The prosecution of the Bishops, and the birth of the Prince of Wales, had produced a great revolution in the feelings of many Tories. At the very moment at which their Church was suffering the last excess of injury and insult, they were compelled to renounce the hope of peaceful deliverance. Hitherto they had flattered themselves that the trial to which their loyalty was subjected would, though severe, be temporary, and that their wrongs would shortly be redressed without any violation of the ordinary rule of succession. A very different prospect was now before them. As far as they could look forward they saw only misgovernment, such as that of the last three years, extending through ages. The cradle of the heir apparent of the crown was surrounded by Jesuits. Deadly hatred of that Church of which he would one day be the head would be studiously instilled into his infant mind, would be the guiding principle of his life, and would be bequeathed by him to his posterity. This vista of calamities had no end. It stretched beyond the life of the youngest man living, beyond the eighteenth century. None could say how many generations of Protestant Englishmen might have to bear oppression, such as, even when it had been believed to be short, had been found almost insupportable. Was there then no remedy? One remedy there was, quick, sharp, and decisive, a remedy which the Whigs had been but too ready to employ, but which had always been regarded by the Tories as, in all cases, unlawful.
The greatest Anglican doctors of that age had maintained that no breach of law or contract, no excess of cruelty, rapacity, or licentiousness, on the part of a rightful King, could justify his people in withstanding him by force. Some of them had delighted to exhibit the doctrine of nonresistance in a form so exaggerated as to shock common sense and humanity. They frequently and emphatically remarked that Nero was at the head of the Roman government when Saint Paul inculcated the duty of obeying magistrates. The inference which they drew was that, if an English King should, without any law but his own pleasure, persecute his subjects for not worshipping idols, should fling them to the lions in the Tower, should wrap them up in pitched cloth and set them on fire to light up Saint James's Park, and should go on with these massacres till whole towns and shires were left without one inhabitant, the survivors would still be bound meekly to submit, and to be torn in pieces or roasted alive without a struggle. The arguments in favour of this proposition were futile indeed: but the place of sound argument was amply supplied by the omnipotent sophistry of interest and of passion. Many writers have expressed wonder that the highspirited Cavaliers of England should have been zealous for the most slavish theory that has ever been known among men. The truth is that this theory at first presented itself to the Cavalier as the very opposite of slavish. Its tendency was to make him not a slave but a freeman and a master. It exalted him by exalting one whom he regarded as his protector, as his friend, as the head of his beloved party and of his more beloved Church. When Republicans were dominant the Royalist had endured wrongs and insults which the restoration of the legitimate government had enabled him to retaliate. Rebellion was therefore associated in his imagination with subjection and degradation, and monarchical authority with liberty and ascendency. It had never crossed his imagination that a time might come when a King, a Stuart, would persecute the most loyal of the clergy and gentry with more than the animosity of the Rump or the Protector. That time had however arrived. It was now to be seen how the patience which Churchmen professed to have learned from the writings of Paul would stand the test of a persecution by no means so severe as that of Nero. The event was such as everybody who knew anything of human nature would have predicted. Oppression speedily did what philosophy and eloquence would have failed to do. The system of Filmer might have survived the attacks of Locke: but it never recovered from the death blow given by James. That logic, which, while it was used to prove that Presbyterians and Independents ought to bear imprisonment and confiscation with meekness, had been pronounced unanswerable, seemed to be of very little force when the question was whether Anglican Bishops should be imprisoned, and the revenues of Anglican colleges confiscated. It has been often repeated, from the pulpits of all the Cathedrals in the land, that the apostolical injunction to obey the civil magistrate was absolute and universal, and that it was impious presumption in man to limit a precept which had been promulgated without any limitation in the word of God. Now, however, divines, whose sagacity had been sharpened by the imminent danger in which they stood of being turned out of their livings and prebends to make room for Papists, discovered flaws in the reasoning which had formerly seemed so convincing. The ethical parts of Scripture were not to be construed like Acts of Parliament, or like the casuistical treatises of the schoolmen. What Christian really turned the left cheek to the ruffian who had smitten the right? What Christian really gave his cloak to the thieves who had taken his coat away? Both in the Old and in the New Testament general rules were perpetually laid down unaccompanied by the exceptions. Thus there was a general command not to kill, unaccompanied by any reservation in favour of the warrior who kills in defence of his king and country. There was a general command not to swear, unaccompanied by any reservation in favour of the witness who swears to speak the truth before a judge. Yet the lawfulness of defensive war, and of judicial oaths, was disputed only by a few obscure sectaries, and was positively affirmed in the articles of the Church of England. All the arguments, which showed that the Quaker, who refused to bear arms, or to kiss the Gospels, was unreasonable and perverse, might be turned against those who denied to subjects the right of resisting extreme tyranny by force. If it was contended that the texts which prohibited homicide, and the texts which prohibited swearing, though generally expressed, must be construed in subordination to the great commandment by which every man is enjoined to promote the welfare of his neighbours, and would, when so construed, be found not to apply to cases in which homicide or swearing might be absolutely necessary to protect the dearest interests of society, it was not easy to deny that the texts which prohibited resistance ought to be construed in the same manner. If the ancient people of God had been directed sometimes to destroy human life, and sometimes to bind themselves by oaths, they had also been directed sometimes to resist wicked princes. If early fathers of the Church had occasionally used language which seemed to imply that they disapproved of all resistance, they had also occasionally used language which seemed to imply that they disapproved of all war and of all oaths. In truth the doctrine of passive obedience, as taught at Oxford in the reign of Charles the Second, can be deduced from the Bible only by a mode of interpretation which would irresistibly lead us to the conclusions of Barclay and Penn.
It was not merely by arguments drawn from the letter of Scripture that the Anglican theologians had, during the years which immediately followed the Restoration, laboured to prove their favourite tenet. They had attempted to show that, even if revelation had been silent, reason would have taught wise men the folly and wickedness of all resistance to established government. It was universally admitted that such resistance was, except in extreme cases, unjustifiable. And who would undertake to draw the line between extreme cases and ordinary cases? Was there any government in the world under which there were not to be found some discontented and factious men who would say, and perhaps think, that their grievances constituted an extreme case? If, indeed, it were possible to lay down a clear and accurate rule which might forbid men to rebel against Trajan, and yet leave them at liberty to rebel against Caligula, such a rule might be highly beneficial. But no such rule had even been, or ever would be, framed. To say that rebellion was lawful under some circumstances, without accurately defining those circumstances, was to say that every man might rebel whenever he thought fit; and a society in which every man rebelled whenever he thought fit would be more miserable than a society governed by the most cruel and licentious despot. It was therefore necessary to maintain the great principle of nonresistance in all its integrity. Particular cases might doubtless be put in which resistance would benefit a community: but it was, on the whole, better that the people should patiently endure a bad government than that they should relieve themselves by violating a law on which the security of all government depended.
Such reasoning easily convinced a dominant and prosperous party, but could ill bear the scrutiny of minds strongly excited by royal injustice and ingratitude. It is true that to trace the exact boundary between rightful and wrongful resistance is impossible: but this impossibility arises from the nature of right and wrong, and is found in almost every part of ethical science. A good action is not distinguished from a bad action by marks so plain as those which distinguish a hexagon from a square. There is a frontier where virtue and vice fade into each other. Who has ever been able to define the exact boundary between courage and rashness, between prudence and cowardice, between frugality and avarice, between liberality and prodigality? Who has ever been able to say how far mercy to offenders ought to be carried, and where it ceases to deserve the name of mercy and becomes a pernicious weakness? What casuist, what lawyer, has ever been able nicely to mark the limits of the right of selfdefence? All our jurists bold that a certain quantity of risk to life or limb justifies a man in shooting or stabbing an assailant: but they have long given up in despair the attempt to describe, in precise words, that quantity of risk. They only say that it must be, not a slight risk, but a risk such as would cause serious apprehension to a man of firm mind; and who will undertake to say what is the precise amount of apprehension which deserves to be called serious, or what is the precise texture of mind which deserves to be called firm? It is doubtless to be regretted that the nature of words and the nature of things do not admit of more accurate legislation: nor can it be denied that wrong will often be done when men are judges in their own cause, and proceed instantly to execute their own judgment. Yet who would, on that account, interdict all selfdefence? The right which a people has to resist a bad government bears a close analogy to the right which an individual, in the absence of legal protection, has to slay an assailant. In both cases the evil must be grave. In both cases all regular and peaceable modes of defence must be exhausted before the aggrieved party resorts to extremities. In both cases an awful responsibility is incurred. In both cases the burden of the proof lies on him who has ventured on so desperate an expedient; and, if he fails to vindicate himself, he is justly liable to the severest penalties. But in neither case can we absolutely deny the existence of the right. A man beset by assassins is not bound to let himself be tortured and butchered without using his weapons, because nobody has ever been able precisely to define the amount of danger which justifies homicide. Nor is a society bound to endure passively all that tyranny can inflict, because nobody has ever been able precisely to define the amount of misgovernment which justifies rebellion.
But could the resistance of Englishmen to such a prince as James be properly called rebellion? The thoroughpaced disciples of Filmer, indeed, maintained that there was no difference whatever between the polity of our country and that of Turkey, and that, if the King did not confiscate the contents of all the tills in Lombard Street, and send mutes with bowstrings to Sancroft and Halifax, this was only because His Majesty was too gracious to use the whole power which he derived from heaven. But the great body of Tories, though, in the heat of conflict, they might occasionally use language which seemed to indicate that they approved of these extravagant doctrines, heartily abhorred despotism. The English government was, in their view, a limited monarchy. Yet how can a monarchy be said to be limited if force is never to be employed, even in the last resort, for the purpose of maintaining the limitations? In Muscovy, where the sovereign was, by the constitution of the state, absolute, it might perhaps be, with some colour of truth, contended that, whatever excesses he might commit, he was still entitled to demand, on Christian principles, the obedience of his subjects. But here prince and people were alike bound by the laws. It was therefore James who incurred the woe denounced against those who insult the powers that be. It was James who was resisting the ordinance of God, who was mutinying against that legitimate authority to which he ought to have been subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake, and who was, in the true sense of the words of Jesus, withholding from Caesar the things which were Caesar's.
Moved by such considerations as these, the ablest and most enlightened Tories began to admit that they had overstrained the doctrine of passive obedience. The difference between these men and the Whigs as to the reciprocal obligations of Kings and subjects was now no longer a difference of principle. There still remained, it is true, many historical controversies between the party which had always maintained the lawfulness of resistance and the new converts. The memory of the blessed Martyr was still as much revered as ever by those old Cavaliers who were ready to take arms against his degenerate son. They still spoke with abhorrence of the Long Parliament, of the Rye House Plot, and of the Western insurrection. But, whatever they might think about the past, the view which they took of the present was altogether Whiggish: for they now held that extreme oppression might justify resistance, and they held that the oppression which the nation suffered was extreme.
It must not, however, be supposed that all the Tories renounced, even at that conjuncture, a tenet which they had from childhood been taught to regard as an essential part of Christianity, which they had professed during many years with ostentatious vehemence, and which they had attempted to propagate by persecution. Many were kept steady to their old creed by conscience, and many by shame. But the greater part, even of those who still continued to pronounce all resistance to the sovereign unlawful, were disposed, in the event of a civil conflict, to remain neutral. No provocation should drive them to rebel: but, if rebellion broke forth, it did not appear that they were bound to fight for James the Second as they would have fought for Charles the First. The Christians of Rome had been forbidden by Saint Paul to resist the government of Nero: but there was no reason to believe that the Apostle, if he had been alive when the Legions and the Senate rose up against that wicked Emperor, would have commanded the brethren to fly to arms in support of tyranny. The duty of the persecuted Church was clear: she must suffer patiently, and commit her cause to God. But, if God, whose providence perpetually educes good out of evil, should be pleased, as oftentimes He bad been pleased, to redress her wrongs by the instrumentality of men whose angry passions her lessons had not been able to tame, she might gratefully accept from Him a deliverance which her principles did not permit her to achieve for herself. Most of those Tories, therefore, who still sincerely disclaimed all thought of attacking the government, were yet by no means inclined to defend it, and perhaps, while glorying in their own scruples, secretly rejoiced that everybody was not so scrupulous as themselves.
The Whigs saw that their time was come. Whether they should draw the sword against the government had, during six or seven years, been, in their view, merely a question of prudence; and prudence itself now urged them to take a bold course.
In May, before the birth of the Prince of Wales, and while it was still uncertain whether the Declaration would or would not be read in the churches, Edward Russell had repaired to the Hague. He had strongly represented to the Prince of Orange the state of the public mind, and had advised his Highness to appear in England at the head of a strong body of troops, and to call the people to arms.
William had seen, at a glance, the whole importance of the crisis. "Now or never," he exclaimed in Latin to Dykvelt. To Russell he held more guarded language, admitted that the distempers of the state were such as required an extraordinary remedy, but spoke with earnestness of the chance of failure, and of the calamities which failure might bring on Britain and on Europe. He knew well that many who talked in high language about sacrificing their lives and fortunes for their country would hesitate when the prospect of another Bloody Circuit was brought close to them. He wanted therefore to have, not vague professions of good will, but distinct invitations and promises of support subscribed by powerful and eminent men. Russell remarked that it would be dangerous to entrust the design to a great number of persons. William assented, and said that a few signatures would be sufficient, if they were the signatures of statesmen who represented great interests.
With this answer Russell returned to London, where he found the excitement greatly increased and daily increasing. The imprisonment of the Bishops and the delivery of the Queen made his task easier than he could have anticipated. He lost no time in collecting the voices of the chiefs of the opposition. His principal coadjutor in this work was Henry Sidney, brother of Algernon. It is remarkable that both Edward Russell and Henry Sidney had been in the household of James, that both had, partly on public and partly on private grounds, become his enemies, and that both had to avenge the blood of near kinsmen who had, in the same year, fallen victims to his implacable severity. Here the resemblance ends. Russell, with considerable abilities, was proud, acrimonious, restless, and violent. Sidney, with a sweet temper and winning manners, seemed to be deficient in capacity and knowledge, and to be sunk in voluptuousness and indolence. His face and form were eminently handsome. In his youth he had been the terror of husbands; and even now, at near fifty, he was the favourite of women and the envy of younger men. He had formerly resided at the Hague in a public character, and had then succeeded in obtaining a large share of William's confidence. Many wondered at this: for it seemed that between the most austere of statesmen and the most dissolute of idlers there could be nothing in common. Swift, many years later, could not be convinced that one whom he had known only as an illiterate and frivolous old rake could really have played a great part in a great revolution. Yet a less acute observer than Swift might have been aware that there is a certain tact, resembling an instinct, which is often wanting to great orators and philosophers, and which is often found in persons who, if judged by their conversation or by their writings, would be pronounced simpletons. Indeed, when a man possesses this tact, it is in some sense an advantage to him that he is destitute of those more showy talents which would make him an object of admiration, of envy, and of fear. Sidney was a remarkable instance of this truth. Incapable, ignorant, and dissipated as he seemed to be, he understood, or rather felt, with whom it was necessary to be reserved, and with whom he might safely venture to be communicative. The consequence was that he did what Mordaunt, with all his vivacity and invention, or Burnet, with all his multifarious knowledge and fluent elocution, never could have done.
With the old Whigs there could be no difficulty. In their opinion there had been scarcely a moment, during many years, at which the public wrongs would not have justified resistance. Devonshire, who might be regarded as their chief, had private as well as public wrongs to revenge. He went into the scheme with his whole heart, and answered for his party.
Russell opened the design to Shrewsbury. Sidney sounded Halifax. Shrewsbury took his part with a courage and decision which, at a later period, seemed to be wanting to his character. He at once agreed to set his estate, his honours, and his life, on the stake. But Halifax received the first hint of the project in a way which showed that it would be useless, and perhaps hazardous, to be explicit. He was indeed not the man for such an enterprise. His intellect was inexhaustibly fertile of distinctions and objections; his temper calm and unadventurous. He was ready to oppose the court to the utmost in the House of Lords and by means of anonymous writings: but he was little disposed to exchange his lordly repose for the insecure and agitated life of a conspirator, to be in the power of accomplices, to live in constant dread of warrants and King's messengers, nay, perhaps, to end his days on a scaffold, or to live on alms in some back street of the Hague. He therefore let fall some words which plainly indicated that he did not wish to be privy to the intentions of his more daring and impetuous friends. Sidney understood him and said no more.
The next application was made to Danby, and had far better success. Indeed, for his bold and active spirit the danger and the excitement, which were insupportable to the more delicately organized mind of Halifax, had a strong fascination. The different characters of the two statesmen were legible in their faces. The brow, the eye, and the mouth of Halifax indicated a powerful intellect and an exquisite sense of the ludicrous; but the expression was that of a sceptic, of a voluptuary, of a man not likely to venture his all on a single hazard, or to be a martyr in any cause. To those who are acquainted with his countenance it will not seem wonderful that the writer in whom he most delighted was Montaigne. Danby was a skeleton; and his meagre and wrinkled, though handsome and noble, face strongly expressed both the keenness of his parts and the restlessness of his ambition. Already he had once risen from obscurity to the height of power. He had then fallen headlong from his elevation. His life had been in danger. He had passed years in a prison. He was now free: but this did not content him: he wished to be again great. Attached as he was to the Anglican Church, hostile as he was to the French ascendency, he could not hope to be great in a court swarming with Jesuits and obsequious to the House of Bourbon. But, if he bore a chief part in a revolution which should confound all the schemes of the Papists, which should put an end to the long vassalage of England, and which should transfer the regal power to an illustrious pair whom he had united, he might emerge from his eclipse with new splendour. The Whigs, whose animosity had nine years before driven him from office, would, on his auspicious reappearance, join their acclamations to the acclamations of his old friends the Cavaliers. Already there had been a complete reconciliation between him and one of the most distinguished of those who had formerly been managers of his impeachment, the Earl of Devonshire. The two noblemen had met at a village in the Peak, and had exchanged assurances of good will. Devonshire had frankly owned that the Whigs had been guilty of a great injustice, and had declared that they were now convinced of their error. Danby, on his side, had also recantations to make. He had once held, or pretended to hold, the doctrine of passive obedience in the largest sense. Under his administration and with his sanction, a law had been proposed which, if it had been passed, would have excluded from Parliament and office all who refused to declare on oath that they thought resistance in every case unlawful. But his vigorous understanding, now thoroughly awakened by anxiety for the public interests and for his own, was no longer to be duped, if indeed it ever had been duped, by such childish fallacies. He at once gave in his own adhesion to the conspiracy. He then exerted himself to obtain the concurrence of Compton, the suspended Bishop of London, and succeeded without difficulty. No prelate had been so insolently and unjustly treated by the government as Compton; nor had any prelate so much to expect from a revolution: for he had directed the education of the Princess of Orange, and was supposed to possess a large share of her confidence. He had, like his brethren, strongly maintained, as long as he was not oppressed, that it was a crime to resist oppression; but, since he had stood before the High Commission, a new light had broken in upon his mind.
Both Danby and Compton were desirous to secure the assistance of Nottingham. The whole plan was opened to him; and he approved of it. But in a few days he began to be unquiet. His mind was not sufficiently powerful to emancipate itself from the prejudices of education. He went about from divine to divine proposing in general terms hypothetical cases of tyranny, and inquiring whether in such cases resistance would be lawful. The answers which he obtained increased his distress. He at length told his accomplices that he could go no further with them. If they thought him capable of betraying them, they might stab him; and he should hardly blame them; for, by drawing back after going so far, he had given them a kind of right over his life. They had, however, he assured them, nothing to fear from him: he would keep their secret; he could not help wishing them success; but his conscience would not suffer him to take an active part in a rebellion. They heard his confession with suspicion and disdain. Sidney, whose notions of a conscientious scruple were extremely vague, informed the Prince that Nottingham had taken fright. It is due to Nottingham, however, to say that the general tenor of his life justifies us in believing his conduct on this occasion to have been perfectly honest, though most unwise and irresolute.
The agents of the Prince had more complete success with Lord Lumley, who knew himself to be, in spite of the eminent service which he had performed at the time of the Western insurrection, abhorred at Whitehall, not only as a heretic but as a renegade, and who was therefore more eager than most of those who had been born Protestants to take arms in defence of Protestantism.
During June the meetings of those who were in the secret were frequent. At length, on the last day of the month, the day on which the Bishops were pronounced not guilty, the decisive step was taken. A formal invitation, transcribed by Sidney but drawn up by some person better skilled than Sidney in the art of composition, was despatched to the Hague. In this paper William was assured that nineteen twentieths of the English people were desirous of a change, and would willingly join to effect it, if only they could obtain the help of such a force from abroad as might secure those who should rise in arms from the danger of being dispersed and slaughtered before they could form themselves into anything like military order. If his Highness would appear in the island at the head of some troops, tens of thousands would hasten to his standard. He would soon find himself at the head of a force greatly superior to the whole regular army of England. Nor could that army be implicitly depended on by the government. The officers were discontented; and the common soldiers shared that aversion to Popery which was general in the class from which they were taken. In the navy Protestant feeling was still stronger. It was important to take some decisive step while things were in this state. The enterprise would be far more arduous if it were deferred till the King, by remodelling boroughs and regiments, had procured a Parliament and an army on which he could rely. The conspirators, therefore, implored the Prince to come among them with as little delay as possible. They pledged their honour that they would join him; and they undertook to secure the cooperation of as large a number of persons as could safely be trusted with so momentous and perilous a secret. On one point they thought it their duty to remonstrate with his Highness. He had not taken advantage of the opinion which the great body of the English people had formed respecting the late birth. He had, on the contrary, sent congratulations to Whitehall, and had thus seemed to acknowledge that the child who was called Prince of Wales was rightful heir of the throne. This was a grave error, and had damped the zeal of many. Not one person in a thousand doubted that the boy was supposititious; and the Prince would be wanting to his own interests if the suspicious circumstances which had attended the Queen's confinement were not put prominently forward among his reasons for taking arms.
This paper was signed in cipher by the seven chiefs of the conspiracy, Shrewsbury, Devonshire, Danby, Lumley, Compton, Russell and Sidney. Herbert undertook to be their messenger. His errand was one of no ordinary peril. He assumed the garb of a common sailor, and in this disguise reached the Dutch coast in safety, on the Friday after the trial of the Bishops. He instantly hastened to the Prince. Bentinck and Dykvelt were summoned, and several days were passed in deliberation. The first result of this deliberation was that the prayer for the Prince of Wales ceased to be read in the Princess's chapel.
From his wife William had no opposition to apprehend. Her understanding had been completely subjugated by his; and, what is more extraordinary, he had won her entire affection. He was to her in the place of the parents whom she had lost by death and by estrangement, of the children who had been denied to her prayers, and of the country from which she was banished. His empire over her heart was divided only with her God. To her father she had probably never been attached: she had quitted him young: many years had elapsed since she had seen him; and no part of his conduct to her, since her marriage, had indicated tenderness on his part, or had been calculated to call forth tenderness on hers. He had done all in his power to disturb her domestic happiness, and had established a system of spying, eavesdropping, and talebearing under her roof. He had a far greater revenue than any of his predecessors had ever possessed, and regularly allowed to her younger sister forty thousand pounds a year: but the heiress presumptive of his throne had never received from him the smallest pecuniary assistance, and was scarcely able to make that appearance which became her high rank among European princesses. She had ventured to intercede with him on behalf of her old friend and preceptor Compton, who, for refusing to commit an act of flagitious injustice, had been suspended from his episcopal functions; but she had been ungraciously repulsed. From the day on which it had become clear that she and her husband were determined not to be parties to the subversion of the English constitution, one chief object of the politics of James had been to injure them both. He had recalled the British regiments from Holland. He had conspired with Tyrconnel and with France against Mary's rights, and had made arrangements for depriving her of one at least of the three crowns to which, at his death, she would have been entitled. It was now believed by the great body of his people, and by many persons high in rank and distinguished by abilities, that he had introduced a supposititious Prince of Wales into the royal family, in order to deprive her of a magnificent inheritance; and there is no reason to doubt that she partook of the prevailing suspicion. That she should love such a father was impossible. Her religious principles, indeed, were so strict that she would probably have tried to perform what she considered as her duty, even to a father whom she did not love. On the present occasion, however, she judged that the claim of James to her obedience ought to yield to a claim more sacred. And indeed all divines and publicists agree in this, that, when the daughter of a prince of one country is married to a prince of another country, she is bound to forget her own people and her father's house, and, in the event of a rupture between her husband and her parents, to side with her husband. This is the undoubted rule even when the husband is in the wrong; and to Mary the enterprise which William meditated appeared not only just, but holy.
But, though she carefully abstained from doing or saying anything that could add to his difficulties, those difficulties were serious indeed. They were in truth but imperfectly understood even by some of those who invited him over, and have been but imperfectly described by some of those who have written the history of his expedition.
The obstacles which he might expect to encounter on English ground, though the least formidable of the obstacles which stood in the way of his design, were yet serious. He felt that it would be madness in him to imitate the example of Monmouth, to cross the sea with a few British adventurers, and to trust to a general rising of the population. It was necessary, and it was pronounced necessary by all those who invited him over, that he should carry an army with him. Yet who could answer for the effect which the appearance of such an army might produce? The government was indeed justly odious. But would the English people, altogether unaccustomed to the interference of continental powers in English disputes, be inclined to look with favour on a deliverer who was surrounded by foreign soldiers? If any part of the royal forces resolutely withstood the invaders, would not that part soon have on its side the patriotic sympathy of millions? A defeat would be fatal to the whole undertaking. A bloody victory gained in the heart of the island by the mercenaries of the States General over the Coldstream Guards and the Buffs would be almost as great a calamity as a defeat. Such a victory would be the most cruel wound ever inflicted on the national pride of one of the proudest of nations. The crown so won would never be worn in peace or security: The hatred with which the High Commission and the Jesuits were regarded would give place to the more intense hatred which would be inspired by the alien conquerors; and many, who had hitherto contemplated the power of France with dread and loathing, would say that, if a foreign yoke must be borne, there was less ignominy in submitting to France than in submitting to Holland.
