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Hitherto the measures of parliament had been merely defensive. They had now had sufficient experience of Charles's despotical principles, and a new system of conduct became necessary. They were obliged to attack in their turn, and to disarm, if possible, so formidable, so subtile, and so persevering an adversary. Strafford and Laud were impeached; the star-chamber, high commission, monopolies, ship-money, and all other illegal exactions were abolished; triennial parliaments appointed to be held (measures pronounced beneficial by historians the most favorable to monarchy).
Charles saw with aların and consternation, that these regulations struck at the root of all his schemes for the extension of his prerogative, and for the eventual establishment of arbitrary power. To extricate himself from his difficulties, his only alternative was either to abardon those schemes, or to attempt some desperate enterprize. The attempt to sow a national jealousy between the Scottish army, which was still in England, failed. Charles could not now dissemble, he could tempoTize no longer. Lord Kimbolton and the five members were accused of high treason; and the pritileges of the house invaded, by the king entering it with an armed force to seize them. From the alarm and commotion excited in the city and in the nation, Charles was soon sensible of his rashness; but the impression was not to be effaced by any show of repentance, or professions of regret.
The bishops were now deprived of their seats in the house, and the king assented to the bill without hesitation. As bis designs became more manifest, restraints were multiplied. It was essential to the security of the Commons, that they should obtain some influence over the military force; and a bill passed both houses for the nomination of the officers of the ancient militia, who were rendered accountable to parliament. The king wished to regain the confidence of the nation ; but this measure drove so hard against his prerogative, that he refused his assent to the bill, at the risk of a new rupture. To compromise the differences of the parties was now a vain hupe ; and each began to direct its attention to collect a -military force. The king retired to York; the parliainent seized upon Hull.
But," it appears (says Mr. Laing *) that Charles, from the very beginning, was adverse and secretly irreconcileable to parliament, whose distrust was excited by the surmise of his intentions, and its violence by the discovery of his hostile designs ; that he had determined, recently after the accusation of its members, to resort to arms, to which
History of Scotland, Vol. III. p. 230.
the departure of the queen, and his operations and progress in the north were directed. That he conceived his prerogative invaded, or his throne endangered by a democratical legislature, is indeed a political cause or excuse for hostilities ; but reason and humanity would in vain determine, whether, in a moral view, the king were justifiable, who, in defence of even a just prerogative, has involved his subjects, for whose happiness he was created, in the multiplied calamities of a civil war. We may affirm, however, that, from an exalted idea of the regal character, and from the expectation of a slight resistance, and of success unallayed by excessive bloodshed, Charles engaged with precipitation, and without reluctance, in hostilities with his subjects; that he commenced without hesitation, and renewed without necessity, the war with Scotland ; and that he neither studied that sincerity, nor employed those means of conciliation which were requisite to avert the present war.”
This contest between the king and people forms one of the most interesting and instructive portions of the English bistory. The Commons had adopted the most liberal notions of government; the generous spirit of antiquity was diffused among them; and the progress of the struggle called into action some of the highest minds which have appeared in this or in any age
or nation. Among these the great author, whose controversial writings are now presented to the public, was, beyond dispute pre-eminent.
Milton returned to England from his foreign travels, as he informs us himself, about the time that Charles broke the pacification, and renewed the war with the Scots, and consequently, not long before the meeting of the long parliament. As soon as liberty of speech was al: lowed, every mouth (he says) was open against the bishops. In this state of things, he also, in aid of the
1 Puritans, commenced his attack upon the esta blished church, in a work in two books, entitled “ Of Reformation in England, and the Causes that hitherto have hindered it, &c."-To this and other attacks from the Puritans, Bishop Hall replied. Hall, at the request of Laud, bad written a treatise on the divine right of episcopacy ; which was so altered by the primate, before it was printed, that Hall, when afterwards called upon for the purpose, hesitated to acknowledge the principles of his own book. His treatise was entitled “ An humble Remonstrance to the High Court of Parliament.” About the same time, Archbishop Usher published “ The Apostolical Institution of Episcopacy."
In answer to these productions, Milton wrote two pieces, the first of which he called “Of
Prelatical Episcopacy, &c.” the second, “ The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty.”. This last piece is remarkable for his well-known promise of some great work, though the subject was yet anchosen.
About the same time, a pamphlet was written by five of the presbyterian divines, the initials of whose names formed the celebrated word Smectymnuus, against the doctrines contained in Bishop Hall's “ Humble Remonstrance." To this the bishop replied, in “ A Defence of the Humble Reinonstrance;" which called forth from Milton “ Animadversions on the Remonstrant's Defence.” The above four pieces were all written in the year
1641. Milton's Animadversions were personal and offensive in a degree that precludes defence. But in 1642, the son of Bishop Hall came forward, though anonymously, to vindicate his father, in a . Modest Confutation against a slanderous and scurrilous Libel.” The work it. self, however, bore no reséinblance to the modesty of its title : for it charged Milton with vices which were wholly without foundation, and incompatible with his character. To wipe off these aspersions, he is led to produce various anecdotes of himself, which illustrate his character, and form, indeed, to a modern reader, the chief interest of the piece. These are carefully pre