HotFreeBooks.com
The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part E. - From Charles I. to Cromwell
by David Hume
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE HISTORY OF ENGLAND

FROM THE INVASION OF JULIUS CAESAR

TO THE END OF THE REIGN OF JAMES THE SECOND,

BY DAVID HUME, ESQ.

1688



London: James S. Virtue, City Road and Ivy Lane New York: 26 John Street 1860

And

Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. March 17, 1901



In Three Volumes:

VOLUME ONE: The History Of England From The Invasion Of Julius Caesar To The End Of The Reign Of James The Second............ By David Hume, Esq.

VOLUME TWO: Continued from the Reign of William and Mary to the Death of George II........................................... by Tobias Smollett.

VOLUME THREE: From the Accession of George III. to the Twenty-Third Year of the Reign of Queen Victoria............... by E. Farr and E.H. Nolan.



VOLUME ONE

Part E.

From Charles I. to Cromwell



CHAPTER L.



CHARLES I.

{1625.} No sooner had Charles taken into his hands the reins of government, than he showed an impatience to assemble the great council of the nation; and he would gladly, for the sake of despatch, have called together the same parliament which had sitten under his father, and which lay at that time under prorogation. But being told that this measure would appear unusual, he issued writs for summoning a new parliament on the seventh of May; and it was not without regret that the arrival of the princess Henrietta, whom he had espoused by proxy, obliged him to delay, by repeated prorogations, their meeting till the eighteenth of June, when they assembled at Westminster for the despatch of business. The young prince, unexperienced and impolitic, regarded as sincere all the praises and caresses with which he had been loaded while active in procuring the rupture with the house of Austria. And besides that he labored under great necessities, he hastened with alacrity to a period when he might receive the most undoubted testimony of the dutiful attachment of his subjects. His discourse to the parliament was full of simplicity and cordiality. He lightly mentioned the occasion which he had for supply.[*] He employed no intrigue to influence the suffrages of the members. He would not even allow the officers of the crown, who had seats in the house, to mention any particular sum which might be expected by him Secure of the affections of the commons, he was resolved that their bounty should be entirely their own deed; unasked, unsolicited; the genuine fruit of sincere confidence and regard.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 171. Parl. Hist. vol. vi. p. 346. Franklyn, p. 108.

The house of commons accordingly took into consideration the business of supply. They knew that all the money granted by the last parliament had been expended on naval and military armaments; and that great anticipations were likewise made on the revenues of the crown. They were not ignorant that Charles was loaded with a large debt, contracted by his father, who had borrowed money both from his own subjects and from foreign princes. They had learned by experience, that the public revenue could with difficulty maintain the dignity of the crown, even under the ordinary charges of government. They were sensible, that the present war was very lately the result of their own importunate applications and entreaties, and that they had solemnly engaged to support their sovereign in the management of it. They were acquainted with the difficulty of military enterprises directed against the whole house of Austria; against the king of Spain, possessed of the greatest riches and most extensive dominions of any prince in Europe; against the emperor Ferdinand, hitherto the most fortunate monarch of his age, who had subdued and astonished Germany by the rapidity of his victories. Deep impressions they saw must be made by the English sword, and a vigorous offensive war be waged against these mighty potentates, ere they would resign a principality which they had now fully subdued, and which they held in secure possession, by its being surrounded with all their other territories.

To answer, therefore, all these great and important ends; to satisfy their young king in the first request which he made them; to prove their sense of the many royal virtues, particularly economy, with which Charles was endued; the house of Commons, conducted by the wisest and ablest senators that had ever flourished in England, thought proper to confer on the king a supply of two subsidies, amounting to one hundred and twelve thousand pounds.[*]

* A subsidy was now fallen to about fifty-six thousand pounds Cabala, p. 224, 1st edit.

This measure, which discovers rather a cruel mockery of Charles, than any serious design of supporting him, appears so extraordinary, when considered in all its circumstances, that it naturally summons up our attention, and raises an inquiry concerning the causes of a conduct unprecedented in an English parliament. So numerous an assembly, composed of persons of various dispositions, was not, it is probable, wholly influenced by the same motives; and few declared openly their true reason. We shall, therefore, approach nearer to the truth, if we mention all the views which the present conjuncture could suggest to them.

It is not to be doubted, but spleen and ill will against the duke of Buckingham had an influence with many. So vast and rapid a fortune, so little merited, could not fail to excite public envy; and however men's hatred might have been suspended for a moment, while the duke's conduct seemed to gratify their passions and their prejudices, it was impossible for him long to preserve the affections of the people. His influence over the modesty of Charles exceeded even that which he had acquired over the weakness of James; nor was any public measure conducted but by his counsel and direction. His vehement temper prompted him to raise suddenly, to the highest elevation, his flatterers and dependants; and upon the least occasion of displeasure, he threw them down with equal impetuosity and violence. Implacable in his hatred, fickle in his friendships, all men were either regarded as his enemies, or dreaded soon to become such. The whole power of the kingdom was grasped by his insatiable hand; while he both engrossed the entire confidence of his master, and held invested in his single person the most considerable offices of the crown.

However the ill humor of the commons might have been increased by these considerations, we are not to suppose them the sole motives. The last parliament of James, amidst all their joy and festivity, had given him a supply very disproportioned to his demand, and to the occasion. And as every house of commons which was elected during forty years, succeeded to all the passions and principles of their predecessors, we ought rather to account for this obstinacy from the general situation of the kingdom during that whole period, than from any circumstances which attended this particular conjuncture.

The nation was very little accustomed at that time to the burden of taxes, and had never opened their purses in any degree for supporting their sovereign. Even Elizabeth, notwithstanding her vigor and frugality, and the necessary wars in which she was engaged, had reason to complain of the commons in this particular; nor could the authority of that princess, which was otherwise almost absolute, ever extort from them the requisite supplies. Habits, more than reason, we find in every thing to be the governing principle of mankind. In this view, likewise, the sinking of the value of subsidies must be considered as a loss to the king. The parliament, swayed by custom, would not augment their number in the same proportion.

The Puritanical party, though disguised, had a great authority over the kingdom; and many of the leaders among the commons had secretly embraced the rigid tenets of that sect. All these were disgusted with the court, both by the prevalence of the principles of civil liberty essential to their party, and on account of the restraint under which they were held by the established hierarchy. In order to fortify himself against the resentment of James, Buckingham had affected popularity, and entered into the cabals of the Puritans: but, being secure of the confidence of Charles, he had since abandoned this party; and on that account was the more exposed to their hatred and resentment. Though the religious schemes of many of the Puritans, when explained, appear pretty frivolous, we are not thence to imagine that they were pursued by none but persons of weak understandings. Some men of the greatest parts and most extensive knowledge that the nation at this time produced, could not enjoy any peace of mind, because obliged to hear prayers offered up to the Divinity by a priest covered with a white linen vestment.

The match with France, and the articles in favor of Catholics which were suspected to be in the treaty, were likewise causes of disgust to this whole party: though it must be remarked, that the connections with that crown were much less obnoxious to the Protestants, and less agreeable to the Catholics, than the alliance formerly projected with Spain, and were therefore received rather with pleasure than dissatisfaction.

To all these causes we must yet add another, of considerable moment. The house of commons, we may observe, was almost entirely governed by a set of men of the most uncommon capacity and the largest views; men who were now formed into a regular party, and united, as well by fixed aims and projects, as by the hardships which some of them had undergone in prosecution of them. Among these we may mention the names of Sir Edward Coke, Sir Edwin Sandys, Sir Robert Philips, Sir Francis Seymour, Sir Dudley Digges, Sir John Elliot, Sir Thomas Wentworth, Mr. Selden, and Mr. Pym. Animated with a warm regard to liberty, these generous patriots saw with regret an unbounded power exercised by the crown, and were resolved to seize the opportunity which the king's necessities offered them, of reducing the prerogative within more reasonable compass. Though their ancestors had blindly given way to practices and precedents favorable to kingly power, and had been able, notwithstanding, to preserve some small remains of liberty, it would be impossible, they thought, when all these pretensions were methodised, and prosecuted by the increasing knowledge of the age, to maintain any shadow of popular government, in opposition to such unlimited authority in the sovereign. It was necessary to fix a choice; either to abandon entirely the privileges of the people, or to secure them by firmer and more precise barriers than the constitution had hitherto provided for them. In this dilemma, men of such aspiring geniuses, and such independent fortunes, could not long deliberate: they boldly embraced the side of freedom, and resolved to grant no supplies to their necessitous prince, without extorting concessions in favor of civil liberty. The end they esteemed beneficent and noble; the means, regular and constitutional. To grant or refuse supplies was the undoubted privilege of the commons. And as all human governments, particularly those of a mixed frame, are in continual fluctuation, it was as natural, in their opinion, and allowable, for popular assemblies to take advantage of favorable incidents, in order to secure the subject, as for monarchs, in order to extend their own authority. With pleasure they beheld the king involved in a foreign war, which rendered him every day more dependent on the parliament; while at the same time the situation of the kingdom, even without any military preparations, gave it sufficient security against all invasion from foreigners. Perhaps, too, it had partly proceeded from expectations of this nature, that the popular leaders had been so urgent for a rupture with Spain; nor is it credible, that religious zeal could so far have blinded all of them, as to make them discover, in such a measure, any appearance of necessity, or any hopes of success.

