George Nugent Grenville Nugent.

Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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To cut off at one blow, by course of law, Pym, Hampden,
Fiennes, and the rest, before whose courage and skill he stood
in bonds, and from whose strong grasp he despaired of
wresting the power he had lost, unless by getting a pretext for
at once destroying them, was a tempting proposal. Charles
was intoxicated with the hope, threw off all discretion and
reserve with this rash bad man, and committed his conduct
at once to his dangerous guidance.

What evidence Montrose may have suborned, prepared, or
only promised, will probably never be known. According to
some writers, the wretched Saville was implicated in this plot
with a second forgery.* Ready as he always was to betray
any party or person who might be misled into trusting him,
he has left his character answerable, perhaps, for some acts of
guilt of which it was morally clear. Saville must have been
a man of no inconsiderable abilities ; for, universally suspected,
he M r as yet always employed as the busy agent of alternate
factions for their several purposes, though never far enough
in the confidence of any to be able to make his perfidy
profitable to himself.

The immediate result of these intrigues was the event so
well known to all readers of Scottish history under the name
of the 'Incident/ In itself, probably, little more than one of
those sudderTenterprises of feudal treachery and violence with
which the Scottish history of the seventeenth century abounds,
it has been covered by the actors and writers on both sides
with a veil of pompous mystery, through which only occasional
glimpses have been given, which have tended rather to
confound than discover the truth.

Suddenly, in the midst of Montrose' s darker designs, Lord
Henry Kerr, a generous-spirited rash young man, son toTTTe
Earl of Roxburgh, sent his defiance to Hamilton, proclaiming
him a traitor to God, his King, and his country, and saying
that he would make good ' his charge against him with his
' life/ Of this outrage Hamilton complained in his place in
the Parliament the same day ; and Kerr, being ordered by his

* Laing's History of Scotland.


father to go to the Parliament House to make submission,
went with the inappropriate accompaniment of six hundred
officers and soldiers under arms. The Parliament, in conster-
nation, raised the city guard, and, by proclamation, ordered
Kerr's followers, and the multitude who were flocking from
all parts, to disperse. For two days, peace seemed to be
restored; but, on the third night Argyle and the two
Hamiltons fled to Kinneil. The alarm pi' an assassination
plot irisfahfly flew IronTmouth to mouth through Edinburgh.
AVhat afterwards appeared on evidence was that a band of
desperadoes, most of them men of noble family, with the Earl
of Crawford at their head, and with a following of some
hundreds, had undertaken to arrest Argyle and the Hamiltons,
and to hurry them off to a frigate stationed in Leith Roads,
where they were to remain for trial on Montrose' s charges ;
and that Crawford was to assassinate them in case of resistance.
Thus much was communicated to them on the information of
Colonel Urrie, afterwards so well known in the civil wars of
both countries, to whom the plot had been laid open by a
Colonel Stewart, who had obtained his knowledge through
an identity of name with one of the conspirators.* Popular
belief assigned to the enterprise a much wider range. It was
said that Cochrane, one of Crawford's party, who commanded
a regiment stationed near Edinburgh, was to march upon the
city, to break into the Parliament House, to seize certain
suspected members there, to liberate Montrose, and with the
assistance of the Kerrs, Humes, Johnstones, and some other
borderers, to place Scotland entirely within the power of the
King ; furthermore, that Montrose was to procure evidence
against the Covenanting Lords on their trials, the other insur-
gents to furnish troops, and, after this first blow had been
struck, to accompany the King to England, and, with the
remnants of the disbanded English army, to secure the means
for dissolving the Parliament, and destroying the leaders of
the country party there. To whatever length the intention
had in fact gone, the Scottish Parliament forthwith called on
Leslie to take command of the city guard and such other
troops as could be collected and relied on, and to remain
under arms for its protection. The fugitive Lords, after some

* Lanerick's Relation. Baillie's MS. Letters, quoted by Brodie. Baillie's
published Letters. Clarendon's Hist. Hob. Laiug. Evidence in Balfour's
Diurnal.- MS. Papers in Advocates' Library, as quoted by Brodie.


negotiation, returned. The King, on his part, loudly com-
plained of what he represented as a plot forged by the leaders
of the Covenant to excite dissensions between him and
his Scottish subjects. But what the most tended to throw
suspicion upon the King, and to discredit his remonstrance
against Argyle and the Hamiltons, was his sudden attempt
to raise a large sum of money in Holland ; and above all, his
going down on the very evening of the discovery to the
Parliament House, with all the persons who had been named
by Urrie, and with five hundred or six hundred soldiers.*

That a violent seizure of the persons of the three Covenant-
ing Lords was intended there appears to be no reasonable
doubt j nor is it very improbable, on the other hand, that the
Covenanting Lords were eager to act in public upon the
impulse of their fears, and so to expose the machinations of
the plotters, and the double-dealing of Charles, instead of
thwarting the design and providing for their own safety, which
perhaps they might have done secretly, and without noise.
After all, it is likely that this plot, like many other state plots,
odious and dangerous in its intention, was exaggerated by
those whose safety had been threatened, partly from passionate
resentment, and partly for further political objects. Certain
it is that the news was instantly dispatched to London express
by the English Commissioners, and that it arrived there with
extraordinary speed, spreading consternation and panic in the
Standing Committee, and in the two Houses, who had just
reassembled after the adjournment. It was, doubtless, in
many respects, a fortunate discovery for the country party in
England. It gave manifest warning of a new course of
designs on the part of the King. It opened also to both
countries the whole secret of his dealings with Montrose ; and
it hastened the steps which the English Parliament had, before
the recess, been inclined to adopt for its own safety, but for
which it still wanted a signal and stateable justification. The
Commissioners now set out for London, to resume their seats
aiut report to the Houses. 1'ut, 1>< fure they lefi Edinburgh,
they addressed the King, praying him to return with them to
Parliament as he had promised. Nor did many days elapse
before he followed them; but, before his departure from
Edinburgh, again receiving the Covenanting Lords into

* Evelyn's Memoirs. Appendix. Correspondence between King Charles
and Secretary Nicholas.


seeming favour, lie gave a great feast to the Parliament.
Once more Scotland saw her ancient palace glittering with
the emblems of her independent sovereignty, and the descend-
ant of her kings, the origin of whose race she traced amid the
clouds of dim antiquity, now again ' encompassed with his
' kingdom's pearl/ and courting and receiving the favour of
his people. For the time, the Scots forgot all but that
Charles was their countryman and their King, and that he
was soon to leave them; and he left Scotland with more
applause, (notwithstanding their belief that he had so lately
borne part in a plot against their Parliament,) than met him
when he came to confirm their Civil Constitution and Eccle-
siastical Liberties. ' His Majesty departed/ says Heath, ' a
' contented King from a contented people/ *
^ But in the Sister Island a fearful storm at this time broke
forth, soon to rage with a fury that threatened the total and
bloody dismemberment of the Empire. It went near to effect,
at once, the extermination of the whole Protestant population
of Ireland,

The amount of the massacre actually perpetrated is variously
stated ; the fears of all the Protestants, the passions of many,
and the interests of not a few, tending to exaggerate the
number of the slain ; the exaggerations, of course, increasing
with the efforts of the Popish writers afterwards to underrate
it. The slaughter was not limited to the towns and villages.
It pursued its victims among the bogs, the mountains, and
the woods, to which they fled for refuge. All calculation,
therefore, of its amount must be, to a great degree, fanciful.
Thus much only is certain; that the purpose of the insurgents
extended to the entire rooting out of the Protestant settlers,
by an indiscriminate butchery of both sexes and of all ages ;
and that, for several weeks, it proceeded almost unchecked.
Dublin itself was saved by a mere accident. For a short
space, the rebels had made some show of humanity, until they
secured the co-operation of the Lords of the Pale, who, in
their detestation of the Puritans, and their remembrance of
the persecutions which for near a century had been endured
by themselves and their forefathers of their own faith and
country, joined interests and forces with the Irish of the
ancient stock, to crush the power of the English Parliament.

