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as he must remember my ancestors, as well as his own, are included in the national character he has given of the English of his time. “ Consider how serious a thing it is when the people rise up in arms against their sovereign; more especially such a people as the English. In such a case, there is no remedy; for they are the worst people in the world, the most obstinate and presumptuous; and of all England the Londoners are the leaders; for, to say the truth, they are very powerful in men and in wealth.
“ In the city and neighbourhood there are 24,000 men, completely armed from head to foot, and full 30,000 archers. This is a great force, and they are bold and courageous ; and the more blood is spilt, the greater their courage.”
Those who attentively examine the conduct of Richard II. during his negotiations with the insurgents collected through the intemperance of Walter the Tyler, will perceive a considerable degree of sagacity, prudence, and courage united, in his proceedings at so critical a period. Judging from this instance, his subjects had reason
to anticipate great advantages from his future government; but they were totally disappointed, and found that his uncles had been too successful in enervating his mind, and giving him a dislike to the fatigue and responsibility attached to his exalted situation ; that they might enjoy the exercise of his
for dissipation and dissolute company. These ambitious men were not aware that their pupil would exceed their wishes in this respect; but they found, to their disappointment, the king contrived to lavish large sums on his favourites, in addition to high honours ; which made them and the majority of the nobles equally envious, malicious, and determined on revenge. The subsequent conduct of Richard was calculated to inflame the latter passion, and to deprive him of all hope of support from his people; who assembled in such numbers, at the summons of his enemies, that he became an unresisting victim to their arms; and is supposed to have been actually starved to death in Pontefract castle, about the year 1400.
Richard was remarkably handsome in his person; and had the reputation of being faithful and generous in his attachments, mild to his domesticks, and an excellent husband.
The most extraordinary and unexpected revoļution in public opinion which England had ever witnessed was Tyler's insurrection. The abject state of the lower classes of people has been represented already as debasing their minds and brutalizing their manners; but the effects of this villanage or slavery had not hitherto been felt beyond the limits of the cottage, except in the case of the Jews; which might have served as a lesson to the successive governments, not to exact more
from man than man can bear. The general irritation excited by the poll tax of this reign, added to the previous ferment caused by long accumulated oppression, rendered it necessary to use severe measures in collecting it. Many serious disputes, without doubt, occurred on these occasions : but it was reserved for Walter the Tyler, of Deptford, to commence actual hostilities ; which he did, by beating a collector's brains out with a hammer.
The terrors Walter naturally felt at the certain consequences of his rashness, induced him to make strong appeals to his neighbours ; who, equally alarmed, communicated the contagion to others; till, in a very short time, presuming upon the rapid increase of their partizans, they formed themselves into something resembling a deliberative body; and Walter, being an enterprising barbarian, undertook to lead them into
rebellion. Himself, and others acting under him, immediately dispatched messengers in every direction, to command the people to follow their example, and prepare to revenge their common wrongs. The most complete and prompt obedience followed; and the new levies of Walter commenced their operations by setting fire to the mansions of the rich, after plundering them of their valuable contents.
On the 12th of June, 1381, their numbers assembledon Blackheath are stated to have amounted
to 100,000 men ; when we find part of the force was entrusted to the direction of Jack Straw. This vast and lawless assembly moved forward towards London, seizing upon those knights and gentlemen who happened to fall in their way: one of whom they sent to the young king (who, terrified at his situation, had retired to the Tower as the place of the greatest safety), demanding that he would go to them, in order to hear their complaints against the archbishop of Canterbury and his uncles; the latter, unfortunately for the monarch, being absent from the seat of government.
The king consented to meet them on the following morning; and actually proceeded in his barge to Rotherhithe, where near 10,000 of the insurgents lined the banks of the Thames. Those immediately shouted on seeing the vessel ; and so completely alarmed Richard and the nobles with him, that they returned to the Tower. This prudent measure enraged the party on the river side; and the flame soon reached the remainder at Blackheath : they instantly advanced, spreading desolation, and beheading every person they met above their own level. The city of London soon witnessed similar scenes; nor did the work of plunder, fire, and murder, cease, till the perpetrators sunk with fatigue and inebriety into temporary repose. A large party of the mob was stationed on Tower-hill. The king informed them he would hear their complaints at Mile-end, pro
vided they peaceably retired there. The majority accepted his proposal; and Richard had the courage to go to the appointed meeting, with his retinue, unarmed. But the furious leaders Tyler and Straw, with a desperate band of ruffians, rushed into the Tower the moment the monarch left it; where they beheaded Sudbury archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor, and Sir Robert Hales the treasurer. The king had by this time demanded, of nearly 60,000 persons, what they required of him. They answered, the abolition of servitude, and their lands free. He complied ; and actually employed a number of clerks on the spot, who delivered sealed charters of freedom and pardon to all demanding them.
Thus deprived of all shadow of complaint, the people dispersed to their homes ; which were chiefly in Essex and Hertfordshire. Tyler and his myrmidons were not so easily satisfied; as they had formed the detestable plan of seizing the king, extirpating the nobility, and plundering the whole of the kingdom. Strange as it appears, , we find the king in Smithfield, on the 15th of June, amidst 20,000 of these fiends.
Wat Tyler advanced to him, making the most extravagant and unmeaning demands, in language the most gross and insulting. The immortal Walworth, lord mayor of London, then in the king's suite, exasperated beyond forbearance at the insolence of this wretch, drew his sword, and, with