But, however natural all these sentiments might appear to the country party, it is not to be imagined that Charles would entertain the same ideas. Strongly prejudiced in favor of the duke, whom he had heard so highly extolled in parliament, he could not conjecture the cause of so sudden an alteration in their opinions. And when the war which they themselves had so earnestly solicited, was at last commenced, the immediate desertion of their sovereign could not but seem very unaccountable. Even though no further motive had been suspected, the refusal of supply in such circumstances would naturally to him appear cruel and deceitful: but when he perceived that this measure proceeded from an intention of encroaching on his authority, he failed not to regard these aims as highly criminal and traitorous. Those lofty ideas of monarchical power which were very commonly adopted during that age, and to which the ambiguous nature of the English constitution gave so plausible an appearance, were firmly rivetted in Charles; and however moderate his temper, the natural and unavoidable prepossessions of self-love, joined to the late uniform precedents in favor of prerogative, had made him regard his political tenets as certain and uncontroverted. Taught to consider even the ancient laws and constitution more as lines to direct his conduct, than barriers to withstand his power; a conspiracy to erect new ramparts, in order to straiten his authority, appeared but one degree removed from open sedition and rebellion. So atrocious in his eyes was such a design, that he seems even unwilling to impute it to the commons; and though he was constrained to adjourn the parliament by reason of the plague, which at that time raged in London, he immediately reassembled them at Oxford, and made a new attempt to gain from them some supplies in such an urgent necessity.

Charles now found himself obliged to depart from that delicacy which he had formerly maintained. By himself or his ministers he entered into a particular detail, both of the alliances which he had formed, and of the military operations which he had projected.[*]

* Dugdale, p. 25, 26.

He told the parliament, that, by a promise of subsidies, he had engaged the king of Denmark to take part in the war; that this monarch intended to enter Germany by the north, and to rouse to arms those princes who impatiently longed for an opportunity of asserting the liberty of the empire; that Mansfeldt had undertaken to penetrate with an English army into the Palatinate, and by that quarter to excite the members of the evangelical unions that the states must be supported in the unequal warfare which they maintained with Spain; that no less a sum than seven hundred thousand pounds a year had been found, by computation, requisite for all these purposes; that the maintenance of the fleet, and the defence of Ireland, demanded an annual expense of four hundred thousand pounds; that he himself had already exhausted and anticipated, in the public service, his whole revenue, and had scarcely left sufficient for the daily subsistence of himself and his family;[*] that on his accession to the crown, he found a debt of above three hundred thousand pounds, contracted by his father in support of the palatine; and that while prince of Wales, he had himself contracted debts, notwithstanding his great frugality, to the amount of seventy thousand pounds, which he had expended entirely on naval and military armaments. After mentioning all these facts, the king even condescended to use entreaties. He said, that this request was the first that he had ever made them: that he was young, and in the commencement of his reign; and if he now met with kind and dutiful usage, it would endear to him the use of parliaments, and would forever preserve an entire harmony between him and his people.[**]

To these reasons the commons remained inexorable. Notwithstanding that the king's measures, on the supposition of a foreign war, which they had constantly demanded, were altogether unexceptionable, they obstinately refused any further aid. Some members, favorable to the court, having insisted on an addition of two fifteenths to the former supply, even this pittance was refused;[***] though it was known that a fleet and army were lying at Portsmouth, in great want of pay and provisions; and that Buckingham, the admiral, and the treasurer of the navy, had advanced on their own credit near a hundred thousand pounds for the sea service.[****]

* Parl. Hist. vol. vi. p. 396.

** Rush, vol. i. p. 177, 178, etc. Parl. Hist. vol. vi. p. 399. Franklyn, p. 108, 109. Journ. 10th Aug. 1625.

*** Rush, vol. i. p. 190.

**** Parl. Hist. vol. vi. p. 390.

Besides all their other motives, the house of commons had made a discovery, which, as they wanted but a pretence for their refusal, inflamed them against the court and against the duke of Buckingham. When James deserted the Spanish alliance, and courted that of France, he had promised to furnish Lewis, who was entirely destitute of naval force, with one ship of war, together with seven armed vessels hired from the merchants. These the French court had pretended they would employ against the Genoese, who, being firm and useful allies to the Spanish monarchy, were naturally regarded with an evil eye, both by the king of France and of England. When these vessels, by Charles's orders, arrived at Dieppe, there arose a strong suspicion that they were to serve against Rochelle. The sailors were inflamed. That race of men, who are at present both careless and ignorant in all matters of religion, were at that time only ignorant. They drew up a remonstrance to Pennington, their commander, and signing all their names in a circle, lest he should discover the ringleaders, they laid it under his prayer-book. Pennington declared that he would rather be hanged in England for disobedience, than fight against his brother Protestants in France. The whole squadron sailed immediately to the Downs. There they received new orders from Buckingham, lord admiral, to return to Dieppe. As the duke knew that authority alone would not suffice, he employed much art and many subtleties to engage them to obedience; and a rumor which was spread, that peace had been concluded between the French king and the Hugonots, assisted him in his purpose. When they arrived at Dieppe, they found that they had been deceived. Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who commanded one of the vessels, broke through and returned to England. All the officers and sailors of all the other ships, notwithstanding great offers made them by the French, immediately deserted. One gunner alone preferred duty towards his king to the cause of religion; and he was afterwards killed in charging a cannon before Rochelle.[*] The care which historians have taken to record this frivolous event, proves with what pleasure the news was received by the nation.

* Franklyn, p. 09. Rush. vol. i. p. 175, 176, etc., 325, 326, etc.

The house of commons, when informed of these transactions, showed the same attachment with the sailors for the Protestant religion; nor was their zeal much better guided by reason and sound policy. It was not considered that it was highly probable the king and the duke themselves had here been deceived by the artifices of France, nor had they any hostile intention against the Hugonots; that, were it otherwise yet might their measures be justified by the most obvious and most received maxims of civil policy; that, if the force of Spain were really so exorbitant as the commons imagined, the French monarch was the only prince that could oppose its progress, and preserve the balance of Europe; that his power was at present fettered by the Hugonots, who, being possessed of many privileges, and even of fortified towns, formed an empire within his empire, and kept him in perpetual jealousy and inquietude; that an insurrection had been at that time wantonly and voluntarily formed by their leaders, who, being disgusted in some court intrigue, took advantage of the never failing pretence of religion, in order to cover their rebellion, that the Dutch, influenced by these views, had ordered a squadron of twenty ships to join the French fleet employed against the inhabitants of Rochelle;[*] that the Spanish monarch, sensible of the same consequences, secretly supported the Protestants in France; and that all princes had ever sacrificed to reasons of state the interests of their religion in foreign countries. All these obvious considerations had no influence. Great murmurs and discontents still prevailed in parliament. The Hugonots, though they had no ground of complaint against the French court, were thought to be as much entitled to assistance from England, as if they had taken arms in defence of their liberties and religion against the persecuting rage of the Catholics. And it plainly appears from this incident, as well as from many others, that, of all European nations, the British were at that time, and till long after, the most under the influence of that religious spirit which tends rather to inflame bigotry than increase peace and mutual charity.

On this occasion, the commons renewed their eternal complaints against the growth of Popery, which was ever the chief of their grievances, and now their only one.[**] They demanded a strict execution of the penal laws against the Catholics, and remonstrated against some late pardons granted to priests.[***] They attacked Montague, one of the king's chaplains, on account of a moderate book which he had lately published, and which, to their great disgust, saved virtuous Catholics, as well as other Christians, from eternal torments.[****]

* Journ. 18th April, 1626.

** Franklyn, p. 3, etc.

*** Parl. Hist. vol. vi. p. 374. Journ. 1st Aug. 1625.

**** Parl. Hist. vol. vi. p. 353 Journ. 7th July 1625.

Charles gave them a gracious and a compliant answer to all their remonstrances. He was, however, in his heart, extremely averse to these furious measures. Though a determined Protestant, by principle as well as inclination, he had entertained no violent horror against Popery: and a little humanity, he thought, was due by the nation to the religion of their ancestors. That degree of liberty which is now indulged to Catholics, though a party much more obnoxious than during the reign of the Stuarts, it suited neither with Charles's sentiments nor the humor of the age to allow them. An abatement of the more rigorous laws was all he intended; and his engagements with France, notwithstanding that their regular execution had never been promised or expected, required of him some indulgence. But so unfortunate was this prince, that no measure embraced during his whole reign, was ever attended with more unhappy and more fatal consequences.

