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Reign of Charles I. page 19


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The crown lawyers, baffled by this unanswerable statement, then unblushingly took their stand on the doctrine that the king was bound by no laws, but all laws proceeded from the grace of the king, and that this was a right which all monarchs had reserved from time immemorial. It was a pitiful sight to see men to whom the nation looked for the sound and faithful maintenance of the constitution, - namely, the judges, following in this outrageous course, and echoing the barefaced violation of common sense uttered by the attorney and solicitor general; as if king John had made any reservation from the sweeping clauses of Magna Charta, which was wrung from him; or as if it were not in the knowledge of all men that Charles himself had assented fully and unequivocally to the very fact which they were denying. Justice Crawley declared that the right of such arbitrary impositions resided ipso facto in the king as king, that you could not have a king without these rights, no, not by act of parliament. "The law," said judge Berkeley, "knows no such king-yoking policy. The law is an old and trusty servant of the king's; it is his instrument or means which he useth to govern his people by. I never read or heard that Lex was Rex, but it is common and most true that Rex is Lex." The pliable Finch, who did not need anybody to sit on his skirts here, as they had done when he was speaker of the commons, said, u Acts of parliament are void to bind the king not to command the subjects, their persons, and goods, and, I say, their money, too, for no acts of parliament make any difference," Certainly they made no difference to him, and if these base lawyers could have talked away the rights of the people of England, they would have done it for their own selfish interests. When Holborne contended that it was not only for themselves, but for posterity, that they were bound to preserve the constitution intact, Finch testily exclaimed - "It belongs not to the bar to talk of future governments; it is not agreeable to duty to have you bandy what is the hope of succeeding princes, when the king hath a blessed issue so hopeful to succeed him in his crown and virtues," But Holborne replied, "My lord, for that whereof I speak, I look far off - many ages off; five hundred years hence!"

But all the judges were not of that stamp; Hutton and Croke, who had dissented when the opinion of the judges was first taken, now made a bold stand against the illegal practice. As the ruin of a judge who thus dared to act in upright independence, was pretty certain at that time, we may estimate the degree of virtue necessary to such decision, and the noble self-sacrifice of lady Croke, who bade her husband give no thought to the consequences of discharging his duty, for that she would be content to suffer want, or any misery with him, rather than he should do or say anything against his judgment and conscience,

The case was not decided till the Trinity Term, the third term from the commencement of the trial, when, on the 12th of June, 1638, judgment was entered against Hampden in the Court of Exchequer, But even then five of the judges had the courage to decide for Hampden, though three of them did this only on technical grounds, conceding the main and vital question. These were Brampton, chief justice of the King's Bench, Davenport, chief baron of the exchequer, and Durham, also an exchequer judge. Hutton and Croke pronounced decidedly against the right of the king to impose ship-money. The seven judges who pronounced for the destruction of the liberties of the nation and whoso names ought to be preserved, were Finch, chief justice of the Common Pleas, Jones, Berkeley, Vernon Crawley, Trevor, and Weston.

The decision of this most important trial was apparently in favour of the king, and there was, accordingly, much triumphing at court; but in reality, it was in favour of the people, for it had been so long before the public, and the arguments of Hampden's counsel were so undeniable, those of the crown so absolutely untenable, and opposed to all the history of the nation, that the matter was everywhere discussed, and men's opinions made up that, without a positive resistance to such claims and such doctrines as had here been advanced, the country was a place of serfdom, and the bloodshed and the labour of all past patriots had been in vain It was accordingly found that people were more averse than ever to pay these demands; and even the courtly Clarendon confesses that "the pressure was borne with much more cheerfulness before the judgment for the king than ever it was after." Lord Say made a determined stand against it in Warwickshire, and would fain have brought on another trial like that of John Hampden; but the king would not allow another damaging experiment; and events came crowding after it of such a nature, as showed how deep the matter had sunk into the public mind.

