all religious establishments; and in politics, by the entire abolition of regal authority. Such was the aim of the independents, who at length became the ruling party, but who, falling under the direction of an extraordinary genius, utterly devoid of all principle, were made, in his hands, an instrument for the destruction of the monarchy, for the purpose of introducing an odious species of despotism. Had Cromwell7 possessed less enterprize and abilities, the crown would have been preserved: had his<147> ambition been better directed, England, which under his authority assumed the name of a commonwealth, might have, in reality, obtained a popular government.
The restoration of Charles the Second,8 gave rise to new religious combinations. The church of England, having now recovered her former establishment, could not fail to entertain a violent jealousy of those dissenters by whom her power had been overturned; and she was led, of course, to co-operate with the Roman catholics, in promoting the arbitrary designs of the monarch. The cry of church and king, and the alarm, that the church was in danger, were now sounded throughout the nation, and were employed on every critical emergency, to discredit all endeavours for securing the rights of the people.
The barefaced attempt of the infatuated James the Second, to re-establish the Roman catholic religion in England, tended once more to break down these arrangements, and to produce a concert, between the leading men in the church and the protestant dissenters, for the purpose of<148> resisting the unconstitutional measures of the king. As this concert, however, had arisen from the immediate fear of popery, it remained no longer than while that fear was kept alive; and accordingly the revolution in 1688 was hardly completed, before these loyal ecclesiastics began to disclaim the part they had acted, and returned with fresh ardour to their congenial doctrines of passive obedience and non-resistance.<149>
Progress of the Disputes between the King and Parliament, during the Reigns of James the First, and of Charles the First.
The long contest between the king and parliament, under the two first princes of the Stewart family, forms a very interesting part of the English history; and its origin and consequences deserve the most attentive examination. The object in dispute was no less than to determine and establish the political constitution of a great nation; and the agitation produced by so important a controversy could not fail to rouse the passions of men, to call forth and display their most eminent characters, and to develop those combinations and occurrences which tended to facilitate or to obstruct the improvement of civil society. We are not, however, to imagine that, from the beginning to the end of this contest, the same line of conduct was invariably pursued by<150> either of the parties. They were sometimes actuated by the feelings of the moment; changed their ground, according to the alteration of times and circumstances; and varied their measures, according to the character and views of those individuals by whom they were occasionally directed. To distinguish the most remarkable of these variations, the whole period under consideration may be divided into three branches: the first extending from the accession of James to the meeting of the long parliament, as it is called, in the year 1640; the second, from the meeting of the long parliament to the commencement of the civil war; the third, from thence to the death of Charles the First.1 <151>
[33. ]In Millar’s three-part division of Scottish history, the third period is the interval from the union of the crowns to the Act of Union: that is, 1603–1707.
[* ]See Leges Burgorum, c. 77. Statuta Gildae, c. 33. c. 34.
[† ]1469. c. 30.
[34. ]Millar’s quotation is a paraphrase of the original text. See The Declaration of the Estates of the Kingdom of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1689), 4.
[* ]Before the reformation, there were in Scotland two archbishoprics, 12 bishoprics, 27 abbacies, and 13 priories. Balfour’s Pract. p. 34.
[* ]By parl. 1617, the number of these officers who should, ex officio enjoy a seat in parliament, was limited to the eight following: 1. The high treasurer. 2. The deputy treasurer. 3. The secretary. 4. The privy seal. 5. The master of requests. 6. The clerk register. 7. The justice clerk. 8. The advocate.
[35. ]See note 18 in this chapter.
[† ]Some writers think that the same act which made this regulation, provided also that the commissioners of the peerage should be named by the bishops; but this appears doubtful. See Wight on the Scottish parliament.
[* ]See Essays on British Antiquities by Lord Kames. [[Henry Home, Lord Kames, Essays upon Several Subjects Concerning British Antiquities, 2nd ed. (London, 1749), 52–53.]]
