Vane, Henry (1613-1662) (DNB00)
|←Vane, Henry (1589-1655)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58
Vane, Henry (1613-1662)
|1904 Errata appended.|
VANE, Sir HENRY, the younger (1613–1662), statesman and author, eldest son of Sir Henry Vane the elder [q. v.], was baptised on 26 May 1613 at the church of Debden, near Newport, Essex, and educated at Westminster school under Lambert Osbaldeston (Wood, Athenæ, iii. 578; private information). ‘I was born a gentleman,’ he said in his speech on the scaffold, ‘and had the education, temper, and spirit of a gentleman as well as others, being in my youthful days inclined to the vanities of the world, and to that which they call good fellowship, judging it to be the only means of accomplishing a gentleman.’ About the age of fifteen he became converted to puritanism, and regarded his former course of life as sinful (Trial, p. 87; cf. Sikes, Life of Vane, p. 8). At sixteen Vane was sent to Oxford, and became a gentleman commoner of Magdalen Hall, ‘but when he was to be matriculated as a member of the university, and so consequently take the oath of allegiance and supremacy, he quitted his gown, put on a cloak, and studied notwithstanding for some time in the said hall’ (Wood, iii. 578). After leaving the university he spent some time at Geneva or Leyden (Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 34; Strafford, Letters, i. 463). In 1631 his father sent him to Vienna in the train of the English ambassador, and a number of his letters are among the foreign state papers in the record office (Hosmer, Life of Vane, p. 6).
On his return in February 1632 Sir Tobie Matthew [q. v.] found him extremely improved. ‘His French is excellently good, his discourse discreet, and his fashion comely and fair; and I dare venture to foretell that he will grow a very fit man for any such honour as his father's merits shall bespeak, or the king's goodness impart to him’ (ib. p. 8). A familiar story represents Vane's later hostility towards the king as caused by an insult which Charles put upon him at court during his early life. He himself says, however, that the king showed him great favour, and promised to make him one of the privy chamber in ordinary (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1631–3, p. 278; cf. Forster, Life of Vane, p. 6). But no prospect of preferment could induce him to stifle his conscientious scruples about the doctrines and ceremonies of the English church. He abstained, it was reported, two years from receiving the sacrament because he could get nobody to administer it to him standing. Conferences with bishops failed to remove his doubts or to induce him to conform. In 1635 he resolved to go to New England in order to obtain freedom to worship according to his conscience (Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, xii. 246; Hosmer, p. 12).
Vane arrived at Boston in the ship Abigail on 6 Oct. 1635 with the king's license to stay for three years in New England. He had also a commission, jointly with his fellow travellers, Hugh Peters [q. v.] and John Winthrop the younger, to treat with the recent emigrants from Massachusetts to Connecticut on behalf of the Connecticut patentees (Winthrop, History of New England, ed. 1853, i. 203, 477). Massachusetts received him with open arms as ‘a young gentleman of excellent parts,’ and one who had forsaken the honours of the court ‘to enjoy the ordinances of Christ in their purity.’ On 1 Nov. 1635 he was admitted a member of the church at Boston, on 3 March 1636 he became a freeman of the colony, and on 25 March following was chosen its governor (ib. i. 203, 222, ii. 446). Even before his election Vane had begun to take part in administration and politics. On 30 Nov. 1635 Boston passed an order that all persons wishing to sue each other at law should first submit their cases to the arbitration of Vane and two elders. Not content with these petty duties, he boldly undertook to reconcile Winthrop and Dudley, and procured a conference on the causes of the party divisions of the moment which produced a certain number of useful regulations as to the conduct of magistrates (ib. i. 211).
Vane signalised the first week of his government by effecting an agreement with the masters of the ships in harbour for the better government of sailors on shore (ib. i. 222, 263; Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts, ed. 1765, i. 53). The outbreak of war with the Pequot Indians and the danger of war with the Narragansetts were Vane's first difficulties, but by the help of Roger Williams a satisfactory treaty was concluded with Miantonomo, the Narragansett chief (Winthrop, p. 237). Less success attended Vane's intervention in the ecclesiastical politics of the colony. ‘Mr. Vane,’ says Winthrop, ‘a wise and godly gentleman, held with Mr. Cotton and many others the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in a believer, and went so far beyond the rest as to maintain a personal union with the Holy Ghost.’ Questions about ‘sanctification’ and ‘justification,’ of the difference between ‘a covenant of works’ and ‘a covenant of grace,’ the doctrine of Anne Hutchinson and the preaching of John Wheelwright, roused a storm which divided Massachusetts into two hostile factions, of which Vane's was the smaller and less influential. Vane, who had received letters recalling him to England, asked the general court for leave to depart (December 1636), and when pressed to stay ‘brake forth into tears, and professed that howsoever the causes propounded for his departure were such as did concern the utter ruin of his outward estate, yet he would rather have hazarded all than have gone from them at this time if something else had not pressed him more—viz. the inevitable danger he saw of God's judgments to come upon us for these differences and dissensions which he saw amongst us, and the scandalous imputations brought upon himself, as if he should be the cause of all; and therefore he thought it best for him to give place for a time.’ The court refused to accept these reasons for his resignation, but finally gave consent to his going on account of his private affairs. But a deputation from the church at Boston urged Vane to stay, and, professing himself ‘an obedient child of the church,’ he withdrew his resignation (Winthrop, i. 247).
This undignified scene, whether a simple exhibition of weakness or a comedy played to procure a vote of confidence, naturally damaged the governor's position. A few days later, Vane having expressed some dissatisfaction about a conference of ministers which had taken place without his privity, Hugh Peters publicly rebuked him. He told Vane that ‘it sadded the ministers' spirits that he should be jealous of their meetings or seek to restrain their liberty,’ adding that before he came to Massachusetts the churches were at peace, and finally besought him ‘humbly to consider his youth and short experience of the things of God, and to beware of peremptory conclusions which he perceived him to be very apt unto’ (ib. i. 249). A little later the court, in spite of Vane's strenuous opposition, condemned a sermon by his friend Wheelwright as seditious. Twice also in meetings over which he presided he refused to put questions to the vote, and was obliged to see them put and carried by the opposition leaders. At the election of magistrates in March 1637 Vane and his supporters were all left out after a long and excited struggle (ib. i. 257–8, 260–2). Boston, however, still supported him, and returned the three excluded magistrates as its deputies. Vane showed considerable irritation at his defeat, and some undignified resentment towards Winthrop, his successful opponent. A controversy with Winthrop over a new law enabling the magistrates to prevent the settlement in the colony of persons they thought dangerous was his last appearance in Massachusetts politics. On 3 Aug. 1637 he set sail for England (ib. i. 263, 277, 281; Hutchinson Papers, i. 79).
