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Reign of Charles I. page 23


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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.

Charles arrived at York on the 19th of April, and proceeded to administer to the lords who there awaited him with their followers, an oath of allegiance, binding them to oppose all conspiracies and seditions even if they were veiled under the pretence of religion. The lords Say and Brooke declined to take the oath, saying they were willing to accompany their sovereign from loyalty and affection, but that as they were ignorant of the laws and customs of Scotland, they could not undertake to say that the Scots were rebels, or the war was just. Charles with indignation ordered them to be arrested, but the attorney and solicitor generals on being consulted, declaring that there was no ground for their prosecution, they were dismissed with the royal displeasure, and desired to return home. Nor had the king much more satisfaction with the lords who had taken the oath, for they qualified it by signing a paper, stating in what sense they took it. To perform an act calculated to please the people whom he was leaving behind, at York he issued a proclamation, revoking no less than thirty-one monopolies and patents, pretending that he had not discovered before how grievous they were to his subjects; but the real fact was, that most of them had been granted to Scotchmen who had now forfeited his favour.

On leaving York he complimented the recorder, who had paid him the most fulsome flattery, and the municipal authorities, by telling them that he had there experienced more love than he ever had in London, on which he had showered so many benefits. At Durham by the bishop and clergy, and at Newcastle by the corporation, he was magnificently entertained, and at every halting-place fresh quotas of horse and foot came in. "But," remarks Clarendon, "if there had been none in the march but soldiers, it is most probable that a noble peace would have quickly ensued, even without fighting; but the progress was more illustrious than the march, and the soldiers were the least part of the army, and the least consulted with. For," he adds, "the king more intended the pomp of his preparations than the strength of them." The certain proof, he might have added, of a very foolish king, as Charles was. But the its which Clarendon summons up on this occasion to explain the want of success are amusing. "If the war had been vigorously pursued, it had been as soon ended as begun." "If he had been duly informed of what was going on in Scotland," of course he would have known. "If the whole nation of Scotchmen had been entirely united in the rebellion, and all who stayed in the court had marched in their army, the king or kingdom could have sustained no damage by them; but the monument of their presumption and their shame would have been razed together, and no other memory preserved of their rebellion but in their memorable and infamous defeat." That is, there would have been no Scotch traitors about him to keep him misinformed. This is just as true as the treasury being well furnished, for we know that Hamilton and Traquair kept the king admirably and punctually informed of everything the whole time. "If," however, Charles had more wisely chosen his generals, - but Arundel, his general, was a man, says this veracious historian, "who had nothing martial about him but his presence and his looks, and therefore was thought to be made choice of for his negative qualities. He did not love the Scots; he did not love the puritans 5 which good qualities were allayed by another negative - he did love nobody else." The lieutenant-general, the earl of Essex, was too proud and uncompromising, and the earl of Holland, general of the horse, was just no general at all, "a man fitter for a show than a field." Yet, says Clarendon, "If the king himself had stayed at London, or, which had been the next best, kept his court arid resided at York, and sent the army on its proper errand, and left the matter of the war solely to them, in all human reason his enemies had been speedily subdued." With such generals as Arundel and Holland, - for Essex was a brave commander, though, as afterwards shown, no great tactician, - it is not so easy to see that. But Clarendon might have safely reduced all his ifs into one - if Charles had been a wise king he would not have got into a quarrel with his subjects at all.

With such generals, and an army of raw levies, hastily dragged reluctantly from the plough and the mattock, to fight in a cause with which they had 110 sympathy, and encumbered by heaps of useless nobles and gentry, Charles marched on to Berwick, and encamped his forces on an open field called the Birks, He had besides the garrison of Berwick, three thousand two hundred and sixty horse, and nineteen thousand six hundred and fourteen foot. But on the other hand Leslie, says Clarendon, had drawn up his forces on the side of a hill at Dunse, so as to make a great show, "The front only could be seen, but it was reported that Leslie and the whole army were there; and it was very true, they were all there indeed - but it was as true that all did not exceed the number of nine thousand men, very ill armed, and mostly country fellows, who were on the sudden got together to make that show." Leslie, he informs us, had so dispersed his knot of ragamuffins, with great herds of cattle on the hills around, that it was naturally supposed that there was a great army, the bulk of it concealed behind the hill; and he assures us that had the royal army pushed forward the whole illusion would have vanished.

This account is as thoroughly opposed to all the credible historians of the time, Rushworth, Nalson, Burnet, Baillie, and the letters of distinguished persons engaged, as the whole array of ifs. We are assured that Leslie had pitched his camp at Dunglas, and twelve thousand volunteers had crowded to his standard. The preachers everywhere called on their hearers to advance the cause of God and the kirk. Those in the camp wrote and disseminated letters to the same effect. One demanded that every true Scot should go forward to extort a reasonable peace from the king, or to do battle with his and their common enemies, the prelates and papists of England. Another denounced the curse of Meroz on all who did not come to the help of the Lord, and of his champions. Another ironically bade those who would not fight for God and their country, to bring spades and bury the saints whom they had abandoned to the swords of the Amalekites. They had chosen for the motto on their banners the words, "For Christ's Crown and the Covenant," and over every captain's tent waved the arms of Scotland and these words. Soldiers therefore flocked in on all sides to the sacred standard, and by the time that Leslie marched for Dunse Hill, his army numbered nearly twenty thousand men, many of them new to arms, but all enthusiastic patriots. Twice a day they were summoned by sound of drum to drill and to sermon; and when they were not listening to the exciting harangues of the ministers, they were solacing themselves with singing psalms and reading the Scriptures, or with extempore prayer. "Had you lent your ear," says one of them, "and heard in the tents the sounds of some singing psalms, some praying, some reading Scripture, you would have been refreshed. For myself, I never found my mind in better temper than it was. I was as a man who had take a leave from the world, and was resolved to die in that service without return. I found the favour of God shining upon me, and a sweet, meek, humble, yet strong and vehement spirit leading me all along."

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 23

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