The Parliament assembled in November, 1640. The king proceeded to London to attend it. He left Strafford in command of the army at York. Active hostilities had been suspended, as a sort of temporary truce had been concluded with the Scots, to prepare the way for a final treaty. Strafford had been entirely opposed to this, being still full of energy and courage. The king, however, began to feel alarmed. He went to London to meet the Parliament which he had summoned, but he was prepared to meet them in a very different spirit from that which he had manifested on former occasions. He even gave up all the external circumstances of pomp and parade with which the opening of Parliament had usually been attended. He had been accustomed to go to the House of Lords in state, with a numerous retinue and great parade. Now he was conveyed from his palace along the river in a barge, in a quiet and unostentatious manner. His opening speech, too, was moderate and conciliatory. In a word, it was pretty evident to the Commons that the proud and haughty spirit of their royal master was beginning to be pretty effectually humbled.
Of course, now, in proportion as the king should falter, the Commons would grow bold. The House immediately began to attack Laud and Strafford in their speeches. It is the theory of the British Constitution that the king can do no wrong; whatever criminality at any time attaches to the acts of his administration, belongs to his advisers, not to himself. The speakers condemned, in most decided terms, the arbitrary and tyrannical course which the government had pursued during the intermission of Parliaments, but charged it all, not to the king, but to Strafford and Laud. Strafford had been, as they considered, the responsible person in civil and military affairs, and Laud in those of the Church. These speeches were made to try the temper of the House and of the country, and see whether there was hostility enough to Laud and Strafford in the House and in the country, and boldness enough in the expression of it, to warrant their impeachment.
The attacks thus made in the House against the two ministers were made very soon. Within a week after the opening of Parliament, one of the members, after declaiming a long time against the encroachments and tyranny of Archbishop Laud, whose title, according to English usage, was "his Grace," said he hoped that, before the year ran round, his grace would either have more grace or no grace at all; "for," he added, "our manifold griefs do fill a mighty and vast circumference, yet in such a manner that from every part our lines of sorrow do meet in him, and point at him the center, from whence our miseries in this Church, and many of them in the Commonwealth, do flow." He said, also, that if they must submit to a pope, he would rather obey one that was as far off as the Tiber, than to have him come as near as the Thames.
Similar denunciations were made against Strafford, and they awakened no opposition. On the contrary, it was found that the feeling of hostility against both the ministers was so universal and so strong, that the leaders began to think seriously of an impeachment on a charge of high treason. High treason is the greatest crime known to the English law, and the punishment for it, especially in the case of a peer of the realm, is very terrible. This punishment was generally inflicted by what was called a bill of attainder, which brought with it the worst of penalties. It implied the perfect destruction of the criminal in every sense. He was to lose his life by having his head cut off upon a block. His body, according to the strict letter of the law, was to be mutilated in a manner too shocking to be here described. His children were disinherited, and his property all forfeited. This was considered as the consequence of the attainting of the blood, which rendered it corrupt, and incapable of transmitting an inheritance. In fact, it was the intention of the bill of attainder to brand the wretched object of it with complete and perpetual infamy.
The proceedings, too, in the impeachment and trial of a high minister of state, were always very imposing and solemn. The impeachment must be moved by the Commons, and tried by the Peers. A peer of the realm could be tried by no inferior tribunal. When the Commons proposed bringing articles of impeachment against an officer of state, they sent first a messenger to the House of Peers to ask them to arrest the person whom they intended to accuse, and to hold him for trial until they should have their articles prepared. The House of Peers would comply with this request, and a time would be appointed for the trial. The Commons would frame the charges, and appoint a certain number of their members to manage the prosecution. They would collect evidence, and get every thing ready for the trial. When the time arrived, the chamber of the House of Peers would be arranged as a court room, or they would assemble in some other hall more suitable for the purpose, the prisoner would be brought to the bar, the commissioners on the part of the Commons would appear with their documents and their evidence, persons of distinction would assemble to listen to the proceedings, and the trial would go on.
It was in accordance with this routine that the Commons commenced proceedings against the Earl of Strafford, very soon after the opening of the session, by appointing a committee to inquire whether there was any just cause to accuse him of treason. The committee reported to the House that there was just cause. The House then appointed a messenger to go to the House of Lords, saying that they had found that there was just cause to accuse the Earl of Strafford of high treason, and to ask that they would sequester him from the House, as the phrase was, and hold him in custody till they could prepare the charges and the evidence against him. All these proceedings were in secret session, in order that Strafford might not get warning and fly. The Commons then nearly all accompanied their messenger to the House of Lords, to show how much in earnest they were. The Lords complied with the request. They caused the earl to be arrested and committed to the charge of the usher of the black rod, and sent two officers to the Commons to inform them that they had done so.
The usher of the black rod is a very important officer of the House of Lords. He is a sort of sheriff, to execute the various behests of the House, having officers to serve under him for this purpose. The badge of his office has been, for centuries, a black rod with a golden lion at the upper end, which is borne before him as the emblem of his authority. A peer of the realm, when charged with treason, is committed to the custody of this officer. In this case he took the Earl of Strafford under his charge, and kept him at his house, properly guarded. The Commons went on preparing the articles of impeachment.
This was in November. During the winter following the parties struggled one against another, Laud doing all in his power to strengthen the position of the king, and to avert the dangers which threatened himself and Strafford. The animosity, however, which was felt against him, was steadily increasing. The House of Commons did many things to discountenance the rites and usages of the Episcopal Church, and to make them odious. The excitement among the populace increased, and mobs began to interfere with the service in some of the churches in London and Westminster. At last a mob of five hundred persons assembled around the archbishop's palace at Lambeth.[E] This palace, as has been before stated, is on the bank of the Thames, just above London, opposite to Westminster. The mob were there for two hours, beating at the doors and windows in an attempt to force admission, but in vain. The palace was very strongly guarded, and the mob were at length repulsed. One of the ringleaders was taken and hanged.
[Footnote E: See view of this palace on page 133.]
One would have thought that this sort of persecution would have awakened some sympathy in the archbishop's favor; but it was too late. He had been bearing down so mercilessly himself upon the people of England for so many years, suppressing, by the severest measures, all expressions of discontent, that the hatred had become entirely uncontrollable. Its breaking out at one point only promoted its breaking out in another. The House of Commons sent a messenger to the House of Lords, as they had done in the case of Strafford, saying that they had found good cause to accuse the Archbishop of Canterbury of treason, and asked that he might be sequestered from the House, and held in custody till they could prepare their charges, and the evidence to sustain them.
The archbishop was at that time in his seat. He was directed to withdraw. Before leaving the chamber he asked leave to say a few words. Permission was granted, and he said in substance that he was truly sorry to have awakened in the hearts of his countrymen such a degree of displeasure as was obviously excited against him. He was most unhappy to have lived to see the day in which he was made subject to a charge of treason. He begged their lordships to look at the whole course of his life, and he was sure that they would be convinced that there was not a single member of the House of Commons who could really think him guilty of such a charge.
Here one of the lords interrupted him to say that by speaking in that manner he was uttering slander against the House of Commons, charging them with solemnly bringing accusations which they did not believe to be true. The archbishop then said, that if the charge must be entertained, he hoped that he should have a fair trial, according to the ancient Parliamentary usages of the realm. Another of the lords interrupted him again, saying that such a remark was improper, as it was not for him to prescribe the manner in which the proceedings should be conducted. He then withdrew, while the House should consider what course to take. Presently he was summoned back to the bar of the House, and there committed to the charge of the usher of the black rod. The usher conducted him to his house, and he was kept there for ten weeks in close confinement.
At last the time for the trial of Strafford came on, while Laud was in confinement. The interest felt in the trial was deep and universal. There were three kingdoms, as it were, combined against one man. Various measures were resorted to by the Commons to diminish the possibility that the accused should escape conviction. Some of them have since been thought to be unjust and cruel. For example, several persons who were strong friends of Strafford, and who, as was supposed, might offer testimony in his favor, were charged with treason and confined in prison until the trial was over. The Commons appointed thirteen persons to manage the prosecution. These persons were many months preparing the charges and the evidence, keeping their whole proceedings profoundly secret during all the time. At last the day approached, and Westminster Hall was fitted up and prepared to be the scene of the trial.
Westminster Hall has the name of being the largest room whose roof is not supported by pillars, in Europe. It stands in the region of the palaces and the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, and has been for seven centuries the scene of pageants and ceremonies without number. It is said that ten thousand persons have been accommodated in it at a banquet.[F] This great room was fitted up for the trial. Seats were provided for both houses of Parliament; for the Commons were to be present as accusers, and the Lords as the court. There was, as usual, a chair of state, or throne, for the king, as a matter of form. There was also a private gallery, screened from the observation of the spectators, where the king and queen could sit and witness the proceedings. They attended during the whole trial.
