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Reign of Charles I. page 23

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At the end of October the Earl of Rothes demanded from Hamilton a warrant, citing the bishops, as guilty of heresy, perjury, simony, and gross immorality, to appear before the approaching assembly. The marquis refused, on which the presbytery of Edinburgh cited them. Charles had ordered, as a sign of his favour, the restoration of the lords of session of Edinburgh, but on condition of their signing the confession of faith. Nine out of the fifteen were induced with much difficulty to sign, but from that moment they were in terror of their lives from the exasperation of the people.

When Hamilton arrived on the 17th of November in Glasgow, to open the assembly, he found the town thronged with people from all quarters, in evidently intense excitement. The Tables had secured the most popular elections of representatives to the assembly, sending one lay elder and four lay assessors from every presbytery. The marquis therefore found himself overruled on all points. In his opening speech he read them the king's letter, in which Charles complained of having been misrepresented, as though he desired innovations in laws and religion! and to prove how groundless this was, he had granted this free assembly, for settling all such matters to the satisfaction of his good subjects. He then of himself protested against the foul and devilish calumnies against his sacred majesty, purporting that even this grant of the assembly was but to gain time whilst he was preparing arms to force on the nation the abhorred ritual. The marquis, whilst he was making these solemn asseverations, being well assured, as were most of his hearers, that the king was all the while casting cannon and ball, and mustering soldiers for this "foul and devilish purpose," the assembly must have been perfectly satisfied that no good was to be expected but from their own firmness. They at once proceeded to elect Alexander Henderson as their moderator, and Hamilton protested as vigorously against it, but in vain. They next elected as clerk-register Archibald Johnstone, the clerk of the Edinburgh Tables, against which Hamilton again protested with as little effect, Johnstone declaring that he would do his best to "defend the prerogative of the Son of God."

Defeated on these important points, the marquis the next day entered a protest against the return of lay members to the assembly; and the proctor on behalf of the bishops added their protest, declining the authority of the assembly, which he contended ought to be purely ecclesiastical. James had, in fact; put the lay members out of the assembly, and the king therefore treated this original constitution of the assembly, as settled at the reformation, as an innovation, turning the charge of innovation on the covenanters. The marquis would then have read the protests of the bishops with which he was furnished; but the assembly declined to hear them, and repeated that they would pursue the charges against the bishops so long as they had lives and fortunes. On this Hamilton dissolved the assembly, and the same day wrote a most remarkable letter to Charles, which appears to leave little ground for the suspicions of the royal party that he was secretly inclined to the covenant. He informed the king that he had done his utmost, but to no purpose, with that rebellious nation. He seemed to apprehend clanger to his life, and that this might be the last letter he should ever write to his majesty. He blamed the bishops for persuading the king to bring in the English liturgy and canons in so abrupt and violent a manner; that their pride was great, their folly greater. He gives the king his opinion of the character and degrees of the trustworthiness of the different ministers, and bids him beware of the earl of Argyle, whom he declares to be the most dangerous man in the state; so far from favouring episcopacy, as had been supposed, he wished it abolished with all his soul. This was immediately afterwards, as we shall see, made clear by Argyle himself. Hamilton then proceeded to instruct the king how best to proceed to quell what he deemed not merely a contest for religion, but an incipient rebellion. It was to blockade the ports, and thus cut off all trade, by which the burghs, the chief seats of the agitation, lived. That as fast as these burghs felt their folly, and returned to their allegiance, they should be restored to favour, and their ports opened, which would make the rest anxious to follow. That lie had done Ms best to garrison the castle of Edinburgh, though it was in a precarious state, but that the castle of Dumbarton might be readily garrisoned by troops from Ireland. If he preserved his life, which he seemed to doubt, he would defend his post to the utmost, though "he hated the place like hell," and as soon as he was free of it, would forswear the country. He recommended his brother to the king's favour, and his children to his protection if they lived; and to these if they did not prove loyal, he left his curse. His daughters, he desired, might never marry into Scotland.

The marquis clearly saw the dreadful conflict which was approaching, and his tears and emotion on dismissing the assembly, struck every one with that impression. But the assembly had no intention of dispersing. Like the commons of England, they entertained too high an estimate of their right, and of their duty in such a crisis. They therefore passed a resolution declaring the kirk independent of the civil powers, and the dissolution of the assembly by the royal commissioner illegal and void. That if the commissioner should sea fit to quit the country, and leave the church and kingdom in that disorder, it was their duty to sit; and that they would continue to sit till they had settled all the evils which came within their lawful and undoubted jurisdiction.

Laud, in reply to Hamilton, lamented that fear of giving umbrage to the covenanters too soon had too long delayed the means to crush them. He thanked him for having conveyed the bishops to Hamilton Castle to protect them, and trusted that his own life would yet be preserved from the diabolical fury of the Scots. What Hamilton had foreseen in the meantime had come to pass. The earl of Argyle declared plainly in the council that he would take the covenant and sanction the assembly. Accordingly, though not a member of it, he took his place in the assembly as their chief director; and thus encouraged, they proceeded to abolish episcopacy for ever; to deprive all the bishops, and to excommunicate the greater part of them and all their abettors. Charles, and James before him, had completely conferred all the power of parliament on the bishops, making eight of them the lords of the articles, with authority to choose eight of the nobles, and these sixteen having power to choose all the rest, so that all depended on the bishops, and they again on the king. This effectually ranged the nobles against them. The marquis of Hamilton, notwithstanding his fears, was permitted quietly to withdraw to England, whence he was soon to return against them at the head of the fleet. The people received the news of the proceedings of the assembly with transports of joy, and celebrated the downfall of episcopacy by a day of thanksgiving. Charles, on the other hand, issued a proclamation declaring all its acts void, and hastened his preparations for inarching into Scotland..

But the covenanters were not the less active on their part, and everything tended to a civil war, the result of Charles's incessant attacks on the liberties of the nation. They made collections of arms, and as early as December they received six thousand muskets from Holland. These had been stopped by the government of that country, but cardinal Richelieu had suddenly shown himself a friend, by ordering the muskets as if for his own use, receiving them into a French port, and thence forwarding them to Scotland. However impolitic it might appear for France to assist subjects against their prince, and especially when the queen of that prince was the king of France's own sister, Charles had managed to create nearly as strong a feeling against him in Louis and his minister Richelieu, as in his own subjects. He had set the example by assisting the Huguenots against their prince, and had provoked France by defeating its plan of dividing the Spanish Netherlands betwixt that country and Holland. The present opportunity, therefore, was eagerly seized to make Charles feel the error he had committed. Richelieu moreover ordered the French ambassador in London to pay over to general Leslie, one of Gustavus Adolphus's old officers, who had been engaged by the assembly, one hundred thousand crowns. This last transaction, however, was kept a profound secret, for the Scotch, when advised to seek the assistance of France and Germany, had indignantly refused, saying the Lutherans of Germany were heretics, and the people of France papistical idolators; that it became them to seek support from God alone, and not from the broken reed of Egypt. The preachers thundered from the pulpits against the bishops, and the determination of the king still to force them on the country; and they refused the communion to all who had not signed the covenant. The Tables called on the young men in every quarter of the country to come forward and be trained to arms, and the Scottish officers who had been engaged in the wars in Germany, flocked over, and offered their services for the support of the popular cause. The nobles contributed plate to be melted down, the merchants in the towns sent in money, and an army of determined men was fast forming. Charles, on his part, was not the less busy preparing for the campaign, and he was persuaded by many of the courtiers that he had only to appear, to pacify the Scots. If we are to believe Clarendon, the treasury was in a flourishing condition, a most unlikely circumstance, considering the unpopular mode of raising funds without a parliament; and we are assured of the contrary by a letter of the earl of Northumberland, addressed to Wentworth in January, 1639. He says, "I assure your lordship, to my understanding, to my sorrow I speak it, we are altogether in as ill a posture to invade others or to defend ourselves, as we were a twelvemonth since, which is more than any one can imagine that is not an eye-witness of it. The discontents here at home do rather increase than lessen, there being no course taken to give any kind of satisfaction. The king's coffers were never emptier than at this time, and to us that have the honour to be near about him, no way is yet known how he will find means either to maintain or begin a war without the help of his people." Cottington wrote to Wentworth in precisely the same strain.

