One of the Parliaments which King Charles assembled at length brought articles of impeachment against Buckingham, and a long contest arose on this subject. An impeachment is a trial of a high officer of state for maladministration of his office. All sorts of charges were brought against Buckingham, most of which were true. The king considered their interfering to call one of his ministers to account as wholly intolerable. He sent them orders to dismiss that subject from their deliberations, and to proceed immediately with their work of laying taxes to raise money, or he would dissolve the Parliament as he had done before. He reminded them that the Parliaments were entirely "in his power for their calling, sitting, and dissolution, and as he found their fruits were for good or evil, so they were to continue, or not to be." If they would mend their errors and do their duty, henceforward he would forgive the past; otherwise they were to expect his irreconcilable hostility.
This language irritated instead of alarming them. The Commons persisted in their plan of impeachment. The king arrested the men whom they appointed as managers of the impeachment, and imprisoned them. The Commons remonstrated, and insisted that Buckingham should be dismissed from the king's service. The king, instead of dismissing him, took measures to have him appointed, in addition to all his other offices, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, a very exalted station. Parliament remonstrated. The king, in retaliation, dissolved the Parliament.
Thus things went on from bad to worse, and from worse to worse again; the chief cause of the difficulties, in almost all cases, being traceable to Buckingham's reckless and arbitrary conduct. He was continually doing something in the pursuit of his own ends, by the rash and heedless exercise of the vast powers committed to him, to make extensive and irreparable mischief. At one time he ordered a part of the fleet over to the coast of France, to enter the French service, the sailors expecting that they were to be employed against the Spaniards. They found, however, that, instead of going against the Spaniards, they were to be sent to Rochelle. Rochelle was a town in France in possession of the Protestants, and the King of France wished to subdue them. The sailors sent a remonstrance to their commander, begging not to be forced to fight against their brother Protestants. This remonstrance was, in form, what is called a Round Robin.
In a Round Robin a circle is drawn, the petition or remonstrance is written within it, and the names are written all around it, to prevent any one's having to take the responsibility of being the first signer. When the commander of the fleet received the Round Robin, instead of being offended, he inquired into the facts, and finding that the case was really as the Round Robin represented it, he broke away from the French command and returned to England. He said he would rather be hanged in England for disobeying orders than to fight against the Protestants of France.
Buckingham might have known that such a spirit as this in Englishmen was not to be trifled with. But he knew nothing, and thought of nothing, except that he wished to please and gratify the French government. When the fleet, therefore, arrived in England, he peremptorily ordered it back, and he resorted to all sorts of pretexts and misrepresentations of the facts to persuade the officers and men that they were not to be employed against the Protestants. The fleet accordingly went back, and when they arrived, they found that Buckingham had deceived them. They were ordered to Rochelle. One of the ships broke away and returned to England. The officers and men deserted from the other ships and got home. The whole armament was disorganized, and the English people, who took sides with the sailors, were extremely exasperated against Buckingham for his blind and blundering recklessness, and against the king for giving such a man the power to do his mischief on such an extensive scale.
At another time the duke and the king contrived to fit out a fleet of eighty sail to make a descent upon the coast of Spain. It caused them great trouble to get the funds for this expedition, as they had to collect them, in a great measure, by various methods depending on the king's prerogative, and not by authority of Parliament. Thus the whole country were dissatisfied and discontented in respect to the fleet before it was ready to sail. Then, as if this was not enough, Buckingham overlooked all the officers in the navy in selecting a commander, and put an officer of the army in charge of it; a man whose whole experience had been acquired in wars on the land. The country thought that Buckingham ought to have taken the command himself, as lord high admiral; and if not, that he ought to have selected his commander from the ranks of the service employed. Thus the fleet set off on the expedition, all on board burning with indignation against the arbitrary and absurd management of the favorite. The result of the expedition was also extremely disastrous. They had an excellent opportunity to attack a number of ships, which would have made a very rich prize; but the soldier-commander either did not know, or did not dare to do, his duty. He finally, however, effected a landing, and took a castle, but the sailors found a great store of wine there, and went to drinking and carousing, breaking through all discipline. The commander had to get them on board again immediately, and come away. Then he conceived the plan of going to intercept what were called the Spanish galleons, which were ships employed to bring home silver from the mines in America, which the Spaniards then possessed. On further thoughts he concluded to give up this idea, on account of the plague, which, as he said, broke out in his ships. So he came back to England with his fleet disorganized, demoralized, and crippled, and covered with military disgrace. The people of England charged all this to Buckingham. Still the king persisted in retaining him. It was his prerogative to do so.
After a while Buckingham got into a personal quarrel with Richelieu, who was the leading manager of the French government, and he resolved that England should make war upon France. To alter the whole political position of such an empire as that of Great Britain, in respect to peace and war, and to change such a nation as France from a friend to an enemy, would seem to be quite an undertaking for a single man to attempt, and that, too, without having any reason whatever to assign, except a personal quarrel with a minister about a love affair. But so it was. Buckingham undertook it. It was the king's prerogative to make peace or war, and Buckingham ruled the king.
He contrived various ways of fomenting ill will. One was, to alienate the mind of the king from the queen. He represented to him that the queen's French servants were fast becoming very disrespectful and insolent in their treatment of him, and finally persuaded him to send them all home. So the king went one day to Somerset House, which was the queen's residence—for it is often the custom in high life in Europe for the husband and wife to have separate establishments—and requested her to summon her French servants into his presence, and when they were assembled, he told them that he had concluded to send them all home to France. Some of them, he said, had acted properly enough, but others had been rude and forward, and that he had decided it best to send them all home. The French king, on hearing of this, seized a hundred and twenty English ships lying in his harbors in retaliation of this act, which he said was a palpable violation of the marriage contract, as it certainly was. Upon this the king declared war against France. He did not ask Parliament to act in this case at all. There was no Parliament. Parliament had been dissolved in a fit of displeasure. The whole affair was an exercise of the royal prerogative. Nor did the king now call a Parliament to provide means for carrying on the war, but set his Privy Council to devise modes of doing it, through this same prerogative.
The attempts to raise money in these ways made great trouble. The people resisted, and interposed all possible difficulties. However some funds were raised, and a fleet of a hundred sail, and an army of seven thousand men, were got together. Buckingham undertook the command of this expedition himself, as there had been so much dissatisfaction with his appointment of a commander to the other. It resulted just as was to be expected in the case of seven thousand men, and a hundred ships, afloat on the swelling surges of the English Channel, under the command of vanity, recklessness, and folly. The duke came back to England in three months, bringing home one third of his force. The rest had been lost, without accomplishing any thing. The measure of public indignation against Buckingham was now full.
Buckingham himself walked as loftily and proudly as ever. He equipped another fleet, and was preparing to set sail in it himself, as commander again. He went to Portsmouth, accordingly, for this purpose, Portsmouth being the great naval station then, as now, on the southern coast of England. Here a man named Felton, who had been an officer under the duke in the former expedition, and who had been extremely exasperated against him on account of some of his management there, and who had since found how universal was the detestation of him in England, resolved to rid the country of such a curse at once. He accordingly took his station in the passage-way of the house where Buckingham was, armed with a knife. Buckingham came out, talking with some Frenchmen in an angry manner, having had some dispute with them, when Felton thrust the knife into his side as he passed, and, leaving it in the wound, walked away, no one having noticed who did the deed. Buckingham pulled out the knife, fell down, and died. The bystanders were going to seize one of the Frenchmen, when Felton advanced and said, "I am the man; you are to arrest me; let no one suffer that is innocent." He was taken. They found a paper in his hat, saying that he was going to destroy the duke, and that he could not sacrifice his life in a nobler cause than by delivering his country from so great an enemy.
King Charles was four miles off at this time. They carried him the news. He did not appear at all concerned or troubled, but only directed that the murderer—he ought to have said, perhaps, the executioner—should be secured, and that the fleet should proceed to sail. He also ordered the treasurer to make arrangements for a splendid funeral.
The treasurer said, in reply, that a funeral would only be a temporary show, and that he could hereafter erect a monument at half the cost, which would be a much more lasting memorial. Charles acceded. Afterward, when Charles spoke to him about the monument, the treasurer replied, What would the world say if your majesty were to build a monument to the Duke before you erect one for your father? So the plan was abandoned, and Buckingham had no other monument than the universal detestation of his countrymen.
THE KING AND HIS PREROGATIVE.
