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LECTURE 9 - François Guizot, The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe 
The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe, trans. Andrew R. Scoble, Introduction and notes by Aurelian Craiutu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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Conclusion of the history of Charters under the reign of Edward I. ~ Political conflict follows civil war. ~ The king frequently violates the Charters, especially in the matter of imposts. ~ The barons resist energetically. ~ Edward gives a definitive confirmation to the Charters (1298‒1301). ~ A bull of Clement V., solicited by Edward I., annuls the Charters. ~ Its failure. ~ Death of Edward I. ~ (July 7, 1307).
During the two preceding reigns the struggle between the feudal aristocracy and the royal power has been really a civil war. Under Edward I. the struggle continued, but the civil war ceased. The barons did not protest in favour of their liberty with any less resolute determination than they had hitherto manifested, nor did the king defend his prerogatives less vigorously, but neither party appealed to arms. This is the general history of important struggles; they are begun by a trial of strength between the two contending parties, and when the problem of material forces has been resolved, the struggle changes its direction and its theatre; it becomes concentrated into an assembly, and the victorious party has no longer any other aim than to legalize the victory already gained, and thus add a constitutional validity to a material victory. Parliamentary debates follow civil war. When the parliamentary debates have lasted through a certain number of years, and have received the sanction of time, the struggle may be regarded as terminated. To this stage had matters arrived in the reign of Edward I.; the resistance which was shewn during his reign only displayed itself in Parliament; and, when it had lasted for thirty years, the rights which it had tended to consecrate were for ever recognized and tolerably respected.
At the time of Henry’s death, his son Edward was in Palestine; notwithstanding his absence, however, he was proclaimed king without any opposition. The capacity which he had displayed in the troubles of the kingdom, and the moderation which he had often shewn, had gained for him general favour. Upon his return to England, he justified the expectations which had been formed concerning him; many abuses were reformed, and a better order was introduced into the administration of justice.
I shall pass rapidly over the first twenty-four years of this reign. They were occupied with the conquest of Wales, and with Edward’s wars in Scotland, which were incessantly renewed by the insurrections of the Scotch. During all this time, although we hear of very frequent assemblies of Parliament, we scarcely hear anything even of the charters. The administration of the kingdom, which was vigorous and fair, excited few complaints, and public attention was absorbed by the expeditions and victories of the monarch.
Nevertheless the necessity of frequently raising subsidies, in order to keep up his numerous armies, soon obliged Edward to adopt violent and arbitrary measures. He limited the quantity of wool which might be exported, and placed on every sack of wool, that was exported, a duty of forty shillings, that is to say, more than a third of its value; all the rest of the wool and hides, that were ready for shipping, were confiscated to the service of the king. He demanded of each sheriff two thousand quarters of wheat, and as many of oats, authorising them to take the required wheat or oats wherever they could lay their hands upon them; besides which he caused a large quantity of cattle to be seized. Lastly, showing no regard for feudal right, he imposed on every landed proprietor, having a larger revenue than twenty pounds sterling, whatever might be the nature of his domains, the obligation to attend him in the war which he was about to prosecute in France.
The dissatisfaction among the people and barons was general, and it was soon redoubled, in consequence of a fraud to which Edward did not hesitate to resort in raising a subsidy, which had been granted to him by the Parliament, held at Saint Edmundsbury in the preceding year (1296). Instead of contenting himself with the eighth* of the moveable property, which had been granted to him, he assumed that the impost was much larger, and obliged his subjects to pay it.
In the midst of the excitement caused by these measures, Edward convoked his barons at Salisbury to arrange with them for the departure and march of his armies. He had intended to send one of his armies to Gascony, and to lead the other into Flanders, himself taking the command of the latter in person, while the former was to march under the direction of Humphrey Bohun, Earl of Hereford, and of Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, the one the Constable, the other the Lord Marshal of England. These two men, who were vigorous champions of the national cause, refused to accept the mission which was offered to them. The object of their refusal was to compel the king to purchase their compliance by a renewed promise to confirm the charters, a promise which he had already made, but which he seemed in no haste to carry out. When Edward gave them the order to repair to Gascony, they answered that they were ready to follow him to Flanders, but that the character of their offices would not allow them to separate themselves from his person. “You shall go,” said the king, “whether I go with you or not.” Hereford replied that he would not go; upon which Edward exclaimed, “By the everlasting God, sir earl, you shall either go or hang.” “By the everlasting God, sir king,” replied Hereford, coolly, “I will neither go nor hang.” Edward did not feel himself sufficiently powerful to punish this haughty reply; and, fearing lest he should find the same spirit of resistance in all the barons, he abandoned his intention of sending an army into Gascony. The two earls quitted Salisbury with their retinue, and the king, after he had placed their offices in the hands of two other lords, prepared to embark for Flanders.
But before his departure, on the 12th of August, 1297, he addressed to all the sheriffs of the kingdom a singular kind of manifesto, one which was, perhaps, unique at that period, which he intended should be read before the assembled people. In it the king explained the causes of his quarrel with the two earls, excused the exactions he had made by pleading the necessities of war, and desired his subjects to maintain peace and order. This proclamation, or, perhaps, rather this appeal to the public, shews how greatly power already felt itself dependent upon the support of opinion, and constrained in some way to acknowledge a responsibility to it.
To this apology for his conduct, which the king put forth, the Earls of Norfolk and Hereford replied by another manifesto, which was presented to the king at Winchelsea, in which they recounted all the public wrongs and demanded redress. Edward answered that his council was dispersed, and that he could not attend to these protests till his return, and he accordingly went on his expedition, leaving his son regent of the kingdom.
Upon this the two earls, after having published their manifesto and the king’s reply to it, presented themselves before the treasurers and barons of the exchequer, and forbade them, as they would dread to excite a civil war, to collect, for the king, the tribute of one-eighth, which had been granted by the Parliament at Saint Edmundsbury, affirming that the granting of it had been illegal.
In order to bring these differences to a close, the prince-regent assembled a Parliament in London, on the 10th of October, 1297. The two earls were invited to take their place in the assembly, and came escorted by five hundred horse and a body of infantry, and would not consent to enter London until they had obtained permission to place a guard at each gate. They demanded a general confirmation of the charters, and, moreover, asked that several additions should be made to them. The prince-regent subscribed to all their demands, and the act of confirmation signed by him was immediately sent to the king, who was at Ghent. Edward, after he had taken three days to consider the matter, sanctioned the confirmation,* and granted an amnesty to the two earls, who, satis fied with this exhibition of generosity on the part of the king, went, subsequently, to Scotland to assist him in the war which he was carrying on there.
When Edward returned again to England, the barons demanded that he, in his own person, should confirm the charters which had been granted to them. The king evaded these demands, and retired to Windsor. Thither the barons followed him to renew their importunities and their complaints. The king excused himself on the ground of ill-health, and told them to return to London, where he would send them an answer. This answer was a new confirmation of the charters, but contained one restrictive clause: salvo jure coronae nostrae.1 At the public reading of the charter, which was made at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the assembly hearing how all their rights were definitely confirmed in it, made the most lively manifestations of joy; but hardly had the reserve clause been pronounced, when violent murmurs were raised on all sides; the people immediately left the church, and the angry barons retired to their domains, resolved once more to appeal to force.
Edward perceived that he had raised a storm of opinion against him, and, after innumerable delays and evasions, and complaining haughtily that he was too closely pressed, he, at length, decided upon convoking a Parliament on the 6th of March, 1300, and confirmed without any restriction all the concessions which he had already made; he even added new guarantees, which were contained in articles called articuli super chartas. The chief provisions contained in these additions consist in a regulation that the charters should be publicly read in the county courts four times every year, and that there should be elected in each county court, from among the knights of the court, three justices, sworn to receive all complaints of infractions of the charters, and to pronounce penalties against the offenders.
Lastly, in the following year, 1301, at a Parliament held at Lincoln, Edward, after having received its approval to a new limitation of the forests, which had been for a long time demanded and at length concluded, yet once more confirmed the charters.
