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Reign of Charles I. page 28


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This was the defeat in the city of the man on whom he had fixed as speaker of the commons, Sir Thomas Gardiner, the recorder of London, a lawyer on whom Charles greatly calculated for managing the house. But that very morning he learned that Gardiner had been thrown out as one of the four members, and he was so confounded, that it was afternoon before he could go to the house. There Lenthall, a bjncher of Lincoln's Inn, was immediately elected speaker, an 1 Charles, believing him well affected to the church and state, when two days afterwards he was, according to custom, presented to him, confirmed the choice, which he afterwards most bitterly repented. But it was not only in the case of the speaker that the king was doomed to see himself disappointed. The whole body of the new house was of a new character and spirit. The conduct of the king and his ministers had clearly shown the people that they must do their duty, and send none to parliament but men of a' stanch and popular temperament. They had exerted themselves in the election to such purpose that only two of the king's ministers were returned to it, Sir Henry Vane and Sir Francis Windebanke, his secretaries. But Windebanke was so universally detested as the tool and blood-hound of Laud, that his presence was a real mischief to the king's interest; and whilst Vane was believed to lean secretly to the popular side, his son, Henry Vane, who was now first brought in, a man of singular and most brilliant, though eccentric genius, was a wonderful accession of strength to the force of the reformers, Here again were met Cromwell, Hampden, Pym, Selden, St. John, Hollis, Falkland, Rudyard, Digby, the son of the earl of Bristol, Grimston, Deering, Hyde, yet a reformer, and a host of others, of like tone and calibre. It was immediately perceived that they had come together with a quicker memory of their injuries, and a vastly enlarged perception of their powers. The events of the last six months had given them centuries of advantage, and they now aimed at measures which made the timid tremble, and even the proudest oppressors shrink. "There was," says Clarendon, "observed a marvellous elated countenance in most of the members of parliament before they met together in the house. The same men, who six months before were observed to be of very moderate tempers, and to wish that gentle remedies might be applied without opening the wound too wide and exposing it to the air, and rather to excuse what was amiss than too strictly make inquisition into the causes and origin of the malady, talked now in another dialect both of things and persons. Mr. Hyde, who was returned to serve for a borough in Cornwall, met Mr. Pym in Westminster Hall some days before the parliament, and conferring together on the state of affairs, Pym told Hyde that "'they now must be of another temper than they were the last parliament; that they must not only sweep the house clean below, but must pull down the cobwebs which hung on the tops and corners, that they might not breed dust, and so make a foul house hereafter. That they had now an opportunity to make their country happy by removing all grievances, and pulling up the causes of them by the roots, if all men would do their duties;' and used much other sharp discourse to the same purpose, by which it was discerned that the warmest and boldest counsels and overtures would find a much better reception than those of a more temperate allay, which fell out accordingly."

Charles opened parliament, as usual, by promising freely redress of grievances on the granting the necessary subsidies, and called on the two houses to abandon all suspicions, and put confidence in him; but, after fifteen years of constant struggle and constant breaches of faith, that was impossible, The commons saw the certainty at length of achieving their objects, not from any good will towards constitutional freedom in the king, but from the stringent necessity in which he had placed himself. His creeping into parliament, as it were, by the back door, instead of coming there in the usual state, showed that lie was anxious and depressed, and his advisers were in an equal state of terror. His latest hope, the selection of the speaker, had failed him, and he saw the commons commence their work by passing altogether over the question of supplies, and falling in ominous earnestness on the grievances.

