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power persecuting, was a genuine friend and patron of
toleration? Still, the pressure of the penal laws upon
them had been cruel. Relief must have been sweet, and
a tribute is due to the constancy as well as to the pru-
dence which rejected the unhallowed and insidious boon.
A few of the nonconformists only went astray. Of these
the most notable was William Penh, whose admirers
must perforce digest the fact that a really eminent phi-
lanthropist may at the same time be a courtier and an
intriguer, to use no harder term. Beyond doubt Penn
both cringed to James himself and tried as a go-between
to seduce Anglican clergymen and other protestants
from their duty. Such are the perils of spiritual ecstasy
untempered by the common moral rule. In the de-
meanour of the Anglican clergy towards dissenters there
was wrought a wonderful change. All at once they
found out that the nonconformist was their brother.
There were among them some on whose part these demon-
strations of amity were consistent and sincere. The
circle of Tillotson and Stillingfleet, heirs of the Cam-
bridge Platonists, and, from the breadth of their views
and sympathies nicknamed Latitudinarians, were genuine
liberals, desirous of the widest comprehension, and pre-
cursors of the Broad Churchmen of the present day. But
in the mass of the order, sympathy with nonconformists
was new-born and proved short-lived.

The Jesuit Father Petre had boasted that he would
make the Anglican clergy eat dung. It would seem to
have been in fulfilment of this boast, it was at all events


in the mad insolence of tyranny, that he and James re-
solved to force all the clergy of the church of England

1688 to read the Declaration of Indulgence from their pulpits.
After much searching of heart and an agonizing struggle
between loyalty and professional duty, the great body of
the clergy refused, while the few who complied found
that they had forfeited the respect of their congregations.

1688 Seven bishops, with the Archbishop of Canterbury at their
head, drew up a remonstrance in the shape of a petition
couched in the most respectful terms, which they pre-
sented to the king. The petition, presented in private
audience, became public, and Jeffreys, with the shallow
craft of a pettifogger, suggested the prosecution of the
seven bishops for a seditious libel. The bishops at once
became the idols of the people, who followed them on
their way to prison with prayers and blessings. The
court might think that it could count upon a bench which
it had packed with tools. But even to that bench and
into the box of a packed jury the tidal wave of national
sentiment found its way. After a trial, equal in political
importance to that of ship-money and full of critical and

1688 changeful interest, the verdict was acquittal. The court
made its defeat more shameful by putting into the box its
secretary of state, the recreant Sunderland, to prove at
the expense of the king's personal honour the publication
of the alleged libel. A roar of national exultation
greeted the verdict, and was taken up by the camp which
James, to coerce London, had placed at Hounslow ; unad-
visedly, for troops quartered in or near a disaffected city
are likely to catch the disaffection, as the French Guards
did when they were quartered in revolutionary Paris.
James saw the public men, the church, the army, the


country, falling away from him. Even the servile Sprat,
discerning the gathering storm, fled from his seat in the
high commission. The king's only hope was in a parlia-
ment subservient enough to support his system. To get 1688
such a parliament elected, corruption, fraud, and violence
of every kind were tried, and tried in vain. Test ques-
tions for candidates, circulated by the court, were parried
by concerted answers. Local officers of the crown re-
signed rather than do the inf amyous work which was
imposed upon them. Corporations, bedevilled by regu-
lators to secure the return of court candidates, had to be
bedevilled over again, and even then the court candi-
dates were not returned. Some, elected in the court in-
terest, ratted after the election. These open aggressions
upon electoral rights, assailing the foundations of the
constitution, have been truly called James's capital delin-
quency. No hope was left the subject but rebellion.

The king found himself confronting a nation which,
saving the catholics, the Quakers, and a few other non-
conformists, was unanimously hostile to his designs,
and felt the ground beneath his feet heave with revolt.
Still, he had his army, numbering now forty thousand
men, faithful, as the event showed, for the most part to
its paymaster, notwithstanding the shout at Hounslow,
and with Churchill in command. That the levies of
rebellion, undisciplined and scattered, would be unable
to cope with such a force, the fate of Monmouth's brave
peasantry had shown. The memory of civil war and its
horrors had not died out. There was still a fund of
blind loyalty to which the king, if he would renounce his
evil courses, might appeal, and which in the sequel gave
him a party, and a strong party, after his forfeiture of the


throne. The conduct of Halifax is not a bad criterion of
the sentiments of all but the most thorough-going enemies
of tyranny, and Halifax declines to take part in any strong
measure of resistance. The king had no son. His heiress
was his daughter Mary, married to the great European
champion of protestantism and freedom. After her came
his second daughter, Anne, also a steadfast protestant.
His system would come to an end with his life, and that
thought filled him and his Jesuits with such despair that
they had conceived desperate projects of altering the suc-
cession. Most patriots, therefore, were probably inclined
to content themselves with keeping up the fight in elec-
tions and law-courts, with the certain assurance that in
the course of nature the tyranny must come to an end.

But an event took place which crowned the wishes of
the kin^ and the Jesuits, filled them with ecstatic grati-

1688 tude to heaven, and precipitated their ruin. A son was
born to the king. All now admit that the child was
really his son, though so little care was taken at the time
of the birth to establish that fact, and so much suspicion
of f-oul play had been created beforehand by the silly
prayers and prophecies of the Jesuits, that few even of
the cool-headed and well-informed believed in the legiti-
macy of the Prince of Wales. James and the Jesuits had
now an heir of their policy, and the door of future de-

1688 liverance was closed to the nation. On the day on which
the bishops were acquitted. Admiral Herbert, disguised
as a common sailor, carried over to Holland a letter set-
ting forth the discontent of the people of England, and
inviting the armed intervention of William of Orange.
The letter was signed by Henry Sidney, brother of the
republican martyr; the Earl of Devonshire, who was the


leader of the Whigs ; Lord Shrewsbury ; Danby, the Tory
and protestant minister of Charles II. ; Compton, Bishop
of London, who had been a soldier before he was a clergy-
man ; Lord Lumley ; and Edward Russell. The names of
the seven men who thus faced the penalty of treason to
save the country and its religion are written in light,
though two afterwards sadly fell from grace.

Of the Seven, four were peers, while the families of
the other three were noble. This was largely an aristo-
cratic movement. It was led by members of the aristoc-
racy and it left the aristocracy in power. From the days
of the Great Charter onwards nobility in England had been
far less of a caste and more popular, than on the continent.
But the Reformation had given birth to a group of houses
bound to protestantism and liberalism by their traditions
and by possession, with a title not even yet absolutely
assured, of the Church lands. The nobles, moreover, were
the immediate competitors of the court for power, and
they looked on the great offices of state, into which
Jesuits and sycophants were being intruded, as of right
their own. Even the standing army was a special offence
to their class, which commanded the national militia.

The arrival, in response to the address carried by
Herbert, of William of Orange with his Dutch army of
deliverance saved England at once from the tyranny and
from civil war, binding her by a debt of eternal gratitude
to the Dutch nation.

The portrait of William of Orange has somewhat lost
by oratorical painting. He was a man of his century,
in character a thorough-bred diplomatist and politician.
He is thought to have shown no extreme anxiety to
prevent, no excess of moral delicacy in turning to


his account, the murder of the brothers De Witt, the
two leaders of the opposite party in Holland. He had
fought a battle with a treaty of peace in his pocket,
though not to give him a safe lesson in his trade, but
to save an important fortress. Nor had he any scruple
when he came to the English throne in taking into em-
ployment such men as Kirke and Sunderland. The
1692 massacre of Glencoe, cast in his teeth by the scribes of a
king who had bombarded Genoa, ravaged the Palatinate,
and expelled the Huguenots, leaves no very dark stain on
his memory; on the advice of his minister he sanctioned
a proposal for the extirpation of a robber clan, having no
means of knowing what the passions of a Highland feud
would do. His only serious fault in that case was failure
adequately to punish a powerful man when it was perhaps
beyond his power. His Calvinism, painted as peculiar
and sublime, was the creed of his party in Holland.
Whatever he might say about predestination, his faith
probably did not much affect his action, nor did it wholly
save him from the lax morality of his time. His religion
was hatred of French aggrandizement and devotion to
the independence of Europe. He was the worthy heir
of William the Silent, whom in character he resem-
bled. So fitted was he by his temper and by his diplo-
matic genius for the part he had to play as the organizer
and leader of a motley confederacy of nations against their
common enemy and oppressor, that destiny might seem to
have framed the great drama of the century and to have
cast the part for the express purpose of bringing on her
stage this man. Rarely has there been such a union of
the qualities of the soldier with those of the negotiator
and statesman. Rarely have such courage, such con-


stancy, such fortitude, self-control so serene in adversity
and amidst trials of every kind, been seen in any man, as
were seen in this man with his feeble frame always under
the depressing influence of disease. Of all William's
qualities, the most admirable perhaps was a magnanimity
which no waywardness, no folly, no ingratitude, no
treachery on the part of those with whom and through
whom he had to act for the attainment of public objects,
could overcome. Ambitious he no doubt was; but his
ambition was identical with the interest of his country
and of Europe. On his pensive and careworn face, pen-
sive and careworn from his very boyhood, which had been
passed under the jealous eyes of the political enemies of
his house, England, Holland, and every friend of the
independence of nations will always look with peculiar
interest and gratitude. The youthful heir of a house,
idolized by the people, but excluded from its ancestral
power by the burgher aristocracy of Amsterdam, he had
been irresistibly called by the popular voice to command
in an agony of national peril. Nobly he had answered
the call, and by the spirit which he infused he had saved
the nation. His political character, thus formed, would
be monarchical, but popular at the same time.

The Prince of Orange had, of course, watched events
in England with an anxious eye, not only as the husband
'of Mary, the heiress presumptive to the throne, but still
more as the head of the European coalition. On the
question whether England should be a vassal of France,
or a member of the confederacy of nations against France,
he must have felt that the fate of Europe hung. With
Monmouth's enterprise he could have no sympathy. In-
sane in itself, it would, had it succeeded, have cut his


wife out of the inheritance. He had kept on friendly,
though on distant, terms with James, had given him none
but sound advice, had listened to the growing complaints
against him, but had not intrigued. While James had
no son, wisdom bade William wait. But now that James
had a son William could wait no more. A secret proffer
of support from the renegade Sunderland, while it must
have curled his lip with scorn, would show him that
James was falling, and that the hour was come. He
accepted the invitation of the Seven. Fortune at the
critical moment played into his hands. Louis, in his
reckless arrogance, had estranged the Dutch by blows
struck at their commerce, and disposed the cautious
traders to hearty sympathy with the daring enterprise of
their Prince; while James in his fatuous pride had
mutinied against his patron, disregarded the advice of
Louis, and for the time forfeited his aid. The French
arms, instead of being directed against Holland, were
turned against the Empire, and William was left at lib-
1688 erty to form his army, collect his fleet, and sail for
England. In the storm which, when he first put to sea,
scattered and drove back his fleet, his serene fortitude
did not forsake him. Running down the Channel he was
carried by the wind past Torbay, his destined landing-
place, and for a moment all seemed lost. A change of
wind saved the expedition. An invasion of England by
steam would be liable to no such accident.

William had landed on the shore which had been the

scene of Monmouth's hapless enterprise and had been

scourged by the Bloody Assize. There people came in

. to him slowly. But they came in from the whole

country presently under leaders of mark. He put forth


a declaration skilfully framed by the Dutch statesman 1688
Fagel, enumerating the grievances which, at the invita-
tion of leading Englishmen, he came to redress, disclaim-
ing any design of conquest, and submitting all to the
decision of an English parliament. At the doubt re-
specting the birth of James's son he cautiously and
decorously glanced. Sensible at last of his peril, James
fell into an ignoble agony of fear. He solemnly promised
to protect the church and to maintain the Act of Uni- 1688
formity. He said that he would no longer insist upon
the admission of Roman Catholics to the House of Com-
mons. He notified his intention of replacing all magis-
trates and deputy-lieutenants who had been displaced for
refusing to further his policy in the elections. He abol-
ished the court of high commission. He restored to the
city of London the charter which had been forfeited six
years before, and sent his chancellor to carry it back in
state to Guildhall. He re-instated Bishop Compton, whom
he had deprived of his episcopal functions for refusing to
suspend Dr. Sharp, the preacher of a sermon against
popery. He charged the visitor of Magdalen College to
re-instate the ejected president and Fellows. To his
dispensing power he still clung; nor would he remove
Roman Catholics from civil or military office.

Even now there was the army, strong enough to resist
the invader and apparently not inclined to desert the
king; at least the first attempt to carry over a part of
it to William failed, and Cornbury, the commander who
had made that attempt, had to ride into the Dutch camp
without his men. A battle, even supposing that William
had gained the victory, would have deprived his enter-
prise of its character as a deliverance and fatally stamped


it as a conquest. But of the army the master was
Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, and Churchill
had sent William a message worth a good deal more than
the tendered support of Sunderland. On this man's de-
cision the fate of the undertaking hung. Churchill's
character has been painted in violent colours. He was a
scion of the court of Charles II., had won the heart of
the Castlemaine by his beauty and his surpassing grace,
had intrigued with her, had jumped out of her window,
had received a large present of money from her, though
to say that he was kept by her is harsh. When to
be the mistress of a prince was deemed an honour, he
had been well pleased to see his sister in the arms of
James. His morality was thoroughl}^ loose, his aims
were utterly selfish, he was ignobly covetous, and he
was presently to be guilty of villainy, the dark memory
of which can scarcely be lost even in the blaze of his after
glory. In any other age his unscrupulousness would
have been portentous. His course, now as always, was
determined by his interest, and his interest was bound
up with that of the Princess Anne, heiress presumptive
to the crown after Mary, who had no child, and under
the influence of his domineering wife. For liberty or
the principles of the constitution he probably cared
nothing. He was a soldier and a courtier, and would
perhaps have liked best to serve a king such as the king
of France. But to his personal aspirations the birth of a
Prince of Wales, as it shut out Anne, was a fatal blow.
His strong sense, moreover, must have shown him that
the king was rushing upon his own ruin or that of
the realm. He saw that, like all who served James, he
would in the end have to choose between a loss of his


office and a change of his religion. Fear of having to
change his religion was the justification which he pleaded
for his desertion in his highly decorous and sanctimonious
letter of farewell to James. Nor need we assume that
this was mere hypocrisy. Marlborough had long before
told Burnet that nothing would induce him to apostatize.
That with all his unscrupulousness he was not wholly
devoid of religious sentiment, his habit of having prayers
read and receiving the sacrament before battle, seems to
show. Nor can popery as a system, with its Jesuits and
its thaumaturgy, have failed to repel his powerful mind.
To tax him with military desertion would be absurd. At
such a crisis the duty of the soldier was lost in that of
the citizen. Neither can much be said about personal
ingratitude to James, for whom Churchill had done at
Sedgemoor as much as ever James had done for him.
That he should conceal his intention of passing over to
William was inevitable; had he betrayed it he would
have been arrested ; and the concealment involved decep-
tion which those who were deceived would brand as
treachery. Churchill inflicted another and a heavy blow
on James by carrying over with him Anne and her hus-
band, Prince George of Denmark.

James now resolved on flight. He sent his queen with 1688
the Prince of Wales over to France, and himself set out
in disguise to follow them. That he might leave anarchy
behind him he threw the great seal into the Thames,
burned the writs for the new parliament, and issued
an order for the disbandment of the army. A night of
anarchy and terror in London, in fact, ensued. Then
such of the peers as were at hand met and formed them-
selves into a provisional government, which restored order


and issued injunctions to the commanders of the forces
not to resist the Prince of Orange. James was unluckily-
detained, as he was embarking, by some fishermen, who,
not recognizing him, ruffled by their treatment the divin-
ity of the Lord's anointed; an impiety for which they
were never forgiven by James, who afterwards excepted
them from his promises of pardon. He was thus thrown
back on the hands of William, to William's extreme em-
barrassment. There was nothing for it but to frighten
him into a second flight. This time care was taken that
he should not be detained. Sacred majesty, dethroned by
the profane hands of rebels and heretics, was received
with open arms by Louis, treated with generosity the most
profuse and delicate, installed in the royal residence
of St. Germains, and provided with a magnificent in-
come, wrung, like the rest of the grand monarch's mag-
nificence, from the starving peasantry of France. St.
Germains was thenceforth the Mecca of Jacobite pilgrim-
age and intrigue.

Now came the task of settling the kingdom. William
had declared that he would leave all to parliament. Legal
parliament there was none, James having destroyed the
writs. But a substitute morally sufficient was found in a
1688 Convention formed by the House of Lords with a House
of Commons comprising all who had sat in the House
during the previous reign, that is, before the House had
been packed by James. William, faithful to his engage-
ment and his character, stood apart in silence. So far
Tories and Whigs, united by common grievances and
perils, had acted together. The divergence of their prin-
ciples now appeared. The Whigs, holding the doctrine
of the original contract between king and people, and


deeming that James had broken that contract, would have
deposed him and elected a successor. The Tories clung
to their doctrine of hereditary succession and divine right.
Some would have had James restored under conditions
and with pledges, as though he had not ascended the
throne under conditions which he had shamelessly broken,
and as though any pledge could be more binding than
the coronation oath. Archbishop Sancroft proposed a
regency, which would have severed the allegiance of the
subject from his obedience, his allegiance being due to
the legitimate king in exile, while his obedience would
have been due to the regent at home, and the result of
which might have been a succession of regents on one
side of the water maintaining themselves by arms against
a succession of legitimate kings on the other. To such
absurdities could political superstition lead. The high
Tory Danby maintained that the throne of England could
never be vacant, and would have had Mary proclaimed sole
sovereign. From a measure which would have deprived
England and the coalition of their indispensable head,
the good sense of Mary herself saved the nation, and
lasting gratitude is due to her for what she did and for the
sweet forgetfulness of self with which she did it. The
Whigs and Tories mixed, though they could not fuse,
their principles in the famous resolution "that king
James II., having endeavoured to subvert the constitu-
tion of the kingdom by breaking the original contract
between king and people, and having, by the advice of
Jesuits and other wicked persons, violated the funda-
mental laws and withdrawn himself out of the kingdom,
has abdicated the government, and that the throne is
thereby vacant." The spirit of Locke triumphs over


Filmer in the reference to the original contract between
king and people. The reference to "the fundamental
laws '* shows that the idea of a constitution had been
fully formed, the whole discussion shows the growing
influence of political philosophy in the practical counsels
of statesmen. The crown was given jointly to William
and Mary; the executive authority was given to William
alone, who was thus sole king, though everythiug was
done in the joint name.

James had fled the kingdom, carried off his son with
him, and abandoned the nation to anarcliy by making
away with the great seal, burning the writs for the elec-
tion of parliament, and disbanding the army. It might
have been sufficient, without raising any theoretic or
debatable question, to recite these facts and declare that
James had ceased to reign, letting Mary take the vacant
throne, and at once, by Act of Parliament, associating
William with her in joint sovereignty and giving him
the sole administration. But this would not have laid
the ghost of hereditary right divine and indefeasible, or
for ever precluded attempts on the part of the monarch to
bring the practice into conformity with the right. It was
better that James should be deposed for violation of the
constitution and breach of the original contract between
king and people, the sanctity of the constitution and the
existence of the contract being thereby affirmed. Deposed
he was ; that he had abdicated was a politic fiction, as his
actions speedily proved.

To settle the principle on which James was to be
deposed amid conflicting theories had been difficult. It

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 52 of 84)