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of Commons nor the people were quite clear as to the justice of
that war, now that they began to think a little more about the
story of the Spanish match. But the king rushed into it hotly,
raised money by illegal means to meet its expenses, and en-
countered a miserable failure at Cadiz, in the very first yea/



of his reign, An expedition to Cadiz had been made in the
hope of plunder ; but, as it was not successful, it was necessary
to get a grant of money from the Parliament ; and when they
met in no very complying humor, the king told them, *' to make
haste to let him have it, or it would be the worse for themseh'es."
Not put in a more complying humor by this, they impeached the
king's favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, as the cause — which
he undoubtedly was — of many great public grievances and
wrongs. The king, to save him, dissolved the Parliament with-
out getting the money he wanted ; and when the lords implored
him to consider and grant a little delay, he replied, " No, not
one minute. He then began to raise money for himself by the
following means among others.

He levied certain duties, called tonnage and poundage,
which had not been granted by the Parliament, and could law-
fullv be levied by no other power ; he called upon the seaport
towns to furnish, and to pay all the cost for three months of a
ficet of armed ships ; and he required the people to unite in
lending him large sums of money, the repayment of which was
very doubtful. If the poor people refused, they were pressed
as soldiers or sailors ; if the gentry refused, they were sent to
prison. Five gentlemen, named Sir Thomas Darnel, John
Corbet, Walter Earl, John Heveningham, and Everard Hamp-
den, for refusing, were taken up by a warrant of the king's privy
council, and were sent to prison without any cause but the king's
pleasure being stated for their imprisonment. Then the ques-
tion came to be solemnly tried whether this was not a violation
of Magna Charta, and an encroachment by the king on the
highest rights of the English people. His lawyers contended.
No ; because to encroach upon the rights of the English people
would be to do wrong, and the king could do no wrong. The
accommodating judges decided in favor of this wicked nonsense ;
and here was a fatal division between the king and the people.

r'or all this it became necessary to call another parliament.
The people, sensible of the dangers in which their liberties were,
chose for it those who were best known for their determined
opposition to the king ; but still the king, quite blinded by hi;s
determination to carry everything before him, addressed them,
when they met, in a contemptuous manner, and just told them
in so many words that he had only called them together because
he wanted money. The Parliament, strong enough and resolute
enough to know that they would lower his tone, cared little for
what he said, and laid before him one of the great documents of
history, which is called the Petition of Right, requiring that the



free men of England should no longer be called iiDon to lend
the king money, and should no longer be pressed or imprisoned
for refusing to do so ; further, that the free men of England
should no longer be seized by the king's special mandate or
warrant, it being contrary to their rights and liberties, and the
laws of their country. At first, the king returned an answer to
this petition, in which he tried to shirk it altogether; but the
House of Commons then showing their determination to go on
with the impeachment of Buckingham, the king, in alarm,
returned an answer, giving his consent to all that was required
of him. He not only afterwards departed from his word and
lionor on these points, over and over again, but at this very
tjii.e, he did the mean and dissembling act of publishing his :5rst
aiicswer and not his second, merely that the people might sup-
pose that the Parliament had not got the better of him.

That pestilent Buckingham, to gratify his own wounded
vanity, had, by this time, involved the country in war with
France, as well as with Spain, For such miserable causes and
such miserable creatures are wars sometimes made. But he
was destined to do little more mischief in this world. One
morning, as he was going out of his house to his carriage, he
turned to speak to a certain Colonel Fryer who was with him ;
and he was violently stabbed with a knife, which the murderer
left sticking in his heart. This happened in his hall. He had
angry words up stairs, just before, with some French gentlemen,
who were immediately suspected by his servants, and had a
close escape from being set upon and killed. In the midst of
the noise, the real murderer, who had gone to the kitchen and
might easily have got away, drew his sword, and cried out, " I
am the man ! " His name was John Felton, a Protestant, and
a retired officer in the army. He said he had no personal ill-
will to the duke, but had killed him as a curse to the country.
He had aimed his blow well ; for Buckingham had only had
time to cry out, " Villain ! " and then he drew out the knife, fell
against a table, and died.

The council made a mighty business of examining John
Felton about this murder, though it was a plain case enough, one
would think. He had come seventy miles to do it, he told them,
and he did it for the reason he had declared : if they put him
upon the rack, as that noble Marquis of Dorset, whom he saw
before him, had the goodness to threaten, he gave that mar-
quis warning that be would accuse him as his accomplice. The
king was unpleasantly anxious to have him racked, nevertheless ;
but as the judges now found out that torture was contrary to



the law of England, — it is a pity they did not make the dis-
covery a httle sooner, — John Felton was simply executed for the
murder he had done. A murder it undoubtedly was, and not
in the least to be defended, though he had freed England from
one of the most profligate, contemptible, and base court favorites

Cwhom it has ever yielded.
A very different man now arose. This was Sir Thomas
entworth, a Yorkshire gentleman, who had sat in parlia-
Kment for a long time, and who had favored arbitrary and
lihaughty principles, but who had gone over to th-e people's side
lion receiving offence from Buckingham. The king, much want-
jiing such a man, — for besides being naturally favorable to the
liking's cause, he had great abilities, — made him first a baron,
(•and then a viscount, and gave him high employment, and won
I him most completely.

Ij A parliament, however, was still in existence, and was not
'to be won. Oa the 20Lh of January, 1629, Sir John Eliot, a
great man who had been active in the Petition of Right,
brought forward other strong resolutions against the king's
chief instruments, and called upon the speaker to put them to
the vote. To this the speaker answered, " He was commanded
otherwise by the king," and got up to leave the chair, which,
according to the rules of the House of Commons, would have
obliged it to adjourn without r.oing anything more, when two
members, named Mr. HoUis and Mr. Valentine, held him down.
A scene of great confusion arose among the members ; and
while many swords were drawn and flashing about, the king,
who was kept informed of all that was going on, told the cap-
tain of his guard to go down to the House and force the doors.
The resolutions were by that time, however, voted, and the
House adjourned. Sir John Eliot, and those two members who
had held the speaker down, were quickly summoned before the
.council. As they claimed it to be their privilege not to an-
swer out of parliament for anything they had said in it, they
were committed to the Tower. The king then went down and
dissolved the parliament, in a speech wherein he made mention
of these gentlemen as "Vipers," which did not do him much
good that ever I heard of.

As they refused to gain their liberty by saying they were
sorry for what they had done, the king, always remarkably un-
forgiving, never overlooked their offence. When they de-
manded to be brought up before the court of king's bench, he
even resorted to the meanness of havin2: them moved about
from prison to prison, so that the writs issued for that purpose


should not legally find them. At last they came before the
court, and were sentenced to heavy fines, and to be imprisoned
during the king's pleasure. When Sir John Eliot's health h/id
quite given away, and he so longed for change of air and scene
as to petition for his release, the king sent back the answer
(worthy of his Sowship himself) that the petition was not humble
enough. When he sent another petition by his young son, in
which he pathetically offered to go back to prison when his
health was restored, if he might be released for its recovery,
the king still disregarded it. When he died in the Tower, and
his children petitioned to be allowed to take his body down to
Cornwall, there to lay it among the ashes of his forefathers,
the king returned for answer, " Let Sir John Eliot's body be
buried in the church of that parish where he died." All this
was like a very little king indeed, I think.

And now for twelve long years, steadily pursuing his de-
sign of setting himself up and putting the people down, the
king called no parliament, but ruled without one. If twelve
thousand volumes were written in his praise (as a good many
have been), it would still remain a fact, impossible to be de-
nied, that for twelve years King Charles the First reigned in
England unlawfully and despotically, seized upon his subjects'
goods and money at his pleasure, and punished, according to
his unbridled will, all who ventured to oppose him. It is a
fashion with some people to think that this king's career was
cut short ; but I must say myself that I think he ran a pretty
long one.

