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of Tudor to diminish the influence of the nobility, and to extend that of the Commons. The reformation had gone a great way to effect this purpose; but what, perhaps, had contributed most to bring the nobility into disrepute, was the conduct of James I. who, conferring the highest titles of nobility on his worthless favorites, and making honours vendible, had de. graded the whole order of nobility.
At the breaking out of the first dispute between Charles and the Commons, the upper house showed a degree of tameness in regard to the King's interest, which augured unfavor. ably for their future exertions. The execution of the Earl of Strafford, and the deprivation of the Bishops of their seats, were acts which had much lessened the weight of the House of Peers, and few could rely on, or have much veneration for, a body of men who could so miserably betray their own cause.
But the great advantage which the Parliament party possessed over the King, was in the temper of the nation. The invention of printing, and the Lutheran and Calvinistical reformations, events which trod closely on the heels of each other, had produced a burst of light all over Europe. The lyranny of the Roman see, which for so many ages had held the most po. tent states of Europe in subjection, had in many parts vanished before the zeal of the reformėrs of the church; and at no period, from the time of the Greek republics, had the principles of civil government been more freely discussed. The discovery of a new continent, by Christopher Columbus, and the opening of a new route lo the East Indies, by the passage round the Cape of Good Hope, had brought a vast influx of wealth into Europe, and given to commerce that honourable estimation which it wanted in preceding times. These materially tended to weaken the royal, and to give strength to the republican party. To the general diffusion of wealth and information, which at this period was so remarkable, and qualified almost the meanest individuals to take a share in the great events then depending, was added a spirit of innovation in civil and reli
gious matters, which bore down all established authorities, and ended in the total subversion of the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the realm.
Whether the first opposers of Charles designed the overthrow of the monarchy, is a question which may very well admit of a doubt; but none can be entertained, that the measures they took were those which were precisely calculated to produce that catastrophe. Among the popular leaders there were many rnen of the purest patriotic views, unmixed with any selfish or fanatical motives, who only desired the constitution to be placed on such a footing, that the powers and privileges of each branch of the legislature might be properly defined, and the rights of the subject fixed on an immoveable basis. Nothing could be more glorious than the cause for which these men took up arms; nothing more desirable than the object they sought to accomplish. But it was the misfortune of these high-minded patriots to have enlisted under the same banners with them, a class of men austere and narrow-minded in their principles, and carrying into disputes, which should have been considered purely as of a civil nature, all the sanguinary and ferocious intolerance of religious bigotry. These were the men who, affecting to themselves a superior sanctity of life and conversation, obtained the name of Puritans, and were incessant in their endeavours to destroy the church of England, and to substitute in its place the sour discipline of the Scottish kirk. These were the persons with whom the real civil grievances, under which the nation laboured, were as nothing, the imaginary ecclesiastical grievances every thing. Hence religion, which, in fact, was not the real ground of the quarrel between the King and Parliament, became the ostensible motive to the war, and occasioned all those wild excesses of fanaticism and hypocrisy which the author of Hudibras so justly exposes.
It is not easy for the imagination to figure to itself a sect of men so austere and malignant in their dispositions, so frenetic in their humours, and uncomplying in their demands, as the Puritans of this period. Howell, a contemporary writer, who was imprisoned by them in the Fleet, speaking of them after the civil war had commenced, says, “ Who would have thought poor England would bave been brought to this pass ? could it ever have entered into the imagination of man that the scheme and whole frame of so ancient and wellmoulded a government should be so suddenly struck off the hinges, quite out of joint, and tumbled into such a horrible confusion ? who would have held it possible that to fly from Babylon, we should fall into such a Babel ? that to avoid superstition, some people should be brought to belch out such horrid profaneness, as to call the temples of God the tabernacles of Satan; the Lord's supper a two-penny ordinary; to make the communion-table a manger, and the font a trough to water their horses in ; to term the white decent robe of the Presbyter the whore's smock; the pipes through which nothing came but anthems and holy hymns, the devil's bag-pipes; the liturgy of the church, though extracted most of it out of the sacred text, called by some another kind of Alcoran, by others raw porridge, by some a piece forged in hell? who would have thought to have seen in England, the churches shut and the shops open on Christmas-day? could any soul have imagined that this isle would have produced such monsters as to rejoice at the Turks' good successes against Christians, and wish he were in the midst of Rome? who would have dreamt ten years before, when Archbishop Laud did ride in state through London streets, accompanied by my Lord of London, to be sworn Lord High Treasurer of England, that the mitre should now have come to such a scorn, and to such a national kind of hatred, as to put the whole island into a combustion.”
