Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

in academical bounds, the warring tongues of Europe. A common intellectual kinship and rivalry took the place of the petty strifes which parted province from province, or realm from realm. What Church and Empire had both aimed at, and both failed in the knitting of Christian nations together into a vast Commonwealth

-the Universities for a ume did. Dante felt himseli is linie a stranger in the “ Latin Quarter" round Mont Si. Geneviève as under the arches of Bologna ; wandering Oxford scholars carried the writings of Wycliffe to the libraries of Prague.

In England the work of provincial fusion was less difficult or important than elsewhere; but even in England work had to be done. The feuds of Northerner and Southerner which so long disturbed the discipline of Oxford, witnessed, at any rate, to the fact that Northerner and Southerner had at last been brought face to face in its streets. And here, as elsewhere, the spirit of national isolation was held in check by the larger comprehensiveness of the University.

And within this strangely mingled mass, society and government rested on a purely democratic basis. Among Oxford scholars the son of the noble stood on precisely the same footing with the poorest mendicant. Wealth, physical strength, skill in arms, pride of ancestry and blood—the very grounds on which feudal society rested—went for nothing in the lecture-rooms. The University was a state absolutely self-governed, and whose citizens were admitted by a purely intellectual franchise. Knowledge made the “Master.” To know more than one's fellows was a man's sole claim to be a “Regent,” or ruler in the schools. And within this intellectual aristocracy all were equal. When the Free Commonwealth of the “Masters" gathered in the halls of St. Mary's, all had an equal right to counsel ; all had an equal vote in the final decision. Treasury and library were at their complete disposal. It was their voice that named every officer that proposed and sanctioned every statute. Even the Chancellor, their head, who had at first been an officer of the bishop, became an elected officer of their own.-History of the English People, $ 165.

THE DEPOSITION OF EDWARD II.

Deserted by all, and repulsed by the citizens of London, whose aid he implored, the King fled hastily to the west, and embarked with the Despensers for Lundy Island, which Despenser had fortified as a possible refuge. But contrary winds flung him again on the Welsh coast, where he fell into the hands of Earl Henry of Lancaster, the brother of the Earl whom they had slain. The younger Despenser, who accompanied Richard, was at once hung on a gibbet fifty feet high, and the King was placed in ward at Kenilworth till his fate could be decided by a Parliament summoned for that purpose at Westminster in January, 1327.

The peers who assembled fearlessly revived the con. stitutional usage of the earlier English freedom, and asserted their right to depose a King who had proved himself unworthy to rule. Not a voice was raised in Edward's behalf, and only four prelates protested when the young Prince was proclaimed King by acclamation, and presented as their sovereign to the multitude with out. The revolution took legal form in a Bill which charged the captive monarch with indolence, incapacity, the loss of Scotland, the violation of his coronation oath, and oppression of the Church and Baronage ; and on the approval of this it was resolved that the reign of Edward of Caernarvon had ceased, and that the crown had passed to his son, Edward of Windsor. A deputation of the Parliament proceeded to Kenilworth to procure the assent of the discrowned King to his own deposition; and Edward, “clad in a plain black gown," bowed quietly to his fate. Sir William Trussel at once addressed him in words which, better than any other, mark the nature of the step which the Parliament had taken : "I, William Trussel, Proctor of the Earls, Barons, and others, having for this full and sufficient power, do render and give back to you, Edward, once King of England, the homage and fealty of the persons named in my Procuracy ; and acquit and discharge them thereof in the best manner that the law and custom will give. And I now make protestation in their name that they will no longer be in your fealty and allegiance, nor claim to hold anything of you as King, but will account you hereafter as a private person, without any manner of royal dignity." A significant act followed these emphatic words. Sir Thomas Blount, the Steward of the Household, broke his staff of office--a ceremony used only at a King's death—and declared that all persons engaged in the royal service were discharged. The act of Blount was only an omen of the fate which awaited the miserable King. In the following September he was murdered in Berkeley Castle.- History of the English People, $$ 308, 309.

ACCESSION OF THE HOUSE OF HANOVER.

