CHARLES I

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CHARLES I, king of England and Scotland, was born in Scotland, in the year 1600, and was the second son of James VI and anne of Denmark. Soon after the birth of his son, James succeeded to the crown of England, and, upon the death of prince Henry, in 1612, Charles was created prince of Wales. His youth appears to have passed respectably, little being recorded of him previously to his romantic journey into Spain in company with Buckingham, in order to pay his court in person to the Spanish infanta. Through the arrogance of Buckingham, this match was prevented, and the prince was soon after contracted to Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV of France. In 1625, he succeeded to the throne, on the death of his father, and received the kingdom embroiled in a Spanish war, and full of suspicion and dislike to the minister Buckingham. The first parliament which he summoned, being much more disposed to state grievances than grant supplies, was dissolved; and, by loans and other expedients, an expedition was fitted out against Spain, which terminated in disgrace and disappointment. In the next year, a new parliament was summoned; and the disgust and jealousy, which prevailed between the king and this assembly, laid the foundation of the misfortunes of his reign. The house of commons impeached the minister, and the king supported him. They held fast the public purse, and he intimated a design of following new counsels, should they continue to resist his will, and suddenly and angrily dissolved them, after a short session, while they were preparing a remonstrance against the levying of tonnage and poundage without consent of parliament. Charles then began to employ his threatened mode of raising funds, by loans, benevolences, and similar unpopular proceedings; which, however partially sanctioned by precedent, were wholly opposed to the rising notions of civil liberty throughout the nation, and to the constitutional doctrine, which rendered the commons the guardian and dispenser of the public treasure. His difficulties were further increased by a preposterous war with France, intended to gratify the private enmity of Buckingham, who added to the odium against him by an illfated expedition in assistance of the Huguenots of Rochelle. In 1628, the king was obliged to call a new parliament, which showed itself as much opposed to arbitrary measures as its predecessor, and, after voting the supplies, prepared a bill, called " A petition of right, recognising all the legal privileges of the subject," which, notwithstanding the employment of all manner of arts and expedients to avoid it, Charles was constrained to pass into a law; and, had the concession been unequivocal and sincere, and the constitutional mode of government, which it implied, been really adopted by both sides, much that followed might have been prevented. Charles, however, by his open encouragement of the doctrines of such divines as Sibthorpe and Mainwaring, who publicly inculcated the doctrine of passive obedience, and represented all limitation of kingly power as seditious and impious, too clearly sanctioned the jealousy of the commons, who would not, in consequence, rest in confidence or slacken their attacks upon Buckingham, on which account they were suddenly prorogued. The assassination of the favorite soon after, by the enthusiast Felton, removed one source of discord, and Charles became more his own minister ; and some differences with his queen, which had been fomented by Buckingham, being made up, he ever after continued much under her influence. The parliament, which met in January, 1628, manifested so determined a spirit against the king's claim of levying tonnage and poundage by his own authority, that it was suddenly dissolved, and Charles was determined to try to reign without one. For this purpose, having judiciously terminated the pending wars between France and Spain, he raised sir Thomas Wentworth, afterwards so celebrated as lord Strafford, to the principal place in his councils. This able statesman had begun his political career in opposition to the court, but, having been gained over, was, by his austerity, talent and firmness, an exceedingly fit instrument to curb the spirit of resistance to prerogative, which had become so strong among the commons. In ecclesiastical affairs, Charles, unhappily for himself and the church, was guided by the counsels of Laud, then bishop of London, a prelate whose learning and piety were debased by superstition and a zeal as indiscreet as intolerant. Under these counsels, some years passed away in the execution of plans for raising money without the aid of parliament, with other dangerous expedients. The arbitrary courts of high commission and star chamber, in the hands of Laud, also exercised, in many instances, the most grievous oppression; of which the treatment of Williams, bishop of Lincoln, and others, affords memorable examples. In 1634, shipmoney began to be levied, which being strictly applied to naval purposes, the nation at large acquiesced in it with less than usual repugnance; and some writers, who courageously attacked the court against the principle, were treated with so much severity, that others were deterred from following their example. So desperate did the cause of liberty at this time appear, that great numbers of the Puritans emigrated to New England; and, by order of the court, a ship was prevented from sailing, in which were sir Arthur Hazelrig, John Hampden and Oliver Cromwell. It was in 1637, not long after this remarkable event, that Hampden commenced the career of resistance by refusing to pay shipmoney; the right to levy which, without authority of parliament, he was determined to bring before a court of law. His cause was argued for 12 days in the court of exchequer ; and, although he lost it by the decision of 8 of the judges out of 12, the discussion of the question was followed by the most important consequences in its operation upon public opinion. It was in Scotland, however, that formal warlike opposition was destined to commence. From the beginning of his reign, Charles had endeavored to introduce into that country a liturgy copied from the English an innovation which produced the most violent tumults, and ended in the formation of the famous Covenant, in 1638, by which all classes of people mutually engaged to stand by each other. The Covenanters levied an army, which the king opposed by an illdisciplined English force, so equivocally inclined, that, not able to trust to it, Charles agreed to a sort of pacification. The next year, he raised another army ; but, his finances being exhausted, after an intermission of 11 years, he again assembled a parliament, who, as usual, began to state grievances previously to granting supplies. Losing all patience, the king once more hastily dissolved it, and prosecuted several members who had distinguished themselves by their opposition. Raising money in the best manner he could devise, an English army was again made to proceed towards the north; but, being defeated by the Scots, it became obvious that affairs could no longer be managed without a parliament, and, in 1640, that dreaded assembly was again summoned, which proved to be the famous long parliament, whose career forms so memorable a portion of English histoiy. It is not within the limits of this work to give an account of the proceedings connected with the prosecution, condemnation and execution of Strafford and Laud, or the various measures of reaction in regard to shipmoney, tonnage and poundage, and the abolition of the iniquitous courts of high commission and star chamber: suffice it to say, that Charles soon found himself reduced to a comparatively passive spectator of the ascendency of the democratical portion of the constitution, and was obliged, both in Scotland and in England, to yield to the torrent which assailed him. In the mean time, a flame burst out in Ireland, which had no small effect in kindling the ensuing conftagra tion at home. The oppressed Catholic population of that country, during the confusion of the times, rose against the government for the purpose of regaining their rights. Veiy exaggerated accounts of the massacre of the Protestants are to be found in several of the historians. Later writers have established the fact, that the number who perished in this insurrection was very limited. The old Catholic settlers of the English pale joined the native Irish, and, to strengthen their cause, pretended to have a royal commission, and to act in defence of the king's prerogative against a puritanical and republican parliament. This pretended commission is now generally deemed a forgery; but such was the supposed partiality of Charles to popery, that this event added considerably to popular disaffection. The parliament being summoned, the king left the conduct of the war entirely to it; but it now became evident that the commons intended systematically to pursue their advantages, and to reduce the crown to a state of complete dependence. They framed a remonstrance, containing a recapitulation of all the errors of the reign ; renewed an attempt for excluding bishops from the house of lords; passed ordinances against superstitious practices; and so inflamed the popular odium against the Episcopal orders, as to intimidate its members from attending to their duty in parliament. At length, it being apparent that either the zealous adherents of prerogative, or those who were anxious to establish the government upon a more democratic basis, must give way, Charles, instigated, it is supposed, by the injudicious advice of his queen and lord Digby, caused his attorneygeneral to enter, in the house of peers, an accusation against five leading members of the commons, and sent a sergeantatarms to the house to demand them. Receiving an evasive ' aswer, he, the next day, proceeded himself to the house, with an armed retinue, to seize their persons. Aware of this intention, they had previously withdrawn ; but the king's appearance with a guard caused the house to break up in great disorder and indignation. The accused members retired into the city, where a committee of the house was appointed to sit, and the city militia was mustered under a commander appointed by parliament, which also demanded the control of the army. Here the king made his last stand, the matter having now arrived at a point which arms alone could decide. The queen fled to Holland to procure ammunition, and Charles, with the prince of Wales, proceeded northwards, and, for a time, fixed his residence at York. The king was received in his progress with great demonstrations of loyalty from the gentiy; and many eminent and virtuous characters, who had been the conscientious opposers of his arbitrary measures in the first instance, now joined his party. On the other hand, all the Puritans, the inhabitants of the great trading towns, and those who had adopted republican notions of government, sided with the parliament; and in no public contest was more private and public virtue ranged on both sides, however alloyed, as in all such cases, with ambition, bigotry and the baser passions. The first action of consequence was the battle of Edgehill, and, although indecisive, it enabled the king to approach London, and produce considerable alarm. He then retired to Oxford, and negotiations were entered into which proved unavailing. Nothing decisive, however, happened against the royal side, until the battle of Marstonmoor, in 1644, which was gained chiefly by the skill and valor of Cromwell. The succeeding year completed the ruin of the king's affairs, by the loss of the celebrated battle of Naseby. Thenceforward a series of disasters attended his armies throughout the kingdom, and he took the resolution of throwing himself into the hands of the Scottish army, then lying before Newark. He was received with respect, although placed under guard as a prisoner; and, a series of abortive negotiations ensuing, an agreement was made with the parliament to surrender him to their commissioners, on the payment of a large sum, claimed as arrears by the Scottish army. The king was accordingly surrendered to the commissioners appointed, and was carried, in the first place, to Holmbyhouse, in Northamptonshire ; subsequently, to the headquarters of the army at Reading, and, soon after, to Hamptoncourt, where he was treated with no small portion of the respect exacted by his station. In the mean time, however, the army and Independents becoming allpowerful, he was led into some fears for his personal safety, and, making