Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

The history of England from the accession of James the Second online

. (page 47 of 49)
Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayThe history of England from the accession of James the Second → online text (page 47 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


toi^if the judicious in his choice of means, but intent on one of the
Puritans noblest ends which a ruler can pursue, the establishment of
entire religious liberty. Nor can it be denied that some portions of his
life, when detached from the rest and superficially considered, seem to
warrant this favourable view of his character.

While a subject he had been, during many j'ears, a persecuted man ;

lAct. Pari. Car. II. March 29. 1661 ; Jac. VII. April 28. 16S5, and May 13. 1685.

^Act. Pari Jac. VII. May 8. 1685 ; Observator, June 20. 16S5. Lestrange evidently wished
to see the precedent followed in England.



1685 JAMES THE SECOND 491

and persecution had produced its usual effect on him. His mind, dull
and narrow as it was, had profited under that sharp discipline. While
he was excluded from the Court, from the Admiralty, and from the
Council, and was in danger of being also excluded from the throne, only
because he could not help believing in transubstantiation and in the
authority of the see of Rome, he made such rapid progress in the
doctrines of toleration that he left Milton and Locke behind. What, he
often said, could be more unjust, than to visit speculations with penalties
which ought to be reserved for acts? What more impolitic than to
reject the services of good soldiers, seamen, lawyers, diplomatists,
financiers, because they hold unsound opinions about the number of the
sacraments or the pluripresence of saints ? He learned by rote those
commonplaces which all sects repeat so fluently when they are enduring
oppression, and forget so easily when they are able to retaliate it. In-
deed he rehearsed his lesson so well, that those who chanced to hear him
on this subject gave him credit for much more sense and much readier
elocution than he really possessed. His professions imposed on some
charitable persons, and perhaps imposed on himself. But his zeal for
the rights of conscience ended with the predominance of the Whig
party. When fortune changed, when he was no longer afraid that others
would persecute him, when he had it in his power to persecute others,
his real propensities began to show themselves. He hated the Puritan
sects with a manifold hatred, theological and political, hereditary and
personal. He regarded them as the foes of Heaven, as the foes of all
legitimate authority in Church and State, as his greatgrandmother's foes
and his grandfather's, his father's and his mother's, his brother's and his
own. He, who had complained so loudly of the laws against Papists,
now declared himself unable to conceive how men could have the im-
pudence to propose the repeal of the laws against Puritans.^ He, whose
favourite theme had been the injustice of requiring civil functionaries to
take religious tests, established in Scotland, when he resided there as
Viceroy, the most rigorous religious test that has ever been known in
the empire.^ He, who had expressed just indignation when the priests
of his own faith were hanged and quartered, amused himself with hear-
ing Covenanters shriek and seeing them writhe while their knees were
beaten flat in the boots.' In this mood he became King ; and he im-

1 His own words reported by himself. Life of James the Second, i. 656. Orig. Mem.

^Act. Pari. Car. II. August 31. 168 1.

^ Burnet, i. 583 ; Wodrow, III. v. 2. Unfortunately the Acta of the Scottish Privy Council
during almost the whole administration of the Duke of York are wanting. ( 1 848. ) This assertion
has been met by a direct contradiction. But the fact is exactly as I have stated it. There is in
the Acta of the Scottish Privy Council a hiatus extending from August 1678 to August 1682. The
Duke of York began to reside in Scotland in December 1679. He left Scotland, never to return,
in May 1682. (1857.)



492 HISTORY OF ENGLAND chap, iv

mediately demanded and obtained from the obsequious Estates of
Scotland, as the surest pledge of their loyalty, the most sanguinary law
that has ever in our island been enacted against Protestant Noncon-
formists.

With this law the whole spirit of his administration was in perfect
harmony. The fiery persecution, which had raged when he ruled
Cruel treat- Scotland as vicegerent, waxed hotter than ever from the day

ment of the on which he became sovereign. Those shires in which the
Scotch „ ^ . , ,.

