Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

to produce. He was, however,considered as the kinsman of Hampden, and was, therefore, supposed by the courtiers not to favour them.

When the parliament was called in 1640, it appeared that Waller's political character had not been mistaken. The king's demand of a supply produced one of those noisy speeches which disaffection and discontent regularly dictate; a speech filled with hyperbolical complaints of imaginary grievances: “They,” says he, “who think themselves already undone, can never apprehend themselves in danger; and they who have nothing left can never give freely.” Political truth is equally in danger from the praises of courtiers, and the exclamations of patriots.

He then proceeds to rail at the clergy, being sure, at that time, of a favourable audience. His topick is such as will always serve its purpose; an accusation of acting and preaching only for preferment; and he exhorts the commons “carefully to provide for their protection against pulpit law.

It always gratifies curiosity to trace a sentiment. Waller has, in this speech, quoted Hooker in one passage; and in another has copied him, without quoting.“Religion,” says Waller,“ ought to be the first thing in our purpose and desires; but that which is first in dignity is not always to precede in order of time; for well-being supposes a being; and the first impediment which men naturally endeavour to remove, is the want of those things without which they cannot subsist. God first assigned unto Adam

maintenance of life, and gave him a title to the rest of the creatures, before he appointed a law to observe."

God first assigned Adam,” says Hooker,“maintenance of life, and then appointed him a law to observe. True it is, that the kingdom of God must be the first thing in our purpose and desires; but, inasmuch as a righteous life presupposeth life, inasmuch as to live virtuously it is impossible, except we live; therefore the first impediment which naturally we endeavour to remove is penury, and want of things without which we cannot live." Book i. Sect. 9.

The speech is vehement; but the great position, that grievances ought to be redressed, before supplies are granted, is agreeable enough to law and reason: nor was Waller, if his biographer may be credited, such an enemy to the king, as not to wish his distresses lightened; for he relates, “ that the king sent particularly to Waller, to second his demand of some subsidies to pay off the army; and sir Henry Vane objecting against first voting a supply, because the king would not accept, unless it came up to his proportion, Mr. Waller spoke earnestly to sir Thomas Jermyn, comptroller of the household, to save his master from the effects of so bold a falsity; 'for' he said, 'I am but a country gentleman, and cannot pretend to know the king's mind :' but sir Thomas durst not contradict the secretary; and his son, the earl of St. Alban's, afterwards told Mr. Waller, that his father's cowardice ruined the king.”

In the long parliament, which, unhappily for the nation, met Nov. 3, 1640, Waller represented Agmondesham the third time; and was considered, by the discontented party, as a man sufficiently trusty and acrimonious to be employed in managing the prosecution of judge Crawley, for his opinion in favour of ship-money; and his speech shows that he did not disappoint their expectations. He was, probably, the more ardent, as his uncle Hampden had been particularly engaged in the dispute, and, by a sentence, which seems generally to be thought unconstitutional, particularly injured.

He was not, however, a bigot to his party, nor adopted all their opinions. When the great question, whether episcopacy ought to be abolished, was debated, he spoke against the innovation so coolly, so reasonably, and so firmly, that it is not without great injury to his name that his speech, which was as follows, has been hitherto omitted in his works':

“There is no doubt but the sense of what this nation hath suffered from the present bishops hath produced these complaints; and the apprehensions men have of suffering the like, in time to come, make so many desire the taking away of episcopacy: but I conceive it is possible that we may not, now, take a right measure of the minds of the people by their petitions; for, when they subscribed them, the bishops were armed with a dangerous commission of making new canons, imposing new oaths, and the

* This speech has been retrieved, from a paper printed at that time, by the writers of the Parliamentary History. Dr. J.

like; but now we have disarmed them of that power. These petitioners lately did look upon episcopacy, as a beast armed with horns and claws; but now that we have cut and pared them (and may, if we see cause, yet reduce it into narrower bounds,) it may, perhaps, be more agreeable. Howsoever, if they be still in passion, it becomes us soberly to consider the right use and antiquity thereof; and not to comply further with a general desire, than may stand with a general good.

“We have already showed, that episcopacy, and the evils thereof, are mingled like water and oil; we have also, in part, severed them; but, I believe, you will find, that our laws and the present government of the church are mingled like wine and water; so inseparable, that the abrogation of, at least, a hundred of our laws is desired in these petitions. I have often heard a noble answer of the lords, commended in this house, to a proposition of like nature, but of less consequence; they gave no other reason of their refusal but this,'Nolumus mutare leges Angliæ:' it was the bishops who so answered then; and it would become the dignity and wisdom of this house to answer the people now with a 'Nolumus mutare.'

“I see some are moved with a number of hands against the bishops; which, I confess, rather inclines me to their defence; for I look upon episcopacy as a counterscarp, or outwork; which, if it be taken by this assault of the people, and, withal, this mystery once revealed, “That we must deny them nothing, when they ask it thus in troops,' we may, in the next

place, have as hard a task to defend our property, as we have lately had to recover it from the prerogative. If, by multiplying hands and petitions, they prevail for an equality in things ecclesiastical, the next demand, perhaps, may be ‘Lex Agraria,' the like equality in things temporal.

“The Roman story tells us, that when the people began to flock about the senate, and were more curious to direct and know what was done, than to obey, that commonwealth soon came to ruin; their 'Legem rogare' grew quickly to be a ‘Legem ferre;' and after, when their legions had found that they could make a dictator, they never suffered the senate to have a voice any more in such election.

“If these great innovations proceed, I shall expect a flat and level in learning too, as well as in church-preferments; 'Honos alit artes.' And though it be true, that grave and pious men do study for learning-sake, and embrace virtue for itself; yet it is as true that youth, which is the season when learning is gotten, is not without ambition, nor will ever take pains to excel in any thing, when there is not some hope of excelling others in reward and dignity.

There are two reasons chiefly alleged against our church-government.

“First, Scripture, which, as some men think, points out another form.

“Second, The abuses of the present superiours.

“For scripture, I will not dispute it in this place; but I am confident that, whenever an equal division of lands and goods shall be desired, there will be as

« IndietroContinua »