Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

don and the Scots at their command, thought it no longer necessary to continue that disguise which had hitherto imperfectly concealed their principles from the world. They openly avowed themselves the enemies of toleration; and their victorious army, composed of Independents and various sectarists, began to discover that they had lavished their blood only to substitute one tye ranny for another, and had conquered merely for their own ruin. In this exigence they preferred petitions and remonstrances to the Parliament, and, on the failure of these legal weapons, under the impulse of resentment and despair, they resorted to violence, and destroyed the presbyterian power,

the government, and themselves. They became, indeed, the instruments of their superior officers; and were eventually made the engine of Cromwell, by whom they and the nation were despoiled of all their great political objects; but were gratified with their favourite toleration in its most unlimited extent.

These events, however, though just at hand, were not as yet disclosed or even foreseen; and Ireton and Cromwell, uncertain of the result of their contest with the Presbyterians, made an offer to Charles, while he was in their power at Hampton-Court, to

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

reinstate him in his royalties on certain conditions, for which they stipulated for themselves and their friends. But the infatuated prince, under the influence of weak or interested advisers, and elated by a strange opinion of his own great importance' amid this violent conflict of parties, rejected the proffers of his fortune; and even offended those, by whom they were made, with his haughtiness, his fluctuation and his duplicity. When they found, by their discovery of his secret correspondence with the queen, that no reliance was to be placed on his good faith, Ireton and Cromwell seem to have determined on his destruction; and, withdrawing their protection, they compelled him, for his immediate preservation, to fly from Hampton-Court in quest of another asylum. This he sought, but, instead of it, lie unfortunately found a much more certain and rigorous prison in the Isle of Wight; where he experienced a close confinement for nearly a twelvemonth in Carisbrooke Castle.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

. He was persuaded, he said, that it was in his power to turn the scale, and that the party must sink which he aban doned; and he told those, who brought to him the offers of

army, " I shall see you glad ere long to accept more equal terms. You cannot be without me: you will fall to ruin, if I do not sustain you,” &c. &c. RUSHWORTH.

& Commanded by Col. Hammond,

the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Even here, however, fortune seemed, again, disposed to redress her former wrongs to him, and to give him back, by treaty, a large part, at least, of what she had ravished from him by arms. But his fatal obstinacy finally repulsed her; and the persuasion, from which all his past experience could not reclaim him, of the consequence of a dethroned and captive king, induced him to throw away the last mean of safety. The difficulties, which he interposed, protracting the negociation between him and the Parliament, the army gained time to return from their victorious expedition against the Scots, and to concert their measures against their common enemies, the Presbyterians and himself. Having possessed themselves of the Parliament by force, they once more seize upon the Monarch, and, insulting him with the mockery of a legal trial under the pretended authority of an unrepresented people, they lead him to suffer on the scaffold. In

pronouncing the illegality of this whole proceeding the voice of the dispassionate and the intelligent must necessarily be unanimous; and the question will not be found to include any part of that respecting the guilt of Charles,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

• January 30, 1648 9.

or the right of the nation to make him responsible, with his life, for the abuse of his delegated sceptre. He fell, as it must be obvious, not by the judicial, but by the military sword; and, though Bradshaw pronounced the sentence, the fanatic army, under the guidance of Ireton and Cromwell, were in truth the authors of his death.

Abhorrent, as I necessarily must be, from this deed of sanguinary violence, I cannot consent to involve, in one sweep of condemnation, all those who were its perpetrators. While the greater number of them were wild enthusiasts, who conceived that they were acting in obedience to the will of God by removing the intolerant supporter of prelacy, and the violator, also, as they imagined, of the obligation of the sovereign to the people, a few of them, if not comprehensive politicians, were honest patriots, who fancied that, by the trial and the execution of a guilty king, they could establish a commonwealth on the basis of equal right, and of general advan"tage. Among these, who certąinly formed a small minority, I must reckon 'Ireton, Bradshaw, and Ludlow, men who were true to their professed principles, and who evidently acted on their views of the public good, erronegus as we know them to have been.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the question respecting Charles, a question, the decision of which belonged to the magistrate and not to me, and which had now received its final determination."

The work, of which Milton speaks in this passage, was published in february 1648-9 with the title of “ The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates; proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through all ages, for any; ; who have the power, to call to account a tyrant or wicked king; and, after due conviction, to depose and put him to death, if the ordinary magistrate have neglected or denied to do it.”

Respecting the origin and object of the regal and magisterial function there cannot be a dissentient opinion among the enlightened and the reflecting. It would be idle to affirm that this monarch inherited his

sceptre from his ancestors, or that another obtained his by conquest, or, that, in no instance now before our eyes, has the voice of the people seated its favourite on the throne. No other conceivable source of political power can be pretended than the general will operating, by exertion or in acquiesceence for the general order and advantage. When God made man weak and indi

gave him propensities to coalesce®

[ocr errors][merged small]

gent, and

« PreviousContinue »