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Reign of Charles I. page 27

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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.

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."

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