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and Charles that they would one day have their belly-
ful of impeachment; a prediction which they had bitter
reason to remember. Impeachment was an assertion of
the responsibility of ministers to parliament, whereas
Tudor autocracy rested on the principle that ministers
were responsible to the sovereign alone. The ire of the
court was also directed by Buckingham against Digby,
afterwards Earl of Bristol, an honest and high-minded
diplomatist who advocated a foreign policy not based on
religious enmities or unfriendly to Spain, and had ventured
to denounce to the king the extravagances of Buckingham
at Madrid. With Digby good sense and high-minded
patriotism seem to have departed from the councils of
the crown.

" The Commons had now been engaged for more than
twenty years in a struggle to restore and to fortify their
own and their fellow-subjects' liberties. They had ob-
tained in this period but one legislative measure of

1624 importance, the late declaratory act against monopolies.
But they had rescued from disuse their ancient right of
impeachment. They had placed on record a protestation
of their claim to debate all matters of public concern.
They had remonstrated against the usurped prerogatives
of binding the subject by proclamation, and of levying


customs at the outpprts. They had secured beyond con-
troversy their exclusive privilege of determining con-
tested elections of their members. They had maintained,
and carried indeed to an unwarrantable extent, their
power of judging and inflicting punishment, even for
offences not committed against their House." In these
words Hallam sums up the gains of the Commons during
this reign. He might have added the appropriation of
supplies, , since the last parliament of James appropriated 1624
a supply distinctly to four objects connected with the war.
A considerable stride had been made towards the conver-
sion of the Tudor despot into a "Duke of Venice."

The day of Tudor dictatorship is over; yet the Stuart
may be pardoned for not being sensible of the change, or "
willing to resign the power. The next Stuart will not be
sensible of the change, nor willing to resign the power,
and hard in consequence will be his fate.



Born 1600 ; Succeeded 1625 ; Executed 1649

rpHE two royal unfortunates of history are Charles I.
and Louis XVI. Both were weak men set by their
evil star to deal with revolutionary forces which it would
have tasked the highest statesmanship to master. Both
of them would have been amiable in private life, though
Louis would have been drowsily benevolent, and Charles
would have shown more character. That Charles was by
no means destitute of ability, his letters, the manner in
which he defended his religion against skilful controver-
sialists, and even his conduct as a general, proved. He
had a serious sense of royal duty. He was a man of
culture, a lover and a judge of art. Morally he was as
pure as Puritanism itself could desire, for the story of his
having had a natural daughter may be set down as a
libel. He would have made an average bishop. He
was a tender husband and father; too tender a husband,
for his uxoriousness was his ruin ; and it may be said of
Henrietta Maria as it may of Marie Antoinette that, had
she been caged at the beginning of the revolution, her
husband would have escaped the scaffold. Though cere-
monious, Charles was affable, and a kind master. Like
George III. after him, he had been brought up with high
notions of royalty. Yet his notions of it could hardly Jdc



higher than was the language held respecting it by leaders
of the Commons, the chief of whom, while they were
wresting the sovereignty to themselves, spoke always of
the king as their sovereign and as God's vice-gerent. As
a king he felt the general tendency of monarchy in Europe
to absolutism, which might approve itself, even to one
who did not wear a crown, in countries where absolute
monarchy was the alternative to aristocratic anarchy or
barbarous disorder. There is no reason to doubt that
Charles meant to use his power for the good of his people,
or that he wished to make the nation great, though he
erred in identifying its greatness with his own. His
motto, Amor Populi Regis Prcesidium^ may well have
been sincerely chosen ; nor is there any ground for accus-
ing him of having set out with a design against public
liberty. With duplicity he has been justly charged, yet,
in his early days at least, it was not so much deliberate
deceit as weakness, the consequence of the false posi-
tions into which he was drawn and the contradictory obli-
gations in which he became entangled. Weakness he
inherited from his father, and it appears, together with his
likeness to James, in the portrait of him by Dobson, though
not in the somewhat idealized portrait by Van Dyck.
When he was called to the helm of state in a storm 1625
he was barely twenty-five years of age. James had left
him a fatal legacy in Buckingham, whose personal bril-
liancy and fascinations were as great as his wisdom and
statesmanship were small. The favourite had the art of
infusion and of making his masters fancy that they were
leading when really they were being led. The early years
of Charles were years of Buckingham's misrule.

The hated Spanish marriage having been thrown over.


1625 a French marriage took its place. France was less catho-
lic than Spain, and Henrietta Maria was a daughter of
Henry IV. Still, France was catholic. Henrietta, though
fond of pleasure, was devout. She brought her priests,
her Mass, her catholic waiting-women with her. She came
believing that she was to be the protectress of her religion
in England. There were equivocal arrangements to be
made about her personal worship and that of her attend-
ants. There was an equivocal understanding with the
court of France about indulgence to the English catho-
lics, while the jealousy of the Puritan Commons was re-
awakened by the catholic marriage and more than ever
'demanded the execution of the penal laws. It was on
this rock that Charles's honour was wrecked, first at
Madrid and afterwards in his negotiations with France.

It was not unnatural that Charles, flattered by his court
and infected with Buckingham's ambition, should fancy
himself a greater king than, with his limited power and
revenue, he was, and try to play a part too grand for him
on the European scene. The ambiguous position of his
government, monarchical and high church, yet protes-
tant, between the two warring elements of European opin-
ion, increased its perplexities and its weakness. There
was besides the purely family object of recovering the Pa-
latinate for Charles's sister and her husband. The treaty
for a Spanish marriage and a lover's visit of Charles to
Madrid are followed by a protestant crusade against Spain.
Now ships are lent to the king of France to be used
against the rebel Huguenots ; anon succours are sent to
the rebel Huguenots who are holding out at Rochelle

1325 against the king of France. The vast and weltering
imbroglio in Germany continues, and with it the hopeless


effort to recover the Palatinate for Charles's brother-in-
law by diplomacy or advances of money to protestant ad-
venturers. To the drain of those advances are added
that of Buckingham's war with Spain and next that of a
war with France brought on by a misunderstanding as to 27
the religious rights of Henrietta Maria and her catholic
attendants, or, as rumour had it, by the mad arrogance of
Buckingham, who had incurred a rebuff by daring to lift
his eyes to the queen of France. The recovery of the
Palatinate was a question in which, the first burst of pro-
testant sympathy with the Elector and Electress being
over, the royal family felt more interest than the Com-
mons. In the Spanish war the interest of the Commons
was more hearty. Spain was Apollyon, and Apollyon's
galleons were rich prizes. But the Commons little under-
stood the diplomatic entanglements and at once suspected
treachery when, in pursuance of an agreement with the
French government, whose alliance was necessary against
Spain, English ships were lent to be used against pro-
testant rebels. They had no confidence in Buckingham,
who deserved none ; or in his subordinates, who deserved
little. They drew tight their purse strings, and refused
the king the supplies absolutely necessary for the war.
It was by lack of money to carry on the war and fulfil his ,
engagements to his confederates, not by his absolutist
tendencies, that Charles was led in the first instance to
have recourse to forced loans and other modes of raising
money without the consent of parliament, while he was
filling his armies and fleets by a barbarous use of the
power of impressment. He was reduced to pawning his
crown jewels. The military and naval administration was
wretched and the failure was complete on land and s^a.


An expedition against Cadiz, from which the nation
looked for a renewal of the glories of Drake, ended not
only in defeat, but in utter disgrace, the troops getting

1625 drunk and the sea captains refusing to fight; while the
treasure fleet, the capture of which was to replenish the
king's coffers, was allowed to escape. In the French war
an attempt to relieve Rochelle by a landing on the Isle of
Rh^, under the command of Buckingham himself, ended

1627 likewise in disaster, though Buckingham showed courage,
and not only courage, but as much conduct as could be
expected of a novice in war. From Germany came no
better news than from Cadiz or Rochelle. Everything
was going down before the armies of the Empire, com-
manded by Wallenstein and Tilly. The Elector was an
outcast, and Mansfeld, the vaunted champion of protes-
tantism, on whom aid had been wasted, not only lost,
but, with his vagabond host, disgraced, the cause. The
pressed men, of whom the English regiments and crews
were made up, being left unpaid and unfed, died of
want, cold, and disease. They mutinied, deserted their
standards, wandered over the districts in which they were
quartered, plundered the farms, and insulted the wives
and daughters of the farmers. To repress these outrages,
martial law was proclaimed.

