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SELECT BRITISH ELOQUENCE.
SIR JOHN ELIOT. John Eliot was descended from a family of great respectability in Cornwall, and was born on the 20th of April, 1590. After enjoying the best advantages for education which England could afford, and spending some years in foreign travel, he was elected to Parliament at the age of thirty-three, and became one of the most prominent members in the House of Commons under Charles I.
The House embraced at this time, some of the ablest and most learned men of the age, such as Sir Edward Coke, John Hampden, Selden, St. John, Pym, &c. Among these, Sir John Eliot stood pre-eminent for the force and fervor of his eloquence. The general style of speaking at that day was weighty, grave, and sententious, but tinctured with the pedantry of the preceding reign, and destitute of that warmth of feeling which is essential to the character of a great orator. Eliot, Wentworth, and a few others were exceptions; and Eliot especially spoke at times with all the enthusiasm and vehemence of the early days of Greece and Rome.
Hence he was appointed one of the managers of the House when the Duke of Buckingham was impeached in 1626, and had the part assigned him of making the closing argument against the Duke before the House of Lords. This he did with such energy and effect as to awaken the keenest resentment of the Court; so that two days after he was called out of the House, as if to receive a message from the King, and was instantly seized and hurried off by water to the Tower. The Commons, on hearing of this breach of privilege, were thrown into violent commotion. The cry “ Rise!” “Rise !" was heard from every part of the hall. They did immediately adjourn, and met again only to record their resolution, “ Not to do any more business until they were righted in their privileges.” This decisive measure brought the government to a stand, and reduced them to the humiliating necessity of releasing Sir John Eliot, and also Sir Dudley Diggs, another of the managers who had been arrested on the same occasion. Eliot and his companion returned in triumph to the House, which voted that “they had not exceeded the commission intrusted to them.”
In consequence of this defeat, and the backwardness of the Commons to grant the supplies demanded, Charles soon after dissolved Parliament, and determined to raise money by "forced loans." Great numbers resisted this imposition, and among them Eliot and Hampden, who, with seventy-six others of the gentry, were thrown into prison for refusing to surrender their property to the Crown ; while hundreds of inferior rank were impressed into the army or navy by way of punishment. The King found, however, that with all this violence he could not raise the necessary supplies, and was compelled to call another Parliament within eight months. Eliot, Hampden, and many others who had been lying under arrest; were elected members of the new House of Commons while thus confined in prison, and were released only a few days before the meeting of Parliament.
These violent invasions of the rights of property and person, naturally came up for consideration at an early period of the session. The Commons, as the result of their discussions, framed, on the 27th of May, 1628, that second Great Charter of the liberties of England, the PETITION OF Right; so called because drawn up, in the humble spirit of the day, in the form of a petition to the King, but having, when ratified by his concurrence, all the authority of a fundamental law of the kingdom. This document was prepared by Sir Edward Coke at the age of eighty-three, and was one of the last public acts of that distinguished lawyer. It provided, that no loan or tax might be levied but by consent of Parliament; that no man might be imprisoned but by legal process; that soldiers might not be quartered on people contrary to their wills; and that no commissions be granted for executing martial law. On the 2d of June, Charles returned an evasive answer, in which he endeavored to satisfy the Commons without giving a legal and binding assent to the petition. The next day, Sir John Eliot made the following speech. It breathes throughout, that spirit of affection and reverence for the King's person which was still felt by both houses of Parliament. It does not dwell, therefore, on those recent acts of arbitrary power in which the King might be supposed to have reluctantly concurred; and the fact is a striking one, that Eliot does not even allude to his late cruel imprisonment, a decisive proof that he was not actuated by a spirit of personal resentment. The entire speech was directed against the royal Favorite, the Duke of Buckingham. Its object was, to expose his flagrant misconduct during the preceding ten years, under the reign of James as well as Charles ; and to show that through his duplicity, incompetency, and rash counsels, the honor of the kingdom had been betrayed, its allies sacrificed, its treasures wasted, and those necessities of the King created which gave rise to the arbitrary acts referred to in the Petition of Right. The facts which Eliot adduces in proof, are very briefly mentioned, or barely alluded to, because they were fresh in the minds of all, and had created a burning sense of wrong and dishonor throughout the whole kingdom. They will be explained in brief notes appended to the speech ; but, to feel their full force, the reader must go back to the history of the times, and place himself in the midst of the scene.
