Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP.
LIX.

Private

with the

King respecting

the Puritans.

At last the words were pronounced, "Le droit soit fuit come il est désiré ;" and the Petition of Right was law.

In the general joy which followed, the King, for a short conference time, sought to add to his popularity by appearing to take Williams again into his confidence. A conference then took place between them, which was made the foundation of all the Bishop's subsequent persecutions and misfortunes. To a question, "how the King might ingratiate himself with the people?” he answered, "That the Puritans were many, and strong sticklers; and if his Majesty would give but private orders to his ministers to connive a little at their party, and show them some indulgence, it might, perhaps, mollify them a little, and make them more pliant, though he did not promise that they would be trusty long to any government." The King said he took the advice in good part, and promised to follow it; and happy would it have been for him if he had so acted, instead of throwing himself into the arms of Laud, and for eleven years (during which parliaments were intermitted) doing every thing to irritate and insult that party which, growing strong by persecution, deprived him of his crown and of his life.

June, 1628. Ascendency of Laud on death of Bucking

ham.

Puseyism, or the Laudean contro

versy.

It was thought that when Buckingham had been taken off by the fanaticism of Felton, Williams might have recovered his ascendency; but that event only added to the power of Laud, who was successively made Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury, and presided both in the Court of High Commission and in the Star Chamber. This wrongheaded man no doubt persuaded himself that he had no object in view but the welfare of the Church and the King, and that he was doing God good service by all the cruel measures he resorted to.

Unfortunately for the Church, and fatally for himself, he forthwith originated a controversy very similar to that which has recently sprung up at Oxford; but, thank God, the very learned and pious Tractarians have neither the power nor the wish to enforce their opinions by violent means. The Archbishop, without being a Roman Catholic, longed to come as near as possible to the doctrines and ceremonies of Rome, and issued a number of new regulations with respect to the

-

LIX.

position of the communion-table, the mode of administering CHAP. the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and other religious rites. These Williams considered not only contrary to the spirit of the Reformation, but in violation of ecclesiastical canons and the Articles of the Church of England, and to oppose them he published a book, entitled "The Holy Table,” — pretty plainly insinuating that they led to Romanism, but at the same time using Scripture language, and such general arguments, that his book could not itself be made the subject of prosecution.*

Laud, however, denounced all who differed from him as "Puritans," and eagerly looked out for an opportunity to prosecute Williams as their leader.

in the Star

Chamber.

There was a suit depending in the episcopal court at Lin- Prosecution against coln against some persons who had refused to comply with a Williams prescribed ecclesiastical formality. The Bishop was unwilling to proceed to extremities against them, and, the prosecutor at the trial having called them "Puritans,” he said something about "the Puritans being good subjects, and of his knowing that the King did not wish them to be hardly dealt with." Complaint of this language was immediately brought to Laud, and he directed it to be made the subject of an information in the Star Chamber-the charge to be, "for spreading false news, and disclosing what had passed between the defendant and the King, contrary to the oath of a Privy Councillor,” — and the evidence, that he had published and misrepresented his conversation with the King about indulgence to the Puritans. As a preliminary step, his name was struck out from the list of Privy Councillors.

Second

Noy was then Attorney General, and filed the information, A. D. 1628. but on looking into the case, he was so much ashamed of it, prosecuthat it went to sleep for several years. On his death,—at the tion. instigation of Laud, who had in vain tried to induce Williams to recant the doctrines of "The Holy Table," and to resign the deanery of Westminster, it was revived. Still there was a difficulty in carrying it through without any evi

Clarendon says of it that it displayed “much good learning, but too little gravity for a Bishop."

СНАР.
LIX.

A. D. 1637. Trial and sentence.

Williams is committed to Tower.

Third

prosecution

dence, when Sir John Banks, the new Attorney General, dexterously and unscrupulously filed another information against the Bishop, imputing to him that he had tampered with the King's witnesses in the former suit.

This was equally unfounded, but, after a trial which lasted nine days, the Right Reverend Defendant was found guilty. Archbishop Laud, in pronouncing judgment, hypocritically said, "Sorry I am, my Lords, that such a man as my Lord Bishop of Lincoln for profession, and sorry that he, being so wise, so discreet and understanding a man every way, should come to deserve the censure of this Court. When I look upon and consider his excellent parts, both of nature and achieved unto by study and art; when I think upon his wisdom, learning, agility of memory, and the experience that accompanies him with all those endowments, it puts me to stand." The sentence was, that the defendant should pay a fine of 10,000%; should be imprisoned in the Tower during the King's pleasure; should be suspended from his ecclesiastical functions tam a beneficiis quam officiis; and should be referred over to the High Commission Court, there to be further dealt with as his offence should deserve.

Under this judgment he was immediately arrested and carried to the Tower, where he was kept a close prisoner between three and four years, till he was released by the Long Parliament. Meanwhile he was, in other respects, treated with great severity. He petitioned that "his fine might be taken up by 1000l. yearly, as his estate would bear it;" but Kilvert, a pettifogging attorney, and an infamous tool of his persecutors, was sent down to Buckden with an immediate execution for the 10,000l.,-seized all his furniture, plate, and books,-felled his timber, — slaughtered his deer, sold for five pounds pictures which had cost him 4007., and continued revelling for several years in the palace without accounting for the monies he received, or paying any part of the fine.

Laud, not yet satiated, in the spring of 1639, caused against him another information to be filed against Williams, along with Lambert Osbaldeston, one of the Masters of Westminster

in Star

Chamber. school, "for divulging false news and lies to breed a disturb

CHAP.

LIX.

Sentence.

ance between the late Lord Treasurer Weston and the Archbishop himself; for giving them nicknames, and for contriving to work the Archbishop's ruin." This charge was founded on certain private letters of the defendants, in which they had reflected on some of the measures of the Lord Treasurer, and had called the Archbishop "the great little man." Being Feb. 1639. found guilty, the sentence upon the Bishop of Lincoln was, that he should be fined 5000l. to the King, and 3000l. to the Archbishop; imprisoned during the King's pleasure, and acknowledge his fault. He was supposed by his Judges to be rather leniently dealt with; for Osbaldeston had a similar sentence, with the addition of standing in the pillory and having his ears nailed to it.

When it was thought that the Ex-Lord Keeper's spirit His firmwas broken by these proceedings, an offer was made to libe- ness. rate him on his giving up his bishopric and all his preferments in England, and taking a bishopric in Ireland. He answered, "that it were a tempting of God to part with all he had willingly and leave himself no assurance of a livelihood; that his debts, if he came out of the Tower, would cast him into another prison; that he would never hazard himself into a condition to beg his bread; and as to going into Ireland, that as he was imprisoned here under the King, he plainly saw he should soon be hanged there under the Lord Deputy."* So he resolved to exercise his patience, and wait a better day.

His deliverance arrived much sooner than could then have Nov. 1640. been expected. The parliament, which was assembled in the Meeting of Long Parbeginning of 1640, upon the Scottish invasion, was abruptly liament. dissolved before Williams could apply to it for redress; but the November following was the memorable era of the meeting of "the Long Parliament." He now hoped for his own liberation and vengeance on his oppressor. About this time he said to Hacket, his biographer, "I am right sorry for the King, who is like to be forsaken by his subjects. But for

* Hacket, part ii. According to Clarendon - “ he had much to defend himself against the Archbishop here; but if he was in Ireland there was a man (meaning the Earl of Strafford) who would cut off his head within one month."

СНАР. the Archbishop, he had best not meddle with me, for all the friends he can make will be too few to save him.”

LIX.

Williams is liberated and takes

House of
Lords.

In a few days after the commencement of the session he presented a petition to the House of Lords, praying that he his seat in might be set at liberty, and that a writ of summons might be sent to him as a Peer. This was opposed by Finch, the Lord Keeper, and by Archbishop Laud; but the Lords agreed on an address to the King in his favour, and sent their own officer, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, to the Tower to deliver him out of custody. He was brought to Westminster forthwith, and, in the midst of many congratulations, took his seat on the Bishop's bench.

Nov. 16. 1640.

His moderation.

Records of

all proceedings

He could not refrain, at first, from launching out rather violently against those who had persecuted him, but after this ebullition he conducted himself with great moderation, showing himself a friend to the monarchy and the church; and, were it not for the Jesuitical advice which he gave to Charles about assenting to the execution of Strafford, his subsequent conduct must be applauded by all parties in the state. Some Peers, to whom chiefly he owed his liberation, having spoken with personal disrespect of the King, who was still residing at Westminster in the full exercise of the royal functions, he sharply rebuked them,-pointing out how the use of such language was contrary to the duty of good subjects, and was inconsistent with all notion of kingly government. They exclaimed, "We have conjured up a spirit, and would we could lay him again." Clarendon relates, that now preaching before the King in his turn as Dean of Westminster, when mentioning the Presbyterian discipline, he said, "it was a government only fit for tailors and shoemakers and the like-not for noblemen and gentlemen,"-which giving great scandal to his patrons, "he reconciled himself to them by making merry with certain sharp sayings of the Court." But the noble historian had such a spite against Williams that this representation must be received with great suspicion.* From whatever cause, the King, pretending to approve of his conduct, sent for him one evening, had a conference with

Hist. Reb. i. 536. 542 548.

« PreviousContinue »