Hyde, afterwards lord chancellor and royalist historian, but hitherto a stanch reformer, attacked the president's court in the north, which Wentworth, by his arbitrary acts in it, had brought prominently into notice. Lord Digby, Waller, and Sir John Culpepper, introduced numerous petitions from almost all parts of the country against abuses, ship-money, neglect of parliaments, time-serving judges, and other government offences. Petitions were not only poured in abundance, but from some counties were "brought up by formidable parties of horsemen. It was manifest that the country was effectually roused. The lord Falkland, Sir Benjamin Rudyard, Sir Edward Deering, Harbottle Grimston, Denzell Hollis, second son of the earl of Clare, Nathaniel Fiennes, second son of the lord Say, and others, led on by Pym, as the acknowledged leader, assailed the whole system of episcopacy, denounced all canons and constitutions which Laud had recently passed, and so effectually alarmed that fiery little churchman, that he began to see omens and tremble at approaching ruin. He had seen two thousand Brownists burst into the High Commission Court in St. Paul's, crying, "No bishop! no king!" and tear down all the benches in the consistory; he had seen his house attacked and his life endangered, and now he heard himself menaced every day in parliament. Instead of defying all this, as had been his wont, and dragging the extra parliamentary offenders at least into the star-chamber, he was, like his royal master, humbled. He writes in his diary, that he went one evening into his study, and found his portrait fallen from the wall with its face on the floor, and he exclaims, "God grant that this be no omen."

He had reason - in truth the image of Dagon was fallen on the floor of the temple, and its hands, which had worked so much tyranny, were cut off. In parliament Mr. Bagshaw declared that the bishop of Exeter had issued a book maintaining that the right of bishops, like that of kings, was divine; but he denied it, and declared that any power which they had was derived solely from the laws of England; and Sir Edward Deering declared that there was scarcely a distinction left betwixt the church of England, as Laud had made it, and popery. The one, he said, had the inquisition, the other the High Commission; the one had its index expurgator ins. the other its imprimaturs or licensings of the press. He declared that Laud's notions of supremacy and infallibility were precisely those of popery, and observed that, for his part, he had rather have the pope on the Tiber than on the Thames - at Rome than at Lambeth. And then Sir Benjamin Rudyard referred to the unheard of cruelties that had been practised on ministers that would not entirely conform to all his popish innovations, their families ruined, their wives and children turned out into the streets and highways. "What do these priests," he observed, "think will become of themselves, when the Master of the house shall come and find them thus beating their fellow-servants?" He concluded by ominous allusions to the king's great advisers, declaring that their doings "had rung a very doleful, deadly knell over the whole kingdom. They had talked of the king's service, but had been consulting only their own; of the king's power, but they had made it a miserable power, that produced nothing but weakness to the king and the kingdom; and had exhausted his revenues to the bottom, nay, through the bottom, and beyond."

On the fourth day of their session they proceeded from acts to deeds. They passed an order that those victims of the star-chamber, Prynne, Bastwick, and Burton, whose horrible - mutilations had revolted the whole civilised world, putting the reformed church of England on a par with persecuting and murdering Rome in her worst days, should be sent for from their distant prisons, and called on to state by whose authority they had been thus mutilated, branded, and imprisoned, This order spread a wonderful joy amongst the reformers everywhere. The three lopped and tortured men were welcomed with acclamations at all places on their journey, and on the 28th of November they entered London, attended by hundreds of carriages, and by five thousand people on horseback, both men and women, all wearing in their hats and caps bays and rosemary, and followed by great multitudes, with boughs and flowers, and strewing flowers and herbs as they passed. This was a change from the day when Laud pulled off his cap at the passing of Prynne's horrible sentence, and thanked God for it. The house of commons, after hearing their statement, voted them damages to the amount of six thousand pounds to Burton, and five thousand pounds each to Prynne and Bastwick, which was to be paid by archbishop Laud and his associates in the High Commission and star-chamber.

But they did not stop there; from compensating the sufferers they passed on to the punishment of the oppressors. The committee of religion proceeded to inquire into the loose lives of the clergy, their cruelties towards the puritans, and their introduction of papistical ceremonies. "Their first care," says May, in his History of Parliament, "was to vindicate distressed ministers, who had been imprisoned or deprived by the bishops, and all others who in the cause of religion had been persecuted by them. Many of those ministers were released from durance and restored to their livings, with damages from their oppressors. Many doctors and divines that had been most busy in promoting the late church innovations about altars and other ceremonies, and therefore most gracious and flourishing in the state, were then questioned and committed, inasmuch as the change, and the suddenness of it, seemed wonderful to own, and may serve worthily as a document to all posterity, quam fragili loco starent superbi - how insecure are the proud."

