Imagens das páginas

ritans with far more than the hatred of Elizabeth. Her aversion to them was political,-his was personal. The sect had plagued him in Scotland, where he was weak; and he was determined to be even with them in England, where he was powerful. Persecution gradually changed a sect into a faction. That there was any thing in the religious opinions of the Puritans, which rendered them hostile to monarchy, has never been proved to our satisfaction. After our civil contests, it became the fashion to say that Presbyterianism was connected with Republicanism; just as it has been the fashion to say, since the time of the French Revolution, that Infidelity is connected with Republicanism. It is perfectly true, that a church constituted on the Calvinistic model, will not strengthen the hands of the sovereign so much as a hierarchy, which consists of several ranks, differing in dignity and emolument, and of which all the members are constantly looking to the government for promotion. But experience has clearly shown that a Calvinistic Church, like every other church, is disaffected when it is persecuted, quiet when it is tolerated, and actively loyal when it is favoured and cherished. Scotland has had a Presbyterian establishment during a century and a half. Yet her General Assembly has not, during that period, given half so much trouble to the Government as the Convocation of the Church of England gave to it during the thirty years which followed the Revolution. That James and Charles should have been mistaken in this point, is not surprising. But we are astonished, we must confess, when writers of our own time, men who bave before them the proof of what toleration can effect, -men who may see with their own eyes that the Presbyterians are no such monsters, when government is wise enough to let them alone, should defend the old persecutions, on the ground that they were indispensable to the safety of the church and the throne.

How persecution protects churches and thrones, was soon made manifest. A systematic political opposition, vehement, daring, and inflexible, sprang from a schism about trifles, altogether unconnected with the real interests of religion or of the

Before the close of the reign of Elizabeth it began to show itself. It broke forth on the question of the monopolies. Even the imperial Lioness was compelled to abandon her prey, and slowly and fiercely to recede before the assailants. The spirit of liberty grew with the growing wealth and intelligence of the people. The feeble struggles and insults of James irritated instead of suppressing it. And the events which immediately followed the accession of his son, portended a contest of no com

[ocr errors]


mon severity, between a king resolved to be absolute, and a people resolved to be free.

The famous proceedings of the third Parliament of Charles, and the tyrannical measures which followed its dissolution, are extremely well described by Mr Hallam. No writer, we think, has shown, in so clear and satisfactory a manner, that at that time the Government entertained a fixed purpose of destroying the old parliamentary Constitution of England, or at least of reducing it to a mere shadow. We hasten, however, to a part of his work, which, though it abounds in valuable information, and in remarks well deserving to be attentively considered,- and though it is, like the rest, evidently written in a spirit of perfect impartiality, appears to us, in many points, objectionable.

to the

year 1640. The fate of the short Parliament held in that year, already indicated the views of the king. That a parliament so moderate in feeling, should have met after so many years of oppression, is truly wonderful. Hyde extols its loyal and conciliatory spirit. Its conduct, we are told, made the excellent Falkland in love with the very name of parliament. We think, indeed, with Oliver St John, that its moderation was carried too far, and that the times required sharper and more decided councils. It was fortunate, however, that the king bad another opportunity of showing that hatred of the liberties of his subjects, which was the ruling principle of all his conduct. The sole crime of this assembly was that, meeting after a long intermission of parliaments, and after a long series of cruelties and illegal imposts, they seemed inclined to examine grievances before they would vote supplies. For this insolence, they were dissolved almost as soon as they met.

Defeat, universal agitation, financial embarrassments, disorganization in every part of the government, compelled Charles again to convene the houses before the close of the same year. Their meeting was one of the great eras in the history of the civilized world. Whatever of political freedom exists either in Europe or in America, has sprung, directly or indirectly, from those institutions which they secured and reformed. We never turn to the annals of those times, without feeling increased admiration of the patriotisın, the energy, the decision, the consummate wisdom, which marked the measures of that great parliament, from the day on which it met, to the commencement of civil hostilities.

The impeachment of Strafford was the first, and perhaps, the greatest blow. The whole conduct of that celebrated man proved that he had formed a deliberate scheme to subvert the fundamental laws of England. Those parts of his correspondence which have been brought to light since his death, place the matter beyond a doubt. One of his admirers has, indeed, offered to show,' that the passages which Mr Hallam has invidiously extracted from the correspondence between Laud and Strafford, • as proving their design to introduce a thorough tyranny, refer not to any such design, but to a thorough reform in the affairs of state, and the thorough maintenance of just authority! We will recommend two or three of these passages to the especial notice of our readers.

