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Reign of Charles I. page 20


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How little did this bold bad man see that, whilst he was serving the king's worst purposes, he was preparing his own destruction. In fact, though he had stunned the Irish for a moment by the audacity of his bearing, he had struck deep into their souls a resentment that no man, however powerful or subtle, could withstand. He was, however, only on the threshold of the sweeping changes that he contemplated in that country, for he was resolved to reduce it to a condition of absolute dependence on the crown. He was not content with forcing the English articles on the Irish church, but he refused to the catholics every relief that Charles had pledged himself to in order to get their money. Instead of abolishing, as promised, the oppressive power of the court of wards, he gave them a more virulent activity. The catholic heir was still obliged to sue out the livery of his lands, and before he could obtain them, to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. To obtain his rightful property, he was thus compelled to abjure his religion. But he entertained a still more gigantic design, which was to seize on the fee-simple of the greater part of Ireland, on pretence of defective title,

We have seen that in the reigns of Elizabeth and James the titles of the great landed proprietors both in Connaught and Ulster had been called in question, and those monarchs had pretended to renew them on condition of certain payments. These conditions had been repeatedly fulfilled by the proprietors, but not by the crown. Charles, in 1628, amongst the other benefits promised, had engaged to ratify these titles; but Wentworth showed him the folly of doing that, whilst by alarming them on that head, he might draw immense sums from them, or get possession of the lands. To this detestable proposal Charles consented, and the experiment was begun with Connaught. Wentworth proceeded at the head of a commission, to hold an inquisition in every county of Connaught. He opened his proceedings at Roscommon, where he summoned a jury of "gentlemen of the best estates and understandings," that more weight might attach to their decisions, if favourable, or if adverse, he might levy heavy fines upon them. He assured the jury that his majesty merely meant to ascertain the condition of all titles, that if defective he might graciously render them legal. It was on this plea that the freeholders had been wheedled into the surrender of their deeds and patents beforetime by Elizabeth and James; but Wentworth added another alarming fiction. He contended that Henry III., reserving only five cantreds to himself, had given the remainder to Richard de Burgo, to be holden of him and his heirs of the crown, and that those tenures had now descended to the present king, by the marriage of the heirs of de Burgo with the royal line. According to this the king was the rightful owner of every acre of land in Ireland. He assured the jury, therefore, that it was their best interest to give a general verdict for the king, as he could without their consent establish his right, and if compelled to do that in opposition to them, the result must be much worse for them. By these means he induced the juries in Roscommon, Sligo, Mayo, Clare, and Limerick, to return a verdict in favour of the crown, but the people of Galway stoutly resisted. They declared that the title of the king, through Edward IV., from Richard de Burgo, could not be proved; there was a hiatus in the genealogy. They were all catholics, and were the more resolute from having been so shamefully deluded in the matter of wardship. Wentworth was rather glad to be able to make an example of them, and he therefore fined the sheriff one thousand pounds for returning so obstinate and perverse a jury, and dragged the jury into his star-chamber, the chamber of the castle, and fined them four thousand pounds a-piece. He fell with especial vindictiveness on the old earl of Clanricarde, and other great landowners of Galway, and set about to seize the fort of Galway, march a body of troops into the country, and compel it to submit to the king's will. The proprietors, incredulous that the king could know of or sanction such infamous breaches of faith and acts of oppression, sent over a deputation to Charles to lay the matter before him. But the king received them with reproaches, declared his full approval of the proceedings of the lord deputy, and sent them back to Ireland as state prisoners. The old earl of Clanricarde, whose son had been the head of the deputation, died soon after receiving the news of this shameful conduct of the monarch, and Wentworth wrote to Charles that he was accused of being the cause of his death. "They might as well," he added, haughtily, "impute to me the crime of his being three score and ten." He was still busily pursuing other noblemen with the same rancour, the earl of Cork, lord Wilmot, and others, when the catholic party in England, who had a friend in queen Henrietta, made their complaints heard at Whitehall. Laud, who was acting as outrageously himself in England, informed Wentworth of it, and even hinted more caution, observing that if he could find a way to do all those great services without raising so many storms, it would be excellently well thought of. But Wentworth was as little disposed to avoid storms as his adviser himself. He proceeded in the same autocratic style both towards the public and individuals. It had been the original intention to return to the proprietors three-fourths of their lands, and retain one fourth for the crown, amounting to about one hundred and twenty thousand acres, which were to be planted with Englishmen, on condition of yielding a large annual income to the crown. But now it was resolved to retain a full half of Galway as a punishment of its obstinacy, and Wentworth was proceeding with the necessary measurements, when his career proved at an end.

The individual acts of injustice which he perpetrated, were done at the suggestion of his profligate desires or personal revenge, with the most unabashed hardihood. He had seduced the daughter of Loftus, the lord chancellor of Ireland, wife of Sir John Gifford, and wanted to confer a good post on her relative, Sir Adam Loftus. Such an opportunity soon occurred by an inadvertent expression of Lord Mountnorris, vice-treasurer of Ireland. It happened one day that Annesley, a lieutenant in the army, accidentally set a stool on the foot of the lord deputy, when he was suffering from the gout. This lieutenant Annesley had some time before been caned in a paroxysm of passion by Wentworth, and Mountnorris hearing the incident of the stool mentioned at the table of chancellor Loftus, said - "Perhaps Annesley did it as his revenge, but he has a brother who would not have taken such a revenge." This being repeated to Wentworth, he treated the observation as a suggestion to Annesley to perpetrate a more bloody revenge; and though he dissembled his resentment for some time, he then accused Mountnorris, who was also an officer in the army, of mutiny, founded on this expression. Wentworth attended the court-martial to overawe its proceedings, and obtained a sentence of death against Mountnorris, The sentence was too atrocious to be carried into execution, but it served Wentworth's purpose, who cashiered Mountnorris, and gave his office to Loftus. Much as the Irish had suffered before, this most lawless act excited a loud murmur of indignation throughout Ireland; but Wentworth had secured himself from any censure from the king by handing him six thousand pounds as the price of the transfer of Mountnorris's treasurership to Sir Adam Loftus.

The tyrannies of Laud in England, and of Wentworth in Ireland, were now fast driving the more independent and religious people to New England. The trial of John Hampden had now taken place in London, and Wentworth, in the insolence of his success in Ireland, had written to Laud, recommending that the great patriot should be whipped like Prynne and Lilburne. "Mr. Hampden," he wrote, "is a great brother (meaning puritan), and the very brains of that nation of people leads them always to oppose, both civilly and ecclesiastically, all that ever authority ordains for them. But, in good faith, were they rightly served, they should be whipped hence into their right wits; and much beholden they should be to any that would thoroughly take pains with them in that sort."

Not even Charles and Laud, however, were daring enough to apply the whip to the back of the great English patriot; and though Hampden, Ms kinsman Oliver Cromwell, and Haselrig, contemplated emigrating to America, in a great scheme set on foot by the lords Say and Brook, they remained to see the heads of the champions of the "thorough" fall, and that of the king after them.

The resentment of the Irish was becoming so strong against Wentworth, that the king thought it safest for him to come to England for a time; but he soon returned thither, with the additional favour of the monarch, where he remained till summoned by Charles to assist him by his counsels against the Scotch. But the fatal year 1640 was at hand, to close the story of his tyrannies. We must now retrace our steps, and bring up the conflicts of Scotland with the same blind and determined despots to that period.

The storm against the despotism of Charles had broken out in that country. From the moment of his visit to Edinburgh with his great apostle Laud, he had never ceased pushing forward Ms scheme of conforming the presbyterian church to Anglican episcopacy. He had restored the bishops on that occasion, given them lands, erected deans and chapters, and Lard had consecrated the High Church as a cathedral. As he could not persuade the Scottish peers to submit to the liturgy as used in England, which his father had attempted in vain before him, he consented that a liturgy should be drawn up by four Scottish bishops, were also to frame a code of ecclesiastical canons. They were to introduce into the latter some of the acts of the Scottish assemblies, and some more ancient canons, to make the whole more palatable. These laws and the liturgy were afterwards revised by the archbishop of Canterbury, and the bishops of London and Norwich, and Charles ordered the amended copies to be published and observed.

