In the evening every window from Whitechapel to Piccadilly was lighted up. The state rooms of the palace were thrown open, and were filled by a gorgeous company of courtiers desirous to kiss the hands of the King and Queen. The Whigs assembled there, flushed with victory and prosperity. There were among them some who might be pardoned if a vindictive feeling mingled with their joy. The most deeply injured of all who had survived the evil times was absent. Lady Russell, while her friends were crowding the galleries of Whitehall, remained in her retreat, thinking of one who, if he had been still living, would have held no undistinguished place in the ceremonies of that great day. But her daughter, who had a few months before become the wife of Lord Cavendish, was presented to the royal pair by his mother the Countess of Devonshire. A letter is still extant in which the young lady described with great vivacity the roar of the populace, the blaze in the streets, the throng in the presence chamber, the beauty of Mary, and the expression which ennobled and softened the harsh features of William. But the most interesting passage is that in which the orphan girl avowed the stern delight with which she had witnessed the tardy punishment of her father's murderer.
The example of London was followed by the provincial towns. During three weeks the Gazettes were filled with accounts of the solemnities by which the public joy manifested itself, cavalcades of gentlemen and yeomen, processions of Sheriffs and Bailiffs in scarlet gowns, musters of zealous Protestants with orange flags and ribands, salutes, bonfires, illuminations, music, balls, dinners, gutters running with ale and conduits spouting claret.
Still more cordial was the rejoicing among the Dutch, when they learned that the first minister of their Commonwealth had been raised to a throne. On the very day of his accession he had written to assure the States General that the change in his situation had made no change in the affection which he bore to his native land, and that his new dignity would, he hoped, enable him to discharge his old duties more efficiently than ever. That oligarchical party, which had always been hostile to the doctrines of Calvin and to the House of Orange, muttered faintly that His Majesty ought to resign the Stadtholdership. But all such mutterings were drowned by the acclamations of a people proud of the genius and success of their great countryman. A day of thanksgiving was appointed. In all the cities of the Seven Provinces the public joy manifested itself by festivities of which the expense was chiefly defrayed by voluntary gifts. Every class assisted. The poorest labourer could help to set up an arch of triumph, or to bring sedge to a bonfire. Even the ruined Huguenots of France could contribute the aid of their ingenuity. One art which they had carried with them into banishment was the art of making fireworks; and they now, in honour of the victorious champion of their faith, lighted up the canals of Amsterdam with showers of splendid constellations.
To superficial observers it might well seem that William was, at this time, one of the most enviable of human beings. He was in truth one of the most anxious and unhappy. He well knew that the difficulties of his task were only beginning. Already that dawn which had lately been so bright was overcast; and many signs portended a dark and stormy day.
It was observed that two important classes took little or no part in the festivities by which, all over England, the inauguration of the new government was celebrated. Very seldom could either a priest or a soldier be seen in the assemblages which gathered round the market crosses where the King and Queen were proclaimed. The professional pride both of the clergy and of the army had been deeply wounded. The doctrine of nonresistance had been dear to the Anglican divines. It was their distinguishing badge. It was their favourite theme. If we are to judge by that portion of their oratory which has come down to us, they had preached about the duty of passive obedience at least as often and as zealously as about the Trinity or the Atonement. Their attachment to their political creed had indeed been severely tried, and had, during a short time, wavered. But with the tyranny of James the bitter feeling which that tyranny had excited among them had passed away. The parson of a parish was naturally unwilling to join in what was really a triumph over those principles which, during twenty-eight years, his flock had heard him proclaim on every anniversary of the Martyrdom and on every anniversary of the Restoration.
The soldiers, too, were discontented. They hated Popery indeed; and they had not loved the banished King. But they keenly felt that, in the short campaign which had decided the fate of their country, theirs had been an inglorious part. Forty fine regiments, a regular army such as had never before marched to battle under the royal standard of England, had retreated precipitately before an invader, and had then, without a struggle, submitted to him. That great force had been absolutely of no account in the late change, had done nothing towards keeping William out, and had done nothing towards bringing him in. The clowns, who, armed with pitchforks and mounted on carthorses, had straggled in the train of Lovelace or Delamere, had borne a greater part in the Revolution than those splendid household troops, whose plumed hats, embroidered coats, and curvetting chargers the Londoners had so often seen with admiration in Hyde Park. The mortification of the army was increased by the taunts of the foreigners, taunts which neither orders nor punishments could entirely restrain. At several places the anger which a brave and highspirited body of men might, in such circumstances, be expected to feel, showed itself in an alarming manner. A battalion which lay at Cirencester put out the bonfires, huzzaed for King James, and drank confusion to his daughter and his nephew. The garrison of Plymouth disturbed the rejoicings of the County of Cornwall: blows were exchanged, and a man was killed in the fray.
The ill humour of the clergy and of the army could not but be noticed by the most heedless; for the clergy and the army were distinguished from other classes by obvious peculiarities of garb. "Black coats and red coats," said a vehement Whig in the House of Commons, "are the curses of the nation."  But the discontent was not confined to the black coats and the red coats. The enthusiasm with which men of all classes had welcomed William to London at Christmas had greatly abated before the close of February. The new king had, at the very moment at which his fame and fortune reached the highest point, predicted the coming reaction. That reaction might, indeed, have been predicted by a less sagacious observer of human affairs. For it is to be chiefly ascribed to a law as certain as the laws which regulate the succession of the seasons and the course of the trade winds. It is the nature of man to overrate present evil, and to underrate present good; to long for what he has not, and to be dissatisfied with what he has. This propensity, as it appears in individuals, has often been noticed both by laughing and by weeping philosophers. It was a favourite theme of Horace and of Pascal, of Voltaire and of Johnson. To its influence on the fate of great communities may be ascribed most of the revolutions and counterrevolutions recorded in history. A hundred generations have elapsed since the first great national emancipation, of which an account has come down to us. We read in the most ancient of books that a people bowed to the dust under a cruel yoke, scourged to toil by hard taskmasters, not supplied with straw, yet compelled to furnish the daily tale of bricks, became sick of life, and raised such a cry of misery as pierced the heavens. The slaves were wonderfully set free: at the moment of their liberation they raised a song of gratitude and triumph: but, in a few hours, they began to regret their slavery, and to murmur against the leader who had decoyed them away from the savoury fare of the house of bondage to the dreary waste which still separated them from the land flowing with milk and honey. Since that time the history of every great deliverer has been the history of Moses retold. Down to the present hour rejoicings like those on the shore of the Red Sea have ever been speedily followed by murmurings like those at the Waters of Strife. The most just and salutary revolution must produce much suffering. The most just and salutary revolution cannot produce all the good that had been expected from it by men of uninstructed minds and sanguine tempers. Even the wisest cannot, while it is still recent, weigh quite fairly the evils which it has caused against the evils which it has removed. For the evils which it has caused are felt; and the evils which it has removed are felt no longer.
Thus it was now in England. The public was, as it always is during the cold fits which follow its hot fits, sullen, hard to please, dissatisfied with itself, dissatisfied with those who had lately been its favourites. The truce between the two great parties was at an end. Separated by the memory of all that had been done and suffered during a conflict of half a century, they had been, during a few months, united by a common danger. But the danger was over: the union was dissolved; and the old animosity broke forth again in all its strength.
James had during the last year of his reign, been even more hated by the Tories than by the Whigs; and not without cause: for to the Whigs he was only an enemy; and to the Tories he had been a faithless and thankless friend. But the old royalist feeling, which had seemed to be extinct in the time of his lawless domination, had been partially revived by his misfortunes. Many lords and gentlemen, who had, in December, taken arms for the Prince of Orange and a Free Parliament, muttered, two months later, that they had been drawn in; that they had trusted too much to His Highness's Declaration; that they had given him credit for a disinterestedness which, it now appeared, was not in his nature. They had meant to put on King James, for his own good, some gentle force, to punish the Jesuits and renegades who had misled him, to obtain from him some guarantee for the safety of the civil and ecclesiastical institutions of the realm, but not to uncrown and banish him. For his maladministration, gross as it had been, excuses were found. Was it strange that, driven from his native land, while still a boy, by rebels who were a disgrace to the Protestant name, and forced to pass his youth in countries where the Roman Catholic religion was established, he should have been captivated by that most attractive of all superstitions? Was it strange that, persecuted and calumniated as he had been by an implacable faction, his disposition should have become sterner and more severe than it had once been thought, and that, when those who had tried to blast his honour and to rob him of his birthright were at length in his power, he should not have sufficiently tempered justice with mercy? As to the worst charge which had been brought against him, the charge of trying to cheat his daughters out of their inheritance by fathering a supposititious child, on what grounds did it rest? Merely on slight circumstances, such as might well be imputed to accident, or to that imprudence which was but too much in harmony with his character. Did ever the most stupid country justice put a boy in the stocks without requiring stronger evidence than that on which the English people had pronounced their King guilty of the basest and most odious of all frauds? Some great faults he had doubtless committed: nothing could be more just or constitutional than that for those faults his advisers and tools should be called to a severe reckoning; nor did any of those advisers and tools more richly deserve punishment than the Roundhead sectaries whose adulation had encouraged him to persist in the fatal exercise of the dispensing power. It was a fundamental law of the land that the King could do no wrong, and that, if wrong were done by his authority, his counsellors and agents were responsible. That great rule, essential to our polity, was now inverted. The sycophants, who were legally punishable, enjoyed impunity: the King, who was not legally punishable, was punished with merciless severity. Was it possible for the Cavaliers of England, the sons of the warriors who had fought under Rupert, not to feel bitter sorrow and indignation when they reflected on the fate of their rightful liege lord, the heir of a long line of princes, lately enthroned in splendour at Whitehall, now an exile, a suppliant, a mendicant? His calamities had been greater than even those of the Blessed Martyr from whom he sprang. The father had been slain by avowed and mortal foes: the ruin of the son had been the work of his own children. Surely the punishment, even if deserved, should have been inflicted by other hands. And was it altogether deserved? Had not the unhappy man been rather weak and rash than wicked? Had he not some of the qualities of an excellent prince? His abilities were certainly not of a high order: but he was diligent: he was thrifty: he had fought bravely: he had been his own minister for maritime affairs, and had, in that capacity, acquitted himself respectably: he had, till his spiritual guides obtained a fatal ascendency over his mind, been regarded as a man of strict justice; and, to the last, when he was not misled by them, he generally spoke truth and dealt fairly. With so many virtues he might, if he had been a Protestant, nay, if he had been a moderate Roman Catholic, have had a prosperous and glorious reign. Perhaps it might not be too late for him to retrieve his errors. It was difficult to believe that he could be so dull and perverse as not to have profited by the terrible discipline which he had recently undergone; and, if that discipline had produced the effects which might reasonably be expected from it, England might still enjoy, under her legitimate ruler, a larger measure of happiness and tranquillity than she could expect from the administration of the best and ablest usurper.
We should do great injustice to those who held this language, if we supposed that they had, as a body, ceased to regard Popery and despotism with abhorrence. Some zealots might indeed be found who could not bear the thought of imposing conditions on their King, and who were ready to recall him without the smallest assurance that the Declaration of Indulgence should not be instantly republished, that the High Commission should not be instantly revived, that Petre should not be again seated at the Council Board, and that the fellows of Magdalene should not again be ejected. But the number of these men was small. On the other hand, the number of those Royalists, who, if James would have acknowledged his mistakes and promised to observe the laws, were ready to rally round him, was very large. It is a remarkable fact that two able and experienced statesmen, who had borne a chief part in the Revolution, frankly acknowledged, a few days after the Revolution had been accomplished, their apprehension that a Restoration was close at hand. "If King James were a Protestant," said Halifax to Reresby, "we could not keep him out four months." "If King James," said Danby to the same person about the same time, "would but give the country some satisfaction about religion, which he might easily do, it would be very hard to make head against him." Happily for England, James was, as usual, his own worst enemy. No word indicating that he took blame to himself on account of the past, or that he intended to govern constitutionally for the future, could be extracted from him. Every letter, every rumour, that found its way from Saint Germains to England made men of sense fear that, if, in his present temper, he should be restored to power, the second tyranny would be worse than the first. Thus the Tories, as a body, were forced to admit, very unwillingly, that there was, at that moment, no choice but between William and public ruin. They therefore, without altogether relinquishing the hope that he who was King by right might at some future time be disposed to listen to reason, and without feeling any thing like loyalty towards him who was King in possession, discontentedly endured the new government.
It may be doubted whether that government was not, during the first months of its existence, in more danger from the affection of the Whigs than from the disaffection of the Tories. Enmity can hardly be more annoying than querulous, jealous, exacting fondness; and such was the fondness which the Whigs felt for the Sovereign of their choice. They were loud in his praise. They were ready to support him with purse and sword against foreign and domestic foes. But their attachment to him was of a peculiar kind. Loyalty such as had animated the gallant gentlemen who fought for Charles the First, loyalty such as had rescued Charles the Second from the fearful dangers and difficulties caused by twenty years of maladministration, was not a sentiment to which the doctrines of Milton and Sidney were favourable; nor was it a sentiment which a prince, just raised to power by a rebellion, could hope to inspire. The Whig theory of government is that kings exist for the people, and not the people for the kings; that the right of a king is divine in no other sense than that in which the right of a member of parliament, of a judge, of a juryman, of a mayor, of a headborough, is divine; that, while the chief magistrate governs according to law, he ought to be obeyed and reverenced; that, when he violates the law, he ought to be withstood; and that, when he violates the law grossly, systematically and pertinaciously, he ought to be deposed. On the truth of these principles depended the justice of William's title to the throne. It is obvious that the relation between subjects who held these principles, and a ruler whose accession had been the triumph of these principles, must have been altogether different from the relation which had subsisted between the Stuarts and the Cavaliers. The Whigs loved William indeed: but they loved him not as a King, but as a party leader; and it was not difficult to foresee that their enthusiasm would cool fast if he should refuse to be the mere leader of their party, and should attempt to be King of the whole nation. What they expected from him in return for their devotion to his cause was that he should be one of themselves, a stanch and ardent Whig; that he should show favour to none but Whigs; that he should make all the old grudges of the Whigs his own; and there was but too much reason to apprehend that, if he disappointed this expectation, the only section of the community which was zealous in his cause would be estranged from him.
Such were the difficulties by which, at the moment of his elevation, he found himself beset. Where there was a good path he had seldom failed to choose it. But now he had only a choice among paths every one of which seemed likely to lead to destruction. From one faction he could hope for no cordial support. The cordial support of the other faction he could retain only by becoming himself the most factious man in his kingdom, a Shaftesbury on the throne. If he persecuted the Tories, their sulkiness would infallibly be turned into fury. If he showed favour to the Tories, it was by no means certain that he would gain their goodwill; and it was but too probable that he might lose his hold on the hearts of the Whigs. Something however he must do: something he must risk: a Privy Council must be sworn in: all the great offices, political and judicial, must be filled. It was impossible to make an arrangement that would please every body, and difficult to make an arrangement that would please any body; but an arrangement must be made.
What is now called a ministry he did not think of forming. Indeed what is now called a ministry was never known in England till he had been some years on the throne. Under the Plantagenets, the Tudors, and the Stuarts, there had been ministers; but there had been no ministry. The servants of the Crown were not, as now, bound in frankpledge for each other. They were not expected to be of the same opinion even on questions of the gravest importance. Often they were politically and personally hostile to each other, and made no secret of their hostility. It was not yet felt to be inconvenient or unseemly that they should accuse each other of high crimes, and demand each other's heads. No man had been more active in the impeachment of the Lord Chancellor Clarendon than Coventry, who was a Commissioner of the Treasury. No man had been more active in the impeachment of the Lord Treasurer Danby than Winnington, who was Solicitor General. Among the members of the Government there was only one point of union, their common head, the Sovereign. The nation considered him as the proper chief of the administration, and blamed him severely if he delegated his high functions to any subject. Clarendon has told us that nothing was so hateful to the Englishmen of his time as a Prime Minister. They would rather, he said, be subject to an usurper like Oliver, who was first magistrate in fact as well as in name, than to a legitimate King who referred them to a Grand Vizier. One of the chief accusations which the country party had brought against Charles the Second was that he was too indolent and too fond of pleasure to examine with care the balance sheets of public accountants and the inventories of military stores. James, when he came to the crown, had determined to appoint no Lord High Admiral or Board of Admiralty, and to keep the entire direction of maritime affairs in his own hands; and this arrangement, which would now be thought by men of all parties unconstitutional and pernicious in the highest degree, was then generally applauded even by people who were not inclined to see his conduct in a favourable light. How completely the relation in which the King stood to his Parliament and to his ministers had been altered by the Revolution was not at first understood even by the most enlightened statesmen. It was universally supposed that the government would, as in time past, be conducted by functionaries independent of each other, and that William would exercise a general superintendence over them all. It was also fully expected that a prince of William's capacity and experience would transact much important business without having recourse to any adviser.
There were therefore no complaints when it was understood that he had reserved to himself the direction of foreign affairs. This was indeed scarcely matter of choice: for, with the single exception of Sir William Temple, whom nothing would induce to quit his retreat for public life, there was no Englishman who had proved himself capable of conducting an important negotiation with foreign powers to a successful and honourable issue. Many years had elapsed since England had interfered with weight and dignity in the affairs of the great commonwealth of nations. The attention of the ablest English politicians had long been almost exclusively occupied by disputes concerning the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of their own country. The contests about the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Bill, the Habeas Corpus Act and the Test Act, had produced an abundance, it might almost be said a glut, of those talents which raise men to eminence in societies torn by internal factions. All the Continent could not show such skilful and wary leaders of parties, such dexterous parliamentary tacticians, such ready and eloquent debaters, as were assembled at Westminister. But a very different training was necessary to form a great minister for foreign affairs; and the Revolution had on a sudden placed England in a situation in which the services of a great minister for foreign affairs were indispensable to her.
William was admirably qualified to supply that in which the most accomplished statesmen of his kingdom were deficient. He had long been preeminently distinguished as a negotiator. He was the author and the soul of the European coalition against the French ascendency. The clue, without which it was perilous to enter the vast and intricate maze of Continental politics, was in his hands. His English counsellors, therefore, however able and active, seldom, during his reign, ventured to meddle with that part of the public business which he had taken as his peculiar province.
The internal government of England could be carried on only by the advice and agency of English ministers. Those ministers William selected in such a manner as showed that he was determined not to proscribe any set of men who were willing to support his throne. On the day after the crown had been presented to him in the Banqueting House, the Privy Council was sworn in. Most of the Councillors were Whigs; but the names of several eminent Tories appeared in the list. The four highest offices in the state were assigned to four noblemen, the representatives of four classes of politicians.
In practical ability and official experience Danby had no superior among his contemporaries. To the gratitude of the new Sovereigns he had a strong claim; for it was by his dexterity that their marriage had been brought about in spite of difficulties which had seemed insuperable. The enmity which he had always borne to France was a scarcely less powerful recommendation. He had signed the invitation of the thirtieth of June, had excited and directed the northern insurrection, and had, in the Convention, exerted all his influence and eloquence in opposition to the scheme of Regency. Yet the Whigs regarded him with unconquerable distrust and aversion. They could not forget that he had, in evil days, been the first minister of the state, the head of the Cavaliers, the champion of prerogative, the persecutor of dissenters. Even in becoming a rebel, he had not ceased to be a Tory. If he had drawn the sword against the Crown, he had drawn it only in defence of the Church. If he had, in the Convention, done good by opposing the scheme of Regency, he had done harm by obstinately maintaining that the throne was not vacant, and that the Estates had no right to determine who should fill it. The Whigs were therefore of opinion that he ought to think himself amply rewarded for his recent merits by being suffered to escape the punishment of those offences for which he had been impeached ten years before. He, on the other hand, estimated his own abilities and services, which were doubtless considerable, at their full value, and thought himself entitled to the great place of Lord High Treasurer, which he had formerly held. But he was disappointed. William, on principle, thought it desirable to divide the power and patronage of the Treasury among several Commissioners. He was the first English King who never, from the beginning to the end of his reign, trusted the white staff in the hands of a single subject. Danby was offered his choice between the Presidency of the Council and a Secretaryship of State. He sullenly accepted the Presidency, and, while the Whigs murmured at seeing him placed so high, hardly attempted to conceal his anger at not having been placed higher.
