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had ruled Ireland, and some parts of England, in an arbitrary manner; had endeavoured to subvert fundamental laws, to subvert parliaments, and to incense the king against them; he had also endeavoured to make hostility between England and Scotland: he had counselled the king to call over that Irish army of papists, which he had cunningly raised, to reduce England, as appeared by good testimony then present at the consultation : for which and many other crimes alleged and proved against him in twenty-eight articles, he was condemned of high-treason by the parliament.
The commons by far the greater number cast him: the lords, after they had been satisfied in a full discourse by the king's solicitor, and the opinions of many judges delivered in their house, agreed likewise to the sentence of treason. The people universally cried out for justice. None were his friends but courtiers and clergymen, the worst, at that time, and most corrupted sort of men; and court ladies, not the best of women ; who when they grow to that insolence as to appear active in state affairs, are the certain sign of a dissolute, degenerate, and pusillanimous commonwealth. Last of all, the king, or rather first, for these were but his apes, was not satisfied in conscience to condemn him of high-treason; and declared to both houses, “ that no fears or respects whatsoever should make him alter that resolution founded upon his conscience.” Either then his resolution was indeed not founded upon his conscience, or his conscience received better information, or else both his conscience and this his
resolution struck sail, notwithstanding these glorious words, to his stronger fear; for within a few days after, when the judges, at a privycouncil, and four of his elected bishops had picked the thorn out of his conscience, he was at length persuaded to sign the bill for Strafford's execution. And yet perhaps that it wrung science to condemn the earl of high-treason is not unlikely; not because he thought him guiltless of highest treason, had half those crimes been committed against his own private interest or person, as appeared plainly by his charge against the six members ; but because he knew himself a principal in what the earl was but his accessory, and thought nothing treason against the commonwealth, but against himself only. his abuse, confuted Milton, and vindicated the reputation of this ape of Sylla. The comparison is Clarendou's, (History, i. 456.)—ED.
Had he really scrupled to sentence that for treason, which he thought not treasonable, why did he seem resolved by the judges and the bishops ? and if by them resolved, how comes the scruple here again? It was not then, as he now pretends, “the importunities of some, and the fear of many," which made him sign, but the satisfaction given him by. those judges and ghostly fathers of his own choosing. Which of him shall we believe? for he seems not one, but double; either here we must not believe him professing that his satisfaction was but seemingly received and out of fear, or else we may as well believe that the scruple was no real scruple, as we can believe him here against himself before, that the satisfaction then received was no real satisfaction. Of such a variable and fleeting conscience what hold can be taken ?
But that indeed it was a facile conscience, and could dissemble satisfaction when it pleased, his own ensuing actions declared; being soon after found to have the chief hand in a most detested conspiracy against the parliament and kingdom, as by letters and examinations of Percy, Goring, and other conspirators came to light; that his intention was to rescue the Earl of Strafford, by seizing on the Tower of London; to bring up the English army out of the North, joined with eight thousand Irish papists raised by Strafford, and a French army to be landed at Portsmouth, against the parliament and their friends. For which purpose the king, though requested by both houses to disband those Irish papists, refused
do it, and kept them still in arms to his own purposes. No marvel then, if being as deeply criminous as the earl himself, it stung his conscience to adjudge to death those misdeeds, whereof himself had been the chief author : no marvel though instead of blaming and detesting his ambition, his evil counsel, his violence, and oppression of the people, he fall to praise his great abilities; and with scholastic flourishes, beneath the decency of a king, compares him to the sun, which in all figurative use and significance bears allusion to a king, not to a subject: no marvel though he knit contradictions as close as words can lie together," not approving in his judgment," and yet approving in his subsequent reason all that Strafford did, as
driven by the necessity of times, and the temper of that people;" for this excuses all his misdemeanors. Lastly, no marvel that
he goes on building many fair and pious conclusions upon false and wicked premises, which deceive the common reader, not well discerning the antipathy of such connexions: but this is the marvel, and may be the astonishment, of all that have a conscience, how he durst in the sight of God (and with the same words of contrition wherewith David repents the murdering of Uriah) repent his lawful compliance to that just act of not saving him, whom he ought to have delivered up to speedy punishment; though himself the guiltier of the two.
