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LECTURE XV.

CHARLES I.

IN
N my last lecture I proposed to my hearers, when they

came to the examination of this most interesting reign of Charles I., to divide it into different intervals, and during these intervals, to compare the conduct of the king and his parliaments, the better to appreciate, on the whole, the merits and demerits of the contending parties.

Disquisitions of this kind form an important part of the instruction of history; the great principles of human conduct are, on these occasions, examined and reflected upon, and we are thus enabled to draw general conclusions. The language, for instance, which I yesterday quoted from Lord Clarendon, constituted, no doubt, much of his conversation to those around him at the time. We see it afterwards the language of Hume; it will be the language of a certain portion of the community, and that by no means the least respectable, at all times, whenever the conduct of any government becomes the subject of inquiry and remark. I therefore draw your attention to it; but I observed then, and I must repeat now, that such sentiments would have been fatal to our ancestors and ourselves, if they had prevailed in the time of Charles. Their tendency is, more or less, fatal in every period of society, and when a mixed and free constitution has been at length established, and general prosperity has been the natural result, this turn of thinking seems to be one of the last, but certainly one of the most formidable enemies, which any such mixed and free constitution has to encounter.

After dividing the reign of Charles into two intervals, the first, of four years from his accession, the next, of eleven years immediately succeeding, I mentioned to you, as a specimen of the transactions that took place, the Petition of Right and the question of tonnage and poundage. They gave occasion to the quotations I recommended to your attention from Clarendon and Hume.

It is to this second interval that belongs the celebrated question of ship-money. The very name of Hampden will recall it to your mind. Observe the instruction which is to be derived from some of the circumstances that took place; observe the manner in which the great leaders of the popular party could be brought over to the court; how even a man, so able and so severe, as the celebrated Noy, the attorneygeneral, could be so misled, or so flattered, as to become, in fact, the author of the writ for ship-money; how the judges themselves could be tampered with ; how an opinion which they pronounced theoretically, and in the abstract, could be abused in practice, and turned to the most illegal purposes : how an exercise of the prerogative (confined and bounded in its original application) could be extended indefinitely, and converted into a regular mode of legislation, which it was no longer necessary in the court to justify, nor allowable for the subject to question; when remarks like these have been made, we may surely see, but too plainly, how many are the dangers to which all civil liberty must be for ever exposed; how precarious, as well as precious, is the blessing. Let us honour, as we ought, the constitution of England, but let us consider, as we ought, how, and from whom, we have received it, and we may then learn to pronounce with gratitude and reverence, the name of Hampden.

Such, indeed, have been the sentiments with which that name has been always pronounced by Englishmen. The historian, Hume himself, seems affected for one short moment, by the common enthusiasın, when he arrives at this part of his narrative.

“ When this assertor of the public cause," says he,“ had resisted the levy of ship-money, the prejudiced, or prostituted judges, four excepted, gave sentence in favour of the crown. Hampden, however, obtained by the trial, the end for which he had so generously sacrificed his safety and his quiet; the people were roused from their lethargy and became sensible of the danger to which their liberty was exposed. These national questions were canvassed in every company, and the more they were examined, the more evidently did it appear to many that liberty was totally subverted, and an unusual and arbitrary authority exercised over the kingdom. Slavish principles, they said, concurred with illegal practices ; ecclesiastical tyranny gave aid to civil usurpations; iniquitous taxes were supported by arbitrary punishments; and all the privileges of the nation, transmitted through so many ages, secured by so many laws, and purchased by the blood of so many heroes and patriots, now lay prostrate at the feet of the monarch! What, though public peace and national industry increased the commerce and opulence of the kingdom? This advantage was temporary, and due alone, not to any encouragement given by the crown, but to the spirit of the English, the remains of their ancient freedom? What, though the personal character of the king, amidst all his misguided counsels, might merit indulgence, or even praise ? He was but one man; and the privileges of the people, the inheritance of millions, were too valuable to be sacrificed to his prejudices and mistakes."

Here Mr. Hume, as if conscious what might be the influence of the eloquent reasonings and just statements which he was exhibiting, stops short-it was certainly high time ; and, as if unwilling that his reader should be excited to a sentiment of patriotism too unqualified, he immediately subjoins :

“ Such, or more severe, were the sentiments promoted by a great party in the nation. No excuse, on the king's part, or alleviation, however reasonable, could be hearkened to or admitted ; and to redress these grievances a parliament was impatiently longed for, or any other incident, however calamitous, that might secure the people against those oppressions which they felt, or the greater ills which they apprehended from the combined encroachments of church and state."

My hearers will easily conceive that it is impossible for me in the slightest manner to enter into any detail of the merits or demerits of the political questions that were agitated, and of the struggle that existed during these two intervals of four and of eleven years. I have attempted to do what alone I can hope to do; I have pointed out a few of the more leading topics of political dissension, as specimens of the whole, and have offered such observations upon them as I am willing to believe my hearers, when they come to examine the history, will think reasonable.

But we must now look at this subject from another point of view.

I have already apprized you that the Reformation had produced in England, as well as in other countries, great differences of opinion on religious subjects, and that, therefore, the religious principle got at length entangled in the political questions that agitated the nation. This will be immediately apparent. I have already touched upon a few of the points of civil dispute between the sovereign and his parliaments; I must, therefore, now allude to those of a religious nature, and, therefore, to the system of measures which Charles pursued with respect to the neighbouring kingdom of Scotland.

It is observed by Mr. Hume, in the beginning of his fiftythird chapter, that “it was justly apprehended that such precedents (alluding to those that took place on the disuse of parliaments), if patiently submitted to, would end in a total disuse of parliaments and in the establishment of arbitrary authority: but that Charles dreaded no opposition from the people, who are not commonly much affected with consequences, and require some striking motive to engage them in a resistance to an established government.”

This inertness and want of foresight, which the historian so justly supposes to belong to the mass of every community, would be, of all the characteristics of our nature, one of the most beneficial, if the rulers of mankind would not ungenerously abuse it; but this they are always ready to do, often to the injury of the public, and sometimes even to their own destruction.

Charles had been persevering in this faulty, or rather criminal course, for some time after the fourth year of his reign; but as he added folly to his political transgressions, he at last supplied his subjects with that“ striking motive” which the historian justly represents as so necessary to rouse a people into rebellion.

Unfortunately for his royal house, both he and his father lived in a religious age; and their particular temperaments impelled them to introduce the religious principle into politics; an unworthy direction, which, of itself, it would have been

but too apt to take in the existing circumstances of the world.

James I. had pronounced the celebrated maxim of “No bishop, no king.” The divines of the church of England were in these times not wanting in their endeavours to establish the doctrine of passive obedience; it was indeed supposed to be the unqualified doctrine of the Scriptures. A sympathy and a supposed bond of interest, to be carried blindly to any unconstitutional length, was thus unhappily formed between the regal and episcopal power. Add to this, that the religion of Charles and the famous Laud was narrow and intolerant; and in a fatal hour it was resolved to introduce the canons and liturgy of the church of England, or rather a modification of them, that was even more offensive, into Scotland.

It is needless to speak of the injustice as well as the imprudence of such an experiment; but it is too important a feature in the portrait of these times not to require the most perfect consideration of every reader of our history. All that can be said in extenuation of Charles may be seen in Claren. don and in Hume; but you will do well to peruse much of this part of the history in Burnet; and certainly in Rushworth's Collections, where the dissimulation, obstinacy, and folly of the king are more shown than in Hume or in Clarendon, and where the fanaticism of the members of the Scotch church or of the kirk may also be seen more completely by being displayed in the very words and expressions which they themselves used, and of which no adequate description can be given. Their solemn league and covenant, now that we are out of the reach of it, is, in spite of the seriousness of the subject, and the tremendous effects it produced, such a specimen of the Presbyterians and of the times, as to be, I had almost said, amusing.

I do not, upon the whole, think it proper to be quoted here, but you will of course peruse it attentively.

It was in vain that Charles at length made concessions to his Scottish subjects; these concessions were never made in time, nor ever sufficient for the occasion. They never deserved the praise of magnanimity; and they therefore never reaped the benefit of it. From the first, his cause in Scotland

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