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Reign of Charles I. page 15

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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.

On the 29th of May, 1630, the queen gave birth to Charles, afterwards Charles II., who was baptised on the 2nd of July, the ceremony being performed by Laud, who composed a prayer for the occasion, consisting of such ejaculations as the following: - "Double his father's graces upon him, O Lord, if it be possible!" This was a pretty good beginning of royal adulation in the very presence of God, and disgusted even bishop Williams, who had said and done some creeping things in his time, and who could not help designating it as "three-piled flattery and loathsome divinity." But Laud showed that he could be as savage to dissenters as he was impiously fulsome to the throne.

Charles had issued a proclamation, forbidding any one to introduce into the pulpit any remarks bearing on the great Arminian controversy which was raging in the kingdom - Laud and his party in the church on one side, the zealous puritans on the other. Both aides were summoned with an air of impartiality into the star-chamber or High Commission Court, but came out with this difference, that the orthodox divines generally confessed their fault, and were dismissed with a reprimand; but the puritan ministers could not bend in that manner, sacrificing conscience to fear, and they were fined, imprisoned, and deprived without mercy. Davenant, bishop of Salisbury, Dr. Burgess, Dr. Prideaux, Dr. Hall, bishop of Norwich, whose poetry and liberality of spirit will long be held in honourable remembrance, and many others, were harassed because they did not preach exactly to the mind of Charles and Laud; but the treatment of Dr. Alexander Leighton, a Scotch puritan preacher, was beyond all in brutality. There had been an ascent in prelatical evil through Parker, Whitgift, and Bancroft, but Laud completed the climax. As Charles marched far ahead of his father in daring absolutism, so Laud far transcended his predecessors in a daring hardihood, more haughty and cruel than they ever reached.

Leighton had published a pamphlet called "An Appeal to Parliament, or Zion's Plea against Prelacy." In this he had certainly made use of most bold and unsparing language. He declared that the king was misled by the bishops to the undoing of himself and people; that the queen was a daughter of Heth; that the bishops were men of blood; and that there never was a greater persecution, nor higher indignities done to God's people in any nation than in this, since the death of Elizabeth; that prelacy was notoriously anti- Christian; and the true laws of the church were derived from the Scriptures, not from the king, for no king could give laws to the house of God. This was so root and branch a denial of all that both church and state had assumed since the revolt of Henry VIII. from Rome, that it was certain to meet with severe castigation. It quickly attracted the eye of Laud, who in June, 1680, had him dragged into the High Commission Court, where he was condemned to the following horrible punishment, than which the records of the Spanish or Italian inquisitions preserve nothing more infernal. That he should be imprisoned for life, should pay a fine of ten thousand pounds, be degraded from his ministry, whipped, set in the pillory, have one of his ears cut off, one side of his nose slit, and be branded on the forehead with a double S.S., as a sower of sedition. He was then to be carried back to prison, and after a few days be pilloried again, whipped, have the other side of his nose slit, the other ear cut off, and shut up in his dungeon, to be released only by death!

When Laud heard this merciless sentence pronounced, he pulled off his cap and gave God thanks for it!

By the 26th of November the whole of these incredible barbarities, except the imprisonment, had been perpetrated on this learned and excellent man, formerly professor of moral philosophy in the University of Edinburgh; and when on the sitting of the long parliament he sent in his petition for release, the whole house was moved to tears by the recital of those sufferings which Laud and the government of Charles had inflicted and rejoiced in. They were thus expressed: - "That he was apprehended coining from a sermon, by a High Commission warrant, and dragged along the streets with bills and staves to London House. That the gaoler of Newgate clapped him in irons, and carried him, with a strong force, into a loathsome and miserable dog-hole, full of rats and mice, that had no light but a little grate, the roof being uncovered, so that the snow and rain beat upon him, and where he had no bed or place for fire, but a ruinous old smoky chimney. In this woful place he was shut up fifteen weeks, nobody being permitted to come to him. That the fourth day after his commitment, the pursuivant, with a mighty multitude, came to his house to search for Jesuit books, and used his wife in such a barbarous and inhuman manner, as he was ashamed to express. That they rifled every person and place, holding a pistol to the head of a child five years old, threatening to kill him if he did not discover the books; broke open chests, presses, Boxes; carried everything away, even household stuff, &c. That, at the end of fifteen weeks, he was served with a subpoena, on an information laid against him by the attorney-general, whose dealing with him was full of cruelty and deceit. That he was then so sick that his physician thought he had been poisoned, because all his hair and skin came off; and that, in the height of his sickness, the cruel sentence was passed upon him, and executed November 26th, 1630, when he received thirty-six stripes upon his naked back with a three-fold cord, his hands being tied to a stake, and then stood almost two hours in the pillory, in frost and snow, before he was branded on the face, his nose slit, and his ears cut off, after which he was carried by water to the Fleet, shut up in a room where he was never well, and after eight years turned into the common gaol!"

Such were religion and government in this country in those days!

The endeavours of Laud to compel conformity to the church were as active and unsparing against public bodies as against individuals. There had been a general subscription set on foot, and association formed, for the purpose of buying up lay impropriations, and employing them in the support of the ministry. Laud soon discovered that this party was of the puritan class. In the words of that thorough courtier, Sir Philip Warwick, "he prevented a very private and clandestine design of introducing nonconformists into too many churches; for that society of men, that they might have preachers to please their itching ears, had a design to buy in all the lay impropriations which the parish churches in Henry VIII.'s time were robbed of, and lodging the advowsons and presentations in their own feofees, to have introduced men who would have introduced doctrines which the court already felt too much the smart of." That Laud, with his notions, should endeavour to stop this process is not to be wondered at. Noye, the attorney-general, brought the twelve trustees in whom this property was invested into the court of exchequer, and after counsel had been heard on both sides, it was decided that they had usurped on the prerogative by erecting themselves into a corporation, and that both the improprieties and the money in hand were forfeited to the crown, to be employed by the king for the benefit of the church, as he should see fit-Having reduced the refractory members of the church and of parliament in England to silence for the present, Charles determined to make a journey into Scotland, there to be crowned, to raise revenue, and to establish the Anglican hierarchy in that part of his dominions. For the latter purpose he took Laud with him. He reached Edinburgh on the 12th of June, 1633, where he was received by the inhabitants by demonstrations of lively rejoicing, as if they were neither aware of the character and views of the monarch, nor remembered the consequences of the visit of his father. On the 18th he was crowned in Edinburgh by the archbishop of St. Andrews; but Laud did not let that opportunity pass without giving them a foretaste of what was coming. "It was observed," says Rushworth, "that Dr. Laud was high in his carriage, taking upon him the order and managing of the ceremonies; and, for instance, Spotswood, archbishop of St. Andrews, being placed at the king's right hand, and Lindsey, archbishop of Glasgow, at his left, bishop Laud took Glasgow and thrust him from the king with these words: - 'Are you a churchman, and want the coat of your order?' - which was an embroidered coat which he scrupled to wear, being a moderate churchman - and in place of him put in the bishop of Ross at the king's right Land."

This question of the embroidered robes of the Roman hierarchy, which Laud had again introduced, with the high altar, the taper?, chalices, genuflections, and oil of unction, was speedily introduced into parliament, and forced on the reluctant Scots, to whom the whole were abominations. They had voted supplies with a most liberal spirit, and laid on a land tax of four hundred thousand pounds Scotch for six years: but when the king proposed to pass a bill authorising the robes, ceremonies, and rites just mentioned there was a stout opposition. The venerable Lord Melville said plainly to Charles, "I have sworn with your father and the whole kingdom to the confession of faith in which the innovations intended by these articles were solemnly abjured/' And the bishop of the Isles told him at dinner that it was sail amongst the people that his entrance into the city had "been with hosannas, but that it would be changed, like that of the Jews to our Saviour, into, "Away with him, crucify him!" Charles is said to have turned thoughtful, and eaten no more. Yet the next day he as positively as ever insisted on the parliament passing the articles, and pointing to a paper in his hand, said, "Your names are here; I shall know to-day who will do me service, and who will not."

Notwithstanding this, the house voted against it by a considerable majority, there being opposed to it fifteen peers and forty-rive commoners; yet the lord-register, under influence of the court, audaciously declared that the articles were accepted by parliament. The earl of Rothes had the boldness to deny this, and to demand a scrutiny of the votes; but Charles intimidated both him and all dissentients by refusing any scrutiny unless Rothes would arraign the lord-register of the capital crime of falsifying the votes. This was a course too perilous for any individual under the circumstances: Rothes was silent; the articles were ratified by the crown, and parliament was forthwith dissolved on the 28th of June.

Having thus carried his point with the parliament, Charles took every means, except that which had brought upon him so much odium in England, namely, imprisoning and prosecuting the members who opposed him, to express his dissatisfaction with them. He distributed lands and honours upon those who had fallen in with his wishes, and treated the dissentients with sullen looks, and even severe words, when they came in his way. They were openly ridiculed by his courtiers, and dubbed schismatics and seditious. Lord Bal-merino was even condemned to death for a pamphlet being found in his possession, complaining of the king's arbitrary conduct in these concerns; but the sentence was too atrocious to be executed.

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