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The trial of the regicides was not to be delayed till the angry loyalty of the time might have opportunity to grow cool and merciful. No sooner was Parliament dispersed, than a special commission, constituted of thirtyfour persons,— great officers of state and others, — was assembled to judge and to doom. The trials lasted ten days. Twenty-nine persons were arraigned, all of whom were convicted and sentenced. The punishment of nineteen was, by a royal grace, commuted for imprisonment. The rest suffered death with all the horrible accompaniments prescribed by the English law of treason as it then stood. Among them were Colonel Axtel and Colonel Hacker, who respectively were in command of the guard at the King's trial and at his execution; Coke, who had acted as public prosecutor; and Major-General Harrison." The remains of Cromwell, Bradshaw, and Ireton were disinterred, and hung on gibbets in conspicuous places of London.
The fate of one of the sufferers at this time appealed especially to the compassion of the people of New England. Hugh Peter had been one of the Company of Massachusetts Bay before the emigration. Following the pioneers almost immediately, he became the admired minister of one of their churches, a counsellor largely trusted through a period when the new social fabric was in imminent danger of overthrow, and a contriver and guide in methods of industry which proved to be copious sources of public wealth. He had established what seemed a permanent position in New England, and had given his step-daughter in marriage to Governor
Trial of the regicides.
* “Exact and most Impartial Accompt of the Indictment, Arraignment, Trial, and Judgment (according to Law) of twenty-nine Regicides, the Murtherers of his late Sacred Majesty of most Glorious Memory, ..... together with a Summary of the Dark and Horrid Decrees of those Caballists, prepara
tory to that Hellish Fact, exposed to View for the Reader's Satisfaction, and Information of Posterity.” A book of more horrible fascination than this is scarcely to be found. The several methods of defence are extraordinary illustrations of the characters and ways
of thinking of the several prisoners.
Winthrop's eldest son. But, after seven years' residence, he returned to England, early in the civil war, with the purpose — if one of the witnesses on his trial reported truly his unguarded talk — of “stirring up of this war and driving of it on.” He became a prominent “agitator” among the soldiers.” He put himself forward at the trial of Laud, and at the execution of that prelate stood armed upon the scaffold. At the siege of Bridgewater, the siege of Winchester, and the storming of Bristol, he did active service. In Cromwell's conquest of Ireland, he is said to have “led a brigade against the rebels;” and to have “come off with honor and victory.”* “Drogheda is taken,” he wrote from that place to the Speaker, “three thousand five hundred and fifty-two of the enemy slain, and sixtyfour of ours; . . . . . Ashton, the Governor, killed, none spared. . . . . . I come now from giving thanks in the great church.” When the arms of the Commonwealth had completely triumphed, he withdrew from the military service; and he was one of the household chaplains who stood by the Protector's death-bed.* He had not been a member of the court which condemned the King. What the public prosecutor undertook to prove against him was, “that he was a chief conspirator with Cromwell at several times and in several places, and that it [the King's death] was designed by them; . . . . . he was the principal person to procure the soldiery to cry out “Justice justice l’ or assist or desire those for the taking away the life of the King; . . . . . he preached many sermons to the soldiery in direct terms for taking away the King, comparing the King to Barabbas; he was instrumental when the proclamation for the High Court of Justice (as they called it) was proclaimed, directing where it should be proclaimed and in what place; when the King was brought upon the stage, that mock-work, he was the person that stirred up the soldiery below to cry for justice.” The third day after their trial, Peter and the Solicitor, John Coke, who had been one of the prosecutors of the m... late King, were dragged on hurdles from Newtion. gate gaol to the place of their execution, at Char** ing Cross. Their sentences were the same. Coke suffered first. He was hanged by the neck, and then cut down alive. His body, after other mutilation, was opened, and the bowels were taken out and burned. Then came the merciful blow which severed the head from the body; and lastly the body was cut into four parts for permanent exhibition in as many places. The executioner—his arms red to the shoulders with this slaughter—approached the other victim, and asked, “Mr. Peter, how like you the work 2" “You have butchered one of the servants of God before my eyes,” replied the sturdy man, “and have forced me to see it, in order to terrify and discourage me; but God has permitted it for my support and encouragement.” Truly had Sir Ferdinando Gorges said of him thirty years before, that “his courage was not inferior to any” The head of Coke and that of General Harrison were set on poles at the northeast end of Westminster Hall, looking towards London; and the head of Mr. Peter on London Bridge. The offences of Peter against royalty had been substantially the same as those of numbers who escaped unquestioned. As his death may be interpreted as a sacrifice on the tomb of Laud, so the doom of another eminent actor in New England affairs was a propitiatory offering to the manes of Strafford. The conviction of that nobleman had been brought about through a disclosure, by Sir Henry Vane, of matters which came to his knowledge from papers of his father. In respect to the death of so Henry King Charles, Vane was entirely blameless. He ". had taken no part in the transaction at any stage; he had protested against the project, from the moment of his first knowledge of it; and, when it had been carried into effect, he showed his displeasure by withdrawing for a time from Parliament and from participation in public affairs. Though he felt bound not to withhold his great abilities from the service of the country that rejected his counsel, he never lent himself to the personal elevation of Cromwell; and, during five years before the Protector's death, he had been part of the time self banished from court, and part of the time in prison. The hour had not yet arrived when a prosecution of Vane would have been prudent. Dreamy recluse as he was apt to become when emergency and opportunity did not summon into exercise the practical sagacity, promptness, vigor, and resource, in which no man, in that age of memorable men, surpassed him, it cannot be said that he was ever a general favorite. But his great qualities and services, his unimpeached disinterestedness, and his independence of spirit, made him the object of a veneration which, marked as he was for vengeance, was for the present his safeguard. When, after two years, Lord Clarendon's skilful politics, and an extravagant reaction of the public mind, had made the mitre and the crown seem to their wearers omnipotent, the time was ripe for reckoning with Henry Vane. Denied the aid of counsel, he con- no. ducted his own defence in a manner worthy of "". his character for ability, and greatly adding to his reputation for courage. His unanswerable reasoning, to the effect that the indictment charged him with no acts but such as, according to the strictest tenor of the law of England, were consistent with the duty of a good citizen during a suspension of the established government, made no impression upon judges who had predetermined his fate. He was convicted, and sentenced to die as a traitor. The King, who had induced the Convention House of Commons to except him from the Act of Indemnity, by a promise, conveyed through Lord Clarendon, that, if convicted, he should receive a pardon, now wrote to that minister, “He is too dangerous a man to let live, if we can honestly put him out of the way.” Some of the horrible accompaniments of the penalty of treason were remitted. He was beheaded on Tower Hill. He was magnanimous and intrepid to the end. “Father, glorify thy servant in the sight of man,” were his last words, “that he may glorify thee in the discharge of his duty to thee and to his country.” Of the executions of actors in the late troubles, Vane's was the last. Lambert, excepted with him in the Act of general amnesty, had now ceased to be cared about. He was sentenced to die, but the punishment was commuted for perpetual imprisonment. He lived twenty-three years in gaol on the island of Guernsey and at Plymouth, and then died in the communion of the Church of Rome. Three other persons owed their fate to the newly awakened loyalty of a New-England man,— a man eminent among the most able and the most unworthy that the venerable University of Massachusetts has reared. Emanuel Downing, of the Inner Temple, who had married a sis. is ter of Governor Winthrop, followed him to New * England after a few years, bringing with the rest of his family his son George, who became a member of the class first graduated at the American Cambridge.”
* Ibid., 155; comp. Vol. I. 582. when he visited Peter in London, was * See Peter, “A Word for the Armie told by him that the room in which and Two Words to the Kingdome,” &c. they were sitting had formerly belonged * Whitelocke, Memorials, 426. to “Canterbury” (Laud), and that Par* Peter was one of Cromwell's Triers liament had also given him the Arch(see above, p. 292). Roger Williams, bishop's library. (Knowles, 262.)
* “The courage of Sir H. Vane at comp. “A Windication of that Prudent his death is talked on everywhere as a and Honorable Knight, Sir Henry miracle.” (Pepys, Memoirs, 277; comp. Vane, from the Lies and Calumnies of 275,276.) Pepys saw the execution. Mr. Richard Baxter,” &c. 1659.)
Vane's impracticable republicanism * His name stands second on the list was very offensive to Richard Baxter. of the seven thousand alumni ; that of (See Reliq. Baxterian., L 74-76; Benjamin Woodbridge, who also went