Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 58.djvu/127
ix. 291, 342; Gardiner, History of England, ix. 381). A few days later he proposed a scheme appointing a body of commissioners, lay and clerical, to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction in every shire in place of the bishops (Shaw, Minutes of the Manchester Presbyterian Classis, pp. i, lii, lvii, xci, xcix, cvii).
In secular politics Vane came with equal rapidity to the front. When the king's attempt to seize the five members temporarily removed Pym and Hampden from the house, Vane took the lead. He was one of the committee appointed to vindicate the privileges of parliament, and was the author of the judicious declaration that the house did not intend to protect the accused in any crime, but would be ready to bring them to punishment if they were proceeded against in a legal way (Forster, Arrest of the Five Members, p. 316).
By this time Vane was no longer an official. His father's dismissal from the secretaryship had been followed by his own removal from the treasurership of the navy (December 1641). Parliament took it ill, and as soon as the breach with the king was completed, the two houses passed an ordinance (8 Aug. 1642) reappointing Vane to his old post (Commons' Journals, ii. 709; Lords' Journals, v. 273).
From the commencement of hostilities Vane was one of the leaders of the war party. On 8 Nov. 1642 he excited the city to fresh exertions, and recounted the king's rupture of negotiations (Old Parliamentary History, xii. 17). He opposed, on 20 Dec. 1642, the propositions drawn up by the lords to be offered to the king, and the similar proposals put forward in February 1643 (Gardiner, Great Civil War, i. 79; Sanford, pp. 541–3). Vane's sarcastic comments on Essex's proposal for reopening negotiations with Charles (11 July 1643) produced a bitter quarrel between them, and an ironical invitation from Essex to Vane to go hand in hand with him to the walls of Oxford (ib. pp. 570–5). When parliament decided to ask the Scots for assistance, Vane was one of the four commissioners sent to Edinburgh to negotiate (Instructions in Old Parliamentary History, xii. 340; Lords' Journals, vi. 139). Clarendon, commenting on this choice, enlarges on the ‘wonderful sagacity’ with which Vane penetrated the designs of others, and the ‘rare dissimulation’ with which he concealed his own, and concludes: ‘There need no more be said of his ability than that he was chosen to cozen and deceive a whole nation which excelled in craft and dissembling’ (Rebellion, ed. Macray, vii. 267). This was written many years later. Baillie, writing at the time, characterises Vane briefly as ‘one of the gravest and ablest’ of the English nation (Letters, ii. 89). The commissioners found the Scots indisposed to make ‘a civil league’ with England unless it were combined with ‘a religious covenant.’ On 17 Aug. the ‘solemn league and covenant’ was adopted by the Scottish convention of estates, but not till Henderson's original draft had been amended by Vane's insertion of words which gave parliament greater freedom. The Scots would have pledged the parliament to the reformation of religion in the church of England ‘according to the example of the best reformed churches.’ Vane's addition of the phrase ‘according to the word of God’ left the ‘door open to Independency,’ which the Scottish divines feared, and transferred the final decision of the question of the remodelling of the English church to parliament and the Westminster assembly. It is impossible to suppose that the Scottish commissioners were simply outwitted by Vane; they accepted the amendment because they hoped to interpret it according to their own wishes, through the political and military influence the alliance gave them (Burnet, Life of Hamilton, 1852, p. 307; Warwick, Memoirs, p. 265; Rushworth, v. 467; Gardiner, Great Civil War, i. 230; Baillie, Letters, ii. 88–95). What Vane himself understood by the covenant at the time his letters do not show. To the end of his life he protested that he had kept it in the sense in which he took it, saying on the scaffold that ‘the matter thereof and the holy ends contained therein I fully assent unto, and have been as desirous to observe; but the rigid way of prosecuting it, and the oppressing uniformity that hath been endeavoured by it, I never approved’ (Trial, pp. 60, 91; Report on the Duke of Portland's MSS. i. 129, 136).
On Pym's death Vane practically succeeded to his authority (Gardiner, i. 274). ‘He was that within the house which Cromwell was without,’ says Baxter (Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, p. 75). In February 1644 Vane and St. John—the joint leaders of the war party—proposed and carried the establishment of the committee of both kingdoms. This was the first serious attempt to organise a government made by the Long parliament. The earlier committee of safety was set aside, and executive functions were entrusted to a body of twenty-five persons responsible to parliament for their conduct, but with authority to take independent action in everything connected with the conduct of the