Dr. Cousens, master of St. Peter's, Cambridge, who had been one of the greatest sticklers for Laud's changes, was imprisoned and deprived of some of his preferments, and only escaped further chastisement by parliament being busied with many momentous matters, and occupied with higher game. These proceedings gave a marvellous impetus to the people. Petitions in incredible numbers poured in from all sides, demanding the abolition of the High Commission, the star-chamber, and the bishops themselves. Alderman Pennington presented a petition of this kind from the city of London, with fifteen thousand signatures. But Laud, as the arch-ceremonist and persecutor, was most loudly denounced, and the Scotch commissioners, who had now arrived in London, joined in this demand against the man who had been the root and artificer of all their troubles. "the great incendiary of their national differences."

On the 18th of December, Denzell Hollis was sent to the upper house to demand the impeachment of Laud, On hearing this the archbishop rose, and with his usual warmth declaring his own innocence, was proceeding to charge his accusers with various offences, but he was promptly called to order by the earl of Essex and the lord Say, and was stopped by the house and consigned to the usher of the black rod. He apologised and obtained leave to fetch some papers from his own house, under surveillance of the gentleman usher, necessary to his own defence; and after remaining in the custody of the black rod for ten weeks, he was committed to the Tower. The delay in his commitment was occasioned by the arrest of his great brother in the "thorough," Stratford, and the proceedings consequent on it; but meantime his aiders, abettors, and instruments were not forgotten. Harbottle Grimston, in his speech demanding the impeachment of Laud, called as loudly for the punishment of all his fiery coadjutors. "Who," he exclaimed, "but he only, brought the earl of Strafford to all his great employments? Who but he brought in secretary Windebank, the very brother and panderer to the whore of Babylon? Who but he hath advanced all our popish bishops - Mainwaring, bishop of Bath and Wells, the bishop of Oxford, and bishop Wren, the least of all these birds, but one of the most unclean? "

All these bold asserters of the divine right of kings and of bishops, Mainwaring, Bancroft, Price, and Wren, were now snugly seated in bishoprics; and Wren, now bishop of Ely, a most unscrupulous persecutor of the nonconformists, when bishop of Norwich had driven out the industrious foreign clothiers, who had settled there on their escape from persecution in their own country, because they would not abandon their own faith and adopt the Anglican ceremonies. The very next day after the arrest of Laud, the commons sent a message to the peers by Hampden, that Wren was endeavouring to escape, and the peers ordered him to give bail to the amount of ten thousand pounds.

But the commons had been all this time more deeply engaged in securing the most daring and dangerous offender of all, the earl of Strafford. Laud, who was generally in London, was more safely within their power at any moment; but Strafford was left in the north, where he was lieutenant-general of the army, lord president of the council of the north, and could at any instant slip away to Ireland, where he had still more authority, and a considerable army. Laud, once caged, could wait; but Strafford must be both secured and promptly dealt with. His own friends in London, and his own sagacity, sufficiently apprised Strafford of the danger which awaited him if he came to town. He represented to the king that it were much better on all accounts that he should remain where he was. That in London he should by his presence remind the opposition of their enmity towards him; that he would therefore only further embarrass the king's affairs, whilst he could be of service with the army in the north, and if necessary, escape to Ireland, where he might do the king real service. But Charles, who felt his weakness without Strafford, in whose judgment and power of overruling men he had the highest faith, would not hear of it, but insisted on his coming to London; and pledged himself to guarantee his safety, reminding him that he was king of England, and that parliament should not touch a hair of his head. Strafford was rather bound to obey as a subject and servant of the crown, than assured of his safety by those solemn pledges. He went to town, and on the third day after his arrival he was arrested, and in the custody of the keeper of the black rod. Charles had inveigled the unhappy man to his doom, from which neither the king's word nor the king's authority could save him.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 28

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