From Reformation to Improvement: Public Welfare in Early Modern England

By Paul P. Slack | Go to book overview

3
ABSOLUTE POWER

In December 1586 a group of justices of the peace met in 'conference" at Maidstone to discuss recent letters from the Privy Council. The harvest had failed and the Council had written ordering searches of barns, provisioning of markets, and the setting of 'reasonable' prices for grain. One of the magistrates, William Lambarde, said afterwards that he had spelt out what was in all their minds: these were 'commandments proceeding from absolute authority'. He did not say they were improper. The word for that would have been 'arbitrary'. But Lambarde was in no doubt that naked exercises of executive authority-which is what he meant by 'absolute' -- were unpopular: there was 'nothing more hardly digested by the common man', and nothing less likely to be 'earnestly attempted' or 'willingly obeyed'. 'To say the truth,' he wrote to the local power-broker and Privy Councillor, Lord Cobham, 'I wish that absolute power should not be extended where ordinary laws may effect our desires.'1

Over the next fifty years, however, absolute power was more and more extended, and put to a variety of uses for the public welfare. By 1609 the Council could write to sheriffs and justices pointing out 'how great a portion of power and government' was left to their care, not only in enforcing ordinary laws but in executing 'extraordinary directions derived from the prerogative power of his Majesty by proclamations, letters and commissions', all 'much importing the common weal of this kingdom'. According to a proclamation of the same year, James I had learnt from observing other Christian princes 'how far the absoluteness of sovereign power extendeth itself'.2 Here was another reforming drive, and one with considerable potential. If its policies had had the coherence and conviction of those of godly magistrates, the Crown might have put forward a distinct strategy for social reform; and if it had had real power, it might have implemented it.

Simply to present these conditions is, of course, to suggest that neither

____________________
1
Staffs. RO, Sutherland MSS, D593/S/4/18/7. Lambarde made much the same point about 'absolute authority' in a letter written the same day to his colleague, Sir John Leveson: D593/ S4/14/16. (I am grateful to the Countess of Sutherland for permission to cite these papers.)
2
HMC, Buccleugh, iii. 140; J. F Larkin and P. L. Hughes, Stuart Royal Proclamations ( 2 vols., Oxford, 1973-83), i. 217, no. 98.

-53-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
From Reformation to Improvement: Public Welfare in Early Modern England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Abbreviations viii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - THE COMMON WEAL 5
  • 2 - GODLY CITIES 29
  • 3 - ABSOLUTE POWER 53
  • 4 - THE PUBLIC GOOD 77
  • 5 - THE PARLIAMENT'S REFORMATION 102
  • 6 - BODIES POLITIC 126
  • 7 - CIVIL SOCIETIES 150
  • Index 167
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 179

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.