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This volume is the result of considerable reflection on the possible means of raising a very attractive class of publications into a higher field of literary design, without depriving them of those charms of novelty and grace which have so long secured to them the public favour.
The Author wishes to add, that, though it did not come within his purpose to encumber his pages with authorities, strict and conscientious historical accuracy was the first object at which he aimed. In endeavouring to set before the reader, History in action—in avoiding, as much as possible, all formal or dry detail, and giving prominence and amplitude only to those heroic deeds, those eloquent discussions, and those noble traits of personal character, which distinguish all great events or eras in the world—he has sought to avoid those extreme differences of opinion, and partisan views, that have unhappily entered so largely into most works respecting the Great Civil War of the Seventeenth Century. He cannot acknowledge indifference to any cause which has inspired high achievements among mankind. He looks upon the great drama of human events as, in all its provinces, the work of ONE who assigns no prominent part whatever to minds undeserving of earnest regard. Great qualities still find a sanctuary in the heart, even though the ends to which they were devoted may be disapproved by the principles and the judgment; and history, in common with all true knowledge, promotes the noblest charities of our nature.
LIST OF ENGRAVINGS.
PROSTIS PIECE 1.13
17 28 48 60 69
77 85 87 108 115
264 . 268
271 . 273
275 . 279
THE GREAT CIVIL WAR.
If the Petition of Rights, which in the third Parliament of Charles I., confirmed those liberties that were already the birthright of Englishmen, had been ingenuously assented to by the king, and taken by the brave and strong-minded men who were its authors for a final measure, it is possible the kingdom might have been spared the calamities of the following twenty years. But when, in the confidence of victory, the popular leaders proceeded to make that just and necessary enactment a vantage-ground for direct attacks on the prerogative of the crown; and when, on the other hand, the distrustful sovereign withdrew, in effect, that assent to it which had diffused among the people universal joy; a breach was made, which the living generation, though they successively flung into it everything dear to man, were never to see closed.
The triumphs of that assembly were achieved by men whom, or whose like, even the great period we propose to sketch saw not again met together. The fiery Eliot, foremost, if not greatest, perished 'long ere another parliament was called—unhappily in prison. Sir Thomas Wentworth, satisfied with that noble victory, so large a share of which was his own, mindful to which of the great parties in the state was now due the devotion of his vast political genius, went over to the king.
His example was followed by Digges, Littleton, Noy, and others of inferior note. Yet, that the spirit of the party survived, and would survive, while one man in particular lived, was apparent from a now familiar anecdote of the time. That man was Pym; whose sterling eloquence, learning, application, and matchless tenacity of purpose, admirably fitted him for his office, as leader of an opposition so weighty in talent and vast in its designs. Wentworth, before carrying into effect his final resolve, sought an interview in private with his inflexible associate, in which he imparted his present views, suggesting the advantages that would accrue from conciliation.
“You need not," interrupted Pym, indignantly, at once perceiving Wentwortl's drift, while visions of impeachment rose upon his sight, “to tell me that you have a mind to leave us. But remember what I say—you are going to be undone. And remember, also, that though you leave us now, I will never leave you while your head is on your shoulders.”
Refusing to pass a bill for supplies, which the wants of the executive rendered urgent, the third parliament was dissolved in the midst of an ominous storm of contumacy on the part of the commons, and of disappointment and displeasure on that of the king. The representatives of the people retired to their homes, to brood over their personal wrongs and the despotism which now more than threatened the country, and to inflame, by their various statements of grievance, the popular discontent. The course pursued by the king had in it so much of inconsiderateness and obvious impolicy, beside what wilfulness may be imputed to it, as no hypothesis can explain, but one that includes a thorough conviction in the royal mind of its justice, in existing circumstances. He now commenced in carnest the fatal plan of governing by the bare force of prerogative, until a parliament could be convened with the prospect of a more complying temper. It is fair to acquit Charles of a wish to encroach upon the known rights of his people; but a crisis had arrived, when the people would no longer distinguish between such a wish and a resolution to maintain those adverse claims of the crown, which he had inherited from his predecessors, and thought himself bound to defend in his own person, and transmit, unimpaired, to his children. King Charles really desired to be the father of his people; but in his code of parental duty he included denial and correction with indulgence. We have no disposition to vindicate those infractions of the constitution, as now defined, which followed rapidly on each other. We cannot but observe, however, that numerous and gross as they were, and directed equally against the freedom and the property of the subject, there were never wanting powerful minds ready to expose and exaggerate, if they were unable to prevent them; while few mentioned, perhaps few believed, the advancing prosperity of the people, which their combined operations did not check.
