Изображения страниц




opinions which forty years before had been heard in remote pulpits, or had crept forth in secretly-printed tracts, were now loudly proclaimed in parliament, and boldly assailed the government of the church in the same votes and remonstrances that protested against the violations of civil liberty by the crown. By this union, which gave a new vitality to the struggle for constitutional freedom, was it rendered more and more impossible that a king of England, however transiently paramount, could govern like a king of France.

It is related that when Charles put off his robes on the day of the dissolution of parliament, he vowed that he would never again put them on. The purpled dignity of the king was to be henceforth displayed only beneath the canopy of the presence-chamber, where every face was to be dressed in smiles, and no bold men who talked of rights should dare to intrude. There was now one in that presence-chamber whose voice had been of the loudest amongst the Commons in opposing the misgovernment of Buckingham. The death of that favourite opened a career to sir Thomas Wentworth far more congenial to his nature than that of a patriot. He was essentially different in character from the minions who had governed James, and one of whom had bowed Charles to his will. Highly descended, abundantly wealthy, intellectually great, proud and despotic, he saw that the time was come when England would be ruled either by a king or by a parliament, and not by a well-balanced union of the monarchical and the democratic power. He chose the part most congenial to his nature, and became the ablest servant of the crown, the most dangerous enemy of public liberty. Pym and Wentworth had long "kept together in their chivalry." Wentworth displayed to his friend a glimpse of the sunny prospect that was opening to him. "You are going to be undone," said Pym: "But remember that though you leave us now, I will never leave you while your head is on your shoulders." There were other companions of Wentworth in the great battle against prerogative, who were not in a condition to utter any such prophetic threat. The members of the Commons who were committed to the Tower on the 5th of March were still imprisoned. The judges had declared in the autumn that they were entitled to be bailed; but that they must give securities for their good behaviour. They refused to accept their liberty upon such terms. Three were then indicted in the King's Bench; Eliot for words uttered in the House, and Hollis and Valentine for a tumult in forcibly detaining the Speaker in the chair. They pleaded that the jurisdiction of the Court did not extend to offences said to be committed in Parliament. The great constitutional question of privilege was thus raised. Steadily refusing to put in any other plea, judgment was given against them, to the effect that they should be imprisoned during the king's pleasure; that Eliot should be fined two thousand pounds; and the others fined in a smaller amount. After eighteen months the two who were considered the lighter offenders were released. Eliot, one of the noblest of a noble band, was sacrificed to the vengeance of the crown. He was committed to the Tower on the 5th of March, 1629. He died there, of a lingering disease brought on by confinement, on the 27th of November, 1632. In his dangerous illness his friends

* Welwood's Memorials.




urged him to petition the king for his release. The county of Cornwall had in vain petitioned that their old member might be discharged. Eliot, in addressing Charles, simply stated his bodily ailment, and said "I humbly beseech your majesty you will command your judges to set me at liberty, that for recovery of my health I may take some fresh air." The answer was that the petition was "not humble enough."* Eliot, like Raleigh, employed his prison hours in literary occupation. His treatise, "The Monarchie of Man," which remains unpublished, has been analysed by his best biographer; † and it presents in this form many passages which show that his ardour for constitutional liberty was built upon the noblest philosophy, and that while dealing with questions that were then called “The Politicks," in a free and unsubdued spirit, he sets forth the highest views of man's duty and happiness in his expositions of The Monarchy of Mind. Such was the martyr in that contest for the liberty of speech by the representatives of the people. He perished; but the judgment against him was solemnly reversed, after the Restoration, as an illegal judgment and against the freedom and privileges of Parliament.

The rise of Wentworth to power was rapid. Created a viscount, he was first placed in the great office of Lord President of the North. The authority of this functionary was almost absolute. In the reign of Henry VIII., a commission had been granted to the Council of York, for preserving the peace in the counties of York, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, during the insurrections caused by the dissolution of the monasteries. The Council had gradually fallen into disuse as a court of law, after the occasion had passed away for its jurisdiction. But under James, a new commission was issued, by which authority the commissioners were not to determine causes by juries and according to the laws of the land, but according to secret instructions. The judges of the Common Pleas had the honesty in James's time to resist this encroachment upon the liberty of the subject, by issuing prohibitions to the President and Council. But when Wentworth became President he declared he would lay any one by the heels who dared to sue out prohibitions in the Courts of Westminster. During his presidency, the inhabitants of this great portion of the kingdom-not indeed so populous as the South or so wealthy, but occupied by an energetic race, whose descendants, numbered by hundreds of thousands, are now amongst the foremost in grand industries and high intelligence-the people of this great division of the North, "were disfranchised of all their privileges by Magna Charta and the Petition of Right." These are the words of Mr. Hyde, afterwards lord Clarendon. The "discretion," he maintained, given under the various commissions of Charles, "hath been the quicksand which hath swallowed up their property, their liberty." When lord Wentworth removed from this theatre of arbitrary power to be Lord-Deputy of Ireland, he still held the appointment of President of the North. His particular doings in the vice-regal office may be more conveniently mentioned at a later point of his career. It may be sufficient to say that the Lord Deputy Wentworth and Archbishop Laud had a perfect concord as to the prin

Harleian MS., quoted in Mr. Forster's "Life of Eliot." + Ibid. Appendix, pp. 125 to 177.




ciples upon which both England and Ireland were to be governed; as may be perceived from the following passage of a letter from Wentworth to Laud: "I know no reason, then, but you may as well rule the common lawyers in England, as I, poor beagle, do here; and yet that I do, and will do, in all that concerns my master's service, upon the peril of my head. I am confident that the king, being pleased to set himself in the business, is able by his wisdom and ministers, to carry any just and honourable action thorough all imaginable opposition." Thorough became the watchword of these two politicians. With thorough every thing was to be accomplished"You may govern as you please."

During the Lord Deputy's long residence in Dublin, he had a very indefatigable correspondent in one Reverend Mr. Garrard, a sort of Court Newsman to the great minister, and an occasional reporter of many curious matters of general interest, beyond the scope of mere fashionable chroniclers. By way of finding a few texts upon which to enlarge a little, we may as well turn to this reverend gossip's authority, as to more serious records. We begin with an extract of no small significance. "Mr. Prynne's cause in the Star-chamber held the Lords three days, and the day of censure they rose not till three in the afternoon. He is fined five thousand pounds; adjudged perpetual imprisonment; to lose his ears, the one in the Palace-yard, the other in Cheapside; and his books to be burnt by the hands of the hangman." It is extremely difficult to conceive in our days how the publication. in 1633 of "Histrio-Mastix, the Player's Scourge," by "William Prynne, an Utter-barrister of Lincolns' Inn," should have involved the loss of his two ears and five thousand pounds. Learned and ardent men in those times had another mode of maintaining their opinions than by the power of "articles" and "leaders." We take up this book of 1006 closely-printed quarto pages, and our wonder is who would ever read its arguments against "Stage Plays, the very pomps of the

devil which we renounce in baptism," drawn from "the concurring authorities of sundry texts of Scripture, of the whole primitive Church, of 55 Synods and Councils, of 71 Fathers and Christian writers, of above 150 foreign and domestic Protestant and Popish authors, of 40 Heathen philosophers," &c. &c. To burn the books by the hangman, under the nose of the author, "which had almost suffocated him," and thus to keep enthusiasts from losing their senses in the perusal, was indeed a public mercy in the government. Unquestionably no member of



the Star-chamber ever read the book; but it is said that Laud and others read the Index, and finding therein a very strong phrase against "WomenActors," so "impudent as to act, to speak publicly on a stage (perchance

Strafford's Letters, vol. i. p. 173.

+ Ibid., p. 207.




in man's apparel, and cut hair, here proved sinful and abominable) in the presence of sundry men and women," they determined that this was a libel upon the queen.* This marvellous book had been seven years in preparation. Her majesty had enacted a part in a pastoral at Somerset House, and the day after appeared this ponderous volume. Laud and others, according to Whitelocke, "had been angered by some of Prynne's books against Arminianism," and the king allowed them to revenge themselves upon what he was told was a libel upon his lively consort. It is clear that the affair had, in a great degree, become a personal quarrel between the archbishop and the learned barrister; for in Laud's Diary we have an entry that Mr. Prynne sent him "a very libellous letter about his censure in the Starchamber for his Histrio-Mastix." This memorandum is dated June 11, 1634. On the previous 7th of May, Prynne had lost one ear in Palace-yard, and on


Old Star Chamber, Westminster: pulled down after the Fire of the Parliament Houses.

the 10th, another ear in Cheapside. That he wrote bitterly enough we may well believe. Laud showed the letter to the king, who gave it to Mr. Attorney Noy, who had changed his party. When Noy showed it to Mr. Prynne, the mutilated barrister was not so bewildered by his sufferings as not to have presence of mind to tear the letter in pieces, and throw it out of the window, as the archbishop records, under date of June 17, 1634. † This was not the last of Prynne's misfortunes, as we shall have to relate. Nor had he been the first who had provoked the vengeance of those who were rushing upon a mad career of church-government. On the 26th of November, 1630, Laud records that "part of his sentence was executed upon Leighton."

* Whitelocke.

+ Diary of Laud, "A History of the Troubles, &c. of William Laud," 1695, p. 56.




Dr. Alexander Leighton, a Scotch divine, had written a book-" Zion's plea against Prelacy." He owned the writing of the book, when brought into the Star-chamber. It will perhaps be thought that even the "part of his sentence was not altogether consistent with the mercy of Christianity. Leighton was whipped; put in the pillory; had one of his ears cut off; had one side of his nose slit; and was branded on one cheek. But the whole process was repeated, with the necessary variations of ear, nose, and cheek, a week afterwards.* Within five weeks the archbishop was consecrating the church of St. Catherine Cree, with processions, and bowings, and other ceremonies "as prescribed in the Roman pontificale." It was the matador throwing down the red rag to enrage the bull. And yet England was not apparently moved from its "so excellent a composure."

From the time of the offensive attack of William Prynne upon stage-plays, in whose condemnation he included "academical interludes," there was a more than usual performance of masques at Whitehall, and of popular dramas. The four Inns of Court, also, "to manifest the difference of their opinion from Mr. Prynne's new learning, and to confute his Histrio-Mastix against

[graphic][merged small]

interludes," + got up a masque written by Shirley, which cost them £20,000. In his "Epistle Dedicatory," Prynne says that there were above "forty thousand play-books printed within these two years;" that " 'they are more vendible than the choicest sermons;" "the multitude of our London play

* Dr. Leighton was imprisoned, till released by the Parliament in 1840. + Whitelocke.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »