« ZurückWeiter »
à cause so important to national and religious interests, mus. of necessity be immediately entered upon, and vigorously pursued.*
The English parliament was now assembled, and discovered in every vote the same dispositions in which they had separated. The exalting of their own authority, the diminishing of the king's, were still the objects pursued by the majority. Every attempt which had been made to gain the popular leaders, and by offices to attach them to the crown, had failed of success, either for want of skill in conducting it, or by reason of the slender preferments which it was then in the king's power to confer. The ambitious and enterprising patriots disdained to accept, in detail, of a precarious power, while they deemed it so easy, by one bold and vigorous assault, to possess themselves forever of the entire sovereignty. Sensible that the measures which they had hitherto pursued rendered them extremely obnoxious to the king; were many of them in themselves exceptionable ; some of them, strictly speaking, illegal; they resolved to seek their own security, as well as greatness, by enlarging popular authority in England. The great necessities to which the king was reduced; the violent prejudices which generally, throughout the nation, prevailed against him ; his facility in making the most important concessions; the example of the Scots, whose encroachments had totally subverted monarchy; all these circumstances further instigated the commons in their invasion of royal prerogative. And the danger to which the constitution seemed to have been so lately exposed, persuaded many that it never could be sufficiently secured, but by the entire abolition of that authority which had invaded it.
But this project it had not been in the power, scarcely in - the intention of the popular leaders to execute, had it not been for the passion which seized the nation for Presbyterian discipline, and for the wild enthusiasm which at that time accompanied it. The license which the parliament had bestowed on this spirit, by checking ecclesiastical authority; the countenance and encouragement with which they had honored it; had already diffused its influence to a wonderful degree: and all orders of men had drunk deep of the intoxicating poison. In every discourse or conversation this mode of religion entered ; in all business it had a share; every elegant pleasure or amusement it utterly annihilated ; many vices or corruptions of mind it promoted : even diseases and bodily distempers were not totally exempted from it; and it became requisite, we are told, for all physicians to be expert in the spiritual profession, and by theological considerations to allay those religious terrors with which their patients were so generally haunted. Learning itself, which tends so much to enlarge the mind and humanize the temper, rather served on this occasion to exalt that epidemical frenzy which prevailed. Rude as yet, and imperfect, it supplied the dismal fanaticism with a variety of views, founded it on some coherency of system, enriched it with different figures of elocution; advantages with which a people totally ignorant and barbarous had been happily unacquainted.
* Olarendon, vol. ii. p. 301.
From policy, at first, and inclination, now from necessity, the king attached himself 'extremely to the hierarchy: for like reasons, his enemies were determined, by one and the same effort, to overpower the church and monarchy.
While the commons were in this disposition, the Irish rebellion was the event which tended most to promote the views in which all their measures terminated. A horror against the Papists, however innocent, they had constantly encouraged , a terror from the conspiracies of that sect, however improbable, they had at all times endeavored to excite. Here was broken out a rebellion, dreadful and unexpected; accompanied with circumstances the most detestable of which there ever was any record; and what was the peculiar guilt of the Irish Catholics, it was no difficult matter, in the present disposition of men's minds, to attribute to that whole sect, who were already so much the object of general abhorrence. Accustomed in all invectives to join the prelatical party with the Papists, the people immediately supposed this insurrection to be the result of their united counsels. And when they heard that the Irish rebels pleaded the king's commission for all their acts of violence, bigotry, ever credulous and malignant, assented without scruple to that gross imposture, and loaded the unhappy prince with the whole enormity of a contrivance so barbarous and inhuman.*
By the difficulties and distresses of the crown, the commons, who possessed alone the power of supply, had aggrandized themselves ; and it seemed a peculiar happiness, that the Irish
* See note H, at the end of the volume.
rebellion had succeeded at so critical a juncture to the pacifi cation of Scotland. That expression of the king's, by which he committed to them the care of Ireland, they immediately laid hold of, and interpreted in the most unlimited sense. They had on other occasions been gradually encroaching on the executive power of the crown, which forms its principa. and most natural branch of authority ; but with regard to Ireland, they at once assumed it, fully and entirely, as if delivered over to them by a regular gift or assignment. And to this usurpation the king was obliged passively to submit; both because of his inability to resist, and lest he should still more expose himself to the reproach of favoring, the progress of that odious rebellion.