[Footnote F: It is two hundred and seventy feet long, seventy-five wide, and ninety high.]
One would have supposed that the deliberate solemnity of these preparations would have calmed the animosity of Strafford's enemies, and led them to be satisfied at last with something less than his utter destruction. But this seems not to have been the effect. The terrible hostilities which had been gathering strength so long, seemed to rage all the more fiercely now that there was a prospect of their gratification. And yet it was very hard to find any thing sufficiently distinct and tangible against the accused to warrant his conviction. The commissioners who had been appointed to manage the case divided the charges among them. When the trial commenced, they stated and urged these charges in succession. Strafford, who had not known beforehand what they were to be, replied to them, one by one, with calmness and composure, and yet with great eloquence and power. The extraordinary abilities which he had shown through the whole course of his life, seemed to shine out with increased splendor amid the awful solemnities which were now darkening its close. He was firm and undaunted, and yet respectful and submissive. The natural excitements of the occasion; the imposing assembly; the breathless attention; the magnificent hall; the consciousness that the opposition which he was struggling to stem before that great tribunal was the combined hostility of three kingdoms, and that the torrent was flowing from a reservoir which had been accumulating for many years; and that the whole civilized world were looking on with great interest to watch the result; and perhaps, more than all, that he was in the unseen presence of his sovereign, whom he was accustomed to look upon as the greatest personage on earth; these, and the other circumstances of the scene, filled his mind with strong emotions, and gave animation, and energy, and a lofty eloquence to all that he said.
The trial lasted eighteen days, the excitement increasing consistently to the end. There was nothing proved which could with any propriety be considered as treason. He had managed the government, it is true, with one set of views in respect to the absolute prerogatives and powers of the king, while those who now were in possession of power held opposite views, and they considered it a matter of necessity that he should die. The charge of treason was a pretext to bring the case somewhat within the reach of the formalities of law. It is one of the necessary incidents of all governmental systems founded on force, and not on the consent of the governed, that when great and fundamental questions of policy arise, they often bring the country to a crisis in which there can be no real settlement of the dispute without the absolute destruction of one party or the other. It was so now, as the popular leaders supposed. They had determined that stern necessity required that Laud and Strafford must die; and the only object of going through the formality of a trial was to soften the violence of the proceeding a little, by doing all that could be done toward establishing a legal justification of the deed.
The trial, as has been said, lasted eighteen days. During all this time, the leaders were not content with simply urging the proceedings forward energetically in Westminster Hall. They were maneuvering and managing in every possible way to secure the final vote. But, notwithstanding this, Strafford's defense was so able, and the failure to make out the charge of treason against him was so clear, that it was doubtful what the result would be. Accordingly, without waiting for the decision of the Peers on the impeachment, a bill of attainder against the earl was brought forward in the House of Commons. This bill of attainder was passed by a large majority—yeas 204, nays 59. It was then sent to the House of Lords. The Lords were very unwilling to pass it.
While they were debating it, the king sent a message to them to say that in his opinion the earl had not been guilty of treason, or of any attempt to subvert the laws; and that several things which had been alleged in the trial, and on which the bill of attainder chiefly rested, were not true. He was willing, however, if it would satisfy the enemies of the earl, to have him convicted of a misdemeanor, and made incapable of holding any public office from that time; but he protested against his being punished by a bill of attainder on a charge of treason.
This interposition of the king in Strafford's favor awakened loud expressions of displeasure. They called it an interference with the action of one of the houses of Parliament. The enemies of Strafford created a great excitement against him out of doors. They raised clamorous calls for his execution, among the populace. The people made black lists of the names of persons who were in the earl's favor, and posted them up in public places, calling such persons Straffordians, and threatening them with public vengeance. The Lords, who would have been willing to have saved Strafford's life if they had dared, began to find that they could not do so without endangering their own. When at last the vote came to be taken in the House of Lords, out of eighty members who had been present at the trial, only forty-six were present to vote, and the bill was passed by a vote of thirty-five to eleven. The thirty-four who were absent were probably all against the bill, but were afraid to appear.
The responsibility now devolved upon the king. An act of Parliament must be signed by the king. He really enacts it. The action of the two houses is, in theory, only a recommendation of the measure to him. The king was determined on no account to give his consent to Strafford's condemnation. He, however, laid the subject before his Privy Council. They, after deliberating upon it, recommended that he should sign the bill. Nothing else, they said, could allay the terrible storm which was raging, and the king ought to prefer the peace and safety of the realm to the life of any one man, however innocent he might be. The populace, in the mean time, crowded around the king's palace at Whitehall, calling out "Justice! justice!" and filling the air with threats and imprecations; and preachers in their pulpits urged the necessity of punishing offenders, and descanted on the iniquity which those magistrates committed who allowed great transgressors to escape the penalty due for their crimes.
The queen, too, was alarmed. She begged the king, with tears, not any longer to attempt to withstand the torrent which threatened to sweep them all away in its fury. While things were in this state, Charles received a letter from Strafford in the Tower, expressing his consent, and even his request, that the king should yield and sign the bill.
The Tower of London is very celebrated in English history. Though called simply by the name of the Tower, it is, in fact, as will be seen by the engraving in the frontispiece, an extended group of buildings, which are of all ages, sizes, and shapes, and covering an extensive area. It is situated below the city of London, having been originally built as a fortification for the defense of the city. Its use for this purpose has, however, long since passed away.
Strafford said, in his letter to the king,
"To set your Majesty's conscience at Liberty, I do most humbly beseech your Majesty for Prevention of Evils, which may happen by your Refusal, to pass this Bill. Sir, My Consent shall more acquit you herein to God, than all the World can do besides; To a willing Man there is no Injury done; and as by God's Grace, I forgive all the World, with a calmness and Meekness of infinite Contentment to my dislodging Soul, so, Sir, to you I can give the Life of this World with all the cheerfulness imaginable, in the just Acknowledgment of your exceeding Favors; and only beg that in your Goodness you would vouchsafe to cast your gracious Regard upon my poor Son and his three sisters, less or more, and no otherwise than as their unfortunate Father may hereafter appear more or less guilty of this Death. God long preserve your Majesty."
On receiving this letter the king caused the bill to be signed. He would not do it with his own hands, but commissioned two of his council to do it in his name. He then sent a messenger to Strafford to announce the decision, and to inform him that he must prepare to die. The messenger observed that the earl seemed surprised; and after hearing that the king had signed the bill, he quoted, in a tone of despair, the words of Scripture, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, for in them is no salvation." Historians have thought it strange that Strafford should have expressed this disappointment when he had himself requested the king to resist the popular will no longer; and they infer from it that he was not sincere in the request, but supposed that the king would regard it as an act of nobleness and generosity on his part, that would render him more unwilling than ever to consent to his destruction, and that he was accordingly surprised and disappointed when he found that the king had taken him at his word. It is said, however, by some historians, that this letter was a forgery, and that it was written by some of Strafford's enemies to lead the king to resist no longer. The reader, by perusing the letter again, can perhaps form some judgment whether such a document was more likely to have been fabricated by enemies, or really written by the unhappy prisoner himself.
The king did not entirely give up the hope of saving his friend, even after the bill of attainder was signed. He addressed the following message to the House of Lords.
My Lords,—I did yesterday satisfy the Justice of this Kingdom by passing the Bill of Attainder against the Earl of Strafford: but Mercy being as inherent and inseparable to a King as Justice, I desire at this time in some measure to show that likewise, by suffering that unfortunate Man to fulfill the natural course of his Life in a close Imprisonment: yet so, if ever he make the least Offer to escape, or offer directly or indirectly to meddle in any sort of public Business, especially with Me either by Message or Letter, it shall cost him his Life without farther Process. This, if it may be done without the Discontentment of my People, will be an unspeakable Contentment to me.
"I will not say that your complying with me in this my intended Mercy, shall make me more willing, but certainly 'twill make me more cheerful in granting your just Grievances: But if no less than his Life can satisfie my People, I must say Let justice be done. Thus again recommending the consideration of my Intention to you, I rest,
"Your Unalterable and Affectionate Friend, "CHARLES R."
The Lords were inexorable. Three days from the time of signing the bill, arrangements were made for conducting the prisoner to the scaffold. Laud, who had been his friend and fellow-laborer in the king's service, was confined also in the Tower, awaiting his turn to come to trial. They were not allowed to visit each other, but Strafford sent word to Laud requesting him to be at his window at the time when he was to pass, to bid him farewell, and to give him his blessing. Laud accordingly appeared at the window, and Strafford, as he passed, asked for the prelate's prayers and for his blessing. The old man, for Laud was now nearly seventy years of age, attempted to speak, but he could not command himself sufficiently to express what he wished to say, and he fell back into the arms of his attendants. "God protect you," said Strafford, and walked calmly on.