The extreme rage against Popery was a sure characteristic of Puritanism. The house of commons discovered other infallible symptoms of the prevalence of that party. They petitioned the king for replacing such able clergy as had been silenced for want of conformity to the ceremonies.[*] They also enacted laws for the strict observance of Sunday, which the Puritans affected to call the Sabbath, and which they sanctified by the most melancholy indolence.[**] It is to be remarked, that the different appellations of this festival were at that time known symbols of the different parties.

The king, finding that the parliament was resolved to grant him no supply, and would furnish him with nothing but empty protestations of duty,[***] or disagreeable complaints of grievances, took advantage of the plague,[****] which began to appear at Oxford, and on that pretence immediately dissolved them. By finishing the session with a dissolution, instead of a prorogation, he sufficiently expressed his displeasure at their conduct.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 281.

** 1 Car. I. cap. 1. Journ. 21st June, 1625.

*** Franklyn, p. 113. Rushworth, vol. i. p. 190.

**** The plague was really so violent, that it had been moved in the house, at the beginning of the session, to petition the king to adjourn them. (Journ. 21st June, 1625.) So it was impossible to enter upon grievances, even if there had been any. The only business of the parliament was to give supply, which was so much wanted by the king, in order to carry on the war in which they had engaged him.

To supply the want of parliamentary aids, Charles issued privy seals for borrowing money from his subjects.[*] The advantage reaped by this expedient was a small compensation for the disgust which it occasioned. By means, however, of that supply, and by other expedients, he was, though with difficulty, enabled to equip his fleet. It consisted of eighty vessels, great and small; and carried an board an army of ten thousand men. Sir Edward Cecil, lately created Viscount Wimbleton, was intrusted with the command. He sailed immediately for Cadiz, and found the bay full of Spanish ships of great value. He either neglected to attack these ships or attempted it preposterously. The army was landed, and a fort taken; but the undisciplined soldiers, finding store of wine, could not be restrained from the utmost excesses. Further stay appearing fruitless, they were reembarked; and the fleet put to sea with an intention of intercepting the Spanish galleons. But the plague having seized the seamen and soldiers, they were obliged to abandon all hopes of this prize, and return to England. Loud complaints were made against the court for intrusting so important a command to a man like Cecil, whom, though he possessed great experience, the people, judging by the event, esteemed of slender capacity,[**]

{1626.} Charles, having failed of so rich a prize, was obliged again to have recourse to a parliament. Though the ill success of his enterprises diminished his authority, and showed every day more plainly the imprudence of the Spanish war; though the increase of his necessities rendered him more dependent, and more exposed to the encroachments of the commons, he was resolved to try once more that regular and constitutional expedient for supply. Perhaps, too, a little political art, which at that time he practised, was much trusted to. He had named four popular leaders, sheriffs of counties; Sir Edward Coke, Sir Robert Philips, Sir Thomas Wentworth, and Sir Francis Seymour; and, though the question had been formerly much contested,[***] he thought that he had by that means incapacitated them from being elected members. But his intention, being so evident, rather put the commons more upon their guard. Enow of patriots still remained to keep up the ill humor of the house; and men needed but little instruction or rhetoric to recommend to them practices which increased their own importance and consideration. The weakness of the court, also, could not more evidently appear, than by its being reduced to use so ineffectual an expedient, in order to obtain an influence over the commons.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 192. Parl. Hist, vol. vi. p. 407.

** Franklyn, p. 113. Rushworth, vol. i. p. 196.

*** It is always an express clause in the writ of summons, that no sheriff shall be chosen; but the contrary practice had often prevailed D'Ewes, p. 38. Yet still great doubts were entertained on this head. See Journ. 9th April, 1614.

The views, therefore, of the last parliament were immediately adopted; as if the same men had been every where elected, and no time had intervened since their meeting. When the king laid before the house his necessities, and asked for supply, they immediately voted him three subsidies and three fifteenths; and though they afterwards added one subsidy more, the sum was little proportioned to the greatness of the occasion, and ill fitted to promote those views of success and glory, for which the young prince, in his first enterprise, so ardently longed. But this circumstance was not the most disagreeable one. The supply was only voted by the commons. The passing of that vote into a law was reserved till the end of the session.[*] A condition was thereby made, in a very undisguised manner, with their sovereign. Under color of redressing grievances, which during this short reign could not be very numerous, they were to proceed in regulating and controlling every part of government which displeased them; and if the king either cut them short in this undertaking, or refused compliance with their demands, he must not expect any supply from the commons. Great dissatisfaction was expressed by Charles at a treatment which he deemed so harsh and undutiful.[**] But his urgent necessities obliged him to submit; and he waited with patience, observing to what side they would turn themselves.

The duke of Buckingham, formerly obnoxious to the public, became every day more unpopular, by the symptoms which appeared both of his want of temper and prudence, and of the uncontrolled ascendant which he had acquired over his master.[***]

* Journ. 27th March, 1626.

** Parliamentary History, vol. vi. p. 449. Rushworth, vol. i. p. 224.

*** His credit with the king had given him such influence, that he had no less than twenty proxies granted him this parliament by so many peers; which occasioned a vote, that no peer should have above two proxies. The earl of Leicester, in 1585, had once ten proxies D'Ewes, p. 314.

Two violent attacks he was obliged this session to sustain, one from the earl of Bristol, another from the house of commons.

As long as James lived, Bristol, secure of the concealed favor of that monarch, had expressed all duty and obedience; in expectation that an opportunity would offer of reinstating himself in his former credit and authority. Even after Charles's accession he despaired not. He submitted to the king's commands of remaining at his country seat, and of absenting himself from parliament. Many trials he made to regain the good opinion of his master; but finding them all fruitless, and observing Charles to be entirely governed by Buckingham, his implacable enemy, he resolved no longer to keep any measures with the court. A new spirit he saw, and a new power arising in the nation; and to these he was determined for the future to trust for his security and protection.

When the parliament was summoned, Charles, by a stretch of prerogative, had given orders that no writ, as is customary, should be sent to Bristol.[*] That nobleman applied to the house of lords by petition; and craved their good offices with the king for obtaining what was his due as a peer of the realm. His writ was sent him, but accompanied with a letter from the lord keeper Coventry, commanding him, in the king's name, to absent himself from parliament. This letter Bristol conveyed to the lords, and asked advice how to proceed in so delicate a situation.[**] The king's prohibition was withdrawn, and Bristol took his seat. Provoked at these repeated instances of vigor, which the court denominated contumacy, Charles ordered his attorney-general to enter an accusation of high treason against him. By way of recrimination, Bristol accused Buckingham of high treason. Both the earl's defence of himself and accusation of the duke remain;[***] and, together with some original letters still extant, contain the fullest and most authentic account of all the negotiations with the house of Austria. From the whole, the great imprudence of the duke evidently appears, and the sway of his ungovernable passions; but it would be difficult to collect thence any action which, in the eye of the law, could be deemed a crime, much less could subject him to the penalty of treason.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 236.

** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 237. Franklyn, p. 120, etc.

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p.[**inserted '.'] 256, 262, 263, etc. Franklyn, p. 123, etc

The impeachment of the commons was still less dangerous to the duke, were it estimated by the standard of law and equity. The house, after having voted, upon some queries of Dr. Turner's, "that common fame was a sufficient ground of accusation by the commons,"[*] proceeded to frame regular articles against Buckingham. They accused him of having united many offices in his person; of having bought two of them; of neglecting to guard the seas, insomuch that many merchant ships had fallen into the hands of the enemy; of delivering ships to the French king in order to serve against the Hugonots; of being employed in the sale of honors and offices; of accepting extensive grants from the crown; of procuring many titles of honor for his kindred; and of administering physic to the late king without acquainting his physicians. All these articles appear, from comparing the accusation and reply, to be either frivolous or false, or both.[**] The only charge which could be regarded as important, was, that he had extorted a sum of ten thousand pounds from the East India company, and that he had confiscated some goods belonging to French merchants, on pretence of their being the property of Spanish. The impeachment never came to a full determination; so that it is difficult for us to give a decisive opinion with regard to these articles: but it must be confessed that the duke's answer in these particulars, as in all the rest, is so clear and satisfactory, that it is impossible to refuse our assent to it.[***] His faults and blemishes were, in many respects, very great; but rapacity and avarice were vices with which he was entirely unacquainted.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 217. Whitloeke, p. 5.

** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 306, etc., 375, etc. Journ. 25th March, 1626.

*** Whitlocke, p. 7.

It is remarkable that the commons, though so much at a loss to find articles of charge against Buckingham, never adopted Bristol's accusation, or impeached the duke for his conduct in the Spanish treaty, the most blamable circumstance in his whole life. He had reason to believe the Spaniards sincere in their professions; yet, in order to gratify his private passions, he had hurried his master and his country into a war pernicious to the interests of both. But so rivetted throughout the nation were the prejudices with regard to Spanish deceit and falsehood, that very few of the commons seem as yet to have been convinced that they had been seduced by Buckingham's narrative: a certain proof that a discovery of this nature was not, as is imagined by several historians, the cause of so sudden and surprising a variation in the measures of the parliament.[*] [1]

While the commons were thus warmly engaged against Buckingham, the king seemed desirous of embracing every opportunity by which he could express a contempt and disregard for them. No one was at that time sufficiently sensible of the great weight which the commons bore in the balance of the constitution. The history of England had never hitherto afforded one instance where any great movement or revolution had proceeded from the lower house. And as their rank, both considered in a body and as individuals, was but the second in the kingdom, nothing less than fatal experience could engage the English princes to pay a due regard to the inclinations of that formidable assembly.

The earl of Suffolk, chancellor of the university of Cambridge, dying about this time, Buckingham, though lying under impeachment was yet, by means of court interest, chosen in his place. The commons resented and loudly complained of this affront; and the more to enrage them, the king himself wrote a letter to the university, extolling the duke, and giving them thanks for his election.[**]

The lord keeper, in the king's name, expressly commanded the house not to meddle with his minister and servant, Buckingham; and ordered them to finish, in a few days, the bill which they had begun for the subsidies, and to make some addition to them; otherwise they must not expect to sit any longer.[***] And though these harsh commands were endeavored to be explained and mollified, a few days after, by a speech of Buckingham's,[****] they failed not to leave a disagreeable impression behind them.

* See note A, at the end of the volume.

** Rush worth, vol. i. p. 371.

*** Parliament. Hist. vol. vi. p. 444.

**** Parliament. Hist. vol. vi. p 451. Rushworth. vol. i. p. 225. Franklyn, p. 118.

Besides a more stately style which Charles in general affected to this parliament than to the last, he went so far, in a message, as to threaten the commons that, if they did not furnish him with supplies, he should be obliged to try new "counsels." This language was sufficiently clear: yet lest any ambiguity should remain, Sir Dudley Carleton, vice-chamberlain, took care to explain it. "I pray you, consider," said he, "what these new counsels are, or may be. I fear to declare those that I conceive. In all Christian kingdoms, you know that parliaments were in use anciently, by which those kingdoms were governed in a most flourishing manner; until the monarchs began to know their own strength, and seeing the turbulent spirit of their parliaments, at length they, by little and little, began to stand on their prerogatives, and at last overthrew the parliaments, throughout Christendom, except here only with us. Let us be careful then to preserve the king's good opinion of parliaments, which bringeth such happiness to this nation, and makes us envied of all others, while there is this sweetness between his majesty and the commons; lest we lose the repute of a free people by our turbulency in parliament."[*] These imprudent suggestions rather gave warning than struck terror. A precarious liberty, the commons thought, which was to be preserved by unlimited complaisance, was no liberty at all. And it was necessary, while yet in their power, to secure the constitution by such invincible barriers, that no king or minister should ever, for the future, dare to speak such a language to any parliament, or even entertain such a project against them.

Two members of the house, Sir Dudley Digges and Sir John Elliot, who had been employed as managers of the impeachment against the duke, were thrown into prison.[**] The commons immediately declared, that they would proceed no further upon business till they had satisfaction in their privileges. Charles alleged, as the reason of this measure, certain seditious expressions, which, he said, had, in their accusation of the duke, dropped from these members. Upon inquiry, it appeared that no such expressions had been used.[***] The members were released; and the king reaped no other benefit from this attempt than to exasperate the house still, and to show some degree of precipitancy and indiscretion.

Moved by this example, the house of peers were roused from their inactivity; and claimed liberty for the earl of Arundel, who had been lately confined in the Tower. After many fruitless evasions, the king, though somewhat ungracefully, was at last obliged to comply.[****] And in this incident it sufficiently appeared, that the lords, how little soever inclined to popular courses, were not wanting in a just sense of their own dignity.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 359. Whitlocke, p. 6.

** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 356.

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 358, 361. Franklyn, p. 180.

**** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 363, 364, etc. Franklyn, p. 181.

The ill humor of the commons, thus wantonly irritated by the court, and finding no gratification in the legal impeachment of Buckingham, sought other objects on which it might exert itself. The never-failing cry of Popery here served them in stead. They again claimed the execution of the penal laws against Catholics; and they presented to the king a list of persons intrusted with offices, most of them insignificant who were either convicted or suspected recusants.[*] In this particular they had, perhaps, some reason to blame the king's conduct. He had promised to the last house of commons a redress of this religious grievance: but he was apt, in imitation of his father, to imagine that the parliament, when they failed of supplying his necessities, had, on their part, freed him from the obligation of a strict performance. A new odium, likewise, by these representations, was attempted to be thrown upon Buckingham. His mother, who had great influence over him, was a professed Catholic; his wife was not free from suspicion: and the indulgence given to Catholics was of course supposed to proceed entirely from his credit and authority. So violent was the bigotry of the times, that it was thought a sufficient reason for disqualifying any one from holding an office, that his wife, or relations, or companions were Papists, though he himself were a conformist.[**]

It is remarkable, that persecution was here chiefly pushed on by laymen; and that the church was willing to have granted more liberty than would be allowed by the commons. The reconciling doctrines, likewise, of Montague failed not anew to meet with severe censures from that zealous assembly.[***]

* Franklyn, p. 195. Rushworth.

** See the list in Franklyn and Rushworth.

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 209.

The next attack made by the commons, had it prevailed, would have proved decisive. They were preparing a remonstranace against the levying of tonnage and poundage without consent of parliament. This article, together with the new impositions laid on merchandise by James, constituted near half of the crown revenues; and by depriving the king of these resources, they would have reduced him to total subjection and dependence. While they retained such a pledge, besides the supply already promised, they were sure that nothing could be refused them. Though, after canvassing the matter near three ninths, they found themselves utterly incapable of fixing any legal crime upon the duke, they regarded him as an unable, and perhaps a dangerous minister; and they intended to present a petition, which would then have been equivalent to a command, for removing him from his majesty's person and councils.[*]

The king was alarmed at the yoke which he saw prepared for him. Buckingham's sole guilt, he thought, was the being his friend and favorite.[**]

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 400 Franklyn, p. 199.

** Franklyn, p. 178.

All the other complaints against him were mere pretences. A little before, he was the idol of the people. No new crime had since been discovered. After the most diligent inquiry, prompted by the greatest malice, the smallest appearance of guilt could not be fixed upon him. What idea, he asked, must all mankind entertain of his honor, should he sacrifice his innocent friend to pecuniary considerations? What further authority should he retain in the nation, were he capable, in the beginning of his reign, to give, in so signal an instance, such matter of triumph to his enemies, and discouragement to his adherents? To-day the commons pretend to wrest his minister from him: to-morrow they will attack some branch of his prerogative. By their remonstrances, and promises, and protestations, they had engaged the crown in a war. As soon as they saw a retreat impossible, without waiting for new incidents, without covering themselves with new pretences, they immediately deserted him, and refused him all reasonable supply. It was evident, that they desired nothing so much as to see him plunged in inextricable difficulties, of which they intended to take advantage. To such deep perfidy, to such unbounded usurpations, it was necessary to oppose a proper firmness and resolution. All encroachments on supreme power could only be resisted successfully on the first attempt. The sovereign authority was, with some difficulty, reduced from its ancient and legal height, but when once pushed downwards, it soon became contemptible, and would easily, by the continuance of the same effort, now encouraged by success, be carried to the lowest extremity.

Prompted by these plausible motives, Charles was determined immediately to dissolve the parliament. When this resolution was known, the house of peers, whose compliant behavior entitled them to some authority with him, endeavored to interpose;[*] and they petitioned him, that he would allow the parliament to sit some time longer. "Not a moment longer," cried the king hastily;[**] and he soon after ended the session by a dissolution.

As this measure was foreseen, the commons took care to finish and disperse their remonstrance, which they intended as a justification of their conduct to the people. The king likewise, on his part, published a declaration, in which he gave the reasons of his disagreement with the parliament, and of their sudden dissolution, before they had time to conclude any one act.[***] These papers furnished the partisans on both sides with ample matter of apology or of recrimination. But all impartial men judged, "that the commons, though they had not as yet violated any law, yet, by their unpliableness and independence, were insensibly changing, perhaps improving, the spirit and genius, while they preserved the form of the constitution and that the king was acting altogether without any plan; running on in a road surrounded on all sides with the most dangerous precipices, and concerting no proper measures, either for submitting to the obstinacy of the commons, or for subduing it."

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 398.