The brightest track along the course of the years which followed, is, with all its errors, the path of Wentworth. Raised to the dignities of baron and viscount, and to the offices of a privy-counsellor and president of the Council of the North, this great statesman, on the dissolution of the parliament, instantly applied himself with characteristic ardour to the high and perilous duties of his presidency.
The Council of the North was a court erected at York, in the reign of Henry VIII., with jurisdiction over the five northern counties, in those times the theatre of frequent insurrection. The great and irregular powers exercised by this court, were, on Wentworth’s appointment, enlarged to an almost unlimited extent. In administering them with strict but haughty and severe impartiality, he succeeded in the twofold object of bearing down with a high hand every show of disaffection towards the government, and of raising to an unprecedented amount the income derived from that part of the kingdom to the royal exchequer. Charles had soon to acknowledge, rather than discover, such extraordinary zeal and ability in his new minister, as manifestly qualified him to serve
the state in a wider sphere. Wentworth was nominated lord-deputy of Ireland, without being required to resign the chair of the northern presidency.
That ever-unhappy country was now for the first time governed by a hand vigordus and steady enough for the task. Wentworth made his appearance in Dublin with the pomp and ceremonial of royalty: it was his acknowledged principle of government to rule, not merely as a vice-king, but as the deputed sovereign of a conquered province. Benefits and severities he dispensed with a sternly equal hand; but even the severities of a master-mind, when first placed at the head of an arbitrary government, being for the most part merely the extinction of minor oppressions in the sovereign sway, are, for the people, blessings in disguise. One of the many historians who have poured their vials of angry censure on the proud head of Wentworth, bears this reluctant testimony: -“the Richelieu of Ireland, he made that island wealthier in the midst of exactions, and, one might almost say, happier in the midst of oppressions."
The benefits conferred on Ireland by Wentworth were diffused through all her institutions. We trace them in a more than quadrupled revenue; in the church strengthened and made more efficient; in the courts of justice reformed; in the army disciplined; in commerce and manufactures cherished and extended; in a population wealthier, more peaceful, and more humane. Its concomitant excesses are illustrated (among other lessremembered instances) by the trial and sentencing to death of the Lord Mountnorris, ostensibly for an impatient or disrespectful word; an outbreak of tyrannous pride, made available to the strengthening of the government, which Wentworth's enemies did not forget. The sentence was meant only to humble the victim; but a stretch of power so violent in itself, and yet so capable of aggravation by unfriendly tongues, swelled prodigiously the gathering indignation against the viceroy, and was grimly noted down in the great impeachment-book, by those who watched with patience till the shadow upon the darkening political sun-dial should point the hour of his undoing.
Beyond the esteem of the sovereign, to whom he was ardently attached, Wentworth —with one exception-cared little to supply the vacancies in his former friendships from the party which he had now joined. Sincere, laborious, proud, he had no sympathy with the heartlessness and indolence of the courtiers. The exception refers to Laud; whose translation to the see of London, and paramount authority in the administration, nearly coincided with the period of Wentworth's elevation, as both did with the fall of Buckingham. With a mind of less majestic dimensions, though more learnedly cultivated; with directness and integrity equal to Wentworth's steady and unquenchable ardour ; below him in pride, as became a churchman, but as keenly capable of rigour, for conscience sake; as great in courage, as inflexible in constancy; above all, animated by like devotedness to the master whom both served “not wisely," but, in their view of duty, “ well ;”—Laud, whatever may be thought by those who strangely discover the bond of these men's union in that most dissociative of principles, a common despotic will, was not unworthy of that intimacy with the larger-minded Wentworth which remained firm till violently and most affectingly terminated by death. Such as they were, these eminent persons continued to be the main agents of King Charles's government in Church and