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TRIAL OF STRAFFORD.
22nd of March, as on every succeeding day, the earl of Strafford was brought to Westminster from the Tower in a barge, accompanied by the lieutenant, with boats full of armed men; and on his landing he was guarded by the
trained band. He took his place below the bar at a desk, attended by four secretaries and his counsel. "He was always in the same suit of black, as in doole [mourning]. At the entry he gave a low courtesie; proceeding a little he gave a second; when he came to his desk a third; then at the bar, the fore-face of his desk, he kneeled: rising quickly, he saluted both sides of the Houses, and then sat down. Some few of the Lords lifted their hats to him. This was his daily carriage." The sitting each day was prolonged to two, three, or four o'clock. "It was daily the most glorious assembly the isle could afford; yet the gravity not such as I expected," writes the observant Scot. While the earl was preparing his answers to particular charges, the Lords, he says, "got to their feet, walking, and clattered." The Commons, too, made loud clattering. After ten o'clock they ate and drank, " bottles of beer and wine going thick from mouth to mouth without cups, and all this in the king's eye."
But if, in the few resting minutes of this solemn trial, the wants of the animal man were supplied after a homely fashion, never was the supremacy of intellect more strikingly put forth to move pity or compel indignation. "Every day, the first week," writes May, "from Monday to Saturday, without intermission, the earl was brought from the Tower to Westminster Hall, and arraigned many hours together; and the success of every day's trial was the greatest discourse or dispute in all companies." The first of these days was occupied by reading the articles of impeachment and Strafford's written answers to them. On the second day Pym, the greatest orator of the Lower House that great assembly of high thinkers and bold doers-being commanded by the Lord-Steward to proceed, thus began:-" My Lords, we stand here by the commandment of the knights, citizens, and burgesses, now assembled for the Commons in Parliament; and we are ready to make good that impeachment whereby Thomas earl of Strafford stands charged in their name, and in the names of all the Commons of England, with hightreason." The House of Commons had passed a vote " that the earl of Strafford had endeavoured to subvert the ancient and fundamental laws of the realm, and to introduce arbitrary and tyrannical government." To sustain this allegation was the chief object of Pym and the other managers
Baillie, vol. i. P. 316.
BILL OF ATTAINDER.
of the impeachment; and although the greater number of the articles exhibited could not be technically brought within the Statute of Treasons, they contended that acts which tended to subvert the constitution were acts of treason against the king. Our necessary limits will not permit us to go through the various and complicated charges upon which this principle was to be sustained. They were, chiefly, acts of oppression as president of the Council of the North; arbitrary proceedings against individuals as governor of Ireland; a contempt for justice, by his assertion that the Irish were a conquered nation, and that the king might do with them as he pleased. He was charged that, as chief minister of England, he had advised the king, if parliament failed to give him supplies, to levy what he needed by his prerogative; and that after the dissolution of parliament, he said the king had vainly tried the affections of his people, and he was free to do whatever his power would admit. On all these points Pym spoke, having constant reference to the answers which Strafford had put in. Strafford replied; and Pym rejoined. On the third day, Maynard, a lawyer, one of the managers, followed up the accusations regarding Strafford's Irish administration; and Strafford, as before, replied with wondrous readiness-wondrous when it is considered that he was suffering from severe disease, and was alone against a host of enemies. Day after day this contest went on. Many foul misdemeanours," says May, "committed both in England and Ireland, were daily proved against him but that ward which the earl, being an eloquent man, especially lay at, was to keep off the blow of high treason, whatsoever misdemeanours should be laid upon him; of which some he denied, others he excused and extenuated with great subtlety, contending, to make anything good, that misdemeanours, though never so many and so great, could not, by being put together, make one treason, unless some one of them had been treason in its own nature." On the thirteenth day of the trial, the 10th of April, Pym moved in the House of Commons that the proceedings should take the new form of a bill of attainder against the earl of Strafford.
