Eliot persisted in denouncing Buckingham's incompetence and corruption, and the Commons ordered the subsidy which the Crown had demanded to be brought in " when we shall have presented our grievances, and received his Majesty's answer thereto." Charles summoned them to Whitehall, and commanded them to cancel the condition. He would grant them " liberty of counsel, but not of control;" and he closed the interview with a significant threat. "Remember," he said, "that Parliaments are altogether in my power for their calling, sitting, and dissolution: and, therefore, as I find the fruits of them to be good or evil, they are to continue or not to be." But the will of the Commons was as resolute as the will of the King. Buckingham's impeachment was voted and carried to the Lords. The favourite took his seat as a peer to listen to the charge with so' insolent an air of contempt that one of the managers appointed by the Commons to conduct it turned sharply on him. "Do you jeer, my Lord!" said Sir Dudley Digges. "I can show you when a greater man than your Lordship - as high as you in place and power, and as deep in the King's favour - has been hanged for as small a crime as these articles contain." The "proud carriage" of the Duke provoked an invective from Eliot which marks a new era in Parliamentary speech.
From the first the vehemence and passion of his words had contrasted with the grave, colourless reasoning of older speakers. His opponents complained that Eliot aimed to "stir up affections." The quick emphatic sentences he substituted for the cumbrous periods of the day, his rapid argument, his vivacious and caustic allusions, his passionate appeals, his fearless invective, struck a new note in English eloquence. The frivolous ostentation of Buckingham, his very figure blazing with jewels and gold, gave point to the fierce attack. "He has broken those nerves and sinews of our land, the stores and treasures of the King. There needs no search for it. It is too visible. His profuse expenses, his superfluous feasts, his magnificent buildings, his riots, his excesses, what are they but the visible evidences of an express exhausting of the State, a chronicle of the immensity of his waste of the revenues of the Crown?" With the same terrible directness Eliot reviewed the Duke's greed and corruption, his insatiate ambition, his seizure of all public authority, his neglect of every public duty, his abuse for selfish ends of the powers he had accumulated. "The pleasure of his Majesty, his known directions, his public acts, his acts of council, the decrees of courts - all must be made inferior to this man's will.
No right, no interest may withstand him. Through the power of state and justice he has dared ever to strike at his own ends." "My Lords," he ended, after a vivid parallel between Buckingham and Sejanus, "you see the man! What have been his actions, what he is like, you know! I leave him to your judgment. This only is conceived by us, the knights, citizens, and burgesses of the Commons House of Parliament, that by him came all our evils, in him we find the causes, and on him must be the remedies! Pereat qui perdere cuncta festinat. Opprimatur ne omnes opprimat!"
The reply of Charles was as fierce and sudden as the attack of Eliot. He hurried to the House of Peers to avow as his own the deeds with which Buckingham was charged. Eliot and Digges were called from their seats, and committed prisoners to the Tower. The Commons, however, refused to proceed with public business till their members were restored; and after a ten-days' struggle Eliot was released. But his release was only a prelude to the close of the Parliament. "Not one moment," the King replied to the prayer of his Council for delay; and a final remonstrance in which the Commons begged him to dismiss Buckingham from his service for ever was met by their instant dissolution. The remonstrance was burnt by royal order; Eliot was deprived of his Vice-Admiralty; and an appeal was made to the nation to pay as a free gift the subsidies which the Parliament had refused to grant till their grievances were redressed. But the tide of public resistance was slowly rising. Refusals to give anything, " save by way of Parliament," came in from county after county. When the subsidy-men of Middlesex and Westminster were urged to comply, they answered with a tumultuous shout of "a Parliament! a Parliament! else no subsidies! " Kent stood out to a man.
In Bucks the very justices neglected to ask for the "free gift." The freeholders of Cornwall only answered that, "if they had but two kine, they would sell one of them for supply to his Majesty - in a Parliamentary way." The failure of the voluntary gift forced Charles to an open defiance of the law. He met it by the levy of a forced loan. Commissioners were named to assess the amount which every landowner was bound to lend, and to examine on oath all who refused. Every means of persuasion, as of force, was resorted to. The pulpits of the Laudian clergy resounded with the cry of "passive obedience." Dr. Mainwaring preached before Charles himself, that the King needed no Parliamentary warrant for taxation, and that to resist his will was to incur eternal damnation. Poor men who refused to lend were pressed into the army or navy. Stubborn tradesmen were flung into prison. Buckingham himself undertook the task of overawing the nobles and the gentry. Charles met the opposition of the judges by instantly dismissing from his office the Chief Justice, Crew. But in the country at large resistance was universal. The northern counties in a mass set the Crown at defiance.,The Lincolnshire farmers drove the Commissioners from the town.
Shropshire, Devon, and Warwickshire "refused utterly." Eight peers, with Lord Essex and Lord Warwick at their head, declined to comply with the exaction as illegal. Two hundred country gentlemen, whose obstinacy had not been subdued by their transfer from prison to prison, were summoned before the Council; and John Hampden, as yet only a young Buckinghamshire squire, appeared at the board to begin that career of patriotism which has made his name dear to Englishmen. " I could be content to lend," he said, " but fear to draw on myself that curse in Magna Charta, which should be read twice a year against those who infringe it." So close an imprisonment in the Gate House rewarded his protest, " that he never afterwards did look like the same man he was before." With gathering discontent as well as bankruptcy before him, nothing could save the Duke but a great military success; and he equipped a force of six thousand men for the maddest and most profligate of all his enterprises. In the great struggle with Catholicism the hopes of every Protestant rested on the union of England with France against the House of Austria. But the blustering and blundering of the favourite had at last succeeded in plunging him into strife with his own allies, and England now suddenly found herself at war with France and Spain together.