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Reign of Charles I. page 26

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But all these councillors could devise no way to raise funds but by the old and irritating mode of ship-money, for which writs to the amount of two hundred thousand pounds were immediately issued, and this bearing no proportion to the requirements of a campaign against the Scots, they advised Charles to call together a parliament. To this he demurred; but when they persisted in that advice, he ordered a full council to be called, and put to it this question: - "If this parliament should prove as untoward as some have lately been, will you then assist me in such extraordinary ways as in that extremity should be thought fit?"

Charles was thus bent on extraordinary ways, and the council promised him its support. Wentworth returned to Ireland, being not only created earl of Strafford, but made lord lieutenant of that country. He promised to obtain a liberal vote from the Irish parliament, which it was thought might act as a salutary example for England. Accordingly, no one daring to oppose his wishes, he obtained four subsidies, with a promise of more if found necessary. The English parliament was delayed till this was effected, and was then summoned for the 13th of April. We have now brought up the affairs of all parts of the kingdom since the dismissal of the last parliament in 1629, to the calling of a fresh one in this most memorable year of 1640, an interval of eleven years. During that period the king had ruled like the despot of a country without a constitution. He and his arch-counsellors, Laud and Wentworth, have endeavoured to force the Anglican church on both Scotland and Ireland; they have persecuted relentlessly all denominations of religion except those of the favoured I church - catholics, puritans, presbyterians; they have branded, mutilated, imprisoned, fined at their good will and pleasure, all who dared to denounce their inquisitorial proceedings; they have imposed taxes of many new and unheard of kinds - as ship-money, fines for building houses in London, seizing of whole territories of private property in Ireland, &c. The lawless and juryless star-chamber and High Commission Court have been the royal inquisitions, into which free subjects, the heirs of Magna Charta and of habeas corpus, were dragged, tortured, and punished at pleasure; and there is a determination to "go thorough," and reduce freeborn England to a crouching and charterless serfdom By this means Scotland is roused to the pitch of armed resistance; England stands sternly not far distant from the same temper; trodden Ireland is not without remaining throes of life; and within 1640 the blood of civil strife, not soon to be stanched, must flow; and instead of no parliament in eleven years, two parliaments in one year; the latter to endure nearly twice as long as the country had been without any, and work more wonderful changes than had yet been seen in England or any other monarchy.

To assist the king and council in what was felt to be a critical emergency, Wentworth, now Strafford, returned, though suffering from a painful complaint. He left orders for the immediate levy of an army of eight thousand men, and Charles took measures for the raising in England fifteen thousand foot and four thousand horse, which he thought would serve to overawe parliament; and, what is singular, the orders for the raising of these troops and providing artillery and ammunition was signed by Laud, so little had he an idea of an archbishop being a minister of the prince of peace. Before the arrival of Strafford, Charles read to the council the account of the liberal subsidies and the loyal expressions which Strafford had put into the mouths of the enslaved Irish commons. This he did at the request of Strafford himself, to prove not only the loyalty of the Irish, but his own popularity there, spite of the assertions of his being hated in that country.

When the king met the parliament on the 13th of April, he had not abated one jot of his high-flown, notions of his divine right, and of the slavish obedience due from parliament. The lord keeper Finch, formerly the speaker of the house, but now more truly in his element as a courtier, made a most fulsome speech, describing the king as "the most just, the most pious, the most gracious king that ever was." That his kingly resolves were in the ark of his sacred breast, that no Uzziah must touch it. That he was like Phoebus; and that though he condescended to lay aside the beams and rays of majesty, they were not to presume upon it. He informed them that for many years in his piety towards them he had taken all the cares and annoyances of government from them, and raised the condition and reputation of the country to a wonderful splendour. That, notwithstanding such exemplary virtues and exhibitions of goodness, some sons of Belial had blown the trumpet of rebellion in Scotland, and that it was now necessary to chastise that stiff-necked people. That they must therefore lay aside all other subjects, and imitate the loyal parliament of Ireland in furnishing liberal supplies. That had not the king, upon the credit of his servants and out of his own estate, raised three hundred thousand pounds, he could not have made the preparations already in progress. That they must therefore grant him tonnage and poundage from the beginning of his reign, and vote the subsidies at once, when his majesty would pledge his royal word that he would take into his gracious consideration their grievances. And all this balderdash, and this stale trick of trying to get the supplies before the discussion of grievances, on the now well-estimated word of the king, from those sturdy commoners who had never yet given way to force or flattery!

Charles then produced the intercepted letters of the Scottish lords to the king of France, to show the treason of the Scots, and the necessity of taking decisive measures with them, But the commons were not likely to be moved from their settled purpose by any such arguments. They elected Serjeant Glanvil as speaker, and proceeded first and foremost to the discussion of the grievances of the nation. Amongst their old members, though the brave Sir John Elliot had perished in prison, and Sir Edward Coke, who by his latter years of patriotism had effaced the memory of the arbitrary spirit of his earlier ones, was also dead, there were Oliver Cromwell, now sitting for Cambridge, Pym Hampden, Denzell Hollis, Maynard, Oliver St. John, Strode, Corriton, Hayman, and Haselrig. There were amongst the new ones, Harbottle Grimston, Edmund Waller, the poet, lord George Digby, the son of the ear] of Bristol, a young man of eminent 'talent, and other men destined to become prominent. Sir Benjamin Rudyard and Grimston delivered speeches recommending at once courtesy and respect towards the crown, but unflinching support of the rights of the people. Harbottle Grimston described the commonwealth as miserably torn and massacred, all property and liberty shaken, the church distracted, the Gospel and professors of it persecuted, parliament suspended, and the laws made void. Sir Benjamin Rudyard protested that he desired nothing so much as that they might proceed with moderation, but that if parliaments were gone, they were lost. A remarkable feature of this parliament was, that of the number of petitions sent in by the people, the dawn of that custom which has now become one of the greatest customs of England and the most efficient support of reforms by the commons. These were poured in against ship-money and other abuses, as the star-chamber, High Commission Court, &c., from the counties of Hertford, Essex, Sussex, &c. After these matters had been warmly debated for four days, for the king had many advocates in the house, on the 17th Mr. Pym delivered a most eloquent and impressive speech, in which he narrated the many attacks on the privileges of parliament and the liberty of the subject, and laid down the constitutional doctrine "that the king can do no wrong," thus bringing the conduct and counsels of his ministers under the direct censure of the house, and loading them with the solemn responsibility - an awful foreshadowing of the judgments to come down on Laud and Wentworth. From that point the debate turned on the arbitrary treatment of the members of the commons, and orders were issued for a report of the proceedings of the star-chamber and the Court of King's Bench against Sir John Elliot, Mr. Hollis, and Mr. Hampden, to be laid on the table of the house. The conduct of the late speaker, Finch, in adjourning the house at the command of the king, was declared unconstitutional.

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.

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