« ZurückWeiter »
received a pardon, and was promoted to a living of consider. able value. * Some years after, he was raised to the see of St. Asaph. If the republican spirit of the commons increased beyond all reasonable bounds, the monarchical spirit of the court, this latter, carried to so high a pitch, tended still further to augment the former. And thus extremes were every where affected, and the just medium was gradually deserted by all
. From Manwaring, the house of commons proceeded to censure the conduct of Buckingham, whose name hitherto they had cautiously forborne to mention.f In vain did the king send them a message, in which he told them that the session was drawing near to a conclusion; and desired that they would not enter upon new business, nor cast any aspersions on his government and ministry. Though the court endeavored to explain and soften this message by a subsequent message,s as Charles was apt hastily to correct any hasty step which he had taken, it served rather to inflame than appease the commons; as if the method of their proceedings had here been prescribed to them. It was foreseen that a great tempest was ready to burst on the duke; and in order to divert it
, the king thought proper, upon a joint application of the lords and commons,ll to endeavor giving them satisfaction with regard to the petition of right. He came, therefore, to the house of peers, and pronouncing the usual form of words, “ Let it be law, as is desired,” gave full sanction and authority to the petition. The acclamations with which the house resounded, and the universal joy diffused over the nation, showed how much this petition had been the object of all men's vows and expectations. I
It may be affirmed, without any exaggeration, that the king's assent to the petition of right produced such a change in the government, as was almost equivalent to a revolution; and by circumscribing, in so many articles, the royal prerogative, gave additional security to the liberties of the subject. Yet were the commons far from being satisfied with this important
* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 635. Whitlocke, p. 11.
Rushworth, vol. i. p. 613. Journ. 7th June, 1628. Parl. Histo vol. viii. p. 201.
Rushworth, vol. i. p. 613.
concession. Their ill humor had been so much irritated by the king's frequent evasions and delays, that it could not be presently appeased by an assent which he allowed to be so reluctantly extorted from him. Perhaps, too, the popular leaders, implacable and artful, saw the opportunity favorable; and, turning against the king those very weapons with which he had furnished them, resolved to pursue the victory. The bill, however, for five subsidies, which had been formerly voted, immediately passed the house ; because the granting of that supply was, in a manner, tacitly contracted for, upon the royal assent to the petition ; and had faith been here violated, no further confidence could have subsisted between king and parliament. Having made this concession, the commons continued to carry their scrutiny into every part of government. In some particulars, their industry was laudable ; in some, it may be liable to censure.
A little after writs were issued for summoning this parliament, a commission had been granted to Sir Thomas Coventry, lord keeper, the earl of Marlborough, treasurer, the earl of Manchester, president of the council, the earl of Worcester, privy seal, the duke of Buckingham, high admiral, and all the considerable officers of the crown; in the whole, thirty-three. By this commission, which, from the number of persons named in it, could be no secret, the commissioners were empowered to meet, and to concert among themselves the methods of levying money by impositions, or otherwise ; " Where form and circumstance," as expressed in the commission,“ inust be dispensed with, rather than the substance be lost or hazarded."* In other words, this was a scheme for finding expedients which might raise the prerogative to the greatest height, and render parliaments entirely useless. The commons applied for cancelling the commission ; † and were, no doubt, desirous that all the world should conclude the king's principles to be extremely arbitrary, and should observe what little regard he was disposed to pay to the liberties and privileges of his people.
A commission had likewise been granted, and some money remitted, in order to raise a thousand German horse, and transport them into England. These were supposed to be levied in order to support the projected impositions or excises ;
* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 614. Parl. Hist. vol. viii. p. 214.
though the number seems insufficient for such a purpose. The house took notice of this design in severe terms: and no measure, surely, could be projected more generally odious to the whole nation. It must, however, be confessed, that the king was so far right, that he had now at last fallen on the only effectual method for supporting his prerogative. But at the same time, he should have been sensible that, till provided with a sufficient military force, all his attempts in opposition to the rising spirit of the nation, must in the end prove wholly fruitless; and that the higher he screwed up the springs of government, while he had so little real power to retain them in that forced situation, with more fatal violence must they fly out, when any accident occurred to restore them to their natural action.
