« VorigeDoorgaan »
nesses too, it is necessary to resort to organization or system. The clerk and the workman must consent to be governed by the rules of the establishment; the restraints may be tiresome, the discipline may be irksome, but the introduction of independent principles might be fatal to success.
The same may be said as regards our Educational and Social arrangements: organisation is requisite, system is indispensable.
Even this Association is organized, and I contend well organised; to a great extent the rules adopted by us with regard to the election of our officers and committees, are those which prevail in properly organised political parties. You, the members, place us in our honorable positions. Your Committee (which our enemies would term a Caucus) makes the nominations of officers, but you have the sole power to ratify their choice, or to make an independent selection of your own. The will of the majority is allowed to prevail.
So with a political party, suggestions may from time to time be made by an executive or a management committee, but all the power rests with the members of the party themselves.
I say, then, that there need be no sacrifice of conscientious convictions, no loss of one's individuality.
All that is requisite is that there shall be unity of action for the common good.
In joining or forming a party, all that we have to care for is that its main objects are such as will commend themselves to our intelligence and to our consciences, and if satisfied on these points, we should then take care that our own intentions are pure and disinterested, and that all the ends we aim at are our country's, our God's, and truth's.
PRINCE RUPERT'S VISIT TO BIRMINGHAM.
AN EPISODE IN THE HISTORY OF THE TOWN.
ONE of the most important events in the past history of Birmingham, is the "burning and sacking" of the town by Prince Rupert and the Cavaliers, in the year 1643. Until the great riots of 1791, it remained the one decisive disaster in our local annals, and is still a subject of interest, not only in the history of the Capital of the Midlands, but to the country generally. The "burning love" of the fiery Prince was displayed in its usual fierceness towards a town which had given such manifest proof of its hostility to the King, and of its friendliness to the Parliament. The following is a brief narrative of this terrible attack, and its immediate results.
In common with so many of the large manufacturing towns, Birmingham early and decisively declared in favour of the Parliament; and the people were especially earnest and zealous in their opposition to Charles. In 1642 the King passed through the town on his way to the field of Edgehill, and Clarendon in a few sentences records both the visit and the way in which the people received their monarch. "At Bromwicham," he writes, "a town so generally wicked, that it had risen upon small parties of the King's and killed or taken them prisoners, and sent them to Coventry, declaring a more peremptory malice to his majesty than any other place." Later in the same year Prince Rupert, with the forces under his command, was ordered to Lichfield, and, once more to quote Clarendon, "In his way thither, he was to march through Bromwicham, a town in Warwickshire, before mentioned, and of as great fame for hearty, wilful, affected disloyalty to the King as any place in England." This "hearty, wilful, affected disloyalty" had been shown in many ways, and every help possible given to the Parliamentary cause. Birmingham was at that time as famous as it was at Leland's visit in 1538, for its smithwork, and a contemporary author informs us that the town manufactured 15,000 swords for the use of the Parliamentary army, while the makers actually refused to supply that of the King with It was not, therefore, likely, that any opportunity of chastising so rebellious a town would be allowed to pass. Neither Charles nor Rupert would forget the injuries and insults which the inhabitants had inflicted upon them and the Royalist cause. The civil war had only existed a few months when the town was doomed to feel some of its
worst evils, and to have its horrors brought to its own homes and hearths. Early in 1643, Prince Rupert was sent by the King with 2,000 men to open a communication between Oxford and York. In this attempt he met with active opposition from the people of Birmingham, which not unnaturally provoked his fiery temper, and he resolved to inflict such a chastisement upon them as they would not readily forget. For this purpose he halted in his march on an open piece of elevated country overlooking the town, and which now bears the appropriate name of Camp Hill. Tradition assigned to a public house called the Ship Inn the honour of occupying the spot upon which the hero's tent was pitched. This house long escaped the encroaching spirit of modern Birmingham, and it was not until February, 1869 that it was taken down. From this camp, then, on Easter Monday, April 3, 1643, the Prince led his troops to assault, to sack and burn the Parliamentary-loving town.
Before I describe this episode in the civil war, I will attempt a picture of the Birmingham of that date. Perhaps no town in the kingdom has so rapidly changed in appearance; and it is difficult to realise in the densely crowded place of to-day, the pretty little country town of only two centuries and a quarter ago. The Birmingham of 1869 with its two hundred miles of streets, its sixty thousand houses, and 350,000 inhabitants, offers a striking contrast to that of 1643. In a map of England published so late as 1773, Birmingham finds no place, although Tamworth, Warwick, Coventry, and other surrounding towns are duly marked; and although in 1777 Burke was able to designate it "The Toy Shop of Europe." But in 1643 it only contained the germ of its present industrial greatness. It was then a pretty little country town, beautifully situated on the banks of the Rea, which Drayton, in his Polyolbion, calls the "lively-tripping," and which was a clear little stream running through fields and meadows, by gardens and orchards which literally abounded in the town and neighbourhood. Leland recording his visit says"I came through a pretty streete as ever I entered, into Bermingham towne. This streete, as I remember, is called Dirtey." Gardens were attached to every house; and within the memory of living men it was called the "Town of Gardens." The names of the streets at the present time sufficiently indicate the old character of the town. The number of Lanes is very large, of which a few may be named here; for example we have Summer Lane, Mill-Pool Lane, Heath-Mill Lane, Lease Lane, Hunter's Lane, Steelhouse Lane, Carr's Lane, and many others. Then there were cherry orchards, and a large number of crofts in parts which are now among the most densely crowded in the borough. In 1643 the town consisted of only a few streets, one writer says three; and of only about 5,000 people. The Historian, Hutton, made a careful estimate of the size of the town for 1650, only seven years after the "burning," and states as the result of his inquiries, that it contained fifteen streets, about 900 houses, and 5,472 inhabitants.
It must also be borne in mind that the town was utterly without artificial defences of any kind. There were no walls, no forts, no castles. There were only two Churches, the Parish Church of St Martin's, and
St. John's Chapel, Deritend. In 1537 the representative of the Birmingham family was robbed of his inheritance; and in 1643 the lordship of the manor was in the possession of the Marrows, to whom it had been granted by Queen Mary in 1555. The "Castle" or manor-house then stood where Smithfield Cattle Market now stands; but this house with surrounding moat afforded no defence either to the people or the town. They lay absolutely at the mercy of the Cavaliers; and this mercy, considering their past acts, the inhabitants had little reason to expect; and certainly did not receive.
Such was the condition of Birmingham on the eve of the memorable April 3, 1643. The people waited, not without sad forebodings, the dawning of that terrible day on which the fire and swords of the Cavaliers wrought such a dreadful retribution. Of this great event in the history of the town we have three independent contemporary witnesses. In less than a month after the town was attacked, three tracts were published, giving a detailed account of the act. One of these was written by a Royalist, and the other two by Roundheads. The first of these tracts is entitled, "A Letter, written from Walsall by a worthy gentleman to his friend in Oxford, concerning Birmingham." It is dated, "Walsall, April 5, 1643," and was therefore written immediately after the occurrence which it narrates, and is undoubtedly the work of an eye-witness. The author of this letter is a Royalist, and ascribes Rupert's conduct to the disloyalty of the people of Birmingham. It is from this letter that we learn the fact of the town having made 15,000 swords for the Parliament. The writer says: "I find that the inhabitants of that towne were they who first stirred up those of Coventry to resist the King, and that about 300 from thence went into Coventry to defend it against the King's forces, that from thence they sent 15,000 swords to the Earle of Essex, his forces, and the ayd of that party, and not only refused to supply the King's forces with swords for their money, but imprisoned divers who bought swords, upon suspicion that they intended to supply the King's forces with them." The writer then states that Prince Rupert, intending to take up his quarters in the town, sent word that if he and his forces were received quietly, the inhabitants should "suffer no injury." This offer was rejected; and the people, writes the Walsall gentleman, opposed him in every way, fired upon his men, and "with opprobrious speeches reviled them, called them cursed doggs, devilish cavaliers, popish traytors." If this statement be true, and considering the temper of the people it undoubtedly is true, they suffered much for their uncourteous freedom of speech.
The second tract contains two letters; the first dated, "Coventry, April 8, 1643," and signed "R. P."; the other is without date and is signed "R. G." This tract bears the following explanatory title-page :
"A true Relation of Prince Rupert's barbarous cruelty against the Towne of Birminghame, to which place, on Monday, April 3, 1643, he marcht with 2000 horse and foot, 4 Drakes and 2 Sakers; who, after two hours fight, being twice beaten off by the Townsmen, (in all but 140 Musqueteers,) he entered, put divers to the sword, and burnt about 80
houses to ashes, suffering no man to carry away his goods, or quench the fire, and making no difference between friend and foe; yet, by God's providence, the greatest loss fell on the malignants of the town. And of the Cavaliers were slaine divers chief Commanders, and men of great quality, amongst whom was the Earl of Denbigh, the Lord John Stewart, and, as themselves report, the Lord Digby."
The imprint is, "London: Printed for John Wright, in the Old Bailey, April 12, 1643." Thus it will be seen that it was printed and published only four days after the tract signed by "R. P." was written. The writer was R. Porter, a sword-blade maker, of Birmingham, and one of those who had supplied the Parliamentary army with weapons. He describes the assault upon and the burning of the town, and then alludes to his own losses. "For pillage," he says, "but of little I lost, having obscured the things I had of any value; and for fire, God did marvellously prevent, both to me and many others, whereat the malignants are so enraged that they have since pulled down my mill, and pretend that Prince Rupert so commanded, and threaten to pull down my house and divers others, which I think they dare not, lest they build it up againe, the country having sent them admonition of this insolency." We are able to identify Mr. Porter's mill by a passage in the third tract, in which the writer, after describing the burning of the town, says, "Sithence they have caused one Mr. Porter's Blademill in the towne to be pulled down, wherein sword blades were made, and employed only for the service of the Parliament, and so they were informed (which cost erecting about £100) threatening if it were not pulled down, the rest of the towne should be burnt. For now they begin to be great Agents in Fireworks."
This third tract is a much fuller and more detailed account of the event, and partakes something of the character of an official although a partisan report; for it was published at the request of the Committee of Coventry. It was printed in London for Thomas Underhill, in May, 1643, and bears the following extraordinary title-page, which is in itself a curiosity of literature:
"Prince Rupert's Burning Love to England, discovered in Birmingham's Flames; or, a more exact and true narration of Birmingham's Calamities under the barbarous and inhumane cruelties of Prince Rupert's forces. Wherein is related how that famous and well-affected towne of Birmingham was unworthily opposed, insolently invaded, notoriously robbed and plundered, and most cruelly fired in cold blood the next day by Prince Rupert's forces. Together with the number of Prince Rupert's Forces, his considerable persons slaine or mortally wounded; their many and abominable Carnages in and after the taking of the Towne. The small strength which Birmingham had to maintain their Defence, the Names of their Men slaine, the number of Houses burned and Persons thereby destitute of Habitation; with divers other considerable Passages. Published at the Request of the Committee of Coventry, that the kingdom may timely take Notice what is generally to be expected if the Cavaliers Insolences be not speedily crushed."