Puritanism, Trade And Vulgarity
To the Englishman of average culture, even when he is not biassed by any party or religious feeling, Charles I is little more than a captivating figure of misguided royalty, possessing a considerable measure of romantic charm. With his long hair, his velvet suit, lace collar and long-maned charger, it is his exterior, and, perhaps, his all too violent death as well, that chiefly endears this unhappy monarch of the seventeenth century to the sentimental Englishman.
If, however, you say to such an Englishman that there is much more than romantic charm in Charles I's character and rule, he will immediately smile upon you with indulgent incredulity, and regard you as a fanatic who is suffering even more severely than he is himself from the seductiveness of bygone dramas and their principal heroes. Indeed, so convinced is he that it is rather the glamour than the sterling quality of Charles, that claims attention, that if this monarch could return to life to-morrow, the only change in his exalted fate that the Englishman, with becoming twentieth-century softness, would make, would consist in deporting the great Stuart to St. Helena, or perhaps to Trinidad, and in sparing his handsome head.
Not long ago, for instance, I had the honour of meeting a certain gentleman who is well known in the literary world of London, and who, moreover, enjoys the distinction of
Hoping, at the moment, that there was something more fundamental and more solid in this gentleman's hero-worship than mere sentimentality and the love of a picturesque prince, I suggested to him that there were many rational and very sound reasons for his admiration. In an instant the incredulous smile I had so often seen, and which I confess I had half-dreaded on this occasion too, again spread over the features, even of this hopeful fellow worshipper, and I was overcome with disappointment. "My son is now fourteen," he said, "and he has been studying history at school. And the other day he declared that I must have been 'pulling his leg' about Charles I; for he had now learnt to esteem this despicable despot at his proper value!" I protested. But I was merely met by a wave of the hand and a deprecating simper of urbane scepticism. His admiration of Charles I was sartorial, romantic, sentimental, school-girlish in fact, it was merely a foolish and empty pose!
Apparently it had never occurred to him, despite his undoubted erudition and experience, to ask himself whether, in an age which is in every respect the creation of Charles I's maligners and murderers, a public school history class were precisely the best place in which to hear the truth concerning the Stuart King. Seemingly, he had never inquired whether, at a time when vulgarity, trade and hedonism are paramount, a sober judgment not to speak of a friendly one could possibly be formed on this vital question. Without hesitation, without a moment's doubt or shrewd suspicion, this apparently sceptical person had accepted the verdict of a most deceptive
And yet the evidence of this fact is accessible to all. The proof of it can be read by everybody and anybody, at any hour, any day. Only a bias that is friendly to the evils of this age, only a prepossession in favour of our materialistic, mechanical, unscrupulous and supinely irresponsible civilisation of "Progress," could so distort the facts as to make Charles I appear as the felon, and the ignoble band of grasping, bigoted and filthy-minded Puritans as the just accusers, in this historical trial and tragedy.
For in spite of all that the school history book may say, Charles I fought for a cause very much more vital and more fundamental than that of despotism. He fought for the cause of flourishing life against the growing, but already powerful forces of modern capitalistic trade, of democracy, and of mere quantity as distinct from quality. He himself, the whole of his government, and his lieutenants were inspired by the watchword "Respect the Burden." Their downfall can be ascribed to the fact that they were no respecters of persons, that they upheld the oppressed against their oppressors, and that they tried, wherever possible, to arrest that vile greed of gain and accumulation, at the mercy of which the lower classes were to be left for evermore, after the opening of the Grand Rebellion. This is not fancy or exaggeration; it is a plain statement of fact.
But Charles I had the most dishonest and most unscrupulous opponents that a man can have. He had to contend with mercenary, vulgar and heartless tradespeople, or with avaricious and unscrupulous men of power among the landed lords and gentry, both of which parties did not hesitate to raise a specious cry of liberty and religious ardour to conceal their true and more material motives. Imagine yourself, for a moment, at war with the most
We know the end of Cæsar Borgia, who attempted to rid the Romagna of its oppressors, and to free the people from the bondage of insufferable tyrants. We know how the escort of Colbert's hearse had to grope secretly through the dark streets of Paris in the dead of night, because the corpse of this great man would otherwise have been torn from its shell, by the very mob to whom he had devoted his whole life, in a vain attempt at emancipating it from an insufferable yoke. We also know the fate of Strafford, who was murdered in cold blood without a single voice of alarm or protest being raised among the lower orders he had protected and succoured all his life. It would seem as if the very attempt to protect the people against unscrupulous oppressors were foredoomed to failure, owing sometimes to the ignorance of the former, and always to the latter's inordinate power of wealth which triumphs as easily over good taste as it ultimately triumphs over all other obstacles. But, as we shall see, the people are not always ungrateful.
Who, however, are Cæsar Borgia, Colbert and Thomas
And now that the tradesmen and landed nobility have triumphed for over two hundred and fifty years, what could be more natural than that Charles I should be the most reviled of monarchs? What could be more feasible than the fact that Thomas Carlyle, that utterly Puritanical and obtuse romanticist and ranter, of the stupidest and vulgarest age in history, should have spoken of this great King's death as follows
"Thus ends the second Civil War. In Regicide, in a Commonwealth and Keepers of the Liberties of England In punishment of Delinquents, in abolition of Cobwebs if it be possible, in a Government of Heroism and Veracity; at the lowest of Anti-Flunkeyism, Anti-Cant, and the endeavour after Heroism and Veracity. 1
It will be the burden of this chapter to show that this paragraph is a piece of the most utter nonsense and misrepresentation that any sentimental scoundrel has ever written. It will be the object of the facts adduced to show not only that Carlyle lied, but that he must have lied knowingly and deliberately in writing these words and that, if it were not for the fact that his opinion, as that of a eunuch, must be taken with pity rather than with censure, the above half-dozen lines ought to be sufficient to discredit him for ever in the minds of all conscientious readers of history.
1 See Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (Ward, Lock and Bowden), p. 260.
Is it not, however, a most significant comment on the Puritan and Mercenary Rebellion, that this eunuch takes sides with it against the King? What could such a man know of Basilican virtue, not to speak of obelisks and such virile things!
Charles I was unfortunate in his predecessors, and still more unfortunate in his contemporaries. We have seen that the upstart owners of the Church lands, forced upon the country by that unscrupulous Bluebeard, Henry VIII, had introduced a commercial spirit into the English soil. These parvenus, the majority of whom had been obsequious sycophants in the entourage of that most outrageous specimen of English royalty, were now quite settled on their estates, and were running them on purely mercenary lines with a view to reaping the maximum amount of gain possible irrespective of the comfort or happiness of the inhabitants. 1
1 For some of the indirect evils of this change, apart from the direct evils resulting from the oppression of the people's friends, the monks, see Garnier, op. cit., pp. 90, 91, et seq., while on p. 94 we find this passage: "The dissolution of the monasteries must have rendered home-life unbearable to many of the rural poor in the times under our notice. Rents were increased, cottagers' rents among others . . . The Tudor crofter's or Tudor cotter's messuage was required for the wants of the sheep-hold. Husbands, wives, woful mothers and fatherless babes had to make way for the ewe and lamb, and so the simple goods which had taken the savings of more than one generation to collect, had to be disposed of at a forced sale, and their owners turned out to starve or steal in the highways. If this occasionally was the heartless practice of the feudal lords, what wide-spread misery must there not have been when it became the general practice of the fresh landowners."
The destructive influence which these changes brought to bear upon the patriarchal relationship between the lower and the higher orders a relationship which, though it was never complete or hearty and never worked smoothly, at least had qualities infinitely superior to those of the new régime this destructive influence, together with the abolition of the monasteries, and that still more heinous crime, the appropriation and confiscation of the Guild funds and lands, gave rise to widespread discontent and considerable unrelieved poverty. The fact that Henry VIII alone put 72,000 thieves to death in his own reign, shows the extremes to which desperate indigence had been driven even in his time. Edward VI and Elizabeth had infinite trouble with the poor, and we have only to examine the numerous statutes dealing with the problem of poverty, passed in the latter's reign, in order to realise the extent to which the evil must have been increasing. 2
Now Rogers tells us that "there is no period in English history in which the English were poorer and more unenterprising than during the last fifty years of the sixteenth and the first forty years of the seventeenth centuries." 3 It is important, for my purpose, to note that the last fifteen years of this period constitute the first fifteen years of Charles I's reign. Moreover Parliament,
1 See Garnier, History of the English Landed Interest, Vol. I, pp. 258 et seq.
2 See Sir G. Nicholls, K.C.B., op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 164 et seq.
3 The Industrial and Commercial History of England, p. 12.
The poverty laws passed in the previous reigns, tentative and imperfect as they were, yet constituted a fairly adequate piece of State machinery to deal with the difficulties they were calculated to mitigate. It often happened, however, that the very men who were entrusted with the administration of these laws, were rapacious creatures whose interests were in conflict with the means of relief which these laws prescribed, or persons who were too fearful of offending the great landowners of their neighbourhood to dare to complain of their carelessness or actual negligence in regard to the laws in question. Abuses were general; and though beneficent individuals were to be found, a sharp eye had to be kept on the whole of the administrative body, lest the burden-bearers should go wanting, despite the legislation which existed for their special succour. The ruler of a nation, in these circumstances, required to be a man who was no respecter of persons. Now Charles was precisely such a man. If he had been different, he would have found more powerful friends in the hour of his trial. His two greatest ministers, Wentworth and Laud, were also no respecters of persons; they made enemies among the highest, through their absolutely rigid sense of justice and of duty. But, as might have been expected, all three Charles and his two lieutenants lost their lives in this quixotic struggle against a mob of unscrupulous shopkeepers, and in the end, as we shall see, only the loyal nobles and the poor clustered round their King to defend him.
Before I go into the details of this struggle between taste and rapacity, duty to the burden-bearer and the
1 History of the English Landed Interests, Vol. I, p. 331.
This relationship of trade to religion was a most important factor in the struggle between the King and his more powerful subjects. Even in our analytical times it is difficult enough to find people who are sufficiently honest to see clearly into the springs of their actions and desires; but in those days, in which mankind was scarcely conscious
1 The Political History of England, Vol. VII, by F. C. Montague, p. 172. For the attachment of London to the Parliamentary party see also Leopold von Ranke, History of England (Oxford), Vol. II, p. 209.
Speaking of the powerful phalanx of saints or zealots in the Commons in 1625, Lingard says
"They deemed it the first of their duties to eradicate Popery, which like a phantom haunted their imaginations by day and night; wherever they turned they saw it stalking before them; they discovered it even in the gaieties and revelries of the Court, the distinction of rank in the hierarchy, the ceremonies of the Church, and the existence of pluralities among the clergy." 1 And then he proceeds: "What rendered the union of the two parties [the zealots and the country party] more formidable, was the specious colour given to their pretences. They combated for pure religion and civil liberty: to oppose them was to court the imputation of superstition and of slavery." 2
With the impudent effrontery of extreme Protestants, these people who supposed that the Almighty was always hobnobbing with them and standing perpetually at their elbow, just as the Low Churchmen, Methodists and other
1 John Lingard, D.D., History of England, Vol. VII, p. 286.
2 Ibid., p. 287.
The Puritans were people capable of intolerance so cruel and relentless, that the colonies they formed in America became the scenes of the most shocking abuses and oppression that the world has ever experienced. So bitter were they and so resentful towards those who doubted their bigoted and negative creed, that the inhuman tortures they practised upon their opponents when they fell into their power, equals in brutality anything of a similar nature that history records. But I am anticipating. I have yet to bring forth the proofs of these allegations, and these proofs I am reserving for another chapter.
Charles I, who was a man of great intelligence as well as insight, detested the animosity and bitterness which arose from discussions of which his minister Laud subsequently remarked that "no human power could decide." He realised the futility of religious controversy, and did all in his power to effect a peaceful settlement between all the various creeds in his realm. In the proclamation for the peace of the Church issued on June 16, 1626, as also in the Declaration issued in November 1628, the idea was "to secure at least outward peace, by enjoining silence in the pulpits on those points on which men never had been and never will be agreed." 2 The proclamation, so Dean Hook tells us, "was carefully worded and was valued by the King for its impartiality."
1 Commentaries on the Life and Reign of Charles I, by Isaac Disraeli, Vol. I, p. 474.
2 See William Laud, by W. Holden Hutton, p. 59. See also p. 65 for evidence of the fact that even in his instructions to the bishops in December 1629, the King intended "restraint on both sides."
Many other instances could be given of Charles's impartiality and of his pacific attitude towards the creeds; but the crudest and most unscrupulous claim that the Puritans put upon him, and one which, in his impartiality and sense of duty to the laws of his nation, he did not evade (save in so far as capital punishment was concerned), was the demand for the severe enforcement of the Elizabethan laws against Catholics. Indeed, he went so far as to instruct all magistrates to put the penal laws in force, and appointed a commission to demand the fines from the recusants. Catholic priests and missionaries were ordered to leave the kingdom, and even the Catholic peers were, on the advice of his Council, disarmed an act which naturally very much embittered many powerful families.
Seeing that Charles had just married a young Catholic
1 The Personal Government of Charles I, by S. R. Gardiner (1877), Vol. I, p. 21.
2 Ibid., p. 164.
3 Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, by Dr. W. F. Hook, Vol. XI, pp. 182, 183.
Every Parliament he met clamoured for ever more severe measures against the hated Papists. The Commons interrupted the discussion on the state of the finances in the First Parliament, to present the King with a "pious petition," praying him to put in force the penal Statutes against Catholics. They behaved in precisely the same way in the Second Parliament when they formed themselves into three committees, one for religion, a second to consider grievances and a third to discuss evils. And the Committee of Religion once more resolved to enact still more rigorous laws against Popery. The Third Parliament, as Isaac Disraeli observes, was simply "a committee sitting for religion." 1 They declared that "the business of the King of this Earth should give place to the business of the King of Heaven!" and, in addition to the severe enforcement of the laws against Catholics, they were content with demanding nothing short of the immediate death of any priest returning from banishment abroad. In vain did Charles plead that if at any time he had granted indulgence to the Romanists, he had done so in the hope that foreign princes would extend similar indulgences to Protestant subjects. These men were irreconcilable. In spite of the many proofs he had given of his earnest desire to stand firm by the Protestant Church of England, as defined in the statutes, the Puritans looked with a jealous eye upon his Catholic wife, and though her influence in religious matters, far from prevailing with him, never showed signs even of affecting his conduct in the slightest degree, they never ceased from suspecting him and his
1 Op. cit., p. 308.
I have referred to all these matters, not so much because I wished here to state a case for Charles I in the matter of religion, but rather because I desired to give a
1 Dean Hook argues that inasmuch as all that the Puritans wanted was to be able to fan into flame the feeling of alarm roused in the first instance by the presence of Charles I's Catholic wife: "It was unfortunate for them that Charles did not give any sign of preference to the Church of Rome. He remained steady to the principles of the Church of England." Op. cit., p. 92.
2 On the matter of the alleged Catholic leanings of Charles I, Wentworth and Laud, that great and impartial foreign historian, Leopold von Ranke, is perfectly plain and emphatic. In his History of England, Vol. II, p. 52, he writes: "The Lord Deputy [Wentworth] can be as little accused as the King or the Archbishop of wishing to pave the way for Catholicism. Wentworth was known as a very staunch Protestant. Their thoughts were only directed to the development of Anglicanism expressed in its most rigid form." While on p. 63, he also says: "It was not that Charles I had thought of subjecting himself to the Papacy. We know how far his soul was averse to this." See also p. 81 of the same volume.
And what was it that the so-called Patriots particularly desired beneath their cry for the liberty of the subject?
As Professor Gardiner observes, Wentworth foresaw what the transference of all power to Parliament, as it was then constituted, would lead to. "The rule of the House of Commons meant for him not altogether without truth the rule of the landowner and the lawyer at the expense of the poor." 2 And the same author continues: "It is certain that to transfer supremacy to the House of Commons on the terms on which Eliot wished to transfer it, would have been to establish a gross tyranny" 3 a tyranny, that is to say, of capitalists and tradesmen the kind of tyranny that grew up and became supreme after Charles I's assassination.
Now it should be remembered that Charles had the opportunity nay, that he actually received the advice to manuvre the return of a number of his own sup-
1 Isaac Disraeli, in the work already quoted, gives the following enlightening and interesting anecdote concerning Pym (p. 513, Vol. I): "When on one occasion it was observed that the affairs of religion seemed not so desperate that they should wholly engross their days, Pym replied that they must not abate their ardour for the true religion, that being the most certain end to obtain their purpose and maintain their influence." To a similar observation Hampden replied: "If it were not for this reiterated cry about religion, they would never be certain of keeping the people on their side" (pp. 330331).
2 The First Two Stuarts and the Puritan Rebellion (1905), p. 76.
3 Ibid., p. 73.
It is, however, interesting to observe how curiously Charles's conduct in regard to this refusal to fill Parliament with his friends, contrasts with the conduct of a later King George III. The money George III spent in corruption in order to get his own friends into the Commons must have amounted, during the whole of his reign, to some hundreds of thousands of pounds. George III, however, was not beheaded why? He met with no powerful Puritan opposition. How was this? Obviously because the moneyed interests of his day, the sharks in the city and on the land, did not find in him so powerful an antagonist to their greed, as their ancestors had found in Charles in the first half of the seventeenth century.
For Charles I's concept of a King's duties may well be summed up in the words of his chief lieutenant, Wentworth, spoken before the Council of the North on December 30, 1628
"Princes are to be indulgent, nursing fathers to their people; their modest liberties, their sober rights ought to be precious in their eyes, the branches of their government be for shadow for habitation, the comfort of life." 3
1 Isaac Disraeli, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 125.
2 The Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. I, p. 13.
3 H. D. Traill, Lord Strafford, p. 49.
And was this only an ideal, or was it actually carried into practice? As we shall see, it was very much more than an ideal; it was the mainspring of all Charles's rule, and with it he inspired his ministers. But that it was "unpopular" in the eyes of the wealthy minority may easily be understood. For Charles never seems to have succeeded in convincing more than a very select few of the soundness of this principle of government, and the
1 The Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. II, p. 173. The speech here referred to, which occupies five pages of Rushworth's Historical Collections (Part 2, Vol. I, pp. 294298) is certainly a remarkable piece of evidence in support of the contention that Charles I's rule considered primarily the welfare of the masses. In addition to the points alluded to above in the passage from Gardiner, this clause is worth noticing (p. 295): "Next unto this, let those that be Licensed, be held strictly according to the Law. It hath been observed, and very truly, that in the Taverns, Inns, and Ale-Houses in England, by the falsehood of their measure, and unjust prices, they have drawn more from the guest, than out of the sizes of Ale and Beer is exacted by the States in Holland. A strange thing! that People for a publick Work, for anything that is Good, should be loth to part with anything; and yet with open eyes see themselves deceived by such base and lewd people."
It was to these courtiers and others who infested the city in the hope of sharing in some of the glamour of the royal presence, that Charles appealed when he published that Proclamation to the gentry in 1632, commanding them "to keepe their Residence at their mansions in the Country," and the terms of the Proclamation have an interesting bearing upon my present contention.
