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Reign of Charles I. page 27


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In the appointment of the commanders the greatest blunders were committed. The earls of Essex, Holland, and Arundel, were set aside, which, with personal affronts to Essex, tended to throw those officers into the interest of the opposition. Essex and Holland were at undisguised hostility with Strafford, and as he was to take a leading part in the campaign, they were kept out of it to oblige him. The earl of Northumberland was appointed commander-in-chief instead of Arundel, but was prevented by a severe illness from acting; and Stratford was desired to leave Ireland in the charge of the earl of Ormond, and take the chief command, which he consented to do, but nominally only as lieutenant to Northumberland.

Lord Conway was made general of the horse, partly because he had been born a soldier in his father's garrison of the Brill, and had held several subordinate commands; but still more from the causes which put incompetent generals at the head of our armies now-a-days - court influence. Conway, according to Clarendon, was a very agreeable man in his manners. He was an especial favourite of Laud's, because he could talk well of church affairs, and went with his views and maxims; was thought by Laud a Zealous defender of episcopacy; "whereas," says Clarendon, "they who knew him better, knew he had no kind of sense of religion, but thought all were alike." Yet the same authority says, "he was a voluptuous man in eating and drinking, and of great license in all other excesses, and yet was very acceptable to the strictest and gravest men of all conditions." In fact, he was a consummate hypocrite and libertine, and a most despicable general At the same time he was very fond of books, a good reason for making him a professor, but not a general of cavalry; neither was it a much wiser reason for the appointment that, in "a court full of faction, where very few loved one another, he alone was domestic with all."

Leslie collected his army at Chouseley Wood, near Dunse, his former camp, on the 29th of June, and drilled them there three weeks. He had intrusted the siege of the castle of Edinburgh to a select party, and had the pleasure soon after this period to hear of its surrender to his officers. Meantime, Conway was advancing northward, and soon gave evidence of his gross incapacity, by writing in all his despatches to Windebanke, the secretary of state, "that the Scotch had not advanced their preparations to that degree, that they would be able to march that year." But the king, Clarendon says, had much better information, and ought to have distrusted the vigilance of such a commander. I\lore-over, his soldiers displayed a most decided aversion to the service. They were evidently leavened with the same leaven of reform as the parliament. They wanted to know whether their officers were papists, and would not be satisfied till they saw them take the sacrament. "They laid violent hands," says May, "on divers of their commanders, and killed some, uttering in bold speeches their distaste to the cause, to the astonishment of many, that common people should be sensible of public interest and religion, when lords and gentlemen seemed not to be." "All these instances of discontent," says Hume, "were presages of some great revolution, if the court had possessed sufficient skill to discover the danger."

Strafford was so well aware of the readiness of the Scots, and the unreadiness and disaffection of the English soldiery, that he issued strict injunctions to Conway not to attempt to cross the Tyne, and expose his raw and wavering recruits in the open country betwixt that river and the Trent, but to fortify the passage of the Tyne at Newburn, and prevent the Scots crossing. The Scots, however, did not leave him much time for his defences. On the 20th of August, Leslie crossed the Tweed with twenty thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry. He had been strongly advised to this step by the leaders of the English opposition themselves, and "the earls of Essex, Bedford, Holland, the lord Say, Hampden, and Pym," says Whitelock, "were deeply in with them." No sooner were the Scots on English ground, than the preachers advanced to the front of the army with their Bibles in their hands, and led the way. The soldiers followed with reversed arms, and a proclamation was issued by Leslie that the Scots had undertaken this expedition at the call of Divine Providence, not against the people of England, but against the Canterbury faction of papists, atheists, Arminians, and prelates. That God and their consciences bore them witness that they sought only the peace of both kingdoms by putting down the troublers of Israel, the firebrands of hell, the Korahs, the Balaams, the Doegs, the Rhabshakehs, the Hamans, the Tobiahs, the Sanballats of the times, and that done, they would return with satisfaction to their own country.