Meantime, the political struggle between the king and
the Commons, always at bottom a struggle for supreme
power, was renewed and continued to rage through suc-

1625 cessive parliaments. Charles at first met his parliaments
with smiling countenance, but the sun of concord was
soon overcast. Opposition took two forms ; want of con-
fidence in Buckingham as helmsman of the state, and
resistance to Romanizing tendencies, or what were taken


to be Romanizing tendencies, in the church. Buckingham
managed to embroil himself and his master with the Lords
as well as with the Commons by arbitrarily excluding
from their seats in parliament the Earl of Arundel, who
had offended him, and Digby, now the Earl of Bristol,
who had incurred his enmity by exposing his misrepresenta-
tions about the Spanish marriage and the transactions at
Madrid. Bristol refused submission, the House of Lords
upheld with spirit the rights of its members, and the court
was obliged to give way.

Presently the shrewd prophecy of the late king that
Charles and Buckingham would have their bellyful of
impeachment was fulfilled. A resolution for the impeach-
ment of Buckingham was carried in the House of Com- 1620
mons, on well-founded charges of maladministration;
charges, not so clearly well-founded, of corruption; and
a totally unfounded charge, not directly laid but insinu-
ated, of having poisoned the late king. In our day, in-
stead of an impeachment, a vote of want of confidence
in a minister, or, in case of extremity, a refusal of supply,
would do the work. The form of impeachment involved
an investigation into the acts and expenditure of the
government, which is said with truth to have carried in
itself the germs of revolution. Responsibility of ministers
to parliament was in fact the issue now revived after hav-
ing lain dormant almost since Lancastrian times ; decided
in favour of the parliament as it has been, it takes away
personal power from the crown. We can hardly blame
Charles for standing by his friend Steenie. But in for-
bidding the Commons to inquire into Buckingham's ad-
ministration he drew the responsibility on himself. •

Charles was no Romanist. To the end he was true


to the church of England and his own ecclesiastical
supremacy. Anglicanism may fairly regard him as its
martyr and dedicate churches to his name. But he was
a strong episcopalian, deeply impressed with the truth of
his father's maxim as to the identity of the king's interest
with that of the bishop, while, had he been a private man,
his own character and tastes would have led him to the
side of church order and of ritual. He was thus borne
against the main current of religious opinion and senti-
ment, which, in the political classes, was decidedly Puri-
tan, and brought into collision with the most powerful
and aspiring intellects of the day, whose ideal was an
unceremonial worship and a Bible faith untrammelled
by clerical authority. He had about him a group of
high church ecclesiastics, who, in the interest of their
order, exalted his prerogative, and, if they were hot-
headed, to an alarming and irritating height; at the
same time assailing the dominant Calvinism, which was
the animating spirit of Puritanism, in politics as in reli-

1625 gion. The work of Montague which provoked the wrath
of the Commons was in form a defence of protestantism
against the church of Rome, but the grounds on which the
defence was based were anti-Calvinist and anti-puritan,
while political offence was given by the appeal to Csesar
to defend with his sword the writer, who would defend
him with his pen. The suspicions of the Commons were
borne out by the subsequent career of the author, who was
presently engaged in negotiations with a papal envoy and
went to the very brink of conversion. The court divine,

