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John Pym, The Speech or Declaration - Joyce Lee Malcom, The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, vol. 1 
The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, 2 vols, ed. Joyce Lee Malcolm (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 1.
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John Pym, The Speech or Declaration
John Pym, 1584-1643
JOHN PYM, Esquire:
After the Recapitulation or summing up of the Charge of High-Treason,
Earle of Strafford,
12. April, 1641.
Published by Order of theCommons House.
Printed for John Bartlet. 1641.
The renowned parliamentary leader and politician John Pym was an outspoken critic of the Court. He opposed Arminianism and Catholic influences in the Church of England, and he staunchly upheld what he saw as England’s ancient constitution. Pym was educated at Oxford and entered the Middle Temple, although he was never called to the bar. His long parliamentary career began in 1614 in the reign of James I. Pym actively supported the Petition of Right in the Parliament of 1628 and later in that session conducted the Commons’ case against Roger Maynwaring. He was a leading member of the Commons in the Short Parliament and, even more important, in the Long Parliament.
Pym was convinced there was a plot to destroy parliamentary institutions and the Protestant religion. When the Long Parliament convened he demanded that those guilty of this conspiracy be punished. Prominent among those he believed culpable was Charles’s leading councillor and loyal minister, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. Strafford’s willingness to resort to extraordinary means on behalf of his master and his high-handed administration as president of the Council of the North and lord-deputy of Ireland had made him notorious. Beyond this Strafford was believed to have urged the king to use an Irish army against the English parliament and was preparing to charge parliamentary leaders with treasonous conspiracy with the Scots.
Pym played the leading role in Strafford’s fall. He moved that a subcommittee investigate Strafford’s conduct in Ireland and later that he be impeached on a charge of high treason. This meant a trial before the House of Lords. Pym led the attack at every stage, from the collection of evidence and preparation of charges to the presentation of the case. Strafford’s trial began on 22 March 1641. The chief difficulty was that despite his overbearing tactics and possible transgressing of the royal prerogative on behalf of Charles, Strafford had not committed any act of treason against the king. Pym attempted to get around this by arguing that to endeavour the subversion of the laws of the kingdom was treason; that to come between the king and his people was treason; that the culmination of many small, perfidious acts, none of which was in itself treasonous, could constitute treason.
Strafford defended himself so ably that on 10 April with the Lords reluctant to convict, a bill of attainder was introduced into the Commons. This would simply declare Strafford guilty without the necessity of a trial. As the bill of attainder moved through the legislative process the original impeachment continued with Pym chosen by the Commons to deliver its reply to Strafford’s defense. Pym’s speech to the Lords on that occasion, published as a tract and reprinted here, sets out the Commons’ constitutional position succinctly and eloquently. He explains their notion of treason as a subversion of the laws, an introduction of an arbitrary and tyrannical government. This speech has been acclaimed as the best of Pym’s career. At least nine editions of it were printed in 1641.
Despite Pym’s efforts the impeachment was dropped. The bill of attainder, however, passed, and on 12 May Strafford was executed. Despite Charles’s promise to Strafford that he would pardon him, the king made no move to save his loyal minister. It would be one of his lasting regrets. With the onset of civil war Pym served as a leader of the parliamentary party. He would never live to see its outcome. He died in December 1643.
The Speech or Declaration of John Pym, Esq: &c.
Many dayes have been spent in maintenance of the Impeachment of the Earle of Strafford, by the House of Commons, whereby he stands charged with High Treason. And your Lordships have heard his Defence with Patience, and with as much favour as Justice would allow. We have passed through our Evidence, and the Result of all this is, that it remaines clearly proved, That the Earle of Strafford hath indeavoured by his words, actions, and counsels, to subvert the Fundamentall Lawes of England and Ireland, and to introduce an Arbitrary and Tyrannicall Government.
This is the envenomed Arrow for which he inquired in the beginning of his Replication this day, which hath infected all his Bloud. This is that Intoxicating Cup, (to use his owne Metaphor) which hath tainted his Judgement, and poisoned his Heart. From hence was infused that Specificall Difference which turned his Speeches, his Actions, his Counsels into Treason; Not Cumulative, as he exprest it, as if many Misdemeanours could make one Treason; but Formally and Essentially. It is the End that doth informe Actions, and doth specificate the nature of them, making not only criminall, but even indifferent words and actions to be Treason, being done and spoken with a Treasonable intention.
That which is given me in charge, is, to shew the quality of the offence, how hainous it is in the nature, how mischievous in the effect of it; which will best appeare if it be examined by that Law, to which he himselfe appealed, that universall, that Supreme Law, Salus populi. This is the Element of all Laws, out of which they are derived; the End of all Laws, to which they are designed, and in which they are perfected. How far it stands in opposition to this Law, I shall endeavour to shew in some Considerations which I shall present to your Lordships, all arising out of the Evidence which hath been opened.
The first is this: It is an offence comprehending all other offences; here you shall finde severall Treasons, Murders, Rapines, Oppressions, Perjuries.
The Earth hath a Seminarie vertue, whereby it doth produce all Hearbs, and Plants, and other Vegetables. There is in this Crime, a Seminarie of all evils hurtfull to a State; and if you consider the reasons of it, it must needs be so. The Law is that which puts a difference betwixt good and evill, betwixt just and unjust. If you take away the Law, all things will fall into a confusion, every man will become a Law to himselfe, which in the depraved condition of human nature, must needs produce many great enormities. Lust will become a Law, and Envie will become a Law, Covetousnesse and Ambition will become Lawes; and what dictates, what decisions such Laws will produce, may easily be discerned in the late Government of Ireland.1 The Law hath a power to prevent, to restraine, to repaire evils; without this all kind of mischiefs and distempers will break in upon a State.
It is the Law that doth intitle the King to the Allegeance and service of his people; it intitles the people to the protection and justice of the King. It is God alone who subsists by himselfe, all other things subsist in a mutuall dependence and relation. He was a wise man that said, that the King subsisted by the field that is tilled. It is the labour of the people that supports the Crowne. If you take away the protection of the King, the vigour and cheerfulness of Allegeance will be taken away, though the Obligation remaine.
The Law is the Boundarie, the Measure betwixt the King’s Prerogative, and the People’s Liberty. Whiles these move in their owne Orbe, they are a support and security to one another; The Prerogative a cover and defence to the Liberty of the people, and the people by their liberty are enabled to be a foundation to the Prerogative; but if these bounds be so removed, that they enter into contestation and conflict, one of these mischiefes must needs ensue. If the Prerogative of the King overwhelm the liberty of the people, it will be turned into Tyrannie; if liberty undermine the Prerogative, it will grow into Anarchie.
The Law is the safeguard, the custody of all private interest. Your Honours, your Lives, your Liberties and Estates are all in the keeping of the Law; without this, every man hath a like right to anything, and this is the condition into which the Irish were brought by the E. of Strafford. And the reason which he gave for it, hath more mischiefe in it than the thing itselfe, They were a Conquered Nation. There cannot be a word more pregnant, and fruitfull in Treason, than that word is. There are few Nations in the world that have not been conquered; and no doubt but the Conquerour may give what Lawes he please to those that are conquered. But if the succeeding Pacts and Agreements doe not limit and restraine that Right, what people can be secure? England hath been conquered, and Wales hath been conquered, and by this reason will be in little better case than Ireland. If the King by the Right of a Conquerour gives Lawes to his People, shall not the people by the same reason be restored to the Right of the conquered, to recover their liberty if they can? What can be more hurtfull, more pernicious to both, than such Propositions as these? And in these particulars is determined the first Consideration.
The second Consideration is this: This Arbitrary power is dangerous to the King’s Person, and dangerous to his Crown. It is apt to cherish Ambition, usurpation, and oppression in great men, and to beget sedition and discontent in the People; and both these have beene, and in reason must ever be causes of great trouble and alteration to Princes and States.