[36. ]The edge of national pride in Millar’s description of the Scottish intellect is reminiscent of Francis Jeffrey’s description of Millar himself, as quoted in the introduction.
[* ]Of all the common trades, in the hands of the vulgar, that of gardening approaches the nearest to a liberal profession. A gardener, by the cultivation of fruits and vegetables, acquires a considerable branch of the knowledge in the department of a farmer; by collecting a number of plants, by observing their analogies and differences, and by arranging and assorting them, he becomes a proficient in botany; by studying their medical virtues, and by taking advantage of the credulity of his neighbours, he is exalted into a species of physician.
[* ]It is said that the common people in Scotland never give a direct answer. This may proceed, no doubt, from habits of caution, concealment, and dissimulation; but it may also be derived from a habit of reflection, which leads them to discern not only what you directly inquire, but what farther information you may wish to obtain. “Pray, friend, am I in the right road to such a place?” “What place did you come from, Sir?” “What business have you, friend, with the place I came from?” “None at all, Sir; but I have as little with the place to which you are going.”
[† ]A noted literary character has waggishly observed, in speaking of the learning of Scotland, “That every one has a mouthful, but nobody a bellyful.” The amount of this criticism seems to be, that instead of consuming their whole life by a vain endeavour to become adepts in two dead languages, they have divested themselves of a superstitious reverence for antiquity, and are content to cultivate each branch of knowledge so far only as they find it useful or agreeable. The mouthful of the Scot may be somewhat scanty, but it is fresh and wholesome food; to him the English bellyful seems offal. [[Millar is referring to a passage from Hester Thrale Piozzi’s Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson (London, 1786).]]
[1. ]The “auld alliance” between France and Scotland took formal shape in the thirteenth century, and served Scotland well during its Wars of Independence against England in the fourteenth century. Later, the success of the English Reformation prompted France to strengthen the traditional alliance with dynastic marriages. The high point of French influence came soon after, during the regency of Marie de Guise just prior to the Scottish Reformation.
[2. ]See HE, 4:354–60.
[3. ]Millar here takes up an explanation of aristocratic luxury and its role in changing the balance of social and political power that was earlier articulated by both Hume and Smith.
[4. ]Millar’s account of the rise of parliamentary authority should be compared with Hume’s insistence that the initial effect of opulence and the loss of feudal dependency was to give the crown “an authority almost absolute.” See HE, 4:384.
[5. ]The importance of mercenary forces or “standing armies” was a major theme in the republican tradition of English political thought and carried considerable influence on the framers of American independence.
[* ]This point I had formerly occasion to consider in a treatise upon “The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks.”
[6. ]Louis XIII (r. 1610–43); Philip II (r. 1556–98); Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1619–37).
[7. ]Spirit of solidarity (usually esprit de corps).
[1. ]A term first used in the 1640s, and employed in two different senses—religious and political—to describe groups that overlapped but were not identical. Millar goes on to explain the differences between the Presbyterians and the Independents.
[2. ]In this extraordinary passage, Millar implicitly compares the Christian church to the East India Company, the reform of which had been a major political issue, especially during the impeachment trial of its governor, Warren Hastings (1732–1818), which commenced in 1788.
[3. ]Millar’s description of Catholicism as a “deep-laid system of superstition” might be compared to Hume’s discussion of the typology of religious behavior in volume 1 of the first edition of his History, in which he speaks of the Reformation as a contest between “two species of religion, the superstitious and the fanatical.” See History of Great Britain (Edinburgh, 1754), 8. Hume was sharply criticized by Daniel McQueen (d. 1777) in his Letters on Hume’s History of Great Britain (1756), and the passage was excised from later editions.
[4. ]Dissenting Protestant sects that did not conform to the Church of England.
[5. ]On Charles II, see chapter 6, p. 609.
[6. ]James II (r. 1685–89).
[7. ]On Cromwell, see p. 575, note 39.
[8. ]The restoration of the monarchy occurred in 1660.
[1. ]These three periods are 1603–40, 1640–42, and 1642–49.