There is in this speech, a union of dignity and fervor which is highly characteristic of the man. “His mind,” says Lord Nugent, “was deeply imbued with a love of philosophy and a confidence in religion which gave a lofty tone to his eloquence." His fervor, aeting on a clear and powerful understanding, gives him a simplicity, directness, and continuity of thought, a rapidity of progress, and a vehemence of appeal, which will remind the reader of the style of Demosthenes. His whole soul is occupied with the subject. He seizes upon the strong points of his case with such absorbing interest, that all those secondary and collateral trains of thought with which a speaker like Burke, amplifies and adorns the discussion, are rejected as unworthy of the stern severity of the occasion. The eloquence lies wholly in the thought; and the entire bareness of the expression, the absence of all ornament, adds to the effect, because there is nothing interposed to break the force of the blow. The antique air of the style heightens the interest of the speech; and will recommend it particularly to those who have learned to relish the varied construction and racy English of our early writers.
OF SIR JOHN ELIOT ON THE PETITION OF RIGHT, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS,
JUNE 3, 1628.
· Mr. SPEAKER,—We sit here as the great | authority of books ? Look on the collections of Council of the King, and in that capacity, it is the Committee for Religion; there is too clear an our duty to take into consideration the state and evidence. See there the commission procured affairs of the kingdom, and when there is occa- for composition with the papists of the North ! sion, to give a true representation of them by Mark the proceedings thereupon, and you will way of counsel and advice, with what we con- find them to little less amounting than a toleraceive necessary or expedient to be done. tion in effect: the slight payments, and the easi
In this consideration, I confess many a sad ness of them, will likewise show the favor that thought hath affrighted me, and that not only in is intended. Will you have proofs of men ? Witrespect of our dangers from abroad (which yet I ness the hopes, witness the presumptions, witknow are great, as they have been often prest ness the reports of all the papists generally. Oband dilated to us), but in respect of our disor- serve the dispositions of commanders, the trust ders here at home, which do enforce those dan- of officers, the confidence in secretaries to emgers, and by which they are occasioned. For Iployments in this kingdom, in Ireland, and elsebelieve I shall make it clear to you, that both at where. These will all show that it hath too first, the cause of these dangers were our disor- great a certainty. And to this add but the ders, and our disorders now are yet our greatest incontrovertible evidence of that All-powerful dangers—that not so much the potency of our Hand, which we have felt so sorely, that gave enemies as the weakness of ourselves, doth threat- it full assurance; for as the heavens oppose en us : so that the saying of one of the Fathers themselves to our impiety, so it is we that first may be assumed by us, “non tam potentià sua opposed the heavens.' quam negligentiâ nostrâ,” “not so much by their II. For the second, our want of councils, that power as by our neglect.” Our want of true great disorder in a state under which there can devotion to heaven-our insincerity and doub- not be stability. If effects may show their causes ling in religion-our want of councils-our pre- (as they are often a perfect demonstration of cipitate actions—the insufficiency or unfaithful- them), our misfortunes, our disasters, serve to ness of our generals abroad-the ignorance or prove our deficiencies in council, and the consecorruption of our ministers at home—the impov- quences they draw with them. If reason be alerishing of the sovereign-the oppression and lowed in this dark age, the judgment of dependdepression of the subject-the exhausting of our encies and foresight of contingencies in affairs, treasures — the waste of our provisions — con- do confirm my position. For, if we view oursumption of our ships--destruction of our men selves at home, are we in strength, are we in —these make the advantage to our enemies, not reputation, equal to our ancestors ? If we view the reputation of their arms; and if in these ourselves abroad, are our friends as many ? are there be not reformation, we need no foes abroad: Jour enemies no more? Do our friends retain Time itself will ruin us.
their safety and possessions ? Do not our eneTo show this more fully, I believe you will mies enlarge themselves, and gain from them all hold it necessary that what I say, should not and us? To what council owe we the loss of seem an aspersion on the state or imputation on the Palatinate, where we sacrificed both our honthe government, as I have known such motions or and our men sent thither, stopping those greatmisinterpreted. But far is this from me to pro- er powers appointed for the service, by which it pose, who have none but clear thoughts of the might have been defended ? What council gave excellency of the King; nor can I have other ends but the advancement of his Majesty's glory. I.
