Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/536

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


of the royal power; and he was determined not to submit, without a struggle, to any such limitation. He was encouraged by the success with which he had hitherto resisted the attempts of the two Houses to encroach on his prerogative. He had refused to pass the bill which quartered the judges on his hereditary revenue; and the Parliament had silently acquiesced in the justice of the refusal. He had refused to pass the Triennial Bill; and the Commons had since, by rejecting two Triennial Bills, acknowledged that he had done well. He ought, however, to have considered that, on both these occasions, the announcement of his refusal was immediately followed by the announcement that the Parliament was prorogued. On both these occasions, therefore, the members had half a year to think and to grow cool before the next sitting. The case was now very different. The principal business of the session was hardly begun: estimates were still under consideration: bills of supply were still depending; and, if the Houses should take a fit of ill humour, the consequences might be serious indeed.

He resolved, however, to run the risk. Whether he had any adviser is not known. His determination seems to have taken both the leading Whigs and the leading Tories by surprise. When the Clerk had proclaimed that the King and Queen would consider of the bill touching free and impartial proceedings in Parliament, the Commons retired from the bar of the Lords in a resentful and ungovernable mood. As soon as the Speaker was again in his chair there was a long and tempestuous debate. All other business was postponed. All committees were adjourned. It was resolved that the House would, early the next morning, take into consideration the state of the nation. When the morning came, the excitement did not appear to have abated. The mace was sent into Westminster Hall and into the Court of Requests. All members who could be found were brought into the House. That none might be able to steal away unnoticed, the back door was locked, and the key laid on the table. All strangers were ordered to retire. With these solemn preparations began a sitting