He went to the place of execution with the composure and courage of a hero. He spoke freely to those around him, asserted his innocence, sent messages to his absent friends, and said he was ready and willing to die. The scaffold, in such executions as this, is a platform slightly raised, with a block and chairs upon it, all covered with black cloth. A part of the dress has to be removed just before the execution, in order that the neck of the sufferer may be fully exposed to the impending blow. Strafford made these preparations himself, and said, as he did so, that he was in no wise afraid of death, but that he should lay his head upon that block as cheerfully as he ever did upon his pillow.
* * * * *
Charles found his position in no respect improved by the execution of Strafford. The Commons, finding their influence and power increasing, grew more and more bold, and were from this time so absorbed in the events connected with the progress of their quarrel with the king, that they left Laud to pine in his prison for about four years. They then found time to act over again the solemn and awful scene of a trial for treason before the House of Peers, the passing of a bill of attainder, and an execution on Tower Hill. Laud was over seventy years of age when the ax fell upon him. He submitted to his fate with a calmness and heroism in keeping with his age and his character. He said, in fact, that none of his enemies could be more desirous to send him out of life than he was to go.
Increasing demands of the Commons.—The king gradually loses his power.—The king determines to change his policy.—The king sends his officers to the House.—The king goes to the House himself.—The king's speech in the House.—Great excitement in the House.—The speaker's reply.—Results of the king's rashness.—Committee of the Commons.—The king goes to London.—Cries of the people.—Preparations to escort the committee to Westminster.—Report of the committee.—Alarm of the king.—The king yields.—Increasing excitement.—Civil war.—Its nature.—Cruelties and miseries of civil war.—Taking sides between the king and Parliament.—Preparations for war.—Fruitless negotiations.—Messages between the king and Parliament.—Ravages of the war.—Death of Hampden.—Prince Rupert.—His knowledge and ingenuity.—Progress of the war.—Difficulty of making peace.—The women clamor for peace.—Queen Henrietta's arrival in England.—The vice-admiral cannonades the queen.—The queen's danger.—She seeks shelter in a trench.—The queen joins her husband.—Her influence.—The royal cause declines.—The Prince of Wales.—Hopeless condition of the king.—Invasion by the Scots.—The king surrenders to the Scots.—End of the civil war.
The way in which the king came at last to a final rupture with Parliament was this. The victory which the Commons gained in the case of Strafford had greatly increased their confidence and their power, and the king found, for some months afterward, that instead of being satisfied with the concessions he had made, they were continually demanding more. The more he yielded, the more they encroached. They grew, in a word, bolder and bolder, in proportion to their success. They considered themselves doing the state a great and good service by disarming tyranny of its power. The king, on the other hand, considered them as undermining all the foundations of good government, and as depriving him of personal rights, the most sacred and solemn that could vest in any human being.
It will be recollected that on former occasions, when the king had got into contention with a Parliament, he had dissolved it, and either attempted to govern without one, or else had called for a new election, hoping that the new members would be more compliant. But he could not dissolve the Parliament now. They had provided against this danger. At the time of the trial of Strafford, they brought in a bill into the Commons providing that thenceforth the Houses could not be prorogued or dissolved without their own consent. The Commons, of course, passed the bill very readily. The Peers were more reluctant, but they did not dare to reject it. The king was extremely unwilling to sign the bill; but, amid the terrible excitements and dangers of that trial, he was overborne by the influences of danger and intimidation which surrounded him. He signed the bill. Of course the Commons were, thereafter, their own masters. However dangerous or destructive the king might consider their course of conduct to be, he could now no longer arrest it, as heretofore, by a dissolution.
He went on, therefore, till the close of 1641, yielding slowly and reluctantly, and with many struggles, but still all the time yielding, to the resistless current which bore him along. At last he resolved to yield no longer. After retreating so long, he determined suddenly and desperately to turn back and attack his enemies. The whole world looked on with astonishment at such a sudden change of his policy.
The measure which he resorted to was this. He determined to select a number of the most efficient and prominent men in Parliament, who had been leaders in the proceedings against him, and demand their arrest, imprisonment, and trial, on a charge of high treason. The king was influenced to do this partly by the advice of the queen, and of the ladies of the court, and other persons who did not understand how deep and strong the torrent was which they thus urged him to attempt to stem. They thought that if he would show a little courage and energy in facing these men, they would yield in their turn, and that their boldness and success was owing, in a great measure, to the king's want of spirit in resisting them. "Strike boldly at them," said they; "seize the leaders; have them tried, and condemned, and executed. Threaten the rest with the same fate; and follow up these measures with energetic and decisive action, and you will soon make a change in the aspect of affairs."
The king adopted this policy, and he did make a change in the aspect of affairs, but not such a change as his advisers had anticipated. The Commons were thrown suddenly into a state of astonishment one day by the appearance of a king's officer in the House, who rose and read articles of a charge of treason against five of the most influential and popular members. The officer asked that a committee should be appointed to hear the evidence against them which the king was preparing. The Commons, on hearing this, immediately voted, that if any person should attempt even to seize the papers of the persons accused, it should be lawful for them to resist such an attempt by every means in their power.
The next day another officer appeared at the bar of the House of Commons, and spoke as follows. "I am commanded by the king's majesty, my master, upon my allegiance, that I should come to the House of Commons, and require of Mr. Speaker five gentlemen, members of the House of Commons; and those gentlemen being delivered, I am commanded to arrest them in his majesty's name, on a charge of high treason." The Commons, on hearing this demand, voted that they would take it into consideration.
The king's friends and advisers urged him to follow the matter up vigorously. Every thing depended, they said, on firmness and decision. The next day, accordingly, the king determined to go himself to the House, and make the demand in person. A lady of the court, who was made acquainted with this plan, sent notice of it to the House. In going, the king took his guard with him, and several personal attendants. The number of soldiers was said to be five hundred. He left this great retinue at the door, and he himself entered the House. The Commons, when they heard that he was coming, had ordered the five members who were accused to withdraw. They went out just before the king came in. The king advanced to the speaker's chair, took his seat, and made the following address.
"Gentlemen,—I am sorry for this occasion of coming unto you. Yesterday I sent a Sergeant at Arms upon a very important occasion to apprehend some that by my Command were accused of High Treason; whereunto I did expect Obedience and not a message. And I must declare unto you here, that albeit no king that ever was in England shall be more careful of your Privileges, to maintain them to the uttermost of his Power, than I shall be; yet you must know that in cases of Treason no Person hath a Privilege; and therefore I am come to know if any of those Persons that were accused are here. For I must tell you, Gentlemen, that so long as these Persons that I have accused (for no slight Crime, but for Treason) are here, I can not expect that this House will be in the right way that I do heartily wish it. Therefore I am come to tell you that I must have them wherever I find them."
After looking around, and finding that the members in question were not in the hall, he continued:
"Well! since I see the Birds are flown, I do expect from you that you shall send them unto me as soon as they return hither. But I assure you, on the Word of a King, I never did intend any Force, but shall proceed against them in a legal and fair way, for I never meant any other.
"I will trouble you no more, but tell you I do expect, as soon as they come to the House, you will send them to me, otherwise I must take my own course to find them."
The king's coming thus into the House of Commons, and demanding in person that they should act according to his instructions, was a very extraordinary circumstance—perhaps unparalleled in English history. It produced the greatest excitement. When he had finished his address, he turned to the speaker and asked him where those men were. He had his guard ready at the door to seize them. It is difficult for us, in this country, to understand fully to how severe a test this sudden question put the presence of mind and courage of the speaker; for we can not realize the profound and awful deference which was felt in those days for the command of a king. The speaker gained great applause for the manner in which he stood the trial. He fell upon his knees before the great potentate who had addressed him, and said, "I have, sir, neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am. And I humbly ask pardon that I can not give any other answer to what your majesty is pleased to demand of me."
The House was immediately in a state of great excitement and confusion. They called out "Privilege! privilege!" meaning that their privileges were violated. They immediately adjourned. News of the affair spread every where with the greatest rapidity, and produced universal and intense excitement. The king's friends were astonished at such an act of rashness and folly, which, it is said, only one of the king's advisers knew anything about, and he immediately fled. The five members accused went that night into the city of London, and called on the government and people of London to protect them. The people armed themselves. In a word, the king found at night that he had raised a very threatening and terrible storm.