These considerations might well have made William uneasy; even if all the military means of the United Provinces had been at his absolute disposal. But in truth it seemed very doubtful whether he would be able to obtain the assistance of a single battalion. Of all the difficulties with which he had to struggle, the greatest, though little noticed by English historians, arose from the constitution of the Batavian republic. No great society has ever existed during a long course of years under a polity so inconvenient. The States General could not make war or peace, could not conclude any alliance or levy any tax, without the consent of the States of every province. The States of a province could not give such consent without the consent of every municipality which had a share in the representation. Every municipality was, in some sense, a sovereign state, and, as such, claimed the right of communicating directly with foreign ambassadors, and of concerting with them the means of defeating schemes on which other municipalities were intent. In some town councils the party which had, during several generations, regarded the influence of the Stadtholders with jealousy, had great power. At the head of this party were the magistrates of the noble city of Amsterdam, which was then at the height of prosperity. They had, ever since the peace of Nimeguen, kept up a friendly correspondence with Lewis through the instrumentality of his able and active envoy the Count of Avaux. Propositions brought forward by the Stadtholder as indispensable to the security of the commonwealth, sanctioned by all the provinces except Holland, and sanctioned by seventeen of the eighteen town councils of Holland, had repeatedly been negatived by the single voice of Amsterdam. The only constitutional remedy in such cases was that deputies from the cities which were agreed should pay a visit to the city which dissented, for the purpose of expostulation. The number of deputies was unlimited: they might continue to expostulate as long as they thought fit; and meanwhile all their expenses were defrayed by the obstinate community which refused to yield to their arguments. This absurd mode of coercion had once been tried with success on the little town of Gorkum, but was not likely to produce much effect on the mighty and opulent Amsterdam, renowned throughout the world for its haven bristling with innumerable masts, its canals bordered by stately mansions, its gorgeous hall of state, walled, roofed, and floored with polished marble, its warehouses filled with the most costly productions of Ceylon and Surinam, and its Exchange resounding with the endless hubbub of all the languages spoken by civilised men.
The disputes between the majority which supported the Stadtholder and the minority headed by the magistrates of Amsterdam had repeatedly run so high that bloodshed had seemed to be inevitable. On one occasion the Prince had attempted to bring the refractory deputies to punishment as traitors. On another occasion the gates of Amsterdam had been barred against him, and troops had been raised to defend the privileges of the municipal council. That the rulers of this great city would ever consent to an expedition offensive in the highest degree to Lewis whom they courted, and likely to aggrandise the House of Orange which they abhorred, was not likely. Yet, without their consent, such an expedition could not legally be undertaken. To quell their opposition by main force was a course from which, in different circumstances, the resolute and daring Stadtholder would not have shrunk. But at that moment it was most important that he should carefully avoid every act which could be represented as tyrannical. He could not venture to violate the fundamental laws of Holland at the very moment at which he was drawing the sword against his father in law for violating the fundamental laws of England. The violent subversion of one free constitution would have been a strange prelude to the violent restoration of another.
There was yet another difficulty which has been too little noticed by English writers, but which was never for a moment absent from William's mind. In the expedition which he meditated he could succeed only by appealing to the Protestant feeling of England, and by stimulating that feeling till it became, for a time, the dominant and almost the exclusive sentiment of the nation. This would indeed have been a very simple course, had the end of all his politics been to effect a revolution in our island and to reign there. But he had in view an ulterior end which could be attained only by the help of princes sincerely attached to the Church of Rome. He was desirous to unite the Empire, the Catholic King, and the Holy See, with England and Holland, in a league against the French ascendency. It was therefore necessary that, while striking the greatest blow ever struck in defence of Protestantism, he should yet contrive not to lose the goodwill of governments which regarded Protestantism as a deadly heresy.
Such were the complicated difficulties of this great undertaking. Continental statesmen saw a part of those difficulties; British statesmen another part. One capacious and powerful mind alone took them all in at one view, and determined to surmount them all. It was no easy thing to subvert the English government by means of a foreign army without galling the national pride of Englishmen. It was no easy thing to obtain from that Batavian faction which regarded France with partiality, and the House of Orange with aversion, a decision in favour of an expedition which would confound all the schemes of France, and raise the House of Orange to the height of greatness. It was no easy thing to lead enthusiastic Protestants on a crusade against Popery with the good wishes of almost all Popish governments and of the Pope himself. Yet all these things William effected. All his objects, even those which appeared most incompatible with each other, he attained completely and at once. The whole history of ancient and of modern times records no other such triumph of statesmanship.
The task would indeed have been too arduous even for such a statesman as the Prince of Orange, had not his chief adversaries been at this time smitten with an infatuation such as by many men not prone to superstition was ascribed to the special judgment of God. Not only was the King of England, as he had ever been, stupid and perverse: but even the counsel of the politic King of France was turned into foolishness. Whatever wisdom and energy could do William did. Those obstacles which no wisdom or energy could have overcome his enemies themselves studiously removed.
On the great day on which the Bishops were acquitted, and on which the invitation was despatched to the Hague, James returned from Hounslow to Westminster in a gloomy and agitated mood. He made an effort that afternoon to appear cheerful: but the bonfires, the rockets, and above all the waxen Popes who were blazing in every quarter of London, were not likely to soothe him. Those who saw him on the morrow could easily read in his face and demeanour the violent emotions which agitated his mind. During some days he appeared so unwilling to talk about the trial that even Barillon could not venture to introduce the subject.
Soon it began to be clear that defeat and mortification had only hardened the King's heart. The first words which he uttered when he learned that the objects of his revenge had escaped him were, "So much the worse for them." In a few days these words, which he, according to his fashion, repeated many times, were fully explained. He blamed himself, not for having prosecuted the Bishops, but for having prosecuted them before a tribunal where questions of fact were decided by juries, and where established principles of law could not be utterly disregarded even by the most servile Judges. This error he determined to repair. Not only the seven prelates who had signed the petition, but the whole Anglican clergy, should have reason to curse the day on which they had triumphed over their Sovereign. Within a fortnight after the trial an order was made, enjoining all Chancellors of dioceses and all Archdeacons to make a strict inquisition throughout their respective jurisdictions, and to report to the High Commission, within five weeks, the names of all such rectors, vicars, and curates as had omitted to read the Declaration. The King anticipated with delight the terror with which the offenders would learn that they were to be cited before a court which would give them no quarter. The number of culprits was little, if at all, short of ten thousand: and, after what had passed at Magdalene College, every one of them might reasonably expect to be interdicted from all his spiritual functions, ejected from his benefice, declared incapable of holding any other preferment, and charged with the costs of the proceedings which had reduced him to beggary.
Such was the persecution with which James, smarting from his great defeat in Westminster Hall, resolved to harass the clergy. Meanwhile he tried to show the lawyers, by a prompt and large distribution of rewards and punishments, that strenuous and unblushing servility, even when least successful, was a sure title to his favour, and that whoever, after years of obsequiousness, ventured to deviate but for one moment into courage and honesty was guilty of an unpardonable offence. The violence and audacity which the apostate Williams had exhibited throughout the trial of the Bishops had made him hateful to the whole nation. He was recompensed with a baronetcy. Holloway and Powell had raised their character by declaring that, in their judgment, the petition was no libel. They were dismissed from their situations. The fate of Wright seems to have been, during some time, in suspense. He had indeed summed up against the Bishops: but he had suffered their counsel to question the dispensing power. He had pronounced the petition a libel: but he had carefully abstained from pronouncing the Declaration legal; and, through the whole proceeding, his tone had been that of a man who remembered that a day of reckoning might come. He had indeed strong claims to indulgence: for it was hardly to be expected that any human impudence would hold out without flagging through such a task in the presence of such a bar and of such an auditory. The members of the Jesuitical cabal, however, blamed his want of spirit; the Chancellor pronounced him a beast; and it was generally believed that a new Chief Justice would be appointed. But no change was made. It would indeed have been no easy matter to supply Wright's place. The many lawyers who were far superior to him in parts and learning were, with scarcely an exception, hostile to the designs of the government; and the very few lawyers who surpassed him in turpitude and effrontery were, with scarcely an exception, to be found only in the lowest ranks of the profession, and would have been incompetent to conduct the ordinary business of the Court of King's Bench. Williams, it is true, united all the qualities which James required in a magistrate. But the services of Williams were needed at the bar; and, had he been moved thence, the crown would have been left without the help of any advocate even of the third rate.
Nothing had amazed or mortified the King more than the enthusiasm which the Dissenters had shown in the cause of the Bishops. Penn, who, though he had himself sacrificed wealth and honours to his conscientious scruples, seems to have imagined that nobody but himself had a conscience, imputed the discontent of the Puritans to envy and dissatisfied ambition. They had not had their share of the benefits promised by the Declaration of Indulgence: none of them had been admitted to any high and honourable post; and therefore it was not strange that they were jealous of the Roman Catholics. Accordingly, within a week after the great verdict had been pronounced in Westminster Hall, Silas Titus, a noted Presbyterian, a vehement Exclusionist, and a manager of Stafford's impeachment, was invited to occupy a seat in the Privy Council. He was one of the persons on whom the opposition had most confidently reckoned. But the honour now offered to him, and the hope of obtaining a large sum due to him from the crown, overcame his virtue, and, to the great disgust of all classes of Protestants, he was sworn in.
The vindictive designs of the King against the Church were not accomplished. Almost all the Archdeacons and diocesan Chancellors refused to furnish the information which was required. The day on which it had been intended that the whole body of the priesthood should he summoned to answer for the crime of disobedience arrived. The High Commission met. It appeared that scarcely one ecclesiastical officer had sent up a return. At the same time a paper of grave import was delivered to the board. It came from Sprat, Bishop of Rochester. During two years, supported by the hope of an Archbishopric, he had been content to bear the reproach of persecuting that Church which he was bound by every obligation of conscience and honour to defend. But his hope had been disappointed. He saw that, unless he abjured his religion, he had no chance of sitting on the metropolitan throne of York. He was too goodnatured to find any pleasure in tyranny, and too discerning not to see the signs of the coming retribution. He therefore determined to resign his odious functions; and he communicated his determination to his colleagues in a letter written, like all his prose compositions, with great propriety and dignity of style. It was impossible, he said, that he could longer continue to be a member of the Commission. He had himself, in obedience to the royal command, read the Declaration: but he could not presume to condemn thousands of pious and loyal divines who had taken a different view of their duty; and, since it was resolved to punish them for acting according to their conscience, he must declare that he would rather suffer with them than be accessary to their sufferings.
The Commissioners read and stood aghast. The very faults of their colleague, the known laxity of his principles, the known meanness of his spirit, made his defection peculiarly alarming. A government must be indeed in danger when men like Sprat address it in the language of Hampden. The tribunal, lately so insolent, became on a sudden strangely tame. The ecclesiastical functionaries who had defied its authority were not even reprimanded. It was not thought safe to hint any suspicion that their disobedience had been intentional. They were merely enjoined to have their reports ready in four months. The Commission then broke up in confusion. It had received a death blow.
While the High Commission shrank from a conflict with the Church, the Church, conscious of its strength, and animated by a new enthusiasm, invited, by a series of defiances, the attack of the High Commission. Soon after the acquittal of the Bishops, the venerable Ormond, the most illustrious of the Cavaliers of the great civil war, sank under his infirmities. The intelligence of his death was conveyed with speed to Oxford. Instantly the University, of which he had long been Chancellor, met to name a successor. One party was for the eloquent and accomplished Halifax, another for the grave and orthodox Nottingham. Some mentioned the Earl of Abingdon, who resided near them, and had recently been turned out of the lieutenancy of the county for refusing to join with the King against the established religion. But the majority, consisting of a hundred and eighty graduates, voted for the young Duke of Ormond, grandson of their late head, and son of the gallant Ossory. The speed with which they came to this resolution was caused by their apprehension that, if there were a delay even of a day, the King would attempt to force on them some chief who would betray their rights. The apprehension was reasonable: for, only two hours after they had separated, came a mandate from Whitehall requiring them to choose Jeffreys. Happily the election of young Ormond was already complete and irrevocable. A few weeks later the infamous Timothy Hall, who had distinguished himself among the clergy of London by reading the Declaration, was rewarded with the Bishopric of Oxford, which had been vacant since the death of the not less infamous Parker. Hall came down to his see: but the Canons of his Cathedral refused to attend his installation: the University refused to create him a Doctor: not a single one of the academic youth applied to him for holy orders: no cap was touched to him and, in his palace, he found himself alone.
Soon afterwards a living which was in the gift of Magdalene College, Oxford, became vacant. Hough and his ejected brethren assembled and presented a clerk; and the Bishop of Gloucester, in whose diocese the living lay, instituted their presentee without hesitation.
The gentry were not less refractory than the clergy. The assizes of that summer wore all over the country an aspect never before known. The Judges, before they set out on their circuits, had been summoned into the King's presence, and had been directed by him to impress on the grand jurors and magistrates, throughout the kingdom, the duty of electing such members of Parliament as would support his policy. They obeyed his commands, harangued vehemently against the clergy, reviled the seven Bishops, called the memorable petition a factious libel, criticized with great asperity Sancroft's style, which was indeed open to criticism, and pronounced that his Grace ought to be whipped by Doctor Busby for writing bad English. But the only effect of these indecent declamations was to increase the public discontent. All the marks of public respect which had usually been shown to the judicial office and to the royal commission were withdrawn. The old custom was that men of good birth and estate should ride in the train of the Sheriff when he escorted the Judges to the county town: but such a procession could now with difficulty be formed in any part of the kingdom. The successors of Powell and Holloway, in particular, were treated with marked indignity. The Oxford circuit had been allotted to them; and they had expected to be greeted in every shire by a cavalcade of the loyal gentry. But as they approached Wallingford, where they were to open their commission for Berkshire, the Sheriff alone came forth to meet them. As they approached Oxford, the eminently loyal capital of an eminently loyal province, they were again welcomed by the Sheriff alone.
The army was scarcely less disaffected than the clergy or the gentry. The garrison of the Tower had drunk the health of the imprisoned Bishops. The footguards stationed at Lambeth had, with every mark of reverence, welcomed the Primate back to his palace. Nowhere had the news of the acquittal been received with more clamorous delight than at Hounslow Heath. In truth, the great force which the King had assembled for the purpose of overawing his mutinous capital had become more mutinous than the capital itself; and was more dreaded by the court than by the citizens. Early in August, therefore, the camp was broken up, and the troops were sent to quarters in different parts of the country.
James flattered himself that it would he easier to deal with separate battalions than with many thousands of men collected in one mass. The first experiment was tried on Lord Lichfield's regiment of infantry, now called the Twelfth of the Line. That regiment was probably selected because it had been raised, at the time of the Western insurrection, in Staffordshire, a province where the Roman Catholics were more numerous and powerful than in almost any other part of England. The men were drawn up in the King s presence. Their major informed them that His Majesty wished them to subscribe an engagement, binding them to assist in carrying into effect his intentions concerning the test, and that all who did not choose to comply must quit the service on the spot. To the King's great astonishment, whole ranks instantly laid down their pikes and muskets. Only two officers and a few privates, all Roman Catholics, obeyed his command. He remained silent for a short time. Then he bade the men take up their arms. "Another time," he said, with a gloomy look, "I shall not do you the honour to consult you."
It was plain that, if he determined to persist in his designs, he must remodel his army. Yet materials for that purpose he could not find in our island. The members of his Church, even in the districts where they were most numerous, were a small minority of the people. Hatred of Popery had spread through all classes of his Protestant subjects, and had become the ruling passion even of ploughmen and artisans. But there was another part of his dominions where a very different spirit animated the great body of the population. There was no limit to the number of Roman Catholic soldiers whom the good pay and quarters of England would attract across St. George's Channel. Tyrconnel had been, during some time, employed in forming out of the peasantry of his country a military force on which his master might depend. Already Papists, of Celtic blood and speech, composed almost the whole army of Ireland. Barillon earnestly and repeatedly advised James to bring over that army for the purpose of coercing the English.
James wavered. He wished to be surrounded by troops on whom he could rely: but he dreaded the explosion of national feeling which the appearance of a great Irish force on English ground must produce. At last, as usually happens when a weak man tries to avoid opposite inconveniences, he took a course which united them all. He brought over Irishmen, not indeed enough to hold down the single city of London, or the single county of York, but more than enough to excite the alarm and rage of the whole kingdom, from Northumberland to Cornwall. Battalion after battalion, raised and trained by Tyrconnel, landed on the western coast and moved towards the capital; and Irish recruits were imported in considerable numbers, to fill up vacancies in the English regiments.
Of the many errors which James committed, none was more fatal than this. Already he had alienated the hearts of his people by violating their laws, confiscating their estates, and persecuting their religion. Of those who had once been most zealous for monarchy, he had already made many rebels in heart. Yet he might still, with some chance of success, have appealed to the patriotic spirit of his subjects against an invader. For they were a race insular in temper as well as in geographical position. Their national antipathies were, indeed, in that age, unreasonably and unamiably strong. Never had the English been accustomed to the control of interference of any stranger. The appearance of a foreign army on their soil might impel them to rally even round a King whom they had no reason to love. William might perhaps have been unable to overcome this difficulty; but James removed it. Not even the arrival of a brigade of Lewis's musketeers would have excited such resentment and shame as our ancestors felt when they saw armed columns of Papists, just arrived from Dublin, moving in military pomp along the high roads. No man of English blood then regarded the aboriginal Irish as his countrymen. They did not belong to our branch of the great human family. They were distinguished from us by more than one moral and intellectual peculiarity, which the difference of situation and of education, great as that difference was, did not seem altogether to explain. They had an aspect of their own, a mother tongue of their own. When they talked English their pronunciation was ludicrous; their phraseology was grotesque, as is always the phraseology of those who think in one language and express their thoughts in another. They were therefore foreigners; and of all foreigners they were the most hated and despised: the most hated, for they had, during five centuries, always been our enemies; the most despised, for they were our vanquished, enslaved, and despoiled enemies. The Englishman compared with pride his own fields with the desolate bogs whence the Rapparees issued forth to rob and murder, and his own dwelling with the hovels where the peasants and the hogs of the Shannon wallowed in filth together. He was a member of a society far inferior, indeed, in wealth and civilisation, to the society in which we live, but still one of the wealthiest and most highly civilised societies that the world had then seen: the Irish were almost as rude as the savages of Labrador. He was a freeman: the Irish were the hereditary serfs of his race. He worshipped God after a pure and rational fashion: the Irish were sunk in idolatry and superstition. He knew that great numbers of Irish had repeatedly fled before a small English force, and that the whole Irish population had been held down by a small English colony; and he very complacently inferred that he was naturally a being of a higher order than the Irishman: for it is thus that a dominant race always explains its ascendency and excuses its tyranny. That in vivacity, humour, and eloquence, the Irish stand high among the nations of the world is now universally acknowledged. That, when well disciplined, they are excellent soldiers has been proved on a hundred fields of battle. Yet it is certain that, a century and a half ago, they were generally despised in our island as both a stupid and a cowardly people. And these were the men who were to hold England down by main force while her civil and ecclesiastical constitution was destroyed. The blood of the whole nation boiled at the thought. To be conquered by Frenchmen or by Spaniards would have seemed comparatively a tolerable fate. With Frenchmen and Spaniards we had been accustomed to treat on equal terms. We had sometimes envied their prosperity, sometimes dreaded their power, sometimes congratulated ourselves on their friendship. In spite of our unsocial pride, we admitted that they were great nations, and that they could boast of men eminent in the arts of war and peace. But to be subjugated by an inferior caste was a degradation beyond all other degradation. The English felt as the white inhabitants of Charleston and New Orleans would feel if those towns were occupied by negro garrisons. The real facts would have been sufficient to excite uneasiness and indignation: but the real facts were lost amidst a crowd of wild rumours which flew without ceasing from coffeehouse to coffeehouse and from alebench to alebench, and became more wonderful and terrible at every stage of the progress. The number of the Irish troops who had landed on our shores might justly excite serious apprehensions as to the King's ulterior designs; but it was magnified tenfold by the public apprehensions. It may well be supposed that the rude kerne of Connaught, placed, with arms in his hands, among a foreign people whom he hated, and by whom he was hated in turn, was guilty of some excesses. These excesses were exaggerated by report; and, in addition to the outrages which the stranger had really committed, all the offences of his English comrades were set down to his account. From every corner of the kingdom a cry arose against the foreign barbarians who forced themselves into private houses, seized horses and waggons, extorted money and insulted women. These men, it was said, were the sons of those who, forty-seven years before, had massacred Protestants by tens of thousands. The history of the rebellion of 1641, a history which, even when soberly related, might well move pity and horror, and which had been frightfully distorted by national and religious antipathies, was now the favourite topic of conversation. Hideous stories of houses burned with all the inmates, of women and young children butchered, of near relations compelled by torture to be the murderers of each other, of corpses outraged and mutilated, were told and heard with full belief and intense interest. Then it was added that the dastardly savages who had by surprise committed all these cruelties on an unsuspecting and defenceless colony had, as soon as Oliver came among them on his great mission of vengeance, flung down their arms in panic terror, and had sunk, without trying the chances of a single pitched field, into that slavery which was their fit portion. Many signs indicated that another great spoliation and slaughter of the Saxon settlers was meditated by the Lord Lieutenant. Already thousands of Protestant colonists, flying from the injustice and insolence of Tyrconnel, had raised the indignation of the mother country by describing all that they had suffered, and all that they had, with too much reason, feared. How much the public mind had been excited by the complaints of these fugitives had recently been shown in a manner not to be mistaken. Tyrconnel had transmitted for the royal approbation the heads of a bill repealing the law by which half the soil of Ireland was held, and he had sent to Westminster, as his agents, two of his Roman Catholic countrymen who had lately been raised to high judicial office; Nugent, Chief Justice of the Irish Court of King's Bench, a personification of all the vices and weaknesses which the English then imagined to be characteristic of the Popish Celt, and Rice, a Baron of the Irish Exchequer, who, in abilities and attainments, was perhaps the foremost man of his race and religion. The object of the mission was well known; and the two Judges could not venture to show themselves in the streets. If ever they were recognised, the rabble shouted, "Room for the Irish Ambassadors;" and their coach was escorted with mock solemnity by a train of ushers and harbingers bearing sticks with potatoes stuck on the points.
So strong and general, indeed, was at that time the aversion of the English to the Irish that the most distinguished Roman Catholics partook of it. Powis and Bellasyse expressed, in coarse and acrimonious language, even at the Council board, their antipathy to the aliens. Among English Protestants that antipathy was still stronger and perhaps it was strongest in the army. Neither officers nor soldiers were disposed to bear patiently the preference shown by their master to a foreign and a subject race. The Duke of Berwick, who was Colonel of the Eighth Regiment of the Line, then quartered at Portsmouth, gave orders that thirty men just arrived from Ireland should be enlisted. The English soldiers declared that they would not serve with these intruders. John Beaumont, the Lieutenant Colonel, in his own name and in the name of five of the Captains, protested to the Duke's face against this insult to the English army and nation. "We raised the regiment," he said, "at our own charges to defend His Majesty's crown in a time of danger. We had then no difficulty in procuring hundreds of English recruits. We can easily keep every company up to its full complement without admitting Irishmen. We therefore do not think it consistent with our honour to have these strangers forced on us; and we beg that we may either be permitted to command men of our own nation or to lay down our commissions." Berwick sent to Windsor for directions. The King, greatly exasperated, instantly despatched a troop of horse to Portsmouth with orders to bring the six refractory officers before him. A council of war sate on them. They refused to make any submission; and they were sentenced to be cashiered, the highest punishment which a court martial was then competent to inflict. The whole nation applauded the disgraced officers; and the prevailing sentiment was stimulated by an unfounded rumour that, while under arrest, they had been treated with cruelty.
Public feeling did not then manifest itself by those signs with which we are familiar, by large meetings, and by vehement harangues. Nevertheless it found a vent. Thomas Wharton, who, in the last Parliament, had represented Buckinghamshire, and who was already conspicuous both as a libertine and as a Whig, had written a satirical ballad on the administration of Tyrconnel. In this little poem an Irishman congratulates a brother Irishman, in a barbarous jargon, on the approaching triumph of Popery and of the Milesian race. The Protestant heir will be excluded. The Protestant officers will be broken. The Great Charter and the praters who appeal to it will be hanged in one rope. The good Talbot will shower commissions on his countrymen, and will cut the throats of the English. These verses, which were in no respect above the ordinary standard of street poetry, had for burden some gibberish which was said to have been used as a watchword by the insurgents of Ulster in 1641. The verses and the tune caught the fancy of the nation. From one end of England to the other all classes were constantly singing this idle rhyme. It was especially the delight of the English army. More than seventy years after the Revolution, a great writer delineated, with exquisite skill, a veteran who had fought at the Boyne and at Namur. One of the characteristics of the good old soldier is his trick of whistling Lillibullero.
Wharton afterwards boasted that he had sung a King out of three kingdoms. But in truth the success of Lillibullero was the effect, and not the cause, of that excited state of public feeling which produced the Revolution.
While James was thus raising against himself all those national feelings which, but for his own folly, might have saved his throne, Lewis was in another way exerting himself not less effectually to facilitate the enterprise which William meditated.
The party in Holland which was favourable to France was a minority, but a minority strong enough, according to the constitution of the Batavian federation, to prevent the Stadtholder from striking any great blow. To keep that minority steady was an object to which, if the Court of Versailles had been wise, every other object would at that conjuncture have been postponed. Lewis however had, during some time, laboured, as if of set purpose, to estrange his Dutch friends; and he at length, though not without difficulty, succeeded in forcing them to become his enemies at the precise moment at which their help would have been invaluable to him.