William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, was the king's
right-hand man in the religious part of the putting down of the
people's liberties. Laud, who was a sincere man, of large
learning but small sense, — for the two things sometimes go to-
gether in very different quantities, — though a Protestant, held
opinions so near those of the Catholics that the pope wanted
\o make a cardinal of him, if he would have accepted that
favor. He looked upon vows, robes, lighted candles, images,
&c., as amazingly important in religious ceremonies; and he
brought in an immensity of bowing and candle-snuffing. He
also regarded archbishops and bishops as a sort of miraculous
persons, and was inveterate in the last degree against any who
thought otherwise. Accordingly, he offered up thanks to
Heaven, and was in a state of much pious pleasure, when a
Scotch clergyman, named Leighton, was pilloried, whipped,
branded in the cheek, and had one of his ears cut off, and
one of his nostrils slit, for calling bishops trumpery and the


inventions of men. He originated on a Sunday morning the
prosecution of William Pryne, a barrister who was of similar
opinions, and who was fined a thousand pounds, who was pil-
loried, who had his ears cut off on two occasions, — one ear at
a time, — and who was imprisoned for life. He highly approved
of the punishment of Dr. Bastwick, a physician, who was also
fined a thousand pounds, and who afterwards had his ears
cut off, and was imprisoned for life. These were gentle meth-
ods of persuasion, some will tell you ; I think they were rather
calculated to be alarming to the people.

In the money part of the putting down of the people's lib-
erties, the king was equally gentle, as some will tell you ; as I
think, equally alarming. He levied those duties of tonnage
and poundage, and increased them as he thought fit. He
granted monopolies to companies of merchants on their paying
him for them^ notwithstanding the great complaints that had, for
years and years, been made on the subject of monopolies. He
fined the people for disobeying proclamations issued by his
Sowship in direct violation of law. He revived the detested
forest-laws, and took private property to himself as his forest
right. Above all, he determined to have what was called ship-
money ; that is to say, money for the support of the fleet, not
only from the seaports, but from all the counties of England,
having found out that in some ancient time or other, all the
counties paid it. The grievance of this ship-money being
somewhat too strong, John Chambers, a citizen of London, re-
fused to pay his part of it. For this, the lord mayor ordered
John Chambers to prison, and for that, John Chambers brought
a suit against the lord mayor. Lord Say also behaved like a
real nobleman, and declared he would not pay. But the stur-
diest and best opponent of the ship-money was John Hamp-
den, a gentleman of Buckinghamshire, who had sat among the
"vipers" in the House of Commons, when there was such a
thing, and who had been the bosom friend of Sir John Eliot.
This case was tried before the twelve judges in the Court of
Exchequer, and again the king's lawyers said it was impossible
that ship-money could be wrong, because the king could do no
wrong, however hard he tried, and he really did try very hard
during these twelve years. Seven of the judges said that was
quite true, and Mr. Hampden was bound to pay ; five of the
judges said that was quite false, and Mr. Hampden was not
bound to pay. So the king triumphed (as he thought), by
making Hampden the most popular man in England, wliere
matters were getting to that height now that many honest Eng-


lishmen could not endure their country, and sailed away across
the seas to found a colony in Massachusetts Bay in America.
It is said that Hampden himself, and his relation, Oliver Crom-
well, were going with a company of such voyagers, and were
actually on board ship, when they were stopped by a proclama-
tion prohibiting sea-captains to carry out such passengers with-
out the royal license. But, O, it would have been well for the
king if he had let them go !