On the 27th of August they arrived at Heddonlaw, near Newburn, on the left bank of the Tyne, and found Conway posted on the opposite side, betwixt Newburnhaugh and Stellahaugh. The Scots kindled that night great fires round their camp, thus giving the English an imposing idea of its great extent 5 and we are told that numbers of the English soldiers went over during the night amongst them, and were well received by them, for they assured them that they only came to demand justice from the king against the men who were the pest of both nations. The next day the Scots attempted to ford the river, but were driven back by a charge of six troops of horse; these horse were, however, in their turn repulsed by the discharge of artillery, and a second attempt of the Scots succeeded. In this success a troop of twenty-six horse from Leslie's body-guard, all Scotch lawyers, greatly distinguished themselves; the English distinguished themselves very little, except their officers, commissary Wilmot, the son of lord Wilmot, Sir John Digby, a catholic recusant, and captain O'Neale, an Irish catholic, who, with their men drove the Scots opposed to Lunsford into the river, but being deserted by the rest, were surrounded and taken. They were, however, most honourably received by Leslie, and allowed to return to the king's army. "As for Conway," says Clarendon, "he soon afterwards turned his face towards the army, nor did anything like a commander, though his troops were quickly brought together again, without the loss of a dozen men (the real loss was about sixty), and were so ashamed of their flight, that they were very willing, as well as able, to have taken what revenge they could upon the enemy."

This was not true, for though "our whole army made the most shameful and confounding flight that was ever heard of," they had no chance of taking revenge with such a commander, being only about four thousand five hundred altogether, horse and foot, whilst the Scots were twenty-six thousand men; the English unpractised, and having no heart for the work, the Scotch resolute as one man, and commanded by officers grown grey in the service of the victorious Swede. When the English army reached Newcastle, they did not feel themselves able to defend it against such an army, the place being ill-fortified, and they fled on to Durham. The Scotch could scarcely believe their eyes when they found Newcastle evacuated. They advanced with caution to the gates, where Douglas, sheriff of Teviot-dale, with a small party of horse, demanding a parley, to their surprise found the gates thrown open to them. Leslie pitched his camp at Gateshead, on the other side of the Tyne, commanding from his lofty position the town, and was thence plentifully supplied with provisions for his troops, for which he paid promptly. The next day being Sunday, Douglas and fifteen Scottish lords dined with Sir Peter Riddle, the mayor, and heard three sermons.

The retreating English army, under the panic-stricken Conway, meantime dared not even stop at Durham, but continued their flight to Darlington, where they met Strafford coming up 'with reinforcements. He was suffering from both gout and stone, and in a marvellous bad humour at the late scandalous disaster; and he must have seen enough of the demoralisation of Conway's troops, for he turned back with him to Northallerton, where Charles was lying with the bulk of his army. Altogether, Charles had now twenty thousand men and sixty pieces of cannon wherewith to face the Scots; but the disaffection became so manifest, the desertions so frequent, and the whole condition of the force so unsatisfactory, that though Strafford affected to speak with contempt of the Scots, he assured Charles that it would require two months to put his army into fighting order. They therefore fell back upon York, concluding to entrench a camp under its walls, and send the cavalry to Richmond or Cleveland, to guard the passes of the Tees.

The Scots had meantime taken unopposed possession of Newcastle, Durham, Shields, Tynemouth, and other towns, and were masters of the four northern counties of England, without having lost twenty men. In this position it has been matter of wonder that they did not still advance, and drive the king before them; but those writers who have thus imagined have greatly mistaken the whole business. The object of the Scotch was not, as of old, to annoy and devastate, much less to conquer England; it was simply to force from the king and his evil ministers the recognition and the guarantee of their just national rights. They had advanced into England with this plain declaration; they had attempted not to fight except so far as to force their way to the king's presence. To that they were, in fact, now come. They had achieved a vantage-ground from which to treat, and, though strongly posted, and possessed of the whole country north of the Tees, they had refrained from all ravages and impositions on the people with whom they had no quarrel, paying for whatever they needed. To have done otherwise, would have broken faith with the; people of England, who were seeking the same redress of grievances as themselves, and have at once roused all the jealousy of the English public, who would have regarded them as invaders instead of friends, and thus strengthened the hands of the king. The Scots knew perfectly well what they were about, and how best to obtain their just demands. They now therefore sent the lord Lanark, secretary of state for Scotland, and brother of the marquis of Hamilton, to present the petition of the covenanters to the king, who was plainly in a strait, and therefore compelled to listen to it. They respectfully repeated their pacific designs, and implored the king to assemble a parliament, and by its wisdom to settle peace betwixt the two kingdoms. This was precisely what the people of England were earnestly seeking, and demonstrates the perfect concert betwixt the leaders of the two nations. To assemble a parliament was of all things the last which Charles was disposed to consent to, but he was in no condition to refuse altogether. He therefore took three days to consider their request, and on the 5th of September returned to lord Lanark the answer, that he would assemble a great council of English peers in York to settle the matters in dispute between them, and that ha had already summoned this assembly for the 24th of that month. By this means Charles endeavoured to escape the necessity of calling a parliament, but his hesitation did not avail him. All parties were too much interested to let this opportunity slip. Twelve peers, Bedford, Essex, Hertford, Warwick, Bristol, Mulgrave, Say and Sele, Howard, Bolingbroke, Mandeville, Brooke, and Paget, presented a petition, urgently representing the necessity of a parliament, and describing the sufferings of the nation from the lawlessness of the soldiers, the damage done to trade by the arbitrary levies on merchants, and the danger of bringing in wild Irish troops. The citizens of London prepared a similar one, which Laud endeavoured to quash, but in vain; they obtained ten thousand signatures, and despatched some of the aldermen and members of the common council to present it at York. The gentry of Yorkshire presented another, detailing their sufferings from the support of the army, and their cry, too, was for a parliament. Strafford, who was desired to present it, endeavoured to persuade them to leave the prayer for a parliament out, on pretence that he knew the king meant to call one; but they would on no account omit it. Thus pressed on all sides, Charles was reluctantly compelled to promise, and on the meeting of the great council of peers on the 24th, announced to them that he had issued the writs for the meeting of a parliament on the 3rd of November.

