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1628 succeeded remonstrance against the proceedings of the
high church and absolutist divines, which the king had
made more offensive by the promotion of the offenders;
against the foreign policy and general administration of
Buckingham ; against the persistent levying of tonnage
and poundage without the vote of parliament. With
tonnage and poundage the king vowed he could not dis-
pense, and in truth he would have deprived himself of the
means of carrying on his government. Previous parlia-
ments had been dissolved in a storm. This parliament was

1628 prorogued. Only so far was there an appearance of recon-



XXI CHARLES I 481

ciliation. Allowance must always be made on the king's
behalf for the ambiguities of constitutional tradition and
the variation of precedents between Lancastrian and Tudor
times, as well as for the formal recognition by the Com-
mons of the royal supremacy and government which, half
unconsciously, they were labouring to overthrow. Only a
sympathy almost miraculous between the wearer of the
crown and the Commons could have averted quarrel and
ultimate collision.

With Buckingham, the struggle came to a tragic close.
When he was on the point of embarking on another mili-
tary escapade, his dazzling and mischievous career was cut
short by the knife of an assassin, in whose morbid brain, as 1628
often happens, the ferment of public discontent had blended
with a private grudge. So intense had the feeling against
Buckingham become, that his assassin was saluted as a hero
and a martyr. Something may be excused to one who by
a freak of fortune was raised when he was a mere boy to a
giddy height and was only thirty-six when he died. But to
Buckingham's vanity, folly, and personal resentments are
evidently to be ascribed the ruinous mistakes and incon-
sistencies of foreign policy ; the chimerical attempts of
England, now hardly more than a second-rate power,
to dominate as a first-rate power on the continent; the
Spanish war and the attempts to draw France into the
combination against Spain; the loan to the French mon-
archy in pursuance of that combination, of English ships to
be used against the protestants of Rochelle, which could
not fail to arouse the angry suspicions of the protestants
at home; the subsequent rupture and war with France,
and the hopeless attempts, by supporting the Huguenot in-
surrection, to defeat the policy of Richelieu and prevent the

VOL. I вАФ 31



482 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

consolidation of the French kingdom. The financial em-
barrassments into which this series of follies brought the
English monarchy laid it at the feet of the Commons,
and when it had quarrelled with parliament, drove it to
irregular ways of raising money, which, combined with
its ecclesiastical policy of reaction, led to its overthrow.
The removal of Buckingham from the scene uncovered

1629 the king, against whom, when parliament met again, the
attack was directly pointed. The grievances now were
levying tonnage and poundage when they had not been
voted by parliament, and the countenance which the
crown had lent to the high church and anti-puritan move-
ment by the promotion of Montague and Manwaring,
together with the progress of Arminianism and ritualism
among the clergy; constitutionalism, Puritanism, and
Calvinism always moving together. In ecclesiastical as
well as civil legislation the Commons strove to make
themselves supreme, to the exclusion of the clerical con-
vocation, which was ruled through the bishops by the
king. The king put forth his manifesto with respect to
the Thirty-nine Articles, demanding a unifoim and un-

1629 swerving profession of them, and in effect ordaining that
they should be taken in the sense which it might please
him as supreme governor of the church and the con-
vocation with his license to assign them. The Commons
contended that the Articles should be taken in what they
deemed the orthodox, that is, the Calvinistic, sense.
They passed resolutions denouncing the spread of Armini-
anism with popery in its train, the placing of communion-
tables as altars, and ritualistic practices of all kinds. As
the standards of orthodoxy, they pointed to the writings of
the Calvinist Jewel, the ultra-Calvinist Lambeth Articles,



XXI CHARLES I 483

and the resolutions of the Calvinist and un-episcopal
Synod of Dort. The king, losing patience, sent an order
to the Commons to adjourn. The Speaker wished to
obey. But the patriots held him down in his chair till
resolutions against the levying of tonnage and poundage
without a vote of parliament and against the encourage-
ment of high church principles had been passed. Then
tumultuously the Commons adjourned.