The Commons met the next morning, but did not attempt to transact business. They simply voted that it was useless for them to proceed with their deliberations, while exposed to such violations of their rights. They appointed a committee of twenty-four to inquire into and report the circumstances of the king's intrusion into their councils, and to consider how this breach of their privileges could be repaired. They ordered this committee to sit in the city of London, where they might hope to be safe from such interruptions, and then the House adjourned for a week, to await the result of the committee's deliberations.
The committee went to London. In the mean time, news went all over the kingdom that the House of Commons had been compelled to suspend its sittings on account of an illegal and unwarrantable interference with their proceedings on the part of the king. The king was alarmed; but those who had advised him to adopt this measure told him that he must not falter now. He must persevere and carry his point, or all would be lost.
He accordingly did persevere. He brought troops and arms to his palace at Whitehall, to be ready to defend it in case of attack. He sent in to London, and ordered the lord mayor to assemble the city authorities at the Guildhall, which is the great city hall of London; and then, with a retinue of noblemen, he went in to meet them. The people shouted, "Privileges of Parliament! privileges of Parliament!" as he passed along. Some called out, "To your tents, O Israel!" which was the ancient Hebrew cry of rebellion. The king, however, persevered. When he reached the Guildhall, he addressed the city authorities thus:
"Gentlemen,—I am come to demand such Persons as I have already accused of High Treason, and do believe are shrouded in the City. I hope no good Man will keep them from Me. Their Offenses are Treason and Misdemeanors of a high Nature. I desire your Assistance, that they may be brought to a legal Trial." Three days after this the king issued a proclamation, addressed to all magistrates and officers of justice every where, to arrest the accused members and carry them to the Tower.
In the mean time, the committee of twenty-four continued their session in London, examining witnesses and preparing their report. When the time arrived for the House of Commons to meet again, which was on the 11th of January, the city made preparations to have the committee escorted in an imposing manner from the Guildhall to Westminster. A vast amount of the intercommunication and traffic between different portions of the city then, as now, took place upon the river, though in those days it was managed by watermen, who rowed small wherries to and fro. Innumerable steamboats take the place of the wherries at the present day, and stokers and engineers have superseded the watermen. The watermen were then, however, a large and formidable body, banded together, like the other trades of London, in one great organization. This great company turned out on this occasion, and attended the committee in barges on the river, while the military companies of the city marched along the streets upon the land. The committee themselves went in barges on the water, and all London flocked to see the spectacle. The king, hearing of these arrangements, was alarmed for his personal safety, and left his palace at Whitehall to go to Hampton Court, which was a little way out of town.
The committee, after entering the House, reported that the transaction which they had been considering constituted a high breach of the privileges of the House, and was a seditious act, tending to a subversion of the peace of the kingdom; and that the privileges of Parliament, so violated and broken, could not be sufficiently vindicated, unless his majesty would be pleased to inform them who advised him to do such a deed.
The king was more and more seriously alarmed. He found that the storm of public odium and indignation was too great for him to withstand. He began to fear for his own safety more than ever. He removed from Hampton Court to Windsor Castle, a stronger place, and more remote from London than Hampton Court; and he now determined to give up the contest. He sent a message, therefore, to the House, saying that, on further reflection, since so many persons had doubts whether his proceedings against the five members were consistent with the privileges of Parliament, he would waive them, and the whole subject might rest until the minds of men were more composed, and then, if he proceeded against the accused members at all, he would do so in a manner to which no exception could be taken. He said, also, he would henceforth be as careful of their privileges as he should be of his own life or crown.
Thus he acknowledged himself vanquished in the struggle, but the acknowledgment came too late to save him. The excitement increased, and spread in every direction. The party of the king and that of the Parliament disputed for a few months about these occurrences, and others growing out of them, and then each began to maneuver and struggle to get possession of the military power of the kingdom. The king, finding himself not safe in the vicinity of London, retreated to York, and began to assemble and organize his followers. Parliament sent him a declaration that if he did not disband the forces which he was assembling, they should be compelled to provide measures for securing the peace of the kingdom. The king replied by proclamations calling upon his subjects to join his standard. In a word, before midsummer, the country was plunged in the horrors of civil war.
A civil war, that is, a war between two parties in the same country, is generally far more savage and sanguinary than any other. The hatred and the animosities which it creates, ramify throughout the country, and produce universal conflict and misery. If there were a war between France and England, there might be one, or perhaps two invading armies of Frenchmen attempting to penetrate into the interior. All England would be united against them. Husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors and friends, would be drawn together more closely than ever; while the awful scenes of war and bloodshed, the excitement, the passion, the terror, would be confined to a few detached spots, or to a few lines of march which the invading armies had occupied.
In a civil war, however, it is very different. Every distinct portion of the country, every village and hamlet, and sometimes almost every family, is divided against itself. The hostility and hatred, too, between the combatants, is always far more intense and bitter than that which is felt against a foreign foe. We might at first be surprised at this. We might imagine that where men are contending with their neighbors and fellow-townsmen, the recollection of past friendships and good-will, and various lingering ties of regard, would moderate the fierceness of their anger, and make them more considerate and forbearing. But this is not found to be the case. Each party considers the other as not only enemies, but traitors, and accordingly they hate and abhor each other with a double intensity. If an Englishman has a Frenchman to combat, he meets him with a murderous impetuosity, it is true, but without any special bitterness of animosity. He expects the Frenchman to be his enemy. He even thinks he has a sort of natural right to be so. He will kill him if he can; but then, if he takes him prisoner, there is nothing in his feelings toward him to prevent his treating him with generosity, and even with kindness. He hates him, but there is a sort of good-nature in his hatred, after all. On the other hand, when he fights against his countrymen in a civil war, he abhors and hates with unmingled bitterness the traitorous ingratitude which he thinks his neighbors and friends evince in turning enemies to their country. He can see no honesty, no truth, no courage in any thing they do. They are infinitely worse, in his estimation, than the most ferocious of foreign foes. Civil war is, consequently, always the means of far wider and more terrible mischief than any other human calamity.
In the contention between Charles and the Parliament, the various elements of the social state adhered to one side or the other, according to their natural predilections. The Episcopalians generally joined the king, the Presbyterians the Parliament. The gentry and the nobility favored the king; the mechanics, artisans, merchants, and common people the Parliament. The rural districts of country, which were under the control of the great landlords, the king; the cities and towns, the Parliament. The gay, and fashionable, and worldly, the king; the serious-minded and austere, the Parliament. Thus every thing was divided. The quarrel ramified to every hamlet and to every fireside, and the peace and happiness of the realm were effectually destroyed.
Both sides began to raise armies and to prepare for war. Before commencing hostilities, however, the king was persuaded by his counselors to send a messenger to London and propose some terms of accommodation. He accordingly sent the Earl of Southampton to the House of Peers, and two other persons to the House of Commons. He had no expectation, probably, of making peace, but he wanted to gain time to get his army together, and also to strengthen his cause among the people by showing a disposition to do all in his power to avoid open war. The messengers of the king went to London, and made their appearance in the two houses of Parliament.
The House of Lords ordered the Earl of Southampton to withdraw, and to send his communication in writing, and in the mean time to retire out of London, and wait for their answer. The House of Commons, in the same spirit of hostility and defiance, ordered the messengers which had been sent to them to come to the bar, like humble petitioners or criminals, and make their communication there.
The propositions of the king to the houses of Parliament were, that they should appoint a certain number of commissioners, and he also the same number, to meet and confer together in hope of agreeing upon some conditions of peace. The houses passed a vote in reply, declaring that they had been doing all in their power to preserve the peace of the kingdom, while the king had been interrupting and disturbing it by his military gatherings, and by proclamations, in which they were called traitors; and that they could enter into no treaty with him until he disbanded the armies which he had collected, and recalled his proclamations.
To this the king replied that he had never intended to call them traitors; and that when they would recall their declarations and votes stigmatizing those who adhered to him as traitors, he would recall his proclamations. Thus messages passed back and forth two or three times, each party criminating the other, and neither willing to make the concessions which the other required. At last all hope of an accommodation was abandoned, and both sides prepared for war.
The nobility and gentry flocked to the king's standard. They brought their plate, their jewels, and their money, to provide funds. Some of them brought their servants. There were two companies in the king's guard, one of which consisted of gentlemen, and the other of their servants. These two companies were always kept together. There was the greatest zeal and enthusiasm among the upper classes to serve the king, and equal zeal and enthusiasm among the common people to serve the Parliament. The war continued for four years. During all this time the armies marched and countermarched all over the kingdom, carrying ruin and destruction wherever they went, and plunging the whole country in misery.