None but a monarch so foolhardy as Charles, would have dared such an experiment on the Scotch, who had resisted so stoutly his father, and had driven his grandmother from the country for her adhesion to popery. The people received the publication of the canon with unequivocal indications of their temper; and when, therefore, the first introduction of the liturgy was fixed for the 23rd of July, 1637, at the High Church, they went thither in crowds, to give a characteristic reception. The archbishops and bishops, the lords of session, and the magistrates went in procession, and appeared there in all their official splendour. This display, however, so far from imposing on the people cl Edinburgh, only excited their wrath and contempt, as the trumpery finery of the woman of Babylon.

No sooner had the dean ascended the reading-desk and began to read the collect for the day, than there was a burst of rage and indignation which must have been startling. The women of all ranks were most conspicuous in their demonstrations of disgust, They assailed the dean with the most opprobrious epithets, crying, "The mass has entered! Baal is in the church!" The dean was styled "a thief, a devil's gett, and of a witche's breeding." The noise and confusion were indescribable.

Amongst the women seated about the pulpit, or even on its steps, as you still see in Scotch churches, was a stout masculine dame, the keeper of a vegetable stall at the Tron Kirk, named Janet, or Jenny Geddes. Hearing a man repeat "Arnen!" close behind her, she turned round, and cuffing his ears with both her hands, exclaimed - "Out, false thief, is there na ither pairt of the churche to sing mass in, but thou must sing it at my lugge,"

The noise and riot increasing, the bishop who was to preach that day hastened up into the pulpit, over the head of the dean in the reading-desk, and entreated the people to listen to the collect. "Die! colic the warne o' thee!" cried Jenny Geddes, or "the devil send the colic into thy stomach," mistaking the strange word "collect" for that painful disorder; and with that she flung her joint stool with all her might at the bishop's head. A man near her diverted the course of the missile by trying to seize her arm, or, it was the opinion of those who saw it, the bishop had been a dead man. It swung on, however, past his ear with an ominous sweep, and was followed by the most frightful yells, and a shower of other heavy stools and clasped Bibles, sticks and stones, that speedily caused the evacuation of the pulpit. The bishop was followed in his descent from it by the cries of "Fox, wolf, and belly-god," for he was a very fat man.

The archbishop of St. Andrews, who was also lord chancellor, and some of the nobles having tried in vain to restore order, the magistrates rushed forward to the rescue, and by the aid of constables and beadles, the most prominent rioters were thrust out of the church, and the doors locked The bishop then went on with the service, but it was amid the wildest cries both from without and within, of "A pape! a pape! Antichrist! stane him! pull him down!" The windows were smashed in by a hail of stones and dirt, and at the conclusion of the service there was a rush forth of the congregation, to get every one to his own home in safety. The chief object of the crowd's attention was the bishop, who was trying to escape to his lodgings in the High-street, but he was seized, thrown down, and dragged through the mud. "Neither," says Sir James Balfour, "could that lubberly monster, with his satine gown, defend himself by his swollen hands and greasy belly, bot he had half-a-dissenneck fishes to a reckoning,"

The same morning similar scenes had taken place in the other churches, and the bishop of Argyle had been driven from the pulpit of Grey Friars' Church. In. the afternoon the service was read, but to empty churches, for the baillies of Edinburgh had been summoned before the privy council, and called upon to see order maintained. The service was therefore read with the doors locked, but the riot in the streets when it was over was worse than ever. The mob pursued the carriages of the nobles who took home the bishops with yells and stones; the women were like viragoes, urging on the men and showing the way; and the earl of Roxburgh, lord privy seal, who was driving home the bishop from St. Giles's, was so pelted with stones, the mob crying, "Drag out the priest of Baal," that he ordered his attendants to draw their swords and defend them; but the women cared nothing for their weapons, but pursued the carriage with stones till they escaped into Holyrood, covered with mud and bruises. The same spirit manifested itself everywhere. Jenny Geddes became a national heroine, which she yet remains, Robert Burns calling his mare after her that he rode into the Highlands. In Glasgow about the same time one William Allan, in a sermon, having spoken in praise of "the buke," that is, of the common prayer, no sooner was he out in the street than hundreds of enraged women surrounded him and the other clergymen with him, assailed him with sticks, fists, and peats, and belaboured him sorely. They tore off his cloak, ruff, and hat, and went near to killing him.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 20

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