If the Histories of those Easterne Countries be perused, where Princes order their affaires according to the mischievous principles of the E. of Strafford, loose and absolved from all Rules of Government, they will be found to be frequent in combustions, full of Massacres, and of the tragicall ends of Princes. If any man shall look into our owne stories, in the times when the Laws were most neglected, he shall find them full of Commotions, of Civill distempers; whereby the Kings that then reigned, were alwayes kept in want and distresse; the people consumed with Civill wars: and by such wicked counsels as these, some of our Princes have beene brought to such miserable ends, as no honest heart can remember without horrour, and earnest Prayer, that it may never be so againe.
The third Consideration is this, The subversion of the Lawes. And this Arbitrary power, as it is dangerous to the King’s Person and to his Crowne, so is it in other respects very prejudiciall to his Majesty in his Honour, Profit, and Greatnesse; and yet these are the gildings and paintings that are put upon such counsels. These are for your Honour, for your service; whereas in truth they are contrary to both. But if I shall take off this varnish, I hope they shall then appeare in their owne native deformity, and therefore I desire to consider them by these Rules.
It cannot be for the Honour of a King, that his sacred Authority should be used in the practice of injustice and oppression; that his Name should be applied to patronize such horrid crimes, as have beene represented in Evidence against the Earle of Strafford; and yet how frequently, how presumptuously his Commands, his Letters have beene vouched throughout the course of this Defence, your Lordships have heard. When the Judges doe justice, it is the King’s justice, and this is for his honour, because he is the Fountaine of justice; but when they doe injustice, the offence is their owne. But those Officers and Ministers of the King, who are most officious in the exercise of this Arbitrarie power, they doe it commonly for their advantage; and when they are questioned for it, then they fly to the King’s interest; to his Direction. And truly my Lords, this is a very unequall distribution for the King, that the dishonour of evill courses should be cast upon him, and they to have the advantage.
The prejudice which it brings to him in regard of his profit, is no lesse apparent. It deprives him of the most beneficiall, and most certaine Revenue of his Crowne, that is, the voluntary aids and supplies of his people; his other Revenues, consisting of goodly Demeanes, and great Manors, have by Grants been alienated from the Crowne, and are now exceedingly diminished and impaired. But this Revenue it cannot be sold, it cannot be burdened with any Pensions or Annuities, but comes intirely to the Crowne. It is now almost fifteene years since his Majesty had any assistance from his people;2 and these illegall wayes of supplying the King were never prest with more violence, and art, than they have been in this time; and yet I may upon very good grounds affirm, that in the last fifteene years of Queen Elizabeth, she received more by the Bounty and Affection of her Subjects, than hath come to His Majestie’s Coffers by all the inordinate and rigorous courses which have beene taken. And as those Supplies were more beneficiall in the Receipt of them, so were they like in the use and imployment of them.
Another way of prejudice to his Majestie’s profit, is this: Such Arbitrary courses exhaust the people, and disable them, when there shall be occasion, to give such plentifull supplies, as otherwise they would doe. I shall need no other proofe of this, than the Irish Government under my E. of Strafford, where the wealth of the Kingdome is so consumed by those horrible exactions, and burdens, that it is thought the Subsidies lately granted will amount to little more than halfe the proportion of the last Subsidies. The two former wayes are hurtfull to the King’s profit, in that respect which they call Lucrum Cessans,3 by diminishing his receipts. But there is a third, fuller of mischiefe, and it is in that respect which they call Damnum emergens,4 by increasing his Disbursements. Such irregular and exorbitant attempts upon the Libertie of the people, are apt to produce such miserable distractions and distempers, as will put the King and Kingdome to such vast expences and losses in a short time, as will not be recovered in many yeares. Wee need not goe farre to seeke a proofe of this, these two last yeares will be a sufficient evidence, within which time I assure myselfe, it may be proved, that more Treasure hath beene wasted, more losse sustained by his Majesty and his Subjects, than was spent by Queene Elizabeth in all the War of Tyrone,5 and in those many brave Attempts against the King of Spaine, and the royall assistance which she gave to France, and the Low-Countries, during all her Reigne.
As for Greatnesse, this Arbitrary power is apt to hinder and impaire it, not only at home, but abroad. A Kingdome is a society of men conjoyned under one Government, for the common good. The world is a society of Kingdomes and States. The King’s greatnesse consists not only in his Dominion over his Subjects at home, but in the influence which he hath upon States abroad; That he should be great even among Kings, and by his wisdome and authority so to incline and dispose the affaires of other States and Nations, and those great events which fall out in the world, as shall be for the good of Mankind, and for the peculiar advantage of his owne people. This is the most glorious, and magnificent greatness, to be able to relieve distressed Princes, to support his owne friends and Allies, to prevent the ambitious designes of other Kings; and how much this Kingdome hath been impaired in this kinde, by the late mischievous counsels your Lordships best know, who at a neerer distance, and with a more cleare sight, doe apprehend these publique and great affaires, than I can doe. Yet thus much I dare boldly say, that if his Majestie had not with great wisdome and goodness forsaken that way wherein the Earle of Strafford had put him, we should within a short time have been brought into that miserable condition, as to have been uselesse to our friends, contemptible to our enemies, and uncapable of undertaking any great designe either at home or abroad.
A fourth Consideration is, That this Arbitrary, and Tyrannicall Power, which the E. of Strafford did excercise in his own person, and to which he did advise his Majesty, is inconsistent with the Peace, the Wealth, the Prosperity of a Nation. It is destructive to Justice, the Mother of Peace; to Industry, the spring of Wealth; to Valour, which is the active vertue whereby the prosperity of a Nation can only be procured, confirmed, and inlarged.
It is not only apt to take away Peace, and so intangle the Nation with Warres, but doth corrupt Peace, and puts such a malignity into it, as produceth the Effects of warre. We need seek no other proofe of this, but the E. of Strafford’s Government, where the Irish, both Nobility and others, had as little security of their Persons or Estates in this peaceable time, as if the Kingdome had been under the rage and fury of warre.
And as for Industrie, and Valour, who will take pains for that, which when he hath gotten, is not his own? Or who fight for that wherein he hath no other interest, but such as is subject to the will of another? The Ancient encouragement to men that were to defend their Countries was this, That they were to hazard their Persons, pro Aris & Focis, for their Religion, and for their Houses. But by this Arbitrary way which was practiced in Ireland, and counselled here, no man had any certainty, either of Religion, or of his House, or anything else to be his own. But besides this, such Arbitrary courses have an ill operation upon the courage of a Nation, by embasing the hearts of the people. A servile condition doth for the most part beget in men a slavish temper and disposition. Those that live so much under the Whip and the Pillory, and such servile Engines, as were frequently used by the E. of Strafford, they may have the dregges of valour, sullennesse, & stubbornesse, which may make them prone to Mutinies, and discontents; but those Noble and gallant affections, which put men on brave Designes and Attempts for the preservation or inlargement of a Kingdome, they are hardly capable of. Shall it be Treason to embase the King’s Coine, though but a piece of twelve-pence, or sixe-pence, and must it not needs be the effect of a greater Treason, to embase the spirits of his Subjects, and to set a stamp and Character of Servitude upon them, whereby they shall be disabled to doe anything for the service of the King or Commonwealth?
The fifth Consideration is this, That the exercise of this Arbitrary Government, in times of sudden danger, by the invasion of an enemy, will disable his Majesty to preserve himselfe and his Subjects from that danger. This is the only pretence by which the E. of Strafford, and such other mischievous Counsellors would induce his Majesty to make use of it; and if it be unfit for such an occasion, I know nothing that can be alledged in maintenance of it.
When warre threatens a Kingdome by the comming of a forrain Enemy, it is no time then to discontent the people, to make them weary of the present Government, and more inclinable to a Change. The supplies which are to come in this way, will be unready, uncertain; there can be no assurance of them, no dependence upon them, either for time or proportion. And if some money be gotten in such a way, the Distractions, Divisions, Distempers, which this course is apt to produce, will be more prejudiciall to the publique safety, than the supply can be advantagious to it; and of this we have had sufficient experience the last Summer.