If the deed were so sinful, to have put to death so great a malefactor, it would have taken much doubtless from the heaviness of his sin, to have told God in his confession how he laboured, what dark plots he had contrived, into what a league entered, and with what conspirators, against his parliament and kingdoms, to have rescued from the claim of justice so notable and so dear an instrument of tyranny; which would have been a story, no doubt, as pleasing in the ears of heaven, as all these equivocal repentances. For it was fear, and nothing else, which made him feign before both the scruple and the satisfaction of his conscience, that is to say, of his mind : his first fear pretended conscience, that he might be borne with to refuse signing; his latter fear, being more urgent, made him find a conscience both to sign and to be satisfied. As for repentance, it came not on him till a long time after; when he saw “ he could have suffered nothing more, though he had denied that bill.” For how could he understandingly repent of letting that be treason, which the parliament and whole nation so judged ? This was that which repented him, to have given up to just punishment so stout a champion of his designs, who might have been so useful to him in his following civil broils. It was a worldly repentance, not a conscientious; or else it was a strange tyranny, which his conscience had got over hiin, to vex him like an evil spirit for doing one act of justice, and by that means to “fortify his resolution” from ever doing so any more. That mind must needs be irrecoverably depraved, which either by chance or importunity, tasting but once of one just deed, spatters at it, and abhors the relish ever after.
To the Scribes and Pharisees wo was denounced by our Saviour, for straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, though a gnat were to be strained at: but to a conscience with whom one good is so hard to pass down as to endanger almost a choking, and bad deeds without number, though as big and bulky as the ruin of three kingdoms, go down currently without straining, certainly a far greater wo appertains. If his conscience were come to that unnatural dyscrasy, as to digest poison and to keck at wholesome food, it was not for the parliament or any of his kingdoms, to feed with him any longer. Which to conceal he would persuade us, that the parliament also in their conscience escaped not
some touches of remorse," for putting Strafford to death, in forbidding it by an after-act to be a precedent for the future. But, in a fairer construction, that act implied rather a desire in them to pacify the king's mind, whom they perceived by this means quite alienated: in the meanwhile not imagining that this after-act should be retorted on them to tie up justice for the time to come upon like occasion, whether this were made a precedent or not, no more than the want of such a precedent, if it had been wanting, had been available to hinder this.
But how likely is it, that this after-act argued in the parliament their least repenting for the death of Strafford, when it argued so little in the king himself; who, notwithstanding this after-act, which had his own hand and concurrence, if not his own instigation, within the same year accused of hightreason no less than six members at once for the same pretended crimes, which his conscience would not yield to think treasonable in the earl? So that this his subtle argument to fasten a repenting, and, by that means a guiltiness of Strafford's death upon the parliament, concludes upon his own head; and shows us plainly, that either nothing in his judgment was treason against the commonwealth, but only against the king's person ; (a tyrannical principle !) or that his conscience was a perverse and prevaricating conscience, to scruple that the commonwealth should punish for treasonous in one eminent offender that which he himself sought so vehemently to have punished in six guiltless persons. If
“ that touch of conscience, which he bore with greater regret" than for any sin committed in his life, whether it were that proditory aid sent to Rochelle and religion abroad, or that prodigality of shedding blood at home, to a million of his subjects' lives not valued in comparison to one
Strafford ; we may consider yet at last, what true sense and feeling could be in that conscience, and what fitness to be the master-conscience of three kingdoms.
But the reason why he labours, that we should take notice of so much “ tenderness and regret in his soul for having any hand in Strafford's death,” is worth the marking ere we conclude : " he hoped it would be some evidence before God and man to all posterity, that he was far from bearing that vast load and guilt of blood” laid upon him by others : which hath the likeness of a subtle dissimulation ; bewailing the blood of one man, his commodious instrument, put to death, most justly, though by him unwillingly, that we might think him too tender to shed willingly the blood of those thousands whom he counted rebels. And thus by dipping voluntarily his finger's end, yet with show of great remorse, in the blood of Strafford, whereof all men clear him, he thinks to scape that sea of innocent blood, wherein his own guilt inevitably hath plunged him all over.
And we may well perceive to what easy satisfactions and purgations he had inured his secret conscience, who thought by such weak policies and ostentations as these to gain belief and absolution from understanding men.
CHAPTER III. Upon his going to the House of Commons. CONCERNING his inexcusable and hostile march from the court to the house of commons, there needs not much be said; for he confesses it to be an act, which most men, whom he calls “his enemies,” cried shame upon, “indifferent men grew jealous of and fearful, and many of his friends resented, as a motion arising rather from passion than reason.” He himself, in one of his answers to both houses, made profession to be convinced, that it was a plain breach of their privilege; yet here, like a rotten building newly trimmed over, he represents it speciously and fraudulently, to impose upon the simple reader; and seeks by smooth and supple words, not here only, but through his whole book, to make some beneficial use or other even of his worst miscarriages.