« ElőzőTovább »
doubted but that there is a very substantial assembly of right wise, meet, and politique persons. Yet, victorious prince, since among so many wise men, neither is every man wise alike, nor among so many alike well-witted, nor yet well-spoken; and as it often happeth that as much folly is uttered with painted polished speech, so many boisterous and rude in language give right substantial counsel; and since also in matters of great importance, the mind is often so occupied in the matter, that a man rather studieth what to say than how; by reason whereof the wisest man and best spoken in a whole country fortuneth, when his mind is fervent in the matter, somewhat to speak in such wise as he would afterwards wish to have been uttered otherwise, and yet no worse will had when he spake it, than he had when he would so gladly change it. Therefore, most gracious sovereign, considering that in your high court of parliament is nothing treated but matter of weight and importance, concerning your realm and your own royal estate, it could not fail to put to silence from the giving of their advice and counsel many of your discreet Commons, to the great hindrance of your common affairs, unless every one of your Commons were utterly discharged from all doubt and fear how any thing that it should happen them to speak, should happen of your highness to be taken. And in this point, though your wellknown and proved benignity putteth every man in good hope; yet such is the weight of the matter, such is the reverend dread that the timorous hearts of your natural subjects conceive towards your highness, our most redoubted king and undoubted sovereign, that they cannot in this point find themselves satisfied, except your gracious bounty therein declared put away the scruple of their timorous minds, and put them out of doubt. It may, therefore, like your most abundant Grace to give to all your Commons here assembled, your most gracious
license and pardon freely, without doubt of your dreadful displeasure, every man to discharge his conscience, and boldly in every thing incident among us to declare his advice, and whatsoever happeneth any man to say, that it may like your noble majesty, of your inestimable goodness, to take all in good part, interpreting every man's words, how uncunningly soever they may be couched, to proceed yet of good zeal towards the profit of your realm, and honour of your royal person; the prosperous state and preservation whereof, most excellent sovereign, is the thing which we all, your majesty's humble loving subjects, according to the most bounden duty of our natural allegiance, most highly desire and pray for."
According to the Parliamentary history, he introduced into his speech a story by way of illustration, which is certainly in his manner. He told of Phormio, the philosopher, who invited the great Hannibal_to attend one of his lectures. That great commander accepted the invitation, and Phormio commenced reading a treatise De Re Militare-on the Art of War. Hannibal upon hearing this, called the philosopher an arrogant fool, to presume to teach one, whom experience had made skilful in all the arts of war. "Even so," said More, "if I should presume to speak before his majesty of learning, of the well ordering of the government, and such like matters, the king who is so deeply learned, such a master of prudence and experience, might well address me in the same language as Hannibal did Phormio. Wherefore, he humbly besought his majesty to choose another speaker." To this speech the cardinal, in quality of chancellor, replied: "That his majesty, by long experience of his services, was well acquainted with his wit, learning, and discretion; and therefore he thought the Commons had chosen the fittest person to be their speaker."
It is probable that the design of the knight in this speech was to remonstrate against the known haugh
tiness with which Henry treated his parliaments; and, under colour of the profoundest awe and vene. ration, to give the sovereign a reproof, the more keen because the less ostensible, for his arbitrary restraint on the freedom of debate. If the speech be considered in this point of view, the speaker will be found to manifest great dexterity and a tact peculiarly his own. A seeming compliance with Henry's haughty humour was, indeed, the only manner in which the king could be reproved with a hope of success.
