[ocr errors]

CHAPTER a proper regard to the individuals who had suffered;

the next, to prevent the recurrence of such grievances, by the abolition of tyrannical tribunals acting upon arbitrary maxims in criminal proceedings, and most improperly denominated courts of justice. They then proceeded to establish that fundamental principle of all free government, the preserving of the purse to the people and their representatives. And though there may be more difference of opinion upon their proposed regulations in regard to the militia, yet surely, when a contest was to be foreseen, they could not, consistently with prudence, leave the power of the sword altogether in the hands of an adverse party.

The prosecution of Lord Strafford, or rather the manner in which it was carried on, is less justifiable. He was doubtless a great delinquent, and well deserved the severest punishment; but nothing short of a clearly proved case of self-defence can justify, or even excuse, a departure from the sacred rules of criminal justice. For it can rarely indeed happen, that the mischief to be apprehended from suffering any criminal, however guilty, to escape, can be equal to that resulting from the violation of those rules to which the innocent owe the security of all that is dear to them. If such cases have existed,

Lord Straf-
ford's attain-


they must have been in instances where trial has CHAPTER been wholly out of the question, as in that of Cæsar, and other tyrants; but when a man is once in a situation to be tried, and his person in the power of his accusers and his judges, he can no longer be formidable in that degree which alone can justify, (if any thing can,) the violation of the substantial rules of criminal proceedings.

At the breaking out of the civil war, so intempe- Commencerately denominated a rebellion by Lord Clarendon Civil War. and other Tory writers, the material question appears to me to be, whether or not sufficient attempts were made by the Parliament and their leaders, to avoid bringing affairs to such a decision? That according to the general principles of morality, they had justice on their side, cannot fairly be doubted; but did they sufficiently attend to that great dictum of Tully, * in questions of civil dissension, wherein he declares his preference of even an unfair peace to the most just war? Did they sufficiently weigh the dangers that might ensue even from victory; dangers, in such cases, little less formidable to the cause of liberty than those which might follow a defeat ? Did they consider that it is not peculiar to the followers of Pompey, and the civil wars of Rome, that

Iniquissimam pacem justissimo bello antefero.


Isle of Wight.

Chapter the event to be looked for is, as the same Tully

describes it, in case of defeat,---proscription; in Treaty of the that of victory,—servitude? Is the failure of the

negotiation when the King was in the Isle of Wight to be imputed to the suspicions justly entertained of his sincerity? or to the ambition of the parliamentary leaders? If the insincerity of the King was the real cause, ought not the mischief to be apprehended from his insincerity, rather to have been guarded against by treaty, than alledged as a pretence for breaking off the negotiation ? Sad indeed will be the condition of the world, if we are never to make peace with an adverse party whose sincerity we have reason to suspect. Even just grounds for such suspicions will but too often occur, and when such fail, the proneness of man to impute evil qualities as well as evil designs to his enemies, will suggest

In the present case, the suspicion of insincerity was, it is true, so just, as to amount to a moral certainty. The example of the Petition of Right was a satisfactory proof that the King made no point of adhering to concessions which he considered as extorted from him; and if a philosophical historian, writing above a century after the time, can deem the pretended hard usage Charles met with, as a sufficient excuse for his breaking his faith in the first

false ones.


instance, much more must that prince himself, with CHAPTER all his prejudices, and notions of his divine right, have thought it justifiable to retract concessions, which to him, no doubt, appeared far more unreasonable than the Petition of Right, and which, with much more colour, he might consider as extorted. These considerations were probably the cause why the Parliament so long delayed their determination of accepting the King's offer as a basis for treaty; but unfortunately, they had delayed so long, that when at last they adopted it, they found themselves without power to carry it into execution. The army having now ceased to be the servants, had become the masters of the Parliament, and being entirely influenced by Cromwell, gave a commencement to what may, properly speaking, be called a new reign. The subsequent measures, therefore, the execution of the King, as well as others, are not to be considered as acts of the Parliament, but of Cromwell; and great and respectable as are the names of some who sat in the high court, they must be regarded, in this instance, rather as ministers of that usurper, than as acting from themselves.

The execution of the King, though a far less vio- King's Exelent measure than that of Lord Strafford, is an event of so singular a nature, that we cannot wonder that it



CHAPTER should have excited more sensation than any other

in the annals of England. This exemplary act of substantial justice, as it has been called by some, of enormous wickedness by others, must be considered in two points of view. First, was it not in itself just and necessary? Secondly, was the example of it likely to be salutary or pernicious? In regard to the first of these questions, Mr. Hume, not perhaps intentionally, makes the best justification of it, by saying, that while Charles lived, the projected republick could never be secure. But to justify taking away the life of an individual, upon the principle of selfdefence, the danger must be not problematical and remote, but evident and immediate. The danger in this instance was not of such a nature; and the imprisonment, or even banishment, of Charles, might have given to the republick such a degree of security as any government ought to be content with. It must be confessed however on the other side, that if the republican government had suffered the King to escape, it would have been an act of justice and generosity wholly unexampled; and to have granted him even his life, would have been one among the more rare efforts of virtue. The short interval between the deposal and death of princes is become proverbial; and though there may be some few examples on

« VorigeDoorgaan »