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debated and approved of, we may be sure from his character that however much he might disapprove, he would not venture to oppose it. To his timid acquiescence in whatever was proposed on either side, however imprudent or unconstitutional, may in no small degree be attributed the fatal collision which followed. All historians agree, that the prosecution of Lord Kimbolton and the five members, which he might easily have prevented, was the proximate cause of the civil war; for the popular leaders now saw that no faith was to be placed in any of the professions of the Court; and that without an appeal to the sword, their own lives must certainly be sacrificed.

СНАР.

LXV.

1642.

When it was too late, the Lord Keeper brought down a Jan. 14. message from the King, "that in all his proceedings against Unavailing the Lord Kimbolton and the five members, he had never the concession. least intention of violating the least privilege of parliament; and that he was willing to have the matter cleared up in any way that parliament should advise." But this concession was imputed to a temporary apprehension from the burst of indignation which the previous outrage had universally called forth.

the militia.

Preparations were now made on both sides for hostilities; Bill for and the country party brought in their bill for regulating the regulating militia, which they thought indispensable for their own safety, although they could not expect that the King would agree to it, as it appointed a military chief in every county, and in substance transferred the command of the army from the Crown to the Parliament.

CHAPTER LXVI.

CONCLUSION OF THE LIFE OF LORD KEEPER LITTLETON.

CHAP.
LXVI.

March,

1642.

Prepara

tions for civil war.

King's resolution

Littleton.

THE King now withdrew from London, and after passing some time at Newmarket, was proceeding towards York, communicating from time to time with the Lord Keeper, in whom he still placed some lingering confidence. Being determined to dismiss the Earl of Essex and the Earl of Holland from the offices of Chamberlain and Groom of the Stole, he sent an order to Littleton that he should require the staff and key from the one and the other. The Keeper trembled at the task, and not being able to summon up courage to undertake it, went privately to Lord Falkland and desired him to assist him in presenting his excuse to the King. Making many professions of loyalty, he expressed a hope that his Majesty would not command him in an affair so unsuitable to the office he held; that no Keeper had ever been employed in such a service; and that if he should execute the order it would be voted a breach of privilege, and the House would commit him to prison, by which not only would he himself be ruined, but the King would receive the greatest affront; whereas the thing itself might be done by a more proper officer without inconvenience. "How weak soever the reasons were," says Lord Clarendon, "the passion was strong," and his representation being transmitted to the King, he was excused, and the harsh duty was imposed upon Lord Falkland himself.

But the conduct of the Lord Keeper was now so unsatisfacto dismiss tory that the King resolved to get rid of him. Since the failure of the accusation of the five members, Littleton had abandoned all effort to put on a show of vigour in the House of Lords, and had silently suffered the most objectionable votes to be carried without opposition. He was even suspected of perfidy, for he not only declined performing the duty which the King had enjoined him in reference to the Earls of Essex and Holland, but

LXVI.

the ordi

nance of

Houses for

1642.

he had private conferences with the leaders of the parliamentary CHAP. party who frequently resorted to him, and whom he appeared very much to court. At last, having supported the Littleton's Militia Bill to which the King refused the royal assent,-when support of it again came up from the Commons in the form of an ordinance by the two Houses, omitting the King's name, he the two put the question upon it from the woolsack, and himself ac- regulating tually voted for it, "to the infinite offence and scandal of all the militia. those who adhered to the King."* This was in reality the abolition of monarchy and the establishment of a republic. Hyde, who had a kindness for him, and suspected that his March 5. nerves might be more in fault than his principles, went early Littleton's next morning to call upon him at Exeter House, and finding conference with Hyde. him in his study, began to express great astonishment and regret at his recent conduct, and plainly told him how he had lost the esteem of all good men, and that the King could not but be exceedingly dissatisfied with him. Some attendants being heard in an outer room, Littleton desired them to withdraw. Then locking the door of that room and of the study, he made Hyde take a seat, and sitting down by his side, thus unburdened his mind: -"The best proof I can give of my value for this proof of your friendship is by concealing nothing from you. You see before you the most wretched of mankind. I have not had an hour of peace or comfort since I left the Common Pleas, where I knew both the business and the persons I had to deal with. I am supposed to be preferred to a higher dignity, but I am now obliged to converse with another set of men who are strangers to me, and with affairs which I understand not. I have had no friend with whom I could confer on any doubt which might occur to me. The state of public affairs has been deplorable and heart-breaking. The King is ill counselled, and is betrayed by those about him. The proceedings of the parliament which I may have appeared to countenance, I more bitterly condemn; and I am filled with the most gloomy forebodings, for they would never do this if they were not resolved to do more. I know the King too well, and I observe the carriage of particular men too much, and I have watched the whole current of public trans* Clarendon. 2 Parl. Hist. 1091. 1110. 1114.

CHAP,

LXVI.

actions these last five or six months, not to foresee, that it cannot be long before there will be a war between the King and the two Houses. I often think with myself of what importance it will then be, which party shall have the Great Seal, the Clavis Regni, the token of supreme authority. In my heart I am and ever have been for the King, both out of affection to his person and respect for his high and sacred office. When the trial comes, no man shall be more ready to perish either with or for his Majesty than myself. It is the prospect of this necessity that has made me carry myself towards that party with so much compliance, that I may be gracious with them, at least that they may have no distrust of me. I know that they have had a consultation within a few days whether, as I may be sent for by the King or another put in my stead, it would not be best to appoint the Seal to be kept in some secure place, so that they might be in no danger of losing it, and that the Keeper should receive it from time to time for the execution of his office. The knowledge I had of this consultation, and the fear I had of the execution of it, has been the reason why, in the debate on the militia, I gave my vote in such a manner as must make a very ill impression with the King and many others who do not inwardly know me. If I had not now submitted to those I mislike, this very night the Seal had been taken from me. But my compliance will only prejudice myself, not the King. I have now got so fast into their confidence, that I shall be able to preserve the Seal in my own hands till the King require it of me, and then I shall be ready to attend his Majesty with it, wherever he may be, or whatsoever fortune may betide him."

Hyde, convinced of his present sincerity, although not altogether satisfied with the explanation of his past wavering, asked him "whether he would give him leave, when there should be a fit occasion, to assure the King that he would Littleton's perform this service when required of him?" Littleton sopledge. lemnly passed his word for the performance of it as soon as his Majesty pleased; and so they parted.

When the news of the Lord Keeper's vote on the Militia Bill reached York, the whole Court was thrown into amazement and dismay. The King, exceedingly displeased and

CHAP.

LXVI.

Order from the King Seal from

to take the

Littleton.

Difficulty

provoked, sent a peremptory order to Lord Falkland instantly to demand the Great Seal from the traitor, and desired him to consult with Hyde as to who would be the fittest person to be appointed to succeed, suggesting the names of Banks, now Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Selden, the celebrated antiquary. The positive order to require the Seal from the present Lord Keeper would have about a been obeyed, had not Falkland and Hyde been so much successor. puzzled about recommending a successor; but they thought the Lord Chief Justice Banks might be as timorous as the other in a time of so much disorder, although he had been bold enough in the absence of danger, and they concluded that he was not equal to the charge. "They did not doubt Mr. Selden's affection to the King any more than his learning and capacity, but they were convinced that he would absolutely refuse the place if it were offered to him, as he was in years and of a weak constitution, and had long enjoyed his ease, which he loved, and was rich, and would not have made a journey to York, or lain out of his own bed, for any preferment."* Neither Herbert nor St. John, the Attorney and Solicitor General, of extreme opinions on opposite sides, could be thought of for a moment. Hyde then disclosed to Falkland the conference he had had with Littleton, the Lord Keeper's loyal professions, and the solemn pledge he had given; and proposed that they should, along with their opinions of the other persons, submit advice to his Majesty to suspend his resolution concerning the Lord Keeper, and rather to write kindly to him to bring the Seal to York, instead of sternly sending for it and casting him off. Hyde finished by offering to stake his own credit with the King that Littleton would be true.

Consulta

tions respecting

between

Lord Falkland had no esteem of the Keeper, nor believed that he would go to the King if he were sent for, but would find some trick to excuse himself, and was for immediately Littleton getting the Great Seal out of his hands. Hyde, as a professional lawyer, pointed out how absolutely necessary it was, at such a juncture, that the King should first resolve into what hands to put the Seal before he reclaimed it, for that

* Clarendon.

Lord Falk

land and

Hyde.

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