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Reign of Charles I. page 13

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Long was not included in this trial, but was prosecuted in the star-chamber, on the plea that he had no business in parliament, being pricked for sheriff of his county, and by his oath was bound to have been there. He was fined one thousand marks. This, however, deceived nobody: every one knew that the offence for which he suffered was for his conduct in parliament. The prisoners lay in gaol for eighteen months. Sir John Elliot never came out again, His noble conduct had made deadly enemies of the king and his courtiers, and even when he was dying, in 1632, after three years' confinement, they rejoiced in his melancholy fate, and refused all petitions for his release.

Charles called no more parliaments till 1640, but went on for eleven years fighting his way through the most maniacal attempts on the constitution and temper of the nation, towards the block. A case of particular oppression on the part of the king, and of bravery on the part of the sufferer, at this time excited great indignation. Richard Chambers, a merchant, was summoned before the privy council for refusing to pay duties on a bale of silks, imposed without sanction of parliament. Charles selected this case as an example of his intention to trample on the Petition of Right so lately granted. Chambers, a brave and independent man, boldly told the council that "merchants were more encouraged, and less screwed and wrung in Turkey than in England." This was considered so contumacious, that he was prosecuted in the star-chamber; and that infamous and illegal instrument of the despotism of so many kings and queens, Tudors and Stuarts, declaring that it was the intention of Chambers to represent this happy government worse than a Turkish tyranny, fined him two thousand pounds, and ordered him to sign an acknowledgment that his words were seditious, false, and malignant. The honest merchant signed what they had written for him, but added of himself, "All the above contents and submission, I, Richard Chambers, do utterly abhor and detest, as most unjust and false, and never till death will acknowledge any part thereof." He did not stop there, but added various texts of Scripture to express his sense of the violent government of the time; such as, "Wo unto them that devise iniquity, because it is in the power of their hand!"

The case was forthwith removed to the exchequer, where he took his stand on Magna Charta and other statutes; but the judges would not suffer the plea to be filed; and when he demanded trial by exercise of his habeas corpus, they remanded him without hearing, and the indomitable man lay in prison twelve years. The long parliament, to which he sought long and anxiously for redress, deferred his case so shamefully, that he died unrequited and in destitution.

The treatment of Chambers and the parliamentary prisoners was a fair demonstration of the kind of government which now was to prevail. Laud was in the ascendant, and Wentworth, late a patriot, now bought over, was a slave and a generator of slaves. Laud was as great a stickler for the power of the church as Charles was of the state; their humours jumped amazingly, and this unexampled trio, Charles, Laud, and Wentworth, worked shoulder to shoulder in church and state, to reduce all to slavery. They invented a cant term betwixt them, to express what they aimed at, and the means by which they pursued it. It was "thorough," or, as the Americans have of late styled it in their slang, "going the whole hog."

Laud had introduced a passage into the ceremonial even of the coronation, which astonished the hearers, and showed even then that he aimed at an ecclesiastical despotism: "Stand and hold fast from henceforth the place to which you have been heir by the succession of your forefathers, being now delivered to you by the authority of God Almighty, and by the hands of us all, and all the bishops and servants of God. And as you see the clergy to come nearer the altar than others, so remember that, in all places convenient, you give them greater honour," &c. This haughty prelate now promulgated such absolute doctrines of divine right of king and priest, and began to run in ceremonies and church splendour so fast towards actual popery, that the daughter of the earl of Devonshire being asked by him why she had turned catholic, replied, "Because I hate to travel in a crowd. I perceive your grace and many others are making haste to Rome, and therefore, in order to prevent being crowded, I have gone before you."

Under this undaunted leader, the pulpits now resounded with the most flaming advocacy of divine right. A pamphlet was discovered by the reformers, which had been written for king James, and was now printed, urging the king to do as Louis XI. of France had done - dispense with parliaments altogether, and secure his predominance by a standing army. The queen's advice was precisely of this character: often crying up the infinite superiority of the kings of her own country and family, whom she styled real kings, whilst the English were only sham ones. But whilst Charles was greatly soothed by these doctrines, and strengthened in his resolve to trouble himself no more with parliaments, he was careful to strengthen his government by seducing as many of the ablest men of the opposition as he could. The first with whom he succeeded were Wentworth and Sir John Saville. They were both from Yorkshire, and both men of considerable property. Saville had been induced, by Cottington, the lord chancellor, to desert his patriotic friends and professions at the close of the second parliament, for a place in the privy council and the office of comptroller of the household.

