Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV: Progress of the Disputes between the King and Parliament, during the Reigns of James the First, and of Charles the First. - An Historical View of the English Government
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CHAPTER IV: Progress of the Disputes between the King and Parliament, during the Reigns of James the First, and of Charles the First. - John Millar, An Historical View of the English Government 
An Historical View of the English Government, From the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Revolution in 1688, in four volumes, edited by Mark Salber Philips and Dale R. Smith, introduction by Mark Salber Philips (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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Progress of the Disputes between the King and Parliament, during the Reigns of James the First, and of Charles the First.
The long contest between the king and parliament, under the two first princes of the Stewart family, forms a very interesting part of the English history; and its origin and consequences deserve the most attentive examination. The object in dispute was no less than to determine and establish the political constitution of a great nation; and the agitation produced by so important a controversy could not fail to rouse the passions of men, to call forth and display their most eminent characters, and to develop those combinations and occurrences which tended to facilitate or to obstruct the improvement of civil society. We are not, however, to imagine that, from the beginning to the end of this contest, the same line of conduct was invariably pursued by<150> either of the parties. They were sometimes actuated by the feelings of the moment; changed their ground, according to the alteration of times and circumstances; and varied their measures, according to the character and views of those individuals by whom they were occasionally directed. To distinguish the most remarkable of these variations, the whole period under consideration may be divided into three branches: the first extending from the accession of James to the meeting of the long parliament, as it is called, in the year 1640; the second, from the meeting of the long parliament to the commencement of the civil war; the third, from thence to the death of Charles the First.1 <151>
The Reign of James the First; and that of Charles the First, from his Accession to the Meeting of the Long Parliament.
The behaviour of James the First, after he obtained the crown of England, might seem surprising to those who remembered his former circumstances, and who beheld the sudden and remarkable change of his fortune.2 Born and brought up amid civil dissentions; surrounded by nobles, many of whom possessed a power little inferior to his own; exposed to numerous plots, by which his life was endangered, or which tended to lay a restraint upon his person, and under his name, to convey the exercise of government to his rebellious subjects; in such a situation he received his political education, and his early habits were formed. But no sooner was he seated upon the Eng-<152>lish throne, than he began to hold a language, and to discover pretensions, that would have suited the most absolute monarch upon the face of the globe. There is, however, in reality, nothing uncommon or singular in this appearance. None are so likely to abuse their power as those who have recently obtained it; none so apt to be guilty of extravagant profusion, as those who have suddenly been raised from poverty to great riches; whether it be, that they are intoxicated by the novelty of their situation; or, from a consciousness of their former inferiority, are jealous, lest they should not appear with sufficient dignity in their new station.
Though, in his private deportment, James had no tincture of arrogance or superciliousness, he set no bounds to his authority as a king. He found that the aristocracy, by which he had been so much harassed in Scotland, was reduced in England from a state of rivalship to that of subordination and dependence; but he overlooked the influence and rank which had at the same time been acquired by the great<153> body of the people. He saw that the sovereigns in the principal European kingdoms, exercised an arbitrary and despotical power; and, without examining the means by which it had been acquired, or the circumstances by which it was maintained, he seems to have thought that, from the extent and opulence of his own dominions, he was entitled to follow their example. In public as well as in private, in his letters and speeches to parliament, and in his ordinary conversation, the divine, hereditary, indefeasible right of kings to govern their subjects without controul, was always a favourite topic. This was the fundamental principle of that kingcraft, to which, as he frequently declared, he had served so long an apprenticeship, and which therefore he pretended fully to understand. That his prerogative was absolute and unlimited; that the concurrence of parliament was not necessary in any of the acts of government; and that all the privileges of the people, were mere voluntary concessions made by his ancestors, which he might revoke at pleasure; these were propositions which<154> he not only maintained, but which he would not suffer to be questioned. “As to dispute,” said he, “what God may do, is blasphemy; so it is sedition to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power.”3 Even the judges, when called upon, in the execution of their duty, to decide between the king and the people, were prohibited from canvassing the rights of the crown. “Deal not,” says his majesty, “in difficult questions, before you consult with the king and council, for fear of wounding the king through the sides of a private person. The absolute prerogative of the crown is no subject for the tongue of a lawyer, nor is it lawful to be disputed.”*
We may easily suppose, that the same principles and doctrines which were thus openly avowed by the sovereign, were propagated at court, and embraced by all who wished to procure the royal favour and patronage. “When Waller,4 the poet, was young, he had the curiosity to go to court; and he stood in the circle and<155> saw James dine; where, among other company, there sat at table two bishops, Neile and Andrews.5 The king proposed aloud this question, whether he might not take his subjects’ money, when he needed it, without all this formality of parliament? Neile replied, God forbid you should not; for you are the breath of our nostrils. Andrews declined answering, and said he was not skilled in parliamentary cases; but upon the king’s urging him, and saying he would admit of no evasion, the bishop replied pleasantly; why then I think your majesty may lawfully take my brother Neile’s money, for he offers it.”*
That writers were easily found to inculcate similar doctrines, cannot be doubted. In the books published by Cowel and Blackwood,6 it was roundly asserted, that from the Norman conquest, the English government had been an absolute monarchy; that the king was not bound by the laws, or by his coronation oath; and that, independent<156> of parliament, he possessed the power of legislation, and that of imposing taxes.
Widely different from this was the idea of the constitution entertained by the house of commons. They considered it as a mixed form of government, in which the king was merely the chief executive officer, and in which the legislative power, together with that of taxation, was vested in parliament. So far from admitting the king to be above the laws, or his being entitled to change the form of government at pleasure, they looked upon him as only the guardian and protector of the constitution; placed in that high station, not for his own benefit, but in order to promote the happiness and prosperity of his people. They well knew, that at no period of the English history was the sovereign ever possessed of an unlimited authority; that, in the latter part of the Anglo-Saxon government, and under the princes of the Norman and Plantagenet race, the chief power was in the hands of the nobility, or great proprietors of land; and that, when the advancement of manufactures and of agri-<157>culture, in the reigns of the Tudor princes, had contributed to dismember the estates, and to diminish the influence of the nobles, the same change of circumstances tended to advance the middling and lower classes of the people, and to bestow proportional weight and authority upon that branch of parliament composed of the national representatives. Between the decline of the nobility and the exaltation of the people, there had indeed occurred an interval, during which the monarch had endeavoured to extend his prerogative; but his endeavours had met with constant opposition, and had proved ineffectual for destroying the fundamental privileges of parliament, or subverting, in any degree, the ancient fabric of the constitution.7 Nothing could betray more gross ignorance and misinformation, than to believe that the crown of England was enjoyed by a divine, indefeasible, hereditary right; for nothing is more certain than that, had it been transmitted upon that principle, it never could have devolved upon the house of Stewart; and that the lineal succession of the English royal family was<158> frequently broken, in some cases by occasional usurpation, in others by the interposition of the national council. By an act of the legislature, in the reign of queen Elizabeth, it is declared to be high treason for any person to assert that parliament has no right to vary and settle the succession to the crown.
Fortunately the talents of James were ill-suited to the task of subverting the ancient government. Whatever might be his abilities as a scholar, or his proficiency in the literature of the times, his understanding and discernment in the conduct of life were greatly below mediocrity. Nature had formed him for a pedagogue, and intended he should wield no better instrument than a birch. Possessed with the lofty idea of absolute monarchy in church and state, he seems to have thought that, by mere dint of argument, he could persuade the English nation to become slaves; and he provided no ultimate resources for carrying his design into execution. Mean and contemptible in his amusements and pleasures, weak and childish in his affections, his<159> behaviour, upon ordinary occasions, was not only unbecoming the dignity of a king, but inconsistent with common decorum and propriety. Though obstinate and conceited, he was highly susceptible of flattery; and though not exempted from avarice, he was profuse in his expences, and extravagantly liberal to his favourites. These were commonly chosen from a regard to their beauty of person; and as they gained an entire ascendancy over him, their incapacity and profligacy, joined to his own folly and arbitrary views, rendered his government equally odious and ridiculous.
One of the chief sources of dispute, after the accession of James the First, was the money required for supplying the exigencies of the sovereign. Many circumstances, independent of the bad economy of the prince, contributed to render this an object of much greater magnitude than it had formerly been. The difficulties in which Elizabeth, from her peculiar situation, was involved, had obliged her to alienate a great proportion of the ancient revenue of<160> the crown. The increase, on the other hand, of the quantity of the precious metals, since the discovery of America, had debased that part of the ancient crown revenue which was payable in money; while the influx of national wealth, from the advancement of trade and manufactures, by increasing the expence of living to each individual, had also augmented charges attending the administration of government. The demands of the crown were thus daily increasing, at such a rate as to render its old patrimony more and more insignificant, and to give room for expecting that the chief part of the public revenue was for the future to be derived from the taxes imposed on the people. So new, and so disagreeable a prospect, excited alarm and discontent throughout the nation. As the public supplies granted in former periods were inconsiderable, and took place only in extraordinary cases, it was of little consequence how the money was bestowed; but now, when the ordinary funds of the crown were shrunk almost to nothing, and when the<161> executive power was, in a great measure, to be maintained by extraordinary contributions, creating a permanent burden upon the nation, it behoved the parliament, and in particular it was the duty of the lower house, entrusted with the guardianship of the people, to watch over the rising demands of the sovereign, and to be cautious of introducing such precedents of taxation as might be hurtful to the community.
The religious divisions of the kingdom became another source of alarm and jealousy, and the occasion of many disputes between the king and parliament. The adherents of the Romish religion, who still were numerous and opulent, regarded the protestants, not only with the abhorrence produced by the most violent opposition of theological tenets, but with the rage and resentment of a losing party against those who had stript them of their ancient power, dignity, and emoluments. Of this the gunpowder conspiracy,8 formed by persons of some rank, and who had formerly borne respectable characters, affords a shocking, and a singular proof.<162>
Had the Roman catholics in England been merely a branch of the sectaries, depending upon their own efforts for procuring influence and popularity, it must be admitted, that from the spirit now diffused over the kingdom, the terrors of the growth of popery would have been entirely groundless. But the influence and power of that party were, at this time, regarded in a different light. The Roman catholics in England were zealously supported by those of the same persuasion in all the countries of Europe; and the restoration of popery in this kingdom was one of the great objects, not only of the Roman pontiff, but of all the princes who acknowledged his jurisdiction. For this end, no pains nor expence had been spared. Seminaries for the education of the English youth in the principles of that religion were established in different parts of Europe; secret emissaries were spread over England, and insinuated themselves among the religionists of every sect and description; and pecuniary, as well as other advantages, were held out in order to make proselytes, or to<163> confirm and encourage the friends of the party. In such a situation, it is not surprising that, from the remembrance of their former power, and the experience of their tyranny and virulence, they should have excited a national apprehension, and that it should have been deemed a salutary regulation to exclude them from offices of trust and consequence.
The king, however, from causes which have already been explained, discovered a disposition to favour and indulge the Roman catholics, declaring, that if they would renounce their peculiar subjection to the authority of the Pope, they ought to be admitted to the same privileges with the members of the church of England; but he was far from holding the same liberal opinion with respect to the protestant dissenters, who, about this time, on account of their pretensions to austerity of manners, came to be distinguished by the name of puritans.*
These two articles, therefore, the obtain-<164>ing supplies, and the enforcing the penal laws against the Roman catholics, were, during the reign of James the First, continual subjects of contention between the king and parliament.
In calling his first parliament, an attempt was made by James to over-rule the elections of the commons, which, had it proved successful, would have rendered that house entirely subservient to the will of the king. He issued a proclamation, declaring what particular descriptions of persons were incapable of being elected, and denouncing severe penalties upon such as transgressed the rules which he had prescribed. Sir Francis Goodwin having been elected member for the county of Buckingham, it was pretended that his election was void according to that proclamation; and the question being brought before the court of chancery, his seat was vacated. The county, upon this, proceeded to choose another representative; but the commons paid no regard to that sentence, and declared Sir Francis the member duly elected. They justly considered themselves as having the<165> sole right to determine the validity of the elections of their own members; a privilege essentially requisite to secure the independence of their house. Sensible of its importance, they resolutely maintained this constitutional point, and James, having urged them to a conference with the peers, and afterwards demanded in a peremptory tone that they would consult his judges, it was at last agreed, by a species of compromise, that both competitors should be set aside, and a writ issued for a new election.* <166>
In this parliament, which first met in the year 1604, and was continued through five different sessions to the year 1610, the sums demanded by the king were several times refused by the commons; who repeatedly, but in vain, petitioned the throne to execute the penal statutes against popish recusants, and endeavoured to procure a relaxation of such as had been enacted against the protestant dissenters. As the monarch found so much difficulty in obtaining money from the national assembly, he employed other expedients for augmenting his revenue. The advancement of trade suggested the customs, as a growing fund, the profits of which, without exciting much attention, and without any application to parliament, might be gradually enlarged. By his own authority, therefore, he ventured to alter the rate of those burdens, and to impose higher duties upon various branches of merchandize than had been formerly exacted. The illegality of these exactions was indisputable; at the same time they<167> created an apprehension the more universal, because, from the necessities of the crown, they were likely to be pushed to a far greater extent, and because they were plainly calculated to lay a foundation for claiming the general power of taxation as a branch of the prerogative. They gave rise, therefore, to violent debates in the house of commons, which, however, were cut short by a sudden dissolution of parliament.
There followed an interval of three years, in which the king endeavoured to supply his wants by the regal authority, and in which, among other contrivances for obtaining money, loans and benevolences were indirectly extorted from the people. But these expedients having proved insufficient, James, by the advice of his ministers, who undertook to manage the elections, was persuaded, in the year 1614, to make trial of a new parliament. The experiment was without success. In this house of commons there appeared such a spirit, as made it evident that no supplies could be obtained until the late abuses of the prerogative<168> should be corrected. With these terms the king was not willing to comply; upon which account this parliament, after sitting a few weeks, and without having finished any business whatever, was, like the former, suddenly dissolved, with strong marks of his anger and resentment; and several members of the house of commons, who had been the most active in opposing the measures of the court, were committed to prison.*
James had now resolved, it should seem, to call no more meetings of parliament; and in this resolution he persisted about seven years. But the loss of the Palatinate,9 from which his son-in-law, the elector, the great supporter of the protestant interest in Germany, was expelled, afforded him a plausible pretence for demanding parliamentary aid; and he again had recourse to that assembly in the year 1621. The measure proposed was highly popular throughout the nation; and parliament gave him two subsidies with the utmost alacrity; but finding, soon after, that the<169> money was diverted to other purposes, and most ineffectually and foolishly squandered away, they refused to give any more. The commons, in the mean time, proceeded, as formerly, to an examination of grievances; among which the favour shewn to the Roman catholics was the principal. The terrors of the nation on this head had been increased by two circumstances.
The first was the avowed intention of James to marry his son, the prince of Wales, to the Infanta of Spain; a measure which gave rise to universal apprehensions that it would be productive of dangerous concessions in favour of the Romish religion. The other was the apparent backwardness of the king to make any vigorous exertion for the recovery of the Palatinate, which was considered by the nation as the common cause of protestants. Upon these topics the house of commons took the liberty of presenting to the king a petition and remonstrance, which he regarded as an insult to the royal dignity. Enraged at their presumption, he commanded them not to interfere in these mysteries of go-<170>vernment; threatened them with punishment in case of disobedience, and reminded them that all their privileges were derived from the mere grace and permission of him and his ancestors. The commons were neither intimidated by those threats, nor disposed to acquiesce in such arrogant pretensions. They protested, “that the liberties, franchises, privileges, and jurisdictions of parliament are the ancient and undoubted birth-right and inheritance of the subjects of England; and that the defence of the realm, and of the Church of England, the maintenance and making of laws, and the redress of mischiefs and grievances, which daily happen within this realm, are proper subjects and matter of debate in parliament.”* With this protestation the king was so incensed, that, at a meeting of the privy council, he tore it, with his own hands, from the journals of the commons; and having soon after dissolved the parliament, he threw into prison several members of the lower, and some also of the<171> upper house. Among the former, Sir Edward Coke, and Sir Robert Philips, were committed to the Tower; Mr. Selden, Mr. Pym, and Mr. Mallory, to other prisons.10 Some, as a lighter punishment, were sent out of the kingdom, upon pretence of executing public business, which employments they were not permitted to refuse.*
In the fourth and last parliament of James, which was called in the year 1623, there occurred no dispute with the crown. The treaty with Spain, to which neither the influence of the national assembly, nor the voice of the people, could produce the least interruption, was at length broken off by the caprice of his favourite, Buckingham;11 and as this occasioned a war with which the nation was highly satisfied until the real ground of the quarrel was discovered, the king found no difficulty in procuring the necessary supplies.
Besides the two leading articles above-mentioned, there were other subjects of importance which attracted the notice of par-<172>liament, and became the ground of controversy.
The king, as the superior of trading towns, and the patron of their commerce and manufactures, had early assumed the power of creating royal boroughs, and of erecting, in each of those communities, inferior corporations of particular trades. By an easy transition, he had thence been led to grant, in particular branches of trade, exclusive privileges to individuals, or to trading companies. These monopolies, in the infancy of trade, had been accounted necessary, or at least beneficial, for carrying on extensive and hazardous undertakings; but, in proportion to the advancement of commerce, such extraordinary encouragements, from the increase of mercantile capitals, became less needful; at the same time that they were found more inconvenient, by narrowing the field of free competition among traders. The king was, besides, under the temptation of abusing his power of granting these monopolies, by bestowing them for money, or obtaining a share in the profit of the trade which they<173> were intended to encourage. Complaints of such abuses had been made in the reign of queen Elizabeth; they became still more frequent in that of James, when the wants of the crown had left no expedient unattempted for procuring money; but at length, by the vigorous interposition of parliament, the sovereign was prevailed upon to limit the disposal of those grants, and several important regulations upon this point were introduced.†
From the manner in which the legislative business was conducted, a bill, being originally conceived in the form of a petition to the king, required the approbation of parliament before it could be presented to his majesty for the royal assent. Hence it became unusual, and was at length regarded as irregular, that the king should take notice of any bill, while it was depending before either house. At what time the uniformity of practice, in this respect, may be considered as having established an invariable rule in the constitution, it is<174> difficult to determine; though it is clear that queen Elizabeth did not conceive herself to be precluded from stopping bills in parliament at any stage of their progress. In the year 1607, James objected to a petition laid before parliament concerning popish recusants; and it was insisted that the petition should not be read: to which it was answered, “that this would be a great wound to the gravity and liberty of the house.” The speaker replied, “that there may be many precedents in the late queen’s time, where she restrained the house from meddling in petitions of divers kinds.” Upon this a committee was appointed, “to search and consider of such precedents, as well of ancient as of later times, which do concern any messages from the sovereign magistrate, king or queen of this realm, during the time of parliament, touching petitions offered to the house of commons.” Two days thereafter, the petition, by the king’s consent, was read; and the following declaration appears on the record: “that his majesty hath no meaning to infringe our<175> privileges by any message; but that his desire is, we should enjoy them with all freedom.”* It should seem that hence-forward no monarch of England has ventured to dispute this privilege of parliament.