Difficulty in raising funds.—The king's resources.—Modes of raising money.—Parliaments abandoned.—The government attaches the property of a member of Parliament.—Confusion in the House of Commons.—Resolutions.—The Commons refuse to admit the king's officers.—Members imprisoned.—Dissolution of Parliament.—The king in the House of Lords.—The king's speech on dissolving Parliament.—The king resolves to do without Parliaments.—Forced loans.—Monopolies of the necessaries of life.—Tonnage and poundage.—Ship money.—Origin of these taxes.—John Hampden.—He refuses to pay ship money.—Hampden's trial.—He is compelled to pay.—A fleet raised.—Its exploits among the herring-busses.—Court of the Star Chamber.—Its constitution.—Trial by jury.—No jury in the Star Chamber.—Crimes tried by the Star Chamber.—Origin of the term.—Immense power of the Court of Star Chamber.—Oppressive fines.—King's forests.—Offenses against the king and his lords.—A gentleman fined for resenting an insult.—Murmurs silenced.—The kingdom of Scotland.—The king visits Scotland.—He is crowned there.—The king returns to London.—Increasing discontent.
The great difficulty in governing without a Parliament was the raising of funds. By the old customs and laws of the realm, a tax upon the people could only be levied by the action of the House of Commons; and the great object of the king and council during Buckingham's life, in summoning Parliaments from time to time, was to get their aid in this respect. But as Charles found that one Parliament after another withheld the grants, and spent their time in complaining of his government, he would dissolve them, successively, after exhausting all possible means of bringing them to a compliance with his will. He would then be thrown upon his own resources.
The king had some resources of his own. These were certain estates, and lands, and other property, in various parts of the country, which belonged to the crown, the income of which the king could appropriate. But the amount which could be derived from this source was very small. Then there were certain other modes of raising money, which had been resorted to by former monarchs, in emergencies, at distant intervals, but still in instances so numerous that the king considered precedents enough had been established to make the power to resort to these modes a part of the prerogative of the crown. The people, however, considered these acts of former monarchs as irregularities or usurpations. They denied the king's right to resort to these methods, and they threw so many difficulties in the way of the execution of his plans, that finally he would call another Parliament, and make new efforts to lead them to conform to his will. The more the experiment was tried, however, the worse it succeeded; and at last the king determined to give up the idea of Parliaments altogether, and to compel the people to submit to his plans of raising money without them.
The final dissolution of Parliament, by which Charles entered upon his new plan of government, was attended with some resistance, and the affair made great difficulty. It seems that one of the members, a certain Mr. Rolls, had had some of his goods seized for payment of some of the king's irregular taxes, which he had refused to pay willingly. Now it had always been considered the law of the land in England, that the person and the property of a member of Parliament were sacred during the session, on the ground that while he was giving his attendance at a council meeting called by his sovereign, he ought to be protected from molestation on the part either of his fellow-subjects or his sovereign, in his person and in his property. The House of Commons considered, therefore, the seizure of the goods of one of the members of the body as a breach of their privilege, and took up the subject with a view to punish the officers who acted. The king sent a message immediately to the House, while they were debating the subject, saying that the officer acted, in seizing the goods, in obedience to his own direct command. This produced great excitement and long debates. The king, by taking the responsibility of the seizure upon himself, seemed to bid the House defiance. They brought up this question: "Whether the seizing of Mr. Rolls's goods was not a breach of privilege?" When the time came for a decision, the speaker, that is, the presiding officer, refused to put the question to vote. He said he had been commanded by the king not to do it! The House were indignant, and immediately adjourned for two days, probably for the purpose of considering, and perhaps consulting their constituents on what they were to do in so extraordinary an emergency as the king's coming into their own body and interfering with the functions of one of their own proper officers.
They met on the day to which they had adjourned, prepared to insist on the speaker's putting the question. But he, immediately on the House coming to order, said that he had received the king's command to adjourn the House for a week, and to put no question whatever. He was then about to leave the chair, but two of the members advanced to him and held him in his place, while they read some resolutions which had been prepared. There was great confusion and clamor. Some insisted that the House was adjourned, some were determined to pass the resolutions. The resolutions were very decided. They declared that whoever should counsel or advise the laying of taxes not granted by Parliament, or be an actor or instrument in collecting them, should be accounted an innovator, and a capital enemy to the kingdom and Commonwealth. And also, that if any person whatever should voluntarily pay such taxes, he should be counted a capital enemy also. These resolutions were read in the midst of great uproar. The king was informed of the facts, and sent for the sergeant of the House—one of the highest officers—but the members locked the door, and would not let the sergeant go. Then the king sent one of his own officers to the House with a message. The members kept the door locked, and would not let him in until they had disposed of the resolutions. Then the House adjourned for a week.
The next day, several of the leading members who were supposed to have been active in these proceedings were summoned to appear before the council. They refused to answer out of Parliament for what was said and done by them in Parliament. The council sent them to prison in the Tower.
The week passed away, and the time for the reassembling of the Houses arrived. It had been known, during the week, that the king had determined on dissolving Parliament. It is usual, in dissolving a Parliament, for the sovereign not to appear in person, but to send his message of dissolution by some person commissioned to deliver it. This is called dissolving the House by commission. The dissolution is always declared in the House of Lords, the Commons being summoned to attend. In this case, however, the king attended in person. He was dressed magnificently in his royal robes, and wore his crown. He would not deign, however, to send for the Commons. He entered the House of Peers, and took his seat upon the throne. Several of the Commons, however, came in of their own accord, and stood below the bar, at the usual place assigned them. The king then rose and read the following speech. The antiquity of the language gives it an air of quaintness now which it did not possess then.
"My Lords,—I never came here upon so unpleasant an occasion, it being the Dissolution of a Parliament. Therefore Men may have some cause to wonder why I should not rather chuse to do this by Commission, it being a general Maxim of Kings to leave harsh Commands to their Ministers, Themselves only executing pleasing things. Yet considering that Justice as well consists in Reward and Praise of Virtue as Punishing of Vice, I thought it necessary to come here to-day, and to declare to you and all the World, that it was merely the undutiful and seditious Carriage in the Lower House that hath made the dissolution of this Parliament. And you, my Lords, are so far from being any Causers of it, that I take as much comfort in your dutiful Demeanour, as I am justly distasted with their Proceedings. Yet, to avoid their Mistakings, let me tell you, that it is so far from me to adjudge all the House alike guilty, that I know there are many there as dutiful subjects as any in the World it being but some few Vipers among them that did cast this mist of Undutifulness over most of their Eyes. Yet to say Truth, there was good Number there that could not be infected with this Contagion.
"To conclude, As those Vipers must look for their Reward of Punishment, so you, my Lords, may justly expect from me that Favor and Protection that a good King oweth to his loving and faithful Nobility. And now, my Lord Keeper, do what I have commanded you."
Then the lord keeper pronounced the Parliament dissolved. The lord keeper was the keeper of the great seal, one of the highest officers of the crown.
Of course this affair produced a fever of excitement against the king throughout the whole realm. This excitement was kept up and increased by the trials of the members of Parliament who had been imprisoned. The courts decided against them, and they were sentenced to long imprisonment and to heavy fines. The king now determined to do without Parliaments entirely; and, of course, he had to raise money by his royal prerogative altogether, as he had done, in fact, before, a great deal, during the intervals between the successive Parliaments. It will not be very entertaining, but it will be very useful to the reader to peruse carefully some account of the principal methods resorted to by the king. In order, however, to diminish the necessity for money as much as possible, the king prepared to make peace with France and Spain; and as they, as well as England, were exhausted with the wars, this was readily effected.
One of the resorts adopted by the king was to a system of loans, as they were called, though these loans differed from those made by governments at the present day, in being apportioned upon the whole community according to their liability to taxation, and in being made, in some respects, compulsory. The loan was not to be absolutely collected by force, but all were expected to lend, and if any refused, they were to be required to make oath that they would not tell any body else that they had refused, in order that the influence of their example might not operate upon others. Those who did refuse were to be reported to the government. The officers appointed to collect these loans were charged not to make unnecessary difficulty, but to do all in their power to induce the people to contribute freely and willingly. This plan had been before adopted, in the time of Buckingham, but it met with little success.
Another plan which was resorted to was the granting of what was called monopolies: that is, the government would select some important and necessary articles in general use, and give the exclusive right of manufacturing them to certain persons, on their paying a part of the profits to the government. Soap was one of the articles thus chosen. The exclusive right to manufacture it was given to a company, on their paying for it. So with leather, salt, and various other things. These persons, when they once possessed the exclusive right to manufacture an article which the people must use, would abuse their power by deteriorating the article, or charging enormous prices. Nothing prevented their doing this, as they had no competition. The effect was, that the people were injured much more than the government was benefited. The plan of granting such monopolies by governments is now universally odious.