Cove- Covenanters were most numerous were given up to the license

nan ers ^j- ^.j^^ army. With the army was mingled a militia, com-

posed of the most violent and profiigate of those who called themselves
Episcopalians. Preeminent among the bands which oppressed and
wasted these unhappy districts were the dragoons commanded by John
Graham of Claverhouse. The story ran that these wicked men used in
their revels to play at the torments of hell, and to call each other by the
names of devils and damned souls.^ The chief of this Tophet, a soldier
of distinguished courage and professional skill, but rapacious and pro-
fane, of violent temper and of obdurate heart, has left a name which,
wherever the Scottish race is settled on the face of the globe, is men-
tioned with a peculiar energy of hatred. To recapitulate all the crimes,
by which this man, and men like him, goaded the peasantry of the
Western Lowlands into madness, would be an endless task. A few
instances must suffice ; and all those instances shall be taken from the
history of a single fortnight, that very fortnight in which the Scottish
Parliament, at the urgent request of James, enacted a new law of unpre-
cedented severity against Dissenters.

John Brown, a poor carrier of Lanarkshire, was, for his singular
piety, commonly called the Christian carrier. Many years later, when
Scotland enjoyed rest, prosperity, and religious freedom, old men who
remembered the evil days described him as one versed in divine things,
blameless in life, and so peaceable that the tyrants could find no offence
in him except that he absented himself from the public worship of the
Episcopalians. On the first of May he was cutting turf, when he was
seized by Claverhouse's dragoons, rapidly examined, convicted of non-
conformity, and sentenced to death. It is said that, even among the
soldiers, it was not easy to find an executioner. For the wife of the
poor man was present : she led one little child by the hand : it was
easy to see that she was about to give birth to another ; and even those
wild and hardhearted men, who nicknamed one another Beelzebub and
Apollyon, shrank from the great wickedness of butchering her husband
before her face. The prisoner, meanwhile, raised above himself by the
near prospect of eternity, prayed loud and fervently as one inspired, till

' Wodrow, III. ix. 6.



i68s JAMES THE SECOND



493



Claverhouse, in a fury, shot him dead. It was reported by credible
witnesses that the widow cried out in her agony, " Well, sir, well ; the
day of reckoning will come ; " and that the murderer replied, " To man
I can answer for what I have done ; and as for God, I will take him
into mine own hand." Yet it was rumoured that even on his seared
conscience and adamantine heart the dying ejaculations of his victim
made an impression which was never effaced.^

On the fifth of May two artisans, Peter Gillies and John Bryce,
were tried in Ayrshire by a military tribunal consisting of fifteen
soldiers. The indictment is still extant. The prisoners were charged,
not with any act of rebellion, but with holding the same pernicious
doctrines which had impelled others to rebel, and with wanting only
opportunity to act upon those doctrines. The proceeding was summary.
In a few hours the two culprits were convicted, hanged, and flung
together into a hole under the gallows.^

The eleventh of May was made remarkable by more than one great
crime. Some rigid Calvinists had from the doctrine of reprobation
drawn the consequence that to pray for any person who had been pre-
destined to perdition was an act of mutiny against the eternal decrees
of the Supreme Being. Three poor labouring men, deeply imbued with
this unamiable divinity, were stopped by an officer in the neighbour-
hood of Glasgow. They were asked whether they would pray for King
James the Seventh. They refused to do so except under the condition
that he was one of the elect. A, file of musketeers was drawn out.
The prisoners knelt down : they were blindfolded ; and, within an hour
after they had been arrested, their blood was lapped up by the dogs.-"*

^ Wodrow, III. ix. 6. The editor of the Oxford edition of Burnet attempts to excuse this act
by alleging that Claverhouse was then employed to intercept all communication between Argyle
and Monmouth, and by supposing that John Brown may have been detected in conveying intel-
ligence between the rebel camps. Unfortunately for this hypothesis John Brown was shot on the
first of May, when both Argyle and Monmouth were in Holland, and when there was no insur-
rection in any part of our island.

2 Wodrow, III. ix. 6.

' Ibid. It has been confidently asserted, by persons who have not taken the trouble to look at
the authority to which I have referred, that I have grossly calumniated these unfortunate men ;
that I do not understand the Calvinistic theology ; and that it is impossible that members of the
Church of Scotland can have refused to pray for any man, on the ground that he was not one of
the elect.

I can only refer to the narrative which Wodrow has inserted in his History, and which he
justly calls plain and natural. That narrative is signed by two eyewitnesses, and Wodrow,
before he published it, submitted it to a third eyewitness who pronounced it strictly accurate.
From that narrative I will extract the only words which bear on the point in question : "When
all the three were taken, the officers consulted among themselves, and, withdrawing to the west
side of the town, questioned the prisoners, particularly if they would pray for King James VII.
They answered, they would pray for all within the election of grace. Balfour said, Do you












^ti^a^^J-^^^ 1'^4^-r-iit-rf^e^ .-^^-J^i^^^!^ ^ ,^^^^-







FACSIMILE OF A LETTER FROM CLAVERHOUSE TO LORD

From the Stou-e Mss.



























,#^-^







^












;Z^ ^^^-^^^-^^ J'^x-^^^






.^^,











LINLITHGOW ON THE SKIRMISH AT DRUMCLOG ON JUNE I, 1679
in the British Museum



496 HISTORY OF ENGLAND chap, iv

While this was done in Clydesdale, an act not less horrible was
perpetrated in Eskdale. One of the proscribed Covenanters, overcome
by sickness, had found shelter in the house of a respectable widow, and
had died there. The corpse was discovered by the Laird of Westerhall,
a petty tyrant who had, in the days of the Covenant, professed inor-
dinate zeal for the Presbyterian Church, who had, since the Restoration,
purchased the favour of the government by apostasy, and who felt
towards the party which he had deserted the implacable hatred of an
apostate. This man pulled down the house of the poor woman, carried
away her furniture, and, leaving her and her younger children to wander
in the fields, dragged her son Andrew, who was still a lad, before
Claverhouse, who happened to be marching through that part of the
country. Claverhouse was just then strangely lenient. Some thought
that he had not been quite himself since the death of the Christian
carrier, ten days before. But Westerhall was eager to signalise his
loyalty, and extorted a sullen consent. The guns were loaded, and the
youth was told to pull his bonnet over his face. He refused, and stood
confronting his murderers with the Bible in his hand. " I can look you
in the face," he said ; " I have done nothing of which I need be
ashamed. But how will you look in that day when you shall be judged
by what is written in this book ? " He fell dead, and was buried in the
moor.i

On the same day two women, Margaret Maclachlan and Margaret
Wilson, the former an aged widow, the latter a maiden of eighteen,
suffered death for their religion in Wigtonshire. They were offered
their lives if they would consent to abjure the cause of the insurgent
Covenanters, and to attend the Episcopal worship. They refused ; and
they were sentenced to be drowned. They were carried to a spot which
the Solway overflows twice a day, and were fastened to stakes fixed in
the sand, between high and low water mark. The elder sufferer was
placed near to the advancing flood, in the hope that her last agonies
might terrify the younger into submission. The sight was dreadful.
But the courage of the survivor was sustained by an enthusiasm as lofty
as any that is recorded in martyrology. She saw the sea draw nearer
and nearer, but gave no sign of alarm. She prayed and sang verses of
psalms till the waves choked her voice. After she had tasted the

question the King's election ? They answered, sometimes they questioned their own. Upon
which he swore dreadfully, and said they should die presently, because they would not pray for
Christ's vicegerent, and so, without one word more, commanded Thomas Cook to go to his
prayers, for he should die."

In this narrative Wodrow saw nothing improbable ; and I shall not easily be convinced that
any writer now living understands the feelings and opinions of the Covenanters better than
Wodrow did. (1S57.)

'Wodrow, III. ix. 6. Cloud of Witnesses.




oi


o


lil




H


w


T,





<f.


dj


Z;


ri


w


c


>




o


IS


u






O


w


-rl


ni




H






U


n


<




O


Z




o


4)


H


a


3


.i2


' )


c


M




f/l




Pi


V


M




Bh


f.


H




s




H





498 HISTORY OF ENGLAND chap, iv

bitterness of death, she was, by a cruel mercy, unbound and restored to
hfe. When she came to herself, pitying friends and neighbours implored
her to yield. " Dear Margaret, only say, God save the King ! " The
poor girl, true to her stern theology, gasped out, " May God save him,
if it be God's will ! " Her friends crowded round the presiding officer.
" She has said it ; indeed, sir, she has said it." " Will she take the
abjuration ? " he demanded. " Never ! " she exclaimed. " I am Christ's :
let me go ! " And the waters closed over her for the last time.^

Thus was Scotland governed by that prince whom ignorant men
have represented as a friend of religious liberty, whose misfortune it was
to be too wise and too good for the age in which he lived. Nay, even
those laws which authorised him to govern thus were in his judgment
reprehensibly lenient. While his officers were committing the murders
which have just been related, he was urging the Scottish Parliament to
pass a new Act compared with which all former Acts might be called
merciful.

In England his authority, though great, was circumscribed by
ancient and noble laws which even the Tories would not patiently have
seen him infringe. Here he could not hurry Dissenters before military
tribunals, or enjoy at Council the luxury of seeing them swoon in the
boots. Here he could not drown young girls for refusing to take the
abjuration, or shoot poor countrymen for doubting whether he was one
of the elect. Yet even in England he continued to persecute the
Puritans as far as his power extended, till events which will hereafter
be related induced him to form the design of uniting Puritans and
Papists in a coalition for the humiliation and spoliation of the Estab-
lished Church.

One sect of Protestant Dissenters indeed he, even at this early
period of his reign, regarded with some tenderness, the Society of
Feeling Friends. His partiality for that singular fraternity cannot be
toward? the attributed to religious sympathy ; for, of all who acknowledge
Quakers the divine mission of Jesus, the Roman Catholic and the
Quaker differ most widely. It may seem paradoxical to say that this
very circumstance constituted a tie between the Roman Catholic and
the Quaker ; yet such was really the case. For they deviated in
opposite directions so far from what the great body of the nation

iWodrow, III. ix. 6. The epitaph of Margaret Wilson, in the churchyard at Wigton, is
printed in the Appendix to the Cloud of Witnesses :

" Murdered for owning Christ supreme
Head of his Church, and no more crime,
But her not owning Prelacy,
And not abjuring Presbytery,
W' ilhin the sea, tied to a stake,
She suffered for Christ Jesus' sake."



i685 JAMES THE SECOND 499

regarded as right, that even liberal men generally considered them both
as lying beyond the pale of the largest toleration. Thus the two
extreme sects, precisely because they were extreme sects, had a common
interest distinct from the interest of the intermediate sects. The Quakers
were also guiltless of all offence against James and his House. They
had not been in existence as a community till the war between his
father and the Long Parliament was drawing towards a close. They
had been cruelly persecuted by some of the revolutionary governments.
They had, since the Restoration, in spite of much ill usage, submitted
themselves meekly to the royal authority. For they had, though
reasoning on premises which the Anglican divines regarded as heterodox,
arrived, like the Anglican divines, at the conclusion, that no excess of
tyranny on the part of a prince can justify active resistance on the part
of a subject. No libel on the government had ever been traced to a
Quaker.! In no conspiracy against the government had a Quaker been
implicated. The society had not joined in the clamour for the Exclusion
Bill, and had solemnly condemned the Rye House plot as a hellish
design and a work of the devil.^ Indeed, the Friends then took very
little part in civil contentions ; for they were not, as now, congregated
in large towns, but were generally engaged in agriculture, a pursuit
from which they have been gradually driven by the vexations conse-
quent on their strange scruple about paying tithe. They were, there-
fore, far removed from the scene of political strife. They also, even in
domestic privacy, avoided on principle all political conversation. For
such conversation was, in their opinion, unfavourable to their spirituality
of mind, and tended to disturb the austere composure of their deport-
ment. The yearly meetings of that age repeatedly admonished the
brethren not to hold discourse touching affairs of state.^ Even within
the memory of persons now living those grave elders who retained the
habits of an earlier generation systematically discouraged such worldly
talk.* It was natural that James should make a wide distinction
between these harmless people and those fierce and restless sects which
considered resistance to tyranny as a Christian duty, which had, in
Germany, France, and Holland, made war on legitimate princes, and
which had, during four generations, borne peculiar enmity to the House
of Stuart.

It happened, moreover, that it was possible to grant large relief to
the Roman Catholic and to the Quaker without mitigating the sufferings
of the Puritan sects. A law was in force which imposed severe penalties

' See the letter to King Charles II. prefixed to Barclay's Apology.

- Sewel's History of the Quakers, book x.

' Minutes of Yearly Meetings, i6Sg, 1690.

■1 Clarkson on Quakerism ; Peculiar Customs, chapter v.



