Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

upper house, whose inclinations and interests could never be totally separated from the throne. But to show how little they were discouraged, the Puritans immediately brought in another bill for the total abolition of episcopacy; though they thought proper to let that bill sleep at present, in expectation of a more favorable opportunity of reviving it.*

Among other acts of regál executive power which the commons were every day assuming, they issued orders for demolishing all images, altars, crucifixes. The zealous Sir Robert Harley, to whom the execution of these orders was committed, removed all crosses even out of streets and markets, and, from his abhorrence of that superstitious figure, would not any where allow one piece of wood, or stone to lie over another at right angles.t

The bishop of Ely and other clergymen were attacked on account of innovations. Cozens, who had long been obnoxious, was exposed to new censures. This clergyman, who was dean of Peterborough, was extremely zealous for ecclesiastical ceremonies : and so far from permitting the communicants to break the sácramental bread with their fingers, a privilege on which the Puritans strenuously insisted, he would not so much as allow it to be cut with an ordinary household instrument. that sacred office, and must never afterwards be profaned by

A consecrated knife ordinary any vulgar service.

Cozens likewise was accused of having said, “ The king has no more authority in ecclesiastical matters, than the boy who rubs my horse's heels.” || The expression was violent : but it is certain that all those high churchmen, who were so industrious in reducing the laitý to

. tremely fond of their own privileges and independency, and were desirous of exempting the mitre from all subjection to the crown.

A committee was elected by the lower house as a court of inquisition upon the clergy, and was commonly denominated the committee of “scandalous ministers.". The politicians among the commons were apprised of the great importance of the pulpit for guiding the people ; the bigots were enraged against the prelatical clergy, and both of them knew that no established government could be overthrown by strictly observ. ing the principles of justice, equity, or clemency. The proceedings, therefore, of this famous committee, which continued for several years, were cruel and arbitrary, and made great havoc both on the church and the universities. They began with harassing, imprisoning, and molesting the clergy; and ended with sequestrating and ejecting them. In order to join contumely to cruelty, they gave the sufferers the epithet of “scandalous,” and endeavored to render them as odious as they were miserable.* The greatest vices, however, which they could reproach to a great part of them, were, bowing at the name of Jesus, placing the communion table in the east, reading the king's orders for sports on Sunday, and other practices which the established government, both in church and state, had strictly enjoined them. :: It may be worth observing, that aļl historians who lived near that age, or, what perhaps is more decisive, all authors who have casually made mention of those public transactions, still represent the civil disorders and convulsions as proceeding from religious controversy, and consider the political disputes about power and liberty as entirely subordinate to the other. It is true, had the king been able to support government, and at the same time to abstain from all invasion of national priv. ileges, it seems not probable that the Puritans ever could have acquired such authority as to overturn the whole constitution : yet so entire was the subjection into which Charles was now fallen, that, had not the wound been poisoned by the infusion of theological hatred, it must have admitted of an easy remedy. Disuse of parliaments, imprisonments and prosecution of members, ship money, an arbitrary administration, these were loudly complained of; but the grievances which tended chiefly to inflame the parliament and nation, especially the latter, were the surplice, the rails placed about the altar, the bows exacted on approaching it, the liturgy, the breach of the Sabbath, embroidered copes, lawn sleeves, the use of the ring in marriage, and of the cross in baptism. On account of these were the popular leaders content to throw the govern; ment into such violent convulsions; and, to the disgrace of that age and of this island, it must be acknowledged, that the disorders in Scotland entirely, and those in England mostly, proceeded from so mean and contemptible an origin.t

* Clarendon, vol. i. p. 237.

it Whitlocke, p. 45. Rush. vol. y. p. 351.

§ Rush. vol. V. p. 203, Parl. Hist. vol. vii. p. 282. Rush. vol. y. p. 209.

* Clarendon, vol. i. p. 199. Whitlocke, p. 122. May, p. 81. † Lord Clarendon (vol. i. p. 233) sáys, that the parliamentary party VOL, V. 13

H

Some persons, partial to the patriots of this age, have ven tured to put them in a balance with the most illustrious char. acters of antiquity; and mentioned the names of Pym, Hamb: den, Vane, as a just parallel to those of Cato, Brutus, Cassius. Profound capacity, indeed, undaunted courage, extensive en. terprise ; in these particulars, perhaps, the Roman do not much surpass the English worthies : but what a difference, when the discourse, conduct, conversation, and private as well as public behavior of both are inspected! Compare only one circumstance, and consider its consequences. The leisure of those noble ancients was totally employed in the study of Grecian eloquence and philosophy; in the cultivation of polite letters and civilized society: the whole discourse and language of the moderns were polluted with mysterious jargon, and full of the lowest and most vulgar hypocrisy.

