Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Difficulties in Reign of Edward VI.
By John Hayward (1564?1627)
From History of Edward VI.
ON the other side King Edward added to his glory, courtesy, and liberality, showing himself most gracious in countenance to all, and giving rewards suitable to every mans performance or place. The lord protector he rewarded with lands of the yearly value of £500; and certain it is that these first fortunes raised unto him a great respect both in other countries and among his own people, and the rather because he was discerned to be much searching both into the counsels and after the events of all his affairs, and likewise into the condition and state both of his own strength and of the countries near unto him.
But these prosperous proceedings were not only hindered, in their fairest course, but altogether stayed, and in some measure turned back, by reason of the unadvised forwardness of divers chief counsellors, in making both sudden and unseasonable alterations in matters of state, whose greedy desires of having their wills in all they liked bred both trouble to the realm and to themselves danger. For great and sudden changes are never without danger, unless the prince be both well settled in government and able to bear out his actions by power; but while King Edward was both unripe in years and new in government, to attempt a change both sudden and great could not but be accompanied with many mischiefs. The great matters wherein alteration was wrought were especially two, religion, and enclosures.
Now for that religion is of so high and noble a nature, of so absolute necessity in a commonwealth, that it is esteemed the foundation of laws, and the common band of human society, no sudden alteration can almost be made therein, but many will be induced thereby to attempt some alteration in rule, whence (saith Dio) conspiracies and seditions are often occasioned. For religion being seated in the high throne of conscience, is a most powerful ruler of the soul, and far preferred before estimation of life, or any other worldly respect; for this advanceth man to the highest happiness, it leadeth him to his last end; all other things are but instruments, this is the hand; all other things are but accessories, this is the principal. And therefore as all men are naturally moved by religion, so when they are violently thrust forward by those who (as Livy speaketh) make it their purpose to possess souls by superstition, then do they break all bands of reason and of rule, no persuasion of the one, no command of the other can then restrain them. Multitudo ubi religione capta est, melius vatibus quam ducibus suis paret1 (Curt. lib. iv.)
I will not deny but that some change in religion is often expedient and sometimes necessary; because, more in that than in any other thing, it is hard to contain men from running into one of these extremes, either of vain superstition, or of careless contempt. But this must be done with a soft and tender hand, and as Cicero speaketh, Ut quam minimo sonitu orbis in republica convertatur.2 Some respect should also have been given to those green times, to the monstrous multitude muffled with two great plagues and corruptions of judgment, custom, and ignorance, whereto may be added grief at their own wants and envy at the prosperity of others, especially for that many bold spirits were busied, not only to incense, but to lead them into much variety of mischief. And if it be said that King Henry the Eighth had quietly passed the like change before; I answer, the example was not then to be followed, the kings were not equal either in spirit or in power. Even as it is in the fable, that albeit an eagle did bear away a lamb in her talons with full flight, yet a raven endeavouring to do the like was held entangled and fettered in the fleece.
Touching enclosures, I am not ignorant what a profitable purchase is made thereby, not only to particular persons, but generally to the whole commonwealth, in case it be without depopulation, because a company of lands enclosed are thereby improved in worth two or three parts at the least; hereby two great commodities ensue, riches and multitude of people, because the more riches are raised out of lands, the more people are thereby maintained. This doth plainly appear by two shires, almost equal, both in greatness and in goodness of soil: Northampton much champaign and Somerset altogether enclosed. For if estimation be made by musters, and by subsidies, tenths, and fifteenths, enclosure hath made the one county more than double to exceed the other, both in people and in wealth.
Notwithstanding the Lord Protector gaping after the fruitless breath of the multitude, and more desirous to please the most than the best, caused a proclamation to be set forth against enclosures, commanding that they who had enclosed any lands accustomed to lie open should, upon a certain pain, before a day assigned lay them open again. This proclamation, whilst few were forward to obey, gave occasion to the mutinous multitude, instable in judgment, and tempestuous when they are stirred, all carried with a headlong rashness, and one following another, as wiser than himself, immoderately both in desire and hope to be easily drawn by others who had deeper reaches than themselves, to matters which at the first they had the least intended.