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FROM THE BATTLE OF EDGEHILL TO THE CALLING THE
ASSEMBLY OF DIVINES AT WESTMINSTER.
The king having recruited his army at Oxford, after the battle of Edgehill, by the assistance of the university, who now gave his majesty all their money, as they had before done their plate, resolved to pursue his march to London, in order to break up the parliament, and surprise the city; while the earl of Essex, imagining the campaign was ended, lay quiet about Warwick, till being informed of the king's designs, he posted to London, and ordered his forces to follow with all expedition. The earl arrived November 7, 1742, and was honourably received by both houses of parliament, who presented him with a gratuity of 5,0007. and to strengthen his army passed an ordinance, that such apprentices as would list in their service should be entitled to a freedom of the city at the expiration of their apprenticeship, equally with those who continued with their masters. In the beginning of November, the king took possession of Reading without the least resistance, the parliament-garrison having abandoned it, which alarmed both houses, and made them send an express to desire a safe conduct for a committee of lords and commons, to attend his majesty with a petition for peace* ; the committee waited on his majesty at Coinbrook, fifteen miles from London, and having received a favourable answert, reported it to the two houses, who
Rushworth, vol. 5. p. 58. + " He seemed to receive the petition with great willingness; and called God to witness, in many protestations, that he was tenderly compassionate of his bleeding people, and more desirous of nothing than a speedy peace.” May's Parliamentary History, b. 3. p. 33.—The immediate subsequent conduct of the king was, certainly, not consistent with such professions : yet Dr. Grey is displeased with Mr. Neal, for insinuating that it was a breach of promise, and accuses him of not giving the fairest account of this action, which, he says, the king sufficiently justified. But, when the doctor passed this censure, it seems that he had not looked forward to the next paragraph, where the motives of the king's behaviour are stated. The committee, deputed by the parliament to Colnbrook, consisted of the earls of Nor. thumberland and Pembroke, lord Wainman, Mr. Pierpoint, sir John Ipsley, and sir John Evelyn : when the king refused to admit the last gentleman, because he had named him a traitor the day before; the parliament, though extremely displeased with the exception, so as to vote it a breach of privilege, yet, from their ardent desire of accommodation, permitted the petition to be presented without sir John Evelyn. May, b. 3. p. 32.—This yielding conduct leaves the king more inexcusable, as it serves to shew the sincerity of the parliament in their overtures; and lord Clarendon says, that it was believed by many, that had the king
immediately gave orders to forbear all acts of hostility, and sent a messenger to the king, to desire the like forbearance on his
part; but the committee had no sooner left Colnbrook, than his majesty, taking the advantage of a thick mist, advanced to Brentford about seven miles from London*, which he attacked with his whole army, November 13, and after a fierce and bloody rencounter with the parliament-garrison, wherein considerable numbers were driven into the Thames and slain, be got possession of the town, and took a great many prisoners. The consternation of the citizens on this occasion was inexpressible, imagining the king would be the next morning at their gates ; upon which the lord-mayor ordered the trained bands immediately to join the earl of Essex's forces, which were just arrived at Turnham-green, under the command of major-general Skippon ; and there being no farther thoughts of peace, every one spirited up his neighbour, and all resolved as one man to live and die together. Major Skippon went from regiment to regiment, and encouraged his troops with such short soldier: like speeches as these; “Come, my boys! my brave boys ! I will run the same hazards with you; remember, the cause is for God and the defence of yourselves, your wives and children. Come, my honest brave boys! let us pray heartily, and fight heartily, and God will bless us.” When they were drawn up, they made a body of about twenty-four thousand men eager for battle; but their orders were only to be on the defensive, and prevent the king's breaking through to the city. The two armies having faced each other all day, his majesty retreated in the night to Kingston, and from thence to Reading, where having left a garrison, he returned to Oxford about the beginning of December with his Brentford prisoners, the chief of whom were condemned to diet, and had been executed for high treason, if the two houses had not threatened to make reprisalst. The parliament, to preretired to Reading, and waited there for the answer of parliament, they would immediately have withdrawn their garrison from Windsor, and delivered that castle to his majesty for his accommodation to have carried on the treaty he had proposed. History, vol. 2. p. 73.- The motives, on which the king acled, in the action at Brentford, which Mr. Neal has compressed into one paragraph, Dr. Grey, by large quotations on different authorities, has extended through four pages, which affords a parade of confuting Mr. Neal. - Ed.
• Whitelocke, p. 62.
The persons named by Rushworth, whom Mr. Neal quotes. were, Clifton Catesby, John Lilburne, and Robert Vivers. Dr. Grey says, that " it does not appear that these three were taken prisoners at Brentford.” He should have added, from this place in Rushworth, to which the reference is here made. For in p. 83, Rushworth informs his readers, with respect to Lilburne in particular, that he owned that he was at Brentford : and by the others being included in the same sentence, it is probable, that they were involved in the same charge of acting against the king at Brentford.
On the authority of lord Clarendon and Mr. Echard, Dr. Grey charges the chaplains of the parliament-army, Dr. Downing and Mr. Marshal, with publicly avowing " that the soldiers lately taken at Brentford, and discharged by the king upon their oaths that they would never again bear arms against him, were not obliged by that oath,” and with absolving them from it. The doctor is also displeased with Mr. Oldmixon for treating this account as a falsehood. But he supvent a like surprise of the city for the future, empowered the lord-mayor to cause lines of circumvallation to be drawn around it, and all the avenues fortified.
It was not without reason that the two houses complained of the king's extraordinary conduct on this occasion, which was owing to the violent counsels of prince Rupert and lord Digby, animated by some of his majesty's friends in the city, who imagined, that if the royal army appeared in the neighbourhood of London, the parliament would accept of his majesty's pardon and break up ; or else the confusions would be so great, that he might enter and carry all before him ; but the project having failed, his majesty endeavoured to excuse it in the best manner he could: he alleged, that there being no cessation of arms agreed upon, he might justly take all advantages against his enemies. He insisted farther upon his fears of being hemmed in by the parliament's forces about Colnbrook, to prevent which, it seems, he marched seven miles nearer the city. Lord Clarendon says*, prince Rupert having advanced to Hounslow without order, his majesty at the desire of the prince marched forward, to disengage him from the danger of the forces quartered in that neighbour. hood; which is so very improbable, that, in the opinion of Mr. Rapin, it is needless to refute itt. Upon the whole, it is extremely probable, the king came from Oxford with a design of surprising the city of London before the earl of Essex's army could arrive ; but having missed his aim, he framed the best pretences to persuade the people, that his marching to Brentford was only in his own defence.
Though his majesty took all occasions to make offers of peace to his parliament, in hopes the nation would coinpel them to an agreement, by leaving him in possession of all his prerogatives, it is sufficiently evident he had no intentions to yield any thing to obtain it, for in his letter to duke Hamilton, dated December 2, presses the grounds of Mr. Oldmixon's censure of it, which are these ; in the first place, that there was no occasion to use these arts, when the prisoners amounted to but one hundred and fifty men, which could not be wanted when the city of London was pouring out recruits :—and then priestly absolution was not the practice, nor the power of it the claim, of Puritan divines. Rushworth, vol. 5. p. 59. Oldmixon's History of the Stuarts, p. 214.-Ed. * History, p. 74.
+ Rapin, vol. 2. p. 465. fol. # Without controverting Mr. Neal's authority, Dr. Grey calls this a bold assertion, and appeals to various messages for an accommodation, which the king sent to the parliament. But of what avail, to prove a yielding and accommodating temper, are speeches without actions; or softening overtures, unless they be fol. lowed up by mild and pacific measures, adopted with sincerity, and adhered to with firmness? Did Charles I. act with this consistency? Let them who are acquainted with the history of his reign answer the question. Even lord Clarendon owns his belief, that in matters of great moment, an opinion that the violence and force used in procuring bills rendered them absolutely void, influenced the king to confirm them. History, vol. 1. p. 430.-What confidence could be placed in the profes. sions and sincerity of a man who could be displeased with the earl of Northum. berland, because he would not perjure himself for lord-lieutenant Strafford ? Sydney's State Papers, quoted by Dr. Harris; Life of Charles I. p. 79, who has fully stated the evidence of Charles's dissimulation and want of faith. See also An Essay towards a true Idea of the Character and Reign of Charles I. p. 93, &c.—ED.
1642, he says, " he had set up his rest upon the justice of his cause, being resolved that no extremity or misfortune should make bim yield, for (says his majesty) I will be either a glorious king or a patient martyr; and as yet not being the first, nor at this present apprehending the other, I think it no unfit time to express this my resolution to you*.” The justice of the cause upon which his majesty had set up his rest, was his declaration and promise to govern for the future according to the laws of the land ; but the point was, to know whether this might be relied upon. The two houses admitted the laws of the land to be the rule of governmentt, and that the executive power in the time of peace was with the king t; but his majesty had so often dispensed with the laws by the advice of a corrupt ministry, after repeated assurances to the contrary thereof, that they durst not confide in his royal word, and insisted upon some additional security for themselves, and for the constitution 3. On the other hand, his majesty averred the constitution was in no danger from him, but from themselves, who were acting every day in defiance of it. To which it was answered, that it was impossible the laws should have their due course in time of war as in the height of peace, because this must effectually tie up their hands. Neither party by law could raise money upon the subject, without each other's consent; the king could not do it without consent of parliament, nor the parliament without the royal assent, and yet both had practised it since the opening of the war. To have recourse, therefore, to the laws of a well-settled government in times of general confusion, was weak and impracticable. Besides, his majesty refused to give up any of his late ministers to the justice of parliament; for in his letter to duke Hamilton, he says, that “his abandoning the earl of Strafford had gone so near him, that he was resolved no consideration should make him do the like again.” Upon these resolutions, he declined the mediation of the Scots commissioners, which gave the several parties engaged against him, a fair opportunity of uniting their interests with that nation.
This was a nice and curious affair : the friends of the parliament, who were agreed in the cause of civil liberty, were far from being of one mind in points of church discipline; the major part were for episcopacy, and desired no more than to secure the con
Duke of Hamilton's Memoirs, b. 4. p. 203. † Rapin, vol. 2. p. 466.
“Our laws have no where, that I know of, distinguished (says Dr. Grey) between times of peace or war, with regard to the king's executive power." This is true ; but it was the infelicity of the times, of which Mr. Neal writes, that there arose new questions out of the present emergency for which the standing laws had made no provision ; and difficulties to which they did not apply.--Ed.
§ “Mr. Neal (says Dr. Grey) has not produced one single proof in support of this assertion, and I challenge him to instance in particulars." This may appear a bold challenge from a writer, who professed to be conversant in the history of those times. But as the doctor has thrown it out, we will produce an instance of the king's violation of his word. He gave his assent to the petition of right, a kind of second magna charta : which he immediately violated, and continued to do for twelve years together. Essay towards a True Idea, &c. p. 94.-ED.
stitution, and reform a few exorbitances of the bishops ; some were Erastians, and would be content with any form of government the magistrate should appoint; the real Presbyterians, who were for an entire change of the hierarchy upon the foot of divine right, were as yet but few, and could carry nothing in the house ; it was necessary therefore in treating with the Scots, who contended earnestly for their kirk-government, to deliver themselves in such general expressions, that each party might interpret them as they were inclined, or as should be expedient. This contented the Scots for the present, and left the parliament at full liberty, till they saw what terns they could make with the king. Nor could the churchmen be dissatisfied, because they knew if they could put a period to the war without the Scots, the two houses would not call in their assistance, much less submit to a kirk-discipline with which they had no manner of acquaintance; and therefore lord Clarendon was of opinion *, that even at the treaty of Uxbridge, if the parliament could have obtained an act of oblivion for what was past, and good security for the king's government by law, the affair of religion might easily have been compromised; but it required all the prudence and sagacity the two houses were masters of, to keep so many different interests in point of religion united in one comnion cause of liberty and the constitution, at a time when great numbers of the king's friends, in the very city of London, were forming conspiracies to restore bim without any terms at all.
The king's affairs had a promising aspect this winter ; his forces in the north under the earl of Newcastle were superior to those of lord Ferdinando Fairfax. In the western and midland counties there were several sieges and rencounters with various success, but nothing decisive. Divers counties entered into associations for their mutual defence on both sides f. The four northern counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland, and Durham, associated for the king f; after which the two houses encouraged the like in those that owned their authority, and appointed generals to command their troops ; the chief of which was the easte ciation of Essex, Cambridgeshire, the isle of Ely, Ilertford, Norfolk, Suffolk, and the city of Norwich, whose militia were trained and ready to march where necessity should require within their several limits. In some parts of England the inhabitants resolved to stand neuter, and not be concerned on either side ; but the parliament condemned and disannulled all such agreements.
As the two houses depended upon the assistance of the Scots, his majesty had expectations of foreign aids from the queen, who
Dr. Grey asks, “ Where does lord Clarendon discover this opinion? As he (i. e. Mr. Neal) is faulty even when he quotes his authorities. I am unwilling to take his word, when he makes no reference at all.” What will the reader think of the candour of this insinuation, when he is told, that the passages to which Mr. Neal refers are to be found in p. 581 and 594 of the second volume of lord Clarendon's History, and that they are expressly quoted, and the references are pointed out in M- Saal's account of the treaty at Uxbridge ? - Ep. P ol. 5. p. 66.
Ibid. p. 64.