So far from consulting parliament, Charles had not even opened his difficulties to his council. He was now compelled to do the latter, and on this occasion Laud was found entreating for peaceful counsels. It is probable that he had taken a more rational view of the belligerent temper of the Scots, and saw more danger in the king's attempt to coerce them, than he generally discerned in pushing on arbitrary counsels. His advice was rejected, and the rest of the council acquiesced in the determination of the king. With the beginning of the year 1639, Charles had named his generals and officers, had issued orders to the lords-lieutenant to muster the trained bands of their several counties, and the nobles to meet him at York on the 1st of April, with such retinues as belonged to their rank and fortune. To procure money he suspended the payment of all pensions, borrowed where he could, and judges, lawyers, and the clergy were called upon to contribute from their salaries and livings in lieu of their personal service. The clergy were in general extremely liberal, for they considered the cause as their own, and that if the presbyterians of Scotland became triumphant, the puritans of England might attempt the same measure with the church of England. Laud, moreover, ordered the names of all clergymen who refused, to be returned to him. The queen also lent her aid, by calling on the catholics to assist, reminding them that aid given to the king in this emergency, was the most likely means to securing future advantages to themselves. When the knowledge of the queen's circular letter to the catholics became known to the puritans, they were greatly scandalised, and the catholics responding readily to the call, and holding a meeting in London, presided over by the pope's nuncio, tended to strengthen their idea of the papistical bias of Charles and his church.

The king, on his part, sought to take advantage of the ancient antipathies betwixt the two kingdoms, and issued proclamations calling on all good subjects to resist the attempts of the Scots, who were contemplating, he asserted, the invasion and plunder of the kingdom, and the destruction of the monarchy. But he found this was an empty alarm. The reformers of England knew too well that the cause of the Scots and their own were perfectly identical; that the purpose of the king was to destroy the constitutional rights and freedom of religion in both kingdoms alike. The Scottish nobles, like the English public, rejected all attempts to divide them in this cause. There was a time when they could be bought "by the money of England, which had been freely and successfully employed by the Tudors. But Charles had little money to give; and to the honour of the present Scottish peers, when other temptations were tried, for the most part the sacred cause of their religion triumphed over them. They exhorted one another to stand fast by the covenant. The most intimate communication betwixt the Scotch and English reformers was maintained by pamphlets secretly circulated, by emissaries traversing all classes and all quarters. The earliest information of the movements of the court was transmitted, and before Charles commenced his march towards York, general Leslie, the elected commander-in-chief, took the initiative, and surprised the castle of Edinburgh on the 21st of March, at the head of a thousand musketeers, and without losing a single man. The next day, Saturday, the castle of Dalkeith was given over by Traquair, with all the regalia and a large quantity of ammunition and arms. It was thought that Traquair had shown great timidity, to surrender so strong a castle almost without a blow; but he complained of having been left alone, without countenance or advice. The earls of Rothes and Balmerino took the castle, and conveyed the regalia safely to the castle of Edinburgh. The following day, Sunday, did not prevent even Scotchmen and covenanters from seizing the castle of Dumbarton. The governor was surprised on his return from church, and threatened with instant death if he did not surrender the keys to the provost of the town, a zealous covenanter. Stirling was in the hands of the earl of Marr, who had taken the covenant; and of all the royal fortresses, only Carlaverock, the least important, remained in the hands of the crown. The marquis of Huntly, who had undertaken to hold the Highlands for the king, was overpowered or entrapped by Leslie and Montrose, who at the head of seven thousand men compelled the reluctant professors of Aberdeen to accept the covenant, when Leslie returned to Edinburgh, carrying Huntly with him. The earl of Antrim, who was to have invaded the domains of Argyll from Ireland, was unable to fulfil his engagement, and thus every day brought the news of rapid disasters to Charles on his march towards York. Hamilton, who had been despatched with a fleet, appeared in the Forth on the 13th of April. He had five thousand troops on board, and was expected to secure Leith, the port of Edinburgh, and overawe if he could not take the capital; but he found the place strongly fortified, and twenty thousand men were posted on the shores to prevent his landing. All classes, from the noble to the peasant, had been labouring industriously to repair fortifications and throw up batteries, and ladies had carried materials for them. The marquis saw no chance of effecting a landing, and therefore disembarked his men on the islands in the Forth, to prevent them perishing in the ships, for they were raw landsmen, and had been hastily pressed into the service, and were both very sickly and very mutinous. No prospect was ever more discouraging; even Wentworth could not send him the small aid of five hundred musketeers in time, and strongly advised Charles to avoid coming to an engagement with his raw levies against the enthusiastic Scots and their practical generals, but to garrison Berwick and Carlisle to prevent incursions, and wait till the next year if necessary.

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