There was a rising member of the House, Henry Vane, the son of sir Henry Vane, who was comptroller of the royal household in 1639, and in 1641 was secretary of state. The youthful member for Hull, afterwards so famous as
"Vane, young in years, but in sage counsel old,"
who, in his early enthusiasm for civil and religious liberty had left all the prospects of ambition which naturally opened to him, to join the colony of New England, had now returned home, as his friend Milton had returned, when the mother country required the service of her children. He was the means of an extraordinary disclosure connected with the counsels of Strafford to the king. On that 10th of April Pym stood up, Henry Vane being in his seat, and produced a paper containing "a copy of notes taken at a junto of the Privy Council for the Scots affairs, about the 5th of May last." Whitelocke thus relates how these notes, which were in the handwriting of old sir Henry Vane, were obtained :-"Secretary Vane, being out of town, sent a letter to his son, sir Henry Vane the younger, then in London, with the key of his study, for his son to look in his cabinet for some papers there, to send
DISCLOSURES OF HENRY VANE.
to his father. The son looking over many papers, among them alighted upon these notes; which being of so great concernment to the public, and declaring so much against the earl of Strafford, he held himself bound in duty and conscience to discover them. He showed them to Mr. Pym, who urged him, and prevailed with him, that they might be made use of in the evidence against the earl of Strafford, as being most material, and of great consequence, in relation to that business." Young Vane's breach of his father's confidence will be judged harshly or compassionately, according to the degree in which it is believed that the public good is the supreme law. Old Vane wept in the House when the notes were produced. These notes were the record of a dialogue in which Laud, Hamilton, and Strafford were the speakers in Council; and the words which Strafford addressed to the king were these: "You have an army in Ireland that you may employ to reduce this kingdom to obedience." On the 13th of April, Pym read these notes in Westminster Hall. Lord Clare, Strafford's brother-in-law, contended that this kingdom meant Scotland and not England. Strafford took up this point, and maintained that a man's life should not depend upon a single word. The notes were admitted as evidence against him. The whole tenor of Strafford's correspondence can leave no doubt upon the mind of any dispassionate person, at the present day, that Strafford would not have had the slightest hesitation in recommending the king to let him bring the Irish army to England, for the overthrow of the fundamental laws of the realm. The peers of 1641 had not these materials of judgment before them; but they had ample means of knowing that such an intention was in perfect accordance with the principles. which Strafford proclaimed and acted upon.
Whilst the bill of attainder was debated in the Commons, the Lords continued to sit judicially in Westminster Hall, as if no such measure were in agitation. After the notes discovered by the younger Vane had been received, Strafford was called upon for his general defence upon the facts, leaving the law to his counsel. He spoke two hours and a half. The hard and prejudiced Principal of Glasgow University says, " He repeated nought new but the best of his former answers; and, in the end, after some lashness and fagging, he made such ane pathetic oration, for ane half hour, as ever comedian did upon a stage. The matter and expression was exceeding brave: doubtless, if he had grace or civil goodness, he is a most eloquent man. The speech you have it here in print. One passage made it most spoken of; his breaking off in weeping and silence, when he spoke of his first wife." Whitelocke, to whom we owe many of the most interesting memorials of this great time, has preserved this peroration in a less perishable form than that of the "Diurnal" which Baillie transmitted to his Scottish friends:
"My Lords, it is hard to be questioned upon a law which cannot be shown. Where hath this fire lain hid so many hundreds of years, without any smoke to discover it, till it thus burst forth to consume me and my children? That punishment should precede promulgation of a law,-to be punished by a law subsequent to the fact, is extreme hard: what man can be safe if this be admitted? My Lords, it is hard in another respect, that there should be no token set, by which we should know this offence, no admonition by which we should avoid it. If a man pass the Thames in a boat, and split upon an anchor, and no buoy be floating to discover it, he who owneth the anchor shall
STRAFFORD'S LAST SPEECH IN HIS DEFENCE.
make satisfaction; but if a buoy be set there, every man passeth at his own peril. Now, where is the mark, where the token upon this crime, to declare it to be high treason? My Lords, be pleased to give that regard to the peerage of England as never to expose yourselves to such moot points, to such constructive interpretations of laws: If there must be a trial of wits, let the subject-matter be of somewhat else than the lives and honours of peers.-It will be wisdom for yourselves, for your posterity, and for the whole kingdom, to cast into the fire these bloody and mysterious volumes of constructive and arbitrary treason, as the Christians did their books of curious arts, and betake yourselves to the plain letter of the law, that telleth us what is, and what is not treason, without being more ambitious to be more learned in the art of killing than our forefathers. It is now full two hundred and forty years since any man was touched for this alleged crime, to this height, before myself: Let us not awaken those sleeping lions to our destructions by raking up a few musty records that have lain by the walls so many ages forgotten or neglected. May your Lordships please not to add this to my other misfortunes: Let not a precedent be derived from me so disadvantageous as this will be in the consequence to the whole kingdom. Do not through me, wound the interest of the commonwealth; and, however these gentlemen say they speak for the commonwealth, yet, in this particular, I indeed speak for it, and show the inconveniences and mischiefs that will fall upon it. For, as it is said in the statute, 1 Hen. IV., no man will know what to do or say for fear of such penalties. Do not put, my Lords, such difficulties upon ministers of state, that men of wisdom, of honour, and of fortune, may not with cheerfulness and safety be employed for the public: If you weigh and measure them by grains and scruples, the public affairs of the kingdom will lie waste; no man will meddle with them who hath anything to lose.
"My Lords, I have troubled you longer than I should have done, were it not for the interest these dear pledges a saint in heaven left me."-Here he paused and shed a few tears.-"What I forfeit for myself is nothing; but that my indiscretion should extend to my posterity woundeth me to the very soul. You will pardon my infirmity; something I should have added, but am not able, therefore let it pass. And now, my Lords, for myself, I have been by the blessing of Almighty God, taught that the afflictions of this present life are not to be compared to the eternal weight of glory which shall be revealed hereafter. And so, my Lords, even so, with all tranquillity of mind I freely submit myself to your judgment; and whether that judgment be of life or death, Te Deum laudamus.''
When we read these burning words, we can easily believe the statement of May, that the ladies in the galleries were all on Strafford's side. "So great," he says, "was the favour and love which they openly expressed to him, that some could not but think of that verse,
"Non formosus erat, sed erat facundus Ulysses;
Et tamen æquoreas torsit amore Deas."
Never was quotation more happy. Strafford was not beautiful, but he was the eloquent Ulysses, who bent the sea-goddesses to his love. After such appeals-not only to "the pity proper to their sex," which May attributes to
PYM'S REPLY TO STRAFFORD.
[1641. Strafford's fair friends, but appeals to all who could be moved by natural sympathy towards a man bearing up so bravely in the presence of imminent danger and under the pressure of disease, the majestic periods of Pym's reply would fall dull and cold. Even now Strafford touches the heart, whilst Pym holds the understanding in his powerful grasp. There never was a grander scene in the ancient world of "famous orators "-not when Demosthenes fulmined" against Philip, and Catiline trembled before Cicero-than when Pym, in the presence of the king of England, proclaimed that treason against the people was treason against the throne, and intimated that the sovereign who abetted such treason was not himself safe from "a miserable end." We may
drop a tear for the fate of Strafford; but we should ill deserve the freedom which we enjoy under a constitutional monarchy, if we did not feel how much we owe to the noble assertion of the dominion of law over arbitrary power which Pym then sent forth into the heart of England:
"The law hath a power to prevent, to restrain, to repair evils. Without this, all kinds of mischief and distempers will break in upon a state. It is the law that doth entitle the king to the allegiance and service of his people ; it entitles the people to the protection and justice of the king. It is God alone who subsists by himself; all other things subsist in a mutual dependence and relation. He was a wise man that said that the king subsisted by the field that is tilled; it is the labour of the people that supports the crown. If you take away the protection of the king, the vigour and cheerfulness of allegiance will be taken away, though the obligation remain. The law is the boundary, the measure, betwixt the king's prerogative and the people's liberty. Whilst these move in their own orbs, they are a support and a security to one another, the prerogative a cover and defence to the liberty of the people, and the people by their liberty enabled to be a foundation to the prerogative. But if these bounds be so removed that they enter into contestation and conflict, one of these mischiefs must ensue,-if the prerogative of the king overwhelm the people, it will be turned into tyranny; if liberty undermine the prerogative, it will grow into anarchy."
There was not a man in that great assembly who could refuse assent to the truth of these words. Happy would it have been; much misery would have been spared; we might have reached in 1641 what we were struggling for till 1688, had these oracular sentences been equally the guide of prince and people. Charles must have started at the prophetic warning which followed:
"Arbitrary power is dangerous to the king's person, and dangerous to his crown. It is apt to cherish ambition, usurpation, and oppression, in great men, and to beget sedition and discontent in the people; and both these have been, and in reason must ever be, causes of great trouble and alteration to princes and states. If the histories of those eastern countries be perused, where princes order their affairs according to the mischievous principles of the earl of Strafford, loose and absolved from all rules of government, they will be found to be frequent in combustions, full of massacres, and of the tragical ends of princes. If any man shall look into their own stories, in the times when the laws were most neglected, he shall find them full of commotions, of civil distempers, whereby the kings that then reigned were always kept in want and distress; the people consumed by civil wars; and by such