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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Attempt on the Five Members: Preparations for War
By John Richard Green (1837–1883)
 
From ‘History of the English People’

THE BRAWLS of the two parties, who gave each other the nicknames of “Roundheads” and “Cavaliers,” created fresh alarm in the Parliament; but Charles persisted in refusing it a guard. “On the honor of a King,” he engaged to defend them from violence as completely as his own children; but the answer had hardly been given when his Attorney appeared at the bar of the Lords and accused Hampden, Pym, Hollis, Strode, and Haselrig of high treason in their correspondence with the Scots. A herald-at-arms appeared at the bar of the Commons, and demanded the surrender of the five members. If Charles believed himself to be within legal forms, the Commons saw a mere act of arbitrary violence in a charge which proceeded personally from the King, which set aside the most cherished privileges of Parliament, and summoned the accused before a tribunal which had no pretense to a jurisdiction over them. The Commons simply promised to take the demand into consideration, and again requested a guard. “I will reply to-morrow,” said the King.  1
  On the morrow he summoned the gentlemen who clustered round Whitehall to follow him, and embracing the Queen, promised her that in an hour he would return master of his kingdom. A mob of Cavaliers joined him as he left the palace, and remained in Westminster Hall as Charles, accompanied by his nephew the Elector Palatine, entered the House of Commons. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “I must for a time borrow your chair!” He paused with a sudden confusion as his eye fell on the vacant spot where Pym commonly sate; for at the news of his approach the House had ordered the five members to withdraw. “Gentlemen,” he began in slow broken sentences, “I am sorry for this occasion of coming unto you. Yesterday I sent a Sergeant-at-arms upon a very important occasion, to apprehend some that by my command were accused of high treason, whereunto I did expect obedience, and not a message.” Treason, he went on, had no privilege, “and therefore I am come to know if any of these persons that were accused are here.” There was a dead silence, only broken by his reiterated “I must have them, wheresoever I find them.” He again paused, but the stillness was unbroken. Then he called out, “Is Mr. Pym here?” There was no answer; and Charles, turning to the Speaker, asked him whether the five members were there. Lenthall fell on his knees: “I have neither eyes to see,” he replied, “nor tongue to speak, in this place, but as this House is pleased to direct me.” “Well, well,” Charles angrily retorted, “’tis no matter. I think my eyes are as good as another’s!” There was another long pause, while he looked carefully over the ranks of members. “I see,” he said at last, “all the birds are flown. I do expect you will send them to me as soon as they return hither.” If they did not, he added, he would seek them himself; and with a closing protest that he never intended any force, “he went out of the House,” says an eye-witness, “in a more discontented and angry passion than he came in.”  2
  Nothing but the absence of the five members, and the calm dignity of the Commons, had prevented the King’s outrage from ending in bloodshed…. Five hundred gentlemen of the best blood in England would hardly have stood tamely by while the bravoes of Whitehall laid hands on their leaders in the midst of the Parliament…. The five members had taken refuge in the City, and it was there that on the next day the King himself demanded their surrender from the aldermen at Guildhall. Cries of “Privilege” rang round him as he returned through the streets; the writs issued for the arrest of the five were disregarded by the Sheriffs, and a proclamation issued four days later, declaring them traitors, passed without notice. Terror drove the Cavaliers from Whitehall, and Charles stood absolutely alone; for the outrage had severed him for the moment from his new friends in the Parliament and from the ministers, Falkland and Colepepper, whom he had chosen among them. But lonely as he was, Charles had resolved on war. The Earl of Newcastle was dispatched to muster a royal force in the North; and on the tenth of January, news that the five members were about to return in triumph to Westminster drove Charles from Whitehall. He retired to Hampton Court and to Windsor, while the Trained Bands of London and Southwark on foot, and the London watermen on the river, all sworn “to guard the Parliament, the Kingdom, and the King,” escorted Pym and his fellow-members along the Thames to the House of Commons. Both sides prepared for the coming struggle. The Queen sailed from Dover with the Crown jewels to buy munitions of war. The Cavaliers again gathered round the King, and the royalist press flooded the country with State papers drawn up by Hyde. On the other hand, the Commons resolved by vote to secure the great arsenals of the kingdom,—Hull, Portsmouth, and the Tower; while mounted processions of freeholders from Buckinghamshire and Kent traversed London on their way to St. Stephen’s, vowing to live and die with the Parliament….  3
  The great point, however, was to secure armed support from the nation at large; and here both sides were in a difficulty. Previous to the innovations introduced by the Tudors, and which had been already questioned by the Commons in a debate on pressing soldiers, the King in himself had no power of calling on his subjects generally to bear arms, save for purposes of restoring order or meeting foreign invasion. On the other hand, no one contended that such a power had ever been exercised by the two Houses without the King; and Charles steadily refused to consent to a Militia bill, in which the command of the national force was given in every county to men devoted to the Parliamentary cause. Both parties therefore broke through constitutional precedent: the Parliament in appointing the Lord-Lieutenants who commanded the Militia by ordinance of the two Houses, Charles in levying forces by royal commissions of array. The King’s great difficulty lay in procuring arms; and on the twenty-third of April he suddenly appeared before Hull, the magazine of the North, and demanded admission. The new governor, Sir John Hotham, fell on his knees, but refused to open the gates; and the avowal of his act by the Parliament was followed by the withdrawal of the royalist party among its members from their seats at Westminster…. The two Houses gained in unity and vigor by the withdrawal of the royalists. The militia was rapidly enrolled, Lord Warwick named to the command of the fleet, and a loan opened in the City, to which the women brought even their wedding-rings. The tone of the two Houses had risen with the threat of force: and their last proposals demanded the powers of appointing and dismissing the royal ministers, naming guardians for the royal children, and of virtually controlling military, civil, and religious affairs. “If I granted your demands,” replied Charles, “I should be no more than the mere phantom of a king.”  4
 
 
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