« AnteriorContinuar »
munity, and had made them ripe for resistance and innovation. The despotism of the leaders of the church party had walked side
vols. folio in 1719) says on this subject, “ They" (the arrested members, when brought for trial into the court of King's Bench) “ refused to submit to any thing but the necessity of a long imprisonment, where some of them died in custody; and others treasured up a reputation of confessors for the privileges of parliament; and in 1640 had an ample reward of thanks and money." [iii. 53.]
As the reign of Charles the First in this variorum history is written by a zealous royalist, who is as minute and correct in his statement of facts as he is weak and prejudiced in his remarks on them, I might in this instance safely follow him, and assert on his authority that more than one of the leading parliamentary oppositionists at the time in question, on the dissolution of the third parliament of this reign, had fallen victims to the revenge and despotism of the court. But as the bistorian forbears to . specify the number or the names of the patriot members who thus died for the liberties of their country, I have contented myself with asserting only what I knew to be fact; and for the, "some,” of this writer have contented myself with substituting, one.” Whitelocke records a vote of the Parliament in 1646, by which 15000). are given, in three equal divisions, to Mr. Strode's kindred, and to the children of Sir John Elliot and those of Sir Peter Hammond, " for the sufferings of their parents, &c. for opposing the illegalities of that time.”* From this it might le inferred that Mr. Strode and Sir P. Hammond had perished by the same fate with Sir J. Elliot: but as this is not expressly mentioned by Whitelocke, (who is silent also as to the particular cause of Sir John Elliot's death,) I shall not insist on it. Of Sir John Elliot's doom his family have preserved a memorial in a portrait, which was drawn of him during his imprisonment and not long before his decease.
(* White, Mem. p. 238.]
by side with that of the court; and their rigorous persecution of the Puritans, which was offensive to the feelings of the humane and to the moderation of the liberal, had excited the fears and the jealousies of the wise. The power of the episcopal courts had every where been urged into unusual animation by the superintendence and incitement of the formidable High-Commission; and almost every diocese had witnessed scenes of rigour similar to those which had disgraced and exasperated the capital.
In this trembling state of things, when Milton perceived that his country was proceeding resolutely to assert her liberty, he imagined that he was complying with a necessary duty, and was taking his proper part in the promotion of the common cause, by engaging in the behalf of ecclesiastical freedom with the bishops.
The church of England at this unfortunate crisis could boast among her prelates of a Williams, a Davenant, a Hall, and an Usher;—men illustrious for their talents, eminent by their learning, amiable for their virtues, and venerable for their piety: but unhappily at their head was placed a prelate, whose views were narrow, whose superstition was abject and intolerant, and who was pleased to be the supporter of that despotism which supported his own.
Much as I dislike the principles and the temper of the unfortunate Laud, I would willingly believe that the conduct, which
produced such ruinous consequences to his cause and to the whole community, was the offspring of good motives, and that he intended well as a christian, though he acted perniciously as a politician. For his bigoted observance of ceremonies he could plead the example of some of his most eminent predecessors; and, at any other period than that in which he lived, when it was considered and was perhaps designed as a concialitory advance to the Roman church, this observance would have been an innocent if not an inoffensive display of littleness. His support of an arbitrary court is as easily to be pardoned by the liberal and comprehensive mind, which can allow for the effects of education or for the natural, and of course venial corruption of office in its influence on the understanding and the heart. But when I see him con
+ Archbishop Laud is certainly exempt from any suspicion of a bias towards popery: but he entertained a chimerical notion of the practicability of an union between the Churches of England and of Rome; and he weakly hoped that this great object might be accomplished by mutual and equal concessions,
founding the cause of Christ with that of the prelate; when I observe him persecuting with merciless rigour men of exemplary lives, united with him in every point of Christian faith, and whose sole crime was a conscientious opposition to the hierarchal dignity, and a regard to what they deemed to be the simplicity of the gospel; when I contemplate him on the judgment seat, "uncovering his head and thanking God on the passing of a cruel sentence which he had himself dictated ; when I see him afterwards in his closet recording with calm rancour and cold blooded exultation the execution of these judicial barbarities; when I behold him insulting the age of the mild and liberal Abbot and spurning him from his throne, to obtain premature possession of the metropolitan power;
when I remark him ruining, with vengeance as ungrateful as it was unrelenting, the first patron of his fortunes, bishop Williams, whose hand had placed the mit on his head-my charity must necessarily falter, and I cannot immediately decide that
u When an inhuman senter ce was passed upon Dr. Leighton, Laud pulled off his cap in the court, and thanked God for it. . The prelate noted in his diary the execution of these butchering sentences of the Star Chamber and High Commission with the cool malignity of a fiend.
he stands accountable for nothing more than erroneous judgment. He wished indeed for the prosperity of the church, but only as it was blended with the splendour of the hierarchy; and he laboured for its aggrandisement, as Philip laboured for that of Macedon or Frederic for that of Prussia, that it might form the broader and more elevated pedestal to his own individual greatness. The archbishop however and the monarchs pursued their objects with very different degrees of wisdom, and consequently of success: for while the measures of the latter were conducted to a prosperous issue by prudence and conciliation, as the means of power, those of the former were led to disappointment by rashness and irritation, in their common characters as the causes of unpopularity and weakness. By the prelate’s conduct his party was covered with odium; and it was deserted by the wise. who foresaw its approaching ruin, and by the moderate who were disgusted with its tyranny.
* Bishop Williams, when pressed by the commissaries of the High Commission to proceed with rigour against the Puritans in his diocese of Lincoln, did not scruple to say that he would
not meddle against the Puritans, as he was sure that they “ would carry all things at last.” Rush. vol. i. p. 424. This was the immediate cause of the good bishop's ruin.