OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Charles II page 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5> 6 7 8 9 10

Scotland was restored to its condition of an independent kingdom. The survivors of the committee of estates, which had been left in management on Charles's disastrous march into England, previous to the battle of Worcester, were ordered to resume their functions. Middleton was appointed lord commissioner; Glencairn lord chancellor; the earl of Lauderdale secretary of state; Rothes president of the council; and Crawford lord treasurer. A parliament was summoned to meet in Edinburgh in January, 1661, and its first measure was to restore the episcopal hierarchy. To completely destroy every civil right of the presbyterian kirk, Middleton procured the passing of an act to annul all the proceedings of the Scottish parliament since the commencement of the contest with the late king. Though even the lord treasurer Crawford opposed this measure, declaring that as the late king had been present at one of these parliaments, and the present one at another, and that therefore to repeal the acts of these parliaments, would be to rescind the act of indemnity and the approval of the "engagement," Middleton carried his point, and levelled every political right of the kirk at a blow. The ministers of the kirk in astonishment met to consult and to protest; they sent a deputation to the king with a remonstrance; but they arrived at a time likely to inspire them with awe, and did not escape without a painful evidence that they were no longer in the proud position of their fathers. Charles had shed the blood of vengeance plentifully in England, and there were those in Scotland whom he looked on with a menacing eye. The chief of these was the marquis of Argyll. Argyll had been the head and leader of the covenanters. He had counselled with and encouraged the general assembly in its resistance to the late king's measures. He had been his most persevering enemy, and finally, he had encouraged the invasion of England by the Scots, and Iiad been the first to support Cromwell, even sitting in the parliament of his son Richard. Argyll was well aware that he was an object of resentment, and kept himself secure in the Highlands. But his son, lord Lorn, hacj, been a Steady and zealous opponent of Cromwell and the common- wealth, and he was one of the first to congratulate Charles on his restoration. To lay hold on Argyll in his mountains was no easy matter, but if he could be beguiled from his fastnesses to court, he might be at once punished. No symptoms of the remembrance of the past, therefore, escaped the king or his ministers, and Argyll, deceived by this, and by the friendly reception of his son, wrote, proposing to pay his respects to his sovereign in the capital. Charles returned him a friendly answer, and the unwary victim was not long in making his appearance in London. But he was not admitted to an audience at Whitehall, but instantly arrested and committed to the Tower. He was then sent down to Scotland to be tried by the king's ministers there, some of them, as Lauderdale and Middleton, hideous to their own age and to posterity for their sanguinary cruelty. Besides, they were eager to possess themselves of Argyll's splendid patrimony, and they pursued his impeachment with an unshrinking and unblushing ferocity, which astonished even the king.

Argyll pleaded that he had only acted as the whole nation had done, and with the sanction of parliament. That the late king had passed an act of oblivion for all transactions prior to 1641, and the present king had given an act of indemnity up to 1651; that, up to that period, he could not, therefore, be called in question. That he had been out of the country during the time that most of the barbarities alleged had been committed, and that äs to the marquis of Montrose, he had been the first to commence a system of burning and extermination, and that they were compelled to treat him in the safiae manner. And finally, his compliance with Cromwell was not a thing peculiar to himself. They had all been coerced by that successful man; so much so, that his majesty's lord advocate, then his persecutor, had taken the engagement to him. This latter plea was the most unfortunate one that he could have used, for nothing but augmented malice could be the result of it, and there was enough of that already in the minds of his judges. Fletcher, the lord advocate, was thrown into a fury by the remark, called the marquis an impudent villain, and added an additional article to the charges against him, that of having conspired the late king's death.