"For where by their residence and abiding in the severall Countreys whence their means ariseth," says this document, "they served the King in severall places according to their degrees and Rankes in ayde of the Government, whereby and by their House-keeping in those parts, the Realme was defended, and the meaner sort of people were guided, directed and relieved, 1 but by their residence in the said Cities and parts adjoining they have not employment, but live without doing any service to His Majestie or His people," etc., etc. After which it urges them not to earn their substance in one part and spend it in the cities, in luxury and futile amusement; and threatens severe measures to those who disobeyed. 2
It should be borne in mind by those who are too ready to charge the King with "oppressing" his subjects, that nothing of the sort ever really took place at all. England was never so lightly taxed as during the personal government of Charles I. The accusation his opponents were reduced to bringing against him, was not oppressive taxation, but taxation levied without Parliamentary sanction. For even Ship-money was never crushing, and every halfpenny of it was spent upon the Navy. 3 Nor
1 The italics are mine. A. M. L.
2 British Museum Proclamations, 506, h. 12 (8).
3 Isaac Disraeli, who, in his Commentaries on the Life and Reign of Charles I, went to great pains in order to discover the human motive behind all the ostensible patriotism of the so-called patriots,
The basis of the King's unpopularity among the rich and powerful was, of course, in the first place, ostensibly of a religious nature. Sir Edmund Verney was deluded enough to suppose that the religious question was fundamental even in bringing about the rebellion; and Dr. Hutton holds a similar opinion to-day. The true reason, the genuine, though often unconscious, reason was neither a religious one, nor due to the fact that the King's taxation was illegal or levied without the consent of the Commons. An essential part of the real grievance was that the weight of this taxation fell entirely upon the trading and wealthy classes. It reduced the profits of the tradesman and took a percentage from the incomes of the landed gentry. The taxes on food, on the poor man's sustenance, were to be the innovation of a free Parliament a few years later. But Charles was content to tax the profits of trade, and, for the rest, to demand a contribution
suggested that when John Hampden, in 1637, refused to pay the Ship-money demanded of him at his estate in Buckinghamshire, he was actuated more by his feelings of hostility to the local Sheriff (the outcome of a long-standing feud) than by patriotism. For this suggestion he was violently attacked by Lord Nugent in his book. Some Memorials of John Hampden, his Party and his Times. Lord Nugent pointed out that there was no such feud as the one alleged between the local Sheriff and Hampden, and challenged Disraeli to show his proofs. In a little pamphlet called Eliot, Hampden and Pym (1832) Disraeli replies to this (pp. 2024) and other attacks by Lord Nugent, acknowledges the error about the Sheriff, which he ascribes to a slip, and says that it was the Treasurer of Buckinghamshire with whom Hampden was at loggerheads. And he declared that he derived his information from a gentleman who, among other papers in his possession, had once been the owner of the diary or journal of the Treasurer in question. Certainly the ridiculously small sum demanded from Hampden for this tax (20/-) lends some colour to Disraeli's contention. For Hampden was a very rich man, and he would surely not have been so anxious to oppose the tax as many a less wealthy and equally energetic man.
The nobler among Charles's wealthy subjects understood and accepted it. They saw the King daily making sacrifices himself, in order to rule beneficently. They knew that he had pledged the Crown jewels and plate, and sold property to the City of London to the extent of £120,000, at the very moment when he was appealing to the clergy to help him, early in his reign. And they saw that he did not spend this money in idle merriment or wasteful extravagance.
Nor were his most trusted ministers, Laud and Wentworth, very far behind him in their readiness to spend their own private money in the public service. The former presented his most precious treasures during his lifetime to public libraries and to friends; spent over £1,200 himself on the work of restoring St. Paul's; endowed a Professorship of Arabic at Oxford, and, but for grants of timber from the King, defrayed the whole cost of the building of St. John's entirely alone. As Dr. Hutton observes, "He was a poor man: no Archbishop for centuries, it was said, had ever been so poor." 1
As for Wentworth's personal contributions to the expenses of his and the King's administration they are proverbial. When it was a matter of organising his troops in Ireland, "he was able to boast of having sunk £6000 [out of his own pocket] in horses, furniture and arms"; 2 in order to help and promote the Irish linen industry, "he had imported flax seed of a superior quality from Holland at his own expense, and busied himself in bringing over the most expert workmen from France and the Low Countries;" 3 while towards the expenses of the expedi-
1 William Laud, p. 227. For a list of Laud's gifts to St. John's and to the Bodleian Library see p. 107 of Hutton's book; while for a list of the Acts of Bounty projected by Dr. Laud, Bishop of London, and most of them performed in his lifetime, see Rushworth's Historical Collections, Part 2, Vol. I, p. 74.
2 H. D. Traill, op. cit., p. 138.
3 Ibid., p. 137138.
But all this exceptional disinterestedness was of little avail in the sight of enemies who had reasons, more self-centred than patriotic, for overthrowing this unusual administration of men who were obviously "spoiling the game" for others, and who were apparently too foolish to profit by their position of power.
For all historians are unanimous, at least in one particular, and that is, that Strafford and Laud never once sacrificed the public weal to their own interests. There was peculation and malversation enough among the men in high places, who surrounded Charles I; but neither Strafford nor Laud can be accused of either crime. As Laud truly wrote to Strafford, "I am alone in those things which draw not private profit after them." 1 "Their ends were not the advancement of private interests," says Dean Hook of the two friends, "but the promotion of the public good." 2 Professor Gardiner says of Laud, "For himself he had no private ends in view, no desire of pelf or vainglory, no family to provide for, or state to keep up." 3 And as for the noble Strafford, whom Ranke declares, "was indisputably one of the greatest of the administrators who rose up among the English before they gained possession of India," 4 no historian, however hostile, has yet been able to accuse him of defrauding or robbing the people in his charge, either for his master's ends or for his own. Macaulay stupidly refers to him as "this great, brave, bad man;" 5 but even with such a prejudiced Puritan as the pompous Thomas Babington, it is not for Strafford's dishonesty in the public service that this absurd epithet "bad" is applied in the case of so noble a nature, but, rather, for his so-called
1 W. Holden Hutton, op. cit., p. 51.
2 Op. cit., p. 259. In regard to Strafford see also pp. 259 and 260.
3 Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. II, p. 163.
4 Op. cit., p. 184.
5 Article on John Hampden, Edinburgh Review, December 1831.
As I make no pretence in this work of recounting all the incidents of Charles I's reign, enough has been said to give the reader some idea of the spirit of the Commons during the whole of the three sessions which preceded Charles's personal rule. It would have been impossible for any responsible ruler and no ruler was more keenly alive to his responsibility than Charles I I say it would have been impossible for any responsible ruler to have dared to hand over to Parliament at that time all the power and influence it demanded. The leaders of the Commons were not in a temper for tolerance; they were by no means ready to exercise their power beneficently nor does history, from 1649 to the present day, prove that their successors were ready for it even hundreds of years after Charles's time and they were too self-seeking and too unfeeling to be let loose as rulers upon the country. No monarch desirous of protecting the people, would ever have consented to hand his subjects over to the mercy of a body which was led by men of the stamp of Sir John Eliot. And as soon as Charles felt himself supported in his attitude by a man of such insight and intelligence as Wentworth, it was only natural that he should venture upon the hazardous plan of dispensing with such a turbulent, subversive and vindictive assembly.
Speaking of the Parliament of those days, Professor Gardiner says: "In Wentworth's eyes it only partially represented the nation, if it represented it at all. The lawyers and country gentlemen of whom it was composed were not to be trusted to govern England. The lawyers, with their quirks and formulas, too often stood in the way
This is a fair statement of the resolve with which the King in March 1629 embarked upon his career of a British Sovereign ruling without a Parliament. And we have no better proofs of the earnestness of this resolve than the attitude and quality of the two ministers whom he chose to elect as his principal advisers, almost from the very moment when he abandoned all hope of working in harmony with the Commons. 2 In one of his communications, so Traill tells us, Wentworth "pledges himself, not only not to fail in any point of his duty to his master, but fully to 'comply with that public and common protection which good kings afford their good people.'" 3 And of Laud, Dr. Hutton says, "the benefit of the governed was the thought that underlay all his statements; of political doctrine." 4
What was Charles to do? He refused to leave his people to the tender mercies of their oppressors, as they were to be left by later sovereigns. Nothing, however, but cruel intolerance and bigoted persecution and exaction would please the Commons, therefore the Parliament which refused to grant Charles even the means for carrying on his government without his making concession after
1 Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. I, pp. 168, 169.
2 Gardiner further declares (p. 281): "It was one day to be the evil attendant upon the victory of the Parliamentary system, that the territorial aristocracy were to make use of the forms of the constitution to fill their own pockets at the expense of the nation, and to heap honours and rewards upon their own heads. Against such a degradation of the functions of the State, Wentworth struggled with all his might. The depository of the national authority, he held, must be above all persons and all parties, that he might dispense justice to all alike."
3 Op. cit., p. 60.
4 Op. cit., p. 125.
We know the words of one of his last appeals to his Third Parliament
"Every man must now do according to his conscience; wherefore if you (which God forbid) should not do your duties in contributing what this state at this time needs, I must, in discharge of my conscience, use those other means which God hath put into my hands to save that which the follies of other men may otherwise hazard to lose. Take not this as threatening (I scorn to threaten any but my equals), but as an admonition from him that both out of. nature and duty hath most care of your preservation and prosperities: and hopes (though I thus speak) that your demeanours at this time will be such as shall not only make me approve your former counsels, but lay on me such obligations as shall bind me by way of thankfulness to meet often with you: for, be assured that nothing can be more pleasing unto me, than to keep a good correspondency with you." 2
And how did the Commons respond to this fine appeal? They forthwith entered upon a debate on the old topic of grievances, then supplies, and finally prepared a petition to enforce the laws against recusants!
1 The comment upon this decision, made in the Cambridge Modern History, is of great interest. On p. 274, Vol. IV, we read: "To later observers this appears a hazardous, even a hopeless, experiment; it did not seem so then. Long periods had elapsed in Elizabeth's reign without Parliaments; longer still in the reign of James I. The parliamentary system was far from being regarded as essential to good government. In Spain it had practically disappeared. In France the States General had not met since 1614, and was not to meet again till 1789. In Germany the Diet was already little more than a diplomatic council. Holland was a Republic, and therefore out of court. Why should not England follow the way of France and Spain? All that seemed requisite was the adoption of a pacific policy abroad, the improvement of administration at home, and the gradual extension of autocratic control over the national sources of supply. Such was the policy which the Government now attempted to carry out."
2 See Parliamentary History of England, Vol. II, p. 218.
When, therefore, Professor Gardiner says of Strafford, "there can be no doubt that he had thrown himself on the wrong side in the great struggle of his day," 1 surely a curious note is struck by this great and otherwise impartial historian. If the unsuccessful side is always going to be the wrong side; if the loser in a struggle is, on that account alone, always to be the delinquent, then of a certainty nobility and heroism are at an end. For where success is the sole measure of value which, I admit, it unfortunately is to-day then martyrdoms, crucifixions and heroic sacrifices are indeed quite valueless. I am only surprised that Professor Gardiner should have given his great authority as he seems to have done in the above passage to so regrettable a credo.
Thus, although Charles was reduced to unparliamentary means for the collection of at least some of the expenses of State, he did not flinch for one moment from the task of pursuing his bold and patriarchal policy. He realised then the truth which Cromwell was to acknowledge later (in 1655, for instance), that the England of his time could be properly governed only by a single ruler capable of
1 The First Two Stuarts and the Puritan Rebellion, p. 109.
Naturally such a policy created powerful enemies, and when Charles sought to impose Laud's conformity upon Scotland, it cannot be doubted that such of his formidable opponents as the Earls of Rothes and Loudoun, were
1 Dr. W. F. Hook, in speaking of Cromwell's sagacity, says: "That same sagacity led Cromwell to see that, as the country then existed, it must be subjected to the rule of one. He himself became that one, but by doing so he endorses, to a certain extent, the policy for upholding which Charles, Strafford, and Laud were brought to the block." Op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 357.
2 Gardiner, Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. I, p. 347. For a full account of the King's good work in Scotland see pp. 330362.
3 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 351.
At home Commissioners were appointed to inquire into the laws for the relief of the poor. They were to see that the country Justices of the Peace did their duty, and did not omit to act in accordance with the law, even where their duties clashed with their own interests. Abuses were to cease. Reports were demanded periodically, and local magnates were constrained to maintain a high standard in the administration of their authority. 1
A body of Commissioners was also appointed to come to terms with the creditors of prisoners imprisoned for debts amounting to less than £200, and whom the judge who had tried them regarded as cases deserving of mercy. And yet another Commission was appointed "to inquire touching Depopulations and conversions of Lands to Pasture," an evil which, as we have already seen, pressed heavily upon the poorer inhabitants of all rural districts. Charles was very severe upon this class of delinquency, and Sir Anthony Roper was fined no less than £30,000 for committing Depopulations. 2
The King was, however, just as solicitous of the welfare of the spirit as of the body of the people, and wherever he was able he firmly resisted all Puritanical attempts at depressing the national temper. The first act of his first Parliament had been to suppress all games on Sunday, on penalty of a fine, and to insist on Sunday observance. Again, owing to the influence of the Puritans, in 1628, by the Act 3 Charles I, cap. 2, all carriers, waggoners, wainmen and drivers were prohibited from travelling on Sunday. In 1633 Charles I, to the intense annoyance of the Puritans, repealed the Sunday observance laws, which he felt were taking the spirit out of the working people, who had but that day upon which to play and enjoy themselves, and he ordained that, after attending
1 For a full account of the work of this Commission see Sir G. Nicholls, K.C.B., op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 252255.
2 Rushworth's Historical Collections, Part II, Vol. I, p. 333.
As a matter of fact, in doing this he did but re-issue his father's Book of Sports, which was first published in 1618. On his return from Scotland in 1617 James I had had a petition presented to him by the people, chiefly consisting of the lower classes, who were desirous of having Sunday amusements; and in spite of opposition from the clergy and the middle classes, the King had granted them their wish.
In his preamble to the re-issue of this declaration, Charles I said: "Our Deare Father of blessed memory, in his return from Scotland, coming through Lancashire, found that his subjects were debarred from Lawful Recreations upon Sundayes after evening Prayers ended, and upon Holydays. And he prudently considered, that if these times were taken from them, the meaner sort who labour all the weeke, should have no Recreations at all to refresh their spirits." And from the concluding passage I take the following: "Now out of a like pious Care for the service of God, and for the suppressing of any humours that oppose trueth, and for the Ease, Comfort and Recreation of Our well deserving People, We doe ratify and publish this Our blessed Father's Declaration: The rather because of late in some Counties of Our Kingdom We find that under pretence of taking away abuses, that there hath been a generall forbidding, not only of ordinary meetings, but of the feasts of the Dedication of Churches, commonly called Wakes." 1
Charles was no less active in other directions in trying to secure the welfare of his people. In addition to combating the fighters for parliamentary supremacy, which, as we have seen, was simply coveted for the liberty which it gave to those in power to indulge their lusts of private gain and private greed, undeterred by a ruler who, while standing apart from all factions, could rule for the benefit
1 King Charles I's Declaration to his Subjects concerning Lawful Sports to be used on Sundays (October 18, 1633).
With regard to this hostility to beauty, love of life, good spirits, joy and abundant health, I shall, in the opinion of some people, deal more than adequately in my next chapter. For the present I shall concern myself only with the rise of the two forces just described.
It is well known that the Tudors were consistently opposed to the introduction of all engines and machines which tended to prove injurious to handicraftsmen, or to deteriorate the quality of the articles produced. 1 Edward VI and Elizabeth were both equally vigorous in their attitude towards mechanical innovations, and the case of the gig-mills in the former's reign and that of Mr. Lee's stocking loom in the latter's reign, are too well known to be dwelt upon here. The course which these two
1 See Garnier, Annals of the British Peasantry, p. 176. "The Government for a long period seems to have regarded machinery with the same hostile views as did the Luddites in subsequent times. Inventive genius was termed 'subtle imagination,' and any substitute for the 'manufacture by hands and feet' was regarded as conducive to the 'final undoing of the industry concerned.' For this reason, the fulling mill in 1482, the newly-invented gig mill in 1551, and the tucking mill in 1555 were discountenanced."
Incidentally, it is obvious from this royal proclamation that the great Stuart King was not blindly suspicious of innovations as such; 1 otherwise he would have looked askance even at a furnace calculated to mitigate the evil of smoke.
As Dr. Cunningham observes: "The chief object which James and Charles set before themselves in regard to the industry of the country, was not the introduction of new
1 As another proof of this contention, Charles's attitude towards the Commons in the matter of the constructional reforms in London is very interesting. Among the grievances of the Commons in 1625 there is a complaint about the building of all houses in London in one uniform way, with a face of brick towards the street. (Bricks had recently been introduced for building by the Earl of Arundel.) To this complaint Charles replied that this reform in building was a good reform, and he was determined to allow the work to proceed.
But one does not require to be a deep student of the vulgar and unthinking class of mechanical innovators, to understand the kind of exasperation to which such an attitude on the part of the ruler would soon give rise in their ranks. Big-sounding, bombastic phrases, such as the "Forward March of Humanity," "The Progress of the Race," welled up in their foolish and sentimental throats and caused them to look with rankling indignation at that superb figure in lace and velvet whose consummate taste preferred to cling devotedly to Beauty rather than to their absurd and inhuman idea of advancement!
There was, however, a deeper and perhaps more unconscious hatred in Charles I and his father against mechanical innovations than the mere hatred of their threatened deterioration of both the handicraftsman and the quality of the goods produced. There was the profound suspicion that machinery implied expensive and elaborate installations which must necessarily lead to the extinction of the poor home-worker, or even of the artisan of moderate means, and the yielding up of his liberty, his power and his gifts to a more unscrupulous and less desirable taskmaster than the buying public, i. e. the capitalistic traders, out for personal gain. For machinery and capitalism are plighted mates and are necessarily allies.
The strongest objection advanced against this attitude towards machinery can be stated in a few words. It is this: Man is essentially a machine- and instrument-using animal. All his advancement, if advancement it may be called, is due to the fact that he was the only one, among all the species of quadrumana, to realise that there is no limit to the extra external organs he can create for himself. Thus an arrow, as a machine for death, is more formidable, more treacherous and more efficacious than all the stealthy and sheathed lions' claws, and all the reptilian
1 The Growth of English Industry and Commerce, Vol. II, p. 295.
All this is perfectly true, but for the last passage, and my reply to that is, that I can and do put my finger upon a particular stage in mechanical evolution, and that I do cry: "Here it should have stopped and proceeded no further." That is to say, I do undertake to perform what the average Englishman always regards as a task too difficult even to approach, namely, "to draw the line somewhere." I say that the line of demarcation between beneficent and deleterious machinery is to be found at that point where machines begin to cease from developing desirable qualities in the characters and bodies of those who use them, or where they begin to develop positively bad qualities.
This I believe to have been the Stuart and the Tudor view, and it is absolutely unassailable from every standpoint.
Now turning to the second force, that of rising capitalistic industry again we find that the Tudors preceded the Stuarts in their hostility to the spirit of greed and gain which seems to have characterised this form of industry from the very first.
As Dr. Cunningham assures us, "Edward VI was quite prepared to oppose that anybody should 'eat up another through greediness,'" 1 and Garnier declares that, "the aim of Elizabeth's advisers was to disperse and distribute the national wealth, instead of allowing it to accumulate in a few hands." 2 The necessary concomitant of greed
1 Op. cit., Vol. I, p. 560.
2 Annals of the British Peasantry, p. 98.
"The Tudor government," says the reverend historian of English industry, "backed by public opinion, took a very strong line as to the duty of capitalists, either as merchants or employers under such circumstances [fluctuations of trade]; it was thought only right that they should bear the risk of loss, which arose from increasing their stocks while there was no sale abroad, rather than condemn the workmen to enforced idleness." 2
But the attitude that the Tudors only initiated the Stuarts maintained with their customary energy and augmented zeal. They regarded speculation with suspicion, and considered it as mere "private gain" accruing to individuals who performed no public service in return for their advantage. And in 1622 and 1623, during the great depression in the clothing industry, James insisted by proclamation upon the clothiers continuing to employ the weavers as they had done at the time when trade flourished. In 1629, again, under Charles I, the Justices came to the rescue of the Essex weavers, and forced their employers to give them better terms than those to which the mere automatic action of "free competition" gave rise.
The measures resorted to after the bad harvest of 1630 were also very characteristic of Charles and his whole policy. Every possible step was taken to prevent any rise in the price of corn. Unlike the Georges, Charles could not bear the thought that one or two individuals should speculate and grow rich upon the starving bodies of the poor and their children; and, like Cobbett, who was
1 See Cunningham, op. cit.,Vol. I, p. 513.
2 Ibid., op. cit., Vol. II, p. 50.
Another instance of the same attitude on the part of Charles I is to be found in the proclamation of May 4, 1633, affecting the price of victuals, and directed "against the intolerable avarice of Bakers, Brewers, Innholders and Butchers, who not contented with a reasonable profit in uttering and selling Victuall within Our Dominions, and especially within the Verge of our household, unlawfully exact and demand unreasonable and extreame prizes for Victuals, Housemeat, Lodging, and other necessaries, above the prizes they were sold at before our coming to those parts." 3
Concurrently with this vigilance in regard to the growing spirit of greed and gain in the country, Charles was, moreover, persistently interfering in trade, whenever and wherever abuses were practised by those engaged in it. At one time he is found legislating against frauds in the sale and packing of butter, 4 at another against fraud in the drapery trade, 5 and anon against the abuses of the
1 Op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 163164.
2 Gardiner, Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. I, p. 199.
3 British Museum Proclamations, 506, h. 12.
4 November 13, 1634.
5 April 16, 1633.
Much capital has been made by the Puritan opponents of this great monarch out of the scandal of his government's interference with the soap trade; but, as Gardiner points out, it was Portland who was responsible for this. It was Portland who enriched his friends at the cost of the soap-makers, and Laud was horrified enough when he discovered the dishonesty of the whole affair. 3
In any case, as far as Charles was concerned, it was his earnest endeavour to preserve a good standard in the quality of the goods produced by the manufacturers among his subjects, and though his interferences naturally gave rise to discontent, more particularly among the rapacious Dissenting mercantile classes of London, he never refrained from enforcing his high standard of quality and honesty whenever he felt justified in so doing. The case of the silk trade is a good instance of his perseverance in this respect. Three times did Charles attempt to suppress the frauds and adulterations in this trade. He began by incorporating the silkmen in 1632 for the purpose of supervising one another. As this company, however, upheld the abuses, he placed the responsibility of search in the hands of the London Company of Dyers. These, it was found, also connived at the frauds, and in 1639 Charles accordingly established a government office, where the silk was inspected, stamped and declared to be of an adequately good quality. 4 After which matters seem to have proceeded more satisfactorily.
As Cunningham observes: "Under the Stuarts, strenuous efforts were made to organise a system of industrial supervision on national lines, and thus to maintain a high standard of quality for goods of every kind, manufactured for sale either at home or abroad." 5 But it will be readily
1 December 3, 1634.
2 April 18, 1636.
3 Personal Government of Charles I, pp. 165169.
4 See Cunningham, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 300.
5 Vol. II, p. 296.
The traders of London were all savage at this arbitrary imposition of the virtues of honesty and the love of quality upon themselves and their fellows. 1 Such ideals were incompatible with greed and gain; they were, moreover, irreconcilable with the stout-hearted British love of "Liberty!" and a "Free Parliament!"
And, in truth, when we begin to enumerate in a single passage all the deeds of Charles's patriarchal and popular government his opposition to the grasping Lords and country gentry; his intolerance of the filching of the Church and poor-funds by provincial magnates in England, Scotland and Ireland; his firm resolve to maintain the spirit of the labouring classes and to keep the Puritans from depressing them; his hostility to the introduction of besotting machinery; his determined stand against the growing lust of gain and profit at all costs; not to mention his love of beauty, flourishing life, and the rest we are
1 Among other interferences in trade not already mentioned, I may refer to Charles's proclamation of June 20, 1629, concerning the making of starch and avoiding annoyance thereby; his proclamation of June 7, 1631, for preventing "Deceipt in the Importation of Madder"; his proclamation of January 12, 1632, for regulating the buckle-making trade; his proclamations of February 18, 1632, of January 20, 1633, of January 20, 1634, of February l, 1635, and of January 20, 1636, for the "Prizing of Wines"; his proclamation of March 14, 1634, for dealing with the supply of salt; his proclamation affecting the fisheries and forbidding the use of an engine called a Trawle, April 2, 1635; his proclamation of September 6, 1635 for the prevention of abuses by lawyers and lawyers' clerks; and his proclamation of July 9, 1636, for the "due execution of the office of Clarke of the Market of Our Houshold, and throwout Our Realme of England and Dominion of Wales: And for the surveying and seeling of the constant Rule appointed to be used by all Clothiers, and workers in cloth and yarn; and for the increase of the poores wages labouring therein." British Museum Proclamations, 506 (Rushworth's Historical Collections, Part 2, Vol. I).
In Chapter XXIII of his Prince, Machiavelli says: "Therefore it must be inferred that good counsels, whencesoever they come, are born of the wisdom of the prince, and not the wisdom of the prince from good counsels."
1 The character that F. C. Montague gives of Charles in The Political History of England, Vol. VII, p. 126, is worth quoting in this connection as the opinion of an important historian who, on the whole, is as fair as any one can expect in his estimate of the Stuart period. Mr. Montague says: "Charles was personally brave, and he had many of the virtues that dignify private life. By his strict fidelity to his queen he set an example as rare as it was praiseworthy among the sovereigns of that time. He was sincerely religious without the theological pedantry of his father. He was industrious in the routine of kingship." Leopold von Ranke, as a foreign historian of considerable weight, is also worth reference on this point. On p. 65, Vol. II, of his History of England, the author says: "In the world which surrounded him Charles always passed for a man without a fault, who committed no excesses, had no vices, possessed cultivation and knowledge to the fullest extent, without wishing to make a show in consequence; not, however, devoid of severity which, however, he tempered with feelings of humanity . . . Since the death of Buckingham he appeared to choose his ministers by merits and capacity and no longer by favouritism."
To Charles's credit, be it said, that he selected for his closest and most trusted advisers two of the most honest men that England then contained, Wentworth and Laud; but for the rest, like poor Napoleon with his admirals, he had to do the best he could with the material that a merciful though sparing Providence placed in his hands.
Men such as Portland, Cottington, Windebanke, Weston, though necessarily used and required by Charles, never attained to that high degree of disinterested devotion to their duties which characterised both Laud and Wentworth. There can be no doubt in fact the proof of it appears again and again that all four practised peculation on a small or large scale, according to their opportunities and always sought their own interests before those either of the King or the people. Still, it is impossible to conceive how Charles could have got on without them; and if, as is no doubt the case, they contributed in no small degree towards making his government fail, it should be borne in mind that where they departed from the path of strict honesty and justice, they were neither in sympathy with Charles's main policy, nor inspired by his precept and example.
The best proof of this lies in the fact that the ministers who were nearest and dearest to Charles, were as disin-
Inspired by the King and the only men of his period who were worthy of him, these two ministers pursued with undaunted courage the policy which he set up as his ideal; and when ultimately they were brought to the block it was by the enemies they had bravely created in their suppression of abuses practised by the powerful and the mercenary. For, like Charles, they were neither of them respecters of persons.
Of Laud Professor Gardiner says: "His hand was everywhere. Rich and poor, high and low, alike felt its weight. . . . Nothing angered him so much as the claim of a great man to escape a penalty which would fall on others. Nothing brought him into such disfavour with the great as his refusal to admit that the punishment which had raised no outcry when it was meted out to the weak and helpless, should be spared in the case of the powerful and wealthy offender." 1
No bishop or archbishop before or after him was ever more zealous in discovering and punishing abuses against Church property; and as these were plentiful, and always the acts of powerful people, the enemies poor Laud ultimately had to meet were numerous and formidable indeed.
His eye, too, was always fixed with honest reproach upon the immediate entourage of his master; and the frequent acts of corruption and peculation which he had to witness caused him no small amount of sadness. Unfortunately, in trying to suppress some of the wholesale robbery that was constantly being practised close to the throne, he embittered some of the most powerful men of the kingdom against himself. As Dean Hook observes, his hostility to the avaricious and unscrupulous courtiers
1 Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. II, p. 205.
His life work, as an able Anglican Churchman, was a noble struggle against the growing anarchy in religion. The Puritans, with their impudent assumption of omniscience, were rising in all directions. They knew what God felt, liked, wanted and appreciated, just as the Dissenters and Low Churchmen know these things to-day. They even had the downright insolence to declare that Christ himself was one of them a Puritan! No one knew better than they the path to Paradise. And they were prepared to murder, mutilate, sell into slavery, torture, burn or poison, any one who dared to doubt their extravagantly impertinent claims and creed.
Laud saw through their impudent theology. He foresaw the anarchy that must necessarily follow their triumph, and with a patient tolerance, that did him and all his sympathisers great honour, while he defended the legal attitude of the Church of England, he was never either oppressive or cruelly hostile to these revolutionaries.
There is no finer appeal against the anarchy of settling deep religious questions by the individual conscience than his letter to Sir Kenelm Digby, quoted in full in Dean Hook's biography. 2 But the words of this letter are not those of a narrow fanatic; nor are they the words of an implacable and resentful foe. They express the sentiments of an earnest, scholarly and highly intelligent man who was anxious to establish order where chaos threatened to reign.
I have already alluded to Charles I's fairness in his treatment of all the religious agitators of his reign.
1 Op. cit., p. 355. See also p. 226. "The courtiers whose peculations he [Laud] had resisted, were enemies to him, almost as bitter as the Puritans."
2 See pp. 274282.
It is ridiculous to charge this man with bigotry and narrow minded bitterness as some have done. A man who could deplore the violent discussions concerning religion, because "few things in religion are demonstrable," 2 was not a man to entrench himself behind a rigid dogmatic defence, when it was a matter of vindicating his position.
But Laud sinned in the same way that Charles sinned, and in the same way as Wentworth sinned. He was no respecter of persons. Although he was no more active than any of his colleagues in the sentencing and punishment of culprits brought up before the High Commission Court, the very names of those who were arraigned by this assembly during his term of office for acts of immorality that no healthy State could afford to overlook, reveal how strongly the fearless influence of Charles made itself felt.
"Persons of honour and great quality," says Dr. Hutton, "of the Court and of the country, were every day cited into the High Commission Court, upon the fame of
1 Op. cit., p. 194.
2 Words used in the magnificent letter to Sir Kenelm Digby, to which reference has already been made.
Among those of high position who were thus cited, I may mention Frances Coke, the wife of Lord Purbeck, Sir Giles Alington, Lady Eleanor Davies and Bishop Williams the latter for subornation, perjury, and for revealing the King's secrets, contrary to his oath as a councillor.
The treatment Laud received at the hands of the Long Parliament and their vile instrument Prynne, surpasses anything that can be imagined in brutality, injustice and dishonesty. 2 I cannot enter here into all the nauseating details of the long trial and imprisonment of this honest man. Suffice it to say, that the charge against him was a mass of the grossest falsehoods that all his enemies together were able to concoct, and that they were naturally quite unable to substantiate a single clause of the indictment. In spite of this, they sentenced him to death, tormenting him until the end, and even sent Sir John Clatworthy to bully and irritate him on the scaffold. 3
A significant and touching clause is to be found in his will, which shows more than any words of mine could how devoted this simple man still remained in adversity to the great master in whose service he had met his death
"I take the boldness to give my dear and dread Sovereign King Charles (whom God bless) £1000, and I do forgive him the debt which he owes me, being £2000, and require that the two tallies for it be given up."
I now turn to Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. But I might as well save myself the pains: for all historians, of any worth at all, are unanimous in their praise
1 Op. cit.
2 Dr. Hutton (op. cit., p. 207) declares that "never in English history, it may truly be said, was there a more monstrous violation of justice and good feeling in the trial of a capital charge."
3 For details of this last act of villainy see Dean Hook's biography, p. 381.
Even his bitterest opponents ultimately had to acknowledge the magnificent gifts of this dazzling personality, and more than half of the anger and hostility created by his conversion to the King's cause in 1628 was the outcome of his late colleagues' profound appreciation of his powers. No group of men ever accuse another person rancorously of apostasy if, on leaving their party, he does not impoverish it. On the contrary, they are only too glad that the counsels of a fool should jeopardise their opponents' cause. Do but read, therefore, of the anger that Wentworth's desertion of his party roused, and you will be able to form an approximate estimate of his value.
Like Charles, Wentworth was a handsome man. Compare Charles's face with Cromwell's, and Wentworth's 2 with Hampden's, 3 and if you are a believer, as every great people and most great men have been, in the message of the face and body, you will be able to dispense with all historical inquiry, and to conclude immediately that Charles and his friend Wentworth were on the right side, and not, as Gardiner seems to suppose, on the wrong side, of the great struggle of the seventeenth century.
1 "His accession to the Privy Council," says Professor Gardiner, "was followed by a series of measures aiming at the benefit of the people In general, and the protection of the helpless against the pressure caused by the self-interest of particular classes." Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. I, p. 197.
2 I refer to the portrait belonging to the Duke of Portland.
3 The portrait belonging to Earl Spencer.
I shall not enter into the question of Wentworth's so-called apostasy. Nothing definite seems to be known about it, and it is just as much open to the Puritans to say that he was bribed by honours to join the King's party a thing they do not hesitate to assert concerning this noble man as it is for me to declare that Wentworth, after fourteen years of close association with the Puritan party, was at last forced, in spite of his honest nature, not prone to suspect evil in others, to recognise the absolute unworthiness and prurience of his whilom comrades. At any rate he was never a Puritan; 1 and, in view of the hold Puritanism began to take of the Parliamentary party in the struggle with the King in 1628, I can see nothing surprising in the fact that a man of Wentworth's stamp should suddenly be caught at the throat with a feeling of uncontrollable nausea, and should seek purer and more congenial air in the neighbourhood of a sovereign such as Charles I.
It is true that Charles employed him in high and responsible duties almost immediately; but then, as Traill has shown, Charles had liked and admired Wentworth long before the act of so-called apostasy was even contemplated. There are not now, and there were not then, so many men in England of Wentworth's singular ability as to leave a monarch for long in hesitation as to whom he should entrust his highest charges. Once, therefore, Wentworth had declared himself on the King's side, it is not surprising that he should have been almost immediately given the most exalted duties. Charles has been accused of many things, but he was certainly no fool. He
1 See The Political History of England, Vol. VII, by F. C. Montague, p. 155, where the author, speaking of the so-called popular party in the Commons, says: "They were Puritans, but Wentworth was not, and he therefore lacked the strongest bond of sympathy with his fellows."
The choice was, at all events, not a bad one. For, as President of the Council of the North and as Lord Deputy in Ireland, Wentworth was soon to distinguish himself as a ruler not merely beneficent, but also extremely able.
Speaking of Strafford, Gardiner says: "Justice without respect of persons might have been the motto of his life. Nothing called forth his bitter indignation like the claims of the rich to special consideration or favour." 1 And it must not be supposed that he was a mere upstart or a demagogue who held the modern socialistic view of wealth. He was the descendant of a very old family, which had been seated on the manor of Wentworth in Yorkshire since the Conquest, and he was, moreover, for his time, exceedingly rich. He knew that wealth, like any other form of power, involved sacred duties, and he hated to see it used as an instrument of oppression or of injustice.
There is no doubt that he had the greatest contempt for the body of upstarts that the rising commercial class and the new landed "gentry" had imposed upon the nation; and when he spoke of the "Prynnes, Pyms and Bens, with the rest of that generation of odd names and natures," 2 it was not with the acerbity of a jealous rival, but rather with the natural proud disdain of a gentleman of ancient lineage.
Like the King, he was loath to see the people handed over to the mercy of this upstart rabble of lawyers and country "gentry"; and, like his master and Laud, he met his doom trying to protect the Crown, the Church and the people from spoliation by these sharks.
As he said in his defence before the Privy Council in 1636, when he was called upon to justify his conduct in
1 The First Two Stuarts and the Puritan Rebellion, p. 76.
2 Life of the Earl of Strafford, by John Forster, p. 194.
And, indeed, it did cost "warmer water than so." In dispensing justice and restoring robbed treasure he had to meet and oppose the most powerful in the land. In addition to the host of minor military and civil officials whom, owing to their incompetence, he weeded out of the service to make way for better men, among the persons of real influence whom he reduced to reluctant and savage submission was the Earl of Cork, whom he discovered to have misappropriated large tracts of Church lands. And, incidentally, in fearlessly attacking Cork he estranged both the Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Salisbury, who did "their best to save Lord Cork." 2 Lord Wilmot was another magnate whom he brought to justice for "taking Crown property to his own use," while Lord Clanricarde and his son, Lord Tunbridge, were full of rankling hatred for the honest Lord Deputy who had expropriated them from estates filched from the Church.
The case of Lord Mountmorris is too well known to be discussed in detail here; suffice it, therefore, to say that it was his constant petty peculations and malversations as Vice-Treasurer of Ireland that originally incensed Wentworth against him. And it was certainly Wentworth's intolerable vigilance and irksome disinterestedness that first incensed Mountmorris against his superior
When we remember that these Irish noblemen had friends in England, it can easily be seen that the extent and power of the hostility generated against the Lord Deputy of Ireland was formidable indeed. For if Lord Clanricarde's case alone could account for the hatred
1 The Earl of Strafford's Letters and Despatches, Vol. II, p. 20.
2 Gardiner, Personal Government of Charles I, p. 132.
The fact that Wentworth's rule proved to be a miracle of beneficent reform in a country that for many years had been the bugbear of all British statesmen is not contested by any historian of note. Under his stewardship the finances were put in order. The annual deficit of £24,000 was converted into a surplus of £85,000, and in three years the revenue was increased by £180,000.
The depredations of pirates which harassed all the shipping on the coast were not only abated, they were totally suppressed. As regards the manufactures of the country, through the. encouragement already referred to above, the prosperity of the linen industry was, as we know, promoted and perfected. Meanwhile, "justice was dispensed 'without acceptation of persons,'" and "the poor knew where to seek and to have relief without being afraid to appeal to His Majesty's Catholic justice against the great subject." 2 Nor was the Army or the Church neglected. I have already referred to the Church; and Gardiner, speaking of the Army, says: "The officers were startled to find that the new Lord Deputy, who, unlike his predecessors, was General of the Army as well as Governor of the State, actually expected them to attend to their duties. His own troop of horse soon became a model for the rest of the Army." 3
To the students of human nature, however, it will not be difficult to see that all this honest zeal and untiring energy demanded from people who hitherto had indolently
1 See The Political History of England, Vol. VII, by F. C. Montague, p. 198. Speaking of Wentworth's administration in Ireland, the author says: "Courtiers, parasites and place-hunters found at last a lord deputy who could and would balk their appetites. The revenue which he had so greatly increased he expended honestly and frugally."