Vane's American career has been harshly judged by American historians. He made many mistakes, but the greatest mistake was that made by the colonists themselves, when, out of deference to birth and rank, they set a young and inexperienced stranger to deal with problems which tasked the wisdom of their ablest heads. Subsequently, however, his connection with New England became an advantage to the colonies, and in 1645 Massachusetts merchants in difficulties with the English government found him a strong helper. ‘Though he might have taken occasion against us,’ writes Winthrop, ‘for some dishonour which he apprehended to have been unjustly put upon him here, yet both now and at other times he showed himself a true friend to New England and a man of noble and generous mind’ (Winthrop, ii. 305).
In January 1639 his father obtained for Vane a grant of the joint treasurership of the navy. This office, of which the chief remuneration was a fee of threepence in the pound on money paid by the treasurer, was worth 800l. per annum, and would be worth as much more after the death of Vane's colleague, Sir William Russell (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1638–9, pp. 125, 307, 343, 485; Dalton, p. 103). Vane was consequently employed in the expenditure of the ship-money and the equipment of ships to be used for the Scottish war, while his connection with the admiralty led to his election as member for Hull in the Short parliament (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1639–40, p. 568). On 23 June 1640 Vane was knighted. On 1 July he married at St. Mary's, Lambeth, Frances, daughter of Sir Christopher Wray of Barlings, Lincolnshire, his father settling upon him, at the marriage, Raby, Fairlawn, and all his lands in England, which were of an estimated value of 3,000l. per annum (Dalton, pp. 101, 115). At this time Vane seemed, according to Clarendon, ‘to be much reformed in his extravagances,’ and appeared ‘a man well satisfied and composed to the government’ (Rebellion, iii. 34). But his religious views were unchanged, and an accidental discovery brought him into close connection with the parliamentary opposition. About September 1640 Vane was searching among his father's papers with the leave of the latter for a document required in connection with his marriage settlement, when he found his father's notes of the council meeting of 5 May 1640. Impressed by its ‘high concernment to the Commonwealth,’ he began to copy it. As he was transcribing it Pym came to visit him, and he showed Pym the original paper, and allowed him to make a copy of his own transcript. A distinction between his duty to his natural father and his duty as a ‘son of the Commonwealth,’ and Pym's argument that ‘a time might come when the discovery of this might be a sovereign means to preserve both church and state,’ overcame his first reluctance to allow this breach of confidence. The original was subsequently burnt at the king's orders, Vane's own copy was destroyed by Pym at his request, and Pym's transcript alone remained to be used by the opposition leaders in case the oral testimony of the elder Vane and other councillors should prove insufficient to convict Strafford of his design to employ the Irish army against the liberties of England. The production of this paper in the House of Commons on 10 April 1641, and at the trial in Westminster Hall three days later, sealed Strafford's fate (Sanford, Studies and Illustrations of the Great Rebellion, p. 328; Verney, Notes of the Long Parliament, p. 37; Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 132). The verdict of the puritan party was that ‘an admirable providence had discovered this business’ which justified the younger Vane ‘from all breach of duty,’ because ‘this was an act of God himself’ (Sir Simonds D'Ewes; Sanford, p. 331).
In the first session of the Long parliament Vane, who was again returned for Hull, was, apart from his share in Strafford's trial, chiefly notable as a leader of the most advanced ecclesiastical party. On 9 Feb. 1641 he was added to the committee on church affairs as a representative of the root-and-branch men (Commons' Journals, ii. 81; Baillie, Letters, i. 306). Vane, Cromwell, and St. John were the originators of the bill for the total abolition of episcopacy which Sir Edward Dering introduced on 27 May 1641. Vane's first printed speech was one delivered on that bill, asserting that the whole fabric of episcopal government was ‘rotten and corrupt from the very foundation of it to the top,’ and must be pulled down in the interest both of the civil state and of religion (Old Parliamentary History, 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 war (Gardiner, i. 304). The unscrupulous tactics by which the permanent establishment of the committee was effected help to explain the reputation for ‘subtlety’ which Vane acquired (ib. i. 343; Baillie, Letters, ii. 141, 154, 178, 186).
In the summer of 1644 the committee sent Vane to the camp before York to urge that Fairfax and Manchester should leave the siege to the Scots, and march into Lancashire against Prince Rupert (Vane's letters from the camp are of considerable interest: Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644). There is ground for believing that, besides his ostensible mission, Vane was charged to propose a plan for the deposition of Charles I, and perhaps for the elevation of the elector palatine to the English throne. But the three generals were unanimous in rejecting the scheme, and it was one of the causes of the friction between the independent and the presbyterian leaders (Gardiner, i. 367, ii. 27). Vane was one of the parliamentary commissioners at the treaty of Uxbridge in January 1645, but took little part in their debates (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. iv. 150; Whitelocke, Memorials, i. 375). He was more prominent as an advocate of the reorganisation of the army and the supersession of the Earl of Essex. When Zouch Tate proposed the self-denying ordinance, Vane seconded his motion (9 Dec. 1644). The speech which Clarendon attributes to Vane upon this occasion is probably fictitious. On 21 Jan. 1645, in the vote appointing Fairfax general, Vane and Cromwell were the two tellers for the majority. On 4 March Vane, as the spokesman of the House of Commons, appealed to the city to provide the money necessary to enable the new army to take the field (Commons' Journals, iv. 26; Hosmer, p. 236; Gardiner, ii. 90; Clarendon, viii. 193, 241, 260).
This conduct completed the breach between Vane and the Scots which his advocacy of toleration had begun. On 13 Sept. 1644 Cromwell, St. John, and Vane persuaded the House of Commons to pass what was called ‘the accommodation order,’ appointing a committee to consider the differences on the question of church government, and, if agreement proved impossible, to devise some means of tolerating ‘tender consciences.’ ‘Our greatest friends,’ complained Baillie, ‘Sir Henry Vane and the solicitor (i.e. St. John), are the main procurers of all this, and that without any regard to us, who have saved their nation, and brought these two persons to the height of the power they enjoy and use to our prejudice.’ Vane, ‘whom we trusted most,’ expressed the view that the accommodation order did not go far enough, and even at the table of the Scottish members of the Westminster assembly had ‘prolixly, earnestly, and passionately reasoned for a full liberty of conscience to all religions’ (Baillie, Letters, ii. 230, 235; Gardiner, ii. 30). Roger Williams, in the preface to his ‘Bloody Tenent of Persecution,’ quotes ‘a heavenly speech’ which he heard uttered by one of the leaders of the parliament. ‘Why should the labours of any be suppressed, if sober, though never so different? We now profess to seek God, we desire to seek light.’ There can be little doubt that Vane was the speaker quoted. The two were old friends, and the charter for Providence Plantation which Williams obtained from the commissioners for the government of the colonies (14 March 1644), Vane's influence had helped him to procure (Gardiner, ii. 289; Palfrey, History of New England, i. 608, ii. 215). While thus helping to found a colony based on the widest toleration, Vane also endeavoured to persuade the magistrates of Massachusetts to show more indulgence to religious dissentients. Writing to Winthrop in June 1645, he expressed his fear ‘lest while the congregational way among you is in its freedom and backed with power, it teach its oppugners here to extirpate it and root it out from its own principles and practice’ (ib. ii. 175; Hosmer, p. 81). As the first civil war drew to its close, the king's last hope was to enlist Vane and the independents on his side by the promise of toleration. An attempt to open negotiations for that purpose in January 1644, through Lord Lovelace, had been frustrated by Vane's revelation of the intrigue (Camden Miscellany, vol. viii.). On 2 March 1646 John Ashburnham, at the command of the king, appealed to Vane to support the king's request for a personal treaty in London. ‘If presbytery,’ he added, ‘shall be so strongly insisted upon as that there can be no peace without it, you shall certainly have all the power my master can make to join with you in rooting out of this kingdom that tyrannical government, with this condition, that my master may not have his conscience disturbed—yours being free—when that work is finished’ (Clarendon State Papers, ii. 226). This second overture Vane also rejected.