Another method of taxation was what was called tonnage and poundage. This was an ancient tax, assessed on merchandise brought into the country in ships, like the duties now collected at our custom-houses. It was called tonnage and poundage because the merchandise on which it was assessed was reckoned by weight, viz., the ton and the pound. A former king, Edward III., first assessed it to raise money to suppress piracy on the seas. He said it was reasonable that the merchandise protected should pay the expense of the protection, and in proper proportion. The Parliament in that day opposed this tax. They did not object to the tax itself, but to the king's assessing it by his own authority. However, they granted it themselves afterward, and it was regularly collected. Subsequent Parliaments had granted it, and generally made the law, once for all, to continue in force during the life of the monarch. When Charles commenced his reign, the Peers were for renewing the law as usual, to continue throughout his reign. The Commons desired to enact the law only for a year at a time, so as to keep the power in their own hands. The two houses thus disagreed, and nothing was done. The king then went on to collect the tax without any authority except his own prerogative.
Another mode of levying money adopted by the king was what was called ship money. This was a plan for raising a navy by making every town contribute a certain number of ships, or the money necessary to build them. It originated in ancient times, and was at first confined to seaport towns which had ships. These towns were required to furnish them for the king's service, sometimes to be paid for by the king, at other times by the country, and at other times not to be paid for at all. Charles revived this plan, extending it to the whole country; a tax was assessed on all the towns, each one being required to furnish money enough for a certain number of ships. The number at one time required of the city of London was twenty.
There was one man who made his name very celebrated then, and it has continued very celebrated since, by his refusal to pay his ship money, and by his long and determined contest with the government in regard to it, in the courts. His name was John Hampden. He was a man of fortune and high character. His tax for ship money was only twenty shillings, but he declared that he would not pay it without a trial. The king had previously obtained the opinion of the judges that he had a right, in case of necessity, to assess and collect the ship money, and Hampden knew, therefore, that the decision would certainly, in the end, be against him. He knew, however, that the attention of the whole country would be attracted to the trial, and that the arguments which he should offer, to prove that the act of collecting such a tax on the part of the king's government was illegal and tyrannical, would be spread before the country, and would make a great impression, although they certainly would not alter the opinion of the judges, who, holding their offices by the king's appointment, were strongly inclined to take his side.
It resulted as Hampden had foreseen. The trial attracted universal attention. It was a great spectacle to see a man of fortune and of high standing, making all those preparations, and incurring so great expense, on account of a refusal to pay five dollars, knowing too, that he would have to pay it in the end. The people of the realm were convinced that Hampden was right, and they applauded and honored him very greatly for his spirit and courage. The trial lasted twelve days. The illegality and injustice of the tax were fully exposed. The people concurred entirely with Hampden, and even some of the judges were convinced. He was called the patriot Hampden, and his name will always be celebrated in English history. The whole discussion, however, though it produced a great effect at the time, would be of no interest now, since it turned mainly on the question what the king's rights actually were, according to the ancient customs and usages of the realm. The question before mankind now is a very different one; it is not what the powers and prerogatives of government have been in times past, but what they ought to be now and in time to come.
The king's government gained the victory, ostensibly, in this contest, and Hampden had to pay the money. Very large sums were collected, also, from others by this tax, and a great fleet was raised. The performances and exploits of the fleet had some influence in quieting the murmurs of the people. The fleet was the greatest which England had ever possessed. One of its exploits was to compel the Dutch to pay a large sum for the privilege of fishing in the narrow seas about Great Britain. The Dutch had always maintained that these seas were public, and open to all the world; and they had a vast number of fishing boats, called herring-busses, that used to resort to them for the purpose of catching herring, which they made a business of preserving and sending all over the world. The English ships attacked these fleets of herring-busses, and drove them off; and as the Dutch were not strong enough to defend them, they agreed to pay a large sum annually for the right to fish in the seas in question, protesting, however, against it as an extortion, for they maintained that the English had no control over any seas beyond the bays and estuaries of their own shores.
One of the chief means which Charles depended upon during the long period that he governed without a Parliament, was a certain famous tribunal or court called the Star Chamber. This court was a very ancient one, having been established in some of the earliest reigns; but it never attracted any special attention until the time of Charles. His government called it into action a great deal, and extended its powers, and made it a means of great injustice and oppression, as the people thought; or, as Charles would have said, a very efficient means of vindicating his prerogative, and punishing the stubborn and rebellious.
There were three reasons why this court was a more convenient and powerful instrument in the hands of the king and his council than any of the other courts in the kingdom. First, it was, by its ancient constitution, composed of members of the council, with the exception of two persons, who were to be judges in the other courts. This plan of having two judges from the common law courts seems to have been adopted for the purpose of securing some sort of conformity of the Star Chamber decisions with the ordinary principles of English jurisprudence. But then, as these two law judges would always be selected with reference to their disposition to carry out the king's plans, and as the other members of the court were all members of the government itself, of course the court was almost entirely under governmental control.
The second reason was, that in this court there was no jury. There had never been juries employed in it from its earliest constitution. The English had contrived the plan of trial by jury as a defense against the severity of government. If a man was accused of crime, the judges appointed by the government that he had offended were not to be allowed to decide whether he was guilty or not. They would be likely not to be impartial. The question of his guilt or innocence was to be left to twelve men, taken at hazard from the ordinary walks of life, and who, consequently, would be likely to sympathize with the accused, if they saw any disposition to oppress him, rather than to join against him with a tyrannical government. Thus the jury, as they said, was a great safeguard. The English have always attached great value to their system of trial by jury. The plan is retained in this country, though there is less necessity for it under our institutions. Now, in the Star Chamber, it had never been the custom to employ a jury. The members of the court decided the whole question; and as they were entirely in the interest of the government, the government, of course, had the fate of every person accused under their direct control.
The third reason consisted in the nature of the crimes which it had always been customary to try in this court. It had jurisdiction in a great variety of cases in which men were brought into collision with the government, such as charges of riot, sedition, libel, opposition to the edicts of the council, and to proclamations of the king. These and similar cases had always been tried by the Star Chamber, and these were exactly the cases which ought not to be tried by such a court; for persons accused of hostility to government ought not to be tried by government itself.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the origin of the term Star Chamber. The hall where the court was held was in a palace at Westminster, and there were a great many windows in it. Some think that it was from this that the court received its name. Others suppose it was because the court had cognizance of a certain crime, the Latin name of which has a close affinity with the word star. Another reason is, that certain documents, called starra, used to be kept in the hall. The prettiest idea is a sort of tradition that the ceiling of the hall was formerly ornamented with stars, and that this circumstance gave name to the hall. This supposition, however, unfortunately, has no better foundation than the others; for there were no stars on the ceiling in Charles's time, and there had not been any for a hundred years; nor is there any positive evidence that there ever were. However, in the absence of any real reason for preferring one of these ideas over the other, mankind seem to have wisely determined on choosing the most picturesque, so that it is generally agreed that the origin of the name was the ancient decoration of the ceiling of the hall with gilded stars.
However this may be, the court of the Star Chamber was an engine of prodigious power in the hands of Charles's government. It aided them in two ways. They could punish their enemies, and where these enemies were wealthy, they could fill up the treasury of the government by imposing enormous fines upon them. Sometimes the offenses for which these fines were imposed were not of a nature to deserve such severe penalties. For instance, there was a law against turning tillage land into pasturage. Land that is tilled supports men. Land that is pastured supports cattle and sheep. The former were a burden, sometimes, to landlords, the latter a means of wealth. Hence there was then, as there is now, a tendency in England, in certain parts of the country, for the landed proprietors to change their tillage land to pasture, and thus drive the peasants away from their homes. There were laws against this, but a great many persons had done it notwithstanding. One of these persons was fined four thousand pounds; an enormous sum. The rest were alarmed, and made compositions, as they were called; that is, they paid at once a certain sum on condition of not being prosecuted. Thirty thousand pounds were collected in this way, which was then a very large amount.
There were in those days, as there are now, certain tracts of land in England called the king's forests, though a large portion of them are now without trees. The boundaries of these lands had not been very well defined, but the government now published decrees specifying the boundaries, and extending them so far as to include, in many cases, the buildings and improvements of other proprietors. They then prosecuted these proprietors for having encroached, as they called it, upon the crown lands, and the Star Chamber assessed very heavy fines upon them. The people said all this was done merely to get pretexts to extort money from the nation, to make up for the want of a Parliament to assess regular taxes; but the government said it was a just and legal mode of protecting the ancient and legitimate rights of the king.
In these and similar modes, large sums of money were collected as fines and penalties for offenses more or less real. In other cases very severe punishments were inflicted for various sorts of offenses committed against the personal dignity of the king, or the great lords of his government. It was considered highly important to repress all appearance of disrespect or hostility to the king. One man got into some contention with one of the king's officers, and finally struck him. He was fined ten thousand pounds. Another man said that a certain archbishop had incurred the king's displeasure by desiring some toleration for the Catholics. This was considered a slander against the archbishop, and the offender was sentenced to be fined a thousand pounds, to be whipped, imprisoned, and to stand in the pillory at Westminster, and at three other places in various parts of the kingdom.
A gentleman was following a chase as a spectator, the hounds belonging to a nobleman. The huntsman, who had charge of the hounds, ordered him to keep back, and not come so near the hounds; and in giving him this order, spoke, as the gentleman alleged, so insolently, that he struck him with his riding-whip. The huntsman threatened to complain to his master, the nobleman. The gentleman said that if his master should justify him in such insulting language as he had used, he would serve him in the same manner. The Star Chamber fined him ten thousand pounds for speaking so disrespectfully of a lord.
By these and similar proceedings, large sums of money were collected by the Star Chamber for the king's treasury, and all expression of discontent and dissatisfaction on the part of the people was suppressed. This last policy, however, the suppression of expressions of dissatisfaction, is always a very dangerous one for any government to undertake. Discontent, silenced by force, is exasperated and extended. The outward signs of its existence disappear, but its inward workings become wide-spread and dangerous, just in proportion to the weight by which the safety-valve is kept down. Charles and his court of the Star Chamber rejoiced in the power and efficacy of their tremendous tribunal. They issued proclamations and decrees, and governed the country by means of them. They silenced all murmurs. But they were, all the time, disseminating through the whole length and breadth of the land a deep and inveterate enmity to royalty, which ended in a revolution of the government, and the decapitation of the king. They stopped the hissing of the steam for the time, but caused an explosion in the end.
Charles was King of Scotland as well as of England. The two countries were, however, as countries, distinct, each having its own laws, its own administration, and its own separate dominions. The sovereign, however, was the same. A king could inherit two kingdoms, just as a man can, in this country, inherit two farms, which may, nevertheless, be at a distance from each other, and managed separately. Now, although Charles had, from the death of his father, exercised sovereignty over the realm of Scotland, he had not been crowned, nor had even visited Scotland. The people of Scotland felt somewhat neglected. They murmured that their common monarch gave all his attention to the sister and rival kingdom. They said that if the king did not consider the Scottish crown worth coming after, they might, perhaps, look out for some other way of disposing of it.
The king, accordingly, in 1633, began to make preparations for a royal progress into Scotland. He first issued a proclamation requiring a proper supply of provisions to be collected at the several points of his proposed route, and specified the route, and the length of stay which he should make in each place. He set out on the 13th of May with a splendid retinue. He stopped at the seats of several of the nobility on the way, to enjoy the hospitalities and entertainments which they had prepared for him. He proceeded so slowly that it was a month before he reached the frontier. Here all his English servants and retinue retired from their posts, and their places were supplied by Scotchmen who had been previously appointed, and who were awaiting his arrival. He entered Edinburgh with great pomp and parade, all Scotland flocking to the capital to witness the festivities. The coronation took place three days afterward. He met the Scotch Parliament, and, for form's sake, took a part in the proceedings, so as actually to exercise his royal authority as King of Scotland. This being over, he was conducted in great state back to Berwick, which is on the frontier, and thence he returned by rapid journeys to London.
The king dissolved his last Parliament in 1629. He had now been endeavoring for four or five years to govern alone. He succeeded tolerably well, so far as external appearances indicated, up to this time. There was, however, beneath the surface, a deep-seated discontent, which was constantly widening and extending, and, soon after the return of the king from Scotland, real difficulties gradually arose, by which he was, in the end, compelled to call a Parliament again. What these difficulties were will be explained in the subsequent chapters.
Archbishop Laud.—The Church.—System of the English Church.—The Archbishop of Canterbury.—Canterbury.—The Cathedral.—Officers.—Laud made archbishop.—His business capacity.—Laud's character.—Episcopacy in England and the United States.—Opposition to the Established Church.—The Puritans.—Disputes about the services of the Church.—Controversy about amusements on Sunday.—Laud's contention with the judges.—Severe punishments for expression of opinion.—Case of Lilburne.—His indomitable spirit.—The young lawyer's toast.—Ingenious plea.—Laud's designs upon the Scotch Church.—Motives of Laud and the king.—The Liturgy.—The Scotch.—Laud prepares them a Liturgy.—Times of tumult.—Preaching to an empty church.—The Scotch rebel.—The king's fool.—A general assembly called in Scotland.—The king's expedition to the north.—The army at York.—The oath.—The king's march.—Artifice of the Scots.—The compromise.—The army disbanded.—The king's difficulties.—He thinks of a Parliament.
In getting so deeply involved in difficulties with his people, King Charles did not act alone. He had, as we have already explained, a great deal of help. There were many men of intelligence and rank who entertained the same opinions that he did, or who were, at least, willing to adopt them for the sake of office and power. These men he drew around him. He gave them office and power, and they joined him in the efforts he made to defend and enlarge the royal prerogative, and to carry on the government by the exercise of it. One of the most prominent and distinguished of these men was Laud.
The reader must understand that the Church, in England, is very different from any thing that exists under the same name in this country. Its bishops and clergy are supported by revenues derived from a vast amount of property which belongs to the Church itself. This property is entirely independent of all control by the people of the parishes. The clergyman, as soon as he is appointed, comes into possession of it in his own right; and he is not appointed by the people, but by some nobleman or high officer of state, who has inherited the right to appoint the clergyman of that particular parish. There are bishops, also, who have very large revenues, likewise independent; and over these bishops is one great dignitary, who presides in lofty state over the whole system. This officer is called the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is one other archbishop, called the Archbishop of York; but his realm is much more limited and less important. The Archbishop of Canterbury is styled the Lord Primate of all England. His rank is above that of all the peers of the realm. He crowns the kings. He has two magnificent palaces, one at Canterbury and one at London, and has very large revenues, also, to enable him to maintain a style of living in accordance with his rank. He has the superintendence of all the affairs of the Church for the whole realm, except a small portion pertaining to the archbishopric of York. His palace in London is on the bank of the Thames, opposite Westminster. It is called Lambeth Palace.
The city of Canterbury, which is the chief seat of his dominion, is southeast of London, not very far from the sea. The Cathedral is there, which is the archbishop's church. It is more than five hundred feet in length, and the tower is nearly two hundred and fifty feet high. The magnificence of the architecture and the decorations of the building correspond with its size. There is a large company of clergymen and other officers attached to the service of the Cathedral. They are more than a hundred in number. The palace of the archbishop is near.
The Church was thus, in the days of Charles, a complete realm of itself, with its own property, its own laws, its own legislature, and courts, and judges, its own capital, and its own monarch. It was entirely independent of the mass of the people in all these respects, as all these things were wholly controlled by the bishops and clergy, and the clergy were generally appointed by the noblemen, and the bishops by the king. This made the system almost entirely independent of the community at large; and as there was organized under it a vast amount of wealth, and influence, and power, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who presided over the whole, was as great in authority as he was in rank and honor. Now Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury.
King Charles had made him so. He had observed that Laud, who had been advanced to some high stations in the Church by his father, King James, was desirous to enlarge and strengthen the powers and prerogatives of the Church, just as he himself was endeavoring to do in respect to those of the throne. He accordingly promoted him from one post of influence and honor to another, until he made him at last Archbishop of Canterbury. Thus he was placed upon the summit of ecclesiastical grandeur and power.
He commenced his work, however, of strengthening and aggrandizing the Church, before he was appointed to this high office. He was Bishop of London for many years, which is a post, in some respects, second only to that of Archbishop of Canterbury. While in this station, he was appointed by the king to many high civil offices. He had great capacity for the transaction of business, and for the fulfillment of high trusts, whether of Church or state. He was a man of great integrity and moral worth. He was stern and severe in manners but learned and accomplished. His whole soul was bent on what he undoubtedly considered the great duty of his life, supporting and confirming the authority of the king and the power and influence of English Episcopacy. Notwithstanding his high qualifications, however, many persons were jealous of the influence which he possessed with the king, and murmured against the appointment of a churchman to such high offices of state.
There was another source of hostility to Laud. There was a large part of the people of England who were against the Church of England altogether. They did not like a system in which all power and influence came, as it were, from above downward. The king made the noblemen, the noblemen made the bishops, the bishops made the clergy, and the clergy ruled their flocks; the flocks themselves having nothing to say or do but to submit. It is very different with Episcopacy in this country. The people here choose the clergy, and the clergy choose the bishops, so that power in the Church, as in every thing else here, goes from below upward. The two systems, when at rest, look very similar in the two countries; but when in action, the current of life flows in contrary directions, making the two diametrically opposite to each other in spirit and power. In England, Episcopacy is an engine by which the people are ecclesiastically governed. Here, it is the machinery by which they govern. Thus, though the forms appear similar, the action is very diverse.