2 Traill, op. cit., p. 139.
3 Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. II, p. 123.
As we know, they did "turn sharply upon the man," and with just as little mercy for his honesty as he had shown for their despicable villainy. Lingard calls the impeachment of Strafford "the vengeance of his enemies." 2 It was undoubtedly no more and no less than this; for not only were the sorest sufferers under his honest rule men like the Earl of Cork and Lord Mountmorris called to bear witness against him, but the very charge which in the end proved most damning to his case (the charge of having urged the King to employ an Irish army to reduce England to submission) depended upon an arbitrary interpretation of words which he was alleged to have used in Committee of the Privy Council, when all the while the words themselves were attested by only one witness, and not confirmed by any other member present at the Committee before which they were alleged to have been uttered. When, moreover, we find that this member was a man who bore Strafford no small amount of ill-will, we cannot help feeling, with Traill, that this piece of evidence was of a kind which "any judge at nisi prius would have unhesitatingly directed a jury to disregard." 3 All other members present at the Committee, including the King himself, denied having heard the words, although they distinctly recollected the other portions of Strafford's speech; and we must remem-
1 Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. II, p. 118.
2 History of England, Vol. VII, p. 470.
3 Op. cit., p. 180.
But Sir Henry Vane, who loathed Strafford with all the loathing that a mediocre creature always feels for that brilliant exception, the man of genius, declared that he had heard the words, and this was enough for the body of irate religious Tartuffes who then filled the benches of the House of Commons.
What mattered it that Sir Henry Vane had coveted the Barony of Raby at the time when it had been conferred upon Strafford? What mattered it that Sir Henry Vane was still full of rankling hatred against Strafford, because the latter, recognising Vane's mediocrity, had once opposed his promotion to the Secretaryship of State?
The Long Parliament was not a body of decent men it was merely a pack of mercenary Puritans. They understood and sympathised with rankling hatred as none but Puritans can. Sir Henry Vane's evidence was embraced with alacrity. It was twisted into a charge of treason against the unfortunate victim of the now powerful party and nothing but a death sentence would satisfy them
Strafford's judges, however, would not pass this sentence They refused to admit that the charge of treason had been proved. They had looked on unmoved at a trial which had been refined in the cruelty meted out to the prisoner by the committee of managers; they had allowed Strafford, broken in health as he was, to be tormented, harassed and baited in a manner unprecedented in the annals of English justice; but to this last act of savage unfairness they would not go.
What did the Commons do? They dropped the Impeachment, feeling that it was hopeless to compass Strafford's death in that manner, and they proceeded against him by Bill of Attainder. 1
l Lingard (op. cit., p. 477) makes an interesting comment on this stage of Wentworth's misfortunes: "It is singular," he says, "that
Lord Digby, who was himself one of the managers of the impeachment, and who, moreover, as a son of the Earl of Bristol, had "reasons" for being hostile to the Court party, rose in the House of Commons, and, in a fine speech full of an honesty and manly courage which did him credit, declared that he could not vote for the Bill.
"God keep me," he exclaimed, "from giving judgment of death on any man, and of ruin to his innocent posterity, on a law made a posteriori." 1
But even this hostility to the Bill on the part of one of the former managers did not impress the brutal Puritans, and this scandalous measure was passed. At its third reading before the House of Lords only forty five members were present; to the rest the work of murder was still either too distasteful or the danger of openly opposing it seemed too great; 2 and the measure became law by a small majority of seven.
these ardent champions in the cause of freedom should have selected for their pattern Henry VIII, the most arbitrary of our monarchs. They even improved on the iniquity of the precedents which he had left them; for the moment that the result became doubtful they abandoned the impeachment which they had originated themselves, and to insure the fate of their victim, proceeded by Bill of Attainder."
1 Rushworth, The Tryall of Thomas Earl of Strafford (1680), p. 52.
2 The latter alternative seems more probable. Cobbett tells us in his State Trials (Vol. III, p. 1,514): "The greatest part of his friends absented themselves upon pretence (whether true or supposititious) that they feared the multitude, otherwise his suffrages had more than counterpoised the voters for his death."
Meanwhile, however, the Puritans, these past-masters at rousing artificial agitations, had fomented all the ruck and scum of London, in order that a popular clamour might be raised for Strafford's head. Leopold von Ranke shows how they used even the pulpits of the metropolis to prejudice the minds of the people against the Earl, 1 with the result that a threatening mob soon mustered outside the Houses of Parliament and in Palace Yard, shouting for "Justice!" justice, after all that had happened!
How the King was ultimately persuaded by the disreputable Bishop of Lincoln to sign a commission for giving the Royal Assent to the Bill is now too well known to be discussed here. But why is it that so much stress has been laid on this Jesuitical argument on the part of Williams? I feel convinced myself that no sophistry of which a man like Williams was capable would ever have moved a man of Charles's character. But with the clamour outside, with the convincing though bogus pageant of London's "righteous indignation" beneath his very windows, and the consciousness of the fact that everything
1 Op. cit., Vol. II, p. 265.
Staggered by the diabolical malice of the rising so-called popular party, he must have felt that his time had indeed come. And, severed from every one whom he could trust, save the honest Juxon, it must have been with a feeling of fateful hopelessness that he consented to the murder of his great comrade and supporter. As it was, he would willingly have died, there and then, with Strafford, if he had only been able to convince himself that his act of self sacrifice would affect him alone.
"If my own person only were in danger," he said, with tears in his eyes, as he announced his resolution to the Council, "I would willingly venture it to save Lord Strafford's life. . . . My Lord of Strafford's condition is more happy than mine." 1
I could not conclude this short sketch of Strafford's career in a manner more fitting than by quoting the last words of the noble Earl's appeal to the King to sign the death warrant. They are a tribute alike to their author and to him for whom they were written. For to write such a letter one must be a great man, but to inspire it one must be an even greater one. 2
"With much sadness," wrote Strafford, "I am come to a resolution of that which I take to be the best becoming me, to look upon that which is most principal in itself, which, doubtless, is the prosperity of your sacred person
1 Gardiner, History of England, Vol. IX, pp. 366367.
2 As a proof of what the true feeling of the masses was, towards the rule of the great triumvirate, it is interesting, pending the more substantial demonstration I shall give later, to refer to John Forster's account of Strafford's progress to the scaffold. John Forster is not by any means partial to the Court party; yet, in his biography of Strafford he says: "Strafford, in his walk, took off his hat frequently and saluted them [the people, 10,000 of whom were gathered on Tower Hill] and received not a word of insult or reproach," p. 409.
"And, therefore, in a few words, as I feel myself wholly upon the honour and justice of my peers, so clearly as to beseech your majesty might pleased to have spared that declaration of yours on Saturday last, and entirely have left me to their lordships; so now, to set your majesty's conscience, etc. at liberty, I do most humbly beseech you, for the prevention of such mischief as may happen by your refusal, to pass the bill, by this means to remove, praised be God, I cannot say this accursed, but, I confess, this unfortunate thing forth of the way towards that blessed agreement, which God, I trust, shall ever establish between you and your subjects.
"Sir, my consent herein shall more acquit you to God, than all the world can do besides: To a willing mind is no injury done; and as, by God's grace, I forgive all the world, so, sir, I can give up the life of this world with all cheerfulness imaginable, in the just acknowledgment of your exceeding favour; and only beg, that, in your goodness, you would vouchsafe to cast your gracious regard upon my poor son and his sisters, less or more, and no otherwise than their unfortunate father shall appear more or less guilty of his death. God long preserve your majesty.
"most faithful subject and servant,
I now come to the concluding scene of this harrowing tragedy, in which, as I have shown, Taste, quality and the most genuine aristocratic tradition of ideal rulership were pitted in an unequal struggle against the overwhelming and ruthless forces of rapacious vulgarity, quantity and trade. I have gone to some pains to show how intolerable Charles and his two leading ministers had made themselves
l Rushworth, The Tryall of Thomas Earl of Strafford (1680), pp. 743744.
It is quite certain that when the Short Parliament was called in 1640, the less estimable portion of the country that part of it which is the direct parent of all our present chaos, misery, ugliness and ill-health was exasperated beyond endurance with the policy Charles, Laud and Wentworth had pursued. The determined stand which these three men had made against greed and the lust of gain, against quantity as opposed to quality, and against vulgarity, cant and that myopic selfish hedonism which has been so characteristic of the governing classes ever since this determined stand must be suppressed at all costs! Nevertheless, at the time of the calling of the Short Parliament, the consciousness of Charles's beneficent rule was still a little too strong to render a violently hostile attitude to the Court quite plausible. Before agitators like Pym, Cromwell, Hampden, Vane, Essex, Bedford, Holland and Prynne could engineer a genuine public upheaval, something a little more reprehensible than mere patriarchal government must be included in their charge against the Court. For as Mr. F. C. Montague says in speaking of Charles I's eleven years of personal government
"England enjoyed profound peace; taxation was not heavy; justice was fairly administered as between man and man; and the government showed reasonable consideration for the welfare of the common people. Trade still flourished, large tracts of the fens were reclaimed, and
It is true that the most was made of Ship Money; but even this imposition the Short Parliament were ready to overlook, provided only that Charles would consent never to levy it again without their leave, and they went so far as to offer to grant supplies if he pledged himself to this arrangement. In fact, it is quite certain that not only was Charles quite willing and even desirous of coming to terms with his Parliament, but also that the majority in the Commons in April 1640 were quite prepared to come to terms with him. Such an agreement, however, would never have suited the extremists of the so-called popular party, and there is every reason to believe that Vane the elder, who, as we have seen, had only one desire the compassing of Wentworth's doom was the chief instrument in wrecking the promised happy relations between the King and Parliament.
