Causes of the Civil War in England



KING JAMES, in the end of March 1625, died, leaving his majesty that now is engaged in a war with Spain; but unprovided with money to manage it, though it was undertaken by the consent and advice of parliament, the people being naturally enough inclined to the war (having surfeited with the uninterrupted pleasures and plenty of twenty-two years of peace) and sufficiently inflamed against the Spaniard, but quickly weary of the charge of it. Therefore, after an unprosperous attempt by sea on Cadiz, and a still more unsuccessful one on France, at the Isle of Re (for some difference had also begotten a war with that country), a general peace was shortly concluded with both kingdoms.

The exchequer was exhausted by the debts of King James and the war, so that the known revenue was anticipated and the king was driven into straits for his own support. Many ways were resorted to for supply, such as selling the crown lands, creating peers for money, and other particulars which no access of power or plenty could since repair.

Parliaments were summoned, and again dissolved; and that in the fourth year after the dissolution of the two former was determined with a declaration that no more assemblies of that nature should be expected, and all men should be inhibited on the penalty of censure so much as to speak of a parliament.

And here I cannot but let myself loose to say that no man can show me a source from whence these waters of bitterness we now taste have probably flowed than from these unseasonable, unskillful and precipitate dissolutions of parliaments. And whoever considers the acts of power and injustice in the intervals between parliaments will not be much scandalized at the warmth and vivacity displayed in their meetings.

In the second parliament it was proposed to grant five subsidies, a proportion (how contemptible so ever in respect of the pressures now every day imposed) never before heard of in parliament. And that meeting being upon very unpopular and implausible reasons immediately dissolved, those five subsidies were exacted throughout the whole kingdom with the same rigour as if in truth an act had passed to that purpose. And very many gentlemen of prime quality in all counties were, for refusing to pay the same, committed to prison.

The abrupt and ungracious breaking of the first two parliaments was wholly imputed to the duke of Buckingham by his favour with the king; and of the third, principally to the Lord Weston, then High Treasurer of England. And therefore the envy and hatred that attended them thereupon was insupportable, and was visibly the cause of the murder of the first (stabbed to the heart by the hand of an obscure villain).

Shortly after Buckingham's death the king promoted Dr. Laud, bishop of Bath and Wells, to the archbishopric of Canterbury. Unjust modes of raising money were instituted, which caused increasing discontent, especially the tax denominated ship money. A writ was directed to the sheriff of every county to provide a ship for the king's service, but with the writ were sent instructions that, instead of a ship, he should levy upon his county a sum of money for his majesty's use.

After the continued receipt of the ship money for four years, upon the refusal of Mr. Hampden, a private gentleman, to pay his share, the case was solemnly argued before all the judges of England in the exchequer chamber, and the tax was judged lawful; which judgement proved of more advantage and credit to the gentleman condemned than to the king's service.

THE king now resolved to make a progress into the north and to be solemnly crowned in his kingdom of Scotland, which he had never seen from the time he first left it at the age of two years. He had deeply imbibed his father's notions that an episcopal church was the most consistent with the royal authority, and he committed to a select number of the bishops in Scotland the framing of a liturgy for use there.

In 1638 Scotland assumed an attitude of determined resistance to the imposition of a liturgy and of episcopal church government. All the kingdom flocked to Edinburgh, as in a general cause that concerned their salvation. A general assembly was called and a national covenant was subscribed. Men were listed towards the raising of an army, Colonel Leslie being chosen general. The king thought it time to chastise the seditious by force, and in the end of the year 1638 declared his resolution to raise an army to suppress their rebellion.

This was the first alarm England received towards any trouble, after it had enjoyed for so many years the most uninterrupted prosperity in a full and plentiful peace that any nation could be blessed with. The army was soon mustered and the king went to the borders. But negotiations for peace took place and civil war was averted by concessions on the part of the king, so that a treaty of pacification was entered upon. This event happened in the year 1639.





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