IT is now time to relate the events which, since the battle of La Hogue, had taken place at Saint Germains.
James, after seeing the fleet which was to have convoyed him back to his kingdom burned down to the water edge, had returned in no good humour to his abode near Paris. Misfortune generally made him devout after his own fashion; and he now starved himself and flogged himself till his spiritual guides were forced to interfere.
It is difficult to conceive a duller place than Saint Germains was when he held his Court there; and yet there was scarcely in all Europe a residence more enviably situated than that which the generous Lewis had assigned to his suppliants. The woods were magnificent, the air clear and salubrious, the prospects extensive and cheerful. No charm of rural life was wanting; and the towers of the most superb city of the Continent were visible in the distance. The royal apartments were richly adorned with tapestry and marquetry, vases of silver and mirrors in gilded frames. A pension of more than forty thousand pounds sterling was annually paid to James from the French Treasury. He had a guard of honour composed of some of the finest soldiers in Europe. If he wished to amuse himself with field sports, he had at his command an establishment far more sumptuous than that which had belonged to him when he was at the head of a great kingdom, an army of huntsmen and fowlers, a vast arsenal of guns, spears, buglehorns and tents, miles of network, staghounds, foxhounds, harriers, packs for the boar and packs for the wolf, gerfalcons for the heron and haggards for the wild duck. His presence chamber and his antechamber were in outward show as splendid as when he was at Whitehall. He was still surrounded by blue ribands and white staves. But over the mansion and the domain brooded a constant gloom, the effect, partly of bitter regrets and of deferred hopes, but chiefly of the abject superstition which had taken complete possession of his own mind, and which was affected by almost all those who aspired to his favour. His palace wore the aspect of a monastery. There were three places of worship within the spacious pile. Thirty or forty ecclesiastics were lodged in the building; and their apartments were eyed with envy by noblemen and gentlemen who had followed the fortunes of their Sovereign, and who thought it hard that, when there was so much room under his roof, they should be forced to sleep in the garrets of the neighbouring town. Among the murmurers was the brilliant Anthony Hamilton. He has left us a sketch of the life of Saint Germains, a slight sketch indeed, but not unworthy of the artist to whom we owe the most highly finished and vividly coloured picture of the English Court in the days when the English Court was gayest. He complains that existence was one round of religious exercises; that, in order to live in peace, it was necessary to pass half the day in devotion or in the outward show of devotion; that, if he tried to dissipate his melancholy by breathing the fresh air of that noble terrace which looks down on the valley of the Seine, he was driven away by the clamour of a Jesuit who had got hold of some unfortunate Protestant royalists from England, and was proving to them that no heretic could go to heaven. In general, Hamilton said, men suffering under a common calamity have a strong fellow feeling and are disposed to render good offices to each other. But it was not so at Saint Germains. There all was discord, jealousy, bitterness of spirit. Malignity was concealed under the show of friendship and of piety. All the saints of the royal household were praying for each other and backbiting each other from morning, to night. Here and there in the throng of hypocrites might be remarked a man too highspirited to dissemble. But such a man, however advantageously he might have made himself known elsewhere, was certain to be treated with disdain by the inmates of that sullen abode.
Such was the Court of James, as described by a Roman Catholic. Yet, however disagreeable that Court may have been to a Roman Catholic, it was infinitely more disagreeable to a Protestant. For the Protestant had to endure, in addition to all the dulness of which the Roman Catholic complained, a crowd of vexations from which the Roman Catholic was free. In every competition between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic the Roman Catholic was preferred. In every quarrel between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic the Roman Catholic was supposed to be in the right. While the ambitious Protestant looked in vain for promotion, while the dissipated Protestant looked in vain for amusement, the serious Protestant looked in vain for spiritual instruction and consolation. James might, no doubt, easily have obtained permission for those members of the Church of England who had sacrificed every thing in his cause to meet privately in some modest oratory, and to receive the eucharistic bread and wine from the hands of one of their own clergy; but he did not wish his residence to be defiled by such impious rites. Doctor Dennis Granville, who had quitted the richest deanery, the richest archdeaconry and one of the richest livings in England, rather than take the oaths, gave mortal offence by asking leave to read prayers to the exiles of his own communion. His request was refused; and he was so grossly insulted by his master's chaplains and their retainers that he was forced to quit Saint Germains. Lest some other Anglican doctor should be equally importunate, James wrote to inform his agents in England that he wished no Protestant divine to come out to him. Indeed the nonjuring clergy were at least as much sneered at and as much railed at in his palace as in his nephew's. If any man had a claim to be mentioned with respect at Saint Germains, it was surely Sancroft. Yet it was reported that the bigots who were assembled there never spoke of him but with aversion and disgust. The sacrifice of the first place in the Church, of the first place in the peerage, of the mansion at Lambeth and the mansion at Croydon, of immense patronage and of a revenue of more than five thousand a year, was thought but a poor atonement for the great crime of having modestly remonstrated against the unconstitutional Declaration of Indulgence. Sancroft was pronounced to be just such a traitor and just such a penitent as Judas Iscariot. The old hypocrite had, it was said, while affecting reverence and love for his master, given the fatal signal to his master's enemies. When the mischief had been done and could not be repaired, the conscience of the sinner had begun to torture him. He had, like his prototype, blamed himself and bemoaned himself. He had, like his prototype, flung down his wealth at the feet of those whose instrument he had been. The best thing that he could now do was to make the parallel complete by hanging himself.
James seems to have thought that the strongest proof of kindness which he could give to heretics who had resigned wealth, country, family, for his sake, was to suffer them to be beset, on their dying beds, by his priests. If some sick man, helpless in body and in mind, and deafened by the din of bad logic and bad rhetoric, suffered a wafer to be thrust into his mouth, a great work of grace was triumphantly announced to the Court; and the neophyte was buried with all the pomp of religion. But if a royalist, of the highest rank and most stainless character, died professing firm attachment to the Church of England, a hole was dug in the fields; and, at dead of night, he was flung into it and covered up like a mass of carrion. Such were the obsequies of the Earl of Dunfermline, who had served the House of Stuart with the hazard of his life and to the utter ruin of his fortunes, who had fought at Killiecrankie, and who had, after the victory, lifted from the earth the still breathing remains of Dundee. While living he had been treated with contumely. The Scottish officers who had long served under him had in vain entreated that, when they were formed into a company, he might still be their commander. His religion had been thought a fatal disqualification. A worthless adventurer, whose only recommendation was that he was a Papist, was preferred. Dunfermline continued, during a short time, to make his appearance in the circle which surrounded the Prince whom he had served too well; but it was to no purpose. The bigots who ruled the Court refused to the ruined and expatriated Protestant Lord the means of subsistence; he died of a broken heart; and they refused him even a grave.
The insults daily offered at Saint Germains to the Protestant religion produced a great effect in England. The Whigs triumphantly asked whether it were not clear that the old tyrant was utterly incorrigible; and many even of the nonjurors observed his proceedings with shame, disgust and alarm. The Jacobite party had, from the first, been divided into two sections, which, three or four years after the Revolution, began to be known as the Compounders and the Noncompounders. The Compounders were those who wished for a restoration, but for a restoration accompanied by a general amnesty, and by guarantees for the security of the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the realm. The Noncompounders thought it downright Whiggery, downright rebellion; to take advantage of His Majesty's unfortunate situation for the purpose of imposing on him any condition. The plain duty of his subjects was to bring him back. What traitors he would punish and what traitors he would spare, what laws he would observe and with what laws he would dispense, were questions to be decided by himself alone. If he decided them wrongly, he must answer for his fault to heaven and not to his people.
The great body of the English Jacobites were more or less Compounders. The pure Noncompounders were chiefly to be found among the Roman Catholics, who, very naturally, were not solicitous to obtain any security for a religion which they thought heretical, or for a polity from the benefits of which they were excluded. There were also some Protestant nonjurors, such as Kettlewell and Hickes, who resolutely followed the theory of Filmer to all the extreme consequences to which it led. But, though Kettlewell tried to convince his countrymen that monarchical government had been ordained by God, not as a means of making them happy here, but as a cross which it was their duty to take up and bear in the hope of being recompensed for their sufferings hereafter, and though Hickes assured them that there was not a single Compounder in the whole Theban legion, very few churchmen were inclined to run the risk of the gallows merely for the purpose of reestablishing the High Commission and the Dispensing Power.
The Compounders formed the main strength of the Jacobite party in England; but the Noncompounders had hitherto had undivided sway at Saint Germains. No Protestant, no moderate Roman Catholic, no man who dared to hint that any law could bind the royal prerogative, could hope for the smallest mark of favour from the banished King. The priests and the apostate Melfort, the avowed enemy of the Protestant religion and of civil liberty, of Parliaments, of trial by jury and of the Habeas Corpus Act, were in exclusive possession of the royal ear. Herbert was called Chancellor, walked before the other officers of state, wore a black robe embroidered with gold, and carried a seal; but he was a member of the Church of England; and therefore he was not suffered to sit at the Council Board.
The truth is that the faults of James's head and heart were incurable. In his view there could be between him and his subjects no reciprocity of obligation. Their duty was to risk property, liberty, life, in order to replace him on the throne, and then to bear patiently whatever he chose to inflict upon them. They could no more pretend to merit before him than before God. When they had done all, they were still unprofitable servants. The highest praise due to the royalist who shed his blood on the field of battle or on the scaffold for hereditary monarchy was simply that he was not a traitor. After all the severe discipline which the deposed King had undergone, he was still as much bent on plundering and abasing the Church of England as on the day when he told the kneeling fellows of Magdalene to get out of his sight, or on the day when he sent the Bishops to the Tower. He was in the habit of declaring that he would rather die without seeing England again than stoop to capitulate with those whom he ought to command. In the Declaration of April 1692 the whole man appears without disguise, full of his own imaginary rights, unable to understand how any body but himself can have any rights, dull, obstinate and cruel. Another paper which he drew up about the same time shows, if possible, still more clearly, how little he had profited by a sharp experience. In that paper he set forth the plan according to which he intended to govern when he should be restored. He laid it down as a rule that one Commissioner of the Treasury, one of the two Secretaries of State, the Secretary at War, the majority of the Great Officers of the Household, the majority of the Lords of the Bedchamber, the majority of the officers of the army, should always be Roman Catholics.
It was to no purpose that the most eminent Compounders sent from London letter after letter filled with judicious counsel and earnest supplication. It was to no purpose that they demonstrated in the plainest manner the impossibility of establishing Popish ascendancy in a country where at least forty-nine fiftieths of the population and much more than forty-nine fiftieths of the wealth and the intelligence were Protestant. It was to no purpose that they informed their master that the Declaration of April 1692 had been read with exultation by his enemies and with deep affliction by his friends, that it had been printed and circulated by the usurpers, that it had done more than all the libels of the Whigs to inflame the nation against him, and that it had furnished those naval officers who had promised him support with a plausible pretext for breaking faith with him, and for destroying the fleet which was to have convoyed him back to his kingdom. He continued to be deaf to the remonstrances of his best friends in England till those remonstrances began to be echoed at Versailles. All the information which Lewis and his ministers were able to obtain touching the state of our island satisfied them that James would never be restored unless he could bring himself to make large concessions to his subjects. It was therefore intimated to him, kindly and courteously, but seriously, that he would do well to change his counsels and his counsellors. France could not continue the war for the purpose of forcing a Sovereign on an unwilling nation. She was crushed by public burdens. Her trade and industry languished. Her harvest and her vintage had failed. The peasantry were starving. The faint murmurs of the provincial Estates began to be heard. There was a limit to the amount of the sacrifices which the most absolute prince could demand from those whom he ruled. However desirous the Most Christian King might be to uphold the cause of hereditary monarchy and of pure religion all over the world, his first duty was to his own kingdom; and, unless a counterrevolution speedily took place in England, his duty to his own kingdom might impose on him the painful necessity of treating with the Prince of Orange. It would therefore be wise in James to do without delay whatever he could honourably and conscientiously do to win back the hearts of his people.
Thus pressed, James unwillingly yielded. He consented to give a share in the management of his affairs to one of the most distinguished of the Compounders, Charles Earl of Middleton.
Middleton's family and his peerage were Scotch. But he was closely connected with some of the noblest houses of England; he had resided long in England; he had been appointed by Charles the Second one of the English Secretaries of State, and had been entrusted by James with the lead of the English House of Commons. His abilities and acquirements were considerable; his temper was easy and generous; his manners were popular; and his conduct had generally been consistent and honourable. He had, when Popery was in the ascendant, resolutely refused to purchase the royal favour by apostasy. Roman Catholic ecclesiastics had been sent to convert him; and the town had been much amused by the dexterity with which the layman baffled the divines. A priest undertook to demonstrate the doctrine of transubstantiation, and made the approaches in the usual form. "Your Lordship believes in the Trinity." "Who told you so?" said Middleton. "Not believe in the Trinity!" cried the priest in amazement. "Nay," said Middleton; "prove your religion to be true if you can; but do not catechize me about mine." As it was plain that the Secretary was not a disputant whom it was easy to take at an advantage, the controversy ended almost as soon as it began. When fortune changed, Middleton adhered to the cause of hereditary monarchy with a stedfastness which was the more respectable because he would have had no difficulty in making his peace with the new government. His sentiments were so well known that, when the kingdom was agitated by apprehensions of an invasion and an insurrection, he was arrested and sent to the Tower; but no evidence on which he could be convicted of treason was discovered; and, when the dangerous crisis was past, he was set at liberty. It should seem indeed that, during the three years which followed the Revolution, he was by no means an active plotter. He saw that a Restoration could be effected only with the general assent of the nation, and that the nation would never assent to a Restoration without securities against Popery and arbitrary power. He therefore conceived that, while his banished master obstinately refused to give such securities, it would be worse than idle to conspire against the existing government.
Such was the man whom James, in consequence of strong representations from Versailles, now invited to join him in France. The great body of Compounders learned with delight that they were at length to be represented in the Council at Saint Germains by one of their favourite leaders. Some noblemen and gentlemen, who, though they had not approved of the deposition of James, had been so much disgusted by his perverse and absurd conduct that they had long avoided all connection with him, now began to hope that he had seen his error. They had refused to have any thing to do with Melfort; but they communicated freely with Middleton. The new minister conferred also with the four traitors whose infamy has been made preeminently conspicuous by their station, their abilities, and their great public services; with Godolphin, the great object of whose life was to be in favour with both the rival Kings at once, and to keep, through all revolutions and counterrevolutions, his head, his estate and a place at the Board of Treasury; with Shrewsbury, who, having once in a fatal moment entangled himself in criminal and dishonourable engagements, had not had the resolution to break through them; with Marlborough, who continued to profess the deepest repentance for the past and the best intentions for the future; and with Russell, who declared that he was still what he had been before the day of La Hogue, and renewed his promise to do what Monk had done, on condition that a general pardon should be granted to all political offenders, and that the royal power should be placed under strong constitutional restraints.
Before Middleton left England he had collected the sense of all the leading Compounders. They were of opinion that there was one expedient which would reconcile contending factions at home, and lead to the speedy pacification of Europe. This expedient was that James should resign the Crown in favour of the Prince of Wales, and that the Prince of Wales should be bred a Protestant. If, as was but too probable, His Majesty should refuse to listen to this suggestion, he must at least consent to put forth a Declaration which might do away the unfavourable impression made by his Declaration of the preceding spring. A paper such as it was thought expedient that he should publish was carefully drawn up, and, after much discussion, approved.
Early in the year 1693, Middleton, having been put in full possession of the views of the principal English Jacobites, stole across the Channel, and made his appearance at the Court of James. There was at that Court no want of slanderers and sneerers whose malignity was only the more dangerous because it wore a meek and sanctimonious air. Middleton found, on his arrival, that numerous lies, fabricated by the priests who feared and hated him, were already in circulation. Some Noncompounders too had written from London that he was at heart a Presbyterian and a republican. He was however very graciously received, and was appointed Secretary of State conjointly with Melfort.
It very soon appeared that James was fully resolved never to resign the Crown, or to suffer the Prince of Wales to be bred a heretic; and it long seemed doubtful whether any arguments or entreaties would induce him to sign the Declaration which his friends in England had prepared. It was indeed a document very different from any that had yet appeared under his Great Seal. He was made to promise that he would grant a free pardon to all his subjects who should not oppose him after he should land in the island; that, as soon as he was restored, he would call a Parliament; that he would confirm all such laws, passed during the usurpation, as the Houses should tender to him for confirmation; that he would waive his right to the chimney money; that he would protect and defend the Established Church in the enjoyment of all her possessions and privileges; that he would not again violate the Test Act; that he would leave it to the legislature to define the extent of his dispensing power; and that he would maintain the Act of Settlement in Ireland.
He struggled long and hard. He pleaded his conscience. Could a son of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church bind himself to protect and defend heresy, and to enforce a law which excluded true believers from office? Some of the ecclesiastics who swarmed in his household told him that he could not without sin give any such pledge as his undutiful subjects demanded. On this point the opinion of Middleton, who was a Protestant, could be of no weight. But Middleton found an ally in one whom he regarded as a rival and an enemy. Melfort, scared by the universal hatred of which he knew himself to be the object, and afraid that he should be held accountable, both in England and in France, for his master's wrongheadedness, submitted the case to several eminent Doctors of the Sorbonne. These learned casuists pronounced the Declaration unobjectionable in a religious point of view. The great Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux, who was regarded by the Gallican Church as a father scarcely inferior in authority to Cyprian or Augustin, showed, by powerful arguments, both theological and political, that the scruple which tormented James was precisely of that sort against which a much wiser King had given a caution in the words, "Be not righteous overmuch." The authority of the French divines was supported by the authority of the French government. The language held at Versailles was so strong that James began to be alarmed. What if Lewis should take serious offence, should think his hospitality ungratefully requited, should conclude a peace with the usurpers, and should request his unfortunate guests to seek another asylum? It was necessary to submit. On the seventeenth of April 1693 the Declaration was signed and sealed. The concluding sentence was a prayer. "We come to vindicate our own right and to establish the liberties of our people; and may God give us success in the prosecution of the one as we sincerely intend the confirmation of the other!" The prayer was heard. The success of James was strictly proportioned to his sincerity. What his sincerity was we know on the best evidence. Scarcely had he called on heaven to witness the truth of his professions, when he directed Melfort to send a copy of the Declaration to Rome with such explanations as might satisfy the Pope. Melfort's letter ends thus: "After all, the object of this Declaration is only to get us back to England. We shall fight the battle of the Catholics with much greater advantage at Whitehall than at Saint Germains."
Meanwhile the document from which so much was expected had been despatched to London. There it was printed at a secret press in the house of a Quaker; for there was among the Quakers a party, small in number, but zealous and active, which had imbibed the politics of William Penn. To circulate such a work was a service of some danger; but agents were found. Several persons were taken up while distributing copies in the streets of the city. A hundred packets were stopped in one day at the Post Office on their way to the fleet. But, after a short time, the government wisely gave up the endeavour to suppress what could not be suppressed, and published the Declaration at full length, accompanied by a severe commentary.
The commentary, however, was hardly needed. The Declaration altogether failed to produce the effect which Middleton had anticipated. The truth is that his advice had not been asked till it mattered not what advice he gave. If James had put forth such a manifesto in January 1689, the throne would probably not have been declared vacant. If he had put forth such a manifesto when he was on the coast of Normandy at the head of an army, he would have conciliated a large part of the nation, and he might possibly have been joined by a large part of the fleet. But both in 1689 and in 1692 he had held the language of an implacable tyrant; and it was now too late to affect tenderness of heart and reverence for the constitution of the realm. The contrast between the new Declaration and the preceding Declaration excited, not without reason, general suspicion and contempt. What confidence could be placed in the word of a Prince so unstable, of a Prince who veered from extreme to extreme? In 1692 nothing would satisfy him but the heads and quarters of hundreds of poor ploughmen and boatmen who had, several years before, taken some rustic liberties with him at which his grandfather Henry the Fourth would have had a hearty laugh. In 1693 the foulest and most ungrateful treasons were to be covered with oblivion. Caermarthen expressed the general sentiment. "I do not," he said, "understand all this. Last April I was to be hanged. This April I am to have a free pardon. I cannot imagine what I have done during the past year to deserve such goodness." The general opinion was that a snare was hidden under this unwonted clemency, this unwonted respect for law. The Declaration, it was said, was excellent; and so was the Coronation oath. Every body knew how King James had observed his Coronation oath; and every body might guess how he would observe his Declaration. While grave men reasoned thus, the Whig jesters were not sparing of their pasquinades. Some of the Noncompounders, meantime, uttered indignant murmurs. The King was in bad hands, in the hands of men who hated monarchy. His mercy was cruelty of the worst sort. The general pardon which he had granted to his enemies was in truth a general proscription of his friends. Hitherto the judges appointed by the usurper had been under a restraint, imperfect indeed, yet not absolutely nugatory. They had known that a day of reckoning might come, and had therefore in general dealt tenderly with the persecuted adherents of the rightful King. That restraint His Majesty had now taken away. He had told Holt and Treby that, till he should land in England, they might hang royalists without the smallest fear of being called to account.
But by no class of people was the Declaration read with so much disgust and indignation as by the native aristocracy of Ireland. This then was the reward of their loyalty. This was the faith of kings. When England had cast James out, when Scotland had rejected him, the Irish had still been true to him; and he had, in return, solemnly given his sanction to a law which restored to them an immense domain of which they had been despoiled. Nothing that had happened since that time had diminished their claim to his favour. They had defended his cause to the last; they had fought for him long after he had deserted them; many of them, when unable to contend longer against superior force, had followed him into banishment; and now it appeared that he was desirous to make peace with his deadliest enemies at the expense of his most faithful friends. There was much discontent in the Irish regiments which were dispersed through the Netherlands and along the frontiers of Germany and Italy. Even the Whigs allowed that, for once, the O's and Macs were in the right, and asked triumphantly whether a prince who had broken his word to his devoted servants could be expected to keep it to his foes?
While the Declaration was the subject of general conversation in England, military operations recommenced on the Continent. The preparations of France had been such as amazed even those who estimated most highly her resources and the abilities of her rulers. Both her agriculture and her commerce were suffering. The vineyards of Burgundy, the interminable cornfields of the Beauce, had failed to yield their increase; the looms of Lyons were silent; and the merchant ships were rotting in the harbour of Marseilles. Yet the monarchy presented to its numerous enemies a front more haughty and more menacing than ever. Lewis had determined not to make any advance towards a reconciliation with the new government of England till the whole strength of his realm had been put forth in one more effort. A mighty effort in truth it was, but too exhausting to be repeated. He made an immense display of force at once on the Pyrenees and on the Alps, on the Rhine and on the Meuse, in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. That nothing might be wanting which could excite the martial ardour of a nation eminently highspirited, he instituted, a few days before he left his palace for the camp, a new military order of knighthood, and placed it under the protection of his own sainted ancestor and patron. The new cross of Saint Lewis shone on the breasts of the gentlemen who had been conspicuous in the trenches before Mons and Namur, and on the fields of Fleurus and Steinkirk; and the sight raised a generous emulation among those who had still to win an honourable fame in arms.
In the week in which this celebrated order began to exist Middleton visited Versailles. A letter in which he gave his friends in England an account of his visit has come down to us. He was presented to Lewis, was most kindly received, and was overpowered by gratitude and admiration. Of all the wonders of the Court,--so Middleton wrote,--its master was the greatest. The splendour of the great King's personal merit threw even the splendour of his fortunes into the shade. The language which His Most Christian Majesty held about English politics was, on the whole, highly satisfactory. Yet in one thing this accomplished prince and his able and experienced ministers were strangely mistaken. They were all possessed with the absurd notion that the Prince of Orange was a great man. No pains had been spared to undeceive them; but they were under an incurable delusion. They saw through a magnifying glass of such power that the leech appeared to them a leviathan. It ought to have occurred to Middleton that possibly the delusion might be in his own vision and not in theirs. Lewis and the counsellors who surrounded him were far indeed from loving William. But they did not hate him with that mad hatred which raged in the breasts of his English enemies. Middleton was one of the wisest and most moderate of the Jacobites. Yet even Middleton's judgment was so much darkened by malice that, on this subject, he talked nonsense unworthy of his capacity. He, like the rest of his party, could see in the usurper nothing but what was odious and contemptible, the heart of a fiend, the understanding and manners of a stupid, brutal, Dutch boor, who generally observed a sulky silence, and, when forced to speak, gave short testy answers in bad English. The French statesmen, on the other hand, judged of William's faculties from an intimate knowledge of the way in which he had, during twenty years, conducted affairs of the greatest moment and of the greatest difficulty. He had, ever since 1673, been playing against themselves a most complicated game of mixed chance and skill for an immense stake; they were proud, and with reason, of their own dexterity at that game; yet they were conscious that in him they had found more than their match. At the commencement of the long contest every advantage had been on their side. They had at their absolute command all the resources of the greatest kingdom in Europe; and he was merely the servant of a commonwealth, of which the whole territory was inferior in extent to Normandy or Guienne. A succession of generals and diplomatists of eminent ability had been opposed to him. A powerful faction in his native country had pertinaciously crossed his designs. He had undergone defeats in the field and defeats in the senate; but his wisdom and firmness had turned defeats into victories. Notwithstanding all that could be done to keep him down, his influence and fame had been almost constantly rising and spreading. The most important and arduous enterprise in the history of modern Europe had been planned and conducted to a prosperous termination by him alone. The most extensive coalition that the world had seen for ages had been formed by him, and would be instantly dissolved if his superintending care were withdrawn. He had gained two kingdoms by statecraft, and a third by conquest; and he was still maintaining himself in the possession of all three in spite of both foreign and domestic foes. That these things had been effected by a poor creature, a man of the most ordinary capacity, was an assertion which might easily find credence among the nonjuring parsons who congregated at Sam's Coffee-house, but which moved the laughter of the veteran politicians of Versailles.
While Middleton was in vain trying to convince the French that William was a greatly overrated man, William, who did full justice to Middleton's merit, felt much uneasiness at learning that the Court of Saint Germains had called in the help of so able a counsellor. But this was only one of a thousand causes of anxiety which during that spring pressed on the King's mind. He was preparing for the opening of the campaign, imploring his allies to be early in the field, rousing the sluggish, haggling with the greedy, making up quarrels, adjusting points of precedence. He had to prevail on the Cabinet of Vienna to send timely succours into Piedmont. He had to keep a vigilant eye on those Northern potentates who were trying to form a third party in Europe. He had to act as tutor to the Elector of Bavaria in the Netherlands. He had to provide for the defence of Liege, a matter which the authorities of Liege coolly declared to be not at all their business, but the business of England and Holland. He had to prevent the House of Brunswick Wolfenbuttel from going to blows with the House of Brunswick Lunenburg; he had to accommodate a dispute between the Prince of Baden and the Elector of Saxony, each of whom wished to be at the head of an army on the Rhine; and he had to manage the Landgrave of Hesse, who omitted to furnish his own contingent, and yet wanted to command the contingents furnished by other princes.
Meanwhile the time for action had arrived. On the eighteenth of May Lewis left Versailles; early in June he was under the walls of Namur. The Princesses, who had accompanied him, held their court within the fortress. He took under his immediate command the army of Boufflers, which was encamped at Gembloux. Little more than a mile off lay the army of Luxemburg. The force collected in that neighbourhood under the French lilies did not amount to less than a hundred and twenty thousand men. Lewis had flattered himself that he should be able to repeat in 1693 the stratagem by which Mons had been taken in 1691 and Namur in 1692; and he had determined that either Liege or Brussels should be his prey. But William had this year been able to assemble in good time a force, inferior indeed to that which was opposed to him, but still formidable. With this force he took his post near Louvain, on the road between the two threatened cities, and watched every movement of the enemy.
Lewis was disappointed. He found that it would not be possible for him to gratify his vanity so safely and so easily as in the two preceding years, to sit down before a great town, to enter the gates in triumph, and to receive the keys, without exposing himself to any risk greater than that of a staghunt at Fontainebleau. Before he could lay siege either to Liege or to Brussels he must fight and win a battle. The chances were indeed greatly in his favour; for his army was more numerous, better officered and better disciplined than that of the allies. Luxemburg strongly advised him to march against William. The aristocracy of France anticipated with intrepid gaiety a bloody but a glorious day, followed by a large distribution of the crosses of the new order. William himself was perfectly aware of his danger, and prepared to meet it with calm but mournful fortitude. Just at this conjuncture Lewis announced his intention to return instantly to Versailles, and to send the Dauphin and Boufflers, with part of the army which was assembled near Namur, to join Marshal Lorges who commanded in the Palatinate. Luxemburg was thunderstruck. He expostulated boldly and earnestly. Never, he said, was such an opportunity thrown away. If His Majesty would march against the Prince of Orange, victory was almost certain. Could any advantage which it was possible to obtain on the Rhine be set against the advantage of a victory gained in the heart of Brabant over the principal army and the principal captain of the coalition? The Marshal reasoned; he implored; he went on his knees; but in vain; and he quitted the royal presence in the deepest dejection. Lewis left the camp a week after he had joined it, and never afterwards made war in person.
The astonishment was great throughout his army. All the awe which he inspired could not prevent his old generals from grumbling and looking sullen, his young nobles from venting their spleen, sometimes in curses and sometimes in sarcasms, and even his common soldiers from holding irreverent language round their watchfires. His enemies rejoiced with vindictive and insulting joy. Was it not strange, they asked, that this great prince should have gone in state to the theatre of war, and then in a week have gone in the same state back again? Was it necessary that all that vast retinue, princesses, dames of honour and tirewomen, equerries and gentlemen of the bedchamber, cooks, confectioners and musicians, long trains of waggons, droves of led horses and sumpter mules, piles of plate, bales of tapestry, should travel four hundred miles merely in order that the Most Christian King might look at his soldiers and then return? The ignominious truth was too evident to be concealed. He had gone to the Netherlands in the hope that he might again be able to snatch some military glory without any hazard to his person, and had hastened back rather than expose himself to the chances of a pitched field. This was not the first time that His Most Christian Majesty had shown the same kind of prudence. Seventeen years before he had been opposed under the wails of Bouchain to the same antagonist. William, with the ardour of a very young commander, had most imprudently offered battle. The opinion of the ablest generals was that, if Lewis had seized the opportunity, the war might have been ended in a day. The French army had eagerly asked to be led to the onset. The King had called his lieutenants round him and had collected their opinions. Some courtly officers to whom a hint of his wishes had been dexterously conveyed had, blushing and stammering with shame, voted against fighting. It was to no purpose that bold and honest men, who prized his honour more than his life, had proved to him that, on all principles of the military art, he ought to accept the challenge rashly given by the enemy. His Majesty had gravely expressed his sorrow that he could not, consistently with his public duty, obey the impetuous movement of his blood, had turned his rein, and had galloped back to his quarters. Was it not frightful to think what rivers of the best blood of France, of Spain, of Germany and of England, had flowed, and were destined still to flow, for the gratification of a man who wanted the vulgar courage which was found in the meanest of the hundreds of thousands whom he had sacrificed to his vainglorious ambition?
Though the French army in the Netherlands had been weakened by the departure of the forces commanded by the Dauphin and Boufflers, and though the allied army was daily strengthened by the arrival of fresh troops, Luxemburg still had a superiority of force; and that superiority he increased by an adroit stratagem. He marched towards Liege, and made as if he were about to form the siege of that city. William was uneasy, and the more uneasy because he knew that there was a French party among the inhabitants. He quitted his position near Louvain, advanced to Nether Hespen, and encamped there with the river Gette in his rear. On his march he learned that Huy had opened its gates to the French. The news increased his anxiety about Liege, and determined him to send thither a force sufficient to overawe malecontents within the city, and to repel any attack from without. This was exactly what Luxemburg had expected and desired. His feint had served its purpose. He turned his back on the fortress which had hitherto seemed to be his object, and hastened towards the Gette. William, who had detached more than twenty thousand men, and who had but fifty thousand left in his camp, was alarmed by learning from his scouts, on the eighteenth of July, that the French General, with near eighty thousand, was close at hand.
It was still in the King's power, by a hasty retreat, to put the narrow, but deep, waters of the Gette, which had lately been swollen by rains, between his army and the enemy. But the site which he occupied was strong; and it could easily be made still stronger. He set all his troops to work. Ditches were dug, mounds thrown up, palisades fixed in the earth. In a few hours the ground wore a new aspect; and the King trusted that he should be able to repel the attack even of a force greatly outnumbering his own. Nor was it without much appearance of reason that he felt this confidence. When the morning of the nineteenth of July broke, the bravest men of Lewis's army looked gravely and anxiously on the fortress which had suddenly sprung up to arrest their progress. The allies were protected by a breastwork. Here and there along the entrenchments were formed little redoubts and half moons. A hundred pieces of cannon were disposed along the ramparts. On the left flank, the village of Romsdorff rose close to the little stream of Landen, from which the English have named the disastrous day. On the right was the village of Neerwinden. Both villages were, after the fashion of the Low Countries, surrounded by moats and fences; and, within these enclosures, the little plots of ground occupied by different families were separated by mud walls five feet in height and a foot in thickness. All these barricades William had repaired and strengthened. Saint Simon, who, after the battle, surveyed the ground, could hardly, he tells us, believe that defences so extensive and so formidable could have been created with such rapidity.
Luxemburg, however, was determined to try whether even this position could be maintained against the superior numbers and the impetuous valour of his soldiers. Soon after sunrise the roar of cannon began to be heard. William's batteries did much execution before the French artillery could be so placed as to return the fire. It was eight o'clock before the close fighting began. The village of Neerwinden was regarded by both commanders as the point on which every thing depended. There an attack was made by the French left wing commanded by Montchevreuil, a veteran officer of high reputation, and by Berwick, who, though young, was fast rising to a high place among the captains of his time. Berwick led the onset, and forced his way into the village, but was soon driven out again with a terrible carnage. His followers fled or perished; he, while trying to rally them, and cursing them for not doing their duty better, was surrounded by foes. He concealed his white cockade, and hoped to be able, by the help of his native tongue, to pass himself off as an officer of the English army. But his face was recognised by one of his mother's brothers, George Churchill, who held on that day the command of a brigade. A hurried embrace was exchanged between the kinsmen; and the uncle conducted the nephew to William, who, as long as every thing seemed to be going well, remained in the rear. The meeting of the King and the captive, united by such close domestic ties, and divided by such inexpiable injuries, was a strange sight. Both behaved as became them. William uncovered, and addressed to his prisoner a few words of courteous greeting. Berwick's only reply was a solemn bow. The King put on his hat; the Duke put on his hat; and the cousins parted for ever.
By this time the French, who had been driven in confusion out of Neerwinden, had been reinforced by a division under the command of the Duke of Bourbon, and came gallantly back to the attack. William, well aware of the importance of this post, gave orders that troops should move thither from other parts of his line. This second conflict was long and bloody. The assailants again forced an entrance into the village. They were again driven out with immense slaughter, and showed little inclination to return to the charge.
Meanwhile the battle had been raging all along the entrenchments of the allied army. Again and again Luxemburg brought up his troops within pistolshot of the breastwork; but he could bring them no nearer. Again and again they recoiled from the heavy fire which was poured on their front and on their flanks. It seemed that all was over. Luxemburg retired to a spot which was out of gunshot, and summoned a few of his chief officers to a consultation. They talked together during some time; and their animated gestures were observed with deep interest by all who were within sight.
At length Luxemburg formed his decision. A last attempt must be made to carry Neerwinden; and the invincible household troops, the conquerors of Steinkirk, must lead the way.
The household troops carne on in a manner worthy of their long and terrible renown. A third time Neerwinden was taken. A third time William tried to retake it. At the head of some English regiments he charged the guards of Lewis with such fury that, for the first time in the memory of the oldest warrior, that far famed band gave way. It was only by the strenuous exertions of Luxemburg, of the Duke of Chartres, and of the Duke of Bourbon, that the broken ranks were rallied. But by this time the centre and left of the allied army had been so much thinned for the purpose of supporting the conflict at Neerwinden that the entrenchments could no longer be defended on other points. A little after four in the afternoon the whole line gave way. All was havoc and confusion. Solmes had received a mortal wound, and fell, still alive, into the hands of the enemy. The English soldiers, to whom his name was hateful, accused him of having in his sufferings shown pusillanimity unworthy of a soldier. The Duke of Ormond was struck down in the press; and in another moment he would have been a corpse, had not a rich diamond on his finger caught the eye of one of the French guards, who justly thought that the owner of such a jewel would be a valuable prisoner. The Duke's life was saved; and he was speedily exchanged for Berwick. Ruvigny, animated by the true refugee hatred of the country which had cast him out, was taken fighting in the thickest of the battle. Those into whose hands he had fallen knew him well, and knew that, if they carried him to their camp, his head would pay for that treason to which persecution had driven him. With admirable generosity they pretended not to recognise him, and suffered him to make his escape in the tumult.
It was only on such occasions as this that the whole greatness of William's character appeared. Amidst the rout and uproar, while arms and standards were flung away, while multitudes of fugitives were choking up the bridges and fords of the Gette or perishing in its waters, the King, having directed Talmash to superintend the retreat, put himself at the head of a few brave regiments, and by desperate efforts arrested the progress of the enemy. His risk was greater than that which others ran. For he could not be persuaded either to encumber his feeble frame with a cuirass, or to hide the ensigns of the garter. He thought his star a good rallying point for his own troops, and only smiled when he was told that it was a good mark for the enemy. Many fell on his right hand and on his left. Two led horses, which in the field always closely followed his person, were struck dead by cannon shots. One musket ball passed through the curls of his wig, another through his coat; a third bruised his side and tore his blue riband to tatters. Many years later greyhaired old pensioners who crept about the arcades and alleys of Chelsea Hospital used to relate how he charged at the head of Galway's horse, how he dismounted four times to put heart into the infantry, how he rallied one corps which seemed to be shrinking; "That is not the way to fight, gentlemen. You must stand close up to them. Thus, gentlemen, thus." "You might have seen him," an eyewitness wrote, only four days after the battle, "with his sword in his hand, throwing himself upon the enemy. It is certain that one time, among the rest, he was seen at the head of two English regiments, and that he fought seven with these two in sight of the whole army, driving them before him above a quarter of an hour. Thanks be to God that preserved him." The enemy pressed on him so close that it was with difficulty that he at length made his way over the Gette. A small body of brave men, who shared his peril to the last, could hardly keep off the pursuers as he crossed the bridge.
Never, perhaps, was the change which the progress of civilisation has produced in the art of war more strikingly illustrated than on that day. Ajax beating down the Trojan leader with a rock which two ordinary men could scarcely lift, Horatius defending the bridge against an army, Richard the Lionhearted spurring along the whole Saracen line without finding an enemy to stand his assault, Robert Bruce crushing with one blow the helmet and head of Sir Henry Bohun in sight of the whole array of England and Scotland, such are the heroes of a dark age. In such an age bodily vigour is the most indispensable qualification of a warrior. At Landen two poor sickly beings, who, in a rude state of society, would have been regarded as too puny to bear any part in combats, were the souls of two great armies. In some heathen countries they would have been exposed while infants. In Christendom they would, six hundred years earlier, have been sent to some quiet cloister. But their lot had fallen on a time when men had discovered that the strength of the muscles is far inferior in value to the strength of the mind. It is probable that, among the hundred and twenty thousand soldiers who were marshalled round Neerwinden under all the standards of Western Europe, the two feeblest in body were the hunchbacked dwarf who urged forward the fiery onset of France, and the asthmatic skeleton who covered the slow retreat of England.
The French were victorious; but they had bought their victory dear. More than ten thousand of the best troops of Lewis had fallen. Neerwinden was a spectacle at which the oldest soldiers stood aghast. The streets were piled breast high with corpses. Among the slain were some great lords and some renowned warriors. Montchevreuil was there, and the mutilated trunk of the Duke of Uzes, first in order of precedence among the whole aristocracy of France. Thence too Sarsfield was borne desperately wounded to a pallet from which he never rose again. The Court of Saint Germains had conferred on him the empty title of Earl of Lucan; but history knows him by the name which is still dear to the most unfortunate of nations. The region, renowned in history as the battle field, during many ages, of the most warlike nations of Europe, has seen only two more terrible days, the day of Malplaquet and the day of Waterloo. During many months the ground was strewn with skulls and bones of men and horses, and with fragments of hats and shoes, saddles and holsters. The next summer the soil, fertilised by twenty thousand corpses, broke forth into millions of poppies. The traveller who, on the road from Saint Tron to Tirlemont, saw that vast sheet of rich scarlet spreading from Landen to Neerwinden, could hardly help fancying that the figurative prediction of the Hebrew prophet was literally accomplished, that the earth was disclosing her blood, and refusing to cover the slain.
There was no pursuit, though the sun was still high in the heaven when William crossed the Gette. The conquerors were so much exhausted by marching and fighting that they could scarcely move; and the horses were in even worse condition than the men. Their general thought it necessary to allow some time for rest and refreshment. The French nobles unloaded their sumpter horses, supped gaily, and pledged one another in champagne amidst the heaps of dead; and, when night fell, whole brigades gladly lay down to sleep in their ranks on the field of battle. The inactivity of Luxemburg did not escape censure. None could deny that he had in the action shown great skill and energy. But some complained that he wanted patience and perseverance. Others whispered that he had no wish to bring to an end a war which made him necessary to a Court where he had never, in time of peace, found favour or even justice. Lewis, who on this occasion was perhaps not altogether free from some emotions of jealousy, contrived, it was reported, to mingle with the praise which he bestowed on his lieutenant blame which, though delicately expressed, was perfectly intelligible. "In the battle," he said, "the Duke of Luxemburg behaved like Conde; and since the battle the Prince of Orange has behaved like Turenne."
In truth the ability and vigour with which William repaired his terrible defeat might well excite admiration. "In one respect," said the Admiral Coligni, "I may claim superiority over Alexander, over Scipio, over Caesar. They won great battles, it is true. I have lost four great battles; and yet I show to the enemy a more formidable front than ever." The blood of Coligni ran in the veins of William; and with the blood had descended the unconquerable spirit which could derive from failure as much glory as happier commanders owed to success. The defeat of Landen was indeed a heavy blow. The King had a few days of cruel anxiety. If Luxemburg pushed on, all was lost. Louvain must fall, and Mechlin, Nieuport, and Ostend. The Batavian frontier would be in danger. The cry for peace throughout Holland might be such as neither States General nor Stadtholder would be able to resist. But there was delay; and a very short delay was enough for William. From the field of battle he made his way through the multitude of fugitives to the neighbourhood of Louvain, and there began to collect his scattered forces. His character is not lowered by the anxiety which, at that moment, the most disastrous of his life, he felt for the two persons who were dearest to him. As soon as he was safe, he wrote to assure his wife of his safety. In the confusion of the flight he had lost sight of Portland, who was then in very feeble health, and had therefore run more than the ordinary risks of war. A short note which the King sent to his friend a few hours later is still extant. "Though I hope to see you this evening, I cannot help writing to tell you how rejoiced I am that you got off so well. God grant that your health may soon be quite restored. These are great trials, which he has been pleased to send me in quick succession. I must try to submit to his pleasure without murmuring, and to deserve his anger less."
His forces rallied fast. Large bodies of troops which he had, perhaps imprudently, detached from his army while he supposed that Liege was the object of the enemy, rejoined him by forced marches. Three weeks after his defeat he held a review a few miles from Brussels. The number of men under arms was greater than on the morning of the bloody day of Landen; their appearance was soldierlike; and their spirit seemed unbroken. William now wrote to Heinsius that the worst was over. "The crisis," he said, "has been a terrible one. Thank God that it has ended thus." He did not, however, think it prudent to try at that time the event of another pitched field. He therefore suffered the French to besiege and take Charleroy; and this was the only advantage which they derived from the most sanguinary battle fought in Europe during the seventeenth century.
The melancholy tidings of the defeat of Landen found England agitated by tidings not less melancholy from a different quarter. During many months the trade with the Mediterranean Sea had been almost entirely interrupted by the war. There was no chance that a merchantman from London or from Amsterdam would, if unprotected, reach the Pillars of Hercules without being boarded by a French privateer; and the protection of armed vessels was not easily to be obtained. During the year 1691, great fleets, richly laden for Spanish, Italian and Turkish markets, had been gathering in the Thames and the Texel. In February 1693, near four hundred ships were ready to start. The value of the cargoes was estimated at several millions sterling. Those galleons which had long been the wonder and envy of the world had never conveyed so precious a freight from the West Indies to Seville. The English government undertook, in concert with the Dutch government, to escort the vessels which were laden with this great mass of wealth. The French government was bent on intercepting them.
The plan of the allies was that seventy ships of the line and about thirty frigates and brigantines should assemble in the Channel under the command of Killegrew and Delaval, the two new Lords of the English Admiralty, and should convoy the Smyrna fleet, as it was popularly called, beyond the limits within which any danger could be apprehended from the Brest squadron. The greater part of the armament might then return to guard the Channel, while Rooke, with twenty sail, might accompany the trading vessels and might protect them against the squadron which lay at Toulon. The plan of the French government was that the Brest squadron under Tourville and the Toulon squadron under Estrees should meet in the neighbourhood of the Straits of Gibraltar, and should there lie in wait for the booty.
Which plan was the better conceived may be doubted. Which was the better executed is a question which admits of no doubt. The whole French navy, whether in the Atlantic or in the Mediterranean, was moved by one will. The navy of England and the navy of the United Provinces were subject to different authorities; and, both in England and in the United Provinces, the power was divided and subdivided to such an extent that no single person was pressed by a heavy responsibility. The spring came. The merchants loudly complained that they had already lost more by delay than they could hope to gain by the most successful voyage; and still the ships of war were not half manned or half provisioned. The Amsterdam squadron did not arrive on our coast till late in April; the Zealand squadron not till the middle of May. It was June before the immense fleet, near five hundred sail, lost sight of the cliffs of England.
Tourville was already on the sea, and was steering southward. But Killegrew and Delaval were so negligent or so unfortunate that they had no intelligence of his movements. They at first took it for granted that he was still lying in the port of Brest. Then they heard a rumour that some shipping had been seen to the northward; and they supposed that he was taking advantage of their absence to threaten the coast of Devonshire. It never seems to have occurred to them as possible that he might have effected a junction with the Toulon squadron, and might be impatiently waiting for his prey in the neighbourhood of Gibraltar. They therefore, on the sixth of June, having convoyed the Smyrna fleet about two hundred miles beyond Ushant, announced their intention to part company with Rooke. Rooke expostulated, but to no purpose. It was necessary for him to submit, and to proceed with his twenty men of war to the Mediterranean, while his superiors, with the rest of the armament, returned to the Channel.
It was by this time known in England that Tourville had stolen out of Brest, and was hastening to join Estrees. The return of Killegrew and Delaval therefore excited great alarm. A swift sailing vessel was instantly despatched to warn Rooke of his danger; but the warning never reached him. He ran before a fair wind to Cape Saint Vincent; and there he learned that some French ships were lying in the neighbouring Bay of Lagos. The first information which he received led him to believe that they were few in number; and so dexterously did they conceal their strength that, till they were within half an hour's sail, he had no suspicion that he was opposed to the whole maritime strength of a great kingdom. To contend against fourfold odds would have been madness. It was much that he was able to save his squadron from titter destruction. He exerted all his skill. Two or three Dutch men of war, which were in the rear, courageously sacrificed themselves to save the fleet. With the rest of the armament, and with about sixty merchant ships, Rooke got safe to Madeira and thence to Cork. But more than three hundred of the vessels which he had convoyed were scattered over the ocean. Some escaped to Ireland; some to Corunna; some to Lisbon; some to Cadiz; some were captured, and more destroyed. A few, which had taken shelter under the rock of Gibraltar, and were pursued thither by the enemy, were sunk when it was found that they could not be defended. Others perished in the same manner under the batteries of Malaga. The gain to the French seems not to have been great; but the loss to England and Holland was immense.
Never within the memory of man had there been in the City a day of more gloom and agitation than that on which the news of the encounter in the Bay of Lagos arrived. Many merchants, an eyewitness said, went away from the Royal Exchange, as pale as if they had received sentence of death. A deputation from the merchants who had been sufferers by this great disaster went up to the Queen with an address representing their grievances. They were admitted to the Council Chamber, where she was seated at the head of the Board. She directed Somers to reply to them in her name; and he addressed to them a speech well calculated to soothe their irritation. Her Majesty, he said, felt for them from her heart; and she had already appointed a Committee of the Privy Council to inquire into the cause of the late misfortune, and to consider of the best means of preventing similar misfortunes in time to come. This answer gave so much satisfaction that the Lord Mayor soon came to the palace to thank the Queen for her goodness, to assure her that, through all vicissitudes, London would be true to her and her consort, and to inform her that, severely as the late calamity had been felt by many great commercial houses, the Common Council had unanimously resolved to advance whatever might be necessary for the support of the government.
The ill humour which the public calamities naturally produced was inflamed by every factious artifice. Never had the Jacobite pamphleteers been so savagely scurrilous as during this unfortunate summer. The police was consequently more active than ever in seeking for the dens from which so much treason proceeded. With great difficulty and after long search the most important of all the unlicensed presses was discovered. This press belonged to a Jacobite named William Anderton, whose intrepidity and fanaticism marked him out as fit to be employed on services from which prudent men and scrupulous men shrink. During two years he had been watched by the agents of the government; but where he exercised his craft was an impenetrable mystery. At length he was tracked to a house near Saint James's Street, where he was known by a feigned name, and where he passed for a working jeweller. A messenger of the press went thither with several assistants, and found Anderton's wife and mother posted as sentinels at the door. The women knew the messenger, rushed on him, tore his hair, and cried out "Thieves" and "Murder." The alarm was thus given to Anderton. He concealed the instruments of his calling, came forth with an assured air, and bade defiance to the messenger, the Censor, the Secretary, and Little Hooknose himself. After a struggle he was secured. His room was searched; and at first sight no evidence of his guilt appeared. But behind the bed was soon found a door which opened into a dark closet. The closet contained a press, types and heaps of newly printed papers. One of these papers, entitled Remarks on the Present Confederacy and the Late Revolution, is perhaps the most frantic of all the Jacobite libels. In this tract the Prince of Orange is gravely accused of having ordered fifty of his wounded English soldiers to be burned alive. The governing principle of his whole conduct, it is said, is not vainglory, or ambition, or avarice, but a deadly hatred of Englishmen and a desire to make them miserable. The nation is vehemently adjured, on peril of incurring the severest judgments, to rise up and free itself from this plague, this curse, this tyrant, whose depravity makes it difficult to believe that he can have been procreated by a human pair. Many copies were also found of another paper, somewhat less ferocious but perhaps more dangerous, entitled A French Conquest neither desirable nor practicable. In this tract also the people are exhorted to rise in insurrection. They are assured that a great part of the army is with them. The forces of the Prince of Orange will melt away; he will be glad to make his escape; and a charitable hope is sneeringly expressed that it may not be necessary to do him any harm beyond sending him back to Loo, where he may live surrounded by luxuries for which the English have paid dear.
The government, provoked and alarmed by the virulence of the Jacobite pamphleteers, determined to make Anderton an example. He was indicted for high treason, and brought to the bar of the Old Bailey. Treby, now Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Powell, who had honourably distinguished himself on the day of the trial of the bishops, were on the Bench. It is unfortunate that no detailed report of the evidence has come down to us, and that we are forced to content ourselves with such fragments of information as can be collected from the contradictory narratives of writers evidently partial, intemperate and dishonest. The indictment, however, is extant; and the overt acts which it imputes to the prisoner undoubtedly amount to high treason. To exhort the subjects of the realm to rise up and depose the King by force, and to add to that exhortation the expression, evidently ironical, of a hope that it may not be necessary to inflict on him any evil worse than banishment, is surely an offence which the least courtly lawyer will admit to be within the scope of the statute of Edward the Third. On this point indeed there seems to have been no dispute, either at the trial or subsequently.
