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Reign of Charles I. page 29

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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.

On the 11th of November, 1640, assuming an outward air of unconcern, Strafford went to take his seat in the house of lords. The earl of Northumberland, writing to the earl of Leicester on the 13th, declared that "a greater and more universal hatred was never contracted by any person, than he has drawn upon himself, yet he is not at all dejected." No sooner, however, did he appear in the house, than his evil angel appeared there too, and demanded his seizure on a charge of high treason. Pym, when Wentworth abandoned the cause of reform at the temptation of the king, had said plainly to him, "You are going to leave ms, but we will never leave you while your head is upon your shoulders!" and for himself he kept that vow singly, sternly, inviolably, till it was accomplished.

Baillie, who was one of the Scotch commissioners, gives this striking account of his arrest: - "He calls rudely at the door: James Maxwell, keeper of the black rod, opens. His lordship, with a proud, gloomy countenance, makes towards his place at the board head: but at once many bid him avoid the house; so he is forced in confusion to go back till he is called. After consultation, being called in, he stands, but is commanded to kneel, and on his knees to hear the sentence. Being on his knees, he is delivered to the keeper of the black rod, to be prisoner till he was cleared of these crimes the house of commons had charged him with. He offered to speak, but was commanded to be gone without a word. In the outer room James Maxwell required him, as prisoner, to deliver his sword. When he had got it, he cries with a loud voice for his man to carry my lord-lieutenant's sword. This done, he makes through a number of people towards his coach, all gazing, no man capping him, before whom, that morning, the greatest of England would have stood uncovered, all crying, 'What is the matter?' He said, 'A small matter, I warrant you.' They replied, 'Yes, indeed, high treason is a small matter.' Coining to his place where he expected his coach, it was not there, so he behoved to return the same way, through a crowd of gazing people. When at last he found his coach, and was entering, James Maxwell told him, 'Your lordship is my prisoner, and must go in my coach;' so he behoved to do."

In a few days he was committed to the Tower, and the commons proceeded to deal with the rogues next in degree. Sir Francis Windebank, one of the secretaries of state, had been one of the most ready instruments of Laud, and at the same time privately a catholic, on which account he had released a number of catholic priests from prison, to the great anger of the puritans. Seeing the hour of retribution coining, Windebank did not wait for it, but procuring letters from the queen, he escaped to France, where he was well received, and subsequently threw off the mask and openly professed Catholicism. Clarendon asserts that the commons willingly let him escape, because his arrest and trial might have implicated his colleague, Sir Henry Vane, whom they did not want to touch.

The lord keeper Finch was the next delinquent aimed at. He had proved himself a most pliant instrument of the king, justifying his most oppressive measures in parliament, and a zealous enforcer of his illegal acts. He had been the great mover in the prosecution of Hampden for refusal of ship-money, and had prosecuted others severely for the same resistance. He now begged to be permitted to defend him self before the house of commons, which was permitted: and appearing at its bar with the great seal, he made the most humble obeisance, and endeavoured to excuse himself with many plausible words and tears. But all this well-acted contrition did not prevent the house from voting him a traitor, and the next morning sending up his impeachment to the lords. But the cunning fellow had seen sufficient in the house to assure him of its verdict, and had made good use of the time. He was nowhere to be found, nor was heard of again till he was safe in Holland.

From the ministers the commons stretched their hands to the judges, who had sanctioned the king's levy of ship- money, and had condemned John Hampden. They ordered Branston, Davenport, Crawley, Trevor, and Weston to find heavy bail for their appearance to answer the charges of Parliament; and Berkeley, who had exclaimed on the bench that "the law knew no king-yoking policy, but that Rex was Lex," was treated with less ceremony, being plucked from the very judgment-seat as he sat in his ermine, amid judges and lawyers, and taken away as a felon to receive the censure of Parliament and pay a fine of ten thousand pounds. They extended their measures even further than the judges - to the sheriffs and lieutenants of counties who had been very active and overbearing in the collection of ship-money; but they contented themselves with giving these a fright. Not so with the farmers and officers of the customs, who for so many years had insolently fleeced the people at the arbitrary will of the king; they were glad to compound for a pardon by a fine of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds.

Never was there such a scene in the history of nations. The effect was that of magic. It was as if a thunderbolt had fallen in the midst of the haughty advocates of national slavery. They fell flat and licked the feet of their chasteners. There was an instant hush of all praises of despotism and exhortation to illegal taxation, like that which in a populous city follows the explosion of a mine, and the whole fabric of absolutism dropped at once like a house of cards. Finch, the renegade, and Windebank, the bloodhound of Laud, had dropped the strutting honour of lord keeper and secretary of state, and fled hastily from the wrath to come. The servile judges were prostrate in the dust; the two arch-absolutists were in durance, waiting the just award of an insulted people, and only one of the leading offenders had managed to escape deserved censure by a more cunning treason. This was the marquis of Hamilton, who, seeing the tempest ahead, came to Charles at York, where he summoned the council of peers, and, according to Clarendon, asked leave to travel. "If," says this historian, "the marquis of Hamilton had been then weighed in the scales of the people's hatred, he was at that time thought to be in greater danger than any of the others, for he had more enemies and fewer friends in court and country, than either of the others." He had been the sole manager in Scotland, and had advised the king's agreement with the people, and then, says Clarendon, had advised his breaking it. He had obtained profitable monopolies in iron and wine, and had "outfaced the law in bold projects and pressures upon the people." He now came to the king with great professions of service, yet represented that his presence might be prejudicial to the king's interests. Charles expressed his surprise and unwillingness that he should leave him, and assured him that he would protect him through all. He hesitated, saying," that he knew there were no less fatal arrows aimed at the archbishop of Canterbury and the earl of Strafford than at himself; and. that he had advertised the first and advised the last to take the same course he meant to secure himself by withdrawing; but he said the earl was too great-hearted to fear, and he doubted the other was too bold to fly."

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