Lord Lorn procured a letter from Charles, ordering the lord advocate to introduce no charge prior to 1651, and that on the conclusion of the trial, the proceedings should be submitted to the king before judgment was given. This would have probably defeated his intended foes had the king been honest in the matter; but Middleton represented to Charles that to stay judgment till the proceedings had been inspected by £he king, would look like distrust of the parliament, and might much discourage that loyal body. Charles allowed matters, therefore, to take their course; but Middleton was again disappointed by Gilmore, the president of the court of sessions, declaring that all charges against the marquis since 1651 were less valid for the purposes of an attainder than those which had excited so much controversy in the cause of the earl of Strafford, and he carried the parliament with him. Argyll and his friends now calculated on his escape, but this was not intended; a number of letters were hunted out, said to have been written to Monk and other commonwealth men whilst they were in power, expressing his attachment to their cause, and his decided disapprobation of the king's proceedings. These were decisive. Though the time was passed when fresh evidence could legally be introduced, these letters were read in parliament, and the effect was that of a thunderbolt falling in the midst of Argyll's friends. They at once disappeared, overwhelmed with confusion, and sentence of death was passed on the marquis. That no time might be allowed for an appeal to the king, who wished to be excused refusing the favour of his life to his son, lord Lorn, his execution was ordered in two days. In vain the unfortunate nobleman pleaded for ten days in order that the king's pleasure might be ascertained; it was refused, and understanding from that the determination of the king, he remarked, " I set the crown on his head at Scone, and this is my reward." He employed the short space left him in earnest prayer, and in the midst of his devotions, believing that he heard a voice saying, " Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee! " he was wonderfully consoled and strengthened, and ascended the scaffold with a calm intrepidity which astonished and disappointed his enemies. Before laying his head on the block, he declared his ardent attachment to the covenanters in words which flew to every quarter of Scotland, and raised him to the rank of a martyr in the estimation of the people. His head was stuck on the same spike that had received that of Montrose.

Next to Argyll, the malice of the king and cavaliers was fiercest against Johnstone of Warriston and Swinton. Warriston was the uncle of bishop Burnet, a most eloquent and energetic man, who had certainly done his utmost for the maintenance of the covenant, and against the tyranny of Charles I. He was now an old man, but he fled to France, where, however, he was not long safe, for the French government gave him up, and he was sent back and hanged. Swinton, who had turned quaker, escaped through Middleton's jealousy of Lauderdale, who had obtained the gift of Swinton's estate, but more probably by a substantial benefit from the estate to the court.

The wrath of Charles next fell on the deputation of twelve eminent ministers, who had dared to present a remonstrance against the suppression of the privileges of the kirk. They were thrown into prison, but were ultimately dismissed except Guthrie, one of the most daring and unbendable of them. He had formerly excommunicated Middleton, and had been one of the authors of the tract, "The Causes of God's Wrath.'' Since the restoration he had called a public meeting to remind the king of having taken the covenant, and to warn him against employing malignants. Guthrie was hanged, and along with him a captain Govan, who had, whilst the king was in Scotland, deserted to Cromwell; but why he was selected from among a host of such offenders no one could tell. This closed the catalogue of Scotch political executions for the present.

But in another form Charles, and his brutal ministers were preparing deluges of fresh blood in another direction. Middleton assured Charles that the restoration of prelacy was now the earnest desire of the nation, and a proclamation was issued, announcing the king's intention. Only one of the bishops of Laud's making was now alive, Sydserfe, a man of no estimation, who was sent to the distant see of Orkney, though he aspired to the archiepiscopal one of St. Andrews. That dignity was reserved for a very different man, Sharp, a pretended zealot for the kirk, who, at the same time that he urged Middleton to restore episcopacy, persuaded his clerical brethren to send him up to London to defend the independence of the kirk. He went, and to the astonishment and indignation of the ministers and people, returned archbishop of St. Andrews. He endeavoured, by a letter to Middleton of May 28th, to prove that he had served the kirk faithfully till he saw that it was of no avail, and that he took the post to keep out violent and dangerous men. This, after such a change, could be only regarded as the poor excuse of an unprincipled man. His incensed and abandoned friends heaped on him execrations, and accused him of incontinency, infanticide, and other heinous crimes. By this measure, and the co-operation of such men as Middleton and Lauderdale, all the old bitterness was revived, and the horrors of a persecution which has scarcely an example in history. By Sharp's advice three other bishops were appointed, Fairfowl to the see of Glasgow, Hamilton to Galloway, and Dr. Robert Leighton to Dunblane. Leighton was the son of that Dr. Leighton whom Laud had so unmercifully treated and mutilated for his tract against prelacy. And now his son embraced prelacy, but was a very different man to Sharp - pious, liberal, learned, and a real ornament to the church, though entering it by such a change. The four bishops went up to London to receive ordination, which was administered to them by Sheldon, bishop of London, at Westminster, with a splendour which greatly offended the puritan simplicity of Leighton. They were invited to take their seats in the house of parliament, where Leighton had very soon an opportunity of opposing the introduction of the oath of allegiance and supremacy, which, however, all men were required to take. Sharp drove on this and other irritating measures; all meetings of presbyteries and synods were prohibited under penalty of treason, and Sharp soon recommended the enforcement of an oath abjuring the solemn league and covenant; and with these terrible weapons in their hands, Middleton, Sharp, and Lauderdale drove the presbyterians from all offices in the church, state, or magistracy, and many were compelled to flee from the country. The most astonishing thing was, that the spirit of the people had been so subdued by the arms and supremacy of Cromwell, that instead of rising as their fathers did, they submitted in passive surprise. It required fresh indignities and atrocities to raise them again to the fighting pitch, and they came. In a short time the number of prelates was augmented to fourteen, and the kirk appeared to be extinguished in Scotland.