The prisoner denied that he had printed the libels. On this point it seems reasonable that, since the evidence has not come down to us, we should give credit to the judges and the jury who heard what the witnesses had to say.
One argument with which Anderton had been furnished by his advisers, and which, in the Jacobite pasquinades of that time, is represented as unanswerable, was that, as the art of printing had been unknown in the reign of Edward the Third, printing could not be an overt act of treason under a statute of that reign. The judges treated this argument very lightly; and they were surely justified in so treating it. For it is an argument which would lead to the conclusion that it could not be an overt act of treason to behead a King with a guillotine or to shoot him with a Minie rifle.
It was also urged in Anderton's favour,--and this was undoubtedly an argument well entitled to consideration,--that a distinction ought to be made between the author of a treasonable paper and the man who merely printed it. The former could not pretend that he had not understood the meaning of the words which he had himself selected. But to the latter those words might convey no idea whatever. The metaphors, the allusions, the sarcasms, might be far beyond his comprehension; and, while his hands were busy among the types, his thoughts might be wandering to things altogether unconnected with the manuscript which was before him. It is undoubtedly true that it may be no crime to print what it would be a great crime to write. But this is evidently a matter concerning which no general rule can be laid down. Whether Anderton had, as a mere mechanic, contributed to spread a work the tendency of which he did not suspect, or had knowingly lent his help to raise a rebellion, was a question for the jury; and the jury might reasonably infer from his change of his name, from the secret manner in which he worked, from the strict watch kept by his wife and mother, and from the fury with which, even in the grasp of the messengers, he railed at the government, that he was not the unconscious tool, but the intelligent and zealous accomplice of traitors. The twelve, after passing a considerable time in deliberation, informed the Court that one of them entertained doubts. Those doubts were removed by the arguments of Treby and Powell; and a verdict of Guilty was found.
The fate of the prisoner remained during sometime in suspense. The Ministers hoped that he might be induced to save his own neck at the expense of the necks of the pamphleteers who had employed him. But his natural courage was kept up by spiritual stimulants which the nonjuring divines well understood how to administer. He suffered death with fortitude, and continued to revile the government to the last. The Jacobites clamoured loudly against the cruelty of the judges who had tried him and of the Queen who had left him for execution, and, not very consistently, represented him at once as a poor ignorant artisan who was not aware of the nature and tendency of the act for which he suffered, and as a martyr who had heroically laid down his life for the banished King and the persecuted Church.
The Ministers were much mistaken if they flattered themselves that the fate of Anderton would deter others from imitating his example. His execution produced several pamphlets scarcely less virulent than those for which he had suffered. Collier, in what he called Remarks on the London Gazette, exulted with cruel joy over the carnage of Landen, and the vast destruction of English property on the coast of Spain. Other writers did their best to raise riots among the labouring people. For the doctrine of the Jacobites was that disorder, in whatever place or in whatever way it might begin, was likely to end in a Restoration. A phrase which, without a commentary, may seem to be mere nonsense, but which was really full of meaning, was often in their mouths at this time, and was indeed a password by which the members of the party recognised each other: "Box it about; it will come to my father." The hidden sense of this gibberish was, "Throw the country into confusion; it will be necessary at last to have recourse to King James." Trade was not prosperous; and many industrious men were out of work. Accordingly songs addressed to the distressed classes were composed by the malecontent street poets. Numerous copies of a ballad exhorting the weavers to rise against the government were discovered in the house of that Quaker who had printed James's Declaration. Every art was used for the purpose of exciting discontent in a much more formidable body of men, the sailors; and unhappily the vices of the naval administration furnished the enemies of the State with but too good a choice of inflammatory topics. Some seamen deserted; some mutinied; then came executions; and then came more ballads and broadsides representing those executions as barbarous murders. Reports that the government had determined to defraud its defenders of their hard earned pay were circulated with so much effect that a great crowd of women from Wapping and Rotherhithe besieged Whitehall, clamouring for what was due to their husbands. Mary had the good sense and good nature to order four of those importunate petitioners to be admitted into the room where she was holding a Council. She heard their complaints, and herself assured them that the rumour which had alarmed them was unfounded. By this time Saint Bartholomew's day drew near; and the great annual fair, the delight of idle apprentices and the horror of Puritanical Aldermen, was opened in Smithfield with the usual display of dwarfs, giants, and dancing dogs, the man that ate fire, and the elephant that loaded and fired a musket. But of all the shows none proved so attractive as a dramatic performance which, in conception, though doubtless not in execution, seems to have borne much resemblance to those immortal masterpieces of humour in which Aristophanes held up Cleon and Lamachus to derision. Two strollers personated Killegrew and Delaval. The Admirals were represented as flying with their whole fleet before a few French privateers, and taking shelter under the grins of the Tower. The office of Chorus was performed by a Jackpudding who expressed very freely his opinion of the naval administration. Immense crowds flocked to see this strange farce. The applauses were loud; the receipts were great; and the mountebanks, who had at first ventured to attack only the unlucky and unpopular Board of Admiralty, now, emboldened by impunity and success, and probably prompted and rewarded by persons of much higher station than their own, began to cast reflections on other departments of the government. This attempt to revive the license of the Attic Stage was soon brought to a close by the appearance of a strong body of constables who carried off the actors to prison. Meanwhile the streets of London were every night strewn with seditious handbills. At all the taverns the zealots of hereditary right were limping about with glasses of wine and punch at their lips. This fashion had just come in; and the uninitiated wondered much that so great a number of jolly gentlemen should have suddenly become lame. But, those who were in the secret knew that the word Limp was a consecrated word, that every one of the four letters which composed it was the initial of an august name, and that the loyal subject who limped while he drank was taking off his bumper to Lewis, James, Mary, and the Prince.
It was not only in the capital that the Jacobites, at this time, made a great display of their wit. They mustered strong at Bath, where the Lord President Caermarthen was trying to recruit his feeble health. Every evening they met, as they phrased it, to serenade the Marquess. In other words they assembled under the sick man's window, and there sang doggrel lampoons on him.
It is remarkable that the Lord President, at the very time at which he was insulted as a Williamite at Bath, was considered as a stanch Jacobite at Saint Germains. How he came to be so considered is a most perplexing question. Some writers are of opinion that he, like Shrewsbury, Russell, Godolphin and Marlborough, entered into engagements with one king while eating the bread of the other. But this opinion does not rest on sufficient proofs. About the treasons of Shrewsbury, of Russell, of Godolphin and of Marlborough, we have a great mass of evidence, derived from various sources, and extending over several years. But all the information which we possess about Caermarthen's dealings with James is contained in a single short paper written by Melfort on the sixteenth of October 1693. From that paper it is quite clear that some intelligence had reached the banished King and his Ministers which led them to regard Caermarthen as a friend. But there is no proof that they ever so regarded him, either before that day or after that day. On the whole, the most probable explanation of this mystery seems to be that Caermarthen had been sounded by some Jacobite emissary much less artful than himself, and had, for the purpose of getting at the bottom of the new scheme of policy devised by Middleton, pretended to be well disposed to the cause of the banished King, that an exaggerated account of what had passed had been sent to Saint Germains, and that there had been much rejoicing there at a conversion which soon proved to have been feigned. It seems strange that such a conversion should even for a moment have been thought sincere. It was plainly Caermarthen's interest to stand by the sovereigns in possession. He was their chief minister. He could not hope to be the chief minister of James. It can indeed hardly be supposed that the political conduct of a cunning old man, insatiably ambitious and covetous, was much influenced by personal partiality. But, if there were any person to whom Caermarthen was partial, that person was undoubtedly Mary. That he had seriously engaged in a plot to depose her, at the risk of his head if he failed, and with the certainty of losing immense power and wealth if he succeeded, was a story too absurd for any credulity but the credulity of exiles.
Caermarthen had indeed at that moment peculiarly strong reasons for being satisfied with the place which he held in the counsels of William and Mary. There is but too strong reason to believe that he was then accumulating unlawful gain with a rapidity unexampled even in his experience.
The contest between the two East India Companies was, during the autumn of 1693, fiercer than ever. The House of Commons, finding the Old Company obstinately averse to all compromise, had, a little before the close of the late session, requested the King to give the three years' warning prescribed by the Charter. Child and his fellows now began to be seriously alarmed. They expected every day to receive the dreaded notice. Nay, they were not sure that their exclusive privilege might not be taken away without any notice at all; for they found that they had, by inadvertently omitting to pay the tax lately imposed on their stock at the precise time fixed by law, forfeited their Charter; and, though it would, in ordinary circumstances, have been thought cruel in the government to take advantage of such a slip, the public was not inclined to allow the Old Company any thing more than the strict letter of the bond. Every thing was lost if the Charter were not renewed before the meeting of Parliament. There can be little doubt that the proceedings of the corporation were still really directed by Child. But he had, it should seem, perceived that his unpopularity had injuriously affected the interests which were under his care, and therefore did not obtrude himself on the public notice. His place was ostensibly filled by his near kinsman Sir Thomas Cook, one of the greatest merchants of London, and Member of Parliament for the borough of Colchester. The Directors placed at Cook's absolute disposal all the immense wealth which lay in their treasury; and in a short time near a hundred thousand pounds were expended in corruption on a gigantic scale. In what proportions this enormous sum was distributed among the great men at Whitehall, and how much of it was embezzled by intermediate agents, is still a mystery. We know with certainty however that thousands went to Seymour and thousands to Caermarthen.
The effect of these bribes was that the Attorney General received orders to draw up a charter regranting the old privileges to the old Company. No minister, however, could, after what had passed in Parliament, venture to advise the Crown to renew the monopoly without conditions. The Directors were sensible that they had no choice, and reluctantly consented to accept the new Charter on terms substantially the same with those which the House of Commons had sanctioned.
It is probable that, two years earlier, such a compromise would have quieted the feud which distracted the City. But a long conflict, in which satire and calumny had not been spared, had heated the minds of men. The cry of Dowgate against Leadenhall Street was louder than ever. Caveats were entered; petitions were signed; and in those petitions a doctrine which had hitherto been studiously kept in the background was boldly affirmed. While it was doubtful on which side the royal prerogative would be used, that prerogative had not been questioned. But as soon as it appeared that the Old Company was likely to obtain a regrant of the monopoly under the Great Seal, the New Company began to assert with vehemence that no monopoly could be created except by Act of Parliament. The Privy Council, over which Caermarthen presided, after hearing the matter fully argued by counsel on both sides, decided in favour of the Old Company, and ordered the Charter to be sealed.
The autumn was by this time far advanced, and the armies in the Netherlands had gone into quarters for the winter. On the last day of October William landed in England. The Parliament was about to meet; and he had every reason to expect a session even more stormy than the last. The people were discontented, and not without cause. The year had been every where disastrous to the allies, not only on the sea and in the Low Countries, but also in Servia, in Spain, in Italy, and in Germany. The Turks had compelled the generals of the Empire to raise the siege of Belgrade. A newly created Marshal of France, the Duke of Noailles, had invaded Catalonia and taken the fortress of Rosas. Another newly created Marshal, the skilful and valiant Catinat, had descended from the Alps on Piedmont, and had, at Marsiglia, gained a complete victory over the forces of the Duke of Savoy. This battle is memorable as the first of a long series of battles in which the Irish troops retrieved the honour lost by misfortunes and misconduct in domestic war. Some of the exiles of Limerick showed, on that day, under the standard of France, a valour which distinguished them among many thousands of brave men. It is remarkable that on the same day a battalion of the persecuted and expatriated Huguenots stood firm amidst the general disorder round the standard of Savoy, and fell fighting desperately to the last.
The Duke of Lorges had marched into the Palatinate, already twice devastated, and had found that Turenne and Duras had left him something to destroy. Heidelberg, just beginning to rise again from its ruins, was again sacked, the peaceable citizens butchered, their wives and daughters foully outraged. The very choirs of the churches were stained with blood; the pyxes and crucifixes were torn from the altars; the tombs of the ancient Electors were broken open; the corpses, stripped of their cerecloths and ornaments, were dragged about the streets. The skull of the father of the Duchess of Orleans was beaten to fragments by the soldiers of a prince among the ladies of whose splendid Court she held the foremost place.
And yet a discerning eye might have perceived that, unfortunate as the confederates seemed to have been, the advantage had really been on their side. The contest was quite as much a financial as a military contest. The French King had, some months before, said that the last piece of gold would carry the day; and he now began painfully to feel the truth of the saying. England was undoubtedly hard pressed by public burdens; but still she stood up erect. France meanwhile was fast sinking. Her recent efforts had been too much for her strength, and had left her spent and unnerved. Never had her rulers shown more ingenuity in devising taxes or more severity in exacting them; but by no ingenuity, by no severity, was it possible to raise the sums necessary for another such campaign as that of 1693. In England the harvest had been abundant. In France the corn and the wine had again failed. The people, as usual, railed at the government. The government, with shameful ignorance or more shameful dishonesty, tried to direct the public indignation against the dealers in grain. Decrees appeared which seemed to have been elaborately framed for the purpose of turning dearth into famine. The nation was assured that there was no reason for uneasiness, that there was more than a sufficient supply of food, and that the scarcity had been produced by the villanous arts of misers, who locked up their stores in the hope of making enormous gains. Commissioners were appointed to inspect the granaries, and were empowered to send to market all the corn that was not necessary for the consumption of the proprietors. Such interference of course increased the suffering which it was meant to relieve. But in the midst of the general distress there was an artificial plenty in one favoured spot. The most arbitrary prince must always stand in some awe of an immense mass of human beings collected in the neighbourhood of his own palace. Apprehensions similar to those which had induced the Caesars to extort from Africa and Egypt the means of pampering the rabble of Rome induced Lewis to aggravate the misery of twenty provinces for the purpose of keeping one huge city in good humour. He ordered bread to be distributed in all the parishes of the capital at less than half the market price. The English Jacobites were stupid enough to extol the wisdom and humanity of this arrangement. The harvest, they said, had been good in England and bad in France; and yet the loaf was cheaper at Paris than in London; and the explanation was simple. The French had a sovereign whose heart was French, and who watched over his people with the solicitude of a father, while the English were cursed with a Dutch tyrant, who sent their corn to Holland. The truth was that a week of such fatherly government as that of Lewis would have raised all England in arms from Northumberland to Cornwall. That there might be abundance at Paris, the people of Normandy and Anjou were stuffing themselves with nettles. That there might be tranquillity at Paris, the peasantry were fighting with the bargemen and the troops all along the Loire and the Seine. Multitudes fled from those rural districts where bread cost five sous a pound to the happy place where bread was to be had for two sous a pound. It was necessary to drive the famished crowds back by force from the barriers, and to denounce the most terrible punishments against all who should not go home and starve quietly.
Lewis was sensible that the strength of France had been overstrained by the exertions of the last campaign. Even if her harvest and her vintage had been abundant, she would not have been able to do in 1694 what she had done in 1693; and it was utterly impossible that, in a season of extreme distress, she should again send into the field armies superior in number on every point to the armies of the coalition. New conquests were not to be expected. It would be much if the harassed and exhausted land, beset on all sides by enemies, should be able to sustain a defensive war without any disaster. So able a politician as the French King could not but feel that it would be for his advantage to treat with the allies while they were still awed by the remembrance of the gigantic efforts which his kingdom had just made, and before the collapse which had followed those efforts should become visible.
He had long been communicating through various channels with some members of the confederacy, and trying to induce them to separate themselves from the rest. But he had as yet made no overture tending to a general pacification. For he knew that there could be no general pacification unless he was prepared to abandon the cause of James, and to acknowledge the Prince and Princess of Orange as King and Queen of England. This was in truth the point on which every thing turned. What should be done with those great fortresses which Lewis had unjustly seized and annexed to his empire in time of peace, Luxemburg which overawed the Moselle, and Strasburg which domineered over the Upper Rhine; what should be done with the places which he had recently won in open war, Philipsburg, Mons and Namur, Huy and Charleroy; what barrier should be given to the States General; on what terms Lorraine should be restored to its hereditary Dukes; these were assuredly not unimportant questions. But the all important question was whether England was to be, as she had been under James, a dependency of France, or, as she was under William and Mary, a power of the first rank. If Lewis really wished for peace, he must bring himself to recognise the Sovereigns whom he had so often designated as usurpers. Could he bring himself to recognise them? His superstition, his pride, his regard for the unhappy exiles who were pining at Saint Germains, his personal dislike of the indefatigable and unconquerable adversary who had been constantly crossing his path during twenty years, were on one side; his interests and those of his people were on the other. He must have been sensible that it was not in his power to subjugate the English, that he must at last leave them to choose their government for themselves, and that what he must do at last it would be best to do soon. Yet he could not at once make up his mind to what was so disagreeable to him. He however opened a negotiation with the States General through the intervention of Sweden and Denmark, and sent a confidential emissary to confer in secret at Brussels with Dykvelt, who possessed the entire confidence of William. There was much discussion about matters of secondary importance; but the great question remained unsettled. The French agent used, in private conversation, expressions plainly implying that the government which he represented was prepared to recognise William and Mary; but no formal assurance could be obtained from him. Just at the same time the King of Denmark informed the allies that he was endeavouring to prevail on France not to insist on the restoration of James as an indispensable condition of peace, but did not say that his endeavours had as yet been successful. Meanwhile Avaux, who was now Ambassador at Stockholm, informed the King of Sweden, that, as the dignity of all crowned heads had been outraged in the person of James, the Most Christian King felt assured that not only neutral powers, but even the Emperor, would try to find some expedient which might remove so grave a cause of quarrel. The expedient at which Avaux hinted doubtless was that James should waive his rights, and that the Prince of Wales should be sent to England, bred a Protestant, adopted by William and Mary, and declared their heir. To such an arrangement William would probably have had no personal objection. But we may be assured that he never would have consented to make it a condition of peace with France. Who should reign in England was a question to be decided by England alone.
It might well be suspected that a negotiation conducted in this manner was merely meant to divide the confederates. William understood the whole importance of the conjuncture. He had not, it may be, the eye of a great captain for all the turns of a battle. But he had, in the highest perfection, the eye of a great statesman for all the turns of a war. That France had at length made overtures to him was a sufficient proof that she felt herself spent and sinking. That those overtures were made with extreme reluctance and hesitation proved that she had not yet come to a temper in which it was possible to have peace with her on fair terms. He saw that the enemy was beginning to give ground, and that this was the time to assume the offensive, to push forward, to bring up every reserve. But whether the opportunity should be seized or lost it did not belong to him to decide. The King of France might levy troops and exact taxes without any limit save that which the laws of nature impose on despotism. But the King of England could do nothing without the support of the House of Commons; and the House of Commons, though it had hitherto supported him zealously and liberally, was not a body on which he could rely. It had indeed got into a state which perplexed and alarmed all the most sagacious politicians of that age. There was something appalling in the union of such boundless power and such boundless caprice. The fate of the whole civilised world depended on the votes of the representatives of the English people; and there was no public man who could venture to say with confidence what those representatives might not be induced to vote within twenty-four hours. William painfully felt that it was scarcely possible for a prince dependent on an assembly so violent at one time, so languid at another, to effect any thing great. Indeed, though no sovereign did so much to secure and to extend the power of the House of Commons, no sovereign loved the House of Commons less. Nor is this strange; for he saw that House at the very worst. He saw it when it had just acquired the power and had not yet acquired the gravity of a senate. In his letters to Heinsius he perpetually complains of the endless talking, the factious squabbling, the inconstancy, the dilatoriness, of the body which his situation made it necessary for him to treat with deference. His complaints were by no means unfounded; but he had not discovered either the cause or the cure of the evil.
The truth was that the change which the Revolution had made in the situation of the House of Commons had made another change necessary; and that other change had not yet taken place. There was parliamentary government; but there was no Ministry; and, without a Ministry, the working of a parliamentary government, such as ours, must always be unsteady and unsafe.
It is essential to our liberties that the House of Commons should exercise a control over all the departments of the executive administration. And yet it is evident that a crowd of five or six hundred people, even if they were intellectually much above the average of the members of the best Parliament, even if every one of them were a Burleigh, or a Sully, would be unfit for executive functions. It has been truly said that every large collection of human beings, however well educated, has a strong tendency to become a mob; and a country of which the Supreme Executive Council is a mob is surely in a perilous situation.
Happily a way has been found out in which the House of Commons can exercise a paramount influence over the executive government, without assuming functions such as can never be well discharged by a body so numerous and so variously composed. An institution which did not exist in the times, of the Plantagenets, of the Tudors or of the Stuarts, an institution not known to the law, an institution not mentioned in any statute, an institution of which such writers as De Lolme and Blackstone take no notice, began to exist a few years after the Revolution, grew rapidly into importance, became firmly established, and is now almost as essential a part of our polity as the Parliament itself. This institution is the Ministry.
The Ministry is, in fact, a committee of leading members of the two Houses. It is nominated by the Crown; but it consists exclusively of statesmen whose opinions on the pressing questions of the time agree, in the main, with the opinions of the majority of the House of Commons. Among the members of this committee are distributed the great departments of the administration. Each Minister conducts the ordinary business of his own office without reference to his colleagues. But the most important business of every office, and especially such business as is likely to be the subject of discussion in Parliament, is brought under the consideration of the whole Ministry. In Parliament the Ministers are bound to act as one man on all questions relating to the executive government. If one of them dissents from the rest on a question too important to admit of compromise, it is his duty to retire. While the Ministers retain the confidence of the parliamentary majority, that majority supports them against opposition, and rejects every motion which reflects on them or is likely to embarrass them. If they forfeit that confidence, if the parliamentary majority is dissatisfied with the way in which patronage is distributed, with the way in which the prerogative of mercy is used, with the conduct of foreign affairs, with the conduct of a war, the remedy is simple. It is not necessary that the Commons should take on themselves the business of administration, that they should request the Crown to make this man a bishop and that man a judge, to pardon one criminal and to execute another, to negotiate a treaty on a particular basis or to send an expedition to a particular place. They have merely to declare that they have ceased to trust the Ministry, and to ask for a Ministry which they can trust.
It is by means of Ministries thus constituted, and thus changed, that the English government has long been conducted in general conformity with the deliberate sense of the House of Commons, and yet has been wonderfully free from the vices which are characteristic of governments administered by large, tumultuous and divided assemblies. A few distinguished persons, agreeing in their general opinions, are the confidential advisers at once of the Sovereign and of the Estates of the Realm. In the closet they speak with the authority of men who stand high in the estimation of the representatives of the people. In Parliament they speak with the authority of men versed in great affairs and acquainted with all the secrets of the State. Thus the Cabinet has something of the popular character of a representative body; and the representative body has something of the gravity of a cabinet.
Sometimes the state of parties is such that no set of men who can be brought together possesses the full confidence and steady support of a majority of the House of Commons. When this is the case, there must be a weak Ministry; and there will probably be a rapid succession of weak Ministries. At such times the House of Commons never fails to get into a state which no person friendly to representative government can contemplate without uneasiness, into a state which may enable us to form some faint notion of the state of that House during the earlier years of the reign of William. The notion is indeed but faint; for the weakest Ministry has great power as a regulator of parliamentary proceedings; and in the earlier years of the reign of William there was no Ministry at all.
No writer has yet attempted to trace the progress of this institution, an institution indispensable to the harmonious working of our other institutions. The first Ministry was the work, partly of mere chance, and partly of wisdom, not however of that highest wisdom which is conversant with great principles of political philosophy, but of that lower wisdom which meets daily exigencies by daily expedients. Neither William nor the most enlightened of his advisers fully understood the nature and importance of that noiseless revolution,--for it was no less,-- which began about the close of 1693, and was completed about the close of 1696. But every body could perceive that, at the close of 1693, the chief offices in the government were distributed not unequally between the two great parties, that the men who held those offices were perpetually caballing against each other, haranguing against each other, moving votes of censure on each other, exhibiting articles of impeachment against each other, and that the temper of the House of Commons was wild, ungovernable and uncertain. Everybody could perceive that at the close of 1696, all the principal servants of the Crown were Whigs, closely bound together by public and private ties, and prompt to defend one another against every attack, and that the majority of the House of Commons was arrayed in good order under those leaders, and had learned to move, like one man, at the word of command. The history of the period of transition and of the steps by which the change was effected is in a high degree curious and interesting.
The statesman who had the chief share in forming the first English Ministry had once been but too well known, but had long hidden himself from the public gaze, and had but recently emerged from the obscurity in which it had been expected that he would pass the remains of an ignominious and disastrous life. During that period of general terror and confusion which followed the flight of James, Sunderland had disappeared. It was high time; for of all the agents of the fallen government he was, with the single exception of Jeffreys, the most odious to the nation. Few knew that Sunderland's voice had in secret been given against the spoliation of Magdalene College and the prosecution of the Bishops; but all knew that he had signed numerous instruments dispensing with statutes, that he had sate in the High Commission, that he had turned or pretended to turn Papist, that he had, a few days after his apostasy, appeared in Westminster Hall as a witness against the oppressed fathers of the Church. He had indeed atoned for many crimes by one crime baser than all the rest. As soon as he had reason to believe that the day of deliverance and retribution was at hand, he had, by a most dexterous and seasonable treason, earned his pardon. During the three months which preceded the arrival of the Dutch armament in Torbay, he had rendered to the cause of liberty and of the Protestant religion services of which it is difficult to overrate either the wickedness or the utility. To him chiefly it was owing that, at the most critical moment in our history, a French army was not menacing the Batavian frontier and a French fleet hovering about the English coast. William could not, without staining his own honour, refuse to protect one whom he had not scrupled to employ. Yet it was no easy task even for William to save that guilty head from the first outbreak of public fury. For even those extreme politicians of both sides who agreed in nothing else agreed in calling for vengeance on the renegade. The Whigs hated him as the vilest of the slaves by whom the late government had been served, and the Jacobites as the vilest of the traitors by whom it had been overthrown. Had he remained in England, he would probably have died by the hand of the executioner, if indeed the executioner had not been anticipated by the populace. But in Holland a political refugee, favoured by the Stadtholder, might hope to live unmolested. To Holland Sunderland fled, disguised, it is said, as a woman; and his wife accompanied him. At Rotterdam, a town devoted to the House of Orange, he thought himself secure. But the magistrates were not in all the secrets of the Prince, and were assured by some busy Englishmen that His Highness would be delighted to hear of the arrest of the Popish dog, the Judas, whose appearance on Tower Hill was impatiently expected by all London. Sunderland was thrown into prison, and remained there till an order for his release arrived from Whitehall. He then proceeded to Amsterdam, and there changed his religion again. His second apostasy edified his wife as much as his first apostasy had edified his master. The Countess wrote to assure her pious friends in England that her poor dear lord's heart had at last been really touched by divine grace, and that, in spite of all her afflictions, she was comforted by seeing him so true a convert. We may, however, without any violation of Christian charity, suspect that he was still the same false, callous, Sunderland who, a few months before, had made Bonrepaux shudder by denying the existence of a God, and had, at the same time, won the heart of James by pretending to believe in transubstantiation. In a short time the banished man put forth an apology for his conduct. This apology, when examined, will be found to amount merely to a confession that he had committed one series of crimes in order to gain James's favour, and another series in order to avoid being involved in James's ruin. The writer concluded by announcing his intention to pass all the rest of his life in penitence and prayer. He soon retired from Amsterdam to Utrecht, and at Utrecht made himself conspicuous by his regular and devout attendance on the ministrations of Huguenot preachers. If his letters and those of his wife were to be trusted, he had done for ever with ambition. He longed indeed to be permitted to return from exile, not that he might again enjoy and dispense the favours of the Crown, not that his antechambers might again be filled by the daily swarm of suitors, but that he might see again the turf, the trees and the family pictures of his country seat. His only wish was to be suffered to end his troubled life at Althorpe; and he would be content to forfeit his head if ever he went beyond the palings of his park.
