The most memorable event in this period was a session of parliament, held on the 8th of February, 1576; where debates were started, which may appear somewhat curious and singular. Peter Wentworth, a puritan, who had signalized himself in former parliaments, by his free and undaunted spirit, opened this session with a premeditated harangue, which drew on him the indignation of the house, and gave great offence to the queen and the ministers. As it seems to contain a rude sketch of those principles of liberty, which happily gained afterwards the ascendant in England, it may not be improper to give, in a few words, the substance of it. He premised, that the very name of liberty is sweet; but the thing itself is precious beyond the most inestimable treasure: And that it behoved them to be careful, lest, contenting themselves with the sweetness of the name, they forego the substance, and abandon what of all earthly possessions was of the highest value to the kingdom. He then proceeded to observe, that freedom of speech in that house, a privilege so useful both to sovereign and subject, had been formerly infringed in many essential articles, and was, at present, exposed to the most imminent danger: That it was usual, when any subject of importance was handled, especially if it regarded religion, to surmize, that these topics were disagreeable to the queen, and that the farther proceeding in them would draw |down her indignation upon their temerity: That Solomon had justly affirmed the king's displeasure to be a messenger of death; and it was no wonder if men, even though urged by motives of conscience and duty, should be inclined to stop short, when they found themselves exposed to so severe a penalty: That by the employing of this argument, the house was incapacitated from serving their country, and even from serving the queen herself; whose ears, besieged by pernicious flatterers, were thereby rendered inaccessible to the most salutary truths: That it was a mockery to call an assembly a parliament, yet deny it that privilege, which was so essential to its being, and without which it must degenerate into an abject school of servility and dissimulation: That as the parliament was the great guardian of the laws, they ought to have liberty to discharge their trust, and to maintain that authority, whence even kings themselves derive their being: That a king was constituted such by law, and though he was not dependant on man, yet was he subordinate to God and the law, and was obliged to make their prescriptions, not his own will, the rule of his conduct: That even his commission, as God's vicegerent, enforced, instead of loosening, this obligation; since he was thereby invested with authority to execute on earth the will of God, which is nothing but law and justice: That though these surmizes of displeasing the queen by their proceedings, had impeached, in a very essential point, all freedom of speech, a privilege granted them by a special law; yet was there a more express and more dangerous invasion made on their liberties, by frequent messages from the throne: That it had become a practice, when the house was entering on any question, either ecclesiastical or civil, to bring an order from the queen, inhibiting them absolutely from treating of such matters, and debarring them from all farther discussion of these momentous articles. That the prelates, emboldened by her royal protection, had assumed a decisive power in all questions of religion, and required that every one should implicitly submit his faith to their arbitrary determinations: That the love, which he bore his sovereign, forbade him to be silent under such abuses, or to sacrifice, on this important occasion, his duty to servile flattery and complaisance: And that, as no earthly creature was exempt from fault, so neither was the queen herself; but in imposing this servitude on her faithful commons, had committed a great, and |even dangerous, fault against herself and the whole commonwealth.