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Reign of Charles I. (Concluded.)


The King is taken to Holmby - Growing separation betwixt the Presbyterians and Independents - Proposed reduction 'of the Army - The Army demands its Pay - Marches from Nottingham into Essex - The Soldiers, under the name of Adjutators or Agitators, demand their Rights - The Army seizes and removes the King from Holmby to Newmarket - Marches towards London - Treats the King with Indulgence - The London Apprentices attempt to overawe the Independents in Parliament - The Speaker's Escape to the Army - Army Plan for the Settlement of the Nation - Refused by the King - Fairfax enters the City - Is supported by the Southwark Militia - The Speaker restored by the Army - The King is transferred to Hampton Court, where his Children visit him - Rise of the Levellers - The King escapes from Hampton Court - Secured in the Isle of Wight - Confined in Carisbrook Castle - Parliament propose Four Bills, which he refuses - Attempts to escape again, but is prevented - Reaction in Favour of the King - The Scots arm in his Behalf - Insurrections - Defeat of the Scots at Preston - The Fleet declares for the King - Charles removed to Newport - Increasing Danger of the King - Pride's Purge - The King brought to Trial and condemned to Death - Suppression of the Monarchy.
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For a long time, during these transactions that we have recorded, the difference of opinion betwixt the presbyterians and the independents had been growing more marked and determined. The latter, from a small knot of dissenters, had grown into a considerable one, and the more influential, because the most able and active, leaders of both parliament and the army were of that sect. Under the head of independents, however, ranged themselves, so far as politics were concerned, a great variety of other dissenters - Arminians, millenaries, baptists and anabaptists, familists, enthusiasts, seekers, perfectists, Socinians, Arians, and others - all of whom claimed freedom of worship, according to their peculiar faiths. On the other hand, the presbyterians, backed by the Scots, were set on establishing as thorough a religious despotism as either popery or Laud had ever contemplated. Their tenets and form of government were alone to be tolerated. They were as resolute sticklers for conformity as the catholics, or Charles and Laud themselves. They set up the same claims to be superior to the state, and allowed of no appeal from their tribunals to those of the civil magistrate. Having established the directory for the form of worship, they erected an assembly, with its synods, and divided the whole kingdom into provinces, the provinces into classes, the classes into presbyteries or elderships. They declared that "the keys of the kingdom of heaven were committed to the officers of the church, by virtue whereof they have power to retain and remit sins, to shut the kingdom of heaven against the impenitent by censures, and to open it to the penitent by absolution." They claimed a right to inquire into the private lives of individuals, and of suspending the unworthy from the sacrament.

All these assumptions the independents denied, and would not admit any authority over the free action of individual congregations. The commons, through the influence of Seiden and Whitelock, proposed to the assembly of divines nine questions respecting the nature and object of the divine right to which they aspired, and before they could answer these, the army and the independents, its leaders, had effected still more embarrassing changes. The king being conquered, and the Scots withdrawn, the contest lay no longer betwixt the king and parliament, but betwixt the presbyterians and independents, or, what was nearly synonymous, the parliament and the army.

The king was conducted to Holmby by easy journeys, and treated by his attendants with courtesy. The people flocked to see him, and showed that the traditions of royalty were yet strong in them. They received him with acclamations, uttered prayers for his preservation, and not a few of them pressed forward to be touched for the "evil." On his arrival at Holmby, he found a great number of ladies and gentlemen assembled to welcome him, with every demonstration of pleasure, and his house and table well appointed and supplied. He passed his time in reading, in riding about the country, and in different amusements - as chess and bowls, riding to Althorpe, or even to Harrowden, because there was no good bowling-green at Holmby. One thing only he complained of, and requested an alteration in. The parliament sent him clergymen of their own persuasion to attend him; he begged that any two out of his twelve chaplains might be substituted, but was refused. The presbyterian ministers allotted him were Thomas Herbert, and Harrington, the author of "Oceana," with whose conversation Charles was much pleased on all subjects but religion and form of government. But though Charles passed the bulk of his time in relaxation, he was not insensible to his situation; and when he had been left there for three months without notice, he addressed to them a letter, in which he proposed to allow presbyterian church government for three years, his own liberty of worship being granted, and twenty clergymen of the church of England admitted to the Westminster assembly; the question of religion at the end of that period to be finally settled by himself and the two houses in the usual way, and that the command of the army should also be left to parliament for ten years, and then to revert to him. The lords gladly assented, but the commons did not entertain it, and other matters soon drew their attention.