The laws, as they stood at present, protected the church, but they exposed the Catholics to the utmost rage of the Puritans; and these unhappy religionists, so obnoxious to the prevailing sect, could not hope to remain long unmolested. The voluntary contribution, which they had made, in order to assist the king in his war against the Scottish Covenanters, was inquired into, and represented as the greatest enormity.* By an address from the commons, all officers of that religion were removed from the army, and application was made to the king for seizing two thirds of the lands of recusants; a proportion to which by law he was entitled, but which he had always allowed them to possess upon easy compositions. The execution of the severe and bloody laws against priests was insisted on;

and one Goodman, a Jesuit, who was found in prison, was condemned to a capital punishment. Charles, however, agreeably to his usual principles, scrupled to sign the warrant for his execution ; and the commons expressed great resentment on the occasion. There remains a singular petition of Goodman, begging to be hanged, rather than prove a source of contention between the king and his people. He escaped were not agreed about the entire abolition of episcopacy: they were only the root and branch men, as they were called, who insisted on that measure. But those who were willing to retain bishops, insisted on reducing their authority to a low ebb, as well as on abolishing the ceremonies of worship and vestments of the clergy. The controversy, therefore, between the parties was almost wholly theological, and that of the most frivolous and ridiculous kind.

* Rush. vol. v. p. 160.
I Rush, vol. v. p. 158, 159. Nalson, vol. i. p. 739.

Rush. vol. v. p. 166. Nalson, vol. i. p. 749.

with his life ; but it seems more probable, that he was overlooked amidst affairs of greater consequence, than that such unrelenting hatred would be softened by any consideration of his courage and generosity.

For some years Con, a Scotchman, afterwards Rosetti, an Italian, had openly resided at London, and frequented the court, as vested with a commission from the

pope.

The queen's zeal, and her authority with her husband, had been the cause of this imprudence, so offensive to the nation. But the spirit of bigotry now rose too high to permit any longer such indulgences.t

Hayward, a justice of peace, having been wounded, when employed in the exercise of his office, by one James, a Catholic madman, this enormity was ascribed to the Popery, not to the frenzy of the assassin ; and great alarms seized the nation and parliament. A universal conspiracy of the Papists was supposed to have taken place; and every man for some days imagined that he had a sword at his throat. Though some persons of family and distinction were still attached to the Catholic superstition, it is certain that the numbers of that sect did not amount to the fortieth part of the nation : and the frequent panics to which men, during this period, were so subject on account of the Catholics, were less the effects of fear, than of extreme rage and aversion entertained against them.

The queen mother of France, having been forced into banishment by some court intrigues, had retired into England; and expected shelter, amidst her present distresses, in the dominions of her daughter and son-in-law. But though she behaved in the most inoffensive manner, she was insulted by the populace on account of her religion, and was even threatened with worse treatment. The earl of Holland, lieutenant of Middlesex, had ordered a hundred musketeers to guard her ; but finding that they had imbibed the same prejudices with the rest of their countrymen, and were unwillingly employed in such a service, he laid the case before the house of

* It is now known from the Clarendon papers, that the king had also an authorized agent who resided at Rome. His name was Bret, and his chief business was to negotiate with the pope concerning indulgences to the Catholics, and to engage the Catholics, in return, to be good and loyal subjects. But this whole matter, though very innocent, was most carefully kept secret. The king says, that he beieved Bret to be as much his as any Papist could be. See p. 348, 354 + Rush. vol. v. p. 301.

Clarendon, vol. i. p. 249. Rush. vol. v. p. 57.

peers; for the king's authority was now entirely annihilatec He represented the indignity of the action, that so great a princess, mother to the king of France and to the queens of Spain and England, should be affronted by the multitude. He observed the indelible reproach which would fall upon the nation, if that unfortunate queen should suffer any violence from the misguided zeal of the people. He urged the sacred rights of hospitality, due to every one, much more to a person in distress, of so high a rank, with whom the nation was so nearly connected. The peers thought proper to communicate the matter to the commons, whose authority over the people was absolute. The commons agreed to the necessity of protecting the queen mother; but at the same time prayed that she might be desired to depart the kingdom, “ for the quieting those jealousies in the hearts of his majesty's well-affected subjects, occasioned by some ill instruments about that queen's person, by the flowing of priests and Papists to her house, and by the use and practice of the idolatry of the mass, and exercise of other superstitious services of the Romish church, to the great scandal of true religion.

Charles, in the former part of his reign, had endeavored to overcome the intractable and encroaching spirit of the com

by a perseverance in his own measures, by a stately dignity of behavior, and by maintaining at their utmost height, and even perhaps stretching beyond former precedent, the rights of his prerogative. Finding, by experience, how unsuccessful those measures had proved, and observing the low condition to which he was now reduced, he resolved to alter his whole conduct, and to regain the confidence of his people by pliableness, by concessions, and by a total conformity to their inclinations and prejudices. It may safely be averred, that this new extreme into which the king, for want of proper counsel or support, was fallen, became no less dangerous to the constitution, and pernicious to public peace, than the other, in which he had so long and so unfortunately, persevered.

The pretensions with regard to tonnage and poundage were revived, and with certain assurance of success, by the commons. The levying of these duties as formerly, without

[ocr errors]

inons,

* Rush. vol. v. p. 267.

of It appears not that the commons, though now entirely masters, abolished the new impositions of James, against which they had formerly so loudly complained ; a certain proof that the rates of customs sett.ed by that prince, were in most instances just, and propor

« ZurückWeiter »