Whilst these things were taking place in Ireland and Scotland, in England the king and his cavalier courtiers were running a high career, and it was deemed prudent to have a formally though not constitutionally elected parliament, as a better authority for his daring proceedings and plans against the national liberties. The aristocratic and tory influences were in full swing. The old great families, the old gentry, the cavaliers, and the clergy, were all united to strain every old corrupt practice to pack a parliament of their own fashion. Royalists, cavaliers, and the sons of cavaliers predominated in the new parliament, which met on the 8th of May, 1661. Not more than-fifty or sixty of the presby« terian party were elected, for the cavaliers everywhere proclaimed them the enemies of the monarchy, and they were scared into silence. This parliament, from the eager pursuit of the loaves and fishes by the majority of its members, acquired the name of the Pension Parliament, and to the disgrace of the country, continued to sit much longer than the so-called Long Parliament, longer, in fact, than any English parliament except one, had ever sate - it continued eighteen years. The parliament and the church far outrun the court in zeal for the destruction of liberty and the restoration of a perfect despotism. The commons commenced its proceedings by requiring every member, on pain of expulsion, to take the sacrament according to the rites of the church of England. They ordered, in conjunction with the lords, the solemn league and covenant to be burnt by the common hangman; they proposed to annul all the statutes of the Long Parliament, and restore the Star-chamber and Court of High Commission, but in this they failed. They passed a bill declaring that neither house, nor both houses together, had any legislative power without the king; that in him resided the sole command of the militia, and all other forces of land and sea; and that an oath should be taken, by all members of corporations, magistrates, and other persons bearing office, to this effect: - "I do declare and believe that it is not lawful upon any pretence whatever to take arms against the king, and that I do abhor that traitorous position of taking arms by his authority against his person, or against those commissioned by him." This was called the corporation oath. They restored the bishops to their seats in the house of peers; they made episcopalian ordination indispensable to church preferment; they revived the old liturgy without any concession to the prejudices of the presbyterians, and thus drove two thousand ministers from the church in one day; they reminded the sufferers that the Long Parliament had done the same, but they did not imitate that parliament in allowing the ejected ministers a small annuity to prevent their starving; they declared it a high misdemeanour to call the king a papist, that is, to speak the truth, for he was notoriously one; increased the rigour of the law of treason, and knocked on the head the last chance of popular liberty by abolishing the right of sending petitions to parliament with more than twenty names attached, except by permission of three justices of peace, or the majority of the grand jury. So furiously rose the stream of reaction, to such a pitiable condition was that great England reduced which had read so imperishable a lesson to kings and courtiers. England had yet other lessons to give before she had effectually placed kingship on its true basis. When this parliament had done these notable feats, and passed a bill of supply, Charles prorogued them till the 28th of November.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5> 6 7 8 9 10

Pictures for Charles II page 5

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About