Now in England there was a large and increasing party that hated and opposed the whole Episcopal system. Laud, to counteract this tendency, attempted to define, and enlarge, and extend that system as far as possible. He made the most of all the ceremonies of worship, and introduced others, which were, indeed, not exactly new, but rather ancient ones revived. He did this conscientiously, no doubt, thinking that these forms of devotion were adapted to impress the soul of the worshiper, and lead him to feel, in his heart, the reverence which his outward action expressed. Many of the people, however, bitterly opposed these things. They considered it a return to popery. The more that Laud, and those who acted with him, attempted to magnify the rites and the powers of the Church, the more these persons began to abhor every thing of the kind. They wanted Christianity itself, in its purity, uncontaminated, as they said, by these popish and idolatrous forms. They were called Puritans.
There were a great many things which seem to us at the present day of very little consequence, which were then the subjects of endless disputes and of the most bitter animosity. For instance, one point was whether the place where the communion was to be administered should be called the communion table or the altar; and in what part of the church it should stand; and whether the person officiating should be called a priest or a clergyman; and whether he should wear one kind of dress or another. Great importance was attached to these things; but it was not on their own account, but on account of their bearing on the question whether the Lord's Supper was to be considered only a ceremony commemorative of Christ's death, or whether it was, whenever celebrated by a regularly authorized priest, a real renewal of the sacrifice of Christ, as the Catholics maintained. Calling the communion table an altar, and the officiating minister a priest, and clothing him in a sacerdotal garb, countenanced the idea of a renewal of the sacrifice of Christ. Laud and his co-adjutors urged the adoption of all these and similar usages. The Puritans detested them, because they detested and abhorred the doctrine which they seemed to imply.
Another great topic of controversy was the subject of amusements. It is a very singular circumstance, that in those branches of the Christian Church where rites and forms are most insisted upon, the greatest latitude is allowed in respect to the gayeties and amusements of social life. Catholic Paris is filled with theaters and dancing, and the Sabbath is a holiday. In London, on the other hand, the number of theaters is small, dancing is considered as an amusement of a more or less equivocal character, and the Sabbath is rigidly observed; and among all the simple Democratic churches of New England, to dance or to attend the theater is considered almost morally wrong. It was just so in the days of Laud. He wished to encourage amusements among the people, particularly on Sunday, after church. This was partly for the purpose of counteracting the efforts of those who were inclined to Puritan views. They attached great importance to their sermons and lectures, for in them they could address and influence the people. But by means of these addresses, as Laud thought, they put ideas of insubordination into the minds of the people, and encroached on the authority of the Church and of the king. To prevent this, the High-Church party wished to exalt the prayers in the Church service, and to give as little place and influence as possible to the sermon, and to draw off the attention of the people from the discussions and exhortations of the preachers by encouraging games, dances, and amusements of all kinds.
The judges in one of the counties, at a regular court held by them, once passed an order forbidding certain revels and carousals connected with the Church service, on account of the immoralities and disorders, as they alleged, to which they gave rise; and they ordered that public notice to this effect should be given by the bishop. The archbishop, Laud, considered this an interference on the part of the civil magistrates, with the powers and prerogatives of the Church. He had the judges brought before the council, and censured there; and they were required by the council to revoke their order at the next court. The judges did so, but in such a way as to show that they did it simply in obedience to the command of the king's council. The people, or at least all of them who were inclined to Puritan views, sided with the judges, and were more strict in abstaining from all such amusements on Sunday than ever. This, of course, made those who were on the side of Laud more determined to promote these gayeties. Thus, as neither party pursued, in the least degree, a generous or conciliatory course toward the other, the difference between them widened more and more. The people of the country were fast becoming either bigoted High-Churchmen or fanatical Puritans.
Laud employed the power of the Star Chamber a great deal in the accomplishment of his purpose of enforcing entire submission to the ecclesiastical authority of the Church. He even had persons sometimes punished very severely for words of disrespect, or for writings in which they censured what they considered the tyranny under which they suffered. This severe punishment for the mere expression of opinion only served to fix the opinion more firmly, and disseminate it more widely. Sometimes men would glory in their sufferings for this cause, and bid the authorities defiance.
One man, for instance, named Lilburne, was brought before the Star Chamber, charged with publishing seditious pamphlets. Now, in all ordinary courts of justice, no man is called upon to say any thing against himself. Unless his crime can be proved by the testimony of others, it can not be proved at all. But in the Star Chamber, whoever was brought to trial had to take an oath at first that he would answer all questions asked, even if they tended to criminate himself. When they proposed this oath to Lilburne, he refused to take it. They decided that this was contempt of court, and sentenced him to be whipped, put in the pillory, and imprisoned. While they were whipping him, he spent the time in making a speech to the spectators against the tyranny of bishops, referring to Laud, whom he considered as the author of these proceedings. He continued to do the same while in the pillory. As he passed along, too, he distributed copies of the pamphlets which he was prosecuted for writing. The Star Chamber, hearing that he was haranguing the mob, ordered him to be gagged. This did not subdue him. He began to stamp with his foot and gesticulate; thus continuing to express his indomitable spirit of hostility to the tyranny which he opposed. This single case would be of no great consequence alone, but it was not alone. The attempt to put Lilburne down was a symbol of the experiment of coercion which Charles in the state, and Laud in the Church, were trying upon the whole nation; it was a symbol both in respect to the means employed, and to the success attained by them.
One curious case is related, which turned out more fortunately than usual for the parties accused. Some young lawyers in London were drinking at an evening entertainment, and among other toasts they drank confusion to the Archbishop of Canterbury. One of the waiters, who heard them, mentioned the circumstance, and they were brought before the Star Chamber. Before their trial came on, they applied to a certain nobleman to know what they should do. "Where was the waiter," asked the nobleman, "when you drank the toast?" "At the door." "Oh! very well, then," said he; "tell the court that he only heard a part of the toast, as he was going out; and that the words really were, 'Confusion to the Archbishop of Canterbury's enemies.'" By this ingenious plea, and by means of a great appearance of humility and deference in the presence of the archbishop, the lawyers escaped with a reprimand.
Laud was not content with establishing and confirming throughout all England the authority of the Church, but attempted to extend the same system to Scotland. When King Charles went to Scotland to be crowned, he took Laud with him. He was pleased with Laud's endeavors to enlarge and confirm the powers of the Church, and wished to aid him in the work. There were two reasons for this. One was, that the same class of men, the Puritans, were the natural enemies of both, so that the king and the archbishop were drawn together by having one common foe. Then, as the places in the Church were not hereditary, but were filled by appointments from the king and the great nobles, whatever power the Church could get into its hands could be employed by the king to strengthen his own authority, and keep his subjects in subjection.
We must not, however, censure the king and his advisers too strongly for this plan. They doubtless were ambitious; they loved power; they wished to bear sway, unresisted and unquestioned, over the whole realm. But then the king probably thought that the exercise of such a government was necessary for the order and prosperity of the realm, besides being his inherent and indefeasible right. Good and bad motives were doubtless mingled here, as in all human action; but then the king was, in the main, doing what he supposed it was his duty to do. In proposing, therefore, to build up the Church in Scotland, and to make it conform to the English Church in its rites and ceremonies, he and Laud doubtless supposed that they were going greatly to improve the government of the sister kingdom.
There was in those days, as now, in the English Church, a certain prescribed course of prayers, and psalms, and Scripture lessons, for each day, to be read from a book by the minister. This was called the Liturgy. The Puritans did not like a Liturgy. It tied men up, and did not leave the individual mind of the preacher at liberty to range freely, as they wished it to do, in conducting the devotional services. It was on this very account that the friends of strong government did like it. They wished to curtail this liberty, which, however, they called license, and which they thought made mischief. In extemporaneous prayers, it is often easy to see that the speaker is aiming much more directly at producing a salutary effect on the minds of his hearers than at simply presenting petitions to the Supreme Being. But, notwithstanding this evil, the existence of which no candid man can deny, the enemies of forms, who are generally friends of the largest liberty, think it best to leave the clergyman free. The friends of forms, however, prefer forms on this very account. They like what they consider the wholesome and salutary restraints which they impose.
Now there has always been a great spirit of freedom in the Scottish mind. That people have ever been unwilling to submit to coercion or restraints. There is probably no race of men on earth that would make worse slaves than the Scotch. Their sturdy independence and determination to be free could never be subdued. In the days of Charles they were particularly fond of freely exercising their own minds, and of speaking freely to others on the subject of religion. They thought for themselves, sometimes right and sometimes wrong; but they would think, and they would express their thoughts; and their being thus unaccustomed, in one particular, to submit to restraints, rendered them more difficult to be governed in others. Laud thought, consequently, that they, particularly, needed a Liturgy. He prepared one for them. It was varied somewhat from the English Liturgy, though it was substantially the same. The king proclaimed it, and required the bishops to see that it was employed in all the churches in Scotland.