500



HISTORY OF ENGLAND



CHAP. IV



on every person who refused to take the oath of supremacy when
required to do so. This law did not affect Presbyterians, Independents,




lolin^^tlic Quaker

^V. 'rr/nS/i-ur yt'ol-^/^u/rc^



A QUAKER
From Tempest's Cries of London



or Baptists ; for they were all ready to call God to witness that they
renounced all spiritual connection with foreign prelates and potentates.



i685



JAMES THE SECOND



501



But the Roman Catholic would not swear that the Pope had no juris-
diction in England, and the Quaker would not swear to anything. On
the other hand, neither the Roman Catholic nor the Quaker was touched




The London Quaker

A FEMALE QUAKER
From Tempest's Cries of London

by the Five Mile Act, which, of all the laws in the Statute Book, was
perhaps the most annoying to the Puritan Nonconformists.^

'After this passage was written, I found, in the British Museum, ii manuscript (Harl. MS.
7506.) entitled, "An Account of the Seizures, Sequestrations, great Spoil and Havock made



502 HISTORY OF ENGLAND chap, iv

The Quakers had a powerful and zealous advocate at court. Though,
as a class, they mixed little with the world, and shunned politics as a
William pursuit dangerous to their spiritual interests, one of them,
Penn widely distinguished from the rest by station and fortune,

lived in the highest circles, and had constant access to the royal ear.
This was the celebrated William Penn. His father had held great naval
commands, had been a Commissioner of the Admiralt)', had sate in
Parliament, had received the honour of knighthood, and had been
encouraged to expect a peerage. The son .had been liberally educated,
and had been designed for the profession of arms, but had, while still
young, injured his prospects and disgusted his friends by joining what
was then generally considered as a gang of crazy heretics. He had
been sent sometimes to the Tower, and sometimes to Newgate. He
had been tried at the Old Bailey for preaching in defiance of the law.
After a time, however, he had been reconciled to his family, and had
succeeded in obtaining such powerful protection that, while all the gaols
of England were filled with his brethren, 'he was permitted, during many
years, to profess his opinions vi'ithout molestation. Towards the close
of the late reign he had obtained, in satisfaction of an old debt due to
him from the crown, the grant of an immense region in North America.
In this tract, then, peopled only by Indian hunters, he had invited his
persecuted friends to settle. His colony was still in its infancy when
James mounted the throne.

Between James and Penn there had long been a familiar acquain-
tance. The Quaker now became a courtier, and almost a favourite.
He was every day summoned from the gallery into the closet, and
sometimes had long audiences while peers were kept waiting in the
antechambers. It was noised abroad that he had more real power to
help and hurt than many nobles who filled high offices. He, was soon
surrounded by flatterers and suppliants. His house at Kensington was
sometimes thronged, at his hour of rising, by more than two hundred
suitors.-*- He paid dear, however, for this seeming prosperity. Even

upon the Estates of the several Protestant Dissenters called Quakers, upon Prosecution of old
Statutes made against Papist and Popish Recusants." The manuscript is marked as having
belonged to James, and appears to have been given by his confidential servant, Colonel Graham,
to Lord Oxford. This circumstance appears to me to confirm the view which I have taken of
the King's conduct towards the Quakers.

' Penn's visits to Whitehall, and levees at Kensington, are described with great vivacity,
though in very bad Latin, by Gerard Croese. " Sumebat," he says, " rex siepe secretum, non
horarium, vero horarum plurium, in quo de variis rebus cum Penno serio sermonem conferebat,
et interim differebat audire prsecipuorum nobilium ordinem, qvii hoc interim spatio in procoetone,
in proximo, regem conventum prxsto erant." Of the crowd of suitors at Penn's house, Croese
says, " Visi quandoque de hoc genere hominum non minus bis centum." — Historia Quakeriana,
lib. ii. 1695.



i68s JAMES THE SECOND 503

his own sect looked coldly on him, and requited his services with
obloquy. He was loudly accused of being a Papist, nay, a Jesuit.
Some affirmed that he had been educated at St. Omers, and others that
he had been ordained at Rome. These calumnies, indeed, could find
credit only with the undiscerning multitude : but with these calumnies
were mingled accusations much better founded.

To speak the whole truth concerning Penn is a task which requires
some courage ; for he is rather a. mythical than a historical person.
Rival nations and hostile sects have agreed in canonising him. Eng-
land is proud of his name. A great commonwealth beyond the
Atlantic regards him with a reverence similar to that which the
Athenians felt for Theseus, and the Romans for Quirinus. The respect-
able society of which he was a member honours him as an apostle.
By pious men of other persuasions he is generally regarded as a bright
pattern of Christian virtue. Meanwhile admirers of a very different sort
have sounded his praises. The French philosophers of the eighteenth
century pardoned what they regarded as his superstitious fancies in
consideration of his contempt for priests, and of his cosmopolitan



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayThe history of England from the accession of James the Second → online text (page 47 of 49)