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Reign of Charles I. page 25

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If we are to believe Clarendon, however, "The king was very melancholic, and quickly discovered that he had lost reputation at home and abroad, and those counsellors who had been most faulty, either through want of courage or wisdom, for at that time few of them wanted fidelity, never afterwards recovered spirit enough to do their duty, but gave themselves up to those who so much had outwitted them, every man shifting the fault from himself." On the contrary, he says, "The Scots got so much benefit and advantage by it, that they brought all their other mischievous devices to pass with ease, and a prosperous gale in all they went about." They declared that "they did not intend, by anything contained in the treaty, to vacate any of the proceedings which had been in the late general assembly at Glasgow, by which all the bishops were excommunicated, and renewed all their menaces against them by proclamation, and imposed grievous penalties on all who should presume to harbour any of them, so that by the time the king-came to London, it appeared plainly that the army was disbanded without a peace being made, and the Scots in more reputation, and equal inclination to affront his majesty than ever."

The fact was, that whilst Charles was pretending to concede, meaning to revoke when he had the power, the Scots were conscious of their advantage, and did not mean to allow him to do so. They were earnest and outspoken in their resolves, and therefore Charles seized a paper in which they published what had really been promised in the treaty, and had it burned by the common hangman.

The assembly was opened on the 12th of August in Edinburgh, and in spite of what Charles had assured the bishops, they were given up in the instructions to Traquair, for he meant to resist the abolition of the bishops, and to restore them when he had the power, but endeavoured to make political capital out of this concession. Traquair was to obtain, if possible, the admission of fourteen ministers into parliament instead of the bishops, or, if that were not possible, as many lay members whom the king was to appoint, and who were to choose the lords of the articles. By these perpetual finesses, Charles continually sought to filch back, as it were, the concessions that he made, as though those whom he sought to over-reach were not as wide awake as himself. He thought, if he could select the lords of the articles, and fourteen others devoted to him, he could revoke in the parliament what he gave up in the assembly - the characteristic of short-sighted cunning.

The bishops presented their protest to the commissioner, which, without being read, was to serve as a proof of their not having yielded up their claims; and the commissioner, finding the covenanters firm to all their demands - for every member of the assembly before entering it had sworn to support all the acts of the assembly of Glasgow - gave the royal assent to all the proceedings, and the news of the overthrow of episcopacy was received with shouts of acclamation by the people.

The parliament of Scotland met on the day appointed, the 20th of August. There the covenanters displayed their determination not to stickle for small matters, but to destroy the scheme by which that body had been made dependent on the royal will. They would no longer admit the bishops nor the lords of the articles whom the bishops had chosen, and who selected the topics under the direction of the crown, which should or should not come before the house. They proposed that the lesser barons, the commissioners of the shires, should take the place of the bishops, and that the lords of the articles should be selected from men of each estate, by those estates themselves. In order not to appear obstinate, they permitted the commissioner to name the lords of the articles for this once, but not as an act of right, but of grace, from themselves. They then decreed that all acts in favour of episcopacy should be rescinded; that patents of peerage should for the future be granted to none but such as possessed a rental of ten thousand marks from land in Scotland; that proxies should never again be admitted; and that the fortresses of Edinburgh, Stirling, and Dumbarton, should be entrusted to none but Scotchmen.

These measures would have completely enfranchised Scotland from the shackles of the crown, and Traquair, unable to avoid the necessity of ratifying them, prorogued the parliament to the 14th of November, so that he could receive the instructions of the king. Charles, to get rid of the demands of the covenanters altogether, prorogued it for six months. The members, who saw the intention, protested against the prorogation under circumstances so vital to the country, but obeyed after naming a deputation to go to the king on the subject. This deputation, headed by the lords London and Dunfermline, on arriving at Whitehall, were refused audience, because they had not come with the sanction of the royal commissioner; and Traquair was immediately summoned to court to answer for having conceded so much to the Scots. He had, indeed, conceded nothing but what Charles himself had instructed him to do; but the king was angry because he had not been able to recover in parliament, as he had vainly hoped, what was lost in convocation.

