It was a terrible moment. The King was gone. The Prince had not arrived. No Regency had been appointed. The Great Seal, essential to the administration of ordinary justice, had disappeared. It was soon known that Feversham had, on the receipt of the royal order, instantly disbanded his forces. What respect for law or property was likely to be found among soldiers, armed and congregated, emancipated from the restraints of discipline, and destitute of the necessaries of life? On the other hand, the populace of London had, during some weeks, shown a strong disposition to turbulence and rapine. The urgency of the crisis united for a short time all who had any interest in the peace of society. Rochester had till that day adhered firmly to the royal cause. He now saw that there was only one way of averting general confusion. "Muster your troop of Guards," he said to Northumberland, "and declare for the Prince of Orange." The advice was promptly followed. The principal officers of the army who were then in London held a meeting at Whitehall, and resolved that they would submit to William's authority, and would, till his pleasure should be known, keep their men together and assist the civil power to preserve order.
Who was to supply, at that awful crisis, the place of the King? In the days of the Plantagenets, if a suspension of the regal functions took place, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal generally assumed the supreme executive power. It was by the Lords that provision was made for the government of the kingdom during the minority of Henry the Third and during the absence of Edward the First. Both when Henry the Sixth succeeded to the crown in his infancy, and when many years later he sank into imbecility, the Lords took upon themselves to administer the government in his stead until the legislature had appointed a Protector. Whether our old Barons and Prelates, in acting for a King who could not act for himself, exercised a strictly legal right, or committed an irregularity which only extreme necessity could excuse, is a question which has been much debated. But the morning of the eleventh of December 1688 was not a time for controversy. It was necessary to the public safety that there should be a provisional government; and the eyes of men naturally turned to the magnates of the realm. Most of the Peers who were in the capital repaired to Guildhall, and were received there with all honour by the magistracy of the city. The extremity of the danger drew Sancroft forth from his palace. He took the chair; and, under his presidency, the new Archbishop of York, five Bishops, and twenty-two temporal Lords, determined to draw up, subscribe, and publish a Declaration. By this instrument they declared that they were firmly attached to the religion and constitution of their country, and that they had cherished the hope of seeing grievances redressed and tranquillity restored by the Parliament which the King had lately summoned, but that this hope had been extinguished by his flight. They had therefore determined to join with the Prince of Orange, in order that the freedom of the nation might be vindicated, that the rights of the Church might be secured, that a just liberty of conscience might be given to Dissenters, and that the Protestant interest throughout the world might be strengthened. Till His Highness should arrive, they were prepared to take on themselves the responsibility of giving such directions as might be necessary for the preservation of order. A deputation was instantly sent to lay this Declaration before the Prince, and to inform him that he was impatiently expected in London.
The Lords then proceeded to deliberate on the course which it was necessary to take for the prevention of tumult. They sent for the two Secretaries of State. Middleton refused to submit to what he regarded as an usurped authority: but Preston, astounded by his master's flight, and not knowing what to expect, or whither to turn, obeyed the summons. A message was sent to Skelton, who was Lieutenant of the Tower, requesting his attendance at Guildhall. He came, and was told that his services were no longer wanted, and that he must instantly deliver up his keys. He was succeeded by Lord Lucas. At the same time the Peers ordered a letter to be written to Dartmouth, enjoining him to refrain from all hostile operations against the Dutch fleet, and to displace all the Popish officers who held commands under him.
The part taken in these proceedings by Sancroft, and by some other persons who had, up to that day, been strictly faithful to the principle of passive obedience, deserves especial notice. To usurp the command of the military and naval forces of the state, to remove the officers whom the King had set over his castles and his ships, and to prohibit his Admiral from giving battle to his enemies, was surely nothing less than rebellion. Yet several honest and able Tories of the school of Filmer persuaded themselves that they could do all these things without incurring the guilt of resisting their Sovereign. The distinction which they took was, at least, ingenious. Government, they said, is the ordinance of God. Hereditary monarchical government is eminently the ordinance of God. While the King commands what is lawful we must obey him actively. When he commands what is unlawful we must obey him passively. In no extremity are we justified in withstanding him by force. But, if he chooses to resign his office, his rights over us are at an end. While he governs us, though he may govern us ill, we are bound to submit: but, if he refuses to govern us at all, we are not bound to remain for ever without a government. Anarchy is not the ordinance of God; nor will he impute it to us as a sin that, when a prince, whom, in spite of extreme provocations, we have never ceased to honour and obey, has departed we know not whither, leaving no vicegerent, we take the only course which can prevent the entire dissolution of society. Had our Sovereign remained among us, we were ready, little as he deserved our love, to die at his feet. Had he, when he quitted us, appointed a regency to govern us with vicarious authority during his absence, to that regency alone should we have looked for direction. But he has disappeared, having made no provision for the preservation of order or the administration of justice. With him, and with his Great Seal, has vanished the whole machinery by which a murderer can be punished, by which the right to an estate can be decided, by which the effects of a bankrupt can be distributed. His last act has been to free thousands of armed men from the restraints of military discipline, and to place them in such a situation that they must plunder or starve. Yet a few hours, and every man's hand will be against his neighbour. Life, property, female honour, will be at the mercy of every lawless spirit. We are at this moment actually in that state of nature about which theorists have written so much; and in that state we have been placed, not by our fault, but by the voluntary defection of him who ought to have been our protector. His defection may be justly called voluntary: for neither his life nor his liberty was in danger. His enemies had just consented to treat with him on a basis proposed by himself, and had offered immediately to suspend all hostile operations, on conditions which he could not deny to be liberal. In such circumstances it is that he has abandoned his trust. We retract nothing. We are in nothing inconsistent. We still assert our old doctrines without qualification. We still hold that it is in all cases sinful to resist the magistrate: but we say that there is no longer any magistrate to resist. He who was the magistrate, after long abusing his powers, has at last abdicated them. The abuse did not give us a right to depose him: but the abdication gives us a right to consider how we may best supply his place.
It was on these grounds that the Prince's party was now swollen by many adherents who had previously stood aloof from it. Never, within the memory of man, had there been so near an approach to entire concord among all intelligent Englishmen as at this conjuncture: and never had concord been more needed. Legitimate authority there was none. All those evil passions which it is the office of government to restrain, and which the best governments restrain but imperfectly, were on a sudden emancipated from control; avarice, licentiousness, revenge, the hatred of sect to sect, the hatred of nation to nation. On such occasions it will ever be found that the human vermin which, neglected by ministers of state and ministers of religion, barbarous in the midst of civilisation, heathen in the midst of Christianity, burrows among all physical and all moral pollution, in the cellars and garrets of great cities, will at once rise into a terrible importance. So it was now in London. When the night, the longest night, as it chanced, of the year, approached, forth came from every den of vice, from the bear garden at Hockley, and from the labyrinth of tippling houses and brothels in the Friars, thousands of housebreakers and highwaymen, cutpurses and ringdroppers. With these were mingled thousands of idle apprentices, who wished merely for the excitement of a riot. Even men of peaceable and honest habits were impelled by religious animosity to join the lawless part of the population. For the cry of No Popery, a cry which has more than once endangered the existence of London, was the signal for outrage and rapine. First the rabble fell on the Roman Catholic places of worship. The buildings were demolished. Benches, pulpits, confessionals, breviaries were heaped up and set on fire. A great mountain of books and furniture blazed on the site of the convent at Clerkenwell. Another pile was kindled before the ruins of the Franciscan house in Lincoln's Inn Fields. The chapel in Lime Street, the chapel in Bucklersbury, were pulled down. The pictures, images and crucifixes were carried along the streets in triumph, amidst lighted tapers torn from the altars. The procession bristled thick with swords and staves, and on the point of every sword and of every staff was an orange. The King's printing house, whence had issued, during the preceding three years, innumerable tracts in defence of Papal supremacy, image worship, and monastic vows, was, to use a coarse metaphor which then, for the first time, came into use, completely gutted. The vast stock of paper, much of which was still unpolluted by types, furnished an immense bonfire. From monasteries, temples, and public offices, the fury of the multitude turned to private dwellings. Several houses were pillaged and destroyed: but the smallness of the booty disappointed the plunderers; and soon a rumour was spread that the most valuable effects of the Papists had been placed under the care of the foreign Ambassadors. To the savage and ignorant populace the law of nations and the risk of bringing on their country the just vengeance of all Europe were as nothing. The houses of the Ambassadors were besieged. A great crowd assembled before Barillon's door in St. James's Square. He, however, fared better than might have been expected. For, though the government which he represented was held in abhorrence, his liberal housekeeping and exact payments had made him personally popular. Moreover he had taken the precaution of asking for a guard of soldiers; and, as several men of rank, who lived near him, had done the same, a considerable force was collected in the Square. The rioters, therefore, when they were assured that no arms or priests were concealed under his roof, left him unmolested. The Venetian Envoy was protected by a detachment of troops: but the mansions occupied by the ministers of the Elector Palatine and of the Grand Duke of Tuscany were destroyed. One precious box the Tuscan minister was able to save from the marauders. It contained nine volumes of memoirs, written in the hand of James himself. These volumes reached France in safety, and, after the lapse of more than a century, perished there in the havoc of a revolution far more terrible than that from which they had escaped. But some fragments still remain, and, though grievously mutilated, and imbedded in great masses of childish fiction, well deserve to be attentively studied. [577a]
The rich plate of the Chapel Royal had been deposited at Wild House, near Lincoln's Inn Fields, the residence of the Spanish ambassador Ronquillo. Ronquillo, conscious that he and his court had not deserved ill of the English nation, had thought it unnecessary to ask for soldiers: but the mob was not in a mood to make nice distinctions. The name of Spain had long been associated in the public mind with the Inquisition and the Armada, with the cruelties of Mary and the plots against Elizabeth. Ronquillo had also made himself many enemies among the common people by availing himself of his privilege to avoid the necessity of paying his debts. His house was therefore sacked without mercy; and a noble library, which he had collected, perished in the flames. His only comfort was that the host in his chapel was rescued from the same fate.
The morning of the twelfth of December rose on a ghastly sight. The capital in many places presented the aspect of a city taken by storm. The Lords met at Whitehall, and exerted themselves to restore tranquillity. The trainbands were ordered under arms. A body of cavalry was kept in readiness to disperse tumultuous assemblages. Such atonement as was at that moment possible was made for the gross insults which had been offered to foreign governments. A reward was promised for the discovery of the property taken from Wild House; and Ronquillo, who had not a bed or an ounce of plate left, was splendidly lodged in the deserted palace of the Kings of England. A sumptuous table was kept for him; and the yeomen of the guard were ordered to wait in his antechamber with the same observance which they were in the habit of paying to the Sovereign. These marks of respect soothed even the punctilious pride of the Spanish court, and averted all danger of a rupture.
In spite, however, of the well meant efforts of the provisional government, the agitation grew hourly more formidable. It was heightened by an event which, even at this distance of time, can hardly be related without a feeling of vindictive pleasure. A scrivener who lived at Wapping, and whose trade was to furnish the seafaring men there with money at high interest, had some time before lent a sum on bottomry. The debtor applied to equity for relief against his own bond; and the case came before Jeffreys. The counsel for the borrower, having little else to say, said that the lender was a Trimmer. The Chancellor instantly fired. "A Trimmer! where is he? Let me see him. I have heard of that kind of monster. What is it made like?" The unfortunate creditor was forced to stand forth. The Chancellor glared fiercely on him, stormed at him, and sent him away half dead with fright. "While I live," the poor man said, as he tottered out of the court, "I shall never forget that terrible countenance." And now the day of retribution had arrived. The Trimmer was walking through Wapping, when he saw a well known face looking out of the window of an alehouse. He could not be deceived. The eyebrows, indeed, had been shaved away. The dress was that of a common sailor from Newcastle, and was black with coal dust: but there was no mistaking the savage eye and mouth of Jeffreys. The alarm was given. In a moment the house was surrounded by hundreds of people shaking bludgeons and bellowing curses. The fugitive's life was saved by a company of the trainbands; and he was carried before the Lord Mayor. The Mayor was a simple man who had passed his whole life in obscurity, and was bewildered by finding himself an important actor in a mighty revolution. The events of the last twenty-four hours, and the perilous state of the city which was under his charge, had disordered his mind and his body. When the great man, at whose frown, a few days before, the whole kingdom had trembled, was, dragged into the justice room begrimed with ashes, half dead with fright, and followed by a raging multitude, the agitation of the unfortunate Mayor rose to the height. He fell into fits, and was carried to his bed, whence he never rose. Meanwhile the throng without was constantly becoming more numerous and more savage. Jeffreys begged to be sent to prison. An order to that effect was procured from the Lords who were sitting at Whitehall; and he was conveyed in a carriage to the Tower. Two regiments of militia were drawn out to escort him, and found the duty a difficult one. It was repeatedly necessary for them to form, as if for the purpose of repelling a charge of cavalry, and to present a forest of pikes to the mob. The thousands who were disappointed of their revenge pursued the coach, with howls of rage, to the gate of the Tower, brandishing cudgels, and holding up halters full in the prisoner's view. The wretched man meantime was in convulsions of terror. He wrung his hands; he looked wildly out, sometimes at one window, sometimes at the other, and was heard even above the tumult, crying "Keep them off, gentlemen! For God's sake keep them off!" At length, having suffered far more than the bitterness of death, he was safely lodged in the fortress where some of his most illustrious victims had passed their last days, and where his own life was destined to close in unspeakable ignominy and horror.
All this time an active search was making after Roman Catholic priests. Many were arrested. Two Bishops, Ellis and Leyburn, were sent to Newgate. The Nuncio, who had little reason to expect that either his spiritual or his political character would be respected by the multitude, made his escape disguised as a lacquey in the train of the minister of the Duke of Savoy.
Another day of agitation and terror closed, and was followed by a night the strangest and most terrible that England had ever seen. Early in the evening an attack was made by the rabble on a stately house which had been built a few months before for Lord Powis, which in the reign of George the Second was the residence of the Duke of Newcastle, and which is still conspicuous at the northwestern angle of Lincoln's Inn Fields. Some troops were sent thither: the mob was dispersed, tranquillity seemed to be restored, and the citizens were retiring quietly to their beds. Just at this time arose a whisper which swelled fast into a fearful clamour, passed in an hour from Piccadilly to Whitechapel, and spread into every street and alley of the capital. It was said that the Irish whom Feversham had let loose were marching on London and massacring every man, woman, and child on the road. At one in the morning the drums of the militia beat to arms. Everywhere terrified women were weeping and wringing their hands, while their fathers and husbands were equipping themselves for fight. Before two the capital wore a face of stern preparedness which might well have daunted a real enemy, if such an enemy had been approaching. Candles were blazing at all the windows. The public places were as bright as at noonday. All the great avenues were barricaded. More than twenty thousand pikes and muskets lined the streets. The late daybreak of the winter solstice found the whole City still in arms. During many years the Londoners retained a vivid recollection of what they called the Irish Night. When it was known that there had been no cause of alarm, attempts were made to discover the origin of the rumour which had produced so much agitation. It appeared that some persons who had the look and dress of clowns just arrived from the country had first spread the report in the suburbs a little before midnight: but whence these men came, and by whom they were employed, remained a mystery. And soon news arrived from many quarters which bewildered the public mind still more. The panic had not been confined to London. The cry that disbanded Irish soldiers were coming to murder the Protestants had, with malignant ingenuity, been raised at once in many places widely distant from each other. Great numbers of letters, skilfully framed for the purpose of frightening ignorant people, had been sent by stage coaches, by waggons, and by the post, to various parts of England. All these letters came to hand almost at the same time. In a hundred towns at once the populace was possessed with the belief that armed barbarians were at hand, bent on perpetrating crimes as foul as those which had disgraced the rebellion of Ulster. No Protestant would find mercy. Children would be compelled by torture to murder their parents. Babes would be stuck on pikes, or flung into the blazing ruins of what had lately been happy dwellings. Great multitudes assembled with weapons: the people in some places began to pull down bridges, and to throw up barricades: but soon the excitement went down. In many districts those who had been so foully imposed upon learned with delight, alloyed by shame, that there was not a single Popish soldier within a week's march. There were places, indeed, where some straggling bands of Irish made their appearance and demanded food: but it can scarcely be imputed to them as a crime that they did not choose to die of hunger; and there is no evidence that they committed any wanton outrage. In truth they were much less numerous than was commonly supposed; and their spirit was cowed by finding themselves left on a sudden without leaders or provisions, in the midst of a mighty population which felt towards them as men feel towards a drove of wolves. Of all the subjects of James none had more reason to execrate him than these unfortunate members of his church and defenders of his throne.
It is honourable to the English character that, notwithstanding the aversion with which the Roman Catholic religion and the Irish race were then regarded, notwithstanding the anarchy which was the effect of the flight of James, notwithstanding the artful machinations which were employed to scare the multitude into cruelty, no atrocious crime was perpetrated at this conjuncture. Much property, indeed, was destroyed and carried away. The houses of many Roman Catholic gentlemen were attacked. Parks were ravaged. Deer were slain and stolen. Some venerable specimens of the domestic architecture of the middle ages bear to this day the marks of popular violence. The roads were in many places made impassable by a selfappointed police, which stopped every traveller till he proved that he was not a Papist. The Thames was infested by a set of pirates who, under pretence of searching for arms or delinquents, rummaged every boat that passed. Obnoxious persons were insulted and hustled. Many persons who were not obnoxious were glad to ransom their persons and effects by bestowing some guineas on the zealous Protestants who had, without any legal authority, assumed the office of inquisitors. But in all this confusion, which lasted several days and extended over many counties, not a single Roman Catholic lost his life. The mob showed no inclination to blood, except in the case of Jeffreys; and the hatred which that bad man inspired had more affinity with humanity than with cruelty.
Many years later Hugh Speke affirmed that the Irish Night was his work, that he had prompted the rustics who raised London, and that he was the author of the letters which had spread dismay through the country. His assertion is not intrinsically improbable: but it rests on no evidence except his own word. He was a man quite capable of committing such a villany, and quite capable also of falsely boasting that he had committed it.
At London William was impatiently expected: for it was not doubted that his vigour and ability would speedily restore order and security. There was however some delay for which the Prince cannot justly be blamed. His original intention had been to proceed from Hungerford to Oxford, where he was assured of an honourable and affectionate reception: but the arrival of the deputation from Guildhall induced him to change his intention and to hasten directly towards the capital. On the way he learned that Feversham, in pursuance of the King's orders, had dismissed the royal army, and that thousands of soldiers, freed from restraint and destitute of necessaries, were scattered over the counties through which the road to London lay. It was therefore impossible for William to proceed slenderly attended without great danger, not only to his own person, about which he was not much in the habit of being solicitous, but also to the great interests which were under his care. It was necessary that he should regulate his own movements by the movements of his troops; and troops could then move but slowly over the highways of England in midwinter. He was, on this occasion, a little moved from his ordinary composure. "I am not to be thus dealt with," he exclaimed with bitterness; "and that my Lord Feversham shall find." Prompt and judicious measures were taken to remedy the evils which James had caused. Churchill and Grafton were entrusted with the task of reassembling the dispersed army and bringing it into order. The English soldiers were invited to resume their military character. The Irish were commanded to deliver up their arms on pain of being treated as banditti, but were assured that, if they would submit quietly, they should be supplied with necessaries.
The Prince's orders were carried into effect with scarcely any opposition, except from the Irish soldiers who had been in garrison at Tilbury. One of these men snapped a pistol at Grafton. It missed fire, and the assassin was instantly shot dead by an Englishman. About two hundred of the unfortunate strangers made a gallant attempt to return to their own country. They seized a richly laden East Indiaman which had just arrived in the Thames, and tried to procure pilots by force at Gravesend. No pilot, however was to be found; and they were under the necessity of trusting to their own skill in navigation. They soon ran their ship aground, and, after some bloodshed, were compelled to lay down their arms.
William had now been five weeks on English ground; and during the whole of that time his good fortune had been uninterrupted. His own prudence and firmness had been conspicuously displayed, and yet had done less for him than the folly and pusillanimity of others. And now, at the moment when it seemed that his plans were about to be crowned with entire success, they were disconcerted by one of those strange incidents which so often confound the most exquisite devices of human policy.
On the morning of the thirteenth of December the people of London, not yet fully recovered from the agitation of the Irish Night, were surprised by a rumour that the King had been detained, and was still in the island. The report gathered strength during the day, and was fully confirmed before the evening.
James had travelled with relays of coach horses along the southern shore of the Thames, and on the morning of the twelfth had reached Emley Ferry near the island of Sheppey. There lay the hoy in which he was to sail. He went on board: but the wind blew fresh; and the master would not venture to put to sea without more ballast. A tide was thus lost. Midnight was approaching before the vessel began to float. By that time the news that the King had disappeared, that the country was without a government, and that London was in confusion, had travelled fast down the Thames, and wherever it spread had produced outrage and misrule. The rude fishermen of the Kentish coast eyed the hoy with suspicion and with cupidity. It was whispered that some persons in the garb of gentlemen had gone on board of her in great haste. Perhaps they were Jesuits: perhaps they were rich. Fifty or sixty boatmen, animated at once by hatred of Popery and by love of plunder, boarded the hoy just as she was about to make sail. The passengers were told that they must go on shore and be examined by a magistrate. The King's appearance excited suspicion. "It is Father Petre," cried one ruffian; "I know him by his lean jaws." "Search the hatchet faced old Jesuit," became the general cry. He was rudely pulled and pushed about. His money and watch were taken from him. He had about him his coronation ring, and some other trinkets of great value: but these escaped the search of the robbers, who indeed were so ignorant of jewellery that they took his diamond buckles for bits of glass.
At length the prisoners were put on shore and carried to an inn. A crowd had assembled there to see them; and James, though disguised by a wig of different shape and colour from that which he usually wore, was at once recognised. For a moment the rabble seemed to be overawed: but the exhortations of their chiefs revived their courage; and the sight of Hales, whom they well knew and bitterly hated, inflamed their fury. His park was in the neighbourhood; and at that very moment a band of rioters was employed in pillaging his house and shooting his deer. The multitude assured the King that they would not hurt him: but they refused to let him depart. It chanced that the Earl of Winchelsea, a Protestant, but a zealous royalist, head of the Finch family, and a near kinsman of Nottingham, was then at Canterbury. As soon as he learned what had happened he hastened to the coast, accompanied by some Kentish gentlemen. By their intervention the King was removed to a more convenient lodging: but he was still a prisoner. The mob kept constant watch round the house to which he had been carried; and some of the ringleaders lay at the door of his bedroom. His demeanour meantime was that of a man, all the nerves of whose mind had been broken by the load of misfortunes. Sometimes he spoke so haughtily that the rustics who had charge of him were provoked into making insolent replies. Then he betook himself to supplication. "Let me go," he cried; "get me a boat. The Prince of Orange is hunting for my life. If you do not let me fly now, it will be too late. My blood will be on your heads. He that is not with me is against me." On this last text he preached a sermon half an hour long. He harangued on a strange variety of subjects, on the disobedience of the fellows of Magdalene College, on the miracles wrought by Saint Winifred's well, on the disloyalty of the black coats, and on the virtues of a piece of the true cross which he had unfortunately lost. "What have I done?" he demanded of the Kentish squires who attended him. "Tell me the truth. What error have I committed?" Those to whom he put these questions were too humane to return the answer which must have risen to their lips, and listened to his wild talk in pitying silence.
When the news that he had been stopped, insulted, roughly handled, and plundered, and that he was still a prisoner in the hands of rude churls, reached the capital, many passions were roused. Rigid Churchmen, who had, a few hours before, begun to think that they were freed from their allegiance to him, now felt misgivings. He had not quitted his kingdom. He had not consummated his abdication. If he should resume his regal office, could they, on their principles, refuse to pay him obedience? Enlightened statesmen foresaw with concern that all the disputes which his flight had for a moment set at rest would be revived and exasperated by his return. Some of the common people, though still smarting from recent wrongs, were touched with compassion for a great prince outraged by ruffians, and were willing to entertain a hope, more honourable to their good nature than to their discernment, that he might even now repent of the errors which had brought on him so terrible a punishment.
From the moment when it was known that the King was still in England, Sancroft, who had hitherto acted as chief of the provisional government, absented himself from the sittings of the Peers. Halifax, who had just returned from the Dutch head quarters, was placed in the chair. His sentiments had undergone a great change in a few hours. Both public and private feelings now impelled him to join the Whigs. Those who candidly examine the evidence which has come down to us will be of opinion that he accepted the office of royal Commissioner in the sincere hope of effecting an accommodation between the King and the Prince on fair terms. The negotiation had commenced prosperously: the Prince had offered terms which the King could not but acknowledge to be fair: the eloquent and ingenious Trimmer might flatter himself that he should be able to mediate between infuriated factions, to dictate a compromise between extreme opinions, to secure the liberties and religion of his country, without exposing her to the risks inseparable from a change of dynasty and a disputed succession. While he was pleasing himself with thoughts so agreeable to his temper, he learned that he had been deceived, and had been used as an instrument for deceiving the nation. His mission to Hungerford had been a fool's errand. The King had never meant to abide by the terms which he had instructed his Commissioners to propose. He had charged them to declare that he was willing to submit all the questions in dispute to the Parliament which he had summoned; and, while they were delivering his message, he had burned the writs, made away with the seal, let loose the army, suspended the administration of justice, dissolved the government, and fled from the capital. Halifax saw that an amicable arrangement was no longer possible. He also felt, it may be suspected, the vexation natural to a man widely renowned for wisdom, who finds that he has been duped by an understanding immeasurably inferior to his own, and the vexation natural to a great master of ridicule, who finds himself placed in a ridiculous situation. His judgment and his resentment alike induced him to relinquish the schemes of reconciliation on which he had hitherto been intent, and to place himself at the head of those who were bent on raising William to the throne.
A journal of what passed in the Council of Lords while Halifax presided is still extant in his own handwriting. No precaution, which seemed necessary for the prevention of outrage and robbery, was omitted. The Peers took on themselves the responsibility of giving orders that, if the rabble rose again, the soldiers should fire with bullets. Jeffreys was brought to Whitehall and interrogated as to what had become of the Great Seal and the writs. At his own earnest request he was remanded to the Tower, as the only place where his life could be safe; and he retired thanking and blessing those who had given him the protection of a prison. A Whig nobleman moved that Oates should be set at liberty: but this motion was overruled.
The business of the day was nearly over, and Halifax was about to rise, when he was informed that a messenger from Sheerness was in attendance. No occurrence could be more perplexing or annoying. To do anything, to do nothing, was to incur a grave responsibility. Halifax, wishing probably to obtain time for communication with the Prince, would have adjourned the meeting; but Mulgrave begged the Lords to keep their seats, and introduced the messenger. The man told his story with many tears, and produced a letter written in the King's hand, and addressed to no particular person, but imploring the aid of all good Englishmen.
Such an appeal it was hardly possible to disregard. The Lords ordered Feversham to hasten with a troop of the Life Guards to the place where the King was detained, and to set his Majesty at liberty.
Already Middleton and a few other adherents of the royal cause had set out to assist and comfort their unhappy master. They found him strictly confined, and were not suffered to enter his presence till they had delivered up their swords. The concourse of people about him was by this time immense. Some Whig gentlemen of the neighbourhood had brought a large body of militia to guard him. They had imagined most erroneously that by detaining him they were ingratiating themselves with his enemies, and were greatly disturbed when they learned that the treatment which the King had undergone was disapproved by the Provisional Government in London, and that a body of cavalry was on the road to release him. Feversham soon arrived. He had left his troop at Sittingbourne; but there was no occasion to use force. The King was suffered to depart without opposition, and was removed by his friends to Rochester, where he took some rest, which he greatly needed. He was in a pitiable state. Not only was his understanding, which had never been very clear, altogether bewildered: but the personal courage which, when a young man, he had shown in several battles, both by sea and by land, had forsaken him. The rough corporal usage which he had now, for the first time, undergone, seems to have discomposed him more than any other event of his chequered life. The desertion of his army, of his favourites, of his family, affected him less than the indignities which he suffered when his hoy was boarded. The remembrance of those indignities continued long to rankle in his heart, and on one occasion showed itself in a way which moved all Europe to contemptuous mirth. In the fourth year of his exile he attempted to lure back his subjects by offering them an amnesty. The amnesty was accompanied by a long list of exceptions; and in this list the poor fishermen who had searched his pockets rudely appeared side by side with Churchill and Danby. From this circumstance we may judge how keenly he must have felt the outrage while it was still recent.
Yet, had he possessed an ordinary measure of good sense, he would have seen that those who had detained him had unintentionally done him a great service. The events which had taken place during his absence from his capital ought to have convinced him that, if he had succeeded in escaping, he never would have returned. In his own despite he had been saved from ruin. He had another chance, a last chance. Great as his offences had been, to dethrone him, while he remained in his kingdom and offered to assent to such conditions as a free Parliament might impose, would have been almost impossible.
During a short time he seemed disposed to remain. He sent Feversham from Rochester with a letter to William. The substance of the letter was that His Majesty was on his way back to Whitehall, that he wished to have a personal conference with the Prince, and that Saint James's Palace should be fitted up for his Highness.
William was now at Windsor. He had learned with deep mortification the events which had taken place on the coast of Kent. Just before the news arrived, those who approached him observed that his spirits were unusually high. He had, indeed, reason to rejoice. A vacant throne was before him. All parties, it seemed, would, with one voice, invite him to mount it. On a sudden his prospects were overcast. The abdication, it appeared, had not been completed. A large proportion of his own followers would have scruples about deposing a King who remained among them, who invited them to represent their grievances in a parliamentary way, and who promised full redress. It was necessary that the Prince should examine his new position, and determine on a new line of action. No course was open to him which was altogether free from objections, no course which would place him in a situation so advantageous as that which he had occupied a few hours before. Yet something might be done. The King's first attempt to escape had failed. What was now most to be desired was that he should make a second attempt with better success. He must be at once frightened and enticed. The liberality with which he had been treated in the negotiation at Hungerford, and which he had requited by a breach of faith, would now be out of season. No terms of accommodation must be proposed to him. If he should propose terms he must be coldly answered. No violence must be used towards him, or even threatened. Yet it might not be impossible, without either using or threatening violence, to make so weak a man uneasy about his personal safety. He would soon be eager to fly. All facilities for flight must then be placed within his reach; and care must be taken that he should not again be stopped by any officious blunderer.
Such was William's plan: and the ability and determination with which he carried it into effect present a strange contrast to the folly and cowardice with which he had to deal. He soon had an excellent opportunity of commencing his system of intimidation. Feversham arrived at Windsor with James's letter. The messenger had not been very judiciously selected. It was he who had disbanded the royal army. To him primarily were to be imputed the confusion and terror of the Irish Night. His conduct was loudly blamed by the public. William had been provoked into muttering a few words of menace: and a few words of menace from William's lips generally meant something. Feversham was asked for his safe conduct. He had none. By coming without one into the midst of a hostile camp, he had, according to the laws of war, made himself liable to be treated with the utmost severity. William refused to see him, and ordered him to be put under arrest. Zulestein was instantly despatched to inform James that the Prince declined the proposed conference, and desired that His Majesty would remain at Rochester.
But it was too late. James was already in London. He had hesitated about the journey, and had, at one time, determined to make another attempt to reach the Continent. But at length he yielded to the urgency of friends who were wiser than himself, and set out for Whitehall. He arrived there on the afternoon of Sunday, the sixteenth of December. He had been apprehensive that the common people, who, during his absence, had given so many proofs of their aversion to Popery, would offer him some affront. But the very violence of the recent outbreak had produced a remission. The storm had spent itself. Good humour and pity had succeeded to fury. In no quarter was any disposition shown to insult the King. Some cheers were raised as his coach passed through the City. The bells of some churches were rung; and a few bonfires were lighted in honour of his return. His feeble mind, which had just before been sunk in despondency, was extravagantly elated by these unexpected signs of popular goodwill and compassion. He entered his dwelling in high spirits. It speedily resumed its old aspect. Roman Catholic priests, who had, during the preceding week, been glad to hide themselves from the rage of the multitude in vaults and cocklofts, now came forth from their lurking places, and demanded possession of their old apartments in the palace. Grace was said at the royal table by a Jesuit. The Irish brogue, then the most hateful of all sounds to English ears, was heard everywhere in the courts and galleries. The King himself had resumed all his old haughtiness. He held a Council, his last Council, and, even in that extremity, summoned to the board persons not legally qualified to sit there. He expressed high displeasure at the conduct of those Lords who, during his absence, had dared to take the administration on themselves. It was their duty, he conceived, to let society be dissolved, to let the houses of Ambassadors be pulled down, to let London be set on fire, rather than assume the functions which he had thought fit to abandon. Among those whom he thus censured were some nobles and prelates who, in spite of all his errors, had been constantly true to him, and who, even after this provocation, never could be induced by hope or fear to transfer their allegiance from him to any other sovereign.
But his courage was soon cast down. Scarcely had he entered his palace when Zulestein was announced. William's cold and stern message was delivered. The King still pressed for a personal conference with his nephew. "I would not have left Rochester," he said, "if I had known that he wished me not to do so: but, since I am here, I hope that he will come to Saint James's." "I must plainly tell your Majesty," said Zulestein, "that His Highness will not come to London while there are any troops here which are not under his orders." The King, confounded by this answer, remained silent. Zulestein retired; and soon a gentleman entered the bedchamber with the news that Feversham had been put under arrest. James was greatly disturbed. Yet the recollection of the applause with which he had been greeted still buoyed up his spirits. A wild hope rose in his mind. He fancied that London, so long the stronghold of Protestantism and Whiggism, was ready to take arms in his defence. He sent to ask the Common Council whether, if he took up his residence in the City, they would engage to defend him against the Prince. But the Common Council had not forgotten the seizure of the charter and the judicial murder of Cornish, and refused to give the pledge which was demanded. Then the King's heart again sank within him. Where, he asked, was he to look for protection? He might as well have Dutch troops about him as his own Life Guards. As to the citizens, he now understood what their huzzas and bonfires were worth. Nothing remained but flight: and yet, he said, he knew that there was nothing which his enemies so much desired as that he would fly.
While he was in this state of trepidation, his fate was the subject of a grave deliberation at Windsor. The court of William was now crowded to overflowing with eminent men of all parties. Most of the chiefs of the Northern insurrection had joined him. Several of the Lords, who had, during the anarchy of the preceding week, taken upon themselves to act as a provisional government, had, as soon as the King returned, quitted London for the Dutch head quarters. One of these was Halifax. William had welcomed him with great satisfaction, but had not been able to suppress a sarcastic smile at seeing the ingenious and accomplished politician, who had aspired to be the umpire in that great contention, forced to abandon the middle course and to take a side. Among those who, at this conjuncture, repaired to Windsor were some men who had purchased the favour of James by ignominious services, and who were now impatient to atone, by betraying their master, for the crime of having betrayed their country. Such a man was Titus, who had sate at the Council board in defiance of law, and who had laboured to unite the Puritans with the Jesuits in a league against the constitution. Such a man was Williams, who had been converted by interest from a demagogue into a champion of prerogative, and who was now ready for a second apostasy. These men the Prince, with just contempt, suffered to wait at the door of his apartment in vain expectation of an audience.
On Monday, the seventeenth of December, all the Peers who were at Windsor were summoned to a solemn consultation at the Castle. The subject proposed for deliberation was what should be done with the King. William did not think it advisable to be present during the discussion. He retired; and Halifax was called to the chair. On one point the Lords were agreed. The King could not be suffered to remain where he was. That one prince should fortify himself in Whitehall and the other in Saint James's, that there should be two hostile garrisons within an area of a hundred acres, was universally felt to be inexpedient. Such an arrangement could scarcely fail to produce suspicions, insults, and bickerings which might end in blood. The assembled Lords, therefore, thought it advisable that James should be sent out of London. Ham, which had been built and decorated by Lauderdale, on the banks of the Thames, out of the plunder of Scotland and the bribes of France, and which was regarded as the most luxurious of villas, was proposed as a convenient retreat. When the Lords had come to this conclusion, they requested the Prince to join them. Their opinion was then communicated to him, by Halifax. William listened and approved. A short message to the King was drawn up. "Whom," said William, "shall we send with it?" "Ought it not," said Halifax, "to be conveyed by one of your Highness's officers?" "Nay, my Lord," answered the Prince; "by your favour, it is sent by the advice of your Lordships, and some of you ought to carry it." Then, without pausing to give time for remonstrance, he appointed Halifax, Shrewsbury, and Delamere to be the messengers.
The resolution of the Lords appeared to be unanimous. But there were in the assembly those who by no means approved of the decision in which they affected to concur, and who wished to see the King treated with a severity which they did not venture openly to recommend. It is a remarkable fact that the chief of this party was a peer who had been a vehement Tory, and who afterwards died a Nonjuror, Clarendon. The rapidity with which, at this crisis, he went backward and forward from extreme to extreme, might seem incredible to people living in quiet times, but will not surprise those who have had an opportunity of watching the course of revolutions. He knew that the asperity, with which he had, in the royal presence, censured the whole system of government, had given mortal offence to his old master. On the other hand he might, as the uncle of the Princesses, hope to be great and rich in the new world which was about to commence. The English colony in Ireland regarded him as a friend and patron; and he felt that on the confidence and attachment of that great interest much of his importance depended. To such considerations as these the principles, which he had, during his whole life, ostentatiously professed, now gave way. He repaired to the Prince's closet, and represented the danger of leaving the King at liberty. The Protestants of Ireland were in extreme peril. There was only one way to secure their estates and their lives; and that was to keep His Majesty close prisoner. It might not be prudent to shut him up in an English castle. But he might be sent across the sea and confined in the fortress of Breda till the affairs of the British Islands were settled. If the Prince were in possession of such a hostage, Tyrconnel would probably lay down the sword of state; and the English ascendency would be restored to Ireland without a blow. If, on the other hand, James should escape to France and make his appearance at Dublin, accompanied by a foreign army, the consequences must be disastrous. William owned that there was great weight in these reasons, but it could not be. He knew his wife's temper; and he knew that she never would consent to such a step. Indeed it would not be for his own honour to treat his vanquished kinsman so ungraciously. Nor was it quite clear that generosity might not be the best policy. Who could say what effect such severity as Clarendon recommended might produce on the public mind of England? Was it impossible that the loyal enthusiasm, which the King's misconduct had extinguished, might revive as soon as it was known that he was within the walls of a foreign fortress? On these grounds William determined not to subject his father in law to personal restraint; and there can be little doubt that the determination was wise.
James, while his fate was under discussion, remained at Whitehall, fascinated, as it seemed, by the greatness and nearness of the danger, and unequal to the exertion of either struggling or flying. In the evening news came that the Dutch had occupied Chelsea and Kensington. The King, however, prepared to go to rest as usual. The Coldstream Guards were on duty at the palace. They were commanded by William Earl of Craven, an aged man who, more than fifty years before, had been distinguished in war and love, who had led the forlorn hope at Creutznach with such courage that he had been patted on the shoulder by the great Gustavus, and who was believed to have won from a thousand rivals the heart of the unfortunate Queen of Bohemia. Craven was now in his eightieth year; but time had not tamed his spirit.
It was past ten o'clock when he was informed that three battalions of the Prince's foot, mingled with some troops of horse, were pouring down the long avenue of St. James's Park, with matches lighted, and in full readiness for action. Count Solmes, who commanded the foreigners, said that his orders were to take military possession of the posts round Whitehall, and exhorted Craven to retire peaceably. Craven swore that he would rather be cut in pieces: but, when the King, who was undressing himself, learned what was passing, he forbade the stout old soldier to attempt a resistance which must have been ineffectual. By eleven the Coldstream Guards had withdrawn; and Dutch sentinels were pacing the rounds on every side of the palace. Some of the King's attendants asked whether he would venture to lie down surrounded by enemies. He answered that they could hardly use him worse than his own subjects had done, and, with the apathy of a man stupified by disasters, went to bed and to sleep.
Scarcely was the palace again quiet when it was again roused. A little after midnight the three Lords arrived from Windsor. Middleton was called up to receive them. They informed him that they were charged with an errand which did not admit of delay. The King was awakened from his first slumber; and they were ushered into his bedchamber. They delivered into his hand the letter with which they had been entrusted, and informed him that the Prince would be at Westminster in a few hours, and that His Majesty would do well to set out for Ham before ten in the morning. James made some difficulties. He did not like Ham. It was a pleasant place in the summer, but cold and comfortless at Christmas, and was moreover unfurnished. Halifax answered that furniture should be instantly sent in. The three messengers retired, but were speedily followed by Middleton, who told them that the King would greatly prefer Rochester to Ham. They answered that they had not authority to accede to His Majesty's wish, but that they would instantly send off an express to the Prince, who was to lodge that night at Sion House. A courier started immediately, and returned before daybreak with William's consent.
That consent, indeed, was most gladly given: for there could be no doubt that Rochester had been named because it afforded facilities for flight; and that James might fly was the first wish of his nephew.
On the morning of the eighteenth of December, a rainy and stormy morning, the royal barge was early at Whitehall stairs; and round it were eight or ten boats filled with Dutch soldiers. Several noblemen and gentlemen attended the King to the waterside. It is said, and may well be believed, that many tears were shed. For even the most zealous friend of liberty could scarcely have seen, unmoved, the sad and ignominious close of a dynasty which might have been so great. Shrewsbury did all in his power to soothe the fallen Sovereign. Even the bitter and vehement Delamere was softened. But it was observed that Halifax, who was generally distinguished by his tenderness to the vanquished, was, on this occasion, less compassionate than his two colleagues. The mock embassy to Hungerford was doubtless still rankling in his mind.
While the King's barge was slowly working its way on rough billows down the river, brigade after brigade of the Prince's troops came pouring into London from the west. It had been wisely determined that the duty of the capital should be chiefly done by the British soldiers in the service of the States General. The three English regiments were quartered in and round the Tower, the three Scotch regiments in Southwark.
In defiance of the weather a great multitude assembled between Albemarle House and Saint James's Palace to greet the Prince. Every hat, every cane, was adorned with an orange riband. The bells were ringing all over London. Candles for an illumination were disposed in the windows. Faggots for bonfires were heaped up in the streets. William, however, who had no taste for crowds and shouting, took the road through the Park. Before nightfall he arrived at Saint James's in a light carriage, accompanied by Schomberg. In a short time all the rooms and staircases in the palace were thronged by those who came to pay their court. Such was the press, that men of the highest rank were unable to elbow their way into the presence chamber. While Westminster was in this state of excitement, the Common Council was preparing at Guildhall an address of thanks and congratulation. The Lord Major was unable to preside. He had never held up his head since the Chancellor had been dragged into the justice room in the garb of a collier. But the Aldermen and the other officers of the corporation were in their places. On the following day the magistrates of the City went in state to pay their duty to their deliverer. Their gratitude was eloquently expressed by their Recorder, Sir George Treby. Some princes of the House of Nassau, he said, had been the chief officers of a great republic. Others had worn the imperial crown. But the peculiar title of that illustrious line to the public veneration was this, that God had set it apart and consecrated it to the high office of defending truth and freedom against tyrants from generation to generation. On the same day all the prelates who were in town, Sancroft excepted, waited on the Prince in a body. Then came the clergy of London, the foremost men of their profession in knowledge, eloquence, and influence, with their bishop at their head. With them were mingled some eminent dissenting ministers, whom Compton, much to his honour, treated with marked courtesy. A few months earlier, or a few months later, such courtesy would have been considered by many Churchmen as treason to the Church. Even then it was but too plain to a discerning eye that the armistice to which the Protestant sects had been forced would not long outlast the danger from which it had sprung. About a hundred Nonconformist divines, resident in the capital, presented a separate address. They were introduced by Devonshire, and were received with every mark of respect and kindness. The lawyers paid their homage, headed by Maynard, who, at ninety years of age, was as alert and clearheaded as when he stood up in Westminster Hall to accuse Strafford. "Mr. Serjeant," said the Prince, "you must have survived all the lawyers of your standing." "Yes, sir," said the old man, "and, but for your Highness, I should have survived the laws too."
But, though the addresses were numerous and full of eulogy, though the acclamations were loud, though the illuminations were splendid, though Saint James's Palace was too small for the crowd of courtiers, though the theatres were every night, from the pit to the ceiling, one blaze of orange ribands, William felt that the difficulties of his enterprise were but beginning. He had pulled a government down. The far harder task of reconstruction was now to be performed. From the moment of his landing till he reached London he had exercised the authority which, by the laws of war, acknowledged throughout the civilised world, belongs to the commander of an army in the field. It was now necessary that he should exchange the character of a general for that of a magistrate; and this was no easy task. A single false step might be fatal; and it was impossible to take any step without offending prejudices and rousing angry passions.
Some of the Prince's advisers pressed him to assume the crown at once as his own by right of conquest, and then, as King, to send out, under his Great Seal, writs calling a Parliament. This course was strongly recommended by some eminent lawyers. It was, they said, the shortest way to what could otherwise be attained only through innumerable difficulties and disputes. It was in strict conformity with the auspicious precedent set after the battle of Bosworth by Henry the Seventh. It would also quiet the scruples which many respectable people felt as to the lawfulness of transferring allegiance from one ruler to another. Neither the law of England nor the Church of England recognised any right in subjects to depose a sovereign. But no jurist, no divine, had ever denied that a nation, overcome in war, might, without sin, submit to the decision of the God of battles. Thus, after the Chaldean conquest, the most pious and patriotic Jews did not think that they violated their duty to their native King by serving with loyalty the new master whom Providence had set over them. The three confessors, who had been marvellously preserved in the furnace, held high office in the province of Babylon. Daniel was minister successively of the Assyrian who subjugated Judah, and of the Persian who subjugated Assyria. Nay, Jesus himself, who was, according to the flesh, a prince of the house of David, had, by commanding his countrymen to pay tribute to Caesar, pronounced that foreign conquest annuls hereditary right and is a legitimate title to dominion. It was therefore probable that great numbers of Tories, though they could not, with a clear conscience, choose a King for themselves, would accept, without hesitation, a King given to them by the event of war.
On the other side, however, there were reasons which greatly preponderated. The Prince could not claim the crown as won by his sword without a gross violation of faith. In his Declaration he had protested that he had no design of conquering England; that those who imputed to him such a design foully calumniated, not only himself, but the patriotic noblemen and gentlemen who had invited him over; that the force which he brought with him was evidently inadequate to an enterprise so arduous; and that it was his full resolution to refer all the public grievances, and all his own pretensions, to a free Parliament. For no earthly object could it be right or wise that he should forfeit his word so solemnly pledged in the face of all Europe. Nor was it certain that, by calling himself a conqueror, he would have removed the scruples which made rigid Churchmen unwilling to acknowledge him as King. For, call himself what he might, all the world knew that he was not really a conqueror. It was notoriously a mere fiction to say that this great kingdom, with a mighty fleet on the sea, with a regular army of forty thousand men, and with a militia of a hundred and thirty thousand men, had been, without one siege or battle, reduced to the state of a province by fifteen thousand invaders. Such a fiction was not likely to quiet consciences really sensitive, but it could scarcely fail to gall the national pride, already sore and irritable. The English soldiers were in a temper which required the most delicate management. They were conscious that, in the late campaign, their part had not been brilliant. Captains and privates were alike impatient to prove that they had not given way before an inferior force from want of courage. Some Dutch officers had been indiscreet enough to boast, at a tavern over their wine, that they had driven the King's army before them. This insult had raised among the English troops a ferment which, but for the Prince's prompt interference, would probably have ended in a terrible slaughter. What, in such circumstances, was likely to be the effect of a proclamation announcing that the commander of the foreigners considered the whole island as lawful prize of war?
It was also to be remembered that, by putting forth such a proclamation, the Prince would at once abrogate all the rights of which he had declared himself the champion. For the authority of a foreign conqueror is not circumscribed by the customs and statutes of the conquered nation, but is, by its own nature, despotic. Either, therefore, it was not competent to William to declare himself King, or it was competent to him to declare the Great Charter and the Petition of Right nullities, to abolish trial by jury, and to raise taxes without the consent of Parliament. He might, indeed, reestablish the ancient constitution of the realm. But, if he did so, he did so in the exercise of an arbitrary discretion. English liberty would thenceforth be held by a base tenure. It would be, not, as heretofore, an immemorial inheritance, but a recent gift which the generous master who had bestowed it might, if such had been his pleasure, have withheld.
William therefore righteously and prudently determined to observe the promises contained in his Declaration, and to leave to the legislature the office of settling the government. So carefully did he avoid whatever looked like usurpation that he would not, without some semblance of parliamentary authority, take upon himself even to convoke the Estates of the Realm, or to direct the executive administration during the elections. Authority strictly parliamentary there was none in the state: but it was possible to bring together, in a few hours, an assembly which would be regarded by the nation with a large portion of the respect due to a Parliament. One Chamber might be formed of the numerous Lords Spiritual and Temporal who were then in London, and another of old members of the House of Commons and of the magistrates of the City. The scheme was ingenious, and was promptly executed. The Peers were summoned to St. James's on the twenty-first of December. About seventy attended. The Prince requested them to consider the state of the country, and to lay before him the result of their deliberations. Shortly after appeared a notice inviting all gentlemen who had sate in the House of Commons during the reign of Charles the Second to attend His Highness on the morning of the twenty-sixth. The Aldermen of London were also summoned; and the Common Council was requested to send a deputation.
It has often been asked, in a reproachful tone, why the invitation was not extended to the members of the Parliament which had been dissolved in the preceding year. The answer is obvious. One of the chief grievances of which the nation complained was the manner in which that Parliament had been elected. The majority of the burgesses had been returned by constituent bodies remodelled in a manner which was generally regarded as illegal, and which the Prince had, in his Declaration, condemned. James himself had, just before his downfall, consented to restore the old municipal franchises. It would surely have been the height of inconsistency in William, after taking up arms for the purpose of vindicating the invaded charters of corporations, to recognise persons chosen in defiance of those charters as the legitimate representatives of the towns of England.
On Saturday the twenty-second the Lords met in their own house. That day was employed in settling the order of proceeding. A clerk was appointed: and, as no confidence could be placed in any of the twelve judges, some serjeants and barristers of great note were requested to attend, for the purpose of giving advice on legal points. It was resolved that on the Monday the state of the kingdom should be taken into consideration.
The interval between the sitting of Saturday and the sitting of Monday was anxious and eventful. A strong party among the Peers still cherished the hope that the constitution and religion of England might be secured without the deposition of the King. This party resolved to move a solemn address to him, imploring him to consent to such terms as might remove the discontents and apprehensions which his past conduct had excited. Sancroft, who, since the return of James from Kent to Whitehall, had taken no part in public affairs, determined to come forth from his retreat on this occasion, and to put himself at the head of the Royalists. Several messengers were sent to Rochester with letters for the King. He was assured that his interests would be strenuously defended, if only he could, at this last moment, make up his mind to renounce designs abhorred by his people. Some respectable Roman Catholics followed him, in order to implore him, for the sake of their common faith, not to carry the vain contest further.
The advice was good; but James was in no condition to take it. His understanding had always been dull and feeble; and, such as it was, womanish tremors and childish fancies now disabled him from using it. He was aware that his flight was the thing which his adherents most dreaded and which his enemies most desired. Even if there had been serious personal risk in remaining, the occasion was one on which he ought to have thought it infamous to flinch: for the question was whether he and his posterity should reign on an ancestral throne or should be vagabonds and beggars. But in his mind all other feelings had given place to a craven fear for his life. To the earnest entreaties and unanswerable arguments of the agents whom his friends had sent to Rochester, he had only one answer. His head was in danger. In vain he was assured that there was no ground for such an apprehension, that common sense, if not principle, would restrain the Prince of Orange from incurring the guilt and shame of regicide and parricide, and that many, who never would consent to depose their Sovereign while he remained on English ground, would think themselves absolved from their allegiance by his desertion. Fright overpowered every other feeling. James determined to depart; and it was easy for him to do so. He was negligently guarded: all persons were suffered to repair to him: vessels ready to put to sea lay at no great distance; and their boats might come close to the garden of the house in which he was lodged. Had he been wise, the pains which his keepers took to facilitate his escape would have sufficed to convince him that he ought to stay where he was. In truth the snare was so ostentatiously exhibited that it could impose on nothing but folly bewildered by terror.
The arrangements were expeditiously made. On the evening of Saturday the twenty-second the King assured some of the gentlemen, who had been sent to him from London with intelligence and advice, that he would see them again in the morning. He went to bed, rose at dead of night, and, attended by Berwick, stole out at a back door, and went through the garden to the shore of the Medway. A small skiff was in waiting. Soon after the dawn of Sunday the fugitives were on board of a smack which was running down the Thames.
That afternoon the tidings of the flight reached London. The King's adherents were confounded. The Whigs could not conceal their joy. The good news encouraged the Prince to take a bold and important step. He was informed that communications were passing between the French embassy and the party hostile to him. It was well known that at that embassy all the arts of corruption were well understood; and there could be little doubt that, at such a conjuncture, neither intrigues nor pistoles would be spared. Barillon was most desirous to remain a few days longer in London, and for that end omitted no art which could conciliate the victorious party. In the streets he quieted the populace, who looked angrily at his coach, by throwing money among them. At his table he publicly drank the health of the Prince of Orange. But William was not to be so cajoled. He had not, indeed, taken on himself to exercise regal authority: but he was a general and, as such, he was not bound to tolerate, within the territory of which he had taken military occupation, the presence of one whom he regarded as a spy. Before that day closed Barillon was informed that he must leave England within twenty-four hours. He begged hard for a short delay: but minutes were precious; the order was repeated in more peremptory terms; and he unwillingly set off for Dover. That no mark of contempt and defiance might be omitted, he was escorted to the coast by one of his Protestant countrymen whom persecution had driven into exile. So bitter was the resentment excited by the French ambition and arrogance that even those Englishmen who were not generally disposed to take a favourable view of William's conduct loudly applauded him for retorting with so much spirit the insolence with which Lewis had, during many years, treated every court in Europe.
On Monday the Lords met again. Halifax was chosen to preside. The Primate was absent, the Royalists sad and gloomy, the Whigs eager and in high spirits. It was known that James had left a letter behind him. Some of his friends moved that it might be produced, in the faint hope that it might contain propositions which might furnish a basis for a happy settlement. On this motion the previous question was put and carried. Godolphin, who was known not to be unfriendly to his old master, uttered a few words which were decisive. "I have seen the paper," he said; "and I grieve to say that there is nothing in it which will give your Lordships any satisfaction." In truth it contained no expression of regret for pass errors; it held out no hope that those errors would for the future be avoided; and it threw the blame of all that had happened on the malice of William and on the blindness of a nation deluded by the specious names of religion and property. None ventured to propose that a negotiation should be opened with a prince whom the most rigid discipline of adversity seemed only to have made more obstinate in wrong. Something was said about inquiring into the birth of the Prince of Wales: but the Whig peers treated the suggestion with disdain. "I did not expect, my Lords," exclaimed Philip Lord Wharton, an old Roundhead, who had commanded a regiment against Charles the First at Edgehill, "I did not expect to hear anybody at this time of day mention the child who was called Prince of Wales; and I hope that we have now heard the last of him." After long discussion it was resolved that two addresses should be presented to William. One address requested him to take on himself provisionally the administration of the government; the other recommended that he should, by circular letters subscribed with his own hand, invite all the constituent bodies of the kingdom to send up representatives to Westminster. At the same time the Peers took upon themselves to issue an order banishing all Papists, except a few privileged persons, from London and the vicinity.
The Lords presented their addresses to the Prince on the following day, without waiting for the issue of the deliberations of the commoners whom he had called together. It seems, indeed, that the hereditary nobles were disposed at this moment to be punctilious in asserting their dignity, and were unwilling to recognise a coordinate authority in an assembly unknown to the law. They conceived that they were a real House of Lords. The other Chamber they despised as only a mock House of Commons. William, however, wisely excused himself from coming to any decision till he had ascertained the sense of the gentlemen who had formerly been honoured with the confidence of the counties and towns of England.
The commoners who had been summoned met in Saint Stephen's Chapel, and formed a numerous assembly. They placed in the chair Henry Powle, who had represented Cirencester in several Parliaments, and had been eminent among the supporters of the Exclusion Bill.
Addresses were proposed and adopted similar to those which the Lords had already presented. No difference of opinion appeared on any serious question; and some feeble attempts which were made to raise a debate on points of form were put down by the general contempt. Sir Robert Sawyer declared that he could not conceive how it was possible for the Prince to administer the government without some distinguishing title, such as Regent or Protector. Old Maynard, who, as a lawyer, had no equal, and who was also a politician versed in the tactics of revolutions, was at no pains to conceal his disdain for so puerile an objection, taken at a moment when union and promptitude were of the highest importance. "We shall sit here very long," he said, "if we sit till Sir Robert can conceive how such a thing is possible;" and the assembly thought the answer as good as the cavil deserved.
The resolutions of the meeting were communicated to the Prince. He forthwith announced his determination to comply with the joint request of the two Chambers which he had called together, to issue letters summoning a Convention of the Estates of the Realm, and, till the Convention should meet, to take on himself the executive administration.
He had undertaken no light task. The whole machine of government was disordered. The Justices of the Peace had abandoned their functions. The officers of the revenue had ceased to collect the taxes. The army which Feversham had disbanded was still in confusion, and ready to break out into mutiny. The fleet was in a scarcely less alarming state. Large arrears of pay were due to the civil and military servants of the crown; and only forty thousand pounds remained in the Exchequer. The Prince addressed himself with vigour to the work of restoring order. He published a proclamation by which all magistrates were continued in office, and another containing orders for the collection of the revenue. The new modelling of the army went rapidly on. Many of the noblemen and gentlemen whom James had removed from the command of the English regiments were reappointed. A way was found of employing the thousands of Irish soldiers whom James had brought into England. They could not safely be suffered to remain in a country where they were objects of religious and national animosity. They could not safely be sent home to reinforce the army of Tyrconnel. It was therefore determined that they should be sent to the Continent, where they might, under the banners of the House of Austria, render indirect but effectual service to the cause of the English constitution and of the Protestant religion. Dartmouth was removed from his command; and the navy was conciliated by assurances that every sailor should speedily receive his due. The City of London undertook to extricate the Prince from his financial difficulties. The Common Council, by an unanimous vote, engaged to find him two hundred thousand pounds. It was thought a great proof, both of the wealth and of the public spirit of the merchants of the capital, that, in forty-eight hours, the whole sum was raised on no security but the Prince's word. A few weeks before, James had been unable to procure a much smaller sum, though he had offered to pay higher interest, and to pledge valuable property.
