Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Thus have I traced, step by step, the secret history of Charles the First and his early Parliaments. I have entered into their feelings, while I have supplied new facts, to make everything as present and as true as my faithful diligence could repeat the tale. It was necessary that I should sometimes judge of the first race of our patriots as some of their contemporaries did ; but it was impossible to avoid correcting these notions by the more enlarged views of their posterity. This is the privilege of an historian and the philosophy of his art. There is no apology for the king, nor any declamation for the subject. Were we only to decide by the final results of this great conflict, of which what we have here narrated is but the faint beginning, we should confess that Sir John Eliot and his party were the first fathers of our political existence; and we should not withhold from them the inex. pressible gratitude of a nation's freedom ! But human infirmity mortifies us in the noblest pursuits of man; and we must be taught this penitential and chastising wisdom. The story of our patriots is involved; Charles appears to have been lowering those high notions of his prerogative, which were not peculiar to him, and was throwing himself on the bosom of his people. The severe and unrelenting conduct of Sir John Eliot, his prompt eloquence and bold invective, well fitted him for the leader of a party. He was the lodestone, drawing together the looser particles of iron. Never sparing, in the monarch, the errors of the man, never relinquishing his royal prey, which he had fastened on, Eliot, with Dr. Turner and some others, contributed to make Charles disgusted with all parliaments. Without any dangerous concessions, there was more than one moment when they might have reconciled the sovereign to themselves, and not have driven him to the fatal resource of attempting to reign without a parliament ! least guilty of the fatal breach, being only misled by some other Machiavelian politics, who seemed zealous for the liberty of the commonwealth, and by that means, in the moving of their outward freedom, drew the votes of those good men to their side."

Since the publication of the present article, I have composed my Commentaries on the Life and Reign of Charles the First," in five volumes.

VOL. III.

II

THE RUMP. Text and commentary! The French Revolution abounds with wonderful “ explanatory notes” on the English. It has cleared up many obscure passages-and in the political history of Man, both pages must be read together.

The opprobrious and ludicrous nickname of “the Rump," stigmatised a faction which played the same part in the English Revolution as the “Montagne” of the Jacobins did in the French. It has been imagined that our English Jacobins were impelled by a principle different from that of their modern rivals ; but the madness of avowed atheism, and the frenzy of hypocritical sanctity, in the circle of crimes meet at the same point. Their history forms one of those useful parallels where, with truth as unerring as mathematical demonstration, we discover the identity of human nature. Similarity of situation, and certain principles, producing similar personages and similar events, finally settle in the same results. The Rump, as long as human nature exists, can be nothing but the Rump, however it may be thrown uppermost.

The origin of this political by-name has often been inquired into; and it is somewhat curious, that, though all parties consent to reprobate it, each assigns for it a different allusion. In the history of political factions there is always a mixture of the ludicrous with the tragic; but, except their modern brothers, no faction like the present ever excited such a combination of extreme contempt and extreme borror.

Among the rival parties in 1659, the loyalists and the presbyterians acted as we may suppose the Tories and the Whigs would in the same predicament; a secret reconciliation had taken place, to bury in oblivion their former jealousies, that they might unite to rid themselves from that tyranny of tyrannies, a hydra-beaded government; or, as Hume observes, that “all efforts should be used for the overthrow of the Rump; so they called the parliament, in allusion to that part of the animal body.” The sarcasm of the allusion seemed obvious to our polished historian; yet, looking more narrowly for its origin, we shall find how indistinct were the notions of this nickname among those who lived nearer to the times. Evelyn says that “the Rump parliament was so called as containing some few rotten members of the other.” Roger Coke describes it thus: “You must now be content with a

and a

piece of the Commons called 'the Rump.' And Carte calls the Rump, " the carcass of a house," and seems not precisely aware of the contemptuous allusion. But how do "rotten members” and “a carcass” agree with the notion of " Rump?” Recently the editor of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson has conveyed a novel origin. “The number of the members of the Long Parliament having been by seclusion, death, &c., very much reduced,”—a remarkable &c. this! by which our editor seems adroitly to throw a veil over the forcible transportation by the Rumpers of two hundred members at one swoop,

-“the remainder was compared to the rump of a fowl which was left, all the rest being eaten.” Our editor even considers this to be “a coarse emblem ;" yet “the rump of a fowl" could hardly offend even a lady's delicacy! Our editor, probably, was somewhat anxious not to degrade too lowly the anti-monarchical party, designated by this opprobrious term. Perhaps it is pardonable in Mrs. Macaulay, an historical lady,

Rumper,” for she calls the “ Levellers” a “ brave and virtuous party,” to have passed over in her history any mention of the offensive term at all, as well as the ridiculous catastrophe which they underwent in the political revolution, which, however, we must beg leave not to pass by.

This party-coinage has been ascribed to Clement Walker, their bitter antagonist; who, having sacrificed no inconsiderable fortune to the cause of what he considered constitutional liberty, was one of the violent ejected members of the Long Parliament, and perished in prison, a victim to honest, unbending principles. His “ History of Independency" is a rich legacy bequeathed to posterity, of all their great misdoings, and their petty villanies, and, above all, of their secret history. One likes to know of what blocks the idols of the people are sometimes carved out.

Clement Walker notices “the votes and acts of this fag end; this RUMP of a parliament, with corrupt maggots in it."* This hideous, but descriptive image of "The Rump" had, however, got forward before, for the collector of “the Rump Songs”'t tells us, “ If you ask who named it Rump, know 'twas so styled in an honest sheet of prayer, called The Bloody Rump,' written before the trial of our late sovereign ; but the word obtained not universal notice,

History of Independency, Part II. p. 32. + First collected and published in 1661, and afterwards reprinted in two small vols. 1731.

till it flew from the mouth of Major-General Brown, at a public assembly in the days of Richard Cromwell.” Thus it happens that a stinging nickname has been frequently applied to render a faction eternally odious; and the chance expression of a wit, when adopted on some public occasion, circulates among a whole people. The present nickname originated in derision on the expulsion of the majority of the Long Parliament by the usurping minority. It probably slept ; for who would have stirred it through the Protectorate ? and finally awakened at Richard's restored, but fleeting “Rump,” to witness its own ridiculous extinction.

Our Rump passed through three stages in its political progress. Preparatory to the trial of the sovereign, the anti-monarchical party constituted the minority in "the Long Parliament:" the very name by which this parliament is recognised seemed a grievance to an impatient people, vacillating with chimerical projects of government, and now accustomed, from a wild indefinite notion of political equality, to pull down all existing institutions. Such was the temper of the times, that an act of the most violent injustice, openly performed, served only as the jest of the day, a jest which has passed into history. The forcible expulsion of two hundred of their brother members, by those who afterwards were saluted as “The Rump,” was called “Pride's Purge," from the activity of a colonel of that name, a military adventurer, who was only the blind and brutal instrument of his party; for when he stood at the door of the Commons, holding a paper with the names of the members, he did not personally know one! And his “ Purge” might have operated a quite opposite effect, administered by his own unskilful hand, had not Lord Grey of Groby, and the door-keeper,worthy dispersers of the British senate!-pointed out the obnoxious members, on whom our colonel laid his hand, and sent off by his men to be detained, if a bold member, or to be deterred from sitting in the house, if a frightened one. This colonel had been a drayman; and the contemptible knot of the Commons, reduced to fifty or sixty confederates, which assembled after his “ Purge,” were called “ Colonel Pride's Dray-Horses.”

It was this Rump which voted the death of the sovereign, and abolished the regal office, and the House of Peers—as “ unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous!" Every office in parliament seemed " dangerous," but that of the “Custodes libertatis Angliæ,” the keepers of the liberties of England ! or rather “the gaolers !" " " The legislative half-quarter of the House of Commons!” indignantly exclaims Clement Walker—the “Montagne" of the French revolutionists!

The “ Red-coats” as the military were nicknamed, soon taught their masters," the Rumpers," silence and obedience: the latter having raised one colossal man for their own purpose, were annihilated by him at a single blow. Cromwell, five years after, turned them out of their house, and put the keys into his pocket. Their last public appearance was in the fleeting days of Richard Cromwell, when the comi-tragedy of “the Rump” concluded by a catastrophe as ludicrous as that of Tom I'humb's tragedy !

How such a faction used their instruments to gather in the common spoil, and how their instruments at length converted the hands which held them into instruments themselves, appears in their history. When “the Long Parliament” opposed the designs of Cromwell and Ireton, these chiefs cried up “ the liberty of the people," and denied the authority of parliament:" but when they had effectuated their famous "purge,” and formed a House of Commons of themselves, they abolished the House of Lords, crying up the supreme authority of the House of Commons, and crying down the liberty of the people. Such is the history of political factions, as well as of statesmen! Charles the Fifth alternately made use of the Pope's authority to subdue the rising spirit of the Protestants of Germany, or raised an army of Protestants to imprison the Pope! who branded his German allies by the novel and odious name of Lutherans. A chain of similar facts may be framed out of modern history.

The “Rump," as they were called by every one but their own party, became a whetstone for the wits to sharpen themselves on; and we have two large collections of “ Rump Songs,” curious chronicles of popular feeling !* Without this evidence we should not have been so well informed respecting the phases of this portentous phenomenon. "The Rump” was celebrated in verse, till at length it became "the Rump of a Rump of a Rump!" as Foulis traces them to their

The first collection ever formed of these political satires was printed in 1660, with the quaint title of “Ratts rhimed to Death ; or, the Rump. parliament hang'd up in the Shambles.”

« VorigeDoorgaan »