A dissolution followed, while Eliot and eight other i629
members were imprisoned by royal warrant for their con-
duct in the last scene. A battle in the courts for their
liberation by Habeas Corpus ensued, with the usual hesi- 1630
tation and fencing on the part of the judges, who were
unwilling to break the law while they wished to uphold
the prerogative of the crown. It was much that
there was a law which the judges were unwilling to
break. Six of the nine members made their submission
and were released, Selden, who was no zealot, not without
a stain upon his honour. Eliot, disdaining submission,
remained in prison till he died, employing himself in
writing his " Monarchy of Man." The chills of his
prison-house hastened his death. His son asked leave to 1632
bury him in his Cornish home. Charles wrote on the
petition, "Let Sir John Eliot be buried in the church of
that parish where he died." It was an unusual exhibition
of bad feeling on the part of Charles, and he rued it, for
it helped to make the war between him and the parlia-
mentary leaders internecine.

English liberty has been peculiarly indebted to the
courage of private citizens who have dared to stand forth
single-handed in the cause of public right. Bate in the
last reign had stood forth single-handed against impositions



484 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap

on merchandise. Richard Chambers, a London merchant,
now stands forth against the levying of customs duties
without an Act of parliament. He is brought before the
star chamber, where he had no chance of justice, and*
resolutely refusing submission is kept in prison for six
years, while his goods are seized for the tax. In vain he
seeks a remedy in the court of common law. In questions
between prerogative and the rights of the subject, the
judges, while they are not without conscience, waver and
take refuge in technicalities. Their technical decision
could settle nothing. In their law-books they might find
the letter of the law; they could not find the balance
between constitutional principle and necessities of state.
In the cases of Eliot and Chambers together the king had
warning enough.

Buckingham gone, the chief ministers for a time were
Weston and Cottington, both of them catholics at heart,
both of them in favour of Spanish connection, but both of
them steady-going and sure-footed men' thinking more of
finance and of material interests than of religious disputes
or of ambitious diplomacy, who might have replenished
the exchequer, evaded thorny questions, and carried on
the government in a safe though unambitious way.

Charles held the reins himself long enough to show
that he had been not only the patron, but the pupil of
Buckingham. Presently he had two new and memorable
advisers. Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and, somewhat
later, Wentworth, better known as the Earl of Strafford.
Our idea of Laud has been tinged by the art which
paints everything black or white, and is prodigal of var-
nish. He was not a bigot or a fanatic, but a martinet,
and so long as he could enforce universal conformity to



XXI CHARLES I 486

his rule of church government and worship, cared not
much about speculative opinion, nor was unwilling that
it should be free in the closets of Chillingworth and
Hales. The school of which he was the chief has even,
in virtue of its opposition to Calvinistic rigour and nar-
rowness, been deemed liberal. His weaknesses have also
been overstated. The notices of dreams and omens in his
diary were hardly proofs of superstition in an age in which
astrology kept its hold on such a man of science as Kepler,
and on such a man of action as Wallenstein. His religion
was Anglicanism, and Anglicanism as the ordinance of the
state. In defence of this he had fleshed his controversial
sword at Oxford, where Calvinism still reigned. At Ox-
ford also, as head of a college, he had learned despotic rule.
His temper was choleric ; it did not prevent his courting
the powerful, but it made him sometimes rude to lesser
men. His character was bespoken by his small bustling
figure, high-drawn eyebrows, sharp face, and peering look.
He had made his way to court and to royal favour, though
the old king shrewdly suspected that he would one day
give trouble. Trouble he soon gave as Dean of Glouces- 1616
ter by tilting against the Puritanism of that city. He
allied himself closely with Buckingham, by whose vices
it does not seem that his austerity was repelled. Made
bishop of St. David's, he scrupled not to leave his Welsh 1621
flock untended while he stayed at court pushing his fort-
une. From St. David's he climbed to Bath and Wells, 1626
thence to London, in which see, as it was a hot-bed of 1628
Puritanism, he found plenty of food for his regulative
activity. At last, on the death of Abbot, he reached the 1633
highest mark of that ambition, of which his admirers
own that he was not devoid, and was joyously greeted by



