The Cambridge Modern History: Planned by the Late Lord Acton - Vol. 4

By A. W. Ward; G. W. Prothero et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X.
THE FIRST CIVIL WAR, 1642-7.

THE raising of the King's standard at Nottingham ( August 22, 1642) was the formal opening of the Civil War. The measures taken by the two parties respectively to levy forces have already been briefly indicated. Charles had met the Parliamentary Militia Ordinance by issuing Commissions of Array (May 11); but the legality of these commissions was disputed, and in Leicestershire, the first county in which they were executed, the men refused to join. On July 4 Parliament appointed a committee of fifteen, including five peers, to see to the safety of the kingdom and its own defence; it voted that an army of 10,000 men should be raised in London and the neighbourhood, and issued a declaration (July 11) that the King had begun the war. Its numbers were by this time much reduced. More than one-third of the members had withdrawn from the House of Commons, and three-fourths of the Lords were either Royalist or neutral. Of the Peers who remained at Westminster the Earl of Essex was the most considerable. He was appointed to command the Parliamentary army; and Clarendon affirms that no one else could have raised it. Charles proclaimed Essex and his officers traitors; the Houses replied by denouncing as traitors all who gave assistance to the King.

It may be said broadly that the strength of the Royalist cause lay in the northern and western counties, while south and east sided with Parliament. But this was far from an equal division of the kingdom. The population of England was about five millions; and of this population the country north of the Trent (which now contains two-fifths) then contained only one-seventh. London had nearly half-a-million inhabitants, one-third of the whole urban population. Next to it came Norwich and Bristol with less than 30,000; and no town in the north had half that number. There was a corresponding difference in wealth. Three-fourths of the ship-money assessment in 1636 was laid upon the counties which lie south and east of a line drawn from Bristol to Hull. It is true that the King had many friends in all these counties among the nobility and gentry; but on the other hand the towns of the north were on the

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