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broke from the old establishment, but no power could hold them to the new. Catholics not only became Protestants, but Protestants became Puritans, and Puritans soon began to question the authority by which a wicked king imposed on the church of God the forms of its worship and the doctrines of its belief.
Here was the commencement of the great English Rebellion, which resulted so gloriously for the cause of human rights. It is true that the strong arm with which Henry ruled the nation, and the steady and popular reign of his daughter Elizabeth, smothered for awhile the flame which was thus kindled; but the death of Elizabeth made way for the house of Stuart, with its succession of weak and contemptible sovereigns, giving full scope to the bold and independent elements which had been silently gathering strength in the heart of the nation.
The twenty-two years of James were marked by some disorders and many bold complaints on the part of the people; but it was reserved for the tyranny of his son Charles to drive the people into acts of open resistance. During the first three years of his reign he dissolved three successive parliaments, because they sought to redress some of the grievances of the state; and, having thrown into the tower the boldest advocates of popular rights, he resolved to govern without the aid or counsel of his people.
Tyranny now took the place of law. The “Petition of Rights," which Charles had subscribed with his own hand, was disregarded; ancient laws and the most solemn recent pledges were outraged ; the courts of justice were made the corrupt instruments of the king's rapacity; monopolies for the manufacture of soap and other articles were sold to favorites; ship-money was levied; the militia disarmed; troops quartered on the people, and the prisons filled with those who had dared to raise their voice against the king's oppressions.
In the church, Laud, the archbishop, undertook to establish uniformity, in doing which he proved himself even a greater despot than the king. The least derogation from the canons or liturgy was punished as a crime; the pomp and ceremony of the discarded Catholic worship were everywhere revived; magnificence adorned the walls of the churches, consecrations were performed with the most ostentatious ceremonials, and a general belief in the speedy triumph of Popery prevailed. "I hate to be in a crowd,' said the Duke of Devonshire's daughter to Laud, in apology for having gone over to the Catholic communion ; "and as I perceive your grace and many others are hastening toward Rome, I wish to get there comfortably by myself."
Nothing could be more uncongenial to the feelings of the English people than this retrograde movement toward the high church authority of old Rome. For nearly a century they had been struggling on toward reform; the Bible had been printed in the English tongue, and was widely diffused; the simplicity of its doctrines had made a strong impression on the heart of an honest, thinking people, and the proceedings of Laud excited a general feeling of repulsion. The churches were in consequence mostly deserted, and in a few instances the bishop, in order to gather congregations for his splendid and gorgeous temples, was actually obliged to have recourse to compulsion.
This absurd policy was followed by its natural consequences. Nonconformity, at first confined to the few and the obscure, was embraced in the towns by the better class of citizens, and in the country by the freeholders, the lesser gentry, and a few of the higher nobility. Disgusted with the high pretensions and harsh measures of the primate and his spiritual hierarchy, the people took to their embrace the persecuted and rejected nonconforming ministry; and under their guidance and teachings a deep vein of piety was opened in the heart of the English nation, from which sprang a religion remarkable for the simplicity of its forms and the spirituality of its worship.
But the new religious tendency was not toward regularity and uniformity. On the other hand, many little independent sects sprang up under the influence of that repulsion which was the natural effect of Laud's stringent measures, and, in disgust at his high-church dogmas, they rejected all general church government, and claimed the right to regulate their own forms of worship as they chose.
Persecuted, these various sects clung together, and constituted a strong party, opposed alike to the high pretensions of the archbishop and the arbitrary measures of the king. They took the Bible as their guide ; its doctrines were the theme of constant discussion; its teachings were the only acknowledged rule of right; and truth, honesty, industry, self-denial, and holiness, were inculcated in the shop and in the field, at the family altar and the fireside ; and a new race of men sprang into existence, whose integrity, patient endurance, steadfast firmness, and sublime dependence on God, made them capable of the highest efforts and the most daring enterprise.
Individuals, and in many instances whole congregations, wearied with opposition and persecution, sought some retreat where the arm of power could not so easily reach them. Many retired to
Holland, and many more sought a refuge in the forests of the new world. Whole families sold their property, and, embarking in companies, under the charge of some minister of their own faith, prepared to give up home and friends, their old ties of locality and brotherhood, for the unmolested worship of the Most High in the distant wilderness. Educated, intelligent, moral, industrious, patient, and self-denying, they went forth, the pioneers of liberty, to give tone and energy to the character of a whole people, and to lay the foundations of this great and glorious republic.
Many expeditions of this character took place silently, and without any obstacles on the part of the government. But all at once the king perceived that they had not only become numerous, but that many considerable citizens were engaged in them, and that they were carrying with them great riches. It was no longer a few weak and obscure sectarians who felt the weight of tyranny, but the feelings of these were now shared by men of every rank. It was necessary to stop this outflow of the discontented; and accordingly an order from council was issued, forbidding the expeditions in a state of preparation to sail. O, blindness to the future! At that very time (May 1, 1637) eight vessels, ready to depart, were at anchor in the Thames. On board of one of them were Pym, Haslerig, Hampden, and Cromwell. The king's order probably sealed his own fate.
The archbishop, in attempting to carry his retrograde reforms into Scotland, aroused the spirit of resistance in that hardy and independent people, and he ceased not to add fuel to the flame till the Scots flew to arms. The war with Scotland called for resources which the king could not command without the concurrence of his people; and he resolved, after an interregnum of eleven years, once more to assemble a parliament.
But during these long years of oppression and tyranny the minds of men had not become reconciled to the yoke ; and on coming together again in their legislative capacity they immediately began to deliberate on the old subject of grievances. The king wanted money, and not complaints; and after testing their temper for three weeks, he grew angry, and, ordering them before him, pronounced their dissolution. But he soon repented of his haste. Strafford was defeated almost without striking a blow; and Charles, pressed with difficulties on every side, found it necessary to call another council of his people, and on the third of November, 1640, was assembled at Westminster that famous body, destined to be known through all time as the Long Parliament.
It was now fifteen years since Charles ascended the throne.
For the half of a generation England had been without a parliament. The constitution lay in ruins, and arbitrary force had been substituted for popular law. Three successive parliaments had been dissolved in as many years, for daring to assert the rights of the people, and now another had shared the same fate. What was to be done? Were the people to recede or go forward ; to abandon their rights, or maintain English liberty in its original strength? Fortunately, the late war had just then fully revealed the king's weakness, and the people resolved to strike for liberty. “Never," says Clarendon, “had the attendance at the opening of a session been so numerous; never had their faces worn so proud an aspect in the presence of sovereignty."
The new parliament commenced the work of reform with a bold hand. The innovations of the archbishop were attacked, and finally abolished; the star chamber, the north court, and the court of high commission, were annulled; a law was passed taking from the king all power to dissolve parliament without its consent; Strafford and Laud were impeached and thrown into the tower; the bishops were excluded from their seats in the upper house, and finally seized and cast into prison; Prynn, Burton, Bostwick, Leighton, Lilburne, and others, were released from their dungeons; the dissenting sects reappeared from their hiding-places, and the power of the state was again exerted to protect the rights of the citizen.
The king subdued his resentment, and, feeling his weakness, quietly yielded to the storm; giving a reluctant approval 10 all these sweeping reforms, and even consenting to the death of Strafford, an active, able minister, from whose talents and boldness the people had suffered much, and from whom they had most to apprehend in the future. His execution relieved them from a pressing danger; but the contemptible conduct of the king, in thus sacrificing his ablest and most faithful minister, shows how little faith could be reposed in him, even by his partisans. Mr. M'Cauley tartly observes, that it is good there should be such a man as Charles in every league of villany. It is for such men that offers of pardon and reward are intended. They are ever ready to secure themselves by bringing their accomplices to punishment.
The abortive attempt of the king to seize the five members brought his affairs to a crisis. Five days after, he quitted Whitehall to enter it no more as an independent sovereign, and retired to the north for the purpose of assembling an army in order to regain his lost prerogative. At York he was overtaken by commissioners authorized to propose terms for the settlement of all differ
ences between him and parliament; but Charles was now surrounded by his cavaliers, and inspired by too many high hopes to yield anything to the demands of his people.
Both armies took the field in 1642. On the part of parliament the command was given to the Earl of Essex, a brave and experienced officer, but by no means equal to the temper of the times. The war was consequently conducted without energy, and resulted in no decisive advantages 10 either party down to the battle of Marston Moor, in 1644, two years after. It was at this battle that Cromwell appeared for the first time distinctly as the hero of a well-fought field. It was his energy and skill which determined the fate of that great battle, and henceforth he was to take a conspicuous part in the conduct of public affairs.
As a public man he was not altogether unknown. He had been a member of Charles's third parliament, also of the short parliament of 1640, and now held a seat in the Long Parliament. In these bodies he was known as one of the firmest and most consistent supporters of the popular cause, and was always found by the side of Pym, Hampden, &c., in their resistance to the arbitrary measures of the king.
He entered the army as a captain of horse, but was soon placed at the head of a regiment which he had raised among his own acquaintance. His men were remarkable for their orderly conduct, piety, and conscientious support of the popular cause, and were organized into a church under Cromwell's immediate eye. In this regiment no swearing was allowed, no plundering, drinking, or other disorders; and, having the fear of God before their eyes, they soon lost all other fear.
Such had been his success in the discipline and management of his men, that before the battle of Marston Moor he had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general. New-Castle, with six thousand troops, was shut up in York, and in the latter part of June, Prince Rupert, the boldest and most dashing leader of his time, appeared from the hills of Lancashire with an army of twenty thousand fierce men to relieve the place. The parliamentary army under Manchester and Cromwell drew out on the moor to meet him, and the result was, to use the quaint words of Carlyle, “four thousand one hundred bodies to be buried, and the total ruin of the king's affairs in those northern parts.” The prince had been successful in his first assault, and the parliamentary army was routed on the right wing; but the squadrons of Cromwell bore down with such overwhelming force as to retrieve the fortunes of the day,