Copyright
Goldwin Smith.

The United kingdom; a political history online

. (page 54 of 84)
Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 54 of 84)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


wanted was to expel the Saxon from the island and to
win back the land for the Celt. Towards that mark
Tyrconnel and his crew madly drove. They assembled
1689 at Dublin a parliament of Celts and catholics, the action
of which was a presage of what the bent of such a
parliament if again assembled might be. It repealed
Charles II. 's Act of Settlement, which secured to protes-
tants their lands. It thus gave the word for a sweeping



II JAMES II 95

reconfiscation which, had it kept its power, would cer-
tainly have ensued. It did not stop here. In its frenzy
of hatred it passed a great Act of Attainder embracing 1689
between two and three thousand names, and including,
with half the peerage of Ireland, baronets, clergymen,
squires, merchants, yeomen, artisans, women, and chil-
dren. Days were fixed before which those whose names
were on the list were to surrender themselves to the
mercy of their raging enemies at Dublin. Anyone failing
to appear was doomed to death and confiscation without
trial. To make sure work, the power of pardoning was
taken from the king. The worst part of the Act may have
been merely ferocious menace ; but the Celt was not in a
merciful mood. A fitting concomitant of such legisla-
tion was a boundless issue of base coin, if pieces of old
brass could be dignified with the name of coin at all.
This also to the protestant merchant and creditor was a
measure of confiscation. The protestants were excluded
from the jury box, that is, from any chance of justice;
were disarmed, and thus marked out as sheep for the
slaughter. Over the island meanwhile reigned misrule,
havoc, and rapine. Protestants were everywhere flying
panic-stricken from their homes. Massacre like that of
1641 impended. There was a design of severing Ireland
from Great Britian and making it a dependency of France ;
as, if ever it were severed from Great Britain, it would
probably become. Louis, having now taken up arms 1689
against England in the cause of Catholicism and kings,
sent James to Ireland with subsidies and French com-
manders. The Celts, flocking to his standard, formed an
army large but ill-armed, ragged, predatory, and tumultu-
ous. At Dublin he found himself harassed by factions



96 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

among the patriots like those of the Parnellites and anti-
Parnellites in after days. A catholic and the enemy
of a usurping king of England, he was still himself an
English king, and it was with reluctance that he assented
to the dispossession and proscription of his race, coupled
with the suspension of his own prerogative. Nor was his
the character, nor were his the manners, to win the Irish
heart.

In . Ulster, its chief seat, the ruling race gathered in
places of refuge, turned to bay, and gave memorable proof
of its superiority in moral force. Sallying forth from
Enniskillen, one of its last strongholds, it utterly over-
1689 threw a Celtic army at Newton Butler. But its most
1689 famous exploit was the defence of Londonderry, where it
heroically held a weak and mouldering wall against a
great Celtic host under French command, and still more
heroically bore the utmost extremities of famine, while
Kirke, coward or traitor as well as butcher, lay with the
relieving squadron inactive in sight of the city. Irish
protestantism has never ceased to draw proud confidence
in its power from the story of the siege of Derry, or to
glory in the memory of Walker, the protestant clergy-
man, who was the religious soul of the defence. The
most vivid of narrators in our day has given immortal
splendour to the story.

It was some time before the force of England, .troubled
and divided in herself, could be brought effectually to
1689 bear on Ireland. Schomberg, William's marshal, and the
first of European strategists, came over with an army.
But under Stuart government the public service and not-
ably the commissariat had become utterly corrupt and
rotten. Contracts, as well as honours, commands, offices,



