« PreviousContinue »
The condition on which the Scots had consented thus to aid the English Parliament inust not be forgotten. It was the agreement of the two nations in one and the same religious Covenant. In all the negotiations that had been going on between London and Edinburgh, the Scots had always assumed the fulfilment of this condition on the part of the English. And, so far, we have seen, it had already been fulfilled. Since September 1643, when Henderson's Covenant had first been proposed to the English Parliament and the Westminster Assembly, and the Commons and the Westminster Divines had set the example by swearing to it collectively in one of the London churches, “the Covenant” had been a phrase familiar to the English mouth. In all the miscellaneous activity of the Parliament for the detection and disabling of “ Malignants,” there had been no instrument more effective or more commonly used. There were other tests and oaths by which the “ malignants” might be distinguished from the “ well-affected ”; but the taking or not taking of the Solemn League and Covenant was the test paramount. Wherever the Parliament had power it had been in operation. Since December 20, for example, it had been the law that no one could be a Coinmon Councilman of the City of London who had not subscribed to the Covenant. Still, in this matter of subscription to the Covenant, the English, both as the larger nation and as the less accustomed to Covenants, had remained considerably in arrear of the Scots; and, when the Scots actually did make their appearance in England, there was a sudden refreshing of the memory of the English Parliament on the subject, and a sudden exertion to make up the arrears. “ The Scots are among us on the supposition that we have all taken the Covenant; and lo! we have not yet all taken it,” was virtually the exclamation of the Parliament. Accordingly, that all might be brought in, that there might be no escape, and that there might remain to all time coming a vast register of the names of the Englishımen then living who had entered into this solemn league with their Scottish neighbours, there was passed, on the 5th of February, 1643-4, a new and conclusive ordinance on the subject. By this ordinance it was enacted that true copies of the Covenant should be sent to the Earl of Essex and other commanders of the army, and to all governors of towns, &c., to the intent that it might be sworn to by every man in the army; also that copies should be sent into all the counties, so that they should punctually reach every parish and every parishminister—the instructions being that every minister should, the next Lord's day after the certified copy of the Covenant reached him, read it aloud to his congregation, discourse and exhort upon it, and then tender it to all present, who should swear to it with uplifted hands, and afterwards sign it with their names or marks. All men over eighteen years
age, whether householders or lodgers, were to take it in the parishes in which they were resident; and the names of all refusing, whether ministers or laymen, were to be reported. Nay, by an arrangement about the same time, the action of the Covenant was made to extend to English subjects abroad. Notwithstanding all this stringency, there is reason to believe that not a few soldiers in the army, and not a few ministers and others, contrived, in one way or another, to avoid the Covenant, without being called to account for the neglect. Where a minister otherwise unexceptionable, or an officer or soldier of known zeal and efficiency, had scruples of conscience against signing, the authorities, both civil and military, appear in inany places to have exercised a discretion and winked at disobedience or procrastination. The case of the Earl of Bridgewater may here be of some interest, on its own account, and as illustrating what went on generally. The Earl, known to us so long as “the Earl of Milton's Comus," had been living in retirement as an invalid during the war, his wishes on the whole being doubtless with the King, but his circumstances obliging him to keep on fair terms with the Parliament. The test of the Covenant seems to have sorely perplexed the poor Peer. “He says some " things in the Covenant his heart goes along with them, and “ other things are doubtful to him; and therefore desires
i See Ordinance in Lords Journals, Feb. 5, 1613-4.
some time to consider of it.” Such was the report to the Lords, Wednesday Feb. 7, 1613-4, by the Earls of Rutland and Bolingbroke, who had been appointed to deal with him and other absent Peers in the matter, He shall have time till Friday morning next,” was the entry ordered to be made. On the Friday named there is no mention of the subject in the Lords Journals; but on Saturday the 10th Lords Rutland and Boling broke were able to report that it was all right. Two days had convinced the Earl that signing would be best for him."