The sixth, That this crime of subverting the Laws, and introducing an Arbitrary and Tyrannicall Government, is contrary to the Pact and Covenant betwixt the King and his people. That which was spoken of before, was the legall union of Allegeance and Protection; this is a personallunion by mutuall agreement and stipulation, confirmed by oath on both sides. The King and his people are obliged to one another in the nearest relations; He is a Father, and a childe is called in Law, Pars Patris.6 Hee is the Husband of the Commonwealth, they have the same interests, they are inseparable in their condition, be it good or evill. He is the Head, they are the Body; there is such an incorporation as cannot be dissolved without the destruction of both.
When Justice Thorpe, in Edward the third’s time, was by the Parliament condemned to death for Bribery, the reason of that Judgement is given, because he had broken the King’s Oath, not that he had broken his own oath, but that he had broken the King’s oath, that solemne and great obligation, which is the security of the whole Kingdome. If for a Judge to take a small summe in a private cause, was adjudged Capitall, how much greater was this offence, whereby the E. of Strafford hath broken the King’s Oath in the whole course of his Government in Ireland, to the prejudice of so many of his Majestie’s Subjects, in their Lives, Liberties, and Estates, and to the danger of all the rest?
The Doctrine of the Papists, Fides non est servanda cum Haereticis,7 is an abominable Doctrine: yet that other Tenet more peculiar to the Jesuites is more pernicious, whereby Subjects are discharged from their Oath of Allegeance to their Prince whensoever the Pope pleaseth. This may be added to make the third no lesse mischievous and destructive to human society, than either of the rest: That the King is not bound by that Oath which he hath taken to observe the Laws of the Kingdome, but may when he sees cause, lay Taxes and burdens upon them without their consent, contrary to the Laws and Liberties of the Kingdome. This hath been preached and published by divers; And this is that which hath been practised in Ireland by the E. of Strafford, in his Government there, and indeavoured to be brought into England, by his Counsell here.
The seventh is this; It is an offence that is contrary to the end of Government. The end of Government was to prevent oppressions, to limit and restrain the excessive power and violence of great men, to open the passages of Justice with indifferency towards all. This Arbitrary power is apt to induce and incourage all kind of insolencies.
Another end of Government is to preserve men in their estates, to secure them in their Lives and Liberties; but if this Designe had taken effect, and could have been setled in England, as it was practiced in Ireland, no man would have had more certainty in his own, than power would have allowed him. But these two have beene spoken of before, there are two behind more important, which have not yet been touched.
It is the end of Government, that vertue should be cherisht, vice supprest; but where this Arbitrary and unlimited power is set up, a way is open not only for the security, but for the advancement and incouragement of evill. Such men as are aptest for the execution and maintenance of this Power, are only capable of preferment; and others who will not be instruments of any unjust commands, who make a conscience to doe nothing against the Laws of the Kingdome, and Liberties of the Subject, are not only not passable for imployment, but subject to much jealousie and danger.
It is the end of Government, that all accidents and events, all Counsels and Designes should be improved to the publique good. But this Arbitrary Power is apt to dispose all to the maintenance of itselfe. The wisdome of the Councell-Table, the Authority of the Courts of Justice, the industry of all the Officers of the Crown have been most carefully exercised in this; the Learning of our Divines, the Jurisdiction of our Bishops have been moulded and disposed to the same effect, which though it were begun before the E. of Strafford’s Imployment, yet it hath beene exceedingly furthered and advanced by him.
Under this colour and pretence of maintaining the King’s Power and Prerogative many dangerous practices against the peace and safety of this Kingdome have been undertaken and promoted. The increase of Popery, and the favours and incouragement of Papists have been, and still are a great grievance and danger to the Kingdome. The Innovations in matters of Religion, the usurpations of the Clergie, the manifold burdens and taxations upon the people, have been a great cause of our present distempers and disorders; and yet those who have been chiefe Furtherers and Actors of such Mischiefes, have had their Credit and Authority from this, That they were forward to maintain this Power. The E. of Strafford had the first rise of his greatnesse from this, and in his Apologie and Defence, as your Lordships have heard, this hath had a maine part.
The Royall Power, and Majesty of Kings, is most glorious in the prosperity and happinesse of the people. The perfection of all things consists in the end for which they were ordained, God only is his own end, all other things have a further end beyond themselves, in attaining whereof their own happinesse consists. If the means and the end be set in opposition to one another, it must needs cause an impotency and defect of both.
The eighth Consideration is, The vanity and absurdity of those excuses and justifications which he made for himself, whereof divers particulars have been mentioned in the course of his Defence.
1. That he is a Counsellor, and might not be questioned for anything which he advised according to his conscience. The ground is true, there is a liberty belongs to Counsellors, and nothing corrupts Counsels more than fear. He that will have the priviledge of a Counsellor, must keep within the just bounds of a Counsellor; those matters are the proper subjects of Counsell, which in their times and occasions, may be good or beneficiall to the King or Common-wealth. But such Treasons as these, the subversion of the Laws, violation of Liberties, they can never be good, or justifiable by any circumstance, or occasion; and therefore his being a Counsellor, makes his fault much more hainous, as being committed against a greater Trust, and in a way of much mischiefe and danger, lest his Majestie’s conscience and judgment (upon which the whole course and frame of his Government do much depend) should be poisoned and infected with such wicked principles and designes. And this he hath endeavoured to doe, which by all Lawes, and in all times hath in this Kingdome beene reckoned a Crime of an high Nature.
2. He labours to interest your Lordships in his cause, by alledging, It may be dangerous to yourselves, and your Posterity, who by your birth are fittest to be near his Majesty, in places of Trust and Authority, if you should be subject to be questioned for matters delivered in Counsell. To this was answered, that it was hoped their Lordships would rather labour to secure themselves, and their posterity, in the exercise of their vertues, than of their vices, that so they might together with their own honour and greatnesse, preserve the honour and greatnesse, both of the King and Kingdome.
3. Another excuse was this, that whatsoever he hath spoken was out of a good intention. Sometimes good and evill, truth and falshood lie so near together, that they are hardly to be distinguished. Matters hurtfull and dangerous may be accompanied with such circumstances as may make it appeare usefull and convenient, and in all such cases, good intentions will justifie evill Counsell. But where the matters propounded are evill in their own nature, such as the matters are wherewith the E. of Strafford is charged, to break a publique faith, to subvert Laws and Government, they can never be justified by any intentions, how specious, or good soever they be pretended.
4. He alledgeth it was a time of great necessity and danger, when such counsels were necessary for preservation of the State. Necessity hath been spoken of before, as it relates to the Cause; now it is considered as it relates to the Person; if there were any necessity, it was of his own making; he by his evil counsell had brought the King into a necessity, and by no Rules of Justice, can be allowed to gain this advantage by his own fault, as to make that a ground of his justification, which is a great part of his offence.
5. He hath often insinuated this, That it was for his Majestie’s service in maintenance of the Soveraign Power with which he is intrusted by God for the good of his people. The Answer is this, No doubt but that Soveraign Power wherewith his Majesty is intrusted for the publique good, hath many glorious effects, the better to inable him thereunto. But without doubt this is none of them, That by his own will he may lay any Taxe or Imposition upon his people without their consent in Parliament. This hath now been five times adjudged by both Houses. In the Case of the Loanes, In condemning the Commission of Excise, In the Resolution upon the Saving8 offered to be added to the Petition of Right, In the sentence against Manwaring, and now lately, In condemning the Shipmoney. And if the Soveraigne Power of the King can produce no such effect as this, the Allegation of it is an Aggravation, and no Diminution of his offence, because thereby he doth labour to interest the King against the just grievance and complaint of the People.
6. This Counsell was propounded with divers limitations, and Provisions; for securing and repairing the liberty of the people. This implies a contradiction to maintain an Arbitrary & absolute Power, and yet to restrain it with limitations, and provisions; for even those limitations and provisions will be subject to the same absolute Power, and to be dispensed in such manner, and at such time, as itself shall determine; let the grievances and oppressions be never so heavy, the Subject is left without all remedy, but at his Majestie’s own pleasure.
