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Reign of Charles I. page 14


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On the 23rd of June, 1630, Gustavus embarked fifteen thousand of his veteran troops at Elfsnab, and crossed into Pomerania. The imperial troops were to a certain extent withdrawn from that province, and he speedily overran it, and possessed himself of its towns and fortifications. The Austrian field-marshal, Torquato Conti, retreated before him to Garz, on the Oder, where he put himself in a posture of defence; but he left the country a desert behind him on his march. The inhabitants had been stripped of everything, even their clothes; their harvests burnt; the villages lay in ashes; the blood of the murdered people dyed the fields and highways; the mills were destroyed, and the corn already threshed, thrown into the rivers. During whole days' march, Gustavus Adolphus saw not a single head of cattle, but wretched creatures crowding round them, imploring food to save them from death, and presenting the appearance rather of ghosts than men. Gustavus pushed on, carrying all before him: at Frankfort-on-the-Oder he beat the Austrians, and called on the German protestant princes to join him, but in vain. At Landsberg he heard of the danger of Magdeburg, invested by Tilly and Pappenheim, and urged the elector of Brandenburg to assist him in hastening to its relief, but without success. Indignant at this timidity in their own cause, he threatened to march back to Stockholm, yet the danger of Magdeburg urged him forward, and he sent to the citizens a message, entreating them to hold out for three weeks, when he hoped to arrive and relieve them, The time which he had spent in Brandenburg, vainly endeavouring to raise the cowardly elector, proved fatal to one of the fairest and most affluent cities of Germany.

Tilly, apprehensive of the approach of Gustavus, adopted a stratagem to surprise the city. On the 19th of May, 1631, he ceased firing in the afternoon, and drew away his cannon. The inhabitants felt certain that this was from Gustavus being at hand, which obliged him to turn and defend himself, or raise the siege. Having thus thrown them off their guard, he approached the walls at night with scaling-ladders, and towards morning, the sentinels hearing no enemy, and going off their posts, there was a sudden attack made, the walls scaled, and a wild cry of horror told that the enemy was in the city. The horrors committed there have no parallel in history except the Sepoy outrages in India. The people were massacred and insulted without mercy; the city set on fire, and men, women, and children subjected to unheard-of horrors. Fifty-three women were found in one church with their heads cut off. Some of the officers themselves, petrified at the monstrous cruelties practised, urged Tilly to put a stop to them, but he coolly replied, "Give the soldiers another hour or two, and then come again!" Five days afterwards he made a triumphal entry into the remains of the burnt city, for so long did it require to clear a way for him through the ruinous streets. Upwards of six thousand four hundred corpses were thrown into the Elbe in this clearance, and the number of inhabitants destroyed is said to have amounted to thirty thousand. The savage fanatic wrote to the emperor an exulting despatch, saying, "Never since the destruction of Troy and Jerusalem had there in his opinion, been such a victory!" Except the implacable bigot of an emperor, Ferdinand II., who never ceased till he had thoroughly extirpated Protestantism out of Bohemia, and was fast reducing Germany to the same condition, all Christendom was horrified at the news.

The Austrian army evacuated the desolate neighbourhood of Magdeburg, laden with enormous booty, for the city was one of the richest Hanse Towns. But some of the German princes now began to join Gustavus, and on the 17th of September the Swedish king gave battle to Tilly and Pappenheim before Leipsic, and routed them with great slaughter. This turned the scale of war: the cowed German princes once more raised their heads and entered into league with Gustavus, who soon drove the Austrians from the greater part of the country, took Hanau and Frankfort-on-the-Maine, when Frederick the palsgrave joined him, hoping to be established by Gustavus in his patrimony. But the brave Swedish king, who was highly incensed against Charles, for not joining at his earnest entreaty in this enterprise, in which he himself was hazarding life, crown, and everything, of putting down the catholic intolerance, and placing a protestant emperor on the throne, though he received the palsgrave kindly, gave him no immediate hope of restoration. The English ambassador was there, pressing this vehemently on Gustavus; but the Swede told him he regarded him only as a Spaniard in disguise, and said bluntly, "Let the king of England make a league with me against Spain. Let him send me twelve thousand men, to be maintained at his own cost, and which shall be placed entirely at my command, and I will engage to compel from both Spain and Bavaria full restoration of the palsgrave's rights."

Gustavus was perfectly right. Had Charles dealt honourably and politicly with his parliament and people, and husbanded his resources, here was the great opportunity to have re-established his sister and brother-in-law, and have had a glorious share in the victory of protestantism on the Continent. Gustavus recovered Darmstadt, Oppenheim, and Mainz, and then took up his winter quarters. Meantime, the Saxon field-marshal, von Arnim, invaded Bohemia, and took Prague, whilst the landgrave of Hesse Cassel, and duke Bernhard of Weimar, defeated several bodies of Tilly's troops in Westphalia and the Upper Rhine lands.

This sweeping reverse compelled the emperor to recall Wallenstein to the chief command; who, assembling forty thousand men at Znaim, in Bohemia, inarched on Prague, and drove the Saxons not only thence, but out of Bohemia altogether. Meantime, Gustavus issuing from his winter quarters on the Rhine, directed his course to Nuremberg, and so to Donauwerth, and at Rain on the Lech fought with Tilly and the duke of Bavaria. Tilly was killed; and Gustavus advanced and took Augsburg in April, Munich on the 27th of May, and after in vain attacking Wallenstein before Nuremberg, he encountered him at Lutzen, in Saxony, and beat him, but fell himself in the hour of victory. He had, however, saved protestantism. Wallenstein lost favour after his defeat, was suspected by the emperor, and finally assassinated by his own officers. The generals of Gustavus, under the orders of Gustavus's great minister Oxenstjerna, continued the contest, and enabled the German protestant princes to establish their power, and the exercise of their religion, at the peace of Westphalia, in 1648.

Charles, shamed into some degree of co-operation, had despatched the marquis of Hamilton with six thousand men to the assistance of Gustavus; but the whole affair was so badly managed, the commissariat and general care of the men were so miserable, that the little army speedily became decimated by disease, and was of no service. Hamilton returned home, and the remains of his forces were routed under the command of the prince Charles Louis, son of the elector Frederick, in Westphalia. Frederick himself, deprived of all hope by the fall of Gustavus, only survived him about a fortnight; and thus ended the dream of the restoration of the Palatinate.

At home Charles had determined to rule without a parliament, but this necessarily drove him upon all those means of raising an income which parliament had protested against, and which must, therefore, continue to exasperate the people. Between the dissolution of the parliament, in 1629, and the summons of another, in 1640, these proceedings had wonderfully advanced the apparent cause of despotism, but the real cause of liberty; the nation had been scourged into a temper which left no means but the sword of appeasing it. The first unceremonious violation of his pledge to the public by the granting the Petition of Right, was levying as unscrupulously as ever the duties of tonnage and poundage; and the goods of all such as refused the illegal payment were immediately distrained upon and sold.

He next appointed a committee to inquire into the encroachments on the royal forests, a perfectly legitimate and laudable object, if conducted in a spirit of fairness and liberality. In all ages, gross encroachments have been made on these crown lands, and no doubt had been so extremely in the reckless reign of James. But it would seem that the commissioners proceeded in an arbitrary spirit, and relying on the power of the crown, often ruined those who resisted their decisions by the costs of law. The earl of Holland, a noted creature of the king's, was made head of this commission, and presided in a court established for the purpose. Under its operations vast tracts were recovered to the crown, and heavy fines for trespasses levied. Rockingham Forest was enlarged from a circuit of six miles to one of sixty, and the earl of Southampton was nearly ruined by the resumption of a large estate adjoining the New Forest. Even where these recoveries were made with right, they exasperated the aristocracy, who had been the great encroachers, and injured the king in their goodwill. Clarendon says, "To recompense the damage the crown sustained by the sale of old lands, and by the grant of new pensions, the old laws of the forest are revived; by which not only great fines are imposed, but great annual rents intended, and like to be settled by way of contract, which burden lighted most upon persons of quality and honour, who thought themselves above ordinary oppressions, and therefore, like to remember it with more sharpness."

Besides the tonnage and poundage, obsolete laws were revived, and other duties imposed on merchants' goods, and all who resisted were prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned. But a still more plausible scheme was hit upon for extorting money. The old feudal practice introduced by Henry III. and Edward I., of compelling all persons holding lands under the crown worth twenty pounds per annum, to receive knighthood, or to compound by a fine, had been enforced by Elizabeth and James, and was not likely to be passed over in this general inquisition after the means of income independent of parliament. All landed proprietors worth forty pounds a year were called on to accept the title of knight, and pay the fees, or were fined, and in default of payment, thrown into prison. "By this ill-husbandry," says Clarendon, "which, though it was founded in right, was most grievous from the mode of proceeding, vast sums were drawn from the subject. And no less unjust projects of all kinds, many ridiculous, many scandalous, all very grievous, were set on foot, the damage and reproach of which came to the king, the profit to other men; inasmuch as, of twenty thousand pounds a year, scarcely one thousand five hundred pounds came to the king's use or account."

