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craft among twelve other tyrannical sophisms. Neither want we examples. Andronicus Comnenus, the Byzantine emperor, though a most cruel tyrant, is reported by Nicetas to have been a constant reader of Saint Paul's Epistles, and by continual study had so incorporated the phrase and style of that transcendent apostle into all his familiar letters, that the imitation seemed to vie with the original. Yet this availed not to deceive the people of that empire, who, notwithstanding his saint's vizard, tore him to pieces for his tyranny. From stories of this nature both ancient and modern which abound, the poets also, and some English, have been in this point so mindful of decorum, as to put never more pious words in the mouth of any person, than of a tyrant. I shall not instance an abstruse author, wherein the king might be less conversant, but one whom we well know was the closet companion of these his solitudes, William Shakspeare, who introduces the person of Richard the Third, speaking in as high a strain of piety and mortification as is uttered in any passage of this book, and sometimes to the same sense and purpose with some words in this place. I intended,' saith he,
. • 'not only to oblige my friends, but my enemies.' The like saith Richard, Act II. Scen. 1.
• I do not know that Englishman alive,
Other stuff of this sort may be read throughout the whole tragedy, wherein the poet used not much license in departing from the truth of history, which delivers him a deep dissembler, not of his affections only, but of religion.
II. UPON THE EARL OF STRAFFORD'S DEATH.
This next chapter is a penitent confession of the king, and the strangest, if it be well weighed, that ever was auricular. For he repents here of giving his consent, though most unwillingly, to the most seasonable and solemn piece of justice that had been done of many years in the land. But his sole conscience thought the contrary. And thus was the welfare, the safety, and within a little, the unanimous demand of three populous nations to have attended still on the singularity of one man's opinionated conscience, if men had always been so tame and spiritless, and had not unexpectedly found the grace to understand, that, if his conscience were so narrow and peculiar to itself, it was not fit his authority should be so ample and universal over others. For certainly a private conscience sorts not with a public calling, but declares that person rather meant by nature for a private for
And this also we may take for truth, that he whose conscience thinks it sin to put to death a capital offender, will as oft think it meritorious to kill a righteous person.
But let us hear what the sin was that lay so sore upon him; and, as one of his prayers given to Dr Juxon testifies, to the very day of his death, it was his signing the bill of Strafford's execution; a man whom all
looked upon as one of the boldest and most impetuous instruments that the king had, to advance any violent or illegal design. He had ruled Ireland and some parts of England, in an arbitrary manner; had endeavoured to subvert fundamental laws, to subvert parliaments, and to ineense the king against them. He had also endeavoured to make hostility between England and Scotland. He had counselled the king
to call over that Irish army of papists, which he had cunningly raised, to reduce England, as appeared by good testimony then present at the consultation ; for which, and many other crimes alleged and proved against him in twentyeight articles, he was condemned of high treason by the parliament. The commons by far the greater number cast him. The lords, after they had been satisfied in a full discourse by the king's solicitor, and the opinions of many judges de livered in their house, agreed likewise to the sentence of treason. The people universally cried out for justice. None were his friends but courtiers and clergymen, the worst at that time, and most corrupted sort of men, and court ladies, not the best of
women, who, when they grow to that insolence as to appear active in state affairs, are the certain sign of a dissolute, degenerate, and pusillanimous commonwealth. Last of all the king, or rather first, for these were but his apes, was not satisfied in conscience to condemn him of high treason, and declared to both houses, that no fears or respects whatsoever should make him alter that resolution founded upon his conscience;' Either then his resolution was indeed not founded upon his conscience, or his conscience received better information, or else both his conscience and this his strong resolution strook sail, notwithstanding these glorious words, to his stronger fear.
For within a few days. after, when the judges at a privy council, and four of his elected bishops, had picked the thorn out of his conscience, he was at length persuaded to sign the bill for Strafford's execution. And yet perhaps, that it wrung his conscience to condemn the earl of high treason is not unlikely; not because he thought him guiltless of high treason, had half those crimes been committed against his own private interest or person, as appeared plainly by his charge against the six
members; but because he knew himself a principal in what the earl was but his accessory, and thought nothing treason against the commonwealth, but against himself only,
Had he really scrupled to sentence that for treason which he thought not treasonable, why did he seem resolved by the judges and the bishops ? and if by them resolved, how comes the scruple here again? It was not then, as he now pretends, the importunities of some and the fear of many,' which made him sign, but the satisfaction given him by those judges and ghostly fathers of his own choosing. Which of him shall we believe? for he seems not one, but double. Either here we must not believe him
professing that his satisfaction was but seemingly received and out of fear, or else we may as well believe that the scruple was no real scruple, as we can believe him here against himself before, that the satisfaction then received, was no real satisfaction. Of such a variable and fleeting conscience, what hold can be taken? But that indeed it was a facile conscience, and could dissemble satisfaction when it pleased, his own ensuing actions declared, being soon after found to have the chief hand in a most detested conspiracy against the parliament and kingdom, as by letters and examinations of Percy, Goring, and other conspirators, came to light ; that his intention was to rescue the earl of Strafford, by seizing on the Tower of London; to bring up the English army out of the North, joined with eight thousand Irish Papists raised by Strafford, and a French army to be landed at Portsmouth against the paliament and their friends. For which purpose the king, though requested by both houses to disband those Irish Papists, refused to do it, and kept them still in arms to his own purposes.
No marvel then, if, being as deeply criminous as the earl himself, it stung his conscience to adjudge to death those misdeeds whereof himself had been the chief author. No marvel though instead of blaming and detesting his ambition, his evil counsel, his violence, and oppression of the people, he fall to praise his great abilities, and with scholastic flourishes beneath the decency of a king, compares him to the sun, which in all figurative use and significance bears allusion to a king, not to a subject. No marvel though he knit contradictions as close as words can lie together, “not approving in his judgment,' and yet approving in his subsequent reason all that Strafford did, as driven by the necessity of times, and the temper of that people;' for this excuses all his misdemeanours. Lastly, no marvel that he goes on building many fair and pious conclusions upon false and wicked premises, which deceive the common reader, not well discerning the antipathy of such connexions. But this is the marvel, and may be the astonishment of all that have a conscience, how he durst, in the sight of God, and with the same words of contrition wherewith David repents the murdering of Uriah, repent his lawful compliance to that just act of not saving him, whom he ought to have delivered up to speedy punishment; though himself the guiltier of the two. If the deed were so sinful to have put to death so great a malefactor, it would have taken much doubtless from the heaviness of his sin, to have told God in his confession, how he labored, what dark plots he had contrived, into what a league entered, and with what conspirators against his parliament and kingdoms, to have rescued from the claim of justice so notable and so dear an instrument of tyranny ; which would have been a story, no doubt, as pleasing in the ears of Heaven as all these equivocal repentan