From the time when this charter of confirmation was granted, the rights which it proclaimed were definitively recognized. The open and exterior struggle ceased at this period, but the secret and concealed did not. Edward endured impatiently the yoke which he had taken upon himself, and endeavoured to release himself from it. He did not, however, dare to raise the mask, but concealed all his efforts. Towards the close of the year 1304, he petitioned Pope Clement V. to release him from his oaths. The pontiff complied with his wishes, and by a bull, dated January 5, 1305, declared that all the promises and concessions made by Edward were abrogated, null and void.*
This prince did not dare, as John had formerly done, to take advantage of this bull, and he therefore kept it quite secret; but he still had recourse to secret manoeuvres. He began by a series of vile persecutions of those who had headed the confederation of the barons, and especially of the Earl of Norfolk and the Archbishop of Canterbury. These two men, though they were in former years so boldly courageous, now yielded with a feebleness that can only be excused by their great age. But it was too late; the authority of the king could no longer effect anything against the charters, and the feebleness even of their former defenders could not add to the power of royalty. Death soon after put a stop to all Edward’s efforts to carry out the designs he had formed: it surprised him suddenly while he was in Scotland, on the 7th of July, 1307. From that period the charters, notwithstanding all attacks made upon them, have remained as the immoveable basis of public right in England.
statute issued by edward i., in confirmation of the charters. november 5, 1297
Edward, by the grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Guyan, to all those that these present letters shall hear or see, greeting. Know ye that we, to the honour of God and of Holy Church, and to the profit of our realm, have granted that, for us and for our heirs, the charter of liberties and the charter of the forest, which were made by common consent of all the realm, in the time of King Henry our father, shall be kept in every point without breach. And we will that the same charters shall be sent under our seal, as well to our justices of the forest as to others, and to all sheriffs of shires, and to all our other officers, and to all our cities throughout the realm, together with our writs in the which it shall be contained; that they cause the aforesaid charters to be published, and declare to the people that we have confirmed them in all points; and that our justices, sheriffs, and mayors, and other ministers, which, under us, have the laws of our land to guide, shall allow the said charters, pleaded before them in judgment, in all their points, that is to wit, the Great Charter as the common law, and the charter of the forest for the wealth of our realm.
And we will that if any judgment be given from henceforth contrary to the points or the charters aforesaid by the justices, or by any other our ministers, that hold pleas before them against the points of the charters, it shall be undone and holden for nought.
And we will that the same charters shall be sent, under our seal, to cathedral churches throughout our realm, there to remain, and shall be read before the people two times by the year.
And all archbishops and bishops shall pronounce the sentence of excommunication against all those that by word, deed, or counsel do contrary to the foresaid charters, or that in any point break, or undo them. And that the said curses be twice a year denounced and published, by the prelates aforesaid. And if the same prelates, or any of them, be remiss in the denunciation of the said sentences, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, for the time being, shall compel and distrain them to the execution of their duties in form aforesaid:
And foresomuch as divers people of our realm are in fear that the aids and tasks which they have given us beforetime towards our wars, and other business, of their own grant and goodwill, howsoever they were made, might turn to a bondage to them and their heirs, because they might be at another time found in the Rolls, and likewise for the prises taken throughout the realm by our ministers, we have granted for us and for our heirs, that we will not draw such aids, tasks, nor prises into a custom, for any thing that hath been done heretofore, be it by Roll or any other precedent that may be found.
Moreover we have granted for us and for our heirs, as well to archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, and other folk of Holy Church, as also to earls, barons, and all the commonality of the land, that for no business for henceforth we shall take such manner of aids, tasks, or prises, but by the common assent of the realm, and for the common profit thereof, saving the ancient aids and prises due and accustomed.
And foresomuch as the more part of the commonality of this realm find themselves sore grieved with the maletent of wool, that is to wit, a toll of forty shillings for every sack of wool, and have made petition for us to release the same; we at their requests, have clearly released it, and have granted, for us and our heirs, that we shall not take such things without their common consent and goodwill; saving to us and our heirs the custom of wools, skins, and leather, granted before by the commonality aforesaid. In witness of which things we have caused these our letters to be made patents. Witness, Edward, our son, at London, the 10th day of October, the five and twentieth year of our reign.