A great commotion was raised by the king depriving

many freeholders arbitrarily of their lands to enlarge Richmond Park, and he saw the necessity of making some compensation.

Another mode of raising money was by undoing in a great measure what the parliament had done by abolishing monopolies. True, Charles took care not to grant these monopolies to individuals, but to companies; but this, whilst it arrested the odium of seeing them in the hands of courtiers and favourites, increased their mischief by augmenting the number and power of the oppressors. These companies were enabled to dictate to the public the price of the articles included in their patent, and restrain at their pleasure their manufacture or sale. One of the most flagrant cases, was that of the company of soap-boilers, who purchased a monopoly of the manufacture of soap for ten thousand pounds, and a duty of eight pounds per ton on all the soap they made. The scheme was that of the renegade attorney-general Noye; and all who presumed to make soap for themselves, regardless of the monopoly, were prosecuted and fined, the company being authorised to search the premises of all soap-boilers, seize any made without a licence, and prosecute the offender in the star-chamber. There was a similar monopoly granted to starch-makers.

King James had conceived an idea that London was become too large, and that was the cause of the prevalence of the plague and contagious fevers. His wisdom had not penetrated the fact that the real cause lay in the want of drainage and cleanliness, and he issued repeated proclamations forbidding any more building of houses in the metropolis. The judges declared the proclamations as illegal as they were absurd, and building went on as fast as ever. Here was an admirable opportunity for putting on the pecuniary screw. Charles, therefore, appointed a commission to inquire into the growth and extent of building done in defiance of his father's orders. If James was the Solomon of England, Charles was the Rehoboam, - resolute in wrong, and destined, like that obstinate monarch, to rend the crown and kingdom. Such persons who were willing to compound for their offences in brick and mortar, got off by paying a fine amounting to three years' rental of the premises. Those who refused, pleaded in vain the decision of the judges, for Charles had a court independent of all judges but himself - that devilish instrument by which so long the constitution of the country had been reduced to fable, and Magna Charta made of no more value than a forged note, namely, the star-chamber; and those who escaped this fell into another inquisition as detestable - the court of the earl-marshal. Sturdy resisters, therefore, had their houses actually demolished, and were then fleeced in those infamous courts to complete their ruin. A Mr. Moore had erected forty-two houses of an expensive class, with coach-houses and stables, near St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. He was fined one thousand pounds, and ordered to pull them down before Easter, under penalty of another thousand pounds, but refusing, the sheriffs demolished the houses, and levied the money by distress. This terrified others, who submitted to a composition, and by these iniquitous means, one hundred thousand pounds were brought into the treasury.

Simultaneously with these tyrannic proceedings, Laud, bishop of London, and expectant archbishop of Canterbury, pursued the same course in the church. He had long been the most abject flatterer of the royal power, and now, supported by Wentworth, went on boldly to reduce ail England to the most absolute slavery to church and state. He was supposed to have the intention of restoring the papal power in this country; but such was far enough from his intention. Like the Puseyites of the present time, he exceedingly regretted the simplicity of the worship adopted by the Anglican church, and the Calvinistic doctrine which prevailed in it; and was resolved to root out that notion, and restore all the showy rites and ceremonies of the catholic church, so imposing to the imaginations of the vulgar, both high and low, and, therefore, so adapted to both spiritual and political despotism. But with all this, neither Laud nor Charles dreamt for a moment of returning to the union with Rome, for the simple reason that they loved too well themselves the enjoyment of absolute power. Like Henry VIII., they could tolerate no pope but one disguised under the name of an English king. All their efforts went to maintain this Anglican papacy. For this all their ceremonies, and genuflections, and ecclesiastical pharaphernalia, and lights, crosiers, and high altars, were revived - they were to give additional power over the multitude; but that power was to be solely vested in the king and the primate, and therefore no foreign pope, Never did the church, either in England or abroad, more egregiously deceive itself than by suspecting Laud or Charles of any design to put on again the yoke of the Roman pontiff. That spiritual potentate, deluded by such empty imagination, offered Laud a cardinal's hat, which was rejected with scorn.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 14

Charles I.
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