Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

From Fraser's Magazine. As our story is not based on mere surTHE STORY OF THE DEATH OF THOMAS, I mise, or on the comparison of one re. EARL OF STRAFFORD. A.D. 1641.

ceived account with another, but is what Ir needs some courage to tell again the !

the may be called “self-contained” and selfoft-told story of the death of the Earl of

I supported, we shall not contradict, step Strafford ; by an easy stretch of memory bu

mory by step, the statements of our predecestwenty-two narratives describing the clos

e cios- sors, or show how they are misled ; nor ing months of that statesman's life may cha

n's he may shall we venture on a minute investigabe reckoned up. And though these many tion into the Kinain motives as regards story-tellers vary in ability, from Macau- Strafford. First shall be exhibited - and lay to Oldmixon, and though according it must be at some length — the true poto some Strafford was both “good and sition occupied by the popular party great," and to others “that wicked Earl,” |

between November 11, 1640, and May 12, still all so far agree, that they ascribe his!

cribe nis 1641, the dates of Strafford's arrest and death to the overpowering authority of

Yol execution ; then it will be shown that the Pym and his associates, all ascribe the Art

the Attainder Bill but increased the chances passage through the House of Lords of

of his safety; and then, that the King's the Attainder Bill to threats from a Lon

actions, dictated by Strafford's enemies, don mob; all aver that Charles I. did

overthrew all prospect of his escape, at what he could to save his minister. In- the

t. In the very time when his acquittal was constead, however, of attempting another fidently expected. version of Stratford's trial, and with abso

A false impression has been created lute indifference about his guilt, we pro-Labout the or

We pro about the opening scene of this tragedy. pose to show that these two-and-twenty King Charles it must be remembered. narratives are throughout untrue, that renewed in 1610 his attempt to force the the impeachment of Strafford was a fail

td was a fail, Scottish nation to a conformity in Church ure, his Attainder Bill a blunder, and

government, and the failure of that atthat his condemnation by the Upper

pper tempt must be recalled : the royal army House was due solely to the King ; that being stationed in Yorkshire, and the he, and he alone, brought death on his English frontier w

English frontier wholly unguarded, the faithful servant.

. Scottish army advanced, defeated a Our story is not a pleasant one ; it is small body of our troops at Newburn, ocnot agreeable to an Englishman to tar-Icupied Newcastle, and all the northern nish the renown of the “popular party” counties. This took place in August. in the Long Parliament, or to add gloom | September was spent in negotiation: the to the shadows upon the character of Long Parliament was summoned ; and Charles I. It is distressing to think that on the 26th of October a cessation of such a man as Strafford fell before the

ore the arms between England and Scotland being intrigues of those “old subtle foxes “he lagreed to, the final settlement of peace justly called “the Court vermin.” Still

was adjourned to London. During this this is the impression forced on us, almost lull in public events Strafford returned against our will, by a long-continued to his Yorkshire home -" Old Wente study of all the authorities at the Kolls worth Woodhouse." He was full of genOffice and in the British Museum, both eral anxiety, he noticed the “ rare art in MS. and in print, relating to the years and malice" of the Eart of Bristol and 1639-41 ; and arising especially from the | his other associates, and their evident examination of diaries which Sir S. D'Ewes and his brother note-takers in

pamphlet was written in 1641, and by one in the Earl's Parliament scribbled on their knees, service. This Relation is the stock from which the descriptive of events which took place compilers of the State Trials, and of Rushworth's and

Nalson's Collections, drew their narratives : passages before their eyes.*

from it are inserted in Heylin's Laud, and Ratcliffe's

Memoirs of Strafford; this Relation is, in fact, the . Among these authorities I include " A Brief and sole origin of all the descriptions of the closing scenes Perfect Relation of the Trial of Thomas, Earl of of that statesman's life. Reference will be made to it Strafford." Though published in 1647, evidently this I as, Narrative, 1647.

intention to make him the scapegoat for! And so again, to create the impression the wide-spread misery of the year 1640. that unthinking haste and over-masierful He also was aware of the fierce malignity power governed Parliament at the very of his enemies, and apprehensive about outset of Strafford's trial, we are told that “the great matters " against him they ex- Pym, rising suddenly from his seat in the pected to hear “out of Ireland ;” and House of Commons, the doors being though unwilling to leave Yorkshire, not locked, drove them, by a long-continued because he dreaded quitting the shelter blast of invective directed against the of the army, but because he wished to Earl, to accuse him of high treason : and fulfil the duty there entrusted to him ; that the Lords were surprised, by equal still, according to his own description, he rapidity of action, into his committal. was “hastened up” to London, by fellow- The Commons, in truth, acted on procouncillors whom he evidently distrusted. ceedings extending over four days, and But he never, it would seem, shrank from on the report of a select committee.* meeting his adversaries ; certainly he was They even prefaced the impeachment at not ordered up from Yorkshire by the the bar of the Upper House by a previKing. He was sent for to correct a blun-ous message, "touching things against der made by the Lord Keeper, told that the Earl of Strafford.” † Nor had that there was a great want” of him at West-charge been justified by an enumeration minster, and that if he “had been there of his “high and imperious actions in that folly had not been committed.” And England and Ireland," and his “passionhis last impression was one of cheerful- ate advices :"f that was expressly reness, he thought that “to the best of my served. The accusation was founded on judgment, we gain much rather than lose. my Lord Mountnorris his cause, and

... The Irish business is past, and papists suffered in England to increase better than I expected, their proofs being under arms." $ These were the sole scant. ... All will be well, and every charges : the first was an act of severity, hour gives more hope than the other." * perhaps of injustice, committed in 1635

These are Strafford's words and feel- upon a subordinate in the Irish Governings, expressed in a letter written the ment; the second, as might be expected very night before he quitted Yorkshire from its vague character, was “set aside" for London, to his intimate friend, Sir. G. in Westminster Hall. Ratcliffe ; and they make it impossible to Strafford, then, was, on the rth of Nobelieve the statements of the sham-con-vember, 1640. impeached of high treason, temporary chronicler, who asserts that on the deliberate verdict of Parliament, the Earl was forced by the King to place for actions which, supposing they were himself within the power of his enemies, crimes, certainly were not treasons. But and that he journeyed to London expect these petty charges were only the excuse ing certain death, trusting for safety to for his arrest. He was, in truth, placed his monarch's solemn pledge. This gives at the bar that day as the author of the a far more picturesque idea for an open- quarrel between the King and his people, ing chapter in Strafford's impeachment of the dissolution of the Short Parliathan the reality, which was that he quit- ment, the injuries caused by the preparated the army reluctantly “but not very tions for war with Scotland, and of the unwillingly ;” that he came up in good disasters of that war. On him was hope, merely on the call of his official charged England's disgraceful defeat by colleagues. The object of the invention, however, is plain : it is to create the feel 1 So little was secrecy attempted, that Sir W. Pennying, that from the very beginning Straf-man, an intimate friend of Strafford's, was placed upon ford foresaw the scaffold, and looked to MS.

this Committee, November 7, 1640. D'Ewes, Harleian

MSS. (162), 4. the King alone as his protector.

† Nov. 11. 1640. D'Ewes, Harleian MSS. (162), pp.

5, 6.

* Letter to Sir G. Ratcliffe, begun November 5, and Clarendon, ed. 1838, p. 73. ended Sunday, November 8, 1640. Ratclifle Corre- $ November 11, 1640. D'Ewes, Harleian MSS. spondence, 214-223.

|(162), 4-7.

the Scots, the shame that this disgrace seizure only some letters, * and Pym a rested unavenged, and the triumphant oc- trunk full of parliamentary journals cupation of our northern counties by a "which can do him little hurt”; † still hated and despised invader.

Vane had committed a breach of parliaBut if Straford came to London trust- mentary privilege, punishable, perhaps by ing that nothing more would be heard a fine, certainly by imprisonment. And, from Ireland, not fearing a capital charge, “as Mr. Speaker had the warrants,” I and not relying on any special promise of that punishment might be both swift and protection from his master; and if, when heavy. At any moment Vane might be he appeared in the House of Lords, he taken from the Treasury Bench in the was suddenly arrested on the charge of House, and placed at its Bar; and then high treason, a charge based on no proof where would be the “ daily diet” from at all, but entertained because he was the Court he drew for his household, as odious to the community, then it will be Secretary of State, and his fees and offifelt, that as time went on, when the tale cial gains ? And hence arose that teof all his evil acts and thoughts against nacity of memory, as well may be supour three nations had been told, that the posed, which enabled Vane, unlike the fate of that " wicked Earl” was certain. rest of his fellow-councillors, to prove at This is the natural expectation : the con- the trial Strafford's suggestion to the trary, however, was the fact. He was in King — that by the Irish army England March “favoured by not a few” among might be reduced to obedience. the men who impeached him in Novem- Willing helpers, also, to the work in ber on such trivial charges, and by a Westminster Hall, were found among "great party in the Upper House ;” and Strafford's subordinates in the Irish Govhe was regarded by a large and influen- ernment, greedy to profit by his downfall. tial mass of his fellow countrymen with | They furnished, accurately penned, the admiration and regard.* Such was the charge that he quartered soldiers on power of the man, and the force of cir- peaceable subjects, to starve them into cumstances. The attack on him was submission to his decrees. This offence foiled: the blow directed against him re- ultimately secured his conviction ; the turned upon his accusers. Their strength, exulting words of the draftsmen on their and then their weakness, to place this completion of that article, “now the bird fact before our readers, must be esti- is our own,'' S were fully justified. mated with precision. And this estimate, And from some members of the House as it has never been attempted before, of Lords co-operation against Strafford must be set out in full.

might be expected; for their pecuniary Strafford's accusers, at the outset of interest was bound up with his fate. To their “ great business," derived assist- stay the advance of the victorious Scots ance from that blast of popular wrath during the last September, an immediate which sent him to prison; and then turn-| loan from the City of 200,000l. had been ing to more material aid, they had under required ; and the Earl of Bristol, and a their thumb that most important witness, I few other members of the Great Council Sir H. Vane, the Secretary of State. In of Peers, were constrained to give the sethat capacity, obeying the King's com-curity of their bonds for repayment of mands, immediately after the dissolution the loan. Whilst Strafford was in prisof the Short Parliament, he signed war- | on they were free from anxiety; but he rants, under which messengers searched at large, amid the altered circumstances the rooms, even the coat pockets of Pym and Hampden, and carried off their pa

* Lambeth Library was thus enriched by MSS. No.

1030, 108. Bishop William's Remembrances to Mr. pers. And though Hampden lost by this Hampden.

Newsletter, May 12, 1640. Rolls Office. Clarenthat might arise, those bonds would cer-, bore then,* nor will the justice of that tainly assume a most unpleasant aspect. name be doubted now, after a description And it is a singular conjuncture of events of the forces which opposed them. to find that the Commons voted a resolu- As the very groundwork of their policy, tion pledging the State to repay that loan they were compelled to draw on themfor which the Peers had bound them- selves odium, to resist popular instincts, selves, on the very day which witnessed even to inflict injury on their countrythe passage of the Attainder Bill through men. For they were driven to make the Upper House.*

don, ed. 1839, 77. * Earl of Strafford Characterised. Written dur- I Com. Journ., ii. 26. ing April 1641. Somers' Tracts, iv. 231; May's His S Ratcliffe Correspondence, 232. tory of the Parliament, 62,

I Rushworth, ini. 1281,

| common cause with the Scotch invaders; For help outside the walls of Parlia-l and to procure the postponement of their ment, Strafford's opponents would rely claims till after Strafford's trial. On on that “sink of all the ill-humour of the these terms alone could be obtained the kingdom," the City of London. Were it protection of the Scottish army, and the needed, an effectual hold was placed on checkmate which it placed on the royal the then Lord Mayor, because he, as forces afforded the sole chance of obSheriff, was mixed up in one of the worst taining the offender's trial. But this was cases of oppression committed by the a policy offensive to national feeling, and Star Chamber Court ; t but the hatred of productive both of serious danger, and his community against Strafford needed of positive injury to the country. To no stimulus. The bench of aldermen did keep the Covenanters in England, peace not forget their appearance before the could not be concluded between us and King's Council during the previous au-Scotland. We had to endure the sight tumn, or who it was that “burst out” of a victorious enemy upon our soil, livwith the proposal “ to hang up some of ing on us, threatening us, humiliating us, them." And the whole City was moved and causing protracted anxiety during a by the alarming change that had come most anxious time. And this debatable over the Tower of London. Hitherto time of strife was full of imminent risk ; unarmed: now“ sakers and basiliscs” the conquering army had to be opposed pointed from the battlements against by our army, the one stationed over London Bridge and Tower Street; case against the other ; temptation to outand round shot lay heaped on the bat-break of hostility was constant, a ready teries ; soldiers kept guard behind earth-field was opened to the intriguer against baskets and planks set with pikes, with the State. “granadoes, dark-fire beacons, spoons, Much pecuniary injury, also, was inand lynstocks," ready to hand.1 Even Aicted by that policy upon us. As neither while Parliament was sitting, the men army could be disbanded till Strafford were seen “training cannon” and mount- was dispatched, the cost of 80,000l, a ing “many other guns” upon the Tower month f must be incurred for the pay and walls.

maintenance of those “foreign conThese ominous appearances were as-temned ” troops and of our own army, cribed to Strafford ; and rumour played hardly less obnoxious; and this, though its part to confirm this impression. I the king's debts were “huge,” the miliSomebody declared that he heard that tary arrears daily on the increase, and London would shortly be battered down, the royal navy absolutely non-existent, and another that his master Strafford though panic of foreign invasion then “ would subdue the City." || And the was rife, even beyond our power of felCity could make its resentment felt; as low-feeling. These distracted times, also, sole money-holder it was an estate in had paralyzed the industry of England ; the realm equal in power to Parliament. the condition of the northern counties

All the helpers on which Pym and his was pitiable, owing to the brutality and associates could rely have been men-pillage of our troops, and to exactions tioned save two; the King was one -- the from the hungry Scot. And the cry of a other, themselves; they were “the in- distressed people naturally provoked the flexible party," this was the title they demand to get rid of the invader either * May 8, 1641. Com. Fourn. ii. 139; D'Ewes, Har

in peace or by war; a proposal that deleian MSS. (164), 1,003.

stroyed the prospects of the “inflexible Dr. Leighton's Case, orders for his reparation. party." Nor could they, in place of the Com. Journji. 124.

| Official Minutes, Ootober 10 and 20, 1640. Rolls tempting hope of seeing “wholesome Office.

days again,” or of the gratification of re§ November 11, 1640. D'Ewes, Harleian MSS. (162), 5. :ll Somers' Tracts, iv. 210; D'Ewes, Harleian MSS. * Strafford Characterized ; Somers' Tracts, iv. 232. (162), 5.

† Clarendon, ed. 1839, 113.

venge, set Strafford at the bar of trial. Į ture of the impeachment. Strafford was acThis they could not do ; time every way cused of high treason, on the ground that fought against them.

| he had attempted the overthrow of the In the first place, that sight was pre- Constitution itself; and the proof of this vented by the “great concurrence of charge lay in showing that his words and business" in Parliament, concerning “the actions, during fourteen years of public very being of three kingdoms." To us, life, tended to that end. But of the chief an over-burthened Legislature is an ac-portion of his career, his accusers abcustomed evil. Not so to Englishmen solutely knew nothing. Nobody could of 1641. Parliament, then, was a won- leave Ireland without official license; der-working machine, able to do every- and so the women his officers maltreated thing all at once; and they demanded to enforce his system for the manufacinstant judgment on many an offender ture of yarn, the farmers pillaged by his besides Strafford, and instant attention soldiers, and the landowners he had to many a matter besides his trial.

ousted, could not make heard their Obedient to their command, the Com- wrongs till the ports were opened. And mons called before their bar, one arch-consequently the articles of impeachbishop, and two bishops, one lord-keeper, ment were modelled and re-modelled ; and six judges, one Secretary of State and though the draftsmen met early, and and many minor officials. That band of sat up late," the book of 200 sheets of human locusts, the “thievish projectors,” paper containing a catalogue of Strafwas dispersed, who withheld from thirsty ford's crimes was not delivered to the English souls their wine, blistered wo- House of Lords until January 30. And men's fingers by execrable soap, and who, even then, eight weeks passed away beby monopolizing the sale of cloth, hides, fore the trial began. The defendant's resalt, gold lace, and even pins, had plies were received and considered ; re“ marked and sealed the people from peated conferences took place to settle head to foot." Monstrous inflictions, both the essentials and formalities of like the Courts of High Commission, and procedure, such as the legal aid allowed the Star Chamber, were abolished, and to the accused, an important question reparation made to the victims of those whether or no the Commons might wear tribunals. The Commons, also, were their hats, or be uncovered, and the time obliged to meet that ever-growing diffi- , and place for the tribunal. culty, the supply of money, to protect the Before the trial began, delay — and the State by passing the Triennial Parlia- irritation and anxiety it provoked ments Bill and to conciliate those most soured the minds of men. “Impatient importunate suitors, the men of Scot-people” were turned against Parliament, land.

and the House of Commons against the And this mass of business, obstructed Lords ; whilst Strafford's friends became by party passion, dead-weighted by for- “insolently confident.” | This discontent malities, was also delayed by that odd un- was the more bitter because that delay certainty of action inherent to any large had not been anticipated. Dispatch was collection of men. Then, as now, the to the interest of the nation, therefore the Commons made holiday when work was dispatch of Strafford, the dispersion of most needed ; and one day's “dis- the armies, and the pacification of the course” was stopped because “the Earl Scots, were events expected in quick sucof Strafford came in his barge to the Up- cession. Baillie, their Commissioner, at per House from the Tower and divers the close of February hoped to see Kilran to the east windows of the House, winning “in a little time”; and Uvedale who, with them that sat by, looked out expected a relief from the unpleasant at the said windows, and opened them ; post of Army Treasurer to a bankrupt and others quitted their seats with noise | Treasury, at the very beginning of that and tumult ; ” and another sitting was in month.t like manner broken off, in the very crisis And so reasonable a hope was hard to of national anxiety, because “such num-| extinguish. When the trial at last began, bers” preferred “the play-houses and “ some thought that the process would be bowling-alleys” to the committee of Sup- short," but the mere hearing of evidence Much delay also arose from the very na-lo

* Mr. Pym's Statement. D'Ewes, Harleian MSS.

Baillie's Letters, i. 309; May's History, 64.

I Baillie's Letters, i. 300; Uvedale to Bradley, Feb• February 17, and April 27, 1641. D'Ewes, Har-ruary 2, 1641. Rolls Office. leian MSS. (161), 233 ; (164), 991.

Baillie's Letters, i. 313.

ply.*

« VorigeDoorgaan »