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strike the first blow, and to impeach the leaders of the popular party, as the surest means to avert the coming storm, he was himself impeached by the House of Commons, stripped of all his dignities, and thrown into the Tower. The 22d of March, 1641, was fixed upon for his trial. The great object of his accusers was to establish against him the charge of " attempting to subvert the fundamental laws of the realm.” In doing so, they brought forward many offenses of inferior magnitude, as an index of his intentions; and they never pretended that more than two or three of the articles contained charges which amounted strictly to high treason.
In conducting the impeachment, they had great difficulties to encounter. They could find precedents in abundance to justify the doctrine of constructive treason. Still, it was a doctrine which came with an ill grace from the friends of civil liber. ty; and it gave wide scope to the eloquence of Strafford, in some of the most powerful and touching appeals of his masterly defense. In addition to this, the time had not yet arrived when treason against the state, as distinguished from an assault upon the life or personal authority of the king, was distinctly recognized in England. Strafford had undoubtedly, as a sworn counselor of Charles, given him unconstitutional advice; had told him that he was absolved from the established rules of government; that he might use his simple prerogative for the purpose of raising money, above or against the decisions of Parliament. Such an attempt to subvert the fundamental laws of the kingdom, if connected with any overt act, would now be treason. But the doctrine was a new one. The idea of considering the sovereign as only the representative of the state ; of treating an encroachment on the established rights of the people as a crime of equal magnitude with a violation of the King's person and authority, had not yet become familiar to the English mind. We owe it to the men who commenced this impeachment; and it is not wonderful that Strafford, with his views, and those of most men at that day, could declare with perfect sincerity that he was utterly unconscious of the crime of treason.
The trial lasted from the 22d of March to the 13th of April, 1641, during which time the Earl appeared daily before the court, clothed in black, and wearing no badge or ornament but his George. “ The stern and simple character of his features accorded with the occasion ; his countenance 'manly black,' as Whitlocke describes it, and his thick hair cut short from his ample forehead.” He was tall in person, but through early disease had contracted a stoop of the shoulders, which would have detracted from his appearance on any other occasion ; but being now ascribed to intense suffering from the stone and the gout, which he was known to have endured during the progress of the trial, it operated in his favor, and excited much sympathy in his behalf. During eighteen days he thus stood alone against his numerous accusers, answering in succession the twenty-eight articles of the impeachment, which of themselves filled two hundred sheets of paper, examining the witnesses, commenting on their evidence, explaining, defending, palliating his conduct on every point with an adroitness and force, a dignity and self-possession, which awakened the admiration even of his enemies. On the last day of the trial, he summed up his various defenses in a speech of which the report given below is only an imperfect outline. It enables us, however, to form some conception of the eloquence and pathos of this extraordinary man. There is in it a union of dignity, simplicity, and force—a felicity in the selection of topics—a dexterity of appeal to the interests and feelings of his judges—a justness and elevation in every sentiment he utters—a vividness of illustration, a freshness of imagery, an elasticity and airiness of diction—an appearance of perfect sincerity, and a pervading depth of passion breaking forth at times in passages of startling power or tenderness, which belongs only to the highest class of oratory. The pathos of the conclusion has been much admired; and if we go back in imagination to the scene as presented in Westminster Hall—the once proud Earl standing amid the wreck of his fortunes, with that splendid court around him which so lately bowed submissive to his will ; with his humbled monarch looking on from behind the screen that concealed his person, unable to interpose or arrest the proceedings ; with that burst of tenderness at the thought of earlier days and of his wife, the Lady Arabella Hollis, “that saint in heaven,” to whose memory he had always clung amid the power and splendor of later life ; with his body bowed down under the pressure of intense physical suffering, and his strong spirit utterly subdued and poured out like water in that startling cry, “ My Lords, my Lords, my LORDS, something more I had intended to say, but my voice and my spirit fail me”—
-we can not but feel that there are few passages of equal tenderness and power in the whole range of English eloquence. We are strongly reminded of Shakspeare's delineation of Wolsey under similar circumstances, in some of the most pathetic scenes which poetry has ever depicted. We feel that Strafford, too, with his “heart new opened,” might have added his testimony to the folly of ambition, and the bitter fruits of seeking the favor of a king, at the expense of the people's rights, and the claims of justice and truth.
*Cromwell, I charge thee, Aing away ambition !
SPEECH OF THE EARL OF STRAFFORD WHEN IMPEACHED FOR HIGH TREASON BEFORE THE HOUSE
OF LORDS, APRIL 13, 1641.7
MY LORD, — This day I stand before you I shall now proceed in repeating my defenses charged with high treason. The burden of the as they are reducible to the two main points of charge is heavy, yet far the more so because it treason. And, hath borrowed the authority of the House of I. For treason against the statute, which is Commons. If they were not interested, I might the only treason in effect, there is nothing alexpect a no less easy, than I do a safe, issue. leged for that but the fifteenth, twenty-second, But let neither my weakness plead my inno- and twenty-seventh articles. cence, nor their power my guilt. If your Lord- [Here the Earl brought forward the replies ships will conceive of my defenses, as they are which he had previously made to these articles, in themselves, without reference to either party which contained all the charges of individual acts —and I shall endeavor so to present them—1 of treason. The fifteenth article affirmed that hope to go hence as clearly justified by you, as he had “inverted the ordinary course of justice I now am in the testimony of a good conscience in Ireland, and given immediate sentence upon by myself.
the lands and goods of the King's subjects, unMy Lords, I have all along, during this charge, der pretense of disobedience; had used a miliwatched to see that poisoned arrow of Treason, tary way for redressing the contempt, and laid which some men would sain have feathered in soldiers upon the lands and goods of the King's my heart; but, in truth, it hath not been my subjects, to their utter ruin." There was a de. quickness to discover any such evil yet within ficiency of proofs as to the facts alleged. The my breast, though now, perhaps, by sinister in- Earl declared that “the customs of England difformation, sticking to my clothes.
fered exceedingly from those of Ireland; and They tell me of a two-fold treason, one against therefore, though cessing of men might seem the statute, another by the common law; this strange here, it was not so there ;" and that direct, that consecutive ; this individual, that ac- " nothing was more common there than for the cumulative; this in itself
, that by way of con-governors to appoint soldiers to put all manner struction.
of sentences into execution," as he proved by the As to this charge of treason, I must and do testimony of Lord Dillon, Sir Adam Loftus, and seknowledge, that if I had the least suspicion of Sir Arthur Teringham. my own guilt, I would save your Lordships the The twenty-seventh article charged him with pains. I would cast the first stone. I would having, as lieutenant general, charged on the pass the first sentence of condemnation against county of York eight pence a day for supporting myself
. And whether it be so or not, I now re- the train-bands of said county during one month, fer to your Lordships' judgment and deliberation. when called out; and having issued his warrants Yon, and you only, under the care and protec- without legal authority for the collection of the tion of my gracious master, are my judges. Un- same. The Earl replied that “this money was der favor, none of the Commons are my peers, freely and voluntarily offered by them of Yorkpor can they be my judges. I shall ever cele- shire, in a petition ; and that he had done nothing brate the providence and wisdom of your noble but on the petition of the county, the King's speancestors, who have put the keys of life and cial command, and the connivance, at least, of death, so far as concerns you and your posterity, the Great Council, and upon a present necessity into your own hands. None but your own selves, for the defense and safety of the county, when my Lords, know the rate of your noble blood : about to be invaded from Scotland.” none but yourselves must hold the balance in dis- The twenty-second and twenty-third articles posing of the same.?
were the most pressing. Under these he was There are in the Parliamentary History two re
charged with saying in the Privy Council that ports of this speech, one by Whitlocke, and the
"the Parliament had forsaken the King; that other by some unknown friend of Strafford. As the King ought not to suffer bimself to be overeach has important passages which are not contain: mastered by the stubbornness of the people ; and ed in the other, they are here combined by a slight that, if his Majesty pleased to employ forces, he modification of language, in order to give more com- had some in Ireland that might serve to reduce pleteness to this masterly defense.
• Strafford had no chance of acquittal except by dium has admirable dexterity and force. He reindacing the Lords, from a regard to their dignity verts to the same topic in his peroration, assuring and safety, to rise above the influence of the Com- them, with the deepest earnestness and solemnity mons as his prosecutors, and of the populace who (and, as the event showed, with perfect truth), that surrounded Westminster Hall by thousands, de- if they gave him up, they must expect to perish manding his condemnat In this view, his exor-with him in the general ruin of the peerage.
