Page images
PDF
EPUB

through Popish subtlety or self-interest.* He found the English constitution strongly inclining to despotism, yet he is accused of having been himself the cause of its deterioration; and in his endeavours to cure the evils that had crept into the ecclesiastical establishment, he has been charged with motives the most conflicting and preposterous. As a Briton, I feel a strong aversion to every symptom and appendage of arbitrary power ; and I cannot describe the horror of my mind, when I first perused the account which King James gives of the flexible powers and extensive jurisdiction of the Star-chamber, and recollected many of the tyrannical purposes to which it and the High Commission Court had been applied. “ The Starchamber,” said his Majesty in 1616,“ hath that belonging to it which belongs to no other court: For in this Court attempts are punishable, where other Courts punish only facts; and also where the Law punisheth facts easily, as in case of riots or combats, there the Star-chamber punisheth in a higher degree,t

* Of the gossiping information of which Archbishop Usher was made the the depositary, the following extract of a letter, addressed to him by Mr. Alexander Cook, is a good specimen :

“ I was desirous to acquaiut you with an accident lately fallen out, some circumstances whereof I had better occasion to know than many my betters. It concerneth my Lady Faukland. She, within this fortnight, hath declared herself to be a Papist. One of the Priests who perverted her, goeth under the name of Fitzgerard, though his true name is George Pettinger, a Yorkshire-man, an idle prating compauion, and a serving-man not many years ago; a frequenter of baudy-houses, and a cozener of tradesmen in London, as I myself in part know, and as I am credibly informed by Sir Thomas Savile, to whom he was well known, and by some gentlemen of his own kindred. Mr. Mountagu, Mr. Cosens, and the College (as it is called) at Durham-house, are sensible of the disgrace which they sustain by reason of her fall. Mr. Mountagu told her, that, dying an English Papist, she died in the state of damnation.' Mr. Cosens told her, that she had sinned dam

pably in departing from that church in which she was born and baptized, . before she had consulted with the governors thereof.' Besides, Mr. Cosens gave her a few notes, which she sent unto her priest to answer; whose answer came to my hands, and, in my poor opinion, was a very silly one. Yet Mr. Cosens would not reply, but took his farewell of the lady, without purpose of ever visiting her again. She protested, that if ever she turn again, she

will turn Puritan, not MODERATE PROTESTANT, as she phraseth it: For • moderate Protestants- viz. Mr. Cosens, &c.-are farther from Catholics

than Puritans.' And thus much concerning her, who, for any thing I know, is neither fallen from grace nor to grace. London, Nov. 30, 1626.

The witty remark at the conclusion is very just, when applied even to other apostates than those who forsake the communion of Protestants. But, on an impartial observer, the whole account, which was intended to detract from Arminianism and to exalt Puritanism, will produce a contrary effect: For every one must co-incide in opinion with Lady Falkland, that « moderate Protestants are farther from Catholics than Puritans."

t In a letter to Bishop Bedell in 1629, Archbishop Usher said, “My Chancellor is better skilled in law than I am, and far better able to manage mat. ters of that kind; suam quisque norit artem runneth still in my mind, and how easy a matter it is for a Bishop, that is ignorant in the law, to do wrong unto others, and run himself into a Premunire; and where wrong is done, i know right may more easily be had against a Chancellor than against a I will be the man that will cast the first stone at him myself, as

opened to bene

for the removing and censuring of him whom I found at my first coming into the Diocess of Meath."

and also all combinations of practices and conspiracies: Anid if the King be dishonoured or contemned in his prerogative, it belongeth most properly to the Peers and Judges of this Court to punish it. So then, this Court, being instituted for so great causes, it is great reason it should have great honour."* In the year 1609, the same learned monarch spoke thus about the High Commission Court : “ Complaints may be made to you of the High Commissioners ; if so be, try the abuse, and spare not to complain upon it: but say not, There shalt be no Commission! For that were to abridge the power that is in me; and I will plainly tell you, that something I have with myself resolved anent that point, which I mean ever to keep except I see other great cause ;_which is, that in regard the High Commission is of so high a nature, from which there is no appellation to any other Court, I have thought good to restrain it only to the two Archbishops, where before it was common amongst a great part of the Bishops in England.” Such are the descriptions given by the first Stuart who reigned over England, and who, after his escape from the severe thraldom in which the Scotch Presbyterians had holden him, scarcely knew within what bounds he might indulge his newly-acquired power, or the restraints to be imposed upon his ambitious inclination. His towering ideas on this subject are significantly explained in the following sentence of his Speech in the Star-chamber, in 1616: “It is atheism and blasphemy to dispute what God can do; good christians content themselves with his will revealed in his word: So it is presumption and high contempt in a subject to dispute what a king can do, or say that a king cannot do this or THAT,

This paragraph may teach us two things at least: First. Archbishop Usher, who is generally said to have been an ardent lover of liberty, was as much attached as Archbishop Laud could be to Star-chamber processes, which, as the constitution then stood, had a prescribed jurisdiction. Secondly. It would have been well if Bishop Bedell, as well as Archbishop Lard, had recollected the Latin maxim," that every man is best acquainted with the mysteries of his own profession,” &c.

* The learned Judges must have smiled at the following part of the charge delivered to them by King James in the same speech : “ Know this, that your interpretations must be always subject to coinmon sense and reaa son. For I will never trust any interpretation that agreeth not with my common sense and reason and true logic : for ratio est anima legis in all human laws without exception. It must not be sopbistry or strains of wit that must interpret, but either clear law or solid reason. But in countries where the formality of law hath no place, as in Denmark, (which I may truly report, as having myself been an eye-witness thereof,) all their State is governed only by a written law. There is no advocate or proctor admitted to plead, only the parties themselves plead their own cause, and then a man stands up and reads the law, and there is an end ; for the very law-book itself is their only judge. Happy were all kingdoms if they could be so ! But here, curious wits, various conceits, different actions, and variety of examples, breed questions ia law. And therefore, when you hear the questions, if they be plain, there is a plain way in itself; if they be such as are not plain (for men's inventions daily abound), then are you to interpret according to common sense, and draw a good and certain minor of natural reason, out of the major of direct law, and thereupon to make a right and true conclusion.”

TT

but rest in that which is the king's revealed will in his law.". What these Courts became in the hands of a king who loved to stretch his prerogative, which he declared to be " no subject for the tongue of a lawyer, nor lawful to be disputed,” and what they might have become at an early period of his reign, had not some of the sage counsellors of Queen Elizabeth remained to apprise him of his duty and of the rights of the people, *--do not require to be repeated to those who know the history of that period. But in those transactions Archbishop Laud was not concerned: They occurred before he came into public notice. I require, however, no other descriptions than these which King James has given of the two obnoxious Courts ; and, without adverting to facts, I am compelled to conclude, that the execution of such ample powers could not be entrusted to any mere mortals, whether ecclesiastics or laymen, without corrupting the individuals employed. But to every impartial observer it might be easily proved, that Archbishop Laud executed his important trust with less severity than some of the excellent men who had previously occupied the high station in the Church to which he was elevated. If we consider the unprecedented provocations which he received from the insubordination and bitter language of some of the inferior clergy, we must admire, in numerous instances, his lenity and moderation; and knowing something of what is in man, we must not be surprised at other cases in which he shewed judgment without mercy.t In

* Touching the law., (wherein I mean the common laws of England,) I shall be the more sparing to speak, because it is my profession : But thus much I shall say with confidence, that, if they be rightly administered, they are the best, the equallest in the world between the prince and people; by which the king hath the justest prerogative, and the people the best liberty; and if at any time there be an unjust deviation, hominis est vitium, non professionis (it is the fault of the man, and not of the profession]. But that it may in all things have a fairer proceeding, let the king take a care, and as much as in you lies do you take care for him, that the Judges of the law may be always chosen of the learnedest of the profession, (for an ignorant man cannot be a good Judge,) and of the prudentest and discreetest, because so great a part of the civil government lies upon their charge. In the laws we have a native interest, it is our birth-right, and our inheritance ; and I think the whole kingdom will always continue that mind, which once the two Houses of Parliament publicly professed, Nolimus Legem Angliæ mutare. Under a law we must live; and under a known law, and not under an arbitrary Law, is our happiness that we do live.”-A letter of Advice written by Sir Francis Bacon to the Duke of BUCKINGHAM, when he became Favourite to King James.

