Goldwin Smith.

The United kingdom; a political history online

. (page 53 of 84)
Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 53 of 84)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

was not so difficult to enumerate the reasons for deposing
him. This it was wisely resolved to do without delay,


that the crown might pass under no doubtful conditions
to the new dynasty. The Declaration of Right framed 1688-
by the Convention, and afterwards ratified by a regular
parliament in the Bill of Rights, ranks with the Great
Charter and the Petition of Right among the muniments
of constitutional liberty. It sets forth and asserts all the
principles of the law and the constitution which had been
violated by the tyranny. It denies the pretended power
of suspending the laws or dispensing with them assumed
in the Declaration of Indulgence. It condemns the erec-
tion of such courts as the ecclesiastical commission; levy-
ing money by prerogative without parliamentary grant, as
the customs had been levied by James in the beginning
of his reign, or for longer time or in other manner than
the same had been granted; and maintenance of a standing
army in time of peace unless with the consent of parlia-
ment. It asserts the right of protestant citizens to have
arms for their defence, of which James's emissary had
deprived them in Ireland. It asserts the right of subjects
to petition the king, infringed in the case of the seven
bishops. It proclaims that the election of members of
parliament, with which James had arbitrarily interfered,
shall be free, and that speech in parliament shall be free
also. It prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines, and
such extraordinary punishments as had been inflicted
upon Oates and Dangerfield. To prevent the packing of
juries, especially in cases of high treason, as they had
been packed by sycophant sheriffs like Dudley North,
under James and Jeffreys, it provides that jurors shall
be duly empanelled, and that in cases of treason they shall
be free-holders. For the redress of grievances and for
the amendment and preservation of the law it ordains


that parliaments shall be frequently held. By the Bill
of Rights, papists, and any who, like James, should marry
a papist, are declared incapable of wearing the crown.
In such a case the people are absolved from all alle-
giance, and the crown is to pass to the next heir; a near
approach to the principle of election. Thus the Exclu-
sion Bill was accepted by the nation after all. Papists
being what they then were, and what James and Mary of
Modena had shown themselves to be, this last article, which
might now be one of religious intolerance, was, as well
as the rest, one of political self-defence. Upon these
terms "William and Mary ascended the throne. Their
title was, and the title of the Princes of the house of
Hanover, whom the Act of Settlement made their heirs,
is still, an Act of Parliament, subject to repeal or amend-
ment by the same authority by which it was made.

To the safeguard for the composition of juries in cases
1696 of treason secured by the Bill of Rights was added after
some delay the abrogation of the barbarous rule which,
treating a man accused of treason as guilty before he
had been tried, had denied him counsel, denied him an
inspection of the indictment, denied him the benefit of
sworn evidence in his favour, and made a treason court,
with a Stuart judge on the bench, an instrument of legal
murder. At the time it was against a king who was the
soul of the Whig cause that the dagger of the assassin
was turned, and from Tories came the support of the
reform, from Whigs came such opposition as there was to
its immediate adoption. In the debate, by a happy artifice
of rhetoric, for such it probably was, a speaker in support of
the measure affected to break down, and then, apparently
recovering himself, bade the House consider, if his nerve


thus failed him when there was so little to shake it, what
must be the case of a poor prisoner unskilled in the law,
and without power of expression, when he was set to
plead for his life against the skilled advocates of the
crown. The character of the courts, however, was
changed, and a treason trial before Holt was far different
from a treason trial before Jeffreys.

One vital security for personal liberty was still lacking.
It was added towards the end of the new king's reign by 1701
a statute which established the independence of the
judges by providing that they should receive fixed
salaries, and hold their offices, not at the pleasure
of the crown, but during good behaviour, and be remov-
able only on the address of both Houses of parliament.
The office of the lord chancellor, the highest judge in
Equity, is still political and its holder goes out of office
with his party. Otherwise no judge since the time of
William III. has been deprived for a political reason.
The appointments to the bench long continued to be
political, though within a circle traced by professional
eminence. But of late even the appointments have be-
come more professional. Since the independence of the
English judiciary was secured, the purity of the ermine
has been preserved. To this great principle America has
been less faithful than England, for if the judge holds the
office not during good conduct but at pleasure, as he does
when he has to look for re-election, it signifies little
whether the pleasure is that of a king or that of a politi-
cal party styling itself the people. At the same time the
coercion or intimidation of juries, practised hitherto, as
in the case of Alice Lisle, ceased, and their independence,
as well as that of the judges, was secured.


Whatever principles might be laid down, there was no
safety for liberty, as recent experience had shown, if the
crown could maintain a standing army without the leave
or control of parliament. Against this the Declaration
of Right and the Bill of Rights provided by denunciation
of the abuse, and, more effectually, by prohibiting the
raising of the money necessary for the maintenance of the
army without a parliamentary grant. Hitherto there had
been no military laws to enforce discipline and prevent
desertion, other than the ordinances which the crown
assumed the power of putting forth for the regulation of
the forces when called into the field. An abuse of this
power by Charles I. had been the subject of a remedial
article in the Petition of Right. But the question hav-
ing been raised by the mutiny of one of the regiments
against the new government, parliament took the matter
1689 into its own jurisdiction and passed a Mutiny Act. The
Mutiny Act ultimately being made annual, parliament
has the power from year to year of terminating the control
of the crown over th^ soldier, and practically breaking
up the army. No one will confound the martial law
which regulates the army, with the martial law which is
a supersession of ordinary law by court-martial in time of
great public danger, applying to the whole community
alike and forming a counterpart to the French State of
Siege. Martial law in -the second sense is still unrecog-
, nized by the constitution and unregulated, as abuse of
it has shown. From the passing of the Mutiny Act
may be said to date the existence of the standing army
as a British institution. The fears of which it then
was, and long continued to be, the real or pretended
object proved unfounded. An army, recruited from an


obedient peasantry and commanded by gentlemen belong-
ing to a thoroughly constitutional class, never menaced
British liberties. Public order, when the police fails, is
best restored by the regular soldier, who, unaffected by
political passion and obedient to discipline, fires when
the word of command is given and not before. The
people respect and fear him, so that riot is generally
quelled without bloodshed by his appearance on the

The Bill of Rights, with the annual Mutiny Act^
makes monarchy constitutional. It ends the long struggle
for supremacy between king and parliament. If this did
not fully appear during William's reign, it was partly
because his position as head of a European confederacy,
together with his sole mastery of foreign affairs, made
him necessarily supreme in that department; partly be-
cause the House of Commons could not at once organize
itself for the exercise of its powers and the virtual control
of the executive. But if after William's reign personal
government was renewed, it was for the time only, and
in the way of influence, rather than by prerogative or
in avowed exercise of an authority recognized by the
constitution. The ministers of state are still appointted
by the king, whose influence for some time to come will
be largely felt in the appointments, but his choice is
gradually limited to the leaders of the party which liaS
the majority in the Commons, until at last it has become
little more than a formal recognition. >

Not only was the raising of money by the king without
parliamentary grant condemned, but the king was docked
of a part of the fixed revenue which the reckless royalists
of the last parliament had granted James for his life.


William felt hurt by what he deemed want of confidence,
but the change was a corollary of the Revolution.

By the poor, to whom bread is more than politics, the
Revolution made itself felt as a power of good in the
1689 abolition of the grinding and inquisitorial hearth tax,
which had been imposed by the Restoration.

For the settlement of the church question two policies
presented themselves ; that of comprehension, and that of
toleration. The best policy of all, perfect liberty of con-
science, had even now found access only to a few prophetic
and a few erratic minds. Comprehension had been the
policy of the Protectorate. It was the cherished policy
of William. It was the policy of the excellent Archbishop
Tillotson, the adviser of William and Mary in religious
matters, of Stillingfleet and the Latitudinarians. But
the Latitudinarians were strong only in London and other
centres of intelligence. The clergy generally, the danger
to the church from James's aggression being overpast,
had soon recovered from their fit of charitable feeling
towards nonconformists. They were by this time re-
solved to abate not a jot of their pretensions and firmly
set against any change in Anglican ritual or polity.
Their intolerance had foiind an excuse in the treat-
ment of the episcopal clergy by victorious Presbyterians
in Scotland, yet their conduct was odious and repro-
bated by the best men of their own order. Those sects
which no comprehension could comprehend, because they
objected to state connection altogether, such as the
Baptists and Quakers, would, of course, be opposed to a
measure by which they could not benefit. Comprehension
would have practically strengthened the establishment;
it was, in fact, supported by the Tory Nottingham and


by Bishop Compton with that view. There seems to
be truth in the surmise that the leading nonconformist
ministers themselves cared little to exchange the lucrative
and influential preacherships of rich city congregations
for the position of parochial clergy in the state church.
A Bill which' would have brought within the pale of the
national church Presbyterians and other Trinitarians who
did not object to state connection was framed and ardently i689
pressed. The king, more Liberal than Calvinist, was
all for comprehension. But as discussion went on sup-
port flagged, and in the end the Bill was allowed to drop.
Formally relegated to convocation, in the lower house of
which the rural and high-church clergy prevailed, though
the upper house, where sat the Liberal bishops, was in 1689
its favour, it speedily found its grave.

The policy adopted was that of toleration. Narrow 1689
enough to us the measure of toleration seems, though it
was regarded as a great charter of religious liberty in its
day. Compulsory attendance at the services of the state
church was abolished. But of the penal statutes of con-
formity none were struck off the statute book; the Act
only provided that they should not extend to anyone who
had proved his loyalty by taking the oaths of allegiance
and supremacy, and his protestantism by making his
declaration against transubstantiation. The Act of Uni-
formity and the Conventicle Act were not repealed; they
were only relaxed. Dissenting ministers, before they
could preach, were to be required to sign all the Articles
of the church of England, saving those which affirmed
that the church had power to regulate ceremonies, that
the doctrines of the book of homilies were sound, and
that there was nothing superstitious or idolatrous in th^


ordination service. Baptists were to be excused from
assenting to infant baptism. For Quakers, who would
take no oath, a declaration against transubstantiation, a
promise of loyalty, and a confession of Christian belief,
were to be the test. Nonconformists acquired legal
security for their chapels and funds, with something
approaching a clerical status for their ministers. The
Test Act and the Corporation Act remained in force,
and it was specially declared that no indulgence was
intended for any papist or for anyone who denied the
1689 doctrine of the Trinity. The Toleration Act has been
lauded as forming, by the practical wisdom which shines
through its manifest imperfections and inconsistencies*,
an ideal specimen of English legislation. It may readily
be conceded that the utmost which could be done at the
r time was the best thing to do. But it should also be
remarked that by this policy was perpetuated, it might
be inevitably, the division of the nation into the two
.hostile, or at least mutually estranged, bodies of church-
men and dissenters. The division was social, political,
and intellectual, as well as religious. The dissenters,
being excluded by tests from the universities, were denied
culture, and contemned for their lack of it. They were
trained apart from their fellow-citizens of the state church,
with different ideas and sympathies. They always felt
themselves, and had reason to feel themselves, in every
way disrated ; always looked on churchmen not only as a
privileged set, but as a dominant class ; were always more
or less disaffected towards the whole polity of which
Anglican supremacy formed a part.

Niggardly, however, as the Toleration Act was, it at
least recognized dissent and shook the belief, held, be it


remembered, by Presbyterians as well as by Anglicans,
that the state was bound to provide all its members with
religion and to force it on their acceptance. The recog-
nition of Presbyterianism in Scotland, and the connection
of the crown with it, would have the same effect. Nor
could the religious headship of the king, and the national
respect for him as a sacred personage, fail to be impaired
when the king was a Calvinist, an avowed Latitudinarian,
and out of the line of divine succession. Charles II., his
harem notwithstanding, had been " our most religious and
gracious king," and had touched tens of thousands for the
King's Evil. No one was touched for the King's Evil by
William III.

Most of the bishops and clergy took the oath of alle- 1689
giance to William and Mary, the high churchmen blink-
ing their doctrine of divine right with more or less of
effort and more or less of sophistical explanation. But
the primate, Sancroft, and seven other bishops, of whom
five, besides Sancroft, had been among the famous Seven,
with some minor dignitaries and about four hundred other
clergymen or graduates, refused the oath and incurred
the penalty of deprivation. Tlje recusants, under the
name of Nonjurors, seceded and founded a little church
of their own, to which, if it was made ridiculous by crazy
pedants like Hickes and Dodwell, dignity was lent by
the character of Ken. That saintly prelate, having re-
quired of Monmouth, on the scaffold, a profession of non-
resistance as the condition of absolution, could hardljr
himself have taken the oath to a government of resistance.
Yet his secession was avowedly reluctant, nor did he seek
to draw others with him. The clergy of the little church
of nonjurors furnished chaplains and tutors to Jacobite


squires. Having few laity to engage their pastoral care,
they took to political, and, it was said, sometimes to
domestic intrigue. Without substantial basis or real
spiritual life their church lingered, ever dwindling, on
the verge of existence, for nearly a century, when it ex-
pired in the person of a bishop, who had been constrained

1305 to earn his bread as a surgeon. It would be difficult to
find another instance of religious secession on a purely
political ground, as it would to find a church which
avowedly treated a political dogma as a vital article of
its faith. Lake, Bishop of Chichester, said on his death-
bed that he looked on the great doctrine of passive obedi-
ence as the distinguishing character of the Church of
England and as a doctrine for which he would lay down
his life.

The Revolution in England was bloodless, saving one
or two petty skirmishes between the soldiers of James
and those of William. It was peaceful, saving the few
hours of riot in London. Against any outpouring of
vengeance William's character was a guarantee; even
Jeffreys, instead of being torn in pieces or hanged by a
lamp-chain, was die in prison, and to bequeath
his ill-gotten wealth and title to his son, who took his
seat in the House of Lords. Crewe and Sprat remained
in possession of their bishoprics ; Kirke kept his regi-
ment; the statue of the fallen tyrant stood unmolested
over the gate of University College at Oxford, though the
apostate Master of the College was removed. There were
wrongs to be righted, and reparations to be made. The
attainders of the Whig martyrs Russell and Sidney were
reversed, that of Russell amid general emotion. The

1689 wretched Oates was released and pensioned. Liberal


philosophy in the person of Locke returned from its exile
in Holland. The charters of cities and boroughs, forfeited
under Charles, were restored. The Whigs would have
disfranchised for several years all who had taken part
in the surrender. They would have imposed an abjuration
of king James upon all office-holders and all to whom
a magistrate might tender it. They would have made a
number of exceptions from indemnity. But William 1690
came down with an Act of Grace extending indemnity
to all with a few exceptions, and those mostly of a
nominal kind.

At the head of the exceptions from grace stood the
judges of Charles I. One of them, the Republican
Ludlow, inspired by the Revolution with hopes for the
good old cause, came over from his Swiss asylum to Eng-
land. But he found that for the good old cause there
was no hope, and that the name of the regicide was as
much abhorred as ever. He represented one of the forces
of which 1688 was the resultant; but the resultant did
not recognize the force. Yet William was in great
measure taking up the work of Cromwell.

Even the enforcement of oaths of allegiance to the new
government was a policy of - the times from which true
policy perhaps would have departed. It awakened scru-
ples which might have slept ; it made secret enemies of
many who complied, but whose self-respect was wounded
by compliance. It drove the non- jurors to secession.
Wisdom would have been content with submission.

In Scotland the tyranny had been worse than in Eng-
land, and the reaction had been proportionately strong.
There, instead of declaring the throne vacant, in language
balanced between the theories of hereditary right and


original contract, James was summarily deposed for his
misdeeds. If this was unavoidable in a case where, roy-
alty being always absent, the throne was never full, and,
so could hardly be said to have been vacated, it was
at the same time the hearty act of the people. Nor was
the Revolution in Scotland free from violence. The epis-
copalian clergy, especially in the west, were rabbled, that
is, mobbed and turned out of their manses, by the peasantry
who had been hunted down and whose kinsmen had been
hanged over their doors by episcopalian* troopers. The
prelatical establishment was swept away, and the Presby-
terian establishment was restored, with its democratic
organization, with its general assembly, with its sim-
plicity of worship, and with its intolerance. William
would have preferred a moderate episcopacy, both as in
itself more congenial to monarchy, and because he, like
Edward I., Bacon, and Cromwell, desired the union of
Scotland with England, to which the severance of the
churches was a bar. The Kirk was not restored entirely
in its pristine beauty. Something of ro3^al influence,
such as a high-flying Covenanter would deem Erastian,
over the assembly of the Kirk was reserved to the king or
his commissioner, and an element of lay patronage in the
appointment of ministers was retained. Besides, William
1689 was not a Covenanting king. On these grounds the ex-
treme Covenanters seceded and formed a separate sect.
On the other hand, the staunch episcopalians founded an
independent church in Scotland, naturally indemnifying
themselves for disestablishment by indulgence in doc-
trine or sentiment somewhat higher than that of the state
church in England. Thus Scotland had two sets of non-
jurors, episcopal and Covenanting. The sect of Cove-


nanting nonjurors, slell&er as was its thread of life, long
clung with Scotch tenacity to existence, but at last died.
The episcopalian church of Scotland still lives, and it
was enabled by its independence to transmit apostolical
succession to the Episcopal Church of the United States,
rent from the state church of England by the American
Revolution, which the church of England was precluded
from doing by the closeness of its connection with the

There was more than rabbling in Scotland; there was
civil war, not, however, among the Lowland Scotch, nor
properly speaking as an incident of the Revolution. This
was a Highland war of clan against clan, none of the
clans knowing or caring much about English politics
or parties, though a section of them was brought into the
field in the name of king James. The Earl of Argyle, by
Highlanders called McCallum More, head of the powerful
and domineering clan Campbell, was a Whig, and had
carried with him his clansmen to that party. This was
enough to .make the rival clans Tory, while all the clans
alike were ready for a raid, no matter in what cause, on
the lands of the Saxon. Thus James's lieutenant and
emissary, Claverhouse, now Viscount Dundee, the ro-
mantic and ruthless leader of the persecuting bands, was
able to raise a Highland army in his master's name. At
the pass of Killiecrankie he encountered a body of the 1689
regular troops under William's general, Mackay, and,
thanks to the impetuous charge of his Highlanders with
their claymores, gained a brilliant victory. But Dundee
himself fell. The Highland host melted away as it had
gathered, like a snow wreath, and there was soon an end
of the war. Two effects, however, remained. One was


the extension of the system commenced under Cromwell
by Monck of bridling the wild Highlanders with forts.
The other was an improvement of the bayonet, to the
clumsiness of which Mackay owed his defeat at Killie-
crankie. In place of a bayonet fixed in the muzzle of the
gun, which prevented firing, Mackay invented one which
could be fixed without plugging the gun. The missile
weapon and the steel, that of the pikeman and that of the
musketeer, long separated, were thus brought together
again, as they had partly been in the hands of the Roman
soldier, who threw the javelin before closing with the
sword. This would give the foot soldier an advantage
over the horseman ; and no military change is without its
political effect.

The chief scene of calamity and bloodshed once more
was hapless Ireland. There the struggle was still not one
of political principle, but one between races and for the
land, embittered by difference of religion. Little recked
the catholic Celt of questions between Whig and Tory,
or of disputes about hereditary right and the original
contract. Nor cared he much for king James, though
king James was, like himself, a Roman Catholic, except
so far as James was an enemy to the English government
and lent his countenance to Irish revolt. What the Celt

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 53 of 84)