A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the accession of Charles I. to the commencement of the civil war between him and the parliament.
On the demise of James, which happened March 27th 1625, his second son Charles, by the death of his elder brother Henry, succeeded to the crown, and was proclaimed the ensuing day with the usual solemnity. The intended public entry of the new king and his consort Henrietta of France, on June 18, was laid aside on account of the plague, which in the space of a year swept away 35,417 persons; a terrible amount, which added to those reported to have died of other disorders, made the whole number of deaths 54,265, one third of the computed inhabitants! this calamity in all likelihood was the occasion of his not being crowned until the 2d of February following.
Charles came to the crown at an unfortunate season. The commons were now sensible of their weight and influence in legislation, and had conceived an idea of attempting a reformation in government, and enlarging the political rights of the people. Trade had increased and diffused property; reformation in religion had diminished ecclesiastical tyranny; and they now justly expected that the royal power ought to be circumscribed conformable to the alterations of circumstances. The house of commons had begun to question the undue exertions of the regal prerogatives under James, who had answered them by pleading the divine right of kings: but the Puritanical party was prevalent, and understood common sense and scripture too well to acquiesce under such tyrannic principles. The point of liberty was still to be pursued; and in this ill humour the young king found his first parliament, before he had opportunity to offend them otherwise than by his imprudent attachment to his father's favourite the duke of Buckingham, who was deservedly odious to the whole nation.
Though the house of commons were sufficiently apprized of Charles's needy situation, a very inadequate supply was voted: the parliament on account of the plague was adjourned to Oxford, when the king laid his necessities before them; said this was the first request he had made to them; that if he met with kind and dutiful usage, it would endear the use of parliaments to him, and preserve harmony between him and his people. The commons however, for reasons not incumbent on us to enter into, remained inflexible, and answered his pleas for supply with complaints; he therefore took advantage of the appearance of the plague at Oxford and dissolved the parliament (fn. 1).
It was in the year 1625, that we first meet with accounts of hackney coaches plying for hire in London: at that time they were only 20 in number, and did not stand in the streets as they now do, but were ready for call at the inns, as is still the case in country towns. In ten years time they increased so much in number, as to be restrained by order of council (fn. 2).
The king entered into a project for making salt petre, which he took into his own hands, and published proclamations whereby the floors of stables and dovehouses were ordered to be unpaved, for collecting the salt in the soft earth, which his salt petre men were impowered to dig at pleasure. In 1627 he published another proclamation, commanding all his subjects of London, Westminster &c. near the place where the salt petre work was erected, upon notice given to them respectively, carefully to keep in proper vessels, all human urine throughout the year, together with as much of that of beasts as could be saved, for the patentees to carry away from time to time (fn. 3). This was a filthy tax upon his metropolitan subjects, and the only one perhaps, which they would wish to have frequently and duly collected.
Charles, though with more good sense than his father, entertained equally high notions of the sacred character of a king, and was now driven to have recourse to the prerogatives often exercised by his predecessors on cases of emergency. He exacted loans of his subjects; and 100,000l. was demanded from the city of London; but the temper of the times was altered, and the citizens endeavoured to excuse themselves to the privy council, though without effect; the demand was reiterated, but to little purpose, as will presently appear. Another order was issued for the equipment of a fleet, and London was rated at 20 ships; which was the first instance of ship money in this reign, that afterward bred so much general disgust. It was not the least unpopular measure for raising money which was also employed, when a commission was openly granted to compound with the catholics, for dispensing with the penal laws against them (fn. 4). We also find that he pawned his crown jewels to the Dutch states for 300,000l. and afterward redeemed them by casting and furnishing the Dutch with 610 pieces of iron cannon; which amounted in weight to 4000 tons (fn. 5)
The required loans met with a general opposition; many persons of fortune were thrown into prison for refusal, among whom were 20 principal citizens of London; and those of lower conditions of life were pressed into land and sea service. But as persecution in religion increases heresy, so the spirit of liberty only spread the wider and acquired strength by this political oppression: an order of council was therefore issued for the release of those who had been imprison ed (fn. 6); and the lord-mayor of London received a hint to proceed with moderation in his demands of the loan within his jurisdiction. A plausible pretence however soon offered for procuring a sum from the city in a more peremptory manner; for during these disgusts, the populace had seized on Dr. Lamb, a partisan of the duke of Buckingham, and a reputed conjurer, who was so ill used by beating and dragging him about the streets, that he died under their hands. For this outrage the citizens were threatened with the forfeiture of their charter; and none of the rioters being delivered up, a fine of 6000l. was imposed on them, though as an instance of lenity, it was afterward compounded for 1500 marks.
New duties were now imposed on merchandize by order of privy council without parliamentary authority; but the money thus raised by prerogative, came in so slowly and left such ill humour among the people, that recourse was once more had to a parliament. The commons however appeared to be actuated by the same independent spirit as their predecessors: they passed a vote against arbitrary imprisonments and forced loans, voted five subsidies to the king, and then employed themselves in framing the celebrated petition of right; which after it had passed both houses, the king was with great difficulty prevailed on to give the full usual assent to (fn. 7).
