The trial of Strafford: The third day

Pages 128-137

Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume 8, 1640-41. Originally published by D Browne, London, 1721.

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In this section

The Third day.

Wednesday, March 24th, 1640.

Lord High Steward.

You who are of the Committee to manage the Evidence against the Earl of Strafford, I am to acquaint you,. Their Lordships have considered of that point of sir Pierce Crosby, his being examined as a Witness, and my Lord of Straffords Exceptions; and have resolved that he shall be Examined; and that the Validity of his Testimony shall be left unto their Lordships Judgments.

Mr. Maynard Manager

Your Lordships have with great Patience attended the Charge that hath been read, and the Answer, and the Exceptions taken to the Preamble, which my Lord of Strafford to ingratiate himself, did make to the main of his Defence.

My Lords, I shall repeat little of that hath been said, only pardon me if I say this to Your Lordships, That wherein my Lord of Strafford answered to very many particulars, yet to that main one he answered not, which was principally objected against him; which I therefore speak to put him in mind of it, that if he can, he may Answer: And that is, Your Lordships were pleased to hear the Complaint and Protestation of the whole Kingdom of Ireland read before you. The principal of their Aimseems to be, to take off the Extolling of my Lord of Strafford, that himself, or his Agents, had put upon him in a Bill of Subsidies; wherein indeed the Praise and Honour due to His Majesty, was much Attributed to my Lord of Strafford, which grieved the Parliament, who would take it off, and my Lord of Strafford is now willing to lay it down; and he doth well to do so when he can keep it no longer, when those from whom he took it by fraud or force, would wrest it again from him. I desire Your Lordships to remember, and I am sure you Will, That the main of our Complaint is, His alteration of the fundamental Laws against will; His introducing of new Laws at his Will and Pleasure: This is not only the Cry, but the Testimony of a whole Kingdom before Your Lordships; of all the Lords and Commons of Ireland.

I shall not touch that which concerns breach of Priviledge of Parliament, he would fain put that on Sir George Ratcliffe his Bosom Friend, and put it off himself. My Lord of Strafford Sequestred Sir Pierce Crosby from the Council, his Vote went with it, others joined with him; but I am sure he moved it, he concurred with it.

But now, My Lords, I humbly Address myself to that we are ready to maintain, The Body of the Charge: And because some time hath been spent between the reading of the Charge, and the main of the Defence, I desire leave to open what is the Nature, what the Height and Quality of the Offence, of which this great Lord stands Accused before you?

My Lords, It is a Charge of the highest Nature that can be against a man; a Charge of High Treason. It is a Treason, not ending and expiring in one single Act of a discontented Heart, but a Habit, a Trade, a Mystery of Treason exercised by this Great Lord, ever since the Kings Favour bestowed on him.

My Lords, It hath two Evil to deprive us of that which is good; that is, to subvert and take away the fundamental, the ancient Laws, whereby we are secured of whatsoever we do enjoy; it hath (My Lords) a positive Evil in it, to introduce instead of that an Arbitrary Government, bounded by no Laws, but by the Evil Councels of such Ministers as he hath been.

My Lords, It is the Law that gives that Soveraign tye, which with all Obedience and Chearfulness, the Subject, renders to the Soveraign. It is the Law (My Lords) that gives Honours to the Lords and Nobles; Interest, Property, and Liberty to the Subject.

My Lords, The Law, (as it is the Foundation and Ground of all these) hath its distribution in a course of Justice. Justice is derived (as by so many Channels) by the several Courts of Justice; whereby the Kings Justice (for it is His) is brought and conveyed to the Subject.

My Lords, Of all this hath my Lord of Strafford endeavoured, not only to put the Subject out of present Possession, but to make him uncapable of the future Benefit of it.

Other Treasons, yea, a Treason against the Person of a Prince (which is the most Transcendent and High Treason that can be) fall short of this Treason; For a good Prince may be gathered to His Fathers, yet another may succeed Him, that supports the Glory and Justice of His Throne. We have had Experience of it: When blessed King James was taken from us to Heaven, Sol occubuit & nox nulla secuta est. But if any one such a design as this should take effect, That the Law and Justice should be taken from the Throne, and Will placed there, we are without hope of ever seeing Remedy.

Power in so great a measure taken, is not easily laid down, unless it be by the exceeding great goodness of so merciful and just Prince as we have.

My Lords, The Particulars of this Treason are conveyed to Your Lordships in Twenty Eight several Articles. I shall shortly and briefly touch but the Heads of those on which I shall insist, and give some distribution of them. And I think the best way will be this; To consider first what he did, and what he said, before he went into Ireland; then what he did and said there; and what he hath done since. And in all of them, you will find this his main design, which I have opened, That Law might no where stand against his Will; and to settle it, that he might continue so.

My Lord hath declar'd this in incroaching jurisdiction where it was not, in exercising an Arbitrary Power under that Jurisdiction; in taking on him a Power to make Laws; in Domineering and Tyrannizing over the Lives, the Liberties, the Goods, the Estates, and whatsoever is the Subjects.

And (My Lords) this hath he done, not only on those of the meaner sort, that could not resist him, but on the Peers, on the greatest and most ancient Nobility of Ireland: And what might Your Lordships expect, but the same measure at his hands, had his Will had its passage here, which it had in Ireland.

I shall now come to the particular Articles.

1. And first, Whereas it pleased His Majesty to place him with Power and Honour in his hand in the North as President, he had not been long there; but that Commission which bounded and pleased his predecessors, he must needs surmount and overgo. There was a Commission in 16 Jac. which the then Lord Deputy had, in which was that Legal Phrase Secundum antiquum cursum, his own Commission 4 Car. pursued that, without any alteration; but being in but 4 years, this would not please his boundless Ambition, he must needs have the Power that the Lords in the Star-Chamber have, put in in express terms, a Power to proceed according to the course of the Chancery, that his Conscience might limit other mens Estates; That his Injunctions might stay other Proceedings at Law: And which is highest of all, if any thing be done in that Court, within these Instructions, then no Prohibition should be Awarded. He would make himself safe from any supervising of other Courts.

If he Committed any man to prison, though a Habeas Corpus were granted (than which the Subject hath no other remedy to vindicate his Liberty) the Officer (for the encouragement of those which be under his Power) must not obey it. And if any Fine be put upon the Officer, then comes a command in this Commission, That the Fine shall be discharged; so he not only takes a Power to himself, but also takes the Scepter of Justice out of the Kings Hands; for by this means there is an impossibility the Subject should have the Justice that my Lord knows is due to him; and he knows it right well: for when he was a Member of the House of Parliament, it was his own motion, who now stands at the Barr, That all the Officers and Ministers of State, should serve the King according to that Law, and he is the first Officer and Minister of State that breaks it; and in the most transcendent degree that ever it was broken.

My Lords, He doth in this, as much as in him lies, say to the Laws, Do your worst; You can but Fine, and that you can do shall come to nothing; The Fine shall not be paid, The Officer shall not obey you.

It this had been a single Act, we should never have accused him of this Treason, though it comes very High, and very Transcendent. But the Oppressions and Injustice, the Councels and Speeches that we present to Your Lordships, we present them not singly, but as together, designing and noting, what a Treasonable purpose and disposition is in him.

2. My Lords, The next thing he doth when he is in the North among the Justices of the peace, and the People attending for Justice, you shall see what Encouragement he gives them to look for it; and how soul a thing he dares to fling on the Sacred Majesty that did advance him. He tells the Justices that were to do Justice, and the People that were to receive Justice, That some of the Justices were all for Law, but they should find, The Kings little Finger is heavier than the Loyns of the Law. Your Lordships may consider what a transcendent Speech this was; out of whose Mouth it came, what sad Accidents happened upon it; nothing could move this Lord to utter it: but his Will and his Violence must out, those' he burst a Kingdom in pieces for it.

3. The next thing is this, When he goes into Ireland you will find his Temper and Spirit not a whit Allayed; but now being further from His Majesties Person, he is higher in his Power and in his Will. It is true, that Kingdom was annexed to this many years ago; but they that now possess the greatest part of it, are Subjects of this Kingdom, descended from them that went from hence thither. Yet he tells them in a solemn Speech, not suddenly but solemnly, That Ireland is a Conquered Nation, and the King might do with them what he would; and that their Charters were nothing worth, and bind the King no longer than he pleases. Surely (My Lords) We might see what he would do if he had Power. But God be blessed, we find not that disposition any where resented by His Majesty; and we hope that such Councels shall never have Access to so good and gracious an Ear.

4. The next thing, he stays not in words, but will be as good as his word if he can; and he begins high. For that we present next, is a Peer of the Kingdom thrust out of his Possession by my Lord of Strafford's Order; and when he Sues at Law for recovery of his Right, my Lord Threatens him. Truly Threatnings are not good, in such a case, where a man Sues for Justice, and from him that ought to Administer Justice, and further him in it; yet he Threatens him Imprisonment, to which Peers are not ordinarily liable.

First my Lord tells him, He will not have Law nor Lawyers question his Orders; he might debar the Lawyers in some Cases, but why a man should have a Spleen at the law, that his Orders should not be examined by, that I know not. And he goes higher; for when there was an occasion to speak of an Act of State, he tells him, That he will make him and all Ireland know, that as long as he had the Government there, any Act of State made, or to be made, should be as binding as an Act of Parliament.

My Lords, He cannot go higher in Speeches than this, That an Act of State of his own making, and his own Power, should be as binding as an Act of Parliament.

Nay, he tells them in Parliament, That they were a Conquered Nation, and must expect Laws as from a Conquerour.

5. Next we shall shew divers Instances wherein he exercises Power over the Lives, Lands, and all that is the Subjects; deduced into several Articles, viz. the 5th, the 6th, the 7th, and the 8th.

In particular, one I shall be bold to open, That is the Case of my Lord Mountnorris, another Peer of that Kingdom, and a great Officer there. Some words fell from that Lord, speaking of one that had trodden on my Lord of Strafford's Toe, That he hoped the Party did it not in Revenge, for he had a Brother that would not have sought such a Revenge. For these words, spoke at a private Table, half a year, yea seven months before, my Lord of Strafford calls a Councel of War, and judges his Lordship to death.

My Lords, It is no wonder that he would make the Kings little Finger so heavy, that could make his own Toe heavy enough to tread the Life of a Peer under his Feet.

And he did not only give Sentence in that Case, but caused Execution to be done in another Case, upon one D. who was condemned by Martial Law, and hanged at Dublin, where there was no War at all.

Other particulars will follow when I fall upon proof.

9. Then he comes to make Laws; and that is in the 9th Article. By the Laws of England and Ireland too, the Ecclesiastical Power is distinct from the other, it not extending to the Imprisonment of the Person, but is to attend the Kings Courts, and to receive directions from thence; yet he makes a Warrant to the Bishop of Downe, (and he made it to others too) That if any of the poorer sort did not appear upon the Bishops Citation, or not obey when they did appear, they should be Attached and Imprisoned; Here he makes a Law of himself, and subjects the Liberties of the Subjects to his own Pleasure; but this was for the poorer sort of People, tho' Justice sees no difference in matters of Estate, betwixt Poor or Rich: But when he hath brought it on the Poor, he will afterwards bring it on the Rich.

10. The next is a Power of laying Impositions on the Subjects: First he is a Farmer of the Customs, he puts excessive Rates upon the Commodities; that which is worth but 5 s. as the Hydes, he will have valued at 20 s. and the Wool, which is worth 5 s. he will have it valued at 13 s. 4 d. and by this takes away, in effect, whatsoever the Commodity is worth; for the Customs come very near the Value.

Another particular in this I shall be bold to open, and I hope his Lordship will provide to give an Answer, He hath advanced by this the Kings customs, and a Rent of 1350l. is increased to the Crown: But it will appear to Your Lordships, that the Crown hath lost, and he only hath gained. And whereas my Lord of Strafford says there was no other Defalcations in his patent, than in the former, that will fall out to be otherwise; for this is the State of the bargain.

There was a former Rent of 9700l. which the Duke of Buckingham paid out of this Farm. On the earl of Straffords Patent that Rent is reserved, and as much as came to 1350l. more, but in lieu of 1350l. advanced to the King, my Lord of Strafford hath in his Grant the Surplusage of Wines (which were not in the Dukes Patent) worth 3400l. a year, besides a Rent paid for the Term of the Wine of 1400l. And whereas there was no defalcation of the Customs of London Derry, and Colerain in the Dukes Lease, which amounted to 15000l. a year; my Lord of Strafford must have a defalcation for them: And then the Seizures, which were 500l. a year; and for Knockvergus and Straniford 2500l. a year, so here is above 5000l. a year less to the Crown, in lieu of the advance of 1350l. a year, besides the increased Customs, amounting to 12000l. a year: And yet be again hath far exceeded this proportion. We say further, be doth not only impose on the Subjects, but takes away that which is the Subjects utterly and entirely, as in the case of the Flax. It is true, the Employment of it belongs to Women; but it is the greatest Commodity (one of them) of that Kingdom, and of greatest profit, the Revenue of the Custom of it being 800l. a year; and this he hath gotten into his own hands and possession. This he got from the Natives, and took it to himself. He doth for that purpose, issue a Proclamation, That they shall use it in such a way wherein the Natives were unskill'd, and if it were not so done, it should be seized; and it was seized accordingly, yea their Houses broke open, and their Goods taken away, and brought to my Lord of Straffords house, where they were employ'd in his Works. The like we shall instance in Tobacco.

15. Next we shall shew to Your Lordships how he hath levied War upon the Kings Subjects. We opened in the beginning, what an Arbitrary Jurisdiction he set up; here we shall shew how he used it by a meer course of Enmity and Hostility. For (My Lords) this was the course; If a Decree or Order made by him, and not obeyed, he issues a Warrant to the Sergeant at Arms, to go to the next Garrison, and take Soldiers, with an Officer, and carry them to the House of the Party in question; it is no matter where it was, but to the House of them that were pretended to be disobedient, they were to go: If the Decree had been to raise so much money, or to put parties in possession. In plain terms, the Soldiers were to lye like Free-booters and Enemies, on the King's People, to eat them up. They have killed their Sheep, their Oxen, and they have lain not on the parties only, but on their Tenants, till the party comes in and renders himself. They have burnt their Houses, taken their Wives, and Friends, and carried them away, till Obedience was rendered, and this is a levying of War upon the King; For the King and the People are both so united in Affection and Right of Law, that there cannot be Violence offered to the King. but it redounds to the People; nor can any Oppress the people in this sort, but it redounds to His Majesty. Besides, it is contrary to a Law of that Kingdom; whereby it is Enacted, That if any person shall Horse or Foot, on any of the Kings People, without their consent, it is High Treason.

The next things we shall go to, is the Favour he shewed to the papists, in their Compositions and Exemptions from all penalties of Law; for they were expresly not to be proceeded against, nor to be Convicted; and so that which hath influence into Religion and Reformation, is quite taken away, and nothing but matter of Profit is left.

The next Article is that that concerns the Kingdom of Scotland. First he begins with them in Ireland; contrives an Oath, which is set sorth in the Articles, That they shall obey the Kings Royal Commands without exception. This he enforceth, by Fining and Imprisoning them that disobeyed him; And so in all the other particulars when his proclamations were broken, his course was by Fine and Imprisonment to enforce an Obedience.

My Lords, He doth not only press them in their Estates, but strives to infuse into His Majesty an ill Opinion of them; he provokes and incites Him by all his Arguments, to lay down his Mercy and Goodness, and Justice, and fall into an offensive War against that Kingdom. He gives out, that the Nation of them (not this or that man) are Rebels and Traytors: And if it please the King to bring him back to the Sword (indeed he is fit for that, it is a violent Weapon) he will root out the Scottish Nation, Branch and Root; some few excepted of those that had taken the Oath.

When he comes into England, he finds that His Majesty, with great Wisdom, had pacified those Storms and Troubles that threatned us there: Yet he doth incense the King (till to follow this to an Offensive War, and prevails; He plots to call a Parliament, but with an intention (if it furnished not his design) it should be broken, and he would fell out unhappily: For thus far his project took, the Parliament was broken; and broken at the very time when the subject was in debate and consideration, how to have yielded Supply to His Majesty.

But that he might break it, he falsely informs the King, That the Parliament had denied to Supply him; there is his Counsel, that the Parliament had forsaken the King; and now the King having tryed his People, might use all other ways for the procuring and raising of moneys; and the same day wherein that Parliament was unhappily Dissolved, he gives his further Counsel to His Majesty, (which because no man can put such a Spirit of Malice into the words besides himself, I shall take the boldness to read) That having tryed the Affections of his People, he was loose and absolved from all Rules of Government; and he was to do every thing that Power would admit. And that His Majesty had tryed all ways, and was refused, and should be acquitted both of God and man. And that His Majesty had an Army in Ireland, which he might employ to reduce this Kingdom. It is added in the printed Book (to reduce them to Obedience) I know not who Printed it, but the Charge is only (to reduce this Kingdom.)

And (My Lords) you may please to consider, what a sad time this man took to reflect upon these bad Councels, when our Hearts were swoln with Sorrow for that unhappy breach of the last Parliament. And what doth he advise the King? what positions offers he? That he was absolved from all Rules of Government. If there be no Rule of Government, (My Lords) where is the Rule of Obedience? for how shall the People know to obey, when there is no Rule to direct them what to obey? He tells the King he was refused, which was untrue; for he was not refused to the last breath we had in Parliament: but we spake in that point, how to supply the King, and to prefer it at that time, before the Complaints of our just Grievances.

But what doth he fall into? that which in another Article we charge him with, a Plot and Conspiracy, betwixt him and Sir George Ratcliffe to bring in the Irish Army for our Confusion, to root out our Laws and Government; a pernicious Counsel. He says not you shall do it; but he that perswades it, doth as much as if in express he had councelled the acting of it. Doth he mean that we should be to his Irish Pattern; (for speaking of the Irish Army, consisting of Papists and his Adherents, he said, that he would make it a Pattern for all the Kingdoms;) did he mean to reduce us to the Pattern that he had placed in Ireland? Surely he meant to reduce us to a Chaos and Confusion. He would have us without all Rules of Government; and these be the means, wicked and cruel Councels, and the Cruelty of an Army inspired with his Spirit, and consisting of Papists, Enemies of our Religion: And what Mercy could we of this Religion expect from Popish Enemies with Swords in their hands? That cannot but strike all English Hearts with Horrour and Dread, that an Irish Army should be brought into England to reduce the Subjects of England. I hope we were never so far gone in any thing, as that we should need an Army to reduce us. I cannot but say here is the Counsel of Haman, when he would in one day cut off all the Jewish Nation, and have the King intend a Favour to him. The King propounds a question, What shall be done to the man whom the King will Honour? Haman thought in his heart, Whom will the King Honour but my self? And so my Lord of Strafford having raised this Army, it was set up by him; and if such a Counsel as this was entertained, into whose hands should it be put? (here were Hamans thoughts) who should have the Power of it, but he that hath inspired it, and since maintained it.

Truly (My Lords) it was a desperate Counsel; and methinks the Counsel of Achitophel might have been compared to it: for when he had stirred up the Rebellion of Absalom against his Father, he perswades Absalom to that which might breed an irreconcilable hatred between them. Yet a Father and a Son might be reconciled. But he that adheres to the Son in this case, might not so easily forgive. Therefore this Lord falls upon a Counsel which he thought would never be forgiven. A Counsel of irreconcilable difference, to subdue us by Force and Power; and takes away all possibility of Addressing our Complaints to the King, as he had done from those of Ireland; when he not only forestalls their Complaints, but by a Proclamation takes order, that none should come over too, without his License; which was in effect, that none should complain of his Oppression without his good liking.

Some violent Speeches he uses, suitable to these Counsels, That no good would be done upon the Aldermen, till they were Hanged; That the French King employed Commissaries to look into mens Estates; which will be insisted upon in their proper place.

Next, he levied eight pence a day for maintenance of the Trained Soldiers, against the Will of the Country, which he said was done by the consent of the Lords of the great Councel; which we know is untrue. And we shall prove it untrue in the other part, where he says, it was done freely, by consent of the Gentlemen of the Country: Most of them that did consent, were his own Friends, and Papists. But the Petition of the Country, (as to that part of it that concerns a Parliament) he rejected, because he would have no Parliament. And he prefers another in the name of the Country, and that he calls, The Petition of the Country.

And now I shall apply my self to the proofs; and shall take care to offer nothing, but what will fall out to be proved. And shall first apply my self to the first Article, concerning the Commission for the North parts; where an Arbitrary Power was thereby granted, as is used in the Star-Chamber and Chancery.

In the opening of it, first we shall produce the commission of 8 Car. and that of 13 differs but little from it. We shall shew that these Clauses were procured by him to be inserted upon occasion of a Gentlemans, Sir Thomas Gore being Fined in the Court of Star-Chamber there, and his being Arrested by a Warrant from my Lord Wentworth here in London. We do not go about to prove that he sollicited for this Commission, but that he expressed his desire of it; and upon that it was granted.

We shall prove that it was executed in this high manner, that when Prohibitions have been taken out, he hath punished the parties, some he hath threatened; Nay, Money hath been given to those that were Defendants in the Prohibition. And we shall offer this too, The Judge is dead before whom it was; but upon occasion of a Prohibition, he went to a Judge, a Reverend and Just man, Mr. Justice Hutton; what was said privately between them, we cannot tell; but we shall prove, that Mr. Justice Hutton complained with Tears in his Eyes, how that Lord used him about a Prohibition: And so we shall leave this Article with this. We shall not go about to prove Decrees, for which he might have Colour; but for these Clauses he could have no Colour, they never being in any Commission before.