We are too apt to judge Archbishop Laud and his predecessors in the see of Canterbury, by the principles of toleration that were avowed and acted upon, by our ecclesiastical superiors, after the Revolution of 1688. But this is not a proper criterion by which to form a correct estimate of their views and conduct : For it was not the Episcopal party alone that attempted to effect uniformity in the outward worship of God, but the Presbyterians pressed the same object with greater pertinacity, and were the latest in abandoning it as a hopeless enterprize. The present Lord Chancellor (Eldon,) is reported, in the Journals, to have said 'in the course of a discussion in the House of Lords on Monday, March 24, 1823, “that there were some things which, as a lawyer, he thought the King might lawfully do, but wbich, as å statesman,

Chalmers's Life of the Archbishop, it is said, “Whatever were Laud's faults, it cannot be denied, that he was condemned to death by an ordinance of Parliament, in defiance of the Statute of Treasons, of the law of the land,* and by a stretch of prerohe should advise bis Majesty not to do. He used be word lawful as a lawyer, not as a statesman; and in that sense, he would say the Crown might do lawfully in the premises what it is not restrained from doing by Act of Parliament.” It was Archbishop Laud's infelicity, not to observe this just distinction ; yet bis severity in this particular has been highly exaggerated. On comparing his deeds with those of others in authority, we shall find weighty reasons for giving credence to the declaration which he made on this subject jo bis speech at the bar of the House of Peers in March, 1643 : “ The counsellors whicb attended the Council-board can witness, some of them here present, that in all references to the board, or debates arising at it, I was for that part of the cause where I found law to be ; and if the counsel desired to have the cause left to the law, well might I move in some cases.charity or conscience to them : but I left them to the law, if thither they would go. And how such a carriage as this, through the whole course of my life in private and public, can stand witlr an intention to overthrow the laws, I cannot see. Nay, more, I have ever been of opinion, that laws bind the conscience, and have accordingly made conscience in observing of them; and this doctrine I have constantly preached, as occasion hath been offered me.” Sce also his appeal in page 534.

The trial and execution of this eminent prelate, in whatever light they be viewed, are disgraceful to the country, and never could have occurred except by a breach of the constitution, and in defiance of all law and justice. There is not another instance on record since the days of Cranmer, in wbich a reputed state-culprit was such a length of time under confinement without having his fate determined. He was taken into custody.in Dec. 1640, and executed in June 1644. The fact is, his enemies found his case upmanageable according to any of the known principles of the British Constitutivn. Like his great predecessor on the scaffold, he was sacrificed to the malice of the triumphant Scots, and of their Presbyterian friends in England.

In the very eloquent speech which he delivered when the articles of impeachment were read, March 12th, 1643, the Archbishop said : nothing be spoken but truth, and I do here challenge whatsoever is between heaven or bell, that can be said against me in point of my religion, in which I have ever hated dissimulation. And had I not hated it, perhaps I might have been better for worldly safety than now I am; but it can no way become a christian Bishop, to balt with God.- If I had any purpose to blast the true Religion established in the Church of England and to introduce Popery, sure I took a wrong way to it; for, my Lords, I have staid more going to Rome, and reduced more that were already goue, than, I believe, any Bishop or divine in this kingdom bath done, and some of them, men of great abilities, and some persons of great place :" Having 'enumerated several of those converts from Popery, and, among the rest, the great CHILLINGWORTH, the Archbishop concluded his speech with these words: “Nor did ever any one of these I have camed relapse agaiu, but only the Countess of Buckingham, and Sir William Spencer; it being only in God's power, not mine, to preserve them from relapse. And now let any.clergyman in England come forth, and give a better account of his zeal to the church.” It would be accounted a most indecorous and unjust interruption, even in the practice of the Old Bailey, were one of the spectators to rise up in his place and impertinently answer such a challenge as this, made by a prisoner on trial for his life: Yet exactly such an interruption was given at Archbishop Laud's trial by the infamous Hugh Peters. The circumstance is thus narrated by Brook, in bis Lives of the Puritans, in the form of a quotation from Pryone's Canterbury's Doom : “ The Archbishop, at the commencement of his trial, delivered a speech in his own defence, in the conclusion of which he challenged any clergyman to come forth, and give a better account of his zeal for the church, and his conversion of Papists to the Protestant religion; when Mr. Peters, standing near his lordship, asked him whether he was not ashamed of making so bold a challenge in so honourable an assembly? adding, that he himself,

Let

gative greater than any one of the Sovereign whom that Parliar ment opposed. It can be no wonder, that his ruin should appear certain, considering his many and powerful enemies, almost the whole body of the Puritans, many of the English nobility and others, and the bulk of the Scotch nation. The Puritans considered him as the sole author of the innovations, and of the persecutions against them: The nobility could not brook his warm and imperious manner, and his grasping at the office of Prime Minister,” &c.* The truth respecting the last the unworthiest of many hundred ministers in England, was ready to answer his challenge; and to produce a catalogue, not of twenty-two Papists, but of above one hundred and twenty, whom he, through the blessing of God, had converted and brought home to God, making them other kind of converts than any he had recited, who were made peither good Protestants nor good christians. He further added, that be, and many other ministers in England, were able to produce hundreds of true converts to Christ, for every one of his pretended ones ; some of whom, by his own confession, soon turned apostates, and the rest were little better." From such a decided friend to liberty as Mr. Brook pretends to be, we might have expected some severe reprehension of the conduct of Peters : But the only remark which this false patriot ventures to make, is the following,

" Whatever truth there might have been in this reply, it certainly discovered Mr. Peters's too great forwardness, while it very much offended the Archbishop." Had a Puritan prisoner been treated thus at the bar of the Old Bailey, Mr. Brook would have devoted two or three pages of his work to the purpose of exposing such a culpable and unconstitutional proceeding. But as in this case the prisoner was a reputed Arminian prelate, and though a flagrant injury was done to him while in the course of his just defence before the bighest tribunal in the realm, Mr. Brook mildly blames his Puritanic hero, and politely styles his offence “ too great forwardness." When modern Dissenting historians manifest this kind of cool apathy at the gross perversion of public justice, do not they give more than a tacit approval of the cruel deeds of their fathers ? - This is a fair specimen of the eqwity displayed by the early Calvinistic accusers of Archbishop Laud, and of the partiality of some of their descendants. It would be a waste of time to advert to the precious conversions from Popery, effected by such a champion as Hugh Peters !

* In the same work is quoted Mr. Gilpin's comparison between Archbishop Laud, and his great predecessor Crapmer, which Mr. Chalmers justly thinks to be worthy of consideration : “ Both were good men, both were equally zealous for religion, and both were engaged in the work of reformation. While Cranmer pursued his [plan) with that caution and temper which we have just been examining, Laud, in the violence of his integrity, (for be was certainly a well-meaning man,) making allowances neither for men nor opinions, was determined to carry all before him. The consequence was, that he did nothing which he attempted, while Cranmer did every thing. And it is probable,

that if Henry had chosen such an instrument as Laud, he would have miscarried in his point; while Charles, with such a Primate as Cranmer, would either have been successful in his schemes, or at least have avoided the fatal consequences that ensued." These remarks are, on the whole, not very objectionable; yet, to those who are acquainted with the rest of the ministers with whom he acted, and with the actual state of the kingdom and of the Court when he came into power, many reasons will be suggested in proof, that the affairs of the nation could not then have been retrieved by ill-timed lenity and supineness, but required all the firmness and resolution of a Cato. "See the Note in Page 671.

But Mr. Gilpin's comparison between Cranmer and Laud will not hold. For the former had a powerful monarch, and an obedient parliament, to support him in the arduous work of reform. The latter was supported indeed, but it was by a monarch, who, while surrounded with Popish counsellors, displayed the greatest hesitancy and irresolution, (page 318,) and who, through the resistance of his Parliaments, was not unly deprived of

« PreviousContinue »