Halifax, the most illustrious man of that small party which boasted that it kept the balance even between Whigs and Tories, took charge of the Privy Seal, and continued to be Speaker of the House of Lords. He had been foremost in strictly legal opposition to the late Government, and had spoken and written with great ability against the dispensing power: but he had refused to know any thing about the design of invasion: he had laboured, even when the Dutch were in full march towards London, to effect a reconciliation; and he had never deserted James till James had deserted the throne. But, from the moment of that shameful flight, the sagacious Trimmer, convinced that compromise was thenceforth impossible, had taken a decided part. He had distinguished himself preeminently in the Convention: nor was it without a peculiar propriety that he had been appointed to the honourable office of tendering the crown, in the name of all the Estates of England, to the Prince and Princess of Orange; for our Revolution, as far as it can be said to bear the character of any single mind, assuredly bears the character of the large yet cautious mind of Halifax. The Whigs, however, were not in a temper to accept a recent service as an atonement for an old offence; and the offence of Halifax had been grave indeed. He had long before been conspicuous in their front rank during a hard fight for liberty. When they were at length victorious, when it seemed that Whitehall was at their mercy, when they had a near prospect of dominion and revenge, he had changed sides; and fortune had changed sides with him. In the great debate on the Exclusion Bill, his eloquence had struck them dumb, and had put new life into the inert and desponding party of the Court. It was true that, though he had left them in the day of their insolent prosperity, he had returned to them in the day of their distress. But, now that their distress was over, they forgot that he had returned to them, and remembered only that he had left them.
The vexation with which they saw Danby presiding in the Council, and Halifax bearing the Privy Seal, was not diminished by the news that Nottingham was appointed Secretary of State. Some of those zealous churchmen who had never ceased to profess the doctrine of nonresistance, who thought the Revolution unjustifiable, who had voted for a Regency, and who had to the last maintained that the English throne could never be one moment vacant, yet conceived it to be their duty to submit to the decision of the Convention. They had not, they said, rebelled against James. They had not selected William. But, now that they saw on the throne a Sovereign whom they never would have placed there, they were of opinion that no law, divine or human, bound them to carry the contest further. They thought that they found, both in the Bible and in the Statute Book, directions which could not be misunderstood. The Bible enjoins obedience to the powers that be. The Statute Book contains an act providing that no subject shall be deemed a wrongdoer for adhering to the King in possession. On these grounds many, who had not concurred in setting up the new government, believed that they might give it their support without offence to God or man. One of the most eminent politicians of this school was Nottingham. At his instance the Convention had, before the throne was filled, made such changes in the oath of allegiance as enabled him and those who agreed with him to take that oath without scruple. "My principles," he said, "do not permit me to bear any part in making a King. But when a King has been made, my principles bind me to pay him an obedience more strict than he can expect from those who have made him." He now, to the surprise of some of those who most esteemed him, consented to sit in the council, and to accept the seals of Secretary. William doubtless hoped that this appointment would be considered by the clergy and the Tory country gentlemen as a sufficient guarantee that no evil was meditated against the Church. Even Burnet, who at a later period felt a strong antipathy to Nottingham, owned, in some memoirs written soon after the Revolution, that the King had judged well, and that the influence of the Tory Secretary, honestly exerted in support of the new Sovereigns, had saved England from great calamities.
The other Secretary was Shrewsbury. No man so young had within living memory occupied so high a post in the government. He had but just completed his twenty-eighth year. Nobody, however, except the solemn formalists at the Spanish embassy, thought his youth an objection to his promotion. He had already secured for himself a place in history by the conspicuous part which he had taken in the deliverance of his country. His talents, his accomplishments, his graceful manners, his bland temper, made him generally popular. By the Whigs especially he was almost adored. None suspected that, with many great and many amiable qualities, he had such faults both of head and of heart as would make the rest of a life which had opened under the fairest auspices burdensome to himself and almost useless to his country.
The naval administration and the financial administration were confided to Boards. Herbert was First Commissioner of the Admiralty. He had in the late reign given up wealth and dignities when he found that he could not retain them with honour and with a good conscience. He had carried the memorable invitation to the Hague. He had commanded the Dutch fleet during the voyage from Helvoetsluys to Torbay. His character for courage and professional skill stood high. That he had had his follies and vices was well known. But his recent conduct in the time of severe trial had atoned for all, and seemed to warrant the hope that his future career would be glorious. Among the commissioners who sate with him at the Admiralty were two distinguished members of the House of Commons, William Sacheverell, a veteran Whig, who had great authority in his party, and Sir John Lowther, an honest and very moderate Tory, who in fortune and parliamentary interest was among the first of the English gentry.
Mordaunt, one of the most vehement of the Whigs, was placed at the head of the Treasury; why, it is difficult to say. His romantic courage, his flighty wit, his eccentric invention, his love of desperate risks and startling effects, were not qualities likely to be of much use to him in financial calculations and negotiations. Delamere, a more vehement Whig, if possible, than Mordaunt, sate second at the board, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Two Whig members of the House of Commons were in the Commission, Sir Henry Capel, brother of that Earl of Essex who died by his own hand in the Tower, and Richard Hampden, son of the great leader of the Long Parliament. But the Commissioner on whom the chief weight of business lay was Godolphin. This man, taciturn, clearminded, laborious, inoffensive, zealous for no government and useful to every government, had gradually become an almost indispensable part of the machinery of the state. Though a churchman, he had prospered in a Court governed by Jesuits. Though he had voted for a Regency, he was the real head of a treasury filled with Whigs. His abilities and knowledge, which had in the late reign supplied the deficiencies of Bellasyse and Dover, were now needed to supply the deficiencies of Mordaunt and Delamere.
There were some difficulties in disposing of the Great Seal. The King at first wished to confide it to Nottingham, whose father had borne it during several years with high reputation. Nottingham, however, declined the trust; and it was offered to Halifax, but was again declined. Both these Lords doubtless felt that it was a trust which they could not discharge with honour to themselves or with advantage to the public. In old times, indeed, the Seal had been generally held by persons who were not lawyers. Even in the seventeenth century it had been confided to two eminent men, who had never studied at any Inn of Court. Dean Williams had been Lord Keeper to James the First. Shaftesbury had been Lord Chancellor to Charles the Second. But such appointments could no longer be made without serious inconvenience. Equity had been gradually shaping itself into a refined science, which no human faculties could master without long and intense application. Even Shaftesbury, vigorous as was his intellect, had painfully felt his want of technical knowledge; and, during the fifteen years which had elapsed since Shaftesbury had resigned the Seal, technical knowledge had constantly been becoming more and more necessary to his successors. Neither Nottingham therefore, though he had a stock of legal learning such as is rarely found in any person who has not received a legal education, nor Halifax, though, in the judicial sittings of the House of Lords, the quickness of his apprehension and the subtlety of his reasoning had often astonished the bar, ventured to accept the highest office which an English layman can fill. After some delay the Seal was confided to a commission of eminent lawyers, with Maynard at their head.
The choice of judges did honour to the new government. Every Privy Councillor was directed to bring a list. The lists were compared; and twelve men of conspicuous merit were selected. The professional attainments and Whig principles of Pollexfen gave him pretensions to the highest place. But it was remembered that he had held briefs for the Crown, in the Western counties, at the assizes which followed the battle of Sedgemoor. It seems indeed from the reports of the trials that he did as little as he could do if he held the briefs at all, and that he left to the Judges the business of browbeating witnesses and prisoners. Nevertheless his name was inseparably associated in the public mind with the Bloody Circuit. He, therefore, could not with propriety be put at the head of the first criminal court in the realm. After acting during a few weeks as Attorney General, he was made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Sir John Holt, a young man, but distinguished by learning, integrity, and courage, became Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Sir Robert Atkyns, an eminent lawyer, who had passed some years in rural retirement, but whose reputation was still great in Westminster Hall, was appointed Chief Baron. Powell, who had been disgraced on account of his honest declaration in favour of the Bishops, again took his seat among the judges. Treby succeeded Pollexfen as Attorney General; and Somers was made Solicitor.
Two of the chief places in the Royal household were filled by two English noblemen eminently qualified to adorn a court. The high spirited and accomplished Devonshire was named Lord Steward. No man had done more or risked more for England during the crisis of her fate. In retrieving her liberties he had retrieved also the fortunes of his own house. His bond for thirty thousand pounds was found among the papers which James had left at Whitehall, and was cancelled by William.
Dorset became Lord Chamberlain, and employed the influence and patronage annexed to his functions, as he had long employed his private means, in encouraging genius and in alleviating misfortune. One of the first acts which he was under the necessity of performing must have been painful to a man of so generous a nature, and of so keen a relish for whatever was excellent in arts and letters. Dryden could no longer remain Poet Laureate. The public would not have borne to see any Papist among the servants of their Majesties; and Dryden was not only a Papist, but an apostate. He had moreover aggravated the guilt of his apostasy by calumniating and ridiculing the Church which he had deserted. He had, it was facetiously said, treated her as the Pagan persecutors of old treated her children. He had dressed her up in the skin of a wild beast, and then baited her for the public amusement. He was removed; but he received from the private bounty of the magnificent Chamberlain a pension equal to the salary which had been withdrawn. The deposed Laureate, however, as poor of spirit as rich in intellectual gifts, continued to complain piteously, year after year, of the losses which he had not suffered, till at length his wailings drew forth expressions of well merited contempt from brave and honest Jacobites, who had sacrificed every thing to their principles without deigning to utter one word of deprecation or lamentation.
In the Royal household were placed some of those Dutch nobles who stood highest in the favour of the King. Bentinck had the great office of Groom of the Stole, with a salary of five thousand pounds a year. Zulestein took charge of the robes. The Master of the Horse was Auverquerque, a gallant soldier, who united the blood of Nassau to the blood of Horn, and who wore with just pride a costly sword presented to him by the States General in acknowledgment of the courage with which he had, on the bloody day of Saint Dennis, saved the life of William.
The place of Vice Chamberlain to the Queen was given to a man who had just become conspicuous in public life, and whose name will frequently recur in the history of this reign. John Howe, or, as he was more commonly called, Jack Howe, had been sent up to the Convention by the borough of Cirencester. His appearance was that of a man whose body was worn by the constant workings of a restless and acrid mind. He was tall, lean, pale, with a haggard eager look, expressive at once of flightiness and of shrewdness. He had been known, during several years, as a small poet; and some of the most savage lampoons which were handed about the coffeehouses were imputed to him. But it was in the House of Commons that both his parts and his illnature were most signally displayed. Before he had been a member three weeks, his volubility, his asperity, and his pertinacity had made him conspicuous. Quickness, energy, and audacity, united, soon raised him to the rank of a privileged man. His enemies, and he had many enemies, said that he consulted his personal safety even in his most petulant moods, and that he treated soldiers with a civility which he never showed to ladies or to Bishops. But no man had in larger measure that evil courage which braves and even courts disgust and hatred. No decencies restrained him: his spite was implacable: his skill in finding out the vulnerable parts of strong minds was consummate. All his great contemporaries felt his sting in their turns. Once it inflicted a wound which deranged even the stern composure of William, and constrained him to utter a wish that he were a private gentleman, and could invite Mr. Howe to a short interview behind Montague House. As yet, however, Howe was reckoned among the most strenuous supporters of the new government, and directed all his sarcasms and invectives against the malcontents.
The subordinate places in every public office were divided between the two parties: but the Whigs had the larger share. Some persons, indeed, who did little honour to the Whig name, were largely recompensed for services which no good man would have performed. Wildman was made Postmaster General. A lucrative sinecure in the Excise was bestowed on Ferguson. The duties of the Solicitor of the Treasury were both very important and very invidious. It was the business of that officer to conduct political prosecutions, to collect the evidence, to instruct the counsel for the Crown, to see that the prisoners were not liberated on insufficient bail, to see that the juries were not composed of persons hostile to the government. In the days of Charles and James, the Solicitors of the Treasury had been with too much reason accused of employing all the vilest artifices of chicanery against men obnoxious to the Court. The new government ought to have made a choice which was above all suspicion. Unfortunately Mordaunt and Delamere pitched upon Aaron Smith, an acrimonious and unprincipled politician, who had been the legal adviser of Titus Oates in the days of the Popish Plot, and who had been deeply implicated in the Rye House Plot. Richard Hampden, a man of decided opinions but of moderate temper, objected to this appointment. His objections however were overruled. The Jacobites, who hated Smith and had reason to hate him, affirmed that he had obtained his place by bullying the Lords of the Treasury, and particularly by threatening that, if his just claims were disregarded, he would be the death of Hampden.
Some weeks elapsed before all the arrangements which have been mentioned were publicly announced: and meanwhile many important events had taken place. As soon as the new Privy Councillors had been sworn in, it was necessary to submit to them a grave and pressing question. Could the Convention now assembled be turned into a Parliament? The Whigs, who had a decided majority in the Lower House, were all for the affirmative. The Tories, who knew that, within the last month, the public feeling had undergone a considerable change, and who hoped that a general election would add to their strength, were for the negative. They maintained that to the existence of a Parliament royal writs were indispensably necessary. The Convention had not been summoned by such writs: the original defect could not now be supplied: the Houses were therefore mere clubs of private men, and ought instantly to disperse.
It was answered that the royal writ was mere matter of form, and that to expose the substance of our laws and liberties to serious hazard for the sake of a form would be the most senseless superstition. Wherever the Sovereign, the Peers spiritual and temporal, and the Representatives freely chosen by the constituent bodies of the realm were met together, there was the essence of a Parliament. Such a Parliament was now in being; and what could be more absurd than to dissolve it at a conjuncture when every hour was precious, when numerous important subjects required immediate legislation, and when dangers, only to be averted by the combined efforts of King, Lords, and Commons, menaced the State? A Jacobite indeed might consistently refuse to recognise the Convention as a Parliament. For he held that it had from the beginning been an unlawful assembly, that all its resolutions were nullities, and that the Sovereigns whom it had set up were usurpers. But with what consistency could any man, who maintained that a new Parliament ought to be immediately called by writs under the great seal of William and Mary, question the authority which had placed William and Mary on the throne? Those who held that William was rightful King must necessarily hold that the body from which he derived his right was itself a rightful Great Council of the Realm. Those who, though not holding him to be rightful King, conceived that they might lawfully swear allegiance to him as King in fact, might surely, on the same principle, acknowledge the Convention as a Parliament in fact. It was plain that the Convention was the fountainhead from which the authority of all future Parliaments must be derived, and that on the validity of the votes of the Convention must depend the validity of every future statute. And how could the stream rise higher than the source? Was it not absurd to say that the Convention was supreme in the state, and yet a nullity; a legislature for the highest of all purposes, and yet no legislature for the humblest purposes; competent to declare the throne vacant, to change the succession, to fix the landmarks of the constitution, and yet not competent to pass the most trivial Act for the repairing of a pier or the building of a parish church?
These arguments would have had considerable weight, even if every precedent had been on the other side. But in truth our history afforded only one precedent which was at all in point; and that precedent was decisive in favour of the doctrine that royal writs are not indispensably necessary to the existence of a Parliament. No royal writ had summoned the Convention which recalled Charles the Second. Yet that Convention had, after his Restoration, continued to sit and to legislate, had settled the revenue, had passed an Act of amnesty, had abolished the feudal tenures. These proceedings had been sanctioned by authority of which no party in the state could speak without reverence. Hale had borne a considerable share in them, and had always maintained that they were strictly legal. Clarendon, little as he was inclined to favour any doctrine derogatory to the rights of the Crown, or to the dignity of that seal of which he was keeper, had declared that, since God had, at a most critical conjuncture, given the nation a good Parliament, it would be the height of folly to look for technical flaws in the instrument by which that Parliament was called together. Would it be pretended by any Tory that the Convention of 1660 had a more respectable origin than the Convention of 1689? Was not a letter written by the first Prince of the Blood, at the request of the whole peerage, and of hundreds of gentlemen who had represented counties and towns, at least as good a warrant as a vote of the Rump?
Weaker reasons than these would have satisfied the Whigs who formed the majority of the Privy Council. The King therefore, on the fifth day after he had been proclaimed, went with royal state to the House of Lords, and took his seat on the throne. The Commons were called in; and he, with many gracious expressions, reminded his hearers of the perilous situation of the country, and exhorted them to take such steps as might prevent unnecessary delay in the transaction of public business. His speech was received by the gentlemen who crowded the bar with the deep hum by which our ancestors were wont to indicate approbation, and which was often heard in places more sacred than the Chamber of the Peers. As soon as he had retired, a Bill declaring the Convention a Parliament was laid on the table of the Lords, and rapidly passed by them. In the Commons the debates were warm. The House resolved itself into a Committee; and so great was the excitement that, when the authority of the Speaker was withdrawn, it was hardly possible to preserve order. Sharp personalities were exchanged. The phrase, "hear him," a phrase which had originally been used only to silence irregular noises, and to remind members of the duty of attending to the discussion, had, during some years, been gradually becoming what it now is; that is to say, a cry indicative, according to the tone, of admiration, acquiescence, indignation, or derision. On this occasion, the Whigs vociferated "Hear, hear," so tumultuously that the Tories complained of unfair usage. Seymour, the leader of the minority, declared that there could be no freedom of debate while such clamour was tolerated. Some old Whig members were provoked into reminding him that the same clamour had occasionally been heard when he presided, and had not then been repressed. Yet, eager and angry as both sides were, the speeches on both sides indicated that profound reverence for law and prescription which has long been characteristic of Englishmen, and which, though it runs sometimes into pedantry and sometimes into superstition, is not without its advantages. Even at that momentous crisis, when the nation was still in the ferment of a revolution, our public men talked long and seriously about all the circumstances of the deposition of Edward the Second and of the deposition of Richard the Second, and anxiously inquired whether the assembly which, with Archbishop Lanfranc at its head, set aside Robert of Normandy, and put William Rufus on the throne, did or did not afterwards continue to act as the legislature of the realm. Much was said about the history of writs; much about the etymology of the word Parliament. It is remarkable, that the orator who took the most statesmanlike view of the subject was old Maynard. In the civil conflicts of fifty eventful years he had learned that questions affecting the highest interests of the commonwealth were not to be decided by verbal cavils and by scraps of Law French and Law Latin; and, being by universal acknowledgment the most subtle and the most learned of English jurists, he could express what he felt without the risk of being accused of ignorance and presumption. He scornfully thrust aside as frivolous and out of place all that blackletter learning, which some men, far less versed in such matters than himself, had introduced into the discussion. "We are," he said, "at this moment out of the beaten path. If therefore we are determined to move only in that path, we cannot move at all. A man in a revolution resolving to do nothing which is not strictly according to established form resembles a man who has lost himself in the wilderness, and who stands crying 'Where is the king's highway? I will walk nowhere but on the king's highway.' In a wilderness a man should take the track which will carry him home. In a revolution we must have recourse to the highest law, the safety of the state." Another veteran Roundhead, Colonel Birch, took the same side, and argued with great force and keenness from the precedent of 1660. Seymour and his supporters were beaten in the Committee, and did not venture to divide the House on the Report. The Bill passed rapidly, and received the royal assent on the tenth day after the accession of William and Mary.
The law which turned the Convention into a Parliament contained a clause providing that no person should, after the first of March, sit or vote in either House without taking the oaths to the new King and Queen. This enactment produced great agitation throughout society. The adherents of the exiled dynasty hoped and confidently predicted that the recusants would be numerous. The minority in both Houses, it was said, would be true to the cause of hereditary monarchy. There might be here and there a traitor; but the great body of those who had voted for a Regency would be firm. Only two Bishops at most would recognise the usurpers. Seymour would retire from public life rather than abjure his principles. Grafton had determined to fly to France and to throw himself at the feet of his uncle. With such rumours as these all the coffeehouses of London were filled during the latter part of February. So intense was the public anxiety that, if any man of rank was missed, two days running, at his usual haunts, it was immediately whispered that he had stolen away to Saint Germains.
The second of March arrived; and the event quieted the fears of one party, and confounded the hopes of the other. The Primate indeed and several of his suffragans stood obstinately aloof: but three Bishops and seventy-three temporal peers took the oaths. At the next meeting of the Upper House several more prelates came in. Within a week about a hundred Lords had qualified themselves to sit. Others, who were prevented by illness from appearing, sent excuses and professions of attachment to their Majesties. Grafton refuted all the stories which had been circulated about him by coming to be sworn on the first day. Two members of the Ecclesiastical Commission, Mulgrave and Sprat, hastened to make atonement for their fault by plighting their faith to William. Beaufort, who had long been considered as the type of a royalist of the old school, submitted after a very short hesitation. Aylesbury and Dartmouth, though vehement Jacobites, had as little scruple about taking the oath of allegiance as they afterwards had about breaking it. The Hydes took different paths. Rochester complied with the law; but Clarendon proved refractory. Many thought it strange that the brother who had adhered to James till James absconded should be less sturdy than the brother who had been in the Dutch camp. The explanation perhaps is that Rochester would have sacrificed much more than Clarendon by refusing to take the oaths. Clarendon's income did not depend on the pleasure of the Government: but Rochester had a pension of four thousand a year, which he could not hope to retain if he refused to acknowledge the new Sovereigns. Indeed, he had so many enemies that, during some months, it seemed doubtful whether he would, on any terms, be suffered to retain the splendid reward which he had earned by persecuting the Whigs and by sitting in the High Commission. He was saved from what would have been a fatal blow to his fortunes by the intercession of Burnet, who had been deeply injured by him, and who revenged himself as became a Christian divine.
In the Lower House four hundred members were sworn in on the second of March; and among them was Seymour. The spirit of the Jacobites was broken by his defection; and the minority with very few exceptions followed his example.
Before the day fixed for the taking of the oaths, the Commons had begun to discuss a momentous question which admitted of no delay. During the interregnum, William had, as provisional chief of the administration, collected the taxes and applied them to the public service; nor could the propriety of this course be questioned by any person who approved of the Revolution. But the Revolution was now over: the vacancy of the throne had been supplied: the Houses were sitting: the law was in full force; and it became necessary immediately to decide to what revenue the Government was entitled.
Nobody denied that all the lands and hereditaments of the Crown had passed with the Crown to the new Sovereigns. Nobody denied that all duties which had been granted to the Crown for a fixed term of years might be constitutionally exacted till that term should expire. But large revenues had been settled by Parliament on James for life; and whether what had been settled on James for life could, while he lived, be claimed by William and Mary, was a question about which opinions were divided.
Holt, Treby, Pollexfen, indeed all the eminent Whig lawyers, Somers excepted, held that these revenues had been granted to the late King, in his political capacity, but for his natural life, and ought therefore, as long as he continued to drag on his existence in a strange land, to be paid to William and Mary. It appears from a very concise and unconnected report of the debate that Somers dissented from this doctrine. His opinion was that, if the Act of Parliament which had imposed the duties in question was to be construed according to the spirit, the word life must be understood to mean reign, and that therefore the term for which the grant had been made had expired. This was surely the sound opinion: for it was plainly irrational to treat the interest of James in this grant as at once a thing annexed to his person and a thing annexed to his office; to say in one breath that the merchants of London and Bristol must pay money because he was naturally alive, and that his successors must receive that money because he was politically defunct. The House was decidedly with Somers. The members generally were bent on effecting a great reform, without which it was felt that the Declaration of Rights would be but an imperfect guarantee for public liberty. During the conflict which fifteen successive Parliaments had maintained against four successive Kings, the chief weapon of the Commons had been the power of the purse; and never had the representatives of the people been induced to surrender that weapon without having speedy cause to repent of their too credulous loyalty. In that season of tumultuous joy which followed the Restoration, a large revenue for life had been almost by acclamation granted to Charles the Second. A few months later there was scarcely a respectable Cavalier in the kingdom who did not own that the stewards of the nation would have acted more wisely if they had kept in their hands the means of checking the abuses which disgraced every department of the government. James the Second had obtained from his submissive Parliament, without a dissentient voice, an income sufficient to defray the ordinary expenses of the state during his life; and, before he had enjoyed that income half a year, the great majority of those who had dealt thus liberally with him blamed themselves severely for their liberality. If experience was to be trusted, a long and painful experience, there could be no effectual security against maladministration, unless the Sovereign were under the necessity of recurring frequently to his Great Council for pecuniary aid. Almost all honest and enlightened men were therefore agreed in thinking that a part at least of the supplies ought to be granted only for short terms. And what time could be fitter for the introduction of this new practice than the year 1689, the commencement of a new reign, of a new dynasty, of a new era of constitutional government? The feeling on this subject was so strong and general that the dissentient minority gave way. No formal resolution was passed; but the House proceeded to act on the supposition that the grants which had been made to James for life had been annulled by his abdication.
It was impossible to make a new settlement of the revenue without inquiry and deliberation. The Exchequer was ordered to furnish such returns as might enable the House to form estimates of the public expenditure and income. In the meantime, liberal provision was made for the immediate exigencies of the state. An extraordinary aid, to be raised by direct monthly assessment, was voted to the King. An Act was passed indemnifying all who had, since his landing, collected by his authority the duties settled on James; and those duties which had expired were continued for some months.
Along William's whole line of march, from Torbay to London, he had been importuned by the common people to relieve them from the intolerable burden of the hearth money. In truth, that tax seems to have united all the worst evils which can be imputed to any tax. It was unequal, and unequal in the most pernicious way: for it pressed heavily on the poor, and lightly on the rich. A peasant, all whose property was not worth twenty pounds, was charged ten shillings. The Duke of Ormond, or the Duke of Newcastle, whose estates were worth half a million, paid only four or five pounds. The collectors were empowered to examine the interior of every house in the realm, to disturb families at meals, to force the doors of bedrooms, and, if the sum demanded were not punctually paid, to sell the trencher on which the barley loaf was divided among the poor children, and the pillow from under the head of the lying-in woman. Nor could the Treasury effectually restrain the chimneyman from using his powers with harshness: for the tax was farmed; and the government was consequently forced to connive at outrages and exactions such as have, in every age, made the name of publican a proverb for all that is most hateful.
William had been so much moved by what he had heard of these grievances that, at one of the earliest sittings of the Privy Council, he introduced the subject. He sent a message requesting the House of Commons to consider whether better regulations would effectually prevent the abuses which had excited so much discontent. He added that he would willingly consent to the entire abolition of the tax if it should appear that the tax and the abuses were inseparable. This communication was received with loud applause. There were indeed some financiers of the old school who muttered that tenderness for the poor was a fine thing; but that no part of the revenue of the state came in so exactly to the day as the hearth money; that the goldsmiths of the City could not always be induced to lend on the security of the next quarter's customs or excise, but that on an assignment of hearth money there was no difficulty in obtaining advances. In the House of Commons, those who thought thus did not venture to raise their voices in opposition to the general feeling. But in the Lords there was a conflict of which the event for a time seemed doubtful. At length the influence of the Court, strenuously exerted, carried an Act by which the chimney tax was declared a badge of slavery, and was, with many expressions of gratitude to the King, abolished for ever.
The Commons granted, with little dispute, and without a division, six hundred thousand pounds for the purpose of repaying to the United Provinces the charges of the expedition which had delivered England. The facility with which this large sum was voted to a shrewd, diligent and thrifty people, our allies, indeed, politically, but commercially our most formidable rivals, excited some murmurs out of doors, and was, during many years, a favourite subject of sarcasm with Tory pamphleteers. The liberality of the House admits however of an easy explanation. On the very day on which the subject was under consideration, alarming news arrived at Westminster, and convinced many, who would at another time have been disposed to scrutinise severely any account sent in by the Dutch, that our country could not yet dispense with the services of the foreign troops.
France had declared war against the States General; and the States General had consequently demanded from the King of England those succours which he was bound by the treaty of Nimeguen to furnish. He had ordered some battalions to march to Harwich, that they might be in readiness to cross to the Continent. The old soldiers of James were generally in a very bad temper; and this order did not produce a soothing effect. The discontent was greatest in the regiment which now ranks as first of the line. Though borne on the English establishment, that regiment, from the time when it first fought under the great Gustavus, had been almost exclusively composed of Scotchmen; and Scotchmen have never, in any region to which their adventurous and aspiring temper has led them, failed to note and to resent every slight offered to Scotland. Officers and men muttered that a vote of a foreign assembly was nothing to them. If they could be absolved from their allegiance to King James the Seventh, it must be by the Estates at Edinburgh, and not by the Convention at Westminster. Their ill humour increased when they heard that Schomberg had been appointed their colonel. They ought perhaps to have thought it an honour to be called by the name of the greatest soldier in Europe. But, brave and skilful as he was, he was not their countryman: and their regiment, during the fifty- six years which had elapsed since it gained its first honourable distinctions in Germany, had never been commanded but by a Hepburn or a Douglas. While they were in this angry and punctilious mood, they were ordered to join the forces which were assembling at Harwich. There was much murmuring; but there was no outbreak till the regiment arrived at Ipswich. There the signal of revolt was given by two captains who were zealous for the exiled King. The market place was soon filled with pikemen and musketeers running to and fro. Gunshots were wildly fired in all directions. Those officers who attempted to restrain the rioters were overpowered and disarmed. At length the chiefs of the insurrection established some order, and marched out of Ipswich at the head of their adherents. The little army consisted of about eight hundred men. They had seized four pieces of cannon, and had taken possession of the military chest, which contained a considerable sum of money. At the distance of half a mile from the town a halt was called: a general consultation was held; and the mutineers resolved that they would hasten back to their native country, and would live and die with their rightful King. They instantly proceeded northward by forced marches.
When the news reached London the dismay was great. It was rumoured that alarming symptoms had appeared in other regiments, and particularly that a body of fusileers which lay at Harwich was likely to imitate the example set at Ipswich. "If these Scots," said Halifax to Reresby, "are unsupported, they are lost. But if they have acted in concert with others, the danger is serious indeed." The truth seems to be that there was a conspiracy which had ramifications in many parts of the army, but that the conspirators were awed by the firmness of the government and of the Parliament. A committee of the Privy Council was sitting when the tidings of the mutiny arrived in London. William Harbord, who represented the borough of Launceston, was at the board. His colleagues entreated him to go down instantly to the House of Commons, and to relate what had happened. He went, rose in his place, and told his story. The spirit of the assembly rose to the occasion. Howe was the first to call for vigorous action. "Address the King," he said, "to send his Dutch troops after these men. I know not who else can be trusted." "This is no jesting matter," said old Birch, who had been a colonel in the service of the Parliament, and had seen the most powerful and renowned House of Commons that ever sate twice purged and twice expelled by its own soldiers; "if you let this evil spread, you will have an army upon you in a few days. Address the King to send horse and foot instantly, his own men, men whom he can trust, and to put these people down at once." The men of the long robe caught the flame. "It is not the learning of my profession that is needed here," said Treby. "What is now to be done is to meet force with force, and to maintain in the field what we have done in the senate." "Write to the Sheriffs," said Colonel Mildmay, member for Essex. "Raise the militia. There are a hundred and fifty thousand of them: they are good Englishmen: they will not fail you." It was resolved that all members of the House who held commissions in the army should be dispensed from parliamentary attendance, in order that they might repair instantly to their military posts. An address was unanimously voted requesting the King to take effectual steps for the suppression of the rebellion, and to put forth a proclamation denouncing public vengeance on the rebels. One gentleman hinted that it might be well to advise his Majesty to offer a pardon to those who should peaceably submit: but the House wisely rejected the suggestion. "This is no time," it was well said, "for any thing that looks like fear." The address was instantly sent up to the Lords. The Lords concurred in it. Two peers, two knights of shires, and two burgesses were sent with it to Court. William received them graciously, and informed them that he had already given the necessary orders. In fact, several regiments of horse and dragoons had been sent northward under the command of Ginkell, one of the bravest and ablest officers of the Dutch army.
Meanwhile the mutineers were hastening across the country which lies between Cambridge and the Wash. Their road lay through a vast and desolate fen, saturated with all the moisture of thirteen counties, and overhung during the greater part of the year by a low grey mist, high above which rose, visible many miles, the magnificent tower of Ely. In that dreary region, covered by vast flights of wild fowl, a half savage population, known by the name of the Breedlings, then led an amphibious life, sometimes wading, and sometimes rowing, from one islet of firm ground to another. The roads were amongst the worst in the island, and, as soon as rumour announced the approach of the rebels, were studiously made worse by the country people. Bridges were broken down. Trees were laid across the highways to obstruct the progress of the cannon. Nevertheless the Scotch veterans not only pushed forward with great speed, but succeeded in carrying their artillery with them. They entered Lincolnshire, and were not far from Sleaford, when they learned that Ginkell with an irresistible force was close on their track. Victory and escape were equally out of the question. The bravest warriors could not contend against fourfold odds. The most active infantry could not outrun horsemen. Yet the leaders, probably despairing of pardon, urged the men to try the chance of battle. In that region, a spot almost surrounded by swamps and pools was without difficulty found. Here the insurgents were drawn up; and the cannon were planted at the only point which was thought not to be sufficiently protected by natural defences. Ginkell ordered the attack to be made at a place which was out of the range of the guns; and his dragoons dashed gallantly into the water, though it was so deep that their horses were forced to swim. Then the mutineers lost heart. They beat a parley, surrendered at discretion, and were brought up to London under a strong guard. Their lives were forfeit: for they had been guilty, not merely of mutiny, which was then not a legal crime, but of levying war against the King. William, however, with politic clemency, abstained from shedding the blood even of the most culpable. A few of the ringleaders were brought to trial at the next Bury assizes, and were convicted of high treason; but their lives were spared. The rest were merely ordered to return to their duty. The regiment, lately so refractory, went submissively to the Continent, and there, through many hard campaigns, distinguished itself by fidelity, by discipline, and by valour.
This event facilitated an important change in our polity, a change which, it is true, could not have been long delayed, but which would not have been easily accomplished except at a moment of extreme danger. The time had at length arrived at which it was necessary to make a legal distinction between the soldier and the citizen. Under the Plantagenets and the Tudors there had been no standing army. The standing army which had existed under the last kings of the House of Stuart had been regarded by every party in the state with strong and not unreasonable aversion. The common law gave the Sovereign no power to control his troops. The Parliament, regarding them as mere tools of tyranny, had not been disposed to give such power by statute. James indeed had induced his corrupt and servile judges to put on some obsolete laws a construction which enabled him to punish desertion capitally. But this construction was considered by all respectable jurists as unsound, and, had it been sound, would have been far from effecting all that was necessary for the purpose of maintaining military discipline. Even James did not venture to inflict death by sentence of a court martial. The deserter was treated as an ordinary felon, was tried at the assizes by a petty jury on a bill found by a grand jury, and was at liberty to avail himself of any technical flaw which might be discovered in the indictment.
The Revolution, by altering the relative position of the prince and the parliament, had altered also the relative position of the army and the nation. The King and the Commons were now at unity; and both were alike menaced by the greatest military power which had existed in Europe since the downfall of the Roman empire. In a few weeks thirty thousand veterans, accustomed to conquer, and led by able and experienced captains, might cross from the ports of Normandy and Brittany to our shores. That such a force would with little difficulty scatter three times that number of militia, no man well acquainted with war could doubt. There must then be regular soldiers; and, if there were to be regular soldiers, it must be indispensable, both to their efficiency, and to the security of every other class, that they should be kept under a strict discipline. An ill disciplined army has ever been a more costly and a more licentious militia, impotent against a foreign enemy, and formidable only to the country which it is paid to defend. A strong line of demarcation must therefore be drawn between the soldiers and the rest of the community. For the sake of public freedom, they must, in the midst of freedom, be placed under a despotic rule. They must be subject to a sharper penal code, and to a more stringent code of procedure, than are administered by the ordinary tribunals. Some acts which in the citizen are innocent must in the soldier be crimes. Some acts which in the citizen are punished with fine or imprisonment must in the soldier be punished with death. The machinery by which courts of law ascertain the guilt or innocence of an accused citizen is too slow and too intricate to be applied to an accused soldier. For, of all the maladies incident to the body politic, military insubordination is that which requires the most prompt and drastic remedies. If the evil be not stopped as soon as it appears, it is certain to spread; and it cannot spread far without danger to the very vitals of the commonwealth. For the general safety, therefore, a summary jurisdiction of terrible extent must, in camps, be entrusted to rude tribunals composed of men of the sword.
But, though it was certain that the country could not at that moment be secure without professional soldiers, and equally certain that professional soldiers must be worse than useless unless they were placed under a rule more arbitrary and severe than that to which other men were subject, it was not without great misgivings that a House of Commons could venture to recognise the existence and to make provision for the government of a standing army. There was scarcely a public man of note who had not often avowed his conviction that our polity and a standing army could not exist together. The Whigs had been in the constant habit of repeating that standing armies had destroyed the free institutions of the neighbouring nations. The Tories had repeated as constantly that, in our own island, a standing army had subverted the Church, oppressed the gentry, and murdered the King. No leader of either party could, without laying himself open to the charge of gross inconsistency, propose that such an army should henceforth be one of the permanent establishments of the realm. The mutiny at Ipswich, and the panic which that mutiny produced, made it easy to effect what would otherwise have been in the highest degree difficult. A short bill was brought in which began by declaring, in explicit terms, that standing armies and courts martial were unknown to the law of England. It was then enacted that, on account of the extreme perils impending at that moment over the state, no man mustered on pay in the service of the crown should, on pain of death, or of such lighter punishment as a court martial should deem sufficient, desert his colours or mutiny against his commanding officers. This statute was to be in force only six months; and many of those who voted for it probably believed that it would, at the close of that period, be suffered to expire. The bill passed rapidly and easily. Not a single division was taken upon it in the House of Commons. A mitigating clause indeed, which illustrates somewhat curiously the manners of that age, was added by way of rider after the third reading. This clause provided that no court martial should pass sentence of death except between the hours of six in the morning and one in the afternoon. The dinner hour was then early; and it was but too probable that a gentleman who had dined would be in a state in which he could not safely be trusted with the lives of his fellow creatures. With this amendment, the first and most concise of our many Mutiny Bills was sent up to the Lords, and was, in a few hours, hurried by them through all its stages and passed by the King.
Thus was made, without one dissentient voice in Parliament, without one murmur in the nation, the first step towards a change which had become necessary to the safety of the state, yet which every party in the state then regarded with extreme dread and aversion. Six months passed; and still the public danger continued. The power necessary to the maintenance of military discipline was a second time entrusted to the crown for a short term. The trust again expired, and was again renewed. By slow degrees familiarity reconciled the public mind to the names, once so odious, of standing army and court martial. It was proved by experience that, in a well constituted society, professional soldiers may be terrible to a foreign enemy, and yet submissive to the civil power. What had been at first tolerated as the exception began to be considered as the rule. Not a session passed without a Mutiny Bill. When at length it became evident that a political change of the highest importance was taking place in such a manner as almost to escape notice, a clamour was raised by some factious men desirous to weaken the hands of the government, and by some respectable men who felt an honest but injudicious reverence for every old constitutional tradition, and who were unable to understand that what at one stage in the progress of society is pernicious may at another stage be indispensable. This clamour however, as years rolled on, became fainter and fainter. The debate which recurred every spring on the Mutiny Bill came to be regarded merely as an occasion on which hopeful young orators fresh from Christchurch were to deliver maiden speeches, setting forth how the guards of Pisistratus seized the citadel of Athens, and how the Praetorian cohorts sold the Roman empire to Didius. At length these declamations became too ridiculous to be repeated. The most oldfashioned, the most eccentric, politician could hardly, in the reign of George the Third, contend that there ought to be no regular soldiers, or that the ordinary law, administered by the ordinary courts, would effectually maintain discipline among such soldiers. All parties being agreed as to the general principle, a long succession of Mutiny Bills passed without any discussion, except when some particular article of the military code appeared to require amendment. It is perhaps because the army became thus gradually, and almost imperceptibly, one of the institutions of England, that it has acted in such perfect harmony with all her other institutions, has never once, during a hundred and sixty years, been untrue to the throne or disobedient to the law, has never once defied the tribunals or overawed the constituent bodies. To this day, however, the Estates of the Realm continue to set up periodically, with laudable jealousy, a landmark on the frontier which was traced at the time of the Revolution. They solemnly reassert every year the doctrine laid down in the Declaration of Rights; and they then grant to the Sovereign an extraordinary power to govern a certain number of soldiers according to certain rules during twelve months more.
In the same week in which the first Mutiny Bill was laid on the table of the Commons, another temporary law, made necessary by the unsettled state of the kingdom, was passed. Since the flight of James many persons who were believed to have been deeply implicated in his unlawful acts, or to be engaged in plots for his restoration, had been arrested and confined. During the vacancy of the throne, these men could derive no benefit from the Habeas Corpus Act. For the machinery by which alone that Act could be carried into execution had ceased to exist; and, through the whole of Hilary term, all the courts in Westminster Hall had remained closed. Now that the ordinary tribunals were about to resume their functions, it was apprehended that all those prisoners whom it was not convenient to bring instantly to trial would demand and obtain their liberty. A bill was therefore brought in which empowered the King to detain in custody during a few weeks such persons as he should suspect of evil designs against his government. This bill passed the two Houses with little or no opposition. But the malecontents out of doors did not fail to remark that, in the late reign, the Habeas Corpus Act had not been one day suspended. It was the fashion to call James a tyrant, and William a deliverer. Yet, before the deliverer had been a month on the throne, he had deprived Englishmen of a precious right which the tyrant had respected. This is a kind of reproach which a government sprung from a popular revolution almost inevitably incurs. From such a government men naturally think themselves entitled to demand a more gentle and liberal administration than is expected from old and deeply rooted power. Yet such a government, having, as it always has, many active enemies, and not having the strength derived from legitimacy and prescription, can at first maintain itself only by a vigilance and a severity of which old and deeply rooted power stands in no need. Extraordinary and irregular vindications of public liberty are sometimes necessary: yet, however necessary, they are almost always followed by some temporary abridgments of that very liberty; and every such abridgment is a fertile and plausible theme for sarcasm and invective.
