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Charles II page 3

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"No saint or confessor ever went to martyrdom," says Hume, "with more assured confidence of heaven, than was expressed by these criminals, even when the terrors of immediate death, joined to many indignities, were set before them." In fact, they had done a great deed on principle, and they felt sure of the approval of God and of posterity. They declared, when called on to repent of their act, that they dared not repent of the death of the king; that to repent of a good deed was offence to God; that they were proud to suffer for such a cause, and they confidently proclaimed that their martyrdom would be the most glorious spectacle that the world had seen since the death of Christ; and that their blood would be assuredly avenged, and the cause of monarchy crouch before advancing independence. Little did their judges dream how soon their words were to be verified.

Harrison was drawn first to Charing Cross on a hurdle. His conduct was cheerful and even animated, as with triumph he* declared that many a time he had begged the Lord, if he had any hard, any reproachful, or contemptible service to be done by his people, that he might be employed in it; and that now his prayers were answered. Several times he cried out as he was drawn along, that he suffered in the most glorious cause in the world; and when a low wretch asked him, "Where's your good old cause now?" he replied, "Here it is!" clapping his hand on his heart, "and I am going to seal it with my blood." He was put to death with all the horrors of the most barbarous times, cut down alive, his bowels torn out whilst he was alive, and then his quivering heart held up to the people. Charles witnessed this revolting scene at a little distance, and yet that heartless man let the whole of the condemned suffer the same bloody barbarities. They all went to their hideous death with the same heroic spirit, and in order to daunt the old preacher, Hugh Peters, he was taken to see the hanging, drawing, and quartering of Coke, but it only seemed to animate him all the more. The effect of this and of the addresses of the undaunted regicides from the scaffold was such, that the people began to show evident disgust of these cruelties; and when Scott's turn came, they endeavoured to drown his words, so that he said it must be a very bad cause that could not hear the words of a dying man. But the words and noble courage of these dying men, Bishop Burnet observes, "their show of piety, their justifying all they had done, not without a seeming joy for their suffering on that account, caused the king to be advised not to proceed further, or at least not to have the scene so near the court as Charing Cross."

Whilst these butcheries of some of the most heroic men which this country has produced, who had counselled, fought, and now died for the liberties of England, illustrated the real spirit of the so-called merry monarch, and of these much admired fine gentlemen, his cavalier court, they were making the British public sensible in another way of the precious golden calf of royalty that they had been so rapturously bowing down to, by the display of the most undisguised riot and licentiousness. Whitehall was crowded with pimps, panders, loose women, and still looser men, clamouring for titles and fortunes, and, amid the sanguinary exhibitions of Charing Cross, the wildest wickedness disgraced the court. As Nero fiddled whilst Rome was burning, so the modern Nero earned his title of "merry" and "debonair," by laughing whilst the truest men of the country were perishing under his hands. Not even some striking instances of mortality within its own circle could long check its lascivious orgies.

About a month before Harrison's execution, the duke of Gloucester died of small pox; and scarcely were the royal shambles closed for awhile when the princess of Orange, who had come over to congratulate her brother, the king, died of small pox, too. "At court," says Pepys, "things are in very ill-condition, there being so much emulation, poverty, and the vices of drinking, swearing, and loose amours, that I know not what will be the end of it but confusion; and the clergy are so high that all people that I meet with do protest against their practice." Sober people must have looked back with a strange feeling to the sober and manly times of the protectorate. But death and marriage merriments were oddly mingled in this bacchanalian court. The daughter of old Clarendon, Ann Hyde, was married to the duke of York, and was delivered of a son just six weeks afterwards. The queen- mother, Henrietta. Maria, and the princess of Orange, and the princess Henrietta, were violently opposed to so unroyal a marriage, but the old chancellor had the influence with Charles to carry it through, and, instead of a disgrace, to convert it into a triumph. The wily old politician pretended himself to have been not only grossly deceived in the matter, but to be intensely angry, and told the king, according to his own account, in his autobiography, on hearing the news, that if the marriage had really taken place, he would advise that "the king should immediately cause the woman to be sent to the Tower, and to be cast into a dungeon, under so strict a guard, that no living person should be permitted to come to her; and then that an act of parliament should be immediately passed for cutting off her head, to which he would not only give his consent, but would very willingly be the first to propose it." This picture of the heroism of a savage, however, ill agrees with the accounts of the chancellor's real concern in the matter. Evelyn, in his diary, says, "The queen would fain have undone it, but it seems that matters were reconciled on great offers of the chancellor's to befriend her, who was so much in debt, and was now to have the settlement of her affairs go through his hands." Accordingly, about six weeks after the arrival of Henrietta Maria at Whitehall the marriage was publicly acknowledged.

Amid all these disgraceful transactions parliament met again on the 6th of November. They proceeded to pass into a bill the king's "healing declaration" regarding religion. The presbyterians were in high spirits, but they were soon made to feel their folly in bringing back the episcopalian church with its episcopalian head. The clergy were not so high for nothing. They knew very well what the king would do when the matter was pressed to an issue, and accordingly the expectant presbyterians found the court party not only voting, but openly speaking against the bill. Morrice, the creature of Monk, and now secretary of state, and Heneage Finch, the solicitor-general, strenuously opposed it, Finch not scrupling to avow that "it was not the king's desire that the bill should proceed." It was thrown out, and the duped presbyterians, instead of persecutors, soon found persecution let loose upon them. The convention parliament having satisfied the court in this measure, proceeded to gratify its ghoulish and worse than hyaena vengeance on the illustrious dead. On the 8th of December they voted the attainder of Oliver Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw, and having got this sanction on the 30th of January, 1661, the court, under cover of the clergy's pious zeal, sent a rabble of constables to tear open the graves of these great regicides, to drag their decaying corpses to Tyburn on hurdles, to hang them, to cut them down and behead them, and then throwing their putrid bodies into a hole under the gallows, to stick their heads on poles on the top of Westminster Hall. It would have stamped both king and church with eternal infamy to have only done this vile deed - to have thus treated the senseless remains of the greatest prince, as Macaulay terms him, that ever sate on the English seat of supreme rule since Alfred. But the low, fiendish malice of this despicable monarch could not stop there. He proceeded to perpetrate the same revolting atrocities on the bodies of innocent and virtuous women, and on some of the most illustrious men of our annals. The remains of the brave old mother of Cromwell, and of his amiable daughter, lady Claypole, were dragged forth; that of Dorislaus, the envoy of the parliament who had been murdered by the retainers of this same Charles at the Hague; of May, the historian of the parliament, and the excellent translator of Lucan's "Pharsalia;" of Pym, the great and incorruptible champion of English liberty; and of Blake, the most famous admiral that the country had yet produced, whose name alone gave it a world-wide renown. These, and every other body which had been buried in the abbey whilst the commonwealth lasted, were dragged out and flung into a pit in St. Margaret's churchyard.

These were deeds never to be forgiven by Englishmen; deeds which for ever stripped away the ill-applied terms of gentlemen and noble cavaliers from those who did them. In the midst of these diabolical outrages the nation narrowly escaped another, which would have crowned it with eternal infamy. There was a cry to seize and hang the ' blind old poet of "Paradise Lost," the glorious defender of the people of England, the eloquent advocate of the liberty of the state, the purity of the church, the unrestricted exercise of thought and word and pen. He was ignominiously seized and dragged by sordid tipstaff hands to prison. The cry was hang him, and only three voices were raised in his favour. One of these was that of his illustrious friend, and friend of his country, Andrew Marvel. But the very majesty of his divine genius, even in that terrible age, seemed to withhold the murderbus hands of this vile court, and being stripped of his property under the name of fees, and his two famous works, the "Defence of the English People," and his "Eikonoclastes," burned by the hangman, he was suffered to live in poverty and neglect. It is said that Charles, in Milton's old age, had the brutality to pay him a visit, and to insult him with the loss of his eyes as a judgment for his proceedings against the king, to which he is said to have calmly replied, "If that be a judgment on me, what was the judgment on your father? I only lost my eyes, but your father lost his head."