There were two subjects on which the people of the United Provinces were peculiarly sensitive, religion and trade; and both their religion and their trade the French King assailed. The persecution of the Huguenots, and the revocation of the edict of Nantes, had everywhere moved the grief and indignation of Protestants. But in Holland these feelings were stronger than in any other country; for many persons of Dutch birth, confiding in the repeated and solemn declarations of Lewis that the toleration granted by his grandfather should be maintained, had, for commercial purposes, settled in France, and a large proportion of the settlers had been naturalised there. Every post now brought to Holland the tidings that these persons were treated with extreme rigour on account of their religion. Dragoons, it was reported, were quartered on one. Another had been held naked before a fire till he was half roasted. All were forbidden, under the severest penalties, to celebrate the rites of their religion, or to quit the country into which they had, under false pretences, been decoyed. The partisans of the House of Orange exclaimed against the cruelty and perfidy of the tyrant. The opposition was abashed and dispirited. Even the town council of Amsterdam, though strongly attached to the French interest and to the Arminian theology, and though little inclined to find fault with Lewis or to sympathize with the Calvinists whom he persecuted, could not venture to oppose itself to the general sentiment; for in that great city there was scarcely one wealthy merchant who had not some kinsman or friend among the sufferers. Petitions numerously and respectably signed were presented to the Burgomasters, imploring them to make strong representations to Avaux. There were even suppliants who made their way into the Stadthouse, flung themselves on their knees, described with tears and sobs the lamentable condition of those whom they most loved, and besought the intercession of the magistrates. The pulpits resounded with invectives and lamentations. The press poured forth heartrending narratives and stirring exhortations. Avaux saw the whole danger. He reported to his court that even the well intentioned--for so he always called the enemies of the House of Orange--either partook of the public feeling or were overawed by it; and he suggested the policy of making some concession to their wishes. The answers which he received from Versailles were cold and acrimonious. Some Dutch families, indeed, which had not been naturalised in France, were permitted to return to their country. But to those natives of Holland who had obtained letters of naturalisation Lewis refused all indulgence. No power on earth, he said, should interfere between him and his subjects. These people had chosen to become his subjects; and how he treated them was a matter with which no neighbouring state had anything to do. The magistrates of Amsterdam naturally resented the scornful ingratitude of the potentate whom they had strenuously and unscrupulously served against the general sense of their own countrymen. Soon followed another provocation which they felt even more keenly. Lewis began to make war on their trade. He first put forth an edict prohibiting the importation of herrings into his dominions, Avaux hastened to inform his court that this step had excited great alarm and indignation, that sixty thousand persons in the United Provinces subsisted by the herring fishery, and that some strong measure of retaliation would probably be adopted by the States. The answer which he received was that the King was determined, not only to persist, but also to increase the duties on many of those articles in which Holland carried on a lucrative trade with France. The consequence of these errors, errors committed in defiance of repeated warnings, and, as it should seem, in the mere wantonness of selfwill, was that now, when the voice of a single powerful member of the Batavian federation might have averted an event fatal to all the politics of Lewis, no such voice was raised. The Envoy, with all his skill, vainly endeavoured to rally the party by the help of which he had, during several years, held the Stadtholder in check. The arrogance and obstinacy of the master counteracted all the efforts of the servant. At length Avaux was compelled to send to Versailles the alarming tidings that no reliance could be placed on Amsterdam, so long devoted to the French cause, that some of the well intentioned were alarmed for their religion, and that the few whose inclinations were unchanged could not venture to utter what they thought. The fervid eloquence of preachers who declaimed against the horrors of the French persecution, and the lamentations of bankrupts who ascribed their ruin to the French decrees, had wrought up the people to such a temper, that no citizen could declare himself favourable to France without imminent risk of being flung into the nearest canal. Men remembered that, only fifteen years before, the most illustrious chief of the party adverse to the House of Orange had been torn to pieces by an infuriated mob in the very precinct of the palace of the States General. A similar fate might not improbably befall those who should, at this crisis, be accused of serving the purposes of France against their native land, and against the reformed religion.
While Lewis was thus forcing his friends in Holland to become, or to pretend to become, his enemies, he was labouring with not less success to remove all the scruples which might have prevented the Roman Catholic princes of the Continent from countenancing William's designs. A new quarrel had arisen between the Court of Versailles and the Vatican, a quarrel in which the injustice and insolence of the French King were perhaps more offensively displayed than in any other transaction of his reign.
It had long been the rule at Rome that no officer of justice or finance could enter the dwelling inhabited by the minister who represented a Catholic state. In process of time not only the dwelling, but a large precinct round it, was held inviolable. It was a point of honour with every Ambassador to extend as widely as possible the limits of the region which was under his protection. At length half the city consisted of privileged districts, within which the Papal government had no more power than within the Louvre or the Escurial. Every asylum was thronged with contraband traders, fraudulent bankrupts, thieves and assassins. In every asylum were collected magazines of stolen or smuggled goods. From every asylum ruffians sallied forth nightly to plunder and stab. In no town of Christendom, consequently, was law so impotent and wickedness so audacious as in the ancient capital of religion and civilisation. On this subject Innocent felt as became a priest and a prince. He declared that he would receive no Ambassador who insisted on a right so destructive of order and morality. There was at first much murmuring; but his resolution was so evidently just that all governments but one speedily acquiesced. The Emperor, highest in rank among Christian monarchs, the Spanish court, distinguished among all courts by sensitiveness and pertinacity on points of etiquette, renounced the odious privilege. Lewis alone was impracticable. What other sovereigns might choose to do, he said, was nothing to him. He therefore sent a mission to Rome, escorted by a great force of cavalry and infantry. The Ambassador marched to his palace as a general marches in triumph through a conquered town. The house was strongly guarded. Round the limits of the protected district sentinels paced the rounds day and night, as on the walls of a fortress. The Pope was unmoved. "They trust," he cried, "in chariots and in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God." He betook him vigorously to his spiritual weapons, and laid the region garrisoned by the French under an interdict.
This dispute was at the height when another dispute arose, in which the Germanic body was as deeply concerned as the Pope.
Cologne and the surrounding district were governed by an Archbishop, who was an Elector of the Empire. The right of choosing this great prelate belonged, under certain limitations, to the Chapter of the Cathedral. The Archbishop was also Bishop of Liege, of Munster, and of Hildesheim. His dominions were extensive, and included several strong fortresses, which in the event of a campaign on the Rhine would be of the highest importance. In time of war he could bring twenty thousand men into the field. Lewis had spared no effort to gain so valuable an ally, and had succeeded so well that Cologne had been almost separated from Germany, and had become an outwork of France. Many ecclesiastics devoted to the court of Versailles had been brought into the Chapter; and Cardinal Furstemburg, a mere creature of that court, had been appointed Coadjutor.
In the summer of the year 1688 the archbishopric became vacant. Furstemburg was the candidate of the House of Bourbon. The enemies of that house proposed the young Prince Clement of Bavaria. Furstemburg was already a Bishop, and therefore could not be moved to another diocese except by a special dispensation from the Pope, or by a postulation, in which it was necessary that two thirds of the Chapter of Cologne should join. The Pope would grant no dispensation to a creature of France. The Emperor induced more than a third part of the Chapter to vote for the Bavarian prince. Meanwhile, in the Chapters of Liege, Munster, and Hildesheim, the majority was adverse to France. Lewis saw, with indignation and alarm, that an extensive province which he had begun to regard as a fief of his crown was about to become, not merely independent of him, but hostile to him. In a paper written with great acrimony he complained of the injustice with which France was on all occasions treated by that See which ought to extend a parental protection to every part of Christendom. Many signs indicated his fixed resolution to support the pretensions of his candidate by arms against the Pope and the Pope's confederates.
Thus Lewis, by two opposite errors, raised against himself at once the resentment of both the religious parties between which Western Europe was divided. Having alienated one great section of Christendom by persecuting the Huguenots, he alienated another by insulting the Holy See. These faults he committed at a conjuncture at which no fault could be committed with impunity, and under the eye of an opponent second in vigilance, sagacity, and energy, to no statesman whose memory history has preserved. William saw with stern delight his adversaries toiling to clear away obstacle after obstacle from his path. While they raised against themselves the enmity of all sects, he laboured to conciliate all. The great design which he meditated, he with exquisite skill presented to different governments in different lights; and it must be added that, though those lights were different, none of them was false. He called on the princes of Northern Germany to rally round him in defence of the common cause of all reformed Churches. He set before the two heads of the House of Austria the danger with which they were threatened by French ambition, and the necessity of rescuing England from vassalage and of uniting her to the European confederacy. He disclaimed, and with truth, all bigotry. The real enemy, he said, of the British Roman Catholics was that shortsighted and headstrong monarch who, when he might easily have obtained for them a legal toleration, had trampled on law, liberty, property, in order to raise them to an odious and precarious ascendency. If the misgovernment of James were suffered to continue, it must produce, at no remote time, a popular outbreak, which might be followed by a barbarous persecution of the Papists. The Prince declared that to avert the horrors of such a persecution was one of his chief objects. If he succeeded in his design, he would use the power which he must then possess, as head of the Protestant interest, to protect the members of the Church of Rome. Perhaps the passions excited by the tyranny of James might make it impossible to efface the penal laws from the statute book: but those laws should be mitigated by a lenient administration. No class would really gain more by the proposed expedition than those peaceable and unambitious Roman Catholics who merely wished to follow their callings and to worship their Maker without molestation. The only losers would be the Tyrconnels, the Dovers, the Albevilles, and the other political adventurers who, in return for flattery and evil counsel, had obtained from their credulous master governments, regiments, and embassies.
While William exerted himself to enlist on his side the sympathies both of Protestants and of Roman Catholics, he exerted himself with not less vigour and prudence to provide the military means which his undertaking required. He could not make a descent on England without the sanction of the United Provinces. If he asked for that sanction before his design was ripe for execution, his intentions might possibly be thwarted by the faction hostile to his house, and would certainly be divulged to the whole world. He therefore determined to make his preparations with all speed, and, when they were complete, to seize some favourable moment for requesting the consent of the federation. It was observed by the agents of France that he was more busy than they had ever known him. Not a day passed on which he was not seen spurring from his villa to the Hague. He was perpetually closeted with his most distinguished adherents. Twenty-four ships of war were fitted out for sea in addition to the ordinary force which the commonwealth maintained. There was, as it chanced, an excellent pretence for making this addition to the marine: for some Algerine corsairs had recently dared to show themselves in the German Ocean. A camp was formed near Nimeguen. Many thousands of troops were assembled there. In order to strengthen this army the garrisons were withdrawn from the strongholds in Dutch Brabant. Even the renowned fortress of Bergopzoom was left almost defenceless. Field pieces, bombs, and tumbrels from all the magazines of the United Provinces were collected at the head quarters. All the bakers of Rotterdam toiled day and night to make biscuit. All the gunmakers of Utrecht were found too few to execute the orders for pistols and muskets. All the saddlers of Amsterdam were hard at work on harness and bolsters. Six thousand sailors were added to the naval establishment. Seven thousand new soldiers were raised. They could not, indeed, be formally enlisted without the sanction of the federation: but they were well drilled, and kept in such a state of discipline that they might without difficulty be distributed into regiments within twenty-four hours after that sanction should be obtained. These preparations required ready money: but William had, by strict economy, laid up against a great emergency a treasure amounting to about two hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling. What more was wanting was supplied by the zeal of his partisans. Great quantities of gold, not less, it was said, than a hundred thousand guineas, came to him from England. The Huguenots, who had carried with them into exile large quantities of the precious metals, were eager to lend him all that they possessed; for they fondly hoped that, if he succeeded, they should be restored to the country of their birth; and they feared that, if he failed, they should scarcely be safe even in the country of their adoption.
Through the latter part of July and the whole of August the preparations went on rapidly, yet too slowly for the vehement spirit of William. Meanwhile the intercourse between England and Holland was active. The ordinary modes of conveying intelligence and passengers were no longer thought safe. A light bark of marvellous speed constantly ran backward and forward between Schevening and the eastern coast of our island. By this vessel William received a succession of letters from persons of high note in the Church, the state, and the army. Two of the seven prelates who had signed the memorable petition, Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, and Trelawney, Bishop of Bristol, had, during their residence in the Tower, reconsidered the doctrine of nonresistance, and were ready to welcome an armed deliverer. A brother of the Bishop of Bristol, Colonel Charles Trelawney, who commanded one of the Tangier regiments, now known as the Fourth of the Line, signified his readiness to draw his sword for the Protestant religion. Similar assurances arrived from the savage Kirke. Churchill, in a letter written with a certain elevation of language, which was the sure mark that he was going to commit a baseness, declared that he was determined to perform his duty to heaven and to his country, and that he put his honour absolutely into the hands of the Prince of Orange. William doubtless read these words with one of those bitter and cynical smiles which gave his face its least pleasing expression. It was not his business to take care of the honour of other men; nor had the most rigid casuists pronounced it unlawful in a general to invite, to use, and to reward the services of deserters whom he could not but despise.
Churchill's letter was brought by Sidney, whose situation in England had become hazardous, and who, having taken many precautions to hide his track, had passed over to Holland about the middle of August. About the same time Shrewsbury and Edward Russell crossed the German Ocean in a boat which they had hired with great secrecy, and appeared at the Hague. Shrewsbury brought with him twelve thousand pounds, which he had raised by a mortgage on his estates, and which he lodged in the bank of Amsterdam. Devonshire, Danby, and Lumley remained in England, where they undertook to rise in arms as soon as the Prince should set foot on the island.
There is reason to believe that, at this conjuncture, William first received assurances of support from a very different quarter. The history of Sunderland's intrigues is covered with an obscurity which it is not probable that any inquirer will ever succeed in penetrating: but, though it is impossible to discover the whole truth, it is easy to detect some palpable fictions. The Jacobites, for obvious reasons, affirmed that the revolution of 1688 was the result of a plot concerted long before. Sunderland they represented as the chief conspirator. He had, they averred, in pursuance of his great design, incited his too confiding master to dispense with statutes, to create an illegal tribunal, to confiscate freehold property, and to send the fathers of the Established Church to a prison. This romance rests on no evidence, and, though it has been repeated down to our own time, seems hardly to deserve confutation. No fact is more certain than that Sunderland opposed some of the most imprudent steps which James took, and in particular the prosecution of the Bishops, which really brought on the decisive crisis. But, even if this fact were not established, there would still remain one argument sufficient to decide the controversy. What conceivable motive had Sunderland to wish for a revolution? Under the existing system he was at the height of dignity and prosperity. As President of the Council he took precedence of the whole temporal peerage. As Principal Secretary of State he was the most active and powerful member of the cabinet. He might look forward to a dukedom. He had obtained the garter lately worn by the brilliant and versatile Buckingham, who, having squandered away a princely fortune and a vigorous intellect, had sunk into the grave deserted, contemned, and broken-hearted. Money, which Sunderland valued more than honours, poured in upon him in such abundance that, with ordinary management, he might hope to become, in a few years, one of the wealthiest subjects in Europe. The direct emolument of his posts, though considerable, was a very small part of what he received. From France alone he drew a regular stipend of near six thousand pounds a year, besides large occasional gratuities. He had bargained with Tyrconnel for five thousand a year, or fifty thousand pounds down, from Ireland. What sums he made by selling places, titles, and pardons, can only be conjectured, but must have been enormous. James seemed to take a pleasure in loading with wealth one whom he regarded as his own convert. All fines, all forfeitures went to Sunderland. On every grant toll was paid to him. If any suitor ventured to ask any favour directly from the King, the answer was, "Have you spoken to my Lord President?" One bold man ventured to say that the Lord President got all the money of the court. "Well," replied His Majesty "he deserves it all." We shall scarcely overrate the amount of the minister's gains, if we put them at thirty thousand pounds a year: and it must be remembered that fortunes of thirty thousand pounds a year were in his time rarer than fortunes of a hundred thousand pounds a year now are. It is probable that there was then not one peer of the realm whose private income equalled Sunderland's official income.
What chance was there that, in a new order of things, a man so deeply implicated in illegal and unpopular acts, a member of the High Commission, a renegade whom the multitude, in places of general resort, pursued with the cry of Popish dog, would be greater and richer? What chance that he would even be able to escape condign punishment?
He had undoubtedly been long in the habit of looking forward to the time when William and Mary might be, in the ordinary course of nature and law, at the head of the English government, and had probably attempted to make for himself an interest in their favour, by promises and services which, if discovered, would not have raised his credit at Whitehall. But it may with confidence be affirmed that he had no wish to see them raised to power by a revolution, and that he did not at all foresee such a revolution when, towards the close of June 1688, he solemnly joined the communion of the Church of Rome.
Scarcely however had he, by that inexpiable crime, made himself an object of hatred and contempt to the whole nation, when he learned that the civil and ecclesiastical polity of England would shortly be vindicated by foreign and domestic arms. From that moment all his plans seem to have undergone a change. Fear bowed down his whole soul, and was so written in his face that all who saw him could read. It could hardly be doubted that, if there were a revolution, the evil counsellors who surrounded the throne would be called to a strict account: and among those counsellors he stood in the foremost rank. The loss of his places, his salaries, his pensions, was the least that he had to dread. His patrimonial mansion amid woods at Althorpe might be confiscated. He might lie many years in a prison. He might end his days in a foreign land a pensioner on the bounty of France. Even this was not the worst. Visions of an innumerable crowd covering Tower Hill and shouting with savage joy at the sight of the apostate, of a scaffold hung with black, of Burnet reading the prayer for the departing, and of Ketch leaning on the axe with which Russell and Monmouth had been mangled in so butcherly a fashion, began to haunt the unhappy statesman. There was yet one way in which he might escape, a way more terrible to a noble spirit than a prison or a scaffold. He might still, by a well timed and useful treason, earn his pardon from the foes of the government. It was in his power to render to them at this conjuncture services beyond all price: for he had the royal ear; he had great influence over the Jesuitical cabal; and he was blindly trusted by the French Ambassador. A channel of communication was not wanting, a channel worthy of the purpose which it was to serve. The Countess of Sunderland was an artful woman, who, under a show of devotion which imposed on some grave men, carried on, with great activity, both amorous and political intrigues. The handsome and dissolute Henry Sidney had long been her favourite lover. Her husband was well pleased to see her thus connected with the court of the Hague. Whenever he wished to transmit a secret message to Holland, he spoke to his wife: she wrote to Sidney; and Sidney communicated her letter to William. One of her communications was intercepted and carried to James. She vehemently protested that it was a forgery. Her husband, with characteristic ingenuity, defended himself by representing that it was quite impossible for any man to be so base as to do what he was in the habit of doing. "Even if this is Lady Sunderland's hand," he said, "that is no affair of mine. Your Majesty knows my domestic misfortunes. The footing on which my wife and Mr. Sidney are is but too public. Who can believe that I would make a confidant of the man who has injured my honour in the tenderest point, of the man whom, of all others, I ought most to hate?" This defence was thought satisfactory; and secret intelligence was still transmitted from the wittol to the adulteress, from the adulteress to the gallant, and from the gallant to the enemies of James.
It is highly probable that the first decisive assurances of Sunderland's support were conveyed orally by Sidney to William about the middle of August. It is certain that, from that time till the expedition was ready to sail, a most significant correspondence was kept up between the Countess and her lover. A few of her letters, partly written in cipher, are still extant. They contain professions of good will and promises of service mingled with earnest intreaties for protection. The writer intimates that her husband will do all that his friends at the Hague can wish: she supposes that it will be necessary for him to go into temporary exile: but she hopes that his banishment will not be perpetual, and that his patrimonial estate will be spared; and she earnestly begs to be informed in what place it will be best for him to take refuge till the first fury of the storm is over.
The help of Sunderland was most welcome. For, as the time of striking the great blow drew near, the anxiety of William became intense. From common eyes his feelings were concealed by the icy tranquillity of his demeanour: but his whole heart was open to Bentinck. The preparations were not quite complete. The design was already suspected, and could not be long concealed. The King of France or the city of Amsterdam might still frustrate the whole plan. If Lewis were to send a great force into Brabant, if the faction which hated the Stadtholder were to raise its head, all was over. "My sufferings, my disquiet," the Prince wrote, "are dreadful. I hardly see my way. Never in my life did I so much feel the need of God's guidance." Bentinck's wife was at this time dangerously ill; and both the friends were painfully anxious about her. "God support you," William wrote, "and enable you to bear your part in a work on which, as far as human beings can see, the welfare of his Church depends."
It was indeed impossible that a design so vast as that which had been formed against the King of England should remain during many weeks a secret. No art could prevent intelligent men from perceiving that William was making great military and naval preparations, and from suspecting the object with which those preparations were made. Early in August hints that some great event was approaching were whispered up and down London. The weak and corrupt Albeville was then on a visit to England, and was, or affected to be, certain that the Dutch government entertained no design unfriendly to James. But, during the absence of Albeville from his post, Avaux performed, with eminent skill, the duties both of French and English Ambassador to the States, and supplied Barillon as well as Lewis with ample intelligence. Avaux was satisfied that a descent on England was in contemplation, and succeeded in convincing his master of the truth. Every courier who arrived at Westminster, either from the Hague or from Versailles, brought earnest warnings. But James was under a delusion which appears to have been artfully encouraged by Sunderland. The Prince of Orange, said the cunning minister, would never dare to engage in an expedition beyond sea, leaving Holland defenceless. The States, remembering what they had suffered and what they had been in danger of suffering during the great agony of 1672, would never incur the risk of again seeing an invading army encamped on the plain between Utrecht and Amsterdam. There was doubtless much discontent in England: but the interval was immense between discontent and rebellion. Men of rank and fortune were not disposed lightly to hazard their honours, their estates, and their lives. How many eminent Whigs had held high language when Monmouth was in the Netherlands! And yet, when he set up his standard, what eminent Whig had joined it? It was easy to understand why Lewis affected to give credit to these idle rumours. He doubtless hoped to frighten the King of England into taking the French side in the dispute about Cologne. By such reasoning James was easily lulled into stupid security. The alarm and indignation of Lewis increased daily. The style of his letters became sharp and vehement. He could not understand, he wrote, this lethargy on the eve of a terrible crisis. Was the King bewitched? Were his ministers blind? Was it possible that nobody at Whitehall was aware of what was passing in England and on the Continent? Such foolhardy security could scarcely be the effect of mere improvidence. There must be foul play. James was evidently in bad hands. Barillon was earnestly cautioned not to repose implicit confidence in the English ministers: but he was cautioned in vain. On him, as on James, Sunderland had cast a spell which no exhortation could break.
Lewis bestirred himself vigorously. Bonrepaux, who was far superior to Barillon in shrewdness, and who had always disliked and distrusted Sunderland, was despatched to London with an offer of naval assistance. Avaux was at the same time ordered to declare to the States General that France had taken James under her protection. A large body of troops was held in readiness to march towards the Dutch frontier. This bold attempt to save the infatuated tyrant in his own despite was made with the full concurrence of Skelton, who was now Envoy from England to the court of Versailles.
Avaux, in conformity with his instructions, demanded an audience of the States. It was readily granted. The assembly was unusually large. The general belief was that some overture respecting commerce was about to be made; and the President brought a written answer framed on that supposition. As soon as Avaux began to disclose his errand, signs of uneasiness were discernible. Those who were believed to enjoy the confidence of the Prince of Orange cast down their eyes. The agitation became great when the Envoy announced that his master was strictly bound by the ties of friendship and alliance to His Britannic Majesty, and that any attack on England would be considered as a declaration of war against France. The President, completely taken by surprise, stammered out a few evasive phrases; and the conference terminated. It was at the same time notified to the States that Lewis had taken under his protection Cardinal Furstemburg and the Chapter of Cologne.
The Deputies were in great agitation. Some recommended caution and delay. Others breathed nothing but war. Fagel spoke vehemently of the French insolence, and implored his brethren not to be daunted by threats. The proper answer to such a communication, he said, was to levy more soldiers, and to equip more ships. A courier was instantly despatched to recall William from Minden, where he was holding a consultation of high moment with the Elector of Brandenburg.
But there was no cause for alarm. James was bent on ruining himself; and every attempt to stop him only made him rush more eagerly to his doom. When his throne was secure, when his people were submissive, when the most obsequious of Parliaments was eager to anticipate all his reasonable wishes, when foreign kingdoms and commonwealths paid emulous court to him, when it depended only on himself whether he would be the arbiter of Christendom, he had stooped to be the slave and the hireling of France. And now when, by a series of crimes and follies, he had succeeded in alienating his neighbours, his subjects, his soldiers, his sailors, his children, and had left himself no refuge but the protection of France, he was taken with a fit of pride, and determined to assert his independence. That help which, when he did not want it, he had accepted with ignominious tears, he now, when it was indispensable to him, threw contemptuously away. Having been abject when he might, with propriety, have been punctilious in maintaining his dignity, he became ungratefully haughty at a moment when haughtiness must bring on him at once derision and ruin. He resented the friendly intervention which might have saved him. Was ever King so used? Was he a child, or an idiot, that others must think for him? Was he a petty prince, a Cardinal Furstemburg, who must fall if not upheld by a powerful patron? Was he to be degraded in the estimation of all Europe, by an ostentatious patronage which he had never asked? Skelton was recalled to answer for his conduct, and, as soon as he arrived, was committed prisoner to the Tower. Citters was well received at Whitehall, and had a long audience. He could, with more truth than diplomatists on such occasions think at all necessary, disclaim, on the part of the States General, any hostile project. For the States General had, as yet, no official knowledge of the design of William; nor was it by any means impossible that they might, even now, refuse to sanction that design. James declared that he gave not the least credit to the rumours of a Dutch invasion, and that the conduct of the French government had surprised and annoyed him. Middleton was directed to assure all the foreign ministers that there existed no such alliance between France and England as the Court of Versailles had, for its own ends, pretended. To the Nuncio the King said that the designs of Lewis were palpable and should be frustrated. This officious protection was at once an insult and a snare. "My good brother," said James, "has excellent qualities; but flattery and vanity have turned his head." Adda, who was much more anxious about Cologne than about England, encouraged this strange delusion. Albeville, who had now returned to his post, was commanded to give friendly assurances to the States General, and to add some high language, which might have been becoming in the mouth of Elizabeth or Oliver. "My master," he said, "is raised, alike by his power and by his spirit, above the position which France affects to assign to him. There is some difference between a King of England and an Archbishop of Cologne." The reception of Bonrepaux at Whitehall was cold. The naval succours which he offered were not absolutely declined; but he was forced to return without having settled anything; and the Envoys, both of the United Provinces and of the House of Austria, were informed that his mission had been disagreeable to the King and had produced no result. After the Revolution Sunderland boasted, and probably with truth, that he had induced his master to reject the proffered assistance of France.
The perverse folly of James naturally excited the indignation of his powerful neighbour. Lewis complained that, in return for the greatest service which he could render to the English government, that government had given him the lie in the face of all Christendom. He justly remarked that what Avaux had said, touching the alliance between France and Great Britain, was true according to the spirit, though perhaps not according to the letter. There was not indeed a treaty digested into articles, signed, sealed, and ratified: but assurances equivalent in the estimation of honourable men to such a treaty had, during some years, been constantly exchanged between the two Courts. Lewis added that, high as was his own place in Europe, he should never be so absurdly jealous of his dignity as to see an insult in any act prompted by friendship. But James was in a very different situation, and would soon learn the value of that aid which he had so ungraciously rejected.
Yet, notwithstanding the stupidity and ingratitude of James, it would have been wise in Lewis to persist in the resolution which had been notified to the States General. Avaux, whose sagacity and judgment made him an antagonist worthy of William, was decidedly of this opinion. The first object of the French government--so the skilful Envoy reasoned--ought to be to prevent the intended descent on England. The way to prevent that descent was to invade the Spanish Netherlands, and to menace the Batavian frontier. The Prince of Orange, indeed, was so bent on his darling enterprise that he would persist, even if the white flag were flying on the walls of Brussels. He had actually said that, if the Spaniards could only manage to keep Ostend, Mons, and Namur till the next spring, he would then return from England with a force which would soon recover all that had been lost. But, though such was the Prince's opinion, it was not the opinion of the States. They would not readily consent to send their Captain General and the flower of their army across the German Ocean, while a formidable enemy threatened their own territory.
Lewis admitted the force of these reasonings: but he had already resolved on a different line of action. Perhaps he had been provoked by the discourtesy and wrongheadedness of the English government, and indulged his temper at the expense of his interest. Perhaps he was misled by the counsels of his minister of war, Louvois, whose influence was great, and who regarded Avaux with no friendly feeling. It was determined to strike in a quarter remote from Holland a great and unexpected blow. Lewis suddenly withdrew his troops from Flanders, and poured them into Germany. One army, placed under the nominal command of the Dauphin, but really directed by the Duke of Duras and by Vauban, the father of the science of fortification, invested Philipsburg. Another, led by the Marquess of Boufflers, seized Worms, Mentz, and Treves. A third, commanded by the Marquess of Humieres, entered Bonn. All down the Rhine, from Carlsruhe to Cologne, the French arms were victorious. The news of the fall of Philipsburg reached Versailles on All Saints day, while the Court was listening to a sermon in the chapel. The King made a sign to the preacher to stop, announced the good news to the congregation, and, kneeling down, returned thanks to God for this great success. The audience wept for joy. The tidings were eagerly welcomed by the sanguine and susceptible people of France. Poets celebrated the triumphs of their magnificent patron. Orators extolled from the pulpit the wisdom and magnanimity of the eldest son of the Church. The Te Deum was sung with unwonted pomp; and the solemn notes of the organ were mingled with the clash of the cymbal and the blast of the trumpet. But there was little cause for rejoicing. The great statesman who was at the head of the European coalition smiled inwardly at the misdirected energy of his foe. Lewis had indeed, by his promptitude, gained some advantages on the side of Germany: but those advantages would avail little if England, inactive and inglorious under four successive Kings, should suddenly resume her old rank in Europe. A few weeks would suffice for the enterprise on which the fate of the world depended; and for a few weeks the United Provinces were in security.
William now urged on his preparations with indefatigable activity and with less secrecy than he had hitherto thought necessary. Assurances of support came pouring in daily from foreign courts. Opposition had become extinct at the Hague. It was in vain that Avaux, even at this last moment, exerted all his skill to reanimate the faction which had contended against three generations of the House of Orange. The chiefs of that faction, indeed, still regarded the Stadtholder with no friendly feeling. They had reason to fear that, if he prospered in England, he would become absolute master of Holland. Nevertheless the errors of the court of Versailles, and the dexterity with which he had availed himself of those errors, made it impossible to continue the struggle against him. He saw that the time had come for demanding the sanction of the States. Amsterdam was the head quarters of the party hostile to his line, his office, and his person; and even from Amsterdam he had at this moment nothing to apprehend. Some of the chief functionaries of that city had been repeatedly closeted with him, with Dykvelt, and with Bentinck, and had been induced to promise that they would promote, or at least that they would not oppose, the great design: some were exasperated by the commercial edicts of Lewis: some were in deep distress for kinsmen and friends who were harassed by the French dragoons: some shrank from the responsibility of causing a schism which might be fatal to the Batavian federation; and some were afraid of the common people, who, stimulated by the exhortations of zealous preachers, were ready to execute summary justice on any traitor to the Protestant cause. The majority, therefore, of that town council which had long been devoted to France pronounced in favour of William's undertaking. Thenceforth all fear of opposition in any part of the United Provinces was at an end; and the full sanction of the federation to his enterprise was, in secret sittings, formally given.
The Prince had already fixed upon a general well qualified to be second in command. This was indeed no light matter. A random shot or the dagger of an assassin might in a moment leave the expedition without a head. It was necessary that a successor should be ready to fill the vacant place. Yet it was impossible to make choice of any Englishman without giving offence either to the Whigs or to the Tories; nor had any Englishman then living shown that he possessed the military skill necessary for the conduct of a campaign. On the other band it was not easy to assign preeminence to a foreigner without wounding the national sensibility of the haughty islanders. One man there was, and only one in Europe, to whom no objection could be found, Frederic, Count of Schomberg, a German, sprung from a noble house of the Palatinate. He was generally esteemed the greatest living master of the art of war. His rectitude and piety, tried by strong temptations and never found wanting, commanded general respect and confidence. Though a Protestant, he had been, during many years, in the service of Lewis, and had, in spite of the ill offices of the Jesuits, extorted from his employer, by a series of great actions, the staff of a Marshal of France. When persecution began to rage, the brave veteran steadfastly refused to purchase the royal favour by apostasy, resigned, without one murmur, all his honours and commands, quitted his adopted country for ever, and took refuge at the court of Berlin. He had passed his seventieth year; but both his mind and his body were still in full vigour. He had been in England, and was much loved and honoured there. He had indeed a recommendation of which very few foreigners could then boast; for he spoke our language, not only intelligibly, but with grace and purity. He was, with the consent of the Elector of Brandenburg, and with the warm approbation of the chiefs of all English parties, appointed William's lieutenant.
And now the Hague was crowded with British adventurers of all the various parties which the tyranny of James had united in a strange coalition, old royalists who had shed their blood for the throne, old agitators of the army of the Parliament, Tories who had been persecuted in the days of the Exclusion Bill, Whigs who had fled to the Continent for their share in the Rye House Plot.
Conspicuous in this great assemblage were Charles Gerard, Earl of Macclesfield, an ancient Cavalier who had fought for Charles the First and had shared the exile of Charles the Second; Archibald Campbell, who was the eldest son of the unfortunate Argyle, but had inherited nothing except an illustrious name and the inalienable affection of a numerous clan; Charles Paulet, Earl of Wiltshire, heir apparent of the Marquisate of Winchester; and Peregrine Osborne, Lord Dumblame, heir apparent of the Earldom of Danby. Mordaunt, exulting in the prospect of adventures irresistibly attractive to his fiery nature, was among the foremost volunteers. Fletcher of Saltoun had learned, while guarding the frontier of Christendom against the infidels, that there was once more a hope of deliverance for his country, and had hastened to offer the help of his sword. Sir Patrick Hume, who had, since his flight from Scotland, lived humbly at Utrecht, now emerged from his obscurity: but, fortunately, his eloquence could, on this occasion, do little mischief; for the Prince of Orange was by no means disposed to be the lieutenant of a debating society such as that which had ruined the enterprise of Argyle. The subtle and restless Wildman, who had some time before found England an unsafe residence, and had retired to Germany, now repaired from Germany to the Prince's court. There too was Carstairs, a Presbyterian minister from Scotland, who in craft and courage had no superior among the politicians of his age. He had been entrusted some years before by Fagel with important secrets, and had resolutely kept them in spite of the most horrible torments which could be inflicted by boot and thumbscrew. His rare fortitude had earned for him as large a share of the Prince's confidence and esteem as was granted to any man except Bentinck. Ferguson could not remain quiet when a revolution was preparing. He secured for himself a passage in the fleet, and made himself busy among his fellow emigrants: but he found himself generally distrusted and despised. He had been a great man in the knot of ignorant and hotheaded outlaws who had urged the feeble Monmouth to destruction: but there was no place for a lowminded agitator, half maniac and half knave, among the grave statesmen and generals who partook the cares of the resolute and sagacious William.
The difference between the expedition of 1685 and the expedition of 1688 was sufficiently marked by the difference between the manifestoes which the leaders of those expeditions published. For Monmouth Ferguson had scribbled an absurd and brutal libel about the burning of London, the strangling of Godfrey, the butchering of Essex, and the poisoning of Charles. The Declaration of William was drawn up by the Grand Pensionary Fagel, who was highly renowned as a publicist. Though weighty and learned, it was, in its original form, much too prolix: but it was abridged and translated into English by Burnet, who well understood the art of popular composition. It began by a solemn preamble, setting forth that, in every community, the strict observance of law was necessary alike to the happiness of nations and to the security of governments. The Prince of Orange had therefore seen with deep concern that the fundamental laws of a kingdom, with which he was by blood and by marriage closely connected, had, by the advice of evil counsellors, been grossly and systematically violated. The power of dispensing with Acts of Parliament had been strained to such a point that the whole legislative authority had been transferred to the crown. Decisions at variance with the spirit of the constitution had been obtained from the tribunals by turning out Judge after Judge, till the bench had been filled with men ready to obey implicitly the directions of the government. Notwithstanding the King's repeated assurances that he would maintain the established religion, persons notoriously hostile to that religion had been promoted, not only to civil offices, but also to ecclesiastical benefices. The government of the Church had, in defiance of express statutes, been entrusted to a new court of High Commission; and in that court one avowed Papist had a seat. Good subjects, for refusing to violate their duty and their oaths, had been ejected from their property, in contempt of the Great Charter of the liberties of England. Meanwhile persons who could not legally set foot on the island had been placed at the head of seminaries for the corruption of youth. Lieutenants, Deputy Lieutenants, Justices of the Peace, had been dismissed in multitudes for refusing to support a pernicious and unconstitutional policy. The franchises of almost every borough in the realm bad been invaded. The courts of justice were in such a state that their decisions, even in civil matters, had ceased to inspire confidence, and that their servility in criminal cases had brought on the kingdom the stain of innocent blood. All these abuses, loathed by the English nation, were to be defended, it seemed, by an army of Irish Papists. Nor was this all. The most arbitrary princes had never accounted it an offence in a subject modestly and peaceably to represent his grievances and to ask for relief. But supplication was now treated as a high misdemeanour in England. For no crime but that of offering to the Sovereign a petition drawn up in the most respectful terms, the fathers of the Church had been imprisoned and prosecuted; and every Judge who gave his voice in their favour had instantly been turned out. The calling of a free and lawful Parliament might indeed be an effectual remedy for all these evils: but such a Parliament, unless the whole spirit of the administration were changed, the nation could not hope to see. It was evidently the intention of the court to bring together, by means of regulated corporations and of Popish returning officers, a body which would be a House of Commons in name alone. Lastly, there were circumstances which raised a grave suspicion that the child who was called Prince of Wales was not really born of the Queen. For these reasons the Prince, mindful of his near relation to the royal house, and grateful for the affection which the English people had ever shown to his beloved wife and to himself, had resolved, in compliance with the request of many Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and of many other persons of all ranks, to go over at the head of a force sufficient to repel violence. He abjured all thought of conquest. He protested that, while his troops remained in the island, they should be kept under the strictest restraints of discipline, and that, as soon as the nation had been delivered from tyranny, they should be sent back. His single object was to have a free and legal Parliament assembled: and to the decision of such a Parliament he solemnly pledged himself to leave all questions both public and private.
As soon as copies of this Declaration were banded about the Hague, signs of dissension began to appear among the English. Wildman, indefatigable in mischief, prevailed on some of his countrymen, and, among others, on the headstrong and volatile Mordaunt, to declare that they would not take up arms on such grounds. The paper had been drawn up merely to please the Cavaliers and the parsons. The injuries of the Church and the trial of the Bishops had been put too prominently forward; and nothing had been said of the tyrannical manner in which the Tories, before their rupture with the court, had treated the Whigs. Wildman then brought forward a counterproject, prepared by himself, which, if it had been adopted, would have disgusted all the Anglican clergy and four fifths of the landed aristocracy. The leading Whigs strongly opposed him: Russell in particular declared that, if such an insane course were taken, there would be an end of the coalition from which alone the nation could expect deliverance. The dispute was at length settled by the authority of William, who, with his usual good sense, determined that the manifesto should stand nearly as Fagel and Burnet had framed it.
While these things were passing in Holland, James had at length become sensible of his danger. Intelligence which could not be disregarded came pouring in from various quarters. At length a despatch from Albeville removed all doubts. It is said that, when the King had read it, the blood left his cheeks, and he remained some time speechless. He might, indeed, well be appalled. The first easterly wind would bring a hostile armament to the shores of his realm. All Europe, one single power alone excepted, was impatiently waiting for the news of his downfall. The help of that single power he had madly rejected. Nay, he had requited with insult the friendly intervention which might have saved him. The French armies which, but for his own folly, might have been employed in overawing the States General, were besieging Philipsburg or garrisoning Mentz. In a few days he might have to fight, on English ground, for his crown and for the birthright of his infant son. His means were indeed in appearance great. The navy was in a much more efficient state than at the time of his accession: and the improvement is partly to be attributed to his own exertions. He had appointed no Lord High Admiral or Board of Admiralty, but had kept the chief direction of maritime affairs in his own hands, and had been strenuously assisted by Pepys. It is a proverb that the eye of a master is more to be trusted than that of a deputy: and, in an age of corruption and peculation, a department on which a sovereign, even of very slender capacity, bestows close personal attention is likely to be comparatively free from abuses. It would have been easy to find an abler minister of marine than James; but it would not have been easy to find, among the public men of that age, any minister of marine, except James, who would not have embezzled stores, taken bribes from contractors, and charged the crown with the cost of repairs which had never been made. The King was, in truth, almost the only person who could be trusted not to rob the King. There had therefore been, during the last three years, much less waste and pilfering in the dockyards than formerly. Ships had been built which were fit to go to sea. An excellent order had been issued increasing the allowances of Captains, and at the same time strictly forbidding them to carry merchandise from port to port without the royal permission. The effect of these reforms was already perceptible; and James found no difficulty in fitting out, at short notice, a considerable fleet. Thirty ships of the line, all third rates and fourth rates, were collected in the Thames, under the command of Lord Dartmouth. The loyalty of Dartmouth was above suspicion; and he was thought to have as much professional skill and knowledge as any of the patrician sailors who, in that age, rose to the highest naval commands without a regular naval training, and who were at once flag officers on the sea and colonels of infantry on shore.
The regular army was the largest that any King of England had ever commanded, and was rapidly augmented. New companies were incorporated with the existing regiments. Commissions for the raising of fresh regiments were issued. Four thousand men were added to the English establishment. Three thousand were sent for with all speed from Ireland. As many more were ordered to march southward from Scotland. James estimated the force with which he should be able to meet the invaders at near forty thousand troops, exclusive of the militia.
The navy and army were therefore far more than sufficient to repel a Dutch invasion. But could the navy, could the army, be trusted? Would not the trainbands flock by thousands to the standard of the deliverer? The party which had, a few years before, drawn the sword for Monmouth would undoubtedly be eager to welcome the Prince of Orange. And what had become of the party which had, during seven and forty years, been the bulwark of monarchy? Where were now those gallant gentlemen who had ever been ready to shed their blood for the crown? Outraged and insulted, driven from the bench of justice and deprived of all military command, they saw the peril of their ungrateful Sovereign with undisguised delight. Where were those priests and prelates who had, from ten thousand pulpits, proclaimed the duty of obeying the anointed delegate of God? Some of them had been imprisoned: some had been plundered: all had been placed under the iron rule of the High Commission, and had been in hourly fear lest some new freak of tyranny should deprive them of their freeholds and leave them without a morsel of bread. That Churchmen would even now so completely forget the doctrine which had been their peculiar boast as to join in active resistance seemed incredible. But could their oppressor expect to find among them the spirit which in the preceding generation had triumphed over the armies of Essex and Waller, and had yielded only after a desperate struggle to the genius and vigour of Cromwell? The tyrant was overcome by fear. He ceased to repeat that concession had always ruined princes, and sullenly owned that he must stoop to court the Tories once more. There is reason to believe that Halifax was, at this time, invited to return to office, and that he was not unwilling to do so. The part of mediator between the throne and the nation was, of all parts, that for which he was best qualified, and of which he was most ambitious. How the negotiation with him was broken off is not known: but it is not improbable that the question of the dispensing power was the insurmountable difficulty. His hostility to that power had caused his disgrace three years before; and nothing that had since happened had been of a nature to change his views. James, on the other hand, was fully determined to make no concession on that point. As to other matters he was less pertinacious. He put forth a proclamation in which he solemnly promised to protect the Church of England and to maintain the Act of Uniformity. He declared himself willing to make great sacrifices for the sake of concord. He would no longer insist that Roman Catholics should be admitted into the House of Commons; and he trusted that his people would justly appreciate such a proof of his disposition to meet their wishes. Three days later he notified his intention to replace all the magistrates and Deputy Lieutenants who had been dismissed for refusing to support his policy. On the day after the appearance of this notification Compton's suspension was taken off.
At the same time the King gave an audience to all the Bishops who were then in London. They had requested admittance to his presence for the purpose of tendering their counsel in this emergency. The Primate was spokesman. He respectfully asked that the administration might be put into the hands of persons duly qualified, that all acts done under pretence of the dispensing power might be revoked, that the Ecclesiastical Commission might be annulled, that the wrongs of Magdalene College might be redressed, and that the old franchises of the municipal corporations might be restored. He hinted very intelligibly that there was one most desirable event which would completely secure the throne and quiet the distracted realm. If His Majesty would reconsider the points in dispute between the Churches of Rome and England, perhaps, by the divine blessing on the arguments which the Bishops wished to lay before him, he might be convinced that it was his duty to return to the religion of his father and of his grandfather. Thus far, Sancroft said, he had spoken the sense of his brethren. There remained a subject on which he had not taken counsel with them, but to which he thought it his duty to advert. He was indeed the only man of his profession who could advert to that subject without being suspected of an interested motive. The metropolitan see of York had been three years vacant. The Archbishop implored the King to fill it speedily with a pious and learned divine, and added that such a divine might without difficulty be found among those who then stood in the royal presence. The King commanded himself sufficiently to return thanks for this unpalatable counsel, and promised to consider what bad been said. Of the dispensing power he would not yield one tittle. No unqualified person was removed from any civil or military office. But some of Sancroft's suggestions were adopted. Within forty-eight hours the Court of High Commission was abolished. It was determined that the charter of the City of London, which had been forfeited six years before, should be restored; and the Chancellor was sent in state to carry back the venerable parchment to Guildhall. A week later the public was informed that the Bishop of Winchester, who was by virtue of his office Visitor of Magdalene College, had it in charge from the King to correct whatever was amiss in that society. It was not without a long struggle and a bitter pang that James stooped to this last humiliation. Indeed he did not yield till the Vicar Apostolic Leyburn, who seems to have behaved on all occasions like a wise and honest man, declared that in his judgment the ejected President and Fellows had been wronged, and that, on religious as well as on political grounds, restitution ought to be made to them. In a few days appeared a proclamation restoring the forfeited franchises of all the municipal corporations.
James flattered himself that concessions so great, made in the short space of a month, would bring back to him the hearts of his people. Nor can it be doubted that such concessions, made before there was reason to expect an invasion from Holland, would have done much to conciliate the Tories. But gratitude is not to be expected by rulers who give to fear what they have refused to justice. During three years the King had been proof to all argument and to all entreaty. Every minister who had dared to raise his voice in favour of the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the realm had been disgraced. A Parliament eminently loyal had ventured to protest gently and respectfully against a violation of the fundamental laws of England, and had been sternly reprimanded, prorogued, and dissolved. Judge after Judge had been stripped of the ermine for declining to give decisions opposed to the whole common and statute law. The most respectable Cavaliers had been excluded from all share in the government of their counties for refusing to betray the public liberties. Scores of clergymen had been deprived of their livelihood for observing their oaths. Prelates, to whose steadfast fidelity the King owed the crown which he wore, had on their knees besought him not to command them to violate the laws of God and of the land. Their modest petition had been treated as a seditious libel. They had been browbeaten, threatened, imprisoned, prosecuted, and had narrowly escaped utter ruin. Then at length the nation, finding that right was borne down by might, and that even supplication was regarded as a crime, began to think of trying the chances of war. The oppressor learned that an armed deliverer was at hand and would be eagerly welcomed by Whigs and Tories, Dissenters and Churchmen. All was immediately changed. That government which had requited constant and zealous service with spoliation and persecution, that government which to weighty reasons and pathetic intreaties had replied only by injuries and insults, became in a moment strangely gracious. Every Gazette now announced the removal of some grievance. It was then evident that on the equity, the humanity, the plighted word of the King, no reliance could be placed, and that he would govern well only so long as he was under the strong dread of resistance. His subjects were therefore by no means disposed to restore to him a confidence which he had justly forfeited, or to relax the pressure which had wrung from him the only good acts of his whole reign. The general impatience for the arrival of the Dutch became every day stronger. The gales which at this time blew obstinately from the west, and which at once prevented the Prince's armament from sailing and brought fresh Irish regiments from Dublin to Chester, were bitterly cursed and reviled by the common people. The weather, it was said, was Popish. Crowds stood in Cheapside gazing intently at the weathercock on the graceful steeple of Bow Church, and praying for a Protestant wind.
The general feeling was strengthened by an event which, though merely accidental, was not unnaturally ascribed to the perfidy of the King. The Bishop of Winchester announced that, in obedience to the royal commands, he designed to restore the ejected members of Magdalene College. He fixed the twenty-first of October for this ceremony, and on the twentieth went down to Oxford. The whole University was in expectation. The expelled Fellows had arrived from all parts of the kingdom, eager to take possession of their beloved home. Three hundred gentlemen on horseback escorted the Visitor to his lodgings. As he passed, the bells rang, and the High Street was crowded with shouting spectators. He retired to rest. The next morning a joyous crowd assembled at the gates of Magdalene: but the Bishop did not make his appearance; and soon it was known that be had been roused from his bed by a royal messenger, and had been directed to repair immediately to Whitehall. This strange disappointment caused much wonder and anxiety: but in a few hours came news which, to minds disposed, not without reason, to think the worst, seemed completely to explain the King's change of purpose. The Dutch armament had put out to sea, and had been driven back by a storm. The disaster was exaggerated by rumour. Many ships, it was said, had been lost. Thousands of horses had perished. All thought of a design on England must be relinquished, at least for the present year. Here was a lesson for the nation. While James expected immediate invasion and rebellion, he had given orders that reparation should be made to those whom he had unlawfully despoiled. As soon as he found himself safe, those orders had been revoked. This imputation, though at that time generally believed, and though, since that time, repeated by writers who ought to have been well informed, was without foundation. It is certain that the mishap of the Dutch fleet could not, by any mode of communication, have been known at Westminster till some hours after the Bishop of Winchester had received the summons which called him away from Oxford. The King, however, had little right to complain of the suspicions of his people. If they sometimes, without severely examining evidence, ascribed to his dishonest policy what was really the effect of accident or inadvertence, the fault was his own. That men who are in the habit of breaking faith should be distrusted when they mean to keep it is part of their just and natural punishment.
It is remarkable that James, on this occasion, incurred one unmerited imputation solely in consequence of his eagerness to clear himself from another imputation equally unmerited. The Bishop of Winchester had been hastily summoned from Oxford to attend an extraordinary meeting of the Privy Council, or rather an assembly of Notables, which had been convoked at Whitehall. With the Privy Councillors were joined, in this solemn sitting, all the Peers Spiritual and Temporal who chanced to be in or near the capital, the Judges, the crown lawyers, the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen of the City of London. A hint had been given to Petre that he would do well to absent himself. In truth few of the Peers would have chosen to sit with him. Near the head of the board a chair of state was placed for the Queen Dowager. The Princess Anne had been requested to attend, but had excused herself on the plea of delicate health.
James informed this great assembly that he thought it necessary to produce proofs of the birth of his son. The arts of bad men had poisoned the public mind to such an extent that very many believed the Prince of Wales to be a supposititious child. But Providence had graciously ordered things so that scarcely any prince had ever come into the world in the presence of so many witnesses. Those witnesses then appeared and gave their evidence. After all the depositions had been taken, James with great solemnity declared that the imputation thrown on him was utterly false, and that he would rather die a thousand deaths than wrong any of his children.
All who were present appeared to be satisfied. The evidence was instantly published, and was allowed by judicious and impartial persons to be decisive. But the judicious are always a minority; and scarcely anybody was then impartial. The whole nation was convinced that all sincere Papists thought it a duty to perjure themselves whenever they could, by perjury, serve the interests of their Church. Men who, having been bred Protestants, had for the sake of lucre pretended to be converted to Popery, were, if possible, less trustworthy than sincere Papists. The depositions of all who belonged to these two classes were therefore regarded as mere nullities. Thus the weight of the testimony on which James had relied was greatly reduced. What remained was malignantly scrutinised. To every one of the few Protestant witnesses who had said anything material some exception was taken. One was notoriously a greedy sycophant. Another had not indeed yet apostatized, but was nearly related to an apostate. The people asked, as they had asked from the first, why, if all was right, the King, knowing, as he knew, that many doubted the reality of his wife's pregnancy, had not taken care that the birth should be more satisfactorily proved. Was there nothing suspicious in the false reckoning, in the sudden change of abode, in the absence of the Princess Anne and of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Why was no prelate of the Established Church in attendance? Why was not the Dutch Ambassador summoned? Why, above all, were not the Hydes, loyal servants of the crown, faithful sons of the Church, and natural guardians of the interest of their nieces, suffered to mingle with the crowd of Papists which was assembled in and near the royal bedchamber? Why, in short, was there, in the long list of assistants, not a single name which commanded public confidence and respect? The true answer to these questions was that the King's understanding was weak, that his temper was despotic, and that he had willingly seized an opportunity of manifesting his contempt for the opinion of his subjects. But the multitude, not contented with this explanation, attributed to deep laid villany what was really the effect of folly and perverseness. Nor was this opinion confined to the multitude. The Lady Anne, at her toilette, on the morning after the Council, spoke of the investigation with such scorn as emboldened the very tirewomen who were dressing her to put in their jests. Some of the Lords who had heard the examination, and had appeared to be satisfied, were really unconvinced. Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, whose piety and learning commanded general respect, continued to the end of his life to believe that a fraud had been practised.
The depositions taken before the Council had not been many hours in the hands of the public when it was noised abroad that Sunderland had been dismissed from all his places. The news of his disgrace seems to have taken the politicians of the coffeehouses by surprise, but did not astonish those who had observed what was passing in the palace. Treason had not been brought home to him by legal, or even by tangible, evidence: but there was a strong suspicion among those who watched him closely that, through some channel or other, he was in communication with the enemies of that government in which he occupied so high a place. He, with unabashed forehead, imprecated on his own head all evil here and hereafter if he was guilty. His only fault, he protested, was that he had served the crown too well. Had he not given hostages to the royal cause? Had he not broken down every bridge by which he could, in case of a disaster, effect his retreat? Had he not gone all lengths in favour of the dispensing power, sate in the High Commission, signed the warrant for the commitment of the Bishops, appeared as a witness against them, at the hazard of his life, amidst the hisses and curses of the thousands who filled Westminster Hall? Had he not given the last proof of fidelity by renouncing his religion, and publicly joining a Church which the nation detested? What had he to hope from a change? What had he not to dread? These arguments, though plausible, and though set off by the most insinuating address, could not remove the impression which whispers and reports arriving at once from a hundred different quarters had produced. The King became daily colder and colder. Sunderland attempted to support himself by the Queen's help, obtained an audience of Her Majesty, and was actually in her apartment when Middleton entered, and, by the King's orders, demanded the seals. That evening the fallen minister was for the last time closeted with the Prince whom he had flattered and betrayed. The interview was a strange one. Sunderland acted calumniated virtue to perfection. He regretted not, he said, the Secretaryship of State or the Presidency of the Council, if only he retained his sovereign's esteem. "Do not, sir, do not make me the most unhappy gentleman in your dominions, by refusing to declare that you acquit me of disloyalty." The King hardly knew what to believe. There was no positive proof of guilt; and the energy and pathos with which Sunderland lied might have imposed on a keener understanding than that with which he had to deal. At the French embassy his professions still found credit. There he declared that he should remain a few days in London, and show himself at court. He would then retire to his country seat at Althorpe, and try to repair his dilapidated fortunes by economy. If a revolution should take place he must fly to France. His ill requited loyalty had left him no other place of refuge.
