During the 1620s parliaments in England met with a common theme, that was conflict. They also met for a common purpose - Charles needed money to finance his wars with Spain and eventually France. It turns out he needed around 500,000 pounds and the only place one could find sums of money that large were in parliament.

During the late '20s Charles was very successful at collecting revenue, in fact he almost managed to fund a war (this was no mean feat). It came at a huge political cost however, the governing class of England were beginning to question his constitutional soundness. He struck doubt into their hearts by ignoring the Common's vote of one years tonnage and poundage and continuing to collect it regardless.

Note: Tonnage and poundage was a customs duty on wine. It was traditionally collected by all monarchs for the entire period of their reign. However it needed to be agreed upon in parliament but usually this didn't pose a problem.

Charles saw the vote as a direct attack and decided to take no notice, he'd continue to collect it anyways. He said something along the lines of `we're in a time of emergency therefore I have the right to this tax!'. It was now regarded as an `illegal tax' by the people, it was later raised in the second session of the 1628 parliament (in 1629).

The parliament Charles called in 1626 was by no means co-operative, serving to inflame things further, Laud preached a sermon at the opening on divine right. It didn't help that Laud was an Arminian, they were viewed by Protestants to have Catholic tendencies.

A royal command must be God's glory, and obedience to it a subject's honour.

Following the sermon Eliot was first to speak out, he was quick to attack Buckingham (Charles' incompetent minister-favourite) who had previously attacked quite brutally two members of the House of Lords. Eliot's attacks were not restricted to the House of Commons where they originated, the House of Lords was addressed and they decided to side the Buckingham's attackers. The fact that the Commons and the Lords (who usually supported the Monarch) were set against him was not good news for the favourite.

Charles was left with no choice but to save Buckingham and dissolve parliament - this dropped him even further in the creek without any paddles. He needed money, and fast. He didn't call parliament for another two years and during this time tried to adopt a number of `new' revenue collecting methods.

First he tried a `benevolence', surprisingly enough very few were willing to pay. He decided that it was high time he tried something a little more forceful, this idea turned into `the forced loan of 1627'. Basically this targeted the upper gentry and peerage, it was a royal order to fork out and `lend' money to the Crown. Because of the nature of the request, i.e., it was a royal order, there weren't many that didn't pay. The loans however, were opposed on legal grounds - this didn't come to much as it turned out that the loans were actually legal.

Specifically there were 5 Knights that refused to contribute, consequently they were locked up. The thing is, Charles wouldn't tell them why they were imprisoned - the fact of the matter is there really wasn't a good reason. Charles claimed that it was his prerogative to have `emergency powers of arrest'. The Knights applied for a writ of habeas corpus, were tried, and the court found marginally in the Crown's favour. Because the decision wasn't clear and it threatened the security of other potential arrests, The Attorney General (Heath) tried to alter the records to show that the court found strongly in Charles' favour. Not a good look for Charles and his already bad reputation.

To be fair, most of the political nation was getting pretty pissed off with Charles. To top things off he was billeting soldiers from his army with the locals which hit them in the pocket, was enforcing martial law in areas where troops were being billeted and because of he and Buckingham's military failures (at Cadiz) discontent with Charles was at an all-time high.

Charles had also raised suspicions of his religious convictions during the '20s, people were beginning to get worried with his promotion of Arminianism.

Parliament was called in 1628, it wasn't called because he thought his martial law, billeting and forced loan policies were out of order, it was called for the same old reason: he needed about 500,000 pounds. Its members had almost had enough, Sir Edward Coke decided on a Petition of Right and chose John Pym to argue it's case to parliament and Charles. He argued that the petition was an attempt to get back their `ancient dues and liberties, not suing for any new', they wanted the same rights as their ancestors. Basically The Petition of Right said:

  • Forced loans were illegal
  • No free man should be imprisoned without `just cause shown'.
  • Soldiers should not be billeted on private individuals against their will.
  • Martial law was illegal

Charles was reluctant but in the end signed; he knew if he didn't there would be even less chance of parliament satisfying his dire need for some green. Following the passing of this there was 280,000 pound granted to Charles but even that didn't really help the crisis.

Soon after, Charles' religious policies came under attack, a Laudian minister was impeached and two `remonstrances' were voted to the King. One bagged the recusancy fines against Catholics, said Buckingham had too much power and moaned about Arminian favouritism. The other was mainly concerned with tonnage and poundage and how they were upset it was still being collected.

Charles was a little overcome with the developments and was saved by Christmas - he ended the first session of parliament. During the recess Buckingham was assassinated! As awful as Buckingham's death may have been for Charles it was actually not too bad a thing for the situation.

The parliament of 1628, prorogued later in the year, was reassembled in 1629 with two major issues at hand; Religion and Tonnage and poundage. When Charles showed no signs of giving an inch for each policy, Eliot became convinced that he would dissolved parliament and rule without it! He drafted what was called The Three Resolutions.

  • Anyone bringing in popery or Arminianism should be `accounted a capital enemy of the king and kingdom'
  • Anyone who should advise the king to collect tonnage and poundage was also a `capital enemy'
  • Anyone who should pay tonnage and poundage under these circumstances was a `capital enemy'

When the speaker got wind of these resolutions he stood to dissolve parliament to prevent them being passed - the Eliot group barred the doors and held the speaker down! The Three resolutions were passed. Parliament was immediately dissolved and Eliot and a number of his supporters imprisoned.

From the alarming proceedings of his last parliament and parliaments throughout the '20s, Charles knew that the Commons would not co-operate with him and it would be more efficient to run government without parliament. Because of his strong belief in divine right and his own religious policy it suited Charles just fine to carry on without the burden of parliament.

Kudos to: http://www.thevickerage.worldonline.co.uk/ecivil/tonnage_and_poundage.htm for re-teaching me what tonnage and poundage was during my period of brief amnesia.

This series of essays (Decision to..) were written in preparation of exams in a weeks time. Wish me luck. Please feel free to /msg me with suggestions of what I could add, remove, edit, etc. Anything that is inaccurate I'd appreciate it if you gave me your opinion :)

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