Book 1, Ch. 12: The Civil War, to the execution of the King

Pages 175-195

A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.

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In this section


From the commencement of the civil war, to the execution of Charles I.

So well affected were the citizens of London toward the cause of the parliament, that no less than 4000 of them enlisted under the earl of Essex in one day (fn. 1); the parliament committed the lord-mayor Sir Richard Gournay to the Tower, and preferred articles of impeachment against him, for causing his majesty's commission of array to be proclaimed in the city: for this offence he was degraded from the magistracy, rendered incapable of any office or honour, and ordered to continue in prison during the pleasure of the lords. On the king's approach toward London, the parliament ordered the trained bands to be in readiness, and the passages and avenues of the city to be properly secured with posts, chains, and courts of guard: the citizens were much alarmed, great numbers offered their labour to put the city in a proper posture of defence; and they applied themselves to the work so vigilantly that it was soon accomplished. All ranks, ages, and sexes were seen digging, carrying earth and other materials; which laudable industry, the Royalists, or Cavalier party, endeavoured to burlesque in a ballad, intitled, "Round-headed cuckolds, "come dig."

After the drawn battle of Edge Hill (fn. 2), of which both parties claimed an advantage that neither of them reaped, the earl of Essex sent the earls of Pembroke and Holland, the lords Wharton and Say, with Mr. Strode to London, to give the lord-mayor, aldermen, and citizens, the most favourable representations of that action, and to animate them to a vigorous support of the parliamentary forces. They exerted themselves in haranguing the corporation at Guildhall on these topics; and by every popular argument, clenched with texts of scripture, exhorted them all to arm themselves and apprentices to assert their common cause. The king endeavoured to counteract the effect of this correspondence by a proclamation, promising indemnity for all past offences, some persons excepted by name, but threatening punishment for any future assistance to the parliament by money or personal service against him, and concluding with promising a redress of grievances. The king however was distant, and disliked; the parliament was at hand and confided in: they therefore improved all these circumstances; and, to recruit their forces, published an ordinance to encourage apprentices to enlist; promising them security against the forfeiture of indentures, bonds, or infranchisement; and that, when the public service was ended, their masters should be compelled to receive them without punishment or prejudice. The masters also were promised satisfaction from the public for any considerable losses by the absence of such apprentices. This order, though it may at first view appear injurious to the citizens, was an artful expedient; as it was calculated to draw away the most licentious only, and who therefore could best be spared: it is true they would be much worse on a return; but it was highly probable their indentures would run out and terminate in the interval.

After the engagement at Edge hill, the king advanced as near as Reading, and afterward to Colnbrook, where the parliament sent him fresh overtures for an accommodation. Charles agreed to enter into a treaty; and Essex by hasty marches reached London. The parliament sent orders to their troops for a cessation of arms, expecting the like on the king's part (fn. 3); but the next day under cover of a thick mist, he advanced to Brentford, hoping to surprize the train of artillery then at Hammersmith; and finally the parliament and city: he was however, unexpectedly and vigorously repulsed by a party which lay at Brentford (fn. 4). This attack, while a treaty was depending, caused a general consternation; Essex immediately drew his forces together, to stop the king's progress; and an order being sent to the city for the trained bands to be drawn out, they marched immediately under major Skippon, and joined the earl of Essex, at Turnham Green; which induced the king to retire to Oxford.

It is observed that civil wars are more destructive than any other: this is perhaps unhappily necessary to insure succss, where the resources of the contending parties are confined to the spot on which they are fighting. It has however been also observed, to the honour of our countrymen, that this war was conducted upon more humane principles than intestine wars usually are in other countries. But while both parties professed themselves the champions of liberty and good government, whatever their secret intentions might be, they could not, according to English ideas, but preserve some degree of generosity in their proceedings toward each other, and the country in general. Had Charles employed all opportunities to distress the trade of the city of London, he might have rendered the citizens more inveterate against him; but he would at the same time have thrown them into confusion, and obstructed the assistance they so quietly afforded his opponents. On the contrary, his lenity and regard for them merit more praise than his policy under this contest; especially if he thought thereby to cultivate their good will: for he issued a proclamation from Oxford, dated December 8, ordering his officers and soldiers to give no interruption to the carrying of merchandize to the city of London, on pain of severe and exemplary punishment.

In return, as it may be supposed, for this act of favour, the citizens sent a petition to his majesty, by a deputation of two aldermen and four commoners, lamenting the unhappy divisions between him and the parliament, and the causeless distrust he entertained of the citizens; assuring him of their loyalty and affection, and inviting him to return to the parliament without any martial attendants, in order to settle the differences between them: a request sufficiently absurd in the present posture of affairs, and only calculated to represent him averse to the restoration of peace and order, by the certainty of a refusal. The king returned his answer by one of his own attendants, to secure it from being suppressed; a caution by no means unnecessary, when we find that the house of commons endeavoured to prevent the calling of a common hall for its publication. The parliament issued an order that the lord-mayor should not presume to call a common hall, until he heard farther from them on that head: and though the royal messenger frequently applied to the lord mayor to assemble the citizens, to lay his majesty's answer before them, some time elapsed before that favour was granted; and when it was at length obtained, a committee of lords and commons attended the proceedings. Charles, by his answer, professed a singular regard and esteem for the citizens of London, but looked upon them as groaning under the same burthen by which he was himself oppressed: he desired them seriously to consider what confidence of security he could have in London, where the government of the city was submitted to a few desperate persons, notoriously guilty of schism and high treason. He said he was far from being incensed against them for the actions of these ill men; though they had hitherto been so prevalent as to make the affections of the rest of little use to him. If his good subjects in the city would, however, solemnly declare they would defend the known laws of the land, and submit to no other rules; if they would commit to custody, Pennington, their present mayor, alderman Fulke, colonel Venn, and captain Manwaring, so that he might proceed against them for high treason, he promised he would return with his royal, and without martial attendance: on the contrary, he renewed his threats on their contributing farther assistance to any authority, or any army, in rebellion against him.

When his answer was read, the earl of Manchester and Mr. Pym, two of the committee of parliament present, severally addressed the common hall, answering the several allegations contained in it, and justifying the views and proceedings of parliament; in which they succeeded so effectually, that the assembly declared with loud acclamations their determination to live and die with the parliament. On the news of this resolution, the king sent a letter to the sheriffs of London, ordering them to apprehend the lord mayor, Fulke, Venn, and Manwaring, as before; an act which was morally impossible for them to execute, had they been so disposed: and that the several companies should be assembled by the masters and wardens, with all free-men and apprentices, at the several halls, for the purpose of having his former letters read to them. He added moreover, that he should henceforward keep a very inquisitive eye over the conduct of all his subjects; and that he should take care that those who did not behave as good subjects in this kingdom, should not receive advantages as his subjects in any other; to shew how easy it was for him to punish their disloyalties abroad, who might for a while avoid his justice at home. In short, the civil war could not but continue, while the propositions of each party continued inadmissible by the other; and while their opposite authorities were so strenuously asserted, that every individual was driven into one party or other, without the possibility of maintaining either neutrality or moderation between them.

The sheriffs immediately laid this letter before the parliament, while the masters of some of the companies were taken into custody for attempting obedience to it; and a declaration of indemnity was issued for the sheriffs behaviour on the occasion. The conduct of the city was now decisive: by order of the common council, the city wall was cleared of all sheds and buildings without; its bulwarks were repaired and mounted with artillery, and new works added at the parts most exposed. The parliament which confirmed this act of common council, March 7, extended the plan of fortification so as to include London, Westminster, and Southwark. They were surrounded by a chain of forts, connected by lines of communication; all the ways leading to the city were stopped up, excepting those entering at Charing Cross, St. Giles's in the fields, St. John's-street, Shoreditch, and Whitechapel; the extremities of which streets were fortified with breastworks, musket proof. For the expence of these great works, eight fifteenths were levied on all the wards in the city; and they were prosecuted with such alacrity, that the ramparts and redoubts were compleated in a short space of time.

While fresh negociations were ineffectually opened between the king and parliament, the latter established an assessment on the city of London, which exclusive of Westminster and the suburbs, was to pay the almost incredible sum of 10,000l. weekly! the rest of the kingdom was charged with 23,518l. (fn. 5).

Sir Nicholas Crispe, with other royalists in the city, entered into a scheme to seize the king's children out of the hands of the parliament, to surprize the Tower, to let the king's troops into the city, and to get possession of the parliament. For this purpose they obtained a commission from the king under the great seal, constituting them a council of war for the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and county of Middlesex. But the servant of one of the association discovering the conspiracy, two of them were executed before their own doors, in Holborn and Cornhill, others of them died in prison, and the estates of the rest were confiscated (fn. 6).

The common council, on April 27, ordered the city members to apply to parliament for leave to destroy the cross in Cheapside, with all its superstitious ornaments; and on May 10, the sheriffs by order of parliament caused the Book of Sports to be burned in Cheapside, by the common hangman.

The open part the city of London had now taken against the king, aggravated by the discovery and punishment of the plotters abovementioned, occasioned him to reflect, that by allowing the trade of the city to continue undisturbed, he only strengthened the hands of enemies nowise disposed to grant a reciprocal return of favours. He therefore by a proclamation, dated July 17, prohibited all intercourse and trade with the city of London; or with any other place in rebellion against him. While this measure was pursued at Oxford, the common council of London, equally alert, passed an act, July 18, for raising a loan of 50,000l. to be employed in the service of the city; and at the same time agreed to move the parliament for an ordinance to compel all monied-men within the bills of mortality, to advance money on this occasion according to their respective abilities.

Charles was this summer successful in his military operations, and the parliament proportionably discouraged: Essex returned toward London, with shattered dispirited troops; the gallant Hambden was killed, whose loss was esteemed equal to that of an army; the king's troops had taken Exeter, Bristol, and sat down before Gloucester (fn. 7). These disasters occasioned a conference between the lords and commons about renewing their propositions to his majesty for peace, and very long and warm debates were the consequences of this declared intention. But the London clergy the following sunday, declaimed violently on the prospect of ruin to the city, if peace was now offered to the king: papers were also stuck up in all parts, requiring the well affected to rise as one man the next morning, and go to the house of commons, where the malignant party had out-voted the good. The city petitioned the parliament against an accommodation, and this petition was carried up, August 7, by Sir Isaac Pennington, the lord-mayor, attended by such a multitude of citizens, that many members withdrew from fear, and the parliament were awed into a renunciation of their amicable intentions. It was however recommended to the lord-mayor, to prevent such riotous applications for the future.

Nor was this the only danger the parliament had to apprehend; for no sooner had they declared against a pacification, than they were furiously attacked on the other side, and by the other sex. The women frightened by the present inconveniences of the war, and not reasoning to remote consequences, framed a petition, intitled "The Humble Petition of many civilly disposed "Women, inhabiting in the cities of London and Westminster, the suburbs and parts adjacent." This petition which prayed for the speedy settlement of the nation and the renovation of trade, was carried up by 2 or 3000 mean women, with white ribbons in their hats. The commons told them they did not doubt answering the end of their petition in a short time; and desired them in the mean while to return quietly to their habitations. This vague answer not satisfying them, they continued clamourously about the house, where their numbers increased, and among them were several men dressed in women's cloaths; they crouded about the door of the house, calling peace, peace! Give us those traitors that are against peace, that we may tear them to pieces! Give us that dog Pym! These civilly disposed women proving such arrant termagants, it was found necessary to oppose them by force; some of the trained bands were sent for, who being saluted with vollies of brickbats and stones, were provoked to fire among them: some being thus killed and others wounded, the rest thought proper to run away. Nor ought the trained bands to be ac cused of tarnishing their military renown in this rencounter; for when the gentle sex can so flagrantly renounce their character, and make such formidable attacks on the men, they certainly forfeit the polite treatment due to them as women.

The relief of Gloucester was now the object of immediate consideration: the common council ordered the city companies to advance 50,000l. more; all shops within the lines of communication were commanded to be shut until the siege of Gloucester was raised; and six regiments, one of horse, two of trained bands, and three of auxiliaries, raised with amazing speed, joined the main army under Essex, to effect this important object. The relief of Gloucester, followed by the battle of Newbury, in which the city trained bands are allowed to have greatly distinguished themselves, gave a more favourable turn to the popular cause. These events checked the king's progress, revived the spirits of those already engaged on the side of the parliament, and determined those dubious persons who waited to declare for the strongest party.

When Essex returned to London, he was received in a triumphant manner by the lord-mayor and aldermen in their formalities, who congratulated him on his return and success, as the protector of their lives and fortunes.

The trained bands who had now seen service and acquired some military experience, soon found another opportunity of signalizing themselves, in assisting Essex to disposses the king's troops under Sir Lewis Dives, of the town of Newport Pagnel, which he was fortifying. The Orange regiment is particularly celebrated for its fine appearance and martial dicipline, under colonel Wilson, a gallant young gentleman, in partnership with his father, a considerable merchant. As his connexion with trade could be no disparagement to his military character; so the possession of property independent of mere wages, is the best security for the fidelity of a soldier to the true interests of his country.

On September 17, the parliament, who had themselves subscribed to the solemn league and covenant framed at Edinburgh, under the influence of Sir Henry Vane, the younger, ordered it to be received by all who acted under their authority: no one therefore was admitted to the common council of the city, but those who conformed to this test of religious principles. By this measure the Scots, pleased with the hopes of extending the Presbyterian discipline over both kingdoms, and thus totally to expel the surplice and liturgy, were induced to send an army of 20,000 men to the assistance of the English parliament (fn. 8).

The common council on October 2, appointed an armed watch of the inhabitants of all the wards and precincts of the city, to keep guard by night: the numbers allotted to each division, amounted in the whole to 1097.

October 17, the king renewed his proclamation against all communication with the city of London, or any other city or town in arms against him; nevertheless a private negociation was projected by Sir Bazil Brook, colonel Read, and others, independently of the parliament, for the city to treat with the king, and then to mediate between them. As a foundation to this treaty the king was induced once more to write a letter, dated December 26, to the mayor, aldermen, and well affected subjects in the city; to be read to them at a common-hall: but this business being discovered to the parliament, the managers of it were taken into custody, together with the king's letter; and a committee of eight lords and sixteen commoners were deputed to lay this underhand transaction before a common hall. The earl of Northumberland there spoke so strongly against a design, which he represented as a popish scheme to disunite the parliament and the city, that new assurances were reciprocally given of abiding by each other, and both houses were invited to dine with the corporation, at Merchant-Taylors Hall.

The first introduction of excise duties in England, is found at this period: the parliament at Westminster voted a tax on beer, ale, tobacco, and other commodities, and called it the excise; the king's parliament at Oxford imitated the example, and imposed the like duties on all places under their power; after which they never met any more (fn. 9). The parliament at Westminster went farther, they ordered all the inhabitants of London and its neighbourhood, to retrench one meal in a week, and contribute the value of it for the support of the public cause (fn. 10). However this tax might be raised, it is highly probable that the citizens excused their bellies altogether from contributing to it.


An important victory was gained March 29th 1644, by Sir Williame Waller, over the royalists under Sir Ralph Hopton, at Cheriton near Winchester, where the city troops behaved with great gallantry; and a public thanksgiving was ordered to be observed within the bills of mortality on April 9, for this success. In consequence of this victory the parliament had published an order for drawing all their forces together to improve the advantage, and put a speedy end to the miseries of the nation: and their great reliance on the support of the city of London in this struggle, will appear by the pains the parliament took to revive their zeal from time to time. A common hall was ordered to be summoned on the evening of the thanksgiving day; at which a committee of the lords and commons attended; when the earls of Warwick, Essex, and Pembroke, Sir Henry Vane, Denzil Hollis, and Glyn the recorder, exerted all their rhetoric, to engage the citizens to a vigorous co-operation with the parliament in bringing this war to a final issue. The city next on May the 16th presented an address or petition to the parliament to exhort them to perseverance: they thanked the parliament for their especial care of the Tower of London and castle of Windsor; but expressed their apprehensions at the discontinuance of the committee of parliament, at the want of execution upon delinquents, the not putting Tilbury fort into safe hands, and at the endeavours of divers members of parliament to gain re-admittance, after having betrayed their trust by bearing arms against the parliament. The commons in their answer promised the city satisfaction as to all these points.

The city of London was now materially distressed two ways; the trade westward by water was obstructed by the garrisons of Greenland and Basing houses situated near the river Thames: and the marquis of Newcastle, then in possession of the town of Newcastle upon Tyne, with the adjacent country, had prohibited the exportation of coals to London. For the restoration of the navigation of the Thames, the city, notwithstanding its former numerous levies, sent out two brigades under the command of colonel Brown, on whom the parliament conferred the rank of serjeant major general: and for the temporary supply of the city with fuel, the parliament issued an ordinance, impowering the corporation to dig turf and peat upon any sequestered lands, or upon any grounds, gardens and orchards excepted, belonging to the king or queen, or any bishop, dean, or chapter.

Amidst these military operations, the parliament though they had in a great degree unsettled the established religion, had not found sufficient leisure to new model the church upon any other plan: an assembly of divines at Westminster, had indeed altered the articles of the church, abolished the liturgy, and established a new directory for public worship; but the liberty of praying and preaching being under no restraint, new opinions and sectaries, were continually forming. The London clergy therefore presented a petition to the parliament complaining of the confused state of religion; and requesting, in virtue of the solemn covenant they had entered into, the establishment of a pure discipline and government, according to the word of God, and the example of the best reformed churches. This petition being read September 18th, the petitioners received the thanks of the house; and a committee of twenty three ministers was appointed, pro tempore, any seven of which were impowered to ordain ministers: and any person presuming to exercise the ministerial function in the city, without their ordination, were subjected to punishment.


March 4th 1645, a common hall was summoned by order of parliament, where their commissioners informed the citizens of the whole proceedings in their ineffectual negociation with the king at Uxbridge: for the continuation of the war therefore, a loan of 80,000l. was desired of the city.

The monied men in the city, used to deposit their money in the mint in the Tower of London, as a kind of bank for safety; but Charles in the year 1640, having made free with the money there, they after that kept it at home. But on the breaking out of the civil war, apprentices and servants often leaving their masters to go into the army; merchants and tradesmen in such unsettled times could no longer confide in them. They therefore about this year 1645, began to lodge their cash in the hands of Goldsmiths, both to receive and pay for them: which was the first origin of bankers in London (fn. 11). Archbishop Laud was brought to trial and beheaded, about this time.

By a wise regulation, the parliament now passed what was called the selfdenying ordinance; which excluded the members of both houses, from all civil and military offices: but unhappily some few exceptions were admitted in a plan calculated to preserve the fountain of legislation pure from contamination. In consequence of this ordinance many members resigned their commands, and received thanks for their past services; the earl of Essex in particular was allowed a pension of 10,000l. per annum (fn. 12); alderman Pennington also was obliged to quit his office of lieutenant of the Tower; and the house of commons referring the choice of a successor to that important trust, to the lord-mayor and common-council; they nominated colonel West, who was approved of by the house. Oliver Cromwel, one of the most active in this regulation, artfully procured his own obedience to be dispensed with (fn. 13) and thus by preserving his influence in both army and parliament, was at length by his great talents enabled to master both, and erect his own usurpation on the ruins of the regal power.

Among the sectaries which now prevailed, and which, however they differed on points of religion, had hitherto concurred in their endeavours for civil liberty; the Presbyterians and Independents are to be distinguished. The former, who were the majority in the parliament, and in the nation, coincided with the Scots in their plan of church government: the latter, of whom Cromwel and Vane were principal leaders, predominated in the army; they rejected all ecclesiastical establishments, creeds, and systems; they taught that every congregation composed a separate church, independent of every other, and whose power was limited to its members: in politics they adopted a levelling principle. The independents were of course the most averse to granting reasonable terms to the king; and were zealous for the establishment of a republican form of government.

On Saturday June 14th 1645, was fought the decisive battle of Naseby, which was followed by the speedy ruin of the king's affairs in all quarters. On the 19th both houses of parliament attended a thanksgiving sermon at Christchurch in Newgate-street on account of this victory; after which they dined with the lord-mayor, aldermen and common-council, at Grocer's hall. When the dinner was over, they sung the 49th psalm together, and then separated. Prophane wits may perhaps smile at this mode of celebrating a day of joy; but had the king and his party been as good psalm singers as the parliamentarians, his affairs might have terminated otherwise than they did. A few days after a committee from the parliament solicited a loan from the city of 30,000l. to enable them to pay arrears due to the Scots army: and the corporation received the thanks of both houses for their ready compliance.

In consequence of a petition from the lord-mayor, aldermen, and common council to the house of Lords, for a speedy settlement of church government, according to the covenant, the parliament undertook this great work; and by an ordinance established the Presbyterian model, in all its forms of congregational, classical, provincial, and national assemblies (fn. 14). The city of London received a letter of thanks on this occasion, from the Scots parliament for their zeal and fidelity in doing and suffering for the cause of God (fn. 15).

By the defeat and dispersion of the king's troops, great numbers of the royalists retired to London, which alarmed the parliament, lest this resort should give birth to some dangerous enterprize: they therefore by an ordinance impowered the city trained bands to search for delinquents, and expel them from all places within the bills of mortality. Upon apprehension of the king himself coming privately to London, they also published three ordinances; the first impowering the city militia to secure his person; the second commanding all papists, and those who had borne arms against the parliament, to depart out of the lines of communication round London and Westminster, on pain of being treated by the rules of war as spies; and the third declaring that whoever should harbour or conceal the person of the king, should be proceeded against, as a traitor to the common wealth.


The king however instead of coming to London, where the independent party was now much increased, thought he had milder treatment to expect from the Presbyterians; he therefore privately retired from Oxford to the Scots army then before Newark; which soon after removed northward with him to Newcastle. From this place he wrote to the lord-mayor and aldermen of London, expressing his full resolution to comply with the parliaments of both kingdoms in every thing for settling truth and peace. But peace was farther distant than ever, though one party in the dispute was subdued, and a fugitive.

The popular party having now no common object to employ their arms against, indulged their animosities against each other, and the divisions between the Presbyterians and Independents began to appear more evidently. The corporation of London on May 26th 1646, presented a long remonstrance to the parliament, under several heads, some of them complaining of political grievances, but principally of the swarm of sectaries which discovered themselves every where, and who if they should get into places of honour and trust, might disturb the public peace both in the church and commonwealth. The lords returned thanks for this testimony of duty and good affection; but the independent party in the house of commons took it very ill that the presbyterian party in the city should pretend to prescribe laws to parliament. That house only replied that they would take the remonstrance into consideration on a proper occasion. But though this remonstrance was so coolly received by the commons, a warm letter of pious thanks was transmitted from the general assembly of Scotland to the citizens for their zeal against sectaries, and adherence to the solemn league and covenant. In the mean time the Independents in the city prepared a counter petition signed by several thousands of the citizens, in which they prayed the parliament to proceed in managing the affairs of the kingdom according to their own wisdom, and the trust reposed in them; and that they would never suffer any other to share with the parliament, or to prescribe to them in the government or power of the nation. For this petition so acceptable to the present views of the commons, the thanks of the house were given.

Notwithstanding these indications of disagreement, the city advanced two loans to the parliament of 200,000l. each; the one on the security of the excise and bishops lands, toward arrears due to the Scots army (fn. 16), and the other for the service of England and Ireland. It has been computed that during the continuance of this civil war, the parliament had raised upward of forty millions; beside what the king raised on his side, in those places over which his power extended (fn. 17). The ability to answer such heavy demands, was a strong proof of the commercial wealth of the nation.


The advance of the mutinous army toward London, under Fairfax and Cromwell, after seizing the king out of the hands of the parliamentary commissioners, caused great apprehensions in the city; and produced a petition March 17th, 1647, from the citizens to the parliament, in which they professed their zeal for the parliament and the covenant; requested the disbanding of the army, and that they might annually chuse their committee of militia. The commons replied that these particulars were then under consideration. June 8th they presented another petition, in which after desiring that any honourable means may be used to prevent the farther effusion of christian blood, and a renewal of the power, of searching for suspected persons and arms; they added—" that "according to our allegiance, the covenant and agreement of both nations, his majesty's royal person may be preserved, and so disposed of, that the parliaments of both kingdoms may have free access unto him, that thereby a right understanding may be obtained between them; and this tottering church and kingdom, after all our fears, sorrows and sufferings, may enjoy the blessing of a well-grounded and long-desired peace; whereby this kingdom may be the better enabled to send speedy relies and help to miserable bleeding Ireland." The petition concluded thus.---" And as this city, from the beginning of these troubles, have faithfully adhered to the parliament; so we are resolved, by the blessing of God, never to desert the same; but, with the utmost of our lives and estates, will stand and fall, live and die, with the parliament of England, according to our covenant." The petitioners were thanked, received the like professions of attachment from the house, and an ordinance was issued according to desire. A committee of both houses was also appointed to deliberate with the committee of the London militia, on the arming all persons in London, Westminster, and within the lines of communication; for the safety of the parliament and the city.

When the army had advanced to Royston, a letter dated June 10th and signed by Fairfax, Cromwell, and other of the commanders, was sent to the lordmayor &c. of London; explaining their pretensions in plausible terms, which amounted to desiring a settlement of the kingdom before the army was disbanded: insisting that their being soldiers, did not strip them of their interest as Englishmen in the great cause for which the parliament invited them to take up arms; and concluding with a menace if the city should think of opposing them by force. This letter was laid before the parliament, who ordered a committee to consult with the committee of the London militia on the necessary measures on so dangerous a juncture. The army was desired not to come within 25 miles of the city, but intelligence arriving that it had approached nearer, and that the horse would be in town before noon the next day; a general confusion and consternation ensued: all shops were ordered to be shut up, and the trained bands to arm instantly; but upon farther thought these orders were revoked, and only strong guards placed round the lines which incompassed the metropolis. An answer to their letter was sent on the 12th by a deputation of four aldermen and eight commoners, who were impowered to treat with the general about a right understanding between the city and the army. In this letter the good services the army had performed were acknowledged; they were requested not to quarter within 30 miles of the city, to prevent increasing the price of provisions; they were told that the citizens detested the thoughts of a new war, but that under the uncertainty of what might ensue, they had put themselves in a posture of defence, but without the least intention to do any prejudice to that army which had been so eminent an instrument of their deliverance and safety; and that they had recommended their demands to the parliament.

The citizens now entered into a correspondence upon very unequal terms, with a licentious army just at their doors: and flattered themselves with the idea of acting a mediatorial part between the parliament and their troops. The army required that no forces should be raised in the city; the citizens with the consent of the parliament, agreed, and promised to move the parliament for their better payment, that they might be enabled to remove to a greater distance; which however soon after appeared to be no part of the serious intentions of the soldiery.

This parliament which obtained the name of the long parliament, had sat an undue length of time; and having secured themselves from dissolution from the beginning, the long continuance of the supream authority in the hands of the same body of men, generated new grievances which took place of those they had removed. It may be supposed that the representations made by the army, who availed themselves of the popular complaints, had some influence with the corporation, as well as the power with which they were inforced; when the lord-mayor &c. presented another petition to the parliament, complaining of bad management, and prescribing rules for the better regulation of government. They complained of the arbitrary power exercised by their committees and others, by whom good subjects had been oftener oppressed, than delinquents suppressed; of the embezzilment of the public money; which had raised the discontents of the soldiery for want of their pay; and for these and other specified grievances, redress was prayed. They desired "that the parlia"ment would for the present please to lay aside all businesses of lesser conse"quence, of private concernment, and improve their time, and utmost endea"vour, that such laws may be prepared for his majesty's royal concurrence, as "may settle the government of the church, secure the people from all unlawful "and arbitrary power whatsoever in future, and restore his majesty to his just rights and authority, according to the covenant. They concluded thus. "And lastly, that satisfaction being made by delinquents, according to the wisdom of parliament, an act of oblivion may be passed for an utter abolition and final reconcilement of all parties and differences."

The allegations in this petition had real foundation; and the parliament was now so sunk in the public esteem, and awed by the army, who acquired strength from this circumstance; that the petitioners had the thanks of both houses, for this arraignment of their conduct; and they were acquainted that the petition being long, should be considered in due time.

The city was now distracted by the two principal factions, the Presbyterians, who were for an accommodation with the king, and a settlement of religion according to the covenant; and the Independents, who were for establishing a commonwealth to the exclusion of the king and the covenant: and each party instigated their apprentices and others to present petitions to the parliament according to these different principles. Two counter petitions were therefore framed and delivered under the names of those of the young men and apprentices of London.

The government of the city was however in the hands of Presbyterians, therefore when the parliament issued their ordinance for chusing a new committee of the militia to provide for the security of the city; none were elected but such who were of that persuasion. General Fairfax on this, sent a letter to the city, requiring the militia to be restored into those hands out of which it was taken; and though the corporation did not comply, the apprehensions of the parliament procured a reversal of the order. The Presbyterians were so enraged at this measure, that all the officers and soldiers of the trained bands and auxiliaries, sea commanders, seamen and watermen, young men and apprentices, entered into a solemn engagement, to endeavour that his majesty should come up to the parliament, with honour, safety, and freedom; to settle all differences with the parliament, with the Scots commissioners; and defend his person and authority, the privileges of parliament, and the liberty of the subject. This engagement was presented to the lord-mayor and common council, and caused great commotions in the city. The general wrote to the parliament to put a stop to such dangerous combinations; and a declaration was accordingly published by which all persons who should subscribe that engagement were deemed guilty of high treason. Far from having the desired effect the Presbyterians became only more outrageous, and in consequence of two petitions to the lord-mayor and common-council, the corporation petitioned the parliament for re-establishing the militia; which was followed by a petition from the young men &c. to the same effect. These latter petitioners rudely pressing into the house of commons with their hats on, and keeping open the doors, cried vote, vote, agree, dispatch, we'll wait no longer! exclaiming incessantly to have those members who opposed their will, delivered up to them: and some of them getting to the windows of the house of lords, threw stones in upon them with many threats (fn. 18) : the parliament thus beset on all sides, found themselves necessitated to yield to whatever the present force dictated: they therefore now repealed their late ordinance and declaration.

It was the army's turn next to take up the dispute: general Fairfax wrote a sharp letter, to the mayor and common-council, from Bedford, in which he reminded them of the army's compliance with their desires in removing from the metropolis; and reproaching them with the unparalleled violence offered to the parliament, demanded that the chief actors in it should be given up to justice: the army also drawing together prepared to march again to London. The trained bands were upon this intelligence ordered to guard the fortifications, and proclamation was made by beat of drum, for all persons capable of bearing arms, to repair with what arms they had the next morning to places of rendezvous appointed.

The speakers of both houses with many of the members, intimidated at the late violence, retired from London and threw themselves into the hands of the army then at Windsor, and places adjacent, for protection (fn. 19). The remaining members chose new speakers (fn. 20), and being entirely in the city interest, voted, 1. That the king should come to London. 2. That the committee of the city militia should have full power to raise such forces as they should deem requisite for the defence of the city. 3. That they make choice of a commander in chief, to be approved of by parliament; and such commander to present other officers for the approbation of the said committee. In pursuance of these votes, major general Massey was chosen general; and the parliament farther voted that the ordinance which put the land forces under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax, gave him no power over the trained bands or garrisons. They dispatched orders forbidding him to march to London, and passed an ordinance to enforce the power of the city militia.

Distracted as the city was between the Presbyterian and Independent parties, so contrary in their political sentiments, it would be strange had their councils been consistent when the army, so strong an accession to the latter party, was arriving. The borough of Southwark petitioned to be left to defend themselves; many thousands in the city petitioned for measures of accommodation, at which colonel Poyntz and other officers of the new list were so exasperated as to fall upon the naked petitioners sword in hand, killing and wounding several, and putting the rest to flight. When the army halted to rendezvous on Hounslow Heath, the Presbyterians, supposing it was apprehensive of their power, were for marching out to destroy it; when accounts arrived that it was again in motion, their courage sunk and they were for treating: and to add to their despondency, the inhabitants of Southwark made a separate application to the general, and received a brigade under colonel Rainsborow into the borough. Though some preparatory letters passed between Fairfax and the city, yet nothing was left for the latter but submission: the lord-mayor withdrew the militia from the forts on the western side of the city, which were delivered up to detachments from the army. The lord-mayor and aldermen met the general the next day at Hyde-Park, and congratulated his excellency on his arrival; the commoncouncil saluted him at Charing-Cross, and by an ordinance of parliament, he was that day made constable of the Tower.

The army was thus become masters both of the city of London and the parliament; and the following day August 6th 20,000 troops marched triumphantly through the city; but preserved the greatest order, decency, and appearance of humility. The general on the plea of business declined an invitation to dine in the city, but made no objection to the present of a golden bason and ewer valued at 1200l. A loan of 50,000l. was then required of the city for the payment of the soldiers, which not being complied with, the parliament at the desire of the army passed a vote for the demolishing the fortifications which surrounded the cities of London, Westminster, and borough of Southwark. The general then wrote a peremptory letter to the lord-mayor &c. to raise the money, but this not producing a ready compliance, the causes of the late riots at the parliament-house were examined into; and the committee for that purpose declaring there were sufficient grounds for impeaching Sir John Gayer the lord-mayor, and four of the aldermen; they with the recorder were committed to the Tower, and articles of impeachment ordered to be drawn up against them. Cromwell then secretly labouring for his own exaltation delivered it as his judgment, "that a considerable part of the chief citizens of London, and some in every county, be clapt up in castles and garrisons, for the more quiet and submissive carriage of every place to which they belong: further saying, that, from the rising of the late tumult in London, there should be an occasion taken to hang the recorder and aldermen of London, then in the Tower, that the city might fee the more they did stir in opposition, the more they should suffer; adding, that the city must first be made an example (fn. 21)."

The city now deprived of its mayor, chose alderman Warner on September 27th to be lord-mayor for the remainder of that year and for the year following; but the money for the troops not being yet raised, the general informed the citizens of his intention to quarter 1000 men in the city under colonel Hewson to enforce the levying these arrears. However, the house of commons desired lieutenant general Cromwell to write to Fairfax, to defer this measure; for which they had the thanks of the corporation.

The parliament receiving a petition which they adjudged to be destructive to the being of parliaments, committed the presenters of it to prison: but if their conduct was arraigned before this revolution, their authority was now disregarded. The next week numbers of citizens attended the house with another petition, highly reflecting on the partiality of the commons, and desiring the immediate discharge of the former petitioners. The court of common-council also, on the first of December, petitioned for the provision of the army, to enable them to remove farther from the city; that free quarter might be prevented, and surpernumerary forces disbanded; that the government might be settled, the covenant observed; and that the imprisoned aldermen and recorder might be discharged. The citizens were indeed thanked, and due regard promised to their petition. But in order to check the future opposition of the city, the rumour of a conspiracy was made use of, as the foundation of an ordinance to regulate the election of common-council men: wherein it was ordered, that no person who had been punished for malignancy against parliament, that had adhered to the king against the parliament during the unnatural war, that had entered into the late engagement, which preceded the horrid force against the houses of parliament, or who had any hand in that force; should for one whole year be elected into any office in the city of London, or have a voice in such elections.

During these subordinate struggles for power, the great national business of settling the government, was no farther entered upon, than by each faction tampering with the captive king while he remained with the army, to strike up a separate bargain with him. He on the other hand, seeing himself courted on each side, unhappily conceived that neither party could do without him, and therefore from an overstrained policy closed with neither, still waiting for better terms. The Independents however had only temporized until they had subdued the city of London and the parliament; when finding himself more strictly guarded, the king was deluded by the arts of Cromwell (fn. 22) into an attempt of making his escape; but was only betrayed more compleatly into his power by being conducted to Carisbrook castle in the isle of Wight.


The discordance of men's minds in the mean time bred general confusion and licentiousness. Numbers of disorderly persons, having assembled on Sunday April 10, 1648, to tipple and divert themselves; a practice which though authorized from the pulpit, during the two last reigns, the severity of the present times would not allow; they were opposed by a party of the trained bands stationed at Finsbury to prevent such prophanation of the Sabbath. The trained bands were dispersed by the mob, who seized their colours, and increasing their numbers, divided themselves, and ran to different parts. One body went to Smithfield, where they doubtless collected auxiliaries; another to Whitechapel, where they took the colours from a captain's company; while the greater part ran to Whitehall. Being dispersed by the parliament's guards at the Meuse, they returned in great fury, and uniting with the rest, broke open prisons, magazines and houses, carried off arms, money, plate, and other valuable effects; and seizing the drums then beating for the trained bands, applied them to raise recruits for God and king Charles. They then took possession of the city gates, forced the guard at the lord-mayor's house, carried off a piece of ordnance which enabled them to gain the magazine of arms at Leaden-hall. Early next morning however two regiments of regulars detached by general Fairfax, totally routed them; and by ten o'clock, the city gates were opened and quiet restored.

Though the common-council applied to parliament the next day to express their abhorrence of this tumult, to request the appointment of a thanksgiving for its suppression, and for a special commission of Oyer and Terminer to try the prisoners; yet a garrison of 1000 foot and 100 horse was placed in the Tower to awe the citizens, the posts and chains in and about the city were taken down; and a scheme was formed by the army to disarm the city, and arm only their own friends there, who would thus be able to command all the rest by military law. This humiliating treatment was averted by petition to the parliament; and insurrections of the royalists in other parts of the kingdom, drawing the army away from the metropolis, the parliament applied to the city for a guard; the citizens took this opportunity to solicit the power of regulating their militia, of nominating the lieutenant of the Tower, and that the garrison there might be removed: when each granted the others desires to their mutual satisfaction.

The cavaliers were not idle in the city; for the house of commons communicated to the lord-mayor and common-council, the intelligence they had received, of a dangerous conspiracy, to destroy the parliament and city, Presbyterians and Independents, and roundheads in general; for which desperate purpose many thousands were enlisted and sworn to secresy. For the defeat of this scheme the committee of the London militia, were desired to keep the several regiments of trained bands ready for immediate service; and the city was invited to unite with the parliament for their common security. The corporation returned their acknowledgements for this information, declared that their interests were inseparable; and that they would live and die with the parliament according to the protestation. By an ordinance of both houses, all disaffected persons were ordered to depart from London and within twenty miles thereof.

The city and parliament improved this respite from present violence which the absence of the army now afforded; and the good correspondence thus renewed, encouraged the corporation to petition for the enlargement of their magistrates from the Tower; in which petition they expressed their satisfaction at the parliamentary votes and resolutions not to alter the fundamental government of the kingdom, by king, lords, and commons; to adhere to the solemn league and covenant, and the treaties between the two kingdoms. The recorder Glyn, was accordingly released, with some others of inferior note; but with regard to the aldermen, the commons said the affair was of such importance as to require farther consideration: which was acknowledging that though the army was removed, their apprehensions of it, were not.

The lord-mayor and common-council next laid before the parliament a letter from the Kentish royalists, desiring assistance, and inviting the corporation to an association with them: for which they received the thanks of both houses, who in return, ventured to discharge three of their aldermen from confinement. But still anxious for the settlement of the nation, the citizens renewed their applications for a personal treaty between the king and both houses, consistent with his majesty's honour and the safety of parliament; for the composing of differences, and concluding a lasting peace: and that all armies might be disbanded, and the soldiers arrears justly paid. A committee was appointed for this salutary purpose; but finding the business remissly prosecuted, the citizens again petitioned on these points, and that the city might have power to unite the militia of London and the outparts by one committee; and if requisite, to raise horse for the security of his majesty's person, the parliament and city.

The duke of Buckingham, and the earls of Holland and Peterborough wrote to the city for assistance in their intentions to join with the forces of Surrey, Sussex and Middlesex, to release the king and bring him up to parliament. This letter being communicated to the two houses, the commons voted that those peers should be proceeded against as traitors. A spirit of discontent had extended to the fleet; seventeen ships lying in the mouth of the river, had declared for the king; and putting Rainsborrow their admiral on shore, sailed over to Holland, where the prince of Wales took the command of them (fn. 23). He sent a letter and declaration to the lord-mayor and common-council of London, who delivered copies to the house of commons; upon which the house ordered the originals to be laid before them, and that the citizens should return no answer nor proceed in any thing relating to them without their especial licence. The citizens however, steady in the purpose of restoring order to government, again petitioned both houses to that end; for the effectual observance of the selfdenying ordinance; and for the relief of those merchants whose property had suffered by the revolted ships under prince Charles.

Other petitions followed, but the people by their attention to politics being excited in these disputes, were too much divided in opinion as to the future frames of government and religion, to have any treaties with the king take effect. The Independents or Commonwealths-men, were numerous in the house of commons, in the city and all over the nation; for when people study to shun one extream, they too often rush to the opposite one. These had the casting vote, by having the army on their side; who after suppressing the royalists in other parts of the kingdom, were now returning to destroy the parliament and the king himself, the only present enemies remaining.

The city of London had advanced 10,000l. for defraying the charges attending the treaty with the king at Newport in the isle of Wight; but the treaty being prolonged, the parliament were negociating an additional loan for that purpose, when a letter from general Fairfax, dated at Wind for November 30th 1648, arrived, demanding 40,000l. from the city by the next night for the arrears of the army; otherwise the citizens were given to understand the army would be quartered upon them, or in plain terms, upon pain of military execution. The citizens referring the consideration of this letter to the house of commons, they resolved that considering the arrears due from the city, the money should be paid: they certainly considered that a contrary resolution would signify little now the army was again hovering over them.

In opposition to the treaty entered into with the king by the parliament, the council of general officers had sent a remonstrance to the parliament, where in they complained of this treaty; demanded that the king should be brought to justice, as the capital cause of the blood spilt during the war; and that a period should be put to the present parliament, and provision be made for a more equal representation: in conclusion they added their hopes that these things would "not be taken ill because from an army, and so servants, when their "masters are servants, and trustees for the kingdom (fn. 24)." During the consternation of the parliament at the sudden declaration of these intentions, the army increased their alarm by seizing the king's person, and conveying him to Hurst castle, and from thence to the army at Windsor (fn. 25).

Two days after the letter above-mentioned, part of the army arrived in the neighbourhood of London, and quartered in Westminster, the out parts, and villages near at hand; the remainder were the next day quartered in the suburbs round London, where many of them in great houses being obliged to lie on the bare floors without firing; the general wrote to the magistrates either to provide the soldiers with bedding, to be deducted out of their arrears, or to find them quarters in the city.

The parliament though thus surrounded by the army, proceeded steadily to finish the treaty with the king; and after a debate of three days, the house of commons had resolved, by a majority of 129 against 83, that the concessions of the king were a foundation for the houses to proceed upon a settlement of the kingdom (fn. 26). The next day, which was December 6th, two regiments surrounded the parliament house, and Colonel Pride who commanded the guard at the doors, having a list of such members of the Presbyterian party, as were intended to be excluded from sitting, forcibly arrested them in their passage to the house; and suffered none but the determined Independents to enter, who amounted not to above fifty or sixty (fn. 27). This military violence on the parliament, which was ludicrously termed Pride's purge, was a sure means of securing a majority in the house; and will sufficiently account for the extraordinary measures that were afterward pursued sheltered under a parliamentary sanction.

These sudden and violent revolutions excited general astonishment and terror; many began to withdraw their effects beyond sea; foreigners scrupled to give any credit to a people so torn by faction, and oppressed by military usurpation: even the internal trade of the kingdom began to stagnate; and in order to remedy these growing evils, the generals published a declaration, in which they expressed their resolution to support law and justice (fn. 28). But neither this assurance, nor the plausibility of their following professions, could in sensible minds, cure, or atone for, the violence which was employed to impose them on the nation.

If this chosen remnant of a garbled assembly, may in compliance with the usual forms of speech, be honoured with the name of a house of commons; we may proceed to relate, that a committee of the house was appointed to form a charge against the king: on the report of which committee a vote passed, declaring it treason in a king to levy war against his parliament (fn. 29). It is saying all that can be said on this remarkable occasion, to add that the event points out the traitors; and that had Charles been victorious, he would certainly have used the heads of the popular party in the same manner. But it is doubtful whether this will justify the appointment of a court of justice composed of his accusers, in opposition to the few peers who remained in the upper house, to try the king's former conduct by this recent declaration. Pride's purge however affords the best exposition of the disputed merits of this transaction.

For the more effectual security in carrying on so singular a prosecution, the city trained bands were dismissed from their attendance, and in their stead a regiment of horse with another of foot, were appointed to guard the house of commons. The money demanded from the city by the army, not being yet paid, two regiments of foot, with some troops of horse, also entered the city, and quartered in Blackfriars and its neighbourhood: from whence, by the general's order, they went and seized the treasure in Weavers, Haberdashers, and Goldsmiths halls; from the first of which they carried off 20,000l. Another regiment of horse was quartered in the city the following day, to awe the city from any resentment of these acts of violence.

The nation now felt the danger of employing a military force to redress their grievances. The army raised to subdue the king, having performed that service, assumed the privilege of arbiters, and next resolved to subdue the people. They were masters of the metropolis, had purged the parliament of all opposers; and now employed them as their servants to purge the corporation in like manner. The commons passed an ordinance to incapacitate all those citizens who had subscribed the petition for a treaty with the king, and for bringing him to London, from being elected mayor, aldermen, or common-council men of the city: by which act of exclusion, very few of the old body remained in the election which then took place for the next year.


January 9th 1649, the serjeant at arms, by order of the house of commons, proclaimed the king's trial in Cheapside, to invite all persons to bring accusations against him; and still more to remove all obstructions to their intentions, Fairfax issued a proclamation commanding all papists, delinquents and disaffected persons to depart from London and within ten miles of it, within twenty four hours, and not to return for the space of one month.

The new-modelled court of common-council, as might be expected, added their sanction to the present procedure against the king, by petitioning the house of commons to bring him to justice: but it is observable that Sir Abraham Reynardson the lord-mayor, with several of the aldermen, the common serjeant, and the town clerk, left the court, rather than concur in so adventurous a measure. The commons highly pleased with this encouragement, returned the petitioners thanks, and declared for its being entered on the books, among the other acts of the common-council.

It would be superfluous to swell this work by describing the trial and execution of the unfortunate king; the particulars are universally known; and it is sufficient to have explained the immediate causes to so singular a catastrophe, that we may perceive the foundation on which it rested. The writers of the Parliamentary History, observe very justly----" that those great and able members "who first engaged in behalf of the liberties of the people, against the encroachments of the prerogative, meant no more than to oblige the king to rule according to law; not to bring him to the scaffold: and that monarchy and the peerage were not destroyed, till the liberties of parliament had been first subverted by an army of their own raising (fn. 30)."

A short retrospective view of the general leading causes to this great crisis in our history, will find a natural place when we arrive at the revolution in 1688.


  • 1. Hume.
  • 2. Fought Oct. 23. 1642.
  • 3. Hume.
  • 4. Ludlow's Memoirs.
  • 5. Hume. Anderson.
  • 6. Edmund Waller, the Poet, was one of this associciation, and was condemned to death with Tomkins and Challoner, who were hanged; but Waller saved his life by confession and impeaching his friends. His pusillanimity which was extraordinary under the dread of death, procured his respite from mere compassion, until he recovered the use of his reason; and his pious attention to the ministers who visited him, together with his liberality to them, at length gained his pardon on a fine of 10,000l. Hume.
  • 7. Ludlow's Memoirs.
  • 8. Hume.
  • 9. Anderson, vol. II. p. 77.
  • 10. Hume.
  • 11. Anderson's Hist. Comm. vol. II. p. 77.
  • 12. Hume.
  • 13. Harris's Life of Cromwel p. 120. Ludlow's Memoirs.
  • 14. Hume.
  • 15. Dated St. Andrew's January 27th 1645-6.
  • 16. These arrears were settled at 400,000l. of which they were to receive the half instantly, and the other half at two subsequent payments, on condition of delivering up the king's person to the English parliament. Hume.
  • 17. Anderson, vol. II. p. 80.
  • 18. Ludlow. Hume.
  • 19. Ludlow.
  • 20. Idem.
  • 21. Major Robert Huntington's Reason's for laying down bis commission: in Harris's Life of Cromwell. p. 152. Though Cromwell's power at that time triumphed over Huntington's charges against him; the full view of his conduct reflects credit on them.
  • 22. Ludlow.
  • 23. Hume.
  • 24. Harris's Life of Charles I. p. 404. Singular as the resolution was of bringing the king to a trial, it appeared with a much worse grace after detaining him so long in expectation of a restoration, and treating with him in the mean time to that end; than if they had, destitute as they were of law or precedent, proceeded against him judicially, as soon as the event of the war put them in possession of his person. This transactiontherefore is to be considered meerly in the light of the after thought of a party, now sensible of their own strength, and resolved to exert it to the full extent.
  • 25. Ludlow's Memoirs.
  • 26. Hume.
  • 27. Ludlow. Hume.
  • 28. Hume.
  • 29. Ludlow, Hume.
  • 30. See Harris's Life of Charles I. P. 406.