In the following session, the debates concerning the king's right to levy tonnage and poundage, together with theological controversies between the Puritans and Arminians, occupied the house of commons. The officers of the custom house were summoned before them to give an account by what authority they had seized the goods of merchants on non-payment of these duties; and one of the sheriffs of London was committed to the Tower for supporting the officers in these exactions. Charles, with an obstinacy that courtiers might then perhaps applaud under the name of firmness, put an end to their proceedings by a forcible dissolution of the parliament, with a determined resolution to call no more, until the people shewed a more compliant disposition (fn. 8).
The southern side of Cheapside from the Old Change to Buckersbury, was then called Goldsmiths-row, being inhabited intirely by Goldsmiths, four shops excepted, and made a splendid shew: this produced an order from the privy council, in 1629, very frivolous in its object, which was to confine the Goldsmiths to Cheapside and Lombard street, and to prevent mean trades from mixing among them. The lord mayor, Sir Richard Deane, employed his authority to better purpose, by publishing an order against vending of goods on the sabbath day; and to enforce a more regular observance of it.
Ecclesiastical grievances were as much complained of as those of a political nature; Laud, then bishop of London, was strenuous in opposing the Puritans, and in introducing new superstitious rites, when the disposition of the people would ill bear such odious innovations. His zeal was so favourably regarded at Rome, that an offer of a cardinal's hat was twice privately made to him; and though he declined the promotion, the very offer shews what the Roman pon tiff thought of him. Add to this his idolatrous behaviour at the consecration of the church of St. Katharine Cree in Leadenhall street, which will lead us to think that policy, more than aversion, with-held him from becoming one of that sacred college. On approaching the western door of the church, a loud voice cried out, Open, open, ye everlasting doors, that the king of glory may enter in! Immediately the doors flew open and the bishop entered: falling on his knees, and expanding his arms, he said, with elevated eyes, This place is holy; the ground is holy; in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I pronounce it holy! Going toward the chancel, he took up some of the dust from the ground, and flung it in the air several times, and bowed frequently to the communion table. After going round the church with his attendants, repeating some of the psalms, he pronounced a form of prayer ending with these words: We consecrate this church, and separate it unto thee as holy ground, not to be profaned any more to common uses. He then denounced many imprecations on such as should pollute that holy place by musters of soldiers, keeping profane law courts in it, or carrying burthens through it; and at the conclusion of every curse, bowing to the east, he cried let all the people say Amen. He next bestowed as many blessings on such as had or should contribute any thing toward that sacred edifice; with the same formality. When the sermon was over, he approached the communion table with many lowly reverences, and on coming where the bread and wine lay, he bowed seven times: he gently lifted up the corner of the napkin that covered the bread, and, as soon as he saw it, he started back a step or two, and let it fall; bowed three times to it, and then ventured to open it again. The same idolatrous gesticulations were repeated on uncovering the wine, before he administered the sacrament; to the great scandal and offence of all who were witnesses to it (fn. 9). Laud had great influence over the king in ecclesiastical affairs; and when prerogative and superstition were strained so high, while a spirit of liberty and enthusiasm prevailed so strongly among the people, the ferment could not but produce national distraction.
This year the king revived the proclamation against enlarging the cities of London and Westminster by laying new foundations within three miles of the gates of London, or of the palace of Westminster; also against the entertaining inmates, "which, says the proclamation, would multiply the inhabitants to "such an excessive number, that they could neither be governed nor fed." He also enjoined the rebuilding old houses with brick or stone, forbad cellars for victualling houses, and sheds or other annoyances in the streets (fn. 10);. He soon after issued a new proclamation against the nobility and gentry residing constantly in London with their families; adding among other reasons, that this also "draws great numbers of loose and idle people to London and Westmin"ster, which thereby are not so easily governed as formerly (fn. 11)." That he found his people not so easily governed as formerly, was true enough; and all princes who reign over powerful nations that aspire to freedom, will find the same, when such people perceive the true ends of government to be perverted.
The common council, in 1631, again took into consideration the stalls of fruiterers, fish, and tripe women, bakers, butchers, &c. which notwithstanding former ordinances to the contrary, still encumbered the streets; and renewed their prohibition of such nusances.
Upon a complaint of the bad practices of vintners, bakers, &c. in London, the Star-chamber, in 1633, issued a decree to reform the abuses; and it was a subject of national alarm, that this court encroached upon the jurisdictions of other courts, imposing heavy fines and inflicting severe punishments, beyond the usual course of justice. Instances of its unwarrantable cruel proceedings are to be found in all the histories of England.
The king, this year, made a journey to Scotland to pass the ceremony of coronation there, and to hold a parliament: on his return, the gentlemen of the four inns of court, entertained him with a splendid procession of masques, the expence of which amounted to above 21,000l. Among these masquerades were some in burlesque characters indirectly intended by the contrivers, among whom was the famous lawyer Noy, to convey hints of reproof to the king, on the many patents granted for monopolies and projects. They proceeded in grand cavalcade from Ely-house Holborn to Whitehall, where the king and queen viewed them from a window of the Banqueting house. They then were received into the palace, where they were entertained; and the whole concluded with a ball. The queen in particular was so delighted with the scene, that upon her intimating a wish to have it repeated, Ralph Freeman, then lord-mayor of London, invited their majesties to dine at Merchant Taylor's hall, and engaged the masquers to renew their exhibition in the city (fn. 12).
This appearance of good humour between the king and his subjects, was very transitory; a renewal of his father's edict for allowing sports and recreations on Sundays, which all the clergy were ordered to read after divine service, tended to inflame the Puritans, whose principles were too severe to consider it in any other light than as a prophanation of religion. The encouragement and protection given by the king and bishops to wakes, church ales, bride ales, and other chearful festivals; were beheld with the same abhorrence (fn. 13). On such occasions the people affected solemnity, and the maxims of the court were palpably absurd, to make the people merry contrary to their inclinations.
But if these measures, calculated to check the sour principles in religion that then prevailed, displeased only the Puritans, the general extension of ship money diffused a universal discontent; and more than ever indisposed the people to suffer their attention to important concerns to be drawn off, by sports on the seasons dedicated to religious exercises. The first writs for ship money, had been only directed to sea-port towns; but in 1634 it was levied on the whole kingdom: and the amount of the money demanded, or the application of it were not so much considered, as the precedent; and the undue authority by which that demand was made. Upon the receipt of this writ in London, a common council was called, who presented a petition to the king against it, as contrary to their known liberties; though without redress.
We have this year the first origin of sedan chairs in London, in king Charles's grant to Sir Sanders Duncomb, which represents, that "whereas the streets of our cities of London and Westminster, and their suburbs, are of late so much encumbered with the unnecessary multitude of coaches, that many of our subjects are thereby exposed to great danger; and the necessary use of carts, and carriages for provisions, thereby much hindered:—and Sir Sanders Duncomb's petition representing that in many parts beyond sea, people are much carried in chairs that are covered; whereby few coaches are used among them:— wherefore we have granted to him the sole privi- "lege to use, let, or hire, a number of the said covered chairs for fourteen years (fn. 14)." This is only one of the many monopolies granted about that time; but the chief objection to this is to be inferred from the reasons given for it: for as the streets were then narrow, the same plea against coaches for obstructing other carriages, lay against this effeminate mode of carriage, as a nusance to foot passengers; we still find it so, notwithstanding the great improvement of the streets.
This patent was followed by a proclamation in 1635, against hackney coaches, which "were not only a great disturbance to his majesty, his dearest consort the queen, the nobility, and others of place and degree, in their passage through the streets; but the streets themselves were so pestered, and the pavements so broken up, that the common passage is thereby hindered and made dangerous; and the prices of hay, provender, &c. thereby made exceeding dear. Wherefore we expressly command and forbid, that no hackney coaches, or hired coaches, be used or suffered in London, Westminster, or the suburbs thereof, except they be to travel at least three miles out of the same. And also that no person shall go in a coach in the said streets, except the owner of the coach shall constantly keep up four able horses for our service, when required (fn. 15).
The plague this year carried off 10,400 citizens; and Bartholomew and Southwark fairs were forbidden, to prevent the spreading of the infection.
The raising of ship money still continued to be opposed every where: Mr. Richard Chambers, a merchant, refused payment, and Sir Edward Bromfield, the lord-mayor, committed him to prison; for which Chambers brought his action against the mayor. There is seldom any want of prostitute lawyers to support arbitrary measures; since all who act under princes that assume undue powers, participate in the exercise and emolument of them (fn. 16) : judge Berkely, one of the justices of the court of King's Bench, would not suffer the legality of ship money to be argued by the council, but declared in open court, that "there is a rule of law, and another of government, and that many things that could not be done by the rule of law, might be done by that of government." Having thus asserted that government was independent of law, in conformity to his own principle, he quashed the cause.
This distinction was too flagrant to be overlooked; the citizens became more refractory than before; and an order from the privy council requiring submission met with but a disagreeable return: another order was received, which, produced a petition for an abatement of his majesty's demands, praying that he would accept of ten ships instead of the twenty he required; but this proposed compromise was rejected. To plague the citizens still more, the privy council resumed the affair of excluding all other trades but goldsmiths from Goldsmiths row in Cheapside; and peremptory letters were sent in the king's name to shut up other shops there. This was farther enforced by a decree of the Star-chamber, declaring, that if the alderman or his deputy did not shut up such shops, they should be committed to prison by warrant from the board (fn. 17).
In the year 1636, king Charles sending to the lord-mayor to make a scrutiny of what number of Roman catholics and strangers there were in the city; he took that opportunity to make a census of all the people: and there were of men, women, and children, about 700,000 that lived within the bars of his jurisdiction alone (fn. 18).
About this time we are informed that Charles monopolized the ballast raised from the river Thames; ordering, by proclamation, that no one should buy any ballast from thence, but a person employed by him for that purpose. He also, possibly with a view to future opportunities for taxation, erected a rival corporation to London, by incorporating "all the tradesmen and artificers, in"habiting such places in the city of London, as are exempted from the freedom thereof, as also those in the out parts of Westminster and Middlesex, within three miles of the said city of London (fn. 19)."
It was probably to sooth the citizens amidst these general discontents, that Charles, in 1638, granted the corporation of London the ample charter No. XLV. in the Appendix. His insincerity was well known; and when it suited his present occasions, he made no difficulty in making concessions with legal sanctions, which he was always fertile in expedients for evading, when they interfered with his rule of government; according to the principle established by judge Berkeley, as mentioned above. His judicious biographer Harris, shrewdly remarks, that "he imagined there was magic in the name of King, which "gave him the liberty of doing as he pleased, and the power of bending all to his will (fn. 20)."
