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Booki, Your Majesty's Service' was indeed fitter for the latitude Litem of Constantinople, than for that of London, sounds but coTM""1" awkwardly on the royal lips, when connected with an assertion (in the same breath,) of the 'justice and mildness' of the King's own government. The indictment which his Parliament brought against Charles,—and which History has endorsed,—could hardly be packed into briefer words than those which the King himself used that day at the Council Board. His notions of kingly rule, like his father's, were in truth much better suited for the government of Turkey than for the government of England.
Sir Robert Cotton, however, had no more to do with the authorship of the 'Proposition' than had Charles himself. The author was Sir Robert Dudley. The time of its composition was at least fifteen years before the date of the imprisonment of Cotton and his companions in disfavour. The place of its birth was Florence. It cannot even be proved that Cotton had any personal knowledge of the fact that the offensive tract had been found in his own library. He had recently read it, indeed,—in common with Bedford, Clare, and Oliver Saint-john, and no doubt, like them, had read it with many surging thoughts, —but he had read it in a recent transcript, written by a clerk.
Of Robert Dudley's motive in writing his 'Proposition ' we have also no proof. But the presumptive and internal evidence is so strong, as to make proof almost superfluous. The tract bears witness, between the lines, that it was composed to win the favour—or at least to arrest the despoiling hand—of King James. And there is hardly a suggestion in it which might not be backed by some parallel passage in the writings, or the speeches, of James himself, when expatiating on kingly prerogatives in some mood of mind a little more foolish than usual, or Booki, when striving—only too successfully—to train up his sue- unm cessor to follow in his own path. It seems like an irony c^MBEttT of Fate to find that (in all probability,—for here again the proof is not quite clinching,) the King's informer, against Cotton and the other offenders, was Wentworth, who, not many years after 1629, was to sum up views of policy much akin to Robert Dudley's in the memorable word 'Thorough!
Cotton himself believed that this apparently trivial incident cost him his life. He said not long before his death,—' It has killed me.' We shall probably never know whether Dudley's tract had anything to do with bringing about in the mind of Wentworth that eventful change of political views which is known to have passed over it (about the time when the incriminated manuscript was sent so eagerly from hand to hand), and which, in a few years more, was to work his death also. But one can hardly avoid, in passing, a momentary thought on the curious possibility that a pamphlet, written at Florence, in the hope that it might save, for the writer, some wreck or remnant of a despoiled inheritance,—may have proved fatal alike to the close political friend of Eliot, and to the close political friend of Laud. A tract of such potency may well claim a few words about its contents. They bear in every line the stamp of mental energy, and also the stamp of moral recklessness.
Sir Robert Dudley knew well enough that a rooted dis- Carmrot like of Parliaments was, in James's mind, combined with Dudlkt, a besetting dread of them. He knew that, between hate ^hotm" and fear, a Parliament was like a nightmare, for ever crouching behind the royal pillow. It is the purpose of his tract to tell the King how to drive the nightmare
Boo* i. away. He recommends, amongst other and minor measures, ull nr the erection of a strong fortress in all the chief towns of the ^°,MT Kingdom, to be manned by trained bands, and to be placed in such situations as shall command the high roads. In addition to these measures, your Majesty, he says, must set up a strict system of passports, for travellers. Nor is all this merely a new and more elaborate version of the old story of belling the cat. The writer of this counsel knows, perfectly, that already the King's poverty is the Parliament's power; and that to build fortresses and array soldiers needs a full purse, not an exhausted one. But he 6ays,—as Wentworth said after him,—that soldiers can be set to work upon good hopes of the pay to come. A resolute King, he thinks, with resolute troops at his back, could do in England what had so often been done in Italy. He could tithe men's estates. He could make salt and some other things of prime necessity a royal monopoly. He could set a tariff on dignities of honour. He could establish sumptuary laws, such as should make the vanity and jealousy of thriving nobodies—men with full pockets and blank pedigrees—willing contributors to the King's Exchequer. He could buy up improvident leases of Crown lands, and resell them at a large profit.