The course which matters were taking was exceedingly disgusting to the Gog and Magog of despotism, Laud and Wentworth. The latter had been appointed lord president of the north, where he had ruled with all the overbearing will of a king. The council of the north had been appointed by Henry VIII., to try and punish the insurgents concerned in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and it had been continued ever since on as lawless a basis as that of the star-chamber itself -In fact, it was the star-chamber of the five most northern counties of England, summoning and judging the subjects without any jury, but at the will of the council itself. Wentworth had risen on his apostacy from a simple baronet to be privy councillor, baron and viscount, and president of the north, with more rapidity than Buckingham himself had done. On accepting this last office, his power and jurisdiction were enlarged, and he displayed such an unflinching spirit in exercising the most despotic will, that on difficulties arising in Ireland, he was, without resigning his presidency of the north, transferred thither, where Charles had resolved to introduce the same subjection to his sole will as in England and Scotland.

When the unfortunate expedition to Cadiz had been made, and the king feared the Spaniards would retaliate by making a descent on Ireland, he ordered the lord deputy, lord Falkland, to raise the Irish army to five thousand foot and five hundred horse. There was no great difficulty in that, but the question how they were to be maintained was not so easy. Lord Falkland, who was one of the most honourable and conscientious of men, called together the great landed proprietors, and submitted the matter to their judgment. These, who were chiefly catholics, offered to advance the necessary funds on condition that certain concessions should be made to the people of Ireland. These were, that, besides the removal of many minor grievances, the recusants should be allowed to practise in the courts of law, and to sue the livery of their lands out of the court of wards on their taking the oath of allegiance without that of supremacy, That the undertakers should on the several plantations have time to fulfil the conditions of their leases. That the claims of the crown should be confined to the last sixty years, the inhabitants of Connaught being allowed a new enrolment of their estates; and finally, that a parliament should be held, to confirm these graces, as they were called.

Delegates were sent to London to lay these proposals before the king, and on the agreement to pay one hundred and twenty thousand pounds by instalments in three years, Charles readily granted these articles of grace, amounting to fifty-one. But meantime, a rumour of these concessions having got out, the Irish established church had made a great opposition, and though the parliament was called, nothing was done, nor did Charles intend to do more than get the money, As lord Falkland was the last man in the world to be a party to anything so dishonourable, he -was recalled, and Wentworth was sent over, in the July of 1632, to do the dirty work.

Wentworth's arrival in Ireland was tantamount to a revolution there. He introduced all the regulations of the English court at the castle, assumed a guard like the king, which no deputy before him had done, and carried himself with a haughty demeanour which made the Irish lords stand amazed. The only good which he effected was in putting down the multitude of minor tyrants, but then he combined all their tyranny and oppressions in himself. He was ready to bear any amount of odium, because he trusted to the king's support, and this Charles liked well enough, as it removed the odium from himself, The great object was to raise a large permanent revenue, and Wentworth soon informed Charles that if this was to be done, there must be an end to making large grants to needy English nobles, who absorbed that which should flow to the crown. Charles had promised such grants to the duke of Lennox, the earl of Arundel, and others; but on learning Wentworth's views, secretary Windebank wrote, at the king's command, that Wentworth was at liberty to refuse them these grants, so that he took "the refusing part" on himself. Of that Wentworth made no difficulty, not foreseeing that he would in time accumulate such an amount of hatred thereby, as would prove his destruction.

As a first measure to raise money, he informed Charles at it would be necessary to call a parliament. The king, who had found parliaments too much for him, and was endeavouring to live without them, heard the proposal with consternation, and warned Went worth against such an attempt; but the lord deputy informed him that he had a plan by which he could manage them, and Charles wrote to him, consenting, but still warning. "As for that hydra, take good heed, for you know that here I have found it as veil cunning as malicious. It is true that your grounds are well laid, and I assure you that I have a great trust in your care and judgment; yet my opinion is, that it will not be the worse for my service though their obstinacy make you | to break them, for I fear they have some ground to demand more than it is fit for me to give."