Traquair, who was aware that having implicitly followed these instructions would avail him little with the king in his mortification, thought of an expedient to divert Charles's anger into another channel. He had discovered a letter addressed by the covenanters to the king of France, complaining of the miserable condition of Scotland through the attempts of the king to root out the religion of the people; of his having violated the late treaty at Berwick, and dissolved parliament contrary to the will of the states, and to all national precedent, and entreating him to mediate in their favour. This letter was signed by seven lords, and addressed An Roi. The letter had been publicly declined by Louis, but privately answered, but in very cautious terms.

The production of this letter had all the effect that Traquair hoped for. The wrath of the king was immediately turned on the covenanters, and Traquair deepened the impression by assuring the king that nothing but war would pacify the covenanters, and declaring this discovery to be a perfect justification.

The Scots demanded an opportunity of vindicating themselves, and requested leave to send up deputies for that purpose. It was granted, and Dunfermline and Loudon were sent up. No sooner did they arrive than Loudon, whose name was to the intercepted letter, was instantly seized, and brought before the council. The letter being addressed simply Au Roi, which was the manner from subjects to their own sovereign, and not as from foreigners, it was deemed treasonable on that ground, if no other. Loudon asserted that the letter had been written before the pacification at Berwick, and. not being approved, had never been sent; but the contents contradicted that statement; and, moreover, one William Colvill, who had carried it to the French court, was in London, and was taken. London, thereupon, insisted on his safe conduct, and demanded liberty to return, contending that, if he had done anything wrong, it was in Scotland, and not there, that he ought to be interrogated. But the king sent both him and Colvill to the Tower.

The covenanters were greatly incensed at the seizure of their envoy, and demanded his release; but Charles is asserted by several historians, in particular, Crawford and Oldmixon, to have signed a warrant for his execution, and only to have been prevented putting him to death by the solemn declaration that if he did Scotland was lost for ever. After this transaction it became plain that nothing could avert a conflict betwixt the infatuated king and the people of Scotland. The great object of the king was to obtain funds; that of the Scotch to divide the king's attention by exciting discontents nearer home. England itself had abundant causes of dissatisfaction. The disuse of parliaments, the continued illegal levying of taxes by the king's own will, the rigorous and ruinous prosecutions in the star-chamber and the High Commission Court, the brandings, scourgings, and mutilations of such as dared to dispute the awful tyranny of the government, portended a storm at home ere long, and the Scots found abundance of well-wishers and friends amongst the English patriots. These were every day drawing into their ranks men of the highest position and the most distinguished talents. The earls of Essex, Bedford, and Holland, were men secretly connected with them; the lord Say, Hampden, Pym, Cromwell, and other men of iron nerve and indomitable will, were watching with deep interest the movements in the north so congenial to their own.

Whilst the king was pondering on the means of raising money, an event took place, which for the moment promised to present him with a considerable sum. A Spanish fleet of seventy sail was discovered by the Dutch admiral, De Witt? off the Lands' End, As it was bearing troops from Spain to Flanders, which were hard pressed by the Dutch, De Witt followed it up the Channel, firing guns to harass its rear, but still more to awake the attention of Van Tromp, who was lying off Dunkirk. The two celebrated Dutch admirals were soon in full chase of the Spaniards. Sixteen of the ships having four thousand troops on board, bore away with all speed for the coast of Flanders, but the rest fled for shelter into the Downs. Charles sent the Earl of Arundel to demand from Oquendo, the Spanish admiral, his destination, being not without apprehension that they might be intended for a descent on Ireland, or in aid of his disaffected subjects of Scotland.

Oquendo satisfied Arundel that they were really on their way to Flanders, and demanded the protection of Charles as a friendly power. Charles was not unwilling to do so for a consideration, and the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds was the price named in ready cash. For this Charles was to send the Spanish fleet under protection of his own to Flanders, but the two Dutch admirals, having now no less than one hundred sail, from continued fresh arrivals, attacked the Spaniards in the English roads, sunk and burned five of the largest vessels, drove twenty-three more on shore, and pursued the rest across the channel, suffering only ten of them to escape them. All this time the English admiral lay near at hand, but made no movement in protection of the Spaniards. The English people on shore beheld the destruction of the Spanish fleet with the greatest exultation, the memory of the great Armada being yet so strong amongst them; but Charles had lost his much-desired money at the moment that he thought to have grasped it, and with it had acquired an immense amount of foreign odium. To have suffered the vessels of a friendly power, which had fled to him for shelter, to be attacked and chased from his own harbour, lowered him greatly in the estimation of continental nations, and gave them an idea of the audacity of the Dutch, who unrebuked had perpetrated this insult, extremely to the disparagement of England. It was questioned whether, had he already received the money of the Spaniards, he could have protected them from the victorious Dutch, the necessary conflict with whom would have involved England in a foreign war.