In a very few days the confusion which the invasion, the insurrection, the flight of James, and the suspension of all regular government had produced was at an end, and the kingdom wore again its accustomed aspect. There was a general sense of security. Even the classes which were most obnoxious to public hatred, and which had most reason to apprehend a persecution, were protected by the politic clemency of the conqueror. Persons deeply implicated in the illegal transactions of the late reign not only walked the streets in safety, but offered themselves as candidates for seats in the Convention. Mulgrave was received not ungraciously at St. James's. Feversham was released from arrest, and was permitted to resume the only office for which he was qualified, that of keeping the bank at the Queen Dowager's basset table. But no body of men had so much reason to feel grateful to William as the Roman Catholics. It would not have been safe to rescind formally the severe resolutions which the Peers had passed against the professors of a religion generally abhorred by the nation: but, by the prudence and humanity of the Prince, those resolutions were practically annulled. On his line of march from Torbay to London, he had given orders that no outrage should be committed on the persons or dwellings of Papists. He now renewed those orders, and directed Burnet to see that they were strictly obeyed. A better choice could not have been made; for Burnet was a man of such generosity and good nature, that his heart always warmed towards the unhappy; and at the same time his known hatred of Popery was a sufficient guarantee to the most zealous Protestants that the interests of their religion would be safe in his hands. He listened kindly to the complaints of the Roman Catholics, procured passports for those who wished to go beyond sea, and went himself to Newgate to visit the prelates who were imprisoned there. He ordered them to be removed to a more commodious apartment and supplied with every indulgence. He solemnly assured them that not a hair of their heads should be touched, and that, as soon as the Prince could venture to act as he wished, they should be set at liberty. The Spanish minister reported to his government, and, through his government, to the Pope, that no Catholic need feel any scruple of conscience on account of the late revolution in England, that for the danger to which the members of the true Church were exposed James alone was responsible, and that William alone had saved them from a sanguinary persecution.
There was, therefore, little alloy to the satisfaction with which the princes of the House of Austria and the Sovereign Pontiff learned that the long vassalage of England was at an end. When it was known at Madrid that William was in the full career of success, a single voice in the Spanish Council of State faintly expressed regret that an event which, in a political point of view, was most auspicious, should be prejudicial to the interests of the true Church. But the tolerant policy of the Prince soon quieted all scruples, and his elevation was seen with scarcely less satisfaction by the bigoted Grandees of Castile than by the English Whigs.
With very different feelings had the news of this great revolution been received in France. The politics of a long, eventful, and glorious reign had been confounded in a day. England was again the England of Elizabeth and of Cromwell; and all the relations of all the states of Christendom were completely changed by the sudden introduction of this new power into the system. The Parisians could talk of nothing but what was passing in London. National and religious feeling impelled them to take the part of James. They knew nothing of the English constitution. They abominated the English Church. Our revolution appeared to them, not as the triumph of public liberty over despotism, but as a frightful domestic tragedy in which a venerable and pious Servius was hurled from his throne by a Tarquin, and crushed under the chariot wheels of a Tullia. They cried shame on the traitorous captains, execrated the unnatural daughters, and regarded William with a mortal loathing, tempered, however, by the respect which valour, capacity, and success seldom fail to inspire. The Queen, exposed to the night wind and rain, with the infant heir of three crowns clasped to her breast, the King stopped, robbed, and outraged by ruffians, were objects of pity and of romantic interest to all France. But Lewis saw with peculiar emotion the calamities of the House of Stuart. All the selfish and all the generous parts of his nature were moved alike. After many years of prosperity he had at length met with a great check. He had reckoned on the support or neutrality of England. He had now nothing to expect from her but energetic and pertinacious hostility. A few weeks earlier he might not unreasonably have hoped to subjugate Flanders and to give law to Germany. At present he might think himself fortunate if he should be able to defend his own frontiers against a confederacy such as Europe had not seen during many ages. From this position, so new, so embarrassing, so alarming, nothing but a counterrevolution or a civil war in the British Islands could extricate him. He was therefore impelled by ambition and by fear to espouse the cause of the fallen dynasty. And it is but just to say that motives nobler than ambition or fear had a large share in determining his course. His heart was naturally compassionate; and this was an occasion which could not fail to call forth all his compassion. His situation had prevented his good feelings from fully developing themselves. Sympathy is rarely strong where there is a great inequality of condition; and he was raised so high above the mass of his fellow creatures that their distresses excited in him only a languid pity, such as that with which we regard the sufferings of the inferior animals, of a famished redbreast or of an overdriven posthorse. The devastation of the Palatinate and the persecution of the Huguenots had therefore given him no uneasiness which pride and bigotry could not effectually soothe. But all the tenderness of which he was capable was called forth by the misery of a great King who had a few weeks ago been served on the knee by Lords, and who was now a destitute exile. With that tenderness was mingled, in the soul of Lewis, a not ignoble vanity. He would exhibit to the world a pattern of munificence and courtesy. He would show mankind what ought to be the bearing of a perfect gentleman in the highest station and on the greatest occasion; and, in truth, his conduct was marked by a chivalrous generosity and urbanity, such as had not embellished the annals of Europe since the Black Prince had stood behind the chair of King John at the supper on the field of Poitiers.
As soon as the news that the Queen of England was on the French coast had been brought to Versailles, a palace was prepared for her reception. Carriages and troops of guards were despatched to await her orders. Workmen were employed to mend the Calais road that her journey might be easy. Lauzun was not only assured that his past offences were forgiven for her sake, but was honoured with a friendly letter in the handwriting of Lewis. Mary was on the road towards the French court when news came that her husband had, after a rough voyage, landed safe at the little village of Ambleteuse. Persons of high rank were instantly despatched from Versailles to greet and escort him. Meanwhile Lewis, attended by his family and his nobility, went forth in state to receive the exiled Queen. Before his gorgeous coach went the Swiss halberdiers. On each side of it and behind it rode the body guards with cymbals clashing and trumpets pealing. After the King, in a hundred carriages each drawn by six horses, came the most splendid aristocracy of Europe, all feathers, ribands, jewels, and embroidery. Before the procession had gone far it was announced that Mary was approaching. Lewis alighted and advanced on foot to meet her. She broke forth into passionate expressions of gratitude. "Madam," said her host, "it is but a melancholy service that I am rendering you to day. I hope that I may be able hereafter to render you services greater and more pleasing." He embraced the little Prince of Wales, and made the Queen seat herself in the royal state coach on the right hand. The cavalcade then turned towards Saint Germains.
At Saint Germains, on the verge of a forest swarming with beasts of chase, and on the brow of a hill which looks down on the windings of the Seine, Francis the First had built a castle, and Henry the Fourth had constructed a noble terrace. Of the residences of the French kings none stood in a more salubrious air or commanded a fairer prospect. The huge size and venerable age of the trees, the beauty of the gardens, the abundance of the springs, were widely famed. Lewis the Fourteenth had been born there, had, when a young man, held his court there, had added several stately pavilions to the mansion of Francis, and had completed the terrace of Henry. Soon, however, the magnificent King conceived an inexplicable disgust for his birthplace. He quitted Saint Germains for Versailles, and expended sums almost fabulous in the vain attempt to create a paradise on a spot singularly sterile and unwholesome, all sand or mud, without wood, without water, and without game. Saint Germains had now been selected to be the abode of the royal family of England. Sumptuous furniture had been hastily sent in. The nursery of the Prince of Wales had been carefully furnished with everything that an infant could require. One of the attendants presented to the Queen the key of a superb casket which stood in her apartment. She opened the casket, and found in it six thousand pistoles.
On the following day James arrived at Saint Germains. Lewis was already there to welcome him. The unfortunate exile bowed so low that it seemed as if he was about to embrace the knees of his protector. Lewis raised him, and embraced him with brotherly tenderness. The two Kings then entered the Queen's room. "Here is a gentleman," said Lewis to Mary, "whom you will be glad to see." Then, after entreating his guests to visit him next day at Versailles, and to let him have the pleasure of showing them his buildings, pictures, and plantations, he took the unceremonious leave of an old friend.
In a few hours the royal pair were informed that, as long as they would do the King of France the favour to accept of his hospitality, forty-five thousand pounds sterling a year would be paid them from his treasury. Ten thousand pounds sterling were sent for outfit.
The liberality of Lewis, however, was much less rare and admirable than the exquisite delicacy with which he laboured to soothe the feelings of his guests and to lighten the almost intolerable weight of the obligations which he laid upon them. He who had hitherto, on all questions of precedence, been sensitive, litigious, insolent, who had been more than once ready to plunge Europe into war rather than concede the most frivolous point of etiquette, was now punctilious indeed, but punctilious for his unfortunate friends against himself. He gave orders that Mary should receive all the marks of respect that had ever been paid to his own deceased wife. A question was raised whether the Princes of the House of Bourbon were entitled to be indulged with chairs in the presence of the Queen. Such trifles were serious matters at the old court of France. There were precedents on both sides: but Lewis decided the point against his own blood. Some ladies of illustrious rank omitted the ceremony of kissing the hem of Mary's robe. Lewis remarked the omission, and noticed it in such a voice and with such a look that the whole peerage was ever after ready to kiss her shoe. When Esther, just written by Racine, was acted at Saint Cyr, Mary had the seat of honour. James was at her right hand. Lewis modestly placed himself on the left. Nay, he was well pleased that, in his own palace, an outcast living on his bounty should assume the title of King of France, should, as King of France, quarter the lilies with the English lions, and should, as King of France, dress in violet on days of court mourning.
The demeanour of the French nobility on public occasions was absolutely regulated by their sovereign: but it was beyond even his power to prevent them from thinking freely, and from expressing what they thought, in private circles, with the keen and delicate wit characteristic of their nation and of their order. Their opinion of Mary was favourable. They found her person agreeable and her deportment dignified. They respected her courage and her maternal affection; and they pitied her ill fortune. But James they regarded with extreme contempt. They were disgusted by his insensibility, by the cool way in which he talked to every body of his ruin, and by the childish pleasure which he took in the pomp and luxury of Versailles. This strange apathy they attributed, not to philosophy or religion, but to stupidity and meanness of spirit, and remarked that nobody who had had the honour to hear His Britannic Majesty tell his own story could wonder that he was at Saint Germains and his son in law at Saint James's.
In the United Provinces the excitement produced by the tidings from England was even greater than in France. This was the moment at which the Batavian federation reached the highest point of power and glory. From the day on which the expedition sailed, the anxiety of the whole Dutch nation had been intense. Never had there been such crowds in the churches. Never had the enthusiasm of the preachers been so ardent. The inhabitants of the Hague could not be restrained from insulting Albeville. His house was so closely beset by the populace, day and night, that scarcely any person ventured to visit him; and he was afraid that his chapel would be burned to the ground. As mail after mail arrived with news of the Prince's progress, the spirits of his countrymen rose higher and higher; and when at length it was known that he had, on the invitation of the Lords and of an assembly of eminent commoners, taken on himself the executive administration, a general cry of pride and joy rose from all the Dutch factions. An extraordinary mission was, with great speed, despatched to congratulate him. Dykvelt, whose adroitness and intimate knowledge of English politics made his assistance, at such a conjuncture, peculiarly valuable, was one of the Ambassadors; and with him was joined Nicholas Witsen, a Burgomaster of Amsterdam, who seems to have been selected for the purpose of proving to all Europe that the long feud between the House of Orange and the chief city of Holland was at an end. On the eighth of January Dykvelt and Witsen made their appearance at Westminster. William talked to them with a frankness and an effusion of heart which seldom appeared in his conversations with Englishmen. His first words were, "Well, and what do our friends at home say now?" In truth, the only applause by which his stoical nature seems to have been strongly moved was the applause of his dear native country. Of his immense popularity in England he spoke with cold disdain, and predicted, too truly, the reaction which followed. "Here," said he, "the cry is all Hosannah today, and will, perhaps, be Crucify him tomorrow."
On the following day the first members of the Convention were chosen. The City of London led the way, and elected, without any contest, four great merchants who were zealous Whigs. The King and his adherents had hoped that many returning officers would treat the Prince's letter as a nullity; but the hope was disappointed. The elections went on rapidly and smoothly. There were scarcely any contests. For the nation had, during more than a year, been kept in constant expectation of a Parliament. Writs, indeed, had been twice issued, and twice recalled. Some constituent bodies had, under those writs, actually proceeded to the choice of representatives. There was scarcely a county in which the gentry and yeomanry had not, many months before, fixed upon candidates, good Protestants, whom no exertions must be spared to carry, in defiance of the King and of the Lord Lieutenant; and these candidates were now generally returned without opposition.
The Prince gave strict orders that no person in the public service should, on this occasion, practise those arts which had brought so much obloquy on the late government. He especially directed that no soldiers should be suffered to appear in any town where an election was going on. His admirers were able to boast, and his enemies seem not to have been able to deny, that the sense of the constituent bodies was fairly taken. It is true that he risked little. The party which was attached to him was triumphant, enthusiastic, full of life and energy. The party from which alone he could expect serious opposition was disunited and disheartened, out of humour with itself, and still more out of humour with its natural chief. A great majority, therefore, of the shires and boroughs returned Whig members.
It was not over England alone that William's guardianship now extended. Scotland had risen on her tyrants. All the regular soldiers by whom she had long been held down had been summoned by James to his help against the Dutch invaders, with the exception of a very small force, which, under the command of the Duke of Gordon, a great Roman Catholic Lord, garrisoned the Castle of Edinburgh. Every mail which had gone northward during the eventful month of November had carried news which stirred the passions of the oppressed Scots. While the event of the military operations was still doubtful, there were at Edinburgh riots and clamours which became more menacing after James had retreated from Salisbury. Great crowds assembled at first by night, and then by broad daylight. Popes were publicly burned: loud shouts were raised for a free Parliament: placards were stuck up setting prices on the heads of the ministers of the crown. Among those ministers Perth, as filling the great place of Chancellor, as standing high in the royal favour, as an apostate from the reformed faith, and as the man who had first introduced the thumbscrew into the jurisprudence of his country, was the most detested. His nerves were weak, his spirit abject; and the only courage which he possessed was that evil courage which braves infamy, and which looks steadily on the torments of others. His post, at such a time, was at the head of the Council board: but his heart failed him; and he determined to take refuge at his country seat from the danger which, as he judged by the looks and cries of the fierce and resolute populace of Edinburgh, was not remote. A strong guard escorted him safe to Castle Drummond: but scarcely had he departed when the city rose up. A few troops tried to suppress the insurrection, but were overpowered. The palace of Holyrood, which had been turned into a Roman Catholic seminary and printing house, was stormed and sacked. Huge heaps of Popish books, beads, crucifixes, and pictures were burned in the High Street. In the midst of the agitation came down the tidings of the King's flight. The members of the government gave up all thought of contending with the popular fury, and changed sides with a promptitude then common among Scottish politicians. The Privy Council by one proclamation ordered that all Papists should be disarmed, and by another invited Protestants to muster for the defence of pure religion. The nation had not waited for the call. Town and country were already up in arms for the Prince of Orange. Nithisdale and Clydesdale were the only regions in which there was the least chance that the Roman Catholics would make head; and both Nithisdale and Clydesdale were soon occupied by bands of armed Presbyterians. Among the insurgents were some fierce and moody men who had formerly disowned Argyle, and who were now equally eager to disown William. His Highness, they said, was plainly a malignant. There was not a word about the Covenant in his Declaration. The Dutch were a people with whom no true servant of the Lord would unite. They consorted with Lutherans; and a Lutheran was as much a child of perdition as a Jesuit. The general voice of the kingdom, however, effectually drowned the growl of this hateful faction.
The commotion soon reached the neighbourhood of Castle Drummond. Perth found that he was no longer safe among his own servants and tenants. He gave himself up to an agony as bitter as that into which his merciless tyranny had often thrown better men. He wildly tried to find consolation in the rites of his new Church. He importuned his priests for comfort, prayed, confessed, and communicated: but his faith was weak; and he owned that, in spite of all his devotions, the strong terrors of death were upon him. At this time he learned that he had a chance of escaping on board of a ship which lay off Brentisland. He disguised himself as well as he could, and, after a long and difficult journey by unfrequented paths over the Ochill mountains, which were then deep in snow, he succeeded in embarking: but, in spite of all his precautions, he had been recognised, and the alarm had been given. As soon as it was known that the cruel renegade was on the waters, and that he had gold with him, pursuers, inflamed at once by hatred and by avarice, were on his track, A skiff, commanded by an old buccaneer, overtook the flying vessel and boarded her. Perth was dragged out of the hold on deck in woman's clothes, stripped, hustled, and plundered. Bayonets were held to his breast. Begging for life with unmanly cries, he was hurried to the shore and flung into the common gaol of Kirkaldy. Thence, by order of the Council over which he had lately presided, and which was filled with men who had been partakers in his guilt, he was removed to Stirling Castle. It was on a Sunday, during the time of public worship, that he was conveyed under a guard to his place of confinement: but even rigid Puritans forgot the sanctity of the day and of the work. The churches poured forth their congregations as the torturer passed by, and the noise of threats, execrations, and screams of hatred accompanied him to the gate of his prison.
Several eminent Scotsmen were in London when the Prince arrived there; and many others now hastened thither to pay their court to him. On the seventh of January he requested them to attend him at Whitehall. The assemblage was large and respectable. The Duke of Hamilton and his eldest son, the Earl of Arran, the chiefs of a house of almost regal dignity, appeared at the head of the procession. They were accompanied by thirty Lords and about eighty gentlemen of note. William desired them to consult together, and to let him know in what way he could best promote the welfare of their country. He then withdrew, and left them to deliberate unrestrained by his presence. They repaired to the Council chamber, and put Hamilton into the chair. Though there seems to have been little difference of opinion, their debates lasted three days, a fact which is sufficiently explained by the circumstance that Sir Patrick Hume was one of the debaters. Arran ventured to recommend a negotiation with the King. But this motion was ill received by the mover's father and by the whole assembly, and did not even find a seconder. At length resolutions were carried closely resembling the resolutions which the English Lords and Commoners had presented to the Prince a few days before. He was requested to call together a Convention of the Estates of Scotland, to fix the fourteenth of March for the day of meeting, and, till that day, to take on himself the civil and military administration. To this request he acceded; and thenceforth the government of the whole island was in his hands.
The decisive moment approached; and the agitation of the public mind rose to the height. Knots of politicians were everywhere whispering and consulting. The coffeehouses were in a ferment. The presses of the capital never rested. Of the pamphlets which appeared at that time, enough may still be collected to form several volumes; and from those pamphlets it is not difficult to gather a correct notion of the state of parties.