The seals which had been taken from Sunderland were delivered to Preston. The same Gazette which announced this change contained the official intelligence of the disaster which had befallen the Dutch fleet. That disaster was serious, though far less serious than the King and his few adherents, misled by their wishes, were disposed to believe.
On the sixteenth of October, according to the English reckoning, was held a solemn sitting of the States of Holland. The Prince came to bid them farewell. He thanked them for the kindness with which they had watched over him when he was left an orphan child, for the confidence which they had reposed in him during his administration, and for the assistance which they had granted to him at this momentous crisis. He entreated them to believe that he had always meant and endeavoured to promote the interest of his country. He was now quitting them, perhaps never to return. If he should fall in defence of the reformed religion and of the independence of Europe, he commended his beloved wife to their care. The Grand Pensionary answered in a faltering voice; and in all that grave senate there was none who could refrain from shedding tears. But the iron stoicism of William never gave way; and he stood among his weeping friends calm and austere as if he had been about to leave them only for a short visit to his hunting grounds at Loo.
The deputies of the principal towns accompanied him to his yacht. Even the representatives of Amsterdam, so long the chief seat of opposition to his administration, joined in paying him this compliment. Public prayers were offered for him on that day in all the churches of the Hague.
In the evening he arrived at Helvoetsluys and went on board of a frigate called the Brill. His flag was immediately hoisted. It displayed the arms of Nassau quartered with those of England. The motto, embroidered in letters three feet long, was happily chosen. The House of Orange had long used the elliptical device, "I will maintain." The ellipsis was now filled up with words of high import, "The liberties of England and the Protestant religion."
The Prince had not been many hours on board when the wind became fair. On the nineteenth the armament put to sea, and traversed, before a strong breeze, about half the distance between the Dutch and English coasts. Then the wind changed, blew hard from the west, and swelled into a violent tempest. The ships, scattered and in great distress, regained the shore of Holland as they best might. The Brill reached Helvoetsluys on the twenty-first. The Prince's fellow passengers had observed with admiration that neither peril nor mortification had for one moment disturbed his composure. He now, though suffering from sea sickness, refused to go on shore: for he conceived that, by remaining on board, he should in the most effectual manner notify to Europe that the late misfortune had only delayed for a very short time the execution of his purpose. In two or three days the fleet reassembled. One vessel only had been cast away. Not a single soldier or sailor was missing. Some horses had perished: but this loss the Prince with great expedition repaired; and, before the London Gazette had spread the news of his mishap, he was again ready to sail.
His Declaration preceded him only by a few hours. On the first of November it began to be mentioned in mysterious whispers by the politicians of London, was passed secretly from man to man, and was slipped into the boxes of the post office. One of the agents was arrested, and the packets of which he was in charge were carried to Whitehall. The King read, and was greatly troubled. His first impulse was to bide the paper from all human eyes. He threw into the fire every copy which had been brought to him, except one; and that one he would scarcely trust out of his own hands.
The paragraph in the manifesto which disturbed him most was that in which it was said that some of the Peers, Spiritual and Temporal, had invited the Prince of Orange to invade England. Halifax, Clarendon, and Nottingham were then in London. They were immediately summoned to the palace and interrogated. Halifax, though conscious of innocence, refused at first to make any answer. "Your Majesty asks me," said he, "whether I have committed high treason. If I am suspected, let me be brought before my peers. And how can your Majesty place any dependence on the answer of a culprit whose life is at stake? Even if I had invited His Highness over, I should without scruple plead Not Guilty." The King declared that he did not at all consider Halifax as a culprit, and that he had asked the question as one gentleman asks another who has been calumniated whether there be the least foundation for the calumny. "In that case," said Halifax, "I have no objection to aver, as a gentleman speaking to a gentleman, on my honour, which is as sacred as my oath, that I have not invited the Prince of Orange over." Clarendon and Nottingham said the same. The King was still more anxious to ascertain the temper of the Prelates. If they were hostile to him, his throne was indeed in danger. But it could not be. There was something monstrous in the supposition that any Bishop of the Church of England could rebel against his Sovereign. Compton was called into the royal closet, and was asked whether he believed that there was the slightest ground for the Prince's assertion. The Bishop was in a strait; for he was himself one of the seven who had signed the invitation; and his conscience, not a very enlightened conscience, would not suffer him, it seems, to utter a direct falsehood. "Sir," he said, "I am quite confident that there is not one of my brethren who is not as guiltless as myself in this matter." The equivocation was ingenious: but whether the difference between the sin of such an equivocation and the sin of a lie be worth any expense of ingenuity may perhaps be doubted. The King was satisfied. "I fully acquit you all," he said. "But I think it necessary that you should publicly contradict the slanderous charge brought against you in the Prince's declaration." The Bishop very naturally begged that he might be allowed to read the paper which he was required to contradict; but the King would not suffer him to look at it.
On the following day appeared a proclamation threatening with the severest punishment all who should circulate, or who should even dare to read, William's manifesto. The Primate and the few Spiritual Peers who happened to be then in London had orders to wait upon the King. Preston was in attendance with the Prince's Declaration in his hand. "My Lords," said James, "listen to this passage. It concerns you." Preston then read the sentence in which the Spiritual Peers were mentioned. The King proceeded: "I do not believe one word of this: I am satisfied of your innocence; but I think it fit to let you know of what you are accused."
The Primate, with many dutiful expressions, protested that the King did him no more than justice. "I was born in your Majesty's allegiance. I have repeatedly confirmed that allegiance by my oath. I can have but one King at one time. I have not invited the Prince over; and I do not believe that a single one of my brethren has done so." "I am sure I have not," said Crewe of Durham. "Nor I," said Cartwright of Chester. Crewe and Cartwright might well be believed; for both had sate in the Ecclesiastical Commission. When Compton's turn came, he parried the question with an adroitness which a Jesuit might have envied. "I gave your Majesty my answer yesterday."
James repeated again and again that he fully acquitted them all. Nevertheless it would, in his judgment, be for his service and for their own honour that they should publicly vindicate themselves. He therefore required them to draw up a paper setting forth their abhorrence of the Prince's design. They remained silent: their silence was supposed to imply consent; and they were suffered to withdraw.
Meanwhile the fleet of William was on the German Ocean. It was on the evening of Thursday the first of November that he put to sea the second time. The wind blew fresh from the east. The armament, during twelve hours, held a course towards the north west. The light vessels sent out by the English Admiral for the purpose of obtaining intelligence brought back news which confirmed the prevailing opinion that the enemy would try to land in Yorkshire. All at once, on a signal from the Prince's ship, the whole fleet tacked, and made sail for the British Channel. The same breeze which favoured the voyage of the invaders prevented Dartmouth from coming out of the Thames. His ships were forced to strike yards and topmasts; and two of his frigates, which had gained the open sea, were shattered by the violence of the weather and driven back into the river.
The Dutch fleet ran fast before the gale, and reached the Straits at about ten in the morning of Saturday the third of November. William himself, in the Brill, led the way. More than six hundred vessels, with canvass spread to a favourable wind, followed in his train. The transports were in the centre. The men of war, more than fifty in number, formed an outer rampart. Herbert, with the title of Lieutenant Admiral General, commanded the whole fleet. His post was in the rear, and many English sailors, inflamed against Popery, and attracted by high pay, served under him. It was not without great difficulty that the Prince had prevailed on some Dutch officers of high reputation to submit to the authority of a stranger. But the arrangement was eminently judicious. There was, in the King's fleet, much discontent and an ardent zeal for the Protestant faith. But within the memory of old mariners the Dutch and English navies had thrice, with heroic spirit and various fortune, contended for the empire of the sea. Our sailors had not forgotten the broom with which Tromp had threatened to sweep the Channel, or the fire which De Ruyter had lighted in the dockyards of the Medway. Had the rival nations been once more brought face to face on the element of which both claimed the sovereignty, all other thoughts might have given place to mutual animosity. A bloody and obstinate battle might have been fought. Defeat would have been fatal to William's enterprise. Even victory would have deranged all his deeply meditated schemes of policy. He therefore wisely determined that the pursuers, if they overtook him, should be hailed in their own mother tongue, and adjured, by an admiral under whom they had served, and whom they esteemed, not to fight against old messmates for Popish tyranny. Such an appeal might possibly avert a conflict. If a conflict took place, one English commander would be opposed to another; nor would the pride of the islanders be wounded by learning that Dartmouth had been compelled to strike to Herbert.
Happily William's precautions were not necessary. Soon after midday he passed the Straits. His fleet spread to within a league of Dover on the north and of Calais on the south. The men of war on the extreme right and left saluted both fortresses at once. The troops appeared under arms on the decks. The flourish of trumpets, the clash of cymbals, and the rolling of drums were distinctly heard at once on the English and French shores. An innumerable company of gazers blackened the white beach of Kent. Another mighty multitude covered the coast of Picardy. Rapin de Thoyras, who, driven by persecution from his country, had taken service in the Dutch army and accompanied the Prince to England, described the spectacle, many years later, as the most magnificent and affecting that was ever seen by human eyes. At sunset the armament was off Beachy Head. Then the lights were kindled. The sea was in a blaze for many miles. But the eyes of all the steersmen were fixed throughout the night on three huge lanterns which flamed on the stern of the Brill.
Meanwhile a courier bad been riding post from Dover Castle to Whitehall with news that the Dutch had passed the Straits and were steering westward. It was necessary to make an immediate change in all the military arrangements. Messengers were despatched in every direction. Officers were roused from their beds at dead of night. At three on the Sunday morning there was a great muster by torchlight in Hyde Park. The King had sent several regiments northward in the expectation that William would land in Yorkshire. Expresses were despatched to recall them. All the forces except those which were necessary to keep the peace of the capital were ordered to move to the west. Salisbury was appointed as the place of rendezvous: but, as it was thought possible that Portsmouth might be the first point of attack, three battalions of guards and a strong body of cavalry set out for that fortress. In a few hours it was known that Portsmouth was safe; and these troops received orders to change their route and to hasten to Salisbury.
When Sunday the fourth of November dawned, the cliffs of the Isle of Wight were full in view of the Dutch armament. That day was the anniversary both of William's birth and of his marriage. Sail was slackened during part of the morning; and divine service was performed on board of the ships. In the afternoon and through the night the fleet held on its course. Torbay was the place where the Prince intended to land. But the morning of Monday the fifth of November was hazy. The pilot of the Brill could not discern the sea marks, and carried the fleet too far to the west. The danger was great. To return in the face of the wind was impossible. Plymouth was the next port. But at Plymouth a garrison had been posted under the command of Lord Bath. The landing might be opposed; and a check might produce serious consequences. There could be little doubt, moreover, that by this time the royal fleet had got out of the Thames and was hastening full sail down the Channel. Russell saw the whole extent of the peril, and exclaimed to Burnet, "You may go to prayers, Doctor. All is over." At that moment the wind changed: a soft breeze sprang up from the south: the mist dispersed; the sun shone forth and, under the mild light of an autumnal noon, the fleet turned back, passed round the lofty cape of Berry Head, and rode safe in the harbour of Torbay.
Since William looked on that harbour its aspect has greatly changed. The amphitheatre which surrounds the spacious basin now exhibits everywhere the signs of prosperity and civilisation. At the northeastern extremity has sprung up a great watering place, to which strangers are attracted from the most remote parts of our island by the Italian softness of the air; for in that climate the myrtle flourishes unsheltered; and even the winter is milder than the Northumbrian April. The inhabitants are about ten thousand in number. The newly built churches and chapels, the baths and libraries, the hotels and public gardens, the infirmary and the museum, the white streets, rising terrace above terrace, the gay villas peeping from the midst of shrubberies and flower beds, present a spectacle widely different from any that in the seventeenth century England could show. At the opposite end of the bay lies, sheltered by Berry head, the stirring market town of Brixham, the wealthiest seat of our fishing trade. A pier and a haven were formed there at the beginning of the present century, but have been found insufficient for the increasing traffic. The population is about six thousand souls. The shipping amounts to more than two hundred sail. The tonnage exceeds many times the tonnage of the port of Liverpool under the Kings of the House of Stuart. But Torbay, when the Dutch fleet cast anchor there, was known only as a haven where ships sometimes took refuge from the tempests of the Atlantic. Its quiet shores were undisturbed by the bustle either of commerce or of pleasure and the huts of ploughmen and fishermen were thinly scattered over what is now the site of crowded marts and of luxurious pavilions.
The peasantry of the coast of Devonshire remembered the name of Monmouth with affection, and held Popery in detestation. They therefore crowded down to the seaside with provisions and offers of service. The disembarkation instantly commenced. Sixty boats conveyed the troops to the coast. Mackay was sent on shore first with the British regiments. The Prince soon followed. He landed where the quay of Brixham now stands. The whole aspect of the place has been altered. Where we now see a port crowded with shipping, and a market place swarming with buyers and sellers, the waves then broke on a desolate beach: but a fragment of the rock on which the deliverer stepped from his boat has been carefully preserved, and is set up as an object of public veneration in the centre of that busy wharf.
As soon as the Prince had planted his foot on dry ground he called for horses. Two beasts, such as the small yeomen of that time were in the habit of riding, were procured from the neighbouring village. William and Schomberg mounted and proceeded to examine the country.
As soon as Burnet was on shore he hastened to the Prince. An amusing dialogue took place between them. Burnet poured forth his congratulations with genuine delight, and then eagerly asked what were His Highness's plans. Military men are seldom disposed to take counsel with gownsmen on military matters; and William regarded the interference of unprofessional advisers, in questions relating to war, with even more than the disgust ordinarily felt by soldiers on such occasions. But he was at that moment in an excellent humour, and, instead of signifying his displeasure by a short and cutting reprimand, graciously extended his hand, and answered his chaplain's question by another question: "Well, Doctor, what do you think of predestination now?" The reproof was so delicate that Burnet, whose perceptions were not very fine, did not perceive it. He answered with great fervour that he should never forget the signal manner in which Providence had favoured their undertaking.
During the first day the troops who had gone on shore had many discomforts to endure. The earth was soaked with rain. The baggage was still on board of the ships. Officers of high rank were compelled to sleep in wet clothes on the wet ground: the Prince himself had no better quarters than a hut afforded. His banner was displayed on the thatched roof; and some bedding brought from his ship was spread for him on the floor. There was some difficulty about landing the horses; and it seemed probable that this operation would occupy several days. But on the following morning the prospect cleared. The wind was gentle. The water in the bay was as even as glass. Some fishermen pointed out a place where the ships could be brought within sixty feet of the beach. This was done; and in three hours many hundreds of horses swam safely to shore.
The disembarkation had hardly been effected when the wind rose again, and swelled into a fierce gale from the west. The enemy coming in pursuit down the Channel had been stopped by the same change of weather which enabled William to land. During two days the King's fleet lay on an unruffled sea in sight of Beachy Head. At length Dartmouth was able to proceed. He passed the Isle of Wight, and one of his ships came in sight of the Dutch topmasts in Torbay. Just at this moment he was encountered by the tempest, and compelled to take shelter in the harbour of Portsmouth. At that time James, who was not incompetent to form a judgment on a question of seamanship, declared himself perfectly satisfied that his Admiral had done all that man could do, and had yielded only to the irresistible hostility of the winds and waves. At a later period the unfortunate prince began, with little reason, to suspect Dartmouth of treachery, or at least of slackness.
The weather had indeed served the Protestant cause so well that some men of more piety than judgment fully believed the ordinary laws of nature to have been suspended for the preservation of the liberty and religion of England. Exactly a hundred years before, they said, the Armada, invincible by man, had been scattered by the wrath of God. Civil freedom and divine truth were again in jeopardy; and again the obedient elements had fought for the good cause. The wind had blown strong from the east while the Prince wished to sail down the Channel, had turned to the south when he wished to enter Torbay, had sunk to a calm during the disembarkation, and, as soon as the disembarkation was completed, had risen to a storm, and had met the pursuers in the face. Nor did men omit to remark that, by an extraordinary coincidence, the Prince had reached our shores on a day on which the Church of England commemorated, by prayer and thanksgiving, the wonderful escape of the royal House and of the three Estates from the blackest plot ever devised by Papists. Carstairs, whose suggestions were sure to meet with attention from the Prince, recommended that, as soon as the landing had been effected, public thanks should be offered to God for the protection so conspicuously accorded to the great enterprise. This advice was taken, and with excellent effect. The troops, taught to regard themselves as favourites of heaven, were inspired with new courage; and the English people formed the most favourable opinion of a general and an army so attentive to the duties of religion.
On Tuesday, the sixth of November, William's army began to march up the country. Some regiments advanced as far as Newton Abbot. A stone, set up in the midst of that little town, still marks the spot where the Prince's Declaration was solemnly read to the people. The movements of the troops were slow: for the rain fell in torrents; and the roads of England were then in a state which seemed frightful to persons accustomed to the excellent communications of Holland. William took up his quarters, during two days, at Ford, a seat of the ancient and illustrious family of Courtenay, in the neighbourhood of Newton Abbot. He was magnificently lodged and feasted there; but it is remarkable that the owner of the house, though a strong Whig, did not choose to be the first to put life and fortune in peril, and cautiously abstained from doing anything which, if the King should prevail, could be treated as a crime.
Exeter, in the meantime, was greatly agitated. Lamplugh, the bishop, as soon as he heard that the Dutch were at Torbay, set off in terror for London. The Dean fled from the deanery. The magistrates were for the King, the body of the inhabitants for the Prince. Every thing was in confusion when, on the morning of Thursday, the eighth of November, a body of troops, under the command of Mordaunt, appeared before the city. With Mordaunt came Burnet, to whom William had entrusted the duty of protecting the clergy of the Cathedral from injury and insult. The Mayor and Aldermen had ordered the gates to be closed, but yielded on the first summons. The deanery was prepared for the reception of the Prince. On the following day, Friday the ninth, he arrived. The magistrates had been pressed to receive him in state at the entrance of the city, but had steadfastly refused. The pomp of that day, however, could well spare them. Such a sight had never been seen in Devonshire. Many went forth half a day's journey to meet the champion of their religion. All the neighbouring villages poured forth their inhabitants. A great crowd, consisting chiefly of young peasants, brandishing their cudgels, had assembled on the top of Haldon Hill, whence the army, marching from Chudleigh, first descried the rich valley of the Exe, and the two massive towers rising from the cloud of smoke which overhung the capital of the West. The road, all down the long descent, and through the plain to the banks of the river, was lined, mile after mile, with spectators. From the West Gate to the Cathedral Close, the pressing and shouting on each side was such as reminded Londoners of the crowds on the Lord Mayor's day. The houses were gaily decorated. Doors, windows, balconies, and roofs were thronged with gazers. An eye accustomed to the pomp of war would have found much to criticize in the spectacle. For several toilsome marches in the rain, through roads where one who travelled on foot sank at every step up to the ancles in clay, had not improved the appearance either of the men or of their accoutrements. But the people of Devonshire, altogether unused to the splendour of well ordered camps, were overwhelmed with delight and awe. Descriptions of the martial pageant were circulated all over the kingdom. They contained much that was well fitted to gratify the vulgar appetite for the marvellous. For the Dutch army, composed of men who had been born in various climates, and had served under various standards, presented an aspect at once grotesque, gorgeous, and terrible to islanders who had, in general, a very indistinct notion of foreign countries. First rode Macclesfield at the head of two hundred gentlemen, mostly of English blood, glittering in helmets and cuirasses, and mounted on Flemish war horses. Each was attended by a negro, brought from the sugar plantations on the coast of Guiana. The citizens of Exeter, who had never seen so many specimens of the African race, gazed with wonder on those black faces set off by embroidered turbans and white feathers. Then with drawn broad swords came a squadron of Swedish horsemen in black armour and fur cloaks. They were regarded with a strange interest; for it was rumoured that they were natives of a land where the ocean was frozen and where the night lasted through half the year, and that they had themselves slain the huge bears whose skins they wore. Next, surrounded by a goodly company of gentlemen and pages, was borne aloft the Prince's banner. On its broad folds the crowd which covered the roofs and filled the windows read with delight that memorable inscription, "The Protestant religion and the liberties of England." But the acclamations redoubled when, attended by forty running footmen, the Prince himself appeared, armed on back and breast, wearing a white plume and mounted on a white charger. With how martial an air he curbed his horse, how thoughtful and commanding was the expression of his ample forehead and falcon eye, may still be seen on the canvass of Kneller. Once those grave features relaxed into a smile. It was when an ancient woman, perhaps one of the zealous Puritans who through twenty-eight years of persecution had waited with firm faith for the consolation of Israel, perhaps the mother of some rebel who had perished in the carnage of Sedgemoor, or in the more fearful carnage of the Bloody Circuit, broke from the crowd, rushed through the drawn swords and curvetting horses, touched the hand of the deliverer, and cried out that now she was happy. Near to the Prince was one who divided with him the gaze of the multitude. That, men said, was the great Count Schomberg, the first soldier in Europe, since Turenne and Conde were gone, the man whose genius and valour had saved the Portuguese monarchy on the field of Montes Claros, the man who had earned a still higher glory by resigning the truncheon of a Marshal of France for the sake of the true religion. It was not forgotten that the two heroes who, indissolubly united by their common Protestantism, were entering Exeter together, had twelve years before been opposed to each other under the walls of Maestricht, and that the energy of the young Prince had not then been found a match for the cool science of the veteran who now rode in friendship by his side. Then came a long column of the whiskered infantry of Switzerland, distinguished in all the continental wars of two centuries by preeminent valour and discipline, but never till that week seen on English ground. And then marched a succession of bands designated, as was the fashion of that age, after their leaders, Bentinck, Solmes and Ginkell, Talmash and Mackay. With peculiar pleasure Englishmen might look on one gallant regiment which still bore the name of the honoured and lamented Ossory. The effect of the spectacle was heightened by the recollection of the renowned events in which many of the warriors now pouring through the West Gate had borne a share. For they had seen service very different from that of the Devonshire militia or of the camp at Hounslow. Some of them had repelled the fiery onset of the French on the field of Seneff; and others had crossed swords with the infidels in the cause of Christendom on that great day when the siege of Vienna was raised. The very senses of the multitude were fooled by imagination. Newsletters conveyed to every part of the kingdom fabulous accounts of the size and strength of the invaders. It was affirmed that they were, with scarcely an exception, above six feet high, and that they wielded such huge pikes, swords, and muskets, as had never before been seen in England. Nor did the wonder of the population diminish when the artillery arrived, twenty-one huge pieces of brass cannon, which were with difficulty tugged along by sixteen cart horses to each. Much curiosity was excited by a strange structure mounted on wheels. It proved to be a moveable smithy, furnished with all tools and materials necessary for repairing arms and carriages. But nothing raised so much admiration as the bridge of boats, which was laid with great speed on the Exe for the conveyance of waggons, and afterwards as speedily taken to pieces and carried away. It was made, if report said true, after a pattern contrived by the Christians who were warring against the Great Turk on the Danube. The foreigners inspired as much good will as admiration. Their politic leader took care to distribute the quarters in such a manner as to cause the smallest possible inconvenience to the inhabitants of Exeter and of the neighbouring villages. The most rigid discipline was maintained. Not only were pillage and outrage effectually prevented, but the troops were required to demean themselves with civility towards all classes. Those who had formed their notions of an army from the conduct of Kirke and his Lambs were amazed to see soldiers who never swore at a landlady or took an egg without paying for it. In return for this moderation the people furnished the troops with provisions in great abundance and at reasonable prices.
Much depended on the course which, at this great crisis, the clergy of the Church of England might take; and the members of the Chapter of Exeter were the first who were called upon to declare their sentiments. Burnet informed the Canons, now left without a head by the flight of the Dean, that they could not be permitted to use the prayer for the Prince of Wales, and that a solemn service must be performed in honour of the safe arrival of the Prince. The Canons did not choose to appear in their stalls; but some of the choristers and prebendaries attended. William repaired in military state to the Cathedral. As he passed under the gorgeous screen, that renowned organ, scarcely surpassed by any of those which are the boast of his native Holland, gave out a peal of triumph. He mounted the Bishop's seat, a stately throne rich with the carving of the fifteenth century. Burnet stood below; and a crowd of warriors and nobles appeared on the right hand and on the left. The singers, robed in white, sang the Te Deum. When the chaunt was over, Burnet read the Prince's Declaration: but as soon as the first words were uttered, prebendaries and singers crowded in all haste out of the choir. At the close Burnet cried in a loud voice, "God save the Prince of Orange!" and many fervent voices answered, "Amen."
On Sunday, the eleventh of November, Burnet preached before the Prince in the Cathedral, and dilated on the signal mercy vouchsafed by God to the English Church and nation. At the same time a singular event happened in a humbler place of worship. Ferguson resolved to preach at the Presbyterian meeting house. The minister and elders would not consent but the turbulent and halfwitted knave, fancying that the times of Fleetwood and Harrison were come again, forced the door, went through the congregation sword in hand, mounted the pulpit, and there poured forth a fiery invective against the King. The time for such follies had gone by; and this exhibition excited nothing but derision and disgust.
While these things were passing in Devonshire the ferment was great in London. The Prince's Declaration, in spite of all precautions, was now in every man's hands. On the sixth of November James, still uncertain on what part of the coast the invaders had landed, summoned the Primate and three other Bishops, Compton of London, White of Peterborough, and Sprat of Rochester, to a conference in the closet. The King listened graciously while the prelates made warm professions of loyalty, and assured them that he did not suspect them. "But where," said he, "is the paper that you were to bring me?" "Sir," answered Sancroft, "we have brought no paper. We are not solicitous to clear our fame to the world. It is no new thing to us to be reviled and falsely accused. Our consciences acquit us: your Majesty acquits us: and we are satisfied." "Yes," said the King; "but a declaration from you is necessary to my service." He then produced a copy of the Prince's manifesto. "See," he said, "how you are mentioned here." "Sir," answered one of the Bishops, "not one person in five hundred believes this manifesto to be genuine." "No!" cried the King fiercely; "then those five hundred would bring the Prince of Orange to cut my throat." "God forbid," exclaimed the prelates in concert. But the King's understanding, never very clear, was now quite bewildered. One of his peculiarities was that, whenever his opinion was not adopted, he fancied that his veracity was questioned. "This paper not genuine!" he exclaimed, turning over the leaves with his hands. "Am I not worthy to be believed? Is my word not to be taken?" "At all events, sir," said one of the Bishops, "this is not an ecclesiastical matter. It lies within the sphere of the civil power. God has entrusted your Majesty with the sword: and it is not for us to invade your functions." Then the Archbishop, with that gentle and temperate malice which inflicts the deepest wounds, declared that he must be excused from setting his hand to any political document. "I and my brethren, sir," he said, "have already smarted severely for meddling with affairs of state; and we shall be very cautious how we do so again. We once subscribed a petition of the most harmless kind: we presented it in the most respectful manner; and we found that we had committed a high offence. We were saved from ruin only by the merciful protection of God. And, sir, the ground then taken by your Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor was that, out of Parliament, we were private men, and that it was criminal presumption in private men to meddle with politics. They attacked us so fiercely that for my part I gave myself over for lost." "I thank you for that, my Lord of Canterbury," said the King; "I should have hoped that you would not have thought yourself lost by falling into my hands." Such a speech might have become the mouth of a merciful sovereign, but it came with a bad grace from a prince who had burned a woman alive for harbouring one of his flying enemies, from a prince round whose knees his own nephew had clung in vain agonies of supplication. The Archbishop was not to be so silenced. He resumed his story, and recounted the insults which the creatures of the court had offered to the Church of England, among which some ridicule thrown on his own style occupied a conspicuous place. The King had nothing to say but that there was no use in repeating old grievances, and that he had hoped that these things had been quite forgotten. He, who never forgot the smallest injury that he had suffered, could not understand how others should remember for a few weeks the most deadly injuries that he had inflicted.
At length the conversation came back to the point from which it had wandered. The King insisted on having from the Bishops a paper declaring their abhorrence of the Prince's enterprise. They, with many professions of the most submissive loyalty, pertinaciously refused. The Prince, they said, asserted that he had been invited by temporal as well as by spiritual peers. The imputation was common. Why should not the purgation be common also? "I see how it is," said the King. "Some of the temporal peers have been with you, and have persuaded you to cross me in this matter." The Bishops solemnly averred that it was not so. But it would, they said, seem strange that, on a question involving grave political and military considerations, the temporal peers should be entirely passed over, and the prelates alone should be required to take a prominent part. "But this," said James, "is my method. I am your King. It is for me to judge what is best. I will go my own way; and I call on you to assist me." The Bishops assured him that they would assist him in their proper department, as Christian ministers with their prayers, and as peers of the realm with their advice in his Parliament. James, who wanted neither the prayers of heretics nor the advice of Parliaments, was bitterly disappointed. After a long altercation, "I have done," he said, "I will urge you no further. Since you will not help me, I must trust to myself and to my own arms."
The Bishops had hardly left the royal presence, when a courier arrived with the news that on the preceding day the Prince of Orange had landed in Devonshire. During the following week London was violently agitated. On Sunday, the eleventh of November, a rumour was circulated that knives, gridirons, and caldrons, intended for the torturing of heretics, were concealed in the monastery which had been established under the King's protection at Clerkenwell. Great multitudes assembled round the building, and were about to demolish it, when a military force arrived. The crowd was dispersed, and several of the rioters were slain. An inquest sate on the bodies, and came to a decision which strongly indicated the temper of the public mind. The jury found that certain loyal and well disposed persons, who had gone to put down the meetings of traitors and public enemies at a mass house, had been wilfully murdered by the soldiers; and this strange verdict was signed by all the jurors. The ecclesiastics at Clerkenwell, naturally alarmed by these symptoms of popular feeling, were desirous to place their property in safety. They succeeded in removing most of their furniture before any report of their intentions got abroad. But at length the suspicions of the rabble were excited. The two last carts were stopped in Holborn, and all that they contained was publicly burned in the middle of the street. So great was the alarm among the Catholics that all their places of worship were closed, except those which belonged to the royal family and to foreign Ambassadors.
On the whole, however, things as yet looked not unfavourably for James. The invaders had been more than a week on English ground. Yet no man of note had joined them. No rebellion had broken out in the north or the east. No servant of the crown appeared to have betrayed his trust. The royal army was assembling fast at Salisbury, and, though inferior in discipline to that of William, was superior in numbers.
The Prince was undoubtedly surprised and mortified by the slackness of those who had invited him to England. By the common people of Devonshire, indeed, he had been received with every sign of good will: but no nobleman, no gentleman of high consideration, had yet repaired to his quarters. The explanation of this singular fact is probably to be found in the circumstance that he had landed in a part of the island where he had not been expected. His friends in the north had made their arrangements for a rising, on the supposition that he would be among them with an army. His friends in the west had made no arrangements at all, and were naturally disconcerted at finding themselves suddenly called upon to take the lead in a movement so important and perilous. They had also fresh in their recollection, and indeed full in their sight, the disastrous consequences of rebellion, gibbets, heads, mangled quarters, families still in deep mourning for brave sufferers who had loved their country well but not wisely. After a warning so terrible and so recent, some hesitation was natural. It was equally natural, however, that William, who, trusting to promises from England, had put to hazard, not only his own fame and fortunes, but also the prosperity and independence of his native land, should feel deeply mortified. He was, indeed, so indignant, that he talked of falling back to Torbay, reembarking his troops, returning to Holland, and leaving those who had betrayed him to the fate which they deserved. At length, on Monday, the twelfth of November, a gentleman named Burrington, who resided in the neighbourhood of Crediton, joined the Prince's standard, and his example was followed by several of his neighbours.
Men of higher consequence had already set out from different parts of the country for Exeter. The first of these was John Lord Lovelace, distinguished by his taste, by his magnificence, and by the audacious and intemperate vehemence of his Whiggism. He had been five or six times arrested for political offences. The last crime laid to his charge was, that he had contemptuously denied the validity of a warrant, signed by a Roman Catholic Justice of the Peace. He had been brought before the Privy Council and strictly examined, but to little purpose. He resolutely refused to criminate himself; and the evidence against him was insufficient. He was dismissed; but, before he retired, James exclaimed in great heat, "My Lord, this is not the first trick that you have played me." "Sir," answered Lovelace, with undaunted spirit, "I never played any trick to your Majesty, or to any other person. Whoever has accused me to your Majesty of playing tricks is a liar." Lovelace had subsequently been admitted into the confidence of those who planned the Revolution. His mansion, built by his ancestors out of the spoils of Spanish galleons from the Indies, rose on the ruins of a house of Our Lady in that beautiful valley through which the Thames, not yet defiled by the precincts of a great capital, nor rising and falling with the flow and ebb of the sea, rolls under woods of beech round the gentle hills of Berkshire. Beneath the stately saloon, adorned by Italian pencils, was a subterraneous vault, in which the bones of ancient monks had sometimes been found. In this dark chamber some zealous and daring opponents of the government had held many midnight conferences during that anxious time when England was impatiently expecting the Protestant wind. The season for action had now arrived. Lovelace, with seventy followers, well armed and mounted, quitted his dwelling, and directed his course westward. He reached Gloucestershire without difficulty. But Beaufort, who governed that county, was exerting all his great authority and influence in support of the crown. The militia had been called out. A strong party had been posted at Cirencester. When Lovelace arrived there he was informed that he could not be suffered to pass. It was necessary for him either to relinquish his undertaking or to fight his way through. He resolved to force a passage; and his friends and tenants stood gallantly by him. A sharp conflict took place. The militia lost an officer and six or seven men; but at length the followers of Lovelace were overpowered: he was made a prisoner, and sent to Gloucester Castle.
Others were more fortunate. On the day on which the skirmish took place at Cirencester, Richard Savage, Lord Colchester, son and heir of the Earl Rivers, and father, by a lawless amour, of that unhappy poet whose misdeeds and misfortunes form one of the darkest portions of literary history, came with between sixty and seventy horse to Exeter. With him arrived the bold and turbulent Thomas Wharton. A few hours later came Edward Russell, son of the Earl of Bedford, and brother of the virtuous nobleman whose blood had been shed on the scaffold. Another arrival still more important was speedily announced. Colchester, Wharton, and Russell belonged to that party which had been constantly opposed to the court. James Bertie, Earl of Abingdon, had, on the contrary, been regarded as a supporter of arbitrary government. He had been true to James in the days of the Exclusion Bill. He had, as Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, acted with vigour and severity against the adherents of Monmouth, and had lighted bonfires to celebrate the defeat of Argyle. But dread of Popery had driven him into opposition and rebellion. He was the first peer of the realm who made his appearance at the quarters of the Prince of Orange.
But the King had less to fear from those who openly arrayed themselves against his authority, than from the dark conspiracy which had spread its ramifications through his army and his family. Of that conspiracy Churchill, unrivalled in sagacity and address, endowed by nature with a certain cool intrepidity which never failed him either in fighting or lying, high in military rank, and high in the favour of the Princess Anne, must be regarded as the soul. It was not yet time for him to strike the decisive blow. But even thus early he inflicted, by the instrumentality of a subordinate agent, a wound, serious if not deadly, on the royal cause.
Edward, Viscount Cornbury, eldest son of the Earl of Clarendon, was a young man of slender abilities, loose principles, and violent temper. He had been early taught to consider his relationship to the Princess Anne as the groundwork of his fortunes, and had been exhorted to pay her assiduous court. It had never occurred to his father that the hereditary loyalty of the Hydes could run any risk of contamination in the household of the King's favourite daughter: but in that household the Churchills held absolute sway; and Cornbury became their tool. He commanded one of the regiments of dragoons which had been sent westward. Such dispositions had been made that, on the fourteenth of November, he was, during a few hours, the senior officer at Salisbury, and all the troops assembled there were subject to his authority. It seems extraordinary that, at such a crisis, the army on which every thing depended should have been left, even for a moment, under the command of a young Colonel who had neither abilities nor experience. There can be little doubt that so strange an arrangement was the result of deep design, and as little doubt to what head and to what heart the design is to be imputed.
Suddenly three of the regiments of cavalry which had assembled at Salisbury were ordered to march westward. Cornbury put himself at their head, and conducted them first to Blandford and thence to Dorchester. From Dorchester, after a halt of an hour or two, they set out for Axminster. Some of the officers began to be uneasy, and demanded an explanation of these strange movements. Cornbury replied that he had instructions to make a night attack on some troops which the Prince of Orange had posted at Honiton. But suspicion was awake. Searching questions were put, and were evasively answered. At last Cornbury was pressed to produce his orders. He perceived, not only that it would be impossible for him to carry over all the three regiments, as he had hoped, but that he was himself in a situation of considerable peril. He accordingly stole away with a few followers to the Dutch quarters. Most of his troops returned to Salisbury: but some who had been detached from the main body, and who had no suspicion of the designs of their commander, proceeded to Honiton. There they found themselves in the midst of a large force which was fully prepared to receive them. Resistance was impossible. Their leader pressed them to take service under William. A gratuity of a month's pay was offered to them, and was by most of them accepted.
The news of these events reached London on the fifteenth. James had been on the morning of that day in high good humour. Bishop Lamplugh had just presented himself at court on his arrival from Exeter, and had been most graciously received. "My Lord," said the King, "you are a genuine old Cavalier." The archbishopric of York, which had now been vacant more than two years and a half, was immediately bestowed on Lamplugh as the reward of loyalty. That afternoon, just as the King was sitting down to dinner, arrived an express with the tidings of Cornbury's defection. James turned away from his untasted meal, swallowed a crust of bread and a glass of wine, and retired to his closet. He afterwards learned that, as he was rising from table, several of the Lords in whom he reposed the greatest confidence were shaking hands and congratulating each other in the adjoining gallery. When the news was carried to the Queen's apartments she and her ladies broke out into tears and loud cries of sorrow.
The blow was indeed a heavy one. It was true that the direct loss to the crown and the direct gain to the invaders hardly amounted to two hundred men and as many horses. But where could the King henceforth expect to find those sentiments in which consists the strength of states and of armies? Cornbury was the heir of a house conspicuous for its attachment to monarchy. His father Clarendon, his uncle Rochester, were men whose loyalty was supposed to be proof to all temptation. What must be the strength of that feeling against which the most deeply rooted hereditary prejudices were of no avail, of that feeling which could reconcile a young officer of high birth to desertion, aggravated by breach of trust and by gross falsehood? That Cornbury was not a man of brilliant parts or enterprising temper made the event more alarming. It was impossible to doubt that he had in some quarter a powerful and artful prompter. Who that prompter was soon became evident. In the meantime no man in the royal camp could feel assured that he was not surrounded by traitors. Political rank, military rank, the honour of a nobleman, the honour of a soldier, the strongest professions, the purest Cavalier blood, could no longer afford security. Every man might reasonably doubt whether every order which he received from his superior was not meant to serve the purposes of the enemy. That prompt obedience without which an army is merely a rabble was necessarily at an end. What discipline could there be among soldiers who had just been saved from a snare by refusing to follow their commanding officer on a secret expedition, and by insisting on a sight of his orders?
Cornbury was soon kept in countenance by a crowd of deserters superior to him in rank and capacity: but during a few days he stood alone in his shame, and was bitterly reviled by many who afterwards imitated his example and envied his dishonourable precedence. Among these was his own father. The first outbreak of Clarendon's rage and sorrow was highly pathetic. "Oh God!" he ejaculated, "that a son of mine should be a rebel!" A fortnight later he made up his mind to be a rebel himself. Yet it would be unjust to pronounce him a mere hypocrite. In revolutions men live fast: the experience of years is crowded into hours: old habits of thought and action are violently broken; novelties, which at first sight inspire dread and disgust, become in a few days familiar, endurable, attractive. Many men of far purer virtue and higher spirit than Clarendon were prepared, before that memorable year ended, to do what they would have pronounced wicked and infamous when it began.
The unhappy father composed himself as well as he could, and sent to ask a private audience of the King. It was granted. James said, with more than his usual graciousness, that he from his heart pitied Cornbury's relations, and should not hold them at all accountable for the crime of their unworthy kinsman. Clarendon went home, scarcely daring to look his friends in the face. Soon, however, he learned with surprise that the act, which had, as he at first thought, for ever dishonoured his family, was applauded by some persons of high station. His niece, the Princess of Denmark, asked him why he shut himself up. He answered that he had been overwhelmed with confusion by his son's villany. Anne seemed not at all to understand this feeling. "People," she said, "are very uneasy about Popery. I believe that many of the army will do the same."
And now the King, greatly disturbed, called together the principal officers who were still in London. Churchill, who was about this time promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, made his appearance with that bland serenity which neither peril nor infamy could ever disturb. The meeting was attended by Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton, whose audacity and activity made him conspicuous among the natural children of Charles the Second. Grafton was colonel of the first regiment of Foot Guards. He seems to have been at this time completely under Churchill's influence, and was prepared to desert the royal standard as soon as the favourable moment should arrive. Two other traitors were in the circle, Kirke and Trelawney, who commanded those two fierce and lawless bands then known as the Tangier regiments. Both of them had, like the other Protestant officers of the army, long seen with extreme displeasure the partiality which the King had shown to members of his own Church; and Trelawney remembered with bitter resentment the persecution of his brother the Bishop of Bristol. James addressed the assembly in terms worthy of a better man and of a better cause. It might be, he said, that some of the officers had conscientious scruples about fighting for him. If so he was willing to receive back their commissions. But he adjured them as gentlemen and soldiers not to imitate the shameful example of Cornbury. All seemed moved; and none more than Churchill. He was the first to vow with well feigned enthusiasm that he would shed the last drop of his blood in the service of his gracious master: Grafton was loud and forward in similar protestations; and the example was followed by Kirke and Trelawney.
Deceived by these professions, the King prepared to set out for Salisbury. Before his departure he was informed that a considerable number of peers, temporal and spiritual, desired to be admitted to an audience. They came, with Sancroft at their head, to present a petition, praying that a free and legal Parliament might be called, and that a negotiation might be opened with the Prince of Orange.
The history of this petition is curious. The thought seems to have occurred at once to two great chiefs of parties who had long been rivals and enemies, Rochester and Halifax. They both, independently of one another, consulted the Bishops. The Bishops warmly approved of the suggestion. It was then proposed that a general meeting of peers should be called to deliberate on the form of an address to the King. It was term time; and in term time men of rank and fashion then lounged every day in Westminster Hall as they now lounge in the clubs of Pall Mall and Saint James's Street. Nothing could be easier than for the Lords who assembled there to step aside into some adjoining room and to hold a consultation. But unexpected difficulties arose. Halifax became first cold and then adverse. It was his nature to discover objections to everything; and on this occasion his sagacity was quickened by rivalry. The scheme, which he had approved while he regarded it as his own, began to displease him as soon as he found that it was also the scheme of Rochester, by whom he had been long thwarted and at length supplanted, and whom he disliked as much as it was in his easy nature to dislike anybody. Nottingham was at that time much under the influence of Halifax. They both declared that they would not join in the address if Rochester signed it. Clarendon expostulated in vain. "I mean no disrespect," said Halifax, "to my Lord Rochester: but he has been a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission: the proceedings of that court must soon be the subject of a very serious inquiry; and it is not fit that one who has sate there should take any part in our petition." Nottingham, with strong expressions of personal esteem for Rochester, avowed the same opinion. The authority of the two dissentient Lords prevented several other noblemen from subscribing the address; but the Hydes and the Bishops persisted. Nineteen signatures were procured; and the petitioners waited in a body on the King.
He received their address ungraciously. He assured them, indeed, that he passionately desired the meeting of a free Parliament; and he promised them, on the faith of a King, that he would call one as soon as the Prince of Orange should have left the island. "But how," said he, "can a Parliament be free when an enemy is in the kingdom, and can return near a hundred votes?" To the prelates he spoke with peculiar acrimony. "I could not," he said, "prevail on you the other day to declare against this invasion: but you are ready enough to declare against me. Then you would not meddle with politics. You have no scruple about meddling now. You have excited this rebellious temper among your flocks, and now you foment it. You would be better employed in teaching them how to obey than in teaching me how to govern." He was much incensed against his nephew Grafton, whose signature stood next to that of Sancroft, and said to the young man, with great asperity, "You know nothing about religion; you care nothing about it; and yet, forsooth, you must pretend to have a conscience." "It is true, sir," answered Grafton, with impudent frankness, "that I have very little conscience: but I belong to a party which has a great deal."
Bitter as was the King's language to the petitioners, it was far less bitter that that which he held after they had withdrawn. He had done, he said, far too much already in the hope of satisfying an undutiful and ungrateful people. He had always hated the thought of concession: but he had suffered himself to be talked over; and now he, like his father before him, had found that concession only made subjects more encroaching. He would yield nothing more, not an atom, and, after his fashion, he vehemently repeated many times, "Not an atom." Not only would he make no overtures to the invaders, but he would receive none. If the Dutch sent flags of truce, the first messenger should be dismissed without an answer; the second should be hanged. In such a mood James set out for Salisbury. His last act before his departure was to appoint a Council of five Lords to represent him in London during his absence. Of the five, two were Papists, and by law incapable of office. Joined with them was Jeffreys, a Protestant indeed, but more detested by the nation than any Papist. To the other two members of this board, Preston and Godolphin, no serious objection could be made. On the day on which the King left London the Prince of Wales was sent to Portsmouth. That fortress was strongly garrisoned, and was under the government of Berwick. The fleet commanded by Dartmouth lay close at hand: and it was supposed that, if things went ill, the royal infant would, without difficulty, be conveyed from Portsmouth to France.
On the nineteenth James reached Salisbury, and took up his quarters in the episcopal palace. Evil news was now fast pouring in upon him from all sides. The western counties had at length risen. As soon as the news of Cornbury's desertion was known, many wealthy landowners took heart and hastened to Exeter. Among them was Sir William Portman of Bryanstone, one of the greatest men in Dorsetshire, and Sir Francis Warre of Hestercombe, whose interest was great in Somersetshire. But the most important of the new comers was Seymour, who had recently inherited a baronetcy which added little to his dignity, and who, in birth, in political influence, and in parliamentary abilities, was beyond comparison the foremost among the Tory gentlemen of England. At his first audience he is said to have exhibited his characteristic pride in a way which surprised and amused the Prince. "I think, Sir Edward," said William, meaning to be very civil, "that you are of the family of the Duke of Somerset." "Pardon me, sir," said Sir Edward, who never forgot that he was the head of the elder branch of the Seymours, "the Duke of Somerset is of my family."
The quarters of William now began to present the appearance of a court. More than sixty men of rank and fortune were lodged at Exeter; and the daily display of rich liveries, and of coaches drawn by six horses, in the Cathedral Close, gave to that quiet precinct something of the splendour and gaiety of Whitehall. The common people were eager to take arms; and it would have been easy to form many battalions of infantry. But Schomberg, who thought little of soldiers fresh from the plough, maintained that, if the expedition could not succeed without such help, it would not succeed at all: and William, who had as much professional feeling as Schomberg, concurred in this opinion. Commissions therefore for raising new regiments were very sparingly given; and none but picked recruits were enlisted.
It was now thought desirable that the Prince should give a public reception to the whole body of noblemen and gentlemen who had assembled at Exeter. He addressed them in a short but dignified and well considered speech. He was not, he said, acquainted with the faces of all whom he saw. But he had a list of their names, and knew how high they stood in the estimation of their country. He gently chid their tardiness, but expressed a confident hope that it was not yet too late to save the kingdom. "Therefore," he said, "gentlemen, friends, and fellow Protestants, we bid you and all your followers most heartily welcome to our court and camp."
Seymour, a keen politician, long accustomed to the tactics of faction, saw in a moment that the party which had begun to rally round the Prince stood in need of organization. It was as yet, he said, a mere rope of sand: no common object had been publicly and formally avowed: nobody was pledged to anything. As soon as the assembly at the Deanery broke up, he sent for Burnet, and suggested that an association should be formed, and that all the English adherents of the Prince should put their hands to an instrument binding them to be true to their leader and to each other. Burnet carried the suggestion to the Prince and to Shrewsbury, by both of whom it was approved. A meeting was held in the Cathedral. A short paper drawn up by Burnet was produced, approved, and eagerly signed. The subscribers engaged to pursue in concert the objects set forth in the Prince's declaration; to stand by him and by each other; to take signal vengeance on all who should make any attempt on his person; and, even if such an attempt should unhappily succeed, to persist in their undertaking till the liberties and the religion of the nation should be effectually secured.
About the same time a messenger arrived at Exeter from the Earl of Bath, who commanded at Plymouth. Bath declared that he placed himself, his troops, and the fortress which he governed at the Prince's disposal. The invaders therefore had now not a single enemy in their rear.
While the West was thus rising to confront the King, the North was all in a flame behind him. On the sixteenth Delamere took arms in Cheshire. He convoked his tenants, called upon them to stand by him, promised that, if they fell in the cause, their leases should be renewed to their children, and exhorted every one who had a good horse either to take the field or to provide a substitute. He appeared at Manchester with fifty men armed and mounted, and his force had trebled before he reached Boaden Downs.
The neighbouring counties were violently agitated. It had been arranged that Danby should seize York, and that Devonshire should appear at Nottingham. At Nottingham no resistance was anticipated. But at York there was a small garrison under the command of Sir John Reresby. Danby acted with rare dexterity. A meeting of the gentry and freeholders of Yorkshire had been summoned for the twenty-second of November to address the King on the state of affairs. All the Deputy Lieutenants of the three Ridings, several noblemen, and a multitude of opulent esquires and substantial yeomen had been attracted to the provincial capital. Four troops of militia had been drawn out under arms to preserve the public peace. The Common Hall was crowded with freeholders, and the discussion had begun, when a cry was suddenly raised that the Papists were up, and were slaying the Protestants. The Papists of York were much more likely to be employed in seeking for hiding places than in attacking enemies who outnumbered them in the proportion of a hundred to one. But at that time no story of Popish atrocity could be so wild and marvellous as not to find ready belief. The meeting separated in dismay. The whole city was in confusion. At this moment Danby at the head of about a hundred horsemen rode up to the militia, and raised the cry "No Popery! A free Parliament! The Protestant religion!" The militia echoed the shout. The garrison was instantly surprised and disarmed. The governor was placed under arrest. The gates were closed. Sentinels were posted everywhere. The populace was suffered to pull down a Roman Catholic chapel; but no other harm appears to have been done. On the following morning the Guildhall was crowded with the first gentlemen of the shire, and with the principal magistrates of the city. The Lord Mayor was placed in the chair. Danby proposed a Declaration setting forth the reasons which had induced the friends of the constitution and of the Protestant religion to rise in arms. This Declaration was eagerly adopted, and received in a few hours the signatures of six peers, of five baronets, of six knights, and of many gentlemen of high consideration.
Devonshire meantime, at the head of a great body of friends and dependents, quitted the palace which he was rearing at Chatsworth, and appeared in arms at Derby. There he formally delivered to the municipal authorities a paper setting forth the reasons which had moved him to this enterprise. He then proceeded to Nottingham, which soon became the head quarters of the Northern insurrection. Here a proclamation was put forth couched in bold and severe terms. The name of rebellion, it was said, was a bugbear which could frighten no reasonable man. Was it rebellion to defend those laws and that religion which every King of England bound himself by oath to maintain? How that oath had lately been observed was a question on which, it was to be hoped, a free Parliament would soon pronounce. In the meantime, the insurgents declared that they held it to be not rebellion, but legitimate self defence, to resist a tyrant who knew no law but his own will. The Northern rising became every day more formidable. Four powerful and wealthy Earls, Manchester, Stamford, Rutland, and Chesterfield, repaired to Nottingham, and were joined there by Lord Cholmondley and by Lord Grey de Ruthyn.
All this time the hostile armies in the south were approaching each other. The Prince of Orange, when he learned that the King had arrived at Salisbury, thought it time to leave Exeter. He placed that city and the surrounding country under the government of Sir Edward Seymour, and set out on Wednesday the twenty-first of November, escorted by many of the most considerable gentlemen of the western counties, for Axminster, where he remained several days.
The King was eager to fight; and it was obviously his interest to do so. Every hour took away something from his own strength, and added something to the strength of his enemies. It was most important, too, that his troops should be blooded. A great battle, however it might terminate, could not but injure the Prince's popularity. All this William perfectly understood, and determined to avoid an action as long as possible. It is said that, when Schomberg was told that the enemy were advancing and were determined to fight, he answered, with the composure of a tactician confident in his skill, "That will be just as we may choose." It was, however, impossible to prevent all skirmishing between the advanced guards of the armies. William was desirous that in such skirmishing nothing might happen which could wound the pride or rouse the vindictive feelings of the nation which he meant to deliver. He therefore, with admirable prudence, placed his British regiments in the situations where there was most risk of collision. The outposts of the royal army were Irish. The consequence was that, in the little combats of this short campaign, the invaders had on their side the hearty sympathy of all Englishmen.
The first of these encounters took place at Wincanton. Mackay's regiment, composed of British soldiers, lay near a body of the King's Irish troops, commanded by their countryman, the gallant Sarsfield. Mackay sent out a small party under a lieutenant named Campbell, to procure horses for the baggage. Campbell found what he wanted at Wincanton, and was just leaving that town on his return, when a strong detachment of Sarsfield's troops approached. The Irish were four to one: but Campbell resolved to fight it out to the last. With a handful of resolute men he took his stand in the road. The rest of his soldiers lined the hedges which overhung the highway on the right and on the left. The enemy came up. "Stand," cried Campbell: "for whom are you?" "I am for King James," answered the leader of the other party. "And I for the Prince of Orange," cried Campbell. "We will prince you," answered the Irishman with a curse. "Fire!" exclaimed Campbell; and a sharp fire was instantly poured in from both the hedges. The King's troops received three well aimed volleys before they could make any return. At length they succeeded in carrying one of the hedges; and would have overpowered the little band which was opposed to them, had not the country people, who mortally hated the Irish, given a false alarm that more of the Prince's troops were coming up. Sarsfield recalled his men and fell back; and Campbell proceeded on his march unmolested with the baggage horses.
This affair, creditable undoubtedly to the valour and discipline of the Prince's army, was magnified by report into a victory won against great odds by British Protestants over Popish barbarians who had been brought from Connaught to oppress our island.
A few hours after this skirmish an event took place which put an end to all risk of a more serious struggle between the armies. Churchill and some of his principal accomplices were assembled at Salisbury. Two of the conspirators, Kirke and Trelawney, had proceeded to Warminster, where their regiments were posted. All was ripe for the execution of the long meditated treason.
Churchill advised the King to visit Warminster, and to inspect the troops stationed there. James assented; and his coach was at the door of the episcopal palace when his nose began to bleed violently. He was forced to postpone his expedition and to put himself under medical treatment. Three days elapsed before the hemorrhage was entirely subdued; and during those three days alarming rumours reached his ears.
It was impossible that a conspiracy so widely spread as that of which Churchill was the head could be kept altogether secret. There was no evidence which could be laid before a jury or a court martial: but strange whispers wandered about the camp. Feversham, who held the chief command, reported that there was a bad spirit in the army. It was hinted to the King that some who were near his person were not his friends, and that it would be a wise precaution to send Churchill and Grafton under a guard to Portsmouth. James rejected this counsel. A propensity to suspicion was not among his vices. Indeed the confidence which he reposed in professions of fidelity and attachment was such as might rather have been expected from a goodhearted and inexperienced stripling than from a politician who was far advanced in life, who had seen much of the world, who had suffered much from villanous arts, and whose own character was by no means a favourable specimen of human nature. It would be difficult to mention any other man who, having himself so little scruple about breaking faith, was so slow to believe that his neighbours could break faith with him. Nevertheless the reports which he had received of the state of his army disturbed him greatly. He was now no longer impatient for a battle. He even began to think of retreating. On the evening of Saturday, the twenty-fourth of November, he called a council of war. The meeting was attended by those officers against whom he had been most earnestly cautioned. Feversham expressed an opinion that it was desirable to fall back. Churchill argued on the other side. The consultation lasted till midnight. At length the King declared that he had decided for a retreat. Churchill saw or imagined that he was distrusted, and, though gifted with a rare self command, could not conceal his uneasiness. Before the day broke he fled to the Prince's quarters, accompanied by Grafton.
Churchill left behind him a letter of explanation. It was written with that decorum which he never failed to preserve in the midst of guilt and dishonour. He acknowledged that he owed everything to the royal favour. Interest, he said, and gratitude impelled him in the same direction. Under no other government could he hope to be so great and prosperous as he had been: but all such considerations must yield to a paramount duty. He was a Protestant; and he could not conscientiously draw his sword against the Protestant cause. As to the rest he would ever be ready to hazard life and fortune in defence of the sacred person and of the lawful rights of his gracious master.
Next morning all was confusion in the royal camp. The King's friends were in dismay. His enemies could not conceal their exultation. The consternation of James was increased by news which arrived on the same day from Warminster. Kirke, who commanded at that post, had refused to obey orders which he had received from Salisbury. There could no longer be any doubt that he too was in league with the Prince of Orange. It was rumoured that he had actually gone over with all his troops to the enemy: and the rumour, though false, was, during some hours, fully believed. A new light flashed on the mind of the unhappy King. He thought that he understood why he had been pressed, a few days before, to visit Warminster. There he would have found himself helpless, at the mercy of the conspirators, and in the vicinity of the hostile outposts. Those who might have attempted to defend him would have been easily overpowered. He would have been carried a prisoner to the head quarters of the invading army. Perhaps some still blacker treason might have been committed; for men who have once engaged in a wicked and perilous enterprise are no longer their own masters, and are often impelled, by a fatality which is part of their just punishment, to crimes such as they would at first have shuddered to contemplate. Surely it was not without the special intervention of some guardian Saint that a King devoted to the Catholic Church had, at the very moment when he was blindly hastening to captivity, perhaps to death, been suddenly arrested by what he had then thought a disastrous malady.
All these things confirmed James in the resolution which he had taken on the preceding evening. Orders were given for an immediate retreat. Salisbury was in an uproar. The camp broke up with the confusion of a flight. No man knew whom to trust or whom to obey. The material strength of the army was little diminished: but its moral strength had been destroyed. Many whom shame would have restrained from leading the way to the Prince's quarters were eager to imitate an example which they never would have set; and many, who would have stood by their King while he appeared to be resolutely advancing against the invaders, felt no inclination to follow a receding standard.
James went that day as far as Andover. He was attended by his son in law Prince George, and by the Duke of Ormond. Both were among the conspirators, and would probably have accompanied Churchill, had he not, in consequence of what had passed at the council of war, thought it expedient to take his departure suddenly. The impenetrable stupidity of Prince George served his turn on this occasion better than cunning would have done. It was his habit, when any news was told him, to exclaim in French, "possible?" "Is it possible?" This catchword was now of great use to him. "Est- il-possible?" he cried, when he had been made to understand that Churchill and Grafton were missing. And when the ill tidings came from Warminster, he again ejaculated, "Est-il-possible?"
Prince George and Ormond were invited to sup with the King at Andover. The meal must have been a sad one. The King was overwhelmed by his misfortunes. His son in law was the dullest of companions. "I have tried Prince George sober," said Charles the Second; "and I have tried him drunk; and, drunk or sober, there is nothing in him." Ormond, who was through life taciturn and bashful, was not likely to be in high spirits at such a moment. At length the repast terminated. The King retired to rest. Horses were in waiting for the Prince and Ormond, who, as soon as they left the table, mounted and rode off. They were accompanied by the Earl of Drumlanrig, eldest son of the Duke of Queensberry. The defection of this young nobleman was no insignificant event. For Queensberry was the head of the Protestant Episcopalians of Scotland, a class compared with whom the bitterest English Tories might be called Whiggish; and Drumlanrig himself was Lieutenant Colonel of Dundee's regiment, a band more detested by the Whigs than even Kirke's lambs. This fresh calamity was announced to the King on the following morning. He was less disturbed by the news than might have been expected. The shock which he had undergone twenty-four hours before had prepared him for almost any disaster; and it was impossible to be seriously angry with Prince George, who was hardly an accountable being, for having yielded to the arts of such a tempter as Churchill. "What!" said James, "is Est-il-possible gone too? After all, a good trooper would have been a greater loss." In truth the King's whole anger seems, at this time, to have been concentrated, and not without cause, on one object. He set off for London, breathing vengeance against Churchill, and learned, on arriving, a new crime of the arch deceiver. The Princess Anne had been some hours missing.
Anne, who had no will but that of the Churchills, had been induced by them to notify under her own hand to William, a week before, her approbation of his enterprise. She assured him that she was entirely in the hands of her friends, and that she would remain in the palace, or take refuge in the City, as they might determine. On Sunday the twenty-fifth of November, she, and those who thought for her, were under the necessity of coming to a sudden resolution. That afternoon a courier from Salisbury brought tidings that Churchill had disappeared, that he had been accompanied by Grafton, that Kirke had proved false, and that the royal forces were in full retreat. There was, as usually happened when great news, good or bad, arrived in town, an immense crowd that evening in the galleries of Whitehall. Curiosity and anxiety sate on every face. The Queen broke forth into natural expressions of indignation against the chief traitor, and did not altogether spare his too partial mistress. The sentinels were doubled round that part of the palace which Anne occupied. The Princess was in dismay. In a few hours her father would be at Westminster. It was not likely that he would treat her personally with severity; but that he would permit her any longer to enjoy the society of her friend was not to be hoped. It could hardly be doubted that Sarah would be placed under arrest and would be subjected to a strict examination by shrewd and rigorous inquisitors. Her papers would be seized. Perhaps evidence affecting her life might be discovered. If so the worst might well be dreaded. The vengeance of the implacable King knew no distinction of sex. For offences much smaller than those which might probably be brought home to Lady Churchill he had sent women to the scaffold and the stake. Strong affection braced the feeble mind of the Princess. There was no tie which she would not break, no risk which she would not run, for the object of her idolatrous affection. "I will jump out of the window," she cried, "rather than be found here by my father." The favourite undertook to manage an escape. She communicated in all haste with some of the chiefs of the conspiracy. In a few hours every thing was arranged. That evening Anne retired to her chamber as usual. At dead of night she rose, and, accompanied by her friend Sarah and two other female attendants, stole down the back stairs in a dressing gown and slippers. The fugitives gained the open street unchallenged. A hackney coach was in waiting for them there. Two men guarded the humble vehicle. One of them was Compton, Bishop of London, the Princess's old tutor: the other was the magnificent and accomplished Dorset, whom the extremity of the public danger had roused from his luxurious repose. The coach drove instantly to Aldersgate Street, where the town residence of the Bishops of London then stood, within the shadow of their Cathedral. There the Princess passed the night. On the following morning she set out for Epping Forest. In that wild tract Dorset possessed a venerable mansion, which has long since been destroyed. In his hospitable dwelling, the favourite resort, during, many years, of wits and poets, the fugitives made a short stay. They could not safely attempt to reach William's quarters; for the road thither lay through a country occupied by the royal forces. It was therefore determined that Anne should take refuge with the northern insurgents. Compton wholly laid aside, for the time, his sacerdotal character. Danger and conflict had rekindled in him all the military ardour which he had felt twenty-eight years before, when he rode in the Life Guards. He preceded the Princess's carriage in a buff coat and jackboots, with a sword at his side and pistols in his holsters. Long before she reached Nottingham, she was surrounded by a body guard of gentlemen who volunteered to escort her. They invited the Bishop to act as their colonel; and he consented with an alacrity which gave great scandal to rigid Churchmen, and did not much raise his character even in the opinion of Whigs.
When, on the morning of the twenty-sixth, Anne's apartment was found empty, the consternation was great in Whitehall. While the Ladies of her Bedchamber ran up and down the courts of the palace, screaming and wringing their hands, while Lord Craven, who commanded the Foot Guards, was questioning the sentinels in the gallery, while the Chancellor was sealing up the papers of the Churchills, the Princess's nurse broke into the royal apartments crying out that the dear lady had been murdered by the Papists. The news flew to Westminster Hall. There the story was that Her Highness had been hurried away by force to a place of confinement. When it could no longer be denied that her flight had been voluntary, numerous fictions were invented to account for it. She had been grossly insulted; she had been threatened; nay, though she was in that situation in which woman is entitled to peculiar tenderness, she had been beaten by her cruel stepmother. The populace, which years of misrule had made suspicious and irritable, was so much excited by these calumnies that the Queen was scarcely safe. Many Roman Catholics, and some Protestant Tories whose loyalty was proof to all trials, repaired to the palace that they might be in readiness to defend her in the event of an outbreak. In the midst of this distress and tenor arrived the news of Prince George's flight. The courier who brought these evil tidings was fast followed by the King himself. The evening was closing in when James arrived, and was informed that his daughter had disappeared. After all that he had suffered, this affliction forced a cry of misery from his lips. "God help me," he said; "my own children have forsaken me."
That evening he sate in Council with his principal ministers, till a late hour. It was determined that he should summon all the Lords Spiritual and Temporal who were then in London to attend him on the following day, and that he should solemnly ask their advice. Accordingly, on the afternoon of Tuesday the twenty- seventh, the Lords met in the dining room of the palace. The assembly consisted of nine prelates and between thirty and forty secular nobles, all Protestants. The two Secretaries of State, Middleton and Preston, though not peers of England, were in attendance. The King himself presided. The traces of severe bodily and mental suffering were discernible in his countenance and deportment. He opened the proceedings by referring to the petition which had been put into his hands just before he set out for Salisbury. The prayer of that petition was that he would convoke a free Parliament. Situated as he then was, he had not, he said, thought it right to comply. But, during his absence from London, great changes had taken place. He had also observed that his people everywhere seemed anxious that the Houses should meet. He had therefore commanded the attendance of his faithful Peers, in order to ask their counsel.
For a time there was silence. Then Oxford, whose pedigree, unrivalled in antiquity and splendour, gave him a kind of primacy in the meeting, said that in his opinion those Lords who had signed the petition to which His Majesty had referred ought now to explain their views.
These words called up Rochester. He defended the petition, and declared that he still saw no hope for the throne or the country but in a Parliament. He would not, he said, venture to affirm that, in so disastrous an extremity, even that remedy would be efficacious: but he had no other remedy to propose. He added that it might be advisable to open a negotiation with the Prince of Orange. Jeffreys and Godolphin followed; and both declared that they agreed with Rochester.
Then Clarendon rose, and, to the astonishment of all who remembered his loud professions of loyalty, and the agony of shame and sorrow into which he had been thrown, only a few days before, by the news of his son's defection, broke forth into a vehement invective against tyranny and Popery. "Even now," he said, "His Majesty is raising in London a regiment into which no Protestant is admitted." "That is not true," cried James, in great agitation, from the head of the board. Clarendon persisted, and left this offensive topic only to pass to a topic still more offensive. He accused the unfortunate King of pusillanimity. Why retreat from Salisbury? Why not try the event of a battle? Could people be blamed for submitting to the invader when they saw their sovereign run away at the head of his army? James felt these insults keenly, and remembered them long. Indeed even Whigs thought the language of Clarendon indecent and ungenerous. Halifax spoke in a very different tone. During several years of peril he had defended with admirable ability the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of his country against the prerogative. But his serene intellect, singularly unsusceptible of enthusiasm, and singularly averse to extremes, began to lean towards the cause of royalty at the very moment at which those noisy Royalists who had lately execrated the Trimmers as little bettor than rebels were everywhere rising in rebellion. It was his ambition to be, at this conjuncture, the peacemaker between the throne and the nation. His talents and character fitted him for that office; and, if he failed, the failure is to be ascribed to causes against which no human skill could contend, and chiefly to the folly, faithlessness, and obstinacy of the Prince whom he tried to save.
Halifax now gave utterance to much unpalatable truth, but with a delicacy which brought on him the reproach of flattery from spirits too abject to understand that what would justly be called flattery when offered to the powerful is a debt of humanity to the fallen. With many expressions of sympathy and deference, he declared it to be his opinion that the King must make up his mind to great sacrifices. It was not enough to convoke a Parliament or to open a negotiation with the Prince of Orange. Some at least of the grievances of which the nation complained should be instantly redressed without waiting till redress was demanded by the Houses or by the captain of the hostile army. Nottingham, in language equally respectful, declared that he agreed with Halifax. The chief concessions which these Lords pressed the King to make were three. He ought, they said, forthwith to dismiss all Roman Catholics from office, to separate himself wholly from France, and to grant an unlimited amnesty to those who were in arms against him. The last of these propositions, it should seem, admitted of no dispute. For, though some of those who were banded together against the King had acted towards him in a manner which might not unreasonably excite his bitter resentment, it was more likely that he would soon be at their mercy than that they would ever be at his. It would have been childish to open a negotiation with William, and yet to denounce vengeance against men whom William could not without infamy abandon. But the clouded understanding and implacable temper of James held out long against the arguments of those who laboured to convince him that it would be wise to pardon offences which he could not punish. "I cannot do it," he exclaimed. "I must make examples, Churchill above all; Churchill whom I raised so high. He and he alone has done all this. He has corrupted my army. He has corrupted my child. He would have put me into the hands of the Prince of Orange, but for God's special providence. My Lords, you are strangely anxious for the safety of traitors. None of you troubles himself about my safety." In answer to this burst of impotent anger, those who had recommended the amnesty represented with profound respect, but with firmness, that a prince attacked by powerful enemies can be safe only by conquering or by conciliating. "If your Majesty, after all that has happened, has still any hope of safety in arms, we have done: but if not, you can be safe only by regaining the affections of your people." After long and animated debate the King broke up the meeting. "My Lords," he said, "you have used great freedom: but I do not take it ill of you. I have made up my mind on one point. I shall call a Parliament. The other suggestions which have been offered are of grave importance; and you will not be surprised that I take a night to reflect on them before I decide."
At first James seemed disposed to make excellent use of the time which he had taken for consideration. The Chancellor was directed to issue writs convoking a Parliament for the thirteenth of January. Halifax was sent for to the closet, had a long audience, and spoke with much more freedom than he had thought it decorous to use in the presence of a large assembly. He was informed that he had been appointed a Commissioner to treat with the Prince of Orange. With him were joined Nottingham and Godolphin. The King declared that he was prepared to make great sacrifices for the sake of peace. Halifax answered that great sacrifices would doubtless be required. "Your Majesty," he said, "must not expect that those who have the power in their hands will consent to any terms which would leave the laws at the mercy of the prerogative." With this distinct explanation of his views, he accepted the Commission which the King wished him to undertake. The concessions which a few hours before had been so obstinately refused were now made in the most liberal manner. A proclamation was put forth by which the King not only granted a free pardon to all who were in rebellion against him, but declared them eligible to be members of the approaching Parliament. It was not even required as a condition of eligibility that they should lay down their arms. The same Gazette which announced that the Houses were about to meet contained a notification that Sir Edward Hales, who, as a Papist, as a renegade, as the foremost champion of the dispensing power, and as the harsh gaoler of the Bishops, was one of the most unpopular men in the realm, had ceased to be Lieutenant of the Tower, and had been succeeded by his late prisoner, Bevil Skelton, who, though he held no high place in the esteem of his countrymen, was at least not disqualified by law for public trust.
But these concessions were meant only to blind the Lords and the nation to the King's real designs. He had secretly determined that, even in this extremity, he would yield nothing. On the very day on which he issued the proclamation of amnesty, he fully explained his intentions to Barillon. "This negotiation," said James, "is a mere feint. I must send commissioners to my nephew, that I may gain time to ship off my wife and the Prince of Wales. You know the temper of my troops. None but the Irish will stand by me; and the Irish are not in sufficient force to resist the enemy. A Parliament would impose on me conditions which I could not endure. I should be forced to undo all that I have done for the Catholics, and to break with the King of France. As soon, therefore, as the Queen and my child are safe, I will leave England, and tale refuge in Ireland, in Scotland, or with your master."
Already James had made preparations for carrying this scheme into effect. Dover had been sent to Portsmouth with instructions to take charge of the Prince of Wales; and Dartmouth, who commanded the fleet there, had been ordered to obey Dover's directions in all things concerning the royal infant, and to have a yacht manned by trusty sailors in readiness to sail for France at a moment's notice. The King now sent positive orders that the child should instantly be conveyed to the nearest continental port. Next to the Prince of Wales the chief object of anxiety was the Great Seal. To that symbol of kingly authority our jurists have always ascribed a peculiar and almost mysterious importance. It is held that, if the Keeper of the Seal should affix it, without taking the royal pleasure, to a patent of peerage or to a pardon, though he may be guilty of a high offence, the instrument cannot be questioned by any court of law, and can be annulled only by an Act of Parliament. James seems to have been afraid that his enemies might get this organ of his will into their hands, and might thus give a legal validity to acts which might affect him injuriously. Nor will his apprehensions be thought unreasonable when it is remembered that, exactly a hundred years later, the Great Seal of a King was used, with the assent of Lords and Commons, and with the approbation of many great statesmen and lawyers, for the purpose of transferring his prerogatives to his son. Lest the talisman which possessed such formidable powers should be abused, James determined that it should be kept within a few yards of his own closet. Jeffreys was therefore ordered to quit the costly mansion which he had lately built in Duke Street, and to take up his residence in a small apartment at Whitehall.
The King had made all his preparations for flight, when an unexpected impediment compelled him to postpone the execution of his design. His agents at Portsmouth began to entertain scruples. Even Dover, though a member of the Jesuitical cabal, showed signs of hesitation. Dartmouth was still less disposed to comply with the royal wishes. He had hitherto been faithful to the throne, and had done all that he could do, with a disaffected fleet, and in the face of an adverse wind, to prevent the Dutch from landing in England: but he was a zealous member of the Established Church; and was by no means friendly to the policy of that government which he thought himself bound in duty and honour to defend. The mutinous temper of the officers and men under his command had caused him much anxiety; and he had been greatly relieved by the news that a free Parliament had been convoked, and that Commissioners had been named to treat with the Prince of Orange. The joy was clamorous throughout the fleet. An address, warmly thanking the King for these gracious concessions to public feeling, was drawn up on board of the flag ship. The Admiral signed first. Thirty-eight Captains wrote their names under his. This paper on its way to Whitehall crossed the messenger who brought to Portsmouth the order that the Prince of Wales should instantly be conveyed to France. Dartmouth learned, with bitter grief and resentment, that the free Parliament, the general amnesty, the negotiation, were all parts of a great fraud on the nation, and that in this fraud he was expected to be an accomplice. In a pathetic and manly letter he declared that he had already carried his obedience to the farthest point to which a Protestant and an Englishman could go. To put the heir apparent of the British crown into the hands of Lewis would be nothing less than treason against the monarchy. The nation, already too much alienated from the Sovereign, would be roused to madness. The Prince of Wales would either not return at all, or would return attended by a French army. If His Royal Highness remained in the island, the worst that could be apprehended was that he would be brought up a member of the national Church; and that he might be so brought up ought to be the prayer of every loyal subject. Dartmouth concluded by declaring that he would risk his life in defence of the throne, but that he would be no party to the transporting of the Prince into France.
This letter deranged all the projects of James. He learned too that he could not on this occasion expect from his Admiral even passive obedience. For Dartmouth had gone so far as to station several sloops at the mouth of the harbour of Portsmouth with orders to suffer no vessel to pass out unexamined. A change of plan was necessary. The child must be brought back to London, and sent thence to France. An interval of some days must elapse before this could be done. During that interval the public mind must be amused by the hope of a Parliament and the semblance of a negotiation. Writs were sent out for the elections. Trumpeters went backward and forward between the capital and the Dutch headquarters. At length passes for the king's Commissioners arrived; and the three Lords set out on their embassy.
They left the capital in a state of fearful distraction. The passions which, during three troubled years, had been gradually gathering force, now, emancipated from the restraint of fear, and stimulated by victory and sympathy, showed themselves without disguise, even in the precincts of the royal dwelling. The grand jury of Middlesex found a bill against the Earl of Salisbury for turning Papist. The Lord Mayor ordered the houses of the Roman Catholics of the City to be searched for arms. The mob broke into the house of one respectable merchant who held the unpopular faith, in order to ascertain whether he had not run a mine from his cellars under the neighbouring parish church, for the purpose of blowing up parson and congregation. The hawkers bawled about the streets a hue and cry after Father Petre, who had withdrawn himself, and not before it was time, from his apartments in the palace. Wharton's celebrated song, with many additional verses, was chaunted more loudly than ever in all the streets of the capital. The very sentinels who guarded the palace hummed, as they paced their rounds,
"The English confusion to Popery drink, Lillibullero bullen a la."
The secret presses of London worked without ceasing. Many papers daily came into circulation by means which the magistracy could not discover, or would not check. One of these has been preserved from oblivion by the skilful audacity with which it was written, and by the immense effect which it produced. It purported to be a supplemental declaration under the hand and seal of the Prince of Orange: but it was written in a style very different from that of his genuine manifesto. Vengeance alien from the usages of Christian and civilised nations was denounced against all Papists who should dare to espouse the royal cause. They should be treated, not as soldiers or gentlemen, but as freebooters. The ferocity and licentiousness of the invading army, which had hitherto been restrained with a strong hand, should be let loose on them. Good Protestants, and especially those who inhabited the capital, were adjured, as they valued all that was dear to them, and commanded, on peril of the Prince's highest displeasure, to seize, disarm, and imprison their Roman Catholic neighbours. This document, it is said, was found by a Whig bookseller one morning under his shop door. He made haste to print it. Many copies were dispersed by the post, and passed rapidly from hand to hand. Discerning men had no difficulty in pronouncing it a forgery devised by some unquiet and unprincipled adventurer, such as, in troubled times, are always busy in the foulest and darkest offices of faction. But the multitude was completely duped. Indeed to such a height had national and religious feeling been excited against the Irish Papists that most of those who believed the spurious proclamation to be genuine were inclined to applaud it as a seasonable exhibition of vigour. When it was known that no such document had really proceeded from William, men asked anxiously what impostor had so daringly and so successfully personated his Highness. Some suspected Ferguson, others Johnson. At length, after the lapse of twenty-seven years, Hugh Speke avowed the forgery, and demanded from the House of Brunswick a reward for so eminent a service rendered to the Protestant religion. He asserted, in the tone of a man who conceives himself to have done something eminently virtuous and honourable, that, when the Dutch invasion had thrown Whitehall into consternation, he had offered his services to the court, had pretended to be estranged from the Whigs, and had promised to act as a spy upon them; that he had thus obtained admittance to the royal closet, had vowed fidelity, had been promised large pecuniary rewards, and had procured blank passes which enabled him to travel backwards and forwards across the hostile lines. All these things he protested that he had done solely in order that he might, unsuspected, aim a deadly blow at the government, and produce a violent outbreak of popular feeling against the Roman Catholics. The forged proclamation he claimed as one of his contrivances: but whether his claim were well founded may be doubted. He delayed to make it so long that we may reasonably suspect him of having waited for the death of those who could confute him; and he produced no evidence but his own.
While these things happened in London, every post from every part of the country brought tidings of some new insurrection. Lumley had seized Newcastle. The inhabitants had welcomed him with transport. The statue of the King, which stood on a lofty pedestal of marble, had been pulled down and hurled into the Tyne. The third of December was long remembered at Hull as the town taking day. That place had a garrison commanded by Lord Langdale, a Roman Catholic. The Protestant officers concerted with the magistracy a plan of revolt: Langdale and his adherents were arrested; and soldiers and citizens united in declaring for the Protestant religion and a free Parliament.
The Eastern Counties were up. The Duke of Norfolk, attended by three hundred gentlemen armed and mounted, appeared in the stately marketplace of Norwich. The Mayor and Aldermen met him there, and engaged to stand by him against Popery and arbitrary power. Lord Herbert of Cherbury and Sir Edward Harley took up arms in Worcestershire. Bristol, the second city of the realm, opened its gates to Shrewsbury. Trelawney, the Bishop, who had entirely unlearned in the Tower the doctrine of nonresistance, was the first to welcome the Prince's troops. Such was the temper of the inhabitants that it was thought unnecessary to leave any garrison among them. The people of Gloucester rose and delivered Lovelace from confinement. An irregular army soon gathered round him. Some of his horsemen had only halters for bridles. Many of his infantry had only clubs for weapons. But this force, such as it was, marched unopposed through counties once devoted to the House of Stuart, and at length entered Oxford in triumph. The magistrates came in state to welcome the insurgents. The University itself, exasperated by recent injuries, was little disposed to pass censures on rebellion. Already some of the Heads of Houses had despatched one of their number to assure the Prince of Orange that they were cordially with him, and that they would gladly coin their plate for his service. The Whig chief, therefore, rode through the capital of Toryism amidst general acclamation. Before him the drums beat Lillibullero. Behind him came a long stream of horse and foot. The whole High Street was gay with orange ribands. For already the orange riband had the double signification which, after the lapse of one hundred and sixty years, it still retains. Already it was the emblem to the Protestant Englishman of civil and religious freedom, to the Roman Catholic Celt of subjugation and persecution.
While foes were thus rising up all round the King, friends were fast shrinking from his side. The idea of resistance had become familiar to every mind. Many who had been struck with horror when they heard of the first defections now blamed themselves for having been so slow to discern the signs of the times. There was no longer any difficulty or danger in repairing to William. The King, in calling on the nation to elect representatives, had, by implication, authorised all men to repair to the places where they had votes or interest; and many of those places were already occupied by invaders or insurgents. Clarendon eagerly caught at this opportunity of deserting the falling cause. He knew that his speech in the Council of Peers had given deadly offence: and he was mortified by finding that he was not to be one of the royal Commissioners. He had estates in Wiltshire. He determined that his son, the son of whom he had lately spoken with grief and horror, should be a candidate for that county; and, under pretence of looking after the election, he set out for the West. He was speedily followed by the Earl of Oxford, and by others who had hitherto disclaimed all connection with the Prince's enterprise.
By this time the invaders, steadily though slowly advancing, were within seventy miles of London. Though midwinter was approaching, the weather was fine; the way was pleasant; and the turf of Salisbury Plain seemed luxuriously smooth to men who had been toiling through the miry ruts of the Devonshire and Somersetshire highways. The route of the army lay close by Stonehenge; and regiment after regiment halted to examine that mysterious ruin, celebrated all over the Continent as the greatest wonder of our island. William entered Salisbury with the same military pomp which he had displayed at Exeter, and was lodged there in the palace which the King had occupied a few days before.
His train was now swelled by the Earls of Clarendon and Oxford, and by other men of high rank, who had, till within a few days, been considered as jealous Royalists. Van Citters also made his appearance at the Dutch head quarters. He had been during some weeks almost a prisoner in his house, near Whitehall, under the constant observation of relays of spies. Yet, in spite of those spies, or perhaps by their help, he had succeeded in obtaining full and accurate intelligence of all that passed in the palace; and now, full fraught with valuable information about men and things, he came to assist the deliberations of William.
Thus far the Prince's enterprise had prospered beyond the anticipations of the most sanguine. And now, according to the general law which governs human affairs, prosperity began to produce disunion. The Englishmen assembled at Salisbury were divided into two parties. One party consisted of Whigs who had always regarded the doctrines of passive obedience and of indefeasible hereditary right as slavish superstitions. Many of them had passed years in exile. All had been long shut out from participation to the favours of the crown. They now exulted in the near prospect of greatness and of vengeance. Burning with resentment, flushed with victory and hope, they would hear of no compromise. Nothing less than the deposition of their enemy would content them: nor can it be disputed that herein they were perfectly consistent. They had exerted themselves, nine years earlier, to exclude him from the throne, because they thought it likely that he would be a bad King. It could therefore scarcely be expected that they would willingly leave him on the throne, now that he had turned out a far worse King than any reasonable man could have anticipated.
On the other hand, not a few of William's followers were zealous Tories, who had, till very recently, held the doctrine of nonresistance in the most absolute form, but whose faith in that doctrine had, for a moment, given way to the strong passions excited by the ingratitude of the King and by the peril of the Church. No situation could be more painful or perplexing than that of the old Cavalier who found himself in arms against the throne. The scruples which had not prevented him from repairing to the Dutch camp began to torment him cruelly as soon as he was there. His mind misgave him that he had committed a crime. At all events he had exposed himself to reproach, by acting in diametrical opposition to the professions of his whole life. He felt insurmountable disgust for his new allies. They were people whom, ever since he could remember, he had been reviling and persecuting, Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, old soldiers of Cromwell, brisk boys of Shaftesbury, accomplices in the Rye House Plot, captains of the Western Insurrection. He naturally wished to find out some salvo which might sooth his conscience, which might vindicate his consistency, and which might put a distinction between him and the crew of schismatical rebels whom he had always despised and abhorred, but with whom he was now in danger of being confounded. He therefore disclaimed with vehemence all thought of taking the crown from that anointed head which the ordinance of heaven and the fundamental laws of the realm had made sacred. His dearest wish was to see a reconciliation effected on terms which would not lower the royal dignity. He was no traitor. He was not, in truth, resisting the kingly authority. He was in arms only because he was convinced that the best service which could be rendered to the throne was to rescue His Majesty, by a little gentle coercion, from the hands of wicked counsellors.
The evils which the mutual animosity of these factions tended to produce were, to a great extent, averted by the ascendency and by the wisdom of the Prince. Surrounded by eager disputants, officious advisers, abject flatterers, vigilant spies, malicious talebearers, he remained serene and inscrutable. He preserved silence while silence was possible. When he was forced to speak, the earnest and peremptory tone in which he uttered his well weighed opinions soon silenced everybody else. Whatever some of his too zealous adherents might say, he uttered not a word indicating any design on the English crown. He was doubtless well aware that between him and that crown were still interposed obstacles which no prudence might be able to surmount, and which a single false step would make insurmountable. His only chance of obtaining the splendid prize was not to seize it rudely, but to wait till, without any appearance of exertion or stratagem on his part, his secret wish should be accomplished by the force of circumstances, by the blunders of his opponents, and by the free choice of the Estates of the Realm. Those who ventured to interrogate him learned nothing, and yet could not accuse him of shuffling. He quietly referred them to his Declaration, and assured them that his views had undergone no change since that instrument had been drawn up. So skilfully did he manage his followers that their discord seems rather to have strengthened than to have weakened his hands: but it broke forth with violence when his control was withdrawn, interrupted the harmony of convivial meetings, and did not respect even the sanctity of the house of God. Clarendon, who tried to hide from others and from himself, by an ostentatious display of loyal sentiments, the plain fact that he was a rebel, was shocked to hear some of his new associates laughing over their wine at the royal amnesty which had just been graciously offered to them. They wanted no pardon, they said. They would make the King ask pardon before they had done with him. Still more alarming and disgusting to every good Tory was an incident which happened at Salisbury Cathedral. As soon as the officiating minister began to read the collect for the King, Burnet, among whose many good qualities selfcommand and a fine sense of the becoming cannot be reckoned, rose from his knees, sate down in his stall, and uttered some contemptuous noises which disturbed the devotions of the congregation.
In a short time the factions which divided the Prince's camp had an opportunity of measuring their strength. The royal Commissioners were on their way to him. Several days had elapsed since they had been appointed; and it was thought strange that, in a case of such urgency, there should be such delay. But in truth neither James nor William was desirous that negotiations should speedily commence; for James wished only to gain time sufficient for sending his wife and son into France; and the position of William became every day more commanding. At length the Prince caused it to be notified to the Commissioners that he would meet them at Hungerford. He probably selected this place because, lying at an equal distance from Salisbury and from Oxford, it was well situated for a rendezvous of his most important adherents. At Salisbury were those noblemen and gentlemen who had accompanied him from Holland or had joined him in the West; and at Oxford were many chiefs of the Northern insurrection.
Late on Thursday, the sixth of December, he reached Hungerford. The little town was soon crowded with men of rank and note who came thither from opposite quarters. The Prince was escorted by a strong body of troops. The northern Lords brought with them hundreds of irregular cavalry, whose accoutrements and horsemanship moved the mirth of men accustomed to the splendid aspect and exact movements of regular armies.
While the Prince lay at Hungerford a sharp encounter took place between two hundred and fifty of his troops and six hundred Irish, who were posted at Reading. The superior discipline of the invaders was signally proved on this occasion. Though greatly outnumbered, they, at one onset, drove the King's forces in confusion through the streets of the town into the market place. There the Irish attempted to rally; but, being vigorously attacked in front and fired upon at the same time by the inhabitants from the windows of the neighbouring houses, they soon lost heart, and fled with the loss of them colours and of fifty men. Of the conquerors only five fell. The satisfaction which this news gave to the Lords and gentlemen who had joined William was unmixed. There was nothing in what had happened to gall their national feelings. The Dutch had not beaten the English, but had assisted an English town to free itself from the insupportable dominion of the Irish.
On the morning of Saturday, the eighth of December, the King's Commissioners reached Hungerford. The Prince's body guard was drawn up to receive them with military respect. Bentinck welcomed them, and proposed to conduct them immediately to his master. They expressed a hope that the Prince would favour them with a private audience; but they were informed that he had resolved to hear them and answer them in public. They were ushered into his bedchamber, where they found him surrounded by a crowd of noblemen and gentlemen. Halifax, whose rank, age, and abilities entitled him to precedence, was spokesman. The proposition which the Commissioners had been instructed to make was that the points in dispute should be referred to the Parliament, for which the writs were already sealing, and that in the mean time the Prince's army would not come within thirty or forty miles of London. Halifax, having explained that this was the basis on which he and his colleagues were prepared to treat, put into William's hands a letter from the King, and retired. William opened the letter and seemed unusually moved. It was the first letter which he had received from his father in law since they had become avowed enemies. Once they had been on good terms and had written to each other familiarly; nor had they, even when they had begun to regard each other with suspicion and aversion, banished from their correspondence those forms of kindness which persons nearly related by blood and marriage commonly use. The letter which the Commissioners had brought was drawn up by a secretary in diplomatic form and in the French language. "I have had many letters from the King," said William, "but they were all in English, and in his own hand." He spoke with a sensibility which he was little in the habit of displaying. Perhaps he thought at that moment how much reproach his enterprise, just, beneficent, and necessary as it was, must bring on him and on the wife who was devoted to him. Perhaps he repined at the hard fate which had placed him in such a situation that he could fulfil his public duties only by breaking through domestic ties, and envied the happier condition of those who are not responsible for the welfare of nations and Churches. But such thoughts, if they rose in his mind, were firmly suppressed. He requested the Lords and gentlemen whom he had convoked on this occasion to consult together, unrestrained by his presence, as to the answer which ought to be returned. To himself, however, he reserved the power of deciding in the last resort, after hearing their opinion. He then left them, and retired to Littlecote Hall, a manor house situated about two miles off, and renowned down to our own times, not more on account of its venerable architecture and furniture than an account of a horrible and mysterious crime which was perpetrated there in the days of the Tudors.
Before he left Hungerford, he was told that Halifax had expressed a great desire to see Burnet. In this desire there was nothing strange; for Halifax and Burnet had long been on terms of friendship. No two men, indeed, could resemble each other less. Burnet was utterly destitute of delicacy and tact. Halifax's taste was fastidious, and his sense of the ludicrous morbidly quick. Burnet viewed every act and every character through a medium distorted and coloured by party spirit. The tendency of Halifax's mind was always to see the faults of his allies more strongly than the faults of his opponents. Burnet was, with all his infirmities, and through all the vicissitudes of a life passed in circumstances not very favourable to piety, a sincerely pious man. The sceptical and sarcastic Halifax lay under the imputation of infidelity. Halifax therefore often incurred Burnet's indignant censure; and Burnet was often the butt of Halifax's keen and polished pleasantry. Yet they were drawn to each other by a mutual attraction, liked each other's conversation, appreciated each other's abilities, interchanged opinions freely, and interchanged also good offices in perilous times. It was not, however, merely from personal regard that Halifax now wished to see his old acquaintance. The Commissioners must have been anxious to know what was the Prince's real aim. He had refused to see them in private; and little could be learned from what he might say in a formal and public interview. Almost all those who were admitted to his confidence were men taciturn and impenetrable as himself. Burnet was the only exception. He was notoriously garrulous and indiscreet. Yet circumstances had made it necessary to trust him; and he would doubtless, under the dexterous management of Halifax, have poured out secrets as fast as words. William knew this well, and, when he was informed that Halifax was asking for the Doctor, could not refrain from exclaiming, "If they get together there will be fine tattling." Burnet was forbidden to see the Commissioners in private; but he was assured in very courteous terms that his fidelity was regarded by the Prince as above all suspicion; and, that there might be no ground for complaint, the prohibition was made general.
That afternoon the noblemen and gentlemen whose advice William had asked met in the great room of the principal inn at Hungerford. Oxford was placed in the chair; and the King's overtures were taken into consideration. It soon appeared that the assembly was divided into two parties, a party anxious to come to terms with the King, and a party bent on his destruction. The latter party had the numerical superiority: but it was observed that Shrewsbury, who of all the English nobles was supposed to enjoy the largest share of William's confidence, though a Whig, sided on this occasion with the Tories. After much altercation the question was put. The majority was for rejecting the proposition which the royal Commissioners had been instructed to make. The resolution of the assembly was reported to the Prince at Littlecote. On no occasion during the whole course of his eventful life did he show more prudence and selfcommand. He could not wish the negotiation to succeed. But he was far too wise a man not to know that, if unreasonable demands made by him should cause it to fail, public feeling would no longer be on his side. He therefore overruled the opinion of his too eager followers, and declared his determination to treat on the basis proposed by the King. Many of the Lords and gentlemen assembled at Hungerford remonstrated: a whole day was spent in bickering: but William's purpose was immovable. He declared himself willing to refer all the questions in dispute to the Parliament which had just been summoned, and not to advance within forty miles of London. On his side he made some demands which even those who were least disposed to commend him allowed to be moderate. He insisted that the existing statutes should be obeyed till they should be altered by competent authority, and that all persons who held offices without a legal qualification should be forthwith dismissed. The deliberations of the Parliament, he justly conceived, could not be free if it was to sit surrounded by Irish regiments while he and his army lay at a distance of several marches. He therefore thought it reasonable that, since his troops were not to advance within forty miles of London on the west, the King's troops should fall back as far to the east. There would thus be, round the spot where the Houses were to meet, a wide circle of neutral ground. Within that circle, indeed, there were two fastnesses of great importance to the people of the capital, the Tower, which commanded their dwellings, and Tilbury Fort, which commanded their maritime trade. It was impossible to leave these places ungarrisoned. William therefore proposed that they should be temporarily entrusted to the care of the City of London. It might possibly be convenient that, when the Parliament assembled, the King should repair to Westminster with a body guard. The Prince announced that, in that case, he should claim the right of repairing thither also with an equal number of soldiers. It seemed to him just that, while military operations were suspended, both the armies should be considered as alike engaged in the service of the English nation, and should be alike maintained out of the English revenue. Lastly, he required some guarantee that the King would not take advantage of the armistice for the purpose of introducing a French force into England. The point where there was most danger was Portsmouth. The Prince did not however insist that this important fortress should be delivered up to him, but proposed that it should, during the truce, be under the government of an officer in whom both himself and James could confide.
The propositions of William were framed with a punctilious fairness, such as might have been expected rather from a disinterested umpire pronouncing an award than from a victorious prince dictating to a helpless enemy. No fault could be found with them by the partisans of the King. But among the Whigs there was much murmuring. They wanted no reconciliation with their old master. They thought themselves absolved from all allegiance to him. They were not disposed to recognise the authority of a Parliament convoked by his writ. They were averse to an armistice; and they could not conceive why, if there was to be an armistice, it should be an armistice on equal terms. By all the laws of war the stronger party had a right to take advantage of his strength; and what was there in the character of James to justify any extraordinary indulgence? Those who reasoned thus little knew from how elevated a point of view, and with how discerning an eye, the leader whom they censured contemplated the whole situation of England and Europe. They were eager to ruin James, and would therefore either have refused to treat with him on any conditions, or have imposed on him conditions insupportably hard. To the success of William's vast and profound scheme of policy it was necessary that James should ruin himself by rejecting conditions ostentatiously liberal. The event proved the wisdom of the course which the majority of the Englishmen at Hungerford were inclined to condemn.
On Sunday, the ninth of December, the Prince's demands were put in writing, and delivered to Halifax. The Commissioners dined at Littlecote. A splendid assemblage had been invited to meet them. The old hall, hung with coats of mail which had seen the wars of the Roses, and with portraits of gallants who had adorned the court of Philip and Mary, was now crowded with Peers and Generals. In such a throng a short question and answer might be exchanged without attracting notice. Halifax seized this opportunity, the first which had presented itself, of extracting all that Burnet knew or thought. "What is it that you want?" said the dexterous diplomatist; "do you wish to get the King into your power?" " Not at all," said Burnet; "we would not do the least harm to his person." "And if he were to go away?" said Halifax. "There is nothing," said Burnet, "so much to be wished." There can be no doubt that Burnet expressed the general sentiment of the Whigs in the Prince's camp. They were all desirous that James should fly from the country: but only a few of the wisest among them understood how important it was that his flight should be ascribed by the nation to his own folly and perverseness, and not to harsh usage and well grounded apprehension. It seems probable that, even in the extremity to which he was now reduced, all his enemies united would have been unable to effect his complete overthrow had he not been his own worst enemy: but, while his Commissioners were labouring to save him, he was labouring as earnestly to make all their efforts useless.
His plans were at length ripe for execution. The pretended negotiation had answered its purpose. On the same day on which the three Lords reached Hungerford the Prince of Wales arrived at Westminster. It had been intended that he should come over London Bridge; and some Irish troops were sent to Southwark to meet him. But they were received by a great multitude with such hooting and execration that they thought it advisable to retire with all speed. The poor child crossed the Thames at Kingston, and was brought into Whitehall so privately that many believed him to be still at Portsmouth.
To send him and the Queen out of the country without delay was now the first object of James. But who could be trusted to manage the escape? Dartmouth was the most loyal of Protestant Tories; and Dartmouth had refused. Dover was a creature of the Jesuits; and even Dover had hesitated. It was not very easy to find, an Englishman of rank and honour who would undertake to place the heir apparent of the English crown in the hands of the King of France. In these circumstances, James bethought him of a French nobleman who then resided in London, Antonine, Count of Lauzun. Of this man it has been said that his life was stranger than the dreams of other people. At an early age he had been the intimate associate of Lewis, and had been encouraged to expect the highest employments under the French crown. Then his fortunes had undergone an eclipse. Lewis had driven from him the friend of his youth with bitter reproaches, and had, it was said, scarcely refrained from adding blows. The fallen favourite had been sent prisoner to a fortress: but he had emerged from his confinement, had again enjoyed the smiles of his master, and had gained the heart of one of the greatest ladies in Europe, Anna Maria, daughter of Gaston, Duke of Orleans, granddaughter of King Henry the Fourth, and heiress of the immense domains of the house of Montpensier. The lovers were bent on marriage. The royal consent was obtained. During a few hours Lauzun was regarded by the court as an adopted member of the house of Bourbon. The portion which the princess brought with her might well have been an object of competition to sovereigns; three great dukedoms, an independent principality with its own mint and with its own tribunals, and an income greatly exceeding the whole revenue of the kingdom of Scotland. But this splendid prospect had been overcast. The match had been broken off. The aspiring suitor had been, during many years, shut up in an Alpine castle. At length Lewis relented. Lauzun was forbidden to appear in the royal presence, but was allowed to enjoy liberty at a distance from the court. He visited England, and was well received at the palace of James and in the fashionable circles of London; for in that age the gentlemen of France were regarded throughout Europe as models of grace; and many Chevaliers and Viscounts, who had never been admitted to the interior circle at Versailles, found themselves objects of general curiosity and admiration at Whitehall. Lauzun was in every respect the man for the present emergency. He had courage and a sense of honour, had been accustomed to eccentric adventures, and, with the keen observation and ironical pleasantry of a finished man of the world, had a strong propensity to knight errantry. All his national feelings and all his personal interests impelled him to undertake the adventure from which the most devoted subjects of the English crown seemed to shrink. As the guardian, at a perilous crisis, of the Queen of Great Britain and of the Prince of Wales, he might return with honour to his native land; he might once more be admitted to see Lewis dress and dine, and might, after so many vicissitudes, recommence, in the decline of life, the strangely fascinating chase of royal favour.
Animated by such feelings, Lauzun eagerly accepted the high trust which was offered to him. The arrangements for the flight were promptly made: a vessel was ordered to be in readiness at Gravesend: but to reach Gravesend was not easy. The City was in a state of extreme agitation. The slightest cause sufficed to bring a crowd together. No foreigner could appear in the streets without risk of being stopped, questioned, and carried before a magistrate as a Jesuit in disguise. It was, therefore, necessary to take the road on the south of the Thames. No precaution which could quiet suspicion was omitted. The King and Queen retired to rest as usual. When the palace had been some time profoundly quiet, James rose and called a servant who was in attendance. "You will find," said the King, "a man at the door of the antechamber; bring him hither." The servant obeyed, and Lauzun was ushered into the royal bedchamber. "I confide to you," said James, "my Queen and my son; everything must be risked to carry them into France." Lauzun, with a truly chivalrous spirit, returned thanks for the dangerous honour which had been conferred on him, and begged permission to avail himself of the assistance of his friend Saint Victor, a gentleman of Provence, whose courage and faith had been often tried. The services of so valuable an assistant were readily accepted. Lauzun gave his hand to Mary; Saint Victor wrapped up in his warm cloak the ill fated heir of so many Kings. The party stole down the back stairs, and embarked in an open skiff. It was a miserable voyage. The night was bleak: the rain fell: the wind roared: the waves were rough: at length the boat reached Lambeth; and the fugitives landed near an inn, where a coach and horses were in waiting. Some time elapsed before the horses could be harnessed. Mary, afraid that her face might be known, would not enter the house. She remained with her child, cowering for shelter from the storm under the tower of Lambeth Church, and distracted by terror whenever the ostler approached her with his lantern. Two of her women attended her, one who gave suck to the Prince, and one whose office was to rock his cradle; but they could be of little use to their mistress; for both were foreigners who could hardly speak the English language, and who shuddered at the rigour of the English climate. The only consolatory circumstance was that the little boy was well, and uttered not a single cry. At length the coach was ready. Saint Victor followed it on horseback. The fugitives reached Gravesend safely, and embarked in the yacht which waited for them. They found there Lord Powis and his wife. Three Irish officers were also on board. These men had been sent thither in order that they might assist Lauzun in any desperate emergency; for it was thought not impossible that the captain of the ship might prove false; and it was fully determined that, on the first suspicion of treachery, he should be stabbed to the heart. There was, however, no necessity for violence. The yacht proceeded down the river with a fair wind; and Saint Victor, having seen her under sail, spurred back with the good news to Whitehall.
On the morning of Monday the tenth of December, the King learned that his wife and son had begun their voyage with a fair prospect of reaching their destination. About the same time a courier arrived at the palace with despatches from Hungerford. Had James been a little more discerning, or a little less obstinate, those despatches would have induced him to reconsider all his plans. The Commissioners wrote hopefully. The conditions proposed by the conqueror were strangely liberal. The King himself could not refrain from exclaiming that they were more favourable than he could have expected. He might indeed not unreasonably suspect that they had been framed with no friendly design: but this mattered nothing; for, whether they were offered in the hope that, by closing with them, he would lay the ground for a happy reconciliation, or, as is more likely, in the hope that, by rejecting them, he would exhibit himself to the whole nation as utterly unreasonable and incorrigible, his course was equally clear. In either case his policy was to accept them promptly and to observe them faithfully.
But it soon appeared that William had perfectly understood the character with which he had to deal, and, in offering those terms which the Whigs at Hungerford had censured as too indulgent, had risked nothing. The solemn farce by which the public had been amused since the retreat of the royal army from Salisbury was prolonged during a few hours. All the Lords who were still in the capital were invited to the palace that they might be informed of the progress of the negotiation which had been opened by their advice. Another meeting of Peers was appointed for the following day. The Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs of London were also summoned to attend the King. He exhorted them to perform their duties vigorously, and owned that he had thought it expedient to send his wife and child out of the country, but assured them that he would himself remain at his post. While he uttered this unkingly and unmanly falsehood, his fixed purpose was to depart before daybreak. Already he had entrusted his most valuable moveables to the care of several foreign Ambassadors. His most important papers had been deposited with the Tuscan minister. But before the flight there was still something to be done. The tyrant pleased himself with the thought that he might avenge himself on a people who had been impatient of his despotism by inflicting on them at parting all the evils of anarchy. He ordered the Great Seal and the writs for the new Parliament to be brought to his apartment. The writs which could be found he threw into the fire. Those which had been already sent out he annulled by an instrument drawn up in legal form. To Feversham he wrote a letter which could be understood only as a command to disband the army. Still, however, the King concealed his intention of absconding even from his chief ministers. Just before he retired he directed Jeffreys to be in the closet early on the morrow; and, while stepping into bed, whispered to Mulgrave that the news from Hungerford was highly satisfactory. Everybody withdrew except the Duke of Northumberland. This young man, a natural son of Charles the Second by the Duchess of Cleveland, commanded a troop of Life Guards, and was a Lord of the Bedchamber. It seems to have been then the custom of the court that, in the Queen's absence, a Lord of the Bedchamber should sleep on a pallet in the King's room; and it was Northumberland's turn to perform this duty.
At three in the morning of Tuesday the eleventh of December, James rose, took the Great Seal in his hand, laid his commands on Northumberland not to open the door of the bedchamber till the usual hour, and disappeared through a secret passage; the same passage probably through which Huddleston had been brought to the bedside of the late king. Sir Edward Hales was in attendance with a hackney coach. James was conveyed to Millbank, where he crossed the Thames in a small wherry. As he passed Lambeth he flung the Great Seal into the midst of the stream, where, after many months, it was accidentally caught by a fishing net and dragged up.
At Vauxhall he landed. A carriage and horses had been stationed there for him; and he immediately took the road towards Sheerness, where a boy belonging to the Custom House had been ordered to await his arrival.