The commons next resumed their censure of Buckingham's conduct and behavior, against whom they were implacable. They agreed to present a remonstrance to the king, in which they recapitulated all national grievances and misfortunes, and omitted no circumstance which could render the whole administration despicable and odious. The compositions with Catholics, they said, amounted to no less than a toleration, hateful to God, full of dishonor and disprofit to his majesty, and of extreme scandal and grief to his good people: they took notice of the violations of liberty above mentioned, against which the petition of right seems to have provided a sufficient remedy: they mentioned the decay of trade, the unsuccessful expeditions to Cadiz and the Isle of Rhé, the encouragement given to Arminians, the commission for transporting German horse, that for levying illegal impositions; and all these grievances they ascribed solely to the ill conduct of the duke of Buckingham.f This remonstrance was, perhaps, not the less provoking to Charles, because, joined to the extreme acrimony of the subject, there were preserved in it, as in most of the remonstrances of that age, an affected civility and submission in the language. And as it was the first return which he met with for his late beneficial conces. sions, and for his sacrifices of prerogative, - the greatest by far ever made by an. English sovereign, — nothing could be more the object of just and natural indignation.
It was not without good grounds that the commons were so fierce and assuming. Though they had already granted the king the supply of five subsidies, they still retained a pledge in their hands, which they thought insured them success in all their applications. Tonnage and poundage had not yet been granted by parliament; and the commons had artfully, this session, concealed their intention of invading that branch of revenue, till the royal assent had been obtained to the petition of right, which they justly deemed of such importance. They then openly asserted, that the levying of tonnage and poundage without consent of parliament, was a palpable violation of the ancient liberties of the people, and an open infringement of the petition of right, so lately granted.* The king, in order to prevent the finishing and presenting this remonstrance, came suddenly to the parliament, and ended this session by a prorogation.t
* Rushworth, vol. i. p.
612. + Rushworth, vol. i. p. 619. Parl. Hist. vol viii. p. 219, 220, eta
Being freed for some time from the embarrassment of this assembly, Charles began to look towards foreign wars, where all his efforts were equally unsuccessful as in his domestic government. The earl of Denbigh, brother-in-law to Buckingham, was despatched to the relief of Rochelle, now closely besieged by land, and threatened with a blockade by sea : but he returned without effecting any thing; and having declined to attack the enemy's fleet, he brought on the English arms the imputation either of cowardice or ill conduct. In order to repair this dishonor, the duke went to Portsmouth, where he had prepared a considerable fleet and army, on which all the subsidies given by parliament had been expended. This supply had very much disappointed the king's expectations. The same mutinous spirit which prevailed in the house of commons had diffused itself over the nation; and the commissioners appointed for making the assessments had connived at all frauds which might diminish the supply, and reduce the crown to still greater necessities. This national discontent, communicated to a desperate enthusiast, soon broke out in an event which may be considered as remarkable.
There was one Felton, of a good family, but of an ardent, melancholic temper, who had served under the duke in the station of lieutenant. His captain being killed in the retreat at the Isle of Rhé, Felton had applied for the company; and when disappointed, he threw up his commission, and retired in
* Rushworth, vol. i. p. 628. Journ. 18th, 20th June, 1628.
discontent from the army. While private resentment was boiling in his sullen, unsociable mind, he heard the nation resound with complaints against the duke; and he met with the remonstrance of the commons, in which his enemy was represented as the cause of every national grievance, and as the great enemy of the public. Religious fanaticism further inflamed these vindictive reflections, and he fancied that he should do Heaven acceptable service, if at one blow he despatched this dangerous foe to religion and to his country.* Full of these dark views, he secretly arrived at Portsmouth at the same time with the duke, and watched for an opportunity of effecting his bloody purpose.
Buckingham had been engaged in conversation with Soubize and other French gentlemen; and a difference of sentiment having arisen, the dispute, though conducted with temper and decency, had produced some of those vehement gesticulations and lively exertions of voice, in which that nation, more than the English, are apt to indulge themselves. The conversation being finished, the duke drew towards the door; and in that passage, turning himself to speak to Sir Thomas Friar, a colonel in the army, he was on the sudden, over Sir Thomas's shoulder, struck upon the breast with a knife. Without uttering other words than, “ The villain has killed me,” in the same moment pulling out the knife, he breathed his last.
No man had seen the blow, nor the person who gave it; but in the confusion every one made his own conjecture ; and all agreed that the murder had been committed by the French gentlemen whose angry tone of voice had been heard, while their words had not been understood by the bystanders. In the hurry of revenge, they had instantly been put to death, had they not been saved by some of more temper and judgmert, who, though they had the same opinion of their guilt, thought proper to reserve them for a judicial trial and examination,
Near the door there was found a hat, in the inside of which was sewed a paper, containing four or five lines of that remonstrance of the commons which declared Buckingham an enemy o the kingdom; and under these lines was a short ejaculation, or attempt towards a prayer. It was easily concluded that this hat belonged to the assassin : but the difficulty still remained, who that person should be ; for the writing discovered not the
* May's Hist. of the Parliament, p. 10.