The presbyterians had, during the active engagements of the army, and the consequent absence of the leading independents, strengthened their ranks by many new members of parliament, and they now set about to reduce the power of their opponents by disbanding the greater part of the army. They decreed in February that three thousand horse, twelve hundred dragoons, and eight thousand four hundred foot, should be withdrawn from Fairfax's army and sent to Ireland, and that besides one thousand dragoons and five thousand four hundred horse, all the rest of the army should be disbanded, except as many soldiers as were necessary to man the forty-five castles and fortresses Which remained. This would have completely prostrated the power of the independents; and Cromwell, on whose shrewd character and military success they now looked with terror, would have been first sacrificed, as well as Ireton, Ludlow, Blake, Skippon, Harrison, Algernon Sidney, and others, who had fought the real battle of the late contest. The heads of the presbyterians in parliament consisted of unsuccessful commanders - Hollis, Waller, Harley, Stapleton, and others, who hated the successful ones, both on account of their brilliant success, and of their religion. Fairfax, though a presbyterian, went along with his officers in all the love of toleration.

It was voted in the commons, not only that no officer under Fairfax should have higher rank than that of colonel, but that no one should hold a commission who did not take the covenant and conform to the government of the church as fixed by parliament. This would have been a sweeping measure, had the parliament not had a very obvious party motive in it, and had it paid its soldiers, and been in a condition to discharge them. But at this moment they were immensely in arrears with the pay of the army, and that body, feeling its strength, at once broke up its cantonments round Nottingham, and marched towards London, halting only at Saffron Walden. This movement created a terrible alarm in the city, parliament regarded it as a menace, but Fairfax excused it on the plea of the exhausted state of the country round their old quarters. The commons hastened to vote sixty thousand pounds towards the payment of arrears, which amounted to forty-three weeks for the horse and eighteen for the infantry. In the city, the council and the presbyterians got up a petition to both houses, praying that the army might be removed further from the city; but at the same moment a more startling one was in progress from the independents, addressed to "the supreme authority of the nation, the commons in parliament assembled." It not only gave this significant hint of its opinions where the real power of the state lay, but denounced the house of lords as assuming undue authority, and complained of the persecution and exclusion from all places of trust of those who could not conform to the church government imposed. The house of commons condemned this republican petition, and ordered the army not to approach nearer than twenty-five miles of London. A deputation was sent down to Saffron Walden, where Fairfax summoned a convention of officers to answer them. These gentlemen, on the mention of being sent to Ireland, said they must know, before they could decide, what regiments, what commanders were to go, and whether they were sure of getting their arrears and their future daily pay. They demanded their arrears and some recompense for past services. The commissioners not being able to answer these demands, returned and reported to the commons, mentioning also a petition in progress in the army. Alarmed at this, the commons summoned to their bar some of the principal officers - lieutenant-general Hammond, colonel Robert Hammond, his brother, colonel Robert Lilburn, lieutenant-colonel Grimes, and colonel Ireton, Cromwell's son-in-law, a member of the house; and they voted that three regiments, commanded by the stanch presbyterian officers, Poyntz, Copley, and Bethell, should remain at home. But what roused the army more than all besides, was a motion made by Denzell Hollis, and carried, that the army's petition, which was not yet presented, was an improper petition, and that all who were concerned in it should be proceeded against as enemies to the state» and disturbers of the public peace.

This declaration of the 30th of March was little short of an act of madness. It could only excite the indignation of a power against which the parliament, grown unpopular, and divided against itself, was but as a reed in a whirlwind. The officers pronounced it "a blot of infamy" upon them, and the parliament was glad to attempt to lay the storm by voting, on the 8th of April, that the regiments of Fairfax, Cromwell, Rossiter, Whalley, and Graves, should remain in England. A week afterwards the commons sent down another deputation, accompanied by the earl of Warwick, who harangued the officers earnestly to engage for Ireland, promising that major-general Skippon should command them. Many were pleased with them, but more cried out, "Fairfax and Cromwell! Give us Fairfax and Cromwell, and then we all go!"

On the return of the deputation without success, the commons debated whether they should not disband the whole army. Hollis strongly recommended it, and that they should give the soldiers six weeks' pay on disbanding. He thought it would be easy then to engage the men to go to Ireland under other officers, and that four of those officers who were regarded as most hostile in this movement, should be summoned to the bar of the house. How miserably he was mistaken was immediately shown, for a petition was presented that very day, the 27th of April, signed by lieutenant-general Hammond, fourteen colonels and lieutenant-colonels, six majors, and one hundred and thirty captains, lieutenants, and other commissioned officers. It was drawn up in energetic language, complaining of the calumnies spread abroad regarding the army, and enumerating the services they had done, the sacrifices they had made for the commonwealth, and praying for the payment of the soldiers' arrears. It declared, indeed, that this movement of petitioning had commenced amongst the soldiers, and that the officers had been induced to take it up to prevent anything unacceptable to the house being put forward.

But the petition of the officers did not prevent the petition of the men. When they saw the commons did not immediately comply with the petition of the officers, smarting under the vote of disbandment, coupled with the withholding of their pay, both horse, dragoons, and infantry, went on their own way. They had lately entered into an association to make their complaints known. The officers had established a military council, to consult on and take, care of the interests of the army, and the men established a council too. Two commissioned officers, but not exceeding in rank ensigns, and two private soldiers from each regiment, met from time to time to discuss the wants of the army. They were called adjutators or assistants in the cause, and the word soon became corrupted into agitators. Thus there was a sort of army parliament - the officers representing the peers, the soldiers the commons. The whole scheme has been, and it is probable very justly, ascribed to the genius of Cromwell. What confirms the supposition is, that an old friend of his, Berry, a captain, became its president, and that Ayres and Desborough, his two particular friends, the latter of whom had married his sister, were in close communication with the leading officers amongst the agitators. Whitelock soon gives us this curious passage: -

"On the 30th of April, 1647, whilst the debate on the petition and vindication of the army was going on, major- general Skippon produced a letter presented to him the day before by some troopers on behalf of eight regiments of the army of horse, wherein they expressed some reasons why they could not engage in the service of Ireland under the present conduct, under the proposed commandership of Skippon and Massey (the latter of whom they did not trust), and complained of the many scandals and false suggestions which were of late raised against the army and their proceedings. That they were taken as enemies; that they saw' designs upon them, and upon many of the godly party in the kingdom. That they could not engage for Ireland, till they were satisfied in their expectations, and their just desires granted. Throe troopers, Edward Sexby, William Allen, Thomas Sheppard, who brought this letter, were examined in the house touching the drawing and subscribing of it, and whether their officers were engaged in it or not. They affirmed that it was drawn up at a rendezvous of those eight regiments, and afterwards at several meetings by agents or agitators for each regiment, and that few of their officers knew or took notice of it.

"Those troopers being demanded whether they had not been cavaliers, it was attested by Skippon that they had constantly served the parliament, and some of them from the beginning of the war. Being asked concerning the meaning of some expressions in the petition, especially concerning 'certain men aiming at sovereignty,' they answered that the letter being a joint act of those regiments, they could not give a punctual answer, being only agents; but if they might have the queries in writing, they would carry them to those regiments, and return their answers. They were ordered to attend the house upon summons."

These movements on the part of the army, and the zealous manner in which Cromwell rose and vindicated the conduct of the soldiers on this occasion, warning the house not to drive so loyal and meritorious a body as the army to desperation, caused them to order him, Skippon, and Fleetwood to go down to the army and quieten its discontent by assuring the soldiers of pay and indemnification. These officers went, and met the officers on the 7th of May, who demanded time to prepare an answer after consulting their regiments. There appeared to have been doubts and dissension sown by the presbyterians, and as the different regiments came to opposite conclusions, the parliament thought it might venture to disband them. On the 25th it was settled that such regiments as did not volunteer for Ireland should be disbanded at fixed times and places. Fairfax, pleading indisposition, left the house and hastened down to the army, and immediately marched it from Saffron Walden to Bury St. Edmunds. The soldiers declared that they would not disband till they were paid, and demanded a rendezvous, declaring that if the officers did not grant it, they would hold it themselves. Fairfax announced this to the parliament, praying it to adopt soothing measures; and that, though he was compelled to comply with a measure out of order, he would do what he could to preserve it. The house, on the 28th, sent down the earl of Warwick, the lord Delawar, Sir Gilbert Gerrard, and three other members of the commons, to promise eight weeks pay, and to see the disbanding effected. On hearing the terms from the commissioners, the soldiers exclaimed - "Eight weeks pay! We want nearer eight times eight!" There was universal confusion; the men refused to disband without full payment. They hastened to their rendezvous at Bury St. Edmunds, each man paying fourpence towards the expenses; and they ordered that the army should draw together, and a general rendezvous be held on the 4th of June. At Oxford the solders seized the disbanding money as part payment, and demanded the rest, or no disbanding.

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