Unhappily sarcasm and invective directed against William were but too likely to find favourable audience. Each of the two great parties had its own reasons for being dissatisfied with him; and there were some complaints in which both parties joined. His manners gave almost universal offence. He was in truth far better qualified to save a nation than to adorn a court. In the highest parts of statesmanship, he had no equal among his contemporaries. He had formed plans not inferior in grandeur and boldness to those of Richelieu, and had carried them into effect with a tact and wariness worthy of Mazarin. Two countries, the seats of civil liberty and of the Reformed Faith, had been preserved by his wisdom and courage from extreme perils. Holland he had delivered from foreign, and England from domestic foes. Obstacles apparently insurmountable had been interposed between him and the ends on which he was intent; and those obstacles his genius had turned into stepping stones. Under his dexterous management the hereditary enemies of his house had helped him to mount a throne; and the persecutors of his religion had helped him to rescue his religion from persecution. Fleets and armies, collected to withstand him, had, without a struggle, submitted to his orders. Factions and sects, divided by mortal antipathies, had recognised him as their common head. Without carnage, without devastation, he had won a victory compared with which all the victories of Gustavus and Turenne were insignificant. In a few weeks he had changed the relative position of all the states in Europe, and had restored the equilibrium which the preponderance of one power had destroyed. Foreign nations did ample justice to his great qualities. In every Continental country where Protestant congregations met, fervent thanks were offered to God, who, from among the progeny of His servants, Maurice, the deliverer of Germany, and William, the deliverer of Holland, had raised up a third deliverer, the wisest and mightiest of all. At Vienna, at Madrid, nay, at Rome, the valiant and sagacious heretic was held in honour as the chief of the great confederacy against the House of Bourbon; and even at Versailles the hatred which he inspired was largely mingled with admiration.
Here he was less favourably judged. In truth, our ancestors saw him in the worst of all lights. By the French, the Germans, and the Italians, he was contemplated at such a distance that only what was great could be discerned, and that small blemishes were invisible. To the Dutch he was brought close: but he was himself a Dutchman. In his intercourse with them he was seen to the best advantage, he was perfectly at his ease with them; and from among them he had chosen his earliest and dearest friends. But to the English he appeared in a most unfortunate point of view. He was at once too near to them and too far from them. He lived among them, so that the smallest peculiarity of temper or manner could not escape their notice. Yet he lived apart from them, and was to the last a foreigner in speech, tastes, and habits.
One of the chief functions of our Sovereigns had long been to preside over the society of the capital. That function Charles the Second had performed with immense success. His easy bow, his good stories, his style of dancing and playing tennis, the sound of his cordial laugh, were familiar to all London. One day he was seen among the elms of Saint James's Park chatting with Dryden about poetry. Another day his arm was on Tom Durfey's shoulder; and his Majesty was taking a second, while his companion sang "Phillida, Phillida," or "To horse, brave boys, to Newmarket, to horse." James, with much less vivacity and good nature, was accessible, and, to people who did not cross him, civil. But of this sociableness William was entirely destitute. He seldom came forth from his closet; and, when he appeared in the public rooms, he stood among the crowd of courtiers and ladies, stern and abstracted, making no jest and smiling at none. His freezing look, his silence, the dry and concise answers which he uttered when he could keep silence no longer, disgusted noblemen and gentlemen who had been accustomed to be slapped on the back by their royal masters, called Jack or Harry, congratulated about race cups or rallied about actresses. The women missed the homage due to their sex. They observed that the King spoke in a somewhat imperious tone even to the wife to whom he owed so much, and whom he sincerely loved and esteemed. They were amused and shocked to see him, when the Princess Anne dined with him, and when the first green peas of the year were put on the table, devour the whole dish without offering a spoonful to her Royal Highness; and they pronounced that this great soldier and politician was no better than a Low Dutch bear.
One misfortune, which was imputed to him as a crime, was his bad English. He spoke our language, but not well. His accent was foreign: his diction was inelegant; and his vocabulary seems to have been no larger than was necessary for the transaction of business. To the difficulty which he felt in expressing himself, and to his consciousness that his pronunciation was bad, must be partly ascribed the taciturnity and the short answers which gave so much offence. Our literature he was incapable of enjoying or of understanding. He never once, during his whole reign, showed himself at the theatre. The poets who wrote Pindaric verses in his praise complained that their flights of sublimity were beyond his comprehension. Those who are acquainted with the panegyrical odes of that age will perhaps be of opinion that he did not lose much by his ignorance.
It is true that his wife did her best to supply what was wanting, and that she was excellently qualified to be the head of the Court. She was English by birth, and English also in her tastes and feelings. Her face was handsome, her port majestic, her temper sweet and lively, her manners affable and graceful. Her understanding, though very imperfectly cultivated, was quick. There was no want of feminine wit and shrewdness in her conversation; and her letters were so well expressed that they deserved to be well spelt. She took much pleasure in the lighter kinds of literature, and did something towards bringing books into fashion among ladies of quality. The stainless purity of her private life and the strict attention which she paid to her religious duties were the more respectable, because she was singularly free from censoriousness, and discouraged scandal as much as vice. In dislike of backbiting indeed she and her husband cordially agreed; but they showed their dislike in different and in very characteristic ways. William preserved profound silence, and gave the talebearer a look which, as was said by a person who had once encountered it, and who took good care never to encounter it again, made your story go back down your throat. Mary had a way of interrupting tattle about elopements, duels, and playdebts by asking the tattlers, very quietly yet significantly, whether they had ever read her favourite sermon, Doctor Tillotson's on Evil Speaking. Her charities were munificent and judicious; and, though she made no ostentatious display of them, it was known that she retrenched from her own state in order to relieve Protestants whom persecution had driven from France and Ireland, and who were starving in the garrets of London. So amiable was her conduct, that she was generally spoken of with esteem and tenderness by the most respectable of those who disapproved of the manner in which she had been raised to the throne, and even of those who refused to acknowledge her as Queen. In the Jacobite lampoons of that time, lampoons which, in virulence and malignity, far exceed any thing that our age has produced, she was not often mentioned with severity. Indeed she sometimes expressed her surprise at finding that libellers who respected nothing else respected her name. God, she said, knew where her weakness lay. She was too sensitive to abuse and calumny; He had mercifully spared her a trial which was beyond her strength; and the best return which she could make to Him was to discountenance all malicious reflections on the characters of others. Assured that she possessed her husband's entire confidence and affection, she turned the edge of his sharp speeches sometimes by soft and sometimes by playful answers, and employed all the influence which she derived from her many pleasing qualities to gain the hearts of the people for him.
If she had long continued to assemble round her the best society of London, it is probable that her kindness and courtesy would have done much to efface the unfavourable impression made by his stern and frigid demeanour. Unhappily his physical infirmities made it impossible for him to reside at Whitehall. The air of Westminster, mingled with the fog of the river which in spring tides overflowed the courts of his palace, with the smoke of seacoal from two hundred thousand chimneys, and with the fumes of all the filth which was then suffered to accumulate in the streets, was insupportable to him; for his lungs were weak, and his sense of smell exquisitely keen. His constitutional asthma made rapid progress. His physicians pronounced it impossible that he could live to the end of the year. His face was so ghastly that he could hardly be recognised. Those who had to transact business with him were shocked to hear him gasping for breath, and coughing till the tears ran down his cheeks. His mind, strong as it was, sympathized with his body. His judgment was indeed as clear as ever. But there was, during some months, a perceptible relaxation of that energy by which he had been distinguished. Even his Dutch friends whispered that he was not the man that he had been at the Hague. It was absolutely necessary that he should quit London. He accordingly took up his residence in the purer air of Hampton Court. That mansion, begun by the magnificent Wolsey, was a fine specimen of the architecture which flourished in England under the first Tudors; but the apartments were not, according to the notions of the seventeenth century, well fitted for purposes of state. Our princes therefore had, since the Restoration, repaired thither seldom, and only when they wished to live for a time in retirement. As William purposed to make the deserted edifice his chief palace, it was necessary for him to build and to plant; nor was the necessity disagreeable to him. For he had, like most of his countrymen, a pleasure in decorating a country house; and next to hunting, though at a great interval, his favourite amusements were architecture and gardening. He had already created on a sandy heath in Guelders a paradise, which attracted multitudes of the curious from Holland and Westphalia. Mary had laid the first stone of the house. Bentinck had superintended the digging of the fishponds. There were cascades and grottoes, a spacious orangery, and an aviary which furnished Hondekoeter with numerous specimens of manycoloured plumage. The King, in his splendid banishment, pined for this favourite seat, and found some consolation in creating another Loo on the banks of the Thames. Soon a wide extent of ground was laid out in formal walks and parterres. Much idle ingenuity was employed in forming that intricate labyrinth of verdure which has puzzled and amused five generations of holiday visitors from London. Limes thirty years old were transplanted from neighbouring woods to shade the alleys. Artificial fountains spouted among the flower beds. A new court, not designed with the purest taste, but stately, spacious, and commodious, rose under the direction of Wren. The wainscots were adorned with the rich and delicate carvings of Gibbons. The staircases were in a blaze with the glaring frescoes of Verrio. In every corner of the mansion appeared a profusion of gewgaws, not yet familiar to English eyes. Mary had acquired at the Hague a taste for the porcelain of China, and amused herself by forming at Hampton a vast collection of hideous images, and of vases on which houses, trees, bridges, and mandarins were depicted in outrageous defiance of all the laws of perspective. The fashion, a frivolous and inelegant fashion it must be owned, which was thus set by the amiable Queen, spread fast and wide. In a few years almost every great house in the kingdom contained a museum of these grotesque baubles. Even statesmen and generals were not ashamed to be renowned as judges of teapots and dragons; and satirists long continued to repeat that a fine lady valued her mottled green pottery quite as much as she valued her monkey, and much more than she valued her husband. But the new palace was embellished with works of art of a very different kind. A gallery was erected for the cartoons of Raphael. Those great pictures, then and still the finest on our side of the Alps, had been preserved by Cromwell from the fate which befell most of the other masterpieces in the collection of Charles the First, but had been suffered to lie during many years nailed up in deal boxes. They were now brought forth from obscurity to be contemplated by artists with admiration and despair. The expense of the works at Hampton was a subject of bitter complaint to many Tories, who had very gently blamed the boundless profusion with which Charles the Second had built and rebuilt, furnished and refurnished, the dwelling of the Duchess of Portsmouth. The expense, however, was not the chief cause of the discontent which William's change of residence excited. There was no longer a Court at Westminster. Whitehall, once the daily resort of the noble and the powerful, the beautiful and the gay, the place to which fops came to show their new peruques, men of gallantry to exchange glances with fine ladies, politicians to push their fortunes, loungers to hear the news, country gentlemen to see the royal family, was now, in the busiest season of the year, when London was full, when Parliament was sitting, left desolate. A solitary sentinel paced the grassgrown pavement before that door which had once been too narrow for the opposite streams of entering and departing courtiers. The services which the metropolis had rendered to the King were great and recent; and it was thought that he might have requited those services better than by treating it as Lewis had treated Paris. Halifax ventured to hint this, but was silenced by a few words which admitted of no reply. "Do you wish," said William peevishly, "to see me dead?"
In a short time it was found that Hampton Court was too far from the Houses of Lords and Commons, and from the public offices, to be the ordinary abode of the Sovereign. Instead, however, of returning to Whitehall, William determined to have another dwelling, near enough to his capital for the transaction of business, but not near enough to be within that atmosphere in which he could not pass a night without risk of suffocation. At one time he thought of Holland House, the villa of the noble family of Rich; and he actually resided there some weeks. But he at length fixed his choice on Kensington House, the suburban residence of the Earl of Nottingham. The purchase was made for eighteen thousand guineas, and was followed by more building, more planting, more expense, and more discontent. At present Kensington House is considered as a part of London. It was then a rural mansion, and could not, in those days of highwaymen and scourers, of roads deep in mire and nights without lamps, be the rallying point of fashionable society.
It was well known that the King, who treated the English nobility and gentry so ungraciously, could, in a small circle of his own countrymen, be easy, friendly, even jovial, could pour out his feelings garrulously, could fill his glass, perhaps too often; and this was, in the view of our forefathers, an aggravation of his offences. Yet our forefathers should have had the sense and the justice to acknowledge that the patriotism which they considered as a virtue in themselves, could not be a fault in him. It was unjust to blame him for not at once transferring to our island the love which he bore to the country of his birth. If, in essentials, he did his duty towards England, he might well be suffered to feel at heart an affectionate preference for Holland. Nor is it a reproach to him that he did not, in this season of his greatness, discard companions who had played with him in his childhood, who had stood by him firmly through all the vicissitudes of his youth and manhood, who had, in defiance of the most loathsome and deadly forms of infection, kept watch by his sick-bed, who had, in the thickest of the battle, thrust themselves between him and the French swords, and whose attachment was, not to the Stadtholder or to the King, but to plain William of Nassau. It may be added that his old friends could not but rise in his estimation by comparison with his new courtiers. To the end of his life all his Dutch comrades, without exception, continued to deserve his confidence. They could be out of humour with him, it is true; and, when out of humour, they could be sullen and rude; but never did they, even when most angry and unreasonable, fail to keep his secrets and to watch over his interests with gentlemanlike and soldierlike fidelity. Among his English councillors such fidelity was rare. It is painful, but it is no more than just, to acknowledge that he had but too good reason for thinking meanly of our national character. That character was indeed, in essentials, what it has always been. Veracity, uprightness, and manly boldness were then, as now, qualities eminently English. But those qualities, though widely diffused among the great body of the people, were seldom to be found in the class with which William was best acquainted. The standard of honour and virtue among our public men was, during his reign, at the very lowest point. His predecessors had bequeathed to him a court foul with all the vices of the Restoration, a court swarming with sycophants, who were ready, on the first turn of fortune, to abandon him as they had abandoned his uncle. Here and there, lost in that ignoble crowd, was to be found a man of true integrity and public spirit. Yet even such a man could not long live in such society without much risk that the strictness of his principles would be relaxed, and the delicacy of his sense of right and wrong impaired. It was unjust to blame a prince surrounded by flatterers and traitors for wishing to keep near him four or five servants whom he knew by proof to be faithful even to death.
Nor was this the only instance in which our ancestors were unjust to him. They had expected that, as soon as so distinguished a soldier and statesman was placed at the head of affairs, he would give some signal proof, they scarcely knew what, of genius and vigour. Unhappily, during the first months of his reign, almost every thing went wrong. His subjects, bitterly disappointed, threw the blame on him, and began to doubt whether he merited that reputation which he had won at his first entrance into public life, and which the splendid success of his last great enterprise had raised to the highest point. Had they been in a temper to judge fairly, they would have perceived that for the maladministration of which they with good reason complained he was not responsible. He could as yet work only with the machinery which he had found; and the machinery which he had found was all rust and rottenness. From the time of the Restoration to the time of the Revolution, neglect and fraud had been almost constantly impairing the efficiency of every department of the government. Honours and public trusts, peerages, baronetcies, regiments, frigates, embassies, governments, commissionerships, leases of crown lands, contracts for clothing, for provisions, for ammunition, pardons for murder, for robbery, for arson, were sold at Whitehall scarcely less openly than asparagus at Covent Garden or herrings at Billingsgate. Brokers had been incessantly plying for custom in the purlieus of the court; and of these brokers the most successful had been, in the days of Charles, the harlots, and in the days of James, the priests. From the palace which was the chief seat of this pestilence the taint had diffused itself through every office and through every rank in every office, and had every where produced feebleness and disorganization. So rapid was the progress of the decay that, within eight years after the time when Oliver had been the umpire of Europe, the roar of the guns of De Ruyter was heard in the Tower of London. The vices which had brought that great humiliation on the country had ever since been rooting themselves deeper and spreading themselves wider. James had, to do him justice, corrected a few of the gross abuses which disgraced the naval administration. Yet the naval administration, in spite of his attempts to reform it, moved the contempt of men who were acquainted with the dockyards of France and Holland. The military administration was still worse. The courtiers took bribes from the colonels; the colonels cheated the soldiers: the commissaries sent in long bills for what had never been furnished: the keepers of the arsenals sold the public stores and pocketed the price. But these evils, though they had sprung into existence and grown to maturity under the government of Charles and James, first made themselves severely felt under the government of William. For Charles and James were content to be the vassals and pensioners of a powerful and ambitious neighbour: they submitted to his ascendency: they shunned with pusillanimous caution whatever could give him offence; and thus, at the cost of the independence and dignity of that ancient and glorious crown which they unworthily wore, they avoided a conflict which would instantly have shown how helpless, under their misrule, their once formidable kingdom had become. Their ignominious policy it was neither in William's power nor in his nature to follow. It was only by arms that the liberty and religion of England could be protected against the most formidable enemy that had threatened our island since the Hebrides were strown with the wrecks of the Armada. The body politic, which, while it remained in repose, had presented a superficial appearance of health and vigour, was now under the necessity of straining every nerve in a wrestle for life or death, and was immediately found to be unequal to the exertion. The first efforts showed an utter relaxation of fibre, an utter want of training. Those efforts were, with scarcely an exception, failures; and every failure was popularly imputed, not to the rulers whose mismanagement had produced the infirmities of the state, but to the ruler in whose time the infirmities of the state became visible.
William might indeed, if he had been as absolute as Lewis, have used such sharp remedies as would speedily have restored to the English administration that firm tone which had been wanting since the death of Oliver. But the instantaneous reform of inveterate abuses was a task far beyond the powers of a prince strictly restrained by law, and restrained still more strictly by the difficulties of his situation.
Some of the most serious difficulties of his situation were caused by the conduct of the ministers on whom, new as he was to the details of English affairs, he was forced to rely for information about men and things. There was indeed no want of ability among his chief counsellors: but one half of their ability was employed in counteracting the other half. Between the Lord President and the Lord Privy Seal there was an inveterate enmity. It had begun twelve years before when Danby was Lord High Treasurer, a persecutor of nonconformists, an uncompromising defender of prerogative, and when Halifax was rising to distinction as one of the most eloquent leaders of the country party. In the reign of James, the two statesmen had found themselves in opposition together; and their common hostility to France and to Rome, to the High Commission and to the dispensing power, had produced an apparent reconciliation; but as soon as they were in office together the old antipathy revived. The hatred which the Whig party felt towards them both ought, it should seem, to have produced a close alliance between them: but in fact each of them saw with complacency the danger which threatened the other. Danby exerted himself to rally round him a strong phalanx of Tories. Under the plea of ill health, he withdrew from court, seldom came to the Council over which it was his duty to preside, passed much time in the country, and took scarcely any part in public affairs except by grumbling and sneering at all the acts of the government, and by doing jobs and getting places for his personal retainers. In consequence of this defection, Halifax became prime minister, as far any minister could, in that reign, be called prime minister. An immense load of business fell on him; and that load he was unable to sustain. In wit and eloquence, in amplitude of comprehension and subtlety of disquisition, he had no equal among the statesmen of his time. But that very fertility, that very acuteness, which gave a singular charm to his conversation, to his oratory and to his writings, unfitted him for the work of promptly deciding practical questions. He was slow from very quickness. For he saw so many arguments for and against every possible course that he was longer in making up his mind than a dull man would have been. Instead of acquiescing in his first thoughts, he replied on himself, rejoined on himself, and surrejoined on himself. Those who heard him talk owned that he talked like an angel: but too often, when he had exhausted all that could be said, and came to act, the time for action was over.
Meanwhile the two Secretaries of State were constantly labouring to draw their master in diametrically opposite directions. Every scheme, every person, recommended by one of them was reprobated by the other. Nottingham was never weary of repeating that the old Roundhead party, the party which had taken the life of Charles the First and had plotted against the life of Charles the Second, was in principle republican, and that the Tories were the only true friends of monarchy. Shrewsbury replied that the Tories might be friends of monarchy, but that they regarded James as their monarch. Nottingham was always bringing to the closet intelligence of the wild daydreams in which a few old eaters of calf's head, the remains of the once formidable party of Bradshaw and Ireton, still indulged at taverns in the city. Shrewsbury produced ferocious lampoons which the Jacobites dropped every day in the coffeehouses. "Every Whig," said the Tory Secretary, "is an enemy of your Majesty's prerogative." "Every Tory," said the Whig Secretary, "is an enemy of your Majesty's title."
At the treasury there was a complication of jealousies and quarrels. Both the First Commissioner, Mordaunt, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Delamere, were zealous Whigs but, though they held the same political creed, their tempers differed widely. Mordaunt was volatile, dissipated, and generous. The wits of that time laughed at the way in which he flew about from Hampton Court to the Royal Exchange, and from the Royal Exchange back to Hampton Court. How he found time for dress, politics, lovemaking and balladmaking was a wonder. Delamere was gloomy and acrimonious, austere in his private morals, and punctual in his devotions, but greedy of ignoble gain. The two principal ministers of finance, therefore, became enemies, and agreed only in hating their colleague Godolphin. What business had he at Whitehall in these days of Protestant ascendency, he who had sate at the same board with Papists, he who had never scrupled to attend Mary of Modena to the idolatrous worship of the Mass? The most provoking circumstance was that Godolphin, though his name stood only third in the commission, was really first Lord. For in financial knowledge and in habits of business Mordaunt and Delamere were mere children when compared with him; and this William soon discovered.
Similar feuds raged at the other great boards and through all the subordinate ranks of public functionaries. In every customhouse, in every arsenal, were a Shrewsbury and a Nottingham, a Delamere and a Godolphin. The Whigs complained that there was no department in which creatures of the fallen tyranny were not to be found. It was idle to allege that these men were versed in the details of business, that they were the depositaries of official traditions, and that the friends of liberty, having been, during many years, excluded from public employment, must necessarily be incompetent to take on themselves at once the whole management of affairs. Experience doubtless had its value: but surely the first of all the qualifications of a servant was fidelity; and no Tory could be a really faithful servant of the new government. If King William were wise, he would rather trust novices zealous for his interest and honour than veterans who might indeed possess ability and knowledge, but who would use that ability and that knowledge to effect his ruin.
The Tories, on the other hand, complained that their share of power bore no proportion to their number and their weight in the country, and that every where old and useful public servants were, for the crime of being friends to monarchy and to the Church, turned out of their posts to make way for Rye House plotters and haunters of conventicles. These upstarts, adepts in the art of factious agitation, but ignorant of all that belonged to their new calling, would be just beginning to learn their business when they had undone the nation by their blunders. To be a rebel and a schismatic was surely not all that ought to be required of a man in high employment. What would become of the finances, what of the marine, if Whigs who could not understand the plainest balance sheet were to manage the revenue, and Whigs who had never walked over a dockyard to fit out the fleet.
The truth is that the charges which the two parties brought against each other were, to a great extent, well founded, but that the blame which both threw on William was unjust. Official experience was to be found almost exclusively among the Tories, hearty attachment to the new settlement almost exclusively among the Whigs. It was not the fault of the King that the knowledge and the zeal, which, combined, make a valuable servant of the state must at that time be had separately or not at all. If he employed men of one party, there was great risk of mistakes. If he employed men of the other party, there was great risk of treachery. If he employed men of both parties, there was still some risk of mistakes; there was still some risk of treachery; and to these risks was added the certainty of dissension. He might join Whigs and Tories; but it was beyond his power to mix them. In the same office, at the same desk, they were still enemies, and agreed only in murmuring at the Prince who tried to mediate between them. It was inevitable that, in such circumstances, the administration, fiscal, military, naval, should be feeble and unsteady; that nothing should be done in quite the right way or at quite the right time; that the distractions from which scarcely any public office was exempt should produce disasters, and that every disaster should increase the distractions from which it had sprung.
There was indeed one department of which the business was well conducted; and that was the department of Foreign Affairs. There William directed every thing, and, on important occasions, neither asked the advice nor employed the agency of any English politician. One invaluable assistant he had, Anthony Heinsius, who, a few weeks after the Revolution had been accomplished, became Pensionary of Holland. Heinsius had entered public life as a member of that party which was jealous of the power of the House of Orange, and desirous to be on friendly terms with France. But he had been sent in 1681 on a diplomatic mission to Versailles; and a short residence there had produced a complete change in his views. On a near acquaintance, he was alarmed by the power and provoked by the insolence of that Court of which, while he contemplated it only at a distance, he had formed a favourable opinion. He found that his country was despised. He saw his religion persecuted. His official character did not save him from some personal affronts which, to the latest day of his long career, he never forgot. He went home a devoted adherent of William and a mortal enemy of Lewis.
The office of Pensionary, always important, was peculiarly important when the Stadtholder was absent from the Hague. Had the politics of Heinsius been still what they once were, all the great designs of William might have been frustrated. But happily there was between these two eminent men a perfect friendship which, till death dissolved it, appears never to have been interrupted for one moment by suspicion or ill humour. On all large questions of European policy they cordially agreed. They corresponded assiduously and most unreservedly. For though William was slow to give his confidence, yet, when he gave it, he gave it entire. The correspondence is still extant, and is most honourable to both. The King's letters would alone suffice to prove that he was one of the greatest statesmen whom Europe has produced. While he lived, the Pensionary was content to be the most obedient, the most trusty, and the most discreet of servants. But, after the death of the master, the servant proved himself capable of supplying with eminent ability the master's place, and was renowned throughout Europe as one of the great Triumvirate which humbled the pride of Lewis the Fourteenth.
The foreign policy of England, directed immediately by William in close concert with Heinsius, was, at this time, eminently skilful and successful. But in every other part of the administration the evils arising from the mutual animosity of factions were but too plainly discernible. Nor was this all. To the evils arising from the mutual animosity of factions were added other evils arising from the mutual animosity of sects.
The year 1689 is a not less important epoch in the ecclesiastical than in the civil history of England. In that year was granted the first legal indulgence to Dissenters. In that year was made the last serious attempt to bring the Presbyterians within the pale of the Church of England. From that year dates a new schism, made, in defiance of ancient precedents, by men who had always professed to regard schism with peculiar abhorrence, and ancient precedents with peculiar veneration. In that year began the long struggle between two great parties of conformists. Those parties indeed had, under various forms, existed within the Anglican communion ever since the Reformation; but till after the Revolution they did not appear marshalled in regular and permanent order of battle against each other, and were therefore not known by established names. Some time after the accession of William they began to be called the High Church party and the Low Church party; and, long before the end of his reign, these appellations were in common use.
In the summer of 1688 the breaches which had long divided the great body of English Protestants had seemed to be almost closed. Disputes about Bishops and Synods, written prayers and extemporaneous prayers, white gowns and black gowns, sprinkling and dipping, kneeling and sitting, had been for a short space intermitted. The serried array which was then drawn up against Popery measured the whole of the vast interval which separated Sancroft from Bunyan. Prelates recently conspicuous as persecutors now declared themselves friends of religious liberty, and exhorted their clergy to live in a constant interchange of hospitality and of kind offices with the separatists. Separatists, on the other hand, who had recently considered mitres and lawn sleeves as the livery of Antichrist, were putting candles in windows and throwing faggots on bonfires in honour of the prelates.
These feelings continued to grow till they attained their greatest height on the memorable day on which the common oppressor finally quitted Whitehall, and on which an innumerable multitude, tricked out in orange ribands, welcomed the common deliverer to Saint James's. When the clergy of London came, headed by Compton, to express their gratitude to him by whose instrumentality God had wrought salvation for the Church and the State, the procession was swollen by some eminent nonconformist divines. It was delightful to many good men to learn that pious and learned Presbyterian ministers had walked in the train of a Bishop, had been greeted by him with fraternal kindness, and had been announced by him in the presence chamber as his dear and respected friends, separated from him indeed by some differences of opinion on minor points, but united to him by Christian charity and by common zeal for the essentials of the reformed faith. There had never before been such a day in England; and there has never since been such a day. The tide of feeling was already on the turn; and the ebb was even more rapid than the flow had been. In a very few hours the High Churchman began to feel tenderness for the enemy whose tyranny was now no longer feared, and dislike of the allies whose services were now no longer needed. It was easy to gratify both feelings by imputing to the dissenters the misgovernment of the exiled King. His Majesty-such was now the language of too many Anglican divines- would have been an excellent sovereign had he not been too confiding, too forgiving. He had put his trust in a class of men who hated his office, his family, his person, with implacable hatred. He had ruined himself in the vain attempt to conciliate them. He had relieved them, in defiance of law and of the unanimous sense of the old royalist party, from the pressure of the penal code; had allowed them to worship God publicly after their own mean and tasteless fashion; had admitted them to the bench of justice and to the Privy Council; had gratified them with fur robes, gold chains, salaries, and pensions. In return for his liberality, these people, once so uncouth in demeanour, once so savage in opposition even to legitimate authority, had become the most abject of flatterers. They had continued to applaud and encourage him when the most devoted friends of his family had retired in shame and sorrow from his palace. Who had more foully sold the religion and liberty of his country than Titus? Who had been more zealous for the dispensing power than Alsop? Who had urged on the persecution of the seven Bishops more fiercely than Lobb? What chaplain impatient for a deanery had ever, even when preaching in the royal presence on the thirtieth of January or the twenty-ninth of May, uttered adulation more gross than might easily be found in those addresses by which dissenting congregations had testified their gratitude for the illegal Declaration of Indulgence? Was it strange that a prince who had never studied law books should have believed that he was only exercising his rightful prerogative, when he was thus encouraged by a faction which had always ostentatiously professed hatred of arbitrary power? Misled by such guidance, he had gone further and further in the wrong path: he had at length estranged from him hearts which would once have poured forth their best blood in his defence: he had left himself no supporters except his old foes; and, when the day of peril came, he had found that the feeling of his old foes towards him was still what it had been when they had attempted to rob him of his inheritance, and when they had plotted against his life. Every man of sense had long known that the sectaries bore no love to monarchy. It had now been found that they bore as little love to freedom. To trust them with power would be an error not less fatal to the nation than to the throne. If, in order to redeem pledges somewhat rashly given, it should be thought necessary to grant them relief, every concession ought to be accompanied by limitations and precautions. Above all, no man who was an enemy to the ecclesiastical constitution of the realm ought to be permitted to bear any part in the civil government.
Between the nonconformists and the rigid conformists stood the Low Church party. That party contained, as it still contains, two very different elements, a Puritan element and a Latitudinarian element. On almost every question, however, relating either to ecclesiastical polity or to the ceremonial of public worship, the Puritan Low Churchman and the Latitudinarian Low Churchman were perfectly agreed. They saw in the existing polity and in the existing ceremonial no defect, no blemish, which could make it their duty to become dissenters. Nevertheless they held that both the polity and the ceremonial were means and not ends, and that the essential spirit of Christianity might exist without episcopal orders and without a Book of Common Prayer. They had, while James was on the throne, been mainly instrumental in forming the great Protestant coalition against Popery and tyranny; and they continued in 1689 to hold the same conciliatory language which they had held in 1688. They gently blamed the scruples of the nonconformists. It was undoubtedly a great weakness to imagine that there could be any sin in wearing a white robe, in tracing a cross, in kneeling at the rails of an altar. But the highest authority had given the plainest directions as to the manner in which such weakness was to be treated. The weak brother was not to be judged: he was not to be despised: believers who had stronger minds were commanded to soothe him by large compliances, and carefully to remove out of his path every stumbling block which could cause him to offend. An apostle had declared that, though he had himself no misgivings about the use of animal food or of wine, he would eat herbs and drink water rather than give scandal to the feeblest of his flock. What would he have thought of ecclesiastical rulers who, for the sake of a vestment, a gesture, a posture, had not only torn the Church asunder, but had filled all the gaols of England with men of orthodox faith and saintly life? The reflections thrown by the High Churchmen on the recent conduct of the dissenting body the Low Churchmen pronounced to be grossly unjust. The wonder was, not that a few nonconformists should have accepted with thanks an indulgence which, illegal as it was, had opened the doors of their prisons and given security to their hearths, but that the nonconformists generally should have been true to the cause of a constitution from the benefits of which they had been long excluded. It was most unfair to impute to a great party the faults of a few individuals. Even among the Bishops of the Established Church James had found tools and sycophants. The conduct of Cartwright and Parker had been much more inexcusable than that of Alsop and Lobb. Yet those who held the dissenters answerable for the errors of Alsop and Lobb would doubtless think it most unreasonable to hold the Church answerable for the far deeper guilt of Cartwright and Parker.
The Low Church clergymen were a minority, and not a large minority, of their profession: but their weight was much more than proportioned to their numbers: for they mustered strong in the capital: they had great influence there; and the average of intellect and knowledge was higher among them than among their order generally. We should probably overrate their numerical strength, if we were to estimate them at a tenth part of the priesthood. Yet it will scarcely be denied that there were among them as many men of distinguished eloquence and learning as could be found in the other nine tenths. Among the laity who conformed to the established religion the parties were not unevenly balanced. Indeed the line which separated them deviated very little from the line which separated the Whigs and the Tories. In the House of Commons, which had been elected when the Whigs were triumphant, the Low Church party greatly preponderated. In the Lords there was an almost exact equipoise; and very slight circumstances sufficed to turn the scale.
The head of the Low Church party was the King. He had been bred a Presbyterian: he was, from rational conviction, a Latitudinarian; and personal ambition, as well as higher motives, prompted him to act as mediator among Protestant sects. He was bent on effecting three great reforms in the laws touching ecclesiastical matters. His first object was to obtain for dissenters permission to celebrate their worship in freedom and security. His second object was to make such changes in the Anglican ritual and polity as, without offending those to whom that ritual and polity were dear, might conciliate the moderate nonconformists. His third object was to throw open civil offices to Protestants without distinction of sect. All his three objects were good; but the first only was at that time attainable. He came too late for the second, and too early for the third.
A few days after his accession, he took a step which indicated, in a manner not to be mistaken, his sentiments touching ecclesiastical polity and public worship. He found only one see unprovided with a Bishop. Seth Ward, who had during many years had charge of the diocese of Salisbury, and who had been honourably distinguished as one of the founders of the Royal Society, having long survived his faculties, died while the country was agitated by the elections for the Convention, without knowing that great events, of which not the least important had passed under his own roof, had saved his Church and his country from ruin. The choice of a successor was no light matter. That choice would inevitably be considered by the country as a prognostic of the highest import. The King too might well be perplexed by the number of divines whose erudition, eloquence, courage, and uprightness had been conspicuously displayed during the contentions of the last three years. The preference was given to Burnet. His claims were doubtless great. Yet William might have had a more tranquil reign if he had postponed for a time the well earned promotion of his chaplain, and had bestowed the first great spiritual preferment, which, after the Revolution, fell to the disposal of the Crown, on some eminent theologian, attached to the new settlement, yet not generally hated by the clergy. Unhappily the name of Burnet was odious to the great majority of the Anglican priesthood. Though, as respected doctrine, he by no means belonged to the extreme section of the Latitudinarian party, he was popularly regarded as the personification of the Latitudinarian spirit. This distinction he owed to the prominent place which he held in literature and politics, to the readiness of his tongue and of his pert, and above all to the frankness and boldness of his nature, frankness which could keep no secret, and boldness which flinched from no danger. He had formed but a low estimate of the character of his clerical brethren considered as a body; and, with his usual indiscretion, he frequently suffered his opinion to escape him. They hated him in return with a hatred which has descended to their successors, and which, after the lapse of a century and a half, does not appear to languish.
As soon as the King's decision was known, the question was every where asked, What will the Archbishop do? Sancroft had absented himself from the Convention: he had refused to sit in the Privy Council: he had ceased to confirm, to ordain, and to institute; and he was seldom seen out of the walls of his palace at Lambeth. He, on all occasions, professed to think himself still bound by his old oath of allegiance. Burnet he regarded as a scandal to the priesthood, a Presbyterian in a surplice. The prelate who should lay hands on that unworthy head would commit more than one great sin. He would, in a sacred place, and before a great congregation of the faithful, at once acknowledge an usurper as a King, and confer on a schismatic the character of a Bishop. During some time Sancroft positively declared that he would not obey the precept of William. Lloyd of Saint Asaph, who was the common friend of the Archbishop and of the Bishop elect, intreated and expostulated in vain. Nottingham, who, of all the laymen connected with the new government, stood best with the clergy, tried his influence, but to no better purpose. The Jacobites said every where that they were sure of the good old Primate; that he had the spirit of a martyr; that he was determined to brave, in the cause of the Monarchy and of the Church, the utmost rigour of those laws with which the obsequious parliaments of the sixteenth century had fenced the Royal Supremacy. He did in truth hold out long. But at the last moment his heart failed him, and he looked round him for some mode of escape. Fortunately, as childish scruples often disturbed his conscience, childish expedients often quieted it. A more childish expedient than that to which he now resorted is not to be found in all the tones of the casuists. He would not himself bear a part in the service. He would not publicly pray for the Prince and Princess as King and Queen. He would not call for their mandate, order it to be read, and then proceed to obey it. But he issued a commission empowering any three of his suffragans to commit, in his name, and as his delegates, the sins which he did not choose to commit in person. The reproaches of all parties soon made him ashamed of himself. He then tried to suppress the evidence of his fault by means more discreditable than the fault itself. He abstracted from among the public records of which he was the guardian the instrument by which he had authorised his brethren to act for him, and was with difficulty induced to give it up.
Burnet however had, under the authority of this instrument, been consecrated. When he next waited on Mary, she reminded him of the conversations which they had held at the Hague about the high duties and grave responsibility of Bishops. "I hope," she said, "that you will put your notions in practice." Her hope was not disappointed. Whatever may be thought of Burnet's opinions touching civil and ecclesiastical polity, or of the temper and judgment which he showed in defending those opinions, the utmost malevolence of faction could not venture to deny that he tended his flock with a zeal, diligence, and disinterestedness worthy of the purest ages of the Church. His jurisdiction extended over Wiltshire and Berkshire. These counties he divided into districts which he sedulously visited. About two months of every summer he passed in preaching, catechizing, and confirming daily from church to church. When he died there was no corner of his diocese in which the people had not had seven or eight opportunities of receiving his instructions and of asking his advice. The worst weather, the worst roads, did not prevent him from discharging these duties. On one occasion, when the floods were out, he exposed his life to imminent risk rather than disappoint a rural congregation which was in expectation of a discourse from the Bishop. The poverty of the inferior clergy was a constant cause of uneasiness to his kind and generous heart. He was indefatigable and at length successful in his attempts to obtain for them from the Crown that grant which is known by the name of Queen Anne's Bounty. He was especially careful, when he travelled through his diocese, to lay no burden on them. Instead of requiring them to entertain him, he entertained them. He always fixed his headquarters at a market town, kept a table there, and, by his decent hospitality and munificent charities, tried to conciliate those who were prejudiced against his doctrines. When he bestowed a poor benefice, and he had many such to bestow, his practice was to add out of his own purse twenty pounds a year to the income. Ten promising young men, to each of whom he allowed thirty pounds a year, studied divinity under his own eye in the close of Salisbury. He had several children: but he did not think himself justified in hoarding for them. Their mother had brought him a good fortune. With that fortune, he always said, they must be content: He would not, for their sakes, be guilty of the crime of raising an estate out of revenues sacred to piety and charity. Such merits as these will, in the judgment of wise and candid men, appear fully to atone for every offence which can be justly imputed to him.
When he took his seat in the House of Lords, he found that assembly busied in ecclesiastical legislation. A statesman who was well known to be devoted to the Church had undertaken to plead the cause of the Dissenters. No subject in the realm occupied so important and commanding a position with reference to religious parties as Nottingham. To the influence derived from rank, from wealth, and from office, he added the higher influence which belongs to knowledge, to eloquence, and to integrity. The orthodoxy of his creed, the regularity of his devotions, and the purity of his morals gave a peculiar weight to his opinions on questions in which the interests of Christianity were concerned. Of all the ministers of the new Sovereigns, he had the largest share of the confidence of the clergy. Shrewsbury was certainly a Whig, and probably a freethinker: he had lost one religion; and it did not very clearly appear that he had found another. Halifax had been during many years accused of scepticism, deism, atheism. Danby's attachment to episcopacy and the liturgy was rather political than religious. But Nottingham was such a son as the Church was proud to own. Propositions, therefore, which, if made by his colleagues, would infallibly produce a violent panic among the clergy, might, if made by him, find a favourable reception even in universities and chapter houses. The friends of religious liberty were with good reason desirous to obtain his cooperation; and, up to a certain point, he was not unwilling to cooperate with them. He was decidedly for a toleration. He was even for what was then called a comprehension: that is to say, he was desirous to make some alterations in the Anglican discipline and ritual for the purpose of removing the scruples of the moderate Presbyterians. But he was not prepared to give up the Test Act. The only fault which he found with that Act was that it was not sufficiently stringent, and that it left loopholes through which schismatics sometimes crept into civil employments. In truth it was because he was not disposed to part with the Test that he was willing to consent to some changes in the Liturgy. He conceived that, if the entrance of the Church were but a very little widened, great numbers who had hitherto lingered near the threshold would press in. Those who still remained without would then not be sufficiently numerous or powerful to extort any further concession, and would be glad to compound for a bare toleration.
The opinion of the Low Churchmen concerning the Test Act differed widely from his. But many of them thought that it was of the highest importance to have his support on the great questions of Toleration and Comprehension. From the scattered fragments of information which have come down to us, it appears that a compromise was made. It is quite certain that Nottingham undertook to bring in a Toleration Bill and a Comprehension Bill, and to use his best endeavours to carry both bills through the House of Lords. It is highly probable that, in return for this great service, some of the leading Whigs consented to let the Test Act remain for the present unaltered.
There was no difficulty in framing either the Toleration Bill or the Comprehension Bill. The situation of the dissenters had been much discussed nine or ten years before, when the kingdom was distracted by the fear of a Popish plot, and when there was among Protestants a general disposition to unite against the common enemy. The government had then been willing to make large concessions to the Whig party, on condition that the crown should be suffered to descend according to the regular course. A draught of a law authorising the public worship of the nonconformists, and a draught of a law making some alterations in the public worship of the Established Church, had been prepared, and would probably have been passed by both Houses without difficulty, had not Shaftesbury and his coadjutors refused to listen to any terms, and, by grasping at what was beyond their reach, missed advantages which might easily have been secured. In the framing of these draughts, Nottingham, then an active member of the House of Commons, had borne a considerable part. He now brought them forth from the obscurity in which they had remained since the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, and laid them, with some slight alterations, on the table of the Lords.
The Toleration Bill passed both Houses with little debate. This celebrated statute, long considered as the Great Charter of religious liberty, has since been extensively modified, and is hardly known to the present generation except by name. The name, however, is still pronounced with respect by many who will perhaps learn with surprise and disappointment the real nature of the law which they have been accustomed to hold in honour.
Several statutes which had been passed between the accession of Queen Elizabeth and the Revolution required all people under severe penalties to attend the services of the Church of England, and to abstain from attending conventicles. The Toleration Act did not repeal any of these statutes, but merely provided that they should not be construed to extend to any person who should testify his loyalty by taking the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, and his Protestantism by subscribing the Declaration against Transubstantiation.
The relief thus granted was common between the dissenting laity and the dissenting clergy. But the dissenting clergy had some peculiar grievances. The Act of Uniformity had laid a mulct of a hundred pounds on every person who, not having received episcopal ordination, should presume to administer the Eucharist. The Five Mile Act had driven many pious and learned ministers from their houses and their friends, to live among rustics in obscure villages of which the name was not to be seen on the map. The Conventicle Act had imposed heavy fines on divines who should preach in any meeting of separatists; and, in direct opposition to the humane spirit of our common law, the Courts were enjoined to construe this Act largely and beneficially for the suppressing of dissent and for the encouraging of informers. These severe statutes were not repealed, but were, with many conditions and precautions, relaxed. It was provided that every dissenting minister should, before he exercised his function, profess under his hand his belief in the articles of the Church of England, with a few exceptions. The propositions to which he was not required to assent were these; that the Church has power to regulate ceremonies; that the doctrines set forth in the Book of Homilies are sound; and that there is nothing superstitious and idolatrous in the ordination service. If he declared himself a Baptist, he was also excused from affirming that the baptism of infants is a laudable practice. But, unless his conscience suffered him to subscribe thirty-four of the thirty-nine articles, and the greater part of two other articles, he could not preach without incurring all the punishments which the Cavaliers, in the day of their power and their vengeance, had devised for the tormenting and ruining of schismatical teachers.
The situation of the Quaker differed from that of other dissenters, and differed for the worse. The Presbyterian, the Independent, and the Baptist had no scruple about the Oath of Supremacy. But the Quaker refused to take it, not because he objected to the proposition that foreign sovereigns and prelates have no jurisdiction in England, but because his conscience would not suffer him to swear to any proposition whatever. He was therefore exposed to the severity of part of that penal code which, long before Quakerism existed, had been enacted against Roman Catholics by the Parliaments of Elizabeth. Soon after the Restoration, a severe law, distinct from the general law which applied to all conventicles, had been passed against meetings of Quakers. The Toleration Act permitted the members of this harmless sect to hold their assemblies in peace, on condition of signing three documents, a declaration against Transubstantiation, a promise of fidelity to the government, and a confession of Christian belief. The objections which the Quaker had to the Athanasian phraseology had brought on him the imputation of Socinianism; and the strong language in which he sometimes asserted that he derived his knowledge of spiritual things directly from above had raised a suspicion that he thought lightly of the authority of Scripture. He was therefore required to profess his faith in the divinity of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and in the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments.
Such were the terms on which the Protestant dissenters of England were, for the first time, permitted by law to worship God according to their own conscience. They were very properly forbidden to assemble with barred doors, but were protected against hostile intrusion by a clause which made it penal to enter a meeting house for the purpose of molesting the congregation.
As if the numerous limitations and precautions which have been mentioned were insufficient, it was emphatically declared that the legislature did not intend to grant the smallest indulgence to any Papist, or to any person who denied the doctrine of the Trinity as that doctrine is set forth in the formularies of the Church of England.
Of all the Acts that have ever been passed by Parliament, the Toleration Act is perhaps that which most strikingly illustrates the peculiar vices and the peculiar excellences of English legislation. The science of Politics bears in one respect a close analogy to the science of Mechanics. The mathematician can easily demonstrate that a certain power, applied by means of a certain lever or of a certain system of pulleys, will suffice to raise a certain weight. But his demonstration proceeds on the supposition that the machinery is such as no load will bend or break. If the engineer, who has to lift a great mass of real granite by the instrumentality of real timber and real hemp, should absolutely rely on the propositions which he finds in treatises on Dynamics, and should make no allowance for the imperfection of his materials, his whole apparatus of beams, wheels, and ropes would soon come down in ruin, and, with all his geometrical skill, he would be found a far inferior builder to those painted barbarians who, though they never heard of the parallelogram of forces, managed to pile up Stonehenge. What the engineer is to the mathematician, the active statesman is to the contemplative statesman. It is indeed most important that legislators and administrators should be versed in the philosophy of government, as it is most important that the architect, who has to fix an obelisk on its pedestal, or to hang a tubular bridge over an estuary, should be versed in the philosophy of equilibrium and motion. But, as he who has actually to build must bear in mind many things never noticed by D'Alembert and Euler, so must he who has actually to govern be perpetually guided by considerations to which no allusion can be found in the writings of Adam Smith or Jeremy Bentham. The perfect lawgiver is a just temper between the mere man of theory, who can see nothing but general principles, and the mere man of business, who can see nothing but particular circumstances. Of lawgivers in whom the speculative element has prevailed to the exclusion of the practical, the world has during the last eighty years been singularly fruitful. To their wisdom Europe and America have owed scores of abortive constitutions, scores of constitutions which have lived just long enough to make a miserable noise, and have then gone off in convulsions. But in the English legislature the practical element has always predominated, and not seldom unduly predominated, over the speculative. To think nothing of symmetry and much of convenience; never to remove an anomaly merely because it is an anomaly; never to innovate except when some grievance is felt; never to innovate except so far as to get rid of the grievance; never to lay down any proposition of wider extent than the particular case for which it is necessary to provide; these are the rules which have, from the age of John to the age of Victoria, generally guided the deliberations of our two hundred and fifty Parliaments. Our national distaste for whatever is abstract in political science amounts undoubtedly to a fault. But it is, perhaps, a fault on the right side. That we have been far too slow to improve our laws must be admitted. But, though in other countries there may have occasionally been more rapid progress, it would not be easy to name any other country in which there has been so little retrogression.
The Toleration Act approaches very near to the idea of a great English law. To a jurist, versed in the theory of legislation, but not intimately acquainted with the temper of the sects and parties into which the nation was divided at the time of the Revolution, that Act would seem to be a mere chaos of absurdities and contradictions. It will not bear to be tried by sound general principles. Nay, it will not bear to be tried by any principle, sound or unsound. The sound principle undoubtedly is, that mere theological error ought not to be punished by the civil magistrate. This principle the Toleration Act not only does not recognise, but positively disclaims. Not a single one of the cruel laws enacted against nonconformists by the Tudors or the Stuarts is repealed. Persecution continues to be the general rule. Toleration is the exception. Nor is this all. The freedom which is given to conscience is given in the most capricious manner. A Quaker, by making a declaration of faith in general terms, obtains the full benefit of the Act without signing one of the thirty-nine Articles. An Independent minister, who is perfectly willing to make the declaration required from the Quaker, but who has doubts about six or seven of the Articles, remains still subject to the penal laws. Howe is liable to punishment if he preaches before he has solemnly declared his assent to the Anglican doctrine touching the Eucharist. Penn, who altogether rejects the Eucharist, is at perfect liberty to preach without making any declaration whatever on the subject.
These are some of the obvious faults which must strike every person who examines the Toleration Act by that standard of just reason which is the same in all countries and in all ages. But these very faults may perhaps appear to be merits, when we take into consideration the passions and prejudices of those for whom the Toleration Act was framed. This law, abounding with contradictions which every smatterer in political philosophy can detect, did what a law framed by the utmost skill of the greatest masters of political philosophy might have failed to do. That the provisions which have been recapitulated are cumbrous, puerile, inconsistent with each other, inconsistent with the true theory of religious liberty, must be acknowledged. All that can be said in their defence is this; that they removed a vast mass of evil without shocking a vast mass of prejudice; that they put an end, at once and for ever, without one division in either House of Parliament, without one riot in the streets, with scarcely one audible murmur even from the classes most deeply tainted with bigotry, to a persecution which had raged during four generations, which had broken innumerable hearts, which had made innumerable firesides desolate, which had filled the prisons with men of whom the world was not worthy, which had driven thousands of those honest, diligent and godfearing yeomen and artisans, who are the true strength of a nation, to seek a refuge beyond the ocean among the wigwams of red Indians and the lairs of panthers. Such a defence, however weak it may appear to some shallow speculators, will probably be thought complete by statesmen.
The English, in 1689, were by no means disposed to admit the doctrine that religious error ought to be left unpunished. That doctrine was just then more unpopular than it had ever been. For it had, only a few months before, been hypocritically put forward as a pretext for persecuting the Established Church, for trampling on the fundamental laws of the realm, for confiscating freeholds, for treating as a crime the modest exercise of the right of petition. If a bill had then been drawn up granting entire freedom of conscience to all Protestants, it may be confidently affirmed that Nottingham would never have introduced such a bill; that all the bishops, Burnet included, would have voted against it; that it would have been denounced, Sunday after Sunday, from ten thousand pulpits, as an insult to God and to all Christian men, and as a license to the worst heretics and blasphemers; that it would have been condemned almost as vehemently by Bates and Baxter as by Ken and Sherlock; that it would have been burned by the mob in half the market places of England; that it would never have become the law of the land, and that it would have made the very name of toleration odious during many years to the majority of the people. And yet, if such a bill had been passed, what would it have effected beyond what was effected by the Toleration Act?
It is true that the Toleration Act recognised persecution as the rule, and granted liberty of conscience only as the exception. But it is equally true that the rule remained in force only against a few hundreds of Protestant dissenters, and that the benefit of the exceptions extended to hundreds of thousands.
It is true that it was in theory absurd to make Howe sign thirty- four or thirty-five of the Anglican articles before he could preach, and to let Penn preach without signing one of those articles. But it is equally true that, under this arrangement, both Howe and Penn got as entire liberty to preach as they could have had under the most philosophical code that Beccaria or Jefferson could have framed.
The progress of the bill was easy. Only one amendment of grave importance was proposed. Some zealous churchmen in the Commons suggested that it might be desirable to grant the toleration only for a term of seven years, and thus to bind over the nonconformists to good behaviour. But this suggestion was so unfavourably received that those who made it did not venture to divide the House.
The King gave his consent with hearty satisfaction: the bill became law; and the Puritan divines thronged to the Quarter Sessions of every county to swear and sign. Many of them probably professed their assent to the Articles with some tacit reservations. But the tender conscience of Baxter would not suffer him to qualify, till he had put on record an explanation of the sense in which he understood every proposition which seemed to him to admit of misconstruction. The instrument delivered by him to the Court before which he took the oaths is still extant, and contains two passages of peculiar interest. He declared that his approbation of the Athanasian Creed was confined to that part which was properly a Creed, and that he did not mean to express any assent to the damnatory clauses. He also declared that he did not, by signing the article which anathematizes all who maintain that there is any other salvation than through Christ, mean to condemn those who entertain a hope that sincere and virtuous unbelievers may be admitted to partake in the benefits of Redemption. Many of the dissenting clergy of London expressed their concurrence in these charitable sentiments.
The history of the Comprehension Bill presents a remarkable contrast to the history of the Toleration Bill. The two bills had a common origin, and, to a great extent, a common object. They were framed at the same time, and laid aside at the same time: they sank together into oblivion; and they were, after the lapse of several years, again brought together before the world. Both were laid by the same peer on the table of the Upper House; and both were referred to the same select committee. But it soon began to appear that they would have widely different fates. The Comprehension Bill was indeed a neater specimen of legislative workmanship than the Toleration Bill, but was not, like the Toleration Bill, adapted to the wants, the feelings, and the prejudices of the existing generation. Accordingly, while the Toleration Bill found support in all quarters, the Comprehension Bill was attacked from all quarters, and was at last coldly and languidly defended even by those who had introduced it. About the same time at which the Toleration bill became law with the general concurrence of public men, the Comprehension Bill was, with a concurrence not less general, suffered to drop. The Toleration Bill still ranks among those great statutes which are epochs in our constitutional history. The Comprehension Bill is forgotten. No collector of antiquities has thought it worth preserving. A single copy, the same which Nottingham presented to the peers, is still among our parliamentary records, but has been seen by only two or three persons now living. It is a fortunate circumstance that, in this copy, almost the whole history of the Bill can be read. In spite of cancellations and interlineations, the original words can easily be distinguished from those which were inserted in the committee or on the report.
The first clause, as it stood when the bill was introduced, dispensed all the ministers of the Established Church from the necessity of subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles. For the Articles was substituted a Declaration which ran thus; "I do approve of the doctrine and worship and government of the Church of England by law established, as containing all things necessary to salvation; and I promise, in the exercise of my ministry, to preach and practice according thereunto." Another clause granted similar indulgence to the members of the two universities.
Then it was provided that any minister who had been ordained after the Presbyterian fashion might, without reordination, acquire all the privileges of a priest of the Established Church. He must, however, be admitted to his new functions by the imposition of the hands of a bishop, who was to pronounce the following form of words; "Take thou authority to preach the word of God, and administer the sacraments, and to perform all other ministerial offices in the Church of England." The person thus admitted was to be capable of holding any rectory or vicarage in the kingdom.
Then followed clauses providing that a clergyman might, except in a few churches of peculiar dignity, wear the surplice or not as he thought fit, that the sign of the cross might be omitted in baptism, that children might be christened, if such were the wish of their parents, without godfathers or godmothers, and that persons who had a scruple about receiving the Eucharist kneeling might receive it sitting.
The concluding clause was drawn in the form of a petition. It was proposed that the two Houses should request the King and Queen to issue a commission empowering thirty divines of the Established Church to revise the liturgy, the canons, and the constitution of the ecclesiastical courts, and to recommend such alterations as might on inquiry appear to be desirable.
The bill went smoothly through the first stages. Compton, who, since Sancroft had shut himself up at Lambeth, was virtually Primate, supported Nottingham with ardour. In the committee, however, it appeared that there was a strong body of churchmen, who were determined not to give up a single word or form; to whom it seemed that the prayers were no prayers without the surplice, the babe no Christian if not marked with the cross, the bread and wine no memorials of redemption or vehicles of grace if not received on bended knee. Why, these persons asked, was the docile and affectionate son of the Church to be disgusted by seeing the irreverent practices of a conventicle introduced into her majestic choirs? Why should his feelings, his prejudices, if prejudices they were, be less considered than the whims of schismatics? If, as Burnet and men like Burnet were never weary of repeating, indulgence was due to a weak brother, was it less due to the brother whose weakness consisted in the excess of his love for an ancient, a decent, a beautiful ritual, associated in his imagination from childhood with all that is most sublime and endearing, than to him whose morose and litigious mind was always devising frivolous objections to innocent and salutary usages? But, in truth, the scrupulosity of the Puritan was not that sort of scrupulosity which the Apostle had commanded believers to respect. It sprang, not from morbid tenderness of conscience, but from censoriousness and spiritual pride; and none who had studied the New Testament could have failed to observe that, while we are charged carefully to avoid whatever may give scandal to the feeble, we are taught by divine precept and example to make no concession to the supercilious and uncharitable Pharisee. Was every thing which was not of the essence of religion to be given up as soon as it became unpleasing to a knot of zealots whose heads had been turned by conceit and the love of novelty? Painted glass, music, holidays, fast days, were not of the essence of religion. Were the windows of King's College Chapel to be broken at the demand of one set of fanatics? Was the organ of Exeter to be silenced to please another? Were all the village bells to be mute because Tribulation Wholesome and Deacon Ananias thought them profane? Was Christmas no longer to be a day of rejoicing? Was Passion week no longer to be a season of humiliation? These changes, it is true, were not yet proposed. Put if,--so the High Churchmen reasoned,--we once admit that what is harmless and edifying is to be given up because it offends some narrow understandings and some gloomy tempers, where are we to stop? And is it not probable that, by thus attempting to heal one schism, we may cause another? All those things which the Puritans regard as the blemishes of the Church are by a large part of the population reckoned among her attractions. May she not, in ceasing to give scandal to a few sour precisians, cease also to influence the hearts of many who now delight in her ordinances? Is it not to be apprehended that, for every proselyte whom she allures from the meeting house, ten of her old disciples may turn away from her maimed rites and dismantled temples, and that these new separatists may either form themselves into a sect far more formidable than the sect which we are now seeking to conciliate, or may, in the violence of their disgust at a cold and ignoble worship, be tempted to join in the solemn and gorgeous idolatry of Rome?
It is remarkable that those who held this language were by no means disposed to contend for the doctrinal Articles of the Church. The truth is that, from the time of James the First, that great party which has been peculiarly zealous for the Anglican polity and the Anglican ritual has always leaned strongly towards Arminianism, and has therefore never been much attached to a confession of faith framed by reformers who, on questions of metaphysical divinity, generally agreed with Calvin. One of the characteristic marks of that party is the disposition which it has always shown to appeal, on points of dogmatic theology, rather to the Liturgy, which was derived from Rome, than to the Articles and Homilies, which were derived from Geneva. The Calvinistic members of the Church, on the other hand, have always maintained that her deliberate judgment on such points is much more likely to be found in an Article or a Homily than in an ejaculation of penitence or a hymn of thanksgiving. It does not appear that, in the debates on the Comprehension Bill, a single High Churchman raised his voice against the clause which relieved the clergy from the necessity of subscribing the Articles, and of declaring the doctrine contained in the Homilies to be sound. Nay, the Declaration which, in the original draught, was substituted for the Articles, was much softened down on the report. As the clause finally stood, the ministers of the Church were required to declare, not that they approved of her constitution, but merely that they submitted to it. Had the bill become law, the only people in the kingdom who would have been under the necessity of signing the Articles would have been the dissenting preachers.
The easy manner in which the zealous friends of the Church gave up her confession of faith presents a striking contrast to the spirit with which they struggled for her polity and her ritual. The clause which admitted Presbyterian ministers to hold benefices without episcopal ordination was rejected. The clause which permitted scrupulous persons to communicate sitting very narrowly escaped the same fate. In the Committee it was struck out, and, on the report, was with great difficulty restored. The majority of peers in the House was against the proposed indulgence, and the scale was but just turned by the proxies.
But by this time it began to appear that the bill which the High Churchmen were so keenly assailing was menaced by dangers from a very different quarter. The same considerations which had induced Nottingham to support a comprehension made comprehension an object of dread and aversion to a large body of dissenters. The truth is that the time for such a scheme had gone by. If, a hundred years earlier, when the division in the Protestant body was recent, Elizabeth had been so wise as to abstain from requiring the observance of a few forms which a large part of her subjects considered as Popish, she might perhaps have averted those fearful calamities which, forty years after her death, afflicted the Church. But the general tendency of schism is to widen. Had Leo the Tenth, when the exactions and impostures of the Pardoners first roused the indignation of Saxony, corrected those evil practices with a vigorous hand, it is not improbable that Luther would have died in the bosom of the Church of Rome. But the opportunity was suffered to escape; and, when, a few years later, the Vatican would gladly have purchased peace by yielding the original subject of quarrel, the original subject of quarrel was almost forgotten. The inquiring spirit which had been roused by a single abuse had discovered or imagined a thousand: controversies engendered controversies: every attempt that was made to accommodate one dispute ended by producing another; and at length a General Council, which, during the earlier stages of the distemper, had been supposed to be an infallible remedy, made the case utterly hopeless. In this respect, as in many others, the history of Puritanism in England bears a close analogy to the history of Protestantism in Europe. The Parliament of 1689 could no more put an end to nonconformity by tolerating a garb or a posture than the Doctors of Trent could have reconciled the Teutonic nations to the Papacy by regulating the sale of indulgences. In the sixteenth century Quakerism was unknown; and there was not in the whole realm a single congregation of Independents or Baptists. At the time of the Revolution, the Independents, Baptists, and Quakers were a majority of the dissenting body; and these sects could not be gained over on any terms which the lowest of Low Churchmen would have been willing to offer. The Independent held that a national Church, governed by any central authority whatever, Pope, Patriarch, King, Bishop, or Synod, was an unscriptural institution, and that every congregation of believers was, under Christ, a sovereign society. The Baptist was even more irreclaimable than the Independent, and the Quaker even more irreclaimable than the Baptist. Concessions, therefore, which would once have extinguished nonconformity would not now satisfy even one half of the nonconformists; and it was the obvious interest of every nonconformist whom no concession would satisfy that none of his brethren should be satisfied. The more liberal the terms of comprehension, the greater was the alarm of every separatist who knew that he could, in no case, be comprehended. There was but slender hope that the dissenters, unbroken and acting as one man, would be able to obtain from the legislature full admission to civil privileges; and all hope of obtaining such admission must be relinquished if Nottingham should, by the help of some wellmeaning but shortsighted friends of religious liberty, be enabled to accomplish his design. If his bill passed, there would doubtless be a considerable defection from the dissenting body; and every defection must be severely felt by a class already outnumbered, depressed, and struggling against powerful enemies. Every proselyte too must be reckoned twice over, as a loss to the party which was even now too weak, and as a gain to the party which was even now too strong. The Church was but too well able to hold her own against all the sects in the kingdom; and, if those sects were to be thinned by a large desertion, and the Church strengthened by a large reinforcement, it was plain that all chance of obtaining any relaxation of the Test Act would be at an end; and it was but too probable that the Toleration Act might not long remain unrepealed.
Even those Presbyterian ministers whose scruples the Comprehension Bill was expressly intended to remove were by no means unanimous in wishing it to pass. The ablest and most eloquent preachers among them had, since the Declaration of Indulgence had appeared, been very agreeably settled in the capital and in other large towns, and were now about to enjoy, under the sure guarantee of an Act of Parliament, that toleration which, under the Declaration of Indulgence, had been illicit and precarious. The situation of these men was such as the great majority of the divines of the Established Church might well envy. Few indeed of the parochial clergy were so abundantly supplied with comforts as the favourite orator of a great assembly of nonconformists in the City. The voluntary contributions of his wealthy hearers, Aldermen and Deputies, West India merchants and Turkey merchants, Wardens of the Company of Fishmongers and Wardens of the Company of Goldsmiths, enabled him to become a landowner or a mortgagee. The best broadcloth from Blackwell Hall, and the best poultry from Leadenhall Market, were frequently left at his door. His influence over his flock was immense. Scarcely any member of a congregation of separatists entered into a partnership, married a daughter, put a son out as apprentice, or gave his vote at an election, without consulting his spiritual guide. On all political and literary questions the minister was the oracle of his own circle. It was popularly remarked, during many years, that an eminent dissenting minister had only to make his son an attorney or a physician; that the attorney was sure to have clients, and the physician to have patients. While a waiting woman was generally considered as a help meet for a chaplain in holy orders of the Established Church, the widows and daughters of opulent citizens were supposed to belong in a peculiar manner to nonconformist pastors. One of the great Presbyterian Rabbies, therefore, might well doubt whether, in a worldly view, he should be benefited by a comprehension. He might indeed hold a rectory or a vicarage, when he could get one. But in the meantime he would be destitute: his meeting house would be closed: his congregation would be dispersed among the parish churches: if a benefice were bestowed on him, it would probably be a very slender compensation for the income which he had lost. Nor could he hope to have, as a minister of the Anglican Church, the authority and dignity which he had hitherto enjoyed. He would always, by a large portion of the members of that Church, be regarded as a deserter. He might therefore, on the whole, very naturally wish to be left where he was.
There was consequently a division in the Whig party. One section of that party was for relieving the dissenters from the Test Act, and giving up the Comprehension Bill. Another section was for pushing forward the Comprehension Bill, and postponing to a more convenient time the consideration of the Test Act. The effect of this division among the friends of religious liberty was that the High Churchmen, though a minority in the House of Commons, and not a majority in the House of Lords, were able to oppose with success both the reforms which they dreaded. The Comprehension Bill was not passed; and the Test Act was not repealed.
Just at the moment when the question of the Test and the question of the Comprehension became complicated together in a manner which might well perplex an enlightened and honest politician, both questions became complicated with a third question of grave importance.
The ancient oaths of allegiance and supremacy contained some expressions which had always been disliked by the Whigs, and other expressions which Tories, honestly attached to the new settlement, thought inapplicable to princes who had not the hereditary right. The Convention had therefore, while the throne was still vacant, framed those oaths of allegiance and supremacy by which we still testify our loyalty to our Sovereign. By the Act which turned the Convention into a Parliament, the members of both Houses were required to take the new oaths. As to other persons in public trust, it was hard to say how the law stood. One form of words was enjoined by statutes, regularly passed, and not yet regularly abrogated. A different form was enjoined by the Declaration of Right, an instrument which was indeed revolutionary and irregular, but which might well be thought equal in authority to any statute. The practice was in as much confusion as the law. It was therefore felt to be necessary that the legislature should, without delay, pass an Act abolishing the old oaths, and determining when and by whom the new oaths should be taken.
The bill which settled this important question originated in the Upper House. As to most of the provisions there was little room for dispute. It was unanimously agreed that no person should, at any future time, be admitted to any office, civil, military, ecclesiastical, or academical, without taking the oaths to William and Mary. It was also unanimously agreed that every person who already held any civil or military office should be ejected from it, unless he took the oaths on or before the first of August 1689. But the strongest passions of both parties were excited by the question whether persons who already possessed ecclesiastical or academical offices should be required to swear fealty to the King and Queen on pain of deprivation. None could say what might be the effect of a law enjoining all the members of a great, a powerful, a sacred profession to make, under the most solemn sanction of religion, a declaration which might be plausibly represented as a formal recantation of all that they had been writing and preaching during many years. The Primate and some of the most eminent Bishops had already absented themselves from Parliament, and would doubtless relinquish their palaces and revenues, rather than acknowledge the new Sovereigns. The example of these great prelates might perhaps be followed by a multitude of divines of humbler rank, by hundreds of canons, prebendaries, and fellows of colleges, by thousands of parish priests. To such an event no Tory, however clear his own conviction that he might lawfully swear allegiance to the King who was in possession, could look forward without the most painful emotions of compassion for the sufferers and of anxiety for the Church.
There were some persons who went so far as to deny that the Parliament was competent to pass a law requiring a Bishop to swear on pain of deprivation. No earthly power, they said, could break the tie which bound the successor of the apostles to his diocese. What God had joined no man could sunder. Dings and senates might scrawl words on parchment or impress figures on wax; but those words and figures could no more change the course of the spiritual than the course of the physical world. As the Author of the universe had appointed a certain order, according to which it was His pleasure to send winter and summer, seedtime and harvest, so He had appointed a certain order, according to which He communicated His grace to His Catholic Church; and the latter order was, like the former, independent of the powers and principalities of the world. A legislature might alter the flames of the months, might call June December, and December June; but, in spite of the legislature, the snow would fall when the sun was in Capricorn, and the flowers would bloom when he was in Cancer. And so the legislature might enact that Ferguson or Muggleton should live in the palace at Lambeth, should sit on the throne of Augustin, should be called Your Grace, and should walk in processions before the Premier Duke; but, in spite of the legislature, Sancroft would, while Sancroft lived, be the only true Archbishop of Canterbury; and the person who should presume to usurp the archiepiscopal functions would be a schismatic. This doctrine was proved by reasons drawn from the budding of Aaron's rod, and from a certain plate which Saint James the Less, according to a legend of the fourth century, used to wear on his forehead. A Greek manuscript, relating to the deprivation of bishops, was discovered, about this time, in the Bodleian Library, and became the subject of a furious controversy. One party held that God had wonderfully brought this precious volume to light, for the guidance of His Church at a most critical moment. The other party wondered that any importance could be attached to the nonsense of a nameless scribbler of the thirteenth century. Much was written about the deprivations of Chrysostom and Photius, of Nicolaus Mysticus and Cosmas Atticus. But the case of Abiathar, whom Solomon put out of the sacerdotal office for treason, was discussed with peculiar eagerness. No small quantity of learning and ingenuity was expended in the attempt to prove that Abiathar, though he wore the ephod and answered by Urim, was not really High Priest, that he ministered only when his superior Zadoc was incapacitated by sickness or by some ceremonial pollution, and that therefore the act of Solomon was not a precedent which would warrant King William in deposing a real Bishop.
But such reasoning as this, though backed by copious citations from the Misna and Maimonides, was not generally satisfactory even to zealous churchmen. For it admitted of one answer, short, but perfectly intelligible to a plain man who knew nothing about Greek fathers or Levitical genealogies. There might be some doubt whether King Solomon had ejected a high priest; but there could be no doubt at all that Queen Elizabeth had ejected the Bishops of more than half the sees in England. It was notorious that fourteen prelates had, without any proceeding in any spiritual court, been deprived by Act of Parliament for refusing to acknowledge her supremacy. Had that deprivation been null? Had Bonner continued to be, to the end of his life, the only true Bishop of London? Had his successor been an usurper? Had Parker and Jewel been schismatics? Had the Convocation of 1562, that Convocation which had finally settled the doctrine of the Church of England, been itself out of the pale of the Church of Christ? Nothing could be more ludicrous than the distress of those controversialists who had to invent a plea for Elizabeth which should not be also a plea for William. Some zealots, indeed, gave up the vain attempt to distingush between two cases which every man of common sense perceived to be undistinguishable, and frankly owned that the deprivations of 1559 could not be justified. But no person, it was said, ought to be troubled in mind on that account; for, though the Church of England might once have been schismatical, she had become Catholic when the Bishops deprived by Elizabeth had ceased to live. The Tories, however, were not generally disposed to admit that the religious society to which they were fondly attached had originated in an unlawful breach of unity. They therefore took ground lower and more tenable. They argued the question as a question of humanity and of expediency. They spoke much of the debt of gratitude which the nation owed to the priesthood; of the courage and fidelity with which the order, from the primate down to the youngest deacon, had recently defended the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the realm; of the memorable Sunday when, in all the hundred churches of the capital, scarcely one slave could be found to read the Declaration of Indulgence; of the Black Friday when, amidst the blessings and the loud weeping of a mighty population, the barge of the seven prelates passed through the watergate of the Tower. The firmness with which the clergy had lately, in defiance of menace and of seduction, done what they conscientiously believed to be right, had saved the liberty and religion of England. Was no indulgence to be granted to them if they now refused to do what they conscientiously apprehended to be wrong? And where, it was said, is the danger of treating them with tenderness? Nobody is so absurd as to propose that they shall be permitted to plot against the Government, or to stir up the multitude to insurrection. They are amenable to the law, like other men. If they are guilty of treason, let them be hanged. If they are guilty of sedition, let them be fined and imprisoned. If they omit, in their public ministrations, to pray for King William, for Queen Mary, and for the Parliament assembled under those most religious sovereigns, let the penal clauses of the Act of Uniformity be put in force. If this be not enough, let his Majesty be empowered to tender the oaths to any clergyman; and, if the oaths so tendered are refused, let deprivation follow. In this way any nonjuring bishop or rector who may be suspected, though he cannot be legally convicted, of intriguing, of writing, of talking, against the present settlement, may be at once removed from his office. But why insist on ejecting a pious and laborious minister of religion, who never lifts a finger or utters a word against the government, and who, as often as he performs morning and evening service, prays from his heart for a blessing on the rulers set over him by Providence, but who will not take an oath which seems to him to imply a right in the people to depose a sovereign? Surely we do all that is necessary if we leave men of this sort to the mercy of the very prince to whom they refuse to swear fidelity. If he is willing to bear with their scrupulosity, if he considers them, notwithstanding their prejudices, as innocent and useful members of society, who else can be entitled to complain?
The Whigs were vehement on the other side. They scrutinised, with ingenuity sharpened by hatred, the claims of the clergy to the public gratitude, and sometimes went so far as altogether to deny that the order had in the preceding year deserved well of the nation. It was true that bishops and priests had stood up against the tyranny of the late King: but it was equally true that, but for the obstinacy with which they had opposed the Exclusion Bill, he never would have been King, and that, but for their adulation and their doctrine of passive obedience, he would never have ventured to be guilty of such tyranny. Their chief business, during a quarter of a century, had been to teach the people to cringe and the prince to domineer. They were guilty of the blood of Russell, of Sidney, of every brave and honest Englishman who had been put to death for attempting to save the realm from Popery and despotism. Never had they breathed a whisper against arbitrary power till arbitrary power began to menace their own property and dignity. Then, no doubt, forgetting all their old commonplaces about submitting to Nero, they had made haste to save themselves. Grant,--such was the cry of these eager disputants,--grant that, in saving themselves, they saved the constitution. Are we therefore to forget that they had previously endangered it? And are we to reward them by now permitting them to destroy it? Here is a class of men closely connected with the state. A large part of the produce of the soil has been assigned to them for their maintenance. Their chiefs have seats in the legislature, wide domains, stately palaces. By this privileged body the great mass of the population is lectured every week from the chair of authority. To this privileged body has been committed the supreme direction of liberal education. Oxford and Cambridge, Westminster, Winchester, and Eton, are under priestly government. By the priesthood will to a great extent be formed the character of the nobility and gentry of the next generation. Of the higher clergy some have in their gift numerous and valuable benefices; others have the privilege of appointing judges who decide grave questions affecting the liberty, the property, the reputation of their Majesties' subjects. And is an order thus favoured by the state to give no guarantee to the state? On what principle can it be contended that it is unnecessary to ask from an Archbishop of Canterbury or from a Bishop of Durham that promise of fidelity to the government which all allow that it is necessary to demand from every layman who serves the Crown in the humblest office. Every exciseman, every collector of the customs, who refuses to swear, is to be deprived of his bread. For these humble martyrs of passive obedience and hereditary right nobody has a word to say. Yet an ecclesiastical magnate who refuses to swear is to be suffered to retain emoluments, patronage, power, equal to those of a great minister of state. It is said that it is superfluous to impose the oaths on a clergyman, because he may be punished if he breaks the laws. Why is not the same argument urged in favour of the layman? And why, if the clergyman really means to observe the laws, does he scruple to take the oaths? The law commands him to designate William and Mary as King and Queen, to do this in the most sacred place, to do this in the administration of the most solemn of all the rites of religion. The law commands him to pray that the illustrious pair may be defended by a special providence, that they may be victorious over every enemy, and that their Parliament may by divine guidance be led to take such a course as may promote their safety, honour, and welfare. Can we believe that his conscience will suffer him to do all this, and yet will not suffer him to promise that he will be a faithful subject to them?
To the proposition that the nonjuring clergy should be left to the mercy of the King, the Whigs, with some justice, replied that no scheme could be devised more unjust to his Majesty. The matter, they said, is one of public concern, one in which every Englishman who is unwilling to be the slave of France and of Rome has a deep interest. In such a case it would be unworthy of the Estates of the Realm to shrink from the responsibility of providing for the common safety, to try to obtain for themselves the praise of tenderness and liberality, and to leave to the Sovereign the odious task of proscription. A law requiring all public functionaries, civil, military, ecclesiastical, without distinction of persons, to take the oaths is at least equal. It excludes all suspicion of partiality, of personal malignity, of secret shying and talebearing. But, if an arbitrary discretion is left to the Government, if one nonjuring priest is suffered to keep a lucrative benefice while another is turned with his wife and children into the street, every ejection will be considered as an act of cruelty, and will be imputed as a crime to the sovereign and his ministers.
Thus the Parliament had to decide, at the same moment, what quantity of relief should be granted to the consciences of dissenters, and what quantity of pressure should be applied to the consciences of the clergy of the Established Church. The King conceived a hope that it might be in his power to effect a compromise agreeable to all parties. He flattered himself that the Tories might be induced to make some concession to the dissenters, on condition that the Whigs would be lenient to the Jacobites. He determined to try what his personal intervention would effect. It chanced that, a few hours after the Lords had read the Comprehension Bill a second time and the Bill touching the Oaths a first time, he had occasion to go down to Parliament for the purpose of giving his assent to a law. From the throne he addressed both Houses, and expressed an earnest wish that they would consent to modify the existing laws in such a manner that all Protestants might be admitted to public employment. It was well understood that he was willing, if the legislature would comply with his request, to let clergymen who were already beneficed continue to hold their benefices without swearing allegiance to him. His conduct on this occasion deserves undoubtedly the praise of disinterestedness. It is honourable to him that he attempted to purchase liberty of conscience for his subjects by giving up a safeguard of his own crown. But it must be acknowledged that he showed less wisdom than virtue. The only Englishman in his Privy Council whom he had consulted, if Burnet was correctly informed, was Richard Hampden; and Richard Hampden, though a highly respectable man, was so far from being able to answer for the Whig party that he could not answer even for his own son John, whose temper, naturally vindictive, had been exasperated into ferocity by the stings of remorse and shame. The King soon found that there was in the hatred of the two great factions an energy which was wanting to their love. The Whigs, though they were almost unanimous in thinking that the Sacramental Test ought to be abolished, were by no means unanimous in thinking that moment well chosen for the abolition; and even those Whigs who were most desirous to see the nonconformists relieved without delay from civil disabilities were fully determined not to forego the opportunity of humbling and punishing the class to whose instrumentality chiefly was to be ascribed that tremendous reflux of public feeling which had followed the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament. To put the Janes, the Souths, the Sherlocks into such a situation that they must either starve, or recant, publicly, and with the Gospel at their lips, all the ostentatious professions of many years, was a revenge too delicious to be relinquished. The Tory, on the other hand, sincerely respected and pitied those clergymen who felt scruples about the oaths. But the Test was, in his view, essential to the safety of the established religion, and must not be surrendered for the purpose of saving any man however eminent from any hardship however serious. It would be a sad day doubtless for the Church when the episcopal bench, the chapter houses of cathedrals, the halls of colleges, would miss some men renowned for piety and learning. But it would be a still sadder day for the Church when an Independent should bear the white staff or a Baptist sit on the woolsack. Each party tried to serve those for whom it was interested: but neither party would consent to grant favourable terms to its enemies. The result was that the nonconformists remained excluded from office in the State, and the nonjurors were ejected from office in the Church.
In the House of Commons, no member thought it expedient to propose the repeal of the Test Act. But leave was given to bring in a bill repealing the Corporation Act, which had been passed by the Cavalier Parliament soon after the Restoration, and which contained a clause requiring all municipal magistrates to receive the sacrament according to the forms of the Church of England. When this bill was about to be committed, it was moved by the Tories that the committee should be instructed to make no alteration in the law touching the sacrament. Those Whigs who were zealous for the Comprehension must have been placed by this motion in an embarrassing position. To vote for the instruction would have been inconsistent with their principles. To vote against it would have been to break with Nottingham. A middle course was found. The adjournment of the debate was moved and carried by a hundred and sixteen votes to a hundred and fourteen; and the subject was not revived. In the House of Lords a motion was made for the abolition of the sacramental test, but was rejected by a large majority. Many of those who thought the motion right in principle thought it ill timed. A protest was entered; but it was signed only by a few peers of no great authority. It is a remarkable fact that two great chiefs of the Whig party, who were in general very attentive to their parliamentary duty, Devonshire and Shrewsbury, absented themselves on this occasion.
The debate on the Test in the Upper House was speedily followed by a debate on the last clause of the Comprehension Bill. By that clause it was provided that thirty Bishops and priests should be commissioned to revise the liturgy and canons, and to suggest amendments. On this subject the Whig peers were almost all of one mind. They mustered strong, and spoke warmly. Why, they asked, were none but members of the sacerdotal order to be intrusted with this duty? Were the laity no part of the Church of England? When the Commission should have made its report, laymen would have to decide on the recommendations contained in that report. Not a line of the Book of Common Prayer could be altered but by the authority of King, Lords, and Commons. The King was a layman. Five sixths of the Lords were laymen. All the members of the House of Commons were laymen. Was it not absurd to say that laymen were incompetent to examine into a matter which it was acknowledged that laymen must in the last resort determine? And could any thing be more opposite to the whole spirit of Protestantism than the notion that a certain preternatural power of judging in spiritual cases was vouchsafed to a particular caste, and to that caste alone; that such men as Selden, as Hale, as Boyle, were less competent to give an opinion on a collect or a creed than the youngest and silliest chaplain who, in a remote manor house, passed his life in drinking ale and playing at shovelboard? What God had instituted no earthly power, lay or clerical, could alter: and of things instituted by human beings a layman was surely as competent as a clergyman to judge. That the Anglican liturgy and canons were of purely human institution the Parliament acknowledged by referring them to a Commission for revision and correction. How could it then be maintained that in such a Commission the laity, so vast a majority of the population, the laity, whose edification was the main end of all ecclesiastical regulations, and whose innocent tastes ought to be carefully consulted in the framing of the public services of religion, ought not to have a single representative? Precedent was directly opposed to this odious distinction. Repeatedly since the light of reformation had dawned on England Commissioners had been empowered by law to revise the canons; and on every one of those occasions some of the Commissioners had been laymen. In the present case the proposed arrangement was peculiarly objectionable. For the object of issuing the commission was the conciliating of dissenters; and it was therefore most desirable that the Commissioners should be men in whose fairness and moderation dissenters could confide. Would thirty such men be easily found in the higher ranks of the clerical profession? The duty of the legislature was to arbitrate between two contending parties, the Nonconformist divines and the Anglican divines, and it would be the grossest injustice to commit to one of those parties the office of umpire.
On these grounds the Whigs proposed an amendment to the effect that laymen should be joined with clergymen in the Commission. The contest was sharp. Burnet, who had just taken his seat among the peers, and who seems to have been bent on winning at almost any price the good will of his brethren, argued with all his constitutional warmth for the clause as it stood. The numbers on the division proved to be exactly equal. The consequence was that, according to the rules of the House, the amendment was lost.
At length the Comprehension Bill was sent down to the Commons. There it would easily have been carried by two to one, if it had been supported by all the friends of religious liberty. But on this subject the High Churchmen could count on the support of a large body of Low Churchmen. Those members who wished well to Nottingham's plan saw that they were outnumbered, and, despairing of a victory, began to meditate a retreat. Just at this time a suggestion was thrown out which united all suffrages. The ancient usage was that a Convocation should be summoned together with a Parliament; and it might well be argued that, if ever the advice of a Convocation could be needed, it must be when changes in the ritual and discipline of the Church were under consideration. But, in consequence of the irregular manner in which the Estates of the Realm had been brought together during the vacancy of the throne, there was no Convocation. It was proposed that the House should advise the King to take measures for supplying this defect, and that the fate of the Comprehension Bill should not be decided till the clergy had had an opportunity of declaring their opinion through the ancient and legitimate organ.
This proposition was received with general acclamation. The Tories were well pleased to see such honour done to the priesthood. Those Whigs who were against the Comprehension Bill were well pleased to see it laid aside, certainly for a year, probably for ever. Those Whigs who were for the Comprehension Bill were well pleased to escape without a defeat. Many of them indeed were not without hopes that mild and liberal counsels might prevail in the ecclesiastical senate. An address requesting William to summon the Convocation was voted without a division: the concurrence of the Lords was asked: the Lords concurred, the address was carried up to the throne by both Houses: the King promised that he would, at a convenient season, do what his Parliament desired; and Nottingham's Bill was not again mentioned.
Many writers, imperfectly acquainted with the history of that age, have inferred from these proceedings that the House of Commons was an assembly of High Churchmen: but nothing is more certain than that two thirds of the members were either Low Churchmen or not Churchmen at all. A very few days before this time an occurrence had taken place, unimportant in itself, but highly significant as an indication of the temper of the majority. It had been suggested that the House ought, in conformity with ancient usage, to adjourn over the Easter holidays. The Puritans and Latitudinarians objected: there was a sharp debate: the High Churchmen did not venture to divide; and, to the great scandal of many grave persons, the Speaker took the chair at nine o'clock on Easter Monday; and there was a long and busy sitting.
This however was by no means the strongest proof which the Commons gave that they were far indeed from feeling extreme reverence or tenderness for the Anglican hierarchy. The bill for settling the oaths had just come down from the Lords framed in a manner favourable to the clergy. All lay functionaries were required to swear fealty to the King and Queen on pain of expulsion from office. But it was provided that every divine who already held a benefice might continue to hold it without swearing, unless the Government should see reason to call on him specially for an assurance of his loyalty. Burnett had, partly, no doubt, from the goodnature and generosity which belonged to his character, and partly from a desire to conciliate his brethren, supported this arrangement in the Upper House with great energy. But in the Lower House the feeling against the Jacobite priests was irresistibly strong. On the very day on which that House voted, without a division, the address requesting the King to summon the Convocation, a clause was proposed and carried which required every person who held any ecclesiastical or academical preferment to take the oaths by the first of August 1689, on pain of suspension. Six months, to be reckoned from that day, were allowed to the nonjuror for reconsideration. If, on the first of February 1690, he still continued obstinate, he was to be finally deprived.
The bill, thus amended, was sent back to the Lords. The Lords adhered to their original resolution. Conference after conference was held. Compromise after compromise was suggested. From the imperfect reports which have come down to us it appears that every argument in favour of lenity was forcibly urged by Burnet. But the Commons were firm: time pressed: the unsettled state of the law caused inconvenience in every department of the public service; and the peers very reluctantly gave way. They at the same time added a clause empowering the King to bestow pecuniary allowances out of the forfeited benefices on a few nonjuring clergymen. The number of clergymen thus favoured was not to exceed twelve. The allowance was not to exceed one third of the income forfeited. Some zealous Whigs were unwilling to grant even this indulgence: but the Commons were content with the victory which they had won, and justly thought that it would be ungracious to refuse so slight a concession.
These debates were interrupted, during a short time, by the festivities and solemnities of the Coronation. When the day fixed for that great ceremony drew near, the House of Commons resolved itself into a committee for the purpose of settling the form of words in which our Sovereigns were thenceforward to enter into covenant with the nation. All parties were agreed as to the propriety of requiring the King to swear that, in temporal matters, he would govern according to law, and would execute justice in mercy. But about the terms of the oath which related to the spiritual institutions of the realm there was much debate. Should the chief magistrate promise simply to maintain the Protestant religion established by law, or should he promise to maintain that religion as it should be hereafter established by law? The majority preferred the former phrase. The latter phrase was preferred by those Whigs who were for a Comprehension. But it was universally admitted that the two phrases really meant the same thing, and that the oath, however it might be worded, would bind the Sovereign in his executive capacity only. This was indeed evident from the very nature of the transaction. Any compact may be annulled by the free consent of the party who alone is entitled to claim the performance. It was never doubted by the most rigid casuist that a debtor, who has bound himself under the most awful imprecations to pay a debt, may lawfully withhold payment if the creditor is willing to cancel the obligation. And it is equally clear that no assurance, exacted from a King by the Estates of his kingdom, can bind him to refuse compliance with what may at a future time be the wish of those Estates.
A bill was drawn up in conformity with the resolutions of the Committee, and was rapidly passed through every stage. After the third reading, a foolish man stood up to propose a rider, declaring that the oath was not meant to restrain the Sovereign from consenting to any change in the ceremonial of the Church, provided always that episcopacy and a written form of prayer were retained. The gross absurdity of this motion was exposed by several eminent members. Such a clause, they justly remarked, would bind the King under pretence of setting him free. The coronation oath, they said, was never intended to trammel him in his legislative capacity. Leave that oath as it is now drawn, and no prince can misunderstand it. No prince can seriously imagine that the two Houses mean to exact from him a promise that he will put a Veto on laws which they may hereafter think necessary to the wellbeing of the country. Or if any prince should so strangely misapprehend the nature of the contract between him and his subjects, any divine, any lawyer, to whose advice he may have recourse, will set his mind at ease. But if this rider should pass, it will be impossible to deny that the coronation oath is meant to prevent the King from giving his assent to bills which may be presented to him by the Lords and Commons; and the most serious inconvenience may follow. These arguments were felt to be unanswerable, and the proviso was rejected without a division.
Every person who has read these debates must be fully convinced that the statesmen who framed the coronation oath did not mean to bind the King in his legislative capacity. Unhappily, more than a hundred years later, a scruple, which those statesmen thought too absurd to be seriously entertained by any human being, found its way into a mind, honest, indeed, and religious, but narrow and obstinate by nature, and at once debilitated and excited by disease. Seldom, indeed, have the ambition and perfidy of tyrants produced evils greater than those which were brought on our country by that fatal conscientiousness. A conjuncture singularly auspicious, a conjuncture at which wisdom and justice might perhaps have reconciled races and sects long hostile, and might have made the British islands one truly United Kingdom, was suffered to pass away. The opportunity, once lost, returned no more. Two generations of public men have since laboured with imperfect success to repair the error which was then committed; nor is it improbable that some of the penalties of that error may continue to afflict a remote posterity.
The bill by which the oath was settled passed the Upper House without amendment. All the preparations were complete; and, on the eleventh of April, the coronation took place. In some things it differed from ordinary coronations. The representatives of the people attended the ceremony in a body, and were sumptuously feasted in the Exchequer Chamber. Mary, being not merely Queen Consort, but also Queen Regnant, was inaugurated in all things like a King, was girt with the sword, lifted up into the throne, and presented with the Bible, the spurs, and the orb. Of the temporal grandees of the realm, and of their wives and daughters, the muster was great and splendid. None could be surprised that the Whig aristocracy should swell the triumph of Whig principles. But the Jacobites saw, with concern, that many Lords who had voted for a Regency bore a conspicuous part in the ceremonial. The King's crown was carried by Grafton, the Queen's by Somerset. The pointed sword, emblematical of temporal justice, was borne by Pembroke. Ormond was Lord High Constable for the day, and rode up the Hall on the right hand of the hereditary champion, who thrice flung down his glove on the pavement, and thrice defied to mortal combat the false traitor who should gainsay the title of William and Mary. Among the noble damsels who supported the gorgeous train of the Queen was her beautiful and gentle cousin, the Lady Henrietta Hyde, whose father, Rochester, had to the last contended against the resolution which declared the throne vacant. The show of Bishops, indeed, was scanty. The Primate did not make his appearance; and his place was supplied by Compton. On one side of Compton, the paten was carried by Lloyd, Bishop of Saint Asaph, eminent among the seven confessors of the preceding year. On the other side, Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, lately a member of the High Commission, had charge of the chalice. Burnet, the junior prelate, preached with all his wonted ability, and more than his wonted taste and judgment. His grave and eloquent discourse was polluted neither by adulation nor by malignity. He is said to have been greatly applauded; and it may well be believed that the animated peroration in which he implored heaven to bless the royal pair with long life and mutual love, with obedient subjects, wise counsellors, and faithful allies, with gallant fleets and armies, with victory, with peace, and finally with crowns more glorious and more durable than those which then glittered on the altar of the Abbey, drew forth the loudest hums of the Commons.
On the whole the ceremony went off well, and produced something like a revival, faint, indeed, and transient, of the enthusiasm of the preceding December. The day was, in London and in many other places, a day of general rejoicing. The churches were filled in the morning: the afternoon was spent in sport and carousing; and at night bonfires were lighted, rockets discharged, and windows lighted up. The Jacobites however contrived to discover or to invent abundant matter for scurrility and sarcasm. They complained bitterly, that the way from the hall to the western door of the Abbey had been lined by Dutch soldiers. Was it seemly that an English king should enter into the most solemn of engagements with the English nation behind a triple hedge of foreign swords and bayonets? Little affrays, such as, at every great pageant, almost inevitably take place between those who are eager to see the show and those whose business it is to keep the communications clear, were exaggerated with all the artifices of rhetoric. One of the alien mercenaries had backed his horse against an honest citizen who pressed forward to catch a glimpse of the royal canopy. Another had rudely pushed back a woman with the but end of his musket. On such grounds as these the strangers were compared to those Lord Danes whose insolence, in the old time, had provoked the Anglosaxon population to insurrection and massacre. But there was no more fertile theme for censure than the coronation medal, which really was absurd in design and mean in execution. A chariot appeared conspicuous on the reverse; and plain people were at a loss to understand what this emblem had to do with William and Mary. The disaffected wits solved the difficulty by suggesting that the artist meant to allude to that chariot which a Roman princess, lost to all filial affection, and blindly devoted to the interests of an ambitious husband, drove over the still warm remains of her father.
Honours were, as usual, liberally bestowed at this festive season. Three garters which happened to be at the disposal of the Crown were given to Devonshire, Ormond, and Schomberg. Prince George was created Duke of Cumberland. Several eminent men took new appellations by which they must henceforth be designated. Danby became Marquess of Caermarthen, Churchill Earl of Marlborough, and Bentinck Earl of Portland. Mordaunt was made Earl of Monmouth, not without some murmuring on the part of old Exclusionists, who still remembered with fondness their Protestant Duke, and who had hoped that his attainder would be reversed, and that his title would be borne by his descendants. It was remarked that the name of Halifax did not appear in the list of promotions. None could doubt that he might easily have obtained either a blue riband or a ducal coronet; and, though he was honourably distinguished from most of his contemporaries by his scorn of illicit gain, it was well known that he desired honorary distinctions with a greediness of which he was himself ashamed, and which was unworthy of his fine understanding. The truth is that his ambition was at this time chilled by his fears. To those whom he trusted he hinted his apprehensions that evil times were at hand. The King's life was not worth a year's purchase: the government was disjointed, the clergy and the army disaffected, the parliament torn by factions: civil war was already raging in one part of the empire: foreign war was impending. At such a moment a minister, whether Whig or Tory, might well be uneasy; but neither Whig nor Tory had so much to fear as the Trimmer, who might not improbably find himself the common mark at which both parties would take aim. For these reasons Halifax determined to avoid all ostentation of power and influence, to disarm envy by a studied show of moderation, and to attach to himself by civilities and benefits persons whose gratitude might be useful in the event of a counterrevolution. The next three months, he said, would be the time of trial. If the government got safe through the summer it would probably stand.
Meanwhile questions of external policy were every day becoming more and more important. The work at which William had toiled indefatigably during many gloomy and anxious years was at length accomplished. The great coalition was formed. It was plain that a desperate conflict was at hand. The oppressor of Europe would have to defend himself against England allied with Charles the Second King of Spain, with the Emperor Leopold, and with the Germanic and Batavian federations, and was likely to have no ally except the Sultan, who was waging war against the House of Austria on the Danube.
Lewis had, towards the close of the preceding year, taken his enemies at a disadvantage, and had struck the first blow before they were prepared to parry it. But that blow, though heavy, was not aimed at the part where it might have been mortal. Had hostilities been commenced on the Batavian frontier, William and his army would probably have been detained on the continent, and James might have continued to govern England. Happily, Lewis, under an infatuation which many pious Protestants confidently ascribed to the righteous judgment of God, had neglected the point on which the fate of the whole civilised world depended, and had made a great display of power, promptitude, and energy, in a quarter where the most splendid achievements could produce nothing more than an illumination and a Te Deum. A French army under the command of Marshal Duras had invaded the Palatinate and some of the neighbouring principalities. But this expedition, though it had been completely successful, and though the skill and vigour with which it had been conducted had excited general admiration, could not perceptibly affect the event of the tremendous struggle which was approaching. France would soon be attacked on every side. It would be impossible for Duras long to retain possession of the provinces which he had surprised and overrun. An atrocious thought rose in the mind of Louvois, who, in military affairs, had the chief sway at Versailles. He was a man distinguished by zeal for what he thought the public interests, by capacity, and by knowledge of all that related to the administration of war, but of a savage and obdurate nature. If the cities of the Palatinate could not be retained, they might be destroyed. If the soil of the Palatinate was not to furnish supplies to the French, it might be so wasted that it would at least furnish no supplies to the Germans. The ironhearted statesman submitted his plan, probably with much management and with some disguise, to Lewis; and Lewis, in an evil hour for his fame, assented. Duras received orders to turn one of the fairest regions of Europe into a wilderness. Fifteen years earlier Turenne had ravaged part of that fine country. But the ravages committed by Turenne, though they have left a deep stain on his glory, were mere sport in comparison with the horrors of this second devastation. The French commander announced to near half a million of human beings that he granted them three days of grace, and that, within that time, they must shift for themselves. Soon the roads and fields, which then lay deep in snow, were blackened by innumerable multitudes of men, women, and children flying from their homes. Many died of cold and hunger: but enough survived to fill the streets of all the cities of Europe with lean and squalid beggars, who had once been thriving farmers and shopkeepers. Meanwhile the work of destruction began. The flames went up from every marketplace, every hamlet, every parish church, every country seat, within the devoted provinces. The fields where the corn had been sown were ploughed up. The orchards were hewn down. No promise of a harvest was left on the fertile plains near what had once been Frankenthal. Not a vine, not an almond tree, was to be seen on the slopes of the sunny hills round what had once been Heidelberg. No respect was shown to palaces, to temples, to monasteries, to infirmaries, to beautiful works of art, to monuments of the illustrious dead. The farfamed castle of the Elector Palatine was turned into a heap of ruins. The adjoining hospital was sacked. The provisions, the medicines, the pallets on which the sick lay were destroyed. The very stones of which Mannheim had been built were flung into the Rhine. The magnificent Cathedral of Spires perished, and with it the marble sepulchres of eight Caesars. The coffins were broken open. The ashes were scattered to the winds. Treves, with its fair bridge, its Roman amphitheatre, its venerable churches, convents, and colleges, was doomed to the same fate. But, before this last crime had been perpetrated, Lewis was recalled to a better mind by the execrations of all the neighbouring nations, by the silence and confusion of his flatterers, and by the expostulations of his wife. He had been more than two years secretly married to Frances de Maintenon, the governess of his natural children. It would be hard to name any woman who, with so little romance in her temper, has had so much in her life. Her early years had been passed in poverty and obscurity. Her first husband had supported himself by writing burlesque farces and poems. When she attracted the notice of her sovereign, she could no longer boast of youth or beauty: but she possessed in an extraordinary degree those more lasting charms, which men of sense, whose passions age has tamed, and whose life is a life of business and care, prize most highly in a female companion. Her character was such as has been well compared to that soft green on which the eye, wearied by warm tints and glaring lights, reposes with pleasure. A just understanding; an inexhaustible yet never redundant flow of rational, gentle, and sprightly conversation; a temper of which the serenity was never for a moment ruffled, a tact which surpassed the tact of her sex as much as the tact of her sex surpasses the tact of ours; such were the qualities which made the widow of a buffoon first the confidential friend, and then the spouse, of the proudest and most powerful of European kings. It was said that Lewis had been with difficulty prevented by the arguments and vehement entreaties of Louvois from declaring her Queen of France. It is certain that she regarded Louvois as her enemy. Her hatred of him, cooperating perhaps with better feelings, induced her to plead the cause of the unhappy people of the Rhine. She appealed to those sentiments of compassion which, though weakened by many corrupting influences, were not altogether extinct in her husband's mind, and to those sentiments of religion which had too often impelled him to cruelty, but which, on the present occasion, were on the side of humanity. He relented: and Treves was spared. In truth he could hardly fail to perceive that he had committed a great error. The devastation of the Palatinate, while it had not in any sensible degree lessened the power of his enemies, had inflamed their animosity, and had furnished them with inexhaustible matter for invective. The cry of vengeance rose on every side. Whatever scruple either branch of the House of Austria might have felt about coalescing with Protestants was completely removed. Lewis accused the Emperor and the Catholic King of having betrayed the cause of the Church; of having allied themselves with an usurper who was the avowed champion of the great schism; of having been accessary to the foul wrong done to a lawful sovereign who was guilty of no crime but zeal for the true religion. James sent to Vienna and Madrid piteous letters, in which he recounted his misfortunes, and implored the assistance of his brother kings, his brothers also in the faith, against the unnatural children and the rebellious subjects who had driven him into exile. But there was little difficulty in framing a plausible answer both to the reproaches of Lewis and to the supplications of James. Leopold and Charles declared that they had not, even for purposes of just selfdefence, leagued themselves with heretics, till their enemy had, for purposes of unjust aggression, leagued himself with Mahometans. Nor was this the worst. The French King, not content with assisting the Moslem against the Christians, was himself treating Christians with a barbarity which would have shocked the very Moslem. His infidel allies, to do them justice, had not perpetrated on the Danube such outrages against the edifices and the members of the Holy Catholic Church as he who called himself the eldest son of that Church was perpetrating on the Rhine. On these grounds, the princes to whom James had appealed replied by appealing, with many professions of good will and compassion, to himself. He was surely too just to blame them for thinking that it was their first duty to defend their own people against such outrages as had turned the Palatinate into a desert, or for calling in the aid of Protestants against an enemy who had not scrupled to call in the aid of the Turks.
During the winter and the earlier part of the spring, the powers hostile to France were gathering their strength for a great effort, and were in constant communication with one another. As the season for military operations approached, the solemn appeals of injured nations to the God of battles came forth in rapid succession. The manifesto of the Germanic body appeared in February; that of the States General in March; that of the House of Brandenburg in April; and that of Spain in May.
Here, as soon as the ceremony of the coronation was over, the House of Commons determined to take into consideration the late proceedings of the French king. In the debate, that hatred of the powerful, unscrupulous and imperious Lewis, which had, during twenty years of vassalage, festered in the hearts of Englishmen, broke violently forth. He was called the most Christian Turk, the most Christian ravager of Christendom, the most Christian barbarian who had perpetrated on Christians outrages of which his infidel allies would have been ashamed. A committee, consisting chiefly of ardent Whigs, was appointed to prepare an address. John Hampden, the most ardent Whig among them, was put into the chair; and he produced a composition too long, too rhetorical, and too vituperative to suit the lips of the Speaker or the ears of the King. Invectives against Lewis might perhaps, in the temper in which the House then was, have passed without censure, if they had not been accompanied by severe reflections on the character and administration of Charles the Second, whose memory, in spite of all his faults, was affectionately cherished by the Tories. There were some very intelligible allusions to Charles's dealings with the Court of Versailles, and to the foreign woman whom that Court had sent to lie like a snake in his bosom. The House was with good reason dissatisfied. The address was recommitted, and, having been made more concise, and less declamatory and acrimonious, was approved and presented. William's attention was called to the wrongs which France had done to him and to his kingdom; and he was assured that, whenever he should resort to arms for the redress of those wrongs, he should be heartily supported by his people. He thanked the Commons warmly. Ambition, he said, should never induce him to draw the sword: but he had no choice: France had already attacked England; and it was necessary to exercise the right of selfdefence. A few days later war was proclaimed.
Of the grounds of quarrel alleged by the Commons in their address, and by the King in his manifesto, the most serious was the interference of Lewis in the affairs of Ireland. In that country great events had, during several months, followed one another in rapid succession. Of those events it is now time to relate the history, a history dark with crime and sorrow, yet full of interest and instruction.