Wentworth knew that very well, but meant to grant nothing of the kind. He sent out a hundred letters of recommendation in favour of the return of candidates on whom he could rely, and procured a royal order for the absent peers to send blank proxies, which he might fill up as he pleased. These were considerable in number, and consisted chiefly of Englishmen who had obtained their estates or titles from Charles or his father. Thus he secured a majority; and on opening parliament he informed the members that he meant to hold two sessions - one for the benefit of the king, the other for redressing the grievances of the people. Had the Irish noticed what had been going forward in England, they would have augured no good from such an arrangement, and might have followed the example of the English commons, who would always insist on stating their grievances before parting with their money. But the unfortunate Irish listened to the glozing tones of the lord deputy, who assured them that if they put their trust in him and the king they would have the happiest parliament that had ever sate in that kingdom. He talked of the misfortunes which had happened to the English parliament through distrusting the king - he himself having been one of the chief actors -in these distrusts - and assuring them that he was anxious to hasten to the second session and the removal of all their complaints, they voted him six subsidies of larger amount than had ever been granted before.

But when they came to the second session, awful was the astonishment, and terrible the consternation, of the liberal granters of subsidies. The shameless trickster coolly informed them that of the fifty-one graces promised them by the king, very few were of a kind which he, who knew the circumstances of the country, could grant. In vain they reminded him of his promises, and called on him to fulfil them: he now flashed out upon them like Satan starting up from his feigned shape at the touch of Ithuriel's spear. He gave them menaces instead of promises, launched at them the most biting sarcasms, the most injurious language, and made them appear a set of criminals rather than deceived and insulted legislators. His majority carried everything as he pleased, and after passing a few of the most insignificant of the graces, the bulk of them, containing all the important ones, he negatived, and dismissed the parliament.

He had been equally successful with the convocation. He obtained from it eight subsidies of three thousand pounds each, but he then refused to grant the conditions promised. It was the settled plan of the king, supported by Laud, to conform both the Scotch and Irish churches to the English, and Wentworth was the most unscrupulous agent in such a work that they could have. The Irish prelates informed him that their church was wholly independent of that of England, had its own articles, of the Calvinistic class, and owed no obedience to the see of Canterbury. He insisted, however, that they must admit the thirty-nine articles of England; it was not necessary to parade them before the people, but they must be admitted, and the old Irish articles might quietly die out. The prelates set about to frame a new code of ecclesiastical discipline; but to his surprise, he learned that they had rejected the English articles and retained their own. He sent for the archbishop and the committee, upbraided the chairman with suffering such a proceeding, took possession of the minutes, and ordered archbishop Usher himself to frame a canon authorising the English articles. Usher's production, however, did not satisfy him; he therefore drew up a form himself, and sent it to the convocation, commanding that no debate should take place, but the articles should be at once adopted, and informing them that every one's vote should be reported to him. Only one member of the whole convocation dared to vote against his will; the rest submitted, but with the utmost indignation.

Having thus with a high hand carried his measures - refused the confirmation of the graces, conformed the Irish to the English church in one session, and obtained such an amount of money as would not only pay off the debts of the crown, but would supply for some years the extraordinary demands of the government, he wrote exultingly to England, declaring that the king was as absolute in Ireland as any king in the world, and might be the same in England if they did their duty there. He boldly demanded an earl's coronet, on account of these services, which, however, Charles deferred for awhile, thinking that he should hold such a man to his work rather by the hope than the possession of high preferment. Wentworth was so delighted with his overruling the Irish parliament, that he proposed to the king to merely prorogue and not dissolve it, as being the most convenient instrument for effecting his further designs on the country. But Charles would not listen to it, remarking that parliaments were like cats, they ever grew cursed with age, and it was better to put an end to them early, young ones being most tractable. He thanked him for what he had done, and especially for saving him from the odium of breaking his promise about the graces.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 19

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