Long Parliament - September 24, 1640–December 5, 1648 Establishment, Trial of Strafford, Implicating The King, Reconci

September 24, 1640–December 5, 1648 Establishment, Trial of Strafford, Implicating The King, Reconci

The sole reason Charles I assembled Parliament in 1640 was to ask it to pass finance bills, since the Bishops' Wars had bankrupted him. Instead, the Parliament quickly proceeded to impeach William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury, of high treason, on 18 December. John Finch was impeached the following day, and he consequently fled to the Hague with Charles's permission on 21 December.

The Parliament was initially influenced by John Pym (1584–1643) and his supporters. Pym rose in his place and entered into a particular enumeration of the troubles of the kingdom. Early in the Long Parliament's proceedings the house unanimously accused the Earl of Strafford of high treason, and other crimes and misdemeanors. The incident provided a new departure for Irish politics whereby Old English, Gaelic Irish and New English settlers joined together in a legal body to present evidence against Strafford. However, the evidence supplied indirectly by Henry Vane the Elder through his son in relation to Strafford's alleged improper use and threat to England via the Irish army was not corroborated by Vane. Vane the Elder was on the King's Privy council and completely loyal to the King. On 10 April, Pym's case collapsed, but Pym made a direct appeal to the Younger Vane to produce a copy of the notes from the King's Privy council, discovered by the younger Vane and secretly turned over to Pym, to the great anguish of the Elder Vane. These notes obtained by Henry Vane the Younger written in the King's Privy Council by the elder Vane, were then confirmed by independent testimony. Lord Stafford had told the King, "Sir, you have done your duty, and your subjects have failed in theirs; and therefore you are absolved from the rules of government, and may supply yourself by extraordinary ways; you have an army in Ireland, with which you may reduce the kingdom." Parliament as representatives of the people felt betrayed.

Strafford was considered guilty of raising an Irish army to reduce England for the purpose of generating revenues and abolishing English freedoms. Pym immediately launched a Bill of Attainder, asserting Strafford's guilt and that the Earl be put to death. Charles, however, guaranteed Strafford that he would not sign the attainder, without which the bill could not be passed. Furthermore, the Lords were opposed to the severity of the sentence of death imposed upon Strafford. But increased tensions and an attempted coup by the army in support of Strafford began to sway the issue. On 21 April, in the Commons the Bill went virtually unopposed (204 in favour, 59 opposed, and 250 abstained), the Lords acquiesced, and Charles, fearing for the safety of his family, signed on 10 May. The Earl of Strafford was beheaded two days later.

The King himself being thereby implicated, the Long Parliament passed the Triennial Act, also known as the Dissolution Act, in May 1641, to which the Royal Assent was readily granted. In the meantime both Parliament and the King agreed to an independent investigation of the king's involvement in Strafford's plot. This Triennial Act required Parliament to be summoned at least once every three years, and stipulated that when the King failed to issue proper summons, the members could assemble on their own. This act also forbade ship money without Parliament's consent, fines in destraint of knighthood and forced loans were declared unlawful, monopolies were cut back severely, and the Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission were abolished by the Habeas Corpus Act 1640 and the Triennial Act 1641. The very doctrine of modern freedoms, have to some degree, their origins in these acts. All remaining forms of taxation were legalised and regulated by the Tonnage and Poundage Act. On 3 May, Parliament decreed The Protestation, attacking the 'wicked counsels' of Charles's government, whereby those who signed the petition undertook to defend 'the true reformed religion', parliament, and the king's person, honour and estate. Throughout May, the House of Commons launched several bills attacking bishops and episcopalianism in general, each time defeated in the Lords.

Although he made several important concessions, Charles improved his own military position by securing the favour of the Scots that summer by promising the official establishment of Presbyterianism. In return, he was able to enlist considerable anti-parliamentary support. However, following the attempted coup of 'The Incident' in Scotland, Charles's credibility was significantly undermined.

The Irish Rebellion, which started in October 1641, brought the control of the army back into the discussions between King and Parliament. Led by John Pym, Parliament presented the King with the Grand Remonstrance which was passed in the House of Commons by 11 votes (159–148) on 22 November 1641. It listed over 150 perceived "misdeeds" of Charles' reign including the Church (under the influence of foreign papists) and royal advisers (also "have engaged themselves to further the interests of some foreign powers") the second half of the Remonstrance proposed solutions to the "misdeeds" including church reform and Parliamentary influence over the appointment of royal ministers. December 1641 Parliament asserted that it wanted control over the appointment of the commanders of the Army and Navy in the Militia Ordinance. The king rejected the Grand Remonstrance and refused to give royal assent to the militia bill.

The King believed that Puritans (or Dissenters) encouraged by five vociferous members of the House of Commons, John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, Arthur Haselrig and William Strode along with Viscount Mandeville (the future Earl of Manchester) who sat in the House of Lords, had encouraged the Scots to invade England in the recent Bishops' Wars and that they were intent on turning the London mob against him. When rumours reached the court that they were also planning to impeach the Queen for alleged involvement in Catholic plots, Charles decided to arrest them for treason. The counterclaim was that the King had an Irish army set to reduce the kingdom.

The Speaker of the House during the Long Parliament was William Lenthall. On Tuesday, 4 January 1642, the King entered the House of Commons to seize the five members and took the speaker's chair. Having looked around in vain for the five members and commenting "I see the birds have flown", Charles turned to Lenthall, who stood below and demanded of him whether any of those persons were in the House, whether he saw any of them and where they were. Lenthall fell on his knees and replied: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here."

After his failure to capture the five members and fearing for his family's lives, Charles left London for Oxford. Most of the royalist members of Parliament joined him there, where they formed the Oxford Parliament. The Long Parliament continued to sit during and beyond the Civil War without its royalist members, because of the Dissolution Act.

In March 1642 with the King absent from London and war clouds gathering, Parliament decreed that its own Parliamentary Ordinances were valid laws, even without royal assent. The Militia Ordinance was passed on 5 March by Parliament and gave Parliament control of the local militia called Trained Bands. Control of the London trained bands was the most strategically critical, because they could protect the radical members of Parliament from armed intervention against them by any soldiers which Charles had near the capital. In response to the Militia Ordinance, Charles revived the Commissions of Array as a means of summoning an army instead.

For events between 1642 and 1648, See First English Civil War

In 1645 Parliament reaffirmed its determination to fight the war to a finish. It passed the Self-denying Ordinance, by which all members of either House of Parliament laid down their commands, and re-organized its main forces into the New Model Army ("Army"), under the command of Thomas Fairfax, with Cromwell as his second-in-command and Lieutenant-General of Horse. In two decisive engagements—the Battle of Naseby on 14 June and the Battle of Langport on 10 July—the Parliamentarians effectively destroyed Charles' armies.

In the remains of his English realm Charles attempted to recover a stable base of support by consolidating the Midlands. He began to form an axis between Oxford and Newark on Trent in Nottinghamshire. Those towns had become fortresses and showed more reliable loyalty to him than to others. He took Leicester, which lies between them, but found his resources exhausted. Having little opportunity to replenish them, in May 1646 he sought shelter with a Presbyterian Scottish army at Southwell in Nottinghamshire. Charles was eventually handed over to the English Parliament by the Scots and was imprisoned. This marked the end of the First English Civil War.

Eventually King Charles I did cooperate with the independent investigation made by the house on the policies of his administration and a political stalemate was essentially determined. In 1648, Parliament determined that it was not to abjure the King's person. "During the negotiations with the King, he manifested a fixed resolution to do all that could be done to make the best of the opportunity the country then enjoyed, of securing to itself the blessings of liberty." Eventually King Charles I's terms of reforming the government as proposed by the Long Parliament were accepted by the House at a vote of 129 to 83 on 1 December 1648, allowing for the King's restoration and the end of the stalemate between Parliament and the King. Legally, this should have ended the Civil War and restored the King with limited powers.

Read more about this topic:  Long Parliament

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