The day for introducing the Liturgy was the signal for riots all over the kingdom. In the principal church in Edinburgh they called out "A pope! A pope!" when the clergyman came in with his book and his pontifical robes. The bishop ascended the pulpit to address the people to appease them, and a stool came flying through the air at his head. The police then expelled the congregation, and the clergyman went through with the service of the Liturgy in the empty church, the congregation outside, in great tumult, accompanying the exercises with cries of disapprobation and resentment, and with volleys of stones against the doors and windows.
The Scotch sent a sort of embassador to London to represent to the king that the hostility to the Liturgy was so universal and so strong that it could not be enforced. But the king and his council had the same conscientious scruples about giving up in a contest with subjects, that a teacher or a parent, in our day, would feel in the case of resistance from children or scholars. The king sent down a proclamation that the observance of the Liturgy must be insisted on. The Scotch prepared to resist. They sent delegates to Edinburgh, and organized a sort of government. They raised armies. They took possession of the king's castles. They made a solemn covenant, binding themselves to insist on religious freedom. In a word, all Scotland was in rebellion.
It was the custom in those days to have, connected with the court, some half-witted person, who used to be fantastically dressed, and to have great liberty of speech, and whose province was to amuse the courtiers. He was called the king's jester, or, more commonly, the fool. The name of King Charles's fool was Archy. After this rebellion broke out, and all England was aghast at the extent of the mischief which Laud's Liturgy had done, the fool, seeing the archbishop go by one day, called out to him, "My lord! who is the fool now!" The archbishop, as if to leave no possible doubt in respect to the proper answer to the question, had poor Archy tried and punished. His sentence was to have his coat pulled up over his head, and to be dismissed from the king's service. If Laud had let the affair pass, it would have ended with a laugh in the street; but by resenting it, he gave it notoriety, caused it to be recorded, and has perpetuated the memory of the jest to all future times. He ought to have joined in the laugh, and rewarded Archy on the spot for so good a witticism.
The Scotch, besides organizing a sort of civil government, took measures for summoning a general assembly of their Church. This assembly met at Glasgow. The nobility and gentry flocked to Glasgow at the time of the meeting, to encourage and sustain the assembly, and to manifest their interest in the proceedings. The assembly very deliberately went to work, and, not content with taking a stand against the Liturgy which Charles had imposed, they abolished the fabric of Episcopacy—that is, the government of bishops—altogether. Thus Laud's attempt to perfect and confirm the system resulted in expelling it completely from the kingdom. It has never held up its head in Scotland since. They established Presbyterianism in its place, which is a sort of republican system, the pastors being all officially equal to each other, though banded together under a common government administered by themselves.
The king was determined to put down this rebellion at all hazards. He had made such good use of the various irregular modes of raising money which have been already described, and had been so economical in the use of it, that he had now quite a sum of money in his treasury; and had it not been for the attempt to enforce the unfortunate Liturgy upon the people of Scotland, he might, perhaps, have gone on reigning without a Parliament to the end of his days. He had now about two hundred thousand pounds, by means of which, together with what he could borrow, he hoped to make one single demonstration of force which would bring the rebellion to an end. He raised an army and equipped a fleet. He issued a proclamation summoning all the peers of the realm to attend him. He moved with this great concourse from London toward the north, the whole country looking on as spectators to behold the progress of this great expedition, by which their monarch was going to attempt to subdue again his other kingdom.
Charles advanced to the city of York, the great city of the north of England. Here he paused and established his court, with all possible pomp and parade. His design was to impress the Scots with such an idea of the greatness of the power which was coming to overwhelm them as to cause them to submit at once. But all this show was very hollow and delusive. The army felt a greater sympathy with the Scots than they did with the king. The complaints against Charles's government were pretty much the same in both countries. A great many Scotchmen came to York while the king was there, and the people from all the country round flocked thither too, drawn by the gay spectacles connected with the presence of such a court and army. The Scotchmen disseminated their complaints thus among the English people, and finally the king and his council, finding indications of so extensive a disaffection, had a form of an oath prepared, which they required all the principal persons to take, acknowledging allegiance to Charles, and denying that they had any intelligence or correspondence with the enemy. The Scotchmen all took the oath very readily, though some of the English refused.
At any rate, the state of things was not such as to intimidate the Scotch, and lead them, as the king had hoped, to sue for peace. So he concluded to move on toward the borders. He went to Newcastle, and thence to Berwick. From Berwick he moved along the banks of the Tweed, which here forms the boundary between the two kingdoms, and, finding a suitable place for such a purpose, the king had his royal tent pitched, and his army encamped around him.
Now, as King Charles had undertaken to subdue the Scots by a show of force, it seems they concluded to defend themselves by a show too, though theirs was a cheaper and more simple contrivance than his. They advanced with about three thousand men to a place distant perhaps seven miles from the English camp. The king sent an army of five thousand men to attack them. The Scotch, in the mean time, collected great herds of cattle from all the country around, as the historians say, and arranged them behind their little army in such a way as to make the whole appear a vast body of soldiers. A troop of horsemen, who were the advanced part of the English army, came in sight of this formidable host first, and, finding their numbers so much greater than they had anticipated, they fell back, and ordered the artillery and foot-soldiers who were coming up to retreat, and all together came back to the encampment. There were two or three military enterprises of similar character, in which nothing was done but to encourage the Scotch and dishearten the English. In fact, neither officers, soldiers, nor king wished to proceed to extremities. The officers and soldiers did not wish to fight the Scotch, and the king, knowing the state of his army, did not really dare to do it.
Finally, all the king's council advised him to give up the pretended contest, and to settle the difficulty by a compromise. Accordingly, in June, negotiations were commenced, and before the end of the month articles were signed. The king probably made the best terms he could, but it was universally considered that the Scots gained the victory. The king disbanded his army, and returned to London. The Scotch leaders went back to Edinburgh. Soon after this the Parliament and the General Assembly of the Church convened, and these bodies took the whole management of the realm into their own hands. They sent commissioners to London to see and confer with the king, and these commissioners seemed almost to assume the character of embassadors from a foreign state. These negotiations, and the course which affairs were taking in Scotland, soon led to new difficulties. The king found that he was losing his kingdom of Scotland altogether. It seemed, however, as if there was nothing that he could do to regain it. His reserved funds were gone, and his credit was exhausted. There was no resource left but to call a Parliament and ask for supplies. He might have known, however, that this would be useless, for there was so strong a fellow-feeling with the Scotch in their alleged grievances among the people of England, that he could not reasonably expect any response from the latter, in whatever way he might appeal to them.
THE EARL OF STRAFFORD.
The Earl of Strafford.—His early life.—Strafford's course in Parliament.—His opposition to the king.—The leaders removed.—The opposition still continues.—Wentworth imprisoned.—His return to Parliament.—Wentworth is courted.—He goes over to the king.—The king appoints Wentworth to office.—Wentworth is appointed President of the North.—Wentworth appointed to the government of Ireland.—Wentworth's arbitrary government.—He is made an earl.—Difficulties.—Laud's administration of his office.—Defense of Episcopacy.—Progress of non-conformity.—A Parliament called.—Strafford appointed commander-in-chief.—Meeting of Parliament.—The king's speech.—Address of the lord keeper.—Grievances.—Messages.—Parliament dissolved.—The Scots cross the borders and invade England.—March of the Scots.—The king goes to York.—Defeat of the English.—Perplexities and dangers.—The king calls a council of peers.—Message from the Scots.—The king compromises with the Scots.—Opposition of Strafford.—Strafford desires to return to Ireland.—The king's promised protection.
During the time that the king had been engaged in the attempt to govern England without Parliaments, he had, besides Laud, a very efficient co-operator, known in English history by the name of the Earl of Strafford. This title of Earl of Strafford was conferred upon him by the king as a reward for his services. His father's name was Wentworth. He was born in London, and the Christian name given to him was Thomas. He was educated at the University of Cambridge, and was much distinguished for his talents and his personal accomplishments. After finishing his education, he traveled for some time on the Continent, visiting foreign cities and courts, and studying the languages, manners, and customs of other nations. He returned at length to England. He was made a knight. His father died when he was about twenty-one, and left him a large fortune. He was about seven years older than King Charles, so that all these circumstances took place before the commencement of Charles's reign. For many years after this he was very extensively known in England as a gentleman of large fortune and great abilities, by the name of Sir Thomas Wentworth.