Sir Thomas Wentworth was a much more considerable man. He claimed to be descended from the royal line of the Plantagenets, and had no superior in ability in the house. The position which he had assumed in the parliamentary resistance to the royal encroachments, had been uncompromising and most effective. So much were his eloquence and influence dreaded, that he had been, amongst others, appointed sheriff, to keep him out of the house. For his continual opposition he was deprived of the office of Custos Rotulorum, and thrown into prison. Yet, when tempted by the offer of rank and power, he fell suddenly, utterly, and hopelessly, and became one of the most unflinching advocates and actors of absolutism that ever lived. On the 21st of July, 1628, Saville was created a baron, and on the morrow Wentworth was raised to the same dignity, as baron Wentworth; and before the end of the year he was made a viscount, and lord president of the council of the north. From the moment that Wentworth put his hand to the plough of despotism, he never looked back. Without a visible sense or sentiment of his odious apostacy, he became as prominent and as resolute in the destruction of liberty and the prosecution of his former colleagues, as he had been for its advancement and for their friendship.

The contagion of this apostacy spread. Sir Dudley Digges had taken a conspicuous part in the contests which we have detailed, and had distinguished himself by his abilities in debate, sufficient to render him worth purchasing. His colleagues had long felt, notwithstanding his zeal, that he would not be proof to temptation. It was tried in the shape of master of the rolls, and he at once accepted it. Noye and Littleton, both lawyers, were as ready to advocate despotism as liberty, and the offer of the attorney-generalship to Noye, and the solicitor-generalship to Littleton, convinced them instantly that the court was right, and their old cause and companions wrong. They testified their capacity for seeing both sides of an argument, by persecuting their old opinions and associates with the zeal of proselytes.

The rest of Charles's ministers were the lord keeper Coventry, who, though he appeared on several occasions as 'the instrument of Charles's arbitrary measures, was thought not to approve very much of them, and who, therefore, kept himself as much as possible from mixing in political matters. The earls of Holland and Carlisle were of the council, whose history we have already traced, the pusillanimous earl of Montgomery, his brother, the earl of Pembroke, and the earl of Dorset. These noblemen were rather men of pleasure than of business, and attended the council without caring for office. The earl of Arundel was earl marshal, a proud and empty man, whom Clarendon describes as living much abroad, because the manners of foreign nations suited him better than his own, and who "resorted sometimes to court, because there only was a greater man than himself, and went thither the seldomer because there was a greater man than himself." He was careless of pleasing favourites, and was therefore almost always in disgrace. Lord Weston, already mentioned, was lord treasurer, and the earl of Manchester privy seal. Weston was an able lawyer, who succeeded Coke as lord chief justice, and then purchased the office of lord treasurer for twenty thousand pounds, only to have it wrested from him again by Buckingham, in about twelve months; but he was courtier enough to suppress his resentment, and had now again ascended to his present office, in which he was a very pliant servant of the king. Besides these, Sir John Coke or Cooke, and Sir Dudley Carleton, were secretaries of state. Carleton had spent too much time in foreign embassies to understand well the state of parties at home, but he understood the will of the king, and took good care to obey and promote it. Coke was "of narrow education, and narrower nature," says Clarendon, who adds that "his cardinal perfection was industry, his most eminent infirmity covetousness." He knew as little of foreign relations as Carleton did of domestic ones; but their office was one of far less rank and importance than such office is now, their real business being to enter the minutes and write the despatches of the council, not to participate in its discussions. Such were the instruments by which Charles trusted to render parliaments superfluous. By their aid, but far more so by that of Laud and Wentworth, he soon raised the nation to a state of exasperation, which was only appeased by the blood of all three.