The project of introducing further innovations in England being once formed by the leaders among the commons, it became a necessary consequence, that their operations with regard to Ireland should, all of them, be considered as subordinate to the former, on whose success, when once undertaken, their own grandeur, security, and even being, must entirely depend. While they pretended the utmost zeal against the Irish insurrection, they took no, steps towards its suppression, but such as likewise tended to give them the superiority in those commotions which, they foresaw, must so soon be excited in England.* The extreme contempt entertained for the natives in Ireland, made the popular leaders believe that it would be easy at any time to suppress their rebellion, and recover that kingdom: nor were they willing to lose, by too hasty success, the advantage which that rebellion would afford them in their projected encroachments on the prerogative. By assuming the total management of the war, they acquired the courtship and dependence of every one who had any connection with Ireland, or who was desirous of enlisting in these military enterprises: they levied money under pretence of the Irish expedition ; but reserved it foi purposes which concerned them more nearly: they took arms from the king's magazines; but still kept them with a secret intention of employing them against himself: whatever law they deemed necessary for aggrandizing themselves, was voted, under color of enabling them to recover Ireland; and if Charles withheld the royal assent, his refusal was imputed to those pernicious counsels which had at first excited the Popish rebel
* Clarendon, vol. i. p. 435. Sir Ed. Walker, p. 6.
lion, and which still threatened total destruction to the Protes. tant interest throughout all his dominions.*
And though no forces were for a long time sent over to Ireland, and very little money remitted during the extreme distress of that kingdom, so strong was the people's attachment to the commons, that the fault was never imputed to those pious zealots, whose votes breathed nothing but death and destruction to the Irish sebels.
To make the attack on royal authority by regular approaches, it was thought proper to frame a general remonstrance of the state of the nation ; and accordingly the committee, which at the first meeting of parliament had been chosen for that purpose, and which had hitherto made no progress in their work, received fresh injunctions to finish that undertaking.
The committee brought into the house that remonstrance which has become so memorable, and which was soon afterwards attended with such important consequences. It was not addressed to the king; but was openly declared to be an appeal to the people. The harshness of the matter was equalled by the severity of the language. It consists of many gross falsehoods, intermingled with some evident truths : malignant insinuations are joined to open invectives; loud complaints of the past, accompanied with jealous prognostications of the future. Whatever unfortunate, whatever invidious, whatever suspicious measure had been embraced by the king, from the commencement of his reign, is insisted on and aggravated with merciless rhetoric: the unsuccessful expeditions to Cadiz and the Isle of Rhé are mentioned ; the sending of ships to France for the suppression of the Hugonots; the forced loans; the illegal confinement of men for not obeying illegal commands; the violent dissolution of four parliaments; the arbitrary government which always succeeded; the questionng, fining, and imprisoning of members for their conduct in the house; the levying of taxes without consent of the commons; the introducing of superstitious innovations into the church, without authority of law: in short, every thing which, either with or without reason, had given offence during the course of fifteen years, from the accession of the king to the calling of the present parliament. And though all these grievances had been already redressed, and even laws enacted
* Nalson, vol. ii. p. 618. Clarendon, vol. iv. p. 590.
for future security against their return, the praise of these advantages was ascribed, not to the king, but to the parliament, who nad extorted his consent to such salutary statutes. Their own merits too, they asserted, towards the king, were no less eminent than towards the people. Though they had seized his whole revenue, rendered it totally precarious, and made even their temporary supplies be paid to their own commissioners, who were independent of him, they pretended that they had liberally supported him in his necessities. By an insult still more egregious, the very giving of money to the Scots for levying war against their sovereign, they represented as an instance of their duty towards him. And all their grievances, they said, which amounted to no less than a total subversion of the constitution, proceeded entirely from the formed combination of a Popish faction, who had ever swayed the king's counsels, who had endeavored, by an uninterrupted effort, to introduce their superstition into England and Scotland, and who had now at last excited an open and bloody rebellion in Ireland.*
This remonstrance, so full of acrimony and violence, was a plain signal for some further attacks intended on royal prerogative, and a declaration, that the concessions already made, however important, were not to be regarded as satisfactory. What pretensions would be advanced, how unprecedented, how unlimited, were easily imagined ; and nothing less was foreseen, whatever ancient names might be preserved, than an abolition, almost total, of the monarchical government of England. The opposition, therefore, which the remonstrance met with in the house of commons was great. For above fourteen hours the debate was warmly managed ; and from the weariness of the king's party, which probably consisted chiefly of the elderly people, and men of cool spirits, the vote was at last carried by a small majority of eleven.t Some time after, the remonstrance was ordered to be printed and published, without being carried up to the house of peers fo their assent and concurrence.
When this remonstrance was dispersed, it excited every where the same violent controversy which attended it when introduced into the house of commons. This parliament, said the partisans of that assembly, have at length profited by the fatal example of their predecessors; and are resolved, that
* Rush. vol. v, p. 438. Nalson, vol. ii. p. 694.