* Heath's Chronicle.

p 2


The next day after this union beheld the whole province of
Ulster in carnage and conflagration, traversed by columns of
armed men who were intoxicated with religious hate, and deaf
to every plea for mercy, marching upon points, and carrying
to all quarters at once devastation and death. Modes of
torture .too horrible for the human mind to contemplate, and
too detestable for description, were invented and executed.
The havock spread southward, abating only where it had
consumed the materials on which its fury had been exercised.
The Shannon became choked with the bodies of the slain.
The generous though turbulent nature of Roger Moore, the
chief who had first excited the rebellion, recoiled from the
barbarities which marked its course ; and, at last, finding his
authority unable to control the spirit which it had been
powerful to evoke, he, after a gallant protest, quitted the
blood-stained and dishonoured cause which he had undertaken
in the hope to give liberty to his country ; and he fled to
Flanders. The principal leaders of this hideous warfare were,
of the ancient Irish, Sir Phelim O'Xealo, Macguirc, and
Mamialion, .mil of thoM~<>f tin: Pale, Lord Gormanstpwn.
Tlicy ]ilc;i;lf(l a Koval Commission under a seal, surrepti-
tiously obtained, as some writers state (but this Mr. Godwin
satisfactorily disproves), from the foot of an ancient monastic
charter ; and putting forth as their justification the intention
to assist the King against his Scottish and English enemies,
and assured of assistance from the Roman Catholic powers of
the Continent, they assumed the ill-omened appellation of the
Queen's Army.*

No candid person, who has well examined the evidence, now
imputes to Charles that he connived at this atrocious insurrec-
tion; though, unhappily for him, his consent was proclaimed
by the insurgents themselves, and, not very unreasonably,
suspected by the English Parliament. On the other hand, it
cannot be disguised that countenance and facilities had been
afforded to them by his unjustifiable obstinacy in so long per-
sisting, contrary to promise, and in defiance of repeated
remonstrance, in keeping Stratford's Roman Catholic army
together. His communications with it had been detected and
published to the whole English and Scottish nations, with
great care, and some exaggeration ; and it had been disbanded ;

* Whitelocke. Birch's Relation of Glamorgan's Transactions.


after an ineffectual attempt on his part to transport it into
Flanders, there to remain, within call, in the hands of the
King of Spain. But, after so much tampering with so wild
and dangerous a body, the formal act of disbanding did not
disunite its elements. They instantly reassembled for the
most tremendous outbreak which has ravaged any country in
modern times, and which continued in Ireland, with various
and seldom abated rage, for upwards of two years.

On Charles's return to London, he found the state in the
greatest disorder, and men's minds in the utmost alarm.
During the_ whole adjournment, the Standing Committee, with
Priii 111 the chair, had been collecting the materials for a solemn
appeal to" OleTcountry. Parliament had met on the 20th of
October. The country was beset with danger and distraction,
external and domestic. The Scottish intrigues, the Irish
insurrection, France taking a part in each, Holland and
Denmark in secret negotiation with the King to furnish him
with military means against his subjects,* the Exchequer of
England in pledge for an unprecedented amount of debt, and
the public credit nearly exhausted. To finish the sum of
calamity and dismay, the plague was again breaking out
in several parts of Middlesex, and even of Westminster

The two Houses had, before the King's return, gone no
small way towards assuming the powers of an independent
government. Just before the adjournment, they had, for the
first time, entered on their Journals a resolution under the
name of an Ordinance against ' the raising and transporting of
' forces of horse" or foot out of his Majesty's dominions of
' England and Ireland ; ' J which, whether intended or not, by
its framers, to furnish a convenient precedent for afterwards
enacting laws on the mere vote of the two Houses, had been
in this case rendered almost unavoidable by the attempt of the
King to establish his Irish army in Flanders. To this, how-
ever, the royal assent was afterwards given; and it is remark-
able only as the first instrument bearing a name which, not
long after, began to signify an Act of Parliament passed
without the con-rut or authority of the Crown.

diaries, on his arrival iu London, proceeded as he had done
in Edinburgh. He applied himself first to pay court to the

* Newcastle's Letters. Duchess of Newcastle's Memoirs.
f Commons' Journals, Sept. 6. Ibid., Sept. 9.