1627 Manwaring, said in one of his famous sermons, that the
first of all relations was that between the Creator and the
creature ; the next between husband and wife ; the third


between parent and child; the fourth between lord and
servant; and that from all these arose that most high,
sacred, and transcendent relation between king and sub-
ject. In another passage he asks himself, why religion
doth associate God and the king? and he answers that
it may be for one of three reasons ; because in scripture
the name of God is given to angels, priests, and kings ; or
from the propinquity of offenders against God and His
anointed king; or from the parity of beneficence which
men enjoy from God and sacred kings, and which they
can no more requite in the case of the king than in the
case of God. He reasons, that "as justice, properly so
called, intercedes not between God and man ; nor between
the prince, being a father, and the people as children
(for justice is between equals) ; so cannot justice be any
rule or medium whereby to give God or the king his
right." This doctrine was preached in the Chapel Royal
to a young king. Sibthorp preached in the same anti- 1621
puritan and absolutist strain, claiming for the prince the
power of making the law, and maintaining that the sub-
ject was bound to active obedience so long as the king's
command was moral, and that in any case resistance was
impious. Abbot, the old Puritan archbishop, refused to
license Sibthorp's sermon and was suspended for his re-
fusal, making way for the growing ascendancy of Laud.
Charles identified himself with the teachings of Montague,
Manwaring, and Sibthorp by promoting them all in de-
fiance of the protests of the Commons. That the Com-
mons, in these protests, were contending for religious
liberty cannot be said. A national church establishment,
with compulsory unity of orthodox belief, was their ideal,
as much as that of their opponents, while they assumed


that the national and orthodox creed was the Calvinism
of the Lambeth Articles and the Synod of Dort. They
were all the time clamouring for the execution of the
laws against papists; and extreme protestant sectaries,
such as the Anabaptists, would have met with a not
less rigorous treatment at their hands. All that can
be said is that the creed for which they contended was
the more congenial to political liberty, and the more likely
to lead to liberty of conscience in the end.

The leader of the Commons was Sir John Eliot, a
Cornish gentleman, high-souled, patriotic, hot-blooded,
and dauntless, with an oratorical temperament and the
oratorical habit of one-sided statement and exaggeration.
From sympathy with Buckingham's foreign policy he
had passed to unmeasured denunciation of him as an
arch traitor and capital enemy of the state. The com-
parison of Buckingham to Sejanus, in his speech as mana-
ger of the impeachment before the House of Lords, is a
famed stroke of eloquence and may be cited as one of
the first fruits of the rhetoric by which the councils of
the nation have been swayed. " Your lordships have an
idea of the man, what he is in himself, what in his affec-
tions ! You have seen his power, and some, I fear, have
felt it! You have known his practice, and have heard
the effects. It rests, then, to be considered what, being
such, he is in reference to the king and state, how com-
patible or incompatible with either. In reference to the
king, he must be styled the canker in his treasure ; in
reference to the state, the moth of all goodness. What
future hopes are to be expected, your lordships may draw
out of his actions and affections. In all precedents I can
hardly find him a match or parallel. None so like him as


Sejanus, thus described by Tacitus, Audax, sui obtegens,
in alios criminatory juxta adulator et superbus. My lords,
for his pride and flattery it was noted of Sejanus that he
did clientes sues provinciis adornare. Doth not this man
the like ? Ask England, Scotland, and Ireland, and they
will tell you ! Sejanus's pride was so excessive, Tacitus
saith, that he neglected all counsel, mixed his business
and service with the prince, seemed to confound their
actions, and was often styled imperatoris laborum socius.
How lately and how often hath this man commixed his
actions, in discourse, with actions of the king ! My lords,
I have done. You see the man! By. him came all these
evils ; in him we find the cause ; on him we expect the
remedies ; and to this we met your lordships in conference."

Eliot, though a strong protestant, was no narrow Puri-
tan. His work, " The Monarchy of Man," in which his
somewhat misty philosophy is expounded, shows that
his ideal was not a republic, but a monarchy. He seems
even to have thought that monarchical government had its
archet3^pe in the heavenly spheres. That he was morally
dethroning the monarch and transferring supreme power
to the representatives of the people, neither he nor any one
of his party saw.

The classical allusion in Sir John Eliot's speech re-
minds us that beside the Bible and Calvinism another
element has now mingled with public character and life.
It is that of Greek and Roman antiquity, with its republi-
canism, its proud notions of personal liberty, its tyranni-
cide. Nor would the political sentiment of Timoleon and
Brutus be practically out of unison with that of the
Hebrew prophet who denounces the sins of kings, or with
that of the Psalmist who would bind kings with chains


and nobles with fetters of iron. With the humility and
meekness of Christianity, the haughty self-assertion of the
Greek or Roman republican would not so well agree.

