Features of the Government of James I

The reign of James I was not marked by what are called great events. This was greatly owing to his timid character, which induced him to maintain peace, at whatever sacrifice, throughout the greater part of his reign. The prime leaders of his government were youthful favorites, who possessed no merit but personal elegance. Experienced statesmen, brave soldiers, and learned divines, had to bow to these dissolute youths, if they wished to advance in royal favor. Even Bacon, the noblest intellect of the age, and who, by the result of his studies, has done more than almost any other man to promote the progress of knowledge, is found to have attached himself to the minion Duke of Buckingham, for the purpose of improving his interest at court. In despotic countries, the vices of the court often corrupt all classes; but it was otherwise at that period in Britain. The country gentlemen, and the merchants in the incorporated towns, had privileges which the court dared not too often violate, and a feeling of rectitude and independence was encouraged among these classes, which the statesman of the age too much overlooked. The House of Commons gave frequent resistance to the court, and often compelled James to yield, at the very moment when he was preaching his doctrines of divine right. In his first Parliament, they took into consideration several grievances, such as purveyance, a supposed right in the officers of the court to seize what provisions they pleased, at any price, or at no price; another was the right of granting monopolies, which had become a source of revenue to the court by cheating the country, certain persons having the monopoly of certain. manufactures and articles of domestic consumption, which they were allow ed to furnish at their own prices. The Commons likewise remonstrated against all pluralities in the church, and against a new set of canons which the king and the church tried to force on the nation without their consent. In 1614 they threatened to postpone any supply till their grievances were redressed. The king, in his turn, threatened to dissolve them if they did not immediately grant a supply; and they allowed him to take his course, which did not fill his coffers. These, and many other instances of bold resistance, should have given warning to the court. They were the shadows of coming events, and attention to them might have saved the bloodshed and confusion of the succeeding reign.

English literature, which first made a decisive advance in the reign of Elizabeth, continued to be cultivated with great success in the reign of King James. The excellence of the language at this time as a medium for literature, is strikingly shown in the translation of the Bible now executed. It is also shown in the admirable dramatic writings of Shakespeare, and in the valuable philosophic works of Bacon. The inductive philosophy, made known by the last writer - namely, that mode of reasoning which consists in first ascertaining facts, and then inferring conclusions from them - reflects peculiar lustre on this period of British history. Very great praise is also due to Napier of Merchiston, in Scotland, for the invention of logarithms, a mode of calculating intricate numbers, essential to the progress of mathematical science.