Imagens das páginas

subjects. All through the war the evil influence of the Queen keeps asserting itself, and Charles recks not whither he looks for aid. Arms from Holland, men from Lorraine, the open support of all the Catholics in England, are equally welcome provided they subserve his immediate object of beating the Roundheads. To crown his misfortunes, his intrigues, through the capture of his cabinet at Naseby, are made the property of the nation. Truly this man, guilty or innocent, could be no King of England, and we can understand, if we cannot justify, the decision of those blunt and earnest soldiers, that "he, the said Charles Stuart, as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good people of this nation, shall be put to death by the severing of his head from his body."

But we cannot altogether condemn the sentiments of love and reverence that have gathered round his dignified and pathetic figure. No statesman or true patriot would have lived his life, no bad or petty man would have died his death. After his own fashion he loved his people, and there is even a touch of jingoism in his ordering the republication of Selden's "Mare Clausum," England's claim to the sovereignty of the seas, a book which James had suppressed. Only under pressure and in dire distress, did he consent to employ foreign troops on English soil, a thing his son would have done as a matter of course. And in that pathetic Carisbrooke poem which is attributed to him, he cries:

"Though we perish, bless this Church and State."

Whether he actually penned these words or no, we have no doubt that they were engraven on his heart, and we need not refuse at least our pity to this most unhappy king, for he is not too great to make our pity an impertin





HOSE modern sages, who would explain all human actions by economic motives, must be sorely perplexed when they come to deal with the Puritan revolution. For never was England to all outward appearance more prosperous than on its eve.

Here we may let Clarendon speak: "The happiness of the times . . . was enviously set off by this, that every other kingdom, every other province, were engaged, some entangled, some almost destroyed, by the rage and fury of arms . . whilst the Kingdoms we now lament were alone looked upon as the garden of the world," and he proceeds to enumerate our advantages, "the court in great plenty, or rather (which is the discredit of plenty) excess, and luxury; the country rich, and what is more, fully enjoying the pleasure of its own wealth, and so the easier corrupted by the pride and wantonness of it; the Church flourishing with learned and extraordinary men, and (which other good times wanted) supplied with oil to feed those lamps; and the Protestant religion more advanced against the Church of Rome by writing (without prejudice to other useful and godly labours) especially by those two books of the late Lord Archbishop of Canterbury his grace, and of Mr. Chillingworth, than it had been from the Reformation; trade increased to that degree that we were the exchange of Christendom (the revenue thereof to the Crown being almost double that which it

had been in the best times) and the bullion of all other kingdoms brought to receive a stamp from the mint of England; all foreign merchants looking upon nothing as their own but what they had laid up in the warehouses of this kingdom; the royal navy in number and equipage much above former times, very formidable at sea; and the reputation of the King much more with foreign princes than any of his progenitors . . . lastly, for a complement to all these blessings, they were enjoyed by, and under the protection of, a King of the most harmless disposition, and the most exemplary piety, the greatest example of sobriety, chastity and mercy, that any prince hath ever been endowed with."

The substantial truth of this estimate is confirmed by the testimony of other observers, and in particular of Strafford. In one point certainly we may dissent from it, and this is in respect of foreign policy. To talk of Charles as if he were more respected abroad than Elizabeth or Henry V is the reverse of the truth. A crafty exponent of kingcraft, he had neither the men nor the money to give force to his schemes. Richelieu had contemptuously arrested his candidate for the command of the German Protestant army; Tromp had violated the sanctity of British waters, and destroyed a Spanish fleet under the very guns of our own. Not only had Charles no force to back his will, but he had no fixed will for any force to back. Under his leadership, England stood for nothing in the eyes of Europe, for no power and no ideal. She was dishonourably prosperous.

But that she had prospered from a material point of view cannot be denied. Never had trade flourished so much, never were taxes less oppressive. The most hated impositions, the abortive benevolence and the ship-money, were levied upon the rich, and the same was the case with the revival of forest claims, and other legal excuses for levying fines. As for the customs dues, these were very

light, and affected, at any rate directly, the pockets of the merchants. But the nation was concerned with something nobler than money grubbing. To be the fat man of Europe was a trivial ambition to an England which was smouldering with religious enthusiasm. One foreign event had deeply affected the national conscience. We had been compelled to watch the power of Rome exulting in triumph over the very home of the Reformation. The Palatinate had gone down, Denmark had gone down, and we had done nothing.

But then, out of the north, came a champion such as England had aspired in vain to produce, and the invincible Tilly had his sword, still reeking with the blood of Magdeburg, broken in his hands upon the plain of Breitenfeld. When Gustavus died, the news seemed too bad to be true, and at first it was not believed in England. But his career had had its effect here, as well as in Germany. It had gone far, by contrast, to emphasize the ignoble part that this country was being compelled to play under Charles, and it did something to turn men's minds from international to civil strife. For the blow had been struck, and henceforward the dream of Catholic domination sinks into obscurity. The Thirty Years' War was now becoming a weary and cruel faction fight, without any ideals whatever, to be terminated at last, in favour of the Protestant side, by a Catholic power. England was out of the European system, and her neighbours had enough on their hands already.

So that in the early stages of the Civil War, in the songs and pamphlets on either side, direct patriotic appeals play but a small part. That the bishops shall come down, or the King enjoy his own again, are typical of their sentiments, and the Puritans themselves are more concerned with setting up their own special form of religion, than devising schemes for making England great and prosperous.

Indeed, from the purely patriotic standpoint, there was much to be said for this attitude. The soul of England was, according to the view implicitly held by all sections of Puritans, off the right track, like Christian and Hopeful when they took the easy path through the land of Giant Despair. The first thing to be done, in the familiar language of the modern Dissenter, was to get right with God. England, under the Stuart regime, was indeed in Doubting Castle; her armour was laid aside, and it was a little thing that the Giant gave her plenty to eat. The Key of Promise was first needed to unlock the gate, and then, but not till then, could she go on, refreshed and in full armour, upon the road of her pilgrimage.

And yet it is one of the piteous facts of history, that the man against whom the hottest of this ardour was directed was not only an able, hard-working statesman, but almost a saint. This is no place to enter upon a detailed vindication of Archbishop Laud, not only from the scurrility of Macaulay, but from the measured unfairness of Gardiner. To talk of him as a ridiculous old bigot is more significant of the character of the abuser than that of the abused. The naïve and unassuming way in which, in his letters and private diary, he talks of his dreams, and the trivial occurrences of his everyday life, makes us love him the more, and reminds us of the diary of another great High Churchman, the "bright and beautiful Hurrell Froude. His deeply religious nature made him suspect even in little things the hand of God; he lived encompassed by a great cloud of witnesses, and in the humble spirit of a little child, he refused to put aside even dreams as unworthy of his notice. And this man could be as dignified as the King himself when occasion demanded; he could pursue the policy he had chosen, with the most comprehensive and consummate ability. Nor was he any respecter of persons; he could oppose the

« AnteriorContinuar »