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Reign of Charles I. page 18

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This popular demonstration still more startled Laud, who summoned the sheriff, as well as the other gentlemen, before the High Commission Court at York, where they were fined in sums varying from two hundred and fifty pounds to five hundred pounds, and condemned to acknowledge their offence before the congregation in the cathedral, and the corporation in the town hall of Chester. The prisoners themselves were ordered to be removed farther still, and accordingly Bastwick was sent to the isle of Scilly, Burton to the castle of Cornet in Guernsey, and Prynne to that of Mount Orgueil in Jersey But the king and archbishop had now roused a spirit, by their cutting off of ears, which would be satisfied ere long with nothing less than their whole heads.

To stop the outcry against their cruelties, they next determined to gag the press. An order was therefore issued by the star-chamber, forbidding all importation of foreign books, and the printing of any at home without licence. All books on religion, physic, literature, and poetry, must be licensed by the bishops, so that all truths unpleasant to the church would thus be suppressed. There were to be allowed only twenty master printers in the kingdom, except those of his majesty and the universities; no printer was to have more than two presses nor two apprentices, except the warden of the company. There were to be only four letter-founders; and whoever presumed to print without licence was to be whipped through London, and set in the pillory. All this time the High Commission Court kept pace with the star-chamber in its prosecutions and arbitrary fines, under pretence of protecting public morals.

Laud soon had delinquents against the atrocious order for fagging the press. In about six months after the infliction of the savage sentence on Prynne and his associates, he called into the star-chamber John Lilburne and John Warton, for printing Prynne's "News from Ipswich," and other books called libellous. The accused refused to take the oath proposed to them, protesting against the lawfulness of the court. Being called up several times, and still obstinately refusing, they were condemned to be fined five hundred pounds apiece, Lilburne to be whipped from the Fleet to the pillory, and both bound to their good behaviour. Lilburne was one of the most determined men that ever lived. He continued to declaim violently against the tyranny of Laud and his bishops whilst he was standing in the pillory and was undergoing his whipping. He drew from his pockets a number of the very pamphlets he was punished for printing, and scattered them from the pillory amongst the crowd. The court of star-chamber being informed of his conduct, sent and had him gagged; but he then stamped with his feet to intimate that he would still speak if he could. He was then thrown into the Fleet, heavily ironed and in solitude.

To complete Laud's attacks on all persons and parties, there lacked only an onslaught on the episcopal bench, and there he found Williams, formerly lord keeper, and still bishop of Lincoln, for a victim. Williams, with all his faults, had been a true friend of Laud's at a time when he had very few, and the wily upstart had declared that his very life would be too short to demonstrate his gratitude: but he took full occasion to display towards him his ingratitude. From the moment that Laud was introduced to the king, Williams could ill conceal his disgust at the clerical adventurer's base adulation. But Laud continued to ascend and Williams to descend. Williams having lost the seals, retired to his diocese, where he made himself very popular by his talents, his agreeable manners, his hospitality, and still more by his being regarded as a victim of the arbitrary spirit of the king and of Laud. Williams, who had a stinging wit, launched a tract at the head of the primate, called the "Holy Table," in which he unmercifully satirised Laud's parade of high altars and popish ceremonies. The primate very speedily had him in the star-chamber, where he received private information that if he would give up to Laud his deanery of Westminster, that disinterested prelate would let the prosecution slip. Williams refused, and then commenced one of the most disgraceful scenes in history. Laud, Windebank, and the king were determined to force the deanery and a heavy fine from him. They brow-beat his witnesses, threw them into prison to compel them to swear falsely; removed chief justice Heath to put in a more pliant man, and at length, through the medium of lord Cottington, induced Williams, from terror of worse, to give up the deanery and pay a fine of ten thousand pounds. His servants and agents, Walker, Catlin, and Lunn, were fined three hundred pounds a-piece, and Powell two hundred pounds.