his escape with a few attendants, proceeded to the southern coast. Not meeting a vessel, as he expected, he crossed over to the Isle of Wight, and put himself into the hands of Hammond, the governor, a creature of Cromwell's, by whom he was lodged in Carisbrook castle. While in this remote situation, the Scots, ashamed of the manner in which they had delivered himup, and indignant at the proceedings of the English, marched a considerable army to his relief, under the duke of Hamilton. This force, although strengthened by a large body of English royalists, was entirely routed and dispersed by Cromwell, as were the insurgents in Kent and Essex by Fairfax. During this employment of the army and its leaders, a new negotiation was opened with the king in the Isle of Wight, who agreed to nearly every thing demanded of him, except the abolition of Episcopacy; and so much had it now become the interest of the parliament itself to comply with him, that a vote was at length carried, that the king's concessions were a sufficient ground for a treaty. The triumphant army, however, on its return, cleared the house by force of all the members opposed to its views; and, thereby procuring a reversal of this vote, the king's person was again seized, and, being brought from the Isle of Wight to Hurst castle, preparations were made for trying him on the capital charge of high treason against the people. As the house of lords refused to concur in a vote for this purpose, the commons declared its concurrence unnecessary; and the king, being conducted to London, and stripped of all ensigns of royalty, was brought before the court of justice, specially erected for this unprecedented trial, on the 20th of Jan., 1649. The behavior of Charles had been calm and dignified throughout his adversity, and in no respect was it more so than on this occasion. Three times he objected to the authority of the court, when brought before it, and supported his refusal by clear and cogent arguments. At length, evidence being heard against hhn, on the proof that he had appeared in arms against the parliamentary forces, sentence of death was pronounced against him. He requested a conference with both houses, which was rejected, and only three days were allowed him to prepare for his fate. As he left the tribunal, he was insulted by a portion of the soldiery, and other base and unpardonable indignities were offered to him, which he bore with dignified equanimity. The interposition of foreign powers, the devotion of friends and ministers, who sought to save him by taking all the blame upon themselves, were vain. After passing three days, between his condemnation and execution, in religious exercises, and in tender interviews with his friends and family, he was led to the scaffold. His execution took place before the banquetinghouse, Whitehall, on the 30th of Jan., 1649, where, after addressing the people around him with great firmness and composure, the illfated king submitted to the fatai stroke. Thus died Charles I, in the 49th year of his age, than whom few kings have been more distinguished for the virtues which ornament and dignify private life. He was, in an eminent degree, temperate, chaste and religious, and, although somewhat cold and reserved in demeanor, was, in fact, highly kind and affectionate, and secured the warmest attachment of those who had access to him. His talents were also considerable; but lie shone more in suffering than in acting, and was deficient in the decision and selfreliance, which are necessary to superior executive ability. His mind was cultivated by letters, and a taste for the polite aits, particularly painting, the professors of which he munificently encouraged; and the collections of works of art, which he made in his prosperity, show great judgment in the selection. He had also a feeling for poetry, and wrote in a good style in prose, without reference to the famous Eikon Basilike, his claim to which is now generally disputed. To all these personal and private acquirements, he joined a graceful figure and pleasing countenance, and, under happier circumstances, would doubtless have been regarded as a very accomplished sovereign. With respect to his political character, as exhibited in the great struggle between himself and the parliament, it is impossible not to perceive that he strove to maintain a portion of prerogative that had become incompatible with any theory of civil and religious liberty; but it is equally certain that he only sought to retain what his predecessors had possessed, and what power never concedes willingly. There are periods, possibly, in the history of every people, in which old and new opinions conflict, and a concussion becomes unavoidable; and it was the misfortune of Charles to occupy the throne at a time when the developement of the representative system necessarily encountered the claims of prerogative. If the parliament had acquiesced in the kingly pretensions, as usually explained by Laud and the highchurchmen of the day, it would have dwindled into a mere registry of royal edicts, like those of France. On the other hand, Charles acted a part which every monarch, in his situation, may be expected to act; for a philosophical appreciation of the true nature of a political crisis is scarcely to be expected from one who sits upon a throne, The most forcible accusation against Charles is on the score of insincerity. It is asserted that he never intended to fulfil the conditions imposed upon him. This can scarcely be denied ; but it is equally certain that some of them might justly be deemed . questionable, if not demanded with a direct view to produce that conduct in the king which so naturally followed. On the whole, though many may demur to his title of martyr, few will hesitate to regard him as a victim to a crisis which the growing power of the commons, and the unsettled nature of the prerogative, rendered sooner or later inevitable. His fate, like that of the house of Stuart generally, exhibits the danger and absurdity of those high theoretical notions of kingly prerogative, which, while they add very little to the real power of those whom they are intended to favor, too frequently seduce them into encounters with currents of principle and action, a resistance to which is always futile, and generally destructive.