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OF THE EARL OF STRAFFORD WHEN IMPEACHED FOR HIGH TREASON BEFORE THE HOUSE
OF LORDS, APRIL 13, 1641.1
My Lords, - 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 l 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-Iof 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 dequickness 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 acknowledge, 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 You, 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 Yorknor 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-1
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 himself to be overeach bas 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 reInducing 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 condemnation. 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 lurk 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." 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 neverject—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 ,,
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 bim 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 lise 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 uttered 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 vari. more 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 sort 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 man. men, 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 his 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, O her 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 utter the least King. My Lords, these words were not wanton-expression which might disturb the happy agreeIs 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 aceording 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 forborne 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 treasona. dide et castè, with candor and purity of motive, ble which is not so in itself? Not of law, since under an oa:h 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 menhension 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. ter were it to live by no laws at all; but to be had given a testimony of my integrity to my governed by those characters of virtue and dis-God, my King, and my country. I thank God, cretion, which Nature hath stamped upon us, I count not the afflictions of the present life to than to put this necessity of divination upon a be compared to that glory which is to be reveal. man, and to accuse him of a breach of law be- ed in the time to come!
fore it is a law at all! If a waterman upon My Lords ! my Lords! my Lords ! something the Thames split his boat by grating upon an more I had intended to say, but my voice and anchor, and the same have no buoy appended to my spirit fail me. Only I do in all humility and it, the owner of the anchor is to pay the loss; submission cast myself down at your Lordships' but if a buoy be set there, every man passeth feet, and desire that I may be a beacon to keep upon his own peril. Now where is the mark, you from shipwreck. Do not put such rocks in where is the token set upon the crime, to de- your own way, which no prudence, no circumclare it to be high treason ?
spection can eschew or satisfy, but by your utter My Lords, be pleased to give that regard to ruin! the peerage of England as never to expose your- And so, my Lords, even so, with all tranquil. selves to such moot points, such constructive in-lity of mind, I submit myself to your decision. terpretations of law. If there must be a trial And whether your judgment in my case-I wish of wits, let the subject matter be something else it were not the case of you all-be for life or for than the lives and honor of peers! It will be death, it shall be righteous in my eyes, and shall wisdom for yourselves and your posterity to cast be received with a Te Deum laudamus, we give into the fire these bloody and mysterious vol- God the praise. umes of constructive and arbitrary treason, as the primitive Christians did their books of curi The House of Lords, after due deliberation, ous arts; and betake yourselves to the plain let-voted that the main facts alleged in the impeachter of the law and statute, which telleth what is ment had been proved in evidence; and referred and what is not treason, without being ambitious the question whether they involved the crime of to be more learned in the art of killing than our treason, to the decision of the judges of the Court forefathers. These gentlemen tell us that they of the King's Bench. Previous to this, howev. speak in defense of the Commonwealth against er, and even before the Earl had made his closmy arbitrary laws. Give me leave to say it, I ing argument, a new course of proceedings was speak in defense of the Commonwealth against adopted in the House of Commons. When the their arbitrary treason!
managers had finished their evidence and arguIt is now full two hundred and forty years ments as to the facts alleged, a bill of attainder since any man was touched for this alleged crime against the Earl was brought into the House by to this height before myself. Let us not awa- Sir Arthur Haselrig. The reason for this proken those sleeping lions to our destruction, by cedure can not now be ascertained with any detaking up a few musty records that have lain gree of certainty. The friends of Strafford have by the walls for so many ages, forgotten or neg- always maintained, that such an impression had
been made on the minds of the judges and audi. My Lords, what is my present misfortune ence during the progress of the trial, as to turn may be forever yours! It is not the smallest the tide in his favor; and that his accusers, fearpart of my grief that not the crime of treason, ing he might be acquitted, resorted to this measbut my other sins, which are exceeding many, ure for the purpose of securing his condemna. have brought me to this bar; and, except your tion. Such may have been the fact; but the Lordships' wisdom provide against it, the shed-Commons, in their conference with the Lords, ding of my blood may make way for the tracing April 15, declared that this was the course they out of yours. You, youR ESTATES, YOUR POS- had originally intended to pursue, “that the evTERITY, LIE AT THE STAKE!
| idences of the fact being given, it was proposed For my poor self, if it were not for your Lord- from the beginning to go by way of bill, and ships' interest, and the interest of a saint in that they had accordingly brought in a bill for heaven, who hath left me here two pledges on his attainder." St. John, their legal manager, earth-[at this his breath stopped, and he shed positively denied that they were seeking to avoid tears abundantly in mentioning his wife-Ithe judicial mode of proceeding; and, “what is should never take the pains to keep up this ru- stronger,'' as Hallam remarks, “the Lords voted inous cottage of mine. It is loaded with such on the articles judicially, and not as if they were infirmities, that in truth I have no great pleas- enacting a legislative measure." Still the bill ure to carry it about with me any longer. Nor of attainder was strenuously opposed by a few could I ever leave it at a fitter time than this, individuals in the House, and especially by Lord when I hope that the better part of the world | Digby, in his celebrated speech on the subject, would perhaps think that by my misfortunes Il which will next be given.
LORD DIG BY. GEORGE DIGBY, oldest son of the Earl of Bristol, was born at Madrid in 1612, during the residence of his father in that city as English embassador to the Court of Spain. He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford ; and entered into public life at the age of twenty-eight, being returned member of Parliament for the county of Dorset, in April, 1610. In common with his father, who had incurred the displeasure of the King by his impeachment of Buckingham in 1626, Lord Digby came forward at an early period of the session, as an open and determined enemy of the Court. Among the “Speeches relative to Grievances,” his, as representative of Dorsetshire, was one of the most bold and impassioned. His argument shortly after in favor of triennial Parliaments, was characterized by a still higher order of eloquence; and in the course of it he made a bitter attack upon Strafford, in showing the necessity of frequent Parliaments as a control upon ministers, declaring “ he must not expect to be pardoned in this world till he is dispatched to the other.”
From the ardor with which he expressed these sentiments, and the leading part he took in every measure for the defense of the people's rights, Lord Digby was appointed one of the managers for the impeachment of Strafford. Into this he entered, for a time, with the utmost zeal. He is described by Clarendon as a man of uncommon activity of mind and fertility of invention ; bold and impetuous in whatever designs he undertook ; but deficient in judgment, inordinately vain and ambitious, of a volatile and unquiet spirit, disposed to separate councils, and governed more by impulse than by fixed principles. Whether the course he took in respect to the attainder of Strafford ought to be referred in any degree to the last-mentioned traits of character, or solely to a sense of justice, a conviction forced upon him in the progress of the trial that the testimony had failed to sustain the charge of treason, can not, perhaps, be decided at the present day. The internal evidence afforded by the speech, is strongly in favor of his honesty and rectitude of intention. He appears throughout like one who was conscious of having gone too far; and who was determined to retrieve his error, at whatever expense of popular odium it might cost him. Had he stopped here, there would have been no ground for imputations on his character. But he almost instantly changed the whole tenor of his political life. He abandoned his former principles; he joined the Court party; and did more, as we learn from Clarendon, to ruin Charles by his rashness and pertinacity, than any other man. But, whatever may be thought of Digby, the speech is one of great manliness and force. It is plausible in its statements, just in its distinctions, and weighty in its reasonings. Without exhibiting any great superiority of genius, and especially any richness of imagination, it presents us with a rapid succession of striking and appropriate thoughts, clearly arranged and vividly expressed In one respect, the diction is worthy of being studied. It abounds in those direct and pointed forms of speech, which sink at once into the heart; and by their very plainness give an air of perfect sincerity to the speaker, which of all things is the most important to one who is contending (as he was) against the force of popular prejudica. Much of the celebrity attached to this speech is owing, no doubt, to the circumstances under which it was delivered. The House of Commons must have presented a scene of the most exciting nature when, at the moment of taking the final vote on the bill, one of the managers of the impeachment came forward to abandon his ground; to disclose the proceedings of the committee in secret session; and to denounce the condemnation of Strafford by a bill of attainder, as an act of murder.