During the violent transactions with his parliament at home, Charles had made peace with France. In fact, neither France nor Spain had shown a disposition to prosecute the disputes which the king of England had entered into with them. Louis sent home the prisoners he had taken in the Rochelle expedition, under the name of a present to his sister, and Philip did the same with regard to those captured at Cadiz. Buckingham had been at the bottom of both these wars, and now that he was gone, all differences were soon arranged. Louis of France made a demand for the restoration of a man-of-war, the St. Esprit, which had been illegally captured by Sir Sackville Trevor; but he gave up the claim, and Charles was not very importunate in his demands of protection to the French protestants. Richelieu, however, treated them far better than Charles treated the puritans in England. He took measures to prevent the possibility of another coalition, by destroying the castles of the nobles and the fortifications of the towns, prohibited the convention of deputies from the churches, and abolished the military organisation of the Huguenots in the south of France; but he left them the exercise of their worship, and attached no disability to a profession of it. This peace was concluded in the spring of 1629, and in the following year that with Spain was also accomplished. The queen Henrietta was violently opposed to this peace, because France was still at war with Spain and the kindred house of Austria. When she found that she could not prevail on Charles, she is said to have shed tears of vexation.

It is curious that the first overtures to this peace were made through two Flemish painters; the celebrated Six Peter Paul Reubens, and Gerbier, a native of Antwerp, who, had been master of the horse to Buckingham. Cottington was despatched to Spain, spite of the strenuous endeavours of the queen and the French ambassador; and in November 1630, Coloma arrived as ambassador from Madrid. Philip accepted the same terms as were proposed in 1604, pledging himself to restore such parts of the palsgrave's territory as were occupied by the troops of Spain - no very important extent, - and never to cease his endeavours to procure from the emperor the restitution of the whole. In consideration of this Charles once more agreed to that mysterious treaty against Holland, which had been in negotiation during the visit of Charles and Buckingham to Spain. This was no other than to assist Philip to regain possession of the seven United States of the Netherlands, which had cost Elizabeth so much to aid in the establishment of their independence, and which had always been, as protestant states, so much regarded by the English public, with which a great trade was, moreover, carried on. The knowledge of such a piece of treachery on the part of Charles, would have excited a terrible commotion amongst the people. For his share of the booty he was to receive a certain portion of the provinces, including the island of Zealand. Luckily for the king, his treason to protestantism remained a profound secret, and at length himself perceiving the difficulties and dilemmas in which it would involve him after Olivarez and Cottington had signed the treaty he withheld his ratification. By this prudent act, however, he forfeited all right to demand from Philip aid in regaining the patrimony of the prince palatine.

Whether prudence, a rare virtue in Charles, or other more congenial motives, determined him in withdrawing from the compact with Spain regarding Holland is doubtful, for in the very next year he was found busily engaged with the catholic states of Flanders and Brabant, in a project to drive thence his new ally Philip of Spain, France and Holland were equally eager to assist in this design; but the people of Flanders were suspicious of their motives, dreading to find in such powerful allies only fresh masters. They therefore applied to the king of England, and a great correspondence took place through the medium of Gerbier and secretary Coke; in which Coke was at great pains to show how much more to the advantage of the people of Flanders and Brabant would be the alliance of England, than that of the ambitious, encroaching French, or the stern Calvinistic "boors" of Holland. In religion Coke was zealous to show them that the catholic and Anglican churches were almost identically the same; but all this fine flourish of persuasion ended not in offering substantial support in the struggle which must come, but in promising to protect them against anybody but the king of Spain, with whom he was recently united in peace; and that therefore "it would be against honour and conscience to debauch his subjects from their allegiance." If all this was not just that precise fact of debauching them, it would be difficult to imagine what could be; and moreover it was just the king of Spain against whom they required protection. Coke advised them from his master to declare their independence, and then the king of England, he told them, could help them as an independent state; and Philip would not then have cause of offence from Charles, but ought rather to be obliged to him for endeavouring to prevent the states falling into the hands of France, or some other of his powerful enemies. This precious state casuistry, however, was not by any means encouraging to revolt, and in the meantime Philip, learning what was going on, settled the question by sending into the provinces an overwhelming force of soldiers.

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