The restoration of the Stuarts.
the principles that should prevail in the adminis-
tration of the American
colonies, always formed a dividing question between the political parties in England
The restoration of the legitimate dynasty was attended by a corresponding change in colonial policy.
The revolution, which was now come to its end, had been in its origin a democratic revolution, and had apparently succeeded in none of its ultimate purposes.
In the gradual progress of civilization, the power of the feudal aristocracy had been broken by the increased authority of the monarch; and the people, now beginning to claim the lead in the progress of humanity, prepared to contend for equality against privilege, as well as for freedom against prerogative.
The contest failed for a season, because too much was at once attempted.
Immediate emancipation from the decaying institutions of the past was impossible; hereditary inequalities were themselves endeared to the nation, from a love for the beneficent institutions with which close union had identified them; the mass of the people was still buried in the inactivity of listless ignorance; even for the strongest minds, public experience had not yet generated the principles by which
a reconstruction of the government on a popular basis
could have been safely undertaken; and thus the democratic revolution in England
was a failure, alike from the events and passions of the fierce struggle which rendered moderation impossible, and from the misfortune of the age, which had not as yet acquired the political knowledge that time alone could gather for the use of later generations.
Charles I., conspiring against the national constitu-
tion, which he, as the most favored among the natives of England
, was the most solemnly bound to protect, had resolved to govern without the aid of a parliament.
To convene a parliament was, therefore, in itself, an acknowledgment of defeat.
The house of commons,
April which assembled in April, 1640, was filled with men not less loyal to the monarch than faithful to the people; yet the king, who had neither the resignation of wise resolution, nor yet the daring of despair, perpetually vacillating between the desire of destroying English liberty, and a timid respect for its forms, disregarded the wishes of his more prudent friends, and, under the influence of capricious passion, suddenly dissolved a parliament more favorable to his interests
than any which he could again hope from the excitement of the times.
The friends of the popular party were elated at the dissolution.
‘This parliament could have remedied the confusion,’ said the royalist Hyde
, afterwards earl of Clarendon
, to St. John
The countenance of the sombre republican, usually clouded with gloom, beamed with cheerfulness as he replied, ‘All is well; things must be worse before they can be better; this parliament could never have done what is necessary to be done.’1
The exercise of absolute power was become more
difficult than ever.
The haughty Strafford
had advised violent counsels.
There were those who refused to take the oath never to consent to alterations in the church of England ‘Send for the chief leaders,’ wrote Strafford
‘and lay them by the heels; no other satisfaction is to be thought of.’
was not without his enemies among the royalists.
During the suspension of parliament, two parties in the cabinet had disputed with each other the administration and the emoluments of despotism.
The power of the ministers and the council of state was envied by the ambition of the queen and the greedy selfishness of the courtiers; and the arrogant Strafford
and the unbending Laud
had as bitter rivals in the palace as they had enemies in the nation.
There was no unity among the friends of absolute power.
The expedient of a council of peers, convened at York
, could not satisfy a people that venerated representative government as the most valuable bequest of its ancestors; and a few weeks made it evident that concession was necessary.
The councils of Charles were divided by hesitancy, rivalries, and the want of plan; while the popular leaders were full of energy and union, and were animated by what seemed a distinct purpose, the desire of limiting the royal authority.
The summons of a new parliament was now on the part of the monarch a surrender at discretion.
But by the English
constitution, the royal prerogative was in some cases the bulwark of popular liberty; the subversion of the royal authority made a way for the despotism of parliament.
The Long Parliament was not originally homoge-
The usurpations of the monarch threatened the privileges of the nobility not less than the liberties of the people.
The movement in the public mind, though it derived its vigor as well as its origin from the rising influence of the Puritans, was not directed towards vindicating power for the people, but only aimed at raising an impassable barrier against the encroachments of royalty.
The object met with favor from a majority of the peerage, and from royalists among the commons; and the past arbitrary measures of the court found opponents in Hyde
, the inflexible tory and faithful counsellor of the Stuarts; in the more scrupulous Falkland, who hated falsehood and intrigue, and whose imagination inclined him to the popular side, till he began to dread innovations from its leaders more than from the ambition of the king; and even in Capel, afterwards one of the bravest of the Cavaliers, and a martyr on the scaffold for his obstinate fidelity.
The highest authority in England
began to belong to the majority in parliament; no republican party as yet existed; the first division ensued between the ultra royalists and the vast undivided party of the friends of constitutional monarchy; and though the house was in a great measure filled with members of the aristocracy, the moderate royalists were united with the friends of the people; and, on the choice of speaker, an immense majority appeared in favor of the constitution.
The sagacity of the earl of Strafford
anticipated danger and he desired to remain in Ireland
‘As I am king of England
,’ said Charles,3
‘the parliament shall not touch one hair of your head;’ and the reiterated
urgency of the king compelled his attendance.
Chap XI.} Nov. 11. 1641 April 21.
His arraignment, within eight days of the commencement of the session, marks the resolute spirit of the commons; his attainder was the sign of their ascendency.
‘On the honor of a king,’ wrote4
Charles to the prisoner, ‘you shall not be harmed in life, fortune, or honor;’ and the fourth day after the passage of the bill of attainder, as if to reveal his weakness, the king could send his adhesion to the commons, adding, ‘If Strafford
must die, it were charity to reprieve him till
Men dreaded the service of a sovereign whose love was so worthless, and whose prerogative was so weak; safety was found on the side of the people; and the parliament was left without control to its work of reform.
Its earliest acts were worthy of all praise.
The liberties of the people were recovered and strengthened by appropriate safeguards; the arbitrary courts of High Commission, and the court of Wards, were broken up; the Star Chamber
, doubly hated by the aristocracy, as ‘ever a great eclipse to the whole nobility,’6
was with one voice abolished; the administration of justice was rescued from the paramount influence of the crown; and taxation, except by consent, was forbidden.
The principle of the writ of habeas corpus was introduced; and the kingdom of England
was lifted out of the bondage of feudalism by a series of reforms, which were afterwards renewed, and which, when successfully imbodied among the statutes, the commentator on English law esteemed above Magna Charta
These measures were national, were adopted almost without opposition, and
received the nearly unanimous assent of the nation.
They were truly English measures, directed in part against the abuses introduced at the Norman conquest, in part against the encroachments of the sovereign.
They wiped away the traces that England
had been governed as a conquered country; they were in harmony with the intelligence and the pride, the prejudices and the wants of England
Public opinion was the ally of the parliament.
But an act declaring that the parliament should neither be prorogued nor dissolved, unless, with its own consent, had also been proposed, and urged with pertinacity till it received the royal concurrence.
Parliament, in its turn, subverted the constitution, by establishing its own paramount authority, and making itself virtually irresponsible to its constituents; it was evident a parliamentary despotism would ensue.
The English government was substantially changed, in a manner injurious to the power of the executive, and still more dangerous to the freedom of the people.
The king, in so far as he opposed the measure, was the friend of popular liberty; the passage of the act placed the people of England
, not less than the king, at the mercy of the parliament.
The methods of tyranny are always essentially the same; the freedom of the press was subjected to parliamentary censors.
The usurpation foreboded the subversion of the throne, and the subjection of the people.
The liberators of England
were become its tyrants; the rights of the nation had been asserted only to be sequestered for their use. The spirit of loyalty was still powerful in the commons; as the demands of the commons advanced, stormy debates and a close division ensued.
Falkland, and Capel, and Hyde
, now acted with the court.
remonstrance on the state of the kingdom, an uncom-
promising manifesto against the arbitrary measures of Charles, was democratic in its tendency; because it proposed no specific reform, but was rather a general and exciting appeal to popular opinion.
The English mind was already as restless as the waves of the ocean by which the island is environed; the remonstrance was designed to increase that restlessness; in a house of more than five hundred members, it was adopted by the meagre majority of eleven. ‘Had it not been
carried,’ said Cromwell
to Falkland, ‘I should have sold all I possess, and left the kingdom; many honest men were of the same resolution.’
From the contest for ‘English liberties’ men advanced to the discussion of natural rights; with the expansion of their views, their purposes ceased to be definite; and already reform was changing into a revolution.
They were prepared to strip the church of its power, and royalty of its prescriptive sanctity; and it was observable, that religious faith was on the side of innovation, while incredulity abounded among the supporters of the divine right.
The policy of the king preserved its character of variableness.
He had yielded where he should have been firm; and he now invited a revolution by the violence of his counsels.
Moderation and sincerity would have restored his influence.
But when, attended
by armed men, he repaired in person to the house of commons, with the intent of seizing six of the leaders of the patriot party, whose execution was to soothe his fears, and tranquillize his hatred, the extreme procedure, so bloody in its purpose, and so illegal in its course, could only rouse the nation to anger against its sovereign, justify for the time every diminution of his
prerogative, and, by inspiring settled distrust, animate
the leaders of the popular party to a gloomy inflexibility.
There was no room to hope for peace.
The monarch was faithless, and the people knew no remedy.
A change of dynasty was not then proposed; and England
languished of a disease for which no cure had been discovered.
It was evident that force must decide the struggle.
The parliament demanded the control of the national militia with the possession of the fortified towns.
But would the Cavaliers consent to surrender all military power to plebeian statesmen?
Would the nobility endure that men should exercise dominion over the king, whose predecessors their ancestors had hardly been permitted to serve?
To Charles, who had had neither firmness to maintain his just authority, nor sincerity to effect a safe reconciliation, no alternative remained, but resistance or the surrender of all power; and, unfurling the royal stand-
ard, he began a civil war.
The contest was between a permanent parliament and an arbitrary king.
The people had no mode of intervention except by serving in the armies; they could not come forward as mediators or as masters.
The parliament was become a body, of which the duration depended on its own will; unchecked by a supreme executive, or by an independent coordinate branch of legislation; and, therefore, of necessity, a multitudinous despot, unbalanced and irresponsible; levying taxes, enlisting soldiers, commanding the navy and the army, enacting laws, and changing at its will the forms of the English
The issue was certain.
Every representative body is swayed by the interests of its constituents, the interests of its own assembly, and the personal interests of its respective
members; and never was the successive predominance
of each of these sets of motives more clear than in the Long Parliament.
Its first acts were mainly for its constituents, whose rights it vindicated, and whose liberties it increased; its corporate ambition next prevailed, and it set itself against the throne and the peerage, both of which it was hurried forward to subvert; individual selfishness at last had its triumph, and there were not wanting men who sought lucrative jobs, and grasped at disproportioned emoluments.
Nothing could check the progress of degeneracy and corruption; the example, the ability, and the conscientious purity of Henry Vane
Had the life of Hampden
been spared, he could not have changed the course of events, for he could not have changed the laws of nature, and the principles of human action.
The majority in parliament was become the despot of England
; and after one hundred and eighteen
royalist members, obeying the summons of the king, had repaired to Oxford
, the cause of royalty was powerless in the legislature.
The party of the Church of England was prostrate; but religious and political parties were identified; and the new division conformed itself to the rising religious sects.
Now that the friends of the Church
had withdrawn, the commons were at once divided into two imposing parties—the Presbyterians and the Independents; the friends of a political revolution which should yet establish a nobility and a limited monarchy; and the friends of an entire revolution on the principle of equality.
The majority was with the Presbyterians, who were elated with the sure hope of a triumph.
They represented a powerful portion of the aristocracy of England