At the time of this untoward occurrence Charles had sent for Wentworth from Ireland, to assist him by his counsels as to the best mode of dealing with his difficulties at home, and the Scots in the north. Wentworth had overridden all obstacles in Ireland, and had forced an income out of the reluctant people there; he was thought, therefore, by Charts, the only man whose wisdom and resolution were equal to the crisis. Wentworth had strongly advised Charles against marching against the Scots, knowing that the king's raw levies would have no chance against them; and he had gone on actively drilling ten thousand men, to prepare them for the campaign, which he felt must come, even after all appeared settled at Berwick. There was much speculation amongst all classes as to what might be the result of his arrival, which is well expressed by May in his Parliamentary History: - "Great was the expectation of all the English what might be the effect of his coming over. Great was the opinion which men in general had conceived of his ability and parts, looking at him as the only hinge on which the state was now likely to turn. Some, as they wished, did seem to hope, when they considered his first right principles, that whatsoever he had acted since his greatness, was to ingratiate himself perfectly with the king, that so, at last, by his wisdom and favour, he might happily prevail both upon the king's judgment and affection,, and carry him from those evil counsels which he had long been nurtured in, to such ways as should render him both honourable and happy. That the earl was so wise as to understand what most became a wise man, and what would make greatness beloved and permanent. But others durst not hope so much from him, when they considered his government in Ireland, and the ambition of the man. They feared that neither his virtue was great enough to venture his own fortunes, by opposing any evil counsels about the king, nor his favour great enough to prevail in overruling; that he was sent for only to complete that bad work which others of less brain than he had begun."

Unfortunately, the last opinions were the true ones. Wentworth was a very able but far from wise man, because he wanted the sentiment of goodness in any proportion to his power. He was proud and ambitious, and had sold himself to climb to worldly greatness on the ruins of his early and better principles. He had entered into a league with Laud of the most infamous nature, being under the name of "thorough," to trample out every spark of liberty in these kingdoms, which, had it succeeded, would have sunk into the place of the continental despotisms. But his haughtiness and insolence to his colleagues had already raised him many and deadly enemies, some of the most resolved of whom were those with whom he was now called to act. These were -the king's council, consisting of Laud, the archbishop of Canterbury; Juxton, bishop of London, who was also lord treasurer; the two secretaries, Sir Henry Vane and Francis Windebank; the earl of Northumberland, lord Cottington, and the marquis of Hamilton.

Clarendon, who is a regular royalist, and inclined to see more virtues in Wentworth than other historians of the time, yet is obliged to sketch this picture of the enmities which he justly provoked: - "He was a man of too high and severe deportment, and too great a contemner of ceremony, to have many friends at court, and therefore could not but have enemies enough. He had two that professed it, the earl of Holland and Sir Henry Vane." Besides having said that "the king would do well to cut off Holland's head," he had insulted him in various ways. He had done all he could to prevent Sir Henry Vane being made secretary in the place of Sir John Coke, whom the king displaced on his return from Scotland; but worse still, the king now creating him earl of Strafford, nothing would satisfy him but that he must be also made baron of Proby, Vane's own estate, from which he himself hoped to derive that title. "That," continues Clarendon, "was an act of the most unnecessary provocation that I have known, and though he contemned the man with marvellous scorn, I believe it was the loss of his head. To these a third adversary, like to be more pertinacious than the other two, was the earl of Essex, naturally enough disinclined to his person, his power, and his parts." This enmity in Essex. we are told, was increased by Wentworth's insolent conduct to lord Bacon, for whom Essex had a friendship; and he openly vowed vengeance. "Lastly, he had an enemy more terrible than all the others, and like to be more fatal, the whole Scottish nation, provoked by the declaration he had procured of Ireland, and some high carriage and expressions of his against them in that kingdom." We may add, that Wentworth had no friend in the queen, from his persecution of the catholics in Ireland, and was continually thwarted by her.

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