Page images

In this emergency, the King, by the advice of his council, sent the Earls of Southampton and Dorset, Sir John Coleper, and Sir William Udall, with a message to the two Houses, proposing a treaty for an accommodation, declaring his firm resolution to maintain the true religion, and the privileges of his people; protesting that he earnestly desired peace, and that, should his proposal be rejected, God would not impute to him the blood that might be shed in the course of their dispute. The deputies were treated with great insolence and contempt by both Houses; and their answer imported, that, without derogating from the privileges of Parliament, they could not treat with the King, until he should have revoked those proclamations by which they were declared guilty of high-treason. In a subsequent message, he promised to revoke those proclamations, and take down his standard, as soon as they should fix a day for recalling their declarations, by which all his friends and adherents were treated as traitors to their country. They insisted on their former answer, assuring him, that if he would return to his Parliament, after the revocation which they had proposed, he should receive sensible marks of their fidelity and obedience ; but that the Parliament, as representative of the kingdom, would never suffer itself to be put in competition with his majesty's pernicious counsellors. Then they published a declaration, protesting that they would never lay down their arms, until the King should have abandoned the delinquents to the justice of Parliament. Charles sent a third message, in which he said the public should judge whether he or they had manifested the warmer solicitude for

that should they in the sequel be desirous to treat, he would always remember, that the blood to be shed was that of his sub. jects; and that he would return to his Parliament as soon as the causes of his absence should cease. To this they returned a very acrimonious answer, charging his soldiers with having committed the most violent outrages, and himself with have ing not only caressed the agents of the Irish rebels, but also with having seized the ammunition, clothing, and horses, provided for the reduction of those rebels, in order to be employed against his own Parliament. Charles in a subsequent declaration, absolutely denied the truth of those imputations ; observing, by way of recrimination, that the two Houses had made no scruple of using against their sovereign one hundred thousand pounds, raised for the relief of Ireland ; that though the House of Commons was composed of above five hundred members, two hundred had been obliged to relinquish their seats by the violence and threats of the majority; and that of one hundred peers, not above sixteen continued to sit in the upper House of Parliament.

peace ;

It is not the intention of this preliminary discourse to enter at large upon the events of the civil war; and, therefore, we shall pass over the narratives of different sieges and battles, to notice other events of a different description, but more characteristic of the times. Among the other causes of jealousy against the King, with which the Parliament professed to be very suspicious, was a secret attachment to the church of Rome, which they never failed in their public declarations, to impute to his majesty, and against which their preachers inveighed most bitterly in their pulpits. Charles took a solemn occasion to rid himself of this accusation. Being at Oxford, and about to receive the sacrament from the hands of the Lord Archbishop of Armagh, he rose up from his knees, and beckoning to the archbishop for a short forbearance, made the following protestation : “My Lords, I espy here many resolved Protestants, who may declare it to the world the resolution I do now make. I have to the utmost of my power prepared my soul to become a worthy receiver; and may

I so receive comfort by the blessed sacrament, as I do intend the establishment of the true reforıned Protestant reigion, as it stood in the happy days of Elizabeth, without any connivance at Popery. I bless God that, in the midst of these public distractions, I have still liberty to communi



may this sacrament be my damnation, if my heart do not join with my lips in this protestation."

An asseveration so strong as this, and made too on such a solemn occasion, should, we think, have satisfied the Parliament of the King's sincerity in bis religious opinions; but far from abating any of that jealousy which they pretended to entertain of his secret attachment to the Romish faith, they even seem to have resented this personal declaration of the King's religious sentiments as a direct insult upon themselves, and not to appear behind-hand with the King, they soon after promulgated their Solemn League and Covenant. By this celebrated instrument, which ranjointly in the names of the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the Parliament, which were then sitting at Westminster, with the Scotch commissioners, and the Assembly of Divines, bound to preserve the reformed religion in the three kingdoms; to promote an uniformity in doctrine and discipline; to extirpate popery and prelacy; to maintain the privileges of Parliament, and the liberties of the people; to defend his Majesty's person and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion, and the liberties of the kingdom; to discover incendiaries and malignants, that they might receive condign punishment; to promote a firm peace and union to all posterity ; to assist one another with all their power ; renounce neutrality, and resist temptations; to humble themselves for their sins, amend their lives, and vie with each other in the great work of reformation. This covenant was read in St. Margaret's church, at Westminster, in presence of both Houses; and the Commons ordered that it should be taken next Sunday by all persons in their respective parishes. Smollett says, “ the Scots on this occasion, were partly influenced by temporal interest, and partly by fanaticism. They began to fear that, should the King triumph over the two Houses, he would retract all the concessions which had been extorted from him by the Scottish nation. They were inflamed with the hope of

