Изображения страниц
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

The Long Parliament-Difficulty of narrating its history in a limited space-Of what manner of men composed on its first meeting-Opening of the Parliament-Election of SpeakerPetitions from the prisoners under sentence of the Star-Chamber-Their triumphal entry into London-Arrival of the earl of Strafford-The House of Commons resolve to impeach him-His arrest-Arrest of archbishop Laud-Impeached of high-treason, and committed to the Tower-Finch, the Lord-Keeper, and Windebank, Secretary of State, fly the country-The judges in the case of ship-money proceeded against-Destruction of crosses and images-Charges against Strafford-His trial-Arrangements of Westminster HallDaily course of proceedings-Bill of attainder proposed in the House of Commons-Disclosure of Henry Vahe-Strafford's last speech in his defence-Pym's reply-Close of the trial-The bill of attainder passed by both Houses-Army plots and popular clamoursProtestation-Efforts of the king to save Strafford-He finally abandons him-His execution.

THE Long Parliament-the most memorable Parliament that England ever saw-the Parliament which, for two centuries, has been the theme of the most extravagant hatred and the most exaggerated praise-the Parliament, whatever be its merits or its faults, which has the one glory of having rendered it impossible that the Monarchy of England could endure except in alliance with representative freedom-this Parliament of thirteen years' duration now claims our anxious regard. Those who are bewildered by the crowd of persons, the rush of events, the contrariety of opinions, as they read the history of this Parliament in the more important contemporary historians and memoir-writers, will comprehend the impossibility of adequately relating the great story in a hundred or so of pages. We must necessarily go over





[1640. the old track, without lingering by the way-side, if we would arrive at the end of our journey in any reasonable time. Though this old track has been often trodden, it is still very dark and devious; and it has been rendered more difficult by some of its professed guides, and by one especially, who has made very treacherous stepping-stones over parts of the road now known to be foul and dangerous. We shall endeavour to pursue our way warily but not fearfully. What should we fear? The time is past when it was thought necessary for a loyal subject of the British crown to deify Charles or diabolify Cromwell. In the truer and nobler spirit of our own day, the statues of Hampden and of Falkland now claim our united reverence as we tread the vestibule of our Houses of Lords and Commons. *

In the rude wood-cut which heads a newspaper of 1642, we have a representation, almost ludicrous, of that great assemblage to which it was given to "rough-hew" the destinies of England. In a far more elaborate engraving of the Lower House, in 1623, we see the five hundred members placed in five rows, tier above tier, in that old Chapel of St. Stephen's, famous for generations. On the 3rd of November, 1640, there were sitting on those benches men whose names will endure as long as England is a nation; men whose memories are now venerated in lands, then undiscovered, or chiefly occupied by barbarous tribes, where the principles of representative government are sustaining the Anglo-Saxon race in their career of liberty, whilst they fill new continents with their language and their arts. But it is not only from the more illustrious of that Parliament that we have derived our great inheritance of civil rights. There were men there of many varieties of opinion, as to the extent to which reforms of the Church and of the State should be carried. But there were very few indeed, who did not see that the time was come when a stand was to be made against the arbitrary power which, whether embodied in Strafford or Laud, in Finch or Windebank, had so long and so successfully carried on a warfare "against our fundamental laws— against the excellent constitution of this kingdom, which hath made it appear to strangers rather an idea than a real commonwealth, and produced the honour and happiness of this, as the wonder of every other nation."‡ Those who opposed the despotic pretensions of Charles and of his father were not the innovators, as some would pretend. When Clarendon tells us of the House of Commons, that "the major part of that body consisted of men who had no mind to break the peace of the kingdom, or to make any considerable alteration in the government of Church or State," he correctly represents the general temper of the Long Parliament in its first year. But when he adds that "all inventions were set on foot from the beginning to work on them and corrupt them, by suggestions of the dangers that threatened all that was precious to the subject in their liberty and their property," he uses the term "inventions" in the place of the facts which no one has set forth more distinctly than himself in the earlier portion of his history. There was, indeed, many a country-gentleman and citizen who went up to this Parliament with a hatred of ship-money and of all other illegal imposts, with a

"In our days the history of the English Revolution has changed its face. The narrative and opinions of Hume have ceased to satisfy the imagination and reason of the public.' -GUIZOT. Engraved in Lord Nugent's "Hampden," vol. i.

Falkland's charge against Finch.




horror of the Court of High Commission and the Star-Chamber, and with a determination to prosecute, even to the death, the unjust judge and the tyrannical minister, who yet had the most unshaken loyalty to the king. Charles did not understand the character of this Parliament. He conceded much; but in the very act of concession he showed his weakness rather than his sense of right; and there was reasonable fear enough, however exaggerated by popular mistrust, that at the first favourable moment the Parliament would be dissolved, and the old arbitrary power resumed with new force. Treacherous schemes on one side, and extravagant demands on the other, rendered almost hopeless any other issue than Civil War. Then, necessarily, men chose their sides. Those "who had no mind to break the peace of the kingdom" were compelled to draw their swords, friend against friend, and brother against brother; and those who had no original design "to make any considerable alteration in the government of Church or State," had all to

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

witness, and many to promote, the downfall of the ecclesiastical system which Augustin had founded, and the ruin of the monarchy which Alfred had built up. On the memorable 3rd of November Charles opened this Parliament. He met his people with no cheerful display of royal splendour. "The king himself did not ride with his accustomed equipage, nor in his usual majesty, to Westminster, but went privately in his barge to the Parliament Stairs."* Very few members were absent from their places. Charles addressed the Houses in a tone of conciliation: "One thing I desire of you, as one of the greatest means to make this a happy Parliament, that you on your parts, as

* Clarendon.



[1640. I on mine, lay aside all suspicion, one of another." It was scarcely in the power of the representatives of the people to have hastily accepted the renewal of a broken confidence, even if they had been so willing. The fatal dissolution of Parliament, six months before, had spread a spirit of resistance to the court which was not confined to idle complainings. Sir Thomas Gardiner, the recorder of London, had been designed by the king to fill the office of Speaker in the coming Parliament. Contrary to all precedent he was rejected by the city; and no influence could procure his election in any other place. On the morning of the meeting of Parliament, the king was told that his choice was useless. Lenthall was chosen Speaker. In a few days there was abundant work for the Commons. Troops of horsemen arrived in London, craving redress of grievances upon their petitions. From the Fleet Prison came a petition from Alexander Leighton, who had been ten years in confinement; and another from John Lilburne, the sturdy London apprentice who had been whipped and imprisoned for distributing Prynne's books. Lilburne's petition was presented by Oliver Cromwell. From the several distant castles in which they were confined, the petitions of Prynne, and Burton, and Bastwick, reached the House. These prisoners were ordered to be brought to London. Leighton, mutilated, deaf, blind, crept out of the cell in which he expected to die, to receive some recompense for his sufferings. Lilburne had a money compensation voted to him. Prynne and one of his fellow-sufferers made a triumphal entry into London. "Burton and Prynne came through the most of the city triumphantly: never here such a like show about a thousand horse, and, as some of good note say, above four thousand; above a hundred coaches, and, as many say, above two hundred; with a world of foot, every one with their rosemary branch. Bastwick is not yet come from Scilly."* It was voted that these sufferers should be restored to their callings; and that those who had unjustly sentenced them should pay high damages, as compensation, to each of them. Bastwick returned at the beginning of December, with trumpets sounding, and torches burning, and a thousand horse for his convoy. "God is making here a new world," says Baillie.

Some days before the assembling of Parliament, two remarkable men met in Westminster Hall, and began conferring together upon the state of affairs. Mr. Pym told Mr. Hyde "that they must now be of another temper than they were the last parliament; that they must not only sweep the house clean below, but must sweep down all the cobwebs which hung in the top and corners, that they might not breed dust, and so make a foul house hereafter; that they had now an opportunity to make the country happy, by removing all grievances, and pulling up the causes of them by the roots, if all men would do their duties." This was not idle talk of Mr. Pym. On the night of Monday, the 9th of November, the earl of Strafford came to London. On the morning of Wednesday, the 11th, Pym rose in his place in the House of Commons, and, saying that he had matter of the highest importance to propose, desired that strangers should be excluded and the doors of the House be locked. The member to whom Pym discoursed of pulling up the causes of grievances by the roots was in the House, and has preserved an

* Baillie's "Letters and Journal," vol. i. p. 277.

+ Clarendon.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »