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Reign of Charles I. (Concluded.) page 6


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Charles was not left long in ignorance of the effect of his refusal of the parliamentary proposals, and of the discovery of his secret treaty with the Scots. Colonel Hammond received orders to take every measure for the safe keeping of the king, and for preventing the lurking of suspicious vessels in Southampton Water, as it was known that a vessel was engaged by the queen to carry away Charles and land him at Berwick, in readiness to co-operate with the Scottish movement. Hammond at once dismissed Ashburnham, Legge, and Berkeley, with all other royalists, from the island, sent away a vessel supposed to be the very one engaged by the queen, and put the king under close surveillance and a double guard. He was no longer an apparently free guest, but a close prisoner.

This treatment only doubled his determination to escape, Ashburnham, Berkeley, and Legge, though banished from the island, kept saddle horses on the coast ready, in case of the king's escaping from the castle; and his friends from all quarters corresponded with him, and their letters were conveyed to him by one Henry Firebrace, who was in some employment in the castle, and was occasionally, he tells us, employed by one of the warders to take his place before the king's chamber door, when he put the correspondence entrusted to him through a crevice of the door. The whole island resented the incarceration of the king, and there were loud threats of rising and liberating him by force. One captain Burley was mad enough to make the attempt. At midnight a drum was beaten. Burley put himself at the head of a rabble in Newport, without, as reported, having one musket among them, and was speedily taken and executed.

On the 3rd January the two houses discussed the relations with the king, and in the commons the plainest republican sentiments were avowed. The refusal of the four bills by the king was deemed convincing proof that no possibility was left of ever coming to an agreement with him. Sir Thomas Wroth declared that kings of late had conducted themselves more like inmates of Bedlam than anything else; and that for his part he did not care what government was set up if it were not by kings or devils. Ireton contended that the relation of king and subjects implied mutual bonds and duties; the king was to protect the people, and the people to maintain the king in his duty, but that Charles had abandoned his duty, had ceased to protect his people, nay, had made war on them, and therefore had annulled the compact; that seeing this, the army was resolved to stand by the parliament for the establishment of national right, Cromwell, after numbers had proceeded in a like strain, asserted that it was time to fulfil the wearied expectation of the people, and to show that they could govern and defend the kingdom by their own power, and to decide that there was nothing to be hoped from a man whose heart God had plainly hardened in obstinacy. In fact, in parliament, almost as much as in the army, a large party had come to the conclusion, from the 8th chapter of the 1st Book of Kings, that it was odious in the sight of God to be governed by a king.

The result was a vote that parliament would make no further applications or addresses to the king, nor receive any message from him, except by full consent of both houses, under penalty of high treason. The lords concurred in the vote, and a public declaration was circulated to that effect; and that the committee of public safety should again sit and act alone, without the aid of any foreign coadjutors. This was a plain hint to the Scots of the knowledge of parliament of their late treaty. Hitherto they had formed part of the committee of both kingdoms, so that they had shared the government of England. This was withdrawn; they therefore demanded the payment of the last one-hundred thousand pounds due to them by the treaty of evacuation, and announced their intention to return on receiving it.

This decided step of parliament, and the rigour with which the king was guarded, put the Scots, the presbyterians, the royalists, all on the alert. They stirred up everywhere a feeling of commiseration for him, as harshly and arbitrarily used; it was represented that the vote of non-address amounted to a declaration that all attempts at reconciliation were at an end, and that the independents meant to proceed to put the doctrines of the army in force, and put the king to death. These efforts were productive of a rapidly and widely spread sensation in the king's favour, and very soon formidable insurrections were on foot. The king himself omitted no means of attempting his escape. By his plans his second son, the duke of York, had effected his escape from the care of the earl of Northumberland in female attire, and got to Holland. Towards the end of March Charles tried to escape out of the window of his chamber. A silken cord was prepared to let him down, and to prove the safety of the descent, Firebrace crushed himself betwixt the iron stanchions of the window, and let himself down; but the king, in assaying to follow, stuck fast, and, after violent efforts, found it impossible to get through. Oliver Cromwell announced to Hammond in a letter still extant, that parliament was informed that aquafortis had been sent down to corrode this obstructing bar; that the attempt was to be renewed during the coming dark nights, and that captain Titus and some others about the king were not to be trusted. At the same time he informs him the commons, in reward of his vigilance and services in securing and keeping the king, had raised his pay from ten to twenty pounds a week, had voted him one thousand pounds, and settled upon him and his heirs five hundred pounds per annum.

