Letters on the Study and Use of History

第41章 LETTER 6(4)

II.In England Though the power and influence of the nobility sunk in the great change that began under Henry the Seventh in England,as they did in that which began under Louis the Eleventh in France;yet the new constitutions that these changes produced were very different.In France the lords alone lost,the king alone gained;the clergy held their possessions and their immunities,and the people remained in a state of mitigated slavery.But in England the people gained as well as the crown.The commons had already a share in the legislature;so that the power and influence of the lords being broke by Henry the Seventh,and the property of the commons increasing by the sale that his son made of church-lands,the power of the latter increased of course by this change in a constitution,the forms whereof were favorable to them.

The union of the roses put an end to the civil wars of York and Lancaster,that had succeeded those we commonly call the barons'wars,and the humor of warring in France,that had lasted near four hundred years under the Normans and Plantagenets,for plunder as well as conquest,was spent.Our temple of Janus was shut by Henry the Seventh.We neither laid waste our own nor other countries any longer:and wise laws and a wise government changed insensibly the manners,and gave a new turn to the spirit of our people.We were no longer the freebooters we had been.Our nation maintained her reputation in arms whenever the public interest or the public authority required it;but war ceased to be,what it had been,our principal and almost our sole profession.The arts of peace prevailed among us.We became husbandmen,manufacturers,and merchants,and we emulated neighboring nations in literature.It is from this time that we ought to study the history of our country,my lord,with the utmost application.We are not much concerned to know with critical accuracy what were the ancient forms of our parliaments,concerning which,however,there is little room for dispute from the reign of Henry the Third at least;nor in short the whole system of our civil constitution before Henry the Seventh,and of our ecclesiastical constitution before Henry the Eighth.

Henry St John Bolingbroke