And be it remembered that this same charter, in the same terms, word for word, was sealed in Flanders, under the king’s great seal, that is to say, at Ghent, the 5th day of November, in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of our aforesaid lord the king, and sent into England.
letter of clement v. to edward i
Clement, bishop, servant of God’s servants, to our well-beloved son in Jesus Christ, Edward, illustrious king of England, health and apostolic benediction:
The purity of thy loyal devotion, which is and has been uniform and conspicuous in thy unwearied attention to the desires of the Holy See, well deserves that the Holy See itself should remove all that is hostile to thy welfare, should suppress whatever displeases thee, and should ever secure for thee the enjoyment of all good.
We have learnt recently, by an account worthy of credit, that lately, when thou wert in Flanders, and even before thy arrival there, when thy efforts were being used to maintain thy prerogatives against thy enemies and rivals, that then certain magnates and nobles of thy kingdom, and other persons who are hostile to thy authority, taking advantage of the opportunity when thou wert occupied in fighting against those in another kingdom, who were opposed to thy rule, threatened that, unless thou wouldst make certain concessions of a diverse and unjust character, both relating to forest and other rights, which have, from time immemorial, belonged to the crown, and the dignity of thy rank, (which also, previously, they had importunately sought before thy departure from the said kingdom,) they would conspire against thee, would excite the people, and disseminate various scandals:
And that thou, prudently treating their conspiracy, and wishing then to avoid the dangers that were pressing upon thee, didst grant these concessions, more by constraint than with thy free consent:
And that, finally, on thy return to thy kingdom, the wars not having then terminated, the said magnates, and others, through their importunate and presumptuous suggestions, did obtain from thee the renewal of these concessions; and that they have, moreover, extorted royal orders to the effect that in every cathedral church in the kingdom there should be pronounced, twice every year, a sentence of excommunication against those who should violate the said concessions, as is expounded formally and in detail in the said commands, under the authority of the royal seal:
As, therefore, the Holy Apostolic See regards thy kingdom favourably, even above all other kingdoms, and entertains for thee, personally, the most friendly feelings, and recognizes that all these concessions have been made and extorted at the expense of thine honour, and to the detriment of thy royal sovereignty:
So by the apostolic authority, and by our full power, we revoke, annul, and dissolve the said concessions and all their effects, and all that can result from them, as also the sentences of excommunication which have or may be pronounced in order to their observance, either in the said churches or elsewhere, we declare them abolished, null, and without authority; annulling also the orders and letters to which they have given occusion; we decree for thee and for thy successors on the throne of England, that ye neither are nor ever shall be bound to observe them, even although ye may have engaged yourselves so by oath; besides that, as thou hast assured us, at the time when thy coronation was solemnized, thou didst swear to maintain the honours and the prerogatives of thy crown; so that, if even thou hast bound thyself to any penalty on this account, we absolve thee therefrom, as well as from the accusation of perjury if it should be made against thee.
To ensure the execution of our desires, we expressly forbid our venerable brethren, the archbishops, bishops, and others, ecclesiastical as well as secular, who are settled in thy kingdom, to do or attempt anything against the tenor of the present annulment, abrogation, revocation, and abolition, under penalty, as regards the archbishops and bishops, of suspension from their offices and benefices; and, if they persist for one month, under penalty of excommunication, which shall be, for this sole reason, pronounced against them, and all who are accessory to their designs.
We declare beforehand that every attempt against our present decree is null and void.
If, however, there is any right belonging to the inhabitants of the said kingdom, which they possess by virtue of previous letters and concessions so made by thee, we mean not to withdraw these from them.
It shall not be allowed to any one absolutely to violate in any particular, or only to contradict the present act of abrogation, revocation, annulment, and abolition.
If any one dare to allow this in himself let him know that he incurs the indignation of the Almighty, and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.—(Rymer, Acta Publica, vol. ii., p. 372.)
[* ]An eighth, a tenth, &c. was a money tax levied on counties, cities, boroughs, or other towns, and so called because it was the eighth, tenth, &c. of the sum at which these counties, towns, &c. had been anciently valued under the reign of William I. Thus each town knew what it had to contribute. The valuations were contained in the Doomsday Book. (Parliam. Hist., vol. i. p. 83.)
[* ]A copy of this charter will be found, in a note, at the end of this lecture. It is of all others the most explicit in favour of public liberties. It was given at Ghent, Nov. 5, 1297; the original is preserved in the British Museum.
[1. ]With the law of our crown preserved.
[* ]A copy of this bull will be found in a note at the end of this lecture.