It could not be denied that the Commons had originally
countenanced the government in the undertaking to re-
cover the Palatinate and pressed on it war with Spain.
Yet they withheld the necessary supplies, pleading the
incapacity and failure of the administration. Peace
with retrenchment might have relieved the government
from its embarrassments, and given it a free hand in home
politics. But such a policy was too tame for Bucking-
ham's vanity. To provide ways and means the crown had
recourse not onl}^ to fines for refusal of knighthood and
other feudal extortions, to raising the rents of crown lands
upon the tenants, to pawning the crown jewels, to impress-
ment of soldiers and seamen and exaction of ships from
the seaports, but to levying tonnage and poundage, the
duties on imported merchandise, without vote of parlia-
ment, and to forced loans. The levying of tonnage and
poundage was excused, and perhaps was excusable, on the
ground that they had hitherto been granted as a matter of
course for the reign. For refusing to contribute to the
loan a number of gentlemen were thrown into prison, and
the subserviency of the judges upheld the crown in its
disregard of the principle of personal liberty secured by
the Habeas Corpus. An attempt to break the force of

1626 opposition by making some of its leaders sheriffs, and thus
excluding them from the House of Commons, met with
deserved failure, and the elections went generally against
the government. The young king gave way to his temper.

1628 He opened his famous third parliament by telling the Com-
mons that "if they would not do their duty by granting

Kxi CHARLES 1 479

supplies, he must use other means which God had put into
his hands to save that which the follies of other men might
otherwise hazard to lose." This he bade them not take
as threatening, since he scorned to threaten any but his
equals. Sir John Coke, leader for the crown in the
Commons, raised a storm by insinuating that if the people
provoked the king he might be tempted to reduce them to
the condition of the French peasantry, who were as thin as
ghosts and wore wooden shoes.

The answer to the royal menace was the Petition of 1628
Right, on the king's assent to which the Commons insisted
as the condition of supply, while, to justify their attitude,
they held out the promise of a liberal grant. The petition
was a reversion to the old form of legislation for redress of
grievances. The grievances of which redress was sought
were four ; forced loans ; arbitrary imprisonment ; billeting
of soldiers on private houses ; and martial law. The chief
grounds of complaint were the first two. The billeting,
though vexatious, seems not to have been illegal, nor,
was martial law, if applied only to the soldiery, a wrong.
The king struggled hard for what he believed to be his
prerogative, but he struggled in vain. An opposition too
strong for Buckingham's influence had by this time been
formed even in the House of Lords by Puritan peers, such
as Bedford and Saye and Sele, with men like Bristol and
Arundel, who had been injured by the court, and one or
two bishops who did not go with Laud. Charles asked
the Commons instead of binding him by law to take his
word. " What need," said Pym, now rising to leadership,
"have we of the king's word, when already we have his
coronation oath?" A middle party in the Lords proposed
to insert words saving to the king his sovereign power.


" I am not able," said Pym, " to speak to this question. I
know not what it is. All our petition is for the laws of
England, and this power seems to be another distinct
power from the power of law. I know how to add sover-
eign to the king's person, but not to his power. We
cannot leave to him sovereign power, for we never were
possessed of it." The king contended for a reserved pre-
rogative or sovereignty beyond the law to be exerted
whenever in his judgment there was need. The Commons
contended that the law should in all cases be supreme, and
that they should make the law; in other words, that the
sovereign power should be theirs. Reduced to extremity,
the king gave his consent to the Petition of Right, at first
not in the plain and customary form " Let right be done,
as is desired," but in a form roundabout and evasive. At

1628 last he gave his consent in the plain form. The Petition
of Right, regarded as second only to the Great Charter,
was added to the muniments of liberty and to the pledges
for the supremacy of parliament. Shouting, bell-ringing,
and bonfires proclaimed the victory of the Commons.
Yet the strife hardly abated. To the Petition of Right

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 34 of 84)