While the House of Commons, which had been elected during the vacancy of the throne, was busily engaged in the work of proscription, he could not venture to show himself in England. But when that assembly had ceased to exist, he thought himself safe. He returned a few days after the Act of Grace had been laid on the table of the Lords. From the benefit of that Act he was by name excluded; but he well knew that he had now nothing to fear. He went privately to Kensington, was admitted into the closet, had an audience which lasted two hours, and then retired to his country house.
During many months be led a secluded life, and had no residence in London. Once in the spring of 1692, to the great astonishment of the public, he showed his face in the circle at Court, and was graciously received. He seems to have been afraid that he might, on his reappearance in Parliament, receive some marked affront. He therefore, very prudently, stole down to Westminster, in the dead time of the year, on a day to which the Houses stood adjourned by the royal command, and on which they met merely for the purpose of adjourning again. Sunderland had just time to present himself, to take the oaths, to sign the declaration against transubstantiation, and to resume his seat. None of the few peers who were present had an opportunity of making any remark. It was not till the year 1692 that he began to attend regularly. He was silent; but silent he had always been in large assemblies, even when he was at the zenith of power. His talents were not those of a public speaker. The art in which he surpassed all men was the art of whispering. His tact, his quick eye for the foibles of individuals, his caressing manners, his power of insinuation, and, above all, his apparent frankness, made him irresistible in private conversation. By means of these qualities he had governed James, and now aspired to govern William.
To govern William, indeed, was not easy. But Sunderland succeeded in obtaining such a measure of favour and influence as excited much surprise and some indignation. In truth, scarcely any mind was strong enough to resist the witchery of his talk and of his manners. Every man is prone to believe in the gratitude and attachment even of the most worthless persons on whom he has conferred great benefits. It can therefore hardly be thought strange that the most skilful of all flatterers should have been heard with favour, when he, with every outward sign of strong emotion, implored permission to dedicate all his faculties to the service of the generous protector to whom he owed property, liberty, life. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that the King was deceived. He may have thought, with good reason, that, though little confidence could be placed in Sunderland's professions, much confidence might be placed in Sunderland's situation; and the truth is that Sunderland proved, on the whole, a more faithful servant than a much less depraved man might have been. He did indeed make, in profound secresy, some timid overtures towards a reconciliation with James. But it may be confidently affirmed that, even had those overtures been graciously received,--and they appear to have been received very ungraciously,--the twice turned renegade would never have rendered any real service to the Jacobite cause. He well knew that he had done that which at Saint Germains must be regarded as inexpiable. It was not merely that he had been treacherous and ungrateful. Marlborough had been as treacherous and ungrateful; and Marlborough had been pardoned. But Marlborough had not been guilty of the impious hypocrisy of counterfeiting the signs of conversion. Marlborough had not pretended to be convinced by the arguments of the Jesuits, to be touched by divine grace, to pine for union with the only true Church. Marlborough had not, when Popery was in the ascendant, crossed himself, shrived himself, done penance, taken the communion in one kind, and, as soon as a turn of fortune came, apostatized back again, and proclaimed to all the world that, when he knelt at the confessional and received the host, he was merely laughing at the King and the priests. The crime of Sunderland was one which could never be forgiven by James; and a crime which could never be forgiven by James was, in some sense, a recommendation to William. The Court, nay, the Council, was full of men who might hope to prosper if the banished King were restored. But Sunderland had left himself no retreat. He had broken down all the bridges behind him. He had been so false to one side that he must of necessity be true to the other. That he was in the main true to the government which now protected him there is no reason to doubt; and, being true, he could not but be useful. He was, in some respects, eminently qualified to be at that time an adviser of the Crown. He had exactly the talents and the knowledge which William wanted. The two together would have made up a consummate statesman. The master was capable of forming and executing large designs, but was negligent of those small arts in which the servant excelled. The master saw farther off than other men; but what was near no man saw so clearly as the servant. The master, though profoundly versed in the politics of the great community of nations, never thoroughly understood the politics of his own kingdom. The servant was perfectly well informed as to the temper and the organization of the English factions, and as to the strong and weak parts of the character of every Englishman of note.
Early in 1693, it was rumoured that Sunderland was consulted on all important questions relating to the internal administration of the realm; and the rumour became stronger when it was known that he had come up to London in the autumn before the meeting of Parliament and that he had taken a large mansion near Whitehall. The coffeehouse politicians were confident that he was about to hold some high office. As yet, however, he had the wisdom to be content with the reality of power, and to leave the show to others.
His opinion was that, as long as the King tried to balance the two great parties against each other, and to divide his favour equally between them, both would think themselves ill used, and neither would lend to the government that hearty and steady support which was now greatly needed. His Majesty must make up his mind to give a marked preference to one or the other; and there were three weighty reasons for giving the preference to the Whigs.
In the first place, the Whigs were on principle attached to the reigning dynasty. In their view the Revolution had been, not merely necessary, not merely justifiable, but happy and glorious. It had been the triumph of their political theory. When they swore allegiance to William, they swore without scruple or reservation; and they were so far from having any doubt about his title that they thought it the best of all titles. The Tories, on the other hand, very generally disapproved of that vote of the Convention which had placed him on the throne. Some of them were at heart Jacobites, and had taken the oath of allegiance to him only that they might be able to injure him. Others, though they thought it their duty to obey him as King in fact, denied that he was King by right, and, if they were loyal to him, were loyal without enthusiasm. There could, therefore, be little doubt on which of the two parties it would be safer for him to rely.
In the second place, as to the particular matter on which his heart was at present set, the Whigs were, as a body, prepared to support him strenuously, and the Tories were, as a body, inclined to thwart him. The minds of men were at this time much occupied by the question, in what way the war ought to be carried on. To that question the two parties returned very different answers. An opinion had during many months been growing among the Tories that the policy of England ought to be strictly insular; that she ought to leave the defence of Flanders and the Rhine to the States General, the House of Austria and the Princes of the Empire; that she ought to carry on hostilities with vigour by sea, but to keep up only such an army as might, with the help of the militia, be sufficient to repel an invasion. It was plain that, if this system were adopted, there might be an immediate reduction of the taxes which pressed most heavily on the nation. But the Whigs maintained that this relief would be dearly purchased. Many thousands of brave English soldiers were now in Flanders. Yet the allies had not been able to prevent the French from taking Mons in 1691, Namur in 1692, Charleroy in 1693. If the English troops were withdrawn, it was certain that Ostend, Ghent, Liege, Brussels would fall. The German Princes would hasten to make peace, each for himself. The Spanish Netherlands would probably be annexed to the French monarchy. The United Provinces would be again in as great peril as in 1672, and would accept whatever terms Lewis might be pleased to dictate. In a few months, he would be at liberty to put forth his whole strength against our island. Then would come a struggle for life and death. It might well be hoped that we should be able to defend our soil even against such a general and such an army as had won the battle of Landen. But the fight must be long and hard. How many fertile counties would be turned into deserts, how many flourishing towns would be laid in ashes, before the invaders were destroyed or driven out! One triumphant campaign in Kent and Middlesex would do more to impoverish the nation than ten disastrous campaigns in Brabant. It is remarkable that this dispute between the two great factions was, during seventy years, regularly revived as often as our country was at war with France. That England ought never to attempt great military operations on the Continent continued to be a fundamental article of the creed of the Tories till the French Revolution produced a complete change in their feelings. As the chief object of William was to open the campaign of 1694 in Flanders with an immense display of force, it was sufficiently clear to whom he must look for assistance.
In the third place, the Whigs were the stronger party in Parliament. The general election of 1690, indeed, had not been favourable to them. They had been, for a time, a minority; but they had ever since been constantly gaining ground; they were now in number a full half of the Lower House; and their effective strength was more than proportioned to their number; for in energy, alertness and discipline, they were decidedly superior to their opponents. Their organization was not indeed so perfect as it afterwards became; but they had already begun to look for guidance to a small knot of distinguished men, which was long afterwards widely known by the name of the Junto. There is, perhaps, no parallel in history, ancient or modern, to the authority exercised by this council, during twenty troubled years, over the Whig body. The men who acquired that authority in the days of William and Mary continued to possess it, without interruption, in office and out of office, till George the First was on the throne.
One of these men was Russell. Of his shameful dealings with the Court of Saint Germains we possess proofs which leave no room for doubt. But no such proofs were laid before the world till he had been many years dead. If rumours of his guilt got abroad, they were vague and improbable; they rested on no evidence; they could be traced to no trustworthy author; and they might well be regarded by his contemporaries as Jacobite calumnies. What was quite certain was that he sprang from an illustrious house, which had done and suffered great things for liberty and for the Protestant religion, that he had signed the invitation of the thirtieth of June, that he had landed with the Deliverer at Torbay, that he had in Parliament, on all occasions, spoken and voted as a zealous Whig, that he had won a great victory, that he had saved his country from an invasion, and that, since he had left the Admiralty, every thing had gone wrong. We cannot therefore wonder that his influence over his party should have been considerable.
But the greatest man among the members of the Junto, and, in some respects, the greatest man of that age, was the Lord Keeper Somers. He was equally eminent as a jurist and as a politician, as an orator and as a writer. His speeches have perished; but his State papers remain, and are models of terse, luminous, and dignified eloquence. He had left a great reputation in the House of Commons, where he had, during four years, been always heard with delight; and the Whig members still looked up to him as their leader, and still held their meetings under his roof. In the great place to which he had recently been promoted, he had so borne himself that, after a very few months, even faction and envy had ceased to murmur at his elevation. In truth, he united all the qualities of a great judge, an intellect comprehensive, quick and acute, diligence, integrity, patience, suavity. In council, the calm wisdom which he possessed in a measure rarely found among men of parts so quick and of opinions so decided as his, acquired for him the authority of an oracle. The superiority of his powers appeared not less clearly in private circles. The charm of his conversation was heightened by the frankness with which he poured out his thoughts. His good temper and his good breeding never failed. His gesture, his look, his tones were expressive of benevolence. His humanity was the more remarkable, because he had received from nature a body such as is generally found united with a peevish and irritable mind. His life was one long malady; his nerves were weak; his complexion was livid; his face was prematurely wrinkled. Yet his enemies could not pretend that he had ever once, during a long and troubled public life, been goaded, even by sudden provocation, into vehemence inconsistent with the mild dignity of his character. All that was left to them was to assert that his disposition was very far from being so gentle as the world believed, that he was really prone to the angry passions, and that sometimes, while his voice was soft, and his words kind and courteous, his delicate frame was almost convulsed by suppressed emotion. It will perhaps be thought that this reproach is the highest of all eulogies.
The most accomplished men of those times have told us that there was scarcely any subject on which Somers was not competent to instruct and to delight. He had never travelled; and, in that age, an Englishman who had not travelled was generally thought incompetent to give an opinion on works of art. But connoisseurs familiar with the masterpieces of the Vatican and of the Florentine gallery allowed that the taste of Somers in painting and sculpture was exquisite. Philology was one of his favourite pursuits. He had traversed the whole vast range of polite literature, ancient and modern. He was at once a munificent and severely judicious patron of genius and learning. Locke owed opulence to Somers. By Somers Addison was drawn forth from a cell in a college. In distant countries the name of Somers was mentioned with respect and gratitude by great scholars and poets who had never seen his face. He was the benefactor of Leclerc. He was the friend of Filicaja. Neither political nor religious differences prevented him from extending his powerful protection to merit. Hickes, the fiercest and most intolerant of all the nonjurors, obtained, by the influence of Somers, permission to study Teutonic antiquities in freedom and safety. Vertue, a strict Roman Catholic, was raised by the discriminating and liberal patronage of Somers from poverty and obscurity to the first rank among the engravers of the age.
The generosity with which Somers treated his opponents was the more honourable to him because he was no waverer in politics. From the beginning to the end of his public life he was a steady Whig. His voice was indeed always raised, when his party was dominant in the State, against violent and vindictive counsels; but he never forsook his friends, even when their perverse neglect of his advice had brought them to the verge of ruin.
His powers of mind and his acquirements were not denied, even by his detractors. The most acrimonious Tories were forced to admit, with an ungracious snarl, which increased the value of their praise, that he had all the intellectual qualities of a great man, and that in him alone, among his contemporaries, brilliant eloquence and wit were to be found associated with the quiet and steady prudence which ensures success in life. It is a remarkable fact, that, in the foulest of all the many libels that were published against him, he was slandered under the name of Cicero. As his abilities could not be questioned, he was charged with irreligion and immorality. That he was heterodox all the country vicars and foxhunting squires firmly believed; but as to the nature and extent of his heterodoxy there were many different opinions. He seems to have been a Low Churchman of the school of Tillotson, whom he always loved and honoured; and he was, like Tillotson, called by bigots a Presbyterian, an Arian, a Socinian, a Deist, and an Atheist.
The private life of this great statesman and magistrate was malignantly scrutinised; and tales were told about his libertinism which went on growing till they became too absurd for the credulity even of party spirit. At last, long after he had been condemned to flannel and chicken broth, a wretched courtesan, who had probably never seen him except in the stage box at the theatre, when she was following her vocation below in a mask, published a lampoon in which she described him as the master of a haram more costly than the Great Turk's. There is, however, reason to believe that there was a small nucleus of truth round which this great mass of fiction gathered, and that the wisdom and selfcommand which Somers never wanted in the senate, on the judgment seat, at the council board, or in the society of wits, scholars and philosophers, were not always proof against female attractions.
Another director of the Whig party was Charles Montague. He was often, when he had risen to power, honours and riches, called an upstart by those who envied his success. That they should have called him so may seem strange; for few of the statesmen of his time could show such a pedigree as his. He sprang from a family as old as the Conquest; he was in the succession to an earldom, and was, by the paternal side, cousin of three earls. But he was the younger son of a younger brother; and that phrase had, ever since the time of Shakspeare and Raleigh, and perhaps before their time, been proverbially used to designate a person so poor as to be broken to the most abject servitude or ready for the most desperate adventure.
Charles Montague was early destined for the Church, was entered on the foundation of Westminster, and, after distinguishing himself there by skill in Latin versification, was sent up to Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge the philosophy of Des Cartes was still dominant in the schools. But a few select spirits had separated from the crowd, and formed a fit audience round a far greater teacher. Conspicuous among the youths of high promise who were proud to sit at the feet of Newton was the quick and versatile Montague. Under such guidance the young student made considerable proficiency in the severe sciences; but poetry was his favourite pursuit; and when the University invited her sons to celebrate royal marriages and funerals, he was generally allowed to have surpassed his competitors. His fame travelled to London; he was thought a clever lad by the wits who met at Will's, and the lively parody which he wrote, in concert with his friend and fellow student Prior, on Dryden's Hind and Panther, was received with great applause.
At this time all Montague's wishes pointed towards the Church. At a later period, when he was a peer with twelve thousand a year, when his villa on the Thames was regarded as the most delightful of all suburban retreats, when he was said to revel in Tokay from the Imperial cellar, and in soups made out of birds' nests brought from the Indian Ocean, and costing three guineas a piece, his enemies were fond of reminding him that there had been a time when he had eked out by his wits an income of barely fifty pounds, when he had been happy with a trencher of mutton chops and a flagon of ale from the College buttery, and when a tithe pig was the rarest luxury for which he had dared to hope. The Revolution came, and changed his whole scheme of life. He obtained, by the influence of Dorset, who took a peculiar pleasure in befriending young men of promise, a seat in the House of Commons. Still, during a few months, the needy scholar hesitated between politics and divinity. But it soon became clear that, in the new order of things, parliamentary ability must fetch a higher price than any other kind of ability; and he felt that in parliamentary ability he had no superior. He was in the very situation for which he was peculiarly fitted by nature; and during some years his life was a series of triumphs.
Of him, as of several of his contemporaries, especially of Mulgrave and of Sprat, it may be said that his fame has suffered from the folly of those editors who, down to our own time, have persisted in reprinting his rhymes among the works of the British poets. There is not a year in which hundreds of verses as good as any that he ever wrote are not sent in for the Newdigate prize at Oxford and for the Chancellor's medal at Cambridge. His mind had indeed great quickness and vigour, but not that kind of quickness and vigour which produces great dramas or odes; and it is most unjust to him that his loan of Honour and his Epistle on the Battle of the Boyne should be placed side by side with Comus and Alexander's Feast. Other eminent statesmen and orators, Walpole, Pulteney, Chatham, Fox, wrote poetry not better than his. But fortunately for them, their metrical compositions were never thought worthy to be admitted into any collection of our national classics.
It has long been usual to represent the imagination under the figure of a wing, and to call the successful exertions of the imagination flights. One poet is the eagle; another is the swan; a third modestly compares himself to the bee. But none of these types would have suited Montague. His genius may be compared to that pinion which, though it is too weak to lift the ostrich into the air, enables her, while she remains on the earth, to outrun hound, horse and dromedary. If the man who possesses this kind of genius attempts to ascend the heaven of invention, his awkward and unsuccessful efforts expose him to derision. But if he will be content to stay in the terrestrial region of business, he will find that the faculties which would not enable him to soar into a higher sphere will enable him to distance all his competitors in the lower. As a poet Montague could never have risen above the crowd. But in the House of Commons, now fast becoming supreme in the State, and extending its control over one executive department after another, the young adventurer soon obtained a place very different from the place which he occupies among men of letters. At thirty, he would gladly have given all his chances in life for a comfortable vicarage and a chaplain's scarf. At thirty-seven, he was First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Regent of the kingdom; and this elevation he owed not at all to favour, but solely to the unquestionable superiority of his talents for administration and debate.
The extraordinary ability with which, at the beginning of the year 1692, he managed the conference on the Bill for regulating Trials in cases of Treason, placed him at once in the first rank of parliamentary orators. On that occasion he was opposed to a crowd of veteran senators renowned for their eloquence, Halifax, Rochester, Nottingham, Mulgrave, and proved himself a match for them all. He was speedily seated at the Board of Treasury; and there the clearheaded and experienced Godolphin soon found that his young colleague was his master. When Somers had quitted the House of Commons, Montague had no rival there. Sir Thomas Littleton, once distinguished as the ablest debater and man of business among the Whig members, was content to serve under his junior. To this day we may discern in many parts of our financial and commercial system the marks of the vigorous intellect and daring spirit of Montague. His bitterest enemies were unable to deny that some of the expedients which he had proposed had proved highly beneficial to the nation. But it was said that these expedients were not devised by himself. He was represented, in a hundred pamphlets, as the daw in borrowed plumes. He had taken, it was affirmed, the hint of every one of his great plans from the writings or the conversation of some ingenious speculator. This reproach was, in truth, no reproach. We can scarcely expect to find in the same human being the talents which are necessary for the making of new discoveries in political science, and the talents which obtain the assent of divided and tumultuous assemblies to great practical reforms. To be at once an Adam Smith and a Pitt is scarcely possible. It is surely praise enough for a busy politician that he knows how to use the theories of others, that he discerns, among the schemes of innumerable projectors, the precise scheme which is wanted and which is practicable, that he shapes it to suit pressing circumstances and popular humours, that he proposes it just when it is most likely to be favourably received, that he triumphantly defends it against all objectors, and that he carries it into execution with prudence and energy; and to this praise no English statesman has a fairer claim than Montague.
It is a remarkable proof of his selfknowledge that, from the moment at which he began to distinguish himself in public life, he ceased to be a versifier. It does not appear that, after he became a Lord of the Treasury, he ever wrote a couplet, with the exception of a few well turned lines inscribed on a set of toasting glasses which were sacred to the most renowned Whig beauties of his time. He wisely determined to derive from the poetry of others a glory which he never would have derived from his own. As a patron of genius and learning he ranks with his two illustrious friends, Dorset and Somers. His munificence fully equalled theirs; and, though he was inferior to them in delicacy of taste, he succeeded in associating his name inseparably with some names which will last as long as our language.
Yet it must be acknowledged that Montague, with admirable parts and with many claims on the gratitude of his country, had great faults, and unhappily faults not of the noblest kind. His head was not strong enough to bear without giddiness the speed of his ascent and the height of his position. He became offensively arrogant and vain. He was too often cold to his old friends, and ostentatious in displaying his new riches. Above all, he was insatiably greedy of praise, and liked it best when it was of the coarsest and rankest quality. But, in 1693, these faults were less offensive than they became a few years later.
With Russell, Somers and Montague, was closely connected, during a quarter of a century a fourth Whig, who in character bore little resemblance to any of them. This was Thomas Wharton, eldest son of Philip Lord Wharton. Thomas Wharton has been repeatedly mentioned in the course of this narrative. But it is now time to describe him more fully. He was in his forty-seventh year, but was still a young man in constitution, in appearance and in manners. Those who hated him most heartily,--and no man was hated more heartily,--admitted that his natural parts were excellent, and that he was equally qualified for debate and for action. The history of his mind deserves notice; for it was the history of many thousands of minds. His rank and abilities made him so conspicuous that in him we are able to trace distinctly the origin and progress of a moral taint which was epidemic among his contemporaries.
He was born in the days of the Covenant, and was the heir of a covenanted house. His father was renowned as a distributor of Calvinistic tracts, and a patron of Calvinistic divines. The boy's first years were past amidst Geneva bands, heads of lank hair, upturned eyes, nasal psalmody, and sermons three hours long. Plays and poems, hunting and dancing, were proscribed by the austere discipline of his saintly family. The fruits of this education became visible, when, from the sullen mansion of Puritan parents, the hotblooded, quickwitted young patrician emerged into the gay and voluptuous London of the Restoration. The most dissolute cavaliers stood aghast at the dissoluteness of the emancipated precisian. He early acquired and retained to the last the reputation of being the greatest rake in England. Of wine indeed he never became the slave; and he used it chiefly for the purpose of making himself the master of his associates. But to the end of his long life the wives and daughters of his nearest friends were not safe from his licentious plots. The ribaldry of his conversation moved astonishment even in that age. To the religion of his country he offered, in the mere wantonness of impiety, insults too foul to be described. His mendacity and his effrontery passed into proverbs. Of all the liars of his time he was the most deliberate, the most inventive and the most circumstantial. What shame meant he did not seem to understand. No reproaches, even when pointed and barbed with the sharpest wit, appeared to give him pain. Great satirists, animated by a deadly personal aversion, exhausted all their strength in attacks upon him. They assailed him with keen invective; they assailed him with still keener irony; but they found that neither invective nor irony could move him to any thing but an unforced smile and a goodhumoured curse; and they at length threw down the lash, acknowledging that it was impossible to make him feel. That, with such vices, he should have played a great part in life, should have carried numerous elections against the most formidable opposition by his personal popularity, should have had a large following in Parliament, should have risen to the highest offices of the State, seems extraordinary. But he lived in times when faction was almost a madness; and he possessed in an eminent degree the qualities of the leader of a faction. There was a single tie which he respected. The falsest of mankind in all relations but one, he was the truest of Whigs. The religious tenets of his family he had early renounced with contempt; but to the politics of his family he stedfastly adhered through all the temptations and dangers of half a century. In small things and in great his devotion to his party constantly appeared. He had the finest stud in England; and his delight was to win plates from Tories. Sometimes when, in a distant county, it was fully expected that the horse of a High Church squire would be first on the course, down came, on the very eve of the race, Wharton's Careless, who had ceased to run at Newmarket merely for want of competitors, or Wharton's Gelding, for whom Lewis the Fourteenth had in vain offered a thousand pistoles. A man whose mere sport was of this description was not likely to be easily beaten in any serious contest. Such a master of the whole art of electioneering England had never seen. Buckinghamshire was his own especial province; and there he ruled without a rival. But he extended his care over the Whig interest in Yorkshire, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Wiltshire. Sometimes twenty, sometimes thirty, members of Parliament were named by him. As a canvasser he was irresistible. He never forgot a face that he had once seen. Nay, in the towns in which he wished to establish an interest, he remembered, not only the voters, but their families. His opponents were confounded by the strength of his memory and the affability of his deportment, and owned, that it was impossible to contend against a great man who called the shoemaker by his Christian name, who was sure that the butcher's daughter must be growing a fine girl, and who was anxious to know whether the blacksmith's youngest boy was breeched. By such arts as these he made himself so popular that his journeys to the Buckinghamshire Quarter Sessions resembled royal progresses. The bells of every parish through which he passed were rung, and flowers were strewed along the road. It was commonly believed that, in the course of his life, he expended on his parliamentary interest not less than eighty thousand pounds, a sum which, when compared with the value of estates, must be considered as equivalent to more than three hundred thousand pounds in our time.
But the chief service which Wharton rendered to the Whig party was that of bringing in recruits from the young aristocracy. He was quite as dexterous a canvasser among the embroidered coats at the Saint James's Coffeehouse as among the leathern aprons at Wycombe and Aylesbury. He had his eye on every boy of quality who came of age; and it was not easy for such a boy to resist the arts of a noble, eloquent and wealthy flatterer, who united juvenile vivacity to profound art and long experience of the gay world. It mattered not what the novice preferred, gallantry or field sports, the dicebox or the bottle. Wharton soon found out the master passion, offered sympathy, advice and assistance, and, while seeming to be only the minister of his disciple's pleasures, made sure of his disciple's vote.
The party to whose interests Wharton, with such spirit and constancy, devoted his time, his fortune, his talents, his very vices, judged him, as was natural, far too leniently. He was widely known by the very undeserved appellation of Honest Tom. Some pious men, Burnet, for example, and Addison, averted their eyes from the scandal which he gave, and spoke of him, not indeed with esteem, yet with goodwill. A most ingenious and accomplished Whig, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, author of the Characteristics, described Wharton as the most mysterious of human beings, as a strange compound of best and worst, of private depravity and public virtue, and owned himself unable to understand how a man utterly without principle in every thing but politics should in politics be as true as steel. But that which, in the judgment of one faction, more than half redeemed all Wharton's faults, seemed to the other faction to aggravate them all. The opinion which the Tories entertained of him is expressed in a single line written after his death by the ablest man of that party; "He was the most universal villain that ever I knew." Wharton's political adversaries thirsted for his blood, and repeatedly tried to shed it. Had he not been a man of imperturbable temper, dauntless courage and consummate skill in fence, his life would have been a short one. But neither anger nor danger ever deprived him of his presence of mind; he was an incomparable swordsman; and he had a peculiar way of disarming opponents which moved the envy of all the duellists of his time. His friends said that he had never given a challenge, that he had never refused one, that he had never taken a life, and yet that he had never fought without having his antagonist's life at his mercy.
The four men who have been described resembled each other so little that it may be thought strange that they should ever have been able to act in concert. They did, however, act in the closest concert during many years. They more than once rose and more than once fell together. But their union lasted till it was dissolved by death. Little as some of them may have deserved esteem, none of them can be accused of having been false to his brethren of the Junto.
While the great body of the Whigs was, under these able chiefs, arraying itself in order resembling that of a regular army, the Tories were in a state of an ill drilled and ill officered militia. They were numerous; and they were zealous; but they can hardly be said to have had, at this time, any chief in the House of Commons. The name of Seymour had once been great among them, and had not quite lost its influence. But, since he had been at the Board of Treasury, he had disgusted them by vehemently defending all that he had himself, when out of place, vehemently attacked. They had once looked up to the Speaker, Trevor; but his greediness, impudence and venality were now so notorious that all respectable gentlemen, of all shades of opinion, were ashamed to see him in the chair. Of the old Tory members Sir Christopher Musgrave alone had much weight. Indeed the real leaders of the party were two or three men bred in principles diametrically opposed to Toryism, men who had carried Whiggism to the verge of republicanism, and who had been considered not merely as Low Churchmen, but as more than half Presbyterians. Of these men the most eminent were two great Herefordshire squires, Robert Harley and Paul Foley.
The space which Robert Harley fills in the history of three reigns, his elevation, his fall, the influence which, at a great crisis, he exercised on the politics of all Europe, the close intimacy in which he lived with some of the greatest wits and poets of his time, and the frequent recurrence of his name in the works of Swift, Pope, Arbuthnot, and Prior, must always make him an object of interest. Yet the man himself was of all men the least interesting. There is indeed a whimsical contrast between the very ordinary qualities of his mind and the very extraordinary vicissitudes of his fortune.
He was the heir of a Puritan family. His father, Sir Edward Harley, had been conspicuous among the patriots of the Long Parliament, had commanded a regiment under Essex, had, after the Restoration, been an active opponent of the Court, had supported the Exclusion Bill, had harboured dissenting preachers, had frequented meetinghouses, and had made himself so obnoxious to the ruling powers that at the time of the Western Insurrection, he had been placed under arrest, and his house had been searched for arms. When the Dutch army was marching from Torbay towards London, he and his eldest son Robert declared for the Prince of Orange and a free Parliament, raised a large body of horse, took possession of Worcester, and evinced their zeal against Popery by publicly breaking to pieces, in the High Street of that city, a piece of sculpture which to rigid precisians seemed idolatrous. Soon after the Convention became a Parliament, Robert Harley was sent up to Westminster as member for a Cornish borough. His conduct was such as might have been expected from his birth and education. He was a Whig, and indeed an intolerant and vindictive Whig. Nothing would satisfy him but a general proscription of the Tories. His name appears in the list of those members who voted for the Sacheverell clause; and, at the general election which took place in the spring of 1690, the party which he had persecuted made great exertions to keep him out of the House of Commons. A cry was raised that the Harleys were mortal enemies of the Church; and this cry produced so much effect that it was with difficulty that any of them could obtain a seat. Such was the commencement of the public life of a man whose name, a quarter of a century later, was inseparably coupled with the High Church in the acclamations of Jacobite mobs.
Soon, however, it began to be observed that in every division Harley was in the company of those gentlemen who held his political opinions in abhorrence; nor was this strange; for he affected the character of a Whig of the old pattern; and before the Revolution it had always been supposed that a Whig was a person who watched with jealousy every exertion of the prerogative, who was slow to loose the strings of the public purse, and who was extreme to mark the faults of the ministers of the Crown. Such a Whig Harley still professed to be. He did not admit that the recent change of dynasty had made any change in the duties of a representative of the people. The new government ought to be observed as suspiciously, checked as severely, and supplied as sparingly as the old one. Acting on these principles he necessarily found himself acting with men whose principles were diametrically opposed to his. He liked to thwart the King; they liked to thwart the usurper; the consequence was that, whenever there was an opportunity of thwarting William, the Roundhead stayed in the House or went into the lobby in company with the whole crowd of Cavaliers.
Soon Harley acquired the authority of a leader among those with whom, notwithstanding wide differences of opinion, he ordinarily voted. His influence in Parliament was indeed altogether out of proportion to his abilities. His intellect was both small and slow. He was unable to take a large view of any subject. He never acquired the art of expressing himself in public with fluency and perspicuity. To the end of his life he remained a tedious, hesitating and confused speaker.
He had none of the external graces of an orator. His countenance was heavy, his figure mean and somewhat deformed, and his gestures uncouth. Yet he was heard with respect. For, such as his mind was, it had been assiduously cultivated. His youth had been studious; and to the last he continued to love books and the society of men of genius and learning. Indeed he aspired to the character of a wit and a poet, and occasionally employed hours which should have been very differently spent in composing verses more execrable than the bellman's. His time however was not always so absurdly wasted. He had that sort of industry and that sort of exactness which would have made him a respectable antiquary or King at Arms. His taste led him to plod among old records; and in that age it was only by plodding among old records that any man could obtain an accurate and extensive knowledge of the law of Parliament. Having few rivals in this laborious and unattractive pursuit, he soon began to be regarded as an oracle on questions of form and privilege. His moral character added not a little to his influence. He had indeed great vices; but they were not of a scandalous kind. He was not to be corrupted by money. His private life was regular. No illicit amour was imputed to him even by satirists. Gambling he held in aversion; and it was said that he never passed White's, then the favourite haunt of noble sharpers and dupes, without an exclamation of anger. His practice of flustering himself daily with claret was hardly considered as a fault by his contemporaries. His knowledge, his gravity and his independent position gained for him the ear of the House; and even his bad speaking was, in some sense, an advantage to him. For people are very loth to admit that the same man can unite very different kinds of excellence. It is soothing to envy to believe that what is splendid cannot be solid, that what is clear cannot be profound. Very slowly was the public brought to acknowledge that Mansfield was a great jurist, and that Burke was a great master of political science. Montague was a brilliant rhetorician, and, therefore, though he had ten times Harley's capacity for the driest parts of business, was represented by detractors as a superficial, prating pretender. But from the absence of show in Harley's discourses many people inferred that there must be much substance; and he was pronounced to be a deep read, deep thinking gentleman, not a fine talker, but fitter to direct affairs of state than all the fine talkers in the world. This character he long supported with that cunning which is frequently found in company with ambitious and unquiet mediocrity. He constantly had, even with his best friends, an air of mystery and reserve which seemed to indicate that he knew some momentous secret, and that his mind was labouring with some vast design. In this way he got and long kept a high reputation for wisdom. It was not till that reputation had made him an Earl, a Knight of the Garter, Lord High Treasurer of England, and master of the fate of Europe, that his admirers began to find out that he was really a dull puzzleheaded man.
Soon after the general election of 1690, Harley, generally voting with the Tories, began to turn Tory. The change was so gradual as to be almost imperceptible; but was not the less real. He early began to hold the Tory doctrine that England ought to confine herself to a maritime war. He early felt the true Tory antipathy to Dutchmen and to moneyed men. The antipathy to Dissenters, which was necessary to the completeness of the character, came much later. At length the transformation was complete; and the old haunter of conventicles became an intolerant High Churchman. Yet to the last the traces of his early breeding would now and then show themselves; and, while he acted after the fashion of Laud, he sometimes wrote in the style of Praise God Barebones.
Of Paul Foley we know comparatively little. His history, up to a certain point, greatly resembles that of Harley: but he appears to have been superior to Harley both in parts and in elevation of character. He was the son of Thomas Foley, a new man, but a. man of great merit, who, having begun life with nothing, had created a noble estate by ironworks, and who was renowned for his spotless integrity and his munificent charity. The Foleys were, like their neighbours the Harleys, Whigs and Puritans. Thomas Foley lived on terms of close intimacy with Baxter, in whose writings he is mentioned with warm eulogy. The opinions and the attachments of Paul Foley were at first those of his family. But be, like Harley, became, merely from the vehemence of his Whiggism, an ally of the Tories, and might, perhaps, like Harley, have been completely metamorphosed into a Tory, if the process of transmutation had not been interrupted by death. Foley's abilities were highly respectable, and had been improved by education. He was so wealthy that it was unnecessary for him to follow the law as a profession; but he had studied it carefully as a science. His morals were without stain; and the greatest fault which could be imputed to him was that he paraded his independence and disinterestedness too ostentatiously, and was so much afraid of being thought to fawn that he was always growling.
Another convert ought to be mentioned. Howe, lately the most virulent of the Whigs, had been, by the loss of his place, turned into one of the most virulent of the Tories. The deserter brought to the party which he had joined no weight of character, no capacity or semblance of capacity for great affairs, but much parliamentary ability of a low kind, much spite and much impudence. No speaker of that time seems to have had, in such large measure, both the power and the inclination to give pain.
The assistance of these men was most welcome to the Tory party; but it was impossible that they could, as yet, exercise over that party the entire authority of leaders. For they still called themselves Whigs, and generally vindicated their Tory votes by arguments grounded on Whig principles.
From this view of the state of parties in the House of Commons, it seems clear that Sunderland had good reason for recommending that the administration should be entrusted to the Whigs. The King, however, hesitated long before he could bring himself to quit that neutral position which he had long occupied between the contending parties. If one of those parties was disposed to question his title, the other was on principle hostile to his prerogative. He still remembered with bitterness the unreasonable and vindictive conduct of the Convention Parliament at the close of 1689 and the beginning of 1690; and he shrank from the thought of being entirely in the hands of the men who had obstructed the Bill of Indemnity, who had voted for the Sacheverell clause, who had tried to prevent him from taking the command of his army in Ireland, and who had called him an ungrateful tyrant merely because he would not be their slave and their hangman. He had once, by a bold and unexpected effort, freed himself from their yoke; and he was not inclined to put it on his neck again. He personally disliked Wharton and Russell. He thought highly of the capacity of Caermarthen, of the integrity of Nottingham, of the diligence and financial skill of Godolphin. It was only by slow degrees that the arguments of Sunderland, backed by the force of circumstances, overcame all objections.
On the seventh of November 1693 the Parliament met; and the conflict of parties instantly began. William from the throne pressed on the Houses the necessity of making a great exertion to arrest the progress of France on the Continent. During the last campaign, he said, she had, on every point, had a superiority of force; and it had therefore been found impossible to cope with her. His allies had promised to increase their armies; and he trusted that the Commons would enable him to do the same.
The Commons at their next sitting took the King's speech into consideration. The miscarriage of the Smyrna fleet was the chief subject of discussion. The cry for inquiry was universal: but it was evident that the two parties raised that cry for very different reasons. Montague spoke the sense of the Whigs. He declared that the disasters of the summer could not, in his opinion, be explained by the ignorance and imbecility of those who had charge of the naval administration. There must have been treason. It was impossible to believe that Lewis, when he sent his Brest squadron to the Straits of Gibraltar, and left the whole coast of his kingdom from Dunkirk to Bayonne unprotected, had trusted merely to chance. He must have been well assured that his fleet would meet with a vast booty under a feeble convoy. As there had been treachery in some quarters, there had been incapacity in others. The State was ill served. And then the orator pronounced a warm panegyric on his friend Somers. "Would that all men in power would follow the example of my Lord Keeper! If all patronage were bestowed as judiciously and disinterestedly as his, we should not see the public offices filled with men who draw salaries and perform no duties." It was moved and carried unanimously, that the Commons would support their Majesties, and would forthwith proceed to investigate the cause of the disaster in the Bay of Lagos. The Lords of the Admiralty were directed to produce a great mass of documentary evidence. The King sent down copies of the examinations taken before the Committee of Council which Mary had appointed to inquire into the grievances of the Turkey merchants. The Turkey merchants themselves were called in and interrogated. Rooke, though too ill to stand or speak, was brought in a chair to the bar, and there delivered in a narrative of his proceedings. The Whigs soon thought that sufficient ground had been laid for a vote condemning the naval administration, and moved a resolution attributing the miscarriage of the Smyrna fleet to notorious and treacherous mismanagement. That there had been mismanagement could not be disputed; but that there had been foul play had certainly not been proved. The Tories proposed that the word "treacherous" should be omitted. A division took place; and the Whigs carried their point by a hundred and forty votes to a hundred and three. Wharton was a teller for the majority.
It was now decided that there had been treason, but not who was the traitor. Several keen debates followed. The Whigs tried to throw the blame on Killegrew and Delaval, who were Tories; the Tories did their best to make out that the fault lay with the Victualling Department, which was under the direction of Whigs. But the House of Commons has always been much more ready to pass votes of censure drawn in general terms than to brand individuals by name. A resolution clearing the Victualling Office was proposed by Montague, and carried, after a debate of two days, by a hundred and eighty-eight votes to a hundred and fifty-two. But when the victorious party brought forward a motion inculpating the admirals, the Tories came up in great numbers from the country, and, after a debate which lasted from nine in the morning till near eleven at night, succeeded in saving their friends. The Noes were a hundred and seventy, and the Ayes only a hundred and sixty-one. Another attack was made a few days later with no better success. The Noes were a hundred and eighty-five, the Ayes only a hundred and seventy-five. The indefatigable and implacable Wharton was on both occasions tellers for the minority.
In spite of this check the advantage was decidedly with the Whigs; The Tories who were at the head of the naval administration had indeed escaped impeachment; but the escape had been so narrow that it was impossible for the King to employ them any longer. The advice of Sunderland prevailed. A new Commission of Admiralty was prepared; and Russell was named First Lord. He had already been appointed to the command of the Channel fleet.
His elevation made it necessary that Nottingham should retire. For, though it was not then unusual to see men who were personally and politically hostile to each other holding high offices at the same time, the relation between the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State, who had charge of what would now be called the War Department, was of so peculiar a nature that the public service could not be well conducted without cordial cooperation between them; and between Nottingham and Russell such cooperation was not to be expected. "I thank you," William said to Nottingham, "for your services. I have nothing to complain of in your conduct. It is only from necessity that I part with you." Nottingham retired with dignity. Though a very honest man, he went out of office much richer than lie had come in five years before. What were then considered as the legitimate emoluments of his place were great; he had sold Kensington House to the Crown for a large sum; and he had probably, after the fashion of that time, obtained for himself some lucrative grants. He laid out all his gains in purchasing land. He heard, he said, that his enemies meant to accuse him of having acquired wealth by illicit means. He was perfectly ready to abide the issue of an inquiry. He would not, as some ministers had done, place his fortune beyond the reach of the justice of his country. He would have no secret hoard. He would invest nothing in foreign funds. His property should all be such as could be readily discovered and seized.
During some weeks the seals which Nottingham had delivered up remained in the royal closet. To dispose of them proved no easy matter. They were offered to Shrewsbury, who of all the Whig leaders stood highest in the King's favour; but Shrewsbury excused himself, and, in order to avoid further importunity, retired into the country. There he soon received a pressing letter from Elizabeth Villiers. This lady had, when a girl, inspired William with a passion which had caused much scandal and much unhappiness in the little Court of the Hague. Her influence over him she owed not to her personal charms,--for it tasked all the art of Kneller to make her look tolerably on canvass,--not to those talents which peculiarly belong to her sex,--for she did not excel in playful talk, and her letters are remarkably deficient in feminine ease and grace--, but to powers of mind which qualified her to partake the cares and guide the counsels of statesmen. To the end of her life great politicians sought her advice. Even Swift, the shrewdest and most cynical of her contemporaries, pronounced her the wisest of women, and more than once sate, fascinated by her conversation, from two in the afternoon till near midnight. By degrees the virtues and charms of Mary conquered the first place in her husband's affection. But he still, in difficult conjunctures, frequently applied to Elizabeth Villiers for advice and assistance. She now implored Shrewsbury to reconsider his determination, and not to throw away the opportunity of uniting the Whig party for ever. Wharton and Russell wrote to the same effect. In reply came flimsy and unmeaning excuses: "I am not qualified for a court life; I am unequal to a place which requires much exertion; I do not quite agree with any party in the State; in short, I am unfit for the world; I want to travel; I want to see Spain." These were mere pretences. Had Shrewsbury spoken the whole truth, he would have said that he had, in an evil hour, been false to the cause of that Revolution in which he had borne so great a part, that he had entered into engagements of which he repented, but from which he knew not how to extricate himself, and that, while he remained under those engagements, he was unwilling to enter into the service of the existing government. Marlborough, Godolphin and Russell, indeed, had no scruple about corresponding with one King while holding office under the other. But Shrewsbury had, what was wanting to Marlborough, Godolphin and Russell, a conscience, a conscience which indeed too often failed to restrain him from doing wrong, but which never failed to punish him.
In consequence of his refusal to accept the Seals, the ministerial arrangements which the King had planned were not carried into entire effect till the end of the session. Meanwhile the proceedings of the two Houses had been highly interesting and important.
Soon after the Parliament met, the attention of the Commons was again called to the state of the trade with India; and the charter which had just been granted to the Old Company was laid before them. They would probably have been disposed to sanction the new arrangement, which, in truth, differed little from that which they had themselves suggested not many months before, if the Directors had acted with prudence. But the Directors, from the day on which they had obtained their charter, had persecuted the interlopers without mercy, and had quite forgotten that it was one thing to persecute interlopers in the Eastern Seas, and another to persecute them in the port of London. Hitherto the war of the monopolists against the private trade had been generally carried on at the distance of fifteen thousand miles from England. If harsh things were done, the English did not see them done, and did not hear of them till long after they had been done; nor was it by any means easy to ascertain at Westminster who had been right and who had been wrong in a dispute which had arisen three or four years before at Moorshedabad or Canton. With incredible rashness the Directors determined, at the very moment when the fate of their company was in the balance, to give the people of this country a near view of the most odious features of the monopoly. Some wealthy merchants of London had equipped a fine ship named the Redbridge. Her crew was numerous, her cargo of immense value. Her papers had been made out for Alicant: but there was some reason to suspect that she was really bound for the countries lying beyond the Cape of Good Hope. She was stopped by the Admiralty, in obedience to an order which the Company obtained from the Privy Council, doubtless by the help of the Lord President. Every day that she lay in the Thames caused a heavy expense to the owners. The indignation in the City was great and general. The Company maintained that from the legality of the monopoly the legality of the detention necessarily followed. The public turned the argument round, and, being firmly convinced that the detention was illegal, drew the inference that the monopoly must be illegal too. The dispute was at the height when the Parliament met. Petitions on both sides were speedily laid on the table of the Commons; and it was resolved that these petitions should be taken into consideration by a Committee of the whole House. The first question on which the conflicting parties tried their strength was the choice of a chairman. The enemies of the Old Company proposed Papillon, once the closest ally and subsequently the keenest opponent of Child, and carried their point by a hundred and thirty-eight votes to a hundred and six. The Committee proceeded to inquire by what authority the Redbridge had been stopped. One of her owners, Gilbert Heathcote, a rich merchant and a stanch Whig, appeared at the bar as a witness. He was asked whether he would venture to deny that the ship had really been fitted out for the Indian trade. "It is no sin that I know of," he answered, "to trade with India; and I shall trade with India till I am restrained by Act of Parliament." Papillon reported that in the opinion of the Committee, the detention of the Redbridge was illegal. The question was then put, that the House would agree with the Committee. The friends of the Old Company ventured on a second division, and were defeated by a hundred and seventy-one votes to a hundred and twenty-five.
The blow was quickly followed up. A few days later it was moved that all subjects of England had equal right to trade to the East Indies unless prohibited by Act of Parliament; and the supporters of the Old Company, sensible that they were in a minority, suffered the motion to pass without a division.
This memorable vote settled the most important of the constitutional questions which had been left unsettled by the Bill of Rights. It has ever since been held to be the sound doctrine that no power but that of the whole legislature can give to any person or to any society an exclusive privilege of trading to any part of the world.
The opinion of the great majority of the House of Commons was that the Indian trade could be advantageously carried on only by means of a joint stock and a monopoly. It might therefore have been expected that the resolution which destroyed the monopoly of the Old Company would have been immediately followed by a law granting a monopoly to the New Company. No such law, however, was passed. The Old Company, though not strong enough to defend its own privileges, was able, with the help of its Tory friends, to prevent the rival association from obtaining similar privileges. The consequence was that, during some years, there was nominally a free trade with India. In fact, the trade still lay under severe restrictions. The private adventurer found indeed no difficulty in sailing from England; but his situation was as perilous as ever when he had turned the Cape of Good Hope. Whatever respect might be paid to a vote of the House of Commons by public functionaries in London, such a vote was, at Bombay or Calcutta, much less regarded than a private letter from Child; and Child still continued to fight the battle with unbroken spirit. He sent out to the factories of the Company orders that no indulgence should be shown to the intruders. For the House of Commons and for its resolutions he expressed the bitterest contempt. "Be guided by my instructions," he wrote," and not by the nonsense of a few ignorant country gentlemen who have hardly wit enough to manage their own private affairs, and who know nothing at all about questions of trade." It appears that his directions were obeyed.
Every where in the East, during this period of anarchy, the servant of the Company and the independent merchant waged war on each other, accused each other of piracy, and tried by every artifice to exasperate the Mogul government against each other.
The three great constitutional questions of the preceding year were, in this year, again brought under the consideration of Parliament. In the first week of the session, a Bill for the Regulation of Trials in cases of High Treason, a Triennial Bill, and a Place Bill were laid on the table of the House of Commons.
None of these bills became a law. The first passed the Commons, but was unfavourably received by the Peers. William took so much interest in the question that he came down to the House of Lords, not in his crown and robes, but in the ordinary dress of a gentleman, and sate through the whole debate on the second reading. Caermarthen spoke of the dangers to which the State was at that time exposed, and entreated his brethren not to give, at such a moment, impunity to traitors. He was powerfully supported by two eminent orators, who had, during some years, been on the uncourtly side of every question, but who, in this session, showed a disposition to strengthen the hands of the government, Halifax and Mulgrave. Marlborough, Rochester and Nottingham spoke for the bill; but the general feeling was so clearly against them that they did not venture to divide. It is probable, however, that the reasons urged by Caermarthen were not the reasons which chiefly swayed his hearers. The Peers were fully determined that the bill should not pass without a clause altering the constitution of the Court of the Lord High Steward: they knew that the Lower House was as fully determined not to pass such a clause; and they thought it better that what must happen at last should happen speedily, and without a quarrel.
The fate of the Triennial Bill confounded all the calculations of the best informed politicians of that time, and may therefore well seem extraordinary to us. During the recess, that bill had been described in numerous pamphlets, written for the most part by persons zealous for the Revolution and for popular principles of government, as the one thing needful, as the universal cure for the distempers of the State. On the first, second and third readings in the House of Commons no division took place. The Whigs were enthusiastic. The Tories seemed to be acquiescent. It was understood that the King, though he had used his Veto for the purpose of giving the Houses an opportunity of reconsidering the subject, had no intention of offering a pertinacious opposition to their wishes. But Seymour, with a cunning which long experience had matured, after deferring the conflict to the last moment, snatched the victory from his adversaries, when they were most secure. When the Speaker held up the bill in his hands, and put the question whether it should pass, the Noes were a hundred and forty-six, the Ayes only a hundred and thirty-six. Some eager Whigs flattered themselves that their defeat was the effect of a surprise, and might be retrieved. Within three days, therefore, Monmouth, the most ardent and restless man in the whole party, brought into the Upper House a bill substantially the same with that which had so strangely miscarried in the Lower. The Peers passed this bill very expeditiously, and sent it down to the Commons. But in the Commons it found no favour. Many members, who professed to wish that the duration of parliaments should be limited, resented the interference of the hereditary branch of the legislature in a matter which peculiarly concerned the elective branch. The subject, they said, is one which especially belongs to us; we have considered it; we have come to a decision; and it is scarcely parliamentary, it is certainly most indelicate, in their Lordships, to call upon us to reverse that decision. The question now is, not whether the duration of parliaments ought to be limited, but whether we ought to submit our judgment to the authority of the Peers, and to rescind, at their bidding, what we did only a fortnight ago. The animosity with which the patrician order was regarded was inflamed by the arts and the eloquence of Seymour. The bill contained a definition of the words, "to hold a Parliament." This definition was scrutinised with extreme jealousy, and was thought by many, with very little reason, to have been framed for the purpose of extending the privileges, already invidiously great, of the nobility. It appears, from the scanty and obscure fragments of the debates which have come down to us, that bitter reflections were thrown on the general conduct, both political and judicial, of the Peers. Old Titus, though zealous for triennial parliaments, owned that he was not surprised at the ill humour which many gentlemen showed. "It is true," he said, "that we ought to be dissolved; but it is rather hard, I must own, that the Lords are to prescribe the time of our dissolution. The Apostle Paul wished to be dissolved; but, I doubt, if his friends had set him a day, he would not have taken it kindly of them." The bill was rejected by a hundred and ninety-seven votes to a hundred and twenty-seven.
The Place Bill, differing very little from the Place Bill which had been brought in twelve months before, passed easily through the Commons. Most of the Tories supported it warmly; and the Whigs did not venture to oppose it. It went up to the Lords, and soon came back completely changed. As it had been originally drawn, it provided that no member of the House of Commons, elected after the first of January, 1694, should accept any place of profit under the Crown, on pain of forfeiting his seat, and of being incapable of sitting again in the same Parliament. The Lords had added the words, "unless he be afterwards again chosen to serve in the same Parliament." These words, few as they were, sufficed to deprive the bill of nine tenths of its efficacy, both for good and for evil. It was most desirable that the crowd of subordinate public functionaries should be kept out of the House of Commons. It was most undesirable that the heads of the great executive departments should be kept out of that House. The bill, as altered, left that House open both to those who ought and to those who ought not to have been admitted. It very properly let in the Secretaries of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but it let in with them Commissioners of Wine Licenses and Commissioners of the Navy, Receivers, Surveyors, Storekeepers, Clerks of the Acts and Clerks of the Cheque, Clerks of the Green Cloth and Clerks of the Great Wardrobe. So little did the Commons understand what they were about that, after framing a law, in one view most mischievous, and in another view most beneficial, they were perfectly willing that it should be transformed into a law quite harmless and almost useless. They agreed to the amendment; and nothing was now wanting but the royal sanction.
That sanction certainly ought not to have been withheld, and probably would not have been withheld, if William had known how unimportant the bill now was. But he understood the question as little as the Commons themselves. He knew that they imagined that they had devised a most stringent limitation of the royal power; and he was determined not to submit, without a struggle, to any such limitation. He was encouraged by the success with which he had hitherto resisted the attempts of the two Houses to encroach on his prerogative. He had refused to pass the bill which quartered the judges on his hereditary revenue; and the Parliament had silently acquiesced in the justice of the refusal. He had refused to pass the Triennial Bill; and the Commons had since, by rejecting two Triennial Bills, acknowledged that he had done well. He ought, however, to have considered that, on both these occasions, the announcement of his refusal was immediately followed by the announcement that the Parliament was prorogued. On both these occasions, therefore, the members had half a year to think and to grow cool before the next sitting. The case was now very different. The principal business of the session was hardly begun: estimates were still under consideration: bills of supply were still depending; and, if the Houses should take a fit of ill humour, the consequences might be serious indeed.
He resolved, however, to run the risk. Whether he had any adviser is not known. His determination seems to have taken both the leading Whigs and the leading Tories by surprise. When the Clerk had proclaimed that the King and Queen would consider of the bill touching free and impartial proceedings in Parliament, the Commons retired from the bar of the Lords in a resentful and ungovernable mood. As soon as the Speaker was again in his chair there was a long and tempestuous debate. All other business was postponed. All committees were adjourned. It was resolved that the House would, early the next morning, take into consideration the state of the nation. When the morning came, the excitement did not appear to have abated. The mace was sent into Westminster Hall and into the Court of Requests. All members who could be found were brought into the House. That none might be able to steal away unnoticed, the back door was locked, and the key laid on the table. All strangers were ordered to retire. With these solemn preparations began a sitting which reminded a few old men of some of the first sittings of the Long Parliament. High words were uttered by the enemies of the government. Its friends, afraid of being accused of abandoning the cause of the Commons of England for the sake of royal favour, hardly ventured to raise their voices. Montague alone seems to have defended the King. Lowther, though high in office and a member of the cabinet, owned that there were evil influences at work, and expressed a wish to see the Sovereign surrounded by counsellors in whom the representatives of the people could confide. Harley, Foley and Howe carried every thing before them. A resolution, affirming that those who had advised the Crown on this occasion were public enemies, was carried with only two or three Noes. Harley, after reminding his hearers that they had their negative voice as the King had his, and that, if His Majesty refused then redress, they could refuse him money, moved that they should go up to the Throne, not, as usual, with a Humble Address, but with a Representation. Some members proposed to substitute the more respectful word Address: but they were overruled; and a committee was appointed to draw up the Representation.
Another night passed; and, when the House met again, it appeared that the storm had greatly subsided. The malignant joy and the wild hopes which the Jacobites had, during the last forty-eight hours, expressed with their usual imprudence, had incensed and alarmed the Whigs and the moderate Tories. Many members too were frightened by hearing that William was fully determined not to yield without an appeal to the nation. Such an appeal might have been successful: for a dissolution, on any ground whatever, would, at that moment, have been a highly popular exercise of the prerogative. The constituent bodies, it was well known, were generally zealous for the Triennial Bill, and cared comparatively little about the Place Bill. Many Tory members, therefore, who had recently voted against the Triennial Bill, were by no means desirous to run the risks of a general election. When the Representation which Harley and his friends had prepared was read, it was thought offensively strong. After being recommitted, shortened and softened, it was presented by the whole House. William's answer was kind and gentle; but he conceded nothing. He assured the Commons that he remembered with gratitude the support which he had on many occasions received from them, that he should always consider their advice as most valuable, and that he should look on counsellors who might attempt to raise dissension between him and his Parliament as his enemies but he uttered not a word which could be construed into an acknowledgment that he had used his Veto ill, or into a promise that he would not use it again.
The Commons on the morrow took his speech into consideration. Harley and his allies complained that the King's answer was no answer at all, threatened to tack the Place Bill to a money bill, and proposed to make a second representation pressing His Majesty to explain himself more distinctly. But by this time there was a strong reflux of feeling in the assembly. The Whigs had not only recovered from their dismay, but were in high spirits and eager for conflict. Wharton, Russell and Littleton maintained that the House ought to be satisfied with what the King had said. "Do you wish," said Littleton, "to make sport for your enemies? There is no want of them. They besiege our very doors. We read, as we come through the lobby, in the face and gestures of every nonjuror whom we pass, delight at the momentary coolness which has arisen between us and the King. That should be enough for us. We may be sure that we are voting rightly when we give a vote which tends to confound the hopes of traitors." The House divided. Harley was a teller on one side, Wharton on the other. Only eighty-eight voted with Harley, two hundred and twenty-nine with Wharton. The Whigs were so much elated by their victory that some of them wished to move a vote of thanks to William for his gracious answer; but they were restrained by wiser men. "We have lost time enough already in these unhappy debates," said a leader of the party. "Let us get to Ways and Means as fast as we can. The best form which our thanks can take is that of a money bill."
Thus ended, more happily than William had a right to expect, one of the most dangerous contests in which he ever engaged with his Parliament. At the Dutch Embassy the rising and going down of this tempest had been watched with intense interest; and the opinion there seems to have been that the King had on the whole lost neither power nor popularity by his conduct.
Another question, which excited scarcely less angry feeling in Parliament and in the country, was, about the same time, under consideration. On the sixth of December, a Whig member of the House of Commons obtained leave to bring in a bill for the Naturalisation of Foreign Protestants. Plausible arguments in favour of such a bill were not wanting. Great numbers of people, eminently industrious and intelligent, firmly attached to our faith, and deadly enemies of our deadly enemies, were at that time without a country. Among the Huguenots who had fled from the tyranny of the French King were many persons of great fame in war, in letters, in arts and in sciences; and even the humblest refugees were intellectually and morally above the average of the common people of any kingdom in Europe. With French Protestants who had been driven into exile by the edicts of Lewis were now mingled German Protestants who had been driven into exile by his arms. Vienna, Berlin, Basle, Hamburg, Amsterdam, London, swarmed with honest laborious men who had once been thriving burghers of Heidelberg or Mannheim, or who had cultivated vineyards along the banks of the Neckar and the Rhine. A statesman might well think that it would be at once generous and politic to invite to the English shores and to incorporate with the English people emigrants so unfortunate and so respectable. Their ingenuity and their diligence could not fail to enrich any land which should afford them an asylum; nor could it be doubted that they would manfully defend the country of their adoption against him whose cruelty had driven them from the country of their birth.
The first two readings passed without a division. But, on the motion that the bill should be committed, there was a debate in which the right of free speech was most liberally used by the opponents of the government. It was idle, they said, to talk about the poor Huguenots or the poor Palatines. The bill was evidently meant for the benefit, not of French Protestants or German Protestants, but of Dutchmen, who would be Protestants, Papists or Pagans for a guilder a head, and who would, no doubt, be as ready to sign the Declaration against Transubstantiation in England as to trample on the Cross in Japan. They would come over in multitudes. They would swarm in every public office. They would collect the customs, and gauge the beer barrels. Our Navigation Laws would be virtually repealed. Every merchant ship that cleared out from the Thames or the Severn would be manned by Zealanders and Hollanders and Frieslanders. To our own sailors would be left the hard and perilous service of the royal navy. For Hans, after filling the pockets of his huge trunk hose with our money by assuming the character of a native, would, as soon as a pressgang appeared, lay claim to the privileges of an alien. The intruders would soon rule every corporation. They would elbow our own Aldermen off the Royal Exchange. They would buy the hereditary woods and halls of our country gentlemen. Already one of the most noisome of the plagues of Egypt was among us. Frogs had made their appearance even in the royal chambers. Nobody could go to Saint James's without being disgusted by hearing the reptiles of the Batavian marshes croaking all round him; and if this bill should pass, the whole country would be as much infested by the loathsome brood as the palace already was.
The orator who indulged himself most freely in this sort of rhetoric was Sir John Knight, member for Bristol, a coarseminded and spiteful Jacobite, who, if he had been an honest man, would have been a nonjuror. Two years before, when Mayor of Bristol, he had acquired a discreditable notoriety by treating with gross disrespect a commission sealed with the great seal of the Sovereigns to whom he had repeatedly sworn allegiance, and by setting on the rabble of his city to hoot and pelt the Judges. He now concluded a savage invective by desiring that the Serjeant at Arms would open the doors, in order that the odious roll of parchment, which was nothing less than a surrender of the birthright of the English people, might be treated with proper contumely. "Let us first," he said, "kick the bill out of the House; and then let us kick the foreigners out of the kingdom."
On a division the motion for committing the bill was carried by a hundred and sixty-three votes to a hundred and twenty-eight. But the minority was zealous and pertinacious; and the majority speedily began to waver. Knight's speech, retouched and made more offensive, soon appeared in print without a license. Tens of thousands of copies were circulated by the post, or dropped in the streets; and such was the strength of national prejudice that too many persons read this ribaldry with assent and admiration. But, when a copy was produced in the House, there was such an outbreak of indignation and disgust, as cowed even the impudent and savage nature of the orator. Finding himself in imminent danger of being expelled and sent to prison, he apologized, and disclaimed all knowledge of the paper which purported to be a report of what he had said. He escaped with impunity; but his speech was voted false, scandalous and seditious, and was burned by the hangman in Palace Yard. The bill which had caused all this ferment was prudently suffered to drop.
Meanwhile the Commons were busied with financial questions of grave importance. The estimates for the year 1694 were enormous. The King proposed to add to the regular army, already the greatest regular army that England had ever supported, four regiments of dragoons, eight of horse, and twenty-five of infantry. The whole number of men, officers included, would thus be increased to about ninety-four thousand. Cromwell, while holding down three reluctant kingdoms, and making vigorous war on Spain in Europe and America, had never had two thirds of the military force which William now thought necessary. The great body of the Tories, headed by three Whig chiefs, Harley, Foley and Howe, opposed any augmentation. The great body of the Whigs, headed by Montague and Wharton, would have granted all that was asked. After many long discussions, and probably many close divisions, in the Committee of Supply, the King obtained the greater part of what he demanded. The House allowed him four new regiments of dragoons, six of horse, and fifteen of infantry. The whole number of troops voted for the year amounted to eighty- three thousand, the charge to more than two millions and a half, including about two hundred thousand pounds for the ordnance.
The naval estimates passed much more rapidly; for Whigs and Tories agreed in thinking that the maritime ascendency of England ought to be maintained at any cost. Five hundred thousand pounds were voted for paying the arrears due to seamen, and two millions for the expenses of the year 1694.
The Commons then proceeded to consider the Ways and Means. The land tax was renewed at four shillings in the pound; and by this simple but powerful machinery about two millions were raised with certainty and despatch. A poll tax was imposed. Stamp duties had long been among the fiscal resources of Holland and France, and had existed here during part of the reign of Charles the Second, but had been suffered to expire. They were now revived; and they have ever since formed an important part of the revenue of the State. The hackney coaches of the capital were taxed, and were placed under the government of commissioners, in spite of the resistance of the wives of the coachmen, who assembled round Westminster Hall and mobbed the members. But, notwithstanding all these expedients, there was still a large deficiency; and it was again necessary to borrow. A new duty on salt and some other imposts of less importance were set apart to form a fund for a loan. On the security of this fund a million was to be raised by a lottery, but a lottery which had scarcely any thing but the name in common with the lotteries of a later period. The sum to be contributed was divided into a hundred thousand shares of ten pounds each. The interest on each share was to be twenty shillings annually, or, in other words, ten per cent., during sixteen years. But ten per cent. for sixteen years was not a bait which was likely to attract lenders. An additional lure was therefore held out to capitalists. On one fortieth of the shares much higher interest was to be paid than on the other thirty-nine fortieths. Which of the shares should be prizes was to be determined by lot. The arrangements for the drawing of the tickets were made by an adventurer of the name of Neale, who, after squandering away two fortunes, had been glad to become groom porter at the palace. His duties were to call the odds when the Court played at hazard, to provide cards and dice, and to decide any dispute which might arise on the bowling green or at the gaming table. He was eminently skilled in the business of this not very exalted post, and had made such sums by raffles that he was able to engage in very costly speculations, and was then covering the ground round the Seven Dials with buildings. He was probably the best adviser that could have been consulted about the details of a lottery. Yet there were not wanting persons who thought it hardly decent in the Treasury to call in the aid of a gambler by profession.
By the lottery loan, as it was called, one million was obtained. But another million was wanted to bring the estimated revenue for the year 1694 up to a level with the estimated expenditure. The ingenious and enterprising Montague had a plan ready, a plan to which, except under the pressure of extreme pecuniary difficulties, he might not easily have induced the Commons to assent, but which, to his large and vigorous mind, appeared to have advantages, both commercial and political, more important than the immediate relief to the finances. He succeeded, not only in supplying the wants of the State for twelve months, but in creating a great institution, which, after the lapse of more than a century and a half, continues to flourish, and which he lived to see the stronghold, through all vicissitudes, of the Whig party, and the bulwark, in dangerous times, of the Protestant succession.
In the reign of William old men were still living who could remember the days when there was not a single banking house in the city of London. So late as the time of the Restoration every trader had his own strong box in his own house, and, when an acceptance was presented to him, told down the crowns and Caroluses on his own counter. But the increase of wealth had produced its natural effect, the subdivision of labour. Before the end of the reign of Charles the Second, a new mode of paying and receiving money had come into fashion among the merchants of the capital. A class of agents arose, whose office was to keep the cash of the commercial houses. This new branch of business naturally fell into the hands of the goldsmiths, who were accustomed to traffic largely in the precious metals, and who had vaults in which great masses of bullion could lie secure from fire and from robbers. It was at the shops of the goldsmiths of Lombard Street that all the payments in coin were made. Other traders gave and received nothing but paper.
This great change did not take place without much opposition and clamour. Oldfashioned merchants complained bitterly that a class of men who, thirty years before, had confined themselves to their proper functions, and had made a fair profit by embossing silver bowls and chargers, by setting jewels for fine ladies, and by selling pistoles and dollars to gentlemen setting out for the Continent, had become the treasurers, and were fast becoming the masters, of the whole City. These usurers, it was said, played at hazard with what had been earned by the industry and hoarded by the thrift of other men. If the dice turned up well, the knave who kept the cash became an alderman; if they turned up ill, the dupe who furnished the cash became a bankrupt. On the other side the conveniences of the modern practice were set forth in animated language. The new system, it was said, saved both labour and money. Two clerks, seated in one counting house, did what, under the old system, must have been done by twenty clerks in twenty different establishments. A goldsmith's note might be transferred ten times in a morning; and thus a hundred guineas, locked in his safe close to the Exchange, did what would formerly have required a thousand guineas, dispersed through many tills, some on Ludgate Hill, some in Austin Friars, and some in Tower Street.
Gradually even those who had been loudest in murmuring against the innovation gave way and conformed to the prevailing usage. The last person who held out, strange to say, was Sir Dudley North. When, in 1680, after residing many years abroad, he returned to London, nothing astonished or displeased him more than the practice of making payments by drawing bills on bankers. He found that he could not go on Change without being followed round the piazza by goldsmiths, who, with low bows, begged to have the honour of serving him. He lost his temper when his friends asked where he kept his cash. "Where should I keep it," he asked, "but in my own house?" With difficulty he was induced to put his money into the hands of one of the Lombard Street men, as they were called. Unhappily, the Lombard Street man broke, and some of his customers suffered severely. Dudley North lost only fifty pounds; but this loss confirmed him in his dislike of the whole mystery of banking. It was in vain, however, that he exhorted his fellow citizens to return to the good old practice, and not to expose themselves to utter ruin in order to spare themselves a little trouble. He stood alone against the whole community. The advantages of the modern system were felt every hour of every day in every part of London; and people were no more disposed to relinquish those advantages for fear of calamities which occurred at long intervals than to refrain from building houses for fear of fires, or from building ships for fear of hurricanes. It is a curious circumstance that a man who, as a theorist, was distinguished from all the merchants of his time by the largeness of his views and by his superiority to vulgar prejudices, should, in practice, have been distinguished from all the merchants of his time by the obstinacy with which he adhered to an ancient mode of doing business, long after the dullest and most ignorant plodders had abandoned that mode for one better suited to a great commercial society.
No sooner had banking become a separate and important trade, than men began to discuss with earnestness the question whether it would be expedient to erect a national bank. The general opinion seems to have been decidedly in favour of a national bank; nor can we wonder at this; for few were then aware that trade is in general carried on to much more advantage by individuals than by great societies; and banking really is one of those few trades which can be carried on to as much advantage by a great society as by an individual. Two public banks had long been renowned throughout Europe, the Bank of Saint George at Genoa, and the Bank of Amsterdam. The immense wealth which was in the keeping of those establishments, the confidence which they inspired, the prosperity which they had created, their stability, tried by panics, by wars, by revolutions, and found proof against all, were favourite topics. The bank of Saint George had nearly completed its third century. It had begun to receive deposits and to make loans before Columbus had crossed the Atlantic, before Gama had turned the Cape, when a Christian Emperor was reigning at Constantinople, when a Mahomedan Sultan was reigning at Granada, when Florence was a Republic, when Holland obeyed a hereditary Prince. All these things had been changed. New continents and new oceans had been discovered. The Turk was at Constantinople; the Castilian was at Granada; Florence had its hereditary Prince; Holland was a Republic; but the Bank of Saint George was still receiving deposits and making loans. The Bank of Amsterdam was little more than eighty years old; but its solvency had stood severe tests. Even in the terrible crisis of 1672, when the whole Delta of the Rhine was overrun by the French armies, when the white flags were seen from the top of the Stadthouse, there was one place where, amidst the general consternation and confusion, tranquillity and order were still to be found; and that place was the Bank. Why should not the Bank of London be as great and as durable as the Banks of Genoa and of Amsterdam? Before the end of the reign of Charles the Second several plans were proposed, examined, attacked and defended. Some pamphleteers maintained that a national bank ought to be under the direction of the King. Others thought that the management ought to be entrusted to the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council of the capital. After the Revolution the subject was discussed with an animation before unknown. For, under the influence of liberty, the breed of political projectors multiplied exceedingly. A crowd of plans, some of which resemble the fancies of a child or the dreams of a man in a fever, were pressed on the government. Preeminently conspicuous among the political mountebanks, whose busy faces were seen every day in the lobby of the House of Commons, were John Briscoe and Hugh Chamberlayne, two projectors worthy to have been members of that Academy which Gulliver found at Lagado. These men affirmed that the one cure for every distemper of the State was a Land Bank. A Land Bank would work for England miracles such as had never been wrought for Israel, miracles exceeding the heaps of quails and the daily shower of manna. There would be no taxes; and yet the Exchequer would be full to overflowing. There would be no poor rates; for there would be no poor. The income of every landowner would be doubled. The profits of every merchant would be increased. In short, the island would, to use Briscoe's words, be the paradise of the world. The only losers would be the moneyed men, those worst enemies of the nation, who had done more injury to the gentry and yeomanry than an invading army from France would have had the heart to do.
These blessed effects the Land Bank was to produce simply by issuing enormous quantities of notes on landed security. The doctrine of the projectors was that every person who had real property ought to have, besides that property, paper money to the full value of that property. Thus, if his estate was worth two thousand pounds, he ought to have his estate and two thousand pounds in paper money. Briscoe and Chamberlayne treated with the greatest contempt the notion that there could be an overissue of paper as long as there was, for every ten pound note, a piece of land in the country worth ten pounds. Nobody, they said, would accuse a goldsmith of overissuing as long as his vaults contained guineas and crowns to the full value of all the notes which bore his signature. Indeed no goldsmith had in his vaults guineas and crowns to the full value of all his paper. And was not a square mile of rich land in Taunton Dean at least as well entitled to be called wealth as a bag of gold or silver? The projectors could not deny that many people had a prejudice in favour of the precious metals, and that therefore, if the Land Bank were bound to cash its notes, it would very soon stop payment. This difficulty they got over by proposing that the notes should be inconvertible, and that every body should be forced to take them.
The speculations of Chamberlayne on the subject of the currency may possibly find admirers even in our own time. But to his other errors he added an error which began and ended with him. He was fool enough to take it for granted, in all his reasonings, that the value of an estate varied directly as the duration. He maintained that if the annual income derived from a manor were a thousand pounds, a grant of that manor for twenty years must be worth twenty thousand pounds, and a grant for a hundred years worth a hundred thousand pounds. If, therefore, the lord of such a manor would pledge it for a hundred years to the Land Bank, the Land Bank might, on that security, instantly issue notes for a hundred thousand pounds. On this subject Chamberlayne was proof to ridicule, to argument, even to arithmetical demonstration. He was reminded that the fee simple of land would not sell for more than twenty years' purchase. To say, therefore, that a term of a hundred years was worth five times as much as a term of twenty years, was to say that a term of a hundred years was worth five times the fee simple; in other words, that a hundred was five times infinity. Those who reasoned thus were refuted by being told that they were usurers; and it should seem that a large number of country gentlemen thought the refutation complete.
In December 1693 Chamberlayne laid his plan, in all its naked absurdity, before the Commons, and petitioned to be heard. He confidently undertook to raise eight thousand pounds on every freehold estate of a hundred and fifty pounds a year which should be brought, as he expressed it, into his Land Bank, and this without dispossessing the freeholder. All the squires in the House must have known that the fee simple of such an estate would hardly fetch three thousand pounds in the market. That less than the fee simple of such an estate could, by any device, be made to produce eight thousand pounds, would, it might have been thought, have seemed incredible to the most illiterate foxhunter that could be found on the benches. Distress, however, and animosity had made the landed gentlemen credulous. They insisted on referring Chamberlayne's plan to a committee; and the committee reported that the plan was practicable, and would tend to the benefit of the nation. But by this time the united force of demonstration and derision had begun to produce an effect even on the most ignorant rustics in the House. The report lay unnoticed on the table; and the country was saved from a calamity compared with which the defeat of Landen and the loss of the Smyrna fleet would have been blessings.
All the projectors of this busy time, however, were not so absurd as Chamberlayne. One among them, William Paterson, was an ingenious, though not always a judicious, speculator. Of his early life little is known except that he was a native of Scotland, and that he had been in the West Indies. In what character he had visited the West Indies was a matter about which his contemporaries differed. His friends said that he had been a missionary; his enemies that he had been a buccaneer. He seems to have been gifted by nature with fertile invention, an ardent temperament and great powers of persuasion, and to have acquired somewhere in the course of his vagrant life a perfect knowledge of accounts.
This man submitted to the government, in 1691, a plan of a national bank; and his plan was favourably received both by statesmen and by merchants. But years passed away; and nothing was done, till, in the spring of 1694, it became absolutely necessary to find some new mode of defraying the charges of the war. Then at length the scheme devised by the poor and obscure Scottish adventurer was taken up in earnest by Montague. With Montague was closely allied Michael Godfrey, the brother of that Sir Edmondsbury Godfrey whose sad and mysterious death had, fifteen years before, produced a terrible outbreak of popular feeling. Michael was one of the ablest, most upright and most opulent of the merchant princes of London. He was, as might have been expected from his near connection with the martyr of the Protestant faith, a zealous Whig. Some of his writings are still extant, and prove him to have had a strong and clear mind.
By these two distinguished men Paterson's scheme was fathered. Montague undertook to manage the House of Commons, Godfrey to manage the City. An approving vote was obtained from the Committee of Ways and Means; and a bill, the title of which gave occasion to many sarcasms, was laid on the table. It was indeed not easy to guess that a bill, which purported only to impose a new duty on tonnage for the benefit of such persons as should advance money towards carrying on the war, was really a bill creating the greatest commercial institution that the world had ever seen.
The plan was that twelve hundred thousand pounds should be borrowed by the government on what was then considered as the moderate interest of eight per cent. In order to induce capitalists to advance the money promptly on terms so favourable to the public, the subscribers were to be incorporated by the name of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England. The corporation was to have no exclusive privilege, and was to be restricted from trading in any thing but bills of exchange, bullion and forfeited pledges.
As soon as the plan became generally known, a paper war broke out as furious as that between the swearers and the nonswearers, or as that between the Old East India Company and the New East India Company. The projectors who had failed to gain the ear of the government fell like madmen on their more fortunate brother. All the goldsmiths and pawnbrokers set up a howl of rage. Some discontented Tories predicted ruin to the monarchy. It was remarkable, they said, that Banks and Kings had never existed together. Banks were republican institutions. There were flourishing banks at Venice, at Genoa, at Amsterdam and at Hamburg. But who had ever heard of a Bank of France or a Bank of Spain? Some discontented Whigs, on the other hand, predicted ruin to our liberties. Here, they said, is an instrument of tyranny more formidable than the High Commission, than the Star Chamber, than even the fifty thousand soldiers of Oliver. The whole wealth of the nation will be in the hands of the Tonnage Bank,--such was the nickname then in use;--and the Tonnage Bank will be in the hands of the Sovereign. The power of the purse, the one great security for all the rights of Englishmen, will be transferred from the House of Commons to the Governor and Directors of the new Company. This last consideration was really of some weight, and was allowed to be so by the authors of the bill. A clause was therefore most properly inserted which inhibited the Bank from advancing money to the Crown without authority from Parliament. Every infraction of this salutary rule was to be punished by forfeiture of three times the sum advanced; and it was provided that the King should not have power to remit any part of the penalty.
The plan, thus amended, received the sanction of the Commons more easily than might have been expected from the violence of the adverse clamour. In truth, the Parliament was under duress. Money must be had, and could in no other way be had so easily. What took place when the House had resolved itself into a committee cannot be discovered; but, while the Speaker was in the chair, no division took place. The bill, however, was not safe when it had reached the Upper House. Some Lords suspected that the plan of a national bank had been devised for the purpose of exalting the moneyed interest at the expense of the landed interest. Others thought that this plan, whether good or bad, ought not to have been submitted to them in such a form. Whether it would be safe to call into existence a body which might one day rule the whole commercial world, and how such a body should be constituted, were questions which ought not to be decided by one branch of the Legislature. The Peers ought to be at perfect liberty to examine all the details of the proposed scheme, to suggest amendments, to ask for conferences. It was therefore most unfair that the law establishing the Bank should be sent up as part of a law granting supplies to the Crown. The Jacobites entertained some hope that the session would end with a quarrel between the Houses, that the Tonnage Bill would be lost, and that William would enter on the campaign without money. It was already May, according to the New Style. The London season was over; and many noble families had left Covent Garden and Soho Square for their woods and hayfields. But summonses were sent out. There was a violent rush back to town. The benches which had lately been deserted were crowded. The sittings began at an hour unusually early, and were prolonged to an hour unusually late. On the day on which the bill was committed the contest lasted without intermission from nine in the morning till six in the evening. Godolphin was in the chair. Nottingham and Rochester proposed to strike out all the clauses which related to the Bank. Something was said about the danger of setting up a gigantic corporation which might soon give law to the King and the three Estates of the Realm. But the Peers seemed to be most moved by the appeal which was made to them as landlords. The whole scheme, it was asserted, was intended to enrich usurers at the expense of the nobility and gentry. Persons who had laid by money would rather put it into the Bank than lend it on mortgage at moderate interest. Caermarthen said little or nothing in defence of what was, in truth, the work of his rivals and enemies. He owned that there were grave objections to the mode in which the Commons had provided for the public service of the year. But would their Lordships amend a money bill? Would they engage in a contest of which the end must be that they must either yield, or incur the grave responsibility of leaving the Channel without a fleet during the summer? This argument prevailed; and, on a division, the amendment was rejected by forty-three votes to thirty-one. A few hours later the bill received the royal assent, and the Parliament was prorogued. In the City the success of Montague's plan was complete. It was then at least as difficult to raise a million at eight per cent. as it would now be to raise thirty millions at four per cent. It had been supposed that contributions would drop in very slowly; and a considerable time had therefore been allowed by the Act. This indulgence was not needed. So popular was the new investment that on the day on which the books were opened three hundred thousand pounds were subscribed; three hundred thousand more were subscribed during the next forty-eight hours; and, in ten days, to the delight of all the friends of the government, it was announced that the list was full. The whole sum which the Corporation was bound to lend to the State was paid into the Exchequer before the first instalment was due. Somers gladly put the Great Seal to a charter framed in conformity with the terms prescribed by Parliament; and the Bank of England commenced its operations in the house of the Company of Grocers. There, during many years, directors, secretaries and clerks might be seen labouring in different parts of one spacious hall. The persons employed by the bank were originally only fifty-four. They are now nine hundred. The sum paid yearly in salaries amounted at first to only four thousand three hundred and fifty pounds. It now exceeds two hundred and ten thousand pounds. We may therefore fairly infer that the incomes of commercial clerks are, on an average, about three times as large in the reign of Victoria as they were in the reign of William the Third.
It soon appeared that Montague had, by skilfully availing himself of the financial difficulties of the country, rendered an inestimable service to his party. During several generations the Bank of England was emphatically a Whig body. It was Whig, not accidentally, but necessarily. It must have instantly stopped payment if it had ceased to receive the interest on the sum which it had advanced to the government; and of that interest James would not have paid one farthing. Seventeen years after the passing of the Tonnage Bill, Addison, in one of his most ingenious and graceful little allegories, described the situation of the great Company through which the immense wealth of London was constantly circulating. He saw Public Credit on her throne in Grocers' Hall, the Great Charter over her head, the Act of Settlement full in her view. Her touch turned every thing to gold. Behind her seat, bags filled with coin were piled up to the ceiling. On her right and on her left the floor was hidden by pyramids of guineas. On a sudden the door flies open. The Pretender rushes in, a sponge in one hand, in the other a sword which he shakes at the Act of Settlement. The beautiful Queen sinks down fainting. The spell by which she has turned all things around her into treasure is broken. The money bags shrink like pricked bladders. The piles of gold pieces are turned into bundles of rags or faggots of wooden tallies. The truth which this parable was meant to convey was constantly present to the minds of the rulers of the Bank. So closely was their interest bound up with the interest of the government that the greater the public danger the more ready were they to come to the rescue. In old times, when the Treasury was empty, when the taxes came in slowly, and when the pay of the soldiers and sailors was in arrear, it had been necessary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go, hat in hand, up and down Cheapside and Cornhill, attended by the Lord Mayor and by the Aldermen, and to make up a sum by borrowing a hundred pounds from this hosier, and two hundred pounds from that ironmonger. Those times were over. The government, instead of laboriously scooping up supplies from numerous petty sources, could now draw whatever it required from an immense reservoir, which all those petty sources kept constantly replenished. It is hardly too much to say that, during many years, the weight of the Bank, which was constantly in the scale of the Whigs, almost counterbalanced the weight of the Church, which was as constantly in the scale of the Tories.
A few minutes after the bill which established the Bank of England had received the royal assent, the Parliament was prorogued by the King with a speech in which he warmly thanked the Commons for their liberality. Montague was immediately rewarded for his services with the place of Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Shrewsbury had a few weeks before consented to accept the seals. He had held out resolutely from November to March. While he was trying to find excuses which might satisfy his political friends, Sir James Montgomery visited him. Montgomery was now the most miserable of human beings. Having borne a great part in a great Revolution, having been charged with the august office of presenting the Crown of Scotland to the Sovereigns whom the Estates had chosen, having domineered without a rival, during several months, in the Parliament at Edinburgh, having seen before him in near prospect the seals of Secretary, the coronet of an Earl, ample wealth, supreme power, he had on a sudden sunk into obscurity and abject penury. His fine parts still remained; and he was therefore used by the Jacobites; but, though used, he was despised, distrusted and starved. He passed his life in wandering from England to France and from France back to England, without finding a resting place in either country. Sometimes he waited in the antechamber at Saint Germains, where the priests scowled at him as a Calvinist, and where even the Protestant Jacobites cautioned one another in whispers against the old Republican. Sometimes he lay hid in the garrets of London, imagining that every footstep which he heard on the stairs was that of a bailiff with a writ, or that of a King's messenger with a warrant. He now obtained access to Shrewsbury, and ventured to talk as a Jacobite to a brother Jacobite. Shrewsbury, who was not at all inclined to put his estate and his neck in the power of a man whom he knew to be both rash and perfidious, returned very guarded answers. Through some channel which is not known to us, William obtained full intelligence of what had passed on this occasion. He sent for Shrewsbury, and again spoke earnestly about the secretaryship. Shrewsbury again excused himself. His health, he said, was bad. "That," said William, "is not your only reason." "No, Sir," said Shrewsbury, "it is not." And he began to speak of public grievances, and alluded to the fate of the Triennial Bill, which he had himself introduced. But William cut him short. "There is another reason behind. When did you see Montgomery last?" Shrewsbury was thunderstruck. The King proceeded to repeat some things which Montgomery had said. By this time Shrewsbury had recovered from his dismay, and had recollected that, in the conversation which had been so accurately reported to the government, he had fortunately uttered no treason, though he had heard much. "Sir," said he, "since Your Majesty has been so correctly informed, you must be aware that I gave no encouragement to that man's attempts to seduce me from my allegiance." William did not deny this, but intimated that such secret dealings with noted Jacobites raised suspicions which Shrewsbury could remove only by accepting the seals. "That," he said, "will put me quite at ease. I know that you are a man of honour, and that, if you undertake to serve me, you will serve me faithfully." So pressed, Shrewsbury complied, to the great joy of his whole party; and was immediately rewarded for his compliance with a dukedom and a garter.
Thus a Whig ministry was gradually forming. There were now two Whig Secretaries of State, a Whig Keeper of the Great Seal, a Whig First Lord of the Admiralty, a Whig Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Lord Privy Seal, Pembroke, might also be called a Whig; for his mind was one which readily took the impress of any stronger mind with which it was brought into contact. Seymour, having been long enough a Commissioner of the Treasury to lose much of his influence with the Tory country gentlemen who had once listened to him as to an oracle, was dismissed, and his place was filled by John Smith, a zealous and able Whig, who had taken an active part in the debates of the late session. The only Tories who still held great offices in the executive government were the Lord President, Caermarthen, who, though he began to feel that power was slipping from his grasp, still clutched it desperately, and the first Lord of the Treasury, Godolphin, who meddled little out of his own department, and performed the duties of that department with skill and assiduity.
William, however, still tried to divide his favours between the two parties. Though the Whigs were fast drawing to themselves the substance of power, the Tories obtained their share of honorary distinctions. Mulgrave, who had, during the late session, exerted his great parliamentary talents in favour of the King's policy, was created Marquess of Normanby, and named a Cabinet Councillor, but was never consulted. He obtained at the same time a pension of three thousand pounds a year. Caermarthen, whom the late changes had deeply mortified, was in some degree consoled by a signal mark of royal approbation. He became Duke of Leeds. It had taken him little more than twenty years to climb from the station of a Yorkshire country gentleman to the highest rank in the peerage. Two great Whig Earls were at the same time created Dukes, Bedford and Devonshire. It ought to be mentioned that Bedford had repeatedly refused the dignity which he now somewhat reluctantly accepted. He declared that he preferred his Earldom to a Dukedom, and gave a very sensible reason for the preference. An Earl who had a numerous family might send one son to the Temple and another to a counting house in the city. But the sons of a Duke were all lords; and a lord could not make his bread either at the bar or on Change. The old man's objections, however, were overcome; and the two great houses of Russell and Cavendish, which had long been closely connected by friendship and by marriage, by common opinions, common sufferings and common triumphs, received on the same day the greatest honour which it is in the power of the Crown to confer.
The Gazette which announced these creations announced also that the King had set out for the Continent. He had, before his departure, consulted with his ministers about the means of counteracting a plan of naval operations which had been formed by the French government. Hitherto the maritime war had been carried on chiefly in the Channel and the Atlantic. But Lewis had now determined to concentrate his maritime forces in the Mediterranean. He hoped that, with their help, the army of Marshal Noailles would be able to take Barcelona, to subdue the whole of Catalonia, and to compel Spain to sue for peace. Accordingly, Tourville's squadron, consisting of fifty three men of war, set sail from Brest on the twenty-fifth of April and passed the Straits of Gibraltar on the fourth of May.
William, in order to cross the designs of the enemy, determined to send Russell to the Mediterranean with the greater part of the combined fleet of England and Holland. A squadron was to remain in the British seas under the command of the Earl of Berkeley. Talmash was to embark on board of this squadron with a large body of troops, and was to attack Brest, which would, it was supposed, in the absence of Tourville and his fifty-three vessels, be an easy conquest.
That preparations were making at Portsmouth for an expedition, in which the land forces were to bear a part, could not be kept a secret. There was much speculation at the Rose and at Garraway's touching the destination of the armament. Some talked of Rhe, some of Oleron, some of Rochelle, some of Rochefort. Many, till the fleet actually began to move westward, believed that it was bound for Dunkirk. Many guessed that Brest would be the point of attack; but they only guessed this; for the secret was much better kept than most of the secrets of that age. Russell, till he was ready to weigh anchor, persisted in assuring his Jacobite friends that he knew nothing. His discretion was proof even against all the arts of Marlborough. Marlborough, however, had other sources of intelligence. To those sources he applied himself; and he at length succeeded in discovering the whole plan of the government. He instantly wrote to James. He had, he said, but that moment ascertained that twelve regiments of infantry and two regiments of marines were about to embark, under the command of Talmash, for the purpose of destroying the harbour of Brest and the shipping which lay there. "This," he added, "would be a great advantage to England. But no consideration can, or ever shall, hinder me from letting you know what I think may be for your service." He then proceeded to caution James against Russell. "I endeavoured to learn this some time ago from him; but he always denied it to me, though I am very sure that he knew the design for more than six weeks. This gives me a bad sign of this man's intentions."
The intelligence sent by Marlborough to James was communicated by James to the French government. That government took its measures with characteristic promptitude. Promptitude was indeed necessary; for, when Marlborough's letter was written, the preparations at Portsmouth were all but complete; and, if the wind had been favourable to the English, the objects of the expedition might have been attained without a struggle. But adverse gales detained our fleet in the Channel during another month. Meanwhile a large body of troops was collected at Brest. Vauban was charged with the duty of putting the defences in order; and, under his skilful direction, batteries were planted which commanded every spot where it seemed likely that an invader would attempt to land. Eight large rafts, each carrying many mortars, were moored in the harbour, and, some days before the English arrived, all was ready for their reception.
On the sixth of June the whole allied fleet was on the Atlantic about fifteen leagues west of Cape Finisterre. There Russell and Berkeley parted company. Russell proceeded towards the Mediterranean. Berkeley's squadron, with the troops on board, steered for the coast of Brittany, and anchored just without Camaret Bay, close to the mouth of the harbour of Brest. Talmash proposed to land in Camaret Bay. It was therefore desirable to ascertain with accuracy the state of the coast. The eldest son of the Duke of Leeds, now called Marquess of Caermarthen, undertook to enter the basin and to obtain the necessary information. The passion of this brave and eccentric young man for maritime adventure was unconquerable. He had solicited and obtained the rank of Rear Admiral, and had accompanied the expedition in his own yacht, the Peregrine, renowned as the masterpiece of shipbuilding, and more than once already mentioned in this history. Cutts, who had distinguished himself by his intrepidity in the Irish war, and had been rewarded with an Irish peerage, offered to accompany Caermarthen, Lord Mohun, who, desirous, it may be hoped, to efface by honourable exploits the stain which a shameful and disastrous brawl had left on his name, was serving with the troops as a volunteer, insisted on being of the party. The Peregrine went into the bay with its gallant crew, and came out safe, but not without having run great risks. Caermarthen reported that the defences, of which however he had seen only a small part, were formidable. But Berkeley and Talmash suspected that he overrated the danger. They were not aware that their design had long been known at Versailles, that an army had been collected to oppose them, and that the greatest engineer in the world had been employed to fortify the coast against them. They therefore did not doubt that their troops might easily be put on shore under the protection of a fire from the ships. On the following morning Caermarthen was ordered to enter the bay with eight vessels and to batter the French works. Talmash was to follow with about a hundred boats full of soldiers. It soon appeared that the enterprise was even more perilous than it had on the preceding day appeared to be. Batteries which had then escaped notice opened on the ships a fire so murderous that several decks were soon cleared. Great bodies of foot and horse were discernible; and, by their uniforms, they appeared to be regular troops. The young Rear Admiral sent an officer in all haste to warn Talmash. But Talmash was so completely possessed by the notion that the French were not prepared to repel an attack that he disregarded all cautions and would not even trust his own eyes. He felt sure that the force which he saw assembled on the shore was a mere rabble of peasants, who had been brought together in haste from the surrounding country. Confident that these mock soldiers would run like sheep before real soldiers, he ordered his men to pull for the beach. He was soon undeceived. A terrible fire mowed down his troops faster than they could get on shore. He had himself scarcely sprung on dry ground when he received a wound in the thigh from a cannon ball, and was carried back to his skiff. His men reembarked in confusion. Ships and boats made haste to get out of the bay, but did not succeed till four hundred seamen and seven hundred soldiers had fallen. During many days the waves continued to throw up pierced and shattered corpses on the beach of Brittany. The battery from which Talmash received his wound is called, to this day, the Englishman's Death.
The unhappy general was laid on his couch; and a council of war was held in his cabin. He was for going straight into the harbour of Brest and bombarding the town. But this suggestion, which indicated but too clearly that his judgment had been affected by the irritation of a wounded body and a wounded mind, was wisely rejected by the naval officers. The armament returned to Portsmouth. There Talmash died, exclaiming with his last breath that he had been lured into a snare by treachery. The public grief and indignation were loudly expressed. The nation remembered the services of the unfortunate general, forgave his rashness, pitied his sufferings, and execrated the unknown traitors whose machinations had been fatal to him. There were many conjectures and many rumours. Some sturdy Englishmen, misled by national prejudice, swore that none of our plans would ever be kept a secret from the enemy while French refugees were in high military command. Some zealous Whigs, misled by party sprit, muttered that the Court of Saint Germains would never want good intelligence while a single Tory remained in the Cabinet Council. The real criminal was not named; nor, till the archives of the House of Stuart were explored, was it known to the world that Talmash had perished by the basest of all the hundred villanies of Marlborough.
Yet never had Marlborough been less a Jacobite than at the moment when he rendered this wicked and shameful service to the Jacobite cause. It may be confidently affirmed that to serve the banished family was not his object, and that to ingratiate himself with the banished family was only his secondary object. His primary object was to force himself into the service of the existing government, and to regain possession of those important and lucrative places from which he had been dismissed more than two years before. He knew that the country and the Parliament would not patiently bear to see the English army commanded by foreign generals. Two Englishmen only had shown themselves fit for high military posts, himself and Talmash. If Talmash were defeated and disgraced, William would scarcely have a choice. In fact, as soon as it was known that the expedition had failed, and that Talmash was no more, the general cry was that the King ought to receive into his favour the accomplished Captain who had done such good service at Walcourt, at Cork and at Kinsale. Nor can we blame the multitude for raising this cry. For every body knew that Marlborough was an eminently brave, skilful and successful officer; but very few persons knew that he had, while commanding William's troops, while sitting in William's council, while waiting in William's bedchamber, formed a most artful and dangerous plot for the subversion of William's throne; and still fewer suspected the real author of the recent calamity, of the slaughter in the Bay of Camaret, of the melancholy fate of Talmash. The effect therefore of the foulest of all treasons was to raise the traitor in public estimation. Nor was he wanting to himself at this conjuncture. While the Royal Exchange was in consternation at this disaster of which he was the cause, while many families were clothing themselves in mourning for the brave men of whom he was the murderer, he repaired to Whitehall; and there, doubtless with all that grace, that nobleness, that suavity, under which lay, hidden from all common observers, a seared conscience and a remorseless heart, he professed himself the most devoted, the most loyal, of all the subjects of William and Mary, and expressed a hope that he might, in this emergency, be permitted to offer his sword to their Majesties. Shrewsbury was very desirous that the offer should be accepted; but a short and dry answer from William, who was then in the Netherlands, put an end for the present to all negotiation. About Talmash the King expressed himself with generous tenderness. "The poor fellow's fate," he wrote, "has affected me much. I do not indeed think that he managed well; but it was his ardent desire to distinguish himself that impelled him to attempt impossibilities."
The armament which had returned to Portsmouth soon sailed again for the coast of France, but achieved only exploits worse than inglorious. An attempt was made to blow up the pier at Dunkirk. Some towns inhabited by quiet tradesmen and fishermen were bombarded. In Dieppe scarcely a house was left standing; a third part of Havre was laid in ashes; and shells were thrown into Calais which destroyed thirty private dwellings. The French and the Jacobites loudly exclaimed against the cowardice and barbarity of making war on an unwarlike population. The English government vindicated itself by reminding the world of the sufferings of the thrice wasted Palatinate; and, as against Lewis and the flatterers of Lewis, the vindication was complete. But whether it were consistent with humanity and with sound policy to visit the crimes which an absolute Prince and a ferocious soldiery had committed in the Palatinate on shopkeepers and labourers, on women and children, who did not know that the Palatinate existed, may perhaps be doubted.
Meanwhile Russell's fleet was rendering good service to the common cause. Adverse winds had impeded his progress through the Straits so long that he did not reach Carthagena till the middle of July. By that time the progress of the French arms had spread terror even to the Escurial. Noailles had, on the banks of the Tar, routed an army commanded by the Viceroy of Catalonia; and, on the day on which this victory was won, the Brest squadron had joined the Toulon squadron in the Bay of Rosas. Palamos, attacked at once by land and sea, was taken by storm. Gerona capitulated after a faint show of resistance. Ostalric surrendered at the first summons. Barcelona would in all probability have fallen, had not the French Admirals learned that the conqueror of La Hogue was approaching. They instantly quitted the coast of Catalonia, and never thought themselves safe till they had taken shelter under the batteries of Toulon.
The Spanish government expressed warm gratitude for this seasonable assistance, and presented to the English Admiral a jewel which was popularly said to be worth near twenty thousand pounds sterling. There was no difficulty in finding such a jewel among the hoards of gorgeous trinkets which had been left by Charles the Fifth and Philip the Second to a degenerate race. But, in all that constitutes the true wealth of states, Spain was poor indeed. Her treasury was empty; her arsenals were unfurnished; her ships were so rotten that they seemed likely to fly asunder at the discharge of their own guns. Her ragged and starving soldiers often mingled with the crowd of beggars at the doors of convents, and battled there for a mess of pottage and a crust of bread. Russell underwent those trials which no English commander whose hard fate it has been to cooperate with Spaniards has escaped. The Viceroy of Catalonia promised much, did nothing, and expected every thing. He declared that three hundred and fifty thousand rations were ready to be served out to the fleet at Carthagena. It turned out that there were not in all the stores of that port provisions sufficient to victual a single frigate for a single week. Yet His Excellency thought himself entitled to complain because England had not sent an army as well as a fleet, and because the heretic Admiral did not choose to expose the fleet to utter destruction by attacking the French under the guns of Toulon. Russell implored the Spanish authorities to look well to their dockyards, and to try to have, by the next spring, a small squadron which might at least be able to float; but he could not prevail on them to careen a single ship. He could with difficulty obtain, on hard conditions, permission to send a few of his sick men to marine hospitals on shore. Yet, in spite of all the trouble given him by the imbecility and ingratitude of a government which has generally caused more annoyance to its allies than to its enemies, he acquitted himself well. It is but just to him to say that, from the time at which he became First Lord of the Admiralty, there was a decided improvement in the naval administration. Though he lay with his fleet many months near an inhospitable shore, and at a great distance from England, there were no complaints about the quality or the quantity of provisions. The crews had better food and drink than they had ever had before; comforts which Spain did not afford were supplied from home; and yet the charge was not greater than when, in Torrington's time, the sailor was poisoned with mouldy biscuit and nauseous beer.
As almost the whole maritime force of France was in the Mediterranean, and as it seemed likely that an attempt would be made on Barcelona in the following year, Russell received orders to winter at Cadiz. In October he sailed to that port; and there he employed himself in refitting his ships with an activity unintelligible to the Spanish functionaries, who calmly suffered the miserable remains of what had once been the greatest navy in the world to rot under their eyes.
Along the eastern frontier of France the war during this year seemed to languish. In Piedmont and on the Rhine the most important events of the campaign were petty skirmishes and predatory incursions. Lewis remained at Versailles, and sent his son, the Dauphin, to represent him in the Netherlands; but the Dauphin was placed under the tutelage of Luxemburg, and proved a most submissive pupil. During several months the hostile armies observed each other. The allies made one bold push with the intention of carrying the war into the French territory; but Luxemburg, by a forced march, which excited the admiration of persons versed in the military art, frustrated the design. William on the other hand succeeded in taking Huy, then a fortress of the third rank. No battle was fought; no important town was besieged; but the confederates were satisfied with their campaign. Of the four previous years every one had been marked by some great disaster. In 1690 Waldeck had been defeated at Fleurus. In 1691 Mons had fallen. In 1692 Namur had been taken in sight of the allied army; and this calamity had been speedily followed by the defeat of Steinkirk. In 1693 the battle of Landen had been lost; and Charleroy had submitted to the conqueror. At length in 1694 the tide had begun to turn. The French arms had made no progress. What had been gained by the allies was indeed not much; but the smallest gain was welcome to those whom a long run of evil fortune had discouraged.
In England, the general opinion was that, notwithstanding the disaster in Camaret Bay, the war was on the whole proceeding satisfactorily both by land and by sea. But some parts of the internal administration excited, during this autumn, much discontent.
Since Trenchard had been appointed Secretary of State, the Jacobite agitators had found their situation much more unpleasant than before. Sidney had been too indulgent and too fond of pleasure to give them much trouble. Nottingham was a diligent and honest minister; but he was as high a Tory as a faithful subject of William and Mary could be; he loved and esteemed many of the nonjurors; and, though he might force himself to be severe when nothing but severity could save the State, he was not extreme to mark the transgressions of his old friends; nor did he encourage talebearers to come to Whitehall with reports of conspiracies. But Trenchard was both an active public servant and an earnest Whig. Even if he had himself been inclined to lenity, he would have been urged to severity by those who surrounded him. He had constantly at his side Hugh Speke and Aaron Smith, men to whom a hunt after a Jacobite was the most exciting of all sports. The cry of the malecontents was that Nottingham had kept his bloodhounds in the leash, but that Trenchard had let them slip. Every honest gentleman who loved the Church and hated the Dutch went in danger of his life. There was a constant bustle at the Secretary's Office, a constant stream of informers coming in, and of messengers with warrants going out. It was said too, that the warrants were often irregularly drawn, that they did not specify the person, that they did not specify the crime, and yet that, under the authority of such instruments as these, houses were entered, desks and cabinets searched, valuable papers carried away, and men of good birth and breeding flung into gaol among felons. The minister and his agents answered that Westminster Hall was open; that, if any man had been illegally imprisoned, he had only to bring his action; that juries were quite sufficiently disposed to listen to any person who pretended to have been oppressed by cruel and griping men in power, and that, as none of the prisoners whose wrongs were so pathetically described had ventured to resort to this obvious and easy mode of obtaining redress, it might fairly be inferred that nothing had been done which could not be justified. The clamour of the malecontents however made a considerable impression on the public mind; and at length, a transaction in which Trenchard was more unlucky than culpable, brought on him and on the government with which he was connected much temporary obloquy.
Among the informers who haunted his office was an Irish vagabond who had borne more than one name and had professed more than one religion. He now called himself Taaffe. He had been a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, and secretary to Adda the Papal Nuncio, but had since the Revolution turned Protestant, had taken a wife, and had distinguished himself by his activity in discovering the concealed property of those Jesuits and Benedictines who, during the late reign, had been quartered in London. The ministers despised him; but they trusted him. They thought that he had, by his apostasy, and by the part which he had borne in the spoliation of the religious orders, cut himself off from all retreat, and that, having nothing but a halter to expect from King James, he must be true to King William.
This man fell in with a Jacobite agent named Lunt, who had, since the Revolution, been repeatedly employed among the discontented gentry of Cheshire and Lancashire, and who had been privy to those plans of insurrection which had been disconcerted by the battle of the Boyne in 1690, and by the battle of La Hogue in 1692. Lunt had once been arrested on suspicion of treason, but had been discharged for want of legal proof of his guilt. He was a mere hireling, and was, without much difficulty, induced by Taaffe to turn approver. The pair went to Trenchard. Lunt told his story, mentioned the names of some Cheshire and Lancashire squires to whom he had, as he affirmed, carried commissions from Saint Germains, and of others, who had, to his knowledge, formed secret hoards of arms and ammunition. His simple oath would not have been sufficient to support a charge of high treason; but he produced another witness whose evidence seemed to make the case complete. The narrative was plausible and coherent; and indeed, though it may have been embellished by fictions, there can be little doubt that it was in substance true. Messengers and search warrants were sent down to Lancashire. Aaron Smith himself went thither; and Taaffe went with him. The alarm had been given by some of the numerous traitors who ate the bread of William. Some of the accused persons had fled; and others had buried their sabres and muskets and burned their papers. Nevertheless, discoveries were made which confirmed Lunt's depositions. Behind the wainscot of the old mansion of one Roman Catholic family was discovered a commission signed by James. Another house, of which the master had absconded, was strictly searched, in spite of the solemn asseverations of his wife and his servants that no arms were concealed there. While the lady, with her hand on her heart, was protesting on her honour that her husband was falsely accused, the messengers observed that the back of the chimney did not seem to be firmly fixed. It was removed, and a heap of blades such as were used by horse soldiers tumbled out. In one of the garrets were found, carefully bricked up, thirty saddles for troopers, as many breastplates, and sixty cavalry swords. Trenchard and Aaron Smith thought the case complete; and it was determined that those culprits who had been apprehended should be tried by a special commission.
Taaffe now confidently expected to be recompensed for his services; but he found a cold reception at the Treasury. He had gone down to Lancashire chiefly in order that he might, under the protection of a search warrant, pilfer trinkets and broad pieces from secret drawers. His sleight of hand however had not altogether escaped the observation of his companions. They discovered that he had made free with the communion plate of the Popish families, whose private hoards he had assisted in ransacking. When therefore he applied for reward, he was dismissed, not merely with a refusal, but with a stern reprimand. He went away mad with greediness and spite. There was yet one way in which he might obtain both money and revenge; and that way he took. He made overtures to the friends of the prisoners. He and he alone could undo what he had done, could save the accused from the gallows, could cover the accusers with infamy, could drive from office the Secretary and the Solicitor who were the dread of all the friends of King James. Loathsome as Taaffe was to the Jacobites, his offer was not to be slighted. He received a sum in hand; he was assured that a comfortable annuity for life should be settled on him when the business was done; and he was sent down into the country, and kept in strict seclusion against the day of trial.
Meanwhile unlicensed pamphlets, in which the Lancashire plot was classed with Oates's plot, with Dangerfield's plot, with Fuller's plot, with Young's plot, with Whitney's plot, were circulated all over the kingdom, and especially in the county which was to furnish the jury. Of these pamphlets the longest, the ablest, and the bitterest, entitled a Letter to Secretary Trenchard, was commonly ascribed to Ferguson. It is not improbable that Ferguson may have furnished some of the materials, and may have conveyed the manuscript to the press. But many passages are written with an art and a vigour which assuredly did not belong to him. Those who judge by internal evidence may perhaps think that, in some parts of this remarkable tract, they can discern the last gleam of the malignant genius of Montgomery. A few weeks after the appearance of the Letter he sank, unhonoured and unlamented, into the grave.
There were then no printed newspapers except the London Gazette. But since the Revolution the newsletter had become a more important political engine than it had previously been. The newsletters of one writer named Dyer were widely circulated in manuscript. He affected to be a Tory and a High Churchman, and was consequently regarded by the foxhunting lords of manors, all over the kingdom, as an oracle. He had already been twice in prison; but his gains had more than compensated for his sufferings, and he still persisted in seasoning his intelligence to suit the taste of the country gentlemen. He now turned the Lancashire plot into ridicule, declared that the guns which had been found were old fowling pieces, that the saddles were meant only for hunting, and that the swords were rusty reliques of Edge Hill and Marston Moor. The effect produced by all this invective and sarcasm on the public mind seems to have been great. Even at the Dutch Embassy, where assuredly there was no leaning towards Jacobitism, there was a strong impression that it would be unwise to bring the prisoners to trial. In Lancashire and Cheshire the prevailing sentiments were pity for the accused and hatred of the prosecutors. The government however persevered. In October four Judges went down to Manchester. At present the population of that town is made up of persons born in every part of the British Isles, and consequently has no especial sympathy with the landowners, the farmers and the agricultural labourers of the neighbouring districts. But in the seventeenth century the Manchester man was a Lancashire man. His politics were those of his county. For the old Cavalier families of his county he felt a great respect; and he was furious when he thought that some of the best blood of his county was about to be shed by a knot of Roundhead pettifoggers from London. Multitudes of people from the neighbouring villages filled the streets of the town, and saw with grief and indignation the array of drawn swords and loaded carbines which surrounded the culprits. Aaron Smith's arrangements do not seem to have been skilful. The chief counsel for the Crown was Sir William Williams, who, though now well stricken in years and possessed of a great estate, still continued to practise. One fault had thrown a dark shade over the latter part of his life. The recollection of that day on which he had stood up in Westminster Hall, amidst laughter and hooting, to defend the dispensing power and to attack the right of petition, had, ever since the Revolution, kept him back from honour. He was an angry and disappointed man, and was by no means disposed to incur unpopularity in the cause of a government to which he owed nothing, and from which he hoped nothing.
Of the trial no detailed report has come down to us; but we have both a Whig narrative and a Jacobite narrative. It seems that the prisoners who were first arraigned did not sever in their challenges, and were consequently tried together. Williams examined or rather crossexamined his own witnesses with a severity which confused them. The crowd which filled the court laughed and clamoured. Lunt in particular became completely bewildered, mistook one person for another, and did not recover himself till the judges took him out of the hands of the counsel for the Crown. For some of the prisoners an alibi was set up. Evidence was also produced to show, what was undoubtedly quite true, that Lunt was a man of abandoned character. The result however seemed doubtful till, to the dismay of the prosecutors, Taaffe entered the box. He swore with unblushing forehead that the whole story of the plot was a circumstantial lie devised by himself and Lunt. Williams threw down his brief; and, in truth, a more honest advocate might well have done the same. The prisoners who were at the bar were instantly acquitted; those who had not yet been tried were set at liberty; the witnesses for the prosecution were pelted out of Manchester; the Clerk of the Crown narrowly escaped with life; and the judges took their departure amidst hisses and execrations.
A few days after the close of the trials at Manchester William returned to England. On the twelfth of November, only forty-eight hours after his arrival at Kensington, the Houses met. He congratulated them on the improved aspect of affairs. Both by land and by sea the events of the year which was about to close had been, on the whole, favourable to the allies; the French armies had made no progress; the French fleets had not ventured to show themselves; nevertheless, a safe and honourable peace could be obtained only by a vigorous prosecution of the war; and the war could not be vigorously prosecuted without large supplies. William then reminded the Commons that the Act by which they had settled the tonnage and poundage on the Crown for four years was about to expire, and expressed his hope that it would be renewed.
After the King had spoken, the Commons, for some reason which no writer has explained, adjourned for a week. Before they met again, an event took place which caused great sorrow at the palace, and through all the ranks of the Low Church party. Tillotson was taken suddenly ill while attending public worship in the chapel of Whitehall. Prompt remedies might perhaps have saved him; but he would not interrupt the prayers; and, before the service was over, his malady was beyond the reach of medicine. He was almost speechless; but his friends long remembered with pleasure a few broken ejaculations which showed that he enjoyed peace of mind to the last. He was buried in the church of Saint Lawrence Jewry, near Guildhall. It was there that he had won his immense oratorical reputation. He had preached there during the thirty years which preceded his elevation to the throne of Canterbury. His eloquence had attracted to the heart of the City crowds of the learned and polite, from the Inns of Court and from the lordly mansions of Saint James's and Soho. A considerable part of his congregation had generally consisted of young clergymen, who came to learn the art of preaching at the feet of him who was universally considered as the first of preachers. To this church his remains were now carried through a mourning population. The hearse was followed by an endless train of splendid equipages from Lambeth through Southwark and over London Bridge. Burnet preached the funeral sermon. His kind and honest heart was overcome by so many tender recollections that, in the midst of his discourse, he paused and burst into tears, while a loud moan of sorrow rose from the whole auditory. The Queen could not speak of her favourite instructor without weeping. Even William was visibly moved. "I have lost," he said, "the best friend that I ever had, and the best man that I ever knew." The only Englishman who is mentioned with tenderness in any part of the great mass of letters which the King wrote to Heinsius is Tillotson. The Archbishop had left a widow. To her William granted a pension of four hundred a year, which he afterwards increased to six hundred. His anxiety that she should receive her income regularly and without stoppages was honourable to him. Every quarterday he ordered the money, without any deduction, to be brought to himself, and immediately sent it to her. Tillotson had bequeathed to her no property, except a great number of manuscript sermons. Such was his fame among his contemporaries that those sermons were purchased by the booksellers for the almost incredible sum of two thousand five hundred guineas, equivalent, in the wretched state in which the silver coin then was, to at least three thousand six hundred pounds. Such a price had never before been given in England for any copyright. About the same time Dryden, whose reputation was then in the zenith, received thirteen hundred pounds for his translation of all the works of Virgil, and was thought to have been splendidly remunerated.
It was not easy to fill satisfactorily the high place which Tillotson had left vacant. Mary gave her voice for Stillingfleet, and pressed his claims as earnestly as she ever ventured to press any thing. In abilities and attainments he had few superiors among the clergy. But, though he would probably have been considered as a Low Churchman by Jane and South, he was too high a Churchman for William; and Tenison was appointed. The new primate was not eminently distinguished by eloquence or learning: but he was honest, prudent, laborious and benevolent; he had been a good rector of a large parish and a good bishop of a large diocese; detraction had not yet been busy with his name; and it might well be thought that a man of plain sense, moderation and integrity, was more likely than a man of brilliant genius and lofty spirit to succeed in the arduous task of quieting a discontented and distracted Church.
Meanwhile the Commons had entered upon business. They cheerfully voted about two million four hundred thousand pounds for the army, and as much for the navy. The land tax for the year was again fixed at four shillings in the pound; the Tonnage Act was renewed for a term of five years; and a fund was established on which the government was authorised to borrow two millions and a half.
Some time was spent by both Houses in discussing the Manchester trials. If the malecontents had been wise, they would have been satisfied with the advantage which they had already gained. Their friends had been set free. The prosecutors had with difficulty escaped from the hands of an enraged multitude. The character of the government had been seriously damaged. The ministers were accused, in prose and in verse, sometimes in earnest and sometimes in jest, of having hired a gang of ruffians to swear away the lives of honest gentlemen. Even moderate politicians, who gave no credit to these foul imputations, owned that Trenchard ought to have remembered the villanies of Fuller and Young, and to have been on his guard against such wretches as Taaffe and Lunt. The unfortunate Secretary's health and spirits had given way. It was said that he was dying; and it was certain that he would not long continue to hold the seals. The Tories had won a great victory; but, in their eagerness to improve it, they turned it into a defeat.
Early in the session Howe complained, with his usual vehemence and asperity, of the indignities to which innocent and honourable men, highly descended and highly esteemed, had been subjected by Aaron Smith and the wretches who were in his pay. The leading Whigs, with great judgment, demanded an inquiry. Then the Tories began to flinch. They well knew that an inquiry could not strengthen their case, and might weaken it. The issue, they said, had been tried; a jury had pronounced; the verdict was definitive; and it would be monstrous to give the false witnesses who had been stoned out of Manchester an opportunity of repeating their lesson. To this argument the answer was obvious. The verdict was definitive as respected the defendants, but not as respected the prosecutors. The prosecutors were now in their turn defendants, and were entitled to all the privileges of defendants. It did not follow, because the Lancashire gentlemen had been found, and very properly found, not guilty of treason, that the Secretary of State or the Solicitor of the Treasury had been guilty of unfairness or even of rashness. The House, by one hundred and nineteen votes to one hundred and two resolved that Aaron Smith and the witnesses on both sides should be ordered to attend. Several days were passed in examination and crossexamination; and sometimes the sittings extended far into the night. It soon became clear that the prosecution had not been lightly instituted, and that some of the persons who had been acquitted had been concerned in treasonable schemes. The Tories would now have been content with a drawn battle; but the Whigs were not disposed to forego their advantage. It was moved that there had been a sufficient ground for the proceedings before the Special Commission; and this motion was carried without a division. The opposition proposed to add some words implying that the witnesses for the Crown had forsworn themselves; but these words were rejected by one hundred and thirty-six votes to one hundred and nine, and it was resolved by one hundred and thirty- three votes to ninety-seven that there had been a dangerous conspiracy. The Lords had meanwhile been deliberating on the same subject, and had come to the same conclusion. They sent Taaffe to prison for prevarication; and they passed resolutions acquitting both the government and the judges of all blame. The public however continued to think that the gentlemen who had been tried at Manchester had been unjustifiably persecuted, till a Jacobite plot of singular atrocity, brought home to the plotters by decisive evidence, produced a violent revulsion of feeling.
Meanwhile three bills, which had been repeatedly discussed in preceding years, and two of which had been carried in vain to the foot of the throne, had been again brought in; the Place Bill, the Bill for the Regulation of Trials in cases of Treason, and the Triennial Bill.
The Place Bill did not reach the Lords. It was thrice read in the Lower House, but was not passed. At the very last moment it was rejected by a hundred and seventy-five votes to a hundred and forty-two. Howe and Barley were the tellers for the minority.
The Bill for the Regulation of Trials in cases of Treason went up again to the Peers. Their Lordships again added to it the clause which had formerly been fatal to it. The Commons again refused to grant any new privilege to the hereditary aristocracy. Conferences were again held; reasons were again exchanged; both Houses were again obstinate; and the bill was again lost.
The Triennial Bill was more fortunate. It was brought in on the first day of the session, and went easily and rapidly through both Houses. The only question about which there was any serious contention was, how long the existing Parliament should be suffered to continue. After several sharp debates November in the year 1696 was fixed as the extreme term. The Tonnage Bill and the Triennial Bill proceeded almost side by side. Both were, on the twenty-second of December, ready for the royal assent. William came in state on that day to Westminster. The attendance of members of both Houses was large. When the Clerk of the Crown read the words, "A Bill for the frequent Calling and Meeting of Parliaments," the anxiety was great. When the Clerk of the Parliament made answer, "Le roy et la royne le veulent," a loud and long hum of delight and exultation rose from the benches and the bar. William had resolved many months before not to refuse his assent a second time to so popular a law. There were some however who thought that he would not have made so great a concession if he had on that day been quite himself. It was plain indeed that he was strangely agitated and unnerved. It had been announced that he would dine in public at Whitehall. But he disappointed the curiosity of the multitude which on such occasions flocked to the Court, and hurried back to Kensington.
He had but too good reason to be uneasy. His wife had, during two or three days, been poorly; and on the preceding evening grave symptoms had appeared. Sir Thomas Millington, who was physician in ordinary to the King, thought that she had the measles. But Radcliffe, who, with coarse manners and little book learning, had raised himself to the first practice in London chiefly by his rare skill in diagnostics, uttered the more alarming words, small pox. That disease, over which science has since achieved a succession of glorious and beneficient victories, was then the most terrible of all the ministers of death. The havoc of the plague had been far more rapid; but the plague had visited our shores only once or twice within living memory; and the small pox was always present, filling the churchyards with corpses, tormenting with constant fears all whom it had not yet stricken, leaving on those whose lives it spared the hideous traces of its power, turning the babe into a changeling at which the mother shuddered, and making the eyes and cheeks of the betrothed maiden objects of horror to the lover. Towards the end of the year 1694, this pestilence was more than usually severe. At length the infection spread to the palace, and reached the young and blooming Queen. She received the intimation of her danger with true greatness of soul. She gave orders that every lady of her bedchamber, every maid of honour, nay, every menial servant, who had not had the small pox, should instantly leave Kensington House. She locked herself up during a short time in her closet, burned some papers, arranged others, and then calmly awaited her fate.
During two or three days there were many alternations of hope and fear. The physicians contradicted each other and themselves in a way which sufficiently indicates the state of medical science in that age. The disease was measles; it was scarlet fever; it was spotted fever; it was erysipelas. At one moment some symptoms, which in truth showed that the case was almost hopeless, were hailed as indications of returning health. At length all doubt was over. Radcliffe's opinion proved to be right. It was plain that the Queen was sinking under small pox of the most malignant type.
All this time William remained night and day near her bedside. The little couch on which he slept when he was in camp was spread for him in the antechamber; but he scarcely lay down on it. The sight of his misery, the Dutch Envoy wrote, was enough to melt the hardest heart. Nothing seemed to be left of the man whose serene fortitude had been the wonder of old soldiers on the disastrous day of Landen, and of old sailors on that fearful night among the sheets of ice and banks of sand on the coast of Goree. The very domestics saw the tears running unchecked down that face, of which the stern composure had seldom been disturbed by any triumph or by any defeat. Several of the prelates were in attendance. The King drew Burnet aside, and gave way to an agony of grief. "There is no hope," he cried. "I was the happiest man on earth; and I am the most miserable. She had no fault; none; you knew her well; but you could not know, nobody but myself could know, her goodness." Tenison undertook to tell her that she was dying. He was afraid that such a communication, abruptly made, might agitate her violently, and began with much management. But she soon caught his meaning, and, with that gentle womanly courage which so often puts our bravery to shame, submitted herself to the will of God. She called for a small cabinet in which her most important papers were locked up, gave orders that, as soon as she was no more, it should be delivered to the King, and then dismissed worldly cares from her mind. She received the Eucharist, and repeated her part of the office with unimpaired memory and intelligence, though in a feeble voice. She observed that Tenison had been long standing at her bedside, and, with that sweet courtesy which was habitual to her, faltered out her commands that he would sit down, and repeated them till he obeyed. After she had received the sacrament she sank rapidly, and uttered only a few broken words. Twice she tried to take a last farewell of him whom she had loved so truly and entirely; but she was unable to speak. He had a succession of fits so alarming that his Privy Councillors, who were assembled in a neighbouring room, were apprehensive for his reason and his life. The Duke of Leeds, at the request of his colleagues, ventured to assume the friendly guardianship of which minds deranged by sorrow stand in need. A few minutes before the Queen expired, William was removed, almost insensible, from the sick room.
Mary died in peace with Anne. Before the physicians had pronounced the case hopeless, the Princess, who was then in very delicate health, had sent a kind message; and Mary had returned a kind answer. The Princess had then proposed to come herself; but William had, in very gracious terms, declined the offer. The excitement of an interview, he said, would be too much for both sisters. If a favourable turn took place, Her Royal Highness should be most welcome to Kensington. A few hours later all was over.
The public sorrow was great and general. For Mary's blameless life, her large charities and her winning manners had conquered the hearts of her people. When the Commons next met they sate for a time in profound silence. At length it was moved and resolved that an Address of Condolence should be presented to the King; and then the House broke up without proceeding to other business. The Dutch envoy informed the States General that many of the members had handkerchiefs at their eyes. The number of sad faces in the street struck every observer. The mourning was more general than even the mourning for Charles the Second had been. On the Sunday which followed the Queen's death her virtues were celebrated in almost every parish church of the Capital, and in almost every great meeting of nonconformists.
The most estimable Jacobites respected the sorrow of William and the memory of Mary. But to the fiercer zealots of the party neither the house of mourning nor the grave was sacred. At Bristol the adherents of Sir John Knight rang the bells as if for a victory. It has often been repeated, and is not at all improbable, that a nonjuring divine, in the midst of the general lamentation, preached on the text, "Go; see now this cursed woman and bury her; for she is a King's daughter." It is certain that some of the ejected priests pursued her to the grave with invectives. Her death, they said, was evidently a judgment for her crime. God had, from the top of Sinai, in thunder and lightning, promised length of days to children who should honour their parents; and in this promise was plainly implied a menace. What father had ever been worse treated by his daughters than James by Mary and Anne? Mary was gone, cut off in the prime of life, in the glow of beauty, in the height of prosperity; and Anne would do well to profit by the warning. Wagstaffe went further, and dwelt much on certain wonderful coincidences of time. James had been driven from his palace and country in Christmas week. Mary had died in Christmas week. There could be no doubt that, if the secrets of Providence were disclosed to us, we should find that the turns of the daughter's complaint in December 1694 bore an exact analogy to the turns of the father's fortune in December 1688. It was at midnight that the father ran away from Rochester; it was at midnight that the daughter expired. Such was the profundity and such the ingenuity of a writer whom the Jacobite schismatics justly regarded as one of their ablest chiefs.
The Whigs soon had an opportunity of retaliating. They triumphantly related that a scrivener in the Borough, a stanch friend of hereditary right, while exulting in the judgment which had overtaken the Queen, had himself fallen down dead in a fit.
The funeral was long remembered as the saddest and most august that Westminster had ever seen. While the Queen's remains lay in state at Whitehall, the neighbouring streets were filled every day, from sunrise to sunset, by crowds which made all traffic impossible. The two Houses with their maces followed the hearse, the Lords robed in scarlet and ermine, the Commons in long black mantles. No preceding Sovereign had ever been attended to the grave by a Parliament; for, till then, the Parliament had always expired with the Sovereign. A paper had indeed been circulated, in which the logic of a small sharp pettifogger was employed to prove that writs, issued in the joint names of William and Mary, ceased to be of force as soon as William reigned alone. But this paltry cavil had completely failed. It had not even been mentioned in the Lower House, and had been mentioned in the Upper only to be contemptuously overruled. The whole Magistracy of the City swelled the procession. The banners of England and France, Scotland and Ireland, were carried by great nobles before the corpse. The pall was borne by the chiefs of the illustrious houses of Howard, Seymour, Grey, and Stanley. On the gorgeous coffin of purple and gold were laid the crown and sceptre of the realm. The day was well suited to such a ceremony. The sky was dark and troubled; and a few ghastly flakes of snow fell on the black plumes of the funeral car. Within the Abbey, nave, choir and transept were in a blaze with innumerable waxlights. The body was deposited under a magnificent canopy in the centre of the church while the Primate preached. The earlier part of his discourse was deformed by pedantic divisions and subdivisions; but towards the close he told what he had himself seen and heard with a simplicity and earnestness more affecting than the most skilful rhetoric. Through the whole ceremony the distant booming of cannon was heard every minute from the batteries of the Tower. The gentle Queen sleeps among her illustrious kindred in the southern aisle of the Chapel of Henry the Seventh.
The affection with which her husband cherished her memory was soon attested by a monument the most superb that was ever erected to any sovereign. No scheme had been so much her own, none had been so near her heart, as that of converting the palace at Greenwich into a retreat for seamen. It had occurred to her when she had found it difficult to provide good shelter and good attendance for the thousands of brave men who had come back to England wounded after the battle of La Hogue. While she lived scarcely any step was taken towards the accomplishing of her favourite design. But it should seem that, as soon as her husband had lost her, he began to reproach himself for having neglected her wishes. No time was lost. A plan was furnished by Wren; and soon an edifice, surpassing that asylum which the magnificent Lewis had provided for his soldiers, rose on the margin of the Thames. Whoever reads the inscription which runs round the frieze of the hall will observe that William claims no part of the merit of the design, and that the praise is ascribed to Mary alone. Had the King's life been prolonged till the works were completed, a statue of her who was the real foundress of the institution would have had a conspicuous place in that court which presents two lofty domes and two graceful colonnades to the multitudes who are perpetually passing up and down the imperial river. But that part of the plan was never carried into effect; and few of those who now gaze on the noblest of European hospitals are aware that it is a memorial of the virtues of the good Queen Mary, of the love and sorrow of William, and of the great victory of La Hogue.