THE EARLY STUARTS
The period from 1603 to 1642, though little more than a third of a century, is here represented by another long series of documents. The reason, of course, is the extraordinary interest of the constitutional struggle under James I and Charles I. And since the struggle was from the beginning concentrated in parliament, it has seemed best to arrange the pertinent materials according to certain convenient divisions of parliamentary history. In this way the various letters and speeches of the kings, as well as the formal resolutions, debates, and other proceedings of parliament, have been kept together in chronological order.
As in previous sections, a number of judicial records have been included for illustrative purposes especially the reports of ordinary business in the courts of star chamber and high commission. But most of the cases under nos. 91 and 94 have a greater significance: they raised problems concerning the fundamentals of English government. Frequently the judgments by which they were concluded became political issues of first magnitude. Judges, of the king's central courts now began to rival his ministers and generals in public fame.
The remaining documents in the present section require few words of comment. No. 97 is particularly valuable for its statement of the doctrine of divine right as officially set forth by some of the clergy. Under no. 98 a series of typical records from the counties show how, despite the rising conflict between crown and parliament, English local government continued its normal routine and constantly extended its activity. Lastly, in the three documents given under no. 99, may be seen the precedents set by the early Stuarts in colonial organization.
The constitutional developments of these momentous years cannot be explained in a short introductory note, but a word may be said with regard to certain important features of parliamentary history. With the first session in 1604, controversy between the king and his critics suddenly became acute. In Elizabeth's reign only a few members of the commons had been given to political agitation, and they had often been opposed by a majority of their fellows. Most argument concerning crown and parliament had then been couched in general terms. In 1604 the champions of parliamentary rights led a strong party in the commons and formulated a detailed programme. Under their guidance, the house drew up the Apology of the Commons, setting forth in large measure the issues that dominated the ensuing struggle. As controversy proceeded, those who spoke for the commons gradually strengthened the position of the house. They gave close attention to parliamentary procedure and marshalled legal precedents to vindicate their privileges and lawful powers as may be seen by comparing the Apology with the Petition of Right. To refute their arguments, the king elaborated a more cogent statement of the monarchical cause, matching their proofs with his own. During the sessions of 1606-11 and 1621-29 the issues dividing the two camps thus came to be more sharply defined. If this development were to be fully illustrated, the whole series of parliamentary records would have to be drawn upon. For present purposes, however, examples of procedure have been taken from the years 1604-11, when many new practices came into use.
Before 1640 the struggle between king and parliament brought little change in the structure of English government, but with the opening of the Long Parliament the way was cleared for swift legislative action. The new laws (no. 96A-I) struck down the prerogative courts, set further limits to the king's fiscal rights, and assured the regular calling of parliament. This constitutional reform, one of the greatest in English history, was effected in the year 1641 and had the general support of the English public. A considerable party, however, made two additional demands: reorganization of the English Church according to Puritan principles, and extension of parliamentary control over the executive government. These demands (here reflected in no. 96J-P) led to the outbreak of civil war in the summer of 1642.
The great interest of the educated classes in constitutional problems under the early Stuarts had expression in two significant ways: the assiduous reporting of debates by ordinary members of parliament, and the historical study of English institutions. The first is best presented to the reader in the diaries edited by W. Notestein and his associates;1 the second in the works of Sir Edward Coke, Sir Simonds D'Ewes, and John Selden.
There are three standard collections of documents for the early Stuart period provided with valuable notes and introductions: G. W. Prothero, Select Statutes and Other Constitutional Documents Illustrative of the Reigns of Elisabeth and James I; J. R. Tanner, Constitutional Documents of the Reign of James I; S. R. Gardiner, Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution, 1625-1660. For general exposition of constitutional history, the student is referred to S. R. Gardiner, History of England, 1603-1642; J. R. Tanner, English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century; and E. R. Turner, The Privy Council of England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The fundamentals of English constitutional law a subject given prominence in this and the following sections will be found clearly introduced in A. V. Dicey, The Law of the Constitution, and W. R. Anson, The Law and Custom of the Constitution. The volume of Cases in Constitutional Law by Keir and Lawson also contains much valuable comment. A full bibliography on all constitutional topics is supplied by G. Davies, Bibliography of British History: Stuart Period, 1603-1714, sections i and ix.
1 Commons Debates, 1621, edited by W. Notestein, F H. Relf, and H. Simpson; Common Debates for 1629, edited by W. Notestein and F. H. Relf; The Journal of Sir Simonds D'Ewes, edited by W. Notestein. See also his "Winning of the Initiative by the House of Commons," in Proceedings of the British Academy, 1924.