In May 1647 Parliament came to terms with the king. Presbyterianism was to be established, though liberty of worship was reserved to Charles; but the agreement was to hold good for three years only. But, meanwhile, it was known that Parliament was negotiation with the Scots for the establishment of Presbyterianism, and that the dominant party were propounding measures for rendering the Army powerless The bulk of it was to be disbanded, mulcted of most of its arrears of pay. The remainder of it was to be recast under Presbyterian officers, excluding all members of Parliament, Cromwell of course among them.

Of this Army a portion was to be despatched to Ireland, while the remainder would be merely an instrument in the hands of the Presbyterian government. The Army demanded guarantees for liberty of conscience and the payment of arrears before it would consent to disbandment. No such guarantees were forthcoming.

The Army chiefs, who had for long had a difficult task in restraining the troops, saw that the time had come for taking the law into their own hands. A troop of horse was despatched under Cornet Joyce to Holmby House, whence the king was conducted to headquarters at Newmarket. Then the troops marched upon London, occupied the city, and demanded the exclusion from parliament of eleven obnoxious members. The Army was master of parliament and of the situation.

Army proposals
But even now the chiefs were bent upon extreme moderation. It was not their business to undertake a constitutional settlement, or to set up a military government; but it was their business to secure the thing on which their hearts were set; liberty of conscience. They drew up certain "heads of proposals" which if they had been accepted would have settled the religious question.

The penal laws against Romanists were to remain in force; but with this single exception, to which practically no one but the Romanists, was disposed to object, there was to be complete toleration. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Sectaries were to enjoy entire freedom of worship subject to no civil penalties or disabilities.

Neither the king, who was now domiciled at Hampton Court, nor the Presbyterians were ready to adopt the proposals. The chiefs reluctantly withdrew them and contented themselves with endeavours to secure a tolerable compromise. But Charles could not free himself from his conviction that by temporising and intriguing he would still succeed in effecting his own aims.

Charles escapes ... and is recaptured
He escaped from Hampton Court, but was stopped in the Isle of Wight and detained in Carisbrooke Castle, whence he continued to carry on open negotiations with Parliament and the Army, and at the same time other secret negotiations which were to prove his ruin.

This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.

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