By his messages, as Secretary, to the Commons from the King, and by his reports to the King of progress in the Commons, with an ingenuity which was monstrous in its diabolical selfishness and malice for it finally put an end to all hope of peace between the Court and the Commons he so contrived to embitter the King against Parliament, and vice versâ, that in the end, to the consternation of all the more moderate members of the so-called popular party, Charles I dissolved the Short Parliament on May 5. 2
Here, then, together with the religious trouble up in Scotland, was a sufficient grievance to inflame the less
1 The Political History of England, Vol. VII, p. 202.
2 An interesting and illuminating account of this Parliament and of the dastardly part that Vane played in wrecking it, is to be found in Traill's Biography of Strafford (pp. 162166). For a confirmation of Traill's account of Vane's perfidy and of the manner in which he opposed Wentworth's sober advice to Charles, with the object of rendering all agreement between Parliament and the King impossible, see Gardiner's History of England, Vol. IX, p. 113. For Vane's lie to the King about the temper of Parliament, see especially p. n 7.
When the Long Parliament met on November 3, 1640, there was no longer any question of an agreement between the King and the popular leaders, and step by step all the powerful men on the King's side were either murdered or forced to flee the country.
The Commons now became supreme in the land, and an end was put to that patriarchal rule which, if it had only been able to inspire a larger number of the noblemen of the period, would have been the means of altering the whole face of history from that time forward, and the aristocracy of England would still be standing, not as a suspected and semi-impotent body of rulers, but as a caste enjoying the accumulated popular gratitude of two centuries, and a prestige second not even to that of the ancient Incas of Peru.
It is true that in the final struggle a majority of the House of Lords joined the King's side; we know, however, that many took this step reluctantly, and we must also not overlook the fact that when war was ultimately declared a very different situation was created from that which had existed when Charles, Wentworth and Laud were ruling England. At the opening of the Grand Rebellion many of the aristocracy felt that they stood or fell with Royalty, and in their extremity joined the King's side. During Charles's personal government, however, when every opportunity was at hand for joining the King in preserving and protecting the rights, the health, the spirits and the happiness of the people, they showed an indifference and often a hostility to the Court policy which must have given great encouragement to the baser sort in the Commons to press forward their ignominious designs.
One thing, however, is perfectly certain, and that is that the poorer people, the masses who had felt the warmth
What is liberty to the working man if it is not freedom from undue oppression and molestation, while he earns his living and rears his family What can the working man care for this "liberty" which the Parliamentary forces purchased on the fields of Edgehill, Marston Moor and Naseby, if there is no one to protect his health, to preserve his creature comforts, and to see that he is not robbed of the wherewithal to rear his children? 1 Read English history from the time of the Grand Rebellion, and see the appalling misery this so-called liberty conferred upon the working masses!
Even that inveterate democrat Jeremy Bentham could detect the cant of this cry of liberty when it was raised in a country in which the burden-bearers were respected. "Many persons," he says, "do not enquire if a State be well administered, if the laws protect property and persons, if the people are happy. What they require, without giving attention to anything else, is political liberty that is, the most equal distribution of political power. Wherever they do not see the form of government to which they are attached they see nothing but slavery, and if these pretended slaves are well satisfied with their condition, if they do not desire to change it, they despise and insult them. In their fanaticism they are always ready to stake all the happiness of a nation upon civil war for the sake of transferring power into the hands of those whom an invincible ignorance will not permit to use it except for their own destruction." 2
1 In his Autobiography Gibbon makes a shrewd remark relative to this very point. He says: "While the aristocracy of Berne protects the happiness it is superfluous to enquire whether it be founded in the rights of man." The World's Classics Edition (Henry Frowde), p. 217.
2 An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, quoted by Tom Mann in a speech delivered before Parliament, May 3, 1895.
"In the struggle between Charles and his Parliament," says Thorold Rogers, 1 "a line drawn from Scarborough to Southampton would give a fair indication of the locality in which the opposing forces were ranged. The eastern district, of course including London, was on the side of Parliament, the western, with the exception of some important towns, such as Bristol and Gloucester, was for the King. The resources of the Parliamentary division were incomparably greater than those of the Royal region." 2
Thus it is quite obvious that the poorest counties, which were the northern and the western, espoused the Royal cause, while the wealthier, including the trading districts, were in league with Parliament. Garnier, commenting on this fact, says, "it is a curious circumstance." 3 But surely, after what we have seen, it is exceedingly comprehensible. Two other facts, however, should be borne in mind: first, that East Anglia and Kent, which were for the Parliament, had recently been flooded with Flemish and French refugees, who were all engrossed in trade, and who cared little either for the King or for the fate of the country of their adoption, provided only that they could
1 History of Agriculture and Prices in England, Vol. V, p. 11.
2 The continuation of this passage is worth quoting, as throwing further light upon the course of the Grand Rebellion: "The military resources of the King were far superior to those of his rivals, except in one important particular, the means of paying his troops. Cromwell, by the new model, soon trained his soldiers, and the resources of Eastern England enabled him to pay them regularly." See also pp. 73 and 159160 of this same work. Vol. V.
3 History of the English Landed Interests, Vol. I, p. 333.
In the Grand Rebellion, therefore, we see the curious anomaly of a powerful minority of agitators, supported by a large contingent of aliens, landed upstarts, town tradesmen and thousands of deluded followers fighting against the poorer people 2 and the King, for the "liberties of the people." Only unsuspecting spinsters or modern democrats, however, could ever believe such a tale; and, when we know what followed, when we read of the oppression and slavery to which the victory of the Parliamentary party prepared the way; when, moreover, we keep steadily before us the facts of Charles I's reign, we not only suspect, we know, that there were other, more personal, less disinterested and far less savoury motives behind the so-called popular party, than a desire to vindicate the "liberties of the people."
The triumph of Parliament did not mean the triumph of the liberties of the people. It meant the triumph of a new morality, a new outlook on life, and a new under-
1 Gardiner gives an interesting remark of Windebank's relative to this element in the Parliamentary forces. Speaking to Ponzani in 1635, Windebank said: "O, the great judgments of God. He ever punishes men with those means by which they have offended. That pig of a Henry VIII committed such sacrilege by profaning so many ecclesiastical benefices in order to give their goods to those who being so rewarded might stand firmly for the King in the Lower House; and now the King's greatest enemies are those who are enriched by these benefices." Personal Government of Charles I, Vol. II, p. 241.
2 When one considers that the poorer districts, as I have shown, were for the Royal cause, with the bulk of the non-industrial and non mercantile population, one may well speak of the English people as being on the side of the King; for all the pure characteristics of England's noble peasantry were there, and no distortion of the facts can ever prove that the new middle class. Puritan, trade and alien element, which constituted the forces of the other side, possessed the then-vaunted virtues of the English nation, although they are certainly typical of the Englishman now.
Rogers tells us that "the war between King and Parliament is the beginning of the modern system of finance," but it was more than that.
"The success of Puritanism," says Cunningham, "meant the triumph of the new commercial morality, which held good among moneyed men; capitalists had established their right to secure a return for their money, and there was no authority to insist upon any correlative duty, when they organised industrial undertakings and obtained a control of the means of production." 1
This was what the Grand Rebellion achieved, and this, in the main, was the sole object of the Grand Rebellion. With consummate craft and ingenuity, transcendental motives were woven into the general scheme to blind the eye and to distract the detective glance of critics; and it might even be said that in a large number of cases the cry of religion from the Puritan side was raised with a sincerity which baffled even the most suspicious. But it must be remembered how readily ignorant and grasping men involve their deity in their own quarrels, and how unconsciously they confound the injuries done to their own interests with injuries done to their God. This phenomenon had occurred before. The Old Testament is full of examples of God being on the side of a party who had something to gain in a war. The sincerity of some, at least, of the Puritans need not, therefore, surprise us. Only clean and thoroughly lucid minds can be accused of insincerity when they mix up religious with mercenary motives. But the commercial canaille that fought under Cromwell and Hampden were quite capable of being sincere in their religious cry, without being in the least conscious of the mercenary motives that inspired them to raise it.
1 Op. cit., Vol. II, p. 206.
Dr. Hutton would have it that Charles died a martyr to religion. He writes, "when the last struggle came he [Charles] still refused to save his life, as there can be little doubt he could have done, by surrendering and deserting the Church of his fathers. In this sense it is that Charles was, and that Laud made him, a martyr." 2
Now I should not like to be thought to have anything but the sincerest respect for Dr. Hutton's judgment i have quoted him sufficiently often to show the reliance I place on it but really, on this one point, I feel that I must disagree. I am perfectly willing to admit that Charles might have saved his life in the end, by renouncing something so loathsome to the Puritans as the Church of England; but surely this, though an important matter, was not the only point at stake. A far greater issue depended upon whether Charles yielded or maintained his ground, and this was, whether the governing classes in Parliament, unfit as they were for the duty, were to become the sole masters of the destinies of the people, or whether the latter were still to find in one who was above all self-interest, a protector, a tasteful, paternal guide and a friend solicitous of their welfare.
This was the issue. The question of the Church was only part of it. And while in support of my view I can point to the whole of Charles I's and Wentworth's policy, I also have Charles's own words on the scaffold. Surely these can no longer leave us in any doubt upon this one point; and with these noble sentences I shall draw the present essay to a close.
1 Op. cit., Vol. II, p. 18.
2 Op. cit., p. 236.
1 Rushworth, Part IV, Vol. II, p. 1,429. See also part of his speech before the Court that sentenced him to death: "This many a day all things have been taken away from me, but that that I call dearer to me than my Life, which is my Conscience and my Honour. And if I had a respect to my Life more than the Peace of the Kingdom, and the Liberty of the Subject, certainly I should have made a particular Defence for myself; for by that at leastwise I might have delayed an ugly Sentence, which I believe will pass upon me. Therefore certainly, Sir, as a Man that hath some understanding, some knowledge of the World, if that my true Zeal to my Country had not overborn the care that I have for my own preservation, I should have gone another way to work than I have done." Ibid., p. 1,422.