« PreviousContinue »
ment by Mr. Pym, on the 2d May, 1641, and immediately the conspirators absconded-some even seeking safety by fleeing to France.* The effect was like a lightning-flash, -sudden and fatal. It revealed to the community their own peril, and the nature of the measures which the king was capable of pursuing ; and thus it drove them to the conclusion that his word or treaty could not be trusted, and that the only method of securing their own safety consisted in depriving him of all power to injure them. Numerous and tumultuary mobs assembled around the Houses of Parliament, rending the air with cries of “ Justice! Justice !” In this state of public agitation the peers passed the bill of attainder.
Another important measure passed at the same perilous moment. The king was anxious that the Scottish army should return to Scotland, being well aware that its presence in England was a source of great strength to the patriots, paralyzing, at the same time, his own military preparations. He repeatedly urged Parliament to relieve the country from the oppressive burden of maintaining these two armies, the Scottish and his own. The House of Commons had already borrowed large sums for the payment of the current expenses; and a still larger sum would be required for the completion of the transaction. But when the plot against the Parliament was detected, the citizens of London, who had hitherto advanced the necessary supplies on parliamentary security, refused to contribute any more on a.security which appeared to be so precarious. "Public credit being thus overthrown, the only expedient for its recovery which presented itself was, to secure the continua. tion of the Parliament till these troubles should terminate. A bill was framed for this purpose, enacting, “That this present Parliament shall not be adjourned, prorogued, or dissolved, without their own consent.” This bill passed both Houses with very slight opposition, and received the royal assent by commission, along with the bill of attainder against the Earl of Strafford. It would seem
that the detection of the plot against the Parliament had completely stunned the king and his advisers, so that, in their guilty confusion, they were incapable of perceiving the vast im
* Whitelocke, p. 43.
port of such a concession, which rendered the Parliament completely independent of, and co-ordinate with, the king during its own pleasure.
Yet another step was taken, of scarcely less importance. Mr. Pym moved, that both Houses might join in some bond of defence, for the security of their liberties and of the Protestant religion. A protestation was accordingly framed, almost identical in principle with the National Covenant of Scotland, though somewhat different in form, and less minute in detail.*
The protestation was as follows: _“I, A. B., do, in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow, and protest to maintain and defend, as far as lawfully I may, with my life, power, and estate, the true Reformed Protestant Religion, expressed in the doctrine of the Church of England, against all Popery and Popish innovation within this realm, contrary to the said doctrine ; and according to the duty of my allegiance, I will maintain and defend his majesty's royal person, honor, and estate : Also the power and privileges of Parliament, the lawful rights and liberties of the subjects, and every person that shall make this protestation, in whatsoever he shall do in the lawful pursuance of the same ; and to my power, as far as lawfully I may, I will oppose, and by all good ways and means endeavor to bring condign punishment on all such as shall by force, practice, counsels, plots, conspiracies, or otherwise, do anything to the contrary in the present protestation contained: And further, that I shall, in all just and honorable ways, endeavor to preserve the union and peace betwixt the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland ; and neither for hope, fear, or any other respects, shall relinquish this promise, vow, and protestation.'
This protestation was subscribed by the whole House of Commons on the 3d of May, and next day by all the Peers present in Parliament, except two; it was then printed, and sent to every part of the kingdom, to be taken by the whole nation; and when it was opposed, the Commons passed a resolution, declaring, “That whosoever would not take the protestation was unfit to bear office in the Church or commonwealth.” To this course of procedure the king offered no opposition; and let it be observed, that the English
• Whitelocke, p. 43 ; Rushworth, vol. iv. p. 241.
House of Commons acted a much more arbitrary part, in the enforcing of this protestation, than had been done in Scotland with regard to the National Covenant: and as this took place more than two full years before the Solemn League and Covenant between the two kingdoms was even thought of, and was done by a House of Commons all nominally Episcopalians, it proves that it is directly contrary to fact and truth, to ascribe the severe measures of the Long Parliament to Presbyterian intolerance.
Events of great moment now followed each other with startling rapidity. A bill was passed, abolishing the Court of High Commission; and another, putting an end to the Star-Chamber. Both these bills were signed by the king ; and thus the main engines of oppression were destroyed. Acquiring fresh confidence by success, the House of Commons resumed their proceedings against the bishops, and actually prepared articles of impeachment. The king, perceiving that he was waging an unsuccessful warfare, changed his course, and suddenly intimated to the Parliament that he intended to pay a visit to Scotland, to complete the pacification with that country. The long-pending treaty was concluded and ratified, and his majesty journeyed to his native country with such expedition as to show that some important measures were in his mind. The leading parliamentary politicians penetrated his design, which indeed was sufficiently apparent. He had felt the strength of that support which the presence in England of the Scottish army gave to the patriotic party; and he justly imagined, that if he could not only detach the Scots from the English Parliament, but gain them to himself, he would then be able to reduce his refractory subjects to his own terms. The king's absence necessarily led to the adjournment of the Parliament; but its chief committees continued to meet, and a small committee was formed to accompany his majesty to Scotland.* The secret purpose of this committee was, to give to the leading Scottish statesmen such private information as should put them on their guard against the arts of royal dissimulation which might be practived. For this the Scottish leaders were already prepared by their own painful experience, and although the king exerted himself to the utmost to give satisfaction to them, and bestowed honors on the chief of the Covenanters, yet he could not remove their suspicions,-still less induce them to pledge themselves for the support of his intentions.
* The committee were, the Earl of Bedford, Lord Howard, Sir Philip Stapleton, Sir William Armyne, Mr. Hampden, and Mr. Fiennes.
Not only were his majesty's expectations disappointed, but additional cause was given to his people to watch all his movements with increasing jealousy. Before the king's arrival in Scotland, the Earl of Montrose had been detected forming a conspiracy to betray the Covenanters, even while acting as one of their commissioners at Ripon. For this, and other similar matters, he had been imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle. Even in his confinement he found means of corresponding with his associates, and, through them, with the king; and a plot was formed, of which there is strong reason to believe the king to have been aware, to seize Argyle and Hamilton, and either put them to death, or hurry them on board a frigate which lay in Leith roads, and having thus struck terror into the Covenanters, to put the army into the hands of the king, at the head of which his majesty might return and overpower his refractory Parliament in England.* The discovery of this plot excited a sudden and strong commotion ; but the king endeavored to cause it to be regarded as an entirely groundless alarm, and redoubled his efforts to give all possible satisfaction to the Covenanters. This event, known by the name of The Incident, sunk deep into men's minds, and led them to entertain the belief that the king was capable of conniving at any measure, however dark and bloody, provided that it could promote his progress towards absolute despotism. The fearful outburst of Popish fury, termed the Irish Massacre, taking place at the same time, gave to all these suspicions the most dark and dreadful aspect, and filled the heart of both England and Scotland with intense horror and alarm. And although it may be difficult to prove that Charles directly instigated the Irish Papists to this insurrection, or anticipated the terrific deeds that were done, yet it would be still more difficult to acquit him of knowing that it was intended, and of conniving at it, with the expectation of
* Baillie's Letters, vol. i. p. 392; Brodie's British Empire, vo.. iii. pp. 150-155.
turning it to his own advantage, by means of the armed forces which would be placed under his command.*
Such was the state of matters, and such the agitated temper of the kingdom, when Charles returned to London, again to resume his contest with the Parliament, now roused to a pitch of almost desperate determination. A committee had been appointed, a considerable time before, “to draw out of all the grievances of the nation such a remonstrance as might be a faithful and lively representation to his majesty of the deplorable state of the kingdom.” This remonstrance, consisting of two hundred and six articles, was read in the House of Commons on the 32d of November, 1641. It had to encounter a very strong opposition; and after a debate which lasted from three in the afternoon till three in the morning, it was carried by a majority of 11, the votes being 159 to 148. Within a few days after the remonstrance had been presented to his majesty, and before he had returned an answer, it was printed and dispersed all over the kingdom. By this step, certainly defective in courtesy, the Parliament fairly took their ground, threw themselves and their cause upon the principle and intelligence of the king. dom, and thenceforward the struggle was one between the sovereign and the nation.
The trials of the bishops, who had been impeached as authors of the nation's grievances, came next. The bishops attempted to stay the proceedings by entering a demurrer. Great and dangerous tumults arose in consequence of the position taken by the prelates; and they, alarmed, and considering themselves exposed to personal danger, determined to abstain from going to the House of Lords, and drew up a protestation against whatsoever should be done by Parliament in their absence, as null, and of no effect. Their greatest enemies could not have suggested to them a more self-destructive course. They were immediately accused of acting in a manner destructive of parliaments, and assuming a negative voice in the Legislature, possessed by
* The perusal of “A Declaration of the Commons,” &c., July 25, 1642, would prove to any impartial reader that there was such a plot between the queen and the Irish Papists, and that the king knew of it.
Rushworth, vol. iv. pp. 438-451; Whitelock, p. 49. | Whitelocke, p. 51.