Sir Thomas Wentworth was a member of Parliament in those days, and in the contests between the king and the Parliament he took the side of Parliament. Charles used to maintain that his power alone was hereditary and sovereign; that the Parliament was his council; and that they had no powers or privileges except what he himself or his ancestors had granted and allowed them. Wentworth took very strong ground against this. He urged Parliament to maintain that their rights and privileges were inherent and hereditary as well as those of the king; that such powers as they possessed were their own, and were entirely independent of royal grant or permission; and that the king could no more encroach upon the privileges of Parliament, than Parliament upon the prerogatives of the king. This was in the beginning of the difficulties between the king and the Commons.
It will, perhaps, be recollected by the reader, that one of the plans which Charles adopted to weaken the opposition to him in Parliament was by appointing six of the leaders of this opposition to the office of sheriff in their several counties. And as the general theory of all monarchies is that the subjects are bound to obey and serve the king, these men were obliged to leave their seats in Parliament and go home, to serve as sheriffs. Charles and his council supposed that the rest would be more quiet and submissive when the leaders of the party opposed to him were taken away. But the effect was the reverse. The Commons were incensed at such a mode of interfering with their action, and became more hostile to the royal power than ever.
Wentworth himself, too, was made more determined in his opposition by this treatment. A short time after this, the king's plan of a forced loan was adopted, which has already been described; that is, a sum of money was assessed in the manner of a tax upon all the people of the kingdom, and each man was required to lend his proportion to the government. The king admitted that he had no right to make people give money without the action of Parliament, but claimed the right to require them to lend it. As Sir Thomas Wentworth was a man of large fortune, his share of the loan was considerable. He absolutely refused to pay it. The king then brought him before a court which was entirely under royal control, and he was condemned to be imprisoned. Knowing, however, that this claim on the part of the king was very doubtful, they mitigated the punishment by allowing him first a range of two miles around his place of confinement, and afterward they released him entirely.
He was chosen a member of Parliament again, and he returned to his seat more powerful and influential than ever. Buckingham, who had been his greatest enemy, was now dead, and the king, finding that he had great abilities and a spirit that would not yield to intimidation or force, concluded to try kindness and favors.
In fact, there are two different modes by which sovereigns in all ages and countries endeavor to neutralize the opposition of popular leaders. One is by intimidating them with threats and punishments, and the other buying them off with appointments and honors. Some of the king's high officers of state began to cultivate the acquaintance of Wentworth, and to pay him attentions and civilities. He could not but feel gratified with these indications of their regard. They complimented his talents and his powers, and represented to him that such abilities ought to be employed in the service of the state. Finally, the king conferred upon him the title of baron. Common gratitude for these marks of distinction and honor held him back from any violent opposition to the king. His enemies said he was bought off by honors and rewards. No doubt he was ambitious, and, like all other politicians, his supreme motive was love of consideration and honor. This was doubtless his motive in what he had done in behalf of the Parliament. But all that he could do as a popular leader in Parliament was to acquire a general ascendency over men's minds, and make himself a subject of fame and honor. All places of real authority were exclusively under the king's control, and he could only rise to such stations through the sovereign's favor. In a word, he could acquire only influence as a leader in Parliament, while the king could give him power.
Kings can exercise, accordingly, a great control over the minds of legislators by offering them office; and King Charles, after finding that his first advances to Wentworth were favorably received, appointed him one of his Privy Council. Wentworth accepted the office. His former friends considered that in doing this he was deserting them, and betraying the cause which he had at first espoused and defended. The country at large were much displeased with him, finding that he had forsaken their cause, and placed himself in a position to act against them.
Persons who change sides in politics or in religion are very apt to go from one extreme to another. Their former friends revile them, and they, in retaliation, act more and more energetically against them. It was so with Strafford. He gradually engaged more and more fully and earnestly in upholding the king. Finally, the king appointed him to a very high station, called the Presidency of the North. His office was to govern the whole north of England—of course, under the direction of the king and council. There were four counties under his jurisdiction, and the king gave him a commission which clothed him with enormous powers—powers greater, as all the people thought, than the king had any right to bestow.
Strafford proceeded to the north, and entered upon the government of his realm there, with a determination to carry out all the king's plans to the utmost. From being an ardent advocate of the rights of the people, as he was at the commencement of his career, he became a most determined and uncompromising supporter of the arbitrary power of the king. He insisted on the collection of money from the people, in all the ways that the king claimed the power to collect it by authority of his prerogative; and he was so strict and exacting in doing this, that he raised the revenue to four or five times what any of his predecessors had been able to collect. This, of course, pleased King Charles and his government extremely; for it was at a time during which the king was attempting to govern without a Parliament, and every accession to his funds was of extreme importance. Laud, too, the archbishop, was highly gratified with his exertions and his success, and the king looked upon Laud and Wentworth as the two most efficient supporters of his power. They were, in fact, the two most efficient promoters of his destruction.
Of course, the people of the north hated him. While he was earning the applause of the archbishop and the king, and entitling himself to new honors and increased power, he was sewing the seeds of the bitterest animosity in the hearts of the people every where. Still he enjoyed all the external marks of consideration and honor. The President of the North was a sort of king. He was clothed with great powers, and lived in great state and splendor. He had many attendants, and the great nobles of the land, who generally took Charles's side in the contests of the day, envied Wentworth's greatness and power, and applauded the energy and success of his administration.
Ireland was, at this time, in a disturbed and disordered state, and Laud proposed that Wentworth should be appointed by the king to the government of it. A great proportion of the inhabitants were Catholics, and were very little disposed to submit to Protestant rule. Wentworth was appointed lord deputy, and afterward lord lieutenant, which made him king of Ireland in all but the name. Every thing, of course, was done in the name of Charles. He carried the same energy into his government here that he had exhibited in the north of England. He improved the condition of the country astonishingly in respect to trade, to revenue, and to public order. But he governed in the most arbitrary manner, and he boasted that he had rendered the king as absolute a sovereign in Ireland as any prince in the world could be. Such a boast from a man who had once been a very prominent defender of the rights of the people against this very kind of sovereignty, was fitted to produce a feeling of universal exasperation and desire of revenge. The murmurs and muttered threats which filled the land, though suppressed, were very deep and very strong.
The king, however, and Laud, considered Wentworth as their most able and efficient co-adjutor; and when the difficulties in Scotland began to grow serious, they recalled him from Ireland, and put that country into the hands of another ruler. The king then advanced him to the rank of an earl. His title was the Earl of Strafford. As the subsequent parts of his history attracted more attention than those preceding his elevation to this earldom, he has been far more widely known among mankind by the name of Strafford than by his original name of Wentworth, which was, from this period, nearly forgotten.
To return now to the troubles in Scotland. The king found that it would be impossible to go on without supplies, and he accordingly concluded, on the whole, to call a Parliament. He was in serious trouble. Laud was in serious trouble too. He had been indefatigably engaged for many years in establishing Episcopacy all over England, and in putting down, by force of law, all disposition to dissent from it; and in attempting to produce, throughout the realm, one uniform system of Christian faith and worship. This was his idea of the perfection of religious order and right. He used to make an annual visitation to all the bishoprics in the realm; inquire into the usages which prevailed there; put a stop, so far as he could, to all irregularities; and confirm and establish, by the most decisive measures, the Episcopal authority. He sent in his report to the king of the results of his inquiries, asking the king's aid, where his own powers were insufficient, for the more full accomplishment of his plans. But, notwithstanding all this diligence and zeal, he found that he met with very partial success. The irregularities, as he called them, which he suppressed in one place, would break out in another; the disposition to throw off the dominion of bishops was getting more and more extensive and deeply seated; and now, the result of the religious revolution in Scotland, and of the general excitement which it produced in England, was to widen and extend this feeling more than ever.
He did not, however, give up the contest, He employed an able writer to draw up a defense of Episcopacy, as the true and scriptural form of Church government. The book, when first prepared, was moderate in its tone, and allowed that in some particular cases a Presbyterian mode of government might be admissible; but Laud, in revising the book, struck out these concessions as unnecessary and dangerous, and placed Episcopacy in full and exclusive possession of the ground, as the divinely instituted and only admissible form of Church government and discipline. He caused this book to be circulated; but the attempt to reason with the refractory, after having failed in the attempt to coerce them, is not generally very successful. The archbishop, in his report to the king this year of the state of things throughout his province, represents the spirit of non-conformity to the Church of England as getting too strong for him to control without more efficient help from the civil power; but whether it would be wise, he added, to undertake any more effectual coercion in the present distracted state of the kingdom, he left it for the king to decide.
Laud proposed that the council should recommend to the king the calling of a Parliament. At the same time, they passed a resolution that, in case the Parliament "should prove peevish, and refuse to grant supplies, they would sustain the king in the resort to extraordinary measures." This was regarded as a threat, and did not help to prepossess the members favorably in regard to the feeling with which the king was to meet them. The king ordered the Parliament to be elected in December, but did not call them together until April. In the mean time, he went on raising an army, so as to have his military preparations in readiness. He, however, appointed a new set of officers to the command of this army, neglecting those who were in command before, as he had found them so little disposed to act efficiently in his cause. He supplied the leader's place with Strafford. This change produced very extensive murmurs of dissatisfaction, which, added to all the other causes of complaint, made the times look very dark and stormy.