The shortsightedness of such advice as this is now obvious enough. But advice quite as shortsighted and far less plausibly couched,—for the eyes that were to read it,— had been fruitful of result, when offered to Stuarts. Nor was the man who now offered it to Charles a mere clever talker. He was a man who had already acquitted himself with conspicuous ability in several spheres of action, lying widely apart.
Sir Robert Dudley possessed many splendid accomplishments. He had been educated by the same ripe Booii, scholar who afterwards became tutor to Prince Henry. Limo/ At the age of one and twenty, he had put himself into the ^BTM"T lists with Ralegh, as navigator and discoverer, by heading an expedition to the Oronoco. In the course of that Sib*"1" expedition he had captured nine Spanish ships; one of pTM"* them of twice his own strength. At three and twenty, he had fought, side by side with Ralegh, in the naval battle in the bay of Cadiz; had handled his ship with an ability which won the praise of his rivals; and had then fought, in the land attack, side by side with Essex. When his own unbridled passions and resentments gave a fatal opening for the equally unbridled cupidity of James, and of James's courtiers, to despoil him of a great estate, and to drive him into exile, he showed that he knew how to snatch honour out of defeat. He laid the foundation of a new English trade with Italy and created—it is not saying too much— the maritime prosperity of Leghorn. He drained vast Italian marshes, and made corn to grow where corn had never grown before. The man who, in early life, had won fame at once as a navigator full of pluck and resource, and as an able soldier by sea and land :—and who, on attaining full manhood, had shown himself both a clever diplomatist and a great engineer;—did not go to his foreign grave before he had won literary fame with the pen, and scientific fame at the furnace of the chemist. He had, in its fullest measure, the versatility and the energy of his race. English family biography, I suppose, can scarcely show a stranger group of lives than the successive lives of the last four Dudleys of that line:—Edmund, the Minister of Henry VII, and author of The Tree of the Commonwealth; Northumberland, the subduer of Edward VI, and the murderer of Jane Grey; Leicester, the Favourite of
Book I, Elizabeth; Sir Robert, the self-made exile, and the maker Lifk or of Leghorn. Whilst English history, in its long course, can Cotto"" scarcely match the fatality which seems to have foredoomed powers of mind and strength of will, such as are rarely repeated in four successive generations, to teem with evil instead of good for England.
Such, in few words, was the career of the man, the forgotten production of whose pen was to shorten the life of a statesman whose only connection with it—so far as the evidence goes—lay in the fact that a copy chanced to turn up in his library; fell under the keen eye of a lawyer who thought that something might be made of it; and was then copied—probably by some clerk, who was in the habit of making transcripts for students to whom money was less precious than time.1 In some points of the story
'Registers of the Privy Council, James I, vol. v, pp. 484, 485, 489; Nov. 3-5, 1629. (C. O.) Domestic Correspondence, James I, vol. cli, § 24, 5 69, seqq., and vol. clii, § 78, seqq. In this last-named document the following passage occurs. The writer is Richard James, who for very many years was Librarian to Sir Robert Cotton, and he is writing to Secretary Lord Dorchester.—' About July last, I was willed by Sir Robert Cotton to carry him [Mr. Oliver Saint John] into the Upper Study and there let him make search among some bundles of papers for
business of the Sewers If he (St. John) did make any mention of a
projecting pamphlet there pretended to be found, so God save me as I entered into no further conversation of it. Neither can I believe that any such as this now questioned was ever in keeping with us, or ever seen by Sir R. Cotton until, of late, he received it from my Lord of Clare. For myself, let not God be merciful unto me if, before that time, I ever saw, heard, or thought of it' (R. James to Dorchester, vol. 152, § 78). (R. H.) There is also some further information on the subject in MS. Harl. 7000, ff. 267, seqq. (B. M.) A considerable number of the letters of Richard James to Sir Robert Cotton, his friend and benefactor, are preserved in MS. Harl. 7002. But these throw no satisfactory light on the incident of 1629. I believe, however, that to an observant reader they will be likely to suggest the idea that Richard James knew more