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written instrument, to an annual payment of 1000 marks for ever, in token of vassalage. In those days this was not regarded as so unworthy an act as it is properly now considered ; nor was it in fear of the foreign enemy, that John had consented to it. Base as he was, he was of a race that never failed in courage. When Philip Augustus was informed, by the legate, that the king of England had submitted, and that, consequently, his aid was no longer required for reducing the disobedient son of the Church, he was exceedingly indignant, and his first impulse was to go forward with the enterprise, in defiance of the Pope. All his nobles and feudatory chiefs concurred in this, except the Earls of Boulogne and Flanders, whom a reasonable jealousy of Philip had induced to treat secretly with John. Their opposition frustrated his design, and he immediately turned his arms upon Flanders. Fernando de Portugal, son of king Sancho I, was then Earl of Flanders, in right of Joanna his wife, a man more brave than fortunate ; the name, indeed, in his family, seems to have carried misfortune with it. Philip had extorted from him, on his marriage, the towns of Aire and St. Omer, and the sense of the wrong then done him was rankling in his mind. On the other hand, he had not acted now as an open enemy; and Philip, in the temper of one who was punishing a vassal for his breach of faith, besieged, and with little opposition took Calais, took possession of Ypres and Bruges, and then laid siege to Ghent, sending his fleet, meantime, to Damme. Fernando sent over to England for immediate aid, and John forthwith despatched 500 sail, under William, Earl of Holland, William Longspear Earl of Salisbury, his own bastard brother, and the Earl of Boulogne, Damme, which was now to be the scene of the first great naval action between the English and French, and the first great naval victory recorded in the English annals, was at that time the port of Bruges, from whence it is about a mile distant, being situated near the junction of the rivers Rey and Lieve. It is supposed to have been a settlement of the Alans, and that the dog, in the arms of the town, and of which a fabulous story has been invented, refers to this origin. Then, and long afterwards, the sea came up to its walls; till, about the year 1180, the Hollanders, with their characteristic and admirable industry, recovered here a track of rich country from the waters; and it was from the dam which they constructed for its defence, and which extends from thence to Sluys, that the town took its name. A channel for the waters was made at the same time, two miles in length, forming what, for the vessels of that age, was a capacious harbour. The Hollanders, by whom this great work was planned and executed, settled there as a colony, greatly to the advantage of Flanders, from the earls of which province they obtained, in addition to the common privileges of Flemish subjects, an exemption from customs throughout the Flemish territory. In the course of little more than thirty years, Damme had become the great emporium of those parts. No other part of Europe had advanced so rapidly in civilization as this province. In the eighth century it was mostly covered with wood, and so infamous for the robberies and murders committed upon those whose ill-fortune led them thither, that it was called the merciless forest; in the ninth, when the growing influence of religion had mitigated this barbarity, lands were given to any who would settle on them; and in the tenth, when the manufactures to which it owed its early prosperity, and its after troubles, were introduced into Ghent, “a rate of barter was fixed, for want of money.” By this rate, two fowls went for one goose, two geese for one pig, three lambs for a sheep, and three calves for a cow. In a little time the province was intersected with canals, and towns and cities arose and flourished; many of which, though fallen to decay, bear witness still, in the splendour of their public buildings, to their former affluence. Ghent was now the seat of its manufactures, Bruges of
its merchants, and Damme was its port; whither, as to a certain mart, the produce of the country, the furs of Hungary, the wines of Gascony and Rochelle, and the cloths of England, were brought, and from whence they were distributed to all parts. When the French arrived off this harbour, they offered peace to the inhabitants, who were wholly incapable of defending themselves against such a force; they obtained the money which they demanded as its price, and then they plundered the place. Not satisfied with this, they proceeded to ravage the country round about; and the sailors, as well as land forces, were thus employed, when the English fleet, cruising in search of their enemy, approached. The English, as they neared the coast, espied many ships lying without the haven, which, capacious as it was, was not large enough to contain them all; many therefore, were riding at anchor without the haven's mouth, and along the coast. Shallops were presently sent out to espy whether they were friends or enemies; and if enemies, what their strength, and in what order they lay. These espials, approaching as if they had been fishermen, came near enough to ascertain that the ships were left without sufficient hands to defend them; and, hastening back, told the commanders that the victory was in their hands, if they would only make good speed. No time was lost; they made sail toward the enemy, and won the “tall ships" which were riding at anchor, with little difficulty, the men on board only requesting that their lives might be spared. The smaller ones, which were left dry when the tide was low, they spoiled of whatever was useful, and set on fire, the sailors escaping to the shore. This done, they set upon those that lay in the harbour, within the haven; and “here was hard hold for a while,” because of the narrowness of the place, allowing no advantage for numbers or for skill. “And those Frenchmen” says the chronicler, “that were gone abroad into the country, perceiving that the enemies were come, by the running away of the mariners, returned with all speed to their ships to aid their fellows, and so made valiant resistance for a time; till the Englishmen, getting on board, and ranging themselves on either side of the haven, beat the Frenchmen so on the sides, and, the ships grappling together in front, that they fought as it had been in a pitched field, till that, finally, the Frenchmen were not able to sustain the force of the Englishmen, but were constrained, after long fight and great slaughter, to yield themselves prisoners” The first act of the conquerors was to give thanks to God for their victory. They then manned three hundred of the prizes, which were laden with corn, wine, oil, and other provisions, and with military stores, and sent them to England; the first fruits of that maritime superiority for which the church bells of this glorious island have so often pealed with joy. An hundred more were burnt, because they were drawn up so far upon the sands, that they could not be got out, without more hands and cost of time than could be spared for them. There still remained a great part of the enemy's fleet, higher up the harbour, and protected by the town, in which Philip had left a sufficient force to protect the stores which he had left there, and the money for the payment of his troops. The English landed, the Earl of Flanders joined them, and they proceeded to attack the place; but by this there had been sufficient time for the French king to hasten, with an overpowering force, from the siege of Ghent. The English and their allies sustained a sharp action, and were compelled to retreat to their ships, with a loss, computed by the French at 2000 men. But they retreated no farther than to the near shores of the Isle of Walcheren; and Philip saw the impossibility of saving the remainder of his fleet, considering the unskilfulness of his own seamen, as well as other things. He set fire to them, therefore, himself, that they might not fall into the enemy's hands. Such was the fate of that great naval armament, which is said to be the first French fleet mentioned in history; and, as if the unfortunate town of Damme, which he had promised not to injure, and the foreign merchants to whom his word was pledged, had not suffered enough by the previous spoil, he set the place on fire also, and it was consumed : and he wasted the country round with fire.
90.--THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN.
BURRE. By his last concessions to the barons it must be confessed John was effectually dethroned, and with all the circumstances of indignity which could be imagined. He had refused to govern as a lawful prince, and he saw himself deprived of even
his legal authority. He became of no sort of consequence in his kingdom; he was held in universal contempt and derision ; he fell into a profound melancholy. It was in vain that he had recourse to the pope, whose power he had found sufficient to reduce, but not to support him. The censures of the holy see, which had been fulminated at his desire, were little regarded by the barons, or even by the clergy, supported in this resistance by the firmness of their archbishops, who acted with great vigour in the cause of the barons, and even delivered into their hands the fortress of Rochester, one of the most important places in the kingdom. After much meditation, the king at last resolved upon a measure of the most extreme kind, extorted by shame, revenge, and despair; but, considering the disposition of the time, much the most effectual that could be chosen. He dispatched emissaries into France, into the Low Countries and Germany, to raise men for his service. He had recourse to the same measures to bring his kingdom to obedience, which his predecessor William had used to conquer it. He promised to the adventurers in his quarrel the lands of the rebellious barons; and it is said, even empowered his agents to make charters of the estates of several particulars. The utmost success attended these negotiations, in an age when Europe abounded with a warlike and poor nobility; with younger brothers, for whom there was no provision in regular armies, who seldom entered into the church, and never applied themselves to commerce; and when every considerable family was surrounded by an innumerable multitude of retainers and dependants, idle, and greedy of war and pillage. The Crusade had universally diffused a spirit of adventure; and if any
adventure had the pope's approbation, it was sure to have a number of followers. John waited the effect of his measures. He kept up no longer the solemn mockery of a court, in which a degraded king must always have been the lowest object. He retired to the Isle of Wight ; his only companions were sailors and fishermen, among whom he became extremely popular. * Never was he more to be dreaded than in this sullen retreat, whilst the barons amused themselves by idle jests, and vain conjectures on his conduct. Such was the strange want of foresight in that barbarous age, and such the total neglect of design in their affairs, that the barons, when they had got the charter, which was weakened even by the force by which it was obtained, and the great power which it granted, set no watch upon the king; seemed to have no intelligence of the great and open machinations, which were carrying on against them, and had made no sort of dispositions for their defence. They spent their time in tournaments and bear-baitings, and other diversions suited to the fierce rusticity of their manners. At length the storm broke forth, and found them utterly unprovided. The papal excommunication, the indignation of their prince, and a vast army of lawless and bold adventurers, were poured down at once upon their heads. Such numbers were engaged in this enterprise, that forty thousand are said to have perished at sea. Yet a number still remained sufficient to compose two great armies: one of which, with the enraged
* This was the common opinion.—See the article “Runnemele," page 314. Ep.
king at its head, ravaged without mercy the north of England; whilst the other turned all the west to a like scene of blood and desolation. The memory of Stephen's wars was renewed with every image of horror, misery, and crime. The barons, dispersed and trembling in their castles, waited who should fall the next victim. They had no army able to keep the field. The archbishop, on whom they had great reliance, was suspended from his functions. There was no hope even from submission : the king could not fulfil his engagements to his foreign troops at a cheaper rate than the utter ruin of his barons. In these circumstances of despair they resolved to have recourse to Philip, the ancient enemy of their country. Throwing off all allegiance to John, they agreed to accept Lewis, the son of that monarch, as their king. Philip had once more an opportunity of bringing the crown of England into his family, and he readily embraced it. He immediately sent his son into England with seven hundred ships, and slighted the menaces and excommunication of the pope, to attain the same object for which he had formerly aimed to support and execute them. The affairs of the barons assumed quite a new face by this reinforcement, and their rise was as sudden and striking as their fall. The foreign army of King John, without discipline, pay or order, ruined and wasted in the midst of its successes, was little able to oppose the natural force of the country, called forth and recruited by so considerable a succour. Besides, the French troops, who served under John, and made a great part of his army, immediately went over to the enemy, unwilling to serve against their sovereign in a cause which now began to look desperate. The son of the King of France was acknowledged in London, and received the homage of all ranks of men. John, thus deserted, had no other ally than the pope, who indeed served him to the utmost of his power; but with arms, to which the circumstances of the time alone can give any force. He excommunicated Lewis and his adherents; he laid England under an interdict; he threatened the King of France himself with the same sentence; but Philip continued firm, and the interdict had little effect in England. Cardinal Langton, by his remarkable address, by his interest in the sacred college, and his prudent submissions, had been restored to the exercise of his office; but steady to the cause he had first espoused, he made use of the recovery of his authority, to carry on his old designs against the king and the pope. He celebrated divine service in spite of the interdict; and by his influence and example taught others to despise it. The king, thus deserted, and now only solicitous for his personal safety, rambled, or rather fled from place to place at the head of a small party. He was in great danger in passing a marsh in Norfolk, in which he lost the greatest part of his baggage, and his most valuable effects. With difficulty he escaped to the monastery of Swinestead; where, violently agitated by grief and disappointments, his late fatigue the use and of an improper diet, threw him into a fever, of which he died in a few days at Newark, not without suspicion of poison, after a reign, or rather a struggle to reign, for eighteen years, the most turbulent and calamitous both to king and people, of any that are recorded in the English history. It may not be improper to pause here for a few moments and to consider a little more minutely the causes, which had produced the grand revolution in favour of liberty, by which this reign was distinguished; and to draw all the circumstances, which led to this remarkable event, into a single point of view. Since the death of Edward the Confessor only two princes succeeded to the crown upon undisputed titles. William the Conqueror established his by force of arms. His successors were obliged to court the people by yielding many of the prerogatives of the crown; but they supported a dubious title by a vigorous administration; and recovered by their policy, in the course of their reign, what the necessity of their affairs obliged them to relinquish for the establishment of their power. Thus was the nation kept continually fluctuating between freedom and servitude. But the principles of freedom were predominant, though the thing itself was not yet fully formed. The continual struggle of the clergy for the ecclesiastical liberties laid open at the same time the natural claims of the people; and the clergy were obliged to shew some respect for these claims, in order to add strength to their own party. The concessions which Henry the Second made to the ecclesiastics on the death of Becket, which were afterwards confirmed by Richard the First, gave a grievous blow to the authority of the Crown; as thereby an order of so much power and influence triumphed over it in many essential points. The latter of these princes brought it very low by the whole tenor of his conduct. Always abroad, the royal authority was felt in its full vigour without being supported by the dignity, or softened by the graciousness of the royal presence. Always in war, he considered his dominions only as a resource for his armies. The demesnes of the crown were squandered. Every office in the state was made vile by being sold. Excessive grants, followed by violent and arbitrary resumptions, tore to pieces the whole contexture of the government. The civil tumults, which arose in that king's absence, showed that the king's lieutenants at least might be disobeyed with impunity.
Then came John to the crown. The arbitrary taxes which he imposed very early in his reign, which offended even more by the improper use made of them than their irregularity, irritated the people extremely, and joined with all the preceding causes to make his government contemptible. Henry the Second, during his contests with the church, had the address to preserve the barons in his interests. Afterwards, when the barons had joined in the rebellion of his children, this wise prince found means to secure the bishops and ecclesiastics. But John drew upon himself at once the hatred of all orders of his subjects. His struggle with the pope weakened him; his submission to the pope weakened him yet more. The loss of his foreign territories, besides what he lost along with them in reputation, made him entirely dependent upon England; whereas his predecessors made one part of their territories subservient to the preservation of their authority in another, where it was endangered. Add to all these causes, the personal character of the king, in which there was nothing uniform or sincere, and which introduced the like unsteadiness into all his government. He was indolent, yet restless in his disposition ; fond of working by violent methods, without any vigour; boastful, but continually betraying his fears; showing on all occasions, such a desire of peace as hindered him from ever enjoying it. Having no spirit of order he never looked forward ; content by any temporary expedient to extricate himself from a present difficulty. Rash, arrogant, perfidious, irreligious, unquiet, he made a tolerable head of a party, but a bad king; and had talents fit to disturb another's government, not to support his own. Amost striking contrast presents itself between the conduct and fortune of John, and his adversary Philip. Philip came to the crown when many of the provinces of France, by being in the hands of too powerful vassals, were in a manner dismembered from the kingdom; the royal authority was very low in what remained. He reunited to the crown a country as valuable as what belonged to it before ; he reduced his subjects of all orders to a stricter obedience than they had given to his predecessors. He withstood the papal usurpation, and yet used it as an instrument of his designs; whilst John, who inherited a great territory, and an entire prerogative, by his vices and weakness gave up his independency to the pope, his prerogative to his subjects, and a large part of his dominions to the king of France.