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Reign of Charles I. (Continued)


The Treaty of Uxbridge - Victories of Montrose in Scotland - The Battle of Naseby - Bristol surrenders to the Parliament - Charles besieged in Oxford - The endeavours of the Earl of Glamorgan to bring over the Irish, but in vain - The King makes overtures to the Parliament and the Scots at the same time - Tries to influence the Independents - Finally surrenders to the Scots - The Parliament negotiate with the Scots - The Scots give the King up to the Parliament - Contention of the different Parties.
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The condition of the king's court at this time was enough to have made any one else despair of his cause. We cannot do better than give it as drawn by the royal historian Clarendon himself. It must be premised that to gratify the importunities of his other ambitious officers, he had been induced to remove lord Wilmot from the command of the cavalry, and lord Percy from that of the ordnance, and to place prince Rupert, who was detested by all, on account of his haughty and imperious temper, in the post of Grey of Ruthven, who had retired from increasing infirmities. But says Clarendon, "The king's army was united less than ever; the old general was set aside, and prince Rupert put into the command, which was no popular change, for the other was known to be an officer of great experience, and had committed no oversights in his conduct; was willing to hear everything debated, and always concurred with the most reasonable opinion; and though he was not of many words, and was not quick in hearing, yet upon any action he was sprightly, and commanded well. The prince was rough and passionate, and loved not debate; liked what was proposed, as he liked the persons who proposed it; and was so great an enemy of Digby and Colepepper, who were only present in debates of the war with the officers, that he crossed all they proposed. The truth is, all the army had been disposed, from the first raising it, to a neglect and contempt of the council; and the king himself had not been solicitous to preserve the respect due to it, in which he lost his own dignity.

"Goring, who was now general of the horse, was no more gracious to prince Rupert than Wilmot had been, and had all the other's faults, and wanted his regularity, and preserving his respect with the officers. Wilmot loved debauchery, but kept it out from his business; never neglected that, and rarely miscarried in it. Goring had a much better understanding and a sharper wit, except in the very exercise of debauchery, and then the other was inspired, a much keener courage and presentness of mind in danger. Wilmot discovered it farther off, and because he could not behave himself so well in it, commonly prevented, or warily declined it, and never drank when he was within distance of an enemy. Goring was not able to resist the temptation when he was in the middle of them, nor would decline it to obtain a victory; and in one of those fits he suffered the horse to escape out of Cornwall, and the most signal misfortunes of his life in war had their rise from that uncontrollable license. Neither of them valued their professions, promises, or friendships, according to any rules of honour or integrity; but Wilmot violated them less willingly, and never but for some great benefit or convenience to himself; Goring, without scruple, out of humour, or for wit's sake, and loved no man so well but that he would cozen him, and then expose him to the public mirth for having been cozened. Therefore he had always fewer friends than the other, but more company, for no man had a wit that pleased the company better. The ambition of both was unlimited, and so equally incapable of being contented, and both unrestrained by any respect to good nature or justice, from pursuing the satisfaction thereof; yet Wilmot had more scruples from religion to startle him, and would not have attained his end by any gross or foul act of wickedness. Goring could have passed through those pleasantly, and would, without any hesitation, have broken any trust, or done any act of treachery, to have satisfied an ordinary passion or appetite; and in truth, wanted nothing but industry - for he had wit, and courage, and understanding, and ambition uncontrolled by any fear of God or man- to have been as eminent and successful in the highest attempt in wickedness, of any man in the age he lived in or before. Of all his qualifications dissimulation was his masterpiece, in which he had so much excelled, that men were not ordinarily ashamed or out of countenance with being deceived but twice by him.

"The court was not much better disposed than the army; they who had no preferment were angry with those who had, and thought they had not deserved it as well as them- selves. They who were envied found no satisfaction or delight in what they were envied for, being poor and necessitous, and the more sensible of their being so, by the titles they had received upon their violent importunity, so that the king was without any joy in the favours he had conferred, and yet was not the less solicited to grant more to others of the same kind, who, he foresaw, would be no better pleased than the rest; and the pleasing one man this way displeased a hundred, as his creating the lord Colepepper at this time, and making him a baron - who, in truth, had served him with great abilities, and though he did imprudently in desiring it, did deserve it - did much dissatisfy both the court and the army, to neither of which he was in any degree gracious, but his having no ornament of education to make men more propitious to his parts of nature, and disposed many others to be very importunate to receive the same obligation."

