« AnteriorContinuar »
fill the king's empty coffers by a piratical foray on the wealth of Spain; and hence the zealous and secret appetite with which both king and duke had at the first pursued it. But ill-manned, ill-provisoned, and ill-commanded, it failed in every point. Sailing for Cadiz Bay, the shipping in that harbour might with ease have been taken; but the Spaniards were able to secrete their ships further up the harbour, while time was lost at Fort Puntal, which, after the English captains had wasted their batteries upon it for four-and-twenty hours, surrendered, at the mere summons of a portion of the troops who were landed next day, without firing a gun.
Wimbledon, landing the rest of his troops, then gave orders for the destruction of the communications with the mainland, which Essex had found easy in the great queen's time, and which, if the Suazzo bridge had now been as promptly struck down, would have laid Cadiz open to an effective attack. But, as Eliot afterwards bitterly described it, it was a dry and hungry march into a drunken quarter. Discovering on the way several cellars stored with wine, the troops became insubordinate, drunken, and disorderly; and Wimbledon, in a fright, without either a capable man's resource or a strong man's decision, carried them headlong back to
the fleet without having seen an enemy. At first he thought of retaining Puntal for better intercepting of the expected convoy, but all attempts to restore discipline were hopeless, and he re-embarked with ignominy. He then cruised about after the Spanish fleet for eighteen days, suffered it to escape him unobserved during the night, and returned to Plymouth with disease and mutiny raging on all sides around him, the officers loud in denunciation of his incompetency, and the men decimated by a sickness which they attributed to foul play and dishonesty in provisioning the
ships. Hundreds of seamen and soldiers were landed in a dying state, and more than a thousand were said to have perished before the ships reached harbour. For many months to come the appalling extent of the disaster showed itself visibly in every road and town on that western coast, and above all in the streets of Plymouth."
This disastrous expedition-so unlike, both in its project and result, the brave doings of Drake, Howard of Effingham, Raleigh and others-increased the discontent of the people. Buckingham was impeached by the House of Commons, with Sir John Eliot for its spokesman. Sir John
wound up the charge by comparing Buckingham to Sejanus, as proud, insolent, rapacious; and accused of this-a base adulator and tyrant by turns. When king Charles heard of the bold language, he had Sir John and Sir Dudley Diggen, who assisted in the impeachment, called out of the house as if his majesty required their presence. As soon as they came to the lobby they were seized-a totally unconstitutional proceeding-and sent to the Tower. This outrage on the persons of their fellow members and delegated prosecutors came like a thunder clap on the house. There was instantly a vehement cry of "Rise! rise! rise!" The whole assembly was in a state of the highest ferment. Charles protested and denounced and threatened, but in vain; neither the king's indignation nor Buckingham's bravado prevented them from insisting on the return of the two members. Sir John and Sir Dudley were restored to them, and the House passed a resolution that these gentlemen had done their duty.
Buckingham, shielded from punishment by the royal protection, invested with new honour and dignities, was permitted still to pursue his own wild course, and to involve the king in still further difficulties. The king wanted money, and demanded supplies; the Commons were instructed to comply at once or his majesty would take other steps. Remonstrance was in vain, the king would grant no delay-"No, not for one minute." So the Parliament was dissolved, and the end hastened.
No sooner was the Parliament dissolved than the king took the reins of government into his own hand and went blindly on the road to ruin. The Commons published a remonstrance; the king issued a counter declaration; commanded persons possessing a copy of the "remonstrance" to burn it on pain of his displeasure. A warrant was then issued levying duties on all exports and imports; ordering fines on the Catholics to be rigidly enforced; a commission was issued to inquire into the proceeds of the crown lands, and to grant leases, remit feudal service, and convert copyholds into freeholds on certain charges. Privy seals were again issued to noblemen, gentlemen, and merchants for the advance of loans; and London was called on to furnish one hundred and twenty thousand pounds: the different seaports were also ordered to provide and maintain during three months a fixed number of armed vessels; and the Lord Lieutenants of counties were commanded to muster the people and train troops to arms in case of internal disorder or foreign invasion.
On the king receiving news of the defeat of the allies and the death blow which had been struck to the cause of his kinsman, the Elector
Palatinate, he issued orders for raising a fresh forced loan. Whoever refused to comply with this illegal demand might be interrogated by the Commissioners on oath as to their reasons and who were their advisers, and they were bound by oath never to divulge what passed between them and the Commissioners.
"Charles issued a proclamation, excusing his conduct by alleging that the necessities of the State did not admit of waiting for the re-assembling of Parliament, and assuring his loving subjects that whatever was now paid would be remitted in the collection of the next subsidy. He also addressed a letter to the clergy, calling on them to exhort their parishioners from the pulpit to obedience and liberality. But such were the relative positions of king and parliament, that people were not very confident of any speedy grant from that body, and the good faith of both Charles and his favourite had become so dubious that many refused to pay. The names of these were transmitted to the council, and the vengeance of the court was let loose upon them. The rich were fined and imprisoned, the poor were forcibly enrolled in the army or navy, that they might serve with their bodies, since they refused to serve with their purses.' In vain were appeals made to the king against this intolerable tyranny, he would listen to no one. Amongst the names of those who suffered on this occasion stand those of Sir John Eliot and John Hampden, as well as of Wentworth, soon, as Strafford, to become a proselyte of absolutism."
All who opposed the king came in for a share of his indignation; all who held office were summarily dismissed; all who were rich were heavily fined-the king was resolved on making no compromise with the Commons; and there were not wanting those who, in following the king's mood, found themselves lifted into greatness and fortune, neither of which they would ever have obtained by a straightforward course.
"Laud," says an able writer on this subject, was advanced for his absolute and popish predilection to the see of Bath and Wells, and sent forth a circular to the clergy enjoining them to preach up zealously the advance of money to the crown, as a work meriting salvation. He openly advocated a strict league and confederacy betwixt the church and state, by which they might trample over all schism, heresy, and disloyalty. There was no lack of time-servers to second his efforts. Roger Mainwaring, one of the king's chaplains, a true high-priest to the golden calf, with the most shameless prostitution of the pulpit, declared before the king and court at Whitehall that the power of the king was above all
courts and parliaments; that parliament, indeed, was but an inferior kind of council, entirely at the king's will; the king's order was sufficient authority for the raising of money, and that all who refused it were guilty of unutterable sin, and liable to damnation. He insulted the Scriptures. by dragging them in to prove all this; and would have sold, not his own soul only, but the souls of the whole nation to obtain a bishopric. He had his desire; and the success of such religious toadyism inflamed the clergy in the country with a like abjectness. One Robert Sibthorpe, vicar
of Brockley, in an assize sermon preached at Northampton, declared that even if the king commanded people to resist the law of God, they were to obey him, to show no resistance, no railing, no reviling,-to be all passive obedience. To demonstrate the scriptural soundness of his doctrine, he quoted this verse of the book of Ecclesiastes: Where the word of the king is, there is power; and who may say unto him what dost thou ?' "Abbot, the archbishop, was applied to, to license the printing of this sermon; but the old man, who had always had a puritan leaning, which