« AnteriorContinuar »
ces. For it was fear, and nothing else, which made him feign before both the scruple and the satisfaction of his conscience, that is to say, of his mind. His first fear pretended conscience, that he might be borne with to refuse signing. His latter fear, being more urgent, made him find a conscience both to sign, and to be satisfied.
As for repentance, it came not on him till a long time after
; when he saw he could have suffered nothing more, though he had denied that bill.' For how could he understandingly repent of letting that be treason, which the parliament and whole nation so judged ? This was that which repented him, to have given up to just punishment so stout a champion of his designs, who might have been so useful to him in his following civil broils. It was a worldly repentance, not a conscientious; or else it was a strange tyranny, which his conscience had got over him, to vex him like an evil spirit for doing one act of justice, and by that means to fortify his resolution from ever doing so any more.
That mind must needs be irrecoverably depraved, which, either by chance or importunity tasting but once of one just deed, spatters at it, and abhors the relish ever after. To the scribes and pharisees, wo was denounced by our Saviour, for straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, though a gnat were to be strained at.
But to a conscience with whom one good deed is so hard to pass down as to endanger almost a choking, and bad deeds without number, though as big and bulky as the ruin of three kingdoms, go down currently without straining, certainly a far greater wo appertains. If his conscience were come to that unnatural dyscrasy, as to digest poison and to keck at wholesome food, it was not for the parliament, or any of his kingdoms to feed with him any longer ; which to conceal
he would persuade us that the parliament also, in their conscience escaped not some touches of remorse' for putting Strafford to death, in forbidding it by an after act to be a precedent for the future. But, in a fairer construction, that act implied rather a desire in them to pacify the king's mind, whom they perceived by this means quite alienated; in the mean while not imagining that this afteract should be retorted on them to tie up justice for the time to come upon like occasion, whether this were made a precedent or not, no more than the want of such a precedent, if it had been wanting, had been available to hinder this.
But how likely is it that this afteract argued in the parliament their least repenting for the death of Strafford, when it argued so little in the king himself, who, notwithstanding this afteract, which had his own hand and concurrence, if not his own instigation, within the same year accused of high treason no less than six members at once for the same pretended crimes which his conscience would not yield to think treasonable in the earl. So that this his subtle argument to fasten a repenting, and by that means a guiltiness of Strafford's death upon the parliament, concludes upon his own head, and shows us plainly that either nothing in his judgment was treason against the commonwealth, but only against the king's person, a tyrannical principle ! or that his conscience was a perverse and prevaricating conscience, to scruple that the commonwealth should punish for treasonous in one eminent offender, that which he himself sought so vehemently to have punished in six guiltless persons. If this were that touch of conscience which he bore with greater regret' than for any sin committed in his life, whether it were that proditory aid sent to Rochelle and religion abroad, or that prodigality of shedding blood at home, to a million of his subjects' lives not
valued in comparison of one Strafford, we may consider yet at last, what true sense and feeling could be in that conscience, and what fitness to be the master conscience of three kingdoms.
But the reason why he labors that we should take notice of so much tenderness and regret in his soul for having any hand in Strafford's death,' is worth the marking ere we conclude. 'He hoped it would be some evidence before God and man to all posterity, that he was far from bearing that vast load and guilt of blood," laid upon him by others; which hath the like
' ness of a subtle dissimulation, bewailing the blood of one man, his commodious instrument, put to death inost justly, though by him unwillingly, that we might think him too tender to shed willingly the blood of those thousands, whom he counted rebels. And thus by dipping voluntarily his finger's end, yet with show of great remorse, in the blood of Strafford, whereof all men clear him, he thinks to scape that sea of innocent blood wherein his own guilt inevitably hath plunged him all over. And we may well perceive to what easy satisfactions and purgations he had inured his secret conscience, who thought by such weak policies and ostentations as these, to gain belief and absolution from understanding men.
UPON HIS RETIREMENT FROM WESTMINSTER.
The simile wherewith he begins, I was about to have found fault with, as in a garb somewhat more poetical than for a statist. But meeting with many strains of like dress in other of his essays, and hearing bim reported a more diligent reader of poets than of politicians, I began to think that the whole book might perhaps be intended a piece of poetry. The words are good, the fiction smooth and cleanly; there want
ed only rhyme, and that they say, is bestowed upon it lately. But to the argument.
· I staid at Whitehall, till I was driven away by shame more than fear. I retract not what I thought of the fiction, yet here, I must confess, it lies too open. In his messages and declarations, nay, in the whole chapter next but one before this, he affirms that the danger wherein his wife, his children, and his own person’ were by those tumults, was the main cause that drove him from Whitehall, and appeals to God as witness. He affirms here that it was shame more than fear.' And Digby, who knew his mind as well as any, tells his new listed guard, that the principal cause of his majesty's going thence, was to save them from being trod in the dirt. From whence we may discern what false and frivolous excuses are avowed for truth, either in those declarations, or in this penitential book. Our forefathers were of that courage and severity of zeal to justice and their native liberty, against the proud contempt and misrule of their kings, that when Richard the Second departed but from a committee of lords, who sat preparing matter for the parliament not yet assembled, to the removal of his evil counsellors, they first vanquished and put to fight Robert de Vere, his chief favorite, and then coming up to London with a hụge army, required the king, then withdrawn for fear, but no further off than the Tower, to come to Westminster; which he refusing, they told him flatly, that unless he came they would choose another. So high a crime it was accounted then for kings to absent themselves, not from a parliament, which none ever durst, but from any meeting of his peers and counsellors which did but tend towards a parliament. Much less would they have suffered that a king for such trivial and various pretences, one while for fear of tumults, another while for shame to
see them,' should leave his regal station, and the whole kingdom bleeding to death of those wounds which his own unskilful and perverse government had inflicted.
Shame then it was that drove him from the parliament; but the shame of what ? Was it the shame of his manifold errors and misdeeds, and to see how weakly he had played the king ? No; but to see the barbarous rudeness of those tumults to demand any thing.' We have started here another, and I believe the truest cause of his deserting the parliament. The worst and strangest of that any thing which the people then demanded, was but the unlording of bishops, and expelling them the house, and the reducing of church discipline to a conformity with other protestant churches. This was the barbarism of those tumults; and that he might avoid the granting of those honest and pious demands, as well demanded by the parliament as the people, for this very cause more than for fear, by his own confession here, he left the city, and in a most tempestuous season forsook the helm and steerage of the commonwealth. This was that terrible any thing' from which his conscience and his reason chose to run rather than not deny. To be importuned the romoving of evil counsellors, and other grievances in church and state, was to him an intolerable oppression. If the people's demanding were so burdensome to him, what was his denial and delay of justice to them ?
But as the demands of his people were to him a burden and oppression, so was the advice of his parliament esteemed a bondage ; 'whose agreeing votes,' as he affirms, were not by any law or reason conclusive to his judgment.' For the law, it ordains a parliament to advise him in his great affairs; but if it ordain also that the single judgment of a king shall outbalance all the wisdom of his parliament, it ordains