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a crisis of supreme danger. Sir John Eliot was the first to see that if they were now to thwart the King's purpose it must be done by availing themselves immediately of the responsibility of Buckingham. He determined that the proper course was a remonstrance to the King; and it was in moving this remonstrance that his great speech was made.
On hearing the King's answer, Parliament, in great perplexity and despondency, immediately adjourned till the next day. When, on the morning of June 3, 1628, the Commons came together," the King's answer," says Rushworth, “was read, and seemed too scant, in regard to so much expense, time, and labor as had been expended in contriving the petition. Whereupon Sir John Eliot stood up and made a long speech, and a lively representation of all grievances, both general and particular, as if they had never before been mentioned.” 2
Throughout the speech there is a compactness and an impetuosity truly remarkable. No one at all familiar with the history and condition of the time, will fail to see that it was a masterly presentation of the issues at stake. It is pervaded with a tone of loyalty-even of affection-toward the King. The argument was founded on the theory that even under the best of kings, with an irresponsible form of administration, there can be no security against selfish and ambitious ministers, and that under any government whatever there can be no adequate guarantees against such abuses except in the provisions of law. The orator introduces no grievance personal to himself, though he had already twice suffered imprisonment for words spoken in debate. His entire object seems to have been to expose abuses that had oppressed the people during the ten years under Buckingham's rule, and to show how, by means of his duplicity and incompetency, the honor of the country had been sacrificed, its allies betrayed, and those necessities of the King created which gave rise to the abuses complained of in the Petition of Right.
Aside from the striking oratorical merits of the speech and the light it throws on the all-important struggles of the time, there are two circumstances that tend to give it peculiar interest. It is the earliest parliamentary speech of real importance that has been preserved to us. The age in which it was delivered is enough to account for the antique air of the orator's style
a style, however, which will be especially relished by all those who have learned to enjoy the quaint literary flavor of our early masters of English prose. The other circumstance of especial interest is the fact that soon after the delivery of the speech, and in consequent of it, Eliot was thrown into prison, where, after an ignominious confinement and a brutal treatment of two and a half years, he died a martyr's death. His earnest plea not only cost him his life, but it cost him a long period of ignominy that was far worse than death. But he kept the faith, and calmly underwent his slow martyrdom. The last word that he sent out from his prison was an expression of belief that upon the maintenance or the abandonment of the privileges of Parliament would depend the future glory or misery of England. By the ability of his advocacy, by the constancy of his purpose, and by the manner of his death, he fully deserved that the author of the “Constitutional History of England” should call him, as he does, “the most illustrious confessor in the cause of liberty whom that time produced.”
SIR JOHN ELIOT.
ON THE CONDITION OF ENGLAND UNDER THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE
OF COMMONS, JUNE 3, 1628.
We sit here as the great council of the King, and, in that capacity it is our duty to take into consideration the state and affairs of the kingdom; and, where there is occasion, to give them in a true representation by way of council and advice, what we conceive necessary or expedient for them.
In this consideration, I confess, many a sad thought has frighted me: and that not only in respect of our dangers from abroad, which yet I know are great, as they have been often in this place prest and dilated to us; but in respect of our disorders here at home, which do inforce those dangers, as by them they were occasioned.
For I believe I shall make it clear unto you,