« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
CHARLES I. A. D. 1625-1649.
Reaction under the house of Stuart-Charles I. attempts to render the crown absolute-Discords with his first parliament-English ships employed against Rochelle-Failure of the expedition to Cadiz-Second parliament— The commons refuse unconditional supplies-The earl of Bristol appeals to the lords for his writ of summons-Articles of impeachment against Buckingham - Attempt to govern without parliaments-Illegal taxation-The commons declare all methods of raising money without consent of parliament to be violations of the constitution-Strength of parties-Petition of Rights-The king's insincerity-Assassination of Buckingham - Famous decision of the judges against the employment of torture in the case of Felton-Fourth parliament-Arbitrary encroachments of the crown-The Pilgrim Fathers-Hampden resists the payment of ship-money-Innovations in religion—The country divided into two parties-Attempt to establish episcopacy in Scotland-The Scots renew the Covenant and seize on all the strongholds in their kingdom-Parliament refuses supplies and is dissolved without passing a single Act-Charles assembles an army at York-The long parliament-Bill against illegal taxation-Triennial parliaments— Abolition of the Star Chamber and High Commission Courts-Impeachment of Strafford-Unconstitutional proceedings of parliament-Act against the dissolution of parliament without its own consent-Outrages in Ireland— Question of the militia-Expulsion of the Bishops from the upper houseSchism in the constitutional party-Attempt to seize the five membersCommencement of the Civil War-Violent measures of the commons-Result of the first campaign favourable to the royalists-Battles of Edgehill and Worcester-Opening of a rival parliament at Oxford-The Independents gain the ascendency in the parliament at Westminster-Oliver CromwellSelf-denying ordinance-Battle of Naseby-The king surrenders to the Scottish army at Newark-Dissensions between the parliament and the army-Negotiations for the king's release-Cromwell marches on London -The Scots demand the restoration of the king-Are defeated by Cromwell -The army becomes supreme-The Rump parliament-Rejection of the house of lords-Trial and execution of Charles I.-Causes which contributed to this event-Concluding remarks.
THE reaction which invariably follows a period of great political and mental restraint like that exercised by the Tudors had begun to be perceptible even under James I., in the assertion of privilege and the revival of the right of impeachment, which had been in abeyance since the Lancastrian princes filled the English throne; but almost immediately after the accession of Charles I., the storm, which had been only visible in the distance, began to mutter, and it was soon evident to observant men that the conflict which had begun between the crown and the country under a monarch, on the one hand, rash, presumptuous, and
insincere, and the whole nation on the other, led on by such men as Coke, Wentworth, and Eliot, must soon or late end in a popular victory. The causes which had induced the people to submit to the brilliant tyranny of the Tudors no longer existed: there was no disputed succession, no fear of foreign invasion, and no anxiety for the maintenance of the protestant religion.
At such a time it was that Charles I. undertook the insane design of rendering the crown absolute. Looking to the example of foreign princes, and emulating the conduct of the Tudors, he thought not only to sustain, but even to enlarge the high prerogative which his predecessors had usurped. The people, on the other hand, recovered from the disorders of civil war, and no longer threatened by foreign invasion, demanded the restoration of their ancient liberties, and declared the arbitrary acts of the crown, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to have been unjustifiable inroads upon the constitution. Amongst other causes of dispute, Charles I. was desirous of sending aid to his brother-in-law, the elector-palatine, whose cause the commons had so warmly espoused in the preceding reign: but they were not now so certain of the advisability of a war with Spain, more especially as they saw no prospect of its being well conducted; and feared besides that so soon as the king should have obtained a supply, he would dissolve the parliament. They therefore granted two subsidies, £140,000, for the immediate necessities. of the king, and then proceeded to the investigation of abuses. Committees of religion and of grievances were formed, and inquiries instigated concerning the conduct of Buckingham in delivering up the English ships to be employed against Rochelle, which disgraceful transaction had roused the general indignation. The king, fearing for his minister, dissolved the parliament, and without money or resources entered on the war with Spain. By various arbitrary acts, he at length succeeded in equipping a fleet of 90 sail, and an army of 10,000 men; but when the English anchored before Cadiz, they found that the Spaniards had already gained intelligence of their designs, and had removed the shipping from that harbour into safer ports. Having made an unsuccessful attempt on the town, and finding his men ill-disposed to fight in a cause which they did not approve, sir Edward Cecil, who commanded the fleet, weighed anchor, and stood to the westward, hoping to intercept the Plate fleet which had not yet returned from the Indies; but it passed him in the night, and after an absence of three months he returned to Plymouth, having lost above 1000 of his men by famine and disease.
