Moreover what is law in England is law also in Scotland and Ireland. The decision of the judges will therefore make the King absolute at home and formidable abroad. Let him only abstain from war for a few years that he may habituate his subjects to the payment of that tax, and in the end he will find himself more powerful and respected than any of his predecessors." But there were men who saw the danger to freedom in this levy of ship-money as clearly as Wentworth himself. The bulk of the country party abandoned all hope of English freedom. There was a sudden revival of the emigration to New England; and men of blood and fortune now prepared to seek a new home in the West. Lord Warwick secured the proprietorship of the Connecticut valley. Lord Saye and Sele and Lord Brooke began negotiations for transporting themselves to the New World. Oliver Cromwell is said, by a doubtful tradition, to have only been prevented from crossing the seas by a royal embargo. It is more certain that Hampden purchased a tract of land on the Narragansett. John Hampden, a friend of Eliot's, a man of consummate ability, of unequalled power of "persuasion, of a keen intelligence, ripe learning, and a character singularly pure and loveable, had already shown the firmness of his temper in his refusal to contribute to the forced loan of 1627. He now repeated his refusal, declared ship-money an illegal impost, and resolved to rouse the spirit of the country by an appeal for protection to the law.
The news of Hampden's resistance thrilled through England at a moment when men were roused by the news of resistance in the north. The patience of Scotland had found an end at last. While England was waiting for the opening of the great cause of ship-money, peremptory orders from the King forced the clergy of Edinburgh to introduce the new service into their churches. But the Prayer Book was no sooner opened at the church of St. Giles's than a murmur ran through the congregation, and the murmur soon grew into a formidable riot. The church was cleared, and the service read; but the rising discontent frightened the judges into a decision that the royal writ enjoined the purchase, and not the use, of the Prayer Book. Its use was at once discontinued, and the angry orders which came from England for its restoration Were met by a shower of protests from every part of Scotland. The Duke of Lennox alone took sixty-eight petitions with him to the court; while ministers, nobles, and gentry poured into Edinburgh to organize the national resistance. The effect of these events in Scotland was at once seen in the open demonstration of discontent south of the border.
The prison with which Laud had rewarded Prynne's bulky quarto had tamed his spirit so little that a new tract written within its walls attacked the bishops as devouring wolves and lords of Lucifer. A fellow-prisoner, John Bastwick, declared in his "Litany" that "Hell was broke loose, and the Devils in surplices, hoods, copes, and rochets, were come among us." Burton, a London clergyman silenced by the High Commission, called on all Christians to resist the bishops as "robbers of souls, limbs of the Beast, and factors of Antichrist." Raving of this sort might have been passed by had not the general sympathy shown how fast the storm of popular passion was rising. Prynne and his fellow pamphleteers, when Laud dragged them before the Star Chamber as " trumpets of sedition," listened with defiance to their sentence of exposure in the pillory and imprisonment for life; and the crowd who filled Palace Yard to witness their punishment groaned at the cutting off of their ears, and " gave a great shout" when Prynne urged that the sentence on him was contrary to the law. A hundred thousand Londoners lined the road as they passed on the way to prison; and the journey of these " Martyrs," as the spectators called them, was like a triumphal progress.
Startled as he was at the sudden burst of popular feeling, Laud remained dauntless as ever. Prynne's entertainers as he passed through the country were summoned before the Star Chamber, while the censorship struck fiercer blows at the Puritan press. But the real danger lay not in the libels of silly zealots but in the attitude of Scotland, and in the effect which was being produced in England at large by the trial of Hampden. For twelve days the cause of ship-money was solemnly argued before the full bench of judges. It was proved that the tax in past times had been levied only in cases of sudden emergency, and confined to the coast and port towns alone, and that even the show of legality had been taken from it by formal statute: it was declared a breach of the " fundamental laws " of England. The case was adjourned, but the discussion told not merely on England but on the temper of the Scots. Charles had replied to their petitions by a simple order to all strangers to leave the capital. But the Council at Edinburgh was unable to enforce his order; and the nobles and gentry before dispersing to their homes named a body of delegates, under the odd title of " the Tables," who carried on through the winter a series of negotiations with the Crown. The negotiations were interrupted in the following spring by a renewed order for their dispersion, and for the acceptance of a Prayer Book; while the judges in England delivered at last their long-delayed decision on Hampden's case.
Two judges only pronounced in his favour; though three followed them on technical grounds. The majority, seven in number, gave judgement against him. The broad principle was laid down that no statute prohibiting arbitrary taxation could be pleaded against the King's will. "I never read or heard," said Judge Berkley, "that lex was rex, but it is common and most true that rex is lex." Finch, the Chief-Justice, summed up the opinions of his fellow judges. " Acts of Parliament to take away the King's royal power in the defence of his kingdom are void," he said:...." they are void Acts of Parliament to bind the King not to command the subjects, their persons, and goods, and I say their money too, for no Acts of Parliament make any difference".