At one of the battles which was fought, the celebrated John Hampden, the man who would not pay his ship money, was slain. He had been a very energetic and efficient officer on the Parliamentary side, and was much dreaded by the forces of the king. At one of the battles between Prince Rupert, Charles's nephew, and the army of the Parliament, the prince brought to the king's camp a large number of prisoners which he had taken. One of the prisoners said he was confident that Hampden was hurt, for he saw him riding off the field before the battle was over, with his head hanging down, and his hands clasping the neck of his horse. They heard the next day that he had been wounded in the shoulder. Inflammation and fever ensued, and he died a few days afterward in great agony.
This Prince Rupert was a very famous character in all these wars. He was young and ardent, and full of courage and enthusiasm. He was always foremost, and ready to embark in the most daring undertakings. He was the son of the king's sister Elizabeth, who married the Elector Palatine, as narrated in a preceding chapter. He was famous not only for his military skill and attainments, but for his knowledge of science, and for his ingenuity in many philosophical arts. There is a mode of engraving called mezzotinto, which is somewhat easier of execution than the common mode, and produces a peculiar effect. Prince Rupert is said to have been the inventor of it, though, as is the case with almost all other inventions, there is a dispute about it. He discovered a mode of dropping melted glass into water so as to form little pear-shaped globules, with a long slender tail. These globules have this remarkable property, that if the tip of the tail is broken off ever so gently, the whole flies into atoms with an explosion. These drops of glass are often exhibited at the present day, and are called Prince Rupert's drops. The prince also discovered a very tenacious composition of metals for casting cannon. As artillery is necessarily very heavy, and very difficult to be transported on marches and upon the field of battle, it becomes very important to discover such metallic compounds as have the greatest strength and tenacity in resisting the force of an explosion. Prince Rupert invented such a compound, which is called by his name.
There were not only a great many battles and fierce encounters between the two great parties in this civil war, but there were also, at times, temporary cessations of the hostilities, and negotiations for peace. But it is very hard to make peace between two powers engaged in civil war. Each considers the other as acting the part of rebels and traitors, and there is a difficulty, almost insuperable, in the way of even opening negotiations between them. Still the people became tired of the war. At one time, when the king had made some propositions which the Parliament would not accept, an immense assemblage of women collected together, with white ribbons in their hats, to go to the House of Commons with a petition for peace. When they reached the door of the hall their number was five thousand. They called out, "Peace! peace! Give us those traitors that are against peace, that we may tear them to pieces." The guards who were stationed at the door were ordered to fire at this crowd, loading their guns, however, only with powder. This, it was thought, would frighten them away; but the women only laughed at the volley, and returned it with stones and brickbats, and drove the guards away. Other troops were then sent for, who charged upon the women with their swords, and cut them in their faces and hands, and thus at length dispersed them.
During the progress of the war, the queen returned from the Continent and joined the king. She had some difficulty, however, and encountered some personal danger, in her efforts to return to her husband. The vice-admiral, who had command of the English ships off the coast, received orders to intercept her. He watched for her. She contrived, however, to elude his vigilance, though there were four ships in her convoy. She landed at a town called Burlington, or Bridlington, in Yorkshire. This town stands in a very picturesque situation, a little south of a famous promontory called Flamborough Head, of which there is a beautiful view from the pier of the town.
The queen succeeded in landing here. On her arrival at the town, she found herself worn down with the anxiety and fatigue of the voyage, and she wished to stop a few days to rest. She took up her residence in a house which was on the quay, and, of course, near the water. The quay, as it is called, in these towns, is a street on the margin of the water, with a wall but no houses next the sea. The vice-admiral arrived at the town the second night after the queen had landed. He was vexed that his expected prize had escaped him. He brought his ships up near to the town, and began to fire toward the house in which the queen was lodging.
This was at five o'clock in the morning. The queen and her attendants were in their beds, asleep. The reports of the cannon from the ships, the terrific whistling of the balls through the air, and the crash of the houses which the balls struck, aroused the whole village from their slumbers, and threw them into consternation. The people soon came to the house where the queen was lodging, and begged her to fly. They said that the neighboring houses were blown to pieces, and that her own would soon be destroyed, and she herself would be killed. They may, however, have been influenced more by a regard to their own safety than to hers in these injunctions, as it must have been a great object with the villagers to effect the immediate removal of a visitor who was the means of bringing upon them so terrible a danger.
These urgent entreaties of the villagers were soon enforced by two cannon-balls, which fell, one after another, upon the roof of the house, and, crashing their way through the roof and the floors, went down, without seeming to regard the resistance, from the top to the bottom. The queen hastily put on her clothes, and went forth with her attendants on foot, the balls from the ships whistling after them all the way.
One of her servants was killed. The rest of the fugitives, finding their exposure so great, stopped at a sort of trench which they came to, at the end of a field, such as is dug commonly, in England, on one side of the hedge to make the barrier more impassable to the animals which it is intended to confine. This trench, with the embankment formed by the earth thrown out of it, on which the hedge is usually planted, afforded them protection. They sought shelter in it, and remained there for two hours, like besiegers in the approaches to a town, the balls passing over their heads harmlessly, though sometimes covering them with the earth which they threw up as they bounded by. At length the tide began to ebb, and the vice-admiral was in danger of being left aground. He weighed his anchors and withdrew, and the queen and her party were relieved. Such a cannonading of a helpless and defenseless woman is a barbarity which could hardly take place except in a civil war.
The queen rejoined her husband, and she rendered him essential service in many ways. She had personal influence enough to raise both money and men for his armies, and so contributed very essentially to the strength of his party. At last she returned to the Continent again, and went to Paris, where she was still actively employed in promoting his cause. At one of the battles in which the king was defeated, the Parliamentary army seized his baggage, and found among his papers his correspondence with the queen. They very ungenerously ordered it to be published, as the letters seemed to show a vigorous determination on the part of the king not to yield in the contest without obtaining from the Parliament and their adherents full and ample concessions to his claims.
As time rolled on, the strength of the royal party gradually wasted away, while that of Parliament seemed to increase, until it became evident that the latter would, in the end, obtain the victory. The king retreated from place to place, followed by his foes, and growing weaker and more discouraged after every conflict. His son, the Prince of Wales, was then about fifteen years of age. He sent him to the western part of the island, with directions that, if affairs should still go against him, the boy should be taken in time out of the country, and join his mother in Paris. The danger grew more and more imminent, and they who had charge of the young prince sent him first to Scilly, and then to Jersey—islands in the Channel—whence he made his escape to Paris, and joined his mother. Fifteen years afterward he returned to London with great pomp and parade, and was placed upon the throne by universal acclamation.
At last the king himself, after being driven from one place of refuge to another, retreated to Oxford and intrenched himself there. Here he spent the winter of 1646 in extreme depression and distress. His friends deserted him; his resources were expended; his hopes were extinguished. He sent proposals of peace to the Parliament, and offered, himself, to come to London, if they would grant him a safe-conduct. In reply, they forbade him to come. They would listen to no propositions, and would make no terms. The case, they saw, was in their own hands, and they determined on unconditional submission. They hemmed the king in on all sides at his retreat in Oxford, and reduced him to despair.
In the mean time, the Scots, a year or two before this, had raised an army and crossed the northern frontier, and entered England. They were against monarchy and Episcopacy, but they were, in some respects, a separate enemy from those against whom the king had been contending so long; and he began to think that he had perhaps better fall into their hands than into those of his English foes, if he must submit to one or to the other. He hesitated for some time what course to take; but at last, after receiving representations of the favorable feeling which prevailed in regard to him in the Scottish army, he concluded to make his escape from Oxford and surrender himself to them. He accordingly did so, and the civil war was ended.
The king's escape from Oxford.—The king delivers himself to the Scots.—His reception.—Proclamation by Parliament.—Surrender of Newark.—Negotiations about the disposal of the king's person.—The Scots surrender the king.—Whether he was sold.—The king's amusements in captivity.—Holmby House.—Contest about forms.—Intolerance.—The Scotch preacher.—The king's presence of mind.—The king receives letters from the queen.—The army.—Oliver Cromwell.—His plan to seize the king.—Cornet Joyce.—He forces admittance to the king.—Joyce's interview with the king.—His "instructions."—The king taken to Cambridge.—Closely guarded.—The king's evil.—The king removed to Hampton Court.—The king's interview with his children.—Contentions.—The king's escape from Hampton Court.—Carisbrooke Castle.—Colonel Hammond.—The king again a prisoner.—His confinement in Carisbrooke Castle.—Negotiations.—The king's employments.—Unsuccessful attempts to escape.—Osborne.—Plan of escape.—Rolf's treacherous design.—Rolf foiled.—The king made a closer prisoner.—The king's wretched condition.
