they would never present them again. Two or three were intimidated and gave their consent, but all the rest obstinately refused.

John now attempted a temporizing policy, and put off the barons with a promise to satisfy them at the approaching Easter.

In the interval he attempted to strengthen his hands by securing the clergy. He granted them various privileges, assumed the cross, and made a vow to go upon a crusade. Meantime the Pope, being solicited to interfere by both parties, took sides in favor of the king, annulled the confederacy of the barons, and pronounced an excommunication against all who should



similar combination for the future. In Easter week, the barons assembled at Stamford, and with two thousand knights, their esquires and followers, marched to Brackley. The king was at Oxford, and commissioned the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Earls of Pembroke and Warenne to go and ascertain their demands. They brought him back a paper containing the same articles as before. As soon as it was read, he exclaimed, They might as well demand my crown! Do they think I will grant them liberties which will make me a slave ? "

Hostilities soon followed. The barons proclaimed themselves “the army of God and his Holy Church,” and elected Robert Fitz-Walter for their commander. They immediately invested Northampton, a strong place garrisoned by a body of foreigners. After a fort. night's siege, they were obliged to abandon the enterprise for want of military engines. At Bedford they were more fortunate ; the governor opened the gates, and, at the moment of taking possession of the town, an invi


tation to proceed thither was received from some of the principal citizens of London. They marched immediately to the capital, without halting, and reached the city early on the morning of the 24th of May. The day being Sunday, the inhabitants were in the churches, and the gates stood open. No resistance was offered, and the army of the confederates took possession of London. Elated with this important success, they sent letters to the barons and knights who had not yet declared themselves, stating their objects and resources, and their determination to treat as enemies all who did not join the army of God and of the Holy Church. This produced the most decisive effect.

Disheartened by these occurrences, John found himself compelled to submit. He assumed an air of cheerfulness, and declared his willingness to settle with the barons on amicable terms. He desired them to name a day and a place for a conference, where the terms of a treaty might be discussed. They fixed upon a spot called Runnimede, or Running-Mead, a meadow between Staines and Windsor. At this place, ever memorable in the history of English liberties, both parties met on the 15th of June, 1215. The barons assembled in such numbers that they seemed to comprise the whole nobility of England. The parties took their separate stations. On the one side sat the king, accompanied by eight bishops, the Pope's envoy, Pandulf, and fifteen gentlemen who attended as his confidential advisers, although the disaffection of some of them was notorious. On the other side stood the great body of the barons, drawn up in imposing array, with Fitz-Walter at their head. After a long discussion, the


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demands of the barons were formally written down, and Magna Charta was signed.

A condensed view of this important instrument will show the state of the government under the previous reigns. The royal sway must have been arbitrary in the extreme, when the subjects were driven to extort by force of arms political rights of the following character.

“ No taxation shall be imposed but by parliament, except in three specified cases, and in these the amount shall be reasonable.

6 No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or dispossessed of his land, or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed or oppressed by the crown, except by the legal judgment of his peers, or the law of the land.

“ The king shall not sell justice, nor deny nor delay right or justice to any one.

6 No bailiff shall arrest or imprison any man upon a mere complaint, without faithful witnesses to substantiate it.

“The city of London, and all other cities, burghs, and towns, shall have all their ancient liberties and free customs.

“No man shall be compelled to do more military service than he owes.

“ No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to live without a husband ; provided she gives surety that she will not marry without the king's consent, if she holds her lands of him, or the consent of the lord, if she holds lands of any.

“ No goods shall be distrained while the debtor is “ Lands shall not be seized for debt, if there are goods sufficient.

able to pay

66 There shall be one measure and one weight throughout the kingdom.

“ Merchants may safely visit England, travel through the country to buy and sell, according to the ancient customs, and return home.

“ Any Englishman may leave the realm and return, preserving his allegiance.

“Every widow shall have her jointure and dower.

“ The courts of common pleas shall not follow the king, but shall be held in some certain place. Courts of assize shall be held four times a year.”

A general joy spread through the kingdom on the publication of the Great Charter.

“ England," says Matthew Paris, “ seemed delivered from an Egyptian yoke, and the people believed that the king's stony heart was softened.” But the Charter, although equitable, conducive to the welfare of the nation, and perfectly compatible with every dignified and useful prerogative of the sovereign, was unpalatable to John, because it restricted his capricious humors and arbitrary will. Resentment and mortification soon exasperated him into extravagances of behaviour which bordered upon insanity. He began to execrate his mother and the day of his birth. He would gnash his teeth, stare wildly about him, seize clubs and sticks of wood, gnaw them, break them in pieces, and practise other unaccountable freaks. On the night which followed the signature of the Charter, he sent private letters to all the governors of his castles, who were foreigners, ordering them to provision their fortresses,

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make arrows, and prepare their military engines; but privately and cautiously, that the barons might not discover it.

The report of these proceedings reached the barons, and they inquired of the king what he meant. He made oath that he designed no hostility; and the rude horse-laughs, with which he accompanied his asseverations, seemed more like folly than malice. Half appeased, and half mistrusting, they withdrew; and the king, suddenly, on the following day, at dawn, set off for the Isle of Wight, where he hid himself, brooding over plans of revenge. Here he passed three months

among the fishermen and sailors, amusing himself with piratical attacks upon the vessels which approached the coast. His subjects, in the mean time, were wholly ignorant what had become of him, and debated whether he had turned fisherman or freebooter. One part of his employment, in this concealment, was to invite needy adventurers from the continent to come over to him. He also sent ambassadors to Rome to solicit the papal condemnation of the Charter. · The Pope annulled the Charter, suspended the Archbishop of Canterbury, and excommuniated the barons.

John at length emerged from his concealment, and proceeded to Dover to meet his auxiliaries, who, enticed by the hope of large donations and confiscations,had come over in great numbers from France and the Netherlands, many of them bringing their families, as if sure of settling in England. At the head of this army of mercenaries, John advanced to Nottingham, plundering, on his march, the baronial possessions, and detaching parties in all directions to ravage the country.

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