This being done, Laud uttered a most hypocritical speech, professing high admiration of the talents, wisdom, learning, and various endowments of Williams, and Ins sorrow to see him thus punished, declaring that he had gone five times on his knees to the king to sue for his pardon. But even so Williams was not destined to escape. The officers who went to take possession of his effects, found amongst his papers two letters from Osbaldeston, master of Westminster school, in one of which he said that the great leviathan - the late lord treasurer, Portland - and the little urchin, Laud, were in a storm; and in the other that "there was great jealousy between the leviathan and the little meddling hocus-pocus."

This, which was no crime of Williams, but of Osbaldeston, was, however, made a crime of both. Williams was condemned on the charge of concealing a libel on a public officer, and fined eight thousand pounds more, and to suffer imprisonment during the king's pleasure. The chief offender, Osbaldeston, could not be found; he had left a note saying he was "gone beyond Canterbury;" but he was sentenced to deprivation of his office, to be branded, and stand opposite to his own school in the pillory, with his ears nailed to it. He took good care, however, not to fall into such merciless hands.

Such was Laud up to this point. One of those awful exhibitions which the history of the church, ever and anon, has presented. Professing the meek and benevolent gospel of Christ, but acting the unmitigated gospel of the devil; ambitious beyond the stretch of imagination, cruel as death, insatiable as the grave. There are those who have pronounced him honest, pious, and a pattern of ecclesiastical eminence. We leave his actions to speak for themselves. The press was now in his hands; he had made terrible examples of such as dared to differ in opinion from him; yet instead of having in reality reached a secure pre-eminence, he had created ten thousand implacable enemies, who only bided their time. We must now turn our attention to his brother in the "thorough," the equally insane despot Wentworth.

Amongst those means of raising a permanent revenue for the crown, independent of parliament, which we have already detailed, as tonnage and poundage, the fees on compulsory knighthood, and the resumption of forest lands, there was discovered another which was owing to the ingenuity of attorney-general Noye. The landed proprietors had been greatly alarmed by the rumours that the king would lay claim to the greater part of every county in England except Kent, Sussex, and Surrey, but the whole public was struck with consternation at the additional project of the attorney-general. As he had been always of a surly and morose disposition, he carried this ungracious manner with him into his apostacy. Formerly he had acted like a rude ill-tempered patriot, now he was the more odious from being at once obsequious to the crown, and coarsely insolent to those whose rights he invaded.

In the records of the Tower he discovered writs compelling the ports and maritime counties to provide a certain number of ships during war, or for protecting the coasts from pirates. It was now declared that the seas were greatly infested with Turkish corsairs, who not only intercepted our merchantmen at sea, but made descents on the coast of Ireland, and carried off the inhabitants into slavery. The French and Dutch mariners, it was added, were continually interrupting our trade, and making prizes of our trading vessels, and that it was necessary to assert our right to the sovereignty of the narrow seas, which it was contended "our progenitors, kings of England, had always possessed, and that it would be very irksome to us if that princely honour in our time should be lost, or in anything diminished."

But the real cause was that Charles was at that time, 1634, engaged in the treaty with Spain to assist him against the United Provinces of Holland, on condition that Philip engaged to restore the palsgrave. Noye's scheme was highly approved and supported by the lord keeper Coventry. On the 20th of October, 1634, a writ was issued by the lords of the council, signed by the king, to the city of London, commanding it to furnish before the 1st of March next, seven ships, with all the necessary arms, stores, and tackling, and wages for the men for twenty-six weeks. One ship was to be of nine hundred tons, and to carry three hundred and fifty men; another eight hundred tons, with two hundred and sixty men; four ships of five hundred tons, with two hundred men each; and one of three hundred tons, with one hundred and fifty men. The common council and citizens humbly remonstrated against the demand as one from which they were exempt by their charters, but the council treated their objections with contempt, and compelled them to submit.