This was the state of England. If Laud had been a mad-
man just broke loose, he could not have done more mischief
than he did in Scotland. In his endeavors (in which he was
seconded by the king, then in person in that part of his domin-
ions) to force his own ideas of bishops, and his own religious
forms and ceremonies, upon the Scotch, he roused that nation
to a perfect frenzy. They formed a solemn league, which they
called The Covenant, for the preservation of their own religious
forms; they rose in arms throughout the whole country; they
summoned all their men to prayers and sermons twice a day by
beat of drum; they sang psalms, in which they compared their
enemies to all the evil spirits that ever were heard of; and they
solemnly vowed to smite them with the sword. At first the
king tried force, then treaty, then a Scottish parliament which
did not answer at all. Then he tried the Earl of Strafford, for-
merly Sir Thomas Wentworth ; who, as Lord Wentworth, had
been governing Ireland. He, too, had carried it with a very
high hand there, though to the benefit and prosperity of that

Strafford and Laud were for conquering the Scottish people
by force of arms. Other lords who were taken into council
recommended that a parliament should at last be called ; 10
which the king unwillingly consented. So, on the 13th of April,
1640, that then strange sight, a parliament, was seen at West-
minster. It is called the Short Parliament ; for it lasted a very
little while. While the members were all looking at one another,
doubtful who would dare to speak, Mr. Pym arose and set forth
all that the king had done unlawfully during the past twelve
years, and what was the position to which England was reduced.
This great example set, other members took courage, and
spoke the truth freely, though with great patience and modera-
tion. The king, a little frightened, sent to say, that, if they would
grant him a certain sum on certain terms, no more ship-money
should be raised. They debated the matter for two days, and
then, as they would not give him all he asked without promise
of inquiry, he dissolved them.


But they knew very well that he must have a parliament
now ; and he began to make that discovery too, though rather
late in the day. Wherefore, on the 24th of September, being
then at York, witli an army collected against the Scottish people,
but his own men sullen and discontented like the rest of the
nation, the king told the great council of the lords, whom he had
called to meet him there, that he would summon another par-
liament to assemble on the 3d of November. The soldiers of
the Covenant had now forced their way into England, and had
taken possession of the northern counties, where the coals are
got. As it would never do to be without coals, and as the king's
troops could make no head against the Covenanters, so full of
gloomy zeal, a truce was made, and a treaty with Scotland was
taken into consideration. Meanwhile the northern counties
paid the Covenanters to leave the coals alone, and keep quiet.
'We have now disposed of the Short Parliament. We have
next to see what memorable things were done by the long one.

Second Part.

The Long Parliament assembled on the 3d of November,
1641. That day week the Earl of Strafford arrived from York
very sensible that the spirited and determined men who formed
that Parliament were no friends towards him, who had not only
deserted the cause of the people, but who had on all occasions
opposed himself to their liberties. The king told him, for his
comfort, that the Parliament " should not hurt one hair of his
head." But, on the very next day, Mr. Pym, in the House of
Commons, and with great solemnity, impeached the Earl of
Strafford as a traitor. He was immediately taken into custody,
and fell from his proud height.

It was the 22d of March before he was brought to trial at
Westminster Hall ; where, although he was very ill and suffered
great pain, he defended himself with such ability and majesty,
that it was doubtful whether he would not get the best of it.
But on the thirteenth day of the trial, Pym produced in the
House of Commons a copy of some notes of a council, found
by young Sir Harry Vane in a red velvet cabinet belonging to
his father (Secretary Vane, who sat at the council-table with
the Earl), in which Strafford had distinctly told the king that
he was free from all rules and obligations of government, and
might do with his people whatever he liked ; and in which he
added, '* You have an army in Ireland that you may employ to
reduce this kingdom to obedience." It was not clear whether

^o*) ^ cniLb's rrisTORY of enclaxd.

by the words "this kin^^dom," he had really meant England or
Scotland ; but the Parliament contended that he meant England,
and this was treason. At the same sitting of the House of
Commons, it was resolved to bring in a bill of attainder de-
claring the treason to have been committed, in preference to
proceeding with the trial by impeachment, which would have
required the treason to be proved.