In Parliament, not only was his conduct upright and manly, but his views more profound than those of his contemporaries, anticipating some of the principles of political economy developed in our day. On one occasion, a subsidy having been demanded by government, for carrying on a war against the emperor Charles V., the Commons allowed its expediency, but hesitated to grant it, on the ground that, as it must be paid in money, and not in goods, all the specie in their hands would be drained away, and, for want of money, the nation would soon relapse into barbarism. More, in reply, ridiculed this idea, and said that the money ought not to be considered as lost or taken away, but only as passed into other hands of their kindred and nation. "You have no reason,' added he, "to fear this penury or scarceness of money, the intercourse of things being now so established throughout the world, that there must be a perpetual circulation of all that can be necessary for mankind. Thus your commodities will ever find out money: and not to go far, I will instance your own merchants only; who, let me assure you, will always be as glad of your corn and cattle, as you can be of any thing they can bring.'
The following particulars, afforded us by Roper, are singular, and, according to Sir James Mackintosh,not easily reconcilable with the intimate
Herbert's Henry the Eighth, p. 112.
connection then subsisting between the speaker and the government."
"At this parliament Cardinal Wolsey found him. self much aggrieved with the burgesses thereof; for that nothing was so soon done or spoken therein, but that it was immediately blown abroad in every alehouse. It fortuned at that parliament that a very great subsidy was demanded, which the cardinal, fearing it would not pass the Commons' house, determined, for the furtherance thereof, to be there present himself. Before where coming, after long debating there, whether it was better but with a few of his lords, as the most opinion of the house was, or with his whole train royally to receive him. 'Masters,' quoth Sir Thomas More, forasmuch as my lord cardinal lately, ye wot well, laid to our charge the lightness of our tongues for things uttered out of this house, it shall not in my mind be amiss to receive him with all his pomp, with his maces, his pillars, his pole-axes, his hat, and great seal too; to the intent, that if he finds the like fault with us hereafter, we may the bolder frame ourselves to lay the blame on those whom his grace bringeth here with him.'* Whereunto the house wholly agreeing, he was received accordingly. Where, after he had by a solemn oration, by many reasons proved how necessary it was the demand then moved should be granted; and farther showed that less would not serve to maintain the prince's purpose; he seeing the company sitting still silent, and thereunto nothing answering, and, contrary to his expectation, showing in themselves towards his request no towardness of inclination, said to them,' Masters, you
We read the same indication of the public feeling in the Cardinal's address to Dr. Barnes, who had preached a sermon at Cambridge, reflecting upon his love of pomp and luxury. "What," said he, "Master Doctor! had you not a sufficient scope in the Scriptures to teach the people, but that my golden shoes, my pole-axes, my pillars, my golden cushions, my crosses, did so sore offend you that you must make us a ridiculum caput before the people?"
have many wise and learned men amongst you, and since I am from the king's own person sent hither unto you, to the preservation of yourselves and of all the realm, I think it meet in you to give me some reasonable answer.' Whereat every man holding his peace, then began he to speak to one Master Marney, afterwards Lord Marney; 'How say you,' quoth he, 'Master Marney ?' who making him no answer neither, he severally asked the same question of divers others, accounted the wisest of the company, to whom, when none of them all would give so much as one word, having agreed before, as the custom was, to give answer by their speaker; Masters,' quoth the cardinal, unless it be the manner of your house, as of likelihood it is, by the mouth of your speaker, whom you have chosen for trusty and wise (as indeed he is), in such cases to utter your minds, here is, without doubt, a marvellously obstinate silence:' and thereupon he required answer of Mr. Speaker; who first reverently, on his knees, excusing the silence of the house, abashed at the presence of so noble a personage, able to amaze the wisest and best learned in the realm; and then, by many probable arguments, proving that for them to make answer was neither expedient nor agreeable with the ancient liberty of the house; in conclusion for himself, showed, that though they had all with their voices trusted him, yet except every one of them could put into his own head their several wits, he alone in so weighty a matter was unmeet to make his grace answer. Whereupon the cardinal, displeased with Sir Thomas More, that had not in this parliament in all things satisfied his desire, suddenly rose and departed."*
This passage, observes Sir J. Mackintosh, deserves attention as a specimen of the mild independence and quiet steadiness of More's character, and also as
Roper, p. 13-21,