The gun-powder plot for blowing up both hous
::es of Parliament, and extirpating the Protestant reI shall desire a little of your patience extraordi- lici
ligion at a single stroke, was still fresh in the minds nary, as I lay open the particulars, which I shall of all. It is not, therefore, surprising, at a period do with what brevity I may, answerable to the when correct views of religious liberty were as yet importance of the cause and the necessity now unknown in England, that any remissness in exupon us; yet with such respect and observation ecuting the laws against Catbolics, was regarded to the time, as I hope it shall not be thought with great jealousy by Eliot and his friends, espetroublesome.
cially as the mother of Buckingham was of that comI. For the first, then, our insincerity and doub- munion.
1. Frederick V., the Elector Palatine, who married ling in religion, is the greatest and most danger
gers "the beautiful Elizabeth," sister of Charles I., had ous disorder of all others. This hath never been been attacked on religious grounds by a union of unpunished; and of this we have many strong Catholic states in Germany, with Austria at their examples of all states and in all times to awe us. head, stripped of the Palatinate, and driven as an What testimony doth it want? Will you have exile into Holland, with his wife and child. Al
direction to the late action, whose wounds are yet | entable experience. It hath made an absolute bleeding, I mean the expedition to Rhé, of which breach between that state and us, and so enterthere is yet so sad a memory in all men ? What tains us against France, and France in preparadesign for us, or advantage to our state, could tion against us, that we have nothing to promise that impart ?
to our neighbors, nay, hardly to ourselves. Next, You know the wisdom of your ancestors, and observe the time in which it was attempted, and the practice of their times, how they preserved you shall find it not only varying from those printheir safeties. We all know, and have as much ciples, but directly contrary and opposite to those cause to doubt [i. e., distrust or guard against] ends; and such, as from the issue and success, as they had, the greatness and ambition of that rather might be thought a conception of Spain kingdom, which the Old World could not satisfy than begotten here with us. . Against this greatness and ambition, we like- [Here there was an interruption made by Sir wise know the proceedings of that princess, that Humphrey May, Chancellor of the Duchy and never-to-be - forgotten, excellent Queen Eliza- of the Privy Council, expressing a dislike; but the beth, whose name, without admiration, falls not | House ordered Sir John Eliot to go on, whereinto mention even with her enemies. You know upon he proceeded thus :) how she advanced herself, and how she advanced Mr. Speaker, I am sorry for this interruption, the nation in glory and in state ; how she de- but much more sorry if there hath been occasion pressed her enemies, and how she upheld her on my part. And, as I shall submit myself wholfriends; how she enjoyed a full security, and made ly to your judgment, to receive what censure you those our scorn who now are made our terror. may give me, if I have offended, so, in the integ.
Some of the principles she built on were these; / rity of my intentions and the clearness of my and if I mistake, let reason and our statesmen thoughts, I must still retain this confidence, that contradict me.
no greatness shall deter me from the duties I owe First, to maintain, in what she might, a uni- to the service of my king and country; but that, ty in France, that the kingdom, being at peace with a true English heart, I shall discharge mywithin itself, might be a bulwark to keep back self as faithfully and as really, to the extent of the power of Spain by land.