In 1646 the presbyterian party gained the upper hand in the Long parliament, and Vane's leadership ended. At the commencement of 1647 he was still in close alliance with Cromwell, and in March Lilburne complained that Cromwell was ‘led by the nose by two unworthy covetous earthworms,’ Vane and St. John (Jonah's Cry out of the Whale's Belly, 1647, p. 3). In April, when the dispute between army and parliament began, Vane, like Cromwell, generally absented himself from the debates of the house (Gardiner, iii. 241). On 7 June, when the army was marching on London, Vane was one of the six commissioners sent by the parliament to treat with it, and he took part in the treaty with the officers at Wycombe in July (Old Parliamentary History, xv. 407, 446; Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, i. 265–8, 275, 286, 305–8, 315–19, 322). Both levellers and presbyterians distrusted him. In June he was ‘threatened to be cut in pieces’ by a mob outside the House of Commons, and in July Lilburne was reported to have said that ‘he had rather cut Sir Henry Vane's throat than Hollis's’ (Clarke Papers, i. 136, 158). When Vane attempted to persuade parliament to yield to the demands of the army, he was accused of threatening parliament with military intervention (Gardiner, iv. 36; Walker, History of Independency, i. 47). When he used his influence with the officers to prevent violent measures, the levellers denounced him as a self-seeking ‘grandee’ (Wildman, Putney Projects, 1647, p. 43). Backed by Cromwell and Ireton, he opposed Marten's motion that no further application should be made to the king (22 Sept. 1647); and when the army leaders and the chiefs of the independents four months later adopted Marten's plan, and passed the vote that no addresses should be made to the king (3 Jan. 1648), he still persisted in his opposition (Clarke Papers, i. 231). His dissatisfaction was notorious, and he said with truth in 1662, ‘I had neither consent nor vote in the resolutions of the houses concerning the non-addresses to his late majesty’ (Trial, p. 46; cf. Hamilton Papers, i. 149, 156).
On 28 April 1648 the two houses passed a vote declaring that they would not alter ‘the fundamental government of the kingdom by king, lords, and commons.’ Vane had helped to draw up a declaration to the same effect published in April 1646, and his opinion was unaltered. Accordingly he supported this vote, awaking thereby great mistrust among his friends in the army (Commons' Journals, iv. 513, v. 547; Burton, Diary, iii. 173; Hamilton Papers, pp. 185, 191). A vote for reopening negotiations with the king followed, which Vane also supported, and on 1 Sept. he was appointed one of the commissioners of the two houses for the treaty at Newport (Clarke Papers, ii. 17; Commons' Journals, v. 572, 697). According to Burnet, Vane endeavoured to prolong the treaty, beguiling the king's party by offering toleration of episcopacy and the prayer-book; his real object being only to delay matters till the army could be brought up to London (Own Time, ed. Airy, i. 74). This view is unsupported by any evidence. Vane and his friend Pierrepoint were really anxious to come to an understanding with the king on the basis of ‘moderate episcopacy’ and toleration, a solution of which Cromwell, as his messages to Vane show, strongly disapproved (Clarke Papers, ii. 51). It is also clear that while Cromwell regarded his victories as a providential justification of the policy of the army, Vane, as Cromwell complained, made ‘too little of outward dispensations,’ and Cromwell expressed himself ‘unsatisfied with his passive and suffering principles’ (Carlyle, Cromwell Letters, lxvii.; Proceeds of the Protector against Sir H. Vane, p. 6). In accordance with this principle, Vane, while denouncing the king's concessions during the treaty as unsatisfactory (3 Dec. 1648), was prepared to acquiesce in the decision of the House of Commons to continue the treaty rather than to use force to prevent its resumption (Walker, History of Independency, ii. 26; Ludlow, i. 208). He held submission to that decision a moral duty (Trial, p. 106).
For these reasons Vane absented himself from the house after ‘Pride's Purge,’ and remained away from 3 Dec. to 7 Feb. 1649. He took no part in the king's trial, and neither consented to nor approved his execution. Yet he continued to act as commissioner of the admiralty, and it was proved against him on his trial that he had issued orders in that capacity on the very day of the king's death (Burton, Diary, iii. 174; Trial of Vane, pp. 27, 31, 46). Parliament unanimously elected him a member of the council of state (14 Feb. 1649), but he refused the oath approving of the king's execution and the abolition of the monarchy, and would not take his seat till it had been exchanged for an engagement to be faithful to the new government (ib. p. 46; Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth, i. 7; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50, pp. 5, 13). The people, he held, were the source of all just power, and ‘the little remnant of the parliament’ was now the representative of the nation. It might legitimately establish a free state, and he, being a member of that parliament entrusted with a public duty on behalf of the people, must obey and faithfully serve the new government (Trial, p. 46; Burton, iii. 176).
No man served the Commonwealth with more zeal. Vane was elected a member of every council of state chosen during the period, and his name is always high in the list of attendances. He was on every committee of importance. When Cromwell invaded Scotland, the business of supplying his army with money, provisions, and reinforcements was specially trusted to Vane's care, and Vane also kept him informed of home and foreign politics. ‘Let H. Vane know what I write,’ is Cromwell's message when he was in his greatest extremity just before the battle of Dunbar (Carlyle, Letters, cxxxix.). Their friendship was so close that they invented familiar names for each other; Cromwell called Vane ‘brother Heron,’ and Vane addressed Cromwell as ‘brother Fountain.’ In one of his letters Vane, after saying that his health and his private affairs had suffered through his constant attendance to public matters, complained of the factious opposition of other members of the council. ‘Brother Fountain,’ he continued, ‘can guess at his brother's meaning … many other things are reserved for your knowledge, whenever it please God we meet, and till then let me desire you upon the score of ancient friendship that hath been between us not to give ear to the mistakes, surmises, or jealousies of others, from what hand soever, concerning your brother Heron, but to be assured he answers your heart's desire in all things, except he be esteemed by you in principles too high to fathom, which one day I am persuaded will not be so thought by you’ (Nickolls, Letters and Papers addressed to Cromwell, p. 79, cf. pp. 19, 40, 84).
