Изображения страниц
[blocks in formation]

of men called Puritans. Some men who loved the church and the king were called Puritans, only because they led a more strict and devout life than their neighbours. But the men who are called Puritans in this little history were not of that kind. These Puritans loved neither the church nor the king; they objected to be governed by bishops and to use the liturgy, and fancied they saw popery where there was none. It was popish, they said, to wear a surplice, to kneel at the Lord's Supper, to mark the forehead with a cross in baptism. To adorn a church with carved work and painted windows, to use an organ, to chant psalms and anthems, all these things were popish abominations and even the prayer-book itself was almost thought to be popish. Neither Queen Elizabeth nor King James had liked these Puritans at all; they had often enjoined the bishops to make them obey the rules of the church, or to punish them if they did not. Many of the Puritans had left the country, and founded the settlements of New England in America, that they might follow their own ideas of religion and government. But a much greater number remained in England. They were divided into many sects, the chief of which were the Presbyterians and the Independents. Each of these rose in turn to great power in the state.

The Independents said, that each congregation was a church by itself, and ought to make rules for its own government. The Presbyterians thought that the Church should be governed by assemblies of ministers and people chosen from every parish. A few years after James became King of England, he had grievously displeased the Scottish Presbyterians by


appointing some bishops for Scotland. The Scots unwillingly consented to let them sit in the place of honour in the church assemblies, but they would not allow them to exercise authority in the Church.




(From 1625 to 1629.)

CHARLES the First was twenty-four years old when he succeeded his father: he was a prince of noble countenance, but with a sad expression which seemed like a foreshowing of his melancholy fortunes. Yet when Charles ascended the throne he saw only bright prospects around him. He sincerely desired to make his kingdom happy and prosperous, and he thought his subjects would place entire confidence in his good intentions.

Charles did not see that the time was come when the King of England, if he wished to have a peaceable reign, must be contented with much less power than had been exercised by the Tudor sovereigns. And some things were very much against him; the worst was this, he had been taught that a king may lawfully dissemble with his subjects. Charles was a good man in other respects, and it seems strange he could ever think it right to say one thing and do another. When his subjects found out that he did not always mean what he said, they began to think he could not be trusted to keep any of his promises.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

He was apt also to take the advice given to him by others, even when it was contrary to his own better judgment. He would make up his mind to do some right and wise thing, and then allow his counsellors or his wife to persuade him out of it. His favourite, Buckingham, gave him very bad advice, and encouraged him in his mistaken notions of kingly power. Charles had also a very unwise counsellor in his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria; he was excessively fond of her, and used to tell her his state secrets, and follow her advice. And her advice was bad, for she did not know what was good for England, or care for English law and freedom; she only wanted her husband to be great and powerful. The people of England did not like the queen much; and they hated Buckingham.

The struggle between the king and his subjects began as soon as he called his first parliament together. England was in the midst of a war with Spain, and Charles thought the people who had been so pleased to begin the war would surely grant him money to carry it on. Instead of this, the House of Commons began by complaining of the bad conduct of the Duke of Buckingham, and by calling upon the king to put into force the severe laws against the Roman Catholics. By these laws, no English papist could hear mass so much as once, without being in danger of fine or imprisonment.

Charles would hear nothing against Buckingham; and as for his Roman Catholic subjects, he did not wish to trouble them while they behaved like honest and peaceable men. So he dissolved his first parliament, and summoned another. The second was as

uncomplying as the first, and was dissolved in like at the end of a few weeks.


Now the king had received no money for the expenses of the war and the government. But there was a tax on all goods imported into England, which was called Tunnage and Poundage, and which had always been granted by parliament to other kings. Charles ordered that this tax should be collected just as if the parliament had granted it to him. He also ordered some persons to lend him money, and bade the sea-port towns provide ships.

Other kings had done all these things, and the people had submitted quietly; but now they murmured loudly. Few dared to refuse obedience, because those who refused were put in prison, but every one said the king was acting unlawfully. And so he was. He had no right to force his subjects to give him ships and money when the parliament had not agreed to it. But Charles thought he might lawfully do whatever other kings had done, when he was in the midst of a war and had no money to carry it on. This war added greatly to the discontent of the people; the commanders behaved so ill that all the money and the lives of many men were expended for nothing.

To make the evil greater, Buckingham had persuaded the king to go to war with France, as well as with Spain, and to give him the command of the forces. His generalship was as bad as his advice; and after losing a great many men he was obliged to return to England, without having obtained the smallest success.

In March, 1628, Charles called a third parliament,



and the members of it came together with the firm resolve that they would put an end to the unlawful doings of the last three years. They prepared a law called the Petition of Right, which enacted that the king should never again raise taxes by his own authority, or put any man in prison excepting in the due course of law. Charles would not at first consent to the Petition of Right, but after some disputing he agreed that it should become law, and then many men thought all would go right, and made great rejoicings.

Their joy did not last long. The parliament proceeded to accuse Buckingham of being a traitor, and urged the king to dismiss him. Charles would do nothing of the kind. Buckingham, however, soon met his dismissal in a more terrible manner. A man named Felton, who had a quarrel of his own against the duke, stabbed him to the heart in the midst of his attendants; and when he was tried for the murder, he justified it as a good deed, saying the parliament had pronounced Buckingham to be a traitor. Charles grieved deeply for his favourite, and disliked his parliament more than ever.

As the House of Commons would not agree to grant him that tax called Tunnage and Poundage, he began to raise it by his own authority, and imprisoned the merchants who refused to pay. The parliament complained that the king had already broken the Petition of Right, and the quarrel ran so high that Charles sent some members of the House of Commons to prison, and dissolved the parliament, threatening that he would never summon another.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »