It may seem rather an extraordinary position, after the last chapters, yet is strictly true, that the fundamental privileges of the subject were less invaded, the prerogative swerved into fewer excesses, during the reign of Charles II. than perhaps in any former period of equal length. Thanks to the patriot energies of Selden and Eliot, of Pym and Hampden, the constitutional boundaries of royal power had been so well established that no minister was daring enough to attempt any flagrant and general violation of them. The frequent session of parliament, and its high estimation of its own privileges, furnished a security against illegal taxation. Nothing of this sort has been imputed to the government of Charles, the first King of England, perhaps, whose reign was wholly free from such a charge. And as the nation happily escaped the attempts that were made after the restoration, to revive the star-chamber and high-commission courts, there was no means of chastising political delinquencies, except through the regular tribunals of justice, and through the verdict of a jury. Ill as the one were often constituted, and submissive as the other might often be found, they afforded something more of a guarantee, were it only by the publicity of their proceedings, than the dark and silent divan of courtiers and prelates who sat in judgment under the two former kings. Though the bench was frequently subservient, the bar contained high-spirited advocates, whose firm defence of their clients the judges often reproved, but no longer affected to punish. The press, above all, was in continual 2 service. An eagerness to peruse cheap and ephemeral tracts on all subjects of passing interest had prevailed ever since the reformation. These had been extraordinarily multiplied from the meeting of the long parliament. Some thousand pamphlets of different descriptions, written between that time and the restoration, may be found in the British Museum; and no collection can be supposed to be perfect. It would have required the summary process and stern severity of the court of star-chamber to repress this torrent, or reduce it to those bounds which a government is apt to consider as secure. But the measures taken with this view under Charles II. require to be distinctly noticed.
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