OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of Charles I. page 28

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 <28> 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

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."

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."

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 <28> 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

Pictures for Reign of Charles I. page 28

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About