When the conquest of Scotland was completed, Vane was one of the eight commissioners sent thither (December 1651) to settle the civil government and negotiate for the union of Scotland and England. On 16 March 1652 Vane reported to the house the successful result of his mission, and received its thanks for his services (Commons' Journals, vii. 30, 105; Diary of John Nicoll, pp. 80–7; Scotland and the Commonwealth, p. xxiii; Ludlow, i. 298). His narrative has not been preserved, but his views on the later history of the question of the union, and on the measures taken by Cromwell to complete it, are contained in a speech delivered in 1659 (Burton, Diary, iv. 178).
In foreign and colonial affairs Vane also took a very active part (cf. Cal. State Papers, Colonial—America and West Indies—1574–1660, pp. 347, 372, 394). To him Roger Williams naturally applied in 1652 to secure Rhode Island against interference from the confederate colonies, and to reconcile its internal dissensions. ‘Under God,’ wrote Williams in April 1653, ‘the great anchor of our ship is Sir Henry,’ and when he returned home in 1654 he brought with him a letter from Vane, rebuking the Rhode islanders for their disorders and divisions (Palfrey, History of New England, ii. 356–360; Masson, Life of Milton, iv. 395, 532; Knowles, Life of Roger Williams, p. 126).
The council of state had appointed on 13 March 1649 a committee to consider alliances and relations with European powers in general. Vane was one of its leading members, and Milton, as its secretary, learnt there to admire the skill with which he explained ‘the drift of hollow states hard to be spelled.’ In all negotiations with foreign ministers he was from the first employed (cf. Commons' Journals, vi. 209, 315, 517, 522). About the autumn of 1651 he undertook a secret mission to France to negotiate with Cardinal de Retz, who describes him as an intimate confidant of Cromwell, adding that he appeared to be a man of surprising capacity. But the exact date and the details of this mission are doubtful (Guizot, Cromwell and the English Commonwealth, i. 261; Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth, ii. 91). Vane is said to have opposed the war with Holland, and it is certain that he was one of those most eager to reopen negotiations after the war began (ib. ii. 128, 183; Geddes, John De Witt, i. 282). He was a strong believer in the feasibility of the proposed coalescence of the two states, and blamed Cromwell for abandoning that project when he made peace with the Dutch (Burton, Diary, iii. 4 seq.).
In the management of the navy both before and during the war Vane took a principal part. Up to the end of 1650 he was treasurer of the navy. On 12 March 1649 he was appointed one of the admiralty committee in whom the powers lately exercised by the lord high admiral were vested. On 4 Dec. 1652 he was one of the extraordinary commissioners charged with the inspection, direction, and equipment of the fleet (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1649–50, p. 34; Commons' Journals, vi. 440, vii. 225, 256). Contemporaries attributed the successful issue of the war largely to Vane's administrative skill, and Haslerig referred to him in the parliament of 1659 as ‘the gentleman by whose providence it was so excellently managed’ (Burton, Diary, iii. 443; Ludlow, i. 337, ii. 340). Vane was certainly an energetic administrator, but eulogistic biographers have attributed to him and to the admiralty committee much of the credit really due to their subordinates, the commissioners of the navy (English Historical Review, xi. 57, 62). Sikes, in his ‘Life of Vane,’ also exaggerates his pecuniary disinterestedness (p. 97). As treasurer of the navy Vane received from 1642 to 1645 a salary of about 3,000l. per annum in fees. After the passing of the ‘self-denying ordinance’ that sum was reduced by one half, in accordance with an order of parliament, and on 16 July 1650 it was resolved to appoint a treasurer who should be paid a fixed salary of 1,000l. a year. As a compensation for the loss of his place, Vane was voted church lands to the value of 1,200l. a year (Commons' Journals, iv. 207, vi. 14, 440; cf. English Historical Review, ix. 487).
In domestic politics religion and parliamentary reform were the two subjects with which Vane was most concerned. In 1652 he wrote to the government of Massachusetts urging them not to censure any persons for matters of a religious nature (Massachusetts Hist. Coll. 3rd ser. i. 35). He saw good even in quakerism (Retired Man's Meditations, p. 184), and he opposed the party which wished to oblige Irish catholics to attend protestant worship (Commons' Journals, vi. 138). On the question whether the republic should have an established church or not, Vane and Cromwell took opposite sides. The proposals of Owen and other independent ministers to the committee for the propagation of the gospel, which Cromwell carried out in the ecclesiastical organisation of the protectorate, were absolutely contrary to Vane's principles. Of his utterances on the question no record has survived, but his brother Charles was one of the petitioners against Owen's scheme, and the sonnet which Milton sent to Vane on 3 July 1652 is a further proof that Vane was hostile to it. It expresses the satisfaction with which the poet hails a statesman who, like himself, was opposed on principle to a state church.
Both spiritual power and civil, what each means,
What severs each, thou hast learned, which few have done.
The bounds of either sword to thee we owe:
Therefore on thy firm hand Religion leans
In peace, and reckons thee her eldest son
(Masson, Life of Milton, iv. 391–7, 442; Sikes, p. 97).
Vane's action on the question of dissolving the Long parliament produced a lasting breach between himself and Cromwell. Clarendon asserts, and Ludlow hints, that after the battle of Worcester Vane became suspicious of Cromwell's designs, and began to seek to diminish his power (Rebellion, xiv. 2; Ludlow, Memoirs, i. 347). But there is no good evidence of this, and it is clear that as late as March 1653 they were still political allies (Gardiner, Commonwealth, ii. 182). On 15 May 1649 Vane had been appointed one of a committee to report on ‘the succession of future parliaments and the regulating of their elections,’ and on the question of ‘the time for putting a period to the sitting of this parliament.’ On 9 Jan. 1650 he produced their report, which proposed that the future parliament should consist of four hundred members, representing proportionately the different counties, and that the present members of the Long parliament should retain their seats. Cromwell and the army in general wanted an entirely new parliament, and succeeded so far as to get the date of its calling fixed for November 1654. The Long parliament, however, preferred Vane's scheme, and embodied it in the bill which it was about to pass in April 1653. At the last moment Cromwell obtained from Vane and some other parliamentary leaders a promise to suspend the passing of the bill in order to discuss a suggested compromise, but the house itself insisted on proceeding with the bill. To prevent its passing, Cromwell dissolved the house. How far Vane was responsible for this breach of faith there is not sufficient evidence to determine, but it is clear that Cromwell regarded him as the person most to blame. According to Ludlow, when Cromwell called on his musketeers to clear the house, ‘Vane, observing it from his place, said aloud, “This is not honest; yea, it is against morality and common honesty.” On which Cromwell fell a-railing at him, crying out with a loud voice, “O Sir Henry Vane, Sir Henry Vane; the Lord deliver me from Sir Henry Vane!”’ (Memoirs, i. 353). Another version is that, as the members were going out, ‘the general said to young Sir Henry Vane, calling him by his name, that he might have prevented this extraordinary course, but he was a juggler, and had not so much as common honesty’ (Blencowe, Sydney Papers, p. 141; cf. Clarendon, xiv. 9; Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth, ii. 209).