During the whole reign of James, the behaviour of the commons was calm, steady, and judicious, and does great honour to the integrity and abilities of those eminent patriots by whom the determinations of that assembly were chiefly directed. Their apprehensions concerning the prevalence of popery were, perhaps, greater than there was any good reason to entertain; but this proceeded from the prejudice of the times; and to judge fairly of the spirit with which, in this particular, the members of parliament were animated, we must make allowance for the age and country in which they lived, and for the occurrences which were still fresh in their memory. Though placed in circumstances that were new and criti-<176>cal, though heated by a contest in which their dearest rights were at stake, and doubtless alarmed by the danger to which, from their perseverance in their duty, they were exposed, they seem to have kept at an equal distance from invading the prerogatives of the crown, and betraying the liberties of the people. They defended the ancient government with vigour; but they acted merely upon the defensive; and it will be difficult to shew that they advanced any one claim which was either illegal or unreasonable. The conduct of James, on the other hand, was an uniform system of tyranny, prosecuted according to the scale of his talents. In particular, his levying money without consent of parliament, his dispensing with the laws against popish recusants, and his imprisoning and punishing the members of parliament for declaring their opinions in the house, were manifest and atrocious violations of the constitution.
This last exertion of arbitrary power some authors have endeavoured to excuse, or palliate, by alleging that it was con-<177>formable to the practice of queen Elizabeth. But the apology, such as it is, must be received with some limitations in point of fact; though in both cases the measure was arbitrary and violent, the grounds upon which it was adopted, by James and by Elizabeth, were widely different. Elizabeth imprisoned the members of the house of commons, because they proposed to abridge those powers which the crown indisputably possessed. If the crown was at liberty to interpose a negative upon bills before they had finished their progress in either house of parliament (and perhaps, in the days of Elizabeth, the contrary had not become an established rule) the behaviour of those members who, after the interposition of such negative, endeavoured to revive the debate, and to push on the business, might be considered as irregular, and as an invasion of the prerogative. The ultimate aim of Elizabeth was to prevent innovation, and to maintain the form of government transmitted by her ancestors, though the measures employed for that purpose could not be defended. But the<178> imprisonment of the members by James, was in support of a fixed resolution to overturn the constitution. This violent step was taken in the year 1614, because the commons refused to grant the supply which he demanded; and in the year 1621, because they had asserted that their privileges were their birth-right, and had remonstrated against the dispensing power exercised by the crown in favour of popish recusants. As they had an undoubted right to act in that manner, the king, when he punished them upon that account, cannot be regarded as defending his prerogative; his object was to deprive the commons of their most important privileges, and to convert the mixed government of England into a pure despotism.
The first fifteen years of the reign of Charles presented nearly the same view of political parties which had occurred in the reign of his father, and particularly the same objects of contention between the house of commons and the sovereign. Charles had thoroughly imbibed his father’s arbitrary principles; at the same time that,<179> by greater steadiness and capacity, and by the superior gravity and decorum of his deportment, he was better qualified to effect his purposes. During the controversy in the former reign, both parties had become gradually more keen and determined; and, from greater experience, their measures had been rendered more systematic. They looked farther beyond the points in agitation, and were less actuated by their immediate feelings and passions, than by the consideration of distant consequences. In the original state of the controversy it appears that parliament, in demanding a rigorous execution of the laws against popish recusants, had been stimulated by the general apprehension concerning the growth of popery; and that the reluctance expressed by the king to comply with these demands, had proceeded from his belief of that religion being favourable to the exaltation of the crown, together with the views he had formed of marrying his son, the prince of Wales, to a Roman catholic princess. But in the reign of Charles, the parliament complained of<180> abuses committed by the crown, not so much from their own magnitude, as because they seemed parts of a regular system, and might afterwards become precedents of despotical power; and the king refused to reform these abuses, chiefly because he was unwilling to admit, that the redress of grievances might be extorted by parliament as the condition of granting supplies.
Money was wanted by Charles to carry on the war with Spain; and as this war had been a popular measure, and undertaken with consent of parliament, the king flattered himself that a liberal supply would readily be obtained. But several circumstances concurred to change, in this respect, the sentiments of the people, and to render them now averse from an undertaking which they had formerly embraced with general satisfaction. The rupture with Spain was at first beheld in England with universal joy and exultation, because it prevented the heir of the crown from marrying a Roman catholic princess; and because it produced an expectation that the<181> king would be induced to join the protestant league in Germany. But the marriage of Charles to a daughter of the house of Bourbon, which happened soon after, demonstrated that, though James had varied his measures, his object was invariably the same; and that no regard to the religious apprehensions of his people, or to the preservation of public tranquillity, could divert him from his purpose of uniting the prince of Wales with a Roman catholic consort.12
The marriage treaty with France contained even higher concessions to the English Roman catholics than had been proposed in the former stipulations with Spain. In particular, it provided that the children should be under the care and direction of their mother, and consequently might be educated in the Popish religion till the age of thirteen; though by the projected Spanish treaty, that maternal direction was limited to the age of ten. Whatever dangers, therefore, had been foreseen from the marriage with the infanta, these were<182> increased rather than diminished by the French alliance.
The blunders, too, which had been committed, the ignorance and incapacity displayed in the management of the war, contributed to cool the ardour of the people, and to disgust them with a measure which, under such directors, had so little the appearance of producing any good effect. They had even the mortification to observe, that one of the first fruits of the treaty with France was, the lending the ships of England to the French monarch, for the purpose of reducing his protestant subjects;* and that the English forces were thus employed in ruining that very cause which parliament, in advising the war, had intended to support.
The secret transactions which had occasioned the rupture with Spain, and which had now transpired, could not fail to co-operate with the foregoing circumstances, and to become a separate ground of dissatisfaction and distrust. The war<183> with Spain was undertaken upon pretence of the insincerity and double-dealing of that court with relation to the marriage-treaty; and parliament had consented to this war in consequence of the strong and solemn representation to that purpose, given by Charles and the duke of Buckingham. But the real ground of the dispute was a private quarrel between that favourite and the count Olivarez, the Spanish minister;13 and the account which had been laid before parliament was an artful system of falsehood, calculated at once to take advantage of the national aversion from the Spanish alliance, and to rouse the public indignation and resentment for the unworthy treatment which their prince was understood to have suffered.
In a matter of this kind, however, the truth could not long be concealed. The arrogant and supercilious behaviour of Buckingham while in Spain, and the menaces which he had been vain enough to throw out against the Spanish minister, were not unknown to Bristol, the English ambassador,14 and to many other persons<184> who had an interest that the people of England should be undeceived. It appears from lord Clarendon,15 that king James knew the real state of the fact, at the very time when his son and the duke were imposing their fictitious narrative upon parliament;* and in the first year of the reign of Charles, we find hints thrown out in the house of commons, that Buckingham had broken the Spanish match from spleen and malice to the count Olivarez.†
It must have been highly mortifying to an English parliament, to find that they were made the dupes of a profligate minister, and had involved the nation in a war to gratify his vanity and resentment. They could, at the same time, have but little confidence in their present sovereign, who was implicitly governed by that minion, and who had shewn himself so unprincipled as to sacrifice his own honour to the wicked designs of his favourite.
Some authors have alleged as an apology<185> for Charles, that he himself might be deceived, and that he might really believe the story told by his minister. But this it seems hardly possible to conceive. That prince must be supposed a perfect changling, not to have discovered the particulars of a quarrel which was known to the whole court of Spain, which by his peculiar situation he had so many opportunities of observing, and which Buckingham, under the immediate impressions of resentment, had been at no pains either to cover or disguise.
In these particular circumstances, it is not surprising that, upon the first meeting of parliament, in the reign of Charles, that assembly, though strongly urged to support a war undertaken by its own recommendation, should testify no great zeal in prosecuting the views of the monarch. After the house of commons had granted two subsidies, which Charles regarded as very inadequate to his necessities, they proceeded to examine the mismanagement of the revenue, and the unseasonable indulgence and<186> favour shewn by the crown to popish recusants.*
The principal transactions in the two first parliaments of Charles, present nearly the same general aspect of the controversy between the crown and the people, which had occurred in the reign of his father; the king eagerly demanding supplies; threatening that, unless his demands are complied with, he must have recourse to other methods of procuring money; and declaring that, as the existence of parliaments depends entirely upon his will, they must expect, according to their behaviour, either to be continued or laid aside. Parliament, on the other hand, with inflexible resolution, insisting upon the previous redress of grievances; its members imprisoned, and called to account for their behaviour in that assembly; repeated dissolutions of parliament for its perseverance in refusing to grant the sums demanded; and each dissolution followed by the arbitrary<187> exaction of loans and benevolences, and by such other expedients as the crown could put in practice for procuring money.†
The third parliament in this reign was called on account of the extraordinary expences and difficulties in which the king was involved by the war with France; a war occasioned partly by a misunderstanding between Charles and his queen, which had produced the dismission of all her French servants, and partly by the levity, the insolence, and the precipitate rashness of Buckingham.† The accumulation of abuses, in every department of regal authority, now filled the kingdom with indignation. To the same spirit which had animated the two preceding houses of commons, the members of this parliament joined an experience of the measures which the king had hitherto pursued; and as, from these, they could not fail to discern his deliberate purpose to establish an unlimited power in the crown, so they were determined, with firmness and unanimity,<188> to stand forward in defence of their privileges. Through the whole of their proceedings we may observe a regular system, planned with consummate wisdom, and executed with equal steadiness and moderation. No menaces could shake them; no artifice could deceive their vigilance; no provocation could ruffle their temper, or make them forget either the dignity of their station, or the decency of expression which became subjects in addressing their sovereign.
The language held by the king, at the opening of this assembly, was lofty and imperious. He informed them, in direct terms, that “unless they did their duty in contributing what the state required, he would be obliged to use the other means which God had put into his hands. He desired they would not construe this into a threatening, as he scorned to threaten any but his equals. He promised, at the same time, to forgive what was past, if they would leave their former distractions, and follow the counsel which he had given them.”* <189>
The commons entered immediately upon the consideration of grievances. These had become so numerous, and had acquired such magnitude, that, for procuring redress in the most effectual manner, it was thought proper to collect them in one view, and to bring them under the consideration of the legislature. This was done by the famous petition of right,16 which, in the form of a bill, was laid before parliament, and after a full discussion, having passed through both houses, and obtained the royal assent, became a declaratory statute, ascertaining, in some of the most essential points, the acknowledged limitations of the prerogative, and the indisputable rights of the people.
This petition began with stating the ancient and most fundamental laws of the kingdom, from the great charter downwards, by which it is provided, that no tallage, aid, or other charge, shall be levied by the king, without consent of parliament; that no money shall be extorted from the subject, by way of loan or bene-<190>volence; and that no person shall be imprisoned, without being brought to answer by due process of law, or be deprived of his freehold, or otherwise suffer in his person or goods, but by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. It afterwards enumerated the many gross violations of these privileges upon the part of the crown, by compelling the subjects to lend, or to contribute money to the king; by imprisoning individuals without any cause being specified, and by detaining them in prison without any charge being made, to which they might answer according to law; by quartering soldiers upon the inhabitants, against the laws and customs of the realm; and by appointing commissioners to proceed in the trial of crimes according to the summary course of martial law. And lastly, it humbly prayed the king’s most excellent majesty, that, for the future, all these abuses might be removed and prevented.
From the time when this petition was understood to be in agitation, Charles em-<191>ployed every artifice that could be devised for defeating its purpose. He procured numerous conferences between the two houses of parliament, and proposed many different schemes of accommodation. He acknowledged the faults of his administration, and promised of his own accord to remove all grounds of complaint. He represented the absurdity of making a new law to confirm an old one; and he prevailed upon the house of lords to move the addition of a clause, that by this deed the sovereign power of the king should be left unimpaired. But this ambiguous limitation was rejected by the commons.
When the petition had passed the house of lords, and was presented to the king for his concurrence, his presence of mind seemed entirely to forsake him, and instead of the simple expression used on such occasions, he returned an evasive answer, importing merely his will that the statutes of the realm should be put in due execution. So unprecedented a mode of speech, in that critical juncture, was more likely to create fresh jealousy than to afford satis-<192>faction; and he found it necessary, soon after, though with a bad grace, to give the royal assent in common form.*
It is remarkable, however, that to all the copies of this deed which, by the king’s order, were dispersed over the kingdom, the first answer, and not the second, was annexed.† To such pitiful shifts was this monarch reduced, and so strongly did he evince his reluctance to acquiesce in this important transaction. When he could no longer evade, he endeavoured to conceal and to deceive.17
The legislature, by declaring the essential parts of the constitution, precluded, in appearance, all future disputes upon that subject. A bill for five subsidies was now passed through both houses of parliament, and carried into effect. So large a supply had, in the beginning of the session, been held out to the king as the reward of his consenting to the petition of right. The commons, however, were not diverted by their late success, from the further consideration<193> of such grievances and abuses of administration as appeared still to require animadversion and redress: the dissipation of the revenue, the frequent dissolution of parliaments, the sale of indulgences to popish recusants, and the unlimited influence and power of the duke of Buckingham, to whom the public disgrace and mismanagement were chiefly imputed, became successively the objects of complaint and censure.
During a period when practical despotism continued to be the avowed object of the king, it is not surprising that a multitude of speculative reasoners were found willing to second his pretensions, and that the labours of the press, for that purpose, were openly employed and encouraged. Wherever men of letters form a numerous class, their ambition, the narrowness of their funds compared with their ideas of elegance, and their capacity of exercising many offices in the gift of the crown, are likely to produce a powerful body of mercenary writers, ready to enlist under the banner of prerogative, and possessed of<194> ingenuity to palliate, even to their own minds, the mean prostitution of their talents. Among these literary, or rather political auxiliaries, the first rank seems due to the clergy, on account of that peculiar zeal and good discipline which their professional education and circumstances are wont to create. Two ecclesiastics, Sibthorpe and Manwaring,18 distinguished themselves by the preaching and publication of sermons, in which they inculcated doctrines entirely subversive of civil liberty; maintaining that the king is not bound to observe the laws; that the authority of parliament is not requisite in raising subsidies; that the sovereign has a right to demand loans and contributions at pleasure; that those who refuse payment of the taxes imposed by him, incur eternal damnation; in fine, that an implicit and unlimited obedience to his will is an indispensable religious duty. Archbishop Abbot,19 whose political principles happened, it seems, not to coincide with those of the court, refused a license to Sibthorpe’s publication; for which he was suspended from the exercise of<195> his ecclesiastical functions, and confined to one of his country seats. Manwaring’s sermon, upon inquiry, was found to have been printed by the special command of the king. The author was impeached by the commons, and condemned by the lords to a high fine. But he soon after received a pardon from the king, and afterwards was made a bishop.
Charles having felt the want of a standing army to enforce his measures, his attention had been directed to the methods of removing that inconvenience. Part of the troops employed in the war abroad had now returned home, and were kept in pay, for the purpose of rendering his exactions effectual. He had also remitted money to levy a thousand German horse, and had transported those foreign troops into England. This body was doubtless too small to perform any great service; but the precedent of introducing foreign mercenaries being once established, their number might easily be increased. Such a measure could not fail to alarm the<196> nation, and to call for the interposition of parliament.
After the petition of right had passed into a law, there was ground to expect that all disputes concerning the extent of the prerogative would, at least for some time, be completely removed. But a misunderstanding, with respect to the meaning of that declaratory statute, soon involved the king and the commons in fresh contention, and threatened to frustrate all the former labour for composing their differences.
Tonnage and poundage were duties on the importation and exportation of commodities, derived in early times from the protection and assistance which the merchant received from the public, and which, from the nature of his trade, was of the utmost advantage, if not indispensably necessary to him. When the amount of these duties became so considerable as to appear worthy of notice, they fell, of course, under the direction of parliament, and, like all other taxes, were imposed and regulated by that assembly. The grant was renewed from time to time, sometimes for a shorter, and<197> sometimes for a longer period; and as the burden fell, at least in the first instance, upon mercantile and sea-faring people, it was generally allotted for the purpose of guarding the seas, or of carrying on a foreign war. Towards the end of the Plantagenate race, a custom was introduced of granting these duties during the king’s life; and under the princes of the Tudor family the same custom was continued. None of those princes, however, appear to have imagined that they had a right to levy this tax by virtue of their prerogative. The authority of parliament had always been esteemed necessary to the imposition of this, as well as of all other branches of taxation; and upon obtaining a grant for tonnage and poundage, the form of words used by the sovereign was the same as in all other subsidies: The king heartily thanketh the subjects for their good wills.
It is true, that in the beginning of several reigns, the crown officers were accustomed to levy tonnage and poundage before the first meeting of parliament, or before it<198> was convenient for that assembly to take the matter under their consideration. This irregularity, in that rude age, was overlooked, more especially as no claim of right in the king had ever been founded upon the practice, and as the subsequent application for an act of parliament to authorize the tax, was a clear acknowledgment of his own defect of power to levy it by virtue of his prerogative.
James was the first English monarch who directly and openly claimed a right to impose these duties, and who, by his regal authority, ventured to advance the rates of the customs upon merchandize, and to establish these burdens as a permanent revenue of the crown.* This measure had not failed in that reign to be brought, among other grievances, under the cognizance of the commons, who had unanimously determined that the king had no such right. Charles, however, had fol-<199>lowed his father’s footsteps, and continued to levy the customs according to the advanced rates which he found already introduced. To ascertain this point, and put a stop to such arbitrary and illegal exactions, the commons, in the first parliament of this reign, had brought in a bill for granting tonnage and poundage for the very limited period of one year. But this limitation was not approved by the upper house. It was not to be expected that a matter of so great importance would be soon forgotten; and in the second parliament of Charles, we find that the= levying tonnage and poundage, by virtue of the prerogative, made a principal grievance in the offensive remonstrance, for which that assembly was dissolved.
It is not a little surprising that, notwithstanding the proceedings in these two parliaments, the king, after he had, in the next parliament, given his assent to the petition of right, should still affect to consider tonnage and poundage, as in a different situation from other taxes, and as not comprehended under those regulations,<200> with respect to every species of taxation or public burden, which had, with so great anxiety, been provided by that fundamental transaction. Could it be supposed that, when parliament had prohibited the levying of any tax whatever, by the mere authority of the crown, they tacitly meant an exception of one branch of public revenue, in its consequences to national prosperity the most important, and the most liable to produce oppression and injustice? If such a supposition were possible, the behaviour of the commons in the two former parliaments must have been sufficient to remove it, by shewing that this branch of taxation had been so recently under their view, and that they invariably regarded it in the same light with other taxes.