** Sanderson's Life of Charles I., p. 58.

*** Franklyn, p. 203, etc Parliament. Hist. vol. vii p. 300

After a breach with the parliament, which seemed so difficult to repair, the only rational counsel which Charles could pursue, was immediately to conclude a peace with Spain, and to render himself, as far as possible, independent of his people, who discovered so little inclination to support him, or rather who seemed to have formed a determined resolution to abridge his authority. Nothing could be more easy in the execution than this measure, nor more agreeable to his own and to national interest. But, besides the treaties and engagements which he had entered into with Holland and Denmark, the king's thoughts were at this time averse to pacific counsels. There are two circumstances in Charles's character, seemingly incompatible, which attended him during the whole course of his reign, and were in part the cause of his misfortunes: he was very steady, and even obstinate in his purpose; and he was easily governed, by reason of his facility, and of his deference to men much inferior to himself both in morals and understanding. His great ends he inflexibly maintained; but the means of attaining them he readily received from his ministers and favorites, though not always fortunate in his choice. The violent, impetuous Buckingham, inflamed with a desire of revenge for injuries which he himself had committed, and animated with a love of glory which he had not talents to merit, had at this time, notwithstanding his profuse licentious life, acquired an invincible ascendant over the virtuous and gentle temper of the king.

The "new counsels," which Charles had mentioned to the parliament, were now to be tried, in order to supply his necessities. Had he possessed any military force on which he could rely, it is not improbable, that he had at once taken off the mask, and governed without any regard to parliamentary privileges: so high an idea had he received of kingly prerogative, and so contemptible a notion of the rights of those popular assemblies, from which, he very naturally thought, he had met with such ill usage. But his army was new levied, ill paid, and worse disciplined; nowise superior to the militia, who were much more numerous, and who were in a great measure under the influence of the country gentlemen. It behoved him, therefore, to proceed cautiously, and to cover his enterprises under the pretence of ancient precedents, which, considering the great authority commonly enjoyed by his predecessors, could not be wanting to him.

A commission was openly granted to compound with the Catholics, and agree for dispensing with the penal laws enacted against them.[*] By this expedient, the king both filled his coffers, and gratified his inclination of giving indulgence to these religionists; but he could not have employed any branch of prerogative which would have been more disagreeable, or would have appeared more exceptionable to his Protestant subjects.

From the nobility he desired assistance: from the city he required a loan of one hundred thousand pounds. The former contributed slowly; but the latter, covering themselves under many pretences and excuses, gave him at last a flat refusal.[**]

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 413. Whitlocke, p. 7.

** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 415. Franklyn, p. 206.

In order to equip a fleet, a distribution, by order of council, was made to all the maritime towns; and each of them was required, with the assistance of the adjacent counties, to arm so many vessels as were appointed them.[*] The city of London was rated at twenty ships. This is the first appearance, in Charles's reign, of ship-money; a taxation which had once been imposed by Elizabeth, but which afterwards, when carried some steps further by Charles, created such violent discontents.

Of some, loans were required:[**] to others the way of benevolence was proposed: methods supported by precedent, but always invidious, even in times more submissive and compliant. In the most absolute governments, such expedients would be regarded as irregular and unequal.

These counsels for supply were conducted with some moderation; till news arrived, that a great battle was fought between the king of Denmark and Count Tilly, the imperial general; in which the former was totally defeated. Money now more than ever, became necessary, in order to repair so great a breach in the alliance, and to support a prince who was so nearly allied to Charles, and who had been engaged in the war chiefly by the intrigues, solicitations, and promises of the English monarch. After some deliberation, an act of council was passed, importing, that as the urgency of affairs admitted not the way of parliament, the most speedy, equal, and convenient method of supply was by a "general loan" from the subject, according as every man was assessed in the rolls of the last subsidy. That precise sum was required which each would have paid, had the vote of four subsidies passed into a law: but care was taken to inform the people, that the sums exacted were not to be called subsidies, but loans.[***] Had any doubt remained, whether forced loans, however authorized by precedent, and even by statute, were a violation of liberty, and must, by necessary consequence, render all parliaments superfluous, this was the proper expedient for opening the eyes of the whole nation. The example of Henry VIII., who had once, in his arbitrary reign, practiced a like method of levying a regular supply, was generally deemed a very insufficient authority.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 415.

** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 416.

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 418. Whitlocke, p. 8.

The commissioners appointed to levy these loans, among other articles of secret instruction, were enjoined, "If any shall refuse to lend, and shall make delays or excuses, and persist in his obstinacy, that they examine him upon oath, whether he has been dealt with to deny or refuse to lend, or make an [excuse] for not lending? Who has dealt with him, and what speeches or persuasions were used to that purpose? And that they also shall charge every such person, in his majesty's name, upon his allegiance, not to disclose to any one what his answer was."[*] So violent an inquisitorial power, so impracticable an attempt at secrecy, were the objects of indignation, and even, in some degree, of ridicule.

That religious prejudices might support civil authority, sermons were preached by Sibthorpe and Manwaring, in favor of the general loan; and the court industriously spread them over the kingdom. Passive obedience was there recommended in its full extent, the whole authority of the state was represented as belonging to the king alone, and all limitations of law and a constitution were rejected as seditious and impious.[**] So openly was this doctrine espoused by the court, that Archbishop Abbot, a popular and virtuous prelate, was, because he refused to license Sibthorpe's sermon, suspended from the exercise of his office, banished from London, and confined to one of his country seats.[***] Abbot's principles of liberty, and his opposition to Buckingham, had always rendered him very ungracious at court, and had acquired him the character of a Puritan. For it is remarkable, that this party made the privileges of the nation as much a part of their religion, as the church party did the prerogatives of the crown: and nothing tended further to recommend among the people, who always take opinions in the lump, the whole system and all the principles of the former sect. The king soon found by fatal experience, that this engine of religion, which with so little necessity was introduced into politics, falling under more fortunate management, was played with the most terrible success against him.

While the king, instigated by anger and necessity, thus employed the whole extent of his prerogative, the spirit of the people was far from being subdued. Throughout England, many refused these loans; some were even active in encouraging their neighbors to insist upon their common rights and privileges. By warrant of the council, these were thrown into prison.[****]

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 419. Franklyn, p. 207.

** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 422. Franklyn, p. 208.

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 431.

**** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 429. Franklyn, p. 210.

Most of them with patience submitted to confinement, or applied by petition to the king, who commonly released them. Five gentlemen alone, Sir Thomas Darnel, Sir John Corbet, Sir Walter Earl, Sir John Heveningham, and Sir Edmond Hambden, had spirit enough, at their own hazard and expense, to defend the public liberties, and to demand releasement, not as a favor from the court, but as their due, by the laws of their country.[*] No particular cause was assigned of their commitment. The special command alone of the king and council was pleaded. And it was asserted, that, by law, this was not sufficient reason for refusing bail or releasement to the prisoners.



This question was brought to a solemn trial, before the king's bench; and the whole kingdom was attentive to the issue of a cause which was of much greater consequence than the event of many battles.

By the debates on this subject, it appeared, beyond controversy, to the nation, that their ancestors had been so jealous of personal liberty, as to secure it against arbitrary power in the crown, by six[**] several statutes, and by an article[***] of the Great Charter itself, the most sacred foundation of the laws and constitution. But the kings of England, who had not been able to prevent the enacting of these laws, had sufficient authority, when the tide of liberty was spent, to obstruct their regular execution; and they deemed it superfluous to attempt the formal repeal of statutes which they found so many expedients and pretences to elude.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 458. Franklyn, p. 224. Whitlocke, p. 8.

** 25 Edw. III. cap. 4. 28 Edw. III. cap, 3. 37 Edw. III. cap. 18 88 Edw. III. cap. 9 42 Edw. III. cap. 3. 1 Richard II. cap. 12.

*** Chap. 29

Turbulent and seditious times frequently occurred, when the safety of the people absolutely required the confinement of factious leaders; and by the genius of the old constitution, the prince, of himself, was accustomed to assume every branch of prerogative which was found necessary for the preservation of public peace and of his own authority. Expediency, at other times, would cover itself under the appearance of necessity; and, in proportion as precedents multiplied, the will alone of the sovereign was sufficient to supply the place of expediency, of which he constituted himself the sole judge. In an age and nation where the power of a turbulent nobility prevailed, and where the king had no settled military force, the only means that could maintain public peace, was the exertion of such prompt and discretionary powers in the crown; and the public itself had become so sensible of the necessity, that those ancient laws in favor of personal liberty, while often violated, had never been challenged or revived during the course of near three centuries. Though rebellious subjects had frequently, in the open field, resisted the king's authority, no person had been found so bold, while confined and at mercy, as to set himself in opposition to regal power, and to claim the protection of the constitution against the will of the sovereign. It was not till this age, when the spirit of liberty was universally diffused, when the principles of government were nearly reduced to a system, when the tempers of men, more civilized, seemed less to require those violent exertions of prerogative, that these five gentlemen above mentioned, by a noble effort, ventured, in this national cause, to bring the question to a final determination. And the king was astonished to observe, that a power exercised by his predecessors almost without interruption, was found, upon trial, to be directly opposite to the clearest laws, and supported by few undoubted precedents in courts of judicature. These had scarcely in any instance refused bail upon commitments by special command of the king, because the persons committed had seldom or never dared to demand it, at least to insist on their demand.

