« PreviousContinue »
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
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.
“These men,” saith he, meaning his friends, “knew not the just motives and pregnant grounds with which I thought myself furnished;" to wit, against the five members, whom he came to drag out of the house. His best friends indeed knew not, nor could ever know, his motives to such a riotous
and had he himself known any just grounds, he was not ignorant how much it might have tended to his justifying, had he named them in this place, and not concealed them. But suppose them real, suppose them known, what was this to that violation and dishonour put upon the whole house, whose very door, forcibly kept open, and all the passages near it, he beset with swords and pistols cocked and menaced in the hands of about three hundred swaggerers and ruffians, who but expected, nay, audibly called for, the word of onset to begin a slaughter. *
“Ne had discovered, as he thought, unlawful correspondences, which they had used, and engagements to embroil his kingdoms;” and remembers not his own unlawful correspondences and conspiracies with the Irish army of
papists, with the French to land at Portsmouth, and his tampering both with the English and Scots army to come up against the parliament: the least of which attempts, by whomsoever, was no less than manifest treason against the commonwealth.
If to demand justice on the five members were his plea, for that which they with more reason might have demanded justice upon him, (I use his own argument,) there needed not so rough assistance. If he had “ resolved to bear that repulse with patience,” which his queent by her words to
* Guizot describes in an admirable manner this “visit” of Charles I. to the house of commons, (Histoire, &c. t. i. p. 240—242,) accompanied up to the door by three or four hundred men, guards, cavaliers, students, &c. armed to the teeth. In Clarendon's account, (vol. ii. p. 124, sqq.) everything offensive is softened down : “ the king, attended only by his own usual guard, and some few gentlemen, who put themselves into their company in the way! came to the house of commons,” &c. The whole narrative is full of palpable contradictions, and the most audacious disregard of truth; yet this is the writer that Warburton, after frequently, in his notes, accusing him of falsehood, ventures to set up before the greatest and most impartial historians of Greece and Rome!-ED.
+ “Le matin même au moment de son départ, Charles, en embrassant sa femme, lui avoit promis que, dans une heure, il reviendroit maitre enfin de son royaume, et la reine, sa montre à la main, avait compté les minutes en attendant son rétour.” (Mémoires de Madame de Motteville, i. 265.) -Ed.
him at his return little thought he would have done, wherefore did he provide against it, with such an armed and unusual force ? but his heart served him not to undergo the hazard that such a desperate scuffle would have brought him to. But wherefore did he go at all, it behoving him to know there were two statutes, that declared he ought first to have acquainted the parliament, who were the accusers, which he refused to do, though still professing to govern by law, and still justifying his attempts against law? And when he saw it was not permitted him to attaint them but by a fair trial, as was offered him from time to time, for want of just matter which yet never came to light, he let the business fall of his own accord ; and all those pregnancies and just motives came to just nothing.
“ He had no temptation of displeasure or revenge against those men :" none but what he thirsted to execute upon them, for the constant opposition which they made against his tyrannous proceedings, and the love and reputation which they therefore had among the people; but most immediately, for that they were supposed the chief, by whose activity those twelve protesting bishops were but a week before committed to the Tower.
“He missed but little to have produced writings under some men's own hands.” But yet he missed, though their chambers, trunks, and studies were sealed up and searched; yet not found guilty. “Providence would not have it so.” Good Providence that curbs the raging of proud monarchs, as well as of mad multitudes. " Yet he wanted not such probabilities” (for his pregnant is come now to probable)" as were sufficient to raise jealousies in any king's heart.” And thus his pregnant motives are at last proved nothing but a tympany, or a Queen Mary's cushion; for in any king's heart, as kings go now, what shadowy conceit or groundless toy will not create a jealousy?
“ That he had designed to insult the house of commons,” taking God to witness, he utterly denies; yet in his answer to the city, maintains that “ any course of violence had been very justifiable.” And we may then guess how far it was from his design: however, it discovered in him an excessive eagerness to be avenged on them that crossed him; and that to have his will, he stood not to do things never so much
below him. What a becoming sight it was, to see the king of England one while in the house of commons, and by and by in the Guildhall among the liveries and manufacturers, prosecuting so greedily the track of five or six fled subjects; himself not the solicitor only, but the pursuivant and the apparitor of his own partial cause !
!* And although in his answers to the parliament, he hath confessed, first that his manner of prosecution was illegal, next" that as he once conceived he had ground enough to accuse them, so at length that he found as good cause to desert any prosecution of them;" yet here he seems to reverse all, and against promise takes up his old deserted accusation, that he might have something to excuse himself, instead of giving due reparation, which he always refused to give them whom he had so dishonoured.
“ That I went,” saith he of his going to the house of commons,“ attended with some gentlemen ;" gentlemen indeed! the ragged infantry of stews and brothels; the spawn and shipwreck of taverns and dicing-houses: and then he pleads, “it was no unwonted thing for the majesty and safety of a king to be so attended, especially in discontented times." An illustrious majesty no doubt, so attended ! a becoming safety for the king of England, placed in the fidelity of such guards and champions ! happy times, when braves and hacksters, the only contented members of his government, were thought the fittest and the faithfullest to defend his person against the discontents of a parliament and all good men ! Were those the chosen ones to “
preserve reverence to him,” while he entered "unassured," and full of suspicions, into his great and faithful council! Let God then and the world judge, whether the cause were not in his own guilty and unwarrantable doings: the house of commons, upon several examinations of this
* Respecting the king's going into the city, to give the aldermen and common-council an account of his conduct towards the commons, there is some variation in the several historians. Clarendon says; “In his passage through the city, the rude people flocked together, and cried out, Privilege of parliament ! privilege of parliament !' some of them pressing very near his own coach, and amongst the rest one calling out with a very loud voice, To your tents, O Israel !” (History, ii. 131.) Rushworth, (Historical Collections, i. 479,) says that one Walker threw a pamphlet, entitled “ To your tents, O Israel ! ” into the king's coach. Be this as it may, his reception in the city was extremely cold and unsatisfactory, and he returned in anger and dejection to Whitehall.-ED.