It is probable that Charles, having obtained a supply of money, and being freed from those difficulties which had induced him to consent to the petition of right, had now begun to repent of his acceding to that deed, and was willing, by any, the most frivolous pretences, to evade the restrictions<201> which it imposed. However this may be, he continued to levy tonnage and poundage without the authority of parliament; and when the house of commons complained of this measure, considering it as a violation of the petition of right, he was highly displeased, and put a stop to their proceedings by a sudden prorogation.
In the beginning of the next session, he thought fit to assume a more moderate tone, and to relinquish his former pretensions. He declared that he had not taken these duties “as appertaining to his hereditary prerogative; but that it ever was, and still is, his meaning to enjoy them as a gift of his people; and that if he had hitherto levied tonnage and poundage, he pretended to justify himself only by the necessity of so doing, not by any right which he assumed.”20 As the parties were now agreed in their principle, the only question that could remain, related to the mode of granting this tax. The commons, considering the former claims both of the king and his father, and the powers which they had exercised in relation to<202> these duties, thought it necessary, for the future security of the people, that there should be an immediate interruption to the assessment before the new grant was bestowed. They were willing that the king should enjoy the tax to the same amount as formerly, but they insisted that he should receive it in such a manner as clearly to ascertain that it proceeded from the gift of parliament. But the king obstinately refused to accept it upon those terms; and he suddenly took the resolution of dissolving that assembly, rather than admit of a compromise apparently so unexceptionable. The alarm spread in the house of commons, upon receiving intelligence of this resolution, may easily be conceived. They immediately framed a remonstrance for the occasion. But the speaker refused to put the question upon it; and being urged by several members, declared, that he had express orders from the king to adjourn, and to put no question. Indignation, anxiety, and resentment, gave rise to unusual vehemence of speech and behaviour, and suggested a measure suited to the exigency. The<203> speaker was forcibly held in the chair until a protest was read, and approved by the general acclamation of the house.
The dissolution of parliament, in these unusual circumstances, was a plain intimation that Charles intended to keep no measures with his people. He immediately gave orders to prosecute those members of the house of commons who had distinguished themselves in the late violent proceedings. Sir John Elliot,21 who had framed and read the last remonstrance; Mr. Selden, who had taken a great share in conducting the petition of right, as well as in the measures concerning tonnage and poundage, and whose learning and abilities gave him great weight with the party; Hollis and Valentine,22 who had by force detained the speaker in his seat, with several others, whose conduct upon that occasion had rendered them obnoxious, were imprisoned, and examined before the privy council; but they refused to answer the interrogatories of any person, or to give to any court whatever an account of their behaviour in parliament.<204> After an imprisonment of thirty weeks, an offer was made that they should be admitted to bail, upon finding sureties for their good behaviour; but they declined accepting their liberty upon terms which they considered as inconsistent with their duty to their country. Sir John Elliot, Mr. Hollis, and Mr. Valentine, were brought to a trial in the King’s-bench, and subjected to a high fine, and to imprisonment during the king’s pleasure. The first of these gentlemen, who had distinguished himself as a leader in the cause, died in prison. Several of the members remained in confinement until the meeting of the next parliament in the year 1640.*
From the dissolution of parliament in the beginning of the year 1629, Charles avowed his purpose of ruling without a parliament, and of raising the whole of the public supplies by his own authority.* From this period we are no longer to look upon the monarch as endeavouring secretly to undermine the<205> constitution, but as acting in open defiance of all those maxims upon which it had been established.
In the prosecution of this plan, however, he did not neglect those arts of corruption, which the experience of a later age has brought to greater maturity, but which, even at that time, were far from being unsuccessful. A few of the leading members of the last house of commons were now gained over to the interest of the crown, and obtained a distinguished rank in administration. Among these, the most noted was Sir Thomas Wentworth,23 who, from being one of the most able and violent opposers of the prerogative, was prevailed upon to desert his former principles, and soon after became the confidant and prime minister of Charles.
It would be superfluous to enumerate the instances of tyranny and oppression exhibited in a period of more than eleven years, during which this arbitrary system was pursued. All the abuses which had formerly been complained of, and of which<206> redress had so often, and with so great solemnity been promised, were now repeated, and digested into a regular plan. All the powers of government were now centered in the monarch, and the rights and privileges formerly claimed by either house, were sunk in the prerogative.
Two of the measures which during this period excited universal attention, and contributed most remarkably to inflame the popular discontents, may be worthy of particular notice. The first was the imposition of ship-money;24 an exaction which, from the time of its first introduction, had been greatly extended, and almost entirely altered in its nature. According to the English constitution, as well as that of the other feudal governments, all the military people were bound to assist in the defence of the kingdom, and might be required by the sovereign to attend him in the field with arms and provisions, agreeable to the nature of their service. Upon the same principle, the maritime towns were liable to a peculiar<207> burden, corresponding to their circumstances; that of furnishing ships, with sailors and naval stores, which, upon any foreign invasion, or extraordinary exigence, might be demanded by the king, and employed under his direction. The mercantile part of the nation were thus put upon an equal footing with the rest of the community; being subjected to a duty corresponding to that kind of protection which they received from government, and to the nature of that support and defence which they were best qualified to afford.
The mercantile towns, however, were not obliged to build and prepare new ships, but only to furnish those of which they were already possessed; for this obvious reason, that if the extraordinary emergency which had created the demand, admitted such a delay as would be requisite for the building of new ships, it might afford unquestionably sufficient leisure for calling a parliament, and procuring its concurrence; a measure held, by the common law of England, and by the uniform tenor of the<208> statutes, to be indispensably necessary in the imposition of taxes.*
But the requisition made by Charles, under the appellation of ship-money, now assumed a very different form. It was not limited to the maritime towns; but extended also to the counties; and to those at a distance, as well as to those in the neighbourhood of the sea. He demanded,<209> not a number of ships; for of every thing relative to shipping, the inland counties were totally destitute; but a sum of money, to be employed at the discretion of the crown, for the purpose of procuring a naval armament. And, to crown the whole, he made this demand, not on account of any foreign invasion, or of any public calamity, or danger requiring a sudden exertion of national force; but in times of profound peace and tranquillity, when he could find no other pretence, but that the sea had been infested with pirates; an enemy too insignificant, surely, to create any disturbance, and whose depredations might have easily been suppressed by the ordinary vigilance of the royal navy, and the ordinary supplies to be obtained by the interposition of parliament. In this form, ship-money became a general tax, imposed, in direct terms, by virtue of the prerogative, and subject to no controul from parliament; a tax which might be extended at pleasure, and of which the profits might be applied to any purpose whatever.
To smooth and prepare the way for this<210> imposition, Charles took the precaution of consulting the judges upon a fictitious case: whether ship-money could be demanded by the king when the necessities of the state should require it; and whether the king alone was the judge of such necessities? To the everlasting disgrace of the English courts of justice, those corrupt and pusillanimous guardians of the law returned an answer in the affirmative. Fortified by that opinion, the monarch was emboldened to pursue a measure which seemed to promise inexhaustible resources; and he ventured to employ the same methods for enforcing the payment of this duty, as if it had been levied by act of parliament.*
About four years after ship-money had begun to be enforced, Mr. Hampden25 had the courage to refuse payment; and for the sum of twenty shillings, in which he had been assessed, brought the cause to a judicial determination. Of the abuses which, at this time, contributed to alarm the nation, it was not the least, that the arbitrary<211> spirit of the sovereign had perverted the streams, and poisoned the sources of justice. Upon a full hearing of all the judges, a very great majority concurred in pronouncing a sentence in favour of the crown; “which judgment,” says my lord Clarendon,26 “proved of more advantage and credit to the gentleman condemned, than to the king’s service.”*
The innovations introduced by Charles in the forms of religious worship, and in the government of the church, though, perhaps, less directly subversive of the<212> constitution, were still more calculated to rouse and alarm the people; and had, in reality, an obvious and powerful tendency to increase the authority of the crown. From the behaviour and character of this monarch, some doubts have arisen with respect to his religious opinions. The gravity of his deportment, the sobriety and regularity of his private life, together with his apparent zeal in support of ecclesiastical dignity, procured him the reputation of piety and devotion; while his prepossession in favour of ridiculous ceremonies, and superstitious observances, in consequence of the good sense attributed to him, created a suspicion of artifice and hypocrisy. His friends have asserted his invariable attachment to the church of England: his enemies insinuate that he was a secret abettor of popery. That both he and his father were less adverse to the latter system of religion than to that of the puritans, cannot reasonably be denied. The fact seems to be, that in religious matters, these two princes were much guided by their political interest. As the hierarchy in<213> England was highly favourable to the regal authority, they endeavoured to extend and fortify it with all their might. By the abolition of the papal power in this country, the king, becoming the head of the church, and possessing the gift of the higher church livings, acquired a very absolute ascendancy over the superior members of that great incorporation. The spirit of inquiry introduced at the reformation, and the diffusion of knowledge which followed it, contributed, on the other hand, to relax the bands of ecclesiastical authority, and greatly to diminish that influence over the laity which churchmen had formerly maintained. It appears to have been the great object of Charles to repair, in these two respects, the ruins which time had produced; to renew and invigorate the ecclesiastical machine, so as to create a proper union and subordination of its different wheels and springs, and to render its movements more effectual in directing and governing the people. For this purpose, in conjunction with archbishop Laud,27 his great spiritual minister, he ventured to<214> new model the liturgy; and, in the public services of religion, introduced a multitude of decorations and ceremonious observances, in imitation of those employed by the Roman catholics. Some authors appear to consider these as insignificant and ridiculous mummery, the offspring of mere folly and superstitious weakness; but there is no room to doubt that this pomp and pageantry of religious worship was intended to promote superstition among the populace; to exalt the clerical character, to create a high veneration for the sacerdotal functions, and a belief, with respect to the happiness of men in a future state, of the efficacy and indispensable necessity of the interposition and good offices of the church. He also established a new set of ecclesiastical canons, by which a stricter discipline, and a more absolute authority in the superior orders of churchmen was introduced; and these regulations were enforced with unremitting vigilance and with inflexible rigour. It is not impossible, that by these innovations Laud gratified that vanity and love of power which his rank and situation<215> contributed to inspire; while the king viewed them in a political light, as promoting his designs of managing the church, and, through her, of governing the nation. The court of star-chamber, and that of high-commission, were employed in punishing both laity and clergy who neglected, in the smallest article, to comply with these rules; and the bishops administered an oath to the churchwardens, that they would, without fear or affection, inform against all offenders.*
It was impossible entirely to suppress the indignation and clamour excited by these proceedings; but such as ventured openly to censure them, were sure to encounter the implacable resentment of an incensed and bigotted churchman, armed with the whole power of the state.
Some men of austere character, or of intemperate zeal, being found hardy enough to venture upon the publication of books, inveighing with great acrimony against the usurpations of churchmen, and against the<216> levities and vices of the age, or supposed to contain insinuations against the measures of government, were treated with a degree of barbarity repugnant to the manners of a civilized nation. These authors, though of liberal professions, and in the rank of gentlemen, were condemned not only to an immoderate fine, but to the pillory, and to whipping in the severest manner, accompanied with the loss of their ears, and the slitting of their noses; and this outrageous and shocking punishment was, without the least mitigation, actually carried into execution.*
To prevent such publications as tended to inflame the minds of the people, it was ordained, by a decree of the star-chamber, in the year 1637, that the printers in the kingdom should be limited to a certain number, and that no book should be printed without a licence, or imported for sale without the inspection of persons appointed<217> for the purpose. This regulation was enforced with similar punishments.† What is called the liberty of the press was, doubtless, totally incompatible with the designs of administration.
From the same views which led to the exaltation of the hierarchy in England, Charles was equally solicitous of extending that favourite system of church policy to Scotland. By a variety of steps, many of which were highly arbitrary and illegal, James had already established a species of episcopal government in that country; but from the influence of the nobles, and other very opulent proprietors of land, who had obtained a great part of the ancient ecclesiastical revenues, he found it impossible to restore the bishops to that wealth and dignity which they enjoyed in times of popery, or which they still held in England. The<218> enthusiasm of the Scottish nation in favour of that mode of worship which they had established at the reformation, and their prejudices against the forms used in the English, as well as in the Roman catholic church, were well known to Charles; notwithstanding which he was not deterred from the attempt of compelling them to receive the new English canons and liturgy. The obstinacy with which he pursued this object, even after the people had risen up in arms to oppose it, and had formed that solemn association known by the appellation of the national covenant, can hardly be imputed to the pretended motives, the mere love of order and uniformity in the external worship of the two kingdoms; but, in all probability arose from the desire of subjecting the people in Scotland as well as in England, to an order of men who, from their dependence upon the crown, were likely to be the zealous and constant supporters of the prerogative.
The Scottish army having reduced the king to great difficulties, he again found it expedient, after an interval of more than<219> eleven years, to call a parliament. But this meeting, which was held in April 1640, having, like the three former parliaments, insisted upon a redress of grievances previous to the granting of supplies, was quickly dissolved by the king; who, immediately after, imprisoned two of the commons, for refusing to answer interrogatories concerning their behaviour in the house.
Such, during the first fifteen years of the reign of Charles, were the chief matters in dispute between the king and parliament; and such were the chief circumstances in the conduct of either party.
From the whole behaviour of the king during this period; from numberless instances in which he publicly declared his political sentiments; from the countenance and favour which he shewed to the authors of doctrines entirely subversive of civil liberty; from his peremptory demands of supply, accompanied with menaces in case they should not be complied with; from his repeated dissolutions of parliament, for persisting to inquire into national grievances; and from his continuing, in<220> consequence of an avowed resolution, for so long a period as that of eleven years, to rule without the aid of any national council, and to levy money, both directly and indirectly, by his own authority; from all these circumstances it is manifest, that he considered himself as an absolute monarch, and that, although he made repeated applications to parliament for supplies, he was far from admitting the necessity of such an expedient, but claimed the power of imposing taxes as an inherent right of the crown.
It appears, at the same time, indisputable, that such doctrines and claims were inconsistent with the original constitution and fundamental laws of the kingdom. By the uniform series of statutes, from the reign of William the Conqueror, and according to the principles and maxims recognized and admitted in all public transactions, the legislative power, and that of imposing taxes, were exclusively vested in parliament. These laws, indeed, had been sometimes violated by particular princes, who had not always been called to account<221> for such violations. But these illegal measures of the crown were neither so numerous, so uniform, nor so long continued, as to make the nation forget that they were usurpations, or lose sight of those important privileges which had thus been invaded. The king was no more understood to have acquired a right to such powers, from his having occasionally exercised them, than individuals become entitled to commit rapine or theft, merely because they have sometimes been guilty of those crimes, and have had the good fortune to escape with impunity.
It is worthy of notice, that although several kings of England exacted money from their subjects without the authority of parliament, they never pretended to vindicate those proceedings, nor alleged that, by virtue of the prerogative, they had the right of imposing taxes. Henry VIII. the most powerful and arbitrary of all the Tudor princes, disclaimed any power of this nature; and upon one occasion, when cardinal Wolsey had set on foot a project for levying a tax by the regal authority, found<222> it necessary to quiet the minds of the people by an express declaration, that he asked nothing more than a benevolence or voluntary contribution.
When we examine, on the other hand, the conduct of the four first parliaments of Charles, there appears no good reason for suspecting them of any design to alter the constitution. The circumstances of the crown were such, at this time, as required particular attention to every proposal for new taxes, and rendered an extreme jealousy upon this point not only natural, but proper. From the alterations which had gradually and almost insensibly taken place in the state of society, the circumstances of the people with respect to taxation had been totally changed. The old revenue of the crown was become very inadequate to the expence of government; and as the estates of individuals were liable to supply the deficiency, the nation was deeply concerned, not only to prevent arbitrary impositions, but also to limit those burdens which every member of administration had continually an interest in accu-<223>mulating. Like sureties for a person in hazard of bankruptcy, it was incumbent on them to watch over the principal debtor, and to prevent his extravagance. As from the charges attending the civil and military establishments, the king could never be at a loss for pretences to demand money from his subjects, it was from this quarter that they were most in danger of oppression, and had most reason to guard against the encroachments of prerogative.
The alterations, at the same time, in the military state of the kingdom, were such as rendered unusual care and vigilance necessary to preserve the ancient constitution. While the feudal vassals continued to perform the military service, the people had the sword in their own hands; and, consequently, the means of defending themselves from oppression. But after the substitution of mercenary troops to the ancient feudal militia, the nation became an unarmed and timorous multitude, without discipline or capacity for any sudden exertion, and seemed to be entirely at the mercy of the king, who levied at pleasure, and<224> directed the whole military force. Had no new circumstance occurred upon the side of the people, to counterbalance the additional weight thus bestowed upon the crown, their liberties could not have been maintained. But the necessities of the king requiring continual grants of money from parliament, afforded this countervailing circumstance, by rendering him dependent upon the national representatives, and obliging him to listen to the complaints of his people. It was in this manner only that the prerogative could be retained within its ancient limits.
If parliament, however, had always been ready to supply the wants of the king; if they had never stood upon terms, and demanded a rectification of abuses as the condition of their consenting to taxes; their power would soon have dwindled into a shadow, and their consent would have become a mere matter of form. They would have soon found themselves in the same state with those ghosts of national councils, who continued to hover about the courts of some European monarchies,<225> and were still called to give an imaginary sanction to that will of the prince which they had no longer the capacity of opposing. By good fortune the imprudence of Charles, and still more that of his father, by discovering too plainly the lofty ideas they entertained of the regal authority, alarmed the fears of parliament; and the house of commons, by having the courage to refuse, preserved their privilege of bestowing the public money at a time when they had lost all other means of compulsion.
In the history of the world, we shall perhaps discover few instances of pure and genuine patriotism equal to that which, during the reign of James, and during the first fifteen years of the reign of Charles, was displayed by those leading members of parliament, who persevered, with no less temper than steadiness, in opposing the violent measures of the court. The higher exertions of public spirit are often so contrary to common feelings, and to the ordinary maxims of conduct in private life, that we are, in many cases, at a loss whether to condemn or to admire them. It may also be remarked, that in the most brillant examples<226> of heroism, the splendour of the achievement, at the same time that it dazzles the beholder, elevates and supports the mind of the actor, and enables him to despise the difficulties and dangers with which he is surrounded. When Brutus took away the life of Caesar, he ran counter to those ordinary rules which bind society together; but, according to the notions of his own age, he secured the applause and veneration of the worthier part of his countrymen. To perform a great service to our country by means that are altogether unexceptionable, merits a purer approbation; and if the action, while it is equally pregnant with danger, procures less admiration and renown, it affords a more unequivocal and convincing proof of true magnanimity and virtue. When Hampden, by an appeal to the laws of his country, exposed himself to the fury of Charles and his ministry, he violated no friendship, he transgressed no duty, public or private; and while he stood forth to defend the cause of liberty, he must have been sensible that his efforts, if ineffectual, would soon be neglected and forgotten; and that even if successful, they were less calculated to procure the ap-<227>plause of his contemporaries, than to excite the admiration and esteem of a grateful posterity.
