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by the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 led to the exercise of oppressive measures against the same religion. On the other hand, during the negotiations with Spain for a marriage between the Infanta and Prince Charles (1617-1623), these measures were naturally relaxed; and this relaxation continued after 1624, when Charles married Henrietta Maria of France, who was, like the Infanta, a Catholic. Queen Henrietta's influence in this direction remained operative throughout her husband's reign, and had the additional effect of increasing the suspicion with which the Puritans regarded the ecclesiastical policy of the court party.
At the opposite extreme from the Roman Catholic dissenters were the Protestant Separatists, who had left the church of their own accord. Many of them emigrated to Holland, and, later, to America, while others, chiefly Independents and Baptists, attempted, in defiance of the law, to follow their own modes of worship in secret. These last sects were, numerically, unimportant.
Inside the Church there were two great parties, the Prelatists and the Puritans. The Prelatists were those who were on the whole satisfied with the established Episcopacy; and at the accession of James I. they probably numbered about ninetenths of the whole Churzh. The attitude of the Puritans at that time is defined by a petition which they presented to James shortly after his arrival in England. In this document they objected to certain administrative abuses, such as the inefficiency of some of the clergy and the holding of church livings by absentees, whether clerical or lay, who drew a large part of the tithes and hired a vicar on a small salary to care for the parish. More significant was their request to be relieved from compulsory participation in certain of the ceremonies of the Church, such as the wearing of surplices, the use of the Crossin baptism, the observation of holy days (except Sabbath, which they wished to have observed more strictly), and bowing at the name of Jesus. The doctrinal differences which became so important later were not mentioned.
The Puritans gained less than nothing by their petition. The next Convocation of the Clergy (1603, 4) passed a number of canons reaffirming the necessity of the ritual to which objection had been made, and denying the right to dissent. The laws against Nonconformists were more strictly enforced, and many were imprisoned or banished. The effect on the Puritans was seen in the appearance of numerous pamphlets, printed in Holland or secretly in England, protesting against the action of the Prelatists, and in some cases arguing for Independency or Presbyterianism.
On the appointment of a Low Church Archbishop in 1611, the struggle slackened somewhat; IN MILTON'S YOUTH 15 but about 1619 a new element of great importance was introduced. This was the appearance of what was called Arminianism, a doctrinal opposition to the Calvinistic beliefs that salvation was possible only for those predestined to it, and that those who were so elected by God to be saved were incapable of resisting His grace. The situation was complicated for James, who was himself a Calvinist, by the fact that the men of Arminian tendencies were those who were most zealous in the support of Prelacy and the royal prerogative. He attempted to solve the difficulty by issuing Directions to Preachers, in which he forbade any clergyman below the degree of Dean to preach on the disputed questions at all; but, as might have been expected, this interference with the liberty of discussion on both sides did little to reassure the Puritans, who saw in the Arminianism of the Prelatists only one more indication of their leanings towards Rome. In fact, many who had taken no part with the Puritans in the agitation against ceremonial were forced to join them by the appearance of this new theological issue.
It was at this juncture that there stepped into the front rank among the leaders in church and state, a man who in a few years became, by force of the definiteness of his views and the restlessness of his energy, the chief agent in hurrying the nation towards the terrible conflict that lay before it. William Laud was a man of few aims. He believed in the strictest uniformity in worship, and was willing to resort to coercion to bring it about. He was “in favor of a ceremonial of worship in which advantage should be taken of every external aid of architecture, decoration, furniture, gesture, or costume, either actually at the time allowed in the Church of England, or for which there was good precedent in more ancient ritual.” He “believed in the 'divine Apostolic right' of Episcopacy, and ....therefore, could not recognize as a true portion of the Catholic Church of Christ any community or set of men who pretended to have emancipated themselves from Bishops." Thus he regarded the members of the Church of Rome as belonging to a true Church, but did not so regard the Independents and Presbyterians. On the doctrine of Election he was anti-Calvinist, and he was a strong upholder of the royal prerogative in church and state.
When Charles I. ascended the throne in 1625, he held his father's beliefs concerning the supremacy of the crown, but in theology was inclined to the Arminianism of Laud. The history of his reign is the history of the attempt to force these opinions upon the people of the United Kingdom. When his first Parliament met, it insisted on prosecuting the King's chaplain for Arminianism, and showed
Masson’s Life of Milton, ed. 1881, vol. I, p. 362.
its distrust of the policy and advisers of the crown by restricting the usual grants of money. Charles retaliated by dissolving the Parliament. The second Parliament followed its predecessors in its protests against Arminianism and illegal taxation, and met a similar fate. Then for nearly two years (June, 1626— March, 1628) Charles governed without a Parliament, and raised money by such illegal means as forced loans. Meanwhile, the party of Laud became more open and vigorous in its advocacy of the King's supremacy, and of the doctrine that resistance to his will was sacrilege. The phrase "absolute monarchy,” which in the time of the Tudors was used to describe a government free from foreign or Papal interference, had been interpreted by James I. in the sense of a monarchy unrestrained by law or the will of the people, and the doctrine thus implied became a watchword of the Royalist party. Forced by lack of money, the King called a third Parliament, only to be met once more with vehement protests against civil and religious grievances. He yielded, obtained a grant of subsidies, and prorogued Parliament. But the value of his supposed concessions soon appeared. Almost at once he relapsed into his previous arbitrary methods; Laud and other Arminians were promoted, and illegal taxation was
1 See Green's Short History of the English People, Lond., 1889, chap. viii., sec. II, p. 478.