{1627.} Sir Randolf Crew, chief justice, had been displaced, as unfit for the purposes of the court: Sir Nicholas Hyde, esteemed more obsequious, had obtained that high office: yet the judges, by his direction, went no further than to remand the gentlemen to prison, and refuse the bail which was offered.[*] Heathe, the attorney-general, insisted that the court, in imitation of the judges in the thirty-fourth of Elizabeth,[**] should enter a general judgment, that no bail could be granted upon a commitment by the king or council.[***] But the judges wisely declined complying. The nation, they saw, was already to the last degree exasperated. In the present disposition of men's minds, universal complaints prevailed, as if the kingdom were reduced to slavery. And the most invidious prerogative of the crown, it was said, that of imprisoning the subject, is here openly, and solemnly, and in numerous instances, exercised for the most invidious purpose; in order to extort loans, or rather subsidies, without consent of parliament.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 462.

** State Trials, vol. vii. p. 147.

*** State Trials, vol. vii. p. 161.

But this was not the only hardship of which the nation thought they had reason to complain. The army which had made the fruitless expedition to Cadiz, was dispersed throughout the kingdom; and money was levied upon the counties for the payment of their quarters.[*]

The soldiers were billeted upon private houses, contrary to custom, which required that, in all ordinary cases, they should be quartered in inns and public houses.[**]

Those who had refused or delayed the loan, were sure to be loaded with a great number of these dangerous and disorderly guests.

Many too, of low condition, who had shown a refractory disposition, were pressed into the service, and enlisted in the fleet or army,[***] Sir Peter Hayman, for the same reason, was despatched on an errand to the Palatinate.[****] Glanville, an eminent lawyer, had been obliged, during the former interval of parliament, to accept of an office in the navy.[v]

The soldiers, ill paid and undisciplined, committed many crimes and outrages, and much increased the public discontents. To prevent these disorders, martial law, so requisite to the support of discipline, was exercised upon the soldiers. By a contradiction which is natural when the people are exasperated, the outrages of the army were complained of; the remedy was thought still more intolerable.v Though the expediency, if we are not rather to say the necessity, of martial law had formerly been deemed of itself a sufficient ground for establishing it, men, now become more jealous of liberty, and more refined reasoners in questions of government, regarded as illegal and arbitrary every exercise of authority which was not supported by express statute or uninterrupted precedent.

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 419.

** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 419.

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 422.

**** Rushworth, vol i. p. 481.

v Parl. Hist. vol. vii. p. 310.

v** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 419. Whitlocke, p. 7.

It may safely be affirmed, that, except a few courtiers or ecclesiastics, all men were displeased with this high exertion of prerogative, and this new spirit of administration. Though ancient precedents were pleaded in favor of the king's measures, a considerable difference, upon comparison, was observed between the cases. Acts of power, however irregular, might casually, and at intervals, be exercised by a prince, for the sake of despatch or expediency, and yet liberty still subsist in some tolerable degree under his administration. But where all these were reduced into a system, were exerted without interruption, were studiously sought for, in order to supply the place of laws, and subdue the refractory spirit of the nation, it was necessary to find some speedy remedy, or finally to abandon all hopes of preserving the freedom of the constitution. Nor did moderate men esteem the provocation which the king had received, though great, sufficient to warrant all these violent measures. The commons as yet had nowise invaded his authority: they had only exercised, as best pleased them, their own privileges. Was he justifiable, because from one house of parliament he had met with harsh and unkind treatment, to make, in revenge, an invasion on the rights and liberties of the whole nation?

But great was at this time the surprise of all men, when Charles, baffled in every attempt against the Austrian dominions, embroiled with his own subjects, unsupplied with any treasure but what he extorted by the most invidious and most dangerous measures; as if the half of Europe, now his enemy, were not sufficient for the exercise of military prowess; wantonly attacked France, the other great kingdom in his neighborhood, and engaged at once in war against these two powers, whose interests were hitherto deemed so incompatible that they could never, it was thought, agree either in the same friendships or enmities. All authentic memoirs, both foreign and domestic, ascribe to Buckingham's counsels this war with France, and represent him as actuated by motives which would appear incredible, were we not acquainted with the violence and temerity of his character.

The three great monarchies of Europe were at this time ruled by young princes, Philip, Louis, and Charles, who were nearly of the same age, and who had resigned the government of themselves, and of their kingdoms, to their creatures and ministers, Olivarez, Richelieu, and Buckingham. The people, whom the moderate temper or narrow genius of their princes would have allowed to remain forever in tranquillity, were strongly agitated by the emulation and jealousy of the ministers. Above all, the towering spirit of Richelieu, incapable of rest, promised an active age, and gave indications of great revolutions throughout all Europe.

This man had no sooner, by suppleness and intrigue, gotten possession of the reins of government, than he formed at once three mighty projects; to subdue the turbulent spirits of the great, to reduce the rebellious Hugonots, and to curb the encroaching power of the house of Austria. Undaunted and implacable, prudent and active, he braved all the opposition of the French princes and nobles in the prosecution of his vengeance; he discovered and dissipated all their secret cabals and conspiracies. His sovereign himself he held in subjection, while he exalted the throne. The people, while they lost their liberties, acquired, by means of his administration, learning, order, discipline, and renown. That confused and inaccurate genius of government, of which France partook in common with other European kingdoms, he changed into a simple monarchy; at the very time when the incapacity of Buckingham encouraged the free spirit of the commons to establish in England a regular system of liberty.

However unequal the comparison between these ministers, Buckingham had entertained a mighty jealousy against Richelieu; a jealousy not founded on rivalship of power and politics, but of love and gallantry; where the duke was as much superior to the cardinal, as he was inferior in every other particular.

At the time when Charles married by proxy the princess Henrietta, the duke of Buckingham had been sent to France, in order to grace the nuptials, and conduct the new queen into England. The eyes of the French court were directed by curiosity towards that man who had enjoyed the unlimited favor of two successive monarchs, and who, from a private station, had mounted, in the earliest youth, to the absolute government of three kingdoms. The beauty of his person, the gracefulness of his air, the splendor of his equipage, his fine taste in dress, festivals, and carousals, corresponded to the prepossessions entertained in his favor: the affability of his behavior, the gayety of his manners, the magnificence of his expense, increased still further the general admiration which was paid him. All business being already concerted, the time was entirely spent in mirth and entertainments; and during those splendid scenes among that gay people, the duke found himself in a situation where he was perfectly qualified to excel.[*]

* Clarendon, vol. i. p. 38.

But his great success at Paris proved as fatal as his former failure at Madrid. Encouraged by the smiles of the court, he dared to carry his ambitious addresses to the queen herself; and he failed not to make impression on a heart not undisposed to the tender passions. That attachment at least of the mind, which appears so delicious, and is so dangerous, seems to have been encouraged by the princess; and the duke presumed so far on her good graces, that, after his departure, he secretly returned upon some pretence, and, paying a visit to the queen, was dismissed with a reproof which savored more of kindness than of anger.[*]

Information of this correspondence was soon carried to Richelieu. The vigilance of that minister was here further roused by jealousy. He, too, either from vanity or politics, had ventured to pay his addresses to the queen. But a priest, past middle age, of a severe character, and occupied in the most extensive plans of ambition or vengeance, was but an unequal match, in that contest, for a young courtier, entirely disposed to gayety and gallantry. The cardinal's disappointment strongly inclined him to counterwork the amorous projects of his rival. When the duke was making preparations for a new embassy to Paris, a message was sent him from Louis, that he must not think of such a journey. In a romantic passion he swore, "That he would see the queen, in spite of all the power of France;" and, from that moment, he determined to engage England in a war with that kingdom.[**]

He first took advantage of some quarrels excited by the queen of England's attendants; and he persuaded Charles to dismiss at once all her French servants, contrary to the articles of the marriage treaty.[***] He encouraged the English ships of war and privateers to seize vessels belonging to French merchants; and these he forthwith condemned as prizes, by a sentence of the court of admiralty. But finding that all these injuries produced only remonstrances and embassies, or at most reprisals, on the part of France, he resolved to second the intrigues of the duke of Soubize, and to undertake at once a military expedition against that kingdom.

* Memoires de Mad. de Motteville.

** Clarendon, vol. i. p. 38

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 423, 424.

Soubize, who, with his brother, the duke of Rohan, was the leader of the Hugonot faction, was at that time in London, and strongly solicited Charles to embrace the protection of these distressed religionists. He represented, that after the inhabitants of Rochelle had been repressed by the combined squadrons of England and Holland, after peace was concluded with the French king under Charles's mediation, the ambitious cardinal was still meditating the destruction of the Hugonots: that preparations were silently making in every province of France for the suppression of their religion; that forts were erected in order to bridle Rochelle, the most considerable bulwark of the Protestants; that the reformed in France cast their eyes on Charles as the head of their faith, and considered him as a prince engaged by interest, as well as inclination, to support them; that so long as their party subsisted, Charles might rely on their attachment as much as on that of his own subjects; but if their liberties were once ravished from them, the power of France, freed from this impediment, would soon become formidable to England, and to all the neighboring nations.

Though Charles probably bore but small favor to the Hugonots, who so much resembled the Puritans in discipline and worship, in religion and politics, he yet allowed himself to be gained by these arguments, enforced by the solicitations of Buckingham. A fleet of a hundred sail, and an army of seven thousand men, were fitted out for the invasion of France, and both of them intrusted to the command of the duke, who was altogether unacquainted both with land and sea service. The fleet appeared before Rochelle; but so ill concerted were Buckingham's measures, that the inhabitants of that city shut their gates and refused to admit allies of whose coming they were not previously informed.[*] All his military operations showed equal incapacity and inexperience. Instead of attacking Oleron, a fertile island, and defenceless, he bent his course to the Isle of Rhe, which was well garrisoned and fortified: having landed his men, though with some loss, he followed not the blow, but allowed Toiras, the French governor, five days' respite, during which St. Martin was victualled and provided for a siege.[**]

* Rushworth, vol i. p. 426.

** Whitlocke, p. 8. Sir Philip Warwick, p. 25.

He left behind him the small fort of Prie, which could at first have made no manner of resistance: though resolved to starve St. Martin, he guarded the sea negligently, and allowed provisions and ammunition to be thrown into it: despairing to reduce it by famine, he attacked it without having made any breach, and rashly threw away the lives of the soldiers: having found that a French army had stolen over in small divisions, and had landed at Prie, the fort which he had at first overlooked, he began to think of a retreat; but made it so unskilfully, that it was equivalent to a total rout; he was the last of the army that embarked; and he returned to England, having lost two thirds of his land forces; totally discredited both as an admiral and a general; and bringing no praise with him, but the vulgar one of courage and personal bravery.

The duke of Rohan, who had taken arms as soon as Buckingham appeared upon the coast, discovered the dangerous spirit of the sect, without being able to do any mischief; the inhabitants of Rochelle, who had at last been induced to join the English, hastened the vengeance of their master, exhausted their provisions in supplying their allies, and were threatened with an immediate siege. Such were the fruits of Buckingham's expedition against France.



CHAPTER LI.



CHARLES I.

{1628.} There was reason to apprehend some disorder or insurrection from the discontents which prevailed among the people in England. Their liberties, they believed, were ravished from them; illegal taxes extorted; their commerce which had met with a severe check from the Spanish, was totally annihilated by the French war; those military honors transmitted to them from their ancestors, had received a grievous stain by two unsuccessful and ill-conducted expeditions; scarce an illustrious family but mourned, from the last of them, the loss of a son or brother; greater calamities were dreaded from the war with these powerful monarchies, concurring with the internal disorders under which the nation labored. And these ills were ascribed, not to the refractory disposition of the two former parliaments, to which they were partly owing, but solely to Charles's obstinacy in adhering to the counsels of Buckingham, a man nowise entitled by his birth, age, services, or merit, to that unlimited confidence reposed in him. To be sacrificed to the interest, policy, and ambition of the great, is so much the common lot of the people, that they may appear unreasonable who would pretend to complain of it: but to be the victim of the frivolous gallantry of a favorite, and of his boyish caprices, seemed the object of peculiar indignation.

In this situation, it may be imagined the king and the duke dreaded, above all things, the assembling of a parliament; but so little foresight had they possessed in their enterprising schemes, that they found themselves under an absolute necessity of embracing that expedient. The money levied, or rather extorted, under color of prerogative, had come in very slowly, and had left such ill humor in the nation, that it appeared dangerous to renew the experiment. The absolute necessity of supply, it was hoped, would engage the commons to forget all past injuries; and, having experienced the ill effects of former obstinacy, they would probably assemble with a resolution of making some reasonable compliances. The more to soften them, it was concerted, by Sir Robert Cotton's advice,[*] that Buckingham should be the first person that proposed in council the calling of a new parliament. Having laid in this stock of merit, he expected that all his former misdemeanors would be overlooked and forgiven; and that, instead of a tyrant and oppressor, he should be regarded as the first patriot in the nation.

The views of the popular leaders were much more judicious and profound. When the commons assembled, they appeared to be men of the same independent spirit with their predecessors, and possessed of such riches, that their property was computed to surpass three times that of the house of peers;[**] they were deputed by boroughs and counties, inflamed all of them by the late violations of liberty; many of the members themselves had been cast into prison, and had suffered by the measures of the court; yet, notwithstanding these circumstances, which might prompt them to embrace violent resolutions, they entered upon business with perfect temper and decorum. They considered that the king, disgusted at these popular assemblies, and little prepossessed in favor of their privileges, wanted but a fair pretence for breaking with them, and would seize the first opportunity offered by any incident, or any undutiful behavior of the members. He fairly told them in his first speech, that, "If they should not do their duties in contributing to the necessities of the state, he must, in discharge of his conscience, use those other means which God had put into his hands, in order to save that which the follies of some particular men may otherwise put in danger. Take not this for a threatening," added the king, "for I scorn to threaten any but my equals; but as an admonition from him who, by nature and duty, has most care of your preservation and prosperity."[***] The lord keeper, by the king's direction, subjoined, "This way of parliamentary supplies as his majesty told you, he hath chosen, not as the only way, but as the fittest; not because he is destitute of others, but because it is most agreeable to the goodness of his own most gracious disposition, and to the desire and weal of his people. If this be deferred, necessity and the sword of the enemy make way for the others. Remember his majesty's admonition. I say, remember it."[****]

* Franklyn, p. 230.

** Sanderson, p. 106. Walker, p. 339

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 477. Franklyn, p. 233.

**** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 479. Franklyn, p. 234

From these avowed maxims, the commons foresaw that, if the least handle were afforded, the king would immediately dissolve them, and would thenceforward deem himself justified for violating, in a manner still more open, all the ancient forms of the constitution. No remedy could then be looked for but from insurrections and civil war, of which the issue would be extremely uncertain, and which must, in all events, prove calamitous to the nation. To correct the late disorders in the administration required some new laws, which would, no doubt, appear harsh to a prince so enamored of his prerogative; and it was requisite to temper, by the decency and moderation of their debates, the rigor which must necessarily attend their determinations. Nothing can give us a higher idea of the capacity of those men who now guided the commons, and of the great authority which they had acquired, than the forming and executing of so judicious and so difficult a plan of operations.

The decency, however, which the popular leaders had prescribed to themselves, and recommended to others, hindered them not from making the loudest and most vigorous complaints against the grievances under which the nation had lately labored. Sir Francis Seymour said, "This is the great council of the kingdom; and here with certainty, if not here only, his majesty may see, as in a true glass, the state of the kingdom. We are called hither by his writs, in order to give him faithful counsel; such as may stand with his honor: and this we must do without flattery. We are also sent hither by the people, in order to deliver their just grievances: and this we must do without fear. Let us not act like Cambyses's judges, who, when their approbation was demanded by the prince to some illegal measure, said, that 'Though there was a written law, the Persian kings might follow their own will and pleasure.' This was base flattery, fitter for our reproof than our imitation; and as fear, so flattery, taketh away the judgment. For my part, I shall shun both; and speak my mind with as much duty as any man to his majesty, without neglecting the public.

"But how can we express our affections while we retain our fears; or speak of giving, till we know whether we have any thing to give? For if his majesty may be persuaded to take what he will, what need we give?

"That this hath been done, appeareth by the billeting of soldiers, a thing nowise advantageous to the king's service, and a burden to the commonwealth: by the imprisonment of gentlemen for refusing the loan, who, if they had done the contrary for fear, had been as blamable as the projector of that oppressive measure. To countenance these proceedings, hath it not been preached in the pulpit, or rather prated, that 'All we have is the king's by divine right'? But when preachers forsake their own calling, and turn ignorant statesmen, we see how willing they are to exchange a good conscience for a bishopric.

"He, I must confess, is no good subject, who would not willingly and cheerfully lay down his life, when that sacrifice may promote the interests of his sovereign, and the good of the commonwealth. But he is not a good subject, he is a slave, who will allow his goods to be taken from him against his will, and his liberty against the laws of the kingdom. By opposing these practices, we shall but tread in the steps of our forefathers, who still preferred the public before their private interest, nay, before their very lives. It will in us be a wrong done to ourselves, to our posterities, to our consciences, if we forego this claim and pretension."[*]

* Franklyn p. 243. Rushworth, vol. i, p. 499.

"I read of a custom," said Sir Robert Philips, "among the old Romans, that once every year they held a solemn festival, in which their slaves had liberty, without exception, to speak what they pleased, in order to ease their afflicted minds; and, on the conclusion of the festival, the slaves severally returned to their former servitudes.

"This institution may, with some distinction, well set forth our present state and condition. After the revolution of some time, and the grievous sufferance of many violent oppressions, we have now at last, as those slaves, obtained, for a day, some liberty of speech; but shall not, I trust, be hereafter slaves: for we are born free. Yet what new illegal burdens our estates and persons have groaned under, my heart yearns to think of, my tongue falters to utter.——

"The grievances by which we are oppressed, I draw under two heads; acts of power against law, and the judgments of lawyers against our liberty."

Having mentioned three illegal judgments passed within his memory; that by which the Scots, born after James's accession, were admitted to all the privileges of English subjects;[** semi-colon inserted, not in scan] that by which the new impositions had been warranted; and the late one, by which arbitrary imprisonments were authorized; he thus proceeded:—

"I can live, though another, who has no right, be put to live along with me; nay, I can live, though burdened with impositions beyond what at present I labor under: but to have my liberty, which is the soul of my life, ravished from me to have my person pent up in a jail, without relief by law, and to be so adjudged,—O, improvident ancestors! O, unwise forefathers! to be so curious in providing for the quiet possession of our lands, and the liberties of parliament; and at the same time to neglect our personal liberty, and let us lie in prison, and that during pleasure, without redress or remedy! If this be law, why do we talk of liberties? why trouble ourselves with disputes about a constitution, franchises, property of goods, and the like? What may any man call his own, if not the liberty of his person?

"I am weary of treading these ways; and therefore conclude to have a select committee, in order to frame a petition to his majesty for redress of these grievances. And this petition, being read, examined, and approved, may be delivered to the king; of whose gracious answer we have no cause to doubt, our desires being so reasonable, our intentions so loyal, and the manner so dutiful. Neither need we fear that this is the critical parliament, as has been insinuated; or that this is the way to distraction: but assure ourselves of a happy issue. Then shall the king, as he calls us his great council, find us his true council, and own us his good council."[*]

* Franklyn, p. 245. Parl. Hist. vol. vii. p. 363. Rushworth, vol i. p. 502.

The same topics were enforced by Sir Thomas Wentworth. After mentioning projectors and ill ministers of state, "These," said he, "have introduced a privy council, ravishing at once the spheres of all ancient government; destroying all liberty; imprisoning us without bail or bond. They have taken from us—What shall I say? Indeed, what have they left us? By tearing up the roots of all property, they have taken from us every means of supplying the king, and of ingratiating ourselves by voluntary proofs of our duty and attachment towards him.

"To the making whole all these breaches I shall apply myself, and to all these diseases shall propound a remedy. By one and the same thing have the king and the people been hurt, and by the same must they be cured. We must vindicate—what? New things? No: our ancient, legal, and vital liberties; by reenforcing the laws enacted by our ancestors; by setting such a stamp upon them, that no licentious spirit shall dare henceforth to invade them. And shall we think this a way to break a parliament? No: our desires are modest and just. I speak both for the interest of king and people. If we enjoy not these rights, it will be impossible for us to relieve him. Let us never, therefore, doubt of a favorable reception from his goodness."[*]

These sentiments were unanimously embraced by the whole house. Even the court party pretended not to plead, in defence of the late measures, any thing but the necessity to which the king had been reduced by the obstinacy of the two former parliaments. A vote, therefore, was passed, without opposition, against arbitrary imprisonments and forced loans.[**] And the spirit of liberty having obtained some contentment by this exertion, the reiterated messages of the king, who pressed for supply, were attended to with more temper. Five subsidies were voted him; with which, though much inferior to his wants, he declared himself well satisfied; and even tears of affection started in his eye when he was informed of this concession. The duke's approbation too was mentioned by Secretary Coke; but the conjunction of a subject with the sovereign was ill received by the house.[***] Though disgusted with the king, the jealousy which they felt for his honor was more sensible than that which his unbounded confidence in the duke would allow even himself to entertain.

* Franklyn, p 243. Rushworth, vol. i. p. 500.

** Franklyn, p. 251. Rushworth, vol. i. p. 513. Whitlocke, p. 9

*** Rushworth, vol. i. p. 526, Whitlocke, p. 9.

The supply, though voted, was not as yet passed into a law; and the commons resolved to employ the interval in providing some barriers to their rights and liberties so lately violated. They knew that their own vote, declaring the illegality of the former measures, had not, of itself, sufficient authority to secure the constitution against future invasion. Some act to that purpose must receive the sanction of the whole legislature; and they appointed a committee to prepare the model of so important a law. By collecting into one effort all the dangerous and oppressive claims of his prerogative, Charles had exposed them to the hazard of one assault and had further, by presenting a nearer view of the consequences attending them, roused the independent genius of the commons. Forced loans, benevolences, taxes without consent of parliament, arbitrary imprisonments, the billeting of soldiers, martial law; these were the grievances complained of, and against these an eternal remedy was to be provided. The commons pretended not, as they affirmed, to any unusual powers or privileges: they aimed only at securing those which had been transmitted them from their ancestors: and their law they resolved to call a Petition of Right; as implying that it contained a corroboration or explanation of the ancient constitution, not any infringement of royal prerogative, or acquisition of new liberties.

While the committee was employed in framing the petition of right, the favorers of each party, both in parliament and throughout the nation, were engaged in disputes about this bill, which, in all likelihood, was to form a memorable era in the English government.

That the statutes, said the partisans of the commons, which secure English liberty, are not become obsolete, appears hence, that the English have ever been free, and have ever been governed by law and a limited constitution. Privileges in particular, which are founded on the Great Charter, must always remain in force, because derived from a source of never-failing authority, regarded in all ages as the most sacred contract between king and people. Such attention was paid to this charter by our generous ancestors, that they got the confirmation of it reiterated thirty several times; and even secured it by a rule which, though vulgarly received, seems in the execution impracticable. They have established it as a maxim "That even a statute which should be enacted in contradiction to any article of that charter, cannot have force or validity." But with regard to that important article which secures personal liberty, so far from attempting at any time any legal infringement of it, they have corroborated it by six statutes, and put it out of all doubt and controversy. If in practice it has often been violated, abuses can never come in the place of rules; nor can any rights or legal powers be derived from injury and injustice. But the title of the subject to personal liberty not only is founded on ancient, and, therefore, the most sacred laws; it is confirmed by the whole analogy of the government and constitution. A free monarchy in which every individual is a slave, is a glaring contradiction: and it is requisite, where the laws assign privileges to the different orders of the state, that it likewise secure the independence of the members. If any difference could be made in this particular, it were better to abandon even life or property to the arbitrary will of the prince; nor would such immediate danger ensue, from that concession, to the laws and to the privileges of the people. To bereave of his life a man not condemned by any legal trial, is so egregious an exercise of tyranny, that it must at once shock the natural humanity of princes, and convey an alarm throughout the whole commonwealth. To confiscate a man's fortune, besides its being a most atrocious act of violence, exposes the monarch so much to the imputation of avarice and rapacity, that it will seldom be attempted in any civilized government. But confinement, though a less striking, is no less severe a punishment; nor is there any spirit so erect and independent, as not to be broken by the long continuance of the silent and inglorious sufferings of a jail. The power of imprisonment, therefore, being the most natural and potent engine of arbitrary government, it is absolutely necessary to remove it from a government which is free and legal.

The partisans of the court reasoned after a different manner. The true rule of government, said they, during any period, is that to which the people, from time immemorial, have been accustomed, and to which they naturally pay a prompt obedience. A practice which has ever struck their senses, and of which they have seen and heard innumerable precedents, has an authority with them much superior to that which attends maxims derived from antiquated statutes and mouldy records. In vain do the lawyers establish it as a principle, that a statute can never be abrogated by opposite custom; but requires to be expressly repealed by a contrary statute: while they pretend to inculcate an axiom peculiar to English jurisprudence, they violate the most established principles of human nature; and even by necessary consequence reason in contradiction to law itself, which they would represent as so sacred and inviolable. A law, to have any authority must be derived from a legislature which has right. And whence do all legislatures derive their right, but from long custom and established practice? If a statute contrary to public good has at any time been rashly voted and assented to, either from the violence of faction or the inexperience of senates and princes, it cannot be more effectually abrogated by a train of contrary precedents, which prove, that by common consent it has been tacitly set aside, as inconvenient and impracticable. Such has been the case with all those statutes enacted during turbulent times, in order to limit royal prerogative, and cramp the sovereign in his protection of the public, and his execution of the laws. But above all branches of prerogative, that which is most necessary to be preserved, is the power of imprisonment. Faction and discontent, like diseases, frequently arise in every political body; and during these disorders, it is by the salutary exercise alone of this discretionary power, that rebellions and civil wars can be prevented. To circumscribe this power, is to destroy its nature: entirely to abrogate it, is impracticable; and the attempt itself must prove dangerous, if not pernicious to the public. The supreme magistrate, in critical and turbulent times, will never, agreeably either to prudence or duty, allow the state to perish, while there remains a remedy which, how irregular soever, it is still in his power to apply. And if, moved by a regard to public good, he employs any exercise of power condemned by recent and express statute, how greedily, in such dangerous times, will factious leaders seize this pretence of throwing on his government the imputation of tyranny and despotism! Were the alternative quite necessary, it were surely much better for human society to be deprived of liberty than to be destitute of government.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse