Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

a

a

a

now appeared no less resolute to give them away. On the other hand, some of those men who had deserved eternal infamy by the part which they had acted before to enslave their country, now hazarded their lives (at least as they pretended) to redeem the honour of the nation. Thus did the tyranny of the court of Rome, begun in the most direful cruelties to the souls of men about the year 1207, end in the most inhuman and unnatural cruelties of a civil war in the year 1215.

. However artfully both sides covered their pretensions, there seems no reason to doubt, but the resignation of the king was the true cause of this unhappy war. For though the Norman revolution had made some changes to the disadvantage of the liberty and gentleness of the ancient English government, and the present king had made choice of such ministers and judges as had given just occasion of offence and complaint, yet taking arms against their prince was a thing hitherto so entirely unknown to the English nation, that it is impossible to think that the nobility, clergy, and people, could so universally have run into a defection, if there had not been more at the bottom of this war, than some arbitrary proceedings of an unsteady prince.

But a free people and a vassal prince is a solecism in the very essence and being of a government; and a well-established liberty under the reign of a prince who had given away his own freedom, was so vain and so ill-grounded an expectance, that the slightest reflection on this unhappy war presently leads one to think, that the demands of the barons and clergy were a cover to something else. Certain it is, that their undutifulness, or at least their coldness in their services to the king, had done too much towards plunging him into the unhappy despair, which led him to enslave himself and his country; and without a manifest reproach to themselves, they could not avow that to be the cause of the war, which was in a great measure owing to themselves.

Besides, the interest of the king and the papacy were too powerful to be openly opposed, and there was nothing so likely to divide them as that which seemed to preserve their deference to the court of Rome, and had the appearance of right, and law, and religion on its side. But the archbishop who formed the design of the barons, having publicly protested against the resignation of the king, and secretly favoured the proceedings of the barons, the king and the pope easily penetrated into the true reason of the war, and were fully satisfied that whatever the barons pretended, the king's becoming a vassal to the church of Rome was at the

a

[ocr errors]

bottom of this affair. Accordingly, the king in his letter to pope Innocent gives him this account of the conduct of his barons : “Whereas (saith he) the earls and barons of England were loyal to us before we resigned ourself and our kingdom to your dominion, from that time and for that reason, as they publicly say, they have taken up arms against us."

The account of pope Innocent in his bull of excommunication against the barons is to the same purpose.

“They (saith he) assisted the king whilst he perversely offended against God and his church, but presume to take up arms against him after he was converted, and hath given satisfaction to God and his church 6." And in his letter to archbishop Langton, and in his bull by which he afterwards declared void the charter of the king, and the agreement betwist him and his barons which was founded thereon, he gives the same account of the beginning of this unhappy war d. And the original bull of that prelate, dated at Anagni the eighth of the calends of September, the eighteenth year of his pontificate, and yet remaining in the Cotton Library, is of the very same import. “In a perverse manner they rose up against the king after he had satisfied the church, who assisted him whilst he was disobedient to the church e.

Having laid these particulars together, to give the reader a just view of the true cause of this unhappy war, and of the arts made use of by both sides to give a popular turn to it, it will be time to return to observe the conduct thereof, and the effects which it produced.

A war being thus begun, the barons seized the city of London, and became so very powerful, that the king quickly saw himself under a necessity of complying with their demands : therefore consenting to a meeting with some of their party, to find out a temper to accommodate this affair, Runnymede, betwixt Staines

* Cum Comites et Barones Angliæ nobis devoti essent antequam nos et nostram terram Dominio vestro subjicere curassemus, extunc in nos specialiter ob hoc, sicut publice dicunt, violenter insurgunt. Prynn's Exact Hist. vol. iii. p. 33; et Rimeri, tom. i.

P.

207. b Cum ipse Rex quasi perversus Deum et Ecclesiam offendebat, illi assistebant eidem ; cum autem conversus Deo et Ecclesiæ satisfecit, ipsum impugnare præsumunt. Prynn's Exact Hist. vol. iii. p. 28.

Prynn's Exact Hist. vol. iii. p. 26. • Brady's Append. Hist. vol. i. p. 155.

e Ordine perverso in illum insurgunt postquam conversus Ecclesiæ satisfecit, qui assistebant eidem quando Ecclesiam offendebat. Cotton. Cleo

[ocr errors]

pat. E. i.

and Windsor, was the place agreed upon, and the fifteenth of June (1215) the day appointed.

This great assembly being met, an agreement was made, and contained in the two great charters known to this day by the name of Magna Charta and the Charta de Foresta, which still remain as the great standards of right and law, and continue the foundation and barriers to that happy government, which is the distinguishing blessing and glory of the English nation.—Thus did the wise providence of God bring good out of evil, and raise a lasting monument to his own glory, from the miseries and confusion which seem to have threatened the ruin of our country and our government. For though a charter was granted by Henry the First, and the first article of the great charter, which declares that the church is free, appears some ages before in the charter of Wightred king of Kent, and the articles of the great charter were not altogether new concessions from the crown, but rather the ancient maxims and rules of law drawn into a body; yet there is reason to think that it was the unhappy conduct of the king, which by giving the nation grounds to fear that they might too soon follow him into vassalage, and that their right could not long be safe when those of the crown were given away, that first gave beginning to that resolution which never ended, till it had settled the English government upon the bottom on which it remains to this day.

But as reflections of this kind give a sensible pleasure to those who know how to put a just value upon the happiness of that form of government which God has placed us under, so it is no little mortification to give up so agreeable a thought, and turn to see every thing on a sudden hurried into a new confusion. Yet this was the case : for whether it was that the fickle and unconstant spirit of the king could not bear the confinement of stated rules of government; or whether it was that the agreement betwixt the king and his people broke all the measures of that court, which had taken so much pains to enslave him, and could promise themselves no great advantage from his resignation, whilst his people continued safe and untouched under stated rules of law; or whatever occasioned it, so it was that the king, who seems to have been influenced and governed by the ministers of pope Innocent, before the month was over, repented of the favours which he had granted to his people, and revoked his charters; and the unhappy civil war broke out again, before the nation had time to reap any advantage from the late agreement betwixt the king and his barons.

The king having thus changed his measures, sent away Pandulphus, legate of pope Innocent, to Rome, to be absolved from the oath with which he had confirmed the charters which he had lately granted to the barons, and to have those charters declared void ; and sent Walter Gray bishop of Worcester, his chancellor, John bishop of Norwich, and some other ambassadors, abroad, to give an account of this affair, and to procure forces to assist him; and sent his directions to his governors of castles and forts in England, to provide for their defence; and the better to secure his person till he could bring a foreign force to his assistance, he retired himself to the Isle of Wight. In the mean time the barons who were in possession of London, entertained themselves with tilts and tournaments, but were so far puffed up by their late success, that they seemed to despise the preparations of the king, rather than to provide against them.

Whilst things passed in this manner in England, the ambassadors of the king arrived at Rome, where pope Innocent, who was ever watchful over the interest of that court, and could not but see the secret springs which set this affair into motion, upon the first hearing of it, immediately answered in great anger, “What? do the barons of England endeavour to dethrone a king, who has taken upon him the cross and is under the protection of the apostolic see, and to transfer the dominion of the Roman church to another?” and then swore by St. Peter, “ This injury should not pass unpunished a.

As he judged truly, that the interest of the court of Rome was bound

up in that of the king, so he met the desires of his ambassadors with all the zeal and ardour the importance of the embassy required, and by a bull declared the aforesaid charters void ; and by another commanded the barons to lay down their arms and to return to their duty, and pronounced them excommunicate in case of refusal. And when this would not do, he issued a third bull excommunicating the barons by name, and sent his command to the archbishop of Canterbury to appoint the publication of that sentence through his province every Sunday. And before the end of the year, in the council held in the Lateran, he again confirmed his sentence against the barons b: and in all the transactions upon this subject, pope Innocent acted up to his new character of lord of England and Ireland, with a pride and haughtiness equalled only by the ambition and wickedness with which he had aspired to it, and upon every occasion wrote and spake of king

* M. Par. ann. 1215. p. 266. b Concil. tom. i. par. i. p. 237. ed. Lab.

[ocr errors]

:

John as his vassal, and the kingdoms of England and Ireland as fees of the papacy'.

Things having passed thus at Rome (1215), the necessity of the king's affairs made his ambassadors hasten away to England: and Peter bishop of Winchester, being joined in the commission with Pandulphus, they immediately applied themselves to execute the aforesaid bulls; and in order thereto addressed the archbishop of Canterbury, to cause them to be published through his province. But that prelate, under pretence that he was going to Rome, desired to be excused, till by personal conference with pope Innocent he might lay the matter rightly before him a. But the king, who had by this time drawn a considerable force together, by the terror of his arms easily obtained what the archbishop had denied, and the sentence of excommunication against the barons, and their abettors and adherents, was generally pronounced, and except in London, where the barons chiefly resided, was as generally obeyed. Besides this, the king besieged and took the castle

| Fees of the papacy.] “When you tell me that we are indebted to the Roman Catholic religion for Magra Charta, had you forgotten, Sir, that the pope, as he whom God had appointed over nations and kingdoms, reprobated and condemned that charter; pronounced it, in all its clauses, null and void; forbade the king to observe it; inhibited the barons (who, being instigated by the devil, he said, had extorted these concessions in degradation of the crown), from requiring its execution, and suspended the primate Langton for refusing to excommunicate them on this account? To Langton, indeed, we are deeply indebted for the noble part which he took in obtaining the charter from the king, and in his yet nobler conduct in maintaining it against the pope. But to the Roman Catholic religion, as acting under its acknowledged head, these are our obligations on the score of Magna Charta !

Where, Sir, was your memory, when you claimed our gratitude to the papal church for this great charter of our liberties; or where did you suppose was mine? Had you forgotten that another pope, in the plenitude of his power, absolved another king of England from his solemn engagement to observe that charter, pronouncing that, if the king had sworn to observe it, he had sworn, previously, to maintain the rights of the crown ;—to those rights the charter was derogatory, and to that prior oath regard must first be paid ; and therefore pope Clement V. released Edward I. from all promises prejudicial to his ancient prerogative? I have usually to thank you, Sir, when you send me to my books. These, I repeat it, are our obligations to the Romish religion on the score of Magna Charta ?-And it is worth noting by the way, you have here the opinion of the pope ex cathedrá, that the king's coronation oath is paramount to all other engagements and considerations.”Southey's Vindiciæ Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ ; Letters to Charles Butler, Esq. p. 369, 70.

* M. Par. ann. 1215. p. 271. n. 50.

« ForrigeFortsæt »