486 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

the king, whose heart he had won, as " My Lord's Grace
of Canterbury." His rival in the race, Williams, Bishop
of Lincoln and for three years, by a strange reversion to
the practice of the ecclesiastical middle ages, lord chan-
cellor, was a clever and shifty adventurer, who studied
the weather, and though he might not have guided
Charles to the heights of honour, would never have
guided him to the block. But Williams had given
offence and been cashiered. The king being ecclesiasti-
cally supreme, Laud, having Charles's unbounded confi-
dence, was pope of the state church, little trammelled
even by the independent authority of bishops or con-
vocation. But he was not satisfied with ecclesiastical
power. Soon he was on the commission of the treasury
and at the head of the committee of foreign affairs.
When Weston died and Cottington's influence had given
way. Laud was practically the head of the government.
1636 He presently got his lieutenant. Bishop Juxon, made
treasurer. Secular power in the hands of ecclesiastics
seemed to him the surest safeguard of the church, and
he pursued the same policy in Scotland, where an arch-
bishop was made chancellor and seven bishops were intro-
duced into the privy council. The actual fruits of this
profound policy were a general reaction against ecclesi-
astical encroachment and the special jealousy of the
grandees, who looked on the offices of state as their own.
The lawyers, also, as the royalist historian complains,
were embittered against the encroaching churchmen.

From the dark and haughty countenance of Wentworth
looked forth power and love of command. It seems hard
to maintain that the career of a man who was first one
of the leaders of a parliamentary opposition, and then the



XXI CHARLES I 487

minister of a king who was trying to govern without
parliament, can have been perfectly consistent in anything
but ambition, though his ambition may have been gener-
ous and he may have had the greatness of the country as
well as of the monarchy always at heart. To his former
allies in the House of Commons assuredly Wentworth's
career did not seem consistent, even supposing we regard
as apocryphal the anecdote which makes Pym vow ven-
geance against the renegade. Wentworth, when he was
attacking Buckingham, was cutting his way to power,
which he meant, as a great intelligence, when he had
attained it to use well. Full credit may be given him for
sincere disapprobation of Buckingham's policy, and of
the ill-advised action of the court which provoked the
Petition of Right. His ideal no doubt was, like that of
Bacon, a patriotic and enlightened monarchy with a com-
pliant parliament and a judiciary faithful to the preroga-
tive, himself being prime minister and the moving spirit
of the whole. But as parliament proved intractable, he
embraced autocracy with himself as vizier. With apos-
tasy from mean motives or in an ignoble sense it would
be unjust to charge him, but it cannot be denied that
there was a sharp turn, such as to the friends whom he
left might seem apostasy, in his political career.

From the presidency of the council of the north, a local
government with arbitrary powers, which had survived
from Tudor times of rebellion, Strafford went as lord 1633
deputy to Ireland. There he played the beneficent
despot for whom Ireland yearned ; put the parliament
under his feet, an operation rendered easier by Poynings's
law giving the English privy council control over Irish
legislation ; reformed the administration, civil and mill-



488 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

tary ; restored the finances ; tried to foster trade. He
set in order and purified as far as he could the corrupt,
swinish, and scandalous Establishment, the sight of which
made protestantism and the civilization connected with it
hateful to the Irish people ; the clergy living like laymen,
sometimes like dissolute laymen, and following unclerical
pursuits, the estates of the church being plundered, chari-
table funds being abused, churches being turned into
dwelling-houses, stables, or tennis courts, and the vaults
under them into taverns, while maids and apprentices
lolled upon the table used for the administration of the
sacrament. So far well. It was not so well when Straf-
ford proceeded to dispossess the native race and by ver-
dicts wrung from intimidated juries confiscated to the
1634 crown a great part of the land of Connaught. Nor did
the man fail in the seat of power to show his overbear-
ing pride. He heedlessly trod on more than one worm
which turned on him. From Ireland he corresponds
with Laud. There can be no reasonable doubt as to the
object which the two men have in view, and which they
denote by the cant word " Thorough." Thorough reform
of the king's service by the sweeping away of inefficiency,
peculation, and corruption, no doubt as statesmen they
did desire, but Avhat they mean by " Thorough " is the
complete ascendancy of the prerogative. " I know no
reason, then," wrote Strafford to Laud, "but you may
as well rule the common lawyers in England as I, poor
beagle, do here ; and yet that I do, and will do, in all that
concerns my master's service, upon the peril of my head.
I am confident that the king, being pleased to set himself
in the business, is able by his wisdom and ministers to
carry any just and honourable action thorough all imagi-



