Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/30

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Abbot
Abbot
16

bury, Valentine Cary to that of Exeter, and William Laud to that of St. Davids; and in August Williams, who was perhaps personally jealous of Abbot’s successful career, and feared that public opinion might be against him if he took any other course, announced that he should refuse to be consecrated by Abbot. By the canon law he declared that homicide in a prelate made him irregular and incapable of exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction; by the common law he forfeited his estate; to receive consecration, therefore, at Abbot’s hands would be sacrilege. Laud on this occasion acted with Williams. The quarrel between him and Abbot, which had begun at Oxford at the beginning of the century, had not yet terminated. In 1610 Abbot had used all his influence to prevent Laud’s election to the presidency of St. John’s College, Oxford (Laud’s Diary in Works, iii. 134). In 1615, at the suggestion of his brother, Dr. Robert Abbot, master of Balliol, he had charged Laud before the king with libelling him in an Oxford sermon; Laud attributed his frequent disappointment of high preferment to the action of the archbishop, and he now seized the opportunity of revenging himself upon his old persecutor. The king could not resist a petition for an inquiry into Abbot’s alleged irregularity, and a commission was nominated. It included Williams, Laud, and Cary, three of the bishops-elect (Davenant, the only one of them on good terms with Abbot, being excluded), three bishops, two judges of the common pleas, the dean of arches, and another. The opinion of the Sorbonne and other foreign universities was at the same time invited. Abbot felt the indignity keenly. His unhappy accident, as he wrote (29 Aug.), was ‘a bitter potion, on account of the conflict in his conscience for what sin he is permitted to be the talk of men to the rejoicing of the papist and the insulting of the puritan.’ For some weeks he withdrew to his hospital at Guildford. But towards the end of September he was frequently at court and treated by the king with marked kindliness. He persisted in preaching occasionally in the country, ‘for which he was like to be in trouble’ (Yonge’s Diary, Camd. Soc., p. 43). At the beginning of October the commission began its sittings. Abbot desired to be represented by counsel (13 Oct. 1621), but the request was refused. His irregularity was, however, never established in England. Hunting was not allowed to be in itself a recreation inconsistent with the episcopate, and the king interpreted in the archbishop’s favour the halting decision of the commission, whose members were evenly divided as to the scandal caused to the church by the homicide. The Sorbonne, whose professors thrice discussed the question, condemned him in vain, and Spelman’s learned argument to the same effect passed almost unnoticed (Reliquiæ Spelmanniæ, pp. 111–120, under date 19 Oct. 1621). It was nevertheless thought fitting to grant Abbot a formal pardon or dispensation, which was duly signed by James, 24 Dec. 1621. But a slur had been cast upon Abbot’s reputation from which he never quite recovered. Three of the bishops-elect still refused to be consecrated by him, and he, in deference to their views, delegated the duty to the bishop of London.

Abbot in subsequent years pursued his old course of action in public affairs with all his previous energy, and his differences with the court in both foreign and domestic policy grew rapidly wider. The commons, under the guidance of Abbot’s friend, Sir Dudley Digges, came to regard him as the champion of their interests against Buckingham and his creatures, and Abbot, in dealing with the Spanish marriage treaty, very rightly interpreted their sentiments. The proposed visit of Charles and Buckingham to Madrid he opposed to the uttermost, and when, on 16 July 1623, the council was invited to give its consent to the marriage treaty, Abbot alone rose and showed by his awkward questions his contempt for the arrangement. He only signed the articles on receiving orders to do so under the great seal, and James congratulated himself on his compliance even on those terms. But the king was startled to receive early in the following August a letter, signed by the archbishop, declaiming anew with unmeasured vituperation against his toleration of popery, his indifference to parliamentary government, and the journey of the prince to Spain. The letter was clearly proved to be a forgery, but whether it was the work of Abbot’s enemies or of his too enthusiastic friends has never been known. A fruitless search was made for the author. Abbot was very backward in disavowing its authorship; it well expressed his own sentiments, and he thus incurred some of its responsibility. But the letter agreed too closely with current public opinion to allow the government to make it the ground of any open action, and the ministers contented themselves with forbidding its circulation. The events of the following months gave the anonymous letter-writer and the archbishop all the satisfaction they desired. The marriage negotiations fell through; Buckingham’s haughtiness and evil temper ruined the scheme. On 5 Oct. 1623 Prince Charles returned to England after having resigned