This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol1 Introduction To The Study Of Law Legal History", by Albert H. Putney. Also see: Popular Law-Dictionary.
Perhaps no other ruler in history ever came to a throne with so remarkable a hereditary title as did James I of England. Not only was he descended, as had also been his predecessors, the Tudors, from both the Houses of York and Lancaster, but was also the descendant in the right line from the West Saxon royal family of Cedric, Ecgberht, and Aelfred. This union in James of the right to the throne from both of these ancient royal lines exerted a powerful influence upon his character and actions. The central point in his political creed and pivot around which all of his actions revolved, was his belief in the divine right of kings. In his mind the King was something more than a mere mortal ruler, he was the divinely appointed of God, resistance to whom was a hardly less heinous sin than rebellion against the only superior whom a King should own. Such was the condition of mind with which the first of the House of Stuart came to the throne, and such was the belief of each King of this House, until the last of the line was finally driven into exile. This was not the view of the kingly office held by the mass of the seventeenth century Englishmen. The great majority, it is true, were imbued with a deep love of the King and the kingly office; and the idea of a Republic, even in the times of the most bitter conflicts with the King, was espoused by only a few radicals like Hazelrig, and was as repugnant to the mass of the people as the ideas of anarchy is today to their descendants. This love and respect, however, was no such unreasoning surrender, as the subjects of an oriental despot exhibit towards their masters; it was a love and reverence for the King as one of the ancient inherent parts of the English Government, and it was such a love as they felt for the House of Commons, or for the English Common Law. The King existed and was revered because he was the King of England and because he existed for the English nation. The English nation was not considered to exist for the pleasure or profit of the English King. In the minds of the English people the true government of their forefathers was one in which both the King and Parliament had a share. It was not the desire or the intention of the Englishmen of this century to allow either of these constituent elements of their government to be abolished. The extreme adherents of the Stuarts were in as decided a minority as were the zealous republicans or the Independents. The excesses on either side were always in turn followed by a reaction.
The contest between James and the Commons was begun at the very outset of his reign by his attempt to interfere with the election of the members of his Parliament. In vindication of their rights the first of James' Parliaments set forth: "1st. That our privileges and liberties are of right and due inheritance no less than our very lands and goods. 2nd. That they cannot be withheld from us, denied or impaired, but with an apparent wrong to the whole State of the realm. 3rd. That our making of request, in the entrance of Parliament, to enjoy our privileges is an act of manners only, and doth not weaken our right, no more than our suing to the King for our land by petition, which form, though new and more decent than the old principle, yet the subject's right is no less than of old. 4th. That our House is a Court of Record and so ever esteemed. 5th. That there is not the highest standing court in this land that ought to enter into competency either for dignity or authority, with this high court of Parliament,which, with your Majesty's royal assent, gives laws to other courts, but from other courts receives neither laws nor orders. 6th. And lastly; that the House of Commons is the sole proper judge of the return of all such writs and of the election of such members as belong unto it, without which the freedom or election were not entire and that though your Majesty's Court of Chancery send out writs and receive the returns and preserve them, yet the same is done only for the use of Parliament over which neither the Chancery, nor any other court ever had, or ought to have, any manner of jurisdiction."
Throughout the reign of James I, the King is the aggressor and the House of Commons only stands on the defensive. The King attempts in every way to break the spirit of the House of Commons even at times causing the imprisonment of their leaders. The Commons, however, throughout his reign continue to manifest a spirit of dogged resistance which argued ill for the final success of the Stuart's theory of government. The parliamentary history of the reign showed the two great weapons in the hands of Parliament, weapons that were liable to become more and more effective as time went on, to be the power of impeachment and the right to make the granting of supplies conditional upon the redress of grievances. But for the resistance of the House of Commons, James I, would have met with few obstacles to his plans. The old union of the Lords and Commons had passed away; the nobility were never again to show that spirit exhibited at Run-nymede and under the leadership of Simon de Mont-fort. The degenerate successors of the barons of the thirteenth century were ready to rally around the despots of the Stuart dynasty, content to see the ancient English liberties destroyed, provided only some slight crumbs of class privilege fell to their order. A few honorable exceptions, only served to emphasize the baseness and servility of the position held in general by the so-called upper classes of England during the great contest of the seventeenth century.
Turning from the House of Lords to the judiciary we see, if possible an even darker picture. The judges with few exceptions, were the abject tools of the King, ready and anxious to earn his smiles and favor by any depths of subserviency and obedience to his orders. The resistance of the great chief justice Coke led to his removal from the bench and to his continued persecution at the hands of the King.