To the illustrious patriots who remained unshaken during this period, we are indebted, in a good measure, for the preservation of that freedom which was banished from most of the other countries of Europe. They set the example of a constitutional resistance to the encroachments of prerogative; accommodated their mode of defence to the variations in the state of society which the times had produced; and taught the house of commons, by a judicious exercise of their exclusive right of taxation, to maintain and secure the rights of their constituents.
Of the Reign of Charles the First, from the Meeting of the Long Parliament to the Commencement of the Civil War.
The meeting of what is called the Long Parliament, towards the end of the year 1640, presented a new aspect of public affairs, and<228> seemed to require that the patriotic leaders of that assembly should embrace a new system of conduct. The designs of Charles had now been prosecuted for such a length of time, and displayed in such a variety of lights, as to become perfectly notorious. From his behaviour during his three first parliaments, it appeared, that though he condescended to procure money by parliamentary authority as the smoothest and safest course, he was far from acknowledging the necessity of this mode of procedure, but claimed, and whenever his occasions might require, was determined to exercise the prerogative of imposing taxes. In his intercourse, at the same time, with those assemblies, he had made no scruple to practise every artifice in his power, to intimidate them by threats, to work upon their hopes by temporising professions, and even to deceive them by direct promises. Of this there occurred a remarkable proof in the circumstances relating to the petition of right, a bill to which, after many evasions, he at length solemnly consented, but which he afterwards no less openly violated; a bill in which he plainly had renounced the errors of his former conduct, and<229> had in particular admitted, by an express and positive declaration, that the power of imposing taxes, or of levying from the people any sort of contribution or duty, was exclusively vested in parliament.
After the dismission of his third parliament, he had thrown off the mask, had avowed the resolution of reigning without the aid of those national councils; and for more than eleven years, had continued to usurp all the supreme powers of government, levying money, not only by the indirect means formerly practised, but also by the direct imposition of taxes, and issuing royal proclamations, to which he required the same obedience as to acts of parliament. During this period he altered, both in England and in Scotland, the established forms of religious worship and the system of church government; and by the interposition of the star-chamber, or by his corrupt influence over the ordinary tribunals, he often inflicted the most arbitrary and illegal, as well as barbarous punishments upon those individuals who had the courage to thwart, or in any shape to oppose his measures.
His behaviour to his fourth parliament<230> served only to show, that, while he remained immoveable in his plans of despotism, he had not relinquished his disposition to artifice and duplicity.
Such had been the conduct of Charles, and such was the character of that monarch, which had been deeply impressed upon the great body of the people, when the defeat of his forces by the Scottish army obliged him to call another parliament within a few months after his angry and contemptuous dissolution of the former. The indignation and resentment of the nation were now raised to such a pitch as to overbear the court influence in the greater part of elections, and to produce in this assembly a prodigious majority, resolutely determined to restrain the arbitrary measures of the sovereign.
From the transactions of this and of the preceding reign, it was now become evident, that the preservation of public freedom required more effectual measures than had been pursued by former parliaments. By refusing supplies, the house of commons might occasionally extort from the king a promise to correct the abuses of administration; but experience had<231> shown that no practical benefit could result from promises to which he paid so little regard, and which he might so easily violate with impunity. Those difficult situations, in which the king was obliged to solicit the parliament for money, were now likely to occur but seldom, since he had found that, by other methods less disagreeable to himself, he was capable, in ordinary cases, of supplying his wants. These methods, indeed, were illegal and unpopular, but they had been frequently repeated with success, and had for a considerable period been continued without interruption. The danger of such precedents had now risen to an alarming height; and as, on the one hand, it was hardly to be expected that the monarch would stop short in that career which he had hitherto maintained, so on the other, it was to be feared that the people, whose feelings are but little affected by evils which do not strike their senses, would be gradually reconciled to these innovations, and that the sanction of custom would at length be pleaded in support of measures totally subversive of the constitution.
Though the English government had im-<232>memorially exhibited the plan of a limited monarchy, and had so distributed the chief powers of the state as mutually to check and controul one another; yet, from want of experience and foresight, the workmanship was, in several of its minuter parts, far from being so complete and perfect as to preclude every kind of irregularity or disorder. By commiting the powers of legislation and taxation to parliament, and the supreme judicial power to the house of lords, it seems to have been thought that the ministerial or executive power of the king would be kept in proper subordination; and probably no suspicion was entertained of the numerous artifices by which he might elude the superintendance of his great council, or of the different expedients to which he might resort for establishing an independent authority. But after the decline of the aristocracy under the reign of the Tudor princes, it was found that the precarious appointment of the inferior judges gave him an absolute sway over the courts of justice; and upon the disuse of the ancient feudal service, after the accession of the house of Stuart, the direction of the mercenary forces, the number<233> of which was likely to be continually increasing, afforded him an engine which was becoming daily more effectual for enforcing his measures, and for controuling all opposition to his will.
At this alarming crisis, therefore, when the king had made such formidable advances towards the introduction of despotism, it was the indispensable duty of parliament to redouble its efforts, and to study more effectual measures for opposing his designs. It was no longer sufficient, for this purpose, to repel the encroachments made by the crown, and to re-instate the government in the situation which it had maintained before the late innovations. The parliaments had hitherto stood entirely upon the defensive; it seemed now high time that they should attack in their turn, and endeavour to disarm an adversary so persevering, so watchful, and so powerful. It was not enough that they should fill up the breaches which had been made, and repair the fortifications which had been demolished; but in providing for future security, it was necessary to fortify the constitution in those avenues and passes which had formerly been<234> left most open and defenceless; and at the same time to dispossess the prerogative of those particular stations, from which there appeared the most imminent danger of invasion.
Such appear to have been the leading views of that celebrated parliament, which met in the latter part of the year 1640, and of whose conduct political writers, according to their different inclinations and systems, have given such opposite representations.
Their first measure was to attack those ministers who had been chiefly instrumental in the late proceedings of the crown. That these might with propriety be called to account for the part they had acted in the course of their administration, was indisputable; and that they, rather than the sovereign, should suffer punishment for the abuses or misdemeanors which had been committed, was an acknowledged maxim of the English government. It was accordingly resolved, that Strafford and Laud, the two persons who had enjoyed the principal share of the king’s confidence, the one in civil, the other in ecclesiastical matters, should be impeached; and,<235> for this purpose, they were immediately taken into custody.
Many circumstances contributed to render Strafford the general object of popular odium and resentment. He had been a distinguished leader of the patriotic party; and had been seduced by the court to abandon his principles, and join the standard of prerogative. In those times, when the spirit of patriotism had risen to so high a pitch, and when the minds of men were so heated with an enthusiastic love of liberty, a political renegado, who had betrayed the cause of his country, and had descended to become a vile instrument of that oppression, against which he had declaimed and struggled with so much vehemence, could not fail to draw upon himself a double portion of that indignation which the measures of the crown had excited; and as this apostacy happened soon after the dissolution of Charles’s third parliament, that is, at the very period when the arbitrary and despotical views of the monarch had been, in the most unequivocal manner, proclaimed to the whole nation, and when attempts, by the court, for gaining other eminent members in opposition, had been<236> repulsed with disdain, it was beheld in circumstances of peculiar aggravation, and marked with indelible characters of infamy. The haughty and insolent temper of Strafford contributed, at the same time, to procure him many personal enemies: not to mention, that his known abilities and vigour, which had raised him to the head of administration, gave real apprehension to all such as were anxious to guard against the encroachments of prerogative.
Against the condemnation of this minister, much has been said and written, which, in the present age, will hardly be thought worthy of a serious refutation. That the king can do no wrong was, even at this time, understood, in the ordinary course of administration, to be a constitutional maxim: From which it follows, as a necessary consequence, that his ministers must be responsible for all the abuses committed by the executive power. No person, according to this rule, could suffer more justly than the Earl of Strafford, who had been confessedly the king’s principal and confidential minister, and whose administration demonstrated a deep-laid and regular sys-<237>tem to subvert the constitution. It may be asked, what crime deserves a capital punishment, if this does not?
The clamour, therefore, which was raised against the punishment of that nobleman could have no foundation in the principles of material justice. It could only relate to the forms of procedure by which he was tried and condemned. And here it is remarkable, that the chief handle for objection was afforded by the extreme anxiety of the commons to proceed with great circumspection, and to conduct the trial in such a manner as would avoid any ground of complaint.
With respect to the facts upon which the accusation was founded, instead of resting upon a general statement of the arbitrary measures pursued by the crown during the period when Strafford was a principal and confidential minister, about which there could be no dispute, the commons thought proper, for the satisfaction of the public, to bring a specific charge of particular violations of the constitution, to which he had been accessary, either as an adviser, or as an immediate actor; and the proof<238> which they afterwards adduced in support of one of the chief of those articles, was alleged to be defective. Strafford was charged with having said, in council, that the king was now absolved from all rule of government, and to do whatever power would admit; and with having advised his majesty to go on vigorously in levying ship-money, and to employ the forces in Ireland for reducing this kingdom to obedience. Other expressions of a similar import were imputed to other members of council. Sir Henry Vane,28 the secretary, had taken short notes of this debate; and from these, which were accidentally discovered by his son, a copy was produced on the trial. It appears from Lord Clarendon, that some of the words alluded to, of a high nature, according to his expression, were remembered by the Earl of Northumberland, another member of council; but the rest were not recollected by any person present, except Sir Henry Vane; nor by him, till after repeated examinations. It was contended, however, that the notes added to this verbal testimony should be held equivalent to two witnesses, which, by the<239> law of England, are necessary in proofs of high treason.* <240>
In prosecuting the impeachment of Strafford, some doubts came to be suggested, whether the facts imputed to him, though cer-<241>tainly deserving the highest punishment, amounted, by the common or statute law of England, to the specific crime of high treason with which he was charged. According to the rude conceptions introduced into all the feudal monarchies of Europe, the crime of high treason could only be committed against the king; and it was alleged, that a charge of this nature was not applicable to the conduct of Strafford, who had, indeed, invaded the constitution, and subverted the fundamental laws of the kingdom, but who had acted, all along, with the perfect concurrence of the sovereign, and in direct obedience to his will. These doubts were, surely, very ill founded; since it is obvious that, by the presumption of<242> law, the king, in pursuance of his duty, must be supposed at all times ready to defend the constitution, and consequently exposed to the hazard of losing his life in its defence. Whoever, therefore, attempts to overthrow the constitution, may be held, in the construction of the law of Edward the Third, to compass or imagine the death of the king; and this although in any particular case the king should betray his trust, and, instead of defending the government, should combine with its enemies in promoting its destruction. But how ill founded soever the opinions of those may be who opposed the impeachment upon this ground, it was thought adviseable to comply with their pretended scruples, and to carry on the prosecution by a bill of attainder.29 This mode of trial is, doubtless, very liable to abuse, and ought never to be admitted, unless in cases of extraordinary necessity. It does not appear, however, that Strafford was, in consequence of it, subjected to any peculiar hardship. The proof of the facts was investigated, not only by the commons, but also by the lords, the same judges by whom it would have been determined in the case of an<243> impeachment; and before passing the bill, the judges delivered their unanimous opinion, that upon all which their lordships have voted to be proved, the Earl of Strafford doth deserve to undergo the pain and forfeitures of high treason by law.*
The consent given by Charles to this bill, and his yielding to the execution of his favorite, could not fail to strike all his adherents with consternation and astonishment, and have been considered, even by those who view his conduct with the most extreme partiality, as the great blot upon his character. If we suppose that Charles was now a real convert from his former principles; and that, weary of so disagreeable a contest, he had relinquished the system of establishing an absolute government; it is natural to think that he would have met with no difficulty in giving complete satisfaction, both to parliament and the nation, without abandoning the life of a minister whom he had seduced into his service, and whose fidelity to him was his only crime. But if this monarch still persisted in his ambitious designs; if his present concessions to<244> parliament were no more than temporary expedients for procuring the supplies which he wanted; and if the death of Lord Strafford was merely a sacrifice, to avert the national resentment, and, by a seeming atonement for past offences, to deliver the king from his present embarrassment; if this, as there is good reason to believe, was the real state of the fact, it is hardly possible for imagination to figure a more glaring instance of meanness, of perfidy, and of barbarity.
It will throw light upon the feelings of this monarch to recollect the terms of a letter which, after he had given his consent to the bill of attainder, he wrote, with his own hand, to the house of peers, expressing a strong desire that Strafford’s life might be spared. The letter concludes with this extraordinary postscript: “If he must die, it were charity to reprieve him till Saturday.”30 The only apology that has been invented for this brutal indifference is, that the postscript was probably dictated by the queen, who, it seems, bore no good-will to Strafford.* <245>
The condemnation and execution of archbishop Laud were delayed for some years; and in perusing the history of those times, the rigorous punishment of this old and infirm ecclesiastic, when the contest had come to be decided by force, is apt to be regarded as an unnecessary strain of severity. He had not the same abilities with Strafford, to render him formidable; nor had his character been in the same manner rendered odious by political apostacy. He was, however, the firm associate and coadjutor of that nobleman, and was equally guilty of a deliberate attempt to subvert the constitution; nor can it escape observation, that, from the department in which he acted, the superintendance of the great machine of the hierarchy, he was capable of doing more mischief, by poisoning the minds of the people, and sowing the seeds of a tyranny more luxuriant, more extensive, and more deeply rooted. The vigour, the activity, and the high sentiments of liberty which, from the beginning of this parliament, had been displayed by a great majority of its members, were at the same time warmly and uniformly supported by the general spirit which prevailed throughout the<246> nation. Petitions against the arbitrary measures of the court pouring in from every quarter, contributed to animate the commons in their endeavours to reform abuses. The other ministers and instruments of Charles were either forced, by flight, to save themselves from the terrors of an impeachment, or, if their obscurity rendered them less obnoxious, they remained in silent apprehension, lest, by opposing the popular current, they might provoke their destiny.
The lower house proceeded unanimously to declare, that the imposition of ship-money by the king was contrary to the fundamental laws of the kingdom; and that the sheriffs, who had issued the writs on that occasion, as well as the persons who had been employed in levying the tax, were liable to punishment. In this declaration they were joined by the unanimous voice of the peers, who farther ordained that the judgment given in Mr. Hambden’s case should be cancelled in their presence. A similar judgment was passed upon the levying of tonnage and poundage, without consent of parliament, and upon the late collectors of this duty, and, in order to ascertain, for the future,<247> the exclusive power of that assembly, in this respect the tax was now voted for two months only, and afterwards renewed for very short periods. The enlargement of the forests, the revival of monopolies, which had been lately abolished by the legislature; every illegal method of raising money, or unwarrantable exertion of prerogative; the arbitrary interposition of the star-chamber, and high commission, and the corrupt and oppressive decisions of the ordinary judges, were subjected to severe scrutiny, and stigmatised with strong marks of disapprobation and censure.*
These resolutions and declarations were sufficient to demonstrate the sentiments of parliament, and of the nation; but hitherto no provision had been made against the future encroachments of prerogative. The government was not in a better condition than at the time when the petition of right had passed into a law; and the public had no security against the monarch, after being freed from his present embarrassment, renewing his former pretensions, and resuming that system of conduct which he had been compelled to abandon.<248>
From the time when the great body of the people had acquired a degree of opulence and independence, the frequent meetings of the national council had been deemed essential to the preservation of liberty. During the sitting of parliament the attention of the community was awakened to political discussions; the proceedings of the executive power were scrutinized, and held up to public notice; and the nation was possessed of a great organ, by which its grievances and its demands could be communicated to the monarch, with a force and energy often irresistible. But, in the intervals between those great councils, the voice of the legislature was not heard; there existed no superior power to controul the abuses of administration; no monitor to warn and rouse the people in defence of their privileges; and the usurpations of the crown, if cautiously conducted, and artfully disguised, were likely in many cases to pass unobserved. If the country was maintained in peace and tranquillity; if arts and manufactures were protected, and continued in a flourishing condition; if the inhabitants did not feel themselves grossly oppressed or injured in their private rights; they were not<249> apt to testify much uneasiness from the illegal measures of government, or to complain even of clear and palpable violations of the constitution.
To avoid the meetings of parliament, therefore, became the great object of the crown; in the prosecution of which, Charles had been so successful, as for a period of more than eleven years to have avoided the necessity of calling that assembly. The very mention of parliaments, during this period, was regarded as a kind of sedition, and upon that account strictly prohibited. It is not surprising that, in the present emergency, when the king had been obliged to renounce those heretical doctrines, and to solicit once more the assistance of his national council, it should have been thought indispensably necessary to prevent the recurrence of measures so completely despotical, and effectually to secure this great palladium of the constitution.
While the feudal aristocracy remained in its vigour, the barons, who were the principal part of this council, were not very anxious about the regularity or frequency of its meetings. Relying upon the number and fidelity<250> of their vassals, they trusted more to their prowess in the field, than to their eloquence or address in the cabinet. We find, however, so early as the reign of Edward the Third, a provision by two several statutes, that parliaments shall be held once every year, or oftener, if need be.* This law had never been repealed, though, from the state of the kingdom, for several centuries, it had excited but little attention. When the commons had acquired some weight in the constitution, they generally threw themselves into the scale of the prerogative; and it became as much the interest of the king to call frequent meetings of parliament, as it was that of the barons to avoid them. This was the case during the latter part of the Plantagenet line, and under the whole government of the Tudor princes; during which, it should seem that this point had never become the subject either of discussion or controversy. But after the accession of the House of Stuart, when the interest and views of the different branches of the legislature underwent a total revolution, it<251> was natural for the house of commons to look back to those ancient statutes by which the annual meetings of parliament were secured. They did not, indeed, think proper to insist upon a literal observance of that regulation; but making allowance for the difference of times and circumstances, they were willing to admit such variations as might render it consistent with the ease and convenience of the crown. Instead of calling parliaments annually, it was thought reasonable that the king should, at least once in three years, be obliged to convene those assemblies; and a bill for that purpose was introduced by the commons, and passed through both houses. To secure the observance of this regulation, it was provided, that if the chancellor failed to issue writs every third year, any twelve peers might exercise that power; that, in their default, the sheriffs and other returning officers might summon the electors; and, lastly, that the voters, if not summoned, might assemble of their own accord and elect representatives. It was further provided, that after the two houses of parliament had met, they should not, without their<252> own consent, be either prorogued or dissolved within the space of fifty days.
While this and other salutary regulations were under the consideration of parliament, there was good reason to apprehend, what had happened on so many former occasions, that their deliberations, however important, might be cut short by a sudden dissolution. Unless they could guard against this fatal interruption, it was needless to propose a reformation of abuses; and while their members exposed themselves to great personal danger from the resentment of the crown, there was nearly a certainty that their labours would be rendered abortive. The necessity of the case, therefore, appeared to justify an extraordinary precaution, and a bill was carried through both houses, importing, that until the present grievances were redressed, they should not, without their own concurrence, be dissolved.*
Among the various tools employed by Charles for the execution of his measures, the readiest, and the most subservient to his pur-<253>poses, were the courts of star-chamber and high-commission.