There was a very small faction which wished to recall James without stipulations. There was also a very small faction which wished to set up a commonwealth, and to entrust the administration to a council of state under the presidency of the Prince of Orange. But these extreme opinions were generally held in abhorrence. Nineteen twentieths of the nation consisted of persons in whom love of hereditary monarchy and love of constitutional freedom were combined, though in different proportions, and who were equally opposed to the total abolition of the kingly office and to the unconditional restoration of the King.
But, in the wide interval which separated the bigots who still clung to the doctrines of Filmer from the enthusiasts who still dreamed the dreams of Harrington, there was room for many shades of opinion. If we neglect minute subdivisions, we shall find that the great majority of the nation and of the Convention was divided into four bodies. Three of these bodies consisted of Tories. The Whig party formed the fourth.
The amity of the Whigs and Tories had not survived the peril which had produced it. On several occasions, during the Prince's march from the West, dissension had appeared among his followers. While the event of his enterprise was doubtful, that dissension had, by his skilful management, been easily quieted. But, from the day on which he entered Saint James's palace in triumph, such management could no longer be practised. His victory, by relieving the nation from the strong dread of Popish tyranny, had deprived him of half his influence. Old antipathies, which had slept when Bishops were in the Tower, when Jesuits were at the Council board, when loyal clergymen were deprived of their bread by scores, when loyal gentlemen were put out of the commission of the peace by hundreds, were again strong and active. The Royalist shuddered at the thought that he was allied with all that from his youth up he had most hated, with old parliamentary Captains who had stormed his country house, with old parliamentary Commissioners who had sequestrated his estate, with men who had plotted the Rye House butchery and headed the Western rebellion. That beloved Church, too, for whose sake he had, after a painful struggle, broken through his allegiance to the throne, was she really in safety? Or had he rescued her from one enemy only that she might be exposed to another? The Popish priests, indeed, were in exile, in hiding, or in prison. No Jesuit or Benedictine who valued his life now dared to show himself in the habit of his order. But the Presbyterian and Independent teachers went in long procession to salute the chief of the government, and were as graciously received as the true successors of the Apostles. Some schismatics avowed the hope that every fence which excluded them from ecclesiastical preferment would soon be levelled; that the Articles would be softened down; that the Liturgy would be garbled; that Christmas would cease to be a feast; that Good Friday would cease to be a fast; that canons on whom no Bishop had ever laid his hand would, without the sacred vestment of white linen, distribute, in the choirs of Cathedrals, the eucharistic bread and wine to communicants lolling on benches. The Prince, indeed, was not a fanatical Presbyterian; but he was at best a Latitudinarian. He had no scruple about communicating in the Anglican form; but he cared not in what form other people communicated. His wife, it was to be feared, had imbibed too much of his spirit. Her conscience was under the direction of Burnet. She heard preachers of different Protestant sects. She had recently said that she saw no essential difference between the Church of England and the other reformed Churches. It was necessary, therefore, that the Cavaliers should, at this conjuncture, follow the example set by their fathers in 1641, should draw off from Roundheads and sectaries, and should, in spite of all the faults of the hereditary monarch, uphold the cause of hereditary monarchy.
The body which was animated by these sentiments was large and respectable. It included about one half of the House of Lords, about one third of the House of Commons, a majority of the country gentlemen, and at least nine tenths of the clergy; but it was torn by dissensions, and beset on every side by difficulties.
One section of this great party, a section which was especially strong among divines, and of which Sherlock was the chief organ, wished that a negotiation should be opened with James, and that he should be invited to return to Whitehall on such conditions as might fully secure the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the realm. It is evident that this plan, though strenuously supported by the clergy, was altogether inconsistent with the doctrines which the clergy had been teaching during many years. It was, in truth, an attempt to make a middle way where there was no room for a middle way, to effect a compromise between two things which do not admit of compromise, resistance and nonresistance. The Tories had formerly taken their stand on the principle of nonresistance. But that ground most of them had now abandoned, and were not disposed again to occupy. The Cavaliers of England had, as a class, been so deeply concerned, directly or indirectly, in the late rising against the King, that they could not, for very shame, talk at that moment about the sacred duty of obeying Nero; nor, indeed, were they disposed to recall the prince under whose misgovernment they had suffered so much, without exacting from him terms which might make it impossible for him again to abuse his power. They were, therefore, in a false position. Their old theory, sound or unsound, was at least complete and coherent. If that theory were sound, the King ought to be immediately invited back, and permitted, if such were his pleasure, to put Seymour and Danby, the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Bristol, to death for high treason, to reestablish the Ecclesiastical Commission, to fill the Church with Popish dignitaries, and to place the army under the command of Popish officers. But if, as the Tories themselves now seemed to confess, that theory was unsound, why treat with the King? If it was admitted that he might lawfully be excluded till be gave satisfactory guarantees for the security of the constitution in Church and State, it was not easy to deny that he might lawfully be excluded for ever. For what satisfactory guarantee could he give? How was it possible to draw up an Act of Parliament in language clearer than the language of the Acts of Parliament which required that the Dean of Christ Church should be a Protestant? How was it possible to put any promise into words stronger than those in which James had repeatedly declared that he would strictly respect the legal rights of the Anglican clergy? If law or honour could have bound him, he would never have been forced to fly from his kingdom. If neither law nor honour could bind him, could he safely be permitted to return?
It is probable, however, that, in spite of these arguments, a motion for opening a negotiation with James would have been made in the Convention, and would have been supported by the great body of Tories, had he not been, on this, as on every other occasion, his own worst enemy. Every post which arrived from Saint Germains brought intelligence which damped the ardour of his adherents. He did not think it worth his while to feign regret for his past errors, or to promise amendment. He put forth a manifesto, telling his people that it had been his constant care to govern them with justice and moderation, and that they had been cheated into ruin by imaginary grievances. The effect of his folly and obstinacy was that those who were most desirous to see him restored to his throne on fair conditions felt that, by proposing at that moment to treat with him, they should injure the cause which they wished to serve. They therefore determined to coalesce with another body of Tories of whom Sancroft was the chief. Sancroft fancied that he had found out a device by which provision might be made for the government of the country without recalling James, and yet without despoiling him of his crown. This device was a Regency. The most uncompromising of those divines who had inculcated the doctrine of passive obedience had never maintained that such obedience was due to a babe or to a madman. It was universally acknowledged that, when the rightful sovereign was intellectually incapable of performing his office, a deputy might be appointed to act in his stead, and that any person who should resist the deputy, and should plead as an excuse for doing so the command of a prince who was in the cradle, or who was raving, would justly incur the penalties of rebellion. Stupidity, perverseness, and superstition, such was the reasoning of the Primate, had made James as unfit to rule his dominions as any child in swaddling clothes, or as any maniac who was grinning and chattering in the straw of Bedlam. That course must therefore be taken which had been taken when Henry the Sixth was an infant, and again when he became lethargic. James could not be King in effect: but he must still continue to be King in semblance. Writs must still run in his name. His image and superscription must still appear on the coin and on the Great Seal. Acts of Parliament must still be called from the years of his reign. But the administration must be taken from him and confided to a Regent named by the Estates of the Realm. In this way, Sancroft gravely maintained, the people would remain true to their allegiance: the oaths of fealty which they had sworn to their King would be strictly fulfilled; and the most orthodox Churchmen might, without any scruple of conscience, take office under the Regent.
The opinion of Sancroft had great weight with the whole Tory party, and especially with the clergy. A week before the day for which the Convention had been summoned, a grave party assembled at Lambeth Palace, heard prayers in the chapel, dined with the Primate, and then consulted on the state of public affairs. Five suffragans of the Archbishop, who had shared his perils and his glory in the preceding summer, were present. The Earls of Clarendon and Ailesbury represented the Tory laity. The unanimous sense of the meeting appeared to be that those who had taken the oath of allegiance to James might justifiably withdraw their obedience from him, but could not with a safe conscience call any other by the name of King.
Thus two sections of the Tory party, a section which looked forward to an accommodation with James, and a section which was opposed to any such accommodation, agreed in supporting the plan of Regency. But a third section, which, though not very numerous, had great weight and influence, recommended a very different plan. The leaders of this small band were Danby and the Bishop of London in the House of Lords, and Sir Robert Sawyer in the House of Commons. They conceived that they had found out a way of effecting a complete revolution under strictly legal forms. It was contrary to all principle, they said, that the King should be deposed by his subjects; nor was it necessary to depose him. He had himself, by his flight, abdicated his power and dignity. A demise had actually taken place. All constitutional lawyers held that the throne of England could not be one moment vacant. The next heir had therefore succeeded. Who, then, was the next heir? As to the infant who had been carried into France, his entrance into the world had been attended by many suspicious circumstances. It was due to the other members of the royal family and to the nation that all doubts should be cleared up. An investigation had been solemnly demanded, in the name of the Princess of Orange, by her husband, and would have been instituted if the parties who were accused of fraud had not taken a course which, in any ordinary case, would have been considered as a decisive proof of guilt. They had not chosen to await the issue of a solemn parliamentary proceeding: they had stolen away into a foreign country: they had carried with them the child: they had carried with them all those French and Italian women of the bedchamber who, if there had been foul play, must have been privy to it, and who ought therefore to have been subjected to a rigorous cross examination. To admit the boy's claim without inquiry was impossible; and those who called themselves his parents had made inquiry impossible. Judgment must therefore go against him by default. If he was wronged, he was wronged, not by the nation, but by those whose strange conduct at the time of his birth had justified the nation in demanding investigation, and who had then avoided investigation by flight. He might therefore, with perfect equity, be considered as a pretender. And thus the crown had legally devolved on the Princess of Orange. She was actually Queen Regnant. The Houses had nothing to do but to proclaim her. She might, if such were her pleasure, make her husband her first minister, and might even, with the consent of Parliament, bestow on him the title of King.
The persons who preferred this scheme to any other were few; and it was certain to be opposed, both by all who still bore any good will to James, and by all the adherents of William. Yet Danby, confident in his own knowledge of parliamentary tactics, and well aware how much, when great parties are nearly balanced, a small flying squadron can effect, was not without hopes of being able to keep the event of the contest in suspense till both Whigs and Tories, despairing of complete victory, and afraid of the consequences of delay, should suffer him to act as umpire. Nor is it impossible that he might have succeeded if his efforts had been seconded, nay, if they had not been counteracted, by her whom he wished to raise to the height of human greatness. Quicksighted as he was and versed in affairs, he was altogether ignorant of the character of Mary, and of the feeling with which she regarded her husband; nor was her old preceptor, Compton, better informed. William's manners were dry and cold, his constitution was infirm, and his temper by no means bland; he was not a man who would commonly be thought likely to inspire a fine young woman of twenty-six with a violent passion. It was known that he had not always been strictly constant to his wife; and talebearers had reported that she did not live happily with him. The most acute politicians therefore never suspected that, with all his faults, he had obtained such an empire over her heart as princes the most renowned for their success in gallantry, Francis the First and Henry the Fourth, Lewis the Fourteenth and Charles the Second, had never obtained over the heart of any woman, and that the three kingdoms of her forefathers were valuable in her estimation chiefly because, by bestowing them on him, she could prove to him the intensity and disinterestedness of her affection. Danby, in profound ignorance of her sentiments, assured her that he would defend her rights, and that, if she would support him, he hoped to place her alone on the throne.
The course of the Whigs, meanwhile, was simple and consistent. Their doctrine was that the foundation of our government was a contract expressed on one side by the oath of allegiance, and on the other by the coronation oath, and that the duties imposed by this contract were mutual. They held that a sovereign who grossly abused his power might lawfully be withstood and dethroned by his people. That James had grossly abused his power was not disputed; and the whole Whig party was ready to pronounce that he had forfeited it. Whether the Prince of Wales was supposititious, was a point not worth discussing. There were now far stronger reasons than any which could be drawn from the circumstances of his birth for excluding him from the throne. A child, brought to the royal couch in a warming pan, might possibly prove a good King of England. But there could be no such hope for a child educated by a father who was the most stupid and obstinate of tyrants, in a foreign country, the seat of despotism and superstition; in a country where the last traces of liberty had disappeared; where the States General had ceased to meet; where parliaments had long registered without one remonstrance the most oppressive edicts of the sovereign; where valour, genius, learning, seemed to exist only for the purpose of aggrandising a single man; where adulation was the main business of the press, the pulpit, and the stage; and where one chief subject of adulation was the barbarous persecution of the Reformed Church. Was the boy likely to learn, under such tuition and in such a situation, respect for the institutions of his native land? Could it be doubted that he would be brought up to be the slave of the Jesuits and the Bourbons, and that he would be, if possible, more bitterly prejudiced than any preceding Stuart against the laws of England?
Nor did the Whigs think that, situated as the country then was, a departure from the ordinary rule of succession was in itself an evil. They were of opinion that, till that rule had been broken, the doctrines of indefeasible hereditary right and passive obedience would be pleasing to the court, would be inculcated by the clergy, and would retain a strong hold on the public mind. The notion would still prevail that the kingly office is the ordinance of God in a sense different from that in which all government is his ordinance. It was plain that, till this superstition was extinct, the constitution could never be secure. For a really limited monarchy cannot long exist in a society which regards monarchy as something divine, and the limitations as mere human inventions. Royalty, in order that it might exist in perfect harmony with our liberties, must be unable to show any higher or more venerable title than that by which we hold our liberties. The King must be henceforth regarded as a magistrate, a great magistrate indeed and highly to be honoured, but subject, like all other magistrates, to the law, and deriving his power from heaven in no other sense than that in which the Lords and the Commons may be said to derive their power from heaven. The best way of effecting this salutary change would be to interrupt the course of descent. Under sovereigns who would consider it as little short of high treason to preach nonresistance and the patriarchal theory of government, under sovereigns whose authority, springing from resolutions of the two Houses, could never rise higher than its source, there would be little risk of oppression such as had compelled two generations of Englishmen to rise in arms against two generations of Stuarts. On these grounds the Whigs were prepared to declare the throne vacant, to fill it by election, and to impose on the prince of their choice such conditions as might secure the country against misgovernment.
The time for the decision of these great questions had now arrived. At break of day, on the twenty-second of January, the House of Commons was crowded with knights and burgesses. On the benches appeared many faces which had been well known in that place during the reign of Charles the Second, but had not been seen there under his successor. Most of those Tory squires, and of those needy retainers of the court, who had been returned in multitudes to the Parliament of 1685, had given place to the men of the old country party, the men who had driven the Cabal from power, who had carried the Habeas Corpus Act, and who had sent up the Exclusion Bill to the Lords. Among them was Powle, deeply read in the history and law of Parliament, and distinguished by the species of eloquence which is required when grave questions are to be solemnly brought under the notice of senates; and Sir Thomas Littleton, versed in European politics, and gifted with a vehement and piercing logic which had often, when, after a long sitting, the candles had been lighted, roused the languishing House, and decided the event of the debate. There, too, was William Sacheverell, an orator whose great parliamentary abilities were, many years later, a favourite theme of old men who lived to see the conflicts of Walpole and Pulteney. With these eminent persons was joined Sir Robert Clayton, the wealthiest merchant of London, whose palace in the Old Jewry surpassed in splendour the aristocratical mansions of Lincoln's Inn Fields and Covent Garden, whose villa among the Surrey hills was described as a garden of Eden, whose banquets vied with those of Kings, and whose judicious munificence, still attested by numerous public monuments, had obtained for him in the annals of the City a place second only to that of Gresham. In the Parliament which met at Oxford in 1681, Clayton had, as member for the capital, and at the request of his constituents, moved for leave to bring in the Bill of Exclusion, and had been seconded by Lord Russell. In 1685 the City, deprived of its franchises and governed by the creatures of the court, had returned four Tory representatives. But the old charter had now been restored; and Clayton had been again chosen by acclamation. Nor must John Birch be passed over. He had begun life as a carter, but had, in the civil wars, left his team, had turned soldier, had risen to the rank of Colonel in the army of the Commonwealth, had, in high fiscal offices, shown great talents for business, had sate many years in Parliament, and, though retaining to the last the rough manners and plebeian dialect of his youth, had, by strong sense and mother wit, gained the ear of the Commons, and was regarded as a formidable opponent by the most accomplished debaters of his time. These were the most conspicuous among the veterans who now, after a long seclusion, returned to public life. But they were all speedily thrown into the shade by two younger Whigs, who, on this great day, took their seats for the first time, who soon rose to the highest honours of the state, who weathered together the fiercest storms of faction, and who, having been long and widely renowned as statesmen, as orators, and as munificent patrons of genius and learning, died, within a few months of each other, soon after the accession of the House of Brunswick. These were Charles Montague and John Somers.
One other name must be mentioned, a name then known only to a small circle of philosophers, but now pronounced beyond the Ganges and the Mississippi with reverence exceeding that which is paid to the memory of the greatest warriors and rulers. Among the crowd of silent members appeared the majestic forehead and pensive face of Isaac Newton. The renowned University on which his genius had already begun to impress a peculiar character, still plainly discernible after the lapse of a hundred and sixty years, had sent him to the Convention; and he sate there, in his modest greatness, the unobtrusive but unflinching friend of civil and religious freedom.
The first act of the Commons was to choose a Speaker; and the choice which they made indicated in a manner not to be mistaken their opinion touching the great questions which they were about to decide. Down to the very eve of the meeting, it had been understood that Seymour would be placed in the chair. He had formerly sate there during several years. He had great and various titles to consideration; descent, fortune, knowledge, experience, eloquence. He had long been at the head of a powerful band of members from the Western counties. Though a Tory, he had in the last Parliament headed, with conspicuous ability and courage, the opposition to Popery and arbitrary power. He had been among the first gentlemen who had repaired to the Dutch head quarters at Exeter, and had been the author of that association by which the Prince's adherents had bound themselves to stand or fall together. But, a few hours before the Houses met, a rumour was spread that Seymour was against declaring the throne vacant. As soon, therefore, as the benches had filled, the Earl of Wiltshire, who represented Hampshire, stood up, and proposed that Powle should be Speaker. Sir Vere Fane, member for Kent, seconded the motion. A plausible objection might have been raised; for it was known that a petition was about to be presented against Powle's return: but the general cry of the House called him to the chair; and the Tories thought it prudent to acquiesce. The mace was then laid on the table; the list of members was called over; and the names of the defaulters were noted.
Meanwhile the Peers, about a hundred in number, had met, had chosen Halifax to be their Speaker, and had appointed several eminent lawyers to perform the functions which, in regular Parliaments, belong to the judges. There was, in the course of that day, frequent communication between the Houses. They joined in requesting that the Prince would continue to administer the government till he should hear further from them, in expressing to him their gratitude for the deliverance which he, under God, had wrought for the nation, and in directing that the thirty- first of January should be observed as a day of thanksgiving for that deliverance.
Thus far no difference of opinion had appeared: but both sides were preparing for the conflict. The Tories were strong in the Upper House, and weak in the Lower; and they knew that, at such a conjuncture, the House which should be the first to come to a resolution would have a great advantage over the other. There was not the least chance that the Commons would send up to the Lords a vote in favour of the plan of Regency: but, if such a vote were sent down from the Lords to the Commons, it was not absolutely impossible that many even of the Whig representatives of the people might be disposed to acquiesce rather than take the grave responsibility of causing discord and delay at a crisis which required union and expedition. The Commons had determined that, on Monday the twenty-eighth of January, they would take into consideration the state of the nation. The Tory Lords therefore proposed, on Friday the twenty-fifth, to enter instantly on the great business for which they had been called together. But their motives were clearly discerned and their tactics frustrated by Halifax, who, ever since his return from Hungerford, had seen that the settlement of the government could be effected on Whig principles only, and who had therefore, for the time, allied himself closely with the Whigs. Devonshire moved that Tuesday the twenty-ninth should be the day. "By that time," he said with more truth than discretion, "we may have some lights from below which may be useful for our guidance." His motion was carried; but his language was severely censured by some of his brother peers as derogatory to their order.
On the twenty-eighth the Commons resolved themselves into a committee of the whole House. A member who had, more than thirty years before, been one of Cromwell's Lords, Richard Hampden, son of the illustrious leader of the Roundheads, and father of the unhappy man who had, by large bribes and degrading submissions, narrowly escaped with life from the vengeance of James, was placed in the chair, and the great debate began.
It was soon evident that an overwhelming majority considered James as no longer King. Gilbert Dolben, son of the late Archbishop of York, was the first who declared himself to be of that opinion. He was supported by many members, particularly by the bold and vehement Wharton, by Sawyer, whose steady opposition to the dispensing power had, in some measure, atoned for old offences, by Maynard, whose voice, though so feeble with age that it could not be heard on distant benches, still commanded the respect of all parties, and by Somers, whose luminous eloquence and varied stores of knowledge were on that day exhibited, for the first time, within the walls of Parliament. The unblushing forehead and voluble tongue of Sir William Williams were found on the same side. Already he had been deeply concerned in the excesses both of the worst of oppositions and of the worst of governments. He had persecuted innocent Papists and innocent Protestants. He had been the patron of Oates and the tool of Petre. His name was associated with seditious violence which was remembered with regret and shame by all respectable Whigs, and with freaks of despotism abhorred by all respectable Tories. How men live under such infamy it is not easy to understand: but even such infamy was not enough for Williams. He was not ashamed to attack the fallen master to whom he had hired himself out for work which no honest man in the Inns of Court would undertake, and from whom he had, within six months, accepted a baronetcy as the reward of servility.
Only three members ventured to oppose themselves to what was evidently the general sense of the assembly. Sir Christopher Musgrave, a Tory gentleman of great weight and ability, hinted some doubts. Heneage Finch let fall some expressions which were understood to mean that he wished a negotiation to be opened with the King. This suggestion was so ill received that he made haste to explain it away. He protested that he had been misapprehended. He was convinced that, under such a prince, there could be no security for religion, liberty, or property. To recall King James, or to treat with him, would be a fatal course; but many who would never consent that he should exercise the regal power had conscientious scruples about depriving him of the royal title. There was one expedient which would remove all difficulties, a Regency. This proposition found so little favour that Finch did not venture to demand a division. Richard Fanshaw, Viscount Fanshaw of the kingdom of Ireland, said a few words in behalf of James, and recommended an adjournment: but the recommendation was met by a general outcry. Member after member stood up to represent the importance of despatch. Every moment, it was said, was precious, the public anxiety was intense, trade was suspended. The minority sullenly submitted, and suffered the predominant party to take its own course.
What that course would be was not perfectly clear. For the majority was made up of two classes. One class consisted of eager and vehement Whigs, who, if they had been able to take their own course, would have given to the proceedings of the Convention a decidedly revolutionary character. The other class admitted that a revolution was necessary, but regarded it as a necessary evil, and wished to disguise it, as much as possible, under the show of legitimacy. The former class demanded a distinct recognition of the right of subjects to dethrone bad princes. The latter class desired to rid the country of one bad prince, without promulgating any doctrine which might be abused for the purpose of weakening the just and salutary authority of future monarchs. The former class dwelt chiefly on the King's misgovernment; the latter on his flight. The former class considered him as having forfeited his crown; the latter as having resigned it. It was not easy to draw up any form of words which would please all whose assent it was important to obtain; but at length, out of many suggestions offered from different quarters, a resolution was framed which gave general satisfaction. It was moved that King James the Second, having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom by breaking the original contract between King and people, and, by the advice of Jesuits and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws, and having withdrawn himself out of the kingdom, had abdicated the government, and that the throne had thereby become vacant.
This resolution has been many times subjected to criticism as minute and severe as was ever applied to any sentence written by man, and perhaps there never was a sentence written by man which would bear such criticism less. That a King by grossly abusing his power may forfeit it is true. That a King, who absconds without making any provision for the administration, and leaves his people in a state of anarchy, may, without any violent straining of language, be said to have abdicated his functions is also true. But no accurate writer would affirm that long continued misgovernment and desertion, added together, make up an act of abdication. It is evident too that the mention of the Jesuits and other evil advisers of James weakens, instead of strengthening, the case against him. For surely more indulgence is due to a man misled by pernicious counsel than to a man who goes wrong from the mere impulse of his own mind. It is idle, however, to examine these memorable words as we should examine a chapter of Aristotle or of Hobbes. Such words are to be considered, not as words, but as deeds. If they effect that which they are intended to effect, they are rational, though they may be contradictory. It they fail of attaining their end, they are absurd, though they carry demonstration with them. Logic admits of no compromise. The essense of politics is compromise. It is therefore not strange that some of the most important and most useful political instruments in the world should be among the most illogical compositions that ever were penned. The object of Somers, of Maynard, and of the other eminent men who shaped this celebrated motion was, not to leave to posterity a model of definition and partition, but to make the restoration of a tyrant impossible, and to place on the throne a sovereign under whom law and liberty might be secure. This object they attained by using language which, in a philosophical treatise, would justly be reprehended as inexact and confused. They cared little whether their major agreed with their conclusion, if the major secured two hundred votes, and the conclusion two hundred more. In fact the one beauty of the resolution is its inconsistency. There was a phrase for every subdivision of the majority. The mention of the original contract gratified the disciples of Sidney. The word abdication conciliated politicians of a more timid school. There were doubtless many fervent Protestants who were pleased with the censure cast on the Jesuits. To the real statesman the single important clause was that which declared the throne vacant; and, if that clause could be carried, he cared little by what preamble it might be introduced. The force which was thus united made all resistance hopeless. The motion was adopted by the Committee without a division. It was ordered that the report should be instantly made. Powle returned to the chair: the mace was laid on the table: Hampden brought up the resolution: the House instantly agreed to it, and ordered him to carry it to the Lords.
On the following morning the Lords assembled early. The benches both of the spiritual and of the temporal peers were crowded. Hampden appeared at the bar, and put the resolution of the Commons into the hands of Halifax. The Upper House then resolved itself into a committee; and Danby took the chair. The discussion was soon interrupted by the reappearance of Hampden with another message. The House resumed and was informed that the Commons had just voted it inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant nation to be governed by a Popish King. To this resolution, irreconcilable as it obviously was with the doctrine of indefeasible hereditary right, the Peers gave an immediate and unanimous assent. The principle which was thus affirmed has always, down to our own time, been held sacred by all Protestant statesmen, and has never been considered by any reasonable Roman Catholic as objectionable. If, indeed, our sovereigns were, like the Presidents of the United States, mere civil functionaries, it would not be easy to vindicate such a restriction. But the headship of the English Church is annexed to the English crown; and there is no intolerance in saying that a Church ought not to be subjected to a head who regards her as schismatical and heretical.
After this short interlude the Lords again went into committee. The Tories insisted that their plan should be discussed before the vote of the Commons which declared the throne vacant was considered. This was conceded to them; and the question was put whether a Regency, exercising kingly power during the life of James, in his name, would be the best expedient for preserving the laws and liberties of the nation?
The contest was long and animated. The chief speakers in favour of a Regency were Rochester and Nottingham. Halifax and Danby led the other side. The Primate, strange to say, did not make his appearance, though earnestly importuned by the Tory peers to place himself at their head. His absence drew on him many contumelious censures; nor have even his eulogists been able to find any explanation of it which raises his character. The plan of Regency was his own. He had, a few days before, in a paper written with his own hand, pronounced that plan to be clearly the best that could be adopted. The deliberations of the Lords who supported that plan had been carried on under his roof. His situation made it his clear duty to declare publicly what he thought. Nobody can suspect him of personal cowardice or of vulgar cupidity. It was probably from a nervous fear of doing wrong that, at this great conjuncture, he did nothing: but he should have known that, situated as he was, to do nothing was to do wrong. A man who is too scrupulous to take on himself a grave responsibility at an important crisis ought to be too scrupulous to accept the place of first minister of the Church and first peer of the realm.
It is not strange, however, that Sancroft's mind should have been ill at ease; for he could hardly be blind to the obvious truth that the scheme which he had recommended to his friends was utterly inconsistent with all that he and his brethren had been teaching during many years. That the King had a divine and indefeasible right to the regal power, and that the regal power, even when most grossly abused, could not without sin be resisted, was the doctrine in which the Anglican Church had long gloried. Did this doctrine then really mean only that the King had a divine and indefeasible right to have his effigy and name cut on a seal which was to be daily employed in despite of him for the purpose of commissioning his enemies to levy war on him, and of sending his friends to the gallows for obeying him? Did the whole duty of a good subject consist in using the word King? If so, Fairfax and Cromwell at Naseby had performed all the duty of good subjects. For Charles had been designated as King even by the generals who commanded against him. Nothing in the conduct of the Long Parliament had been more severely blamed by the Church than the ingenious device of using the name of Charles against himself. Every one of her ministers had been required to sign a declaration condemning as traitorous the fiction by which the authority of the sovereign had been separated from his person. Yet this traitorous fiction was now considered by the Primate and by many of his suffragans as the only basis on which they could, in strict conformity with Christian principles, erect a government.
The distinction which Sancroft had borrowed from the Roundheads of the preceding generation subverted from the foundation that system of politics which the Church and the Universities pretended to have learned from Saint Paul. The Holy Spirit, it had been a thousand times repeated, had commanded the Romans to be subject to Nero. The meaning of the precept now appeared to be only that the Romans were to call Nero Augustus. They were perfectly at liberty to chase him beyond the Euphrates, to leave him a pensioner on the bounty of the Parthians, to withstand him by force if he attempted to return, to punish all who aided him or corresponded with him, and to transfer the Tribunitian power and the Consular power, the Presidency of the Senate and the command of the Legions, to Galba or Vespasian.
The analogy which the Archbishop imagined that he had discovered between the case of a wrongheaded King and the case of a lunatic King will not bear a moment's examination. It was plain that James was not in that state of mind in which, if he had been a country gentleman or a merchant, any tribunal would have held him incapable of executing a contract or a will. He was of unsound mind only as all bad Kings are of unsound mind; as Charles the First had been of unsound mind when he went to seize the five members; as Charles the Second had been of unsound mind when he concluded the treaty of Dover. If this sort of mental unsoundness did not justify subjects in withdrawing their obedience from princes, the plan of a Regency was evidently indefensible. If this sort of mental unsoundness did justify subjects in withdrawing their obedience from princes, the doctrine of nonresistance was completely given up; and all that any moderate Whig had ever contended for was fully admitted.
As to the oath of allegiance about which Sancroft and his disciples were so anxious, one thing at least is clear, that, whoever might be right, they were wrong. The Whigs held that, in the oath of allegiance, certain conditions were implied, that the King had violated these conditions, and that the oath had therefore lost its force. But, if the Whig doctrine were false, if the oath were still binding, could men of sense really believe that they escaped the guilt of perjury by voting for a Regency? Could they affirm that they bore true allegiance to James while they were in defiance of his protestations made before all Europe, authorising another person to receive the royal revenues, to summon and prorogue parliaments, to create Dukes and Earls, to name Bishops and Judges, to pardon offenders, to command the forces of the state, and to conclude treaties with foreign powers? Had Pascal been able to find, in all the folios of the Jesuitical casuists, a sophism more contemptible than that which now, as it seemed, sufficed to quiet the consciences of the fathers of the Anglican Church?
Nothing could be more evident than that the plan of Regency could be defended only on Whig principles. Between the rational supporters of that plan and the majority of the House of Commons there could he no dispute as to the question of right. All that remained was a question of expediency. And would any statesman seriously contend that it was expedient to constitute a government with two heads, and to give to one of those heads regal power without regal dignity, and to the other regal dignity without regal power? It was notorious that such an arrangement, even when made necessary by the infancy or insanity of a prince, had serious disadvantages. That times of Regency were times of weakness, of trouble and of disaster, was a truth proved by the whole history of England, of France, and of Scotland, and had almost become a proverb. Yet, in a case of infancy or of insanity, the King was at least passive. He could not actively counterwork the Regent. What was now proposed was that England should have two first magistrate, of ripe age and sound mind, waging with each other an irreconcilable war. It was absurd to talk of leaving James merely the kingly name, and depriving him of all the kingly power. For the name was a part of the power. The word King was a word of conjuration. It was associated in the minds of many Englishmen with the idea of a mysterious character derived from above, and in the minds of almost all Englishmen with the idea of legitimate and venerable authority. Surely, if the title carried with it such power, those who maintained that James ought to be deprived of all power could not deny that he ought to be deprived of the title.
And how long was the anomalous government planned by the genius of Sancroft to last? Every argument which could be urged for setting it up at all might be urged with equal force for retaining it to the end of time. If the boy who had been carried into France was really born of the Queen, he would hereafter inherit the divine and indefeasible right to be called King. The same right would very probably be transmitted from Papist to Papist through the whole of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both the Houses had unanimously resolved that England should not be governed by a Papist. It might well be, therefore, that, from generation to generation, Regents would continue to administer the government in the name of vagrant and mendicant Kings. There was no doubt that the Regents must be appointed by Parliament. The effect, therefore, of this contrivance, a contrivance intended to preserve unimpaired the sacred principle of hereditary monarchy, would be that the monarchy would become really elective.
Another unanswerable reason was urged against Sancroft's plan. There was in the statute book a law which had been passed soon after the close of the long and bloody contest between the Houses of York and Lancaster, and which had been framed for the purpose of averting calamities such as the alternate victories of those Houses had brought on the nobility and gentry of the realm. By this law it was provided that no person should, by adhering to a King in possession, incur the penalties of treason. When the regicides were brought to trial after the Restoration, some of them insisted that their case lay within the equity of this act. They had obeyed, they said, the government which was in possession, and were therefore not traitors. The Judges admitted that this would have been a good defence if the prisoners had acted under the authority of an usurper who, like Henry the Fourth and Richard the Third, bore the regal title, but declared that such a defence could not avail men who had indicted, sentenced, and executed one who, in the indictment, in the sentence, and in the death warrant, was designated as King. It followed, therefore, that whoever should support a Regent in opposition to James would run great risk of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, if ever James should recover supreme power; but that no person could, without such a violation of law as Jeffreys himself would hardly venture to commit, be punished for siding with a King who was reigning, though wrongfully, at Whitehall, against a rightful King who was in exile at Saint Germains.
It should seem that these arguments admit of no reply; and they were doubtless urged with force by Danby, who had a wonderful power of making every subject which he treated clear to the dullest mind, and by Halifax, who, in fertility of thought and brilliancy of diction, had no rival among the orators of that age. Yet so numerous and powerful were the Tories in the Upper House that, notwithstanding the weakness of their case, the defection of their leader, and the ability of their opponents, they very nearly carried the day. A hundred Lords divided. Forty- nine voted for a Regency, fifty-one against it. In the minority were the natural children of Charles, the brothers in law of James, the Dukes of Somerset and Ormond, the Archbishop of York and eleven Bishops. No prelate voted in the majority except Compton and Trelawney.
It was near nine in the evening before the House rose. The following day was the thirtieth of January, the anniversary of the death of Charles the First. The great body of the Anglican clergy had, during many years, thought it a sacred duty to inculcate on that day the doctrines of nonresistance and passive obedience. Their old sermons were now of little use; and many divines were even in doubt whether they could venture to read the whole Liturgy. The Lower House had declared that the throne was vacant. The Upper had not yet expressed any opinion. It was therefore not easy to decide whether the prayers for the sovereign ought to be used. Every officiating minister took his own course. In most of the churches of the capital the petitions for James were omitted: but at Saint Margaret's, Sharp, Dean of Norwich, who had been requested to preach before the Commons, not only read to their faces the whole service as it stood in the book, but, before his sermon, implored, in his own words, a blessing on the King, and, towards the close of his discourse, declaimed against the Jesuitical doctrine that princes might lawfully be deposed by their subjects. The Speaker, that very afternoon, complained to the House of this affront. "You pass a vote one day," he said; "and on the next day it is contradicted from the pulpit in your own hearing." Sharp was strenuously defended by the Tories, and had friends even among the Whigs: for it was not forgotten that he had incurred serious danger in the evil times by the courage with which, in defiance of the royal injunction, he had preached against Popery. Sir Christopher Musgrave very ingeniously remarked that the House had not ordered the resolution which declared the throne vacant to be published. Sharp, therefore, was not only not bound to know anything of that resolution, but could not have taken notice of it without a breach of privilege for which he might have been called to the bar and reprimanded on his knees. The majority felt that it was not wise at that conjuncture to quarrel with the clergy; and the subject was suffered to drop.
While the Commons were discussing Sharp's sermon, the Lords had again gone into a committee on the state of the nation, and had ordered the resolution which pronounced the throne vacant to be read clause by clause.
The first expression on which a debate arose was that which recognised the original contract between King and people. It was not to be expected that the Tory peers would suffer a phrase which contained the quintessence of Whiggism to pass unchallenged. A division took place; and it was determined by fifty-three votes to forty-six that the words should stand.
The severe censure passed by the Commons on the administration of James was next considered, and was approved without one dissentient voice. Some verbal objections were made to the proposition that James had abdicated the government. It was urged that he might more correctly be said to have deserted it. This amendment was adopted, it should seem, with scarcely any debate, and without a division. By this time it was late; and the Lords again adjourned.
Up to this moment the small body of peers which was under the guidance of Danby had acted in firm union with Halifax and the Whigs. The effect of this union had been that the plan of Regency had been rejected, and the doctrine of the original contract affirmed. The proposition that James had ceased to be King had been the rallying point of the two parties which had made up the majority. But from that point their path diverged. The next question to be decided was whether the throne was vacant; and this was a question not merely verbal, but of grave practical importance. If the throne was vacant, the Estates of the Realm might place William in it. If it was not vacant, he could succeed to it only after his wife, after Anne, and after Anne's posterity.
It was, according to the followers of Danby, an established maxim that our country could not be, even for a moment, without a rightful prince. The man might die; but the magistrate was immortal. The man might abdicate; but the magistrate was irremoveable. If, these politicians said, we once admit that the throne is vacant, we admit that it is elective. The sovereign whom we may place on it will be a sovereign, not after the English, but after the Polish, fashion. Even if we choose the very person who would reign by right of birth, still that person will reign not by right of birth, but in virtue of our choice, and will take as a gift what ought to be regarded as an inheritance. That salutary reverence with which the blood royal and the order of primogeniture have hitherto been regarded will be greatly diminished. Still more serious will the evil be, if we not only fill the throne by election, but fill it with a prince who has doubtless the qualities of a great and good ruler, and who has wrought a wonderful deliverance for us, but who is not first nor even second in the order of succession. If we once say that, merit, however eminent, shall be a title to the crown, we disturb the very foundations of our polity, and furnish a precedent of which every ambitious warrior or statesman who may have rendered any great service to the public will be tempted to avail himself. This danger we avoid if we logically follow out the principles of the constitution to their consequences. There has been a demise of the crown. At the instant of the demise the next heir became our lawful sovereign. We consider the Princess of Orange as next heir; and we hold that she ought, without any delay, to be proclaimed, what she already is, our Queen.
The Whigs replied that it was idle to apply ordinary rules to a country in a state of revolution, that the great question now depending was not to be decided by the saws of pedantic Templars, and that, if it were to be so decided, such saws might be quoted on one side as well as the other. If it were a legal maxim that the throne could never be vacant, it was also a legal maxim that a living man could have no heir. James was still living. How then could the Princess of Orange be his heir? The truth was that the laws of England had made full provision for the succession when the power of a sovereign and his natural life terminated together, but had made no provision for the very rare cases in which his power terminated before the close of his natural life; and with one of those very rare cases the Convention had now to deal. That James no longer filled the throne both Houses had pronounced. Neither common law nor statute law designated any person as entitled to fill the throne between his demise and his decease. It followed that the throne was vacant, and that the Houses might invite the Prince of Orange to fill it. That he was not next in order of birth was true: but this was no disadvantage: on the contrary, it was a positive recommendation. Hereditary monarchy was a good political institution, but was by no means more sacred than other good political institutions. Unfortunately, bigoted and servile theologians had turned it into a religious mystery, almost as awful and as incomprehensible as transubstantiation itself. To keep the institution, and yet to get rid of the abject and noxious superstitions with which it had of late years been associated and which had made it a curse instead of a blessing to society, ought to be the first object of English statesmen; and that object would be best attained by slightly deviating for a time from the general rule of descent, and by then returning to it.
Many attempts were made to prevent an open breach between the party of the Prince and the party of the Princess. A great meeting was held at the Earl of Devonshire's House, and the dispute was warm. Halifax was the chief speaker for William, Danby for Mary. Of the mind of Mary Danby knew nothing. She had been some time expected in London, but had been detained in Holland, first by masses of ice which had blocked up the rivers, and, when the thaw came, by strong westerly winds. Had she arrived earlier the dispute would probably have been at once quieted. Halifax on the other side had no authority to say anything in William's name. The Prince, true to his promise that he would leave the settlement of the government to the Convention, had maintained an impenetrable reserve, and had not suffered any word, look, or gesture, indicative either of satisfaction or of displeasure, to escape him. One of his countrymen, who had a large share of his confidence, had been invited to the meeting, and was earnestly pressed by the Peers to give them some information. He long excused himself. At last he so far yielded to their urgency as to say, "I can only guess at His Highness's mind. If you wish to know what I guess, I guess that he would not like to be his wife's gentleman usher: but I know nothing." "I know something now, however," said Danby. "I know enough, and too much." He then departed; and the assembly broke up.
On the thirty-first of January the debate which had terminated thus in private was publicly renewed in the House of Peers. That day had been fixed for the national thanksgiving. An office had been drawn up for the occasion by several Bishops, among whom were Ken and Sprat. It is perfectly free both from the adulation and from the malignity by which such compositions were in that age too often deformed, and sustains, better perhaps than any occasional service which has been framed during two centuries, a comparison with that great model of chaste, lofty, and pathetic eloquence, the Book of Common Prayer. The Lords went in the morning to Westminster Abbey. The Commons had desired Burnet to preach before them at Saint Margaret's. He was not likely to fall into the same error which had been committed in the same place on the preceding day. His vigorous and animated discourse doubtless called forth the loud hums of his auditors. It was not only printed by command of the House, but was translated into French for the edification of foreign Protestants. The day closed with the festivities usual on such occasions. The whole town shone brightly with fireworks and bonfires: the roar of guns and the pealing of bells lasted till the night was far spent; but, before the lights were extinct and the streets silent, an event had taken place which threw a damp on the public joy.
The Peers had repaired from the Abbey to their house, and had resumed the discussion on the state of the nation. The last words of the resolution of the Commons were taken into consideration; and it soon became clear that the majority was not disposed to assent to those words. To near fifty Lords who held that the regal title still belonged to James were now added seven or eight who held that it had already devolved on Mary. The Whigs, finding themselves outnumbered, tried to compromise the dispute. They proposed to omit the words which pronounced the throne vacant, and simply to declare the Prince and Princess King and Queen. It was manifest that such a declaration implied, though it did not expressly affirm, all that the Tories were unwilling to concede. For nobody could pretend that William had succeeded to the regal office by right of birth. To pass a resolution acknowledging him as King was therefore an act of election; and how could there be an election without a vacancy? The proposition of the Whig Lords was rejected by fifty-two votes to forty-seven. The question was then put whether the throne was vacant. The contents were only forty-one: the noncontents fifty-five. Of the minority thirty-six protested.
During the two following days London was in an unquiet and anxious state. The Tories began to hope that they might be able again to bring forward their favourite plan of Regency with better success. Perhaps the Prince himself, when he found that he had no chance of wearing the crown, might prefer Sancroft's scheme to Danby's. It was better doubtless to be a King than to be a Regent: but it was better to be a Regent than to be a gentleman usher. On the other side the lower and fiercer class of Whigs, the old emissaries of Shaftesbury, the old associates of College, began to stir in the City. Crowds assembled in Palace Yard, and held threatening language. Lord Lovelace, who was suspected of having encouraged these assemblages, informed the Peers that he was charged with a petition requesting them instantly to declare the Prince and Princess of Orange King and Queen. He was asked by whom the petition was signed. "There are no hands to it yet," he answered; "but, when I bring it here next, there shall be hands enough." This menace alarmed and disgusted his own party. The leading Whigs were, in truth, even more anxious than the Tories that the deliberations of the Convention should be perfectly free, and that it should not be in the power of any adherent of James to allege that either House had acted under force. A petition, similar to that which had been entrusted to Lovelace, was brought into the House of Commons, but was contemptuously rejected. Maynard was foremost in protesting against the attempt of the rabble in the streets to overawe the Estates of the Realm. William sent for Lovelace, expostulated with him strongly, and ordered the magistrates to act with vigour against all unlawful assemblies. Nothing in the history of our revolution is more deserving of admiration and of imitation than the manner in which the two parties in the Convention, at the very moment at which their disputes ran highest, joined like one man to resist the dictation of the mob of the capital.
But, though the Whigs were fully determined to maintain order and to respect the freedom of debate, they were equally determined to make no concession. On Saturday the second of February the Commons, without a division, resolved to adhere to their resolution as it originally stood. James, as usual, came to the help of his enemies. A letter from him to the Convention had just arrived in London. It had been transmitted to Preston by the apostate Melfort, who was now high in favour at Saint Germains. The name of Melfort was an abomination to every Churchman. That he was still a confidential minister was alone sufficient to prove that his master's folly and perverseness were incurable. No member of either House ventured to propose that a paper which came from such a quarter should be read. The contents, however, were well known to all the town. His Majesty exhorted the Lords and Commons not to despair of his clemency, and graciously assured them that he would pardon those who had betrayed him, some few excepted, whom he did not name. How was it possible to do any thing for a prince who, vanquished, deserted, banished, living on alms, told those who were the arbiters of his fate that, if they would set him on his throne again, he would hang only a few of them?
The contest between the two branches of the legislature lasted some days longer. On Monday the fourth of February the Peers resolved that they would insist on their amendments: but a protest to which thirty-nine names were subscribed was entered on the journals. On the following day the Tories determined to try their strength in the Lower House. They mustered there in great force. A motion was made to agree to the amendments of the Lords. Those who were for the plan of Sancroft and those who were for the plan of Danby divided together; but they were beaten by two hundred and eighty-two votes to a hundred and fifty-one. The House then resolved to request a free conference with the Lords.
At the same time strenuous efforts were making without the walls of Parliament to bring the dispute between the two branches of the legislature to a close. Burnet thought that the importance of the crisis justified him in publishing the great secret which the Princess had confided to him. He knew, he said, from her own lips, that it had long been her full determination, even if she came to the throne in the regular course of descent, to surrender her power, with the sanction of Parliament, into the hands of her husband. Danby received from her an earnest, and almost angry, reprimand. She was, she wrote, the Prince's wife; she had no other wish than to be subject to him; the most cruel injury that could be done to her would be to set her up as his competitor; and she never could regard any person who took such a course as her true friend. The Tories had still one hope. Anne might insist on her own rights, and on those of her children. No effort was spared to stimulate her ambition, and to alarm her conscience. Her uncle Clarendon was especially active. A few weeks only had elapsed since the hope of wealth and greatness had impelled him to bely the boastful professions of his whole life, to desert the royal cause, to join with the Wildmans and Fergusons, nay, to propose that the King should be sent a prisoner to a foreign land and immured in a fortress begirt by pestilential marshes. The lure which had produced this strange transformation was the Viceroyalty of Ireland. Soon, however, it appeared that the proselyte had little chance of obtaining the splendid prize on which his heart was set. He found that others were consulted on Irish affairs. His advice was never asked, and, when obtrusively and importunately offered, was coldly received. He repaired many times to Saint James's Palace, but could scarcely obtain a word or a look. One day the Prince was writing, another day he wanted fresh air and must ride in the Park; on a third he was closeted with officers on military business and could see nobody. Clarendon saw that he was not likely to gain anything by the sacrifice of his principles, and determined to take them back again. In December ambition had converted him into a rebel. In January disappointment reconverted him into a royalist. The uneasy consciousness that he had not been a consistent Tory gave a peculiar acrimony to his Toryism. In the House of Lords he had done all in his power to prevent a settlement. He now exerted, for the same end, all his influence over the Princess Anne. But his influence over her was small indeed when compared with that of the Churchills, who wisely called to their help two powerful allies, Tillotson, who, as a spiritual director, had, at that time, immense authority, and Lady Russell, whose noble and gentle virtues, proved by the most cruel of all trials, had gained for her the reputation of a saint. The Princess of Denmark, it was soon known, was willing that William should reign for life; and it was evident that to defend the cause of the daughters of James against themselves was a hopeless task.
And now William thought that the time had come when he ought to explain himself. He accordingly sent for Halifax, Danby, Shrewsbury, and some other political leaders of great note, and, with that air of stoical apathy under which he had, from a boy, been in the habit of concealing his strongest emotions, addressed to them a few deeply meditated and weighty words.
He had hitherto, he said, remained silent; he had used neither solicitation nor menace: he had not even suffered a hint of his opinions or wishes to get abroad: but a crisis had now arrived at which it was necessary for him to declare his intentions. He had no right and no wish to dictate to the Convention. All that he claimed was the privilege of declining any office which he felt that he could not hold with honour to himself and with benefit to the public.
A strong party was for a Regency. It was for the Houses to determine whether such an arrrangement would be for the interest of the nation. He had a decided opinion on that point; and he thought it right to say distinctly that he would not be Regent.
Another party was for placing the Princess on the throne, and for giving to him, during her life, the title of King, and such a share in the administration as she might be pleased to allow him. He could not stoop to such a post. He esteemed the Princess as much as it was possible for man to esteem woman: but not even from her would he accept a subordinate and a precarious place in the government. He was so made that he could not submit to be tied to the apron strings even of the best of wives. He did not desire to take any part in English affairs; but, if he did consent to take a part, there was one part only which he could usefully or honourably take. If the Estates offered him the crown for life, he would accept it. If not, he should, without repining, return to his native country. He concluded by saying that he thought it reasonable that the Lady Anne and her posterity should be preferred in the succession to any children whom he might have by any other wife than the Lady Mary.
The meeting broke up; and what the Prince had said was in a few hours known all over London. That he must be King was now clear. The only question was whether he should hold the regal dignity alone or conjointly with the Princess. Halifax and a few other politicians, who saw in a strong light the danger of dividing the supreme executive authority, thought it desirable that, during William's life, Mary should be only Queen Consort and a subject. But this arrangement, though much might doubtless be said for it in argument, shocked the general feeling even of those Englishmen who were most attached to the Prince. His wife had given an unprecedented proof of conjugal submission and affection; and the very least return that could be made to her would be to bestow on her the dignity of Queen Regnant. William Herbert, one of the most zealous of the Prince's adherents, was so much exasperated that he sprang out of the bed to which he was confined by gout, and vehemently declared that he never would have drawn a sword in His Highness's cause if he had foreseen that so shameful an arrangement would be made. No person took the matter up so eagerly as Burnet. His blood boiled at the wrong done to his kind patroness. He expostulated vehemently with Bentinck, and begged to be permitted to resign the chaplainship. "While I am His Highness's servant," said the brave and honest divine, "it would be unseemly in me to oppose any plan which may have his countenance. I therefore desire to be set free, that I may fight the Princess's battle with every faculty that God has given me." Bentinck prevailed on Burnet to defer an open declaration of hostilities till William's resolution should be distinctly known. In a few hours the scheme which had excited so much resentment was entirely given up; and all those who considered James as no longer king were agreed as to the way in which the throne must be filled. William and Mary must be King and Queen. The heads of both must appear together on the coin: writs must run in the names of both: both must enjoy all the personal dignities and immunities of royalty: but the administration, which could not be safely divided, must belong to William alone.
And now the time arrived for the free conference between the Houses. The managers for the Lords, in their robes, took their seats along one side of the table in the Painted Chamber: but the crowd of members of the House of Commons on the other side was so great that the gentlemen who were to argue the question in vain tried to get through. It was not without much difficulty and long delay that the Serjeant at Arms was able to clear a passage.
At length the discussion began. A full report of the speeches on both sides has come down to us. There are few students of history who have not taken up that report with eager curiosity and laid it down with disappointment. The question between the Houses was argued on both sides as a question of law. The objections which the Lords made, to the resolution of the Commons were verbal and technical, and were met by verbal and technical answers. Somers vindicated the use of the word abdication by quotations from Grotius and Brissonius, Spigelius and Bartolus. When he was challenged to show any authority for the proposition that England could be without a sovereign, he produced the Parliament roll of the year 1399, in which it was expressly set forth that the kingly office was vacant during the interval between the resignation of Richard the Second and the enthroning of Henry the Fourth. The Lords replied by producing the Parliament roll of the first year of Edward the Fourth, from which it appeared that the record of 1399 had been solemnly annulled. They therefore maintained that the precedent on which Somers relied was no longer valid. Treby then came to Somers's assistance, and brought forth the Parliament roll of the first year of Henry the Seventh, which repealed the act of Edward the Fourth, and consequently restored the validity of the record of 1399. After a colloquy of several hours the disputants separated. The Lords assembled in their own house. It was well understood that they were about to yield, and that the conference had been a mere form. The friends of Mary had found that, by setting her up as her husband's rival, they had deeply displeased her. Some of the Peers who had formerly voted for a Regency had determined to absent themselves or to support the resolution of the Lower House. Their opinion, they said, was unchanged: but any government was better than no government, and the country could not bear a prolongation of this agony of suspense. Even Nottingham, who, in the Painted Chamber, had taken the lead against the Commons, declared that, though his own conscience would not suffer him to give way, he was glad that the consciences of other men were less squeamish. Several Lords who had not yet voted in the Convention had been induced to attend; Lord Lexington, who had just hurried over from the Continent; the Earl of Lincoln, who was half mad; the Earl of Carlisle, who limped in on crutches; and the Bishop of Durham, who had been in hiding and had intended to fly beyond sea, but had received an intimation that, if he would vote for the settling of the government, his conduct in the Ecclesiastical Commission should not be remembered against him. Danby, desirous to heal the schism which he had caused, exhorted the House, in a speech distinguished by even more than his usual ability, not to persevere in a contest which might be fatal to the state. He was strenuously supported by Halifax. The spirit of the opposite party was quelled. When the question was put whether King James had abdicated the government only three lords said Not Content. On the question whether the throne was vacant, a division was demanded. The Contents were sixty-two; the Not Contents forty- seven. It was immediately proposed and carried, without a division, that the Prince and Princess of Orange should be declared King and Queen of England.
Nottingham then moved that the wording of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy should be altered in such a way that they might be conscientiously taken by persons who, like himself, disapproved of what the Convention had done, and yet fully purposed to be loyal and dutiful subjects of the new sovereigns. To this proposition no objection was made. Indeed there can be little doubt that there was an understanding on the subject between the Whig leaders and those Tory Lords whose votes had turned the scale on the last division. The new oaths were sent down to the Commons, together with the resolution that the Prince and Princess should be declared King and Queen.
It was now known to whom the crown would be given. On what conditions it should be given, still remained to be decided. The Commons had appointed a committee to consider what steps it might be advisable to take, in order to secure law and liberty against the aggressions of future sovereigns; and the committee had made a report. This report recommended, first, that those great principles of the constitution which had been violated by the dethroned King should be solemnly asserted, and, secondly, that many new laws should be enacted, for the purpose of curbing the prerogative and purifying the administration of justice. Most of the suggestions of the committee were excellent; but it was utterly impossible that the Houses could, in a month, or even in a year, deal properly with matters so numerous, so various, and so important. It was proposed, among other things, that the militia should be remodelled, that the power which the sovereign possessed of proroguing and dissolving Parliaments should be restricted; that the duration of Parliaments should be limited; that the royal pardon should no longer be pleadable to a parliamentary impeachment; that toleration should be granted to Protestant Dissenters; that the crime of high treason should be more precisely defined; that trials for high treason should be conducted in a manner more favourable to innocence; that the judges should hold their places for life; that the mode of appointing Sheriffs should be altered; that juries should be nominated in such a way as might exclude partiality and corruption; that the practice of filing criminal informations in the King's Bench should be abolished; that the Court of Chancery should be reformed; that the fees of public functionaries should be regulated; and that the law of Quo Warranto should be amended. It was evident that cautious and deliberate legislation on these subjects must be the work of more than one laborious session; and it was equally evident that hasty and crude legislation on subjects so grave could not but produce new grievances, worse than those which it might remove. If the committee meant to give a list of the reforms which ought to be accomplished before the throne was filled, the list was absurdly long. If, on the other hand, the committee meant to give a list of all the reforms which the legislature would do well to make in proper season, the list was strangely imperfect. Indeed, as soon as the report had been read, member after member rose to suggest some addition. It was moved and carried that the selling of offices should be prohibited, that the Habeas Corpus Act should be made more efficient, and that the law of Mandamus should be revised. One gentleman fell on the chimneymen, another on the excisemen; and the House resolved that the malpractices of both chimneymen and excisemen should be restrained. It is a most remarkable circumstance that, while the whole political, military, judicial, and fiscal system of the kingdom was thus passed in review, not a single representative of the people proposed the repeal of the statute which subjected the press to a censorship. It was not yet understood, even by the most enlightened men, that the liberty of discussion is the chief safeguard of all other liberties.
The House was greatly perplexed. Some orators vehemently said that too much time had already been lost, and that the government ought to be settled without the delay of a day. Society was unquiet: trade was languishing: the English colony in Ireland was in imminent danger of perishing, a foreign war was impending: the exiled King might, in a few weeks, be at Dublin with a French army, and from Dublin he might soon cross to Chester. Was it not insanity, at such a crisis, to leave the throne unfilled, and, while the very existence of Parliaments was in jeopardy, to waste time in debating whether Parliaments should be prorogued by the sovereign or by themselves? On the other side it was asked whether the Convention could think that it had fulfilled its mission by merely pulling down one prince and putting up another. Surely now or never was the time to secure public liberty by such fences as might effectually prevent the encroachments of prerogative. There was doubtless great weight in what was urged on both sides. The able chiefs of the Whig party, among whom Somers was fast rising to ascendency, proposed a middle course. The House had, they said, two objects in view, which ought to be kept distinct. One object was to secure the old polity of the realm against illegal attacks: the other was to improve that polity by legal reforms. The former object might be attained by solemnly putting on record, in the resolution which called the new sovereigns to the throne, the claim of the English nation to its ancient franchises, so that the King might hold his crown, and the people their privileges, by one and the same title deed. The latter object would require a whole volume of elaborate statutes. The former object might be attained in a day; the latter, scarcely in five years. As to the former object, all parties were agreed: as to the latter, there were innumerable varieties of opinion. No member of either House would hesitate for a moment to vote that the King could not levy taxes without the consent of Parliament: but it would be hardly possible to frame any new law of procedure in cases of high treason which would not give rise to long debate, and be condemned by some persons as unjust to the prisoner, and by others as unjust to the crown. The business of an extraordinary convention of the Estates of the Realm was not to do the ordinary work of Parliaments, to regulate the fees of masters in Chancery, and to provide against the exactions of gaugers, but to put right the great machine of government. When this had been done, it would be time to inquire what improvement our institutions needed: nor would anything be risked by delay; for no sovereign who reigned merely by the choice of the nation could long refuse his assent to any improvement which the nation, speaking through its representatives, demanded.
On these grounds the Commons wisely determined to postpone all reforms till the ancient constitution of the kingdom should have been restored in all its parts, and forthwith to fill the throne without imposing on William and Mary any other obligation than that of governing according to the existing laws of England. In order that the questions which had been in dispute between the Stuarts and the nation might never again be stirred, it was determined that the instrument by which the Prince and Princess of Orange were called to the throne, and by which the order of succession was settled, should set forth, in the most distinct and solemn manner, the fundamental principles of the constitution. This instrument, known by the name of the Declaration of Right, was prepared by a committee, of which Somers was chairman. The fact that the low born young barrister was appointed to so honourable and important a post in a Parliament filled with able and experienced men, only ten days after he had spoken in the House of Commons for the first time, sufficiently proves the superiority of his abilities. In a few hours the Declaration was framed and approved by the Commons. The Lords assented to it with some amendments of no great importance.
The Declaration began by recapitulating the crimes and errors which had made a revolution necessary. James had invaded the province of the legislature; had treated modest petitioning as a crime; had oppressed the Church by means of an illegal tribunal; had, without the consent of Parliament, levied taxes and maintained a standing army in time of peace; had violated the freedom of election, and perverted the course of justice. Proceedings which could lawfully be questioned only in Parliament had been made the subjects of prosecution in the King's Bench. Partial and corrupt juries had been returned: excessive bail had been required from prisoners, excessive fines had been imposed: barbarous and unusual punishments had been inflicted: the estates of accused persons had been granted away before conviction. He, by whose authority these things had been done, had abdicated the government. The Prince of Orange, whom God had made the glorious instrument of delivering the nation from superstition and tyranny, had invited the Estates of the Realm to meet and to take counsel together for the securing of religion, of law, and of freedom. The Lords and Commons, having deliberated, had resolved that they would first, after the example of their ancestors, assert the ancient rights and liberties of England. Therefore it was declared that the dispensing power, lately assumed and exercised, had no legal existence; that, without grant of Parliament, no money could be exacted by the sovereign from the subject; that, without consent of Parliament, no standing army could be kept up in time of peace. The right of subjects to petition, the right of electors to choose representatives freely, the right of Parliaments to freedom of debate, the right of the nation to a pure and merciful administration of justice according to the spirit of its own mild laws, were solemnly affirmed. All these things the Convention claimed, in the name of the whole nation, as the undoubted inheritance of Englishmen. Having thus vindicated the principles of the constitution, the Lords and Commons, in the entire confidence that the deliverer would hold sacred the laws and liberties which he had saved, resolved that William and Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, should be declared King and Queen of England for their joint and separate lives, and that, during their joint lives, the administration of the government should be in the Prince alone. After them the crown was settled on the posterity of Mary, then on Anne and her posterity, and then on the posterity of William.
By this time the wind had ceased to blow from the west. The ship in which the Princess of Orange had embarked lay off Margate on the eleventh of February, and, on the following morning, anchored at Greenwich. She was received with many signs of joy and affection: but her demeanour shocked the Tories, and was not thought faultless even by the Whigs. A young woman, placed, by a destiny as mournful and awful as that which brooded over the fabled houses of Labdacus and Pelops, in such a situation that she could not, without violating her duty to her God, her husband, and her country, refuse to take her seat on the throne from which her father had just been hurled, should have been sad, or at least serious. Mary was not merely in high, but in extravagant, spirits. She entered Whitehall, it was asserted, with a girlish delight at being mistress of so fine a house, ran about the rooms, peeped into the closets, and examined the quilt of the state bed, without seeming to remember by whom those magnificent apartments had last been occupied. Burnet, who had, till then, thought her an angel in human form, could not, on this occasion, refrain from blaming her. He was the more astonished because, when he took leave of her at the Hague, she had, though fully convinced that she was in the path of duty, been deeply dejected. To him, as to her spiritual guide, she afterwards explained her conduct. William had written to inform her that some of those who had tried to separate her interest from his still continued their machinations: they gave it out that she thought herself wronged; and, if she wore a gloomy countenance, the report would be confirmed. He therefore intreated her to make her first appearance with an air of cheerfulness. Her heart, she said, was far indeed from cheerful; but she had done her best; and, as she was afraid of not sustaining well a part which was uncongenial to her feelings, she had overacted it. Her deportment was the subject of reams of scurrility in prose and verse: it lowered her in the opinion of some whose esteem she valued; nor did the world know, till she was beyond the reach of praise and censure, that the conduct which had brought on her the reproach of levity and insensibility was really a signal instance of that perfect disinterestedness and selfdevotion of which man seems to be incapable, but which is sometimes found in woman.
On the morning of Wednesday, the thirteenth of February, the court of Whitehall and all the neighbouring streets were filled with gazers. The magnificent Banqueting House, the masterpiece of Inigo, embellished by masterpieces of Rubens, had been prepared for a great ceremony. The walls were lined by the yeomen of the guard. Near the northern door, on the right hand, a large number of Peers had assembled. On the left were the Commons with their Speaker, attended by the mace. The southern door opened: and the Prince and Princess of Orange, side by side, entered, and took their place under the canopy of state.
Both Houses approached bowing low. William and Mary advanced a few steps. Halifax on the right, and Powle on the left, stood forth; and Halifax spoke. The Convention, he said, had agreed to a resolution which he prayed Their Highnesses to hear. They signified their assent; and the clerk of the House of Lords read, in a loud voice, the Declaration of Right. When he had concluded, Halifax, in the name of all the Estates of the Realm, requested the Prince and Princess to accept the crown.
William, in his own name and in that of his wife, answered that the crown was, in their estimation, the more valuable because it was presented to them as a token of the confidence of the nation. "We thankfully accept," he said, "what you have offered us." Then, for himself, he assured them that the laws of England, which he had once already vindicated, should be the rules of his conduct, that it should be his study to promote the welfare of the kingdom, and that, as to the means of doing so, he should constantly recur to the advice of the Houses, and should be disposed to trust their judgment rather than his own. These words were received with a shout of joy which was heard in the streets below, and was instantly answered by huzzas from many thousands of voices. The Lords and Commons then reverently retired from the Banqueting House and went in procession to the great gate of Whitehall, where the heralds and pursuivants were waiting in their gorgeous tabards. All the space as far as Charing Cross was one sea of heads. The kettle drums struck up; the trumpets pealed: and Garter King at arms, in a loud voice, proclaimed the Prince and Princess of Orange King and Queen of England, charged all Englishmen to pay, from that moment, faith and true allegiance to the new sovereigns, and besought God, who had already wrought so signal a deliverance for our Church and nation, to bless William and Mary with a long and happy reign.
Thus was consummated the English Revolution. When we compare it with those revolutions which have, during the last sixty years, overthrown so many ancient governments, we cannot but be struck by its peculiar character. Why that character was so peculiar is sufficiently obvious, and yet seems not to have been always understood either by eulogists or by censors.
The continental revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries took place in countries where all trace of the limited monarchy of the middle ages had long been effaced. The right of the prince to make laws and to levy money had, during many generations, been undisputed. His throne was guarded by a great regular army. His administration could not, without extreme peril, be blamed even in the mildest terms. His subjects held their personal liberty by no other tenure than his pleasure. Not a single institution was left which had, within the memory of the oldest man, afforded efficient protection to the subject against the utmost excess of tyranny. Those great councils which had once curbed the regal power had sunk into oblivion. Their composition and their privileges were known only to antiquaries. We cannot wonder, therefore, that, when men who had been thus ruled succeeded in wresting supreme power from a government which they had long in secret hated, they should have been impatient to demolish and unable to construct, that they should have been fascinated by every specious novelty, that they should have proscribed every title, ceremony, and phrase associated with the old system, and that, turning away with disgust from their own national precedents and traditions, they should have sought for principles of government in the writings of theorists, or aped, with ignorant and ungraceful affectation, the patriots of Athens and Rome. As little can we wonder that the violent action of the revolutionary spirit should have been followed by reaction equally violent, and that confusion should speedily have engendered despotism sterner than that from which it had sprung.
Had we been in the same situation; had Strafford succeeded in his favourite scheme of Thorough; had he formed an army as numerous and as well disciplined as that which, a few years later, was formed by Cromwell; had a series of judicial decisions, similar to that which was pronounced by the Exchequer Chamber in the case of shipmoney, transferred to the crown the right of taxing the people; had the Star Chamber and the High Commission continued to fine, mutilate, and imprison every man who dared to raise his voice against the government; had the press been as completely enslaved here as at Vienna or at Naples; had our Kings gradually drawn to themselves the whole legislative power; had six generations of Englishmen passed away without a single session of parliament; and had we then at length risen up in some moment of wild excitement against our masters, what an outbreak would that have been! With what a crash, heard and felt to the farthest ends of the world, would the whole vast fabric of society have fallen! How many thousands of exiles, once the most prosperous and the most refined members of this great community, would have begged their bread in continental cities, or have sheltered their heads under huts of bark in the uncleared forests of America! How often should we have seen the pavement of London piled up in barricades, the houses dinted with bullets, the gutters foaming with blood! How many times should we have rushed wildly from extreme to extreme, sought refuge from anarchy in despotism, and been again driven by despotism into anarchy! How many years of blood and confusion would it have cost us to learn the very rudiments of political science! How many childish theories would have duped us! How many rude and ill poised constitutions should we have set up, only to see them tumble down! Happy would it have been for us if a sharp discipline of half a century had sufficed to educate us into a capacity of enjoying true freedom.
These calamities our Revolution averted. It was a revolution strictly defensive, and had prescription and legitimacy on its side. Here, and here only, a limited monarchy of the thirteenth century had come down unimpaired to the seventeenth century. Our parliamentary institutions were in full vigour. The main principles of our government were excellent. They were not, indeed, formally and exactly set forth in a single written instrument; but they were to be found scattered over our ancient and noble statutes; and, what was of far greater moment, they had been engraven on the hearts of Englishmen during four hundred years. That, without the consent of the representatives of the nation, no legislative act could be passed, no tax imposed, no regular soldiery kept up, that no man could be imprisoned, even for a day, by the arbitrary will of the sovereign, that no tool of power could plead the royal command as a justification for violating any right of the humblest subject, were held, both by Whigs and Tories, to be fundamental laws of the realm. A realm of which these were the fundamental laws stood in no need of a new constitution.
But, though a new constitution was not needed, it was plain that changes were required. The misgovernment of the Stuarts, and the troubles which that misgovernment had produced, sufficiently proved that there was somewhere a defect in our polity; and that defect it was the duty of the Convention to discover and to supply.
Some questions of great moment were still open to dispute. Our constitution had begun to exist in times when statesmen were not much accustomed to frame exact definitions. Anomalies, therefore, inconsistent with its principles and dangerous to its very existence, had sprung up almost imperceptibly, and, not having, during many years, caused any serious inconvenience, had gradually acquired the force of prescription. The remedy for these evils was to assert the rights of the people in such language as should terminate all controversy, and to declare that no precedent could justify any violation of those rights.
When this had been done it would be impossible for our rulers to misunderstand the law: but, unless something more were done, it was by no means improbable that they might violate it. Unhappily the Church had long taught the nation that hereditary monarchy, alone among our institutions, was divine and inviolable; that the right of the House of Commons to a share in the legislative power was a right merely human, but that the right of the King to the obedience of his people was from above; that the Great Charter was a statute which might be repealed by those who had made it, but that the rule which called the princes of the blood royal to the throne in order of succession was of celestial origin, and that any Act of Parliament inconsistent with that rule was a nullity. It is evident that, in a society in which such superstitions prevail, constitutional freedom must ever be insecure. A power which is regarded merely as the ordinance of man cannot be an efficient check on a power which is regarded as the ordinance of God. It is vain to hope that laws, however excellent, will permanently restrain a King who, in his own opinion, and in that of a great part of his people, has an authority infinitely higher in kind than the authority which belongs to those laws. To deprive royalty of these mysterious attributes, and to establish the principle that Kings reigned by a right in no respect differing from the right by which freeholders chose knights of the shire, or from the right by which judges granted writs of Habeas Corpus, was absolutely necessary to the security of our liberties.
Thus the Convention had two great duties to perform. The first was to clear the fundamental laws of the realm from ambiguity. The second was to eradicate from the minds, both of the governors and of the governed, the false and pernicious notion that the royal prerogative was something more sublime and holy than those fundamental laws. The former object was attained by the solemn recital and claim with which the Declaration of Right commences; the latter by the resolution which pronounced the throne vacant, and invited William and Mary to fill it.
The change seems small. Not a single flower of the crown was touched. Not a single new right was given to the people. The whole English law, substantive and adjective, was, in the judgment of all the greatest lawyers, of Holt and Treby, of Maynard and Somers, exactly the same after the Revolution as before it. Some controverted points had been decided according to the sense of the best jurists; and there had been a slight deviation from the ordinary course of succession. This was all; and this was enough.
As our Revolution was a vindication of ancient rights, so it was conducted with strict attention to ancient formalities. In almost every word and act may be discerned a profound reverence for the past. The Estates of the Realm deliberated in the old halls and according to the old rules. Powle was conducted to his chair between his mover and his seconder with the accustomed forms. The Serjeant with his mace brought up the messengers of the Lords to the table of the Commons; and the three obeisances were duly made. The conference was held with all the antique ceremonial. On one side of the table, in the Painted Chamber, the managers of the Lords sate covered and robed in ermine and gold. The managers of the Commons stood bareheaded on the other side. The speeches present an almost ludicrous contrast to the revolutionary oratory of every other country. Both the English parties agreed in treating with solemn respect the ancient constitutional traditions of the state. The only question was, in what sense those traditions were to be understood. The assertors of liberty said not a word about the natural equality of men and the inalienable sovereignty of the people, about Harmodius or Timoleon, Brutus the elder or Brutus the younger. When they were told that, by the English law, the crown, at the moment of a demise, must descend to the next heir, they answered that, by the English law, a living man could have no heir. When they were told that there was no precedent for declaring the throne vacant, they produced from among the records in the Tower a roll of parchment, near three hundred years old, on which, in quaint characters and barbarous Latin, it was recorded that the Estates of the Realm had declared vacant the throne of a perfidious and tyrannical Plantagenet. When at length the dispute had been accommodated, the new sovereigns were proclaimed with the old pageantry. All the fantastic pomp of heraldry was there, Clarencieux and Norroy, Portcullis and Rouge Dragon, the trumpets, the banners, the grotesque coats embroidered with lions and lilies. The title of King of France, assumed by the conqueror of Cressy, was not omitted in the royal style. To us, who have lived in the year 1848, it may seem almost an abuse of terms to call a proceeding, conducted with so much deliberation, with so much sobriety, and with such minute attention to prescriptive etiquette, by the terrible name of Revolution.
And yet this revolution, of all revolutions the least violent, has been of all revolutions the most beneficent. It finally decided the great question whether the popular element which had, ever since the age of Fitzwalter and De Montfort, been found in the English polity, should be destroyed by the monarchical element, or should be suffered to develope itself freely, and to become dominant. The strife between the two principles had been long, fierce, and doubtful. It had lasted through four reigns. It had produced seditions, impeachments, rebellions, battles, sieges, proscriptions, judicial massacres. Sometimes liberty, sometimes royalty, had seemed to be on the point of perishing. During many years one half of the energy of England had been employed in counteracting the other half. The executive power and the legislative power had so effectually impeded each other that the state had been of no account in Europe. The King at Arms, who proclaimed William and Mary before Whitehall Gate, did in truth announce that this great struggle was over; that there was entire union between the throne and the Parliament; that England, long dependent and degraded, was again a power of the first rank; that the ancient laws by which the prerogative was bounded would henceforth be held as sacred as the prerogative itself, and would be followed out to all their consequences; that the executive administration would be conducted in conformity with the sense of the representatives of the nation; and that no reform, which the two Houses should, after mature deliberation, propose, would be obstinately withstood by the sovereign. The Declaration of Right, though it made nothing law which had not been law before, contained the germ of the law which gave religious freedom to the Dissenter, of the law which secured the independence of the judges, of the law which limited the duration of Parliaments, of the law which placed the liberty of the press under the protection of juries, of the law which prohibited the slave trade, of the law which abolished the sacramental test, of the law which relieved the Roman Catholics from civil disabilities, of the law which reformed the representative system, of every good law which has been passed during a hundred and sixty years, of every good law which may hereafter, in the course of ages, be found necessary to promote the public weal, and to satisfy the demands of public opinion.
The highest eulogy which can be pronounced on the revolution of 1688 is this, that it was our last revolution. Several generations have now passed away since any wise and patriotic Englishman has meditated resistance to the established government. In all honest and reflecting minds there is a conviction, daily strengthened by experience, that the means of effecting every improvement which the constitution requires may be found within the constitution itself.
Now, if ever, we ought to be able to appreciate the whole importance of the stand which was made by our forefathers against the House of Stuart. All around us the world is convulsed by the agonies of great nations. Governments which lately seemed likely to stand during ages have been on a sudden shaken and overthrown. The proudest capitals of Western Europe have streamed with civil blood. All evil passions, the thirst of gain and the thirst of vengeance, the antipathy of class to class, the antipathy of race to race, have broken loose from the control of divine and human laws. Fear and anxiety have clouded the faces and depressed the hearts of millions. Trade has been suspended, and industry paralysed. The rich have become poor; and the poor have become poorer. Doctrines hostile to all sciences, to all arts, to all industry, to all domestic charities, doctrines which, if carried into effect, would, in thirty years, undo all that thirty centuries have done for mankind, and would make the fairest provinces of France and Germany as savage as Congo or Patagonia, have been avowed from the tribune and defended by the sword. Europe has been threatened with subjugation by barbarians, compared with whom the barbarians who marched under Attila and Alboin were enlightened and humane. The truest friends of the people have with deep sorrow owned that interests more precious than any political privileges were in jeopardy, and that it might be necessary to sacrifice even liberty in order to save civilisation. Meanwhile in our island the regular course of government has never been for a day interrupted. The few bad men who longed for license and plunder have not had the courage to confront for one moment the strength of a loyal nation, rallied in firm array round a parental throne. And, if it be asked what has made us to differ from others, the answer is that we never lost what others are wildly and blindly seeking to regain. It is because we had a preserving revolution in the seventeenth century that we have not had a destroying revolution in the nineteenth. It is because we had freedom in the midst of servitude that we have order in the midst of anarchy. For the authority of law, for the security of property, for the peace of our streets, for the happiness of our houses, our gratitude is due, under Him who raises and pulls down nations at his pleasure, to the Long Parliament, to the Convention, and to William of Orange.