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think of the prince, who, having solemnly pro- to attain his ends; the readiness with which mised him that not a hair of his head should he gave promises; the impudence with which be hurt, and possessing an unquestioned con- he broke them; the cruel indifference with stitutional right to save him, gave him up to which he threw away his useless or damaged the vengeance of his enemies? There were tools, rendered him, at least till his character some points which we know that Charles was fully exposed, and his power shaken to its would not concede, and for which he was will- foundations, a more dangerous enemy to the ing to risk the chances of civil war. Ought constitution than a man of far greater talents not a king, who will make a stand for any and resolution might have been. Such princes thing, to make a stand for the innocent blood? may still be seen-the scandals of the southWas Strafford guilty? Even on this supposi- ern thrones of Europe; princes false alike to tion, it is difficult not to feel disdain for the the accomplices who have served them, and partner of his guilt-the tempter turned pun- to the opponents who have spared them; isher. If, indeed, from that time forth, the con- princes who, in the hour of danger, concede duct of Charles had been blameless, it might every thing, swear every thing, hold out their have been said that his eyes were at last open-cheeks to every smiter, give up to punishment every minister of their tyranny, and await with meek and smiling implacability the blessed day of perjury and proscription.
We will pass by the instances of oppression and falsehood which disgraced the early years of the reign of Charles. We will leave out of the question the whole history of his third Parliament, the price which he exacted for assenting to the Petition of Right, the perfidy with which he violated his engagements, the death of Eliot-the barbarous punishments inflicted by the Star Chamber, the ship-money, and all the measures, now universally con demned, which disgraced his administration from 1630 to 1640. We will admit, that it might be the duty of the Parliament, after punishing the most guilty of his creatures, after abolishing the inquisitorial tribunals, which had been the instruments of his ty ranny, after reversing the unjust sentences of his victims, to pause in its course. The con cessions which had been made were great, the evils of civil war obvious, the advantages even of victory doubtful. The former errors of the king might be imputed to youth, to the pressure of circumstances, to the influence of evil counsel, to the undefined state of the law. We firmly believe, that if, even at this eleventh hour, Charles had acted fairly towards his people, if he had even acted fairly towards his own partisans, the House of Commons would have given him a fair chance of retrieving the public confidence. Such was the opinion of Clarendon. He distinctly states, that the fury of opposition had abated; that a reaction had begun to take place; that the majority of those who had taken part against the king were de sirous of an honourable and complete reconciliation; and that the more violent, or, as it soon appeared, the more judicious members of the party were fast declining in credit. The remonstrance had been carried with great dif ficulty. The uncompromising antagonists of the court, such as Cromwell, had begun to talk of selling their estates and leaving Eng land. The event soon showed that they were the only men who really understood how much inhumanity and fraud lay hid under the constitutional language and gracious demeanour of the king.
The attempt to seize the five members was undoubtedly the real cause of the war. From that moment, the loyal confidence with which most of the popular party were beginning to regard the king, was turned into hatred and
ed to the errors of his former conduct, and that in sacrificing to the wishes of his Parliament, a minister whose crime had been a devotion too zealous to the interests of his prerogative, he gave a painful and deeply humiliating proof of the sincerity of his repentance. We may describe his behaviour on this occasion in terms resembling those which Hume has employed, when speaking of the conduct of Churchill at the Revolution. It required ever after the most rigid justice and sincerity in his dealings with his people to vindicate it. His subsequent dealings with his people, however, clearly showed, that it was not from any respect for the constitution, or from any sense of the deep criminalty of the plans in which Strafford and himself had been engaged, that he gave up his minister to the axe. It became evident that he had abandoned a servant who, deeply guilty as to all others, was guiltless to him alone, solely in order to gain time for maturing other schemes of tyranny, and purchasing the aid of other Wentworths. He who would not avail himself of the power which the laws gave him to save a friend, to whom his honour was pledged, soon showed that he did not scruple to break every law and forfeit every pledge, in order to work the ruin of his opponents.