The former of these tribunals arose from an idea entertained by the lawyers of an early age, that the rules of criminal justice could not be extended to the numberless instances of delinquency which occur in society; and that, of consequence, a discretionary power was necessary for taking cognizance of extraordinary offences. This jurisdiction was naturally assumed by the king and privy council, with the assistance of his ordinary judges, or of such individuals as he thought proper to call in particular cases.
It is probable that, in the infancy of judicial procedure, when the ordinary courts, from their narrow experience, were extremely cautious and timid in explaining the rules of justice, or when, from a suspicion of their partiality, it appeared expedient to limit and circumscribe their decisions within the strict letter of the law, this ultimate remedy, to supply the defect of every other jurisdiction; a remedy which probably was applied very sparingly, and with great moderation, proved of signal advantage to the public. It is remark-<254>able that, even in the days of Lord Bacon, the interpositions of the star-chamber, which had then been rendered more extensive than formerly, are highly extolled by that eminent lawyer and philosopher.
In the progress of society, however, the rules of law were gradually enlarged and extended to a much greater diversity of cases; and courts of an undefined and arbitrary jurisdiction, as they were found highly inconvenient and dangerous, became, at the same time, superfluous and useless. But of all the tribunals invested with discretionary powers, that of the star chamber appeared the most liable to abuses. The particular crimes, or offences, which chiefly fell under its cognizance, were such as immediately affected the interest of the crown; so that while the court was confessedly tied to no rule, the judges were either parties, or, what amounts to the same thing, under the direction of a party. It happened, therefore, as might be expected, that whenever the king adventured to stretch his prerogative beyond the bounds of law; when he wished to levy money under the pretence of a loan or benevolence; when he wanted to enforce the<255> royal proclamations, and put them upon a level with acts of parliament; or when he was disposed to punish any person who, by opposing his measures, or by sounding an alarm to the people, had incurred his displeasure; in all such cases this was the court to which he applied, and in which he never failed to procure a decision according to his wishes. A tribunal of this nature was a sort of excrescence, whose polluted and cancerous fibres were likely to contaminate the whole constitution, and which, independently of the distempers of the present reign, there was an urgent necessity to lop off and eradicate.
The high commission, as was mentioned in a former part of this discourse, had obtained a similar province in spiritual, to that of the star-chamber in temporal matters. During the first fervour of religious reformation, it had been thought expedient that government should controul and direct the faith of individuals; and that a court should be appointed for the sole purpose of restraining heresies, as well as for punishing all offences against the order and dignity of the church. This tribunal was at first levelled principally<256> against the Roman catholics; but came afterwards to be a weapon, in the hands of the clergy, and consequently of the sovereign, for the support of the hierarchy, and for depressing those branches of the sectaries which had become eminent or obnoxious. Being in reality a court of inquisition, unconfined by rules, and actuated by the love of clerical domination, as well as by that rancorous hatred which is the offspring of religious controversy, its proceedings in the department belonging to it, were, if possible, still more oppressive and arbitrary than those of the star-chamber; at the same time, having assumed the power of enforcing its decrees by fine and imprisonment, it was enabled to acquire a most extensive authority. The same observation, which already has been made with respect to the star-chamber, is also applicable to the court of high commission; that it proceeded from conjunctures which had now ceased to exist. Whatever might be the pretences, during the heat of controversy, at the beginning of the reformation, for establishing such an extraordinary jurisdiction, these could have no place after the new system of<257> religion had obtained a complete victory, and gained a full and peaceable establishment. Amid the disorders which are apt to accompany a violent revolution, there may be some excuse for the exercise of such irregular and arbitrary powers as would be altogether inadmissible and intolerable in times of peace and tranquillity.
It was thought proper, therefore, by the unanimous voice of both houses of parliament, to abolish those courts; a measure, which the changes in the state of society would have recommended even at a time when no danger was apprehended from the encroachments of prerogative; but which, in the present circumstances of the nation, and under the impression made by the conduct and temper of the monarch, appeared immediately and indispensably necessary.
To all these important bills the king was prevailed upon to give the royal assent; and if he had done nothing, in the mean time, to call in question the sincerity of his compliances, it is probable that parliament, and the nation, would have been satisfied with the redress which they had procured, and with<258> the amendments on the constitution which had been introduced. But they soon found reason to believe, that, in these concessions, the monarch was far from being sincere. When Charles called this parliament, he must have expected a good deal of clamour; that grievances would echo from every quarter; and that liberal promises of redress and amendment, as a previous step to obtaining supplies, would be unavoidable. For all this, it is not unlikely, he was prepared; and had made a virtue of necessity. But when he saw that the regulations proposed by parliament struck at the root of all his projects; carried their defensive operations into all the departments of the state; and would effectually prevent his recurring to those expedients which he had formerly employed in the extension of his prerogative, he was thrown into the utmost consternation and perplexity. Parliament had now shewn that they would grant no money except upon their own terms; and such was the tide of popular opinion, that, without their consent, no considerable supplies could be expected. There seemed only to remain, therefore, in his present situation, the alterna-<259>tive of abandoning altogether his design to change the constitution, or of endeavouring, by some desperate enterprize, to extricate himself from the surrounding difficulties.
The Scottish army, which, after its success, had penetrated into England, and still remained in the country, had not only been the cause of summoning the present parliament; but also, by its well known disposition to support the popular party, had contributed to promote the vigorous and spirited resolutions of that assembly. The English forces, on the other hand, were not yet disbanded; and though their late discomfiture had been chiefly imputed to their not being hearty in the quarrel, it was believed that, by sowing a national jealousy between the two armies, and by representing parliament as partial to the Scots, the English might be gained over to the interest of the king. To this end a conspiracy was formed by several military officers of distinction,31 together with certain agents employed by the queen; and it was concerted, as there is good reason to believe, that the English army should be brought up to London, in order to take possession of the tower, to overawe the<260> parliament, and to procure a permanent settlement of the king’s revenue. As the plan was never carried into execution, some doubts have arisen concerning the precise view and intention of the conspirators. But that they intended, in some shape or other, to employ the army for the purpose of preventing the two houses of parliament from prosecuting the measures in which they were engaged; that they meant to controul the deliberations of the legislature, by the terrors, or by the actual interference of a military force, there can be no room to doubt. It appears also to be proved beyond the shadow of controversy, notwithstanding the awkward attempts of some authors to conceal or disguise the fact, that this project was communicated to the king, and carried on with his approbation and concurrence.* <261>
The discovery of this plot, which happened while the king was apparently pursuing a system of conciliation with his great council, and was pretending heartily to agree in the schemes proposed for the redress of grievances, opened a scene of dissimulation and perfidy, which could not fail to excite the most alarming apprehensions. What confidence could be reposed in the professions of a prince who solicited, in secret, the assistance of the military power, to deliver him from those regulations and measures with which he publicly expressed his entire satisfaction?
This incident was followed immediately by the insurrection of the Roman catholics<262> in Ireland, and the massacre of their protestant fellow subjects. Whether Charles had promoted and instigated this insurrection, as was pretended by the insurgents, appears not very easy to determine. That he had any share in the bloody tragedy which was acted upon that occasion, his bitterest enemies have never alleged. But, considering the views of this monarch, it was natural to suspect, that he secretly wished the Roman catholics, to whom he had shewn so much favour, should take up arms in defence of his prerogative; or even that he might propose to reap some advantage, by having a pretence for setting himself at the head of an English army to march against the insurgents. The transactions which he afterwards concluded with the Irish rebels, or which were concluded in his name, have rather a tendency to confirm this unfavourable suspicion.* But whatever opinion, upon this point, we may at present be disposed to entertain, it is not surprising, that,<263> from the character of Charles, and his equivocal behaviour, such reports to his prejudice, which were then universally, and perhaps maliciously circulated, should have made a strong impression upon the public, and increased the general anxiety and terror respecting the danger to which the constitution was exposed.
In their efforts to restrain the encroachments of prerogative, the parliament had been constantly opposed and obstructed by the votes of the bishops in the upper house, and by the interest of the clergy throughout the nation. The puritans, on the other hand, had been uniformly distinguished by their zeal in opposing the measures of the court, and in supporting the claims of parliament. It is no wonder, therefore, that the real friends of the constitution were irritated and provoked by the former, and warmed with sentiments of gratitude and affection towards the latter. The presbyterians and independents in the house of commons formed, at the same time, a numerous party, whose political principles were unavoidably warped by their religious tenets, and who, doubtless, were glad of any pretence for invading the hierarchy.<264>
But, independent of all party connections, and party prejudices, the circumstances of that critical period might naturally give rise to a question, how far the secular power of the bishops was consistent with sound policy; and whether, considering their strong propensity to support the arbitrary measures of the king, their interposition, as members of the house of peers, was not likely to prevent the establishment of any permanent system of liberty.
According to the principles of the ancient feudal system, the dignified clergy, being possessed of large estates, enjoyed an extensive jurisdiction over their tenants and vassals, and were, equally with the lay-barons, entitled to vote in the great assembly of the nation. By their situation they were, at the same time, independent, in a great measure, of the civil power; and having a separate interest from that of the king or of the nobles, they claimed a distinct voice in the legislature, and formed one of the three estates of the kingdom.
But the revival of letters, and the religious reformation which followed the improvement of arts and manufactures, produced a great revolution in the circumstances of churchmen,<265> and in the rank and dignity which they held, either as members of parliament, or of the nation at large. The dissipation of the clouds of superstition which formerly hung over the minds of men had greatly diminished the spiritual influence of those ghostly fathers. The dignified clergy were now in the appointment of the crown, and the whole order looked up to the sovereign as the great source of their preferment. So far were the bishops from constituting a separate estate and maintaining a distinct negative in the national council, that they were become subordinate to another branch of the legislature; and their weight was now uniformly thrown into that scale which it had been formerly employed to counterbalance. Whatever was the original purpose, therefore, of bringing the bishops into parliament, this could no longer be served; but, on the contrary, was likely to be counteracted and frustrated by their continuance in that assembly. If they had formerly maintained a proper balance between the different powers of the state, it was evident that, by a reverse of situation, their exertions were now calculated<266> to produce the opposite effect, and to destroy this equilibrium.
With equal reason it might be contended, that the higher officers of the army and revenue, as that the dignified clergy should, in virtue of their places, have a seat in parliament; since both of those classes depend equally upon the crown for their emolument and rank; and since the former are not in more hazard than the latter of being influenced by those motives of private interest which govern the greater part of mankind.
There is, at the same time, no pretence for allowing the church, considered as a great corporation, to send representatives to the national council. Supposing the ecclesiastical to be distinct from the temporal interest, and to require a separate management, an effectual provision was made in its favour by the right of holding convocations; which, at the period now under consideration, exercised, as will be observed more fully hereafter, the exclusive privilege of taxing the clergy. But in reality there is no ground for bestowing upon the church, or any other societies, in their collective capacity, any peculiar share in the legisla-<267>ture farther than is enjoyed by the individuals of which they are composed. If the inhabitants of a country are singly possessed of a due proportion of political power in the election of representatives, this will enable them to take sufficient care of their interest, even so far as they happen to be united in corporate bodies; and it should seem that such corporations have no just claim to any additional representation.
Had the bishops, on this great emergency, behaved with common discretion; had they shewn, in the numerous important questions which occurred, a decent regard to the public interest; had they not, in fact, shewn themselves to be the mere tools of the monarch, determined to persist, without shame or scruple, in promoting his designs; it is highly probable that their privileges, however inconsistent with the present state of ecclesiastical livings, would never have been invaded, and that no attempt would have been made to deprive them of their seats in parliament. But, as they had inlisted under the banner of despotism, their political power became a sacrifice to that limited monarchy which parliament had resolved to establish.<268>
In this particular, however, the opinions entertained by the real friends of the constitution being more various, the attempts to diminish the power of the bishops were prosecuted with less unanimity than had appeared in relation to the other measures for setting bounds to the prerogative. A bill was first passed in the house of commons to restrain persons in holy orders from intermeddling in secular affairs; but this was rejected in the upper house. Another bill was introduced for abolishing entirely the power of bishops, and of all other ecclesiastical dignitaries: this was unsuccessful among the commons themselves.
These attacks were followed by an accusation of high crimes and misdemeanours against the bishops who had been concerned in the establishment of the late ecclesiastical canons, and in other innovations with respect to the discipline of the church; and this charge was accompanied by a demand on the part of the commons, that those prelates, during the dependence of the trial, should be excluded from the privilege of voting in parliament. The resentment of the populace, in the mean time, occasioned such tumults, that the bishops,<269> finding it unsafe to appear in public, had the imprudence to present to the king and to the peers a protestation that all proceedings in parliament, during their absence, should be held null and void. This was considered by both houses as a violent attempt to subvert the fundamental laws of parliament; and was made the subject of an impeachment for high treason, upon which those prelates were taken into custody.
By the progressive measures which had already been executed, or which were manifestly in contemplation of the patriotic party, it should seem that the patience of Charles was entirely exhausted, and that he was no longer able to maintain the temporising system of dissimulation which he had hitherto practised. In spite of every prudential consideration, and throwing aside all regard to consistency of conduct, he now appears to have taken a resolution of yielding to the violence of his temper, and attempting by force to subdue all opposition. Having suddenly given orders that Lord Kimbolton,32 among the peers, and five members of the house of commons, should be accused of high treason, and having sent to the<270> commons to demand that these five members should be delivered up to him, to which message no positive answer was returned, he came next day with an armed retinue into the lower house; and having occupied the chair of the speaker, he demanded to know whether any of these members were present, declaring, “that he must have them wheresoever he could find them.”*
The warmest friends of Charles have condemned this measure as the height of rashness and folly; but they would gladly overlook the chief point of view in which it deserves to be considered, as affording complete evidence of the arbitrary principles by which he was governed, and of the secret motives by which, in all his transactions with parliament, he had hitherto been actuated. The guilt imputed to these individuals, it was well known, consisted of the share they had taken in the deliberations and resolutions of that assembly; and with equal reason the same charge might have been brought against the majority of both houses. So far was he, therefore, from regarding the<271> late acts of parliament, which he had confirmed by the sanction of royal authority, as binding either upon him or upon the nation, that he held those regulations to be the most atrocious offences, and looked upon every person who had been accessary to their introduction as liable to a capital punishment.
The views and principles of Charles were not more apparent from the nature of this accusation, than from the manner in which it was conducted. That the king should not, in any shape, interfere in the deliberations of parliament, was a maxim understood in the former reign to be fully settled. But that, with an armed force, he should come in person into the house of commons to intimidate its members, and, without farther ceremony, to seize and imprison those individuals who, by their conduct in parliament, had incurred his displeasure, was an exertion of despotic power and violence of which no precedent occurred in the annals of parliament, and which plainly intimated that the king, by his prerogative, might at pleasure dispense with all the privileges of that assembly.<272>
That the members of parliament were not exempted from prosecutions, either for high treason, or for other great crimes, was universally admitted; but when an accusation was brought against them upon points relating to their conduct in that assembly, it was thought requisite, as a preliminary step, that the house of parliament to which they belonged, should be satisfied concerning the grounds of the charge, and should deliver up its respective members to justice. If this form were not held indispensably necessary, the freedom and independence of parliament must be destroyed; as, in critical questions, it would always be in the power of administration, by sudden and groundless accusations, to deprive the legislature of such members as had rendered themselves obnoxious, and were most likely to frustrate the measures of the crown. No danger, on the other hand, could with reason be apprehended from this privilege of parliament; for it never could be supposed that, when a crime of an atrocious nature had really been committed, the majority of either house would be so corrupt, or so foolish, as to oppose the trial of its members.<273>
By the alarm and commotion which this extraordinary measure excited in the city, and through the nation, Charles was at length convinced of its imprudence; but he found that the impression which it had made was not to be erased by appearances of repentance, nor even by professions of future amendment. The bill for depriving the bishops of their seats in parliament now passed the house of peers; and to this the royal assent was given without delay. According as the behaviour of the king had created a stronger suspicion of his designs, it seemed necessary to lay a greater restraint upon his actions; and the commons accordingly rose in their demands. Nothing less than the obtaining some influence over the military force of the kingdom was now capable of yielding them satisfaction; and as, notwithstanding the disuse of the feudal services in the field, there still remained a shadow of the ancient militia, under the command of the lieutenants of counties, a bill was carried through both houses, containing a nomination of those officers, and rendering them accountable for their conduct to parliament. The authority<274> acquired by this regulation was intended to counterbalance, in some degree, the direction of the mercenary troops with which the sovereign was invested. But though Charles was desirous, by his concessions, to regain the confidence of the nation, he could not be prevailed upon to relinquish a branch of prerogative so essential to his darling schemes; and he rather chose to hazard a new rupture than give his assent to the bill.
Both parties now began to despair of settling their differences in an amicable manner; and looking forward to another, and what seemed a more effectual method of decision, endeavoured to collect a military force. The king retired to York, where he was attended by such of the nobility and gentry as were disposed to support his pretensions. The parliament, wishing to secure a magazine of arms, took possession, for that purpose, of Hull, by appointing a governor of the place under their own direction. The subsequent remonstrances, or proposals of accommodation, which passed upon either side, are of little moment; as no other benefit seems to have been expected from them than merely to<275> procure delays, or to create an impression throughout the nation, which might be favourable to the warlike preparations either of the king or parliament.
Whoever examines with attention the proceedings of this parliament, from their first meeting to the commencement of the civil war, will easily perceive that their views were somewhat different from those of the four preceding parliaments; and perhaps will find reason to conclude, that they did not continue, throughout the whole of this period, invariably the same. It was the object of this parliament to reform such parts of the constitution as were grossly defective; but their plan of reformation was necessarily varied and extended according to the pressure of circumstances; and in proportion to their discoveries of the hazard to which they were exposed from the temper and disposition of the king, they were led to insist upon a greater limitation of his powers. How far they were justified in all their demands, has been the subject of much controversy. To judge candidly of their behaviour, we must enter into the situation in which they were placed, and make<276> allowance for the difficulties with which they were surrounded; we must also make allowance for the passions under which they were obliged to form sudden resolutions; for the jarring opinions, the irregular influence, and the accidental humours of individuals; for the slippery ground of popular favour upon which they stood, and for the errors and prepossessions from which, in an age when philosophy was far from its meridian height, they could not be exempted. With these allowances they will not only be acquitted of any bad intention, but will appear entitled to a high degree of approbation, even to the warmest gratitude of posterity. However much they might be tinctured by enthusiasm and religious prejudices, they seem to have acted from pure and disinterested motives; and were neither seduced nor intimidated, upon any occasion, to swerve from those patriotic principles by which they professed to be guided. It would perhaps be difficult, even at this day, to point out a line of conduct more eligible than that which they pursued; and which, with no greater deviation from the former practice, would be better calculated to frustrate the am-<277>bitious designs of Charles, or to guard against the attempts of any future monarch for subverting the constitution.
