Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/1005

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979
STRAFFORD, EARL OF


in order to obtain the resignation of his office, and then par- doned. Promises of legislation such as the concessions known as the " graces " were not kept. In particular Strafford set at naught Charles's promise that no colonists should be forced into Connaught, and in 1635 he proceeded to that province, where, raking up an obsolete title — the grant in the 14th century of Connaught to Lionel, duke of Clarence, whose heir Charles was — he insisted upon the grand juries in all the counties finding verdicts for the king. One only, that of Galway, re- sisted, and the confiscation of Galway was effected by the court of exchequer, while he fined the sheriff £1000 for sum- moning such a jury, and cited the jurymen to the castle chamber to answer for their offence. In Ulster the arbitrary confis- cation of the property of the city companies aroused dangerous animosity against the government. Towards the native Irish Wentworth's bearing was benevolent but thoroughly un- sympathetic. Having no notion of developing their qualities by a process of natural growth, his only hope for them lay in converting them into Englishmen as soon as possible. They must be made English in their habits, in their laws and in their religion. " I see plainly," he once wrote, " that, so long as this kingdom continues popish, they are not a people for the Crown of England to be confident of." High-handed as Wentworth was by nature, his rule in Ireland made him more high-handed than ever. As yet he had never been consulted on English affairs, and it was only in February 1637 that Charles asked his opinion on a proposed interference in the affairs of the Con- tinent. In reply, he assured Charles that it would be unwise to undertake even naval operations till he had secured absolute power at home. He wished that Hampden and his followers " were well whipped into their right senses." The opinion of the judges had given the king the right to levy ship-money, but, unless his majesty had " the like power declared to raise a land army, the Crown " seemed " to stand upon one leg at home, to be considerable but by halves to foreign princes abroad." When the Scottish Puritans rebelled he advocated the most decided measures of repression, in February 1639 send- ing the king £2000 as his contribution to the expenses of the coming war, at the same time deprecating an invasion of Scot- land before the English army was trained, and advising certain concessions in religion.

Wentworth arrived in England in September 1639, after Charles's failure in the first Bishops' War, and from that moment he became Charles's principal adviser. Ignorant of the extent to which opposition had developed in England during his absence, he recommended the calling of a parliament to support a renewal of the war, hoping that by the offer of a loan from the privy councillors, to which he himself contributed £20,000, he would place Charles above the necessity of submitting to the new parliament if it should prove restive. In January 1640 he was created earl of Strafford, and in March he went to Ireland to hold a parliament, where the Catholic vote secured a grant of subsidies to be used against the Presbyterian Scots. An Irish army was to be levied to assist in the coming war. When in April Strafford returned to England he found the Commons holding back from a grant of supply, and tried to enlist the peers on the side of the king. On the other hand he induced Charles to be content with a smaller grant than he had originally asked for. The Commons, however, insisted on peace with the Scots. Charles, on the advice, or perhaps by the treachery of Vane, returned to his larger demand of twelve subsidies; and on the 9th of May, at the privy council, Strafford, though reluctantly, voted for a dissolution. The same morning the Committee of Eight of the privy council met again. Vane and others were for a mere defence against invasion. Strafford's advice was the contrary. " Go on vigorously or let them alone .... go on with a vigorous war as you first designed, loose and absolved from all rules of government, being reduced to extreme necessity, everything is to be done that power might admit. .... You have an army in Ireland you may employ here to reduce this kingdom . . . ." He tried to force the citizens of London to lend money. He supported a project for debasing the coinage and for seizing bullion in the Tower, the property of foreign merchants. He also advocated the purchase of a loan from Spain by the offer of a future alliance. He was ultimately appointed to command the English army, and was made a knight of the Garter, but he was seized with illness, and the rout of Newburn made the position hopeless. "Pity me," he wrote to his friend Sir George Radcliffe, ',' for never came any man to so lost a business .... In one word here alone to fight with all these evils, without any one to help." In the great council of peers, which assembled on the 24th of September at York, the struggle was given up, and Charles announced that he had issued writs for another parliament.

The Long Parliament assembled on the 3rd of November 1640, and Charles immediately summoned Strafford to London, promising that he " should not suffer in his person, honour or fortune." He arrived on the 9th and on the 10th proposed to the king to forestall his impeachment, now being prepared by the parliament, by accusing the leaders of the popular party of treasonable communications with the Scots. The plan however having been betrayed, Pym immediately took up the impeachment to the Lords on the nth. Strafford came to the house to confront his accusers, but was ordered to withdraw and committed into custody. On the 25th of November the preliminary charge was brought up, whereupon he was sent to the Tower, and, on the 31st of January 1641, the accusations in detail were presented. These were, in sum, that Strafford had: endeavoured to subvert the fundamental laws of the kingdom, and that the attempt was high treason. Much stress was laid on Strafford's reported words, already cited — " You have an army in Ireland you may employ here to reduce this kingdom," England, it being contended, and not Scotland being here meant. It is clear nevertheless that however tyrannical and mischievous Strafford's conduct may have been, his offense was not one which could by any straining of language be included in the limits of high treason; while the copy of a copy of rough notes of Strafford's speech in the committee of the council, the genuineness of which was asserted only by the defendant's accusers or personal enemies and not supported by other councillors who had also been present on the occasion, could not be evidence which would convict in a court of law. In addition, the words had to be arbitrarily interpreted as referring to the subjection of England and not of Scotland and were also spoken on a privileged occasion. Advantage was freely taken by Strafford of the weak points in the attack, and the lords, his judges, were considerably influenced in his favour. But behind the legal aspect of the case lay the great constitutional question of the responsibility to the nation of the leader of its administration, a principle which was now to be revived after many centuries of neglect, and, in the circumstances which then prevailed, could only be enforced by the destruction of the offender. The Commons therefore, feeling their victim slipping from their grasp, dropped the impeachment, and brought in and passed a bill of attainder, though owing to the opposition of the Lords, and Pym's own preference for the more judicial method, the procedure of an impeachment was practically adhered to. Strafford might still have been saved but for the king's ill-advised conduct. A scheme to gain over the leaders of the parliament, and a scheme to seize the Tower and to liberate Strafford by force, were entertained concurrently and were mutually destructive; and the revelation of the army plot on the 5th of May caused the Lords to pass the attainder. Nothing row remained but the king's signature. Charles had, after the passing of the attainder by the Commons, for the second time assured Strafford "upon the word of a king, you shall not suffer in life, honour or fortune." Strafford now wrote releasing the king from his engagements and declaring his willingness to die in order to reconcile Charles to his subjects. "I do most humbly beseech you, for the preventing of such massacres as may happen by your refusal, to pass the bill; by this means to remove . . . the unfortunate thing forth of the way towards that blessed agreement, which God, I trust, shall for ever establish between you and your subjects."