"Put not your trust in princes!" was the expression of the fallen minister, when he neard that Charles had consented to his death. The whole history of the times is a sermon on that bitter text. The defence of the Long Parliament is comprised in the dying words of its victim.
The early measures of that Parliament, Mr. Hallam in general approves. But he considers the proceedings which took place after the recess in the summer of 1641, as mischievous and violent. He thinks, that from that time, the demands of the Houses were not warranted by any imminent danger to the constitution, and that in the war which ensued they were clearly the aggressors. As this is one of the most interesting questions in our history, we will venture to state, at some length, the reasons which have led us to form an opinion on it contrary to that of a writer whose judginent we so highly respect.
We will premise, that we think worse of King Charles the First than even Mr. Hallam appears to do. The fixed hatred of liberty, which was the principle of all his public conduct; the unscrupulousness with which he adopted any means which might enable him
most extended ministry that ever existed, into a feeble opposition, and raised a king who was talking of retiring to Hanover, to a height of power which none of his predecessors had enjoyed since the Revolution. A crisis of this description was evidently approaching in 1642. At such a crisis, a prince of a really honest and generous nature, who had erred, who had seen his error, who had regretted the lost af fections of his people, who rejoiced in the dawning hope of regaining them, would be peculiarly careful to take no step which could give occasion of offence, even to the unreasonable. On the other hand, a tyrant, whose whole life was a lie, who hated the constitution the more because he had been compelled to feign respect for it, to whom his honour and the love of his people were as nothing, would select such a crisis for some appalling violation of law, for some stroke which might remove the chiefs of an opposition, and intimidate the herd. This Charles attempted. He missed his blow: but so narrowly, that it would have been mere madness in those at whom it was aimed to trust him again.
It deserves to be remarked, that the king had, a short time before, promised the most respectable royalists in the House of Commons, In the first place, the transaction was illegal Falkland, Colepepper, and Hyde, that he would from beginning to end. The impeachment take no ineasure in which that House was was illegal. The process was illegal. The concerned, without consulting them. On this service was illegal. If Charles wished to pro-occasion he did not consult them. His consecute the five members for treason, a bill duct astonished them more than any other against them should have been sent to a grand members of the assembly. Clarendon says jury. That a commoner cannot be tried for that they were deeply hurt by this want of high treason by the Lords at the suit of the confidence, and the more hurt, because, if crown, is part of the very alphabet of our law. they had been consulted, they would have done That no man can be arrested by a message or their utmost to dissuade Charles from so ima verbal summons of the king, with or without proper a proceeding. Did it never occur to a warrant from a responsible magistrate, is Clarendon, will it not at least occur to men less equally clear. This was an established maxim partial, that there was good reason for this? of our jurisprudence in the time of Edward the When the danger to the throne seemed immiFourth. "A subject," said Chief Justice nent, the king was ready to put himself for a Markham to that prince, "may arrest for trea-time into the hands of those who, though they son: the king cannot; for if the arrest be il- had disapproved of his past conduct, thought legal, the party has no remedy against the that the remedies had now become worse than king." the distempers. But we believe, that in heart The time at which Charles took this step he regarded both the parties in the Parliament also deserves consideration. We have already with feelings of aversion, which differed only said, that the ardour which the parliament had in the degree of their intensity; and that the displayed at the time of its first meeting had lawful warning which he proposed to give by considerably abated; that the leading oppo-immolating the principal supporters of the nents of the court were desponding, and that remonstrance, was partly intended for the intheir followers were in general inclined to mild-struction of those who had concurred in cener and more temperate measures than those suring the ship-money, and in abolishing the which had hitherto been pursued. In every Star Chamber." country, and in none more than in England, there is a disposition to take the part of those who are unmercifully run down, and who seem destitute of all means of defence. Every man who has observed the ebb and flow of public feeling in our own time, will easily recall examples to illustrate this remark. An English statesman ought to pay assiduous worship to Nemesis, to be most apprehensive of ruin when he is at the height of power and popularity, and to dread his enemy most, when most completely prostrated. The fate of the Coalition Ministry, in 1784, is perhaps the strongest instance in our history of the operation of this principle. A few weeks turned the ablest and
incurable suspicion. From that moment, the Parliament was compelled to surround itself with defensive arms; from that moment, the city assumed the appearance of a garrison; from that moment, it was that, in the phrase or Clarendon, the carriage of Hampden became fiercer, that he drew the sword and threw away the scabbard. For, from that moment, it must have been evident to every impartial observer, that in the midst of professions, caths, and smiles, the tyrant was constantly looking forward to an absolute sway, and to bloody revenge.
The advocates of Charles have very dexterously contrived to conceal from their readers the real nature of this transaction. By making concessions apparently candid and ample, they elude the great accusation. They allow that the measure was weak, and even frantic, an absurd caprice of Lord Digby, absurdly adopted by the king. And thus they save their client from the full penalty of his transgression, by entering a plea of guilty to the minor offence. To us his conduct appears at this day, as at the time it appeared to the Parliament and the city. We think it by no means so foolish as it pleases his friends to represent it, and far more wicked.
The Commons informed the king that their members should be forthcoming to answer any charge legally brought against them. The Lords refused to assume the unconstitutional offices with which he attempted to invest them. And what then was his conduct? He went, attended by hundreds of armed men, to seize the objects of his hatred in the House itself! The party opposed to him more than insinuated that his purpose was of the most atrocious kind. We will not condemn him merely on their suspicions; we will not hold him answerable for the sanguinary expressions of the loose brawlers who composed his train. We will judge of his conduct by itself alone. And we
From that day, whatever of confidence and loyal attachment had survived the misrule of seventeen years, was, in the great body of the people, extinguished, and extinguished forever. As soon as the outrage had failed, the hypocrisy recommenced. Down to the very eve of his flagitious attempt, Charles had been talking of his respect for the privileges of Parliament and the liberties of his people. He began again in the same style on the morrow; but it was too late. To trust him now would have been, not moderation, but insanity. What common security would suffice against a prince who was evidently watching his season with that cold and patient hatred which, in the long run, tires out every other passion?
say, without hesitation, that it is impossible to acquit him of having meditated violence, and violence which might probably end in blood. He knew that the legality of his proceedings was denied; he must have known that some of the accused members were not men likely to submit peaceably to an illegal arrest. There was every reason to expect that he would find them in their places, that they would refuse to obey his summons, and that the House would support them in their refusal. What course would then have been left to him? Unless we suppose that he went on this expedition for the sole purpose of making himself ridiculous, we must believe that he would have had re- Let us overleap two or three hundred years, course to force. There would have been a and contemplate Europe at the commencement scuffle; and it might not, under such circum- of the eighteenth century. Every free consti stances, have been in his power, even if it tution, save one, had gone down. That of were in his inclination, to prevent a scuffle England had weathered the danger; and was from ending in a massacre. Fortunately for his riding in full security. In Denmark and fame, unfortunately, perhaps, for what he prized Sweden, the kings had availed themselves of far more, the interests of his hatred and his am- the disputes which raged between the nobles bition, the affair ended differently. The birds, and the commons, to unite all the powers of as he said, were flown, and his plan was dis-government in their own hands. In France concerted. Posterity is not extreme to mark the institution of the states was only mainabortive crimes. And thus his advocates have tained by lawyers, as a part of the ancient found it easy to represent a step which, but for theory of their government. It slept a deep a trivial accident, might have filled England sleep-destined to be broken by a tremen with mourning and dismay, as a mere error dous waking. No person remembered the sitof judgment, wild and foolish, but perfectly tings of the three orders, or expected ever to innocent. Such was not, however, at the time, see them renewed. Louis the Fourteenth had the opinion of any party. The most zealous imposed on his Parliament a patient silence royalists were so much disgusted and ashamed, of sixty years. His grandson, after the war that they suspended their opposition to the po- of the Spanish succession, assimilated the pular party, and, silently, at least, concurred constitution of Arragon to that of Castile, and in measures of precaution so strong as almost extinguished the last feeble remains of liberty to amount to resistance. in the Peninsula. In England, on the other hand, the Parliament was infinitely more pow erful than it had ever been. Not only was its legislative authority fully established, but its right to interfere, by advice almost equivalent to command, in every department of the executive government, was recognised. The appointment of ministers, the relations with foreign powers, the conduct of a war or a ne gotiation, depended less on the pleasure of the prince than on that of the two Houses.
What then made us to differ? Why was it that, in that epidemic malady of constitutions, ours escaped the destroying influence; or rather that, at the very crisis of the disease, a favourable turn took place in England, and in England alone? It was not surely without a cause that so many kindred systems of government, having flourished together so long, lan guished and expired at almost the same time.
It is certainly from no admiration of Charles that Mr. Hallam disapproves of the conduct of the House in resorting to arms. But he thinks, that any attempt on the part of that prince to establish a despotism would have been as strongly opposed by his adherents as by his enemies; that the constitution might te considered as out of danger; or, at least, that it had more to apprehend from war than from the king. On this subject Mr. Hallam dilates at length; and with conspicuous ability. We will offer a few considerations, which lead us to incline to a different opinion.
It is the fashion to say, that the progress of civilization is favourable to liberty. The maxim, though on the whole true, must be limited by many qualifications and exceptions. Wherever a poor and rude nation, in which the form of government is a limited monarchy, receives a great accession of wealth and knowledge, it is in imminent danger of falling under arbitrary power.
In such a state of society as that which existed all over Europe during the middle ages, The constitution of England was only one it was not from the king, but from the nobles, of a large family. In all the monarchies of that there was danger. Very slight checks western Europe, during the middle ages, there sufficed to keep the sovereign in order. His existed restraints on the royal authority, fun-means of corruption and intimidation were
damental laws, and representative assemblies. In the fifteenth century, the government of Castile seems to have been as free as that of our own country. That of Arragon was beyond all question far more so. In France, the sove reign was more absolute. Yet, even in France, the States-general alone could constitutionally impose taxes; and at the very time when the authority of those assemblies was beginning to languish, the Parliament of Paris received such an accession of strength, as enabled it, in some measure, to perform the functions of a legislative assembly. Sweden and Denmark had constitutions of a similar description.
very scanty. He had little money, little patronage, no military establishment. His armies resembled juries. They were draughted out of the mass of the people; they soon returned to it again; and the character which was habitual prevailed over that which was occasional. A campaign of forty days was too short, the discipline of a national militia too lax, to efface from their minds the feelings of civil life. As they carried to the camp the sentiments and interests of the farm and the shop, so they carried back to the farm and the shop the military accomplishments which they had acquired in the camp. At home they learned how to value their rights-abroad how to defend them.
Such a military force as this was a far stronger restraint on the regal power than the legislative assemblies. Resistance to an established government, in modern times so dithcult and perilous an enterprise, was, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the simplest and easiest matter in the world. Indeed, it was far too simple and easy. An insurrection was got up then almost as easily as a petition is got up now. In a popular cause, or even in an unpopular cause favoured by a few great nobles, an army was raised in a week. If the king were, like our Edward the Second and Richard the Second, generally odious, he could not procure a single bow or halbert. He fell at once and without an effort. In such times a sovereign like Louis the Fifteenth, or the Emperor Paul, would have been pulled down before his misgovernment had lasted for a month. We find that all the fame and influence of our Edward the Third could not save his Madame de Pompadour from the effects of the public hatred.
The progress of civilization introduced a great change. War became a science; and, as a necessary consequence, a separate trade. The great body of the people grew every day more reluctant to undergo the inconveniences of military service, and better able to pay others for undergoing them. A new class of men, therefore-dependent on the crown alone; natural enemies of those popular rights, which are to them as the dew to the fleece of Gideon; slaves among freemen; freemen among slaves-grew into importance. That physical force, which in the dark ages had belonged to the nobles and the commons, and had, far more than any charter or any assembly, been the safeguard of their privileges, was transferred entire to the king. Monarchy gained in two ways. The sovereign was strengthened, the subjects weakened. The great mass of the population, destitute of all military discipline and organization, ceased to exercise any influence by force on political transactions. There have, indeed, during the last hundred and fifty years, been many popular insurrections in Europe but all have failed, except those in which the regular army has been induced to join the disaffected.
Hume, and many other writers, have hastily concluded, that in the fifteenth century the English Parliament was altogether servile, because it recognised, without opposition, every successful usurper. That it was not servile, its conduct on many occasions of inferior importance is sufficient to prove. But surely it was not strange, that the majority of the nobles, and of the deputies chosen by the commons, should approve of revolutions which the nobles and commons had effected. The Parliament did not blindly follow the event of war; but participated in those changes of public sentiment, on which the event of war de-a rude age; and they did well enough against pended. The legal check was secondary and the weapons of a rude age. But new and more auxiliary to that which the nation held in its formidable means of destruction were inventown hands. There have always been mo- ed. The ancient panoply became useless; narchies in Asia, in which the royal authority and it was thrown aside to rust in lumberhas been tempered by fundamental laws, rooms, or exhibited only as part of an idle though no legislative body exists to watch over pageant. them. The guarantee is the opinion of a community, of which every individual is a soldier. Thus the king of Caubul, as Mr. Elphinstone informs us, cannot augment the land revenue, or interfere with the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals.
Those legal checks, which had been adequate to the purpose for which they were designed while the sovereign remained dependent on his subjects, were now found wanting. The dykes, which had been sufficient while the waters were low, were not high enough to keep out the spring tide. The deluge passed over them; and, according to the exquisite illustration of Butler, the formal boundaries which had excluded it now held it in. The old constitutions fared like the old shields and coats of mail. They were the defences of
Thus absolute monarchy was established on the Continent. England escaped; but she escaped very narrowly. Happily, our insular situation and the pacific policy of James rendered standing armies unnecessary here, till they had been for some time kept up in the neighbouring kingdoms. Our public men had therefore an opportunity of watching the effects produced by this momentous change, in forms of government which bore a close analogy to that established in England. Everywhere they saw the power of the monarch increasing
jealousy, and resent with prompt indignation,
In the European kingdoms of this descripion, there were representative assemblies. But it was not necessary that those assemblies should meet very frequently, that they should interfere with all the operations of the executive government, that they should watch with
the resistance of assemblies, which were no longer supported by a national force, gradually becoming more and more feeble, and at length altogether ceasing. The friends and the ene mies of liberty perceived with equal clearness the causes of this general decay. It is the favourite theme of Strafford. He advises the king to procure from the judges a recognition of his right to raise an army at his pleasure. "This piece, well fortified," says he, "forever vindicates the monarchy at home from under the conditions and restraints of subjects." We firmly believe that he was in the right. Nay; we believe that, even if no deliberate scheme of arbitrary government had been formed by the sovereign and his ministers, there was great reason to apprehend a natural extinction of the constitution. If, for example, Charles had played the part of Gustavus Adolphus; if he had carried on a popular war for the defence of the Protestant cause in Germany; if he had gratified the national pride by a series of victories; if he had formed an army of forty or fifty thousand devoted soldiers, we do not see what chance the nation would have had of escaping from despotism. The judges would have given as strong a decision in favour of camp-money as they gave in favour of ship-money. If they had scrupled, it would have made little difference. An individual who resisted would have been treated as Charles treated Eliot, and as Strafford wished to treat Hampden. The Parliament might have We do not dispute that the royal party con been summoned once in twenty years, to con-tained many excellent men and excellent citi gratulate a king on his accession, or to give zens. But this we say-that they did not dissolemnity to some great measure of state. cern those times. The peculiar glory of the Such had been the fate of legislative assem- Houses of Parliament is, that, in the great blies as powerful, as much respected, as high-plague and mortality of constitutions, they spirited, as the English Lords and Commons. took their stand between the living and the The two Houses, surrounded by the ruins of dead. At the very crisis of our destiny, at the 30 many free constitutions, overthrown or very moment when the fate which had passed sapped by the new military system, were re-on every other nation was about to pass on quired to intrust the command of an army, and England, they arrested the danger. the conduct of the Irish war, to a king who had proposed to himself the destruction of liberty as the great end of his policy. We are decidedly of opinion that it would have been fatal to comply. Many of those who took the side of the king on this question would have cursed their own loyalty if they had seen him return from war at the head of twenty thousand troops, accustomed to carnage and free quarters in Ireland.
always going backward and forward; but it should be remembered to his honour, that it was always from the stronger to the weaker side that he deserted. While Charles was oppressing the people, Falkland was a resolute champion of liberty. He attacked Strafford. He even concurred in strong measures against Episcopacy. But the violence of his party annoyed him, and drove him to the other party, to be equally annoyed there. Dreading the success of the cause which he nan espoused, sickened by the courtiers of Oxford, as he had been sickened by the patriots of Westminster, yet bound by honour not to abandon them, he pined away, neglected his person, went about moaning for peace, and at last rushed desperately on death as the best refuge in such miserable times. If he had lived through the scenes that followed, we have little doubt that he would have condemned himself to share the exile and beggary of the royal family; that he would then have returned to oppose all their measures; that he would have been sent to the Tower by the Commons as a disbeliever in the Popish Plot, and by the king as an accomplice in the Rye-House Plot; and that, if he had escaped being hanged, first by Scroggs, and then by Jeffries, he would, after manfully opposing James the Second through his whole reign, have been seized with a fit of compassion at the very moment of the Revolution, have voted for a regency, and died a nonjuror.
Those who conceive that the parliamentary leaders were desirous merely to maintain the old constitution, and those who represent them as conspiring to subvert it, are equally in error. The old constitution, as we have attempted to show, could not be maintained. The progress of time, the increase of wealth, the diffusion of knowledge, the great change in the European system of war, rendered it impossible that any of the monarchies of the middle ages should continue to exist on the old footing. The prerogative of the crown was constantly advancing. If the privileges of the people were to remain absolutely stationary, they would relatively retrograde. The monarchical and democratical parts of the government were placed in a situation not unlike that of the two brothers in the Fairy Queen, one of whom saw the soil of his inheritance daily washed away by the tide, and joined to that of his rival. The portions had at first been fairly meted out: by a natural and constant transfer, the one had. been extended; the other had dwindled to no. thing. A new partition or a compensation was necessary to restore the original equality.
We think with Mr. Hallam, that many of the royalist nobility and gentry were true friends to the constitution; and that, but for the solemn protestations by which the king bound himself to govern according to the law for the future, they never would have joined his standard. But surely they underrated the public danger. Falkland is commonly selected as the most respectable specimen of this class. He was indeed a man of great talents, and of great virtues; but, we apprehend, infinitely too fastidieus for public life. He did not perceive that in such times as those on which his lot had fallen, the duty of a statesman is to choose the better cause, and to stand by it, in spite of those excesses by which every cause, however good in itself, will be disgraced. The present evil always seemed to him the worst. He was VOL. 1-11
It was now absolutely necessary to violate the formal part of the constitution, in order të preserve its spirit. This might have seen