All who know any thing of those times, know that the conduct of Hampden in the affair of the ship-money met with the warm approbation of every respectable royalist in England. It drew forth the ardent eulogies of the champions of the prerogative, and even of the Crown lawyers themselves., Clarendon allows his demeanour through the whole proceeding to have been such, that even those who watched for an occasion against the defender of the people, were compelled to acknowledge themselves unable to find any fault in him. That he was right in the point of law, is now universally admitted. Even had it been otherwise, he had a fair case. Five of the Judges, servile as our courts then were, pronounced in his favour. The majority against him was the smallest possible. In no country retaining the slightest vestige of constitutional liberty, can a modest and decent appeal to the laws be treated as a crime. Strafford, however, recommends that, for taking the sense of a legal tribunal on a legal question, Hainpden should be punished, and punished severely, whipt,' says the insolent apostate-whipt • into bis seness. If the rod,” he adds, be so used that it smarts

not, I am the more sorry. This is the maintenance of just authority:

In civilised nations, the most arbitrary governments have generally suffered justice to have a free course in private suits. Strafford wished to make every cause in every court subject to the royal prerogative. He complained, that in Ireland he was not permitted to meddle in cases between party and party. 'I • know very well,' says he, that the common lawyers will be . passionately against it, who are wont to put such a prejudice

upon all other professions, as if none were to be trusted, or capable to administer justice but themselves ; yet how well this suits with monarchy, when they monopolize all to be governed by their year-books, you in England have a costly example.' We are really curious to know by what arguments it is to be proved, that the power of interfering in the

law-suits of individuals is part of the just authority of the executive government.


[ocr errors]

It is not strange that a man so careless of the common civil rights, which even despots have generally respected, should treat with scorn the limitations which the constitution imposes on the royal prerogative. We might quote pages : but we will content ourselves with a single specimen :- The debts of the • Crown being taken off, you may govern as you please : and • most resolute I am that may be done without borrowing any • help forth of the King's lodgings.'

Such was the theory of that thorough reform in the state which Strafford meditated. His whole practice, from the day on which he sold himself to the court, was in strict conformity to his theory. For his accomplices various excuses may be urged; ignorance, imbecility, religious bigotry. But Wentworth had no such plea. His intellect was capacious. His early prepossessions were on the side of popular rights. He knew the

whole beauty and value of the system which he attempted to deface. He was the first of the Rats,—the first of those statesmen whose patriotism has been only the coquetry of political prostitution ; whose profligacy has taught governments to adopt the old maxim of the slave-market, that it is cheaper to buy than to breed, to import defenders from an opposition than to rear them in a ministry. He was the first Englishman to whom a peerage was not an addition of honour, but a sacrament of infamy,-a baptism into the communion of corruption. As he was the earliest of the hateful list, so was he also by far the greatest-eloquent, sagacious, adventurous, intrepid, ready of invention, immutable of purpose, in every talent which exalts or destroys nations preeminent, the lost Archangel, the Satan of the apostacy. The title for which, at the time of his desertion, he exchanged a name honourably distinguished in the cause of the people, reminds us of the appellation which, from the moment of the first treason, fixed itself on the fallen Son of the Morning

So call him now.-His former name Is heard no more in heaven.' The defection of Strafford from the popular party contributed mainly to draw on him the hatred of his contemporaries. It has since made his an object of peculiar interest to those whose lives have been spent, like his, in proving that there is no malice like the malice of a renegade. Nothing can be more natural or becoming, than that one turncoat should eulogise another.

Many enemies of public liberty have been distinguished by their private virtues. But Strafford was the same throughout. As was the statesman, such was the kinsman, and such the

lover. His conduct towards Lord Mountmorris is recorded by Clarendon. For a word which can scarcely be called rash, which could not have been made the subject of an ordinary civil action, he dragged a man of high rank, married to a relative of that saint about whom he whimpered to the Peers, before a tribunal of his slaves. Sentence of death was passed. Every thing but death was inflicted. Yet the treatment which Lord Ely experienced, was still more disgusting. That nobleman was thrown into prison, in order to compel him to settle his estate in a manner agreeable to his daughter-in-law, whom, as there is every reason to believe, Strafford had debauched. These stories do not rest on vague report. The historians most partial to the minister admit their truth, and censure them in terms which, though too lenient for the occasion, are still severe. These facts are alone sufficient to justify the appellation with which Pym branded him— the wicked Earl.'

In spite of all his vices, in spite of all his dangerous projects, Strafford was certainly entitled to the benefit of the law ;-but of the law in all its rigour; of the law according to the utmost strictness of the letter, which killeth. He was not to be torn in pieces by a mob, or stabbed in the back by an assassin. He was not to have punishment meted out to him from his own iniquitous measure. But if justice, in the whole range of its wide armoury, contained one weapon which could pierce him, that weapon his pursuers were bound, before God and man, to employ.

If he may

Find mercy in the law, 'tis his : if none,

Let him not seek't of us.' Such was the language which the Parliament might justly use.

Did then the articles against Strafford strictly amount to high-treason? Many people who know neither what the articles were, nor what high treason is, will answer in the negative, simply because the accused person, speaking for his life, took that ground of defence. The Journals of the Lords show that the Judges were consulted. They answered with one accord, that the articles on which the Earl was convicted amounted to high treason. This judicial opinion, even if we suppose it to have been erroneous, goes far to justify the Parliament. The judgement pronounced in the Exchequer Chamber has always been urged by the apologists of Charles in defence of his conduct respecting ship-money. Yet on that occasion there was but a bare majority in favour of the party, at whose pleasure all the magistrates composing the tribunal were removable. The decision in the case of Strafford was unanimous ; as far as we can judge,

« AnteriorContinuar »