By Conrad Russell (eds.)
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Additional resources for The Origins of the English Civil War
Land law was the core of English common law, and there were strong tendencies to see its concepts and procedures as appropriate to the clarification of the political ambiguities referred to above. The Crown itself was seen as a piece of heritable property; so too, we shall see, were offices. Some lawyers held that an appeal to precedents was sufficient to settle disputed political questions: an error which Crown 40 THE ORIGINS OF THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR and opposition fostered by their distrust of novelty and their assumption that what had been done in the fourteenth century was relevant to contemporary problems.
This impression mattered more than the reality. In any case, whether the government had such aims is not significant in the last resort: by the summer of 1641 it had failed in a more basic test; it had failed to survive. II To be more precise, what had been removed from the political scene were certain key figures, and certain institutions and practices which the Commons had come to regard as innovatory. Preserved were those institutions and powers of the Crown which had been legitimised by time and were not, in the eyes of the Commons, corrupted: gone were those modifications and extensions which many members of the government, in Church and State, had believed necessary to make the system work.
There wants but the putting of the finger into the throat, and they are gone .... They have slighted the people, the vulgar, as if their very souls were made to lie under them for them to trample upon, but they shall be ashamed for their envy at the people'. When he said that God's 26 THE ORIGINS OF THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR people were Israel escaping from the bondage of Egypt, the old Biblical image had the force it has along the Suez Canal today. The biggest issue raised by Burroughes was in his claim that the Long Parliament had to thank the Saints for the fact that they were sitting at all: If none had been willing to have ventured themselves to have suffered, in denying illegal taxations, in refusing superstitious innovations, what had become of us by this time, and who were they who principally suffered in vindicating the liberties of the subject, and resisting innovations in religion, but such as did it out of conscience, such as were the mourners in Sion, for the evil that was upon us, and that hung over us ....