XXI CHARLES I 489

nary opposition, for real there can be none; that to start
aside for such panick fears, phantastick apparitions, as a
Prynne or an Eliot shall set up, were the meanest folly
in the whole world ; that the debts of the crown taken
off, you may govern as you please." This is not reform
of his majesty's service. Nor can it well be questioned
that the army which Strafford was organizing in Ireland
was intended by him to be used at need for a political
purpose. He said himself that if the king could only
have the power of levying money to pay soldiers as well
as to pay ships, it would " vindicate the royalty at home
from under the conditions and restraints of subjects, and
render us also abroad, even to the greatest kings, the
most considerable monarchy in Christendom." Of his
Irish government Wentworth could boast that the king
was as absolute there as any prince in the world, and so
might remain if the ministers in England would do their
part.

By admirers of Strafford and ^Laud their government
has been painted as protection of the people against a
selfish and oppressive oligarchy ; as an anticipation, in
fact, of the Tory democracy of our time. This would
be interesting if it were true. But on what does it rest?
Something was done for poor debtors and for improvement
in the administration of the Poor Law and the application
of charitable funds. Something was done for the special
protection of women. Strafford takes credit to himself
for having in Ireland meted out equal justice to high and
* low; but the native Irish of Connaught would hardly
have endorsed the boast. There is nothing to show that
in the hour of his fall the heart of the people was with
him. Laud, Clarendon tells us, displayed in his admin-



490 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

istration of church discipline a noble impartiality, not re-
garding the rank of the offender. This was well, though
the culprits might have remembered that the stern cen-
sor had served the uncanonical love of Mountjoy and
allied himself with the libertine Buckingham. But
there is not much in it of Tory democracy. Nor in
impressing poor men by thousands, dragging them from
their homes to serve in the fleet or army, keeping them
without rations or clothes, and hanging them by scores
under martial law when they^helped themselves to food,
did the government of Charles show much sympathy for
the masses. There was an aristocratic element in the
opposition, as there was in that of the Huguenots and
afterwards of the Fronde, as there was in the revolt of
the Netherlands, in the Bohemian revolt, in the German
and Scotch reformations ; while in the motives of the
aristocracy with religion or patriotism were mingled in
different proportions class interests or passions, lust
after church spoils, jealousy of the political power of
ecclesiastics, it may be feudal impatience of all law and
government. The House of Lords could not like to be
over-shadowed by autocracy ; it was jealous of church-
men, like Laud and Juxon, who supplanted it in court
favour and in .the offices of state. The Tudor nobility
still had reason to fear a catholic reaction. It is not
likely that even the English aristocracy, though compara-
tively popular, was without its share of arrogance, or did
not sometimes trample on dependents. It was at its worst
probably in the still half-feudal north which was the scene ,
of Strafford's autocratic rule. So far as the government
of Strafford and Laud sought to control oligarchical mu-
tiny or insolence, it deserves sympathy. Of their Tory



XXI CHARLES I 491

democracy this seems to be about the sum. Richelieu
humbled the noble before the crown without doing
much for the peasant.

The privy council now usurped legislative functions,
and the star chamber, organized to suppress master-
ful wrong in unsettled and lawless times, became the
instrument of repression in the hands of an arbitrary
government; while the court of high commission, insti-
tuted by Elizabeth as the engine of her despotism in the
church, served the procrustean policy of Laud. " For the
better support of these extraordinary ways, and to pro-
tect the agents and instruments who must be employed
in them, and to discountenance and suppress all bold
inquirers and opposers, the council table and star cham-
ber enlarge their jurisdictions to a vast extent, ' holding '
(as Thucydides said of the Athenians) 'for honourable
that which pleased, and for just that which profited ' ;
and, being the same persons in several rooms, grew both
courts of law to determine right, and courts of revenue
to bring money into the treasury; the council table by
proclamations enjoining this to the people that was not
enjoined by the law, and prohibiting that which was not
prohibited; and the star chamber censuring the breach
and disobedience to those proclamations by very great
fines and imprisonment; so that any disrespect to acts
of state or to the persons of statesmen was in no time
more penal, and those foundations of right, by which
men valued their security, to the apprehension and un-
derstanding of wise men, never more in danger to be
destroyed." These are the words of the royalist histo-
rian Clarendon.

In the absence of parliamentary supplies, how were the



492 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

expenses of government to be met? Tonnage and pound-
age continued to be levied by prerogative. The duties
were increased. By delving into the middle ages obso-
lete rights and claims of the crown were unearthed. A
large and peopled district was claimed as royal forest, and
juries were bullied into adjudging it to the crown, not
to the satisfaction of the inhabitants who were brought
under forest law, any more than to that of the owners
of the land. Composition for knighthood, now obso-
lete, was revived. Every one who could be fined for
anything was fined. A land-owner was fined for depopu-
lation if he had pulled down a cottage. Monopolies were
another source of unconstitutional revenue. " Unjust pro-
jects," says Clarendon, "of all kinds, many ridiculous,
many scandalous, all very gi'ievous, were set on foot."
The government stooped to exactions which were little
better than blackmail. But the climax was ship-money.
A tribute, dating from the times of Danish invasion,
which had before been exacted from the seaports, was
now exacted from the country at large. Not once only
but five times the writs went out. The issue of such
a series showed that the plea of emergency had been
' dropped, and that ship-money was to be a permanent
tax levied without the assent of parliament.
1635 Hampden, a Buckinghamshire gentleman, stood' forth
and refused to pay the tax. There was a long and ever-
memorable argument before the whole bench of judges.
By this time the judges, holding office as they did during
the pleasure of the crown, had been pretty well reduced to
the condition of lions beneath the throne. One of them.
Heath, had been dismissed, most likely on political grounds.
Clarendon, high royalist as he is, deplores their debase-



XXI CHARLES I 493

ment. It is wonderful, and shows the influence of pro-
fessional conscience and of care for professional reputation,
that they should not have been unanimous in their judg-
ment for the crown. Hampden was condemned to pay,
but of him the king had not heard the last. More famous
though not more deserving of fame than Bate or Chambers,
he stands in history the type of a character which England
has failed fully to transmit, as she has failed fully to trans-
mit political independence generally, to her offspring in
the liew world. The logic of the judges. Clarendon says,
and, he might have added, that of the crown lawyers,
left no man anything that he might call his own. Chief
Justice Finch outvied the rest of the bench and even the
crown lawyers in exaltation of the prerogative.

The country meanwhile was prosperous. Taxation,
though unconstitutional, was not heavier than constitu-
tional taxation had been. Monopolies were galling, that
of soap especially, but not unbearable. Tonnage and
poundage when levied by prerogative were not more
onerous than when levied by law. Fines for refusal
of knighthood touched only a few, and those chiefly of
the wealthier sort. Afforestations were local. The en-
croachments of prerogative were masked by law, to which,
though delivered by servile judges, the mass of the people
would submit. The government was not inactive in ma-
terial improvement ; it set up a letter post, made sanitary
regulations, undertook the draining of fens. The legal
profession generally was on the king's side. So, of
course, were the clergy. If the crown had no standing
army, the patriotic opposition had no means of forming a
front, and the crown could raise troops at any moment,
while the opposition could not. In the county and the



494 THE UNITED KINGDOM cuai>,

borough freedom still had ramparts; otherwise in the
political region there seems to have been nothing to pre-
vent the government from gradually establishing itself
on a basis independent of parliament. Had Strafford in-
stead of Laud been at the centre of affairs, the course of
English history might have been changed. But Strafford
was too great for Charles, and his reforms, however they
might please Laud, pleased not courtiers or the queen.
To bid the courtiers support a minister in doing away with
corruption in order to save the government was to bid them
give up that which made the government worth saving.

The government, Buckingham's insane desire of shin-



Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 35 of 84)