City. As in Edinburgh, he met with extraordinary testimonies
of affection in return ; but, as in Edinburgh, he mistook both
the motive of these demonstrations and the nature of his own
popularity. He had never been personally disliked by his
people. On the contrary, they were anxious to mark their
affection towards him, perhaps also towards the due preroga-
tives of the Crown ; but they were equally eager, in all they
did and said, to separate him from his evil counsellors. He
believed his evil counsellors, and not his people, and weakly
and passionately concluded that the City would proceed to
support him to the utmost against his Parliament. He knew
not he would not be convinced that silently, slowly, but
irresistibly, was growing up and spreading a jealousy of all the
institutions of the country, except the courts of common law.
These had never been seen as instruments of tyranny, except
in the great case of the Ship-Money decision ; and that decision
had been struck off the Rolls, the Judges who had concurred
in it disgraced and punished, the precedent reversed, and the
patents of the Judges declared to be no longer held at the
pleasure of the Crown.

Charles was received as one who had power to act a great
part- at a crisis of great danger and difficulty; and, at such a
crisis, public bodies are always inclined to form sanguine
expectations of those who come with great power of doing
good. He was gloriously feasted in the City. In return, he
feasted the citizens gloriously at Hampton Court; but, scarcely
had they time to proiier their love and duty before it was made
matter of general discourse among the Court party that the
City was weary of the Parliament, and was prepared to support
the King alone. ' Whether/ says May, ' it begat the same
'opinion in the King or not, I canndTTell; but certainly some
' conceived so by actions which immediately followed, expressing
' a greater confidence against the Parliament than before ;
' displacing some from such trusts as they had conferred upon
' them ; insomuch that the City, presently after, finding what
' ill use was made of those expressions, were enforced to declare
< themselves, in a petition to both Houses, that, since some
' ill affected people had interpreted their loyal and ailVct innate
* attachment to the King as a sign that they would wholly
f adhere to him and desert the Parliament, they openly pro-
t fessed the contrary; and that they would live and die with
( them for the good of the Commonwealth. " After ""whicTiJTHe


' City, no less than the Parliament, did seem to be distasted
' both by the King and Queen/

Most men agree that the crisis of the Grand Remonstrance
was that at which all shallow Truce, all insidious compromise,
ceased between King and Parliament; and when secret jealousy,
intrigue, and machination were changed into manifest and
avowed enmity. There was no longer a chance left of restoring
the balance of the Constitution. All that remained was to
make choice between rendering up to the King, without further

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dispute, tin- whole of that arbitrary prerogative which he had
claimed, or giving the sovereign power of the Commonwealth
in trust roTne Parliament during the remainder of his reign,
in the hope of its being surrendered back whenever the purposes
of the trust should be at an end ; and that were to know
littlfToiThe nature of popular assemblies, once invested with
such a power.

It is a difficult question to determine at what period, after
the meeting of the Long Parliament, it might have been
possible for Charles, even if he could have been persuaded to
act sincerely, and under good counsel, to preserve the due
prerogatives of his crown by a course consistent at once with
his own dignity and with the spirit of wise concession befitting
the temper of the times and of the men with whom he had to
act. This only is clear, that, at the beginning, such a course
was practicable, and that now it was no longer so. No form
of constitution of which monarchy is a part, can preserve
liberty, nor can a free monarchy stand, where the separate
powers of king and people are employed to invade each other's
lawful authority. This, however, is to be observed of the
testimony of Clarendon : up to the time of the Long Par-
liament/ the whole course of his narrative and reasoning
are against the King; afterwards uniformly in his favour.
Upon the evidence then of him, Avho, of all men, wrote on
these matters with his affections the most strongly bound to
the cause of Charles, it is clear, with respect to the often
agitated question of ' Which party gave the provocation ? ' that
the course of aggression was begun by Charles.