7. He alledgeth, they were but words, and no effect followed. This needs no answer, but that the miserable distempers into which he hath brought all the three Kingdomes, will be evidence sufficient that his wicked Counsels have had such mischievous effects within these two or three last years, that many years’ peace will hardly repaire those losses, and other great mischiefes which the Common-wealth hath sustained.
These excuses have been collected out of the severall parts of his Defence; perchance some others are omitted, which I doubt not have been answered by some of my Colleagues, and are of no importance, either to perplex or to hinder your Lordships’ judgement, touching the hainousnesse of this Crime.
The ninth Consideration is this, That if this be Treason, in the nature of it, it doth exceed all other Treasons in this, That in the Design, and endeavour of the Author, it was to be a constant and a permanent Treason; other Treasons are transient, as being confined within those particular actions and proportions wherein they did consist, and those being past, the Treason ceaseth.
The Powder Treason9 was full of horror and malignity, yet it is past many years since. The murder of that Magnanimous and glorious King, Henry the fourth of France, was a great and horrid Treason. And so were those manifold attempts against Queen Elizabeth of blessed memory; but they are long since past, the Detestation of them only remains in Histories, and in the minds of men; and will ever remain. But this Treason, if it had taken effect, was to be a standing, perpetuall Treason, which would have been in continuall act, not determined within one time or age, but transmitted to Posterity, even from generation to generation.
The tenth Consideration is this, That as it is a Crime odious in the nature of it, so it is odious in the judgement and estimation of the Law. To alter the setled frame and constitution of Government, is Treason in any estate. The Laws whereby all other parts of a Kingdome are preserved, should be very vain and defective, if they had not a power to secure and preserve themselves.
The forfeitures inflicted for Treason by our Law, are of Life, Honour, and Estate, even all that can be forfeited, and this Prisoner having committed so many Treasons, although he should pay all these forfeitures, will be still a Debtor to the Common-wealth. Nothing can be more equall than that he should perish by the Justice of that Law which he would have subverted. Neither will this be a new way of bloud. There are marks enough to trace this Law to the very originall of this Kingdome. And if it hath not been put in execution, as he alledgeth, this 240 years, it was not for want of Law, but that all that time hath not bred a man bold enough to commit such Crimes as these; which is a circumstance much aggravating his offence, and making him no whit lesse liable to punishment, because he is the only man that in so long a time hath ventured upon such a Treason as this.
It belongs to the charge of another to make it appear to your Lordships, that the Crimes and Offences proved against the Earle of Strafford, are High Treason by the Lawes and Statutes of this Realm, whose learning and other abilities are much better for that service. But for the time and manner of performing this, we are to resort to the Direction of the House of Commons, having in this which is already done, dispatched all those instructions which wee have received; and concerning further proceedings, for clearing all Questions and Objections in Law, your Lordships will hear from the House of Commons in convenient time.
[1. ]The Earl of Strafford governed Ireland as lord deputy, a post to which he was appointed in 1632.
[2. ]Charles had agreed to the Petition of Right in 1628 in order to convince Parliament to grant him a subsidy. He got his subsidy although he found the amount disappointing.
[3. ]The ceasing of gain or profit.
[4. ]The rising loss.
[5. ]Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, led an Irish rebellion against the English in 1595. He was vanquished, but after three years of negotiations, hostilities broke out again in 1598. Tyrone suffered a serious defeat in 1601 and finally surrendered on 30 March 1603.
[6. ]The part or portion of the father.
[7. ]One is not to be loyal or faithful when it comes to heretics.
[8. ]The “Resolution upon the Saving” refers to the proposal of the Lords, rejected by the Commons, to add to the Petition of Right the phrase “to leave entire that sovereign Power, wherewith your Majesty is trusted for the protection, safety, and happiness of your people.”
[9. ]The reference is to the “gunpowder plot” of 1605 in which a group of Catholic conspirators attempted to blow up the king and members of Parliament in order to overthrow the Protestant government.