my poor power, as any man whose honors or whose Next, to preserve an amity and league be- offices most strictly oblige him. tween that state and us, that so we might come in You know the dangers of Denmark, and how aid of the Low Countries (Holland), and by that much they concern us; what in respect of our means receive their ships, and help them by sea. alliance and the country; what in the import
This triple cord, so working between France, ance of the Sound; what an advantage to our the States (Holland), and England, might enable enemies the gain thereof would be! What loss, us, as occasion should require, to give assistance what prejudice to us by this disunion; we breakunto others. And by this means, as the experi-ing in upon France, France enraged by us, and ence of that time doth tell us, we were not only the Netherlands at amazement between both !6 free from those fears that now possess and trouble Neither could we intend to aid that luckless king us, but then our names were fearful to our ene- (Christian IV., of Denmark), whose loss is our mies. See now what correspondency our action disaster. had with this. Try our conduct by these rules. Can those (the King's ministers) that express It did induce, as a necessary consequence, a di- their trouble at the hearing of these things, and vision in France between the Protestants and have so often told us in this place of their knowltheir king, of which there is too woful and lam- edge in the conjunctures and disjunctures of afProtestant Christendom was indignant at these
fairs—can they say they advised in this ? Was wrongs; and the King of England was expected to
this an act of council, Mr. Speaker ? I have more sustain the injured Elector on the double ground of This refers to the expedition against the Isle of family alliance and a community of religion. These Rhé, respecting which see note 8. expectations had all been disappointed by the weak, 5 Christian IV., King of Denmark, as a leading indecisive, and fluctuating counsels of Buckingham. Protestant prince, and uncle to Elizabeth, wife of Twelve thousand English troops were indeed sent Frederick, the Elector Palatine, had entered warmto assist Frederick, under Count Mansfeldt, but near- ly into their cause, and marched with a large army ly all of them perished on the way, from mere want to reinstate them in the Palatinate. After some of foresight and preparation on the part of the En partial successes, however, he was repulsed by the glish government. This wanton sacrifice of life is Austrians, driven back into his own dominions, and alluded to at the close of the speech in a single word reduced to imminent danger of being stripped of all _" Mansfeldt!"-a name which at that time smote his possessions. The English trade through the on the heart of the whole English nation. The ex-Sound into the Baltic, which was of great value, was pedition to the Isle of Rhé, mentioned in the next thus on the point of being entirely cut off by the essentence will be explained hereafter.
tablishment of a hostile power on the ruins of Den3 To understand the force and beauty of this allu-mark. Yet England had done nothing to sustain her sion to Spain, we must go back to the time when ally, or to protect her rights and interests in that all Europe was filled with dismay at the power of quarter; and the English people were justly in. the Spanish arms on both continents. Few things censed against Buckingham for this neglect. in English eloquence, as Forster remarks, are finer 6 Here, as above, allusion is made to the disgrace. in expression or purpose, than this allusion and the ful expedition against the Isle of Rhé, by which subsequent train of thought, as addressed to English France was enraged, and no diversion in favor of men of that day.
| Denmark either made or intended.
charity than to think it; and unless they make trouble you much; only this, in short. Was not confession of it themselves, I can not believe it. that whole action carried against the judgment
III. For the next, the insufficiency and un- and opinion of those officers that were of the faithfulness of our generals (that great disorder council ? Was not the first, was not the last, abroad), what shall I say? I wish there were was not all in the landing in the intrenchingnot cause to mention it; and, but for the appre- in the continuance there—in the assault-in the bension of the danger that is to come, if the like retreat-without their assent ? Did any advice cboice hereafter be not prevented, I could will take place of such as were of the council ? If ingly be silent. But my duty to my sovereign, there should be made a particular inquisition my service to this House, and the safety and hon- thereof, these things will be manifest and more. or of my country, are above all respects; and I will not instance the manifesto that was made, what so nearly trenches to the prejudice of these, giving the reason of these arms; nor by whom, must not, shall not be forborne.
