The Life of Sir John Eliot, 1592 to 1632: Struggle for Parliamentary Freedom

The Life of Sir John Eliot, 1592 to 1632: Struggle for Parliamentary Freedom

The Life of Sir John Eliot, 1592 to 1632: Struggle for Parliamentary Freedom

The Life of Sir John Eliot, 1592 to 1632: Struggle for Parliamentary Freedom

Excerpt

Between March, 1603, when James I succeeded to the goodly heritage of the Tudor monarchy, and March, 1629, when Charles I decided to rule without the assistance of his Lords and Commons, seven Parliaments met. With every session, possibly excluding that of 1624, the battle of words in the House of Commons grew more intense, as it raged with increasing bitterness over the misgovernment of the early Stuarts. A minority in the House of Commons gradually grew into a majority led by some of the ablest minds in the country. The attack of this opposition, for 'opposition' it was, centred on policies and on men rather than on the Crown. But as the Crown regarded itself responsible for both its ministers and their policies, James and particularly Charles considered this attack to be directed against themselves. Thus, to curb the power of a minister, to challenge the policy of the government, meant an assault upon the sovereignty of the Crown. Under the aegis of the divine right theory both James and Charles felt that their sovereign power in the state was inviolate. Only occasionally and grudgingly would they acknowledge that their powers were limited in any way. To Charles the increasing opposition in the House of Commons was nothing less than rebellion. But the Commons did not regard their criticism as disloyal, certainly not during the debates of these seven Parliaments. They could not see that if they continued to run counter to the fixed ideas of the King the result might be rebellion. That is what happened, but not until after the Long Parliament met in November, 1640.

Among the leaders of the opposition Sir John Eliot ranked high. He sat in five of the seven Parliaments and was active in the last four. To him loyalty to the Crown was a sacred principle. To him the right of the Commons to attack a minister of the Crown without so much as scratching royal sovereignty was unquestioned. To him the House of Commons above all was sacrosanct. When it came to the government of England Sir John Eliot was an idealist. His ideal was that King and Commons should work together in perfect harmony for the good of the country. Towards this ideal he was always striving during his parliamentary career. But the tragedy of Eliot's last years was the growing . . .

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