The Parliament assembled in April. The king went into the House of Lords, the Commons being, as usual, summoned to the bar. He addressed them as follows:
"My Lords and gentlemen,—There was never a King who had a more great and weighty Cause to call his People together than myself. I will not trouble you with the particulars. I have informed my lord keeper, and now command him to speak, and I desire your Attention."
The keeper referred to was the keeper of the king's seals, who was, of course, a great officer of state. He made a speech, informing the houses, in general terms, of the king's need of money, but said that it was not necessary for him to explain minutely the monarch's plans, as they were exclusively his own concern. We may as well quote his words, in order to show in what light the position and province of a British Parliament was considered in those days.
"His majesty's kingly resolutions," said the lord keeper, "are seated in the ark of his sacred breast, and it were a presumption of too high a nature for any Uzzah uncalled to touch it. Yet his Majesty is now pleased to lay by the shining Beams of Majesty, as Phoebus did to Phaeton, that the distance between Sovereignty and Subjection should not bar you of that filial freedom of Access to his Person and Counsels; only let us beware how, with the Son of Clymene, we aim not at the guiding of the Chariot, as if that were the only Testimony of Fatherly Affection; and let us remember, that though the King sometimes lays by the Beams and Rays of Majesty, he never lays by Majesty itself."
When the keeper had finished his speech, the king confirmed it by saying that he had exaggerated nothing, and the houses were left to their deliberations. Instead of proceeding to the business of raising money, they commenced an inquiry into the grievances, as they called them—that is, all the unjust acts and the maladministration of the government, of which the country had been complaining for the ten years during which there had been an intermission of Parliaments. The king did all in his power to arrest this course of procedure. He sent them message after message, urging them to leave these things, and take up first the question of supplies. He then sent a message to the House of Peers, requesting them to interpose and exert their influence to lead the Commons to act. The Peers did so. The Commons sent them back a reply that their interference in the business of supply, which belonged to the Commons alone, was a breach of their privileges. "And," they added, "therefore, the Commons desire their lordships in their wisdom to find out some way for the reparation of their privileges broken by that act, and to prevent the like infringement in future."
Thus repulsed on every hand, the king gave up the hope of accomplishing any thing through the action of the House of Commons, and he suddenly determined to dissolve Parliament. The session had continued only about three weeks. In dissolving the Parliament the king took no notice of the Commons whatever, but addressed the Lords alone. The Commons and the whole country were incensed at such capricious treatment of the national Legislature.
The king and his council tried all summer to get the army ready to be put in motion. The great difficulty, of course, was want of funds. The Convocation, which was the great council of the Church, and which was accustomed in those days to sit simultaneously with Parliament, continued their session afterward in this case, and raised some money for the king. The nobles of the court subscribed a considerable amount, also, which they lent him. They wished to sustain him in his contest with the Commons on their own account, and then, besides, they felt a personal interest in him, and a sympathy for him in the troubles which were thickening around him.
The summer months passed away in making the preparations and getting the various bodies of troops ready, and the military stores collected at the place of rendezvous in York and Newcastle. The Scots, in the mean time, had been assembling their forces near the borders, and, being somewhat imboldened by their success in the previous campaign, crossed the frontier, and advanced boldly to meet the forces of the king.
They published a manifesto, declaring that they were not entering England with any hostile intent toward their sovereign, but were only coming to present to him their humble petitions for a redress of their grievances, which they said they were sure he would graciously receive as soon as he had opportunity to learn from them how great their grievances had been. They respectfully requested that the people of England would allow them to pass safely and without molestation through the land, and promised to conduct themselves with the utmost propriety and decorum. This promise they kept. They avoided molesting the inhabitants in any way, and purchased fairly every thing they consumed. When the English officers learned that the Scotch had crossed the Tweed, they sent on immediately to London, to the king, urging him to come north at once, and join the army, with all the remaining forces at his command. The king did so, but it was too late. He arrived at York; from York he went northward to reach the van of his army, which had been posted at Newcastle, but on his way he was met by messengers saying that they were in full retreat, and that the Scotch had got possession of Newcastle.
The circumstances of the battle were these. Newcastle is upon the Tyne. The banks at Newcastle are steep and high, but about four miles above the town is a place called Newburn, where was a meadow near the river, and a convenient place to cross. The Scotch advanced in a very slow and orderly manner to Newburn, and encamped there. The English sent a detachment from Newcastle to arrest their progress. The Scotch begged them not to interrupt their march, as they were only going to present petitions to the king! The English general, of course, paid no attention to this pretext. The Scotch army then attacked them and soon put them to flight. The routed English soldiers fled to Newcastle, and were there joined by all that portion of the army which was in Newcastle, in a rapid retreat. The Scotch took possession of the town, but conducted themselves in a very orderly manner, and bought and paid for every thing they used.
The poor king was now in a situation of the most imminent and terrible danger. Rebel subjects were in full possession of one kingdom, and were now advancing at the head of victorious armies into the other. He himself had entirely alienated the affections of a large portion of his subjects, and had openly quarreled with and dismissed the Legislature. He had no funds, and had exhausted all possible means of raising funds. He was half distracted with the perplexities and dangers of his position.
His deciding on dissolving Parliament in the spring was a hasty step, and he bitterly regretted it the moment the deed was done. He wished to recall it. He deliberated several days about the possibility of summoning the same members to meet again, and constituting them again a Parliament. But the lawyers insisted that this could not be done. A dissolution was a dissolution. The Parliament, once dissolved, was no more. It could not be brought to life again. There must be new orders to the country to proceed to new elections. To do this at once would have been too humiliating for the king. He now found, however, that the necessity for it could no longer be postponed. There was such a thing in the English history as a council of peers alone, called in a sudden emergency which did not allow of time for the elections necessary to constitute the House of Commons. Charles called such a council of peers to meet at York, and they immediately assembled.
In the mean time the Scotch sent embassadors to York, saying to the king that they were advancing to lay their grievances before him! They expressed great sorrow and regret at the victory which they had been compelled to gain over some forces that had attempted to prevent them from getting access to their sovereign. The king laid this communication before the lords, and asked their advice what to do; and also asked them to counsel him how he should provide funds to keep his army together until a Parliament could be convened. The lords advised him to appoint commissioners to meet the Scotch, and endeavor to compromise the difficulties; and to send to the city of London, asking that corporation to lend him a small sum until Parliament could be assembled.
This advice was followed. A temporary treaty was made with the rebels, although making a treaty with rebels is perhaps the most humiliating thing that a hereditary sovereign is ever compelled to do. The Earl of Strafford was, however, entirely opposed to this policy. He urged the king most earnestly not to give up the contest without a more decisive struggle. He represented to him the danger of beginning to yield to the torrent which he now began to see would overwhelm them all if it was allowed to have its way. He tried to persuade the king that the Scots might yet be driven back, and that it would be possible to get along without a Parliament. He dreaded a Parliament. The king, however, and his other advisers, thought that they must yield a little to the storm. Strafford then wanted to be allowed to return to his post in Ireland, where he thought that he should probably be safe from the terrible enmity which he must have known that he had awakened in England, and which he thought a Parliament would concentrate and bring upon his devoted head. But the king would not consent to this. He assured Strafford that if a Parliament should assemble, he would take care that they should not hurt a hair of his head. Unfortunate monarch! How little he foresaw that that very Parliament, from whose violence he thus promised to defend his favorite servant so completely as to insure him from the slightest injury, would begin by taking off his favorite's head, and end with taking off his own!
DOWNFALL OF STRAFFORD AND LAUD
Opening of the new Parliament.—The king's speech.—Attacks on Strafford and Laud.—Speeches against them.—Feelings of hostility.—Bill of attainder.—Mode of proceeding.—The trial.—Proceedings against Strafford.—Arrest of Strafford.—Usher of the black rod.—Laud threatened with violence.—Arrest of Laud on the charge of treason.—Laud's speech.—His confinement.—Trial of Strafford.—Unjust conduct of the Commons.—Arrangements at Westminster Hall.—Charges.—Imposing scene.—Strafford's able and eloquent defense.—The charge of treason a mere pretext.—Vote on the bill of attainder.—Interposition of the king.—Clamor of the populace.—Condemnation.—The king hesitates about signing the bill.—The Tower.—Strafford's letter to the king.—The king signs the bill.—Strafford's surprise.—The king asks mercy for Strafford.—Mercy refused.—Strafford's message to Laud.—Composure of Strafford.—His execution.—Execution of Laud.—His firmness.