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Three English statesmen; a course of lectures on the political history of England online

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\in memory of

W. Snvder


His Son and Daughter
















LET us never glorify revolution. Statesman-
ship is the art of avoiding it, and of making
progress at once continuous and calm. Revolu-
tions are not only full of all that a good citizen
and a good Christian hates while they last, but
they leave a long train of bitterness behind.
The energy and the exaltation of character
which they call forth are paid for in the lassi-
tude, the depression, the political infidelity which
ensue. The great spirits of the English Revolu-
tion were followed by the men of Charles II.
Whatever of moral grandeur there was in the
French Revolution was followed by Bonapartism
and Talleyrand. Even while the great men are
on the scene, violence and one-sidedness mar
their greatness. Let us pray that all our polit-

8 Three English Statesmen.

ical contests may be carried on as the contests of
fellow-citizen, and beneath the unassailed majes-
ty of law. But the chiefest authors of revolu-
tions have been not the chimerical and intemper-
ate friends of progress, but the blind obstructers
of progress; those who, in defiance of nature,
struggle to avert the inevitable future, to recall
the irrevocable past ; who chafe to fury by dam-
ming up its course the river which would other-
wise flow calmly between its banks, which has
ever flowed, and which, do what they will, must
flow forever.

If a revolution ever was redeemed by its
grandeur, it was the revolution which was open-
ed by Pym, which was closed by Cromwell, of
which Milton was the apostle and the poet.
The material forces have been seen in action on a
more imposing scale, the moral forces never.
Why is that regard for principle which was so
strong among us then, comparatively so weak
among us now ? The greatest member of Parlia-
ment that ever lived, the greatest master of the
convictions and the feelings of the House of
Commons, was not Robert Peel, but John Pym.
But if Pym, in modern garb and using modern
phrase, could now rise in his old place, his words,
though as practical as they are lofty, would, I
fear, be thought " too clever for the House." Is

Pym. 9

it that wealth, too much accumulated and too lit-
tle diffused, has placed the leadership of the na-
tion in less noble hands ?

We must not regard this revolution merely as
the struggle of the English House of Commons
against the tyranny of Charles I. It was part of
a European conflict between two great opposing
currents of opinion, one running toward the fu-
ture, the other toward the past. The Reforma-
tion, like all really great movements, was relig-
ions ; but acting on the deepest part of humani-
ty, it impelled forward the whole nature of man ;
and the reaction against it accordingly was a re-
action of all the powers of the past. In Spain
the reaction, both political and ecclesiastical, had
triumphed through the alliance of the Inquisition
and the kings. In France the political reaction
had triumphed through the policy of Richelieu,
whom some, thinking more of organization than
of life, numbered with the friends of progress; the
rest was to be done by Louis XIV. In Ger-
many, Austria and the Catholic League had near-
ly crushed the independence of the Protestant
states, and made a Catholic empire of the land of
Luther. At first the Reformation, with liberty
in its train, had spread over all the nations that
spoke a Teutonic tongue ; it had spread over a
great part of France ; it had gained a footing in


io Three English Statesmen.

Italy and Spain. Now, England and Holland
seemed to stand almost alone. It was a crisis as
perilous as that of the Armada. How natural to
humanity, wearied and perplexed with change, is
this yearning for the thrones and for the altars
of the past !

In England, however, not only was there this
conflict between the Reformation and its enemies.
Here, the real reformation was still to come.
The reformation of Henry VIII. was a royal ref-
ormation, which put the king in the place of "the
pope. The people were now to have their ref-
ormation, a reformation of conviction, which put
conscience in the place both of pope and king.