That the parliament had, at this time, any intention to overturn the monarchy, and to establish a republican form of government, there is no good reason to suppose. After all the regulations which this parliament introduced, the sovereign still remained in the possession of very ample powers. He still would have enjoyed a voice in the legislature. He would still have exercised the power of collecting and disposing of the public revenue at his discretion. He would still have remained the fountain of honour; would have nominated all the judges during pleasure; and have had the sole privilege of declaring peace and war, with that of levying and commanding all the mercenary forces of the kingdom. In a word, his direct authority would have been more absolute than that of the British monarch at present. The patriots of that day overlooked a variety of limitations upon the crown, which the more enlarged experience of a later period has taught the English nation to establish. They had no thought of a permanent<278> provision, to prevent extravagance and bad economy in the expenditure of public money. They suggested no restriction with respect to the number of standing forces maintained in time of peace. Though they prohibited the king from extending martial law to the whole community, they put no restraint upon him in the application of that system to the army. They made no attempt to secure the independence of judges, by fixing their nomination for life. Having no suspicion of any undue influence which the king might obtain over parliaments, they permitted him to continue the same parliament as long as he pleased. In all these particulars, it was found necessary to make additional regulations upon the accession of William the Third; from which it may with reason be inferred, that the parliament which met in the latter part of the year 1640, instead of being liable to the censure of doing too much, was rather exposed to that of having done too little, for preventing the encroachments of prerogative.
With respect to the conduct of Charles during this period, we meet with no important variation: The same arbitrary system in-<279>variably pursued, and by the same unscrupulous means of dissimulation and duplicity. To those, indeed, who look no further than the immediate transactions, and who are unable to trace the intention and motives of the parties, it may seem that the ground of the dispute had been changed; while parliament was labouring to introduce a set of palpable innovations; and the king, who certainly consented to these with reluctance, is presented to us in the light of a secret friend to the old constitution. This is the aspect of the controversy, which those authors who attempt to excuse or justify the monarch,33 are at great pains to exhibit, and to which they would willingly confine the attention of the reader. They endeavour to conceal, or to keep out of view, the former measures of the sovereign, by which he had subverted the fundamental laws of the kingdom, and the evidence which had occurred of his obstinate resolution to persist in the same designs. Thus they impute to parliament the offences, in reality, committed by the king; and represent as violations of the constitution the regulations which had become absolutely necessary for its preservation;<280> that is, they consider as a poison the antidote given to prevent its baneful effects.
Of the Reign of Charles the First, from the Commencement of the Civil War to his Death.
The progress of the civil war was productive of many and great alterations, both in the state of the contending parties, and in the temper and disposition of the nation. After the king and parliament had appealed to the sword, as the sole arbiter of their differences, they were no longer capable of retreating; and it was vain to shrink from a decision which must render the one or the other party completely triumphant. Both became sensible that their all was at stake; and that nothing but a decisive victory could either support their respective claims, or ensure their personal safety. From their mutual exertions in prosecuting the quarrel, and from the dangers and bad treatment to which they were continually exposed,<281> their passions were daily inflamed and rendered more furious; while every new advantage, upon either side, becoming the source of exultation and oppression in the one party, and of provocation and resentment to the other, contributed to widen the breach between them, and afforded fresh fuel to their mutual animosities.
The progressive measures which, during the whole reign of James, and in the former part of that of Charles, were gradually adopted by parliaments, have already been pointed out. Before the year 1640, those great councils appear to have stood altogether upon the defensive, and to have aimed at nothing further than barely to defend the ancient modes of government. From the meeting of what is called the Long Parliament, the abuses committed by the king had given rise to different views, and were thought to require more effectual precautions for securing the liberties of the people. The various wheels and springs of the constitution having, from negligence, gone into disorder, or being, from the inexperience of the original artificers, left, in some particulars, inaccurate and imperfect, the opportunity<282> which then offered was accounted highly favourable, for repairing the state machine, and for removing its defects or imperfections. Men who entertained this opinion were friends to the monarchy, while they attempted to impose new limitations upon the monarch; and were anxious to preserve the spirit and principles of the constitution, though they contended that, in several of its parts, a reformation was indispensably necessary.
How far the pruning hand of a reformer should be permitted was a difficult question; about which even speculative reasoners might easily differ; and upon which men who had opposite interests were by no means likely to agree. When all hopes of accommodation, upon this point, were completely blasted, when both king and parliament had recourse to arms, the popular party were pushed on to greater extremities, and embraced a bolder system of reformation. The opposition to the crown had proved so ineffectual; the power, the influence, and the resources of the king were so extensive; and the artifices by which he might elude the controul of the legislature, and undermine the privileges of the people,<283> had been found so numerous and so various, that every attempt to confine the prerogative within due bounds, was in danger of being regarded as desperate. To many it appeared that the old constitution was no longer tenable, and that the only method of preventing the abuses of regal power was to abolish it altogether. The exaltation, it was observed, of an individual to the rank of a sovereign prince proves commonly such an incentive to ambition, as renders him impatient of restraint, and dissatisfied with any thing less than absolute dominion. Accustomed to the high station in which he is placed, and having received it through a long line of ancestors, he is apt to look upon it as his birthright; and instead of conceiving it to be an office derived ultimately from the consent of the people, or bestowed upon him for their benefit, he is disposed to consider it in the light of a private estate, intended for his own use, and to be enjoyed at his discretion. By the natural order of things; that is, by the disposition of Providence, it appears to be his province to command, as it is that of his subjects to obey; and every effort, upon their part, to limit his<284> authority, is regarded by him as an act of rebellion, which, in duty to himself and his posterity, and in the capacity of the vice-gerent of heaven, he is bound to elude by artifice or repel by force.
To avoid these dangers to liberty, with which recent events had strongly impressed men’s minds, it was by some thought requisite to abolish the kingly office altogether, and these republican doctrines came to be propagated especially by men of knowledge and speculation, who reasoned upon the general principles of government, and compared the different political systems which have taken place in different ages and countries. Those who consider the usual incitements to genius will not be surprised to find, that, amidst all the disorders of that period, the number of speculative reasoners upon government was far from being inconsiderable. The important disputes, and violent struggle in which a great part of the nation was engaged, by awakening a spirit of activity and enterprise, contributed to accelerate, instead of retarding the pursuits of science and literature; and by opening to men of letters a wide field of am-<285>bition, excited them to cultivate their talents, and to bring forward their learning to the public. To the operation of such causes we may, in part at least, refer the political treatises of Milton,34 which breathe that ardent love of liberty, and that vehement spirit of invective, to be expected from the sublime author of Paradise Lost; at the same time that they are apt, on some occasions, to disgust the reader by an appearance of prejudice and prepossession, and by an air of confidence and arrogance which runs throughout those performances.
During the horrors of the civil war, a number of philosophers, men totally free from the religious enthusiasm and party prejudices of the times, are said to have employed themselves in conversing and reasoning upon political subjects. After the death of the king, these persons were formed into a regular society, for examining and discussing the most important questions concerning the best form of a commonwealth, and the advantages or disadvantages of such forms as had, in different periods of the world, been reduced into practice. The Oceana, and other discourses,<286> published by Mr. Harrington;35 appear to have been, partly, the fruit of those lucubrations. These writings discover an extensive knowledge of history, the most liberal views with respect to government, a thorough acquaintance with the true principles of democracy, and great skill and discernment in accommodating those principles to the peculiar circumstances of the English nation.
The chief instances of popular government, which had fallen under the experience of that age, were the celebrated republics of Greece and Rome; which, for the most part, were established among a handful of people inhabiting a narrow district; in most cases, a single town with its dependencies. In these very limited states, there was little inconvenience or difficulty in convening the whole people to deliberate on public affairs, and to exercise the supreme powers of government. The legislative power, therefore, together with a considerable part of the executive, was commonly lodged in the great body of the people; though the privilege of proposing the subjects of deliberation to the legislative assembly was often committed, exclusively, to a smaller<287> council, or senate, composed of the higher order of citizens, or elected by the legislative body itself. A constitution of this nature was evidently impracticable in a large community, the members of which were spread over an extensive country. In a great nation, like that of England, the assembling of the whole people to make laws, or to deliberate upon the national business, would produce a meeting so numerous and disorderly, as must be incapable of any regular procedure, and liable to endless disorders. But, fortunately, in Britain, the custom of convening the representatives of the people, as a constituent part of the legislature, had been long established; and upon this principle Harrington, and the other speculative politicians of that time, laid the foundation of that commonwealth which they recommended to their fellow citizens. They proposed that the supreme powers of government should be committed to a body of representatives, chosen by the nation at large, in the manner which appeared the best calculated to prevent the effects of bribery and undue influence upon the electors; and in such a moderate number as might enable them to main-<288>tain the utmost regularity in their proceedings, and to extend their care and superintendence to every department of administration. By this expedient it was thought, that the evils incident to kingly government on the one hand, and to pure democracy on the other, at least in the shape in which it had been exhibited in the ancient republics, might be equally avoided. The dangers arising from the ignorance, the prejudices, the violence, and confusion, of a large tumultuary assembly were effectually precluded; while the interest of the people at large was understood to be sufficiently guarded by that controul and influence over their commissioners, which, from the frequency of elections, they might be expected to retain.
The commencement and progress of the civil war had an effect, no less remarkable, with respect to the religious, than with respect to the political sentiments of the nation. From the increasing heat of controversy, and according as the adversaries of the king had been more successful, the opposition to the hierarchy became, of course, more violent. For some time after the accession of James, the<289> Puritans, under which denomination were comprehended all the protestant dissenters, who were, for the most part, distributed into the two great branches of presbyterians and independents, were contented with liberty of conscience, and with an indulgence in their peculiar modes of worship. But the continuance of the controversy suggested other views to those two orders of sectaries, and inspired them with higher pretensions. After the meeting of the long parliament, the presbyterians, whose doctrines were supported by many leading members in that assembly, and particularly by a great majority in the house of commons, were encouraged to attempt the subversion of the established religion, by destroying all subordination in the rank and authority of churchmen. But when the king and parliament had come to decide their differences by force, even this religious reformation was held by many to be insufficient: the opinions of men deviated still farther from the old establishment; and the independents, who rejected all interposition of the public, either in the appointment of the clergy, or in the care and direction of religion,<290> advanced, with rapid strides, in consideration and popularity.
The different principles of those two branches of the sectaries produced a natural conjunction, as was formerly mentioned, with the respective systems of the two great political parties now in opposition to the king. The presbyterians, who, by abolishing the several ranks and dignities of the church, proposed to emancipate the clergy from their dependence upon the crown, as well as to diminish their influence over the laity, were disposed to support the system of those political reformers, whose object it was to check the abuses of prerogative, and circumscribe without subverting the authority of the sovereign. The independents, who advanced a step further in relation to the church, pushed also their political tenets to a proportional height, disapproved of all ecclesiastical establishments, and holding that every voluntary association of christians ought to have the liberty of choosing their own religious teachers, they were, in like manner, averse from every modification of monarchy, and were led to join those republicans who contended that all the<291> executive officers of the state should be under the appointment of the people.
As these republican doctrines were thus gaining ground in the nation, they made also considerable advances, though with less rapidity, in parliament. The leading members of that assembly, who had long acted in consequence of their professed opinions in favour of limited monarchy, were likely, the greater part of them, to retain their former sentiments. If some, during the violence of the struggle, were induced to aim at greater innovations, and to seek the total abolition of kingly power, there were others, corrupted by motives of interest, or alarmed by the ungovernable spirit of reformation which now discovered itself, who either seized the opportunity of joining the court, or thought proper to retire from public business. In a situation so new and hazardous, we need not wonder that several persons, who had hitherto withstood the encroachments of the prerogative, should now shrink from a contest which threatened to involve the kingdom in anarchy and blood; and should thus leave the field to men of keener tempers, and of more persevering re-<292>solution. Lord Falkland, and Mr. Hide,36 whose abilities and personal character entitled them to great consideration, and who, at the beginning of the long parliament, had stood forth in censuring the measures of the king, and concurred in the important regulations then introduced, deserted their former political friends; but though they were now enlisted upon the side of the crown, they still professed a regard to the ancient constitution, and a disposition to moderate the violent councils of Charles.
The proceedings of parliament were still more affected by the death of some of its principal members. Soon after the parties had recourse to arms, Mr. Hampden,37 whose inflexible integrity, and sound understanding, joined to his great modesty and vigour of mind, had procured him almost equal influence in war and in peace, and, without the appearance, had rendered him the real leader of the whole party, was killed in an action, while he conducted the troops under his command to repel a sudden attack of the enemy. The loss of such a man in that cloudy and tempestuous season, may justly be regarded as a<293> national calamity. He was, in religion, a presbyterian; and, in politics, a steady adherent of the old constitution. His death was followed, soon after, by that of Mr. Pym,38 whose talents for public speaking, and whose great experience in the business of parliament, had raised him to a principal share in all the important transactions of that period. His eloquence distinguished him above all his cotemporaries, and is said to have been productive of extraordinary effects. So far as we can form a judgment from the specimens that have come down to us, he seems to speak like a man who labours to convince and to persuade, more than to entertain; and though liable, perhaps, to the imputation of some formality and prolixity, he discovers great ability in bringing many arguments to centre in one point; and presenting such views of a subject as are calculated to lay hold of the prejudices, and to overpower the reason of his hearers.
Notwithstanding the extreme simplicity of manners and frugality for which Mr. Pym was noted; though, beside his private fortune, he enjoyed a salary as master of the ordnance;<294> and though he acted in a high department, at a time when parliament, in open war with the king, had occasion to manage considerable funds levied on that account; he died in great poverty, a satisfactory proof that he had served the cause with disinterested fidelity. So sensible were the commons of his faithful services, that they not only ordered a monument to be erected to his memory, and his corpse to be interred in Westminster-abbey, but also voted a considerable sum of money for the payment of his debts.
While time and accidents were thus producing great changes in the leading characters who had hitherto appeared upon the stage, the war opened a new scene of action, and gave birth to a new set of talents and accomplishments, by which individuals, formerly obscure and unknown, rose to consideration and importance. Eloquence, and dexterity in managing parliamentary business, were now degraded into a secondary rank; and, in a great measure, eclipsed by that courage and conduct in the field, and by those peculiar virtues and qualities displayed in the military profession. Men who, by serving in a foreign country, had<295> already acquired experience and reputation in war, were immediately placed in the higher military departments; while others, whose disposition and genius peculiarly fitted them for the service, found opportunities of signalising their activity, valour, or capacity, and were soon brought into notice.
The adherents of the king were chiefly composed of the nobility and higher gentry, men who, by their wealth and station, had much to lose; and who, in the annihilation of monarchy, and in the anarchy that was likely to follow, foresaw the ruin of their fortunes, and the extinction of their consideration and influence. The middling and inferior gentry, together with the inhabitants of towns; those who entertained a jealousy of the nobles, and of the king, or who, by the changes in the state of society, had lately been raised to independence, became, on the other hand, the great supporters of parliament, and formed the chief part of the armies levied by that assembly. The differences in the character and situation of the troops, which came, in this manner, to be arranged upon the opposite sides, were very remarkable. The forces of the king were<296> commanded by officers whose rank in life had led them frequently to serve in the wars upon the continent, and who possessed a degree of influence over their followers, which, in some measure, supplied the want of military discipline. The armies of parliament, on the contrary, were composed of an unruly and disorderly multitude, under the direction of persons, who, for the most part, had no natural authority corresponding to their stations, and who, unless in a few instances, appear, at the beginning of the war, to have been destitute of military knowledge. Mr. Hume has, with his usual discernment, pointed out the consequences of these different situations, which are such as might be expected. For some time after the war broke out, the king was generally successful, and in every struggle the forces of parliament were either worsted or rendered incapable of improving those advantages which fortune threw in their way.
It might easily be foreseen, however, that if the operations of the war should be protracted for any considerable period, the fortune and circumstances of the parties would be reversed. The nobility, who supported the cause of the<297> monarch, were too independent and too jealous of each other to be reduced under proper subordination, and were fitter to act in separate pillaging parties, at the head of their respective followers, than to unite and co-operate in such a large body as the execution of a great enterprise might require. The parliamentary troops were in a different situation. Without any previous attachment to particular leaders, they acquired habits of submission to those officers under whom they had fought; men who derived their preferment, not from their birth or their opulence, but from their military services; and whom different degrees of experience, of capacity, and of success, had established in their several stations. As the forces of parliament comprehended the great mass of the people, we need not wonder that when they came to surpass those of the king in subordination and discipline, as well as in numbers, they should immediately obtain a decided superiority.
Among all those who took party against the king, it is natural to suppose that such as had taken up arms in the cause, and had, through the whole course of the contest, been retained<298> in the service, would be distinguished by their zeal, and by the extremities to which they pushed their system of reformation. The greatest part of these troops were, accordingly, independents in religion, and in the state, republicans. That original ardour which led them to take so active a part in the controversy, joined to the circumstances which, during the progress of it, could not fail to inflame their passions, had confirmed their aversion to all regal power, and to all ecclesiastical establishments, and had riveted their affections to an opposite system, both of civil government and of religious worship.
By a singular concurrence of accidents, the command of the chief parliamentary army, towards the conclusion of the war, was devolved upon an officer* of great integrity and worth, distinguished by his military talents, but otherwise (which daily experience proves to be no inconsistency) of slender capacity; while the real direction and management of those forces, together with their commander, was acquired by a leader of the most extraordinary abilities which that, or perhaps any age, has produced.<299> This was the famous Oliver Cromwell,39 whose character is universally known.
During those parliamentary disputes which preceded the commencement of hostilities, Cromwell, though a member of parliament as early as the year 1628, appears to have remained in obscurity. It should seem that, although the ardent enthusiastic spirit by which he was possessed, could hardly fail to be remarked, and to gain him credit with the party to which he was devoted, the inelegance and rudeness of his manners, and his total deficiency in public speaking, prevented his acquiring much reputation or influence. But no sooner had the war opened a new scene of action, than he began to display that uncommon genius with which he was endowed, and to assume that consideration and importance to which he was entitled. The troop which he commanded was immediately distinguished by superior discipline, and by good behaviour in every engagement. The intrepidity, vigour, and enterprizing disposition of its leader were no less conspicuous.† By his decisive<300> judgment in forming resolutions, and by his rapidity and steadiness in the execution of them; by his penetration in discovering, and his dexterity in managing the characters of his adherents and associates, he quickly rose to eminence, both as a partizan, and as a military officer. That he was originally sincere in his religious professions is extremely probable; though he afterwards employed the mask of piety to cover and promote his ambitious designs. How far the characters of a hypocrite and a fanatic are capable of being reconciled; or whether inconsistency be not frequently a prominent feature of the human mind, I shall not pretend to determine;40 but certain it is, that the consummate hypocrisy of Cromwell<301> was the great engine by which he procured the confidence of his whole party, and obtained an ascendancy over all their movements.
One of the first and most masterly of all the stratagems employed by this arch politician, after he had risen to a high situation, was the new modelling of the army, by which he secured to himself and his party the entire direction of all the forces of parliament. Towards the conclusion of the war, although a great proportion of those troops were of the independent party, there were still among them a number of presbyterians. The Earl of Essex, Sir William Waller, the Earl of Manchester, (formerly Lord Kimbolton,)41 with many other distinguished officers, had shewn an uniform attachment to the principles of that sect; and, however they might think that, in the present emergency, it was proper to limit the prerogative, were still the friends of monarchical government. While such persons remained in the army, they could not fail to be possessed of considerable influence; and Cromwell saw that it was necessary to get rid of them, in order to accomplish his designs.
For this purpose his friends suggested a re-<302>formation in point of military discipline; the neglect of which became a topic of universal complaint, and was considered as the immediate cause of many important miscarriages. A measure of this kind, so popular in itself, was warmly supported by Fairfax,42 the general, and by those who, not entertaining any suspicion of the secret motives by which it was dictated, had been the most active and zealous in the cause of the people. In the prosecution of this plan, it was artfully represented, that those who had a voice in parliament were possessed of authority and rank incompatible with military subordination, and, by the attendance in that assembly which their duty required, were disqualified for the exercise of other employments. A self-denying ordinance43 was therefore proposed, by which members of parliament were declared incapable of civil and military offices; and this regulation, by means of the popular clamour which had been excited, was carried through both houses. In this manner the leaders of the presbyterian party, who had long enjoyed seats in parliament, and had been the chief conductors of parliamentary business, were excluded from all share in the<303> direction of the forces. The army was immediately new-modelled, and formed into different regiments and companies, under a new set of officers; with which measure many of the presbyterian party, whom the late regulation did not affect, were so disgusted as to throw up their commissions. Cromwell himself, though a member of parliament, found means, by the solicitation of the general, to delay, for some time, and afterwards entirely to evade the resignation of his command. The decisive battle of Naseby, which was fought soon after the self-denying ordinance was carried into execution, reflected no less credit upon that measure than upon the personal abilities of its contriver.
After the king’s troops had been completely defeated, and when his Majesty found it no longer practicable to face his enemies in the field, he seems to have placed his last refuge in the opposition and discord between those different parties into which the nation was divided. He appears to have thought that, by availing himself of their political animosities, he might hold a balance among them, and still, in some measure, maintain his authority.<304> With this view, he threw himself upon the protection of the Scottish army, then at Newark; thinking, perhaps, that the Scots, from the concessions which he had made to them, from their ancient hereditary connection with his family, and from their being of late under some discontent with the behaviour of the English parliament, were most likely to afford him a favourable reception. It must be admitted, however, that whether we consider the principles of the Scotch covenanters, or the strength which they could muster in opposition to the English forces, there was no ground to expect that, either from inclination or from prudential motives, they would undertake the defence of Charles, or attempt to rescue him from the hands of his enemies: Nor can it enter into the wildest imagination to conceive that such an attempt would have been either just or proper; they were the most violent religious adversaries of the king; they were the allies of parliament; they had hitherto struggled with all their might, and had been very instrumental in obliging the former to submit to the demands of the latter. Would it not have been the height of<305> absurdity, and even of bad faith, now that their object was nearly accomplished, to change sides all at once, and, by a vain effort in behalf of the king, to assist or countenance him in refusing or delaying that submission? They were, no doubt, highly censurable in delivering him up to parliament.44 It was incumbent on them to take no advantage of the circumstance by which they had obtained a power over his person. From a punctilio of delicacy, they should rather have connived at the escape than have agreed to the surrender of their prince, who had fled to them for shelter. But to make that surrender an expedient for extorting the arrears of pay, which they could not otherwise have procured, was unquestionably a disgraceful transaction.
The leaders of parliament, meanwhile, had penetrated the ambitious designs of Cromwell and his associates; and, upon the termination of the war, thought it high time to free themselves from such unruly and turbulent servants. They had accordingly taken measures for that purpose. It was proposed that a part of the troops should be sent to Ireland, to assist in quelling the disorders in that coun-<306>try; and that the remainder should be dismissed from the service. These proceedings did not escape the notice of that powerful body against which they were directed; and their tendency was too manifest not to excite universal commotion, and suggest precautions for guarding against the danger. A petition was drawn up by the army to their general, to be laid before parliament, complaining of grievances, requiring payment of arrears, relief of widows and maimed soldiers, and an indemnity for past irregularities committed in the course of the war. To watch over their interest, and to secure unanimity in their future operations, they appointed a sort of military parliament, composed of the superior officers, corresponding to the house of peers, and of representatives from each troop or company, under the name of agitators, in imitation of the house of commons. To this body all disputes with parliament, and the management of all common concerns, was committed. The parliament afterwards voted that a considerable part of the army should be disbanded; and, to avoid the tumult apprehended on that occasion, gave orders that different<307> regiments or bodies of men should be separated, and receive their dismission at different times and places. But the military council were too sharp-sighted to obey such orders; and too conscious of their power to pay any regard to this resolution of parliament.
Upon the delivery of the king to the commissioners of the English parliament, a treaty was immediately set on foot between his majesty and that assembly for composing the public disorders, and settling the future exercise of the government. The schemes of the republican party required that, without loss of time, this agreement should be prevented; and therefore, by the contrivance of Cromwell, with concurrence of the military council, but without the knowledge, it is said, of Fairfax, an officer, with a party of soldiers, was dispatched to seize the king, and bring him a prisoner to the army. With this violence Charles was not displeased; as it coincided with his plans of managing the different parties, and afforded the prospect of another power, capable of controuling or counter-balancing that of parliament.
The seizure of the king, in this manner,<308> was an open declaration of war against the two houses, and was followed, in a short time, by the march of the army to London. Upon their approach it appeared that all expectation of resistance was vain. The city, after having taken a decided part against the mutinous spirit of the troops, was struck with a panic, and surrendered without attempting any defence.—The speakers of each house, attended by a number of members, deserting their functions, came to meet the army at Hounslow-heath, and to solicit their protection. The remains of parliament, confounded and dispirited by so general a defection of their friends and partizans, were, after a few fruitless attempts to maintain their authority, obliged to surrender at discretion, to repeal all their former offensive resolutions, and to yield an implicit submission to the military force.
Charles was highly satisfied with these transactions, and did every thing in his power to promote them. He had hitherto been treated with the utmost respect by the military leaders, and he believed that the exaltation and triumph of the army over parliament would, in the end, produce the re-establishment of regal<309> authority. He was, in fact, courted at this time by all parties, which had such an effect upon his spirits that he was heard frequently to declare, “You cannot do without me; you will fall to ruin if I do not sustain you.” Misled by this idea, he held a correspondence with every party, while, expecting to procure still better terms from their adversaries, he was withheld from concluding an agreement with any. But these delusive appearances did not long remain. As soon as Cromwell and his associates had completely answered the purpose for which they got possession of the king’s person, they began to think of delivering themselves from that incumbrance; and this they accomplished without much difficulty, by treating him with less indulgence, and instilling apprehensions that he was in danger from the soldiery. Charles, now intimidated, and disgusted with the behaviour of those whom he had so lately regarded as favourable to his interest, took the first opportunity of making his escape, and fled to the Isle of Wight,45 by the governor of which he was detained a prisoner.
The late violent measures of the army had,<310> in the mean time, stirred up a flame in the nation, and by shewing, at once, the extent of the military power, and the immediate purpose of establishing a republican government, had roused the presbyterians both in England and Scotland, and induced them even to unite with the royalists in opposing such violent innovations. The commencement of a new civil war interrupted, for some time, the operations of the republicans in modelling the constitution, and gave leisure for new efforts to conclude a treaty between the king and parliament. But the sanguine expectations of Charles, which had been raised by this exertion in his favour, prevented his acceptance of the terms proposed, and retarded a final agreement till the opportunity was lost. The raw troops collected upon the part of the king were soon defeated by Cromwell and Fairfax, who, at the head of their veteran forces, found nothing in the kingdom capable of resistance.
It now appeared that the republican party were determined to lose no time in executing their designs. The leaders of the army presented to parliament a remonstrance, in which they painted the crimes of Charles in strong<311> colours, and demanded that he should be immediately brought to trial. They, at the same time, gave orders to lay hold of his person, and to keep him under confinement. The establishment of a common-wealth required that the king’s life should be made a sacrifice; for carrying which into execution it was necessary that parliament should be laid under compulsion. By a military force, therefore, under the command of a Colonel Pride, forty commoners on one day, and on the day following ninety-one more of the presbyterian persuasion were violently secluded from the house.46 After this operation a clear majority remained in the republican interest, and there was no longer any difficulty in procuring from them a resolution to authorise the trial of Charles. This measure was, with disdain, rejected by the upper house; upon which the commons declared that the peers were no essential part of the legislature, and proceeded to execute their own resolution. It was in virtue of a commission, appointed by this junto of the commons, that Charles was tried, condemned and executed.47
The character of this prince,48 as there was<312> reason to expect, has been represented in such opposite colours, by the writers of different parties, that we can pay little regard, either to the panegyric of the one set, or the invectives of the other; and if our object be the discovery of truth, we must fix our attention solely upon that series of actions by which the eventful history of his reign is distinguished. At the distance from which we now survey the conduct of Charles, his misfortunes can hardly fail to move our compassion, and to soften that resentment which the whole tenor of his conduct is apt to excite. It is impossible, however, to overlook this glaring circumstance, that his misfortunes were, in a great measure, owing to his crimes. Disregarding the ancient constitution of the kingdom, he formed the design of establishing an absolute power in the crown; and this design he incessantly prosecuted, in spite of numberless obstacles and disappointments; notwithstanding the determined resolution, displayed by his subjects, to maintain their natural rights; and without being deterred by the immediate prospect of involving his dominions in all the calamities and horrors of a civil war. Nei-<313>ther can it be forgotten, that in the execution of his plan for exalting the regal authority, Charles was ready to practise every artifice, every species of dissimulation; that he paid little regard to good faith; and even scrupled not to violate the most express and solemn engagements. From the beginning of the dispute with his parliaments, to the commencement of the war, every concession to his people seems to have been made with the view of retracting it, whenever he should find a convenient opportunity; the same duplicity is equally observable in those transactions which, after his forces had been finally subdued, he attempted to conclude with different parties; and through the whole of his life, we often discover, in his public declarations, a mean system of equivocation and mental reservation, peculiarly unsuitable to the characteristical gravity and loftiness of his deportment.
It has been the fortune of Charles to have the history of his reign transmitted to posterity by one of the first philosophers of the present age;49 whose favorite object seems to have been to pull down the prevailing doctrines of the whigs, and to represent the peculiar opinions<314> of the two great political parties into which the nation is divided, as equally erroneous, and equally founded upon a narrow and partial examination of human society. This has given rise to a strong bias in favour of the house of Stuart, which had formerly been borne down by the tide of popular clamour, and has produced, in particular, a laboured apology for the misconduct of Charles; in which, it must be confessed, that the facts are, for the most part, fairly stated, and the general principles apparently just; but the particulars agreeable to the author’s hypothesis are so amplified and brought forward, and those in opposition to it are so contracted and disguised, as to present, upon the whole, a very artful picture, calculated to mislead an incautious and superficial observer.
In vindication of Charles, it has been suggested, that his misconduct proceeded from the notions which he had imbibed of the English constitution: that he followed merely the footsteps of his father, by whom he was taught to look upon himself as an absolute prince, invested by heaven with an indefeasible hereditary dominion: that he found this<315> opinion supported by the example of many of his predecessors, those especially of the Tudor-family; and that he was farther confirmed in it, by observing the absolute authority exercised by most of the cotemporary princes upon the continent of Europe. That the dissimulation which he employed, in the pursuit of his plans, must be imputed to the extreme difficulties and embarrassments of his situation. Conscious of the rectitude of his aim, and unable to accomplish it by direct means, he was reduced to the necessity of pursuing it by crooked artifices and expedients. In maintaining the sacred rights which, he understood, were committed to him, as the vice-gerent of God Almighty, he seems to have thought that the temporising measures, which he adopted, were imputable to his enemies, by whom he was driven into those indirect and fraudulent courses.
These observations, though delivered with such address and eloquence as mark the ingenuity and abilities of the author, are far from appearing satisfactory. Who, that acknowledges the happiness of society to be the great end of all government, can enter so far into the feelings of a tyrant as to listen to his<316> justification? when he says, “I mistook the nature of my office. I thought the people were created solely for my benefit, not I for theirs. I believed that they had no rights independent of my arbitrary will; and that their lives and fortunes might be sacrificed at pleasure to my humour and caprice. I supposed that I was entitled to maintain, either by foul or by fair means, by dissimulation and treachery, or by direct force, and by shedding the blood of my subjects, all those powers which have been assumed and possessed by my forefathers.”50
This apology, such as it is, appears more applicable to the leader of a band of Arabs, or of Tartar freebooters, who subsist by robbery and murder, than to the king of a civilized nation, in which a regular system of law and government has been long established. The barbarous chief is probably unacquainted with any other mode of living, but Charles must have known better. He had cultivated his understanding by acquired knowledge, was no stranger to the different forms of government which had existed in different countries, nor probably to the professed purpose for which they were introduced, or to the respec-<317>tive advantages which have resulted from them. He was no stranger to the history of his own country, and could not fail to know that it never was, at any period, subjected to a despotical government. He could not overlook those great charters which his predecessors had so frequently granted to their subjects, and which expressly ascertained the privileges of the people and the limitations of the prerogative. If usurpations were occasionally committed by particular sovereigns, or their ministers, these were always complained of; were generally followed by a redress of grievances, and sometimes by an exemplary punishment of the offenders. Though some of the Tudor princes exercised many arbitrary powers, and stretched the prerogative beyond the pitch which it had attained at any former period; yet even their example could give no countenance to the principal usurpations of Charles; and there still were certain limits in the constitution which those tyrants did not venture to transgress. They never ventured to assume the direct power of taxation, without the concurrence of parliament, nor to carry on, for any long period, the various branches of administration without the advice of that national council.<318>
With respect to the governments upon the continent of Europe, they were originally limited like that of England, and had of late been rendered absolute from circumstances peculiar to themselves, which could never be supposed to authorise an English monarch to introduce a similar change in his own dominions. If Charles, therefore, was misled from the circumstances of the times, we cannot suppose that this proceeded from an error in judgment, but must believe that the deception was produced, as is usual in such cases, by the false lights arising from the irregularity of his passions. It is unfortunate for the memory of this monarch, that his ambition was not of that brilliant kind which is fitted to excite admiration. It was not connected with any great view, either of public or of private aggrandizement, or accompanied with the display of great military talents, or of any splendid abilities. By overturning the constitution, he neither proposed to acquire the eclat of a conqueror, nor to extend the empire of his country, nor to raise her importance in the scale of nations. Stately and forbidding in his deportment, obstinate in his opinions, and inflexible in his measures, he seems to have had no other object than to establish that po-<319>litical system which co-incided with his temper and disposition; to have aimed at nothing farther than to obviate the hazard of contradiction, and supersede the necessity of recommending himself to his people by affability and popular manners.
To estimate the degree of understanding or abilities possessed by Charles is not very easy. The talents and capacity ascribed to him by his friends are supposed to have been chiefly displayed in conversation and in his literary compositions. But the authenticity of the latter, which has been much questioned, can hardly be ascertained in a satisfactory manner; and the opinion entertained of the former is liable to the suspicion of being tinctured by an admiration of his high rank, and by compassion for his misfortunes. During his conferences with the commissioners of parliament in the Isle of Wight, he is said to have acquitted himself in a manner that impressed his hearers with respect and veneration. That he understood those topics, which had been the study of his whole life, may easily be conceived; and that his abilities were of a cast which qualified him for speculation more than for action, there is good ground to believe.<320> Let it also be remembered that he was a king whose crown “had not yet lost all its original brightness,” and we may account for this veneration without supposing any thing extraordinary. It is at least certain that the whole course of his public conduct exhibits one continued scene of arrogance, meanness, inconsistency, and imprudence. His extravagant claims were advanced with heat and precipitation, and supported with eagerness and violence, until the nation was alarmed and thrown into a ferment; after which he had recourse to apparent submission, to humiliating compliances, and to hypocritical professions. Those who endeavour to palliate the errors of his government, observe that he suffered himself to be guided by persons of much inferior capacity to his own. But this, in a temper so little influenced by the warmth of affection, affords a certain proof of the want of discernment. There is no doubt that his measures were frequently directed by ministers, whose views he ought to have distrusted; and by the queen, whose religious principles both excited the jealousy of the English nation, and subjected her to an influence of which he had reason to be apprehensive.<321>
The private virtues of Charles have been justly the subject of commendation. Sober and temperate, he set before his people an important example of decency and regularity of manners; while, by his taste in the fine arts, and by his attention to reward the exertions of genius, he was of signal service in promoting useful improvements. Though incessantly actuated by the love of power, and much irritated by opposition, he was not violent in his resentments, nor in his temper, unforgiving and revengeful. Had he been able quietly to obtain an unlimited authority, it is not likely that he would have been guilty of great excesses in the exercise of it. Neither does he seem, on the other hand, to have been animated with much generosity towards his friends, or to have felt a strong attachment to any of those favourites, who suffered in his cause, and in whose judgment he had placed an implicit confidence. From his lofty ideas of the sacred character with which he was invested, he probably thought that his subjects in sacrificing their lives and fortunes to his conveniency, did no more than their duty;<322> and that of consequence no returns of gratitude, upon that account, were due to them.
The enthusiasm inspired by an opinion of his own dignity and self-importance, enabled him to support with becoming decency, and even with magnanimity, the sad reverse of fortune which he experienced in the latter part of his reign; and contributed to the display of that patience, resignation, and meekness, with which he bore the insults and indignities of his unfeeling enemies.
The death of Charles appears to have struck all Europe with terror and astonishment. The execution of a king upon a public scaffold, and with all the forms of judicial procedure, at a period when the state of society had begun to mitigate the severity of penal laws, and had also very generally introduced a despotical government, was a measure which ran counter to the ordinary course of political events. It was beheld like that phenomenon, which
With regard to the justice of this measure, it should seem, that at this distance of time, when the animosities and prejudices of that age have in a great measure subsided, there is little room, among such as are qualified to judge, for any considerable difference of opinion; but we consider this prince merely in the light of a private individual, and compare his conduct with that of other criminals, there can, I should think, be no doubt that he merited the highest punishment. If rapine and murder are accounted capital crimes, what shall we say of that ambition, which breaks down, at once, all the barriers of personal security; overturns the whole fabric of the constitution; establishes the dominion of arbitrary will in place of legal restraint; and, in seeking to attain this object, destroys the lives and fortunes of thousands!
But the situation of a sovereign is so different from that of private individuals, and an attempt to punish him is attended with such complicated disorders, that the only circumstance which ought to regulate the interference of government, in such cases,<324> must be the consideration of public utility. Was the trial and condemnation of Charles regulated by this consideration? Was it a measure of public expediency? Was it calculated to remove disorders; to improve the constitution; to restore tranquillity? That it was not absolutely necessary for the preservation of the liberties of the people, must, I think, be admitted; for the spirit of the king was so reduced by his misfortunes, that he would, probably, have submitted to any restrictions; he would even have consented, it is said, that the crown should be directly transmitted to the prince of Wales, under the management of a regency. By rejecting such terms, it was manifest, that the leaders of the prevailing party had abandoned every idea of improving the old government, and had resolved, that monarchy, in every shape, and under any limitations whatever, should be entirely exploded. The trial and execution of Charles was doubtless intended for the purpose of introducing a republican form of government; and according as we hold such a revolution to have been expedient<325> or the contrary, we shall be led to condemn, or approve of that measure.
Concerning the general question, whether a government of this nature was, at that period, accommodated to the circumstances of the English nation, it may be difficult to form a decisive opinion. Many politicians have asserted, that a republican constitution is peculiarly adapted to a small state, and cannot be maintained in a large community. This doctrine seems to have arisen from a view of the ancient republics, in which the whole people composed the legislative assembly; and is evidently inapplicable to those modern systems of democracy, in which the legislative power is committed to national representatives. Nothing is more common than for philosophers to be imposed upon by the different acceptation of words. The nations of antiquity having no notion of a representative government, countries of large extent were subjected universally to an arbitrary and slovenly despotism; and it was only in a few small states that it was thought practicable for the mass of the people to retain, in their own<326> hands, the supreme powers of public administration. The expedient, employed first in modern times, of substituting representatives, in place of the whole people, to exercise the supreme powers in the state, has removed the difficulty of communicating a popular constitution to countries of a great extent; as it may prevent the legislative assembly from being too numerous, either for maintaining good order in its deliberations, or for superintending the conduct of the chief executive officers.
If, by a republic, is meant a government in which there is no king, or hereditary chief magistrate, it should seem, that this political system is peculiarly adapted to the two extremes, of a very small and a very great nation. In a very small state, no other form of government can subsist. Suppose a territory, containing no more than 30,000 inhabitants, and these paying taxes, one with another, at the rate of thirty shillings yearly; this would produce a public revenue, at the disposal of the crown, amounting annually to 450,000 l. a sum totally insufficient for supporting the dignity and autho-<327>rity of the crown, and for bestowing on the king an influence superior to that which might be possessed by casual combinations of a few of his richest subjects.
Suppose, on the other hand, a territory so extensive and populous as to contain thirty millions of inhabitants, paying taxes in the same proportion; this, at the free disposal of a king, would bestow upon him an annual revenue, so enormous as to create a degree of patronage and influence which no regulations could effectually restrain, and would render every attempt to limit the powers of the crown in a great measure vain and insignificant. In such a state, therefore, it seems extremely difficult to maintain the natural rights of mankind otherwise than by abolishing monarchy altogether. Thus, in a very small state, a democratical government is necessary, because the king would have too little authority; in a very great one, because he would have too much. In a state of moderate size, lying in a certain medium between the two extremes, it should seem, that monarchy may be established with advantage, and that the crown may be<328> expected to possess a sufficient share of authority for its own preservation, without endangering the people from the encroachments of prerogative. How far England was in these circumstances at the period in question, I shall not pretend to determine.
But, even supposing a republic to have been in itself, at that period, a preferable form of government, it could not, in England, be expected to produce beneficial consequences; because it was not supported by the general voice of the community. The death of the king, the preliminary steps to the establishment of that system, was neither authorized by the nation at large, nor by its representatives. It had no other authority than the determination of a house of commons, from which a great proportion of the members had been expelled by a military force. The peers refused their concurrence with indignation. Cromwell, and his associates, the leaders of the army, who had obtained the direction of the Independents, were in reality the authors of this transaction, which, we may safely affirm, was diametrically opposite to the opinions<329> and sentiments of by far the greater part of the nation.
In these peculiar circumstances, the execution of Charles cannot be approved of even by the warmest admirers of a republican constitution. The authority of every government is founded in opinion;52 and no system, be it ever so perfect in itself, can be expected to acquire stability, or to produce good order and submission, unless it coincides with the general voice of the community. He who frames a political constitution upon a model of ideal perfection, and attempts to introduce it into any country, without consulting the inclinations of the inhabitants, is a most pernicious projector, who, instead of being applauded as a Lycurgus, ought to be chained and confined as a madman.
Though, from these considerations, an impartial and candid observer will be disposed, upon the whole, to disapprove of the rigorous punishment of Charles, it seems impossible to deny, that it was productive of some incidental advantages. As a conspicuous example of the resentment incurred<330> by the exertions of arbitrary power, it contributed to intimidate the succeeding princes, and to render them less resolute in their violent measures. It was, probably, the memory of this event, which made James II. shrink from his attempts, and facilitated the accession of William III.
It is no less evident, however, that the unfortunate issue of the contest between the king and parliament, brought for some time a discredit upon the laudable efforts of that assembly to support the constitution, and supplied the partizans of despotism with an argument in favour of their doctrine of passive obedience, by shewing the disorders which may arise from all resistance to the will of the monarch.<331>
[1. ]These three periods are 1603–40, 1640–42, and 1642–49.
[2. ]For Hume’s discussion of the character and behavior of James I, see HE, 5:121–23.
[3. ]For a modern edition of Millar’s quotations from James I, see King James VI and I: Political Writings, ed. J. P. Sommerville (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 184 and 214.
[* ]King James’s Works.
[4. ]Edmund Waller (1606–87): English poet and royalist politician.
[5. ]Richard Neile (1562–1640) held many important bishoprics, including Rochester, Durham, and York. Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626), bishop of Winchester 1619–26, assisted with the King James translation of the Bible in 1604.
[* ]Hume’s History of England. [[For Millar’s quotation from Hume, see HE, 5:60.]]
[6. ]John Cowell (1554–1611): English jurist and regius professor of civil law at Cambridge. His Interpreter (1607) was a glossary of legal terms that was censured for its absolutist opinions.Adam Blackwood (1539–1613) was a Scottish Catholic legal philosopher trained in France and best known for his De Vinculo Religionis et Imperii (1575) and Apologia pro Regibus (1581), both intended as defenses of divinely instituted monarchical authority.
[7. ]In recounting the views of the Commons on the constitution, Millar is tacitly disputing Hume’s view that under the Tudors, the monarchy exercised a complete authority over government, not one that “met constant opposition.” See HE, 4:383–85.
[8. ]On November 5, 1605, a group of Catholics led by Robert Catesby attempted to blow up James I, the Lords, and the Commons at the opening of Parliament. Their agent was Guy Fawkes. The anniversary merged with earlier Protestant November celebrations to become a permanent commemoration.
[* ]See Rapin’s History of England.
[* ]In a remonstrance to the king, the commons assert, “That, until the reign of Henry the Fourth, all parliament writs were returnable into parliament; and that though chancery was directed to receive returns, this was only to keep them for parliament, but not to judge in them.” They conclude with observing, “that the inconvenience would be great, if the chancery might, upon suggestions or sheriff ’s returns, send writs for new elections, and those not subject to examination in parliament. For so, when fit men were chosen by the counties and boroughs, the Lord Chancellor, or the sheriffs, might displace them, and send out new writs until some were chosen to their liking; a thing dangerous in precedent for the time to come. Howsoever,” say they, “we rest securely from it at present, by the now Lord Chancellor’s integrity.” Parliamentary History, vol. v. [[The Goodwin versus Sir John Fortescue contest took place in 1604.]]
[9. ]The Palatinate was one of the electorates of the Holy Roman Empire. The Elector Palatine, Frederick V (1596–1632), married Elizabeth, the daughter of James I, and was elected king of Bohemia in 1619 in the early phase of the Thirty Years’ War.
[* ]Parliamentary History. [[See Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England, vol. 1 (London, 1806).]]
[10. ]Sir Edward Coke (1552–1634), English jurist and politician, author of the Institutes of the Laws of England (1628–44); Sir Robert Philips (d. 1650?) was confessor to Queen Henrietta Maria; John Pym (ca. 1584–1643) was a leading militant politician in opposition to Charles I; on Selden see p. 367, asterisked note.
[* ]Parliamentary History.
[11. ]George Villiers, fourth duke of Buckingham (1592–1628), courtier and favorite of James I.
[† ]Parliamentary History, vol. v. and vi.
[* ]See the journals of the house of commons, on the 16th and 18th of June, 1607. [[See Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England, vol. 1 (London, 1806).]]
[12. ]In 1625, Charles I married Henrietta Maria, the daughter of Henri IV, king of France (r. 1589–1610), and Maria de Medici.
[* ]Rushworth, i. 174.
[13. ]Gaspar de Guzman, Count Olivares (1587–1645). Appointed chief minister on the accession of Philip IV (1621), he attempted to reassert Spanish strength throughout Europe.
[14. ]John Digby, first earl of Bristol (1580–1653).
[15. ]Edward Hyde, first earl of Clarendon (1609–74), English statesman and historian. Clarendon wrote the royalist History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, which was not published until 1702–4.
[* ]History of the Rebellion, vol. i. p. 22.
[† ]Rushworth’s Collections.—Whitelock’s Memorials.
[* ]See Parliamentary History—Rushworth’s Collections—Whitelock’s Memorials.
[† ]See Parliamentary History—Rushworth’s Collections—Whitelock’s Memorials.
[* ]Parliamentary History, v. vii.
[16. ]Sir Edward Coke resurrected this formal appeal to the monarch in 1628. After grudgingly accepting it, Charles I ignored its provisions.
[† ]Parliamentary Hist. vol. viii. anno 1628.
[17. ]For Hume’s account of Charles’s evasive manner surrounding the petition of right, see HE, 5:197–200.
[18. ]Roger Manwaring (1590–1653), chaplain to Charles I; Robert Sibthorp[e] (d. 1662), chaplain to Charles I.
[19. ]George Abbot (1562–1633), archbishop of Canterbury, was suspended in 1627.
[* ]See the remonstrances on this subject, and the pleadings in the case of ship-money, preserved in Rushworth’s Collections, vol. ii.
[20. ]See Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England, vol. 1 (London, 1806).
[21. ]Sir John Elliot [Eliot] (1592–1632) was fined £2,000 and imprisoned until his death.
[22. ]Denzil Holles, first Baron Holles (1599–1680), a political opponent of Buckingham; Benjamin Valentine (d. 1652?), a parliamentarian who joined in forcing Speaker Finch to allow Eliot to read his resolutions against Charles I in 1629.
[* ]See Pym’s speech, Parliam. Hist. vol. viii. p. 427.
[* ]See his proclamation, 1629. Parliam. Hist. vol. viii. p. 389.
[23. ]Wentworth (1593–1641): created the first earl of Strafford, he was privy council and the most trusted member of Charles’s entourage. He was executed in 1641.
[24. ]A tax levied for naval defenses, initially only on coastal cities but later a more general form of taxation.
[* ]See the proceedings in the case of ship-money, particularly the argument of Sir George Crooke, one of the justices of the King’s-bench.—State Trials.
[* ]Rushworth’s Collections.
[25. ]John Hampden (1594–1643): English parliamentarian. He was prosecuted before the Court of Exchequer in 1637 for refusing to pay his share of ship-money, an event which made him extremely popular.
[26. ]Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888), 6:86.
[* ]Two judges, Crooke and Hutton, gave their opinion in favour of Mr. Hampden, upon the general merits of the question. The argument of the former, as delivered in the state trials, exhibits a clear view of the English constitution with respect to the ancient power of the crown in levying ship-money. Two other judges, Davenport and Denham, spoke also upon the same side. The former supported the right of the crown to levy ship-money, but thought the action void upon a point of form; the latter, at first gave his opinion for the crown, upon mistaking the plaintiff for the defendant, but afterwards corrected his mistake. He had from sickness been absent during part of the pleadings, and seems to enter very little into the matter.
[27. ]William Laud (1573–1645): archbishop of Canterbury and the first minister of Charles I after the assassination of Buckingham in 1628. He was executed at the Tower of London.
[* ]See, in particular, the account given by historians, of the punishment inflicted upon Dr. Leighton, a Scotch presbyterian; on Prinne, a lawyer; on Burton, a divine; and on Bastwick, a physician.
[† ]For printing and publishing without a licence, John Warton and John Lilburne were brought into the star-chamber, and upon refusing to answer interrogatories, were sentenced to a fine and the pillory. The latter, though a man of family, was likewise whipped through the streets, and otherwise treated with great barbarity.—Rushworth.
[28. ]After serving as governor of Massachusetts, Vane (1613–62) returned to England and entered the commons in 1640, later playing a major part in securing Strafford’s execution. From 1643 to 1653 he was, in effect, the civilian head of the parliamentary government.
[* ]See Clarendon’s Hist. Vol. I.—Whitlock’s Memorials—Parliamentary History, Vol. IX.
[29. ]An act of parliament used to convict political opponents of treason without benefit of a trial. The procedure was abolished in 1870.
[* ]Parliamentary History, Vol. IX. p. 2.
[30. ]For Hume’s similar account of the excessive punishment of Laud, see HE, 5:457. For the quotation from Charles’s letter, see Basilika: The Works of King Charles the Martyr (London, 1687).
[* ]See Life of Charles I. by William Harris.—King Charles’s Works, p. 138; Burnet’s Hist. Vol. I.
[* ]See Hume.
[* ]4 Edw. III. c. 14. 36 Edw. III. c. 10.
[* ]Whitlock’s Memorials, page 45.
[31. ]The so-called first army plot in 1641. The conspirators included Sir Henry Percy of Alnwick (d. 1659), brother of the earl of Northumberland, and Baron George Goring (1608–57), a key royalist military leader.
[* ]The greater part of the conspirators made their escape. Percy, one of the chief of them, wrote to his brother, the Earl of Northumberland, a letter dated 14th June 1641, in which he confessed the principal facts alleged. Goring, another conspirator, was laid hold of, and repeatedly examined by the commons. His deposition, though he endeavours to palliate his own conduct in the transaction, tallies in good measure with Percy’s letter. The draught of a petition, from the army to the king and parliament, had been privately communicated to Charles, and countersigned by him, with the letters C. R. in token of his approbation. See the whole of the depositions relative to this transaction, in Rush. Col. vol. IV.
[* ]See the facts respecting the accession of Charles to the Irish insurrection—Rapin’s history of England—Macauley’s history of England—Harris’s life of Charles I.—On the other hand, the vindication of Charles in Hume’s history of England.
[32. ]Lord Kimbolton: Edward Montagu, second earl of Manchester (1602–71). The leader of the Puritan faction in the House of Lords, he was among those arrested for treason in 1642.
[* ]See Whitlocke’s Rushworth.
[33. ]Millar’s allusion is principally to Hume, who emphasized that Parliament took the initiative against the Crown.
[34. ]John Milton (1608–74) became Latin secretary to the Council of State after the execution of Charles I in 1649. Briefly imprisoned at the Restoration, he used his years of political disgrace to write Paradise Lost (1667), Paradise Regained (1671), and Samson Agonistes (1671). His chief politico-historical works were the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649) and the History of Britain (1669).
[35. ]James Harrington (1611–77): political theorist and author of The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656). He formed the Rota Club for political discussion in 1659–60.
[36. ]Lucius Cary, second Viscount Falkland (1610?–1643): served in the Long Parliament (1640) and spoke against Laud and Strafford in 1641. After 1642 he supported Charles I. On Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon, see note 15 in this chapter.
[37. ]Hampden died 18 June 1643 at Chalgrove Field, fighting royalist forces led by Prince Rupert, the nephew of Charles I.
[38. ]On Pym, see note 10 in this chapter.
[39. ]Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658): English statesman who superintended the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649. From late 1653 he was Lord Protector, a title that gave him supreme legislative and executive power in association with Parliament and the Council of State.
[† ]It must excite amazement to find, in opposition to every other account, that Oliver Cromwell is taxed with cowardice, in the most pointed terms, by no less a personage than Denzil Hollis, a zealous presbyterian, and eminent leader of the commons. If any credit could be given to this charge, it would rather increase than diminish our admiration of this extraordinary man; since it would lay us under the necessity of supposing that Cromwell, by his dexterity, judgment, and political firmness, was capable of concealing and counteracting the effect of a personal weakness, apparently, of all others, the most adverse to a military reputation. See Hollis’s Memoirs, pub. 1699.
[40. ]Eighteenth-century accounts, such as Hume’s, generally agree in considering Cromwell a fanatic and a hypocrite. It was only later in the nineteenth century that a new, more heroic image emerged, principally in the works of Thomas Carlyle.
[41. ]Robert Devereux, third earl of Essex (1591–1646), commanded the parliamentary forces at Edgehill (1642) and took Reading (1643) before he was forced to relinquish his command in 1645; Sir William Waller (1597?–1668), a parliamentary general who held joint commands with Essex and Cromwell, and was also forced to step down by the Self-Denying Ordinance (see note 43 in this chapter).
[42. ]Thomas Fairfax, third baron (1612–71): English soldier and statesman, was given command of the New Model Army in 1645 and crushed the royalist forces at Naseby. Later he was instrumental in restoring Charles II in 1660.
[43. ]A bill passed by the Commons on 19 December 1644 stipulating that no member of the House of Commons or Lords could hold any military command. Only Cromwell was exempt.
[44. ]Charles I was given over to Parliament on 30 January 1647.
[45. ]Charles I fled to the Isle of Wight on 11 November 1647.
[46. ]On 6 December 1648, troops commanded by Colonel Thomas Pride arrested 45 members of Parliament and prevented another 186 from taking their seats in the House of Commons. The excluded members were mostly Presbyterians who were regarded as antagonistic to the army and favored a settlement with Charles I. The event became known as Pride’s Purge.
[47. ]The trial opened on 20 January 1649, and Charles was executed 30 January.
[48. ]To compare Millar and Hume on the character of Charles I, see Hume’s assessment in HE, 5:542–46.
[49. ]The reference here is to Hume, who lies in the background of this entire account. Millar represents Hume as producing a narrative favorable to the king by seeming to stand at a distance from both the views of the Whigs and Tories.
[50. ]See Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England, vol. 2 (London, 1806).
[51. ]The lines are from John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667), I, ii, 595ff.
[52. ]See Hume’s remarks in “Whether the British Government Inclines More to Absolute Monarchy or to a Republic”: “It may farther be said, that, though men be much governed by interest; yet even interest itself, and all human affairs, are entirely governed by opinion.”Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. Eugene F. Miller (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985), 51.