this kingdom," thus counseling to his Majesty to 2. As for my designs against the state, I dare put down Parliament, and subvert the funda- plead as much innocency as in the matter of remental laws of the kingdom by force and arms. ligion. I have ever admired the wisdom of our To this the Earl replied, (1.) That there was ancestors, who have so fixed the pillars of this only one witness adduced to prove these words, monarchy that each of them keeps a due propor. viz., Sir Henry Vane, secretary of the Council, tion and measure with the others—have so ad. but that two or more witnesses are necessary by mirably bound together the nerves and sinews statute to prove a charge of treason. (2.) That of the state, that the straining of any one may the others who were present, viz., the Duke of bring danger and sorrow to the whole economy. Northumberland, the Marquess of Hamilton, The Prerogative of the Crown and the Propriety Lord Cottington, and Sir Thomas Lucas, did not, of the Subject have such natural relations, that as they deposed under oath, remember these this takes nourishment from that, and that founwords. (3.) That Sir Henry Vane had given dation and nourishment from this. And so, as in his testimony as if he was in doubt on the sub- the lute, if any one string be wound up too high ject, saying " as I do remember," and " such or too low, you have lost the whole harmony; or such like words," which admitted the words so here the excess of prerogative is oppression, might be “that kingdom," meaning Scotland.] of pretended liberty in the subject is disorder
II. As to the other kind, viz., constructive and anarchy. The prerogative must be used as treason, or treason by way of accumulation ; to God doth his omnipotence, upon extraordinary make this out, many articles have been brought occasions; the laws must have place at all other against me, as if in a heap of mere felonies or times. As there must be prerogative because misdemeanors (for they reach no higher) there there must be extraordinary occasions, so the could lark some prolific seed to produce what is propriety of the subject is ever to be maintained, treasonable! But, my Lords, when a thousand if it go in equal pace with the other. They are misdemeanors will not make one felony, shall fellows and companions that are, and ever must twenty-eight misdemeanors be heightened into be, inseparable in a well-ordered kingdom; and treason?
no way is so fitting, so natural to nourish and I pass, however, to consider these charges, entertain both, as the frequent use of Parliawhich affirm that I have designed the overthrow ments, by which a commerce and acquaintance both of religion and of the state.
is kept up between the King and his subjects.3 1. The first charge seemeth to be used rath- These thoughts have gone along with me these er to make me odious than guilty ; for there is fourteen years of my public employments, and not the least proof alleged—nor could there be shall, God willing, go with me to the grave ! any-concerning my confederacy with the pop- God, his Majesty, and my own conscience, yea, ish faction. Never was a servant in authority and all of those who have been most accessary under my lord and master more hated and ma- to my inward thoughts, can bear me witness ligned by these men than myself
, and that for an that I ever did inculcate this, that the happiness impartial and strict execution of the laws against of a kingdom doth consist in a just poise of the them; for observe, my Lords, that the greater King's prerogative and the subject's liberty, and number of the witnesses against me, whether that things could never go well till these went from Ireland or from Yorkshire, were of that re- hand in hand together. I thank God for it, by ligion. But for my own resolution, I thank God my master's favor, and the providence of my anI am ready every hour of the day to seal my dis- cestors, I have an estate which so interests me satisfaction to the Church of Rome with my dear- in the commonwealth, that I have no great mind est blood.
to be a slave, but a subject. Nor could I wish Give me leave, my Lords, here to pour forth the cards to be shuffled over again, in hopes to the grief of my soul before you. These pro- fall upon a better set; nor did I ever nourish ceedings against me seem to be exceeding rig- such base and mercenary thoughts as to become orous, and to have more of prejudice than equity a pander to the tyranny and ambition of the —that upon a supposed charge of hypocrisy or greatest man living. No! I have, and ever errors in religion, I should be made so odious to shall, aim at a fair but bounded liberty; rememthree kingdoms. A great many thousand eyes bering always that I am a freeman, yet a subhave seen my accusations, whose ears will never ject—that I have rights, but under a monarch. hear that when it came to the upshot, those very It hath been my misfortune, now when I am things were not alleged against me! Is this fair gray-headed, to be charged by the mistakers of dealing among Christians ? But I have lost the times, who are so highly bent that all apnothing by that. Popular applause was ever pears to them to be in the extreme for monarchy nothing in my conceit. The uprightness and which is not for themselves. Hence it is that integrity of a good conscience ever was, and designs, words, yea, intentions, are brought out ever shall be, my continual feast ; and if I can as demonstrations of my misdemeanors. Such be justified in your Lordships' judgments from a multiplying-glass is a prejudicate opinion ! this great imputation—as I hope I am, seeing
3 Strafford was generally regarded as the secret these gentlemen have thrown down the bucklers author of the King's aversion to Parliaments, which -I shall account myself justified by the whole had led him to dispense with their use for many kingdom, because absolved by you, who are the years. Hence the above declaration, designed to better part, the very soul and life of the kingdom. I relieve him from the effects of this prejudice.
The articles against me refer to expressions on me, that my misfortune may not bring an and actions—my expressions either in Ireland inconvenience to yourselves. And though my or in England, my actions either before or after words were not so advised and discreet, or so these late stirs.
well weighed as they ought to have been, yet I (1.) Some of the expressions referred to were trust your Lordships are too honorable and just attered in private, and I do protest against their to lay them to my charge as High Treason. being drawn to my injury in this place. If, my Opinions may make a heretic, but that they make Lords, words spoken to friends in familiar dis- a traitor I have never heard till now. course, spoken at one's table, spoken in one's (2.) I am come next to speak of the actions chamber, spoken in one's sick-bed, spoken, per- which have been charged upon me. haps, to gain better reason, to gain one's self (Here the Earl went through with the varimore clear light and judgment by reasoning—if ous overt acts alleged, and repeated the sum and these things shall be brought against a man as heads of what had been spoken by him before. treason, this (under favor) takes away the com- In respect to the twenty-eighth article, which fort of all human society. By this means we charged him with "a malicious design to enshall be debarred from speaking—the principal gage the kingdoms of England and Scotland in joy and comfort of life—with wise and good a national and bloody war," but which the manmen, to become wiser and better ourselves. If agers had not urged in the trial, he added more these things be strained to take away life, and at large, as follows:] honor, and all that is desirable, this will be a si. If that one article had been proved against lent world! A city will become a hermitage, me, it contained more weighty matter than all and sheep will be found among a crowd and the charges besides. It would not only have press of people! No man will dare to impart been treason, but villainy, to have betrayed the bis solitary thoughts or opinions to his friend and trust of his Majesty's army. But as the mananeighbor!
gers have been sparing, by reason of the times, Other expressions have been urged against as to insisting on that article, I have resolved to me, which were used in giving counsel to the keep the same method, and not atter the least King. My Lords, these words were not wanton- expression which might disturb the happy agreely or unnecessarily spoken, or whispered in a ment intended between the two kingdoms. I corner; they were spoken in full council, when, only admire how I, being an incendiary against by the duty of my oath, I was obliged to speak the Scots in the twenty-third article, am become according to my heart and conscience in all a confederate with them in the twenty-eighth arthings concerning the King's service. If I had ticle! how I could be charged for betraying sorborne to speak what I conceived to be for the Newcastle, and also for fighting with the Scots benefit of the King and the people, I had been at Newburne, since fighting against them was perjured toward Almighty God. And for deliv- no possible means of betraying the town into ering my mind openly and freely, shall I be in their hands, but rather to hinder their passage danger of my life as a traitor ? If that necessity thither! I never advised war any further than, be put upon me, I thank God, by his blessing, I in my poor judgment, it concerned the very life have learned not to stand in fear of him who can of the King's authority, and the safety and hononly kill the body. If the question be whether or of his kingdom. Nor did I ever see that any I must be traitor to man or perjured to God, I advantage could be made by a war in Scotland, will be faithful to my Creator. And whatsoever where nothing could be gained but hard blows. shall befall me from popular rage or my own For my part, I honor that nation, but I wish they weakness, I must leave it to that almighty Be- may ever be under their own climate. I have no ing, and to the justice and honor of my judges. desire that they should be too well acquainted
My Lords, I conjure you not to make your with the better soil of England. selves so unhappy as to disable your Lordships My Lords, you see what has been alleged for and your children, from undertaking the great this constructive, or, rather, destructive treason. charge and trust of this Commonwealth. You For my part, I have not the judgment to coninherit that trust from your fathers. You are ceive, that such treason is agreeable to the funborn to great thoughts. You are nursed for the damental grounds either of reason or of law. weighty employments of the kingdom. But if it Not of reason, for how can that be treason in be once admitted that a counselor, for delivering the lump or mass, which is not so in any of its his opinion with others at the council board, can- parts ? or how can that make a thing treasonadidè et castè, with candor and purity of motive, ble which is not so in itself? Not of law, since under an oath of secrecy and faithfulness, shall neither statute, common law, nor practice hath be brought into question, upon some misappre- from the beginning of the government ever menbension or ignorance of law-if every word that tioned such a thing. he shall speak from sincere and noble intentions It is hard, my Lords, to be questioned upon a shall be drawn against him for the attainting of law which can not be shown! "Where hath this him, his children and posterity—I know not (un- fire lain hid for so many hundred years, without der favor I speak it) any wise or noble person of smoke to discover it, till it thus bursts forth to fortune who will, upon such perilous and unsafe consume me and my children? My Lords, do terms, adventure to be counselor to the King. we not live under laws ? and must we be punTherefore I beseech your Lordships so to look lished by laws before they are made ? Far bet