Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 2 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 10 out of 12

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

it was, womanish tremors and childish fancies now disabled him
from using it. He was aware that his flight was the thing which
his adherents most dreaded and which his enemies most desired.
Even if there had been serious personal risk in remaining, the
occasion was one on which he ought to have thought it infamous to
flinch: for the question was whether he and his posterity should
reign on an ancestral throne or should be vagabonds and beggars.
But in his mind all other feelings had given place to a craven
fear for his life. To the earnest entreaties and unanswerable
arguments of the agents whom his friends had sent to Rochester,
he had only one answer. His head was in danger. In vain he was
assured that there was no ground for such an apprehension, that
common sense, if not principle, would restrain the Prince of
Orange from incurring the guilt and shame of regicide and
parricide, and that many, who never would consent to depose their
Sovereign while he remained on English ground, would think
themselves absolved from their allegiance by his desertion.
Fright overpowered every other feeling. James determined to
depart; and it was easy for him to do so. He was negligently
guarded: all persons were suffered to repair to him: vessels
ready to put to sea lay at no great distance; and their boats
might come close to the garden of the house in which he was
lodged. Had he been wise, the pains which his keepers took to
facilitate his escape would have sufficed to convince him that he
ought to stay where he was. In truth the snare was so
ostentatiously exhibited that it could impose on nothing but
folly bewildered by terror.

The arrangements were expeditiously made. On the evening of
Saturday the twenty-second the King assured some of the
gentlemen, who had been sent to him from London with intelligence
and advice, that he would see them again in the morning. He went
to bed, rose at dead of night, and, attended by Berwick, stole
out at a back door, and went through the garden to the shore of
the Medway. A small skiff was in waiting. Soon after the dawn of
Sunday the fugitives were on board of a smack which was running
down the Thames.614

That afternoon the tidings of the flight reached London. The
King's adherents were confounded. The Whigs could not conceal
their joy. The good news encouraged the Prince to take a bold and
important step. He was informed that communications were passing
between the French embassy and the party hostile to him. It was
well known that at that embassy all the arts of corruption were
well understood; and there could be little doubt that, at such a
conjuncture, neither intrigues nor pistoles would be spared.
Barillon was most desirous to remain a few days longer in London,
and for that end omitted no art which could conciliate the
victorious party. In the streets he quieted the populace, who
looked angrily at his coach, by throwing money among them. At his
table he publicly drank the health of the Prince of Orange. But
William was not to be so cajoled. He had not, indeed, taken on
himself to exercise regal authority: but he was a general
and, as such, he was not bound to tolerate, within the territory
of which he had taken military occupation, the presence of one
whom be regarded as a spy. Before that day closed Barillon was
informed that he must leave England within twenty-four hours. He
begged hard for a short delay: but minutes were precious; the
order was repeated in more peremptory terms; and he unwillingly
set off for Dover. That no mark of contempt and defiance might be
omitted, he was escorted to the coast by one of his Protestant
countrymen whom persecution had driven into exile. So bitter was
the resentment excited by the French ambition and arrogance that
even those Englishmen who were not generally disposed to take a
favourable view of William's conduct loudly applauded him for
retorting with so much spirit the insolence with which Lewis had,
during many years, treated every court in Europe.615

On Monday the Lords met again. Halifax was chosen to preside. The
Primate was absent, the Royalists sad and gloomy, the Whigs eager
and in high spirits. It was known that James had left a letter
behind him. Some of his friends moved that it might be produced,
in the faint hope that it might contain propositions which might
furnish a basis for a happy settlement. On this motion the
previous question was put and carried. Godolphin, who was known
not to be unfriendly to his old master, uttered a few words which
were decisive. "I have seen the paper," he said; "and I grieve to
say that there is nothing in it which will give your Lordships
any satisfaction." In truth it contained no expression of regret
for pass errors; it held out no hope that those errors would for
the future be avoided; and it threw the blame of all that had
happened on the malice of William and on the blindness of a
nation deluded by the specious names of religion and property.
None ventured to propose that a negotiation should be opened with
a prince whom the most rigid discipline of adversity seemed only
to have made more obstinate in wrong. Something was said about
inquiring into the birth of the Prince of Wales: but the Whig
peers treated the suggestion with disdain. "I did not expect, my
Lords," exclaimed Philip Lord Wharton, an old Roundhead, who had
commanded a regiment against Charles the First at Edgehill, "I
did not expect to hear anybody at this time of day mention the
child who was called Prince of Wales; and I hope that we have now
heard the last of him." After long discussion it was resolved
that two addresses should be presented to William. One address
requested him to take on himself provisionally the administration
of the government; the other recommended that he should, by
circular letters subscribed with his own hand, invite all the
constituent bodies of the kingdom to send up representatives to
Westminster. At the same time the Peers took upon themselves to
issue an order banishing all Papists, except a few privileged
persons, from London and the vicinity.616

The Lords presented their addresses to the Prince on the
following day, without waiting for the issue of the deliberations
of the commoners whom he had called together. It seems, indeed,
that the hereditary nobles were disposed at this moment to be
punctilious in asserting their dignity, and were unwilling to
recognise a coordinate authority in an assembly unknown to the
law. They conceived that they were a real House of Lords. The
other Chamber they despised as only a mock House of Commons.
William, however, wisely excused himself from coming to any
decision till he had ascertained the sense of the gentlemen who
had formerly been honoured with the confidence of the counties
and towns of England.617

The commoners who had been summoned met in Saint Stephen's
Chapel, and formed a numerous assembly. They placed in the chair
Henry Powle, who had represented Cirencester in several
Parliaments, and had been eminent among the supporters of the
Exclusion Bill.

Addresses were proposed and adopted similar to those which the
Lords had already presented. No difference of opinion appeared on
any serious question; and some feeble attempts which were made to
raise a debate on points of form were put down by the general
contempt. Sir Robert Sawyer declared that he could not conceive
how it was possible for the Prince to administer the government
without some distinguishing title, such as Regent or Protector.
Old Maynard, who, as a lawyer, had no equal, and who was also a
politician versed in the tactics of revolutions, was at no pains
to conceal his disdain for so puerile an objection, taken at a
moment when union and promptitude were of the highest importance.
"We shall sit here very long," he said, "if we sit till Sir
Robert can conceive how such a thing is possible;" and the
assembly thought the answer as good as the cavil deserved.618

The resolutions of the meeting were communicated to the Prince.
He forthwith announced his determination to comply with the joint
request of the two Chambers which he had called together, to
issue letters summoning a Convention of the Estates of the Realm,
and, till the Convention should meet, to take on himself the
executive administration.619

He had undertaken no light task. The whole machine of government
was disordered. The Justices of the Peace had abandoned their
functions. The officers of the revenue had ceased to collect the
taxes. The army which Feversham had disbanded was still in
confusion, and ready to break out into mutiny. The fleet was in a
scarcely less alarming state. Large arrears of pay were due to
the civil and military servants of the crown; and only forty
thousand pounds remained in the Exchequer. The Prince addressed
himself with vigour to the work of restoring order. He published
a proclamation by which all magistrates were continued in office,
and another containing orders for the collection of the
revenue.620 The new modelling of the army went rapidly on. Many
of the noblemen and gentlemen whom James had removed from the
command of the English regiments were reappointed. A way was
found of employing the thousands of Irish soldiers whom James had
brought into England. They could not safely be suffered to remain
in a country where they were objects of religious and national
animosity. They could not safely be sent home to reinforce the
army of Tryconnel. It was therefore determined that they should
be sent to the Continent, where they might, under the banners of
the House of Austria, render indirect but effectual service to
the cause of the English constitution and of the Protestant
religion. Dartmouth was removed from his command; and the navy
was conciliated by assurances that every sailor should speedily
receive his due. The City of London undertook to extricate the
Prince from his financial difficulties. The Common Council, by an
unanimous vote, engaged to find him two hundred thousand pounds.
It was thought a great proof, both of the wealth and of the
public spirit of the merchants of the capital, that, in forty-
eight hours, the whole sum was raised on no security but the
Prince's word. A few weeks before, James had been unable to
procure a much smaller sum, though he had offered to pay higher
interest, and to pledge valuable property.621

In a very few days the confusion which the invasion, the
insurrection, the flight of James, and the suspension of all
regular government had produced was at an end, and the kingdom
wore again its accustomed aspect. There was a general sense of
security. Even the classes which were most obnoxious to public
hatred, and which had most reason to apprehend a persecution,
were protected by the politic clemency of the conqueror. Persons
deeply implicated in the illegal transactions of the late reign
not only walked the streets in safety, but offered themselves as
candidates for seats in the Convention. Mulgrave was received not
ungraciously at St. James's. Feversham was released from arrest,
and was permitted to resume the only office for which he was
qualified, that of keeping the bank at the Queen Dowager's basset
table. But no body of men had so much reason to feel grateful to
William as the Roman Catholics. It would not have been safe to
rescind formally the severe resolutions which the Peers had
passed against the professors of a religion generally abhorred by
the nation: but, by the prudence and humanity of the Prince,
those resolutions were practically annulled. On his line of march
from Torbay to London, he had given orders that no outrage should
be committed on the persons or dwellings of Papists. He now
renewed those orders, and directed Burnet to see that they were
strictly obeyed. A better choice could not have been made; for
Burnet was a man of such generosity and good nature, that his
heart always warmed towards the unhappy; and at the same time his
known hatred of Popery was a sufficient guarantee to the most
zealous Protestants that the interests of their religion would be
safe in his hands. He listened kindly to the complaints of the
Roman Catholics, procured passports for those who wished to go
beyond sea, and went himself to Newgate to visit the prelates who
were imprisoned there. He ordered them to be removed to a more
commodious apartment and supplied with every indulgence. He
solemnly assured them that not a hair of their heads should be
touched, and that, as soon as the Prince could venture to act as
he wished, they should be set at liberty. The Spanish minister
reported to his government, and, through his government, to the
Pope, that no Catholic need feel any scruple of conscience on
account of the late revolution in England, that for the danger to
which the members of the true Church were exposed James alone was
responsible, and that William alone had saved them from a
sanguinary persecution.622

There was, therefore, little alloy to the satisfaction with which
the princes of the House of Austria and the Sovereign Pontiff
learned that the long vassalage of England was at an end. When it
was known at Madrid that William was in the full career of
success, a single voice in the Spanish Council of State faintly
expressed regret that an event which, in a political point of
view, was most auspicious, should be prejudicial to the interests
of the true Church.623 But the tolerant policy of the Prince soon
quieted all scruples, and his elevation was seen with scarcely
less satisfaction by the bigoted Grandees of Castile than by the
English Whigs.