This infamous convention parliament having shown the most abject servility to the libertine king, a bargain was now driven with it, which marks one of the greatest epochs in our history. We desire to draw the particular attention of our readers to this event, as by it the whole system of our taxation was changed, and the burden of it shifted from the shoulders of the aristocracy to those of the people; a change which was no sooner effected than the system of creating a national debt commenced, which has grown into the enormous amount of upwards of eight hundred millions sterling. Our modern historians, however - striking and unparalleled as has been this fiscal revolution, leading to enormous and incessant wars, to boundless extravagance in our government, and to all the evils of parliamentary corruption - have passed slightly over it. Some of them have just mentioned the fact that the feudal tenures were abolished, and the excise granted as a permanent revenue to the crown, and others, that the aristocracy obtained thus a release from their feudal obligations, but did not release their feudal tenants\ but not one of them has perceived, or if so, has followed out the stupendous consequences of this change, one of the most vast and momentous in our history. Hume does not even allude to it. Knight merely observes generally that "at the restoration properly begins the modern history of the public revenue. That the 12 Car. II. c. 24 granted the king and his heirs and successors for ever, in full and ample recompense and satisfaction for the courts of wards and the prerogative of purveyance, the excise upon ale, beer, and other liquor." Even Macaulay sees little farther, and makes a gross blunder in stating the simple fact. At the commencement of the second chapter of the first volume of his popular edition of his history, he says, M The history of England, during the seventeenth century, is the history of the transformation of a limited monarchy, constituted after the fashion of the middle ages, into a liberal monarchy, suited to the more advanced state of society in which the public charges can be no longer borne by the estates of the crown, and in which the public defence can be no longer trusted to a feudal militia." He then simply tells us that feudal rights and tenures perished with the crown under the commonwealth, and that at the restoration they were abolished by statute, and that "no relic of the ancient tenures was suffered to remain, except those honorary services which are still, at a coronation, rendered to the person of the sovereign by some lords of manors." And with this slight notice he dismisses the greatest event of modern English history, excepting the establishment of the commonwealth, and the revolution of 1688. In the last portion of the passage, however, he commits a singular oversight, for so far from it being the case that no relic of the feudal tenures was left; the truth was, that whilst the aristocracy freed themselves from their obligations to the crown, they expressly retained the obligations due to themselves from the lesser tenants, namely, all the manorial rights, including the great one of copyhold. Lingard gives a more accurate and comprehensive relation of this great fact.

"But while they (the two houses) provided for the sovereign, they were not unmindful of their own interests. In the preceding reigns, the proprietors of lands had frequently and zealously sought to abolish tenures by knights' service, confessedly the most onerous of the existing feudal, burdens; but their attempts were constantly defeated by the monarch and his courtiers, unwilling to resign the benefits of marriages, reliefe, and wardships. Now, however, in this season of reconciliation and mutual concession, the proposal was made and accepted; the terms were arranged to the satisfaction of both parties, and Charles consented to accept a fixed annual income of one hundred thousand pounds in place of the casual but lucrative profits of the court of wards. Still the transaction did little honour to the liberality of the two houses. They refused to extend the benefit to the inferior tenures; and the very act which relieved the lords of the manors from the services which they owed to the crown, confirmed to them the services which they claimed from those who held by tenure of copyright. Neither did they choose to pay the price of the benefit, though it was to be enjoyed exclusively by themselves. Originally, the authors of the measure intended to raise the compensation by a tax on the lands which had been relieved; the amount had actually been apportioned' to the several counties by the committee, when a member, as it were accidentally, asked why they should not resort to the excise. The suggestion was eagerly caught by the courtiers and many of the proprietors. The injustice of compelling the poor to pay for the relief of the rich, though strongly urged, was contemptuously overlooked; and the friends of the motion, on a division in full house, obtained a majority of two. In lieu, therefore, of purveyance, military tenures, and their various incidents, fruits, and dependencies, the produce of one moiety of the excise, a constantly growing and more profitable branch of revenue than the original compensation, was settled on the crown for ever." - vol. xi., pp. 195-6, small edition. Lingard curtly adds that soon after they gave the crown the other moiety of the excise, "then producing about three hundred thousand pounds per annum, but now swelled to eighteen million pounds per annum."

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