establishing their darling presbytery in England, and even extending it to the remotest regions, and some of them were allured with the prospect of sharing the spoils of the Royalists."*

* Whatever the Scotch designed by the league and covenant, it is certain that but few of the English patriots entered heartily into it. At the time when it was proposed, their affairs were in a critical posture, and it demanded the utmost circumspection on their part to keep their Scottish auxiliaries faithful to their cause. The Editor of Colonel Hutchinson's Memoirs says, “ that when the various sects had almost crushed the Episcopalians, the Presbyterian ministers began to rise pre-eminent in power, and to show, that though they had changed the name, they had by no means intended to diminish the dominion of the hierarchy. There are preserved in Whitelock two speeches, one of his own, and one of Seldon's, on this subject. To resist this usurpation there arose a very powerful party, or faction, under the name of Independents, under whose banner enlisted all who desired liberty of conscience, of whatever particular persuasion they might be; and ainongst others, most naturally, all such as wished to see the church of England restored to her purity, and redeemed from her servility and subserviency to the usurpations of the crown; but whose hopes would have been totally de. stroyed if Presbytery had obtained a full and firm establishment. It is extraordinary that almost all the historians put the cause for the effect, and suggest that many members of the Parliament, and at the head of them Cromwell, raised this faction to obtain their own exaltation, whereas intolerancy raised it in the nation at large, and especially in the army, and Cromwell availed himself of it when raised.” In a scarce book, called Anglia Rediviva, or the Success of the Army under Fairfax, written by Joshua Sprigge, he says, “the army was, by example and justice, kept in good order, both respectively to itself and the country: there were many of them differing in opinion, yet not in action nor business; they all agreed to preserve the kingdom; they prospered more in their unity than uniformity, and whatever their opinions were, they plundered none with them, nor disobeyed the state with them, and they were more visibly pious and peaceable in their opinions than

But whatever were the views of the Scots in pressing the league and covenant, it is certain that it was far more popular in Scotland than in England, and that many of the English leaders were guilty of great dissimulation in taking it. However, the fanatical preachers extolled it as a divine rather than a human composition, and in their publications addressed to the foreign reformed churches, particularly those of Geneva and Holland, continued to represent the King as an apostate from the Protestant religion, which occasioned his Majesty, who in truth was one of the best theological scholars of his age, to publish the following spirited address to the foreign churches of the reformed communion : “ Whereas we are given to understand, that many false rumours and scandalous letters, are spread up and down amongst the reformed churches in foreign parts, by the politic, or rather the pernicious in. dustry of some ill-affected persons, that have an inclination to recede from that orthodox religion which we were born, baptised, and bred in, and which we have firmly professed and practised through the whole course of our life to this moment; and that we intend to give way to the introduction and public exercise of Popery again in our dominions, which conjecture, or rather most detestable calumny, being grounded upon no imaginable foundation, hath raised these horrid tumults, and more than barbarous wars, throughout these flourishing islands, under pretext of a kind of reformation, which would not only prove incongruous, but incompatible with the fundamental laws and government of this our kingdom : we desire the whole Christian world to take notice, and rest assured, that we never entertained in our imagination the least thought to attempt such a thing, or to depart a jot from that holy religion which, when we received the crown and sceptre of this king

many we call orthodox.” Let the blame of all the misfortunes that flowed from it rest with those who gave disturbance to such men, not to those who screened them from persecution.

« PreviousContinue »