I take for granted a knowledge of the reign
of James I. ; the glories of Elizabeth lighting
up the shame of her successor; the fatal ques-
tion whether sovereign power resided with the
king or with the parliament, kept undecided by
her tact, forced to decision by his folly ; the
weaknesses of a sovereign who seemed born to
advance constitutional liberty by provoking re-
sistance which he could not quell, and proclaim-
ing principles of absolutism which he could not
sustain; the close alliance between prerogative
and the priest party, the king insulting the
Puritan divines at the Hampton ^Court confer,
ence, and the bishops prostrate in grateful ecsta-

Pym. ii

sies at Ms feet; the government of favorites,
whose names were by-words of infamy ; the ju-
dicial murder of Raleigh ; the disgrace of Chief-
Justice Coke, and of the common law in his per-
son ; the divorce of Essex ; the murder of Over-
bury ; the mysterious threats by which the mur-
derers appealed not in vain to the guilty con-
science of the king ; the uprising of the Com-
mons ; the Protestation of Right ; the storm of
national resentment to which the court sacrificed
Bacon Bacon, who served darkness in the hope
that when he had raised himself to power his
science would make the darkness light, the dupe
of a dream of beneficent despotism, a warning to
fastidious minds if they would work for the peo-
ple to work with and by the people.

I take for granted, too, a knowledge of the
early part of the life and reign of Charles : the
ominous episode of the Spanish match ; the
scenes of duplicity which followed, already re-
vealing the dark spot in Charles's character ; the
ascendancy of Buckingham, safely intrenched in
favor, more safely than ever Stratford was, be-
cause his mind was not above that of his master ;
the coronation, in which the bishops and their
paraphernalia played so conspicuous a part; the
brief honey-moon of the new king and his parlia-
ment; the renewal of the struggle; Charles's

12 Three English Statesmen.

policy oscillating between government by Parlia-
ment and government by prerogative, and both
ways fatally to himself; his foreign policy oscil-
lating between the support of Protestant free-
dom, for which the nation called, and the support
of Catholic absolutism, toward which his own
heart yearned ; the French queen, with her
French notions of what a king and a queen
should be; the beginnings of arbitrary taxation
and military rule ; the " great, warm, and ruffling
parliament," as Whitelocke calls it, by which
those encroachments were withstood ; the Peti-
tion of Right, that complement of the Great
Charter, which declares that Englishmen shall
never be subject to martial law, and which if it
be tampered with in our day, though it be in the
person of the humblest English subject, we pur-
pose, after the example of our great forefathers,
to make good.

At last Charles broke with his parliament,
passionately dissolved it amid a scene^ of tem-
pestuous violence (the speaker being held -down
in his chair till the protest of the Commons had
been made), and by proclamation forbade any
man to talk of a parliament being ever held
again. The leader of the Commons, Sir John
Eliot, was thrown into the Tower. There he
sank at last beneath the bad air and the chills of

Pym. 13

his prison-house, constantly refusing, as a cham-
pion of the law, to do homage to lawlessness by
submission. " My lodgings are removed, and I
am now where candle-light may be suffered, but
scarce fire." So he writes when he is dying of
consumption. The court knew what they were
doing. " I must tell you," writes Lord Cotting-
ton to the renegade Strafford, "that your old,
dear friend Sir John Eliot is very like to die."
His family petitioned for leave to bury him
among his fathers in his Cornish home. The
king wrote at the foot of the petition, " Let Sir
John Eliot's body be buried in the church of
that parish where he died." But Sir John
Eliot's spirit rose in the king's path in a decisive

Then followed eleven years of government by
prerogative in place of Parliament, the triune
despotism of the Privy Council, the Star Cham-
ber, the Court of High Commission ; in place of
laws, proclamations ; in place of courts of law,
courts of arbitrary power ; in place of legal taxa-
tion by Parliament, forced loans, monopolies,
feudal and forest extortions, ship-money ; the ten-
ure of the judges made during the king's pleas-
ure, that they might be perfect slaves to the
king's will ; the tamperings with the bench, by
which old Judge Whitelocke warned Laud he

14 Three English Statesmen.

would in the end raise a flame in the nation ; the
" Book of Sports" put forth not only to do de-
spite to the Puritan Sabbath, but to make a mer-
ry England, free from political thought; the
Protestant cause abroad openly abandoned ; the
strength of the nation declining as the power of
the crown rose, and Barbary pirates riding tri-
umphant in the Channel; Strafford and Laud
with their policy of Thorough; Laud, Primate
and Chancellor, extirpating freedom of thought
in England ; Strafford, lord deputy of Ireland,
making ready there an army for the completion
of the joint work, and reading us two lessons
which from so able an enemy w^shall do well to
learn; first, that a standing army is a standing
menace to public liberty ; and, secondly, that ar-
bitrary government in a dependency is the step-
ping-stone to arbitrary government at home.
Hopelessly as it seemed at the time, Hampden
withstood ship-money: he was cast in his suit
before a servile and unjust court, but he proved
that in a righteous cause a defeat before an un-
just court may be a victory before the people.

With tyranny in the State, tyranny in the
Church went hand in hand. Intimate is the con-
nection between political freedom and freedom
of the soul ; eternal is the alliance of the Lauds
and the Straffords against both. Reaction in the

Pym. 1 5

State and reaction in the Church, a Romanizing
clergy, and a government tending to martial law,
these are the joint characteristics not of one age
alone. The dry bones of the Tudor episcopate
had now begun to live with a portentous life of
priestly ambition, the source of which was Rome,
and which soon sought union with its source.
To unprotestantize the Church of England, Laud
labored with canons and ordinances, with books
and sermons, with preferments for the compliant,
with whips, pillories, and banishment for recu-
sants, at a rate which happily for us left prudence
as well as charity and humanity behind. Prot-
estant preachers were driven from their pulpits,
harried out of the kingdom among them the
favorite preacher of an obscure sectary named
Cromwell. The altar was set up again in place
of the communion table. The eucharistic miracle,
the talisman of priestly power, was again per-
formed. Clerical celibacy, monachism, the confes-
sional, were coming in due course. Persons of
quality especially embraced a religion of flowers
and incense, of millineries and upholsteries, of in-
sinuating directors. Only some spirits, too impa-
tient and too logical, could not be kept from cut-
ting short the process and going at once to
Rome. The Protestant refugee churches in En-
gland were crushed ; it seems their members

1 6 Three English Statesmen.

kept some trade secrets to themselves, and did
not contribute so much as was to be desired to
the wealth of the kingdom. The communion of
the Protestant churches abroad, which Hooker
had acknowledged, was renounced, because hav-
ing no bishops they could not be Christian ; and
this no doubt was called the reunion of Christen-
dom. To all this the hearty support of the
Court was given, and it was well earned. The
High Church clergy preached the Loan as vigor-
ously as the Real Presence or the Apostolical
Succession. The court divine, 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 tran-
scendent relation between king and subject." 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 ; be-
cause in Scripture the name of god is given to an-
gels, priests, and kings ; or from the propinquity
of offenses against God and his anointed king;
or from the parity of beneficence which men en-
joy from sacred kings, and which they can no
more requite in the case of the king than in the

Pym. 17

case of God." He reasons, " that as justice, proper-
ly so called, intercedes not between God and
man, nor between the prince, being the father,
and the people as children (for justice is between
equals), so can not justice be any rule or medium
whereby to give God or the king his right."
And again, he draws a comparison between the
dignity of angels and that of kings from which it
is plain that bishoprics are not in the gift of the
angels. This in the Chapel Eoyal, where, as
Pym said, that doctrine was already so well be-
lieved that no man needed to be converted.
Manwaring, Sibthorpe, and Montagu belong as
yet not wholly to the past ; but the members of
the Church of England have the happiness of
knowing that there are some at least among her
clergy in high places who labor, and labor suc-
cessfully, to lay her foundations not in political
power but in the free affection of the people ; to
present her as the friend and the consecrator, not
as the enemy, of human progress ; and to ally her
not with injustice but with justice.

When Charles dismissed his parliament, the
day was going hard with the Protestant cause in
Germany, the great scene of the conflict, to which
the eyes of all Protestants were wistfully and
sadly turned. Tilly and Wallenstein were carry-
ing all before them ; and the last hope of Protest-

1 8 Three English Statesmen.

antism seemed to expire when the King of Den-
mark was overthrown. Suddenly a light shone
in the north. Gustavus Adolphus appeared
upon the scene. Leipsic, the Gettysburg of the
seventeenth century, was fought ; and the tidings
of a great deliverance and the name of a great
deliverer made the heart of the oppressed to
leap for joy, and loosened the knees of the op-
pressor. English and Scottish soldiers of Gusta-
TUS, the Garibaldians of their day, came back, not
a few to England, many to Scotland, with Gari-
baldian memories and sentiments in their hearts.

Then Laud laid his rash hand upon the relig-
ious independence of Scotland ; and the Scotch
nation, nobles and commons, ministers and peo-
ple, wonderfully fused together by fiery enthusi-
asm, poured like a lava torrent on the aggressor.
English sympathies fought on the Scottish side ;
English soldiers refused to conquer for Laud.
Stratford's Irish army was not ready. Govern-
ment by prerogative fell, and Charles called a

After eleven years without parliaments, most
of the members were new. But they had not to
seek a leader. They had one whom all accepted
in John Pym. Pyni had been second only to
Sir John Eliot as a leader of the patriot party in
the reign of James. He was one of the twelve

Pym. 19

deputies of the Commons when James cried,
with insight as well as spleen, " Set twal chairs ;
here be twal kings coming." He had stood
among the foremost of those " evil-tempered spir-
its" who protested that the liberties of Parliament
were not the favors of the crown, but the birth-
right of Englishmen, and who for so doing were
imprisoned without law. He had resolved, as he
said, that he would rather suffer for speaking
the truth, than the truth should suffer for
want of his speaking. His greatness had in-
creased in the struggle against Charles I. He
had been one of the chief managers of the im-
peachment of Buckingham ; and for that service
to public justice, he had again suffered a glorious
imprisonment. He had accused Manwaring ; he
had raised a voice of power against the Roman-
izing intrigues of Laud. In those days, he and
Strafford were dear friends, and fellow -soldiers
in the same cause. But when the death of Buck-
ingham left the place of First Minister vacant,
Strafford sought an interview with Pym at
Greenwich ; and when they met began to talk
against dangerous courses, and to hint at advanta-
geous overtures to be made by the court. Pym cut
him short: "You need not use all this art to tell me
that you have a mind to leave us. But remember
what I tell you you are going to be undone.

2O 7Yiree English Statesmen.

And remember also, that though you leave us, I
will never leave you while your head is upon
your shoulders !" Such at least was the story
current in the succeeding age of the last inter-
view between the Great Champion of Freedom
and the Great Apostate.

Pym was a Somersetshire gentleman of good
family ; and it was from good families such fam-
ilies at least as do not produce Jacobins that
most of the leaders of this revolution sprang. I
note it, not to claim for principle the patronage
of birth and wealth, but to show how strong that
principle must have been which could thus move
birth and wealth away from their natural bias.
It is still true, not in the ascetic, but in the moral
sense, that it is hard for a rich man to enter into
the kingdom of heaven ; and when we see rich
men entering into the kingdom of heaven, hazard-
ing the enjoyment of wealth for the sake of prin-
ciple, we may know that it is no common age.
Oxford was the place of Pym's education, and
there he was distinguished not only by solid ac-
quirements, but by elegant accomplishments, so
that an Oxford poet calls him the favorite of
Apollo. High culture is now rather in disgrace
in some quarters, and not without a color of rea-
son, as unbracing the sinews of action and de-
stroying sympathy with the people. Neverthe-

Pym. 21

less, the universities produced the great states-
men and the great warriors of the Commonwealth.
If the Oxford of Pym, of Hampden, and of Blake,
the Oxford of "Wycliffe, the Oxford where in still
earlier times those principles were nursed which
gave us the Great Charter and the House of
Commons if this Oxford, I say, now seems by
her political bearing to dishonor learning, and by
an ignoble choice does a wrong to the nation
which Lancashire is called upon to redress be-
lieve me, it is not the University which thus of-
fends, but a power alien to the University and
alien to learning, to which the University is, and,
unless you rescue her, will continue to be, a slave.

It is another point of difference between the
English and the French revolutions that the
leaders of the English Revolution were as a rule
good husbands and fathers, in whom domestic af-
fection was the root of public virtue. Pym,
after being for some time in public life, married,
and after his marriage lived six years in retire-
ment a part of training as necessary as action
to the depth of character and the power of sus-
tained thought which are the elements of great-
ness. At the end of the six years his wife died,
and he took no other wife but his country.

There were many elements in. the patriot par-
ty, united at first, afterward severed from each

22 Three English Statesmen.

other by the fierce winnowiug-fan of the struggle,
and marking by their successive ascendancy the
changing phases of the revolution : Constitution-
al Monarchists, aristocratic Republicans, Repub-
licans thorough-going, Protestant Episcopalians,
Presbyterians, Independents, and in the abyss be-
neath them all the Anabaptists, the Fifth Mon-
archy men, and the Levellers. Pym was a friend
of constitutional monarchy in politics, a Protest-
ant Episcopalian in religion ; against a despot,
but for a king; against the tyranny and political
power of the bishops, but satisfied with that
form of church government. He was no fanatic,
and no ascetic. He was genial, social, even con-
vivial. His enemies held him up to the hatred
of the sectaries as a man of pleasure. As the
statesman and orator of the less extreme party,
and of the first period of the revolution, he is the
English counterpart of Mirabeau, so far as a Chris-
tian patriot can be the counterpart of a Voltairean

Nor is he altogether unlike Mirabeau in the
style of his eloquence, our better appreciation of
which, as well as our better knowledge of Pym
and of this the heroic age of our history in gener-
al, we owe to the patriotic and truly noble dili-
gence of Mr. John Forster, from whose researches
no small portion of my materials for this lecture

Pym. 23

is derived. Pym's speeches of course are seven-
teenth-century speeches ; stately in diction, some-
what like homilies in their divisions, full of
learning, full of Scripture (which then, be it re-
membered, was a fresh spring of new thought), full
of philosophic passages which might have come
from the pen of Hooker or of Bacon. But they
sometimes strike the great strokes for which
Mirabeau was famous. Buckingham had plead-
ed to the charge of enriching himself by the sale
of honors and offices, that so far from having en-
riched himself he was .100,000 in debt. " If this
be true," replied Pym, " how can we hope to sat-
isfy his immense prodigality; if false, how can
we hope to satisfy his covetousness ?" In the
debate on the Petition of Right, when Secretary
Cooke desired in the name of the king to know
whether they would take the king's word for
the observance of their liberties or not, " there
was silence for a good space," none liking to re-
ject the king's word, all knowing what that word
was worth. The silence was broken by Pym,
who rose and said, " We have his majesty's coro-
nation oath to maintain the laws of England;
what need we then to take his word ?" And
the secretary desperately pressing his point, and
asking what foreigners would think if the people
of England refused to trust their king's word,

24 Three English Statesmen.

Pym rejoined, " Truly, Mr. Secretary, I am of the
same opinion that I was, that the king's oath is
as powerful as his word." In the same debate
the courtiers prayed the House to leave entire
his majesty's sovereign power a Stuart phrase,
meaning the power of the king when he deemed
it expedient to break the law. " I am not able,"
was Pym's reply, " 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 power distinct from the power of the
law. I know how to add sovereign to the king's
person, but not to his power. We can not leave
to him a sovereign power, for we never were pos-
sessed of it."

The English Revolution was a revolution of
principle, but of principle couched in precedent.
What the philosophic salon was to the French
leaders of opinion, that the historical and anti-
quarian library of Sir Robert Cotton was to the
English. And of the group of illustrious men
who gathered in that library, none had been a
deeper student of its treasures than Pym. His
speeches and state papers are the proof.

When the parliament had met, Pym was the
first to rise. We know his appearance from his
portrait a portly form, which a court waiting-
woman called that of an ox ; a forehead so high

Pym. 25

that lampooners compared it to a shuttle ; the
dress of a gentleman of the time : for not to the
cavaliers alone belonged that picturesque cos-
tume and those pointed beards, which furnish the
real explanation of the fact that all women are
Tories. Into the expectant and wavering, though
ardent, minds of the inexperienced assembly he
poured, with the authority of a veteran chief, a
speech which at once fixed their thoughts, and
possessed them with their mission. It was a
broad, complete, and earnest, though undeclama-
tory, statement of the abuses which they had
come to reform. For reform, though for root-

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