The King having refused, when he left England, to appoint
any lawful commission for administering the sovereign power
in his name, the Parliament, in his absence., and under the
urgent alarm of the Irish rebellion, was not loth to issue an
ordinance for the raising of troops in that country. Charles,


on his return to his English metropolis, removed the guard
which the two Houses had by address obtained from him to be
placed in Palace Yard for their protection under command of
the Earl of Essex ; thus leaving them no better pledge than
his promise for their security, when appearances justified every
suspicion that one of those violent enterprises might be repeated
from which they had so lately and so narrowly escaped. He
appointed othertropps _to .fluarter at _their_ doors under the
orders oT Flic Earl of Dorset, an intemperate man, devoted to
tlTe^courT,"antT]Znown, most unfavourably, to the Parliament,
as a prime promoter of some of those cruel censures in the
Star Chamber, so lately denounced by resolution and reversed
by statute. In this difficulty, the Commons proceeded with
moderation and dignity. They directed the Speaker, by his
authority, to remove the guard, and required that, instead of
it, the" High Constable should provide ' a strong and sufficient

D' watch.' * They moreover voted a conference with the
LorcTs, touching the tumultuous assembly of people about the
Houses of Parliament. But here the Lords deserted them.
And at best, this precaution was but temporary. Their
permanent safety remained to be provided for ; for, at the same
time, the King had placed the Tower of London, with the
charge of the Mint, in the hands of UoloneTLunsfgrd, an
unprincipled desperado, who had signal^ecTTrhnselfDy many
acts of outrageous violence, one of which had nearly brought
him to the gibbet, and who was believed to be a ready instru-
ment for any lawless enterprise. Lims^po^^s_^ajewjdays
removed from this command, in consequence of au unanimous
address ; but, on the morrow of his dismissal, lie began to take
vengeance on the Parliament, and justify their opinion of him,
by marching down to Westminster Hall with an armed mob,
assaulting and wounding several persons, and threatening to
drag the members out by force. It was on the Tthjjf January
that both Houses prayed the King's consent to a bill for
placing the militia, both by sea and land, in the liands of
commissioners to be appointed by the Parliament.

The Lord Keeper Littleton supported this bill.f Selden, -
the highest constitutionaTautliority in the Hqu^e, opposed It.
Iirltuin^Tt-was not capable of any defence but that of the
overwhelming danger and necessity of the time. But, with

* Commons' Journal, Dec. 30, Jan. 1. t Clarendon Hiit. Reb.


equal vehemence, he resisted the King's commission of array ;
and, afterwards, to sanction by his example the expedient
which the danger and necessity of the time had imposed, he
accepted a commission of lieutenancy under the Parliament
for raising the militia in their behalf. To that clause in the
bill for pressing soldiers which denied the power of the crown
to press, save under the authority of a bill, he gave his entire
and eager consent. To this check upon an unlawfully assumed
power the King made furious and obstinate opposition, sending
a message, pending the discussion of the bill, to declare that
he would never pass it. A declaration which only produced
a remonstrance against the King's interference with bills in
their passage through Parliament.

In the Correspondence appendgd_to^the_djarv of Evelyn is
a letter from the Queen to Secretary Nicholas, j^oveinGer 12,
which shows that both she and the King were well aware of
the tendency of such a precedent as that of the first Ordinance,
even though justified by such an emergency as that in Ireland.
' I send you/ says she, ' a lettre for Milord Keeper, that the
' King ded send to me, to deliver it if I thought fit. The
' subject of it is to make a declaration against the ordres of
' Parliament which ar made without the King/

Meanwhile, on the 1 st of December, the Grand Remonstrance
was^presented to the^Tving. At "great te"ngTlTi7ancr wlfli~great
powerTTETlfummecI ~up"all the grievances under which the
Parliament and people had suffered throughout his whole reign.
Illegal imposts, monopolies, fines, and arbitrary imprisonments,
denials of justice by some courts, and oppressive jurisdiction of
others, Popish Lords in Parliament, and favour shown to evil
counsellors, all were presented at one view ; and it concluded
with a general petition that the prelates should be deprived of
their votes, that none should be entrusted with the public
affairs whom the Parliament might not approve of, and that
the escheated lands of the Irish rebels might not be alienated,
but reserved for the support of the Crown and the payment of
the expenses of the war.

On the different clauses a great and violent debate had
arisen. On the 22nd of November, the House Bad continued
sitting till "three in flic inornfng, having met at ten on the
preceding day, and having begun the debate on the remon-
strance at tliree in the afternoon. Some of the members,

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 28 of 45)