« PreviousContinue »
worthy volumes, that the story has never been told us of the part which the Massachusetts colory played in favor of English Liberty within the first twenty years of its settlement. It was a select Providence which brought our young statesman to these shores to take his novitiate.
But no young man of his rank, manners, nobleness of carriage, and, shall we say it, of his long hair, could expect to enter that colony without learning that it is difficult for any zealous and persecuted body of men to be thoroughly liberal, when they have become comparatively strong. Those men had not come to be liberal to others, but to be free themselves.
Vane was sincerely a Puritan and theologically a Calvinist like themselves. He joined at once the church in Boston. He entered with relish into the signal privileges of hearing the pure gospel which he loved. He was honored with the election of Governor of the colony in a year after his arrival. But he belonged to one of the marked types of thinking men. He loved the mystical element; he had real, though no formal, affinities with those who, a few years later, under the name of Qnakers, were exalting the Spirit of God within iis above that dry logical use of the letter which killeth. It ell to his first experience as a practical statesman to have to deal with the first brisk controversy of New England theology. This region has had many a hard one since. But the one which Mrs. Anne Hutchinson kindled, convulsed the little canoe of State. The young Governor, with one of his pastors, took the woman's side. The prime point disputed was this. Is a man Christ's man
. a because he exhibits the outward doings of a disciple, or because Christ's spirit gives him direct witness in his feelings. The Biblical doctrine blends both reasons in one. Anne Hutchinson pushed the inward witness into contempt of the outward. Doubtless, the ministers who opposed her, seemed, in the ardor of argument, to push the outward into contempt of the inward. The result, however, proved that the ministers were really sounder than the woman, or at least her disciples. The only two ministers of the colony, who supported her, both afterwards confessed themselves wrong. But for the time they
worked with her and so did Vane. Having the power the majority abused it. They failed to carry out in the matter a generous and civil toleration. At the next yearly election Vane was superseded by Winthrcp, and the Hutchinson party were banished the colony. The family affairs of Vane soon called him home, and his American experiment in statesmanship ended.
In the conduct of all civil questions he had shown himself competent, sagacious. Against his private life no word was ever whispered; and in regard to his action in this antinomian contest, although his theological position was rather on the unsafer side, yet as the advocate of the weak against the strong, and of toleration against persecution for opinion's sake, the sympathies of all advancing ages will be with him. He left Boston in 1637. A concourse of friends attended him to the water's edge; a parting salute was fired from the town. He left behind him his first printed publication, being an answer to Gov. Winthrop, denying the power of any church to reject from its communion, for any difference in mere opinion, any whom Christ does not reject; (a position which our Congregational churches seem more than ever ready now to adopt); denying the alleged power of Massachusetts to expel heretics from its bounds; compressing his argument into one allusion of characteristic force : “ISHMAEL SHALL DWELL IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS BRETHREN." His education is finished. Henceforth he is the consistent statesman for a Cause ; for a government of the people by the people themselves, the working of which he had seen in America ; for the universal freedoin of religious conscience, to which the colony of Massachusetts Bay had not yet attained.
Meanwhile, England was on the eve of an explosion. The political gunpowder plot had been long forming—Charles had been eight years without a Parliament and was to be three years more withont one. At the instigation of Wentworth and Land, he had gone to the length of prerogative, in illegally levying ship-money for his army. Hampden had resisted payment before the courts. Wentworth had goaded the Irish almost to rebellion. Laud was putting his scheme of Episco
pacy through Scotland, where nothing but Presbyterianism, pure and simple, ever had or has had any considerable hold. The Scotch impetuously flew to arms. They invaded England, occupied Northumberland and Durham. Charles must have an army; and an army must have money. He can get no more money without a Parliament. So, early in 1640, his first Parliament meets. Vane has been remaining quiet in Lincolnshire for these two years. He is accustomed to gather his friends and neighbors on Sundays and exercise the gift of lay-preaching. He has married and taken to his home, Frances Wray, whom, in a celebrated letter long after, he is to address, as "My dear Heart.” During the settlement of some matters comected with her estate, he by accident discovers among his father's papers a document, which he felt bound to communicate to his friend Pym, and which was soon to be used in the impeachment of his father's and his country's enemy, Lord Strafford. His election to the First and the Second, or Long Parliament, in 1610, brings us to his active career. By the influence of his father, or else for the sake of seducing him from the people's Cause, as Charles had successfully done in the case of Strafford, Vane receives a lucrative office, as joint Treasurer of the navy, and is allowed to call himself “Sir Harry Vane of Raby Castle, Knight.” But these honors, though apparently neither sought nor declined, do not seem to have influence upon his course. That course begins and continues to be straight forward.
The course of this statesmanship follows the course of the changing periods of the approaching contest. We can only sketch them rapidly in their succession.
The first period is from the opening of the Long Parliament to the breaking out of the secession of King Charles from his Parliament, 1640–1642. Like other secessionists, King Charles and the house of Stuart were perfectly willing to remain in the union, provided they could have the power. But the people of England had been gradually but surely coming to the conclusion that it was not safe for their King to have the supreme power. During the rule of both James and Charles, they had reason to fear that a papal or worse than papal slavery would he fastened
upon the whole nation. Accordingly, when the Long Parliament came together, it determined to circumscribe the power of the King and of the Church within safe limits. They began not with the intention of destroying the king or eliminating him from the system, but with the purpose of marking off certain limits, to which he could come, and no further. He had been marked off in Magna-Charta long ago. They wished to hold him at his proper bounds. Their later experience with Charles had taught them, as certain later experiences have taught the people of the United States, that monarchy and oligarchy do by their native drift encroach upon liberty, and if any government has the misfortune to have either of these elements in it, there is no safety but in shearing the Samson of his hair.
The shearing at once commenced. The Round-heads did credit to their name. The measures of Parliament were numerous, decisive, and mercilessly thorough. Strafford's impeachment was pressed to his execution. The "little urchin," Laud, was impeached and shut up. The courts of high commission and star chamber, by which Strafford's and Land's scheme of Thorough had been largely carried out, were abolished. The control of the militia was taken from the king. In every step of this “uprising of a great people,” Vane’s heart and speech and vote were with the popular cause.
The second stage brings ont more prominently Vane's qualities as a Diplomatist and Parliamentary leader. It will not close for seven years and then only with the death of the king. The early months of the war are chequered with frequent reverses. The Royal troops prove themselves spirited, gallant, and brave. They are of the first families and affect contempt for the Parliamentary yeomen. Worse than all, there is no policy adequate to the great emergency.
The Parliament appointed the assembly of Divines, which met at Westminster, to model the church. But in both
, the Parliament and Assembly, the Presbyterian party was greatly ascendant in numbers. The Assembly numbered eighty in attendance-only eight or ten were Independents. But Vane was one of them. They are supposed to have had
but one member in the House of Lords; in the Commons they were greatly in the minority. Pym and Hampden, their great leaders, died early. But there still remained Vane, Cromwell, Marten, and St. John. These men had embarked in a cause and had a policy. During this whole period their statesmanship is—to make the most of their small means. The cause of the Parliament is growing weak in England. They must win the coöperation of Scotland. But Scotland is Presbyterian, and will insist that Episcopacy shall give place to Presbytery over the whole Commonwealth. The Presbyterian leaders are for half-measures also with the king, and if they could get him to establish or favor Presbyterianism in England, they would be content to lay down their arms. The small, but masterly band of Independents, with Vane at their head, gird themselves to their work. Vane is sent to treat with the Scots. He treats with them. They insist on the English nation signing her solemn covenant. Vane induces them to permit it to be called League and Covenant. The League engages the English Parliament to endeavor the establislıment of religion in both kingdoms, “ according to the manner of the reformed churches." Vane succeeds in prefixing the saving and latitudinary clause, “ according to the Word of God.”
The Scots are on the side of the Parliament. Their army crosses the Tweed. Vane returns to devise means of advancing the influence of his cause against the now increased force of the majority. In the Westminster Assembly of Divines, he pleads for universal toleration. No other member of that famous body, nor even but few of his own party, were able to go to this extent. They wished for a good deal of freedom; they would not be so fool-hardy as to claim an absolute freedom. The majority reduce the whole nation under the catechisms and the Directory and Rouse's version of Psalms. Presbyterian persecution takes the place of Prelatical. It is the glory of Sir Harry Vane, himself called a zealot in religion, to have been the only one in that venerable body, who spoke and acted in the light of perfect toleration. The Confession of Faith is still a thing for whole denominations to swear by, and on the rack of its theological definitions such men as Lyman