The failure of this expedition was exceedingly mortifying to
the king had he succeeded in obtaining the plunder of Cadiz and the Plate fleet, as he had expected, he might, at least for a time, have set the commons at defiance, and governed without the necessity of calling a parliament; but now he had provoked a war without the sanction of the commons, and unaided by them, it was impossible for him to extricate himself. Having tried in vain to procure money by illegal means, he found himself reduced to the necessity of again assembling a parliament; but the abrupt manner in which the last session had been terminated, and the ill success of the present war, rendered the nation exceedingly sensitive of its liberties; and notwithstanding all the endeavours of the king to break the strength of the opposition, a parliament was returned, still more resolutely bent on the reformation of abuses than that which had preceded it. When the commons assembled, the king laid before them his wants and necessities, reminding them at the same time "that it would be worse for them than for him if any evil should happen to the kingdom." They however refused to make an unconditional grant, and were proceeding to the investigation of abuses, when a dispute arose in the upper house on the question of parliamentary privilege. The king knowing the opposition of the earl of Bristol to the measures of the present government, had withheld his summons; but the earl petitioned the lords that it might be issued, or cause shown, on which the king despatched the summons, but accompanied it with a letter commanding the earl not to avail himself of it. Bristol forwarded this letter to the parliament, and requested their advice on it, offering to appear and bring charges against his enemy, the duke of Buckinghan. The king now directed the attorney-general to bring a criminal charge against the earl, so as to invalidate his testimony; but the peers decided that they would hear both sides, and that nothing which might be alleged against the earl should in any way impeach his testimony. When the prosecution was commenced, the attorney-general preferred various articles against the earl, principally relating to his diplomatic negotiations in Spain; but as most of these articles rested on the authority of the king himself, the peers objected to them, as tending to establish a precedent derogatory to the security of the subject. The earl then accused the duke of Buckingham of having enticed the king, when prince of Wales, into Spain, in order to induce him to change his religion,—of having sacrificed the interests of his country to his own ambition, and of having been the cause of the commencement of the present war.
The commons meanwhile proceeded to draw up the articles of impeachment against Buckingham, charging him with having embezzled the public money,—with having procured grants of crown
lands, with having taken bribes for the perversion of justice, and having sold offices to the highest bidder, with having given the king's ships to be employed against the protestant cause, and with having hastened the late king's death by potions and blisters. To this last charge, Charles objected that he himself was touched by it, and committed two members of the commons, Dudley Digges and sir John Eliot, to the Tower; however, they having explained their meaning, were released, and the house proceeded to hear Buckingham's defence. Before any resolution had been come to, the king dissolved the parliament, making answer to the request of the lords for a further delay, "No, not for one instant!" "the result," says lord Brougham,* "inevitably being a new parliament, afterwards elected, with increased hostility towards the royal authority which had put an end to the old."
In this session the lords established two important rights; 1st, that none of their members could be arrested unless for treason, felony, or breach of the peace; and 2nd, that every peer having a seat in the upper house is entitled to claim his writ of summons, as proved in the case of the earl of Bristol.
Although the bill for the vote of subsidy had not passed, yet having been promised, the king pretended that he had a right to levy the sum specified by the commons, and issued warrants for its collection. The counties of Middlesex and Kent, which were first applied to, resisted, however, such interpretation of the intentions of parliament; and the king was obliged to content himself with a loan of £200,000, to be paid out of the next parliamentary grant: this supply was soon spent, and Charles was compelled again to resort to illegal means to supply the necessities of government: besides levying the duties of tonnage and poundage (a small tax on every ton of wine, and on every pound of commodities imported), which had not been voted by parliament, the king sent privy seals to all the merchants and gentlemen requiring them to lend sums in proportion to the rate at which they had been assessed on the last subsidy, and charged the towns on the sea-coast with the furnishing and maintenance of a fleet. But what made these illegal demands still more obnoxious to the people, was the tyrannical manner in which they were enforced. Those of the poorer commons who refused to lend what they were never likely to be repaid, were drafted into the army or navy; and those of higher rank were either imprisoned or fined, at the pleasure of the council. Amongst the latter class were sir Thomas Darnel, Everard Hampden, Walter Earl, and John Heveningham, who determined not to submit, and sued for their writ of habeas corpus, which the judges were compelled to * Brougham, British Constitution, ch. vi. p. 83.
grant. When presented to the warden of the Fleet, to signify the cause of their detention, he made return that "they were detained according to the exigency of the commitment," * the particular offence not being specified in the council's warrants: the appellants objected to the sufficiency of the return, and consequently to the validity of the writ: the case was therefore brought before the court of King's Bench, and argued on both sides by the most eminent lawyers of the day; Noy, Selden, and Whitelock appeared for the prisoners, and the case of the crown was got up by Robert Heath, the attorney-general. The question to be decided was of the utmost importance to the nation, as it affected the personal liberty of every man in England. On the one part it was contended from a clause of Magna Charta, that "no freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, unless by lawful judgment of his peers or the law of the land;" that every subject was secured in the enjoyment of his personal freedom until convicted of an offence, and consequently was entitled to demand bail, except in criminal charges, when the nature of the offence precluded such an extension of the law. On the part of the crown it was answered, that although the ordinary jurisdiction of the king might be restrained, his inherent prerogative, which was an essential attribute of monarchy, could never be relinquished or curtailed, being derived from God himself. It was also argued from the legal maxim, "The king can do no wrong," that a sufficient cause must have existed, though it was not set forth. The court, "to their lasting disgrace," says lord Brougham, "decided both in favour of the sufficiency of the return and the validity of the writ;" thus abrogating by their decision every statute which had been made for the defence of the subject's liberty from the time of Magna Charta downwards, "since the insertion of four words in a warrant, per speciale mandatum regis, which might become matter of form in future would control the remedial efficacy of the law.”†
To follow the history of the parliament, it will be requisite to bear in mind that the house of commons was at this time divided into three sections corresponding with the three large parties in the state; the conservatives or ministerialists, who maintained the high prerogative of the crown, and defended the measures of the existing government,-the puritans or religious party, who desired a reformation both in church and state, and were inclined to the presbyterian form of worship,—and the patriotic or constitutional party, who were more zealous for civil liberty than for innovation in religious ceremonies, and were not adverse to the *Brougham, English Constitution, ch. vi. p. 84. + Hallam, Constitutional History, i. p. 529.