With very different feelings had the news of this great
revolution been received in France. The politics of a long,
eventful, and glorious reign had been confounded in a day.
England was again the England of Elizabeth and of Cromwell; and
all the relations of all the states of Christendom were
completely changed by the sudden introduction of this new power
into the system. The Parisians could talk of nothing but what was
passing in London. National and religious feeling impelled them
to take the part of James. They knew nothing of the English
constitution. They abominated the English Church. Our revolution
appeared to them, not as the triumph of public liberty over
despotism, but as a frightful domestic tragedy in which a
venerable and pious Servius was hurled from his throne by a
Tarquin, and crushed under the chariot wheels of a Tullia. They
cried shame on the traitorous captains, execrated the unnatural
daughters, and regarded William with a mortal loathing, tempered,
however, by the respect which valour, capacity, and success
seldom fail to inspire.624 The Queen, exposed to the night wind
and rain, with the infant heir of three crowns clasped to her
breast, the King stopped, robbed, and outraged by ruffians, were
objects of pity and of romantic interest to all France. But Lewis
saw with peculiar emotion the calamities of the House of Stuart.
All the selfish and all the generous parts of his nature were
moved alike. After many years of prosperity he had at length met
with a great check. He had reckoned on the support or neutrality
of England. He had now nothing to expect from her but energetic
and pertinacious hostility. A few weeks earlier he might not
unreasonably have hoped to subjugate Flanders and to give law to
Germany. At present he might think himself fortunate if he should
be able to defend his own frontiers against a confederacy such as
Europe had not seen during many ages. From this position, so new,
so embarrassing, so alarming, nothing but a counterrevolution or
a civil war in the British Islands could extricate him. He was
therefore impelled by ambition and by fear to espouse the cause
of the fallen dynasty. And it is but just to say that motives
nobler than ambition or fear had a large share in determining his
course. His heart was naturally compassionate; and this was an
occasion which could not fail to call forth all his compassion.
His situation had prevented his good feelings from fully
developing themselves. Sympathy is rarely strong where there is a
great inequality of condition; and he was raised so high above
the mass of his fellow creatures that their distresses excited in
him only a languid pity, such as that with which we regard the
sufferings of the inferior animals, of a famished redbreast or of
an overdriven posthorse. The devastation of the Palatinate and
the persecution of the Huguenots had therefore given him no
uneasiness which pride and bigotry could not effectually soothe.
But all the tenderness of which he was capable was called forth
by the misery of a great King who had a few weeks ago been served
on the knee by Lords, and who was now a destitute exile. With
that tenderness was mingled, in the soul of Lewis, a not ignoble
vanity. He would exhibit to the world a pattern of munificence
and courtesy. He would show mankind what ought to be the bearing
of a perfect gentleman in the highest station and on the
greatest occasion; and, in truth, his conduct was marked by a
chivalrous generosity and urbanity, such as had not embellished
the annals of Europe since the Black Prince had stood behind the
chair of King John at the supper on the field Poitiers.

As soon as the news that the Queen of England was on the French
coast had been brought to Versailles, a palace was prepared for
her reception. Carriages and troops of guards were despatched to
await her orders, workmen were employed to mend the Calais road
that her journey might be easy. Lauzun was not only assured that
his past offences were forgiven for her sake, but was honoured
with a friendly letter in the handwriting of Lewis. Mary was on
the road towards the French court when news came that her husband
had, after a rough voyage, landed safe at the little village of
Ambleteuse. Persons of high rank were instantly despatched from
Versailles to greet and escort him. Meanwhile Lewis, attended by
his family and his nobility, went forth in state to receive the
exiled Queen. Before his gorgeous coach went the Swiss
halberdiers. On each side of it and behind it rode the body
guards with cymbals clashing and trumpets pealing. After the
King, in a hundred carriages each drawn by six horses, came the
most splendid aristocracy of Europe, all feathers, ribands,
jewels, and embroidery. Before the procession had gone far it was
announced that Mary was approaching. Lewis alighted and advanced
on foot to meet her. She broke forth into passionate expressions
of gratitude. "Madam," said her host, "it is but a melancholy
service that I am rendering you to day. I hope that I may be able
hereafter to render you services greater and more pleasing." He
embraced the little Prince of Wales, and made the Queen seat
herself in the royal state coach on the right hand. The cavalcade
then turned towards Saint Germains.

At Saint Germains, on the verge of a forest swarming with beasts
of chase, and on the brow of a hill which looks down on the
windings of the Seine, Francis the First had built a castle, and
Henry the Fourth had constructed a noble terrace. Of the
residences of the French kings none stood in a more salubrious
air or commanded a fairer prospect. The huge size and venerable
age of the trees, the beauty of the gardens, the abundance of the
springs, were widely famed. Lewis the Fourteenth had been born
there, had, when a young man, held his court there, had added
several stately pavilions to the mansion of Francis, and had
completed the terrace of Henry. Soon, however, the magnificent
King conceived an inexplicable disgust for his birthplace. He
quitted Saint Germains for Versailles, and expended sums almost
fabulous in the vain attempt to create a paradise on a spot
singularly sterile and unwholesome, all sand or mud, without
wood, without water, and without game. Saint Germains had now
been selected to be the abode of the royal family of England.
Sumptuous furniture had been hastily sent in. The nursery of the
Prince of Wales had been carefully furnished with everything that
an infant could require. One of the attendants presented to the
Queen the key of a superb casket which stood in her apartment.
She opened the casket, and found in it six thousand pistoles.

On the following day James arrived at Saint Germains. Lewis was
already there to welcome him. The unfortunate exile bowed so low
that it seemed as if he was about to embrace the knees of his
protector. Lewis raised him, and embraced him with brotherly
tenderness. The two Kings then entered the Queen's room. "Here is
a gentleman," said Lewis to Mary, "whom you will be glad to see."
Then, after entreating his guests to visit him next day at
Versailles, and to let him have the pleasure of showing them his
buildings, pictures, and plantations, he took the unceremonious
leave of an old friend.

In a few hours the royal pair were informed that, as long as they
would do the King of France the favour to accept of his
hospitality, forty-five thousand pounds sterling a year would be
paid them from his treasury. Ten thousand pounds sterling were
sent for outfit.

The liberality of Lewis, however, was much less rare and
admirable than the exquisite delicacy with which he laboured to
soothe the feelings of his guests and to lighten the almost
intolerable weight of the obligations which he laid upon them. He
who had hitherto, on all questions of precedence, been sensitive,
litigious, insolent, who had been more than once ready to plunge
Europe into war rather than concede the most frivolous point of
etiquette, was now punctilious indeed, but punctilious for his
unfortunate friends against himself. He gave orders that Mary
should receive all the marks of respect that had ever been paid
to his own deceased wife. A question was raised whether the
Princes of the House of Bourbon were entitled to be indulged with
chairs in the presence of the Queen. Such trifles were serious
matters at the old court of France. There were precedents on both
sides: but Lewis decided the point against his own blood. Some
ladies of illustrious rank omitted the ceremony of kissing the
hem of Mary's robe. Lewis remarked the omission, and noticed it
in such a voice and
with such a look that the whole peerage was ever after ready to
kiss her shoe. When Esther, just written by Racine, was acted at
Saint Cyr, Mary had the seat of honour. James was at her right
hand. Lewis modestly placed himself on the left. Nay, he was well
pleased that, in his own palace, an outcast living on his bounty
should assume the title of King of France, should, as King of
France, quarter the lilies with the English lions, and should, as
King of France, dress in violet on days of court mourning.

The demeanour of the French nobility on public occasions was
absolutely regulated by their sovereign: but it was beyond even
his power to prevent them from thinking freely, and from
expressing what they thought, in private circles, with the keen
and delicate wit characteristic of their nation and of their
order. Their opinion of Mary was favourable. They found her
person agreeable and her deportment dignified. They respected her
courage and her maternal affection; and they pitied her ill
fortune. But James they regarded with extreme contempt. They were
disgusted by his insensibility, by the cool way in which he
talked to every body of his ruin, and by the childish pleasure
which he took in the pomp and luxury of Versailles. This strange
apathy they attributed, not to philosophy or religion, but to
stupidity and meanness of spirit, and remarked that nobody who
had had the honour to hear His Britannic Majesty tell his own
story could wonder that he was at Saint Germains and his son in
law at Saint James's.625

In the United Provinces the excitement produced by the tidings
from England was even greater than in France. This was the moment
at which the Batavian federation reached the highest point of
power and glory. From the day on which the expedition sailed, the
anxiety of the whole Dutch nation had been intense. Never had
there been such crowds in the churches. Never had the enthusiasm
of the preachers been so ardent. The inhabitants of the Hague
could not be restrained from insulting Albeville. His house was
so closely beset by the populace, day and night, that scarcely
any person ventured to visit him; and he was afraid that his
chapel would be burned to the ground.626 As mail after mail
arrived with news of the Prince's progress, the spirits of his
countrymen rose higher and higher; and when at length it was
known that he had, on the invitation of the Lords and of an
assembly of eminent commoners, taken on himself the executive
administration, a general cry of pride and joy rose from all the
Dutch factions. An extraordinary mission was, with great speed,
despatched to congratulate him. Dykvelt, whose adroitness and
intimate knowledge of English politics made his assistance, at
such a conjuncture, peculiarly valuable, was one of the
Ambassadors; and with him was joined Nicholas Witsen, a
Burgomaster of Amsterdam, who seems to have been selected for the
purpose of proving to all Europe that the long feud between the
House of Orange and the chief city of Holland was at an end. On
the eighth of January Dykvelt and Witsen made their appearance at
Westminster. William talked to them with a frankness and an
effusion of heart which seldom appeared in his conversations with
Englishmen. His first words were, "Well, and what do our friends
at home say now?" In truth, the only applause by which his
stoical nature seems to have been strongly moved was the applause
of his dear native country. Of his immense popularity in England
he spoke with cold disdain, and predicted, too truly, the
reaction which followed. "Here," said he, "the cry is all
Hosannah today, and will, perhaps, be Crucify him tomorrow."627

On the following day the first members of the Convention were
chosen. The City of London led the way, and elected, without any
contest, four great merchants who were zealous Whigs. The King
and his adherents had hoped that many returning officers would
treat the Prince's letter as a nullity; but the hope was
disappointed. The elections went on rapidly and smoothly. There
were scarcely any contests. For the nation had, during more than
a year, been kept in constant expectation of a Parliament. Writs,
indeed, had been twice issued, and twice recalled. Some
constituent bodies had, under those writs, actually proceeded to
the choice of representatives. There was scarcely a county in
which the gentry and yeomanry had not, many months before, fixed
upon candidates, good Protestants, whom no exertions must be
spared to carry, in defiance of the King and of the Lord
Lieutenant; and these candidates were now generally returned
without opposition.

The Prince gave strict orders that no person in the public
service should, on this occasion, practise those arts which had
brought so much obloquy on the late government. He especially
directed that no soldiers should be suffered to appear in any
town where an election was going on.628 His admirers were able to
boast, and his enemies seem not to have been able to deny, that
the sense of the constituent bodies was fairly taken. It is true
that he risked little. The party which was attached to him was
triumphant, enthusiastic, full of life and energy. The party from
which alone he could expect serious opposition was disunited and
disheartened, out of humour with itself, and still more out of
humour with its natural chief. A great majority, therefore, of
the shires and boroughs returned Whig members.

It was not over England alone that William's guardianship now
extended. Scotland had risen on her tyrants. All the regular
soldiers by whom she had long been held down had been summoned by
James to his help against the Dutch invaders, with the exception
of a very small force, which, under the command of the Duke of
Gordon, a great Roman Catholic Lord, garrisoned the Castle of
Edinburgh. Every mail which had gone northward during the
eventful month of November had carried news which stirred the
passions of the oppressed Scots. While the event of the military
operations was still doubtful, there were at Edinburgh riots and
clamours which became more menacing after James had retreated
from Salisbury. Great crowds assembled at first by night, and
then by broad daylight. Popes were publicly burned: loud shouts
were raised for a free Parliament: placards were stuck up setting
prices on the heads of the ministers of the crown. Among those
ministers Perth, as filling the great place of Chancellor, as
standing high in the royal favour, as an apostate from the
reformed faith, and as the man who had first introduced the
thumbscrew into the jurisprudence of his country, was the most
detested. His nerves were weak, his spirit abject; and the only
courage which he possessed was that evil courage which braves
infamy, and which looks steadily on the torments of others. His
post, at such a time, was at the head of the Council board: but
his heart failed him; and he determined to take refuge at his
country seat from the danger which, as he judged by the looks and
cries of the fierce and resolute populace of Edinburgh, was not
remote. A strong guard escorted him safe to Castle Drummond: but
scarcely had he departed when the city rose up. A few troops
tried to suppress the insurrection, but were overpowered. The
palace of Holyrood, which had been turned into a Roman Catholic
seminary and printing house, was stormed and sacked. Huge heaps
of Popish books, beads, crucifixes, and pictures were burned in
the High Street. In the midst of the agitation came down the
tidings of the King's flight. The members of the government gave
up all thought of contending with the popular fury, and changed
sides with a promptitude then common among Scottish politicians.
The Privy Council by one proclamation ordered that all Papists
should be disarmed, and by another invited Protestants to muster
for the defence of pure religion. The nation had not waited for
the call. Town and country were already up in arms for the Prince
of Orange. Nithisdale and Clydesdale were the only regions in
which there was the least chance that the Roman Catholics would
make head; and both Nithisdale and Clydesdale were soon occupied
by bands of armed Presbyterians. Among the insurgents were some
fierce and moody men who had formerly disowned Argyle, and who
were now equally eager to disown William. His Highness, they
said, was plainly a malignant. There was not a word about the
Covenant in his Declaration. The Dutch were a people with whom no
true servant of the Lord would unite. They consorted with
Lutherans; and a Lutheran was as much a child of perdition as a
Jesuit. The general voice of the kingdom, however, effectually
drowned the growl of this hateful faction.629

The commotion soon reached the neighbourhood of Castle Drummond.
Perth found that he was no longer safe among his own servants and
tenants. He gave himself up to an agony as bitter as that into
which his merciless tyranny had often thrown better men. He
wildly tried to find consolation in the rites of his new Church.
He importuned his priests for comfort, prayed, confessed, and
communicated: but his faith was weak; and he owned that, in spite
of all his devotions, the strong terrors of death were upon him.
At this time he learned that he had a chance of escaping on board
of a ship which lay off Brentisland. He disguised himself as well
as he could, and, after a long and difficult journey by
unfrequented paths over the Ochill mountains, which were then
deep in snow, he succeeded in embarking: but, in spite of all his
precautions, he had been recognised, and the alarm had been
given. As soon as it was known that the cruel renegade was on the
waters, and that he had gold with him, pursuers, inflamed at once
by hatred and by avarice, were on his track, A skiff, commanded
by an old buccaneer, overtook the flying vessel and boarded her.
Perth was dragged out of the hold on deck in woman's clothes,
stripped, hustled, and plundered. Bayonets were held to his
breast. Begging for life with unmanly cries, he was hurried to
the shore and flung into the common gaol of Kirkaldy. Thence, by
order of the Council over which he had lately presided, and which
was filled with men who had been partakers in his guilt, he was
removed to Stirling Castle. It was on a Sunday, during the time
of public worship, that he was conveyed under a guard to his
place of confinement: but even rigid Puritans forgot the sanctity
of the day and of the work. The churches poured forth their
congregations as the torturer passed by, and the noise of
threats, execrations, and screams of hatred accompanied him to
the gate of his prison.630

Several eminent Scotsmen were in London when the Prince arrived
there; and many others now hastened thither to pay their court to
him. On the seventh of January he requested them to attend him at
Whitehall. The assemblage was large and respectable. The Duke of
Hamilton and his eldest son, the Earl of Arran, the chiefs of a
house of almost regal dignity, appeared at the head of the
procession. They were accompanied by thirty Lords and about
eighty gentlemen of note. William desired them to consult
together, and to let him know in what way he could best promote
the welfare of their country. He then withdrew, and left them to
deliberate unrestrained by his presence. They repaired to the
Council chamber, and put Hamilton into the chair. Though there
seems to have been little difference of opinion, their debates
lasted three days, a fact which is sufficiently explained by the
circumstance that Sir Patrick Hume was one of the debaters. Arran
ventured to recommend a negotiation with the King. But this
motion was ill received by the mover's father and by the whole
assembly, and did not even find a seconder. At length resolutions
were carried closely resembling the resolutions which the English
Lords and Commoners had presented to the Prince a few days
before. He was requested to call together a Convention of the
Estates of Scotland, to fix the fourteenth of March for the day
of meeting, and, till that day, to take on himself the civil and
military administration. To this request he acceded; and
thenceforth the government of the whole island was in his

The decisive moment approached; and the agitation of the public
mind rose to the height. Knots of politicians were everywhere
whispering and consulting. The coffeehouses were in a ferment.
The presses of the capital never rested. Of the pamphlets which
appeared at that time, enough may still be collected to form
several volumes; and from those pamphlets it is not difficult to
gather a correct notion of the state of parties.

There was a very small faction which wished to recall James
without stipulations. There was also a very small faction which
wished to set up a commonwealth, and to entrust the
administration to a council of state under the presidency of the
Prince of Orange. But these extreme opinions were generally held
in abhorrence. Nineteen twentieths , of the nation consisted of
persons in whom love of hereditary monarchy and love of
constitutional freedom were combined, though in different
proportions, and who were equally opposed to the total abolition
of the kingly office and to the unconditional restoration of the

But, in the wide interval which separated the bigots who still
clung to the doctrines of Filmer from the enthusiasts who still
dreamed the dreams of Harrington, there was room for many shades
of opinion. If we neglect minute subdivisions, we shall find that
the great majority of the nation and of the Convention was
divided into four bodies. Three of these bodies consisted of
Tories. The Whig party formed the fourth.

The amity of the Whigs and Tories had not survived the peril
which had produced it. On several occasions, during the Prince's
march from the West, dissension had appeared among his followers.
While the event of his enterprise was doubtful, that dissension
had, by his skilful management, been easily quieted. But, from
the day on which he entered Saint James's palace in triumph, such
management could no longer be practised. His victory, by
relieving the nation from the strong dread of Popish tyranny, had
deprived him of half his influence. Old antipathies, which had
slept when Bishops were in the Tower, when Jesuits were at the
Council board, when loyal clergymen were deprived of their bread
by scores, when loyal gentlemen were put out of the commission of
the peace by hundreds, were again strong and active. The Royalist
shuddered at the thought that he was allied with all that from
his youth up he had most hated, with old parliamentary Captains
who had stormed his country house, with old parliamentary
Commissioners who had sequestrated his estate, with men who had
plotted the Rye House butchery and headed the Western rebellion.
That beloved Church, too, for whose sake he had, after a painful
struggle, broken through his allegiance to the throne, was she
really in safety? Or had he rescued her from one enemy only that
she might be exposed to another? The Popish priests, indeed, were
in exile, in hiding, or in prison. No Jesuit or Benedictine who
valued his life now dared to show himself in the habit of his
order. But the Presbyterian and Independent teachers went in long
procession to salute the chief of the government, and were as
graciously received as the true successors of the Apostles. Some
schismatics avowed the hope that every fence which excluded them
from ecclesiastical preferment would soon be levelled; that the
Articles would be softened down; that the Liturgy would be
garbled; that Christmas would cease to be a feast; that Good
Friday would cease to be a fast; that canons on whom no Bishop
had ever laid his hand would, without the sacred vestment of
white linen, distribute, in the choirs of Cathedrals, the
eucharistic bread and wine to communicants lolling on benches.
The Prince, indeed, was not a fanatical Presbyterian; but he was
at best a Latitudinarian. He had no scruple about communicating
in the Anglican form; but he cared not in what form other people
communicated. His wife, it was to be feared, had imbibed too much
of his spirit. Her conscience was under the direction of Burnet.
She heard preachers of different Protestant sects. She had
recently said that she saw no essential difference between the
Church of England and the other reformed Churches.632 It was
necessary, therefore, that the Cavaliers should, at this
conjuncture, follow the example set by their fathers in 1641,
should draw off from Roundheads and sectaries, and should, in
spite of all the faults of the hereditary monarch, uphold the
cause of hereditary monarchy.

The body which was animated by these sentiments was large and
respectable. It included about one half of the House of Lords,
about one third of the House of Commons, a majority of the
country gentlemen, and at least nine tenths of the clergy; but it
was torn by dissensions, and beset on every side by difficulties.

One section of this great party, a section which was especially
strong among divines, and of which Sherlock was the chief organ,
wished that a negotiation should be opened with James, and that
he should be invited to return to Whitehall on such conditions as
might fully secure the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of
the realm.633 It is evident that this plan, though strenuously
supported by the clergy, was altogether inconsistent with the
doctrines which the clergy had been teaching during many years.
It was, in truth, an attempt to make a middle way where there was
no room for a middle way, to effect a compromise between two
things which do not admit of compromise, resistance and
nonresistance. The Tories had formerly taken their stand on the
principle of nonresistance. But that ground most of them had now
abandoned, and were not disposed again to occupy. The Cavaliers
of England had, as a class, been so deeply concerned, directly or
indirectly, in the late rising against the King, that they could
not, for very shame, talk at that moment about the sacred duty of
obeying Nero; nor, indeed, were they disposed to recall the
prince under whose misgovernment they had suffered so much,
without exacting from him terms which might make it impossible
for him again to abuse his power. They were, therefore, in a
false position. Their old theory, sound or unsound, was at least
complete and coherent. If that theory were sound, the King ought
to be immediately invited back, and permitted, if such were his
pleasure, to put Seymour and Danby, the Bishop of London and the
Bishop of Bristol, to death for high treason, to reestablish the
Ecclesiastical Commission, to fill the Church with Popish
dignitaries, and to place the army under the command of Popish
officers. But if, as the Tories themselves now seemed to confess,
that theory was unsound, why treat with the King? If it was
admitted that he might lawfully be excluded till be gave
satisfactory guarantees for the security of the constitution in
Church and State, it was not easy to deny that he might lawfully
be excluded for ever. For what satisfactory guarantee could he
give? How was it possible to draw up an Act of Parliament in
language clearer than the language of the Acts of Parliament
which required that the Dean of Christ Church should be a
Protestant? How was it possible to put any promise into words
stronger than those in which James had repeatedly declared that
he would strictly respect the legal rights of the Anglican
clergy? If law or honour could have bound him, he would never
have been forced to fly from his kingdom. If neither law nor
honour could bind him, could he safely be permitted to return?

It is probable, however, that, in spite of these arguments, a
motion for opening a negotiation with James would have been made
in the Convention, and would have been supported by the great
body of Tories, had he not been, on this, as on every other
occasion, his own worst enemy. Every post which arrived from
Saint Germains brought intelligence which damped the ardour of
his adherents. He did not think it worth his while to feign
regret for his past errors, or to promise amendment. He put forth
a manifesto, telling his people that it had been his constant
care to govern them with justice and moderation, and that they
had been cheated into ruin by imaginary grievances.634 The effect
of his folly and obstinacy was that those who were most desirous
to see him restored to his throne on fair conditions felt that,
by proposing at that moment to treat with him, they should injure
the cause which they wished to serve. They therefore determined
to coalesce with another body of Tories of whom Sancroft was the
chief. Sancroft fancied that he had found out a device by which
provision might be made for the government of the country without
recalling James, and yet without despoiling him of his crown.
This device was a Regency. The most uncompromising of those
divines who had inculcated the doctrine of passive obedience had
never maintained that such obedience was due to a babe or to a
madman. It was universally acknowledged that, when the rightful
sovereign was intellectually incapable of performing his office,
a deputy might be appointed to act in his stead, and that any
person who should resist the deputy, and should plead as an
excuse for doing so the command of a prince who was in the
cradle, or who was raving, would justly incur the penalties of
rebellion. Stupidity, perverseness, and superstition, such was
the reasoning of the Primate, had made James as unfit to rule his
dominions as any child in swaddling clothes, or as any maniac who
was grinning and chattering in the straw of Bedlam. That course
must therefore be taken which had been taken when Henry the Sixth
was an infant, and again when he became lethargic. James could
not be King in effect: but he must still continue to be King in
semblance. Writs must still run in his name. His image and
superscription must still appear on the coin and on the Great
Seal. Acts of Parliament must still be called from the years of
his reign. But the administration must be taken from him and
confided to a Regent named by the Estates of the Realm. In this
way, Sancroft gravely maintained, the people would remain true to
their allegiance: the oaths of fealty which they had sworn to
their King would be strictly fulfilled; and the most orthodox
Churchmen might, without any scruple of conscience, take office
under the Regent.635

The opinion of Sancroft had great weight with the whole Tory
party, and especially with the clergy. A week before the day for
which the Convention had been summoned, a grave party assembled
at Lambeth Palace, heard prayers in the chapel, dined with the
Primate, and then consulted on the state of public affairs. Five
suffragans of the Archbishop, who had shared his perils and his
glory in the preceding summer, were present. The Earls of
Clarendon and Ailesbury represented the Tory laity. The unanimous
sense of the meeting appeared to be that those who had taken the
oath of allegiance to James might justifiably withdraw their
obedience from him, but could not with a safe conscience call any
other by the name of King.636

Thus two sections of the Tory party, a section which looked
forward to an accommodation with James, and a section which was
opposed to any such accommodation, agreed in supporting the plan
of Regency. But a third section, which, though not very numerous,
had great weight and influence, recommended a very different
plan. The leaders of this small band were Danby and the Bishop of
London in the House of Lords, and Sir Robert Sawyer in the House
of Commons. They conceived that they had found out a way of
effecting a complete revolution under strictly legal forms. It
was contrary to all principle, they said, that the King should be
deposed by his subjects; nor was it necessary to depose him. He
had himself, by his flight, abdicated his power and dignity. A
demise had actually taken place. All constitutional lawyers held
that the throne of England could not be one moment vacant. The
next heir had therefore succeeded. Who, then, was the next heir?
As to the infant who had been carried into France, his entrance
into the world had been attended by many suspicious
circumstances. It was due to the other members of the royal
family and to the nation that all doubts should be cleared up. An
investigation had been solemnly demanded, in the name of the
Princess of Orange, by her husband, and would have been
instituted if the parties who were accused of fraud had not taken
a course which, in any ordinary case, would have been considered
as a decisive proof of guilt. They had not chosen to await the
issue of a solemn parliamentary proceeding: they had stolen away
into a foreign country: they had carried with them the child:
they had carried with them all those French and Italian women of
the bedchamber who, if there had been foul play, must have been
privy to it, and who ought therefore to have been subjected to a
rigorous cross examination. To admit the boy's claim without
inquiry was impossible; and those who called themselves his
parents had made inquiry impossible. Judgment must therefore go
against him by default. If he was wronged, he was wronged, not by
the nation, but by those whose strange conduct at the time of his
birth had justified the nation in demanding investigation, and
who had then avoided investigation by flight. He might therefore,
with perfect equity, be considered as a pretender. And thus the
crown had legally devolved on the Princess of Orange. She was
actually Queen Regnant. The Houses had nothing to do but to
proclaim her. She might, if such were her pleasure, make her
husband her first minister, and might even, with the consent of
Parliament, bestow on him the title of King.

The persons who preferred this scheme to any other were few; and
it was certain to be opposed, both by all who still bore any good
will to James, and by all the adherents of William. Yet Danby,
confident in his own knowledge of parliamentary tactics, and well
aware how much, when great parties are nearly balanced, a small
flying squadron can effect, was not without hopes of being able
to keep the event of the contest in suspense till both Whigs and
Tories, despairing of complete victory, and afraid of the
consequences of delay, should suffer him to act as umpire. Nor is
it impossible that he might have succeeded if his efforts had
been seconded, nay, if they had not been counteracted, by her
whom he wished to raise to the height of human greatness.
Quicksighted as he was and versed in affairs, he was altogether
ignorant of the character of Mary, and of the feeling with which
she regarded her husband; nor was her old preceptor, Compton,
better informed. William's manners were dry and cold, his
constitution was infirm, and his temper by no means bland; he was
not a man who would commonly be thought likely to inspire a fine
young woman of twenty-six with a violent passion. It was known
that he had not always been strictly constant to his wife; and
talebearers had reported that she did not live happily with him.
The most acute politicians therefore never suspected that, with
all his faults, he had obtained such an empire over her heart as
princes the most renowned for their success in gallantry, Francis
the First and Henry the Fourth, Lewis the Fourteenth and Charles
the Second, had never obtained over the heart of any woman, and
that the three kingdoms of her forefathers were valuable in her
estimation chiefly because, by bestowing them on him, she could
prove to him the intensity and disinterestedness of her
affection. Danby, in profound ignorance of her sentiments,
assured her that he would defend her rights, and that, if she
would support him, he hoped to place her alone on the throne.637

The course of the Whigs, meanwhile, was simple and consistent.
Their doctrine was that the foundation of our government was a
contract expressed on one side by the oath of allegiance, and on
the other by the coronation oath, and that the duties imposed by
this contract were mutual. They held that a sovereign who grossly
abused his power might lawfully be withstood and dethroned by his
people. That James had grossly abused his power was not disputed;
and the whole Whig party was ready to pronounce that he had
forfeited it. Whether the Prince of Wales was supposititious, was
a point not worth discussing. There were now far stronger reasons
than any which could be drawn from the circumstances of his birth
for excluding him from the throne. A child, brought to the royal
couch in a warming pan, might possibly prove a good King of
England. But there could be no such hope for a child educated by
a father who was the most stupid and obstinate of tyrants, in a
foreign country, the seat of despotism and superstition; in a
country where the last traces of liberty had disappeared; where
the States General had ceased to meet; where parliaments had long
registered without one remonstrance the most oppressive edicts of
the sovereign; where valour, genius, learning, seemed to exist
only for the purpose of aggrandising a single man; where
adulation was the main business of the press, the pulpit, and the
stage; and where one chief subject of adulation was the barbarous
persecution of the Reformed Church. Was the boy likely to learn,
under such tuition and in such a situation, respect for the
institutions of his native land? Could it be doubted that he
would be brought up to be the slave of the Jesuits and the
Bourbons, and that he would be, if possible, more bitterly
prejudiced than any preceding Stuart against the laws of England?

Nor did the Whigs think that, situated as the country then was, a
departure from the ordinary rule of succession was in itself an
evil. They were of opinion that, till that rule had been broken,
the doctrines of indefeasible hereditary right and passive
obedience would be pleasing to the court, would be inculcated by
the clergy, and would retain a strong hold on the public mind.
The notion would still prevail that the kingly office is the
ordinance of God in a sense different from that in which all
government is his ordinance. It was plain that, till this
superstition was extinct, the constitution could never be secure.
For a really limited monarchy cannot long exist in a society
which regards monarchy as something divine, and the limitations
as mere human inventions. Royalty, in order that it might exist
in perfect harmony with our liberties, must be unable to show any
higher or more venerable title than that by which we hold our
liberties. The King must be henceforth regarded as a magistrate,
a great magistrate indeed and highly to be honoured, but subject,
like all other magistrates, to the law, and deriving his power
from heaven in no other sense than that in which the Lords and
the Commons may be said to derive their power from heaven. The
best way of effecting this salutary change would be to interrupt
the course of descent. Under sovereigns who would consider it as
little short of high treason to preach nonresistance and the
patriarchal theory of government, under sovereigns whose
authority, springing from resolutions of the two Houses, could
never rise higher than its source, there would be little risk of
oppression such as had compelled two generations of Englishmen to
rise in arms against two generations of Stuarts. On these grounds
the Whigs were prepared to declare the throne vacant, to fill it
by election, and to impose on the prince of their choice such
conditions as might secure the country against misgovernment.

The time for the decision of these great questions had now
arrived. At break of day, on the twenty-second of January, the
House of Commons was crowded with knights and burgesses. On the
benches appeared many faces which had been well known in that
place during the reign of Charles the Second, but had not been
seen there under his successor. Most of those Tory squires, and
of those needy retainers of the court, who had been returned in
multitudes to the Parliament of 1685, had given place to the men
of the old country party, the men who had driven the Cabal from
power, who had carried the Habeas Corpus Act, and who had sent up
the Exclusion Bill to the Lords. Among them was Powle, deeply
read in the history and law of Parliament, and distinguished by
the species of eloquence which is required when grave questions
are to be solemnly brought under the notice of senates; and Sir
Thomas Littleton, versed in European politics, and gifted with a
vehement and piercing logic which had often, when, after a long
sitting, the candles had been lighted, roused the languishing
House, and decided the event of the debate. There, too, was
William Sacheverell, an orator whose great parliamentary
abilities were, many years later, a favourite theme of old men
who lived to see the conflicts of Walpole and Pulteney.638 With
these eminent persons was joined Sir Robert Clayton, the
wealthiest merchant of London, whose palace in the Old Jewry
surpassed in splendour the aristocratical mansions of Lincoln's
Inn Fields and Covent Garden, whose villa among the Surrey hills
was described as a garden of Eden, whose banquets vied with those
of Kings, and whose judicious munificence, still attested by numerous public
monuments, had obtained for him in
the annals of the City a place second only to that of Gresham. In
the Parliament which met at Oxford in 1681, Clayton had, as
member for the capital, and at the request of his constituents,
moved for leave to bring in the Bill of Exclusion, and had been
seconded by Lord Russell. In 1685 the City, deprived of its
franchises and governed by the creatures of the court, had
returned four Tory representatives. But the old charter had now
been restored; and Clayton had been again chosen by
acclamation.639 Nor must John Birch be passed over. He had begun
life as a carter, but had, in the civil wars, left his team, had
turned soldier, had risen to the rank of Colonel in the army of
the Commonwealth, had, in high fiscal offices, shown great
talents for business, had sate many years in Parliament, and,
though retaining to the last the rough manners and plebeian
dialect of his youth, had, by strong sense and mother wit, gained
the ear of the Commons, and was regarded as a formidable opponent
by the most accomplished debaters of his time.640 These were the
most conspicuous among the veterans who now, after a long
seclusion, returned to public life. But they were all speedily
thrown into the shade by two younger Whigs, who, on this great
day, took their seats for the first time, who soon rose to the
highest honours of the state, who weathered together the fiercest
storms of faction, and who, having been long and widely renowned
as statesmen, as orators, and as munificent patrons of genius and
learning, died, within a few months of each other, soon after the
accession of the House of Brunswick. These were Charles Montague
and John Somers.

One other name must be mentioned, a name then known only to a
small circle of philosophers, but now pronounced beyond the
Ganges and the Mississippi with reverence exceeding that which is
paid to the memory of the greatest warriors and rulers. Among the
crowd of silent members appeared the majestic forehead and
pensive face of Isaac Newton. The renowned University on which
his genius had already begun to impress a peculiar character,
still plainly discernible after the lapse of a hundred and sixty
years, had sent him to the Convention; and he sate there, in his
modest greatness, the unobtrusive but unflinching friend of civil
and religious freedom.

The first act of the Commons was to choose a Speaker; and the
choice which they made indicated in a manner not to be mistaken
their opinion touching the great questions which they were about
to decide. Down to the very eve of the meeting, it had been
understood that Seymour would be placed in the chair. He had
formerly sate there during several years. He had great and
various titles to consideration; descent, fortune, knowledge,
experience, eloquence. He had long been at the head of a powerful
band of members from the Western counties. Though a Tory, he had
in the last Parliament headed, with conspicuous ability and
courage, the opposition to Popery and arbitrary power. He had
been among the first gentlemen who had repaired to the Dutch head
quarters at Exeter, and had been the author of that association
by which the Prince's adherents had bound themselves to stand or
fall together. But, a few hours before the Houses met, a rumour
was spread that Seymour was against declaring the throne vacant.
As soon, therefore, as the benches had filled, the Earl of
Wiltshire, who represented Hampshire, stood up, and proposed that
Powle should be Speaker. Sir Vere Fane, member for Kent, seconded
the motion. A plausible objection might have been raised; for it
was known that a petition was about to be presented against
Powle's return: but the general cry of the House called him to
the chair; and the Tories thought it prudent to acquiesce.641 The
mace was then laid on the table; the list of members was called
over; and the names of the defaulters were noted.

