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Reign of Charles I. page 26

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The king could no longer restrain his impatience, and summoned both houses before him in the banqueting hall. There the lord keeper Finch, in the presence of Charles, recalled their attention to the necessity of voting the supplies, and repeated the king's promises. He endeavoured to excuse the raising of ship-money as a necessity for chastising the Algerine pirates who infested the seas, and again recommended the liberal example of the Irish parliament. The only effect produced by this, was a most vivid and trenchant speech the next day by Waller, in which he told the house that the king was personally beloved, but that his mode of extorting his subjects' money was detested; and that neither the admiration of his majesty's natural disposition, nor the pretended consent of the judges, could ever induce them to consent to such unconstitutional demands. He then severely castigated the conduct of the bishops and clergy who preached the divine right of monarchs to plunder the public at their own pleasure. "But," said he, "they gain preferment by it, and then it is no matter, though they neither believe themselves nor are believed by others. But since they are so ready to let loose the consciences of their kings, we are bound the more carefully to provide against this pulpit law, by declaring and enforcing the municipal laws of this kingdom."

This again roused the king, who went down to the lords, and read them a sharp lesson on their not supporting him in his just demands of supplies from the commons. Thereupon the lords sent for the commons to a conference on the 29th of April, and recommended them to pass the votes and take the king's word for the redress of grievances; but the commons resented their intruding their advice about money matters as an infringement of the privileges of the house; and on the 1st of May, the lords, through the lord keeper, disclaimed any intention of encroaching on any of the well-known rights of the commons, but that the lords had felt bound to comply with the request of the king. The commons returned to their debate on ship-money, and on Saturday, the 2nd of May, Charles sent a message by Sir Henry Vane, now secretary of state and treasurer of the household, desiring an immediate answer regarding the supplies. Lord Digby reminded the house that the demand was that of a hasty and immediate answer to a call for funds to involve the nation in a civil war with the Scots, a people holding the same religion, and subjects to the same king as themselves. The debate was continued for two days, Clarendon accusing Vane of deliberately keeping from the house the fact entrusted to him, that the king, though asking for twelve subsidies, would consent to take eight.

But it was not so much the amount as the principle involved in the subsidies, which was the question, as was soon shown; for, on the 4th of May, Charles sent Vane again with the remarkable offer to abolish ship-money for ever, and by any means that they should think fit, on condition that they granted him twelve subsidies, valued at eight hundred and fifty thousand pounds, to be paid in three years, with an assurance that the house should not be prorogued till next Michaelmas. This was a mighty temptation: here was the direct offer of at once getting rid of one of the monster grievances for ever; but it did not escape the attention of the more sagacious, that by accepting the bargain, they were conceding the king's right to set aside the most established laws, to force his own notions of religion on his subjects, and to make war on them if they refused. They rejected the snare, and maintained the debate for some hours against all the arguments of the court party. On rising, they informed Vane that they would resume the debate the next morning, at eight o'clock; but Sir Henry, seeing very well how it would terminate, assured the king in council that he was certain that the house would not grant him a penny for the war against the Scots.

On this Charles adopted one of his stratagems. Early in the morning he sent for Glanvil, the speaker, before the commons had assembled, and detained him at Whitehall, so that the commons without him could not vote against the supplies, nor protest against the war; and suddenly hastening to the house of lords, he sent for the commons, and dismissed them. In doing this, he praised the peers at the expense of the commons, and declared that as to the liberties of the people, that the commons made so much talk of, they had not more regard for them than he had.

This was the last parliament which Charles was ever to dissolve, and the folly of his conduct became speedily palpable. The parliament had only sate about three weeks, assembling April 13th, and being now dissolved on May 5th. By this hasty act he had put himself wholly on the army. Had he allowed the commons to vote against the supplies, many would have sympathised with him; now he had only himself to blame. His enemies rejoiced, and his friends deplored the deed, with gloomy auguries. Clarendon says that the next day he met Oliver St. John, "who had naturally a great cloud on his face, and was never known to smile;" but this day he looked quite radiant, and being then simple Mr. Hyde, asked what made him look so troubled. He replied, "the same, he believed, which troubled most good men, that in a time of such confusion, so wise a parliament, which alone could have found remedy for it, was so unseasonably dismissed." On which St. John said it was all very well, for kings must be worse before they are better.

The king was made to feel his mistake on applying to the city of London for a loan, and receiving a cool and evasive answer. The Scotch were greatly elated. They had their agents in close though secret communication with the leaders of the opposition, and now saw the king deprived of the means of effectually contending with them, and felt that they had numerous friends of their cause in England. The passion of the king only increased their advantages. He issued a proclamation declaring why he had dismissed the parliament, charging the commons with malice and disaffection to the state, and with designing to bring government and magistracy into contempt; and he gave fresh proofs of his vindictive feeling by arresting a number of the members the day after the dissolution. The public had not forgotten the cruelty practised on their faithful servant Sir John Elliot, and they now saw Sir John Hotham and Mr. Bellasis committed to the Fleet, Mr. Crew, afterwards lord Crew, to the Tower, and the house of lord Brooke, his study, and cabinets, broken open to search for papers.

To add to the exasperation of the public against these leaders of the constitution, Laud, who had summoned convocation previous to the meeting of parliament, continued its sitting, after its dissolution, contrary to all custom; and its sitting was employed to pass a series of seventeen new canons of the most offensive and slavish kind. The public excitement was so great against the innovation, that the lord keeper Finch and some of the judges had to furnish a written opinion declaring the right of convocation to sit after the close of parliament, and a new commission was issued with the usual words "during the parliament" altered to "during our pleasure." But a guard of soldiers was deemed necessary to protect the sittings, in which the clergy first voted six subsidies to the king, and then passed to the canons, one of which ordered that every clergyman once a quarter should instruct his parishioners in the divine right of kings, and the damnable sin of resisting authority. Others fulminated the most flaming intolerance of catholics, Socinians, and separatists. All clergymen and graduates of the universities were called on to take an oath declaring the sufficiency of the doctrines and discipline of the church of England, in opposition to presbyterianism and popery.

On the publication of these canons, great was the ferment in the country, and petitions and remonstrances from Northamptonshire, Kent, Devon, and other counties, were sent up against them. It was most ungracious as regarded the catholics, who had just presented to the king, at the suggestion of the queen, fourteen thousand pounds. The queen remonstrated against it, and the king gave orders to Laud to desist from further annoyance in that direction. But anger and discontent were fearfully spreading through the country, from the outrageous measures to raise money. Fresh writs of ship-money were issued, and numbers were dragged into the star-chamber for refusal to pay, and fined. so that their money was forced from them by one process or the other. The names of the richest citizens were picked j out in order to demand loans from them. Bullion, the property of foreign merchants, was seized at the Mint, and forty thousand pounds extorted for its release; and bags of pepper on the Exchange, and sold at whatever they would fetch. It was next proposed to coin four hundred thousand pounds worth of bad money; but the merchants and other men of intelligence came forward and drew such a picture of the ruin and confusion that such an act would produce, that the king was alarmed, and gave that up. The council, however, hit upon the scheme of purchasing goods at long credit, and selling them at a low price for ready money. All this time large sums of money were levied throughout the country by violence, for the support of the troops collected for the campaign against the Scots. Carts, horses, and forage were seized at the sword's point; and whoever dared to represent these outrages to the king, was branded as an enemy to the government. The corporation of London was dealt with severely, because it showed no great fondness for enforcing the king's arbitrary demands. The lord mayor and sheriffs were cited into the star-chamber for remissness in levying the ship-money; and several of the aldermen were committed to prison for refusing to furnish such persons in their several wards as were able to contribute to Charles's forced loans. Strafford said things would never go right till a few fat London aldermen were hanged.

These desperate measures inflamed the public mind beyond expression, and greatly strengthened the league of the discontented with the Scots. All, except the insane tyrants who were thus forcing the nation to rebellion, could see tempests ahead; and the earl of Northumberland, writing to a friend, said, "It is impossible that all things can long remain in the condition they are now in: so general a defection in this kingdom hath not been known in the memory of man." The disaffection began to find expression, and according to Clarendon, inflammatory placards were scattered about the city and affixed on gates and public places, denouncing the king's chief advisers. Laud, Strafford, and Hamilton, were the marks of the most intense hatred, and the London apprentices were invited, by a bill posted on the Royal Exchange, to demolish the episcopal palace at Lambeth, and "haul out William the Fox."

The train-bands assembled and kept the peace by day, but at night a mob of five hundred assembled and attacked Lambeth palace, and demolished the windows, vowing that they would tear the archbishop to pieces. In a couple of hours the train-bands arrived, fired on them, and dispersed the multitude. Laud got away to Whitehall, where he remained some days, till the damages were repaired, and the house fortified with cannon. Another crowd, said to be two thousand in number, entered St. Paul's, where the High Commission Court sate, tore down the benches, and cried out, "No bishop! no High Commission!" A number of rioters were seized by the train-bands and lodged in the White Lion Prison; but the prison was forced open by the insurgents, and their associates released all but two, a sailor and a drummer, who were executed, according to some authorities; according to others, only one. Clarendon says, this infamous, scandalous, headless insurrection was quashed with the death of only one varlet, whom he calls a sailor; but Mr. Jardine has the printed warrant still preserved in the State Paper Office, for the putting to the torture one Archy, a drummer. He appears to have been a half-witted youth from the north, whom the rioters carried with them to beat a drum. The torturing of this poor fellow, after the unanimous declaration of the judges in the case of Felton, that torture was and always had been contrary to the law of England, is another instance of the defiance of the king and his advisers of all law and constitution.

The king was greatly alarmed at this outbreak; he removed the queen to Greenwich, as she was near her confinement, and placed a strong guard over the palace with sixteen pieces of cannon; nor was he easy till he saw a force of six thousand men at hand.

The time for the meeting of the Scottish parliament had now arrived, and Charles sought to prevent it by another prorogation; but the Scots were not to be put off in any such manner. The king had for some time been treating them like a nation at war; he had prohibited all trade with Scotland, and his men-of-war had been ordered to seize all its merchantmen, wherever found. The Scots therefore met on the 2nd of January, set aside the king's warrant of prorogation on the plea of informality, and the members took their seats, elected a president, an officer hitherto unknown, and passed all the acts which had been prepared during the preceding session. They then voted a tax of ten per cent, on all rents, and five per cent, on interest of money; and, before rising, appointed a committee of estates for the government of the kingdom till the next meeting of parliament. This committee was to sit either at Edinburgh or at the place where the head-quarters of the army should be, and a bond was entered into to support the authority of parliament, and to give to the statutes which it had passed or should pass the same force as if they had received the royal assent.

But they had not waited for parliament to take the necessary steps for the organisation of an army. They had retained in full pay the experienced officers whom they had invited from Germany, and the soldiers who had disbanded at the pacification of Berwick, returned with alacrity to their colours in March and April Leslie was still commander-in-chief, and determined to reduce the castle of Edinburgh before marching south. It was in vain that Charles issued his proclamations, warning them of the treasonable nature of their proceedings; they went on as if animated by one spirit, and determined not only to strike the first blow, but to advance into England instead of waiting to be attacked at home.

Charles, on his part, was far from being so early ready or bo well served. His plans for the campaign were grand. He proposed to attack Scotland on three sides at once - with twenty thousand men from England, with ten thousand from the Highlands under the marquis of Hamilton, and with the same number from Ireland under Strafford. But his total want of funds prevented his progress, and the resort to the lawless practices which we have related for raising them, was alienating the' hearts of his English subjects from him in an equal degree. It was not till the dissolution of parliament in July, and the loan of three hundred thousand pounds by the lords, that he dared to issue writs for the number of forces. Thus the Scots were ready for action when he was only preparing for an army.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 26

Charles I.
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Great Seal of Charles I.
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