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ciple of the responsibility of ministers, and it was the
opening of the last and greatest of the civil wars with-
in the kingdom. A shrewd eye-witness has told us
how people began to assemble at five in the morning,
and filled the hall by seven; how the august culprit
came at eight, sometimes excusing delay by contrari-
ety of wind and tide, in a barge from the Tower with a
guard of musketeers and halberdiers, and he usually
found the king half an hour before him in an un-
ofificial box by the side of the queen. "It was daily,"
says Baillie the Covenanter, "the most glorious as-
sembly the isle can afford ; yet the gravity not such as
I expected ; oft great clamour without about the doors ;
in the intervals while Strafford was making ready for
answers, the Lords got always to iheir feet, walked


A, the King's mai*'"^; B, his feate offtate; C, the Queenes mai*'« ; D,
the Prince his highnes; E, Thomas Earle of Arundell, Lord high Steward
of England ; F, the Lord Keeper ; G, the Lord Marques of Winchefter ;
H, the Lord high Chamberlaine of England; I, the Lord Chamberlaine of
his Mai''« houfhold ; K, the Lord cheefe luftice of the Kings bench ; L,
2 Pryui Councellors; M, the M""- of the rolls; N, the ludges and Barons
of the Exchequer ; O, the M"- of the Chancery ; P, the Earles ; Q, the Vice-
counts ; R, the Barons ; S, the Knights, Ciltizens, & burgefes of the howfe
of Commons ; T, the Clarkes; V, the Earle of Strafford; \V, the Lieutenant
of the Tower; X, the Plaintiues ; Y, the Deputis councell & officers ; Z, the
Countes of Arundell; +> t^e eldeft Sonnes of fome of the Nobility.


and clattered ; the lower house men too loud clatter-
ing; after ten hours, much public eating, not only of
confections but of flesh and bread, bottles of beer and
wine going thick from mouth to mouth without cups,
and all this in the king's eye."

With the impeachment of Strafford the whole posi-
tion comes directly into view. He divided universal
hatred with his confederate the archbishop, who had
been impeached a few days after himself. He was the
symbol and impersonation of all that the realm had for
many long years suffered under. In England the
name of Strafford stood for lawless exactions, arbi-
trary courts, the free quartering of troops, and the
standing menace of a papist enemy from the other side
of St. George's Channel. The Scots execrated him as
the instigator of energetic war against their country
and their church. Ireland in all its ranks and classes
having through its Parliament applauded him as a
benefactor, now with strange versatility cursed him as
a tyrant. It was the weight of all these converging
animosities that destroyed him. "Three whole king-
doms," says a historian of the time, "were his accusers,
and eagerly sought in one death a recompense of all
their sufferings."

Viewed as a strictly judicial proceeding, the trial of
Strafford was as hollow as the yet more memorable
trial in the same historic hall eight years later. The
expedients for a conviction that satisfied our Lords
and Commons were little better than the expedients of
the Revolutionary tribunal in Jacobin Paris at the close
of the next century. The charges were vague, gen-
eral, and saturated with questionable inference. The
evidence, on any rational interpretation of the facts,
was defective at almost every point. That Strafford



had been guilty of treason in any sense in which a
sound tribunal going upon strict law could have con-
victed him, nobody now maintains or perhaps even
then maintained. Oliver St. John, in arguing the at-
tainder before the Lords, put the real point. "Why
should he have law himself who would not that others
should have any? W^e indeed give laws to hares and
deer, because they are beasts of chase; but we give
none to wolves and foxes, but knock them on the head
wherever they are found, because they are beasts of
prey." This was the whole issue — not law, but my
head or thy head. In revolutions it has often been
that there is nothing else for it ; and there was nothing
else for it here. But the revolutionary axe is double-
edged, and so men found it when the Restoration

