Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

cardinal was still meditating the destruction of the Hugonots that preparations were silently making in every province of France for the suppression of their religion ; that forts were erected in order to bridle Rochelle, the most considerable bulwark of the Protestants; that the reformed in France cast their eyes on Charles as the head of their faith, and considered him as a prince engaged by interest, as well as inclination, to „support them; that so long as their party subsisted, Charles might rely on their attachment as much as on that of his own subjects ; but if their liberties were once ravished from them, the power of France, freed from this impediment, would soon become formidable to England, and to all the neighboring nations.

Though Charles probably bore but small favor to the Hugonots, who so much resembled the Puritans in discipline and worship, in religion and politics, he yet allowed himself to be gained by these arguments, enforced by the solicitations of Buckingham. A fleet of a hundred sail, and an army of seven thousand then, were fitted out for the invasion of France, and both of them intrusted to the command of the duke, who was altogether unacquainted both with land and sea service. The fleet appeared before Rochelle; but so ill concerted were Buckingham's measures, that the inhabitants of that city shut their gates and refused to admit allies of whose coming they were not previously informed.* All his military operations showed equal incapacity and inexperience. Instead of attacking Oleron, a fertile island, and defenceless, he bent his course to the Isle of Rhé, which was well garrisoned and fortified : having landed his men, though with some loss, he followed not the blow, but allowed Toiras, the French governor, five days' respite, during which St. Martin was victualled and provided for a siege. He left behind him the small fort of Prie, which could at first have made no manner of resistance : though resolved to starve St. Martin, he guarded the sea negligently, and allowed provisions and ammunition to be thrown into it : despairing to reduce it by famine, he attacked it without having made any breach, and rashly threw away the lives of the soldiers : having found that a French army had stolen over in small divisions, and had landed at Prie, the fort which he had at first overlooked, he began to think of a retreat; but

* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 426.
+ Whitlocke, p. 8. Sir Philip Warwick, p. 25.

made it so unskilfully, that it was equivalent to a total rout he was the last of the army that embarked ; and he returned to England, having lost two thirds of his land forces; totally discredited both as an admiral and a general; and bringing no praise with him, but the vulgar one of courage and personal bravery

The duke of Rohan, who had taken arms as soon as Buckingham appeared upon the coast, discovered the dangerous spirit of the sect, without being able to do any mischief ; the inhabitants of Rochelle, who had at last been induced to join the English, hastened the vengeance of their master, exhausted their provisions in supplying their allies, and were threatened with an immediate siege. Such were the fruits of Buckingham's expedition against France.

CHAPTER LI.

CHARLES I.

[1628.] THERE was reason to apprehend some disoider or insurrection from the discontents which prevailed among the people in England. Their liberties, they believed, were ravished from them ; illegal taxés extorted; their commerce which had met with a severe check from the Spanish, was totally annihilated by the French war; those military honors transmitted to them from their ancestors, had received a grievous stain by two unsuccessful and ill-conducted expeditions ; scarce an illustrious family but mourned, from the last of them, the loss of a son or brother ; greater calamities were dreaded from the war with these powerful monarchies, concurring with the internal disorders under which the nation labored. And these ills were ascribed, not to the refractory disposition of the two former parliaments, to which they were partly owing, but solely tu Charles's obstinacy in adhering to the counsels of Buckingham, a man nowise entitled by his birth, age, services, or meri:, to theit unlimited confidence reposed in him. To be sacrificed to the interest, policy, and ambition of the great, is so much the common lot of the people, that they may appear unreasonable who would pretend to complain of it: but to be the victim of the frivolous gallantry of a favorite, and of his boyish caprices, seemed the object of peculiar indignation.