Meanwhile the Peers, about a hundred in number, had met, had
chosen Halifax to be their Speaker, and had appointed several
eminent lawyers to perform the functions which, in regular
Parliaments, belong to the judges. There was, in the course of
that day, frequent communication between the Houses. They joined
in requesting that the Prince would continue to administer the
government till he should hear further from them, in expressing
to him their gratitude for the deliverance which he, under God,
had wrought for the nation, and in directing that the thirty-
first of January should be observed as a day of thanksgiving for
that deliverance.642

Thus far no difference of opinion had appeared: but both sides
were preparing for the conflict. The Tories were strong in the
Upper House, and weak in the Lower; and they knew that, at such a
conjuncture, the House which should be the first to come to a
resolution would have a great advantage over the other. There was
not the least chance that the Commons would send up to the Lords
a vote in favour of the plan of Regency: but, if such a vote were
sent down from the Lords to the Commons, it was not absolutely
impossible that many even of the Whig representatives of the
people might be disposed to acquiesce rather than take the grave
responsibility of causing discord and delay at a crisis which
required union and expedition. The Commons had determined that,
on Monday the twenty-eighth of January, they would take into
consideration the state of the nation. The Tory Lords therefore
proposed, on Friday the twenty-fifth, to enter instantly on the
great business for which they had been called together. But their
motives were clearly discerned and their tactics frustrated by
Halifax, who, ever since his return from Hungerford, had seen
that the settlement of the government could be effected on Whig
principles only, and who had therefore, for the time, allied
himself closely with the Whigs. Devonshire moved that Tuesday the
twenty-ninth should be the day. "By that time," he said with more
truth than discretion, "we may have some lights from below which
may be useful for our guidance." His motion was carried; but his
language was severely censured by some of his brother peers as
derogatory to their order.643

On the twenty-eighth the Commons resolved themselves into a
committee of the whole House. A member who had, more than thirty
years before, been one of Cromwell's Lords, Richard Hampden, son
of the illustrious leader of the Roundheads, and father of the
unhappy man who had, by large bribes and degrading submissions,
narrowly escaped with life from the vengeance of James, was
placed in the chair, and the great debate began.

It was soon evident that an overwhelming majority considered
James as no longer King. Gilbert Dolben, son of the late
Archbishop of York, was the first who declared himself to be of
that opinion. He was supported by many members, particularly by
the bold and vehement Wharton, by Sawyer, whose steady opposition
to the dispensing power had, in some measure, atoned for old
offences, by Maynard, whose voice, though so feeble with age that
it could not be heard on distant benches, still commanded the
respect of all parties, and by Somers, whose luminous eloquence
and varied stores of knowledge were on that day exhibited, for
the first time, within the walls of Parliament. The unblushing
forehead and voluble tongue of Sir William Williams were found on
the same side. Already he had been deeply concerned in the
excesses both of the worst of oppositions and of the worst of
governments. He had persecuted innocent Papists and innocent
Protestants. He had been the patron of Oates and the tool of
Petre. His name was associated with seditious violence which was
remembered with regret and shame by all respectable Whigs, and
with freaks of despotism abhorred by all respectable Tories. How
men live under such infamy it is not easy to understand: but even
such infamy was not enough for Williams. He was not ashamed to
attack the fallen master to whom he had hired himself out for
work which no honest man in the Inns of Court would undertake,
and from whom he had, within six months, accepted a baronetcy as
the reward of servility.

Only three members ventured to oppose themselves to what was
evidently the general sense of the assembly. Sir Christopher
Musgrave, a Tory gentleman of great weight and ability, hinted
some doubts. Heneage Finch let fall some expressions which were
understood to mean that he wished a negotiation to be opened with
the King. This suggestion was so ill received that he made haste
to explain it away. He protested that he had been misapprehended.
He was convinced that, under such a prince, there could be no
security for religion, liberty, or property. To recall King
James, or to treat with him, would be a fatal course; but many
who would never consent that he should exercise the regal power
had conscientious scruples about depriving him of the royal
title. There was one expedient which would remove all
difficulties, a Regency. This proposition found so little favour
that Finch did not venture to demand a division. Richard Fanshaw,
Viscount Fanshaw of the kingdom of Ireland, said a few words in
behalf of James, and recommended an adjournment: but the
recommendation was met by a general outcry. Member after member
stood up to represent the importance of despatch. Every moment,
it was said, was precious, the public anxiety was intense, trade
was suspended. The minority sullenly submitted, and suffered the
predominant party to take its own course.

What that course would be was not perfectly clear. For the
majority was made up of two classes. One class consisted of eager
and vehement Whigs, who, if they had been able to take their own
course, would have given to the proceedings of the Convention a
decidedly revolutionary character. The other class admitted that
a revolution was necessary, but regarded it as a necessary evil,
and wished to disguise it, as much as possible, under the show of
legitimacy. The former class demanded a distinct recognition of
the right of subjects to dethrone bad princes. The latter class
desired to rid the country of one bad prince, without
promulgating any doctrine which might be abused for the purpose
of weakening the just and salutary authority of future monarchs.
The former class dwelt chiefly on the King's misgovernment; the
latter on his flight. The former class considered him as having
forfeited his crown; the latter as having resigned it. It was not
easy to draw up any form of words which would please all whose
assent it was important to obtain; but at length, out of many
suggestions offered from different quarters, a resolution was
framed which gave general satisfaction. It was moved that King
James the Second, having endeavoured to subvert the constitution
of the kingdom by breaking the original contract between King and
people, and, by the advice of Jesuits and other wicked persons,
having violated the fundamental laws, and having withdrawn
himself out of the kingdom, had abdicated the government, and
that the throne had thereby become vacant.

This resolution has been many times subjected to criticism as
minute and severe as was ever applied to any sentence written by
man, and perhaps there never was a sentence written by man which
would bear such criticism less. That a King by grossly abusing
his power may forfeit it is true. That a King, who absconds
without making any provision for the administration, and leaves
his people in a state of anarchy, may, without any violent
straining of language, be said to have abdicated his functions is
also true. But no accurate writer would affirm that long
continued misgovernment and desertion, added together, make up an
act of abdication. It is evident too that the mention of the
Jesuits and other evil advisers of James weakens, instead of
strengthening, the case against him. For surely more indulgence
is due to a man misled by pernicious counsel than to a man who
goes wrong from the mere impulse of his own mind. It is idle,
however, to examine these memorable words as we should examine a
chapter of Aristotle or of Hobbes. Such words are to be
considered, not as words, but as deeds. If they effect that which
they are intended to effect, they are rational, though they may
be contradictory. It they fail of attaining their end, they are
absurd, though they carry demonstration with them. Logic admits
of no compromise. The essense of politics is compromise. It is
therefore not strange that some of the most important and most
useful political instruments in the world should be among the
most illogical compositions that ever were penned. The object of
Somers, of Maynard, and of the other eminent men who shaped this
celebrated motion was, not to leave to posterity a model of
definition and partition, but to make the restoration of a tyrant
impossible, and to place on the throne a sovereign under whom law
and liberty might be secure. This object they attained by using
language which, in a philosophical treatise, would justly be
reprehended as inexact and confused. They cared little whether
their major agreed with their conclusion, if the major secured
two hundred votes, and the conclusion two hundred more. In fact
the one beauty of the resolution is its inconsistency. There was
a phrase for every subdivision of the majority. The mention of
the original contract gratified the disciples of Sidney. The word
abdication conciliated politicians of a more timid school. There
were doubtless many fervent Protestants who were pleased with the
censure cast on the Jesuits. To the real statesman the single
important clause was that which declared the throne vacant; and,
if that clause could be carried, he cared little by what preamble
it might be introduced. The force which was thus united made all
resistance hopeless. The motion was adopted by the Committee
without a division. It was ordered that the report should be
instantly made. Powle returned to the chair: the mace was laid on
the table: Hampden brought up the resolution: the House instantly
agreed to it, and ordered him to carry it to the Lords.644

On the following morning the Lords assembled early. The benches
both of the spiritual and of the temporal peers were crowded.
Hampden appeared at the bar, and put the resolution of the
Commons into the hands of Halifax. The Upper House then resolved
itself into a committee; and Danby took the chair. The discussion
was soon interrupted by the reappearance of Hampden with another
message. The House resumed and was informed that the Commons had
just voted it inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this
Protestant nation to be governed by a Popish King. To this
resolution, irreconcilable as it obviously was with the doctrine
of indefeasible hereditary right, the Peers gave an immediate and
unanimous assent. The principle which was thus affirmed has
always, down to our own time, been held sacred by all Protestant
statesmen, and has never been considered by any reasonable Roman
Catholic as objectionable. If, indeed, our sovereigns were, like
the Presidents of the United States, mere civil functionaries, it
would not be easy to vindicate such a restriction. But the
headship of the English Church is annexed to the English crown;
and there is no intolerance in saying that a Church ought not to
be subjected to a head who regards her as schismatical and

After this short interlude the Lords again went into committee.
The Tories insisted that their plan should be discussed before
the vote of the Commons which declared the throne vacant was
considered. This was conceded to them; and the question was put
whether a Regency, exercising kingly power during the life of
James, in his name, would be the best expedient for preserving
the laws and liberties of the nation?

The contest was long and animated. The chief speakers in favour
of a Regency were Rochester and Nottingham. Halifax and Danby led
the other side. The Primate, strange to say, did not make his
appearance, though earnestly importuned by the Tory peers to
place himself at their head. His absence drew on him many
contumelious censures; nor have even his eulogists been able to
find any explanation of it which raises his character.646 The
plan of Regency was his own. He had, a few days before, in a
paper written with his own hand, pronounced that plan to be
clearly the best that could be adopted. The deliberations of the
Lords who supported that plan had been carried on under his roof.
His situation made it his clear duty to declare publicly what he
thought. Nobody can suspect him of personal cowardice or of
vulgar cupidity. It was probably from a nervous fear of doing
wrong that, at this great conjuncture, he did nothing: but he
should have known that, situated as he was, to do nothing was to
do wrong. A man who is too scrupulous to take on himself a grave
responsibility at an important crisis ought to be too scrupulous
to accept the place of first minister of the Church and first
peer of the realm.

It is not strange, however, that Sancroft's mind should have been
ill at case; for he could hardly be blind to the obvious truth
that the scheme which he had recommended to his friends was
utterly inconsistent with all that he and his brethren had been
teaching during many years. That the King had a divine and
indefeasible right to the regal power, and that the regal power,
even when most grossly abused, could not without sin, be
resisted, was the doctrine in which the Anglican Church had long
gloried. Did this doctrine then really mean only that the King
had a divine and indefeasible right to have his effigy and name
cut on a seal which was to be daily employed in despite of him
for the purpose of commissioning his enemies to levy war on him,
and of sending his friends to the gallows for obeying him? Did
the whole duty of a good subject consist in using the word King?
If so, Fairfax at Naseby and Bradshaw in the High Court of
justice had performed all the duty of good subjects. For Charles
had been designated by the generals who commanded against him,
and even by the judges who condemned him, as King. Nothing in the
conduct of the Long Parliament had been more severely blamed by
the Church than the ingenious device of using the name of Charles
against himself. Every one of her ministers had been required to
sign a declaration condemning as traitorous the fiction by which
the authority of the sovereign had been separated from his
person.647 Yet this traitorous fiction was now considered by the
Primate and by many of his suffragans as the only basis on which
they could, in strict conformity with Christian principles, erect
a government.

The distinction which Sancroft had borrowed from the Roundheads
of the preceding generation subverted from the foundation that
system of politics which the Church and the Universities
pretended to have learned from Saint Paul. The Holy Spirit, it
had been a thousand times repeated, had commanded the Romans to
be subject to Nero. The meaning of the precept now appeared to be
only that the Romans were to call Nero Augustus. They were
perfectly at liberty to chase him beyond the Euphrates, to leave
him a pensioner on the bounty of the Parthians, to withstand him
by force if he attempted to return, to punish all who aided him
or corresponded with him, and to transfer the Tribunitian power
and the Consular power, the Presidency of the Senate and the
command of the Legions, to Galba or Vespasian.

The analogy which the Archbishop imagined that he had discovered
between the case of a wrongheaded King and the case of a lunatic
King will not bear a moment's examination. It was plain that
James was not in that state of mind in which, if he had been a
country gentleman or a merchant, any tribunal would have held him
incapable of executing a contract or a will. He was of unsound
mind only as all bad Kings are of unsound mind; as Charles the
First had been of unsound mind when he went to seize the five
members; as Charles the Second had been of unsound mind when he
concluded the treaty of Dover. If this sort of mental unsoundness
did not justify subjects in withdrawing their obedience from
princes, the plan of a Regency was evidently indefensible. If
this sort of mental unsoundness did justify subjects in
withdrawing their obedience from princes, the doctrine of
nonresistance was completely given up; and all that any moderate
Whig had ever contended for was fully admitted.

As to the oath of allegiance about which Sancroft and his
disciples were so anxious, one thing at least is clear, that,
whoever might be right, they were wrong. The Whigs held that, in
the oath of allegiance, certain conditions were implied, that the
King had violated these conditions, and that the oath had
therefore lost its force. But, if the Whig doctrine were false,
if the oath were still binding, could men of sense really believe
that they escaped the guilt of perjury by voting for a Regency?
Could they affirm that they bore true allegiance to James while
they were in defiance of his protestations made before all
Europe, authorising another person to receive the royal revenues,
to summon and prorogue parliaments, to create Dukes and Earls, to
name Bishops and judges, to pardon offenders, to command the
forces of the state, and to conclude treaties with foreign
powers? Had Pascal been able to find, in all the folios of the
Jesuitical casuists, a sophism more contemptible than that which
now, as it seemed, sufficed to quiet the consciences of the
fathers of the Anglican Church?

Nothing could be more evident than that the plan of Regency could
be defended only on Whig principles. Between the rational
supporters of that plan and the majority of the House of Commons
there could he no dispute as to the question of right. All that
remained was a question of expediency. And would any statesman
seriously contend that it was expedient to constitute a
government with two heads, and to give to one of those heads
regal power without regal dignity, and to the other regal dignity without regal
power? It was notorious that such an arrangement, even when made necessary by
the infancy or insanity of a prince, had serious disadvantages. That times of
Regency were times of weakness, of trouble and of disaster, was a truth proved
by the whole history of England, of France, and of Scotland, and had almost
become a proverb. Yet, in a case of infancy or of insanity, the King was at
least passive. He could not actively counterwork the Regent. What was now
proposed was that England should have two first magistrate, of ripe age and
sound mind, waging with each other an irreconcilable war. It was absurd to talk
of leaving James merely the kingly name, and depriving him of all the kingly
power. For the name was a part of the power. The word King was a word of
conjuration. It was associated in the minds of many Englishmen with the idea of
a mysterious character derived from above, and in the minds of almost all
Englishmen with the idea of legitimate and venerable authority. Surely, if the
title carried with it such power, those who maintained that James ought to be
deprived of all power could not deny that he ought to be deprived of the title.

And how long was the anomalous government planned by the genius
of Sancroft to last? Every argument which could be urged for
setting it up at all might be urged with equal force for
retaining it to the end of time. If the boy who had been carried
into France was really born of the Queen, he would hereafter
inherit the divine and indefeasible right to be called King. The
same right would very probably be transmitted from Papist to
Papist through the whole of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries. Both the Houses had unanimously resolved that England
should not be governed by a Papist. It might well be, therefore,
that, from generation to generation, Regents would continue to
administer the government in the name of vagrant and mendicant
Kings. There was no doubt that the Regents must be appointed by
Parliament. The effect, therefore, of this contrivance, a
contrivance intended to preserve unimpaired the sacred principle
of hereditary monarchy, would be that the monarchy would become
really elective.

Another unanswerable reason was urged against Sancroft's plan.
There was in the statute book a law which had been passed soon
after the close of the long and bloody contest between the Houses
of York and Lancaster, and which had been framed for the purpose
of averting calamities such as the alternate victories of those
Houses had brought on the nobility and gentry of the realm. By
this law it was provided that no person should, by adhering to a
King in possession, incur the penalties of treason. When the
regicides were brought to trial after the Restoration, some of
them insisted that their case lay within the equity of this act.
They had obeyed, they said, the government which was in
possession, and were therefore not traitors. The Judges admitted
that this would have been a good defence if the prisoners had
acted under the authority of an usurper who, like Henry the
Fourth and Richard the Third, bore the regal title, but declared
that such a defence could not avail men who had indicted,
sentenced, and executed one who, in the indictment, in the
sentence, and in the death warrant, was designated as King. It
followed, therefore, that whoever should support a Regent in
opposition to James would run great risk of being hanged, drawn,
and quartered, if ever James should recover supreme power; but
that no person could, without such a violation of law as Jeffreys
himself would hardly venture to commit, be punished for siding
with a King who was reigning, though wrongfully, at Whitehall,
against a rightful King who was in exile at Saint Germains.648

It should seem that these arguments admit of no reply; and they
were doubtless urged with force by Danby, who had a wonderful
power of making every subject which he treated clear to the
dullest mind, and by Halifax, who, in fertility of thought and
brilliancy of diction, had no rival among the orators of that
age. Yet so numerous and powerful were the Tories in the Upper
House that, notwithstanding the weakness of their case, the
defection of their leader, and the ability of their opponents,
they very nearly carried the day. A hundred Lords divided. Forty-
nine voted for a Regency, fifty-one against it. In the minority
were the natural children of Charles, the brothers in law of
James, the Dukes of Somerset and Ormond, the Archbishop of York
and eleven Bishops. No prelate voted in the majority except
Compton and Trelawney.649

It was near nine in the evening before the House rose. The
following day was the thirtieth of January, the anniversary of
the death of Charles the First. The great body of the Anglican
clergy had, during many years, thought it a sacred duty to
inculcate on that day the doctrines of nonresistance and passive
obedience. Their old sermons were now of little use; and many
divines were even in doubt whether they could venture to read the
whole Liturgy. The Lower House had declared that the throne was
vacant. The Upper had not yet expressed any opinion. It was
therefore not easy to decide whether the prayers for the
sovereign ought to be used. Every officiating minister took his
own course. In most of the churches of the capital the petitions
for James were omitted: but at Saint Margaret's, Sharp, Dean of
Norwich, who had been requested to preach before the Commons, not
only read to their faces the whole service as it stood in the
book, but, before his sermon, implored, in his own words, a
blessing on the King, and, towards the close of his discourse,
declaimed against the Jesuitical doctrine that princes might
lawfully be deposed by their subjects. The Speaker, that very
afternoon, complained to the House of this affront. "You pass a
vote one day," he said; "and on the next day it is contradicted
from the pulpit in your own hearing." Sharp was strenuously
defended by the Tories, and had friends even among the Whigs: for
it was not forgotten that he had incurred serious danger in the
evil times by the courage with which, in defiance of the royal
injunction, he had preached against Popery. Sir Christopher
Musgrave very ingeniously remarked that the House had not ordered
the resolution which declared the throne vacant to be published.
Sharp, therefore, was not only not bound to know anything of that
resolution, but could not have taken notice of it without a
breach of privilege for which he might have been called to the
bar and reprimanded on his knees. The majority felt that it was
not wise at that conjuncture to quarrel with the clergy; and the
subject was suffered to drop.650

While the Commons were discussing Sharp's sermon, the Lords had
again gone into a committee on the state of the nation, and had
ordered the resolution which pronounced the throne vacant to be
read clause by clause.

The first expression on which a debate arose was that which
recognised the original contract between King and people. It was
not to be expected that the Tory peers would suffer a phrase
which contained the quintessence of Whiggism to pass
unchallenged. A division took place; and it was determined by
fifty-three votes to forty-six that the words should stand.

The severe censure passed by the Commons on the administration
of James was next considered, and was approved without one
dissentient voice. Some verbal objections were made to the
proposition that James had abdicated the government. It was urged
that he might more correctly be said to have deserted it. This
amendment was adopted, it should seem, with scarcely any debate,
and without a division. By this time it was late; and the Lords
again adjourned.651

Up to this moment the small body of peers which was under the
guidance of Danby had acted in firm union with Halifax and the
Whigs. The effect of this union had been that the plan of Regency
had been rejected, and the doctrine of the original contract
affirmed. The proposition that James had ceased to be King had
been the rallying point of the two parties which had made up the
majority. But from that point their path diverged. The next
question to be decided was whether the throne was vacant; and
this was a question not merely verbal, but of grave practical
importance. If the throne was vacant, the Estates of the Realm
might place William in it. If it was not vacant, he could succeed
to it only after his wife, after Anne, and after Anne's

It was, according to the followers of Danby, an established maxim
that our country could not be, even for a moment, without a
rightful prince. The man might die; but the magistrate was
immortal. The man might abdicate; but the magistrate was
irremoveable. If, these politicians said, we once admit that the
throne is vacant, we admit that it is elective. The sovereign
whom we may place on it will be a sovereign, not after the
English, but after the Polish, fashion. Even if we choose the
very person who would reign by right of birth, still that person
will reign not by right of birth, but in virtue of our choice,
and will take as a gift what ought to be regarded as an
inheritance. That salutary reverence with which the blood royal
and the order of primogeniture have hitherto been regarded will
be greatly diminished. Still more serious will the evil be, if we
not only fill the throne by election, but fill it with a prince
who has doubtless the qualities of a great and good ruler, and
who has wrought a wonderful deliverance for us, but who is not
first nor even second in the order of succession. If we once say
that, merit, however eminent, shall be a title to the crown, we
disturb the very foundations of our polity, and furnish a
precedent of which every ambitious warrior or statesman who may
have rendered any great service to the public will be tempted to
avail himself. This danger we avoid if we logically follow out
the principles of the constitution to their consequences. There
has been a demise of the crown. At the instant of the demise the
next heir became our lawful sovereign. We consider the Princess
of Orange as next heir; and we hold that she ought, without any
delay, to be proclaimed, what she already is, our Queen.

The Whigs replied that it was idle to apply ordinary rules to a
country in a state of revolution, that the great question now
depending was not to be decided by the saws of pedantic Templars,
and that, if it were to be so decided, such saws might be quoted
on one side as well as the other. If it were a legal maxim that
the throne could never be vacant, it was also a legal maxim that
a living man could have no heir. James was still living. How then
could the Princess of Orange be his heir? The truth was that the
laws of England had made full provision for the succession when
the power of a sovereign and his natural life terminated
together, but had made no provision for the very rare cases in
which his power terminated before the close of his natural life;
and with one of those very rare cases the Convention had now to
deal. That James no longer filled the throne both Houses had
pronounced. Neither common law nor statute law designated any
person as entitled to fill the throne between his demise and his
decease. It followed that the throne was vacant, and that the
Houses might invite the Prince of Orange to fill it. That he was
not next in order of birth was true: but this was no
disadvantage: on the contrary, it was a positive recommendation.
Hereditary monarchy was a good political institution, but was by
no means more sacred than other good political institutions.
Unfortunately, bigoted and servile theologians had turned it into
a religious mystery, almost as awful and as incomprehensible as
transubstantiation itself. To keep the institution, and yet to
get rid of the abject and noxious superstitions with which it had
of late years been associated and which had made it a curse
instead of a blessing to society, ought to be the first object of
English statesmen; and that object would be best attained by
slightly deviating for a time from the general rule of descent,
and by then returning to it.

Many attempts were made to prevent an open breach between the
party of the Prince and the party of the Princess. A great
meeting was held at the Earl of Devonshire's House, and the
dispute was warm. Halifax was the chief speaker for William,
Danby for Mary. Of the mind of Mary Danby knew nothing. She had
been some time expected in London, but had been detained in
Holland, first by masses of ice which had blocked up the rivers,
and, when the thaw came, by strong westerly winds. Had she
arrived earlier the dispute would probably have been at once
quieted. Halifax on the other side had no authority to say
anything in William's name. The Prince, true to his promise that
he would leave the settlement of the government to the
Convention, had maintained an impenetrable reserve, and had not
suffered any word, look, or gesture, indicative either of
satisfaction or of displeasure, to escape him. One of his
countrymen, who had a large share of his confidence, had been
invited to the meeting, and was earnestly pressed by the Peers to
give them some information. He long excused himself. At last he
so far yielded to their urgency as to say, "I can only guess at
His Highness's mind. If you wish to know what I guess, I guess
that he would not like to be his wife's gentleman usher: but I
know nothing." "I know something now, however," said Danby. "I
know enough, and too much." He then departed; and the assembly
broke up.652

On the thirty-first of January the debate which had terminated
thus in private was publicly renewed in the House of Peers. That
day had been fixed for the national thanksgiving. An office had
been drawn up for the occasion by several Bishops, among whom
were Ken and Sprat. It is perfectly free both from the adulation
and from the malignity by which such compositions were in that
age too often deformed, and sustains, better perhaps than any
occasional service which has been framed during two centuries, a
comparison with that great model of chaste, lofty, and pathetic
eloquence, the Book of Common Prayer. The Lords went in the
morning to Westminster Abbey. The Commons had desired Burnet to
preach before them at Saint Margaret's. He was not likely to fall
into the same error which had been committed in the same place on
the preceding day. His vigorous and animated discourse doubtless
called forth the loud hums of his auditors. It was not only
printed by command of the House, but was translated into French
for the edification of foreign Protestants.653 The day closed
with the festivities usual on such occasions. The whole town
shone brightly with fireworks and bonfires: the roar of guns and
the pealing of bells lasted till the night was far spent; but,
before the lights were extinct and the streets silent, an event
had taken place which threw a damp on the public joy.

The Peers had repaired from the Abbey to their house, and had
resumed the discussion on the state of the nation. The last words
of the resolution of the Commons were taken into consideration;
and it soon became clear that the majority was not disposed to
assent to those words. To near fifty Lords who held that the
regal title still belonged to James were now added seven or eight
who held that it had already devolved on Mary. The Whigs, finding
themselves outnumbered, tried to compromise the dispute. They
proposed to omit the words which pronounced the throne vacant,
and simply to declare the Prince and Princess King and Queen. It
was manifest that such a declaration implied, though it did not
expressly affirm, all that the Tories were unwilling to concede.
For nobody could pretend that William had succeeded to the regal
office by right of birth. To pass a resolution acknowledging him
as King was therefore an act of election; and how could there be
an election without a vacancy? The proposition of the Whig Lords
was rejected by fifty-two votes to forty-seven. The question was
then put whether the throne was vacant. The contents were only
forty-one: the noncontents fifty-five. Of the minority thirty-six

During the two following days London was in an unquiet and
anxious state. The Tories began to hope that they might be able
again to bring forward their favourite plan of Regency with
better success. Perhaps the Prince himself, when he found that he
had no chance of wearing the crown, might prefer Sancroft's
scheme to Danby's. It was better doubtless to be a King than to
be a Regent: but it was better to be a Regent than to be a
gentleman usher. On the other side the lower and fiercer class of
Whigs, the old emissaries of Shaftesbury, the old associates of
College, began to stir in the City. Crowds assembled in Palace
Yard, and held threatening language. Lord Lovelace, who was
suspected of having encouraged these assemblages, informed the
Peers that he was charged with a petition requesting them
instantly to declare the Prince and Princess of Orange King and
Queen. He was asked by whom the petition was signed. "There are
no hands to it yet," he answered; "but, when I bring it here
next, there shall be hands enough." This menace alarmed and
disgusted his own party. The leading Whigs were, in truth, even
more anxious than the Tories that the deliberations of the
Convention should be perfectly free, and that it should not be in
the power of any adherent of James to allege that either House
had acted under force. A petition, similar to that which had been
entrusted to Lovelace, was brought into the House of Commons, but
was contemptuously rejected. Maynard was foremost in protesting
against the attempt of the rabble in the streets to overawe the
Estates of the Realm. William sent for Lovelace, expostulated
with him strongly, and ordered the magistrates to act with vigour
against all unlawful assemblies.655 Nothing in the history of our
revolution is more deserving of admiration and of imitation than
the manner in which the two parties in the Convention, at the
very moment at which their disputes ran highest, joined like one
man to resist the dictation of the mob of the capital.

But, though the Whigs were fully determined to maintain order and
to respect the freedom of debate, they were equally determined to
make no concession. On Saturday the second of February the
Commons, without a division, resolved to adhere to their
resolution as it originally stood. James, as usual, came to the
help of his enemies. A letter from him to the Convention had just
arrived in London. It had been transmitted to Preston by the
apostate Melfort, who was now high in favour at Saint Germains.
The name of Melfort was an abomination to every Churchman. That
he was still a confidential minister was alone sufficient to
prove that his master's folly and perverseness were incurable. No
member of either House ventured to propose that a paper which
came from such a quarter should be read. The contents, however,
were well known to all the town. His Majesty exhorted the Lords
and Commons not to despair of his clemency, and graciously
assured them that he would pardon those who had betrayed him,
some few excepted, whom he did not name. How was it possible to
do any thing for a prince who, vanquished, deserted, banished,
living on alms, told those who were the arbiters of his fate
that, if they would set him on his throne again, he would hang
only a few of them?656

The contest between the two branches of the legislature lasted
some days longer. On Monday the fourth of February the Peers
resolved that they would insist on their amendments but a protest
to which thirty-nine names were subscribed was entered on the
journals.657 On the following day the Tories determined to try
their strength in the Lower House. They mustered there in great
force. A motion was made to agree to the amendments of the Lords.
Those who were for the plan of Sancroft and those who were for
the plan of Danby divided together; but they were beaten by two
hundred and eighty-two votes to a hundred and fifty-one. The
House then resolved to request a free conference with the

At the same time strenuous efforts were making without the walls
of Parliament to bring the dispute between the two branches of
the legislature to a close. Burnet thought that the importance of
the crisis justified him in publishing the great secret which the
Princess had confided to him. He knew, he said, from her own
lips, that it had long been her full determination, even if she
came to the throne in the regular course of descent, to surrender
her power, with the sanction of Parliament, into the hands of her
husband. Danby received from her an earnest, and almost angry,
reprimand. She was, she wrote, the Prince's wife; she had no
other wish than to be subject to him; the most cruel injury that
could be done to her would be to set her up as his competitor;
and she never could regard any person who took such a course as
her true friend.659 The Tories had still one hope. Anne might
insist on her own rights, and on those of her children. No effort
was spared to stimulate her ambition, and to alarm her
conscience. Her uncle Clarendon was especially active. A few
weeks only had elapsed since the hope of wealth and greatness had
impelled him to bely the boastful professions of his whole life,
to desert the royal cause, to join with the Wildmans and
Fergusons, nay, to propose that the King should be sent a
prisoner to a foreign land and immured in a fortress begirt by
pestilential marshes. The lure which had produced this strange
transformation was the Viceroyalty of Ireland. Soon, however, it
appeared that the proselyte had little chance of obtaining the
splendid prize on which his heart was set. He found that others
were consulted on Irish affairs. His advice was never asked, and,
when obtrusively and importunately offered, was coldly received.
He repaired many times to Saint James's Palace, but could
scarcely obtain a word or a look. One day the Prince was writing,
another day he wanted fresh air and must ride in the Park; on a
third he was closeted with officers on military business and
could see nobody. Clarendon saw that he was not likely to gain
anything by the sacrifice of his principles, and determined to
take them back again. In December ambition had converted him into
a rebel. In January disappointment reconverted him into a
royalist. The uneasy consciousness that he had not been a
consistent Tory gave a peculiar acrimony to his Toryism.660 In
the House of Lords he had done all in his power to prevent a
settlement. He now exerted, for the same end, all his influence
over the Princess Anne. But his influence over her was small
indeed when compared with that of the Churchills, who wisely
called to their help two powerful allies, Tillotson, who, as a
spiritual director, had, at that time, immense authority, and
Lady Russell, whose noble and gentle virtues, proved by the most
cruel of all trials, had gained for her the reputation of a
saint. The Princess of Denmark, it was soon known, was willing
that William should reign for life; and it was evident that to
defend the cause of the daughters of James against themselves was
a hopeless task.661

And now William thought that the time had come when he ought to
explain himself. He accordingly sent for Halifax, Danby,
Shrewsbury, and some other political leaders of great note, and,
with that air of stoical apathy under which he had, from a boy,
been in the habit of concealing his strongest emotions, addressed
to them a few deeply meditated and weighty words.

He had hitherto, he said, remained silent; he had used neither
solicitation nor menace: he had not even suffered a hint of his
opinions or wishes to get abroad: but a crisis had now arrived at
which it was necessary for him to declare his intentions. He had
no right and no wish to dictate to the Convention. All that he
claimed was the privilege of declining any office which he felt
that he could not hold with honour to himself and with benefit to
the public.

A strong party was for a Regency. It was for the Houses to
determine whether such an arrrangement would be for the interest
of the nation. He had a decided opinion on that point; and he
thought it right to say distinctly that he would not be Regent.

Another party was for placing the Princess on the throne, and for
giving to him, during her life, the title of King, and such a
share in the administration as she might be pleased to allow him.
He could not stoop to such a post. He esteemed the Princess as
much as it was possible for man to esteem woman: but not even
from her would he accept a subordinate and a precarious place in
the government. He was so made that he could not submit to be
tied to the apron strings even of the best of wives. He did not
desire to take any part in English affairs; but, if he did
consent to take a part, there was one part only which he could
usefully or honourably take. If the Estates offered him the crown
for life, he would accept it. If not, he should, without
repining, return to his native country. He concluded by saying
that he thought it reasonable that the Lady Anne and her
posterity should be preferred in the succession to any children
whom he might have by any other wife than the Lady Mary.662

The meeting broke up; and what the Prince had said was in a few
hours known all over London. That he must be King was now clear.
The only question was whether he should hold the regal dignity
alone or conjointly with the Princess. Halifax and a few other
politicians, who saw in a strong light the danger of dividing the
supreme executive authority, thought it desirable that, during
William's life, Mary should be only Queen Consort and a subject.
But this arrangement, though much might doubtless be said for it
in argument, shocked the general feeling even of those Englishmen
who were most attached to the Prince. His wife had given an
unprecedented proof of conjugal submission and affection; and the
very least return that could be made to her would be to bestow on
her the dignity of Queen Regnant. William Herbert, one of the
most zealous of the Prince's adherents, was so much exasperated
that he sprang out of the bed to which he was confined by gout,
and vehemently declared that he never would have drawn a sword in
His Highness's cause if he had foreseen that so shameful an
arrangement would be made. No person took the matter up so
eagerly as Burnet. His blood boiled at the wrong done to his kind
patroness. He expostulated vehemently with Bentinck, and begged
to be permitted to resign the chaplainship. "While I am His
Highness's servant," said the brave and honest divine, "it would
be unseemly in me to oppose any plan which may have his
countenance. I therefore desire to be set free, that I may fight
the Princess's battle with every faculty that God has given me."
Bentinck prevailed on Burnet to defer an open declaration of
hostilities till William's resolution should be distinctly known.
In a few hours the scheme which had excited so much resentment
was entirely given up; and all those who considered James as no
longer king were agreed as to the way in which the throne must be
filled. William and Mary must be King and Queen. The heads of
both must appear together on the coin: writs must run in the
names of both: both must enjoy all the personal dignities and
immunities of royalty: but the administration, which could not be
safely divided, must belong to William alone.663

And now the time arrived for the free conference between the
Houses. The managers for the Lords, in their robes, took their
seats along one side of the table in the Painted Chamber: but the
crowd of members of the House of Commons on the other side was so
great that the gentlemen who were to argue the question in vain
tried to get through. It was not without much difficulty and long
delay that the Serjeant at Arms was able to clear a passage.664

At length the discussion began. A full report of the speeches on
both sides has come down to us. There are few students of history
who have not taken up that report with eager curiosity and laid
it down with disappointment. The question between the Houses was
argued on both sides as a question of law. The objections which
the Lords made, to the resolution of the Commons were verbal and
technical, and were met by verbal and technical answers. Somers
vindicated the use of the word abdication by quotations from
Grotius and Brissonius, Spigelius and Bartolus. When he was
challenged to show any authority for the proposition that England
could be without a sovereign, he produced the Parliament roll of
the year 1399, in which it was expressly set forth that the
kingly office was vacant during the interval between the
resignation of Richard the Second and the enthroning of Henry the
Fourth. The Lords replied by producing the Parliament roll of the
first year of Edward the Fourth, from which it appeared that the
record of 1399 had been solemnly annulled. They therefore
maintained that the precedent on which Somers relied was no
longer valid. Treby then came to Somers's assistance, and brought
forth the Parliament roll of the first year of Henry the Seventh,
which repealed the act of Edward the Fourth, and consequently
restored the validity of the record of 1399. After a colloquy of
several hours the disputants separated.665 The Lords assembled in
their own house. It was well understood that they were about to
yield, and that the conference had been a mere form. The friends
of Mary had found that, by setting her up as her husband's rival,
they had deeply displeased her. Some of the Peers who had
formerly voted for a Regency had determined to absent themselves
or to support the resolution of the Lower House. Their opinion,
they said, was unchanged: but any government was better than no
government, and the country could not bear a prolongation of this
agony of suspense. Even Nottingham, who, in the Painted Chamber,
had taken the lead against the Commons, declared that, though his
own conscience would not suffer him to give way, he was glad that
the consciences of other men were less squeamish. Several Lords
who had not yet voted in the Convention had been induced to
attend; Lord Lexington, who had just hurried over from the
Continent; the Earl of Lincoln, who was half mad; the Earl of
Carlisle, who limped in on crutches; and the Bishop of Durham,
who had been in hiding and had intended to fly beyond sea, but
had received an intimation that, if he would vote for the
settling of the government, his conduct in the Ecclesiastical
Commission should not be remembered against him. Danby, desirous
to heal the schism which he had caused, exhorted the House, in a
speech distinguished by even more than his usual ability, not to
persevere in a contest which might be fatal to the state. He was
strenuously supported by Halifax. The spirit of the opposite
party was quelled. When the question was put whether King James
had abdicated the government only three lords said Not Content.
On the question whether the throne was vacant, a division was
demanded. The Contents were sixty-two; the Not Contents forty-
seven. It was immediately proposed and carried, without a
division, that the Prince and Princess of Orange should be
declared King and Queen of England.666

Nottingham then moved that the wording of the oaths of allegiance
and supremacy should be altered in such a way that they might be
conscientiously taken by persons who, like himself, disapproved
of what the Convention had done, and yet fully purposed to be
loyal and dutiful subjects of the new sovereigns. To this
proposition no objection was made. Indeed there can be little
doubt that there was an understanding on the subject between the
Whig leaders and those Tory Lords whose votes had turned the
scale on the last division. The new oaths were sent down to the
Commons, together with the resolution that the Prince and
Princess should be declared King and Queen.667

It was now known to whom the crown would be given. On what
conditions it should be given, still remained to be decided. The
Commons had appointed a committee to consider what steps it might
be advisable to take, in order to secure law and liberty against
the aggressions of future sovereigns; and the committee had made
a report.668 This report recommended, first, that those great
principles of the constitution which had been violated by the
dethroned King should be solemnly asserted, and, secondly, that
many new laws should be enacted, for the purpose of curbing the
prerogative and purifying the administration of justice. Most of
the suggestions of the committee were excellent; but it was
utterly impossible that the Houses could, in a month, or even in
a year, deal properly with matters so numerous, so various, and
so important. It was proposed, among other things, that the
militia should be remodelled, that the power which the sovereign
possessed of proroguing and dissolving Parliaments should be
restricted; that the duration of Parliaments should be limited;
that the royal pardon should no longer be pleadable to a
parliamentary impeachment; that toleration should be granted to
Protestant Dissenters; that the crime of high treason should be
more precisely defined; that trials for high treason should be
conducted in a manner more favourable to innocence; that the
judges should hold their places for life; that the mode of
appointing Sheriffs should be altered; that juries should be
nominated in such a way as might exclude partiality and
corruption; that the practice of filing criminal informations in
the King's Bench should be abolished; that the Court of Chancery
should be reformed; that the fees of public functionaries should
be regulated; and that the law of Quo Warranto should be amended.
It was evident that cautious and deliberate legislation on these
subjects must be the work of more than one laborious session; and
it was equally evident that hasty and crude legislation on
subjects so grave could not but produce new grievances, worse
than those which it might remove. If the committee meant to give
a list of the reforms which ought to be accomplished before the
throne was filled, the list was absurdly long. If, on the other
hand, the committee meant to give a list of all the reforms which
the legislature would do well to make in proper season, the list
was strangely imperfect. Indeed, as soon as the report had been
read, member after member rose to suggest some addition. It was
moved and carried that the selling of offices should be
prohibited, that the Habeas Corpus Act should be made more
efficient, and that the law of Mandamus should be revised. One
gentleman fell on the chimneymen, another on the excisemen; and
the House resolved that the malpractices of both chimneymen and
excisemen should be restrained. It is a most remarkable
circumstance that, while the whole political, military, judicial,
and fiscal system of the kingdom was thus passed in review, not a
single representative of the people proposed the repeal of the
statute which subjected the press to a censorship. It was not yet
understood, even by the most enlightened men, that the liberty of
discussion is the chief safeguard of all other liberties.669

The House was greatly perplexed. Some orators vehemently said
that too much time had already been lost, and that the government
ought to be settled without the delay of a day. Society was
unquiet: trade was languishing: the English colony in Ireland
was in imminent danger of perishing, a foreign war was impending:
the exiled King might, in a few weeks, be at Dublin with a French
army, and from Dublin he might soon cross to Chester. Was it not
insanity, at such a crisis, to leave the throne unfilled, and,
while the very existence of Parliaments was in jeopardy, to waste
time in debating whether Parliaments should be prorogued by the
sovereign or by themselves? On the other side it was asked
whether the Convention could think that it had fulfilled its
mission by merely pulling down one prince and putting up another.
Surely now or never was the time to secure public liberty by such
fences as might effectually prevent the encroachments of
prerogative.670 There was doubtless great weight in what was
urged on both sides. The able chiefs of the Whig party, among
whom Somers was fast rising to ascendency, proposed a middle
course. The House had, they said, two objects in view, which
ought to be kept distinct. One object was to secure the old
polity of the realm against illegal attacks: the other was to
improve that polity by legal reforms. The former object might be
attained by solemnly putting on record, in the resolution which
called the new sovereigns to the throne, the claim of the English
nation to its ancient franchises, so that the King might hold his
crown, and the people their privileges, by one and the same title
deed. The latter object would require a whole volume of elaborate
statutes. The former object might be attained in a day; the
latter, scarcely in five years. As to the former object, all
parties were agreed: as to the latter, there were innumerable
varieties of opinion. No member of either House would hesitate
for a moment to vote that the King could not levy taxes without
the consent of Parliament: but it would be hardly possible to
frame any new law of procedure in cases of high treason which
would not give rise to long debate, and be condemned by some
persons as unjust to the prisoner, and by others as unjust to the
crown. The business of an extraordinary convention of the Estates
of the Realm was not to do the ordinary work of Parliaments, to
regulate the fees of masters in Chancery, and to provide against
the exactions of gaugers, but to put right the great machine of
government. When this had been done, it would be time to inquire
what improvement our institutions needed: nor would anything be
risked by delay; for no sovereign who reigned merely by the
choice of the nation could long refuse his assent to any
improvement which the nation, speaking through its
representatives, demanded.

On these grounds the Commons wisely determined to postpone all
reforms till the ancient constitution of the kingdom should have
been restored in all its parts, and forthwith to fill the throne
without imposing on William and Mary any other obligation than
that of governing according to the existing laws of England. In
order that the questions which had been in dispute between the
Stuarts and the nation might never again be stirred, it was
determined that the instrument by which the Prince and Princess
of Orange were called to the throne, and by which the order of
succession was settled, should set forth, in the most distinct
and solemn manner, the fundamental principles of the
constitution. This instrument, known by the name of the
Declaration of Right, was prepared by a committee, of which
Somers was chairman. The fact that the low born young barrister
was appointed to so honourable and important a post in a
Parliament filled with able and experienced men, only ten days
after he had spoken in the House of Commons for the first time,
sufficiently proves the superiority of his abilities. In a few
hours the Declaration was framed and approved by the Commons. The
Lords assented to it with some amendments of no great

The Declaration began by recapitulating the crimes and errors
which had made a revolution necessary. James had invaded the
province of the legislature; had treated modest petitioning as a
crime; had oppressed the Church by means of an illegal tribunal;
had, without the consent of Parliament, levied taxes and
maintained a standing army in time of peace; had violated the
freedom of election, and perverted the course of justice.
Proceedings which could lawfully be questioned only in Parliament
had been made the subjects of prosecution in the King's Bench.
Partial and corrupt juries had been returned: excessive bail had
been required from prisoners, excessive fines had been imposed:
barbarous and unusual punishments had been inflicted: the estates
of accused persons had been granted away before conviction. He,
by whose authority these things had been done, had abdicated the
government. The Prince of Orange, whom God had made the glorious
instrument of delivering the nation from superstition and
tyranny, had invited the Estates of the Realm to meet and to take
counsel together for the securing of religion, of law, and of
freedom. The Lords and Commons, having deliberated, had resolved
that they would first, after the example of their ancestors,
assert the ancient rights and liberties of England. Therefore it
was declared that the dispensing power, lately assumed and
exercised, had no legal existence; that, without grant of
Parliament, no money could be exacted by the sovereign from the
subject; that, without consent of Parliament, no standing army
could be kept up in time of peace. The right of subjects to
petition, the right of electors to choose representatives freely,
the right of Parliaments to freedom of debate, the right of the
nation to a pure and merciful administration of justice according

Book of the day: