Every member of the Commons knew that Scotland was fighting the battle of English liberty. All hope of bringing them to any attack upon the Scots proved fruitless. The intercepted letters were quietly set aside, and the Commons declared as of old that redress of grievances must precede the grant of supplies. No subsidy could be granted till security was had for religion, for property, and for the liberties of Parliament. An offer to relinquish ship-money failed to draw Parliament from its resolve, and after three weeks' sitting it was dissolved. "Things must go worse before they go better " was the cool comment of St. John, one of the patriot leaders. But the country was strangely moved. "So great a defection in the kingdom," wrote Lord Northumberland, "hath not been known in the memory of man." Strafford alone stood undaunted. He urged that, by the refusal of the Parliament to supply the King's wants, Charles was "freed from all rule of government," and entitled to supply himself at his will. The Earl was bent upon war, and took command of the royal army, which again advanced to the north. But the Scots were ready to cross the border; forcing the passage of the Tyne in the face of an English detachment, they occupied Newcastle, and despatched from that town their proposals of peace.
They prayed the King to consider their grievances, and, "with the advice and consent of the Estates of England convened in Parliament, to settle a firm and desirable peace." The prayer was backed by preparations for a march upon York, where Charles had abandoned himself to despair. Strafford's troops were a mere mob; neither by threats nor prayers could he recall them to their duty, and he was forced to own that two months were required before they could be fit for action. It was in vain that Charles won a truce. Behind him in fact England was all but in revolt. The London apprentices mobbed Laud at Lambeth, and broke up the sittings of the High Commission at St. Paul's. The war was denounced everywhere as "the Bishops' War," and the new levies murdered officers whom they suspected of Papistry, broke down altar-rails in every church they passed, and deserted to their homes. Two peers, Lord Wharton and Lord Howard, ventured to lay before the King himself a petition for peace with the Scots; and though Strafford arrested and proposed to shoot them as mutineers, the English Council shrank from desperate courses.
The King still strove to escape from the humiliation of calling a Parliament. He summoned a Great Council of the Peers at York. But his project broke down before its general repudiation by the nobles; and with wrath and shame at his heart Charles was driven to summon again the Houses to Westminster.