In this situation, it may be imagined the king and the duke dreaded, above all things, the assembling of a parliament; but so little foresight had they possessed in their enterprising schemes, that they found themselves under an absolute necessity of embracing that expedient The money levied, or rather extorted, under color of prerogative, had come in very slowly, and had left such ill humor in the nation, that it appeared dangerous to renew the experiment. The absolute necessity of supply, it was hoped, would engage the commons to forget all past injuries; and, having experienced the ill effects of former obstinacy, they would probably assemble with a resolution of making some reasonable compliances The more to soften them, it was concerted, by Sir Robert Cotton's advice,* that Buckingham should be the first person that proposed in council the calling of a new parliament. Having laid in this stock of merit, he expected that all his former misdemeanors would be overlooked and forgiven; and that, instead of a tyrant and oppressor, he should be regarded as the first patriot in the nation.

The views of the popular leaders were much more judicious and profound. When the commons assembled, they appeared to be men of the same independent spirit with their predecessors, and possessed of such riches, that their property was computed to surpass three times that of the house of peers ; † they were deputed by boroughs and counties, inflamed all of them by the late violations of liberty ; many of the members themselves had been cast into prison, and had suffered by the measures of the court; yet, notwithstanding these circumstances, which might prompt them to embrace violent resolutions, they entered upon business with perfect temper and decorum. They considered that the king, disgusted at these popular assemblies, and little prepossessed in favor of their privileges wanted but a fair pretence for breaking with them, and would seize the first opportunity offered by any incident, or any undutiful behavior of the members. He fairly told them in his first speech, that, “If they should not do their duties in contributing to the necessities of the state, he must, in discharge of his conscience, use those other means which God had put into his hands, in order to save that which the follies of some particular men may otherwise put in danger. Take not this for a threatening," added the king, “ for I scorn to threaten any but my equals; but as an admonition from him who, by nature and duty, has most care of your preservation and prosperity." | The lord keeper, by the king's direction, subjoined, " This way of parliamentary supplies as his majesty told you, he hath chosen, not as the only way, but as the fittest; not because he is destitute of others, but because it is most agreeable to the goodness of his own most gracious disposition, and to the desire and weal of his people. If this be deferred, necessity and the sword of the enemy make way for the others. Remember his majes. ty's admonition : I say, remember it.” § From these avowed * Frankiyn, p. 230. † Sanderson, p. 106. Walker, p. 339

Rushworth, vol. i. p. 477. Franklyn, p. 233.
Rushworth, vol. i. p. 479. Franklyn, p. 234.

maxims, the commons foresaw that, if the least handle were afforded, the king would immediately dissolve them, and would thenceforward deem himself justified for violating, in a manner still more open, all the ancient forms of the constitution. No remedy could then be looked for but from insurrections and civil war, of which the issue would be extremely uncertain, and which must, in all events, prove calamitous to the nation. To correct the late disorders in the administration required some new laws, which would, no doubt, appear harsh to a prince so enamored of his prerogative; and it was requisite to temper, by the decency and moderation of their debates, the rigor which must necessarily attend their determinations. Nothing can give us a higher idea of the capacity of those men who now guided the commons, and of the great authority which they had acquired, than the forming and executing of so judicious and so difficult a plan of operations.

The decency, however, which the popular leaders had prescribed to themselves, and recommended to others, hindered them not from making the loudest and most vigorous complaints against the grievances under which the nation had lately labored. Sir Francis Seymour said, “ This is the great council of the kingdom; and here with certainty, if not here only, his majesty may see, as in a true glass, the state of the kingdom. We are called hither by his writs, in order to give him faithful counsel; such as may stand with his honor: and this we must do without flattery. We are also sent hither by the people, in order to deliver their just grievances : and this we must do without fear. Let us not act like Cambyses's judges, who, when their approbation was demanded by the prince to some illegal measure, said, that • Though there was a written law, the Persian kings might follow their own will and pleasure. This was base flattery, fitter for our reproof than our imitation ; and as fear, so flattery, taketh away the judgment. For my part, I shall shun both ; and speak my mind with as much duty as any man to his majesty, without neglecting the public.

66 But how can we express our affections while we retain our fears; or speak of giving, till we know whether we have any thing to give ? For if his majesty may be persuaded to take what he will, what need we give ?

“That this hath been done, appeareth by the billeting of soldiers, a thirg nowise advantageous to the king's service,

« ZurückWeiter »