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he was chosen a burgess for Lancaster; and, in the first two parliaments of Charles I., for Great Bedwin in Wiltshire. In the former of these, he declared himself warmly against the Duke of Buckingham; and upon that nobleman's impeachment in 1626, was the first person chosen on the Committee to prepare and manage the articles against him. The trial, however, was frustrated by a dissolution of the accusing assembly.
In 1627, he was counsel for Hampden; and in Charles' third parliament was again elected for Lancaster, and had a considerable hand in fixing that great boundary to regal prerogative, the Petition of Right. After the prorogation in June, retiring to Wrest in Bedfordshire, he finished his Commentaries on the Arundelian Marbles.'* When the parliament re-assembled, he continued to conduct himself upon the same principles; and was one of the most active members in constraining the Speaker to continue in his chair, after a royal message had prohibited it's sitting. For this, he was with seven others committed to the Tower; and three months afterward, when the Judges offered to discharge them on receiving security for their good behaviour, upon their refusing to comply with the terms required (as unwarranted by law) removed to the Marshalsea Prison. After a twelvemonth's confinement, however, and the subsequent permission of going at large upon bail, they were released; and, in 1646, the House ordered him a grant of 5000l., as a compensation for the losses
These Marbles, containing inscriptions of great importance in the study of history and chronology, received their name from the Earl of Arundel, by whom they had been imported into England.
which he had sustained upon the occasion. While he remained under this restraint, he composed his Treatise, De Successionibus in Bona Defuncti, secundùm Leges Hebræorum.'*
In 1630, he was again committed to custody, and brought under the cognisance of the Star Chamber with the Earls of Bedford and Clare, Sir Robert Cotton, and Mr. St. John, under the charge of having dispersed a libel, entitled, A Proposition for his Majesty's Service to bridle the Impertinency of Parliaments;' of which it was subsequently proved, that Sir Robert Dudley, then living in the Duke of Tuscany's dominions, was the author. But on the birth of Prince Charles, the King ordering this prosecution to be discharged, Selden was transferred to the Gate-House, and obtained permission to pass the vacation at Wrest. After this, however, he was remanded to his former prison, and only at last procured his discharge through the special interposition of his friend Archbishop Laud. During all these perplexities, he continued his learned researches, and wrote several valuable tracts on many curious branches of Hebrew jurisprudence. Under the influence of the Primate, he now acquired some degree of popularity at court, which was not likely to be diminished on his taking a principal share in the management of the masque given by the four lawsocieties in 1633 to the court and the city, in opposition to the puritanical spirit of the HistrioMastrix,' published about this time by Prynne. But whatever pleasure he might afford to the royal party
*This was published in 1631, and in 1636 reprinted with the addition of a tract, De Successione in Pontificatum Hebræorum.'
by these lighter exertions, he rendered it a more substantial service by asserting against Grotius the sovereignty of the British Seas.
A dispute having arisen in 1634 between the English and the Dutch concerning the herring-fishery upon the coast of Great Britain, and Grotius having published his Mare Liberum' in favour of the latter, Selden, alive equally to the competition of rival genius and to the interest of his country, was prevailed upon by Laud (who, though he did not like his principles in church or state-affairs, could not help revering him for his learning and integrity) to draw up his Mare Clausum;' and it was, accordingly, published in 1636. This production, of which the King ordered copies to be laid up with the Records of the Crown in the council-chest, and in the Courts of the Admiralty and the Exchequer, as "faithful and strong evidence to the dominion of the British Seas," recommended him highly to the ministry of the day; but he declined all court-remuneration.
In the same year, the Dutch agreed to pay an annual sum of 30,000l. for the privilege of fishing; less indeed, probably, under the cogency of Selden's arguments, however powerful, than from the exertions of Algernon Earl of Northumberland, High Admiral of England, who took and destroyed great numbers of their vessels. In 1640, he published his De Jure Naturali et Gentium, juxta Disciplinam Hebræorum. This work Puffendorff highly applauds; but his translator Barbeyrac observes, with regard to it, "that beside the extreme disorder and obscurity, which are justly to be censured in his manner of writing, he derives his principles of the Law of Nature not from the pure light of reason, but merely from
the Seven Precepts given to Noah; and frequently contents himself by citing the decisions of the Rabbins, without giving himself the trouble to examine whether they be just or not." "He has, indeed, only copied the Rabbins," says Le Clerc, "and scarcely ever reasons at all. His rabbinical principles are founded upon an uncertain Jewish tradition, namely, that God gave to Noah seven precepts to be observed by all mankind; which, if it should be denied, the Jews would find a difficulty to prove. Besides, his ideas are very imperfect and embarrassed." For these charges there is, certainly, some foundation; and the same remark may be extended, with occasional qualifications, to all his writings. He had a great memory, and prodigious learning; and these frequently impeded the use of his reasoning faculty, perplexed his judgement, and crowded his writings with citations and authorities to supply the place of sense and argument.
In the two parliaments of 1640, by the recommendation of Laud as Chancellor of Oxford, Selden was chosen member for that University: but he still spoke, and acted, with the same freedom as usual; and even took part, though with different degrees of activity, in the prosecutions of both Lord Strafford and the Archbishop. He was, moreover, extremely zealous in depriving the Bishops of their seats in parliament; though from some very strong observations in his Table-Talk' it may fully be concluded, that his private sentiment was in favour of episcopacy. "Such an instance as this," observes one of his biographers, "will be sufficient to prove, that patriotic pretensions are to be trusted with great caution, when they are united with an invariable
opposition to the ruling powers, and a ready compliance to the popular prejudices. Mr. Selden was clearly a man of constitutional principles, and in his mind attached to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England: and yet he acted with men, who were enemies to the one and the other; and aided by his public speeches and his pen those measures, which he knew tended to ruin what he admired, and to bring in a system which he despised."
In one instance however, on the question Whether the parliament should not take the militia out of the hands of the King,' which the Lord Keeper Littleton himself thought adviseable, he maintained the right of the Crown with great firmness. Upon another occasion likewise, in 1640-1, he exerted his ingenuity in behalf of the Church. When the remonstrance of the Puritan ministers against the ecclesiastical regimen was read in the House of Commons, Mr. Harbottle Grimstone observed:
"That Bishops are jure divino, is a question; "That Archbishops are not jure divino, is out of the question;
"That Ministers are jure divino, is no question:: "Now that Bishops, which are questionable whether jure divino, or Archbishops, which out of question are not jure divino, should suspend Ministers that are questionless jure divino, I leave to you, Mr. Speaker."
Upon which, Selden immediately replied:
"That the Convocation is jure divino, is a question;
"That Parliaments are not jure divino, is out of the question;