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firm adherence to prelacy was not for conscience of one religion more than another, for it was his principle that an honest man might be saved in any profession ; but he had a mistaken principle, that kingly government in the state could not stand without episcopal government in the church, and therefore as the bishops Aattered him by preaching up his sovereign prerogative, and inveighing against the Puritans as factious and disloyal, so he protected them in all their pomp and pride, and insolent practices, against all the godly and sober people of the land.”
The character of Charles may be thought here to be too hardly drawn, particularly when it is remembered that it comes from one who was a rigid Puritan herself, and moreover the wife of one of the judges who sentenced him to death. Yet, making due allowance for partiality for her own party, it will scarcely be found that she is guilty of any exaggeration. It is admitted, we believe, on all hands, that · Charles came to the throne with very high notions of the regal authority; and as the prelates flattered him in that opinion, he thought himself bound both in conscience and honor to support them in their privileges. He lived at a period when the spirit of the people became too mighty for those restraints which the regal power derived from the constitution; and when the tide of fanaticism began to overbear the religion of his country, to which he was conscientiously devoted, he suffered himself to be guided by counsellors who were not only inferior to bimself in knowledge and judgment, but generally proud, partial, and inflexible: and from an excess of conjugal affection that bordered upon weakness, he paid too much deference to the advice and desires of his consort, who was superstitiously attached to the errors of popery, and importuned him incessantly in favor of the Roman Catholics. :
But the misfortunes of Charles's reign were neither imputable altogether to the episcopal predilections of the King, nor to his ready compliance with the wishes of the Queen. As a
private individual, his character was in the highest degree amiable and praiseworthy; but as a monarch, in a turbulent period, he was utterly unfit for the station he occupied. He wanted resolution and vigour. The sacrifice of the Earl of Strafford, an event which he exceedingly lamented, and to which no extremity should have induced him to submit, rendered him contemptible in the eyes both of bis enemies and his friends. The giving up of Strafford was mean and cowardly; and far from the letter which that unfortunate nobleman is said to have sent him, urging the King not to let his life stand as an obstacle to an agreement between him and his Parliament upon that occasion, being an excuse for him, it only aggravates the King's treachery and pusillanimity.
Dissimulation, one of the worst vices with which a monarch can be tinctured, seems to have been a prevailing feature in the character of this prince, and ultimately to have led him to the scaffold, if the following relation from Hume can be relied on.
“ There prevails a story, that Cromwell intercepted a letter wrote to the Queen, where the King said, that he would first raise and then destroy Cromwell. It is first told by Roger Coke, a very passionate historian, who wrote so late as the revolution, and who mentions it only as a rumour. In the Memoirs of Lord Broghill, we meet with another story of an intercepted letter, which deserves some more attention, and is thus related by Mr. Maurice, chaplain to Roger, Earl of Orrery. «« Lord Orrery, (says he), in the time of his greatness with Cromwell, just after he had so seasonably relieved him in his great distress at Clonmell, riding out to Youghall one day with him and Ireton, they fell into discourse about the King's death. Cromwell thereupon said more than once, that if the King had followed his own judgment, and had been attended by none but trusty servants, he had fooled them all; and that once they had a mind to have closed with him, but, upon something that happened, fell off from that design. Orrery finding them in good humour, and being alone with them, asked, if he might pre. sume to desire to know, why they would once have closed with his majesty, and why they did not ? Cromwell very freely told him, he would satisfy him in both his queries. The reason, (says he) why we would have closed with the King was this: We found that the Scotch Presbyterians began to be more powerful than we, and were likely to agree with him, and leave us in the lurch. For this reason we thought it best to prevent them by offering first to come in on reasonable conditions. But whilst our thoughts were taken up with this subject, there came a letter to us from one of our spies, who was of the King's bed-chamber, acquainting us that our final doom was decreed that very day; that he could not possibly learn what it was, but we might discover it, if we could but intercept a letter sent from the King to the Queen, wherein he informed her of his resolution ; that this letter was sewn up in the skirts of a saddle, and the bearer of it would come with