The reaction in favour of the king now began to discover itself on all sides. The king published an appeal to the nation against the proceedings of parliament, which seemed to cut off all further hope of accommodation. Parliament issued a counter-statement, and numerous rejoinders were the consequence, the most able from the pen of Hyde, the chancellor, and Dr Bates, the king's physician. Whilst these elements of strife were brewing in England, the duke of Hamilton, released from Pendennis Castle, and restored to the favour of the king, returned to Scotland, and the marquis of Ormond to Ireland, to muster forces to operate with a simultaneous rising in England. The Scotch muster proceeded with considerable vigour, though stoutly opposed by the duke of Argyll, and the work of revolt commenced in March, in Wales. Poyer, the mayor of Pembroke, and governor of the castle, declared for the king, and, at the summons of Fairfax, refused to yield up his command. Powell and Langherne, two officers of disbanded regiments, joined him, and many of their old soldiers followed them. The royalists ran to arms, eight thousand men were soon afoot in the principality, Chepstow and Carnarvon surprised, and colonel Fleming killed. Cromwell was despatched to reduce these forces at the head of five regiments. He quickly recovered Carnarvon and Chepstow, defeated Langherne, and summoned Poyer to surrender. But Pembroke stood out, and was not reduced till July, though colonel Horton encountered Langherne at St. Fagan's, near Cardiff, and completely routed him.

Meantime, in other quarters insurrections broke out. On the 9th of April a mob of apprentices and other young fellows attacked the train-bands in Moorfields, struck the captain, took his colours, and marched with them to Westminster, crying, u King Charles! king Charles!" There they were attacked and dispersed, but they rallied again in the city, broke open houses to obtain arms, and frightened the mayor so, that he took refuge in the Tower. The next day Fairfax dispersed them, but not without bloodshed. Soon after three hundred men from Surrey surrounded the parliament houses, cursing the parliament, insulting the soldiers, and demanding the restoration of the king. They were not repulsed without killing some of them. Similar outbreaks took place in Norwich, Thetford, Canterbury, and other places. Pontefract Castle was surprised by eighty cavaliers, each with a soldier mounted behind him.

Parliament, at the same time, was besieged with petitions for the disbanding the army and restoring the king. To allay the ferment in the capital, whilst the army was engaged in the provinces, parliament passed a resolution that no change should be made in the government by kings, lords, and commons. Fairfax withdrew his troops from the Mews and Whitehall, and major-general Skippon was made commander of the city militia, to act in concert with the lord mayor and corporation. The men of Kent and Essex rose in great numbers for the king. At Deal, off which colonel Rainsborough, now acting as admiral, was lying, the people rose; the fleet, consisting of six men-of-war, revolted, hoisted the royal colours, and sailed to Helvoetsluys, where they called for the duke of York to take the command. The effect of this event was neutralised, however, by a victory which Fairfax obtained on the 1st of June over the royalists at Maidstone, where, after a hard fight of six hours, he slew two hundred in the streets, and took four hundred prisoners. This defeat prevented the junction of this body with another under colonel Goring, now earl of Newport, who marched to Blackheath, and demanded entrance into the city. The independent party were in a perilous position there. There was, as we have seen, a numerous body in London in favour of the king, who had no reliance on the militia. To conciliate public opinion, the parliament ordered the release of the aldermen imprisoned at the desire of the army, and revoked the impeachment against the six lords and eleven commons. Hollis and his associates resumed their seats and their old measures, voted for a renewed negotiation with the king on condition that he should restore presbyterianism, and give the command of the army to parliament for ten years. Luckily for the independents, the lords rejected these propositions, and voted a treaty without any conditions. At the same time the common council, showing a decided leaning towards the king, offered to protect him from danger and insult if he would come to the capital. The danger to the independent interest was only repelled by the obstinacy of their old enemy Hollis, who would consent to nothing which did not establish presbyterianism.

Whilst these discussions agitated the city, Fairfax marched on Goring, who quitted Blackheath, crossed the Thames into Essex with five thousand horse, where he was joined by lord Capel, with royalists from Hertfordshire, and Sir Charles Lucas, with a body of horse from Chelmsford. They concentrated their united force at Colchester, where they determined to hold out till the advance of the Scots, and thus detain the commander-in-chief in the south. The Scots were now in reality on the march. The duke of Hamilton had not been able to muster more than a fourth of his promised forty thousand. Though he proclaimed everywhere that Charles had promised to take the covenant and uphold the presbyterian religion, Argyll and the old covenanting body wholly distrusted these assurances; the assembly of the kirk demanded proofs of the king's engagement; the ministers from the pulpits denounced the curse of Meroz on all who engaged in this unholy war, and the women cursed the duke as he passed, and pelted him with stones from their windows.

The English royalists under Langdale, about four thousand brave cavaliers, had surprised Berwick and Carlisle, and awaited with impatience Hamilton's arrival. Lambert, the parliamentary general, advanced and besieged Carlisle, and Hamilton was urged to advance and relieve it. He sent forward a detachment, and on the 8th of July arrived himself, being already supported by three thousand veterans from the Scottish army in Ireland, and, now uniting with Sir Marmaduke Langdale, he presented a formidable force. Lambert retired at his approach, and had Hamilton been a man of any military talent, he might have struck an effective blow. But from the moment that he crossed the border, he appeared to have lost all energy. His army was paralysed by internal dissensions. The Scotch presbyterian soldiers were scandalised at having to fight side by side with Langdale's prelatists and papists, whom they had been accustomed to see ranged against them as the enemies of the covenant. In forty days he had advanced only eighty miles, and when he reached the left bank of the Ribble, near Preston, Cromwell had reduced Pembroke, marched rapidly northward through Gloucester, Warwick, Leicester, to Nottingham, where he left his prisoners with colonel Hutchinson, governor of the castle, and soon joined Lambert at Otley Park, and forced back Langdale from Clitheroe on the main body at Preston. Hamilton at the last moment was all unprepared. Monroe, with his veterans, lay still at Kirby Lonsdale. Yet Hamilton, with his fourteen thousand, should have been a match for Cromwell, Lambert, and Lilburne's nine thousand. But Cromwell attacked them with such vigour, that after a hard battle of six hours, he routed the whole force. The cavaliers fought like lions, and only retreated from hedge to hedge before the foe, calling repeatedly on the Scots for reinforcements and ammunition, but not being able to get either, retreated into the town. There they discovered that their allies were engaged in a fierce contest with the enemy for possession of the bridge. Cromwell won the bridge, and the Scots fled in the night towards Wigan. Hamilton retreated with some of the English towards Warrington. Lieutenant-general Baillie, with a great party of the Scotch army, surrendered on quarter in that town. Monroe, who was lying at Kirby, ignorant of the battle or the coming up of the fugitives, retreated to Scotland - the only body of Scots who regained their country. Hamilton, on the 20th of August, three days after the battle, was overtaken by Lambert and lord Grey of Groby, and surrendered at Uttoxeter. Langdale's cavaliers dispersed in Derbyshire, and he himself, in woman's apparel, was discovered at Widmerpool, in Nottinghamshire; but by the contrivance of lady Saville, escaped dressed as a clergyman, to London, where he remained with Dr. Barwick in the character of an Irish minister driven from his parish by the papists. So ended duke Hamilton's boasted invasion. This blow totally annihilated his party in Scotland-, Argyll and the covenanters rose into the ascendant. Argyll soon after this seized a ship containing ten thousand stand of arms, which had been sent from Denmark for Hamilton's expedition. He invited Cromwell to Edinburgh, where he was received with great distinction, and was honoured by the thanks of the Scottish ministers as the preserver of Scotland under God. The members of the faction of Hamilton were declared enemies to religion and the kingdom, and incapable of serving in parliament or the assembly of the kirk. On the 16th of August Cromwell left Edinburgh, the duke of Argyll and the nobles of that party accompanying him some miles on his way, and taking leave of him with many demonstrations of respect.

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