That is a very uncomfortable sketch of Charles's position, drawn by a hand most favourable to him. In fact, the jealousies and heart-burnings of a court are not kept wholly under when there is a whole kingdom in hand, out of which to carve honours and emoluments for the hungry flockers to the loaves and fishes of royalty, and Charles had now only empty titles and barren dignities at his disposal. The courtiers, like rats cooped up in a tub, were devouring one another, and effectually destroying his peace and prospects.

There was another fertile source of disagreement - the question of peace or war. One party had so far sinned against the commonwealth, and had received such direct votes of condemnation from the parliament, that bad and circumscribed as was their condition, it was better than they could hope for in case of a reconciliation betwixt Charles and his subjects. But another party, who still cherished hopes of sharing in a general pardon, saw daily their estates forfeited and conferred on successful adventurers. Every day menaced more entirely the destruction of their fortunes and the perpetual ruin of their families. These were importunate for peace, and at this juncture their views were favoured by the successor of the marquis of Montrose in Scotland, who induced the Scotch to solicit the English parliament to listen to terms with the king, by which they would become relieved from the scourge of the marquis's predatory Highland army.

Charles had, during the last summer, after every temporary success, proposed negotiations, thus showing his readiness to listen to accommodation, and throwing on the parliament the odium of continued warfare. At the same time it must be confessed that he was by no means inclined to accept terms which would surrender altogether his prerogative, or sacrifice the interests of those who had ventured everything for him. He was constantly exhorted by the queen from France, to make no peace inconsistent with his honour, or the interests of his followers. She contended that he must stipulate for a body-guard, without which he could enjoy no safety, and should keep all treaty regarding religion to the last, seeing plainly the almost insuperable difficulty on that head; for as nothing would satisfy the puritans but the close binding down of the catholics, so that would effectually cut off all hope of his support from Ireland, or from the catholics of England. Charles, in fact, was in a cleft stick, and the contentions of his courtiers added so much to his embarrassments, that he got rid of the most troublesome by sending them to attend the queen in France. He then assembled his parliament for the second time, but it was so thinly attended, and the miserable distractions which rent his court were so completely imported into its debates, that he was the more disposed to try negotiation with the parliament. His third proposal, happening to be favoured by the recommendation of the Scots, was at length acceded to by parliament, but the terms recommended by the Scots - the recognition of presbytery as the national religion, and the demands of the parliament of the supreme control not only of the revenue but of the army - rendered negotiations from the first hopeless.

In November, 1644, the propositions of the Scots, drawn up by Johnston of Wariston, were sent to the king by a commission consisting of the earl of Denbigh, the lords Maynard and Wenman, and Messrs. Pierpont, Hollis, and Whitelock, accompanied by the Scotch commissioners, lord Maitland, Sir Charles Erskine, and Mr. Bartlay.

Charles probably received a private copy of the propositions, for he received the commissioners most ungraciously. They were suffered to remain outside the gates of Oxford in a miserably cold and wet day for several hours, and then conducted by a guard, more like prisoners than ambassadors, to a very mean inn. On the propositions being read by the earl of Denbigh, Charles asked him if they had power to treat, to which the earl replied in the negative, they were commissioned to receive his majesty's answer. "Then," said Charles, rudely, "a letter-carrier might have done as much as you." The earl, resenting this, said, "I suppose your majesty looks upon us as persons of another condition than letter-carriers." "I know your condition," retorted the king, "but I repeat it, that your conditions give you no more power than a letter-carrier." Whilst Denbigh had read over the list of persons who were to be excepted from the conditions of the treaty, Rupert and Maurice, who were of the excepted, and were present, laughed in the earl's face. This insolence displeased even the king, and he bade them be quiet. The interview terminated, however, as unfavourably as it began. The king gave them a reply, but sealed up, and not addressed to the parliament or anybody. The commissioners refused to carry an answer of which they did not know the particulars, on which Charles insolently remarked, "What is that to you, who are but to carry what I send; and if I choose to send the song of Robin Hood or Little John, you must, carry it." As they could get nothing else, not even an address upon it to parliament, the commissioners, wisely leaving it to parliament to treat the insult as they deemed best, took their leave with it.

When this document was presented to both houses on the 29th of November, 1644, assembled for the purpose, it was strongly urged by many to refuse it; but this was overruled by those who wisely would throw no obstacle in the way of negotiation; and the king thought well immediately to send the duke of Richmond and the earl of Southampton with a fuller answer. They, on their part, found a safe conduct refused them by Essex, then the commander, unless he were acknowledged by the king as general of the army of the parliament of England, and the commons informed them that they would receive no further commission which was not addressed to the parliament of England assembled at Westminster, and the commissioners of the parliament of Scotland. With this the king was compelled to comply through prince Rupert; but at the same time he wrote to the queen a letter containing this most Jesuitical passage - " As to my calling those at London a parliament, if there had been two besides myself of my opinion, I had not done it; and the argument that prevailed with me was that the calling did no wise acknowledge them to be a parliament, upon which construction and condition I did it, and no otherwise."

Under these unpromising circumstances, commissioners on both sides were at length appointed, who met on the 29th of January, in the little town of Uxbridge. Uxbridge was within the parliamentary lines, and the time granted for the sitting was twenty days. The commissioners on the part of the king were the duke of Richmond, the marquis of Hertford, the earls of Southampton, Chichester, and Kingston, the lords Capel, Seymour, Hatton, and Colepepper, secretary Nicholas, Sir Edward Hyde, chancellor of the exchequer, Sir Edward Lane, Sir Orlando Bridgeman, Sir Thomas Gardener, Messrs. Ashburnham and Palmer, and Dr. Stewart. On that of the parliament appeared the earls of Northumberland, Pembroke, Salisbury, and Denbigh, lord Wenman, Sir Henry Vane, jun., and Messrs. Denzell Hollis, Pierpoint, St. John, Whitelock, Crew, and Prideaux. The Scotch commissioners were the earl of Loudon, marquis of Argyll, the lords Maitland and Balmerino, Sir Archibald Johnstone, Sir Charles Erskine, Sir John Smith, Messrs. Dundas, Kennedy, Robert Barclay, and Alexander Henderson. John Thurloe, afterwards Cromwell's secretary, and the friend of Milton, was secretary for the English parliament, assisted by Mr. Earle, and Mr. Cheesly was secretary for the Scottish commissioners.

The four propositions submitted to the king by the parliament concerning religion were, that the common prayer book should be withdrawn, the directory of the Westminster divines substituted, that he should confirm the assemblies and synods of the church, and take the solemn league and covenant. These, contrary to the warning of queen Henrietta, were brought on first, and argued with much learning and pertinacity, and as little concession on either side, for four days. Then came on other equally formidable subjects, the command of the army and navy, the cessation of the war in Ireland; and the twenty days being expired, it was proposed to prolong the term, but this was refused by the two houses of parliament, and the commissioners separated, mutually satisfied that nothing but the sword would settle these questions. The royalists had not been loner in discovering that Vane, St. John, and Prideaux had come to the conference, not so much to treat, as to watch the proceedings of the Presbyterian deputies, and to take care that no concessions should be made inimical to the independence of the church.

Gloomy as to the general eye must have appeared the prospects of the king at this period, he was still buoyed up by various hopes. He had been using every exertion to obtain aid from the continent, and at length was promised an army of ten thousand men by the duke of Lorraine, and Goffe was sent into Holland to prepare for their shipped over. On the other hand, he had made up his mind to concede most of their demands to the Irish catholics, on condition of receiving speedily an army thence. He wrote to Ormond, telling him that he had clearly discovered by the treaty of Uxbridge, that the rebels were aiming at nothing less than the total subversion of the crown and the church; that they had made the earl of Leven commander of all the English as well as Scottish forces in Ireland, and therefore he could no longer delay the settlement of Ireland in his favour, through scruples that at another time would have clung to him. He therefore authorised him to grant the suspension of Poyning's act, and to remove all the penal acts against the catholics on condition that they at once gave him substantial aid against the rebels of Scotland and Ireland. At this moment, too, the news of the successes of Montrose in Scotland, added to his confidence.

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