In another letter, he says, “ For news the world is here turned upside down, and it hath been long going so. You know, a good while since, we have had leather caps and beaver shoes, but now the arms are come to be legs, for bishops' lawn sleeves are worn for boot-hose tops ; the waist is come to
the knee, for the points that used to be about the middle are now dangling there; boots and shoes are so long snouted that one can hardly kneel in God's house, where all genuflection and postures of devotion and decency are quite out of use. The devil may walk freely up and down the streets of London now, for there is not a cross to fright him any where, and it seems he was never so busy in any country upon earth, for there have been more witches arraigned and executed here lately than ever were in this island since the creation."
As the seeds of rebellion had been sown with care throughout the nation, the popular party had every advantage over the royal party at the commencement of the attack. The King and his advisers seem to have been ignorant of what constitutes the true strength of a nation. Relying on the nobility and the wealthier part of the gentry, whom, perhaps, they thought to gain over to their cause by the usual allurements of court favour, they neglected to secure to their interest the great mass of the people, by whom such an event as a civil war must ultimately be decided *. His opponents perceived his error, and employed every art to win over the common people to their cause.
* Thelearned and candid editor of Colonel Hutchinson's Memoirs, in a note upon that work, observes, " that persons of the description which now go under the name of Yeomanry, seemed to have been passed over by Charles and his advisers as of little consequence, and perhaps this was the real ground of the grand error they were in, of supposing they had all or most of the strength of the nation with them, because they had most of the nobility and richer geņtry; whereas it was found, when a general movement took place, that the great bulk of the people was against them, and, like an overwhelming tide, bore down all before it.”-“It is true," adds he, “ that the mass of the people, having little time for contemplation, are content to let those to whoin affluence gives leisure, think for them; but when they do think for themselves, and strongly adopt a sentiment, he is a bold man, and ought to have astonishing resources, who contravenes it. That will be generally, if not always, found the wiser government, which in
Religion was their watch-word, and that sacred name, which should never be used but to breathe accents of humility and peace, was most artfully employed to render the breach between Charles and his subjects irremediable. In all parts of the country the royal clergy were displaced, and the pulpits filled with factious and seditious demagogues; and the war against the King preached for and prayed for as a holy crusade in behalf of the majesty of heaven.
The signal for open hostilities was the erection of the royal standard at Nottingham on the 25th of August 1642, when the King issued a proclamation, commanding all persons who were able to bear arms, to repair to the royal standard, which he had set up, in conformity with the ancient practice of the English Kings, when upon extraordinary occasions, they needed the assistance of their people. But the King's proclamation produced so little effect, that when the royal standard was unfurled, not a soul appeared, but a few trained bands assembled for the occasion. Every countenance was overspread with melancholy and dejection; and the standard being blown down by a storm, this accident was interpreted into an unlucky omen. Indeed, nothing could be more melancholy than the prospect of this unbappy monarch, destitute of troops, arms, artillery, and ammunition, except a very inconsiderable supply, altogether inadequate to his necessities, surrounded by timorous friends, distracted by jarring councils, wanting even the necessaries of life, and threatened by a powerful faction, which had not only despoiled him of his revenue and authority, but also interested the majority and richer part of the nation in its rebellions designs.
forms itself well as to the real bent of the public mind; and, if it is misled by a faction, takes the way of candour and frankness to dispel the mist of error or prejudice, but avoids to do violence to the general opinion.”