These recently confirmed privileges were not long respected; for, an occasion of complaint being sought against the city of London, a prosecution was commenced in the Star-chamber, for non performance of the conditions on which Londonderry in Ireland had been granted; on this pretence the Star-chamber imposed a fine of 70,000l. on the corporation, and deprived them of this plantation. Such violent oppression so imbittered the spirits of the citizens, that though they were singularly applied to for loans of money, and had great plenty of it, yet they would not contribute any assistance to his majesty in his expedition against the Scots covenanters; who had then taken arms to oppose the violent imposition of episcopal government and the English liturgy on them (fn. 21). The house of commons, however, took these proceedings into consideration, and resolved that this deprivation was unlawful and unjust.
Charles had exhausted all the money he had raised by violent means in England on his expedition against the Scots, to very little purpose; for his measures were no less opposed there than here, the covenanters having even taken arms against the surplice and liturgy. He was involved in debt, and was therefore forced once more to have recourse to a parliament, which met April 3, 1640, after eleven years interval indiscreetly employed in irritating the people, of whom he now solicited twelve subsidies, about 600,000l. Instead of strengthening the hands of oppression by a supply, the commons entered immediately on the national grievances, which they classed regularly under three heads; those regarding privileges of parliament, the property of the subject, and religion (fn. 22). The king was imprudent enough to dissolve the parliament; and thus both parties remaining obstinate to their respective purposes, Charles was once more driven to his prerogatives for a supply. The convocation was, however, still allowed to sit; and the members of it granted the king a supply from the spirituality: they imposed an oath on all the clergy, and the graduates at the universities, by which they swore to maintain the established government of the church, by archbishops, bishops, deans, chapters, &c. These measures pursued by an odious assembly without the sanction of parliament, so aggravated the people, that the convocation had guards appointed for their protection (fn. 23).
A general levy of men being required in 1640, to serve against the Scots, 1200 were required from London, who were accordingly raised and shipped at Blackwall; but not without much discontent on the part of the populace. On the 9th of May, an incendiary paper was stuck on the Royal Exchange, inviting the city apprentices and others to plunder and destroy the archbishop's (Laud's) palace at Lambeth. Accordingly on the 11th at night above 500 assembled and went to Lambeth; but the archbishop, already apprized of the design, had made so good a disposition for defence, that the rabble were beat off and forced to retire. Nor was this all; above 2000 of the populace rushed into St. Paul's, when the High Commission court was sitting; where they tore down all the benches, crying out — No bishop, no high commission (fn. 24). The court was alarmed, and an order was sent by the privy council to the lord-mayor to keep a double watch in the city; and to make every housholder answerable for the behaviour of his servants, until further orders. But as the rule of law was found to be no restraint on government, so the populace thought themselves also released from it, and pasquinades were stuck up in various parts of the city, exciting the people to a general insurrection: this produced another letter from the council, directing the lord-mayor to keep the trained bands in readiness to suppress all disorderly meetings.
Notwithstanding all these indications of general disaffection, Charles continued firm to his insatuated purpose of subduing the spirit of the people. The lord-mayor and aldermen were summoned to attend the privy council, there to give in the names of such citizens in each ward, as were able to advance money for the king's service: 200,000l. was the sum demanded, which they were required to raise according to the abilities of the respective wards. Four of the aldermen refused obedience, for which they were committed to different prisons; and an order was issued to take away the sword of state from the lord-mayor (fn. 25). The king demanded also 4000 men from London for his army against Scotland, with coat and conduct-money for them: (he had no need at this time to go so far as Scotland to find enemies) the city magistrates shewing no disposition to obey all these commands, he ordered them to be prosecuted in the Star-chamber. The money in the Mint, belonging to private persons was seized, until the owners consented to lend him 40,000l: and he bought up all the pepper the merchants had in store under the Old Exchange, on credit; which he immediately sold again considerably under value, for present money (fn. 26). Such desperate expedients made him truly appear in the light of a prodigal heir, who came to a fine estate which he did not understand how to manage.
While the crown continued thus violently exerting undue powers, to the destruction of the general rights of the subject, it might seem an odd time for London to obtain charters for corporation privileges: yet such were Charles's difficulties at this time, that provided he thought he could facilitate his main purpose, he would agree to any thing that did not interfere with it. The citizens therefore, in hopes of putting them into better temper, procured a second charter from the king; (Appendix, No. XLVI.) confirming the former right, and establishing to the city an office for the scavage, surveying, baillage, package, carriage, and portage, of all goods; the fees for which were prescribed in a schedule annexed. We have added that schedule in the Appendix, notwithstanding its length; for, though common readers may overlook it, the merchant may be gratified by it.
The views of the Scots concurred so nearly with those of the English, especially in religion, that when the former, after their victory over the king's disaffected forces at Newburn, obtained possession of Newcastle upon Tyne, they protected the London trade for coals with that town; and by a letter to the lord-mayor of London informed the city of their amicable disposition to support their common cause.
This letter which was doubtless interpreted by the citizens as an assurance of farther strength to the popular cause, probably invigorated their intentions to petition his majesty then at York, to call another parliament; though this measure was condemned by a dissuasive letter from the privy council. As this petition, just upon the eve of the civil war, contains a short summary of the complaints which then agitated the people, it is given in the note below (fn. 27).
This petition had effect so far, as to be answered by a letter from the council of peers that attended the king, in which the calling of a parliament was promised; but a request was added for a loan of 200,000l. from the city, to enable the king to pay his troops, and conduct the negociation with the Scots to an honourable conclusion. For the re-payment of this loan, those peers offered to join in security; and a deputation of them was appointed to settle the terms: the loan was accordingly negociated.
The treaty begun with the Scots at Rippon was adjourned to be finished at London, where the Scots commissioners arrived with great state and were accommodated with a large house near London stone. An adjoining church, St. Swithin or St. Antholin, was assigned for their devotions, where one of their chaplains always preached; and it was remarked that the citizens and others flocked with such eagerness to their sermons, that their church was thronged all day on Sundays, and those who could not enter, were happy in crouding round the doors. The complexion of their discourses may easily be imagined from this circumstance.
The long parliament met November 3, 1640. Had Charles early in these disputes with his subjects, shewn a sincere disposition to terminate them, and to have the limits of the regal power which were as yet undefined, clearly ascertained by the great council of the nation; an accommodation honourable and safe might have restored tranquillity to the kingdom. But the happy opportunity was irrecoverably lost; he saw not that the alteration of circumstances in the people, required a relaxation on the part of the king: it remained then only to force those powers out of his hands that he would not resign with a good grace. As the discontents of the nation increased, the popular demands increased also, and nothing less than absolute submission from the king was now expected. The first business the commons entered upon was impeaching the earl of Strafford and archbishop Laud, the king's two principal counsellors, equally obnoxious to the people in their civil and ecclesiastical capacities; and they entered with great steadiness into a severe scrutiny concerning abuses in the various departments of government (fn. 28). The same ardour for reformation, spread among the people of London and Westminster; and every man neglecting his private business, appeared wholly intent on the defence of liberty and religion (fn. 29)
The effects of the presbyterian doctrines inculcated by the Scots ministers in the city, began now to appear; a petition signed by 15,000 citizens was presented to the house by alderman Pennington, member for London, praying the abolishment of episcopal church government, with all its dependencies, roots, and branches: "it being found by woful experience, to be a main cause and occasion of many foul evils, pressures and grievances of a very high nature, unto his majesty's subjects, in their own consciences, liberties and estates." These allegations were exemplified in a long schedule of particulars, branched out under twenty eight heads. What reception this extraordinary petition was likely to meet with in parliament, may be easily conceived, when we are informed that Marshal and Burgess, two puritanical clergymen appointed to preach before them, entertained them with discourses seven hours in length (fn. 30)
The payment of both the English and Scots armies, depended now upon the English parliament, which therefore sent a committee of peers and commoners to treat with the city for a loan of 100,000l. upon the credit of the subsidy bills. But disposed as the city might be to support the parliament, the apprehension of its abrupt dissolution (fn. 31), withheld the citizens from advancing money on so precarious a security: the magistrates replied by the recorder, that they could only persuade, but not compel, the citizens to lend their money for any purpose foreign to the corporation.
Charles at length gave some indications of a complying disposition; he passed the bill which vested the right of granting tonnage and poundage in the parliament; the trennial bill, which secured the parliament from prorogation or dissolution without their own consent for the space of 50 days after assembling: for all which he received the solemn thanks of both houses (fn. 32). But this short return toward cordiality was soon checked by the vigorous prosecution of the earl of Strafford; which a petition signed by 20,000 citizens, to the house of Lords, for justice against him, contributed to hasten.
As the spirit of the people was now so violent against episcopacy, there is no wonder that they were quite outrageous at the concourse of English papists to the Spanish ambassador's chapel. April 29. 1641, a great mob of apprentices and other of the populace, beset the ambassador's house in Bishopsgate street, threatening to destroy him and his house for keeping his chapel open. The lord mayor immediately went to his assistance, and with much difficulty prevailed on the mob to disperse. On his entering the ambassador's house, being met by that minister, he was desired to drop the point of the city sword, as he was then in a place where the king of Spain his master had jurisdiction. The mayor complying, the ambassador told him, that he had never seen so barbarous an attempt; and desired to know, whether this could justly be called a civilized nation, where the laws of hospitality were so horribly violated? The mayor replied, that the rioters were the very refuse of the people, therefore entreated his excellency not to impute the sedition to the city: to which the ambassador smartly answered, that he hardly knew how to call that a city, or even a society of rational creatures, which were seemingly divested both of humanity and government. The mayor told the ambassador, that the people were enraged, because mass was publicly said in his chapel. To which he replied, that the English minister at Madrid enjoyed the free exercise of his religion without disturbance; and that he would rather lose his life, than the privileges due to him by the law of nations. The mayor answered, that the people were the more incensed because the citizens of the popish communion frequented mass, contrary to law. The ambassador answered, that if the mayor would prevent their coming, he would not send for them; but, if they came, he could neither in conscience to his religion, nor his master's honour, deny them access to their devotions, or protection to their persons, while they were with him. Wherefore a guard was placed at his house, which not only protected him from farther insults, but prevented the popish citizens from resorting thither (fn. 33).
When the attainder of Strafford had passed the commons, the ensuing Sunday all the Puritanical preachers declaimed loudly on the necessity of executing justice upon great delinquents (fn. 34) : and a discovery having been made of a project formed with the king's approbation, for bringing up the English army from the north, to awe the parliament; the plunder of London being by some of the contrivers proposed as a reward to the army for this service (fn. 35); all these circumstances united in irritating the populace. About 6000 of the citizens armed with swords and staves, the next day ran to Westminster, and surrounded all the avenues of the parliament house calling out for justice against Strafford; and those commoners who had voted against his attainder, were exposed to all the insults of this ungovernable multitude. Nor did they discontinue their assembling in this manner, until they were shewn the protestation subscribed by the members of both houses, whereby they engaged to maintain the power and privileges of parliament, the rights of the people, to use their utmost endeavours to bring to condign punishment all those who should by force or otherwise, do any thing to the contrary; and to stand by and justify all such as should do any thing in prosecution of the said protestation (fn. 36).
The house of commons soon after, on divers rumours of conspiracies, sent orders to the lord-mayor to disarm all papists within three days, and also to all justices of the peace within the bills of mortality, to use their best endeavours to prevent his majesty's subjects from frequenting the chapels of popish ambassadors.
A dispute now began between the lord-mayor and commonalty of the city about the right of chusing sheriffs; the commoners denying the mayor's power of appointing one (fn. 37), which he claimed by a prescription of 300 years; without their approbation and confirmation. The lord-mayor and aldermen appealed to the king by petition; but, as he did not chuse to interfere personally, in so critical a time when his own power was publicly disputed, he referred them to the house of lords. The peers first recommended an accommodation among themselves; but when that failed, and Midsummer-day, the time of election, was elapsed, the peers ordered the commonalty to elect both, recommending to them, however, the mayor's nomination to be one of them, and declaring that this order should not prejudice the rights or prerogatives of the mayors for the time to come. The present emergency was thus provided for, but nothing farther.
After Charles with great reluctance, had been prevailed on to pass the bill for Strafford's execution, which he did by commission; another was tendered to him during his present agitation, which enacted that the parliament should not be adjourned, prorogued, or dissolved, without their own consent: a measure which gave ample security to their future proceedings, and totally stripped the king of all power independent on them. Important as the crisis was, this law proved ultimately as injurious to the people as fatal to the king; so far as it tended to perpetuate a plenitude of power in the hands of the same set of men: frequent changes of the individuals that compose legislative bodies, being the best security against the worst species of tyranny.
The execution of Strafford was followed by the abolition of those two violent instruments of regal and ecclesiastical oppression, the high commission court, and the Star-chamber; the jurisdiction of the council was limited, and its authority abridged (fn. 38). Many other regulations were made in the early part of this parliament equally for the security and welfare of the people.
While the king was in Scotland, settling the affairs of that kingdom, or rather enduring the second mortification of having his authority as much dismembered there as it had been in England; both nations were equally shocked at the accounts brought over from Ireland, of the general massacre of the English protestants in all parts by the Irish catholics. Great pains have been taken even down to our own times, to load the memory of Charles with the heavy imputation of authorizing this horrible tragedy; but as no clear proofs have been produced against him, we should incline to the charitable side of the question. Indeed he took no corresponding measures to lead us to any conjecture what suitable profit he was to gain by so extravagant a manœuvre; and his improvement of it ought to have been as sudden as the stroke: on the contrary, he remained in the same passive state to which he was before reduced, only communicating his intelligence to the English parliament, to whom he recommended a vigorous prosecution of the war against the insurgents (fn. 39).
Be this as it may, the parliament either believed, or affected to believe, an accusation which served to justify farther violences against the king; but their first step was to improve this disaster, by raising money to assist the remains of the distressed English in Ireland, and to carry on the war there, and they obtained 50,000l. by loan from the city for these purposes. Part of the money thus raised was remitted to Ireland, and the remainder was employed in strengthening themselves at home.
Notwithstanding the increasing disaffection of the people, Charles once more received an exterior testimony of regard from the city of London on his return from Scotland. The mayor Richard Gournay made extraordinary preparations to give him a magnificent reception; and met him at Kingsland, November 25, 1641, where the recorder made him a congratulatory speech on his safe return, told him he was warranted to assure his majesty that the citizens met him with as much love and affection, as ever they met any of his royal progenitors, and with as hearty a desire to shew it fully. He added—"we doubt not "but your majesty will continue the defence of our established religion, and "the clear current of justice, through all the streams of which your majesty is "the royal fountain." Charles returned the citizens thanks for this instance of their love to him, promised to maintain the protestant religion at the hazard of his life, and all that was dear to him; that he would govern all his subjects, according to the laws of the kingdom; and declared that when the kingdom of Ireland was recovered, he would restore to the city that part of Londonderry of which it had been deprived. He was however deluded with the ceremony and pageantry on the present formal occasion; and made a remark, which shewed the fatal mistake princes are but too apt to fall into, of despising the bulk of their subjects; in whose affections alone, their wealth, strength, and security consist. He said—"now I see, that all these tumults and disorders have only arisen from the meaner sort of people; and that the affections of the better and main part of the city have ever been loyal and affectionate to my person and government."
The lord-mayor and recorder were knighted, and the whole united company in grand cavalcade proceeded to Guildhall, amidst the city companies in their stands on each side of the streets; the city conduits running with various sorts of wine. The king and the royal family partook of a grand entertainment at Guildhall, after which the magistrates conducted them to Whitehall; where at parting the king embraced the lord-mayor, returned him thanks, and gave him in charge to thank the whole city in his name.
The publication of the famous remonstrance of the house of commons, revived again all the latent seeds of discontent: this remonstrance not only mentioned their present apprehensions, but recapitulated in harsh language all those grievances which had been redressed, and provided against in future. The king's concurrence in the Irish rebellion was plainly insinuated, the scheme laid for the introduction of popery and superstition inveighed against; and as a remedy for all these evils, he was desired to entrust every office and command, to persons in whom his parliament should have cause to confide (fn. 40). Charles dispersed an answer to this remonstrance, in which he made warm professions of sincerity in the protestant religion, promised indulgence to tender consciences with regard to the ceremonies of the church, mentioned his great concessions to national liberty, complained of the libels dispersed against his person and the national religion, and of the reproaches thrown out in this remonstrance (fn. 41). But the prejudices of the people against the king, were now too much confirmed to pay any great attention to what he might say in his own defence; nor was he sufficiently apprized of the farther alterations of government then in meditation.
The city again took part in these political contests. On the 11th of December a petition subscribed by above 20000 citizens was presented to the house of commons, by Mr. Fookes a merchant, attended by 200 more in coaches; entitled "The humble petition of the aldermen, common council men, subsidy men, and other inhabitants of the city of London and the suburbs thereof." This petition complained of the toleration and insolence of papists; and requested that the popish lords and bishops might be removed from the house of peers; and was favourably received. The appointment of colonel Lunsford by the king to supersede Sir William Balfour as lieutenant of the Tower; gave rise to another petition to the house of commons, stiled "the humble "petition of divers common council men and others of the city of London:" in this petition it was alleged —"that Sir William Balfour, a person of honour and trust, is displaced from the office of lieutenant; and the same place bestowed upon colonel Lunsford, a man outlawed, and most notorious for outrages, and therefore fit for any dangerous attempt: the petitioners, and many more who have intelligence thereof, are thereby put into such an height of fear and jealousy, as makes them restless till they have discharged their duty in representing the same to this honourable house." The confidence the people then had in the house of commons, threw the whole power of the nation into their hands; every one applied to them; even the city apprentices petitioned the same day against papists, and desired that prelacy might be rooted out. The commons desired a conference with the lords, to address the king on Lunsford's appointment, which the latter refused as an infringement of the regal prerogative. However, on the lord-mayor's representation of the turbulent disposition of the apprentices on occasion of this promotion, Charles complied with the removal of Lunsford from his command. Sir John Biron, who was placed in his room, was soon forced to give way to Sir John Conyers (fn. 42), and it was at last intrusted to the lord-mayor of London (fn. 43).
The bill for taking away the bishops votes in parliament was again introduced and sent up to the lords, with an irregular demand, that the bishops, as being parties, should have no vote in that question; the pulpits resounded with the danger that threatened religion from papists and malignants; and tumults still continued about Westminster and Whitehall, where the populace continually cried out against bishops and rotten hearted lords. The bishop of Lincoln seized one young fellow, whom his companions rescued; and one captain Hide threatening to cut the throats of those round headed dogs (fn. 44) that bawled against the bishops, gave rise to the distinction that afterward obtained between roundbeads and cavaliers. On drawing his sword, he was apprehended, and carried before the house of commons, who cashiered him and sent him to prison. Colonel Lunsford also drawing his sword in Westminster-hall, excited such a commotion in the city, that the mayor was forced to raise the trained bands to preserve the peace. The king on this occasion sent a message to the common council, calculated to quiet the apprehensions of the citizens. Twelve of the bishops intimidated from attending parliament drew up a protestation against all laws, votes, and resolutions, which should pass during their forced absence; which Charles indiscreetly approved: for this measure they were impeached, and committed to custody.
The king perceiving the increase of these confusions, was prompted by the queen and others to exert himself in checking the progress of them; and the attorney general in his name entered an accusation of high treason in the house of peers, against the lord Kimbolton, and five commoners, Denzil Hollis, Sir Arthur Hazebig, Pym, Strode, and Hambden; who were distinguished as the most active in opposition to him. A serjeant at arms, demanded them of the house, messengers were employed to arrest them, their trunks, studies and chambers were locked and sealed: in return, the house voted all those violences to be breach of privilege, and commanded every one to protect the liberty of the members. The flame of discord now began to blaze without restraint; the accused members receiving intimation from lady Carlisle of the king's intention to seize them the next day in the house, retired for security into the city of London, where the citizens armed themselves to protect them against all violence. Charles accordingly went January 4th 1642, with a retinue of 200 men to the house, and taking the speaker's chair, asked him whether these members were there: the speaker with becoming dignity falling on his knee, returned this prudent answer.
"May it please your majesty,
"I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the house is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your majesty's pardon, that I cannot give any other answer than this, to what your majesty is pleased to demand of me." Thus disappointed, he returned, amidst the cry of privilege, privilege! from many of the members.
On his departure the house immediately adjourned to the next day, when they met with the greatest appearance of terror; and voted this action of the king to be a high breach of the rights and privilege of parliament, and inconsistent with the liberties and freedom thereof. They then again adjourned for several days, appointing a committee in the mean time to sit for greater security at Merchant Taylor's-hall in the city (fn. 45) : from whence, for more conveniency, they soon removed to Grocer's-hall.
The day after this rash measure, the king ordered the lord-mayor to call a common-council immediately. He went to Guildhall attended by only three or four lords, and on his way thither, privilege of parliament! resounded from the croud on every side: one of the populace more insolent than the rest, advanced up to the coach, and called out with a loud voice, To your tents, O Israel! a scripture phrase the adopting of which indicated a more determined spirit in the people than if they had expressed themselves in their own vulgar idioms. When he came into the common-council room, he addressed himself to the assembly in the following terms.
"I come to demand such persons as I have already accused of high treason, and do believe are shrouded in the city. I hope no good man will keep them from me; their offences are treason and misdemeanours of an high "nature. I desire your loving assistance herein, that they may be brought to a legal trial.
"And whereas there are divers suspicions raised that I am a favourer of the popish religion, I do profess, in the name of a king, that I did and ever will, and that to the utmost of my power, be a prosecutor of all such as shall any ways oppose the laws and statutes of this kingdom, either Papists or Separatists; and not only so, but I will maintain and defend that true protestant religion which my father did profess, and I will continue in it during life."
He then told one of the sheriffs, who of the two was esteemed the least inclined to his service, that he would dine with him; and departed from Guildhall without that applause which he expected.
The citizens no better pleased with this general declaration of his majesty's good intentions, than with the particular demand of the accused members; presented him a petition expressing their fears of the progress of the bloody rebels in Ireland; their dissatisfaction at his removing persons of honour and trust from the command of the Tower; at the warlike preparations there and at Whitehall; and at his alarming method of going with an armed force to seize members in parliament: for all which they prayed relief; and that the accused members might not be restrained of liberty, or proceeded with otherwise than according to the privileges of parliament. The king returned an answer, in which he endeavoured to satisfy them with regard to all these points, by general professions. In this interim the committee then at Grocer's-hall, had appointed a sub-committee to concert measures for a safe return to Westminster on the day when the parliament was to meet; who making the most of their apprehensions, resolved that the sheriffs of London and Middlesex should raise the posse comitatus to guard the king and parliament on that day. The mariners by petition to the committee signed by 1000 hands, offered to conduct them by water to Westminster, which was accepted; they were ordered to provide proper arms and artillery, but all of them unloaded, unless resistance should render it necessary: the apprentices also offered their services, which were thankfully declined.
On the 11th the committee with the lord Kimbolton and the five accused members took water at the Three Cranes with great naval state, attended by forty long boats, armed with small pieces of ordnance, the Thames being covered with boats and barges: while the London trained bands marched by land to Westminster; accompanied by vast crouds, who, instead of feathers, wore the protestation in their hats. The sheriffs, and the sea captains who had commanded the boats were called into the house, where they were thanked for their services, by the speaker, and were indemnified from any future question for their conduct on this occasion. Two companies of the London trained bands were ordered to attend the house daily for their protection under major Skippon, and a guard was ordered to be placed round the Tower by land and water, to prevent military stores being taken away from thence.
The effect of these extraordinary proceedings on the minds of the people, may be easily imagined; the king was not without apprehensions on his part; and he retired to Hampton court, where he had sufficient opportunity to repent of the injudicious measure which gave rise to them. The commons applied by a committee to the city of London for a loan of 100,000l. which was answered by an expostulatory remonstrance, in which the lord-mayor and citizens renewed the former plea of having no power to raise money for foreign uses. They also recapitulated grievances unredressed, and pleaded that no effectual assistance had been sent to the Irish protestants in consequence of the former loan. Petitions now flowed in from all parts; among others the porters, who declared themselves 15,000 in number, concluded with saying----"that if such remedies were any longer suspended, they would be forced to extremities not fit to be named, and make good the saying that necessity has no law." Several poor people, or beggars, in the name of many thousands more, presented a petition which proposed "that those noble worthies of the house "of peers, who concur with the happy votes of the commons, may separate themselves from the rest, and sit and vote as one entire body (fn. 46)." The encouragement given to such ridiculous applications, by the thankful reception of them, shews how studiously the commons cultivated the good will of the lower orders of the people to strengthen them in the great reform of regal and church authority which was now projected. The very women bestirred themselves on this momentous occasion. A brewer's wife, followed by many thousands of her sister politicians, brought their petition to the house, (it was a mercy to the members it was not a verbal one) wherein they claimed an equal right with the men of declaring their sense of the public cause, "because Christ had purchased them at as dear a rate, and in the free enjoyment of Christ, consists equally the happiness of both sexes." Pym came to the door of the house, told them their petition was seasonably offered, and thankfully accepted; and begged that their prayers for the success of the commons might follow their petition (fn. 47). However trivial these incidents may now appear, they serve to shew how strong the tide flowed to overwhelm the unhappy king.
Charles, informed of the application the parliament had made to the city for money, expressly forbad the citizens to advance money for any other purposes than for the reduction of Ireland, or for the payment of the Scots troops; on the penalty of his displeasure and the forfeiture of their charters: which produced a declaration from the parliament justifying their demands, and promising protection to all who should aid and assist them. The commons, secure of the Tower of London, Hull, and Portsmouth, proceeded to get the militia into their own hands; but this transfer the king could by no means be prevailed on to consent to: the parliament assumed the command of the militia, by their own authority; the king, in opposition, issued commissions of array; the nation was divided by the exertion of these counter authorities; the troops intended for Ireland were augmented under the earl of Essex for the service of the parliament at home; the king erected his standard at Nothingham, August 22: and thus the civil war commenced.