After the expulsion of the Long parliament Vane retired to his house at Belleau in Lincolnshire, which he had purchased from the Earl of Lindsey (Commons' Journals, vi. 611). A seat in the ‘Little Parliament’ was offered to him, but refused. Cromwell seems to have desired his participation in the new government, and Roger Williams describes him as ‘daily missed and courted for his assistance’ (Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 203, 213; Masson, Life of Milton, iv. 549; Thurloe, i. 265). He lived in seclusion, devoting much of his time to speculations on religion, the first fruit of which was the publication of the ‘Retired Man's Meditations’ (the introduction is dated 20 April 1655).
On the death of his father Vane thought of removing to Raby, and the arrangements for the sale of the arms there and the withdrawal of the garrison brought him into relations with the government of the Protector. Cromwell seized the opportunity to send him a courteous letter, which Vane answered by protesting (through Thurloe) that he was still the same both in true friendship to Cromwell's person and in unshakable fidelity to the cause (Thurloe, iv. 36, 329; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1655 p. 315, 1655–6 pp. 43, 56). Vane was not a member of the parliament of 1654, though there was a report that he stood for Lincolnshire (ib. 1654, p. 288; Thurloe, ii. 546). But, in spite of his inactivity, the discontent among the anabaptists and fifth-monarchy men was attributed to his secret influence (ib. iv. 509). In 1656 he came into open collision with the government. The Protector issued a proclamation for a general fast, in which the Lord was to be called upon to discover the Achan who had so long obstructed the settlement of the nation. Vane answered by publishing his ‘Healing Question propounded and resolved’ (Ludlow, ii. 16; cf. Somers Tracts, vi. 315), which declared that the old cause was in danger because the general body of puritans was ‘falling asunder into many dissenting parts.’ The reason of this was that, instead of the freedom and self-government they had fought for, they saw a form of government rising up which suited only the selfish interest of a particular part (viz. the army), and did not promote the common good of the whole body engaged in the cause. The remedy was the adoption of a new constitution in place of the one which the army had imposed on the nation. Let there be called ‘a general council or convention of faithful, honest, and discerning men, chosen by the free consent of the whole body of adherents to this cause.’ The assembly thus chosen was ‘to agree upon the particulars that by way of fundamental constitutions shall be laid and inviolably observed,’ and tender this constitution to those it represented for subscription.
On 29 July 1656 Vane was summoned to appear before the council. He appeared on 21 Aug., was ordered to give a bond to the amount of 5,000l. that he would do nothing to the prejudice of the present government, and on refusing was sent a prisoner to the Isle of Wight (4 Sept.) Vane seized this opportunity to address a written reproof to the Protector. He told Cromwell that he was head of the army under the legislative authority of the people represented in parliament, but nothing more. ‘More than this I am not satisfied in my conscience is in truth and righteousness appertaining unto you.’ When Cromwell made himself the head of the state by the unlawful use of the power which parliament had entrusted to him, and allowed parliament only a share in the legislative authority, he was denying the principle of popular sovereignty which he and the army had asserted by executing the king. And just as he had denied his ‘earthly head,’ viz. ‘the good people of this nation in Parliament assembled,’ so he was denying Christ, his ‘heavenly head,’ by claiming authority in spiritual things and persecuting the saints (The Proceeds of the Protector (so called) against Sir H. Vane, Knight, 1656, 4to; cf. Thurloe, v. 122, 317, 328, 349; Ludlow, ii. 16). Vane's imprisonment at Carisbrook Castle, which lasted till 31 Dec. 1656, prevented his candidature for the parliament of that year.
According to Ludlow, the Protector, in order to force Vane to compliance with the government, ‘privately encouraged some of the army to take possession of certain forest walks belonging to Sir H. Vane, near the castle of Raby, and also gave order to the attorney-general, on pretence of a flaw in his title to a great part of his estate, to present a bill against him in the exchequer’ (Memoirs, ii. 30). There seems, however, to have been real ground for doubt whether Vane was not claiming more than the grant under which he held entitled him to, to the detriment alike of the state and of smaller holders (Regicides no Saints, 8vo, 1700, p. 99; Carte MS. lxxiv. 15; Rawlinson MS. A. lxi. 102).
When Richard Cromwell called a parliament, Vane offered himself as a candidate at Hull and Bristol without success, but was returned for Whitchurch in Hampshire (Ludlow, ii. 50; Thurloe, vii. 588, 590). In a very able speech, 9 Feb. 1659, he urged parliament to define the Protector's authority before acknowledging Richard as Protector. The petition and advice, he argued, was but an attempt to revive monarchy, and would lead to the restoration of Charles II. ‘Shall we be underbuilders to supreme Stuart?’ ‘If you be minded to resort to the old government, you are not many steps from the old family.’ Let parliament therefore build upon the right of the people, which was ‘an unshaken foundation,’ and instead of accepting the new Protector as the son of a conqueror, ‘make him a son by adoption.’ The Protector, he explained, must be simply a chief magistrate—not an imitation of a king—and must possess no power of vetoing the laws which the representatives of the people agreed upon (Burton, Diary, iii. 171, 318, 337). On the same ground he opposed any concession of a negative voice in legislation to the ‘other House,’ or any recognition of the authority of the new lords (ib. iv. 70, 292). Vane spoke with equal vigour against the admission of the members for Scotland and Ireland, allowing in the first case the validity of the act of union, but denying that of the arrangements for Scotland's representation in parliament made by the Protector. Ireland, he argued, was still a province, and it was inequitable to give it a power not only to make laws for itself, but to give perhaps a casting vote in making laws for England (ib. iv. 178, 229). Vane also attacked the foreign policy of the protectorate as calculated to promote the personal interests of the Protector rather than those of the nation (ib. iii. 384, 401, 489), and demanded the release of fifth-monarchy men and cavaliers arrested without legal warrant (ib. iii. 495, iv. 120, 262).
These speeches, logical, acute, and at times eloquent, give a much higher idea of Vane's powers than the formal orations published in the early days of the Long parliament. But his faith in his cause blinded him to the risk that the overthrow of the protectorate might produce the restoration of the Stuarts. When a supporter of the government talked of ‘consequences,’ he answered, ‘God is Almighty: will you not trust Him with the consequences? He is a wiser workman than to reject His own work’ (ib. iv. 72). This ‘blind zeal,’ as the royalists termed it, led him to sanction Ludlow's intrigues with the discontented officers of the army, and to ally himself with them to restore the Long parliament and set aside the Protector (ib. iv. 457; Ludlow, ii. 65, 74). On the restoration of the Long parliament, Vane was at once appointed a member of the committee of safety (7 May) and of the council of state which succeeded it (14 May). He was also made a commissioner of the navy, a member of the committee of examination and secrecy, and one of a special committee appointed to examine into the case of prisoners for conscience' sake (Commons' Journals, vii. 646, 648, 654, 665; cf. Trial of Vane, p. 47). The management of foreign affairs was almost entirely in his hands, and to Bordeaux, the French ambassador, he seemed ‘the principal minister in the present government.’ Under his influence the foreign policy of the republic was prudent and moderate. ‘Vane at his last visit,’ wrote Bordeaux in July 1659, ‘made no mystery with me; he assured me that the sole desire of this government is to live on good terms with all neighbouring states, and to consolidate their internal affairs’ (Guizot, Richard Cromwell and the Restoration, i. 381, 411, 424, 433, 437, 443, 483; Commons' Journals, vii. 652, 670). In finance Vane was also active, having been added by a special vote to the treasury committee (ib. vii. 648, 737; cf. Guizot, i. 154). Hitherto he had had little to do with the management of the army, but on 13 May he was appointed one of the seven commissioners for the nomination of officers, who were charged to replace Cromwellian officers by sound republicans. His position was that of a mediator between the army and the parliament. Like Ludlow, he opposed the restrictions which Haslerig and the majority of the parliament inserted in the commissions of the officers (Ludlow, ii. 89, 103; Thurloe, vii. 704). He tried also to reconcile Haslerig and Lambert, and it was mainly owing to his efforts that Lambert was made commander of the army sent to suppress the rising under Sir George Booth (Ludlow, ii. 112; cf. Carte, Original Letters, ii. 200). On 10 Aug. 1659, during the excitement which that rising caused, Vane himself was chosen to command one of the regiments of volunteers raised in London, a circumstance which was one of the charges against him three years later (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659–60, pp. 94, 563, 582; Trial, pp. 29, 33, 49). Vane's endeavours to conciliate the army, his apparent alliance with Lambert, and his opposition to the proposed engagement against government by a single person, though each defensible enough on public grounds, exposed him to great suspicions. He was believed to be plotting either to establish the fifth monarchy and the reign of the saints, or to set up a government in which he and Lambert would divide the power (ib. iii. 505; Guizot, ii. 424, 426, 483, 490; Carte, Original Letters, ii. 200, 216, 225).
On 13 Oct. 1659 Lambert turned out the Long parliament. The officers in London, regarding Vane as their friend, appointed him one of their committee of safety (26 Oct.) and one of the six commissioners for the nomination of officers. He refused to accept either post, but continued to act as a commissioner of the admiralty under the government they set up. At his trial he defended himself by saying that though his position with regard to the navy brought him into contact with the members of the committee of safety, ‘yet I kept myself disinterested from all those actings of the army, as to any consent or approbation of mine (however in many things by way of discourse I did not decline converse with them), holding it my duty to penetrate as far as I could into their true intentions and actions, but resolving within myself to hold true to my parliamentary trust’ (Trial, p. 50; cf. Guizot, ii. 284; Ludlow, ii. 157). This account unduly minimises Vane's part, though it doubtless represents his intentions. The army also appointed Vane on 21 Oct. one of a committee of ten to consider of fit ways and means to carry on the affairs and government of the Commonwealth, and of a larger committee appointed on 1 Nov. to draw up a constitution. So much was his influence dreaded that it was said that agents of the lawyers and established clergy had offered to raise 100,000l. for the use of the army if the officers would hearken no longer to Vane's schemes against them (Ludlow, ii. 149, 159, 161, 164, 172; Trial, p. 30; Whitelocke, iv. 367). He assisted the officers also by endeavouring to reconcile Ludlow and Lambert, and by preventing Fleetwood from accepting the proposals made him on behalf of the royalists (Ludlow, ii. 143, 154; Whitelocke, Memorials, iv. 382). Finally, when the defection of the fleet gave the final blow to the domination of the army, Vane accepted once more the post of mediator (17 Dec.), and went to negotiate with the officers of the navy on behalf of the army (Ludlow, ii. 181; Penn, Memorials of Sir William Penn, ii. 186).
As soon as the Long parliament was again restored, Vane's compliance with the usurpation of the army became a charge against him, and on 9 Jan. 1660 he was expelled from the house and ordered to repair to Raby (Commons' Journals, vii. 806). A month later, on Monck's complaint that he was still in London, he was sent to his house in Lincolnshire in charge of the sergeant-at-arms (Commons' Journals, vii. 841; Old Parl. Hist. xxii. 99; Clarendon State Papers, iii. 678).
Vane's fall was saluted with almost universal rejoicing. ‘People,’ wrote Maidstone to Governor Winthrop, ‘were pleased with the dishonour put upon him, he being unhappy in lying under the most catholic prejudice of any man I ever knew’ (Thurloe, i. 767). Ballad-makers, satirists, and pamphleteers were loud in their exultation (Sir Harry Vane's Last Sigh for the Committee of Safety, 4to, 1659; Vanity of Vanities: or Sir Harry Vane's Picture, 1660, fol.; Rump Songs, ii. 25, 64, 100, 108; Catalogue of Caricatures in the British Museum, pp. 920, 952, 972). The most popular of these satires, and the only one with any wit in it, is Thomas Flatman's ‘Don Juan Lamberto, or a Comical History of the Late Times, by Montelion, the Knight of the Oracle,’ which appeared in 1661, and went through three editions. ‘Sir Vane the Knight of the Mysterious Allegories’ is one of the principal characters, and the proposed marriage between his son and Lambert's daughter one of the incidents (reprinted in Somers Tracts, vii. 104, ed. Scott). Forged letters, stating that Vane was to head a rising of the anabaptists to take place in April 1660, and stories that the fifth-monarchy men had elected him as their king, further increased his unpopularity (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659–60, p. 409; Mass. Hist. Coll. 4th ser. vii. 515; A New King Anointed, 4to, 1659).
When the Restoration took place, Vane was held too dangerous to be allowed to escape. On 11 June 1660 the House of Commons voted his exclusion from the Act of Indemnity without a single dissentient voice. He was made one of a class of twenty culprits who were to be excepted from pardon in all particulars not extending to life. The House of Lords went further, and, omitting the reservation made by the commons, put Vane's name among those of persons to be wholly excepted. Over the amendment of the lords a long discussion took place between the two houses. It was urged by Holles on Vane's behalf that he was not a regicide, to which an obscure member replied that it was expedient to have some one to die for the kingdom as well as for the king. A compromise was at last agreed upon by which Vane and Lambert were capitally excepted as ‘being persons of mischievous activity,’ but both houses petitioned the king ‘that if they shall be attainted, execution as to their lives may be remitted’ (30 Aug. 1660). Charles, on his part, replied that he granted the petition of the two houses (Trial of Sir H. Vane, pp. 48, 74; Commons' Journals, viii. 152; Lords' Journals, xi. 163; Old Parl. Hist. xxii. 438).
Vane was imprisoned in the Tower and kept for some time in very close confinement. His property had been seized and his rents detained by his tenants without waiting for his indictment or condemnation. On 25 Oct. 1660 orders were issued for his transportation from the Tower to the Scilly Isles (Trial, pp. 20, 70; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661–2, pp. 51, 118, 125, 141; Dalton, ii. 120). The parliament elected in 1661, less merciful than the Convention, passed a vote that Vane and Lambert should be proceeded against capitally (1 July 1661), and addressed the king to send for them with a view to their trial (Commons' Journals, viii. 287, 317). Vane was accordingly brought back to the Tower in April 1662, a true bill was found against him by the grand jury of Middlesex in Easter term 1662, and he was arraigned at the court of king's bench on 2 June 1662. The charge was high treason for compassing the death of the king, the subversion of the ancient form of government, and the keeping out of the king from the exercise of his regal power. Vane defended himself with great skill and courage, boldly asserting the sovereign power of parliament, and declaring that what was done by their authority ought not to be questioned in any other court. His bill of exceptions and other legal pleas were overruled, and, having been found guilty by the jury on 6 June, he was sentenced to death on 11 June. Vane's boldness sealed his fate, as he well knew it would (Trial, pp. 63, 80). The king regarded himself as released from his promise. ‘Sir Henry Vane's carriage yesterday,’ wrote Charles to Clarendon, ‘was so insolent as to justify all he had done; acknowledging no supreme power in England but a parliament, and many things to that purpose. If he has given new occasion to be hanged, certainly he is too dangerous a man to let live, if we can honestly put him out of the way’ (Burnet, Own Time, ed. Airy, i. 286 n.; for comments on Vane's trial see State Trials; Willis Bund, Select Cases from the State Trials, ii. 339; Ranke, Hist. of England, iii. 376; Hallam, Const. Hist. p. 516).
Vane was executed on Tower Hill on 14 June 1662. Though reputed a timid man by nature, he bore himself with great composure and cheerfulness, and seemed, it was said, when he appeared on the scaffold, ‘rather a looker-on than the person concerned in the execution.’ Vane's dying speech, in which he justified the cause for which he suffered, was thrice interrupted by the sounding of trumpets and beating of drums, to hinder him from being heard by the people (Trial, p. 95; Ludlow, ii. 338). ‘In all things,’ was the verdict of Pepys, ‘he appeared the most resolved man that ever died in that manner,’ and four days later he noted that people everywhere talked of Vane's courage at his death as a miracle. Like Burnet, he thought that the king had lost more than he gained by his execution (Pepys, ed. Wheatley, ii. 258, 260, 264; Burnet, i. 286). Charles permitted Vane's family to remove his remains for decent interment, and he was buried in Shipborne Church, Kent, on 15 June 1662 (Dalton, ii. 123).
Frances, lady Vane, died in 1679, and was also buried in Shipborne Church. Of his family of seven sons and seven daughters, the eldest son, Henry Vane, died on 2 Nov. 1660, aged 18; Christopher, the fifth son, inherited Raby, and was created by William III Baron Barnard of Barnard Castle (8 July 1699); Thomas, the next surviving son, was elected one of the first members for the county of Durham on 21 June 1675, and died four days later. Of the daughters, Frances married Edward Kekewich; Albinia, John Forth, alderman of London; Dorothy, Thomas Crisp of Essex; and Mary, Sir James Tillie of Pentillie Castle, Cornwall. Of the rest of the family an account is given in Dalton's ‘History of the Wrays’ (ii. 125–36).
Vane's abilities as a statesman were admitted by the common consent of friends and foes. ‘Extraordinary parts, a pleasant wit, a great understanding, a temper not to be moved,’ and as an orator, ‘a quick conception and a very sharp and weighty expression,’ are qualifications which Clarendon attributes to him (Rebellion, iii. 106, vii. 267; cf. Ludlow, Memoirs, ii. 339, ed. 1894). His industry was enormous. During the Long parliament, writes Sikes, ‘he was usually so engaged for the public in the house and several committees from early in the morning to very late at night, that he had scarce any leisure to eat his bread, converse with his nearest relations, or at all mind his family affairs’ (p. 105). ‘He was all in any business where others were joined with him,’ emphatically observes Clarendon (Rebellion, ed. Macray, vii. 266 n.). His devotion to the public service and freedom from corruption were as notorious as his abilities. But his mystical enthusiasm exposed him to the reproach of fanaticism; while his practical astuteness and his subtlety in speculative matters gave colour to the belief that he was crafty and untrustworthy.
Even Vane's contemporaries found it difficult to understand his religious views. A modern critic suggests that he was probably influenced by the writings of Jacob Boehme (T. H. Green, Works, iii. 295). To Clarendon he appeared ‘a perfect enthusiast,’ who ‘could not be described by any character of religion,’ but ‘had swallowed some of the fancies and extravagancies of every sect,’ and had become ‘a man above ordinances.’ Reading one of Vane's religious treatises, he found in it ‘nothing of his usual clearness and ratiocination in discourse, in which he used much to excel the best of the company he kept,’ but ‘in a crowd of very easy words the sense was too hard to find out’ (Rebellion, xvi. 88; Animadversions on Cressy's Answer to Stillingfleet, 1673, 8vo, p. 59). ‘His doctrines,’ echoes Baxter, ‘were so cloudily formed and expressed that few could understand them, and therefore he had but few true disciples. This obscurity by some was attributed to his not understanding himself, by others to design, because he could speak plainly when he listed’ (Reliq. Baxterianæ, p. 75). Burnet suggests that ‘he hid somewhat that was a necessary key to the rest,’ adding, ‘He set up a form of religion of his own, yet it consisted rather in a withdrawing from all other forms than in any new or particular opinions or forms; from which he and his party were called “Seekers,” and seemed to wait for some new and clearer manifestation’ (Own Time, ed. Airy, i. 285; cf. Forster, iv. 71). ‘He ever refused to fix his foot or take up his in any form,’ says his biographer, because ‘the main bulk of professors’ fell short of what he held to be the truth, and bade his children quit all false churches (Sikes, pp. 9, 157). Baxter regarded hostility to a settled ministry as one of the two practical principles which could be clearly deduced from his teaching, and Vane confessed himself ‘a back friend to the black coats’ (Baxter, p. 75; Nickolls, Letters and Papers addressed to O. Cromwell, p. 84). The other principle was the principle of universal toleration based on the refusal to the civil magistrate of any authority in spiritual matters. ‘Magistracy,’ wrote Vane, ‘is not to intrude itself into the office and proper concerns of Christ's inward government and rule in the conscience, but it is to content itself with the outward man, and to intermeddle with the concerns thereof in reference to the converse which man ought to have with man, upon the grounds of natural, just, and right in things appertaining to this life’ (Retired Man's Meditations, p. 388).
As to civil government, Vane's creed is set forth with great clearness in ‘The People's Case Stated’ (printed in Trial of Sir H. Vane, 1662, p. 97). ‘Sovereign power comes from God as its proper root, but the restraint or enlargement of it, in its execution over such or such a body, is founded in the common consent of that body.’ ‘All just executive power,’ therefore, arose ‘from the free will and gift of the people,’ who might ‘either keep the power in themselves or give up their subjection into the hands and will of another, if they shall judge that thereby they shall better answer the end of government, to wit, the welfare and safety of the whole.’ Like Algernon Sidney and Locke, he regarded the state as based upon a compact. Both people and king were bound by ‘the fundamental constitution or compact, upon which the government was first built, containing the conditions upon which the king accepted of the royal office, and on which the people granted him the tribute of their obedience and due allegiance.’ If the king failed to observe the compact, the people might resume ‘their original right and freedom.’
Democratic though Vane's doctrine was, his republicanism has been much exaggerated. ‘It is not so much the form of the administration,’ said he, ‘as the thing administered, wherein the good or evil of government doth consist.’ This distinguishes him from writers such as Milton and Harrington, who held a republic the best possible form of government. It helps to explain his attitude in 1648 and 1659, and his assertion that in all the great changes of government he was ‘never a first mover, but always a follower’ (Trial, p. 44).
According to Clarendon, Vane ‘had an unusual aspect which, though it might naturally proceed both from his father and mother, neither of which were beautiful persons, yet made men think there was somewhat in him of extraordinary; and his whole life made good that imagination’ (Rebellion, iii. 34). A portrait of Vane, by William Dobson, which was presented to the British Museum by Thomas Holles, is now in the National Portrait Gallery. A second portrait, by Vandyck, in the possession of Sir H. R. Vane, bart., was No. 655 in the National Portrait Exhibition of 1866. At Raby Castle there are several portraits of him attributed to Lely. An engraved portrait, by Faithorne, is prefixed to the ‘Life of Sir Henry Vane,’ by Sikes (1662, 4to) (Fagan, Cat. of Faithorne's Works, p. 64). An engraving from Lely's portrait of Vane is contained in Houbraken's ‘Heads of Illustrious Persons’ (1743–52).
Vane was the author of:
- ‘A Brief Answer to a certain Declaration.’ This was an answer to John Winthrop's ‘Defence of an Order of the Court made in the Year 1637 … that none should be allowed to inhabit within the Jurisdiction but such as should be allowed by some Magistrate,’ referring to the Wheelwright controversy in Massachusetts. Winthrop also wrote in response to Vane ‘A Reply to an Answer,’ &c. All three are printed in the ‘Hutchinson Papers’ (i. 79), published by the Prince Society in 1865.
- ‘The Retired Man's Meditations, or the Mystery and Power of Godliness … in which the Old Light is restored and New Light justified,’ 1655, 4to. This was answered by Martin Finch in ‘Animadversions on Sir H. Vane's Book entitled “The Retired Man's Meditations,”’ 1656, 8vo.
- ‘A Healing Question propounded and resolved upon Occasion of the late Public and Seasonable Call to Humiliation, in order to Love and Union amongst the Honest Party,’ 1656, 4to. Answered in ‘A Letter from a Person in the Country to his Friend in the City giving his Judgment upon Sir H. Vane's “Healing Question.”’ Both are reprinted in the ‘Somers Tracts,’ ed. Scott, vol. vi. ‘The Healing Question’ was also attacked by Richard Baxter in his ‘Holy Commonwealth’ (1659, 8vo).
- ‘A Needful Corrective or Balance in Popular Government, expressed in a Letter to James Harrington, Esq.’ (in answer to ‘Oceana’).
- ‘Of Love of God and Union with God.’
- ‘Two Treatises, viz. (1) An Epistle General to the Mystical Body of Christ on Earth, (2) The Face of the Times.’ This contains at the end a letter to his wife dated 7 March 1661.
- ‘The Trial of Sir Henry Vane, Knight,’ 1662, 4to. This contains his pleas, bill of exceptions, and other memoranda relating to his trial, with his speech intended to have been spoken in arrest of judgment, the speech on the scaffold, and prayers on various occasions. It also contains ‘The People's Case stated,’ ‘The Valley of Jehoshaphat considered and opened,’ and ‘Meditations concerning Man's Life.’ ‘The People's Case’ is reprinted in Forster's ‘Life of Vane’ (p. 381).
- ‘A Pilgrimage into the Land of Promise by the Light of the Vision of Jacob's Ladder and Faith,’ 1664, 4to.
There are also attributed to Vane:
- ‘A Letter from a True and Lawful Member of Parliament to one of the Lords of his Highness's Council,’ 1656, 4to. This was really written by Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon (see Rebellion, ed. Macray, xiv. 151).
- ‘Light shining out of Darkness, or Occasional Queries,’ 1659, 4to. This was probably written by Henry (1632–1676) [q. v.], as Wood supposes. Stubbe published in 1659 ‘A Vindication of Sir Henry Vane from the Lies and Calumnies of Mr. Richard Baxter. By a True Friend and Servant of the Commonwealth of England,’ 4to.
Vane also published a certain number of speeches:
- ‘Speech in the House of Commons at a Committee for the Bill against Episcopal Government, 11 June 1641,’ 4to; reprinted in the ‘Old Parliamentary History’ (ix. 342).
- ‘Speech in the Guildhall, London, 8 Nov. 1642, concerning the King's Refusal of a Treaty,’ 1642, 4to (ib. xii. 17).
- ‘Speech at a Common Hall, 27 Oct. 1643, wherein is showed the Readiness of the Scots to assist the Parliament of England.’
- ‘Speech at a Common Hall, January 1643–4;’ printed in ‘A Cunning Plot to divide the Parliament and the City of London,’ 1643, 4to.
- ‘Two Speeches in the Guildhall, London, concerning the Treaty at Uxbridge, 4 March and 11 April 1644,’ 4to (ib. xiii. 159).
- ‘The Substance of what Sir Henry Vane intended to have spoken upon the Scaffold at Tower Hill,’ &c., 4to, 1662.
- ‘The Speech against Richard Cromwell,’ attributed to Vane by Forster and Hosmer on the authority of Oldmixon (Hist. of England under the House of Stuart, p. 430), is a composition by some pamphleteer of the period.
[The earliest life of Vane is the Life and Death of Sir Henry Vane, or a Short Narrative of the Main Passages of his Earthly Pilgrimage, 4to, 1662, by George Sikes. It contains very few facts. ‘I have writ his life after another fashion than mens lives use to be written,’ says the author, ‘treating mostly of the principles and course of his hidden life’ (p. 92). Of modern biographies the chief are those by C. W. Upham (Sparks's American Biograph. 1st ser. vol. iv.), by John Forster (Eminent British Statesmen, vol. iv., Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia), published in 1838, and by Professor J. K. Hosmer (1888). Shorter memoirs are contained in Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 578, and Biographia Britannica, vi. 3989. The History of the Family of Wray, by C. Dalton, 1881, ii. 93–137, contains memoirs of the two Vanes with important documents; other authorities are mentioned in the article.]
|126||ii||21f.e.||Vane, Sir Henry, the younger: for 1669) read 1660)|
|10f.e.||for 1661 read 1660|