Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume 1, 1618-29. Originally published by D Browne, London, 1721.
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May it please your Highness,
The Poor Widow came far short of others in her offers into the Treasury, and yet when she had given her two Mites, she had given all she had: I must fall short of her; she gave of her own, (for the two Mites appear to have been so) but such is the weakness of my Condition, and the nature of this ensuing Discourse, that I neither can, nor shall herein present to your Highness any thing of my own. The words, actions and atchievments herein related, belong all to other Persons, and I can challenge but the bare Representation, and the molding them into such a Body, wherein they now appear: A Body, not of so compleat a shape or pourtraiture as may be worthy your Highness Aspect.
It's not amiss for Princes to hear of, and read the Actions or Miscarriages of Princes, nay of lesser persons: Indeed they can hardly set more useful Books before their Eyes. It is hard for the Pilot to escape, unless he hath first discovered those Shelves and Rocks, upon which others have been split: What is that we call Prudence or Policy, but a System of Observations and Experiences, deducted from other Men's Principles, Practices, Purposes, and Failings?
As to the matter contained in this Story, relating to Arbitrary courses, given way unto by former Princes, I shall make bold to use the expression of an eminent person in his time, spoken in full Parliament at the Trial of the Earl of Strafford, who speaking of an endeavour that had been used to subvert the Laws, and to introduce Arbitrary Government, has (among other Passages) this Observation, There is in this Crime a Seminary of all Evils hurtful to a State, and if you consider the Reasons of it, it must needs be so. The Law is that which puts a difference betwixt Good and Evil, betwixt just and unjust; if you take away the Law, all things will fall into a confusion, every Man will become a Law to himself; which in the depraved condition of Human Nature, must needs produce many great Enormities. Lust will become a Law, and Envy will become a Law, Covetousness and Ambition will become Laws; and what Dictates, what Decisions such Laws will produce, may easily be discerned. The Law is the Safeguard, the Custody of all private Interest; your Honours, your Lives, your Liberties, and Estates, are all in the keeping of the Law; without this every Man hath a like right to every thing; what can be more hurtful, more pernicious, than Arbitrary Power, &c. Thus far that Gentleman: Your Highness will find here the mention of a great Prince, who was wont to say,. He was an old experienced King, and to him belonged, the Calling, Sitting, and Dissolving of Parliaments; and he publickly said, (I speak in his own phrase) That he had broke the neck of Three Parliaments, yet at last he did comply with his last Parliament; and said, He saw he should be in love with Parliaments, having understood many things by them, which otherwise he should never have known.
Moreover here You will have in view a succeeding Prince, who also broke Three Parliaments, one after another, and how fatal that was to him succeeding times have abundantly declared. The Observation is not mine, but of much more ancient date, those Princes who did most consult with their People in Parliament, (that being the Common Council of the Nation) have most prospered in their Courses, there being both Safety and Love gained from such Counsellors and Councils. And Parliaments in the nature of them, are good Physick to cure and redress the Diseases and Distempers of the Body Politick, which mostly grow and overflow in the Intervals of them; yet many think Parliaments are but an ill constant Dyet, which certainly moved Queen Elizabeth of famous Memory, who was well acquainted with the Constitution of the Body of this Nation, to call Parliaments frequently, but to continue none very long. By this means she wrought her self into the good opinion of her People, and by becoming the Mistress of their Affections, she also became in some sort the Mistress of their Purses, which were always opened unto her upon the just and urgent occasions of the Nation; but the Help and Aid which comes from the People by strains, contrary to the Laws of the Nation, and Liberties of the People, being drawn from them through fear, wants the perfume of a willing Heart, and has no longer continuance than whilst the impression of that fear lasts. But few words are best to Princes; vouchsafe your Highness Pardon to him who thus presumes to make so mean an Oblation at so high an Altar; Your good Acceptation will be the greatest Honour to it, and to