Изображения страниц


REIGN OF CHARLES I. (continued).


(From 1629 to 1640.)

FOR eleven years King Charles governed without a parliament; he made laws and exacted taxes by his own authority. He made peace both with Spain and France; and during most of the time the kingdom was in great prosperity. But the people were dissatisfied, because the king was not governing according to the laws of England. His chief counsellors at this time were Archbishop Laud, and Sir Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Strafford.

Wentworth had been one of the leaders in the House of Commons against the king, but Charles won him over to his side, and from that time Wentworth bent all the powers of his great mind to make Charles the absolute master of his subjects. Wentworth's former friends now hated him, because he had deserted their cause, and one of them, Mr. Pym, plainly told him, "You may leave us, but I will never leave you till your head is off your shoulders."

Archbishop Laud was the chief mark for the hatred of the Puritans; he had done every thing he could to put them down, and they in return never ceased to accuse him of being a papist. He was no papist, but he was over-fond of pomp and ceremonies in divine worship: those who knew him well, esteemed him for many virtues; but those who knew him but little, disliked him on account of his harsh positive temper.



A great many books were written at this time against the king's government, and against all the chief officers in church and state; and the writers were cruelly punished by the courts of Star Chamber and High Commission. Some of these books were very bad, full of slanders, and only fit to stir up a rebellion; but when the authors were not only fined and imprisoned, but flogged, branded, set in the pillory, and had their ears cut off, men could not help pitying them, and were more inclined to believe what they said, however untrue it might be. Laud was reviled as the chief author of these cruel punishments, though he had, in truth, no more to do with them than the other judges who presided in the Star Chamber and High Commission; but the courts themselves were contrary to the just laws of England, and ought not to have existed at all.

Another thing which added to the growing discontent was the exaction of a tax called ship-money. In former times, the people of the sea-port towns had paid a tax in war-time to provide ships for the defence of the coast, but Charles required them to pay shipmoney in time of peace, and ordered that those who lived in the inland country should pay it, as well as the inhabitants of the sea-ports. A gentleman of Buckinghamshire, named John Hampden, refused to pay, though he was only asked for twenty shillings, because it was an unlawful tax. But the king's judges decided that he ought to pay, and declared that the king had a right to require every one to pay ship-money whenever he thought proper.

Hampden and all those men who thought as he did were obliged to give way, and it seemed that King

Charles would soon be able to govern as he pleased. He had sent Strafford to govern Ireland, which was almost always in a state of rebellion, and Strafford had put down the rebels and reduced the country to quietness. He hoped that he should enable the king to make England perfectly obedient before long, and perhaps he might have done so, if Charles had not provoked a quarrel with his Scottish subjects.

We have seen that the Scots were utterly averse to the use of a liturgy, and that they were much displeased when King James appointed bishops for Scotland. King Charles had appointed more bishops, but the Scots would not allow them to have any authority, and no liturgy was used in the churches; every minister prayed and preached as he thought proper. But in 1637, Charles ordered that a liturgy should be prepared for Scotland, and used in all the parishes of the kingdom. This unwise order kindled a flame which spread from Scotland to England, and involved the whole island in civil war.

The liturgy was appointed to be used for the first time, in Edinburgh, on the 23d July, and the church was thronged with angry people. The moment that the clergyman, clad in a white surplice, began to read the service, a frightful tumult arose on all sides, reproaches, curses, and cries of rage. Still he attempted to read, until a strong woman who had provided herself with a three-legged stool flung it at his head. It missed its mark, or he must have been killed on the spot, but the riot became general, and the clergy, dragged violently through the streets of the city, hardly escaped with their lives.

The indignant Presbyterians did not stop here;



urged on by some of their ministers, they drew up a bond which they called The Solemn League and Covenant. By this they bound themselves to resist even to the death all attempts to make any changes in their Church. Gentry, citizens, farmers, all signed the Covenant; then they took up arms, seized on most of the strong places in the kingdom, and set forwards for the borders of England, saying that they were in arms to maintain the true religion.


REIGN OF CHARLES I. (continued).


(From 1640 to 1645.)

CHARLES hastened to Berwick to meet the Scottish but he had no money army, for a war, and he was not inclined to fight against his own subjects and fellowcountrymen. So he came to an agreement with them that every thing should be settled peaceably, by the Assembly of the Scottish Church and the parliament, and that the troops on both sides should lay down their arms. Charles sent his army home at once, but the Scots did not perform their part of the agreement; they kept their forces together, and the following summer they entered England, and overran the northern counties. Charles was obliged now to summon a parliament, that they might grant him money to raise troops and drive back the Scots.

Instead of granting him money, the parliament

complained of all the unlawful actions the king had committed during the last eleven years. At the end of three weeks Charles dissolved, this parliament But he was no longer able to govern without one. Many of the English nobles and gentlemen had provided him with money to march against the Scots, but they could not give him nearly enough to help him out of all his difficulties. So, in November 1640, King Charles, once more, and for the last time, assembled a parliament.

Under the name of the Long Parliament it has become the most memorable in our history, both for the good and the evil which it did. The members. came together with the determination that they would not be dismissed until the king had been compelled to govern according to the laws. But most of the House of Commons hoped to accomplish much more than this; they were bent on overturning the church, and taking away all power from the king, so that he should be merely king in name.

One of the first steps taken by the Long Parliament, was to accuse Strafford and Laud of treason, and cast them into prison. Neither of them had done anything which could be called treason by the laws of the land, but their enemies were determined to make a law by which to condemn them, rather than that they should escape death. Strafford was quickly brought to trial, and behaved himself so nobly while surrounded on all hands by men who thirsted for his blood, and made so eloquent and manly a defence of his conduct, that his very enemies could not help admiring him. But the spirit of Pym possessed them all, and no defence could avail a man whom his

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »