Page images

which ordinary troops must be ever strangers. But the parliamentary party enjoyed another vast ad. yantage in the very constitution of a popular as. sembly Enterprise and talent looked thither for distinction, well assured that as they could not long be hid from the public eye, so they could not long be confined to an inferior station. The voice of the people and the army itself recommended abilities, and the necessity of employing these could pot be, for any considerable period, overlooked or disregarded. Nothing of the kind could be expected from the opposite side. As, after his disappointment in regard to seizing Portsmouth and Hull, and arming a body of mercenaries—papists, or desperadoes, to crush the legislative assembly before it could be in a condition to make a struggle, Charles was obliged to throw himself in a manner upon a portion of the great aristocracy, so he was obliged to nominate them to the chief commands without regard to their qualifications; and, though some experienced soldiers were allowed to hold a certain rank in the army, it followed, from the nature of things, that, had he displaced men of a high sphere, for abilities in an inferior walk of life, he would have offended the whole and been deserted. Besides, he could not be guided by the popular voice when he had not its support, and it seldom happens that an individual, who has been born to the rank of sovereignty, has either the quick discernment, or the manliness of, a popular assembly in the selection of his servants. Accustomed to

too often misled by the minions of his court, and bestows upon those who re-echo his preconceived purposes, the places to which talent and virtue should be alone assigned *. Hence it happened, that the royalist officers were distinguished by gross habits of dissipation and inattention to the duties of their calling, while the parliamentary officers were contradistinguished by the strictest decency of deportment and indefatigable industry in their stations.

From this view, it must appear strange that the king should have been able for such a length of time to maintain the contest; but, in truth, he was no longer successful than while the operation of these causes in regard to his adversaries was suspended. So many of the peerage had left the parliament, that Charles had obtained an advantage in denying it the character of a free assembly: Had, therefore, the remainder deserted to him, the im. putation would have been confirmed, and the character of the parliament, as comprehending both houses, would have sustained a serious injury. It was, on this account, deemed necessary to gratify the remainder, by conferring offices upon them; and as few of them were either imbued with the resolution demanded by the exigency,—having al. ways a regard to their exclusive privileges, which might be endangered by the conflict, whatever side prevailed,-or were endowed with the qualities demanded by the occasion, they counteracted for a time the vigour of other principles, and brought a

* See even Clar. vol. iv. p. 481, 551, et seq.

great portion of those disadvantages upon the parliament that the monarch laboured under.

The absurd notions prevalent upon the art of war, as if military tactics involved some mystery which could only be acquired by long practice, had also an unfavourable effect. Inured to peace, the people for a season confided only in officers who had returned from the Continent, with that knowledge of the military art which it was erroneously supposed could only be attained there * ; and the old soldiers, who carried with them to the field all the timid notions of warfare practised abroad in mercenary armies, were exceedingly prized and generally consulted. But it is extraordinary that, with the exception of Skippon, not one of these on either side distinguished himself. In this art, as in most, if not all, others, great abi. lity will soon acquire all the knowledge and dexterity which are requisite for command ; and in. stead of servilely following the dull rules which have been handed down unquestioned from one generation to another, it will scrupulously examine the principles on which they are founded, and either strike out a new path for itself, or improve the art in so far as it is established; while the ardour of men whose souls are thrown into the cause, disdains the cautious, timid, policy displayed by soldiers of fortune, who, when opposed to each other, appear to esteem it their highest praise to preserve their troops unhurt. The listless inacti. yity of ordinary troops too, whose officers are pro

* Ludlow, vol. i. p. 46.

moted from connection, cannot stand the shock of that fervour which possesses a popular army, where the whole mass, stimulated with the hope of rapid, if merited, advancement, rouse every faculty into exertion. Accordingly we shall find that, immediately after the new model of the parliamentary army, the decisive measures of its generals were every where successful. On the 25th of August, Charles erected his Charles

erects his standard at Nottingham ; but though that county, standard at

Nottingthrough the influence of the Earl of Newcastle, was much devoted to the royal cause, the king was Aug. 1642. greatly disappointed in the number that flocked to him. His artillery had been left at York, and his chief strength consisted in the cavalry, which is said not to have exceeded 800. The Earl of Lindsay, as having served with reputation in the Low Countries, was appointed general, Prince Rupert, the king's nephew, commanded the horse. He, with his brother Maurice, sons of the late Elector Palatine, came to England and proffered their services to Charles, which were accepted of, while their brother, the ex-Elector, as if they had been actuated by the policy which distinguished some noble families, and afterwards the Scots, sedulously applied himself to the popular party in parliament to interest them in the recovery of the palatinate *. Many ill omens occurred to terrify

* Clar. State Papers, vol. ii. p. 150. Whitelocke, p. 85. May, lib. iii. p. 12, et seq. This very Elector had been obliged to leave England, from having so warmly espoused the royal cause, as to accompany Charles in his violent entrance into the lower house.

the king and his adherents; in particular the standard was blown down by a tempestuous wind, and could not be re-erected for a day or two-a circumstance which is related with religious awe by Clarendon. Had the parliamentary army, which at this time far exceeded the king's, been brought into action, the royal forces must have been instantly dissipated : even Sir Jacob Astley, the king's standard-bearer, declared that he could not give any assurance against his majesty's being taken out of his bed, if a brisk attempt were made : but decisive measures were not yet consentaneous either to the feelings of the general or the parliament *. From the same motives, another opportunity was lost: indeed matters were in so unprecedented a situation, that it is not wonderful the parliament should have acted with indecision. Though the royal forces had been routed, a fresh army might have been collected by Charles; and the termination of one war have been shortly followed by another, unless he were taken prisoner, and the whole frame of the government altered. But this was not suited to the temper of the times, and, therefore, it was probably imagined that the king, after perceiving the strength of his adversa. ries, and his own inability to continue the contest, for it was not supposed that his forces would be immediately augmented, would, without sustaining the dishonour of a defeat, submit to the propositions which he had previously rejected. Having

[ocr errors]

• Clar. vol. ii. p. 715; vol. iii. p. 1, et seg. Whitelocke, p. 61.

« PreviousContinue »