The Parliament of 1701–a Parliament mainly of Tories, and in which the leader of the moderate Tories, Robert Harley, came for the first time to the frontmet amidst the general panic and suspension of trade which followed the seizure of the seven Barrier Fortresses, including Luxemburg, Mons, and Charleroi, which were garrisoned by Dutch instead of Spanish troops. Peace Parliament as it was, and bitterly as it condemned the Partition Treaties, it at once supported William III. in his demand for a withdrawal of the French troops, and authorized him to conclude a defensive alliance with Holland, which would give that state courage to join in the demand. The disclosure of a new Jacobite plot strengthened William's position. The hopes of the Jacobites had been raised in the preceding year by the death of the young Duke of Gloucester, the only living child of the Princess Anne, and who, as William was childless, ranked after his mother as heirpresumptive of the throne. William was dying; the health of Anne was known to be precarious; and to the partisans of James II. it seemed as if the succession of his son, the boy who was known in later life as “the Old Pretender," was all but secure. But Tory as the Parliament was, it had no mind to undo the work of the Revolution.

When a new Act of Succession was laid before the Houses in 1701, not a voice was raised for James or his

[ocr errors]

son. By the ordinary rules of heritage, the descendants of the daughter of Charles I., Henrietta of Orleans, whose only child had married the Duke of Savoy, would come as next claimants; but the House of Savoy was Catholic, and its pretensions were passed over in the same silence. No other descendants of Charles I. remained, and the Parliament fell back on his father's line. Elizabeth, the daughter of James I., had married the Elector Palatine ; but of her twelve children all had died childless save one. This was Sophia, the wife of the late and mother of the present Elector of Hanover. It was in Sophia and the heirs of her body-being Protestants-that the Act of Settlement vested the crown. But the jealousy of a foreign ruler accompanied this settlement with remarkable provisions. It was enacted that every English sovereign must be in communion with the Church of England as by law established. The future Kings were forbidden to leave England without consent of Parliament, and foreigners were excluded from all public posts, military or civil.

The independence of justice, which had been inadequately secured by the Bill of Rights, was now established by a clause that no judge should be removed from office save on an address from Parliament to the Crown. The two principles that the King acts only through his Ministers, and that these Ministers are responsible to Parliament, were asserted by a requirement that all public business should be formally done in the Privy Council, and all its decisions signed by the members. These two last provisions went far to complete the Parliamentary Constitution which had been drawn by the Bill of Rights.

On the 30th of July, 1714, Queen Anne was suddenly struck with apoplexy. The Privy Council at once assembled, and at the news the Whig Dukes of Argyle and Somerset entered the Council Chamber without summons, and took their places at the Board. The step had been taken in secret concert with the Duke of Shrewsbury, who was President of the Council in the Tory Ministry, but a rival of Bolingbroke, and an adherent of the Hanoverian Succession. The act was a decisive one. The right of the House of Hanover was at once

acknowledged. Shrewsbury was nominated as Lord Treasurer by the Council, and the nomination was accepted by the dying Queen. Bolingbroke, though he remained Secretary of State, suddenly found himself powerless and neglected, while the Council took steps to provide for the emergency.

Four regiments were summoned to the capital in the expectation of a civil war. But the Jacobites were hopeless and unprepared ; and on the death of Anne, on the evening of the roth of August, the Elector George of Hanover, who had become heir to the throne by the death of his mother a few weeks before, was proclaimed as King of England without a show of opposition.History of the English People, SS 1350-1377.

THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE UNITED STATES.

Whatever might be the importance of American Independence in the history of England, it was of unequalled moment in the history of the world. If it crippled for a while the supremacy of the English Nation, it founded the supremacy of the English Race. From the hour of American Independence the life of the English people has flowed not in one current, but in two; and while the older has shown little sign of lessening, the younger has risen to a greatness which has changed the face of the world.

In 1783 America was a nation of 3,000,000 inhabitants, scattered thinly along the coast of the Atlantic. It is now (1880) a nation of 50,000,000, stretching over the whole continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In wealth and material energy, as in numbers, it far surpasses the mother country from which it sprang. It is already the main branch of the English people ; and in the days that are at hand the main current of that people's history must run along the channel, not of the Thames nor the Mersey, but of the Hudson and the Mississippi. But distinct as these currents are, every year proves more clearly that in spirit the English people is one. The distance that parted England from America lessens every day.

The ties that unite them grow every day stronger. The social and political differences that

« AnteriorContinuar »