nor in what manner, nor on what grounds it At Cadiz,' then, in that first expedition we was published, nor what effects it hath wrought, made, when we arrived and found a conquest drawing, as it were, almost the whole world ready—the Spanish ships, I mean, fit for the sat- into league against us. Nor will I mention the isfaction of a voyage, and of which some of the leaving of the wines, the leaving of the salt, chieiest then there, themselves have since as. which were in our possession, and of a value, as sured me, that the satisfaction would have been it is said, to answer much of our expense. Nor sufficient, either in point of honor or in point of will I dwell on that great wonder (wbich no Alprofit-why was it neglected? Why was it not exander or Cæsar' ever did), the enriching of the achieved, it being granted on all hands how feas. enemy by courtesies when our soldiers wanted ible it was?
help; nor the private intercourse and parleys Alterward, when, with the destruction of some with the fort, which were continually held. What of our men and the exposure of others, who they intended may be read in the success; and (though their fortune since has not been such), upon due examination thereof, they would not by chance, came off safe-when, I say, with the want their proofs. loss of our serviceable men, that unserviceable For the last yoyage to Rochelle, there need fort was gained, and the whole army landed, why no observations, it is so fresh in memory; nor was there nothing done? Why was there noth- will I make an inference or corollary on all. ing attempted ? If nothing was intended, where- Your own knowledge shall judge what truth or fore did they land ? If there was a service, where- what sufficiency they express. fore were they shipped again? Mr. Speaker, it IV. For the next, the ignorance and corrupsatisfies me too much (i. e., I am over-satisfied] tion of our ministers, where can you miss of inin this case—when I think of their dry and hun- stances ? If you survey the court, if you survey gry march into that drunken quarter (for so the the country; if the church, if the city be exam. soldiers termed it), which was the period (term
open arms. But the Rochellers, having no previination of their journey—that divers of our men
ous arrangement with him on the subject, and probbeing left as a sacrifice to the enemy, that labor ably distrusting his intentions, refused to admit him tas at an end.
into the town, and advised him to take possession For the next undertaking, at Rhé, I will not of the Isle of Rhé, in the neighborhood. This he
did, and immediately issued a manifesto, inciting the Buckingham, at the close of 1625, had fitted out Protestants throughout France to rebel against their a fleet of eighty sail, to intercept the Spanish treas. 1 government. Great indignation was awakened in ore ships from America, to scour the coasts of Spain, Europe by this attempt to rekindle the flames of and destroy the shipping in her ports. Owing to the civil war in that country. His appeal was, unforutter incompetency of the commander, there was no tunately, successful. The Protestants in the south concert or subordination in the fleet. The treasure of France rose almost to a man. A bloody conflict ships were not intercepted; but seven other large ensued, in which they were completely crushed, and and rich Spanish ships, which would have repaid all their condition rendered far more wretched than be. the expenses of the expedition, were suffered to es. fore. Buckingham, in the mean time, conducted ev. cape, when they might easily have been taken. Atery thing wildly and at random. In October, a re. lenzth a landing was effected in the neighborhood enforcement of fifteen hundred men was sent out, of Cadiz, and the paltry fort of Puntal was taken. mentioned in the speech as "the last voyage to RoThe English soldiers broke open the wine cellars chelle;" but the Duke was still repulsed, with loss of the country around, and became drunk and un at every point, till he was compelled to return in manageable; so that the Spanish troops, if they had disgrace, with the loss of one third of bis troops, in
down their condition, might easily have cut the the month of November, 1627. This speech was dewbole army to pieces. Their commander, as the livered in June of the next year, while the nation only course left him, retreated to the ships, leaving was still smarting under the sense of the disasters some hundreds of his men to perish under the knives and disgraces of this mad expedition. of the enraged peasantry.
This sneer at the generalship of Buckingham • Buckingham, from motives of personal resent was keenly felt, and derived its peculiar force from ment against the French king, undertook, in June, the lofty pretensions and high-sounding titles he as1627, to aid the Huguenots at Rochelle, who were sumed. He had also made himself ridiculous, and in a state of open rebellion. He therefore sailed even suspected of treachery, by his affectation of with a fleet of one hundred ships and seven thou-courtesy in the interchange of civilities with the sand land forces, taking the command of the expe. French commanders. To this Eliot alludes with dition himself, and expecting to be received with stinging effect in the remaining part of the sentence.