Meanwhile, the one thing for Pym was to make sure.
That Strafford designed to subvert what, in the opin-
ion of the vast majority of Englishmen, were the fun-
damental liberties of the realm, there was no moral
doubt though there was little legal proof. That he
had earned the title of a public enemy ; that his con-
tinued eligibility for a place in the counsels of the king
would have been a public danger, and his escape from
punishment a public disaster; and that if he had not
been himself struck down, he would have been the first
to strike clown the champions of free government
against military monarchy — these are the propositions
that make the political justification of the step taken by
the Commons when, after fourteen sittings, they began
to fear that impeachment might fail them. They re-
sorted to the more drastic proceeding of a bill of at-
tainder. They were surrounded by imminent danger.
They knew of plots to bring the royal army down upon
the Parliament. They heard whispers of the intention


of the French king to send over a force to help his
sister, and of money coming from the Prince of
Orange, the king's new son-in-law. Tales came of
designs for Strafford's escape from the Tower. Above
all was the peril that the king, in his desperation and
in spite of the new difficulties in which such a step
would land him, might suddenly dissolve them. It
was this pressure that carried the bill of attainder
through Parliament, though Pym and Hampden at first
opposed it, and though Selden, going beyond Hyde
and Falkland who abstained, actually voted against it.
Men's apprehensions were on their sharpest edge.
Then it was that the Earl of Essex, rejecting Hyde's
arguments for merely banishing Strafford, gave him
the pithy reply, "Stone-dead hath no fellow."

Only one man could defeat the bill, and this was
Strafford's master. The king's assent was as neces-
sary for a bill of attainder as for any other bill, and if
there was one man who might have been expected to
refuse assent, it was the king. The bill was passed
on a Saturday (May 8). Charles took a day to con-
sider. He sent for various advisers, lay and episcopal.
Archbishops Usher and Juxton told him, like honest
men, that if his conscience did not consent, he ought
not to act, and that he knew Strafford to be innocent.
In truth Charles a few days before had appealed to the
Lords not to press upon his conscience, and told them
that on his conscience he could not condemn his minister
of treason. Williams, sharper than his two brother
prelates, invented a distinction between the king's pub-
lic conscience and his private conscience, not unlike
that which was pressed upon George III on the famous
occasion in 1800. He urged that though the king's
private conscience might acquit Strafford, his public
conscience ought to yield to the opinion of the judges.


Strafford had written to him a week before, and begged
him to pass the bill. "Sir, my consent shall more
acquit you herein to God than all the world can do be-
sides. To a willing man there is no injury done; and
as by God's grace I forgive all the world with calmness
and meekness of infinite contentment to my dislodging
soul, so, sir, to you I can give the life of this world
with all the cheerfulness imaginable, in the just ac-
knowledgment of your exceeding favours." Little
worthy was Charles of so magnanimous a servant.
Attempts have been made at palliation. The queen,
it is said, might have been in danger from the anger
of the multitude. "Let him," it is gravely enjoined
upon us, "who has seen wife and child and all that he
holds dear exposed to imminent peril, and has refused
to save them by an act of baseness, cast the first stone
at Charles." The equity of history is both a noble and
a scientific doctrine, but its decrees are not to be settled
by the domestic affections. Time has stamped the
abandonment of Strafford with an ignominy that can-
not be washed out. It is the one act of his life for
which Charles himself professed remorse. "Put not
your trust in princes," exclaimed Strafford when he
learned the facts. "I dare look death in the face," he
said stoically, as he passed out of the Tower gate to
the block; "I thank God I am not afraid of death, but
do as cheerfully put off my doublet at this time as ever
I did when I went to my bed." "His mishaps," said
his confederate, Laud, "were that he groaned under
the public envy of the nobles, and served a mild and
gracious prince who knew not how to be nor to be
made great."