The Scots had comprised their demands under seven heads, the chief of which were the full and free exercise of their religion; the total abolition of episcopacy; the restoration of their ships and goods; the recall of the offensive epithet of traitors; and the punishment of the evil counsellors who had created all these troubles. The lords, delighted at the prospect of a parliament, saw no difficulty in coming to terms with the Scots. They named sixteen of their own body to meet with eight commissioners of the covenanters at Repton, to negotiate the terms of a peace, and sent a deputation of six other lords to London, to raise a loan for the king of two hundred thousand pounds, on their own securities, Charles would have drawn the conference from Repton to York, where his army lay, but the Scots were too cautious to be caught in such a snare. They represented the danger of their putting their commissioners into the power of an army commanded by Strafford, one of the very incendiaries against whom they were complaining, and who termed them rebels and traitors in the parliament in Ireland, and had recommended the king to subdue and destroy them. The conference was opened at Repton, but got no further from the 1st to the 16th of October, than the settlement of the question of the maintenance of the Scotch army till all was concluded. Charles offered to leave them at liberty to make assessments for themselves, but this they declined, as looking too much like plundering; and it was finally agreed that they should retain their position in the four northern counties, and receive eight hundred and eighty pounds for two months, binding themselves to commit no depreciations on any party; and the time for the meeting of parliament approaching, the conference was adjourned to London on the 24th.

Thus was finished what the soldiers called the Bishops' War, though neither army would be disbanded, but lay there in the north near each other; but still every one believed that parliament would put an end to those disagreements which had arisen from the want of a parliament.

The last parliament was called the Short Parliament; this was destined to acquire the name of the Long Parliament, never to be dissolved till it had dissolved the monarchy - the most memorable parliament that ever sate. In spite of all the efforts of Charles and his Gog and Magog of despotism, Land and Strafford, to abolish parliaments for ever; in spite of the outrages on the constitution which had made their names hateful in the ears of all true Englishmen; in spite of armies raised to tread the last spark of liberty out of the land; and to compress a nation's liberties within the single person of the king - here was the loathed power and presence of parliament thrust back upon him, and under circumstances which boded to the aggressive king and his evil ministers nothing but submission. It was notorious that he had not dared to cope with even Scotland in arms, and England was ready to rise, too, if its demands were longer eluded. He was destitute of money to pay soldiers, and still more destitute of power to command their allegiance; he therefore came back, as it were, worsted, bound, and humbled. "The parliament," says Clarendon, "met on the 3rd of November, 1640. It had a sad and a melancholic aspect upon the first entrance, which presaged some unusual and unnatural events. The king himself did not ride with his accustomed equipages, nor in his usual majesty to Westminster, but went privately in his barge to the parliament stairs, and so to the church, as if it had been a return of a prorogued or adjourned parliament. There was likewise an untoward, and in truth, an unheard of accident, which broke many of the king's measures, and infinitely disordered his service beyond a capacity of reparation."

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 27

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