The circumstances of King Charles's surrender to the Scots were these. He knew that he was surrounded by his enemies in Oxford, and that they would not allow him to escape if they could prevent it. He and his friends, therefore, formed the following plan to elude them.
They sent word to the commanders of each of the several gates of the city, on a certain day, that during the ensuing night three men would have to pass out on business of the king's, and that when the men should appear and give a certain signal, they were to be allowed to pass. The officer at each gate received this command without knowing that a similar one had been sent to the others.
Accordingly, about midnight, the parties of men were dispatched, and they went out at the several gates. The king himself was in one of these parties. There were two other persons with him. One of these persons was a certain Mr. Ashburnham, and the king was disguised as his servant. They were all on horseback, and the king had a valise upon the horse behind him, so as to complete his disguise. This was on the 27th of April. The next day, or very soon after, it was known at Oxford that his majesty was gone, but no one could tell in what direction, for there was no means even of deciding by which of the gates he had left the city.
The Scotch were, at this time, encamped before the town of Newark, which is on the Trent, in the heart of England, and about one hundred and twenty miles north of London. There was a magnificent castle at Newark in those days, which made the place very strong. The town held out for the king; though the Scots had been investing it for some time, they had not yet succeeded in compelling the governor to surrender. The king concluded to proceed to Newark and enter the Scottish camp. He considered it, or, rather, wished it to be considered that he was coming to join them as their monarch. They were going to consider it surrendering to them as their prisoner. The king himself must have known how it would be, but it made his sense of humiliation a little less poignant to carry this illusion with him as long as it was possible to maintain it.
As soon as the Parliament found that the king had made his escape from Oxford, they were alarmed, and on the 4th of May they issued an order to this effect, "That what person soever should harbor and conceal, or should know of the harboring or concealing of the king's person, and should not immediately reveal it to the speakers of both houses, should be proceeded against as a traitor to the Commonwealth, and die without mercy." The proclamation of this order, however, did not result in arresting the flight of the king. On the day after it was issued, he arrived safely at Newark.
The Scottish general, whose name was Lesley, immediately represented to the king that for his own safety it was necessary that they should retire toward the northern frontier; but they could not so retire, he said, unless Newark should first surrender. They accordingly induced the king to send in orders to the governor of the castle to give up the place. The Scots took possession of it, and, after having garrisoned it, moved with their army toward the north, the king and General Lesley being in the van.
They treated the king with great distinction, but guarded him very closely, and sent word to the Parliament that he was in their possession. There ensued long negotiations and much debate. The question was, at first, whether the English or Scotch should have the disposal of the king's person. The English said that they, and not the Scots, were the party making war upon him; that they had conquered his armies, and hemmed him in, and reduced him to the necessity of submission; and that he had been taken captive on English soil, and ought, consequently, to be delivered into the hands of the English Parliament. The Scots replied that though he had been taken in England, he was their king as well as the king of England, and had made himself their enemy; and that, as he had fallen into their hands, he ought to remain at their disposal. To this the English rejoined, that the Scots, in taking him, had not acted on their own account, but as the allies, and, as it were, the agents of the English, and that they ought to consider the king as a captive taken for them, and hold him subject to their disposal.
They could not settle the question. In the mean time the Scottish army drew back toward the frontier, taking the king with them. About this time a negotiation sprung up between the Parliament and the Scots for the payment of the expenses which the Scottish army had incurred in their campaign. The Scots sent in an account amounting to two millions of pounds. The English objected to a great many of the charges, and offered them two hundred thousand pounds. Finally it was settled that four hundred thousand pounds should be paid. This arrangement was made early in September. In January the Scots agreed to give up the king into the hands of the English Parliament.
The world accused the Scots of selling their king to his enemies for four hundred thousand pounds. The Scots denied that there was any connection between the two transactions above referred to. They received the money on account of their just claims; and they afterward agreed to deliver up the king, because they thought it right and proper so to do. The friends of the king, however, were never satisfied that there was not a secret understanding between the parties, that the money paid was not the price of the king's delivery; and as this delivery resulted in his death, they called it the price of blood.
Charles was at Newcastle when they came to this decision. His mind had been more at ease since his surrender to the Scots, and he was accustomed to amuse himself and while away the time of his captivity by various games. He was playing chess when the intelligence was brought to him that he was to be delivered up to the English Parliament. It was communicated to him in a letter. He read it, and then went on with his game, and none of those around him could perceive by his air and manner that the intelligence which the letter contained was any thing extraordinary. Perhaps he was not aware of the magnitude of the change in his condition and prospects which the communication announced.
There was at this time, at a town called Holmby or Holdenby, in Northamptonshire, a beautiful palace which was known by the name of Holmby House. King Charles's mother had purchased this palace for him when he was the Duke of York, in the early part of his life, while his father, King James, was on the throne, and his older brother was the heir apparent. It was a very stately and beautiful edifice. The house was fitted up in a very handsome manner, and all suitable accommodations provided for the king's reception. He had many attendants, and every desirable convenience and luxury of living; but, though the war was over, there was still kept up between the king and his enemies a petty contest about forms and punctilios, which resulted from the spirit of intolerance which characterized the age. The king wanted his own Episcopal chaplains. The Parliament would not consent to this, but sent him two Presbyterian chaplains. The king would not allow them to say grace at the table, but performed this duty himself; and on the Sabbath, when they preached in his chapel, he never would attend.
One singular instance of this sort of bigotry, and of the king's presence of mind under the action of it, took place while the king was at Newcastle. They took him one day to the chapel in the castle to hear a Scotch Presbyterian who was preaching to the garrison. The Scotchman preached a long discourse pointed expressly at the king. Those preachers prided themselves on the fearlessness with which, on such occasions, they discharged what they called their duty. To cap the climax of his faithfulness, the preacher gave out, at the close of the sermon, the hymn, thus: "We will sing the fifty-first Psalm:
"'Why dost thou, tyrant, boast thyself, Thy wicked works to praise?'"
As the congregation were about to commence the singing, the king cast his eye along the page, and found in the fifty-sixth hymn one which he thought would be more appropriate. He rose, and said, in a very audible manner, "We will sing the fifty-sixth Psalm:
"'Have mercy, Lord, on me I pray, For men would me devour.'"
The congregation, moved by a sudden impulse of religious generosity extremely unusual in those days, immediately sang the psalm which the king had chosen.
While he was at Holmby the king used sometimes to go, escorted by a guard, to certain neighboring villages where there were bowling-greens. One day, while he was going on one of these excursions, a man, in the dress of a laborer, appeared standing on a bridge as he passed, and handed him a packet. The commissioners who had charge of Charles—for some of them always attended him on these excursions—seized the man. The packet was from the queen. The king told the commissioners that the letter was only to ask him some question about the disposal of his son, the young prince, who was then with her in Paris. They seemed satisfied, but they sent the disguised messenger to London, and the Parliament committed him to prison, and sent down word to dismiss all Charles's own attendants, and to keep him thenceforth in more strict confinement.
In the mean time, the Parliament, having finished the war, were ready to disband the army. But the army did not wish to be disbanded. They would not be disbanded. The officers knew very well that if their troops were dismissed, and they were to return to their homes as private citizens, all their importance would be gone. There followed long debates and negotiations between the army and the Parliament, which ended, at last, in an open rupture. It is almost always so at the end of a revolution. The military power is found to have become too strong for the civil institutions of the country to control it.
Oliver Cromwell, who afterward became so distinguished in the days of the Commonwealth, was at this time becoming the most influential leader of the army. He was not the commander-in-chief in form, but he was the great planner and manager in fact. He was a man of great sternness and energy of character, and was always ready for the most prompt and daring action. He conceived the design of seizing the king's person at Holmby, so as to take him away from the control of the Parliament, and transfer him to that of the army. This plan was executed on the 4th of June, about two months after the king had been taken to Holmby House. The abduction was effected in the following manner.
Cromwell detached a strong party of choice troops, under the command of an officer by the name of Joyce, to carry the plan into effect. These troops were all horsemen, so that their movements could be made with the greatest celerity. They arrived at Holmby House at midnight. The cornet, for that was the military title by which Joyce was designated, drew up his horsemen about the palace, and demanded entrance. Before his company arrived, however, there had been an alarm that they were coming, and the guards had been doubled. The officers in command asked the cornet what was his name and business. He replied that he was Cornet Joyce, and that his business was to speak to the king. They asked him by whom he was sent, and he replied that he was sent by himself, and that he must and would see the king. They then commanded their soldiers to stand by their arms, and be ready to fire when the word should be given. They, however, perceived that Joyce and his force were a detachment from the army to which they themselves belonged, and concluding to receive them as brothers, they opened the gates and let them in.
The cornet stationed sentinels at the doors of those apartments of the castle which were occupied by the Scotch commissioners who had the king in charge, and then went himself directly to the king's chamber. He had a pistol loaded and cocked in his hand. He knocked at the door. There were four grooms in waiting: they rebuked him for making such a disturbance at that time of the night, and told him that he should wait until the morning if he had any communication to make to the king.
The cornet would not accede to this proposition, but knocked violently at the door, the servants being deterred from interfering by dread of the loaded pistol, and by the air and manner of their visitor, which told them very plainly that he was not to be trifled with. The king finally heard the disturbance, and, on learning the cause, sent out word that Joyce must go away and wait till morning, for he would not get up to see him at that hour. The cornet, as one of the historians of the time expresses it, "huffed and retired." The next morning he had an interview with the king.
When he was introduced to the king's apartment in the morning, the king said that he wished to have the Scotch commissioners present at the interview. Joyce replied that the commissioners had nothing to do now but to return to the Parliament at London. The king then said that he wished to see his instructions. The cornet replied that he would show them to him, and he sent out to order his horsemen to parade in the inner court of the palace, where the king could see them from his windows; and then, pointing them out to the king, he said, "These, sir, are my instructions." The king, who, in all the trials and troubles of his life of excitement and danger, took every thing quietly and calmly looked at the men attentively. They were fine troops, well mounted and armed. He then turned to the cornet, and said, with a smile, that "his instructions were in fair characters, and could be read without spelling." The cornet then said that his orders were to take the king away with him. The king declined going, unless the commissioners went too. The cornet made no objection, saying that the commissioners might do as they pleased about accompanying him, but that he himself must go.
The party set off from Holmby and traveled two days, stopping at night at the houses of friends to their cause. They reached Cambridge, where the leading officers of the army received the king, rendering him every possible mark of deference and respect. From Cambridge he was conducted by the leaders of the army from town to town, remaining sometimes several days at a place. He was attended by a strong guard, and was treated every where with the utmost consideration and honor. He was allowed some little liberty, in riding out and in amusements, but every precaution was taken to prevent the possibility of an escape.
The people collected every where into the places through which he had to pass, and his presence-chamber was constantly thronged. This was not altogether on account of their respect and veneration for him as king, but it arose partly from a very singular cause. There is a certain disease called the scrofula, which in former times had the name of the King's Evil. It is a very unmanageable and obstinate disorder, resisting all ordinary modes of treatment; but in the days of King Charles, it was universally believed by the common people of England, that if a king touched a patient afflicted with this disease, he would recover. This was the reason why it was called the king's evil. It was the evil that kings only could cure. Now, as kings seldom traveled much about their dominions, whenever one did make such a journey, the people embraced the opportunity to bring all the cases which could possibly be considered as scrofula to the line of his route, in order that he might touch the persons afflicted and heal them.
In the course of the summer the king was conducted to Hampton Court, a beautiful palace on the Thames, a short distance above London. Here he remained for some time. He had an interview here with two of his children. The oldest son was still in France. The two whom he saw here were the Duke of Gloucester and the Princess Elizabeth. He found that they were under the care of a nobleman of high rank, and that they were treated with great consideration. Charles was extremely gratified and pleased with seeing these members of his family again, after so long a separation. His feelings of domestic affection were very strong.
The king remained at Hampton Court two or three months. While he was here, London, and all the region about it, was kept in a continual state of excitement by the contentions of the army and Parliament, and the endless negotiations which they attempted with each other and with the king. During all this time the king was in a sort of elegant and honorable imprisonment in his palace at Hampton Court; but he found the restraints to which he was subjected, and the harassing cares which the contests between these two great powers brought upon him, so great, that he determined to make his escape from the thraldom which bound him. He very probably thought that he could again raise his standard, and collect an army to fight in his cause. Or perhaps he thought of making his escape from the country altogether. It is not improbable that he was not decided himself which of these plans to pursue, but left the question to be determined by the circumstances in which he should find himself when he had regained his freedom.
At any rate, he made his escape. One evening, about ten o'clock, attendants came into his room at Hampton Court, and found that he had gone. There were some letters upon the table which he had left, directed to the Parliament, to the general of the army, and to the officer who had guarded him at Hampton Court. The king had left the palace an hour or two before. He passed out at a private door, which admitted him to a park connected with the palace. He went through the park by a walk which led down to the water, where there was a boat ready for him. He crossed the river in the boat, and on the opposite shore he found several officers and some horses ready to receive him. He mounted one of the horses, and the party rode rapidly away.
They traveled all night, and arrived, toward morning, at the residence of a countess on whose attachment to him, and fidelity, he placed great reliance. The countess concealed him in her house, though it was understood by all concerned that this was only a temporary place of refuge. He could not long be concealed here, and her residence was not provided with any means of defense; so that, immediately on their arrival at the countess's, the king and the few friends who were with him began to concert plans for a more secure retreat.
The house of the countess was on the southern coast of England, near the Isle of Wight. There was a famous castle in those days upon this island, near the center of it, called Carisbrooke Castle. The ruins of it, which are very extensive, still remain. This castle was under the charge of Colonel Hammond, who was at that time governor of the island. Colonel Hammond was a near relative of one of King Charles's chaplains, and the king thought it probable that he would espouse his cause. He accordingly sent two of the gentlemen who had accompanied him to the Isle of Wight to see Colonel Hammond, and inquire of him whether he would receive and protect the king if he would come to him. But he charged them not to let Hammond know where he was, unless he would first solemnly promise to protect him, and not subject him to any restraint.
The messengers went, and, to the king's surprise, brought back Hammond with them. The king asked them whether they had got his written promise to protect him. They answered no, but that they could depend upon him as a man of honor. The king was alarmed. "Then you have betrayed me," said he, "and I am his prisoner." The messengers were then, in their turn, alarmed at having thus disappointed and displeased the king, and they offered to kill Hammond on the spot, and to provide some other means of securing the king's safety. The king, however, would not sanction any such proceeding, but put himself under Hammond's charge, and was conveyed to Carisbrooke Castle. He was received with every mark of respect, but was very carefully guarded. It was about the middle of November that these events took place.
Hammond notified the Parliament that King Charles was in his hands, and sent for directions from them as to what he should do. Parliament required that he should be carefully guarded, and they appropriated L5000 for the expenses of his support. The king remained in this confinement more than a year, while the Parliament and the army were struggling for the possession of the kingdom.
He spent his time, during this long period in various pursuits calculated to beguile the weary days, and he sometimes planned schemes for escape. There were also a great many fruitless negotiations attempted between the king and the Parliament, which resulted in nothing but to make the breach between them wider and wider. Sometimes the king was silent and depressed. At other times he seemed in his usual spirits. He read serious books a great deal, and wrote. There is a famous book, which was found in manuscript after his death among his papers, in his handwriting, which it is supposed he wrote at this time. He was allowed to take walks upon the castle wall, which was very extensive, and he had some other amusements which served to occupy his leisure time. He found his confinement, however, in spite of all these mitigations, wearisome and hard to bear.
There were some schemes attempted to enable him to regain his liberty. There was one very desperate attempt. It seems that Hammond, suspecting that the king was plotting an escape, dismissed the king's own servants and put others in their places—persons in whom he supposed he could more implicitly rely. One of these men, whose name was Burley, was exasperated at being thus dismissed. He went through the town of Carisbrooke, beating a drum, and calling upon the people to rise and rescue their sovereign from his captivity. The governor of the castle, hearing of this, sent out a small body of men, arrested Burley, and hanged and quartered him. The king was made a close prisoner immediately after this attempt.
Notwithstanding this, another attempt was soon made by the king himself, which came much nearer succeeding. There was a man by the name of Osborne, whom Hammond employed as a personal attendant upon the king. He was what was called gentleman usher. The king succeeded in gaining this person's favor so much by his affability and his general demeanor, that one day he put a little paper into one of the king's gloves, which it was a part of his office to hold on certain occasions, and on this paper he had written that he was at the king's service. At first Charles was afraid that this offer was only a treacherous one; but at length he confided in him. In the mean time, there was a certain man by the name of Rolf in the garrison, who conceived the design of enticing the king away from the castle on the promise of promoting his escape, and then murdering him. Rolf thought that this plan would please the Parliament, and that he himself, and those who should aid him in the enterprise, would be rewarded. He proposed this scheme to Osborne, and asked him to join in the execution of it.
Osborne made the whole plan known to the king. The king, on reflection, said to Osborne, "Very well; continue in communication with Rolf, and help him mature his plan. Let him thus aid in getting me out of the castle, and we will make such arrangements as to prevent the assassination." Osborne did so. He also gained over some other soldiers who were employed as sentinels near the place of escape. Osborne and Rolf furnished the king with a saw and a file, by means of which he sawed off some iron bars which guarded one of his windows. They were then, on a certain night, to be ready with a few attendants on the outside to receive the king as he descended, and convey him away.
In the mean time, Rolf and Osborne had each obtained a number of confederates, those of the former supposing that the plan was to assassinate the king, while those of the latter understood that the plan was to assist him in escaping from captivity. Certain expressions which were dropped by one of this latter class alarmed Rolf, and led him to suspect some treachery. He accordingly took the precaution to provide a number of armed men, and to have them ready at the window, so that he should be sure to be strong enough to secure the king immediately on his descent from the window. When the time came for the escape, the king, before getting out, looked below, and, seeing so many armed men, knew at once that Rolf had discovered their designs, and refused to descend. He quickly returned to his bed. The next day the bars were found filed in two, and the king was made a closer prisoner than ever.
Some months after this, some commissioners from Parliament went to see the king, and they found him in a most wretched condition. His beard was grown, his dress was neglected, his health was gone, his hair was gray, and, though only forty-eight years of age, he appeared as decrepit and infirm as a man of seventy. In fact, he was in a state of misery and despair. Even the enemies who came to visit him, though usually stern and hard-hearted enough to withstand any impressions, were extremely affected at the sight.
TRIAL AND DEATH.
The king removed to Hurst Castle.—Its extraordinary situation.—Another plan of escape.—Objections.—The king's perplexity.—He refuses to break his word.—Distress of the king's friends.—He is removed from Carisbrooke Castle.—Arrangements for the king's trial.—Arbitrary measures of the Commons.—The king brought to London.—Roll of commissioners.—The king brought into court.—His firmness.—The charge.—The king interrupts its reading.—The king objects to the jurisdiction of the court.—Sentence of death pronounced against the king.—Tumult.—The king grossly insulted.—The king's last requests.—They are granted.—Devotions of the king.—He declines seeing his friends.—The king's interview with his children.—Parting messages.—The warrant.—Warrant signed by the judges.—The king sleeps well.—Preparations.—Reading the service.—Summons.—The king carried to Whitehall.—Devotions.—Parting scenes.—The king's speech.—His composure.—Death.—The body taken to Windsor Castle.—The Commonwealth.—Government in the United States.—Ownership.—No stable governments result from violent revolutions.
As soon as the army party, with Oliver Cromwell at their head, had obtained complete ascendency, they took immediate measures for proceeding vigorously against the king. They seized him at Carisbrooke Castle, and took him to Hurst Castle, which was a gloomy fortress in the neighborhood of Carisbrooke. Hurst Castle was in a very extraordinary situation. There is a long point extending from the main land toward the Isle of Wight, opposite to the eastern end of it. This point is very narrow, but is nearly two miles long. The castle was built at the extremity. It consisted of one great round tower, defended by walls and bastions. It stood lonely and desolate, surrounded by the sea, except the long and narrow neck which connected it with the distant shore. Of course, though comfortless and solitary, it was a place of much greater security than Carisbrooke.
The circumstance of the king's removal to this new place of confinement were as follows: In some of his many negotiations with the Parliament while at Carisbrooke, he had bound himself, on certain conditions, not to attempt to escape from that place. His friends, however, when they heard that the army were coming again to take him away, concluded that he ought to lose no time in making his escape out of the country. They proposed the plan to the king. He made two objections to it. He thought, in the first place, that the attempt would be very likely to fail; and that, if it did fail, it would exasperate his enemies, and make his confinement more rigorous, and his probable danger more imminent than ever. He said that, in the second place, he had promised the Parliament that he would not attempt to escape, and that he could not break his word.
The three friends were silent when they heard the king speak these words. After a pause, the leader of them, Colonel Cook, said, "Suppose I were to tell your majesty that the army have a plan for seizing you immediately, and that they will be upon you very soon unless you escape. Suppose I tell you that we have made all the preparations necessary—that we have horses all ready here, concealed in a pent-house—that we have a vessel at the Cows[G] waiting for us—that we are all prepared to attend you, and eager to engage in the enterprise—the darkness of the night favoring our plan, and rendering it almost certain of success. Now," added he, "these suppositions express the real state of the case, and the only question is what your majesty will resolve to do."
[Footnote G: There were two points or headlands, on opposite sides of an inlet from the sea, on the northern side of the Isle of Wight, which in ancient times received the name of Cows. They were called the East Cow and the West Cow. The harbor between them formed a safe and excellent harbor. The name is now spelled Cowes, and the port is, at the present day, of great commercial importance.]
The king paused. He was distressed with perplexity and doubt. At length he said, "They have promised me, and I have promised them, and I will not break the promise first." "Your majesty means by they and them, the Parliament, I suppose?" "Yes, I do." "But the scene is now changed. The Parliament have no longer any power to protect you. The danger is imminent, and the circumstances absolve your majesty from all obligation."
But the king could not be moved. He said, come what may, he would not do any thing that looked like a breaking of his word. He would dismiss the subject and go to bed, and enjoy his rest as long as he could. His friends told him that they feared it would not be long. They seemed very much agitated and distressed. The king asked them why they were so much troubled. They said it was to think of the extreme danger in which his majesty was lying, and his unwillingness to do any thing to avert it. The king replied, that if the danger were tenfold more than it was, he would not break his word to avert it.
The fears of the king's friends were soon realized. The next morning, at break of day, he was awakened by a loud knocking at his door. He sent one of his attendants to inquire what it meant. It was a party of soldiers come to take him away. They would give him no information in respect to their plans, but required him to dress himself immediately and go with them. They mounted horses at the gate of the castle. The king was very earnest to have his friends accompany him. They allowed one of them, the Duke of Richmond, to go with him a little way, and then told him he must return. The duke bade his master a very sad and sorrowful farewell, and left him to go on alone.
The escort which were conducting him took him to Hurst Castle. The Parliament passed a vote condemning this proceeding, but it was too late. The army concentrated their forces about London, took possession of the avenues to the houses of Parliament, and excluded all those members who were opposed to them. The remnant of the Parliament which was left immediately took measures for bringing the king to trial.
The House of Commons did not dare to trust the trial of the king to the Peers, according to the provisions of the English Constitution, and so they passed an ordinance for attainting him of high treason, and for appointing commissioners, themselves, to try him. Of course, in appointing these commissioners, they would name such men as they were sure would be predisposed to condemn him. The Peers rejected this ordinance, and adjourned for nearly a fortnight, hoping thus to arrest any further proceedings. The Commons immediately voted that the action of the Peers was not necessary, and that they would go forward themselves. They then appointed the commissioners, and ordered the trial to proceed.
Every thing connected with the trial was conducted with great state and parade. The number of commissioners constituting the court was one hundred and thirty-three, though only a little more than half that number attended the trial. The king had been removed from Hurst Castle to Windsor Castle, and he was now brought into the city, and lodged in a house near to Westminster Hall, so as to be at hand. On the appointed day the court assembled; the vast hall and all the avenues to it were thronged. The whole civilized world looked on, in fact, in astonishment at the almost unprecedented spectacle of a king tried for his life by an assembly of his subjects.
The first business after the opening of the court was to call the roll of the commissioners, that each one might answer to his name. The name of the general of the army, Fairfax, who was one of the number, was the second upon the list. When his name was called there was no answer. It was called again. A voice from one of the galleries replied, "He has too much wit to be here." This produced some disorder, and the officers called out to know who answered in that manner, but there was no reply. Afterward, when the impeachment was read, the phrase occurred, "Of all the people of England," when the same voice rejoined, "No not the half of them." The officers then ordered a soldier to fire into the seat from which these interruptions came. This command was not obeyed, but they found, on investigating the case, that the person who had answered thus was Fairfax's wife, and they immediately removed her from the hall.
When the court was fully organized, they commanded the sergeant-at-arms to bring in the prisoner. The king was accordingly brought in, and conducted to a chair covered with crimson velvet, which had been placed for him at the bar. The judges remained in their seats, with their heads covered, while he entered, and the king took his seat, keeping his head covered too. He took a calm and deliberate survey of the scene, looking around upon the judges, and upon the armed guards by which he was environed, with a stern and unchanging countenance. At length silence was proclaimed, and the president rose to introduce the proceedings.
He addressed the king. He said that the Commons of England, deeply sensible of the calamities which had been brought upon England by the civil war, and of the innocent blood which had been shed, and convinced that he, the king, had been the guilty cause of it, were now determined to make inquisition for this blood, and to bring him to trial and judgment; that they had, for this purpose, organized this court, and that he should now hear the charge brought against him, which they would proceed to try.