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THOMAS WENTWORTH, Earl of Strafford, was descended from a very ancient family in Yorkshire, and was eldest son of Sir William Wentworth, of Wentworth Woodhouse, in that county, Bart., by Anue, daughter of Robert Atkinson, of Stowell, in the county of Gloucester, He was born April 13, 1593, in Chancery Lane, London, in the house of Mr. Atkinson, his grandfather, and educated in St. John's College, Cambridge. In the year 1611, he married the Lady Margaret, eldest daughter of Francis, Earl of Cumberland, and was knighted; and the same year travelled into France. On his return to England, he was chosen to serve in parliament, as knight of the shire for the county of York; and his father dying in 1614, he succeeded to the title of Bart. In 1622, his lady dying, he again married Lady Arabella Holles, younger daughter of the Earl of Clare, a lady highly accomplished in mind and person. He married a third time, in 1631, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Godfrey Rhones.
His name occurs early in the annals of the unfortunate Charles I.; and Wentworth, so celebrated for his loyalty and devotion to his sovereign, was at first one of the most eager to oppose the measures of his government. In the House of Commons he associated himself with those who were most conspicuous for their uncommon capacity, and the extent of their views. Animated with a warm regard for liberty, they saw, with regret, an unbounded power exercised by the crown, and were resolved to seize the opportunity which the king's necessities offered them, of reducing the prerogative within a more reasonable compass. Though their ancestors had blindly yielded to practices and precedents favourable to the royal power,
and had yet been able to preserve some small remains of liberty, it appeared to them impossible, while all these pretensions were methodized and prosecuted by the increasing knowledge of the age, to maintain any shadow of popular government, in opposition to such unlimited authority in the sovereign. It was necessary to make a choice, either to abandon entirely the privileges of the people, or to secure them by firmer and more precise barriers, than the constitution had hitherto provided for them. Men of their aspiring genius and independent fortunes, could not long deliberate. They boldly embraced the side of freedom, and resolved to grant no supplies to their necessitous prince, without extorting concessions in favour of civil liberty. The end, they conceived, sufficient and noble; the means, regular and constitutional. To grant or refuse supplies, was the undoubted privilege of the Commons; and as all human governments, particularly those of a mixed nature, are in continual fluctuation, it was natural and allowable, in their opinion, for popular assemblies to take advantage of favourable incidents, in order to secure the liberties of the subject. With pleasure, therefore, they beheld the king involved in difficulties, which promised to render him, every year, more dependent upon the parliament.
Sir Thomas Wentworth, at first, favoured these sentiments with a characteristic warmth and cordiality which gave considerable umbrage to the court. In 1625, he was made sheriff of Yorkshire, in order to prevent his serving in parliament; and in May, 1627, was committed a prisoner to the Marshalsea, by the Lords of the Council, for refusing his sanction to the royal loan, and afterwards confined at Dartford, in Kent, but was released after a few months imprisonment. In the parliament which began to sit in 1628, he served again as knight for his own county, and exerted himself again, with great vigour,
against the administration of the government, insisting upon the petition of rights, and proposing, what passed into a resolution of the house, that the redress of grievances, and the granting of supplies, should go hand in hand. There was a bold and manly style of eloquence in those days, with a simplicity of diction and an energy in their complaints, which render their debates highly interesting, and some specimens, we persuade ourselves, will not be unpleasing to our readers. "I read," said Sir Robert Philips, among the old Romans, that once every year they held a solemn festival, in which their slaves had liberty, without exception, to speak what they pleased, in order to ease their afflicted minds; and on the conclusion of the festival, the slaves severally returned to their former servitude. This institution may, with some exceptions, well set forth our present state and condition. After the revolution of some time, and the grievous sufferance of many violent oppressions, we have now obtained, for a day, some liberty of speech. Yet, what new burthens our estates and persons have groaned under, my heart yearns to think of, and my tongue faulters to utter." After indignantly enumerating the illegal judgments passed within his memory, the new and unwarrantable impositions, and the many arbitrary imprisonments, he proceeded, "I can live, though another who has no right, be put to live along with me; nay, I can live, though burthened with impositions beyond what at present I labour under; but, to have my liberty, which is the soul of my life, ravished from me-to have my person pent up in a jail, without relief by law, and to be so adjudged.-O improvident ancestors! O unwise fore-fathers! to be so curious in providing for the quiet possession of our lands, and the liberties of parliament, and at the same time, to neglect our personal liberty, and let us lie in prison; and that during pleasure, without redress or remedy! If this be law, why do we talk of liberty? Why