Besides this universal imposition of the Covenant by Parliamentary ordinance upon all who had hitherto neglected to take it, there was another immediate effect of the presence of the Scots in England. The two nations being now in arms for the same cause, the fortunes of each nation depending largely on the conduct of the other, and the two national armies indeed having to co-operate strategically, there required to be some common directing power, intermediate between the English Parliament in Westminster and the Scottish Estates in Edinburgh, representing both, and acting for both in all matters of military concern. The Scots, on their part, had made provision accordingly. Besides appointing a stationary Committee of the Estates to manage matters from Edinburgh, and another Committee to be with the Scottish army as a kind of Council to the Earl of Leven, they had nominated (Jan. 9, 1643-4) a Special Commission of four persons to go to London with full powers to represent the views and interests of Scotland in the enterprise in which it was now conjoined with England. These were—the EARL OF LOUDOUN, High Chancellor of Scotland; LORD MAITLAND (already in London as Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly); SIR ARCHIBALD JOHNSTONE OF WARRISTON (due in London at any rate as a Commissioner to the Assembly); and MR. ROBERT BARCLAY, Provost of Irvine in Ayrshire. These Commissioners having presented their Commission to the English Parliament, Feb. 5, the Parliament were moved to appoint some of its trustiest men from the
i Lords Journals of dates cited.
two Houses to be an English Committee of Consultation with the Scottish Commissioners, and in fact to form, along with them, a joint “ Committee of the Two Kingdoms.” Such an institution was not at all to the taste of Lord General Essex, inasmuch as it trenched on his powers as commander-inchief. Some opposition was therefore offered. On the whole, however, the argument that the two kingdoms ought to be "joined in their counsels as well as in their forces " proved overpowering; and on the 16th of February an ordinance was passed appointing the following persons (7 Peers and 14 Commoners) to be a Committee for the purpose named—the EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND, the EARL OF Essex, the EARL OF WARWICK, the EARL OF MANCHESTER, VISCOUNT SAYE AND SELE, LORD WHARTON, LORD ROBERTS, WILLIAM PIERREPOINT, SIR HENRY VANE, Senr., SiR PHILIP STAPLETON, SIR WILLIAM WALLER, SIR GILBERT GERRARD, SIR WILLIAM ARMYN, Sir ARTHUR HASELRIG, SIR HENRY VANE, Junr., John CREWE, ROBERT WALLOP, OLIVER ST. JOHN, SAMUEL BROWNE, JOHN GLYNN, and OLIVER CROMWELL. Six were to be a quorum, always in the proportion of one Lord to two Commoners, and of the Scottish Commissioners meeting with them two were to be a quorum.
There can be no doubt that the object was that the management of the war should be less in Essex's hands that it had been.1
The name of John Pym may have been looked for in the Committee. Alas! no longer need his name be looked for among the living in this History. He had died on the 8th of December, 1643, when the Scots were expected in England, but had not yet arrived. He was buried magnificently in Westminster Abbey, all the Lords and Commons attending, and Stephen Marshall preaching the funeral sermon. England had lost “ King Pym,” her greatest Parliamentary man. No one precisely like him was left. But, indeed, he had done his work to the full; and, had he lived longer, he might have been loved the learų %
1 Lords Journals of dates Feb. 5 and 16, 1643-4 ; and Baillio, II, 141, 142.
2 Rushworth, V. 376; Parl. Hist. III. 186-7; and Baillie, II. 118.
MILTON UNHAPPY IN HIS MARRIAGE: HIS FIRST DIVORCE TRACT:
TWO EDITIONS OF IT.
WE left Milton in his house in Aldersgate Street in or about 1643, waiting for the promised return of his recentlywedded wife at Michaelmas, and meanwhile comfortable enough, with his books, his pupils, and the quiet companionship of his old father. We are now seven or eight months beyond that point in our general History. What had happened in the Aldersgate household in the interval ? A tremendous thing had happened. Milton had come to desire a divorce from his wife, and had written and published a Tract on Divorce, partly in the interest of his own private case, but really also with a view to suggest to the mind of England, then likely to be receptive of new ideas, certain thoughts on the whole subject of the English law of Marriage which had resulted from reflection on his own experience. Here is the story :
“ Michaelmas (Sept. 29, 1643] being come,” says Phillips, " and no news of his wife's return, he sent for her by letter, “and, receiving no answer, sent several other letters, which “ were also unanswered; so that at last he despatched down
a foot-messenger [to Forest Hill) with a letter, desiring her “ return. But the messenger came back not only without an
answer, at least a satisfactory one, but, to the best of my “ remembrance, reported that he was dismissed with some “sort of contempt. This proceeding, in all probability, was “ grounded upon no other cause but this--viz. : that, the
family being generally addicted to the Cavalier party, as they called it, and some of them possibly engaged in the