So a bill was brought in at once, was carried through the
House of Commons by a large majority, and was sent up to the
House of Lords. While it was still uncertain whether tlie
House of Lords would pass it and the king consent to it, Pym
disclosed to the House of Commons that the king and queen
had both been plotting with the officers of the army to bring up
the soldiers and control the Parliament, and also to introduce
two hundred soldiers into the tower of London to effect the
earl's escape. The plotting with the army was revealed by one
George Goring, the son of a lord of that name, — a bad
fellow, who was one of the original plotters, and turned traitor.
The king had actually given his warrant for the admission of
the two hundred men into the Tower, and they would have got
in too, but for the refusal of the governor — a sturdy Scotchman
of the name of Balfour — to admit them. These matters being
made public, great numbers of people began to riot outside the
houses of parliament, and to cry out for the execution of the
Earl of Strafford, as one of the king's chief instruments against
th&m. The bill passed the House of Lords while the people
were in this state of agitation, and was laid before the king for
his assent, together with another bill declaring that the Parlia-
ment then assembled should not be dissolved or adjourned
without their own consent. The king— not unwilling to save a
faithful servant, though he had no great attachment for him—
was in some doubt what to do ; but he gave his consent to both
bills, although he in his heart believed that the bill against the
Earl of Strafford was unlawful and unjust. The earl had written
to him, telling him that he was willing to die for his sake. But
he had not expected that his royal master would take him at
his word quite so readily ; for when he heard his doom, he laid
his hand upon his heart, and said, " Put not your trust in
princes ! "

The king, who never could be straightforward and plain
through one single day, or through one single sheet of paper,
wrote a letter to the Lords, and sent it by the young Prince of
Wales, entreating them to prevail with the Commons that
'' that unfortunate man should fulfil the natural course oi his life



in a close imprisonment." In a postscript to the very same
letter, he added, " If he must die, it were charity to reprieve him
till Saturday." If there had been any doubt of his fate, this
weakness and meanness would have settled it. The very next
day, which was the 12th of May, he was brought out to be be-
headed on Tower Hill.

Archbishop Laud who had been so fond of having people's
iars cropped off and their noses slit, was now confined in the
Tower too ; and when the earl went by his window to his death,
he was there, at his request, to give him his blessing. They
had been great friends in the king's cause ; and the earl had
written to him in the days of their power, that he thought it
would be an admirable thing to have Mr. Hampden publicly
whipped for refusing to pay the ship-money. However, those
high and mighty doings were over now, and the earl went his
way to death with dignity and heroism. The governor wished
him .0 get into a coach at the Tower-gate, for fear the people
should tear him to pieces ; but he said it was all one to him
whether he died by the axe or by the people's hands. So he
walked, with a firm tread and stately look, and sometimes
pulled off his hat to them as he passed along. They were pro-
foundly quiet. He made a speech on the scaffold from some
notes he had prepared (the paper was found lying there after
his head was struck off), and one blow of the axe killed him,
in the forty-ninth year of his age.

This bold and daring act the Parliament accompanied by
other famous measures, all originating (as even this did) in the
king's having so grossly and so long abused his power. The
name of Delinquents was applied to all sheriffs and other officers
who had been concerned in raising the ship-money, or any other
money, from the people, in an unlawful manner ; the Hampden
judgment was reversed ; the judges who had decided against
Hampden were called upon to give large securities that they
would take such consequences as Parliament might impose upon
them ; and one was arrested as he sat in high court, and carried
off to prison. Laud was impeached ; the unfortunate victims
whose ears had been cropped and whose noses had been slit
were brought out in prison in triumph ; and a bill was passed
declaring that a parliament should be called every third year,
and that, if the king and the king's officers did not call it, the
people should assemble of themselves and summon it, as of their
own right and power. Great illuminations and rejoicings took
phcG over all these things, and tiie country was wildly excited
That the Parliament took advantage of this excitement, ani


Stirred them up by every means, there is no doubt ; but you
are always to remember those twelve long years, during which
the king had tried so hard whether he really could do any
wrong or not.

All this time there was a great religious outcry against the
right of the bishops to sit in Parliament ; to which the Scottish

Online LibraryCharles DickensA child's history of England → online text (page 31 of 38)