n JAMES II »7

and pardons, had been sold in open market at Whitehall.
Schomberg's army was paralyzed and wasted away by
want owing to the frauds of contractors combined with
the disease bred by the dampness of the climate and
aggravated by the helplessness of the raw levies, though
the veteran managed with his famishing and dwindling
battalions to show a front which commanded the respect
of the foe. At last William himself came over, and at 1690
the Battle of the Boyne, a name ever dear to Orangemen,
and repeated in their songs of triumph, overthrew the
army of James and entered Dublin. James, who had
shown no courage or conduct in the field, fled to France
to return no more. The war, however, did not end here.
Again the Celts, under the French General, St. Ruth,
encountered the army of William under Ginkell, and at
Aghrim were again overthrown. But they redeemed their 1691
reputation as soldiers by the stand which they made at
Limerick under Sarsfield, a gallant partisan leader. By 1691
a bold move of Sarsfield, William's battering train was
cut off, and he was compelled to raise the siege. What-
ever may have been the cause, whether he was inclined
to temporize or not, he did not show the decisive vigour
of Cromwell in putting an end to the war. He seems
hardly to have understood the Irish question, or to have
seen that it was not merely a religious quarrel which his
liberal policy of toleration might allay, but an internecine
struggle between the two races and religions for the pos-
session of the land. In the end Limerick surrendered to 1691
Ginkell, while Marlborough's resistless genius completed
the work. The flower of the Celtic soldiery with Sars-
field left their native land to take service in the catholic
armies of the continent, in which some of them rose

VOL. II — 7



98 THE UNITED KINGDOM chaj».

high. In arms, though not in industry or political in-
telligence, they were an off-set for the Huguenots, whom
the head of the catholic cause had driven as exiles to
protestant lands.

Now came the day of retribution for all that the protes-
tants had suffered, for the repeal of the Act of Settlement,
and for the passing of the Act of Attainder. William was
always tolerant, always disposed to amnesty, and would
have restrained vengeance if he could. But to restrain
it in this case was beyond his power. The weary and
hateful story of transfer of the land by confiscation for
an insurrection of race was repeated. The victorious
race which had barely escaped with property and life pro-
ceeded to bind down the vanquished with iron fetters of
penal law. Cruel and hateful as the penal code was, it
was penned not so much by bigotry as by political and
social fear. It assumed a religious form because religion
was identified with race. To deprive a hostile race of all
means of rising again and renewing the conflict rather
than to repress a rival religion was its aim; To prevent
combination among the catholics, it confined all native
priests to their own parishes, while to deprive conspiracy
of encouragement from abroad it banished foreign priests
on pain of death. It contained provisions framed with
ruthless ingenuity for breaking up the landed estates of
catholics, and preventing them from acquiring free-hold
property in land. It enabled and tempted, against natural
affection, the protestant son to dispossess his catholic
father. It forbade catholics, as the catholics in their hour
of ascendancy had forbidden protestants, to have arms. It
forbade them to have a horse of above five pounds' value.
It prohibited them from keeping schools. To deprive



II JAMES II 99

them of political power, they were excluded from parlia-
ment and from all public offices. To deprive them of
social influence they were excluded from the university
and from the bar. The victorious protestant reduced the
catholic to a political and social pariah. The catholic,
had he been victorious, would have exterminated or
expelled the protestant. When he had been completely
crushed, and the fears of the protestants had abated,
evasion of the code began and at last the most cruel of
its enactments fell into practical desuetude. The enact-
ments against the catholic priesthood took not full
effect. The priest-hunter was odious, and the priest,
disestablished and poor, but preserved by his poverty from
corruption, remained the guide and comforter of the van-
quished Celt through the night of penal serfdom; while
the people clung to the religion of their race, the efforts
to convert them from which, if a corrupt and plethoric
establishment made any, proved vain. The property
clauses of the penal code, however, had their effect, and
at last only one-tenth part of the land of Ireland remained
in catholic hands. To fill the cup of bitterness to over-
flowing, came back the intrusive Anglican establishment
with its bloated hierarchy, devouring by its imposts the
substance of peasants to whom it was alien and hateful,
while it could render them no sort of service; making pro-
testantism doubly odious to the catholics ; and at the same
time persecuting free protestant churches, by which it
was possible that something in the way of conversion
might have been done. In the history of political folly
and iniquity few things will be found to match the
Anglican establishment in Ireland.



CHAPTER III

WILLIAM III
Born 1650; Declared King 1689; Died 1702

TXTILLIAM III., though at first he reigned in the name
of his gentle partner, as well as in his own, was
sole king.

William was cold in manner, though not in heart; grave,
as one whose life was divided between the council cham-
ber and the battlefield well might be ; silent as his illus-
trious ancestor had been, and the more silent in England
because he could not speak English well. As the head at
once of a realm still troubled and of a European coalition,
he had little time for small talk with men or dalliance
with women. He had to be much abroad, and when he
was at home his asthma made him a valetudinarian and
a recluse, and prevented him from living in London.
He withdrew to Hampton Court or Kensington, and at
Westminster there was a court no more- His wife,
though helpful, as well as sensible and virtuous, could
scarcely make up for his social defects. A foreigner
he could not help being; a foreigner among islanders;
islanders, too, who had borne his fellow-countrymen, the
Dutch, as rivals in commerce, little good will. He may
have made a mistake in keeping his Dutch Guards. The
feeling of Englishmen against the Dutch in general was
an ungrateful prejudice. But with prejudice and ingrati-

100



CHAP. Ill WILLIAM III 101

tude statesmanship has to deal. William made a serious
mistake in his largesses to his Dutch favourites. Nor was
he always well advised either in his choice of ministers or
in his attempts to retain the remnants of the royal prerog-
ative. Still, the treatment of the deliverer by the Tory
party in England, and by the vulgar generally, while he
was toiling and facing the shot for the great cause, is a
dark blot on the annals of the nation. Its blackness is
seen by contrast with the loyalty which glows in Defoe.
Scarcely had William rid the country of the tyranny
when a Jacobite party for the recall of the tyrant was 1689
formed. Its busiest agents and preachers were non-
juring clergy, who, being without congregations, had all
their time for politics. The country clergy generally
leant to the same side, and, if not Jacobites, were Tories
and enemies to the Revolution government. Addison
twitted these parsons with their wisdom in holding that
the church of England could never be safe until she had a
popish defender. He did not see that absolutism rather
than protestantism was the vital article of their creed.
With the parsons went many of the squires, each of them
a little autocrat in his own sphere, and, therefore, a friend
of autocracy, while their jealousy was excited by the grow-
ing influence of the commercial and moneyed class, which
adhered* to the Revolution government and throve by its
financial operations. As war went on and war taxation
increased, the squire was further estranged by the reduc-
tion of his income and the increase in the price of his wine
for objects little dear to his heart. The army was sore
under the sense of having played rather a sorry part, and
jealous of the Dutch Guard. One regiment broke out 1689
into mutiny. The mob hated the foreigner, and it is



102 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

naturally on the side of opposition. Disappointments,
national and personal, follow every revolution. The
scramble for place left many malcontents. Nor could
William cure in an instant the deep-seated maladies
of the Stuart administration. The military and naval
departments, like the rest, were rotten and full of cor-
1689- ruption. Schom berg's army in Ireland had been ruined
1690 \^y ^i^Q "roguery of the commissary-general Shales.

The tyrant, deposed and exiled, became an object of
pity. So rapid and so strong was the reaction, that self-
seeking and unscrupulous politicians deemed it for their
interest to open communications with the exiled court,
less, probably, with the intention of themselves restoring
James, whose unforgiving temper they must have known
too well, than with a view of hedging against a possible
restoration. The perfidy of these men was unspeakable,
and opened a revolting scene of treason, at the same time
throwing back a lurid light on the public life of the pre-
ceding reign, in which they had been bred. Some of
them, such as Godolphin, Shrewsbury, and Marlborough,
were holding high office or command under William and
enjoying his confidence while they betrayed him and the
nation. Shrewsbury had signed the invitation to the
Prince of Orange; so had Russell, who was also among
the plotters, though it was pique probably rather than
interest that led him astray. Mere pique, where there
was such moral levity, would probably account for much,
and had invasion been imminent, those who dallied with
the fallen tyrant would very likely have ranged them-
selves on the national side. Sunderland, the most profli-
gate of all the politicians, was not among the plotters.
Either he deemed a restoration really impossible, or, hav-



Ill WILLIAM III 103

ing been a pretended convert to Roman Catholicism and
afterwards relapsed, he despaired of reconciliation with
such a bigot as James. Of all the traitors, the worst was
Marlborough, who, to buy a pardon from James, betrayed
to him the expedition against Brest, causing thereby the
failure of the expedition and the death of the gallant 1694
Talmash, its commander. No other British soldier has
been guilty of a crime so foul. Excuses are vain. It is
said that other traitors had given the information before
Marlborough. Unless he knew it, this makes no differ-
ence ; and if he did know it, he was bound to warn the
government. He well deserved to be shot, or rather to be
hanged. His apologists had better leave his case alone,
and let his political infamy be lost, as far as it may, in his
military glory. He was a man, like Napoleon, devoid of
moral sense. If he ever had any, he must have left it in
tlie ante-chambers of Charles II. But it does not follow
because a man has no conscience that his heart is cold.
Alexander VI. was a very loving father. Marlborough
passionately loved his wife, termagant as she was. Once,
to vex him, she cut off her hair, the beauty of which was
his pride, and threw it in his way. He picked it up, and
when he died it was found among the cherished treasures
of the victor of Blenheim. The depth of Marlborough's
treason William never knew; but he knew that he was
treacherous, and for a time disgraced him. The king
either knew or strongly suspected that there was treason
all around him. Yet he shut his eyes and made use of the
men, trusting that their present interest would lead them
to serve him and the country well, as it notably did
in the case of the prince of administrators, Godolphin.
To resent conspiracy against himself William was too



104 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

magnanimous, provided he could prevent it from hurting
the state. In the case of Shrewsbury, to whom he singu-
larly and almost mysteriously clung, his magnanimity was
justified by a bitter repentance.

There is no saying what might have happened had
James been a man open to the teaching of adversity, and
capable of stooping to discretion. But he was in his own
eyes, as his priests and courtiers had taught him, a divinity,
and his hallucination was confirmed by his contact with
the solar autocracy of France. He made the cause of his
friends in England desperate by his manifestoes, which,
instead of promises of amendment on his own part, and
of constitutional government, breathed nothing but the
wrath of injured majesty. The idea that the impiety of
men could actually prevail against the Lord's anointed, or
that a nation could live without its legitimate king, seems
never to have entered his mind. His party in England
being damped and broken by his folly, his only hope lay
in French assistance, and against French invasion the
spirit of the whole English nation, saving the most fanati-
cal Jacobites, took arms. Russell had intrigued with St.
Germains; but when he met the fleet which was to convoy
James with a French army to England, he became once
more an English seaman, and gained the great victory of
1692 La Hogue. The Stuart scheme of establishing absolute
government and Catholicism in England by the help of
France would always have been defeated, when it came
to the point of intervention, by the spirit of the English
nation.

The first part of the reign was a period of distraction
in the king's councils and confusion in parliament attend-
ant on the final transition from the old system of the



in WILLIAM III 105

privy council, which included men of different principles
and was not connected with a party in parliament, to
that of the cabinet, formed of men united in principle
with an organized party in parliament as its base.
William at first refused to recognize party, and made
up his government of Whigs and Tories combined; like
Washington, who, treating party not as a permanent
force but as a, transient malady, combined Hamilton with
Jefferson in the administration. He had even, as king,
some leaning towards the Tories as the more decided
monarchists, and the better friends to prerogative, while
he was harassed by the unreasonable expectations and
demands of the Whigs. The consequence was discord
and jarring in every department, except that of foreign
affairs, which, as not being national, but European, the
chief of coalized Europe kept in his own hands. Sunder-
land, not less shrewd than unscrupulous, having stolen
back to politics and the king's ear, taught William that
to give unity and efficiency to his government he must
call to his councils men of one party alone. To choose
between the parties was after all not difficult, since it was
upon Whig principles that William had been raised to
the throne, and the Whigs, however some of them might
have swerved from their fidelity, were enemies of the
house of Stuart. A Whig ministry, accordingly, was
formed, and the Whig party in parliament was organized
as its base under a junto of powerful leaders. The Tory
party formed an opposition, though organized apparently
with less strictness than the Whig, the agreement between
the pronounced Jacobites and the general body of Tories
not being complete. At the head of the more moderate
section was Daniel Finch, Earl of Nottingham, an honest



106 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

man, devoted above all things to the interests of the
church, who had all but joined the appeal to William, but
had afterwards proposed a regency, kept clear of intrigue,
and, by a distinction between a king de facto and a king
de jure^ enabled himself faithfully to support the new
government.

Here we have the historical origin, not of party, which,
besides tearing the Greek, Roman, and Italian republics,
had raged in England under Charles I. and Charles II.,
but of party government, which has now been accepted
as the regular system, not only of Great Britain and her
colonies, but of other parliamentary countries, and whether
legally recognized, as in America, or not, is, wherever it
prevails, practically the constitution. Though from the
beginning party showed itself to be only an exalted kind
of faction, the system had in its origin, at least, an intelli-
gible foundation. Between the party of the Stuarts and
the party which had driven out the Stuarts, between the
party of government by prerogative and the party of
parliamentary government, there was a fundamental divi-
sion such as might warrant a good citizen in submitting
his convictions on minor points, and everything but his
moral conscience, to the discipline of party till the object
of the combination was secured. Burke's definition of
party as "a body of men united for promoting by their
joint endeavours the national interest upon some particular
principle in which they are all agreed," though panegyri-
cal, might then have had place. Deliverance from the
Stuarts and their tyranny was a principle "particular"
enough. But in the absence of a fundamental division
party is nothing but faction, as in the sequel plainl}^
appeared. Then the only bond is either blind adherence



Ill WILLIAM III 107

to a name which sometimes remains the same while prin-
ciples change, or corruption in some form. All attempts
to find for the party system a permanent and universal
basis in human nature fail. Human nature cannot be
bisected ; it varies through countless shades, and the same
man who is conservative on some questions is liberal or
even radical on others. As a rule, age is conservative,
youth loves change ; yet the spirit of reaction is nowhere
so strong as in the young men of a privileged class.
Burke's system requires that the members of a govern-
ment should be united among themselves and divided
from their opponents on some organic question. Suppose
no organic question is before the country, on what would
Burke's party be based ? But even suppose that such a
question is before the country, ought the nation to lose
the services of its best financier or its best war minister
because he does not agree with the home secretary or the
lord chancellor about the suffrage or the church estab-
lishment ? Godolphin, as an administrator, was invalu-
able ; but on organic questions he can scarcely be said to
have had any principles at all ; his paramount principle
was self-interest ; his only other principle was loyalty to
his department. A party government is the government
of only half the nation. It can appeal to the loyalty
of only half the nation. The function, it may almost be
said, of the other half is to oppose, traduce, thwart, and
embarrass the government. In foreign policy this is
particularly fatal. A perpetual strife of passion, a civil
war of hatred, intrigue, and calumny, with their effects
on national character and the dignity of government, ar^
the necessary accompaniments of the system. Legislation
is regulated by party tactics, not by a calm view of public



108 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

good, and the party which is out of power and struggling
to get back to it makes reckless promises of change. All
this will presently appear. In the absence of organic ques-
tions the only valid plea for the perpetuation of the system
is the necessity of an organizing force to define the issues,
nominate the candidates, and concentrate the votes at
elections, as well as to prevent the House from becoming
a chaos. The machine of elective government must have
a motor, and the motor hitherto in England has been
party, in the absence of which there has been a reign of
cabal. What the Instrument of Government would have
done, fate forbade us to know.

The weakness of the system was seen at once by a
keen eye and exposed in immortal satire. The parties of
the Tramecksan and Slamecksan in Swift's Lilliput, dis-
tinguished only by the high and low heels on their shoes,
yet in their struggle for place too bitter to eat, drink,
or talk with each other, are the Tories and Whigs, the
high churchmen and the low churchmen, of this and the
succeeding reigns. To give full piquancy to the satire
we have only to remember that the satirist himself was
a pari}isan, political as well as religious, and that his bit-
terness was by no means diminished when he had changed
his party.

In its natal hour English party produced its typical



Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 54 of 84)