« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
CHARGES AGAINST SHARRINGTON.
we were to refuse our belief to a great body of testimony, however illegally applied to the purpose of attainder, we must believe that Seymour suffered the inevitable, and in many respects just, punishment of those who seek to change a government by craft and violence, and fail in the enterprise. The reformers appear to have associated the designs of Seymour with some covert objects of hostility to the changes of religion. Cranmer signed his deathwarrant; "which,” says Burnet," being in a cause of blood was contrary to the canon law.
But it seems Cranmer thought his conscience was under no tie from these canons, and so judged it not contrary to his function to sign that order." The act was one of those compliances with power, of which the life of Cranmer furnishes too many proofs. . Latimer preached a sermon before the king, in which he said of Seymour that “he died very dangerously, irksomely, horribly.” It appears from this sermon, that Latimer was indignant at a characteristic act of the unhappy man, who nourished his revenge at the last hour. He had contrived to write letters to
the princesses Mary and Elizabeth, to excite their hatred of the Protector, who was represented therein as their great enemy; and these letters, sewed in a velvet shoe, were to be delivered by his servant after his death, to whom he sent a message that “he should speed the thing that he wot of.” Latimer in his sermon exclaimed, " What would he have done, if he had lived still, that went about that gear when he had laid his head on the block ? " *
In the statute book, the act of attainder of sir John Sharrington precedes that
Strype, Eccles. Mem. vol. ii. part i. p. 198. This passage of Latimer's Fourth Sermon before King Edward, is only found in the first edition of the Sermons.
SOMERSET'S ATTEMPTS TO RESIST OPPRESSORS.
of lord Seymour. The charge against him was that he had forged twelve thousand pounds of the king's coin; and had also defrauded the government by clipping and shearing the coin, making false entries in his indentures. This master of the Bristol mint was alleged to have handed over ten thousand pounds of this false coin to the use of Seymour. This was at the period when the money of the State was enormously debased; so that the govern. ment which thus cheated its subjects was cheated by its own officer. The clipping and shearing was an easy process when the current money was roughly hammered out; and, having no milled edge, could be slightly reduced in size without detection.* Sharrington was ultimately pardoned, probably because he had betrayed the man who incited him to his offence; and Latimer proclaimed that his fervent repentance warranted his being forgiven.
The circumstances under which Somerset was placed in supreme power, although carrying on the government in the name of the young king, were such as to demand the union of the highest qualities of the statesman. The rule of Henry VIII. had been of the most arbitrary nature; putting down all opposition of the great by a system of terror; and repressing the crimes and disorders of the humble by the sternest administration of sanguinary laws. Somerset was, by nature, and out of the necessity of his position, opposed to harsh courses. The preamble of the statute for the repeal of the new laws of treason says, that, although these laws of Henry VIII. were “expedient and necessary," they might appear“ very strait, sore, extreme, and terrible ;” but as in tempest or winter, one garment is convenient, and in calm or warm weather a lighter garment may be worn, so the sore laws of one time may be taken away in a calmer and quieter reign.t This belief in a coming halcyon season, when men by diligent teaching should be won to the knowledge of the truth-when all should be contented to live under the reign of clemency and love-was doubtless the foundation of Somerset's policy. But he stood apart from the men who had been trained to administer the rough discipline of Henry's tyranny; and who had no sympathy with the great mass of the people. Somerset really saw that a State was something more than a king, a nobility, a church, an army ;-that there were other interests to be regarded besides those of property; and that, to use the words of one of his confidential officers, “if the poorest sort of the people, which be members of the same body as well as the rich, be not provided and cherished in their degree, it cannot but be a great trouble of the body, and a decay of the strength of the realm.” | But Somerset had not those rare qualities of firmness and prudence which can make a mild government safe in unsettled times. He saw oppression everywhere around him--the powerful assailing the weak by open tyranny, or under the forms of law-the judges venal-the courts of justice practically closed to the needy suitor; and he attempted to redress these evils by his own personal vigilance. He opened a Court of Requests, where he himself heard complaints, and interfered with the regular tribunals to prescribe equitable remedies. This is the oriental system of justice, which looks so beautiful in a
See ante, vol. ii. p. 474.
+ 1 Edw. VI. c. 12. The charge of John Hales for redress of inclosures. Strype, Eccles. Mem. vol. ii. part ii.
[1649. Haroun Alraschid, but which is simply an indication of a general corruption too powerful for the laws. Paget, an acute and honest adviser, wrote to Somerset," meddle no more with private suits, but remit them to ordinary courses.' Somerset would feel that the ordinary courses were evil, and beyond his power legally to remedy. Latimer preached that Cambyses was a great emperor who flayed a judge alive, and laid his skin in his chair of judgment, for that the judge was “ a briber, a gift-taker, a gratifier of rich
a men.” Latimer cried out, “I pray God we may once see the sign of the skin in England." * But if the official system were too dangerous for Somerset to meddle with by constitutional methods, so were the oppressions of tenants by landlords, and of labourers by masters. The evils of society were of too complicated a nature to be dealt with by any one bold measure for the redress of grievances. Even if the government could have seen how vain were all attempts to regulate prices—how impossible to prevent men applying capital to land in the way most profitable-the Protector could scarcely have forborne yielding to the popular clamour. Proclamations were issued "for the speedy reformation of the unreasonable prices of victuals in markets ;” and “ against inclosures, and taking in of fields and commons that were accustomed to lie open for the behoof of the inhabitants dwelling near to the same." + Of course these proclamations were wholly ineffectual. There was a general scarcity throughout Europe; and the nominal prices of commodities were raised in England by the tampering with the coin. Those who were commanded by the proclamation against inclosures to throw open their parks and pastures by a certain day, held the order in contempt; for in the country districts they were the sole administrators of local authority. But there was a spirit in the English people against which Paget had warned Somerset when he first took the reins of government. “What is the matter troweth your grace? By my faith, sir, even that which I said to your grace in the gallery at the Tower, the next day after the king's first coming there-Liberty, Liberty." I The old Saxon temper had not been trodden out. The government was powerless to redress the complaints of the masses, and they rushed into insurrection. There had been a partial rising in Cornwall in 1548 ; for which a general pardon was granted to all, with the exception of the leaders. In the summer of 1549 half of England was in a state of rebellion. Somerset promised pardons, and Cranmer sent forth exhortations. Paget, who looked at any tumult of the people as only to be met in one way, called upon his friend to “ do like a king, in this matter especially ; take a noble courage to you for your proceedings; wherein take example at other kings; and you need not seek further for the matter-go no further than to him who died last, of most noble memory, king Henry VIII.” § The people of England were never reduced to a healthful condition of obedience to power by the assertion of the principle of terror if separated from justice. The dreaded spirit of “ Liberty, Liberty," might be kept down when it was abused; but it had never been extinguished ; and subsequent experience demonstrated that it would always survive even its own licentiousness.
* Third Sermon before Edward VI. + Holinshed, p. 1002.
# Paget to Somerset. Strype, vol. ii. part ii. p. 432. Strype, Eccles. Memorials, vol. ii. part ii. p. 434.
THE DEVONSHIRE INSURRECTION FOR RELIGION.
The Cornish and Devonshire insurrection, and that of Norfolk, form one of the most striking passages of our history of the sixteenth century. This simultaneous revolt was essentially different in its character from either of the great insurrections of the two previous centuries. The rebellion of Wat Tyler was a protest against the oppressions of the labourers, who belonged to a period when slavery retained many of its severities without its accompanying protection. The insurrection of Jack Cade was in its essential elements political. But the rebellion that came exactly a century after that of 1450, was a democratic or social movement, stimulated by, and mixed up with, hostility to the change of religion. The government was embarrassed by the complexity of the motives upon which these insurrections were founded. Somerset himself thus described them in August, while they were raging in the west, the east, and the north : “ The causes and pretences of their uproars and risings are divers and uncertain ; and so full of variety almost in every camp, as they call them, that it is hard to write what it is; as ye know is like to be of people without head and rule, and would have that they know not what. Some cry, pluck down inclosures and parks; some for their commons; others pretend religion ; a number would rule and direct things as gentlemen have done ; and indeed, all have conceived a wonderful hate against gentlemen, and take them all as their enemies. The ruffians among them, and soldiers cashiered, which be the chief-doers, look for spoil; so that it seems no other thing but a plague and a fury among the vilest and worst sort of men.” * The “vilest and worst sort of men ” always impart the most marked character to insurrections; but Somerset's own account shows that “ those who look for spoil” did not constitute the majority of the insurgents. A brief narrative of these extraordinary proceedings, of which Exeter and Norwich were the chief seats, will best show the nature of these outbreaks, and furnish illustrations of the condition of society.
On Whit-Sunday, the 19th of June, divine service had been performed at the parish-church of Sampford Courtenay, about sixteen miles from Exeter. On that day the Act for Uniformity of Service came into operation. The village congregation had listened to the prayers in the English tongue, and had departed to their homes. In their Sunday groups for gossip and recreation they had discussed this innovation upon their old customs, and it was not satisfactory to them. On the Whit-Monday, the day of church-ales and morris-dances, some of the parishioners, headed by a tailor and a labourer, went to the priest, as he was preparing for the morning service, and told him, "they would keep the old and ancient religion as their forefathers before them had done;" and he yielded to their wills, and forthwith arrayed himself “in his old popish attire,” and said mass, as in times past. The justices of the peace interfered, but without effect; and in a short time the example spread through Devonshire and Cornwall, and the people began to assemble in great companies. At Crediton there was a forcible resistance to sir Peter Carew, and other gentlemen; and again at Cliff. In a short time the highways were stopped by cutting trenches and throwing down trees; and the multitude, continuing to increase, on the 2nd of July commenced a regular
Somerset to Hoby, ambassador to the emperor. Strype, Eccles. Mem., v. ii. part ii. p. 425. + We are following as an authority the very curious narrative of John Vowell, the chamberlain of Exeter, printed in Holinshed.
SIEGE OF EXETER.
siege of Exeter, the gates of which city were closed against them. Their captains were originally a tailor, a shoemaker, a labourer, and a fishmonger; but as they marched forward, carrying the cross, they were joined by a few gentlemen and yeomen. When they had set down before the city, their numbers daily swelled so that they completely surrounded it, and cut off all supplies from the neighbouring districts. They burnt the gates; they destroyed the conduits which supplied the water of the town; they undermined the walls. They had ordnance and ammunition; and “soldiers cashiered” taught them how to use them. But the majority of the Exeter citizens, under the guidance of the mayor, bravely resisted, although many were inclined to favour the designs of the insurgents. There were contests among themselves; but the greater number were stedfast, even though they began to suffer the usual miseries of a beleaguered town. For five weeks this contest went on.
The government was issuing proclamations to the rebels, and distributing Cranmer's wise and gentle replies to their demands. The news of the commotions soon went forth to foreigu lands. The prime minister of Charles V. told Paget that he had heard of the “grand barbularye" of the English commons ; “ but it is nothing if Monsieur Protector step to it betimes, and travail in person as the emperor himself did, with the sword of justice in his hand."* On the 16th of July martial law was proclaimed; and all were forbidden, under pain of death, by drum, tabret, pipe, or any other instrument
* Tytler, vol. i. p. 184.