the saddle upon his head, about ten of the clock that night, to the Blue Boar, in Holborn, where he was to take horse for Dover. The messenger knew nothing of the letter in the saddle, though some in Dover did. We were at Windsor (said Cromwell) when we received this letter, and immediately upon the receipt of it, Ireton and I resolved to take one trusty fellow with us, and to go in troopers' babits to that inn. We did so, and leaving our man at the gate of the inn (which had a wicket only open to let persons in and out) to watch and give us notice when any man came with a saddle, we went into a drinking stall. We there continued drinking cans of beer till about ten of the clock, when our sentinel at the gate gave nis notice, that the man with the saddle was come. We rose op presently, and just as the man was leading out his horse saddled, we came up to him with drawn swords, and told him we were to search all that went in and out there; but as he looked like an honest man, we would only search his saddle, and so dismiss him. The saddle was ungirt, we carried it into the stall where we had been drinking, and ripping open one of the skirts, we there found the letter we wanted. Having thus got it into our hands, we delivered the man, (whom we had left with our sentinel) his saddle, told him he was an honest fellow, and bid him go about his business, which he did, pursuing his journey without more ado, and ignorant of the larm he had suffered. We found in the letter, that his majesty acquainted the Queen, that he was courted by both factions, the Scotch Presbyterians, and the army; and that those which bade the fairest for him should have him: but yet he thought he should close with the Scotch sooner than with the other. Upon this we returned to Windsor; and finding we were not like to have good terms from the King, we from that time vowed his destruction.”
The want of good faith in Charles was obvious from the very commencement of the civil war. He first fomented the Scotch to rebel, with the hopes that he might be entrusted with an army to reduce them, and then when that expectation proved fruitless, he attempted to over-awe the great council of the nation by the forcible seizure of some of the most distinguished of its members. It is not casy to define the limits of regal authority, or to say what act of the monarch would justify subjects to resist; but certainly it appears that such an outrage as that which Charles committed against the House of Commons, when he came at the head of an armed force to take five of their members into custody, was an action utterly sub-, versive of the principles of the constitution, and, had it been persisted in, deserving of resistance. But upon this occasion, as well as many others of his life, it was the King's fortune to have laid himself open to the censure of an ungracious action, without reaping any benefit from it. The members whoin he thought to apprehend bad had timely notice of bis design, and secured themselves by flight, so that the King had all the odium of this project against the freedom of debate, without reaping any advantage from it.
The next morning after this attempt on the privilege of Parliament, the King sent to the Lord Mayor of London, ordering him to call a common council immediately; and, about ten o'clock, he himself, attended only by three or four lords, went to Guildhall. He told the council, that he was come to them without any guard, in order to show them how much he relied on their affections; that he liad accused certain men of high-treason, against whom he would proceed in a legal way, and therefore presumed, that they would receive no 'shelter in the city. After many other gracious expressions, he told one of the sheriffs, who of the two was the least inclined to his ser. vice, that he would dine with him. He departed the hall without receiving the applause he expected. In passing through the streets, he heard the cry, Privilege of Par. liament! Privilege of Parliament! resounding from all quarters. One of the populace, more insolent than the rest, drew nigh to his coach, and called out with a loud voice, “ To your tents, O Israel !" the words employed by the mutinous Israelites, when they abandoned Rehoboam, their rash and illcounselled sovereign.
Matters were now drawing fast to a crisis. “ The prudence of the King's conduct in this juncture,” says Hume, “ nobody pretended to justify. The legality of it met with many apo. logies; though generally offered to unwilling ears. No maxim of law, it was said, is more established, or more universally allowed, than that privileges of parliament do not extend to treason, felony, or breach of peace; nor has either House, during former ages, ever pretended, in any of those cases, to interpose in behalf of its members. Though some inconvenience should result from the observance of this maxim, that would not be sufficient, without other authority, to abolish a principle, established by uninterrupted precedent, and founded on the tacit consent of the whole legislature. :. But what are the inconveniences so much dreaded ? 'The King, under pretext of treason, may seize any members of the op