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FROM THE MEETING OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE CIVIL. WAR
THE “ LONG' PARLIAMENT-STRAFFORD AND LAUD IMPEACHED
MEASURES TO SECURE CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY-ECCLESIASTICAL
ARLIAMENT met on November 3, 16.10.
“There was observed,” says Lord Clarendon, " marvellous elated countenance in most of the members before they met together in the House." 1 They knew that as long as the Scottish army held the north of England the King would not dare to dissolve them; and it was their policy not to bring the negotiations with Scotland to a close till they had broken the tyranny which had almost destroyed the civil liberties of the country, and had, as they believed, imperilled the very life of English Protestantism.
The two men who beyond all others were responsible for the recent innovations, both in Church and State, were Strafford
1 Clarendon, History, i. 239.
and Laud. On November 11 Pym appeared at the bar of the House of Lords, and in the name of the Commons of England impeached Strafford of high treason. The earl was immediately arrested; bail was refused ; and he was lodged in the Tower. Laud was impeached on December 18, and was committed to the custody of one of the officers of the House of Peers ; ten weeks later he too was lodged in the Tower. Nor were the Commons satisfied with striking at the two most trusted and powerful Ministers of the Crown. Finch, the Lord Keeper, was voted a traitor for his proceedings in connection with the levying of ship-money, and especially for his activity in securing a judgment against Hampden. Before his impeachment could be laid before the Lords he had fled to Holland. Windebank, one of the Secretaries, fled to Paris ; he was charged with illegally releasing certain Romanists-priests and laymen—from prison.”
“So that within less than six weeks,” says Clarendon, “ for no more time was yet elapsed, these terrible reformers had caused the two greatest counsellors of the kingdom, and whom they most feared, and so hated, to be removed from the king, and imprisoned, under an accusation of high treason; and frighted away the lord keeper of the great seal of England, and one of the principal secretaries of state, into foreign kingdoms, for fear of the like; besides the preparing all the lords of the council, and very many of the principal gentlemen throughout England, who ... had been high sheriffs, and deputy lieutenants, to expect such measure of punishment from their general votes and resolutions, as their future demeanour should draw upon them, for their past offences; by which means, they were like to find no very vigorous resistance or opposition in their farther designs." ,
The same vigour and rapidity of action which the House had displayed in dealing with the advisers and abettors of the evil policy of the King were shown in the measures which were passed within a few months for surrounding the constitutional liberties of England with fresh guarantees. One Act, For preventing Inconveniences by the Long Intermission of Parliaments, provided that no Parliament should sit for more than three years ; that within three years from the dissolution of one Parliament writs should be issued for summoning another
C. J., ii. 26-27.
3 Ibid., ii. 41. 4 Clarendon, History, i. 250.
if the Chancellor or Keeper of the Great Seal failed to issue them, he was to be removed from his office, and suffer other penalties, and the peers were authorised to meet at Westminster and issue writs to the sheriffs ; if the peers failed, the sheriffs on their own authority were to hold the elections ; if the sheriffs failed, the electors themselves might meet and choose members. The Crown was deprived of the power of dissolving or proroguing Parliament-except by the consent of the Houses—within fifty days of the opening of the session. Another Act condemned ship-money as illegal. Another “declared and enacted that it is, and hath been, the ancient right of the subjects of this realm, that no subsidy, custom, or impost, or other charge whatsoever, ought or may be laid or imposed upon any merchandise exported or imported by subjects, denizens or aliens, without common consent in parliament.” Another abolished the Star Chamber, and abrogated the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the Privy Council. Another abolished the High Commission which had been the chief instrument of ecclesiastical oppression ever since the days of Whitgift.5
In dealing with the Church the House of Commons was equally resolute and energetic; but till the Civil War broke out it was generally thwarted by the Lords. Not that there was any desire on the part of the majority of the members, when Parliament opened, to abolish Episcopacy or to attempt any great ecclesiastical revolution. According to Lord Clarendon—then Mr. Hyde—who was himself a member of the House, and who for some months after it met was in the closest intimacy with Hampden, Pym, and the other leaders of the country party :
"In the House of Commons were many persons of wisdom and gravity, who being possessed of great and plentiful fortunes, though they were undevoted enough to the court, had all imaginable duty for the king, and affection to the government established by law and ancient custom; and without doubt, the major part of that
5 16 Car. I. capp. 1, 8, 10, 11, 14. 13-14; Rushworth, ii. (2), 1382.
Scobell, 1-6, 9-12, 12-13,
body consisted of men who had no mind to break the peace of the kingdom or to make any considerable alteration in the government of church or state.” 6
Lord Brook and Lord Say in the Upper House, and Sir Harry Vane in the Lower, were irreconcilable enemies of the Episcopalian policy; and there were a few peers and a few commoners who approved of Presbyterianism ;
but the popular leaders and the immense majority of their followers in both Houses would have been satisfied with very moderate reforms. They were resolved that the ritual of the English Church should not be assimilated to the ritual of the Church of Rome, and they were anxious to afford relief to “tender consciences”; but they had no wish to introduce any serious changes into the Book of Common Prayer. They were resolved to diminish the powers of the bishops, and to depose some of the present holders of the sees who had been conspicuous for their support of Laud and their hostility to the Puritans; but to the episcopal order itself they were not hostile.
On November 6, 1640, following the example of preceding Parliaments in this reign, the Commons appointed a Grand Committee of the whole House to consider grievances of religion. On November 9, the House began to discuss the proceedings of Convocation, which had continued to sit in the earlier part of the year after the rising of Parliament. On December 15 it was resolved, without a dissentient voice, that Convocation has no power to “ make any constitutions, canons, or acts, whatsoever, in matter of doctrine, discipline or otherwise, to bind the clergy or the laity of the land, without common consent of Parliament ; ? that all the actions of the two Convocations of Canterbury and York in 1640 were null and void ; that the constitutions and canons agreed to in these Convocations contained “many Matters contrary to the King's Prerogative, to the fundamental Laws and Statutes of the Realm, to the right of Parliaments, to the Property and Liberty of the Subjects, and Matters tending to Sedition, and of dangerous Consequence." 8 It was also resolved that “the several Grants of the Benevolence or Contribution” made to the King by the two Convocations were illegal. 6 Clarendon, History, i. 258–259.
7 C. J., ii. 51. 8 Ibid., ii. 51-52.
• Ibid., ii. 52.
But before the House had passed these resolutions, questions were raised of a much graver and more alarming kind. The nobility, knights, gentry, and ministers” of several counties presented petitions for church reform. The earliest of these came from Bedford and Warwick, ten days after the meeting of Parliament. Petitions from Kent, Gloucester, and Chester soon followed. On December 11 a petition from the City of London, signed by 15,000 persons, was presented by Alderman Pennington.10 A great crowd accompanied him into the House. The petition began by declaring that “the government of Archbishops, Lord Bishops, Deans and Archdeacons, etc., with their courts and ministrations in them, hath proved prejudicial and very dangerous both to the Church and Commonwealth.” It sustained this charge by a schedule of twenty-eight particulars; and it closed with the following prayer—“We therefore most humbly pray and beseech this Honourable Assembly ... that the said Government, with all its dependencies, roots and branches, may be abolished; that all Laws in their behalf be made void ; and that the government, according to God's Word, may be rightly placed among us." 11 This petition—"the Root and Branch” petition -and others like it, were received by the House without any astonishment or indignation. In January“ the Ministers' Petition " was presented." It was signed by seven hundred clergymen. Their petition did not propose to abolish the Episcopacy, but prayed that bishops might be removed from the House of Lords; that the clergy might be deprived of the magistracy and other secular offices; that the cathedral chapters might be reformed; and that the ordinary clergy might be associated with the bishops in ordinations and in various acts of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. What they wanted was a modification of Episcopacy in the direction of Presbyterianism.
The excited temper of the common people began to show itself in riot and tumult. The clergy could not walk the streets in their clerical habit without being insulted. They
10 C. J., ii. 49.
19 C. J. (January 19, 1640-1), ii. 72. Rushworth, iii. (1), 152–153. The reference sometimes given to Nalson, ii. 764–766, is incorrect : that petition was presented nearly a year later, and differs in substance from