WHEN Mary Stuart in 1567 rode away a captive
from Carberry Hill, she seized the hand of Lord
Linsay, her foe, and holding it aloft in her grasp, she
swore by it, "I will have your head for this, so assure
you." This was in Guise-Tudor blood, and her grand-
son's passion for revenge if less loud was not less deep.
The destruction of Strafford and the humiliation that
his own share in that bitter deed had left in the heart
of the king, darkened whatever prospect there might
at any time have been of peace between Charles and
the Parliamentary leaders. He was one of the men
vindictive in proportion to their impotence, who are
never beaten with impunity. His thirst for retaliation
was unquenchable, as the popular leaders were well
aware, as they were well aware too of the rising
sources of weakness in their own ranks. Seeing no
means of escape, the king assented to a series of re-
forming bills that swept away the Star Chamber, the
Court of High Commission, the assumed right to levy
ship-money, and the other more flagrant civil griev-
ances of the reign. The verdicts of Hal lam have
grown pale in the flash and glitter of later historians,
yet there is much to be said for his judgment that all



the useful and enduring part of the reforming work
of the Long Parliament was mainly completed within
the first nine months of its existence. These were all
measures obviously necessary for the restoration or
renovation of the constitution, and they stood the test
of altered times. Most of the rest was writ in water.

Charles went further and into a new region in agree-
ing to a law that guaranteed the assembly of a Parlia-
ment at least once in three years whether with the
king's consent or without. Further still he went
when he assented to an act for prolonging the life of
the sitting Parliament until it should vote for its own
dissolution (May ii, 1641). Here it was that reform
passed into revolution. To deprive the monarch of
the right of taking the sense of his people at his own
time, and to make dissolution depend upon an act of
Parliament passed for the occasion, was to go on to
ground that had never been trodden before. It con-
vinced tl>e king more strongly than ever that to save
his crown, in the only sense in which he thought a
crown worth wearing, he would have to fight for it.
Yet it was he who had forced the quarrel to this pitch.
Pym, Cromwell, and the rest were not the men to for-
get his lawless persecution of Eliot; nor that Charles
had extinguished Parliaments for eleven years ; nor
how, even after his return to the constitution only the
year before, he had petulantly broken the Short Par-
liament after a session of no more than three weeks.
It would have been judicial blindness to mistake what
was actually passing before their eyes. They knew of
plot upon plot. In April Pym had come upon one
design among the courtiers to bring up the northern
army to overawe the Parliament. Almost before this
was exposed, a second conspiracy of court and officers
was known to be on foot. It was the Scots who now.


as so often, held the key of the position. Charles's
design was manifestly to win such popularity and in-
fluence in Scotland, that he might be allowed to use
the army of that kingdom in concert with his own
army in the north of England to terrify his mutinous
Parliament and destroy its leaders. Such a policy was
futile from its foundation; as if the Scots, who cared
for their church far more than they cared for his
crown, were likely to lend themselves to the overthrow
of the only power that could secure what they cherished
most, against an unmasked enmity bent on its destruc-
tion. The defeat of the English Parliament must
bring with it the discomfiture of Christ's kirk in Scot-
land. In the month of August Charles left London to
visit his northern kingdom. The vigilance of the
Parliament men was not for an instant deceived.
They promptly guessed that the purpose of his jour-
ney must be to seek support for reaction, and his rejec-
tion of their remonstrances against his absence deep-
ened their suspicion.

They had indeed more reason than this for uneasi-
ness. The first of those moments of fatigue had come
that attend all revolutions. At the beginning of
civil discord boldness carries all before it ; but a settled
community, especially one composed of Englishmen,
soon looks for repose. Hopes are seen to be tinged
with illusion, the pulse slackens, and the fever cools.
The nation was after all still Royalist, and had not the
king redressed their wrongs? Why not rest? This
was the cjuestion of the indolent, the over-cautious, the
short-sighted and the fearful. Worse than fatigue, the
spirit of party now raised its questionable crest.
Philosophers have never explained how it comes that
faction is one of the inborn propensities of man ; nor
why it should always be that, even where solid reasons


are absent, almost any distinctions, however slender,
fleeting, fanciful, or frivolous, will yet serve to found a
party difference upon. "Zeal for different opinions
as to religion or government, whether those opinions
be practical or speculative ; attachment to different
leaders ambitiously contending for preeminence and
power ; devotion to persons whose fortunes have kin-
dled human interests and passions — these things have
at all times so inflamed men as to render them far more
disposed to vex and oppress each other than to work
together for the common good." Such is the language
of Madison about a singular law of human things, that
has made the spirit of sect and party the master-key
of so many in the long catalogue of the perversities of

