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THE FALL OF THE TUDOR SYSTEM
HE outbreak of the Thirty Years' War was the King's golden opportunity for wiping off all his former blunders, and putting himself at the head of a united nation. For the strong Protestant feeling behind the Parliament had not yet been diverted from patriotism to domestic quarrels, nor had it become revolutionary. Puritan sentiment was not yet generally hostile to the Church of England; Archbishop Abbott was, in matters of doctrine, a true successor of Whitgift, and viewed with unconcealed disapproval the easy moral code that sanctioned the Essex divorce. Both in doctrine and practice he was the opposite of Laud. Church and King were still capable of drawing after them a nation which was crying out for a lead. A singularly pure enthusiasm animated the nation, and material considerations weighed little in the balance against a cause wherein our honour and our faith seemed to be involved. This is apparent when we consider the relations between England and her old ally, Holland.
We might well, from a business point of view, have had more to dread from Holland than from the decaying power of Spain. She was our great rival in trade and sea power, and had, in fact, outstripped us. It fell to a Dutch admiral to capture the Plate fleet, a task which had baffled the ingenuity of Elizabeth's sea-dogs. And there were enough matters in dispute to drive any two nations into war, had they been so disposed.
East Indies, the Dutch aimed at a monopoly hardly less absolute than Philip's, and a series of outrages culminated in the massacre of Amboina. Nearer home, our rights over the British seas, dating, if Selden was to be believed, as far back as the reign of John, were called in question. James tried to levy a toll on the Dutch herring fishery, and the Dutch would not pay. A similar dispute had arisen over the Greenland fisheries. If the course of history were governed only by economic motives, there would have been no doubt who our enemy would have been. But though James, with his usual obtuseness, was readier to push a quarrel with Holland than with Spain, his people manifested singularly little interest even in their legitimate grievances against the Dutch.
"The Interpreter contains a fine statement of disinterested patriotism. It speaks thus of the sham "Protestant":
"A Protestant is he, that fain would take
The matter is fairly stated, and must have formed then, as it would nowadays, a strong enough case for at least leaving the Dutch in the lurch, which is all the timeserving Protestant demands. But the Puritan treats such an appeal with scorn:
A herring cob, we see, will make him quarrel,
This is a noble and far-sighted pronouncement of a kind unusual in pamphlet literature. A stern and uncompromising spirit was abroad, and England, as distinct from the Court, felt that her duty placed her in the van of the great Protestant movement, which the re-gathered forces of the Counter-Reformation threatened to submerge.
This rhymed pamphlet will repay further inspection. It shows how the Court was ceasing to have part or lot in the patriotism of the nation. It gives a description of three types of men-the Romanist, the Protestant of the trimming and courtly stamp, and the Puritan. The Romanist is, of course, possessed of no redeeming feature. He is the subject of Spain and the slave of Rome; he thinks that the House of Austria was appointed to rule the world; he holds it part of his faith to commit treason, and he would gladly murder the King. A more interesting and subtly drawn character is the Protestant, whose attitude upon the Dutch question we have just quoted. He is the Pliable of the Reformation, the man who set his hand to the plough and looked back. Such a one is no true subject, but a slave; he makes a god of the King. He is such a creature as the system of James would tend to produce, the ready tool of royalty, who would have been christened with Constantine and apostatized with Julian, who knows how, wisely, to swim with the stream, and has no eye for anything except his private advantage. He naturally has no enthusiasms, his horizon is bounded by kingcraft. His rise from office to office is described, and also the various means of bringing him to heel, in case he inclines to be troublesome. It might be a description of modern party management :
"Besides, the honoured style of Viscount, Lord,
In such as can no other way get up."
The Puritan, on the other hand, is the disinterested patriot, the man who would be a subject, but not a slave. Such a one would drop all differences, and sink our last penny in defence of the States, rather than spend one hundred thousand pounds a year in helping to keep the coasts of Spain safe from the Barbary pirates. He is not afraid to speak his mind in Parliament, even of royal favourites; he does not oppose any man because he is a courtier or a Scot, but only when he deems him to be a foe to the State. The free, generous and noble spirit which he has inherited from his old English stock makes him speak the truth without fear. He will not be a traitor to the King, nor yet to the Laws, but he does not believe any man to be a traitor till the law, as in Parliament decreed, calls him one.
The Puritan, in fact, had now come to stand for the nation against the interest and intrigue of the Court. Such a situation was ominous of civil dissension, and perhaps, ultimately, of civil war. It was a sign of the times that the play of Middleton's, to which we have already alluded, and in which the King was for the first time directly satirized, drew crowds to see it, until it was prudently stopped by authority. But Middleton's play, and even "The Interpreter," are pinpricks compared with the terrific indictment of royal policy that masquerades under the name of Tom Tell Troath. We have no reason to cavil at this nom de plume, for the impression we get of Tom is that of a sincere and educated man, labouring under the strongest conviction, and really loyal to a monarch who is living in a poisoned mist of illusions.)
Reading it, we become conscious of the first stirrings of the tempest, which was to sweep away throne and all.
"In your majesty's own taverns," it says, "for one health that is begun to yourself there are ten drunk to the princes--your foreign children. And when the wine is in their heads, Lord have mercy on their tongues! Even in the very gaming ordinaries where men have scarce leisure to say grace, yet they take a time to censure your majesty's actions, and that in the old school terms." The business men who thronged the aisle of the old Gothic St. Paul's, a practice which was to call down the indignation of Laud, were afraid to talk about State matters, but they asked how the material church, whose steeple had been struck by lightning, was ever to be repaired, when the spiritual and more worthy Church was suffered to go to ruin.
Tom Tell Troath's own position is not essentially different from that of "The Interpreter." He wishes to show the King that the patriotism of the nation is against him, and with the Puritan champions of the Protestant cause abroad. "I vow to God and your majesty," he says, "I can come into no meetings but I find the predominant humour to be talking of the wars of Christendom and honour of their country and suchlike treasons, and would to God they would stop there, and profane no more the things that are above them; but such is the rage and folly of their tongues that they spare not your majesty's sacred person . . . some there are who find such fault with your majesty's government as they wish Queen Elizabeth alive again, who, they say, would never have suffered the enemies of her religion to have unbalanced Christendom as they have done within these few years.
"They make a mock of your word Great Britain, and offer to prove that it is a great deal less than little England was wont to be, less in reputation, less in strength, less in riches, less in all manner of virtue, and whatever else is required to make a State great and happy.'
It is easy to guess upon what lines the indictment will