And by one of their members that had been taxed but 20s. (mark the oppression; a Parliament-man of 500l. a year, land-taxed at 20s.!) they were forced to bring it to a trial at law, he refused payment, and was cast. Again, when all the judges of Westminster were demanded their opinions concerning the legality of it, of twelve that there were, it was judged legal by ten; for which though they were not punished, they were affrighted by the Parliament.
B. What did the Parliament mean, when they did exclaim against it as illegal? Did they mean it was against statute-law, or against the judgments of lawyers given heretofore, which are commonly called reports; or did they mean it was against equity, which I take to be the same with the law of nature?
A. It is a hard matter, or rather impossible, to know what other men mean, especially if they be crafty; but sure I am, equity was not their ground for this pretence of immunity from contributing to the King but at their own pleasure. For when they have laid the burthen of defending the whole kingdom, and governing it, upon any person whatsoever, there is very little equity he should depend on others for the means of performing it; or if he do, they are his Sovereign, not he theirs. And as for the common law contained in reports, they have no force but what the King gives them. Besides, it were unreasonable, that a corrupt or foolish judge’s unjust sentence should by any time, how long soever, obtain the authority and force of a law. But amongst Statute Laws there is one, called Magna Charta, or the Great Charter of the liberties of Englishmen, in which there is one article, wherein a King heretofore hath granted that no man shall be distrained, that is, have his goods taken from him, otherwise than by the law of the land.
B. Is not that a sufficient ground for their purpose?
A. No; that leaves us in the same doubt, which you think it clears. For where was that law of the land then? Did they mean another Magna Charta, that was made by some King more ancient yet? No; that statute was made,