The New Student's Reference Work/Vane, Sir Henry

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Vane, Sir Henry, was born at London in 1612, and was educated at Oxford, where he appears to have embraced the republican principles for which he became so famous. His travels in France and Switzerland strongly confirmed him in his opposition to the Church of England; and in 1635 he sailed for New England—the refuge of freedom-loving spirits in those days. He was chosen governor of Massachusetts, but his supposed heretical opinions soon destroyed his popularity among the Puritan settlers, and after a residence of a year or two in the new colony he returned home and entered upon a political career. When the war between Charles I and Parliament broke out, no man was more active among the leaders of Parliament than Vane. In 1646 Vane was one of the English commissioners for the preservation of peace with Scotland, and in 1648 was appointed to negotiate with Charles I at the Isle of Wight. But he did not view with satisfaction the increasing power of Cromwell and the army, and was strongly opposed to the execution of the king. His views as to the rights and powers of Parliament brought him into pretty sharp conflict with Cromwell, who is said to have exclaimed, when he dissolved his Parliament in 1653: "The Lord deliver me from Sir Harry Vane!" When the restoration of Charles II took place, Vane was one of the 20 persons exempted from the act of general amnesty; and in July, 1660, he was arrested and committed to the Tower. Two years later he was brought to trial at London, and, although he defended himself with great ability and eloquence he was found guilty and condemned to death. In response to a petition that Vane's life should be spared, Charles wrote to Clarendon, declaring that he is "too dangerous a man to let live, if we can honestly put him out of the way." He was accordingly beheaded on June 14, 1662.