It was on the church and its reform that the stren-
uous phalanx of constitutional freedom began to
scatter. The Long Parliament had barely been a
month in session before the religious questions that
were then most alive of all in the most vigorous minds
of the time, and were destined to lead by so many
divisions and subdivisions to distraction in counsel
and chaos in act, began rapidly to work. Cromwell
did not hold the helmsman's place so long as Pym sur-
vived. Clarendon said of Oliver that his parts seemed
to be raised by the demands of great station, "as if he
had concealed his faculties until he had occasion to
use them." In other words, Cromwell fixed his eyes
upon the need of the hour, used all his energy and de-
votion in meeting it, and let that suffice. Nor in men
of action is there any better mark of a superior mind.
But that Cromwell was "much hearkened to from the
first" is indicated by the fact that he was specially
placed upon eighteen of the committees into which the
House divided itself for the consideration of the mul-


titude of grievances that clamored for attention from
all the shires and boroughs in the land. He moved
the second reading of the bill for a sitting of Parlia-
ment every year, and he took a prominent part in the
committee that transformed the bill into a further
enactment that a Parliament should meet at least once
in three years, with or without the crown.

Going deeper, he was one of the secret instigators of
the first Parliamentary move of the Root-and-Branch
men against the bishops, and that move was the first
step in the development of party spirit within ranks
that had hitherto been stanchly of one mind. Every-
body was in favor of church reform but nobody at
this stage, and certainly not Cromwell, had any clear
ideas either of the principle on which reform should
proceed, or of the system that ought to be adopted.
On those ecclesiastical institutions that were what
mattered most, they were most at sea. The prevail-
ing temper was at first moderate. To exclude the
higher clergy from meddling as masters in secular
affairs, to stir up the slackness of the lower clergy, to
nullify canons imposed without assent of Parliament, to
expunge from the Prayer-book things calculated to give
offense — such were the early demands. A bill passed
through the Commons for removing the bishops from
the House of Lords. The Lords threw it out (June,
1641), and as usual rejection of a moderate reform
was followed by a louder cry for wholesale innovation.
The constitutionalists fell back, and men advanced to
the front with the root of the matter in them. A month
after the Lords refused the bishop's bill, the Commons
passed the Root-and-Branch bill. The Root-and-
Branch men, besides denouncing the liturgy as fram.ed
out of the Romish breviary and mass-book, declared
government by bishops to be dangerous both to church


and commonwealth, to be the main cause and occa-
sion of many foul evils. Only one thing was to be
done with a government so evil : with all its depen-
dencies, roots, and branches, it should be forthwith
swept away. What was to be the substitute nobody
knew, and when it came to that sovereign and most
wholesome test for all reformers — the conversion of
an opinion into the clauses of a bill — neither Cromwell
nor Vane nor any other of the reformers had anything
practicable to propose.

Root-and-Branch was in time confronted by rival
proposals for moderate Episcopacy. Neither Root-
and-Branch nor moderate Episcopacy reached an effec-
tive stage in either House, but the action taken upon
them split the Parliament in two, one side for Epis-
copacy, and the other against it. Such were the two
policies before men on the eve of the civil war. Then,
by and by, this division gradually adjusted itself with
disastrous aptness to the other and parallel conflict be-
tween crown and Parliament ; the partisans of bishops
slowly turned into partizans of the king, and Episco-
palians became one with Royalists. The wiser divines
tried to reconcile the rival systems. Usher, Arch-
bishop of Armagh, suggested that the bishop should
have a council of elders. Bramhall, his successor in
the metropolitan see, whom Cromwell called the Irish
Laud, admitted the validity of Presbyterian orders,
and thought the German superintendents almost as
good as bishops. Baxter, though he afterward de-
clined a miter, yet always held out a hand to prelacy.
Leighton, one of the few wholly attractive characters
of those bitter-flavored times, was closely intimate with
French Jansenists, of whom Hume truly says that they
were but half Catholics; and Leighton was wont to
declare that he would rather turn one single man to be


truly of a serious mind, than turn a whole nation to
mere outer conformity, and he saw no reason why
there should not be a conjunction between bishops and
elders. For none of these temperate and healing ideals
was the time ripe. Their journey was swiftly bring-
ing men into a torrid zone. The Commons resolved
that communion-tables should be removed from the
east end of churches, that chancels should be lev-
eled, that scandalous pictures of any of the persons of
the Trinity should be taken away, and all images of the
Virgin Mary demolished. The consequence was a
bleak and hideous defacement of beautiful or comely
things in most of the cathedrals and great churches all
over England. Altar-rails and screens were de-
stroyed, painted windows were broken, figures of stone
and marble ground to powder, and pictures cut into
shreds. These vandalisms shocked both reverential
sentiment and the police feeling for good order, and
they widened the alienation of Parliamentary parties.
Before the end of the autumn, Hyde and Falkland had
become king's friends.

Hyde, more familiarly known by his later style of
Lord Clarendon, stands among the leading figures of
the time, had a strong and direct judgment, much inde-
pendence of character, and ideas of policy that were
coherent and his own. His intellectual horizons were
wide, he had good knowledge of the motives of men,
and understood the handling of large affairs. Even
where he does not carry us with him, there is nobody
of the time whose opinion is much better worth know-
ing. We may even give him the equivocal credit that
is due to the Clarendonian type of conservative in all
times and places, that if only things could have been
different, he would not have been in the wrong. His
ideal in church and state, viewed in the light of the


event, did not ultimately miscarry. The settlement of
1688 would have suited him well enough, and in his
best days he had much of the temper of Somers. But
he and Falkland had either too little nerve, or too re-
fining a conscience, or too unstable a grasp, for the
navigation of the racing floods around them. They
were doubtless unwilling converts to the court party,
but when a convert has taken his plunge he must en-
dure all the unsuspected foolishness and all the un-
teachable zealotry of his new comrades — an experience
that has perhaps in all ages given many a mournful
hour to generous natures.

It was now that a majority with a policy found it-
self confronted with an opposition fluctuating in num-
bers, but still making itself felt, in the fashion that has
since become familiar essence of Parliamentary life all
the world over. As we shall see, a second and deeper
line of party demarcation was soon to follow. Mean-
while the division between parties in the Commons was
speedily attended by disagreement between Commons
and Lords, and this widened as the rush of events be-
came more pressing. Among the Lords, too, Charles
now found friends. It was his own fault if he did not
discover in the differences among his enemies upon the
church, a chance of recovering his own shattered au-
thority in the state. To profit by these differences was
his persistent game for seven years to come. Seldom
has any game in political manceuver been more unskil-
fully played.

The Parliament had adjourned early in September,
the king still absent in Scotland. The superintendence
of affairs was carried on by a committee, a sort of pro-
visional government of which Pym was the main-
spring. Hampden had gone to Edinburgh as a Par-
liamentary commissioner to watch the king. The two


houses reassembled a few clays before the end of Octo-
ber amid intense disquiet. The growing tension made
the popular leaders at once more energetic and more
deliberate. Shortly before the adjournment the
Prayer-book had been attacked, and Cromwell sup-
ported the attack. Bishops still furnished the occa-
sion, if they were not the cause, of political action.
Root-and-Branch was dropped, and a bill was renewed
for excluding the clergy from temporal authority and
depriving the bishops of their seats among the Lords.
Then followed a bill for suspending the bishops from
Parliamentary powers in the meantime. Cromwell by
the side of Pym spoke keenly for it, on the ground that
the bishops by their six-and-twenty votes should not
be suffered to obstruct the legislative purposes of a
majority of the two houses.

Charles, writing from Scotland (October), had an-
nounced a momentous resolution. 'T command you."
he said to his Secretary of State, "to assure all my
servants that I am constant to the discipline and doc-
trine of the Church of England established by Queen
Elizabeth and my father, and that I resolve by the
grace of God to die in the maintenance of it." The
pledge was more tragic than perhaps he knew, but
when the time came he redeemed it to the letter. As
a sign that he was in earnest, he proceeded to fill up
five bishoprics that happened to be vacant, and in four

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 7 of 35)