In the spring of 1635 similar writs were issued to the maritime counties, and even sent into the interior, a most unheard of demand; and instructions were forwarded to all parts, signed by Laud, Coventry, Juxton, Cottington, and the rest of the privy council, ordering the sheriffs to collect the money which was to be levied instead of ships, at the rate of three thousand three hundred pounds for every ship. They were to distrain on all who refused, and take care that no arrears were left to their successors. The demand occasioned both murmuring and resistance. The deputy-lieutenants of some inland counties wrote to the council, begging that the inhabitants might be excused this unprecedented tax; but they were speedily called before the council, and severely reprimanded. The people on the coasts of Sussex absolutely refused to pay, but they were soon forced to submit by the sheriffs.

Noye died before this took place, and squibs regarding him were publicly placarded, saying that his body being opened, a bundle of proclamations were found in his head, worm-eaten records in his stomach, and a barrel of soap, alluding to the enforcement of the monopoly on that article, in his paunch. Thomas Carlyle has aptly styled this turncoat lawyer, so extolled for his genius and learning by the royal party, "an amorphous, cynical law-pedant, and invincible living heap of learned rubbish," He found plenty like him to carry out his plans, farther than he ever dreamed of, or themselves either. These illegal writs returned a sum of two hundred and eighteen thousand five hundred pounds to the royal treasury.

To put an end to all murmurs or resistance, Charles determined to have the sanction of the judges, knowing that he could not have that of parliament. He therefore removed chief justice Heath on this and other accounts already noticed, and put in his place the supple Sir John Finch, lately conspicuous as speaker of the commons. The questions submitted to the judges were whether, when the good and safety of the realm demanded it, the king could not levy this ship-money, and whether he was not the proper and sole judge of the danger and the necessity. Finch canvassed his brethren of the bench individually and privately. The judges met in Serjeant's Inn on the 12th of February, 1636, when they were all perfectly unanimous except Croke and Hutton, who, however, subscribed, on the ground that the opinion of a majority settled the matter.

To obtain this opinion Charles had let the judges know through Finch, that he only required their decision for his private satisfaction; but they were startled to find their sanction immediately proclaimed by the lord keeper Coventry in the star-chamber, order given that it should be enrolled in all the courts at Westminster, and themselves required to make it known from the bench on their circuits through the country. Nor was that all, for Wentworth, now become a full-fledged agent of despotism, contended that "since it is lawful for the king to impose a tax towards the equipment of the navy, it must be equally so for the levy of an army; and the same reason which authorises him to levy an army to resist, will authorise him to carry that army abroad, that he may prevent invasion. Moreover, what is law in England is also law in Ireland and Scotland. This decision of the judges will, therefore, make the king absolute at home, and formidable abroad. Let him," he observed, "only abstain from war a few years, that he may habituate his subjects to the payment of this tax, and in the end he will find himself more powerful and respected than any of his predecessors."

Such were the principles of Wentworth, ready on the smallest concession to grant a dozen other assumptions upon it, and such the counsellors, himself and Laud, who encouraged the already too fatally despotic king to his destruction, The judges were, for the most part, equally traitorous to the nation, and preached the most absolute doctrines, and passed the most absolute sentences. Richard Chambers, the London merchant, who had already suffered so severely for resisting the king's illegal demands, also refused payment of this, and brought an action against the lord mayor for imprisoning him for his refusal. But judge Berkeley would not hear the counsel of Chambers in his defence; and afterwards, in his charge to the grand jury at York, described ship money as the inseparable flower of the crown. But they were not so easily to override the rights of the people of England. There were numbers of stout hearts only waiting a fitting opportunity to unite and crush the spirit of despotism now growing so rampant. One of the most distinguished of these patriots was John Hampden, a gentleman of Buckinghamshire, whose name has become a world-wide synonyme for sturdy constitutional independence,

Hampden was distinguished alike for his ancient descent - tracing in a clear direct line from the Saxon period - for his great estate, and his mild and courteous manners. He was the last man to all appearance who would assume the character of a demagogue or vehement reformer. But under this gentle exterior, and a great love of literature and retirement, he bore a mind of singular sagacity, glowing with the light and fervour of the ancient champions and: historians of liberty, of sensitive perception of the approaches of tyranny, and a conscience which forbade him alike to co-operate with any attempts against the just rights of others, or to suffer their diminution by a weak compliance.

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