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

Part 4 out of 12

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always be a strong presumption against the sincerity of a
conversion by which the convert is directly a gainer. In the case
of Dryden there is nothing to countervail this presumption. His
theological writings abundantly prove that he had never sought
with diligence and anxiety to learn the truth, and that his
knowledge both of the Church which he quitted and of the Church
which he entered was of the most superficial kind. Nor was his
subsequent conduct that of a man whom a strong sense of duty had
constrained to take a step of awful importance. Had he been such
a man, the same conviction which had led him to join the Church
of Rome would surely have prevented him from violating grossly
and habitually rules which that Church, in common with every
other Christian society, recognises as binding. There would have
been a marked distinction between his earlier and his later
compositions. He would have looked back with remorse on a
literary life of near thirty years, during which his rare powers
of diction and versification had been systematically employed in
spreading moral corruption. Not a line tending to make virtue
contemptible, or to inflame licentious desire, would
thenceforward have proceeded from his pen. The truth unhappily is
that the dramas which he wrote after his pretended conversion are
in no respect less impure or profane than those of his youth.
Even when he professed to translate he constantly wandered from
his originals in search of images which, if he had found them in
his originals, he ought to have shunned. What was bad became
worse in his versions. What was innocent contracted a taint from
passing through his mind. He made the grossest satires of Juvenal
more gross, interpolated loose descriptions in the tales of
Boccaccio, and polluted the sweet and limpid poetry of the
Georgics with filth which would have moved the loathing of

The help of Dryden was welcome to those Roman Catholic divines
who were painfully sustaining a conflict against all that was
most illustrious in the Established Church. They could not
disguise from themselves the fact that their style, disfigured
with foreign idioms which had been picked up at Rome and Douay,
appeared to little advantage when compared with the eloquence of
Tillotson and Sherlock. It seemed that it was no light thing to
have secured the cooperation of the greatest living master of the
English language. The first service which he was required to
perform in return for his pension was to defend his Church in
prose against Stillingfleet. But the art of saying things well is
useless to a man who has nothing to say; and this was Dryden's
case. He soon found himself unequally paired with an antagonist
whose whole life had been one long training for controversy. The
veteran gladiator disarmed the novice, inflicted a few
contemptuous scratches, and turned away to encounter more
formidable combatants. Dryden then betook himself to a weapon at
which he was not likely to find his match. He retired for a time
from the bustle of coffeehouses and theatres to a quiet retreat
in Huntingdonshire, and there composed, with unwonted care and
labour, his celebrated poem on the points in dispute between the
Churches of Rome and England. The Church of Rome he represented
under the similitude of a milkwhite hind, ever in peril of
death, yet fated not to die. The beasts of the field were bent on
her destruction. The quaking hare, indeed, observed a timorous
neutrality: but the Socinian fox, the Presbyterian wolf, the
Independent bear, the Anabaptist boar, glared fiercely at the
spotless creature. Yet she could venture to drink with them at
the common watering place under the protection of her friend, the
kingly lion. The Church of England was typified by the panther,
spotted indeed, but beautiful, too beautiful for a beast of prey.
The hind and the panther, equally hated by the ferocious
population of the forest, conferred apart on their common danger.
They then proceeded to discuss the points on which they differed,
and, while wagging their tails and licking their jaws, held a
long dialogue touching the real presence, the authority of Popes
and Councils, the penal laws, the Test Act, Oates's perjuries,
Butler's unrequited services to the Cavalier party,
Stillingfleet's pamphlets, and Burnet's broad shoulders and
fortunate matrimonial speculations.

The absurdity of this plan is obvious. In truth the allegory
could not be preserved unbroken through ten lines together. No
art of execution could redeem the faults of such a design. Yet
the Fable of the Hind and Panther is undoubtedly the most
valuable addition which was made to English literature during the
short and troubled reign of James the Second. In none of Dryden's
works can be found passages more pathetic and magnificent,
greater ductility and energy of language, or a more pleasing and
various music.

The poem appeared with every advantage which royal patronage
could give. A superb edition was printed for Scotland at the
Roman Catholic press established in Holyrood House. But men were
in no humour to be charmed by the transparent style and melodious
numbers of the apostate. The disgust excited by his venality, the
alarm excited by the policy of which he was the eulogist, were
not to be sung to sleep. The just indignation of the public was
inflamed by many who were smarting from his ridicule, and by many
who were envious of his renown. In spite of all the restraints
under which the press lay, attacks on his life and writings
appeared daily. Sometimes he was Bayes, sometimes Poet Squab. He
was reminded that in his youth he had paid to the House of
Cromwell the same servile court which he was now paying to the
House of Stuart. One set of his assailants maliciously reprinted
the sarcastic verses which he had written against Popery in days
when he could have got nothing by being a Papist. Of the many
satirical pieces which appeared on this occasion, the most
successful was the joint work of two young men who had lately
completed their studies at Cambridge, and had been welcomed as
promising novices in the literary coffee-houses of London,
Charles Montague and Matthew Prior. Montague was of noble
descent: the origin of Prior was so obscure that no biographer
has been able to trace it: but both the adventurers were poor and
aspiring; both had keen and vigorous minds; both afterwards
climbed high; both united in a remarkable degree the love of
letters with skill in those departments of business for which men
of letters generally have a strong distaste. Of the fifty poets
whose lives Johnson has written, Montague and Prior were the only
two who were distinguished by an intimate knowledge of trade and
finance. Soon their paths diverged widely. Their early friendship
was dissolved. One of them became the chief of the Whig party,
and was impeached by the Tories. The other was entrusted with all
the mysteries of Tory diplomacy, and was long kept close prisoner
by the Whigs. At length, after many eventful years, the
associates, so long parted, were reunited in Westminster Abbey.

Whoever has read the tale of the Hind and Panther with attention
must have perceived that, while that work was in progress, a
great alteration took place in the views of those who used Dryden
as their interpreter. At first the Church of England is mentioned
with tenderness and respect, and is exhorted to ally herself with
the Roman Catholics against the Puritan sects: but at the close
of the poem, and in the preface, which was written after the poem
had been finished, the Protestant Dissenters are invited to make
common cause with the Roman Catholics against the Church of

This change in the language of the court poet was indicative of a
great change in the policy of the court. The original purpose of
James had been to obtain for the Church of which he was a member,
not only complete immunity from all penalties and from all civil
disabilities, but also an ample share of ecclesiastical and
academical endowments, and at the same time to enforce with
rigour the laws against the Puritan sects. All the special
dispensations which he had granted had been granted to Roman
Catholics. All the laws which bore hardest on the Presbyterians,
Independents, and Baptists, had been for a time severely executed
by him. While Hales commanded a regiment, while Powis sate at the
Council board, while Massey held a deanery, while breviaries and
mass books were printed at Oxford under a royal license, while
the host was publicly exposed in London under the protection of
the pikes and muskets of the footguards, while friars and monks
walked the streets of London in their robes, Baxter was in gaol;
Howe was in exile; the Five Mile Act and the Conventicle Act were
in full vigour; Puritan writers were compelled to resort to
foreign or to secret presses; Puritan congregations could meet
only by night or in waste places, and Puritan ministers were
forced to preach in the garb of colliers or of sailors. In
Scotland the King, while he spared no exertion to extort from the
Estates full relief for Roman Catholics, had demanded and
obtained new statutes of unprecedented severity against the
Presbyterians. His conduct to the exiled Huguenots had not less
clearly indicated his feelings. We have seen that, when the
public munificence had placed in his hands a large sum for the
relief of those unhappy men, he, in violation of every law of
hospitality and good faith, required them to renounce the
Calvinistic ritual to which they were strongly attached, and to
conform to the Church of England, before he would dole out to
them any portion of the alms which had been entrusted to his

Such had been his policy as long as he could cherish, any hope
that the Church of England would consent to share ascendency with
the Church of Rome. That hope at one time amounted to confidence.
The enthusiasm with which the Tories had hailed his accession,
the elections, the dutiful language and ample grants of his
Parliament, the suppression of the Western insurrection, the
complete prostration of the party which had attempted to exclude
him from the crown, elated him beyond the bounds of reason. He
felt an assurance that every obstacle would give way before his
power and his resolution. His Parliament withstood him. He tried
the effects of frowns and menaces. Frowns and menaces failed. He
tried the effect of prorogation. From the day of the prorogation
the opposition to his designs had been growing stronger and
stronger. It seemed clear that, if he effected his purpose, he
must effect it in defiance of that great party which had given
such signal proofs of fidelity to his office, to his family, and
to his person. The whole Anglican priesthood, the whole Cavalier
gentry, were against him. In vain had he, by virtue of his
ecclesiastical supremacy, enjoined the clergy to abstain from
discussing controverted points. Every parish in the nation was
warned every Sunday against the errors of Rome; and these
warnings were only the more effective, because they were
accompanied by professions of reverence for the Sovereign, and of
a determination to endure with patience whatever it might be his
pleasure to inflict. The royalist knights and esquires who,
through forty-five years of war and faction, had stood so
manfully by the throne, now expressed, in no measured phrase,
their resolution to stand as manfully by the Church. Dull as was
the intellect of James, despotic as was his temper, he felt that
he must change his course. He could not safely venture to outrage
all his Protestant subjects at once. If he could bring himself to
make concessions to the party which predominated in both Houses,
if he could bring himself to leave to the established religion
all its dignities, emoluments, and privileges unimpaired, he
might still break up Presbyterian meetings, and fill the gaols
with Baptist preachers. But if he was determined to plunder the
hierarchy, he must make up his mind to forego the luxury of
persecuting the Dissenters. If he was henceforward to be at feud
with his old friends, he must make a truce with his old enemies.
He could overpower the Anglican Church only by forming against
her an extensive coalition, including sects which, though they
differed in doctrine and government far more widely from each
other than from her, might yet be induced, by their common
jealousy of her greatness, and by their common dread of her
intolerance, to suspend their animosities till she was no longer
able to oppress them.

This plan seemed to him to have one strong recommendation. If he
could only succeed in conciliating the Protestant Nonconformists
he might flatter himself that he was secure against all chance of
rebellion. According to the Anglican divines, no subject could by
any provocation be justified in withstanding the Lord's anointed
by force. The theory of the Puritan sectaries was very different.
Those sectaries had no scruple about smiting tyrants with the
sword of Gideon. Many of them did not shrink from using the
dagger of Ehud. They were probably even now meditating another
Western insurrection, or another Rye House Plot. James,
therefore, conceived that he might safely persecute the Church if
he could only gain the Dissenters. The party whose principles
afforded him no guarantee would be attached to him by interest.
The party whose interests he attacked would be restrained from
insurrection by principle.

Influenced by such considerations as these, James, from the time
at which he parted in anger with his Parliament, began to
meditate a general league of all Nonconformists, Catholic and
Protestant, against the established religion. So early as
Christmas 1685, the agents of the United Provinces informed the
States General that the plan of a general toleration had been
arranged and would soon be disclosed.232 The reports which had
reached the Dutch embassy proved to be premature. The separatists
appear, however, to have been treated with more lenity during the
year 1686 than during the year 1685. But it was only by slow
degrees and after many struggles that the King could prevail on
himself to form an alliance with all that he most abhorred. He
had to overcome an animosity, not slight or capricious, not of
recent origin or hasty growth, but hereditary in his line,
strengthened by great wrongs inflicted and suffered through a
hundred and twenty eventful years, and intertwined with all his
feelings, religious, political, domestic, and personal. Four
generations of Stuarts had waged a war to the death with four
generations of Puritans; and, through that long war, there had
been no Stuart who had hated the Puritans so much, or who had
been so much hated by them, as himself. They had tried to blast
his honour and to exclude him from his birthright; they had
called him incendiary, cutthroat, poisoner; they had driven him
from the Admiralty and the Privy Council; they had repeatedly
chased him into banishment; they had plotted his assassination;
they had risen against him in arms by thousands. He had avenged
himself on them by havoc such as England had never before seen.
Their heads and quarters were still rotting on poles in all the
market places of Somersetshire and Dorsetshire. Aged women held
in high honour among the sectaries for piety and charity had, for
offences which no good prince would have thought deserving even
of a severe reprimand, been beheaded and burned alive. Such had
been, even in England, the relations between the King and the
Puritans; and in Scotland the tyranny of the King and the fury of
the Puritans had been such as Englishmen could hardly conceive.
To forget an enmity so long and so deadly was no light task for a
nature singularly harsh and implacable.

The conflict in the royal mind did not escape the eye of
Barillon. At the end of January, 1687, he sent a remarkable
letter to Versailles. The King,--such was the substance of this
document,--had almost convinced himself that he could not obtain
entire liberty for Roman Catholics and yet maintain the laws
against Protestant Dissenters. He leaned, therefore, to the plan
of a general indulgence; but at heart he would be far better
pleased if he could, even now, divide his protection and favour
between the Church of Rome and the Church of England, to the
exclusion of all other religious persuasions.233

A very few days after this despatch had been written, James made
his first hesitating and ungracious advances towards the
Puritans. He had determined to begin with Scotland, where his
power to dispense with acts of parliament had been admitted by
the obsequious Estates. On the twelfth of February, accordingly,
was published at Edinburgh a proclamation granting relief to
scrupulous consciences.234 This proclamation fully proves the
correctness of Barillon's judgment. Even in the very act of
making concessions to the Presbyterians, James could not conceal
the loathing with which he regarded them. The toleration given to
the Catholics was complete. The Quakers had little reason to
complain. But the indulgence vouchsafed to the Presbyterians, who
constituted the great body of the Scottish people, was clogged by
conditions which made it almost worthless. For the old test,
which excluded Catholics and Presbyterians alike from office, was
substituted a new test, which admitted the Catholics, but
excluded most of the Presbyterians. The Catholics were allowed to
build chapels, and even to carry the host in procession anywhere
except in the high streets of royal burghs: the Quakers were
suffered to assemble in public edifices: but the Presbyterians
were interdicted from worshipping God anywhere but in private
dwellings: they were not to presume to build meeting houses: they
were not even to use a barn or an outhouse for religious
exercises: and it was distinctly notified to them that, if they
dared to hold conventicles in the open air, the law, which
denounced death against both preachers and hearers, should be
enforced without mercy. Any Catholic priest might say mass: any
Quaker might harangue his brethren: but the Privy Council was
directed to see that no Presbyterian minister presumed to preach
without a special license from the government. Every line of this
instrument, and of the letters by which it was accompanied, shows
how much it cost the King to relax in the smallest degree the
rigour with which he had ever treated the old enemies of his

There is reason, indeed, to believe that, when he published this
proclamation, he had by no means fully made up his mind to a
coalition with the Puritans, and that his object was to grant
just so much favour to them as might suffice to frighten the
Churchmen into submission. He therefore waited a month, in order
to see what effect the edict put forth at Edinburgh would produce
in England. That month he employed assiduously, by Petre's
advice, in what was called closeting. London was very full. It
was expected that the Parliament would shortly meet for the
dispatch of business; and many members were in town. The King set
himself to canvass them man by man. He flattered himself that
zealous Tories,--and of such, with few exceptions, the House of
Commons consisted,--would find it difficult to resist his earnest
request, addressed to them, not collectively, but separately, not
from the throne, but in the familiarity of conversation. The
members, therefore, who came to pay their duty at Whitehall were
taken aside, and honoured with long private interviews. The King
pressed them, as they were loyal gentlemen, to gratify him in the
one thing on which his heart was fixed. The question, he said,
touched his personal honour. The laws enacted in the late reign
by factious Parliaments against the Roman Catholics had really
been aimed at himself. Those laws had put a stigma on him, had
driven him from the Admiralty, had driven him from the Council
Board. He had a right to expect that in the repeal of those laws
all who loved and reverenced him would concur. When he found his
hearers obdurate to exhortation, he resorted to intimidation and
corruption. Those who refused to pleasure him in this matter were
plainly told that they must not expect any mark of his favour.
Penurious as he was, he opened and distributed his hoards.
Several of those who had been invited to confer with him left his
bedchamber carrying with them money received from the royal hand.
The Judges, who were at this time on their spring circuits, were
directed by the King to see those members who remained in the
country, and to ascertain the intentions of each. The result of
this investigation was, that a great majority of the House of
Commons seemed fully determined to oppose the measures of the
court.236 Among those whose firmness excited general admiration
was Arthur Herbert, brother of the Chief Justice, member for
Dover, Master of the Robes, and Rear Admiral of England. Arthur
Herbert was much loved by the sailors, and was reputed one of the
best of the aristocratical class of naval officers. It had been
generally supposed that he would readily comply with the royal
wishes: for he was heedless of religion; he was fond of pleasure
and expense; he had no private estate; his places brought him in
four thousand pounds a year; and he had long been reckoned among
the most devoted personal adherents of James. When, however, the
Rear Admiral was closeted, and required to promise that he would
vote for the repeal of the Test Act, his answer was, that his
honour and conscience would not permit him to give any such
pledge. "Nobody doubts your honour," said the King; "but a man
who lives as you do ought not to talk about his conscience." To
this reproach, a reproach which came with a bad grace from the
lover of Catharine Sedley, Herbert manfully replied, "I have my
faults, sir: but I could name people who talk much more about
conscience than I am in the habit of doing, and yet lead lives as
loose as mine." He was dismissed from all his places; and the
account of what he had disbursed and received as Master of the
Robes was scrutinised with great and, as he complained, with
unjust severity.237

It was now evident that all hope of an alliance between the
Churches of England and of Rome, for the purpose of sharing
offices and emoluments, and of crushing the Puritan sects, must
be abandoned. Nothing remained but to try a coalition between the
Church of Rome and the Puritan sects against the Church of

On the eighteenth of March the King informed the Privy Council
that he had determined to prorogue the Parliament till the end of
November, and to grant, by his own authority, entire liberty of
conscience to all his subjects.238 On the fourth of April
appeared the memorable Declaration of Indulgence.

In this Declaration the King avowed that it was his earnest wish
to see his people members of that Church to which he himself
belonged. But, since that could not be, he announced his
intention to protect them in the free exercise of their religion.
He repeated all those phrases which, eight years before, when he
was himself an oppressed man, had been familiar to his lips, but
which he had ceased to use from the day on which a turn of
fortune had put it into his power to be an oppressor. He had long
been convinced, he said, that conscience was not to be forced,
that persecution was unfavourable to population and to trade, and
that it never attained the ends which persecutors had in view. He
repeated his promise, already often repeated and often violated,
that he would protect the Established Church in the enjoyment of
her legal rights. He then proceeded to annul, by his own sole
authority, a long series of statutes. He suspended all penal laws
against all classes of Nonconformists. He authorised both Roman
Catholics and Protestant Dissenters to perform their worship
publicly. He forbade his subjects, on pain of his highest
displeasure, to molest any religious assembly. He also abrogated
all those acts which imposed any religious test as a
qualification for any civil or military office.239

That the Declaration of Indulgence was unconstitutional is a
point on which both the great English parties have always been
entirely agreed. Every person capable of reasoning on a political
question must perceive that a monarch who is competent to issue
such a declaration is nothing less than an absolute monarch. Nor
is it possible to urge in defence of this act of James those
pleas by which many arbitrary acts of the Stuarts have been
vindicated or excused. It cannot be said that he mistook the
bounds of his prerogative because they had not been accurately
ascertained. For the truth is that he trespassed with a recent
landmark full in his view. Fifteen years before that time, a
Declaration of Indulgence had been put forth by his brother with
the advice of the Cabal. That Declaration, when compared with the
Declaration of James, might be called modest and cautious. The
Declaration of Charles dispensed only with penal laws. The
Declaration of James dispensed also with all religious tests. The
Declaration of Charles permitted the Roman Catholics to celebrate
their worship in private dwellings only. Under the Declaration of
James they might build and decorate temples, and even walk in
procession along Fleet Street with crosses, images, and censers.
Yet the Declaration of Charles had been pronounced illegal in the
most formal manner. The Commons had resolved that the King had no
power to dispense with statutes in matters ecclesiastical.
Charles had ordered the obnoxious instrument to be cancelled in
his presence, had torn off the seal with his own hand, and had,
both by message under his sign manual, and with his own lips from
his throne in full Parliament, distinctly promised the two Houses
that the step which had given so much offence should never be
drawn into precedent. The two Houses had then, without one
dissentient voice, joined in thanking him for this compliance
with their wishes. No constitutional question had ever been
decided more deliberately, more clearly, or with more harmonious

The defenders of James have frequently pleaded in his excuse the
judgment of the Court of King's Bench, on the information
collusively laid against Sir Edward Hales: but the plea is of no
value. That judgment James had notoriously obtained by
solicitation, by threats, by dismissing scrupulous magistrates,
and by placing on the bench other magistrates more courtly. And
yet that judgment, though generally regarded by the bar and by
the nation as unconstitutional, went only to this extent, that
the Sovereign might, for special reasons of state, grant to
individuals by name exemptions from disabling statutes. That he
could by one sweeping edict authorise all his subjects to disobey
whole volumes of laws, no tribunal had ventured, in the face of
the solemn parliamentary decision of 1673, to affirm.

Such, however, was the position of parties that James's
Declaration of Indulgence, though the most audacious of all the
attacks made by the Stuarts on public freedom, was well
calculated to please that very portion of the community by which
all the other attacks of the Stuarts on public freedom had been
most strenuously resisted. It could scarcely be hoped that the
Protestant Nonconformist, separated from his countrymen by a
harsh code harshly enforced, would be inclined to dispute the
validity of a decree which relieved him from intolerable
grievances. A cool and philosophical observer would undoubtedly
have pronounced that all the evil arising from all the intolerant
laws which Parliaments had framed was not to be compared to the
evil which would be produced by a transfer of the legislative
power from the Parliament to the Sovereign. But such coolness and
philosophy are not to be expected from men who are smarting under
present pain, and who are tempted by the offer of immediate ease.
A Puritan divine, could not indeed deny that the dispensing power
now claimed by the crown was inconsistent with the fundamental
principles of the constitution. But he might perhaps be excused
if he asked, What was the constitution to him? The Act of
Uniformity had ejected him, in spite of royal promises, from a
benefice which was his freehold, and had reduced him to beggary
and dependence. The Five Mile Act had banished him from his
dwelling, from his relations, from his friends, from almost all
places of public resort. Under the Conventicle Act his goods had
been distrained; and he had been flung into one noisome gaol
after another among highwaymen and housebreakers. Out of prison
he had constantly had the officers of justice on his track; he
had been forced to pay hushmoney to informers; he had stolen, in
ignominious disguises, through windows and trapdoors, to meet his
flock, and had, while pouring the baptismal water, or
distributing the eucharistic bread, been anxiously listening for
the signal that the tipstaves were approaching. Was it not
mockery to call on a man thus plundered and oppressed to suffer
martyrdom for the property and liberty of his plunderers and
oppressors? The Declaration, despotic as it might seem to his
prosperous neighbours, brought deliverance to him. He was called
upon to make his choice, not between freedom and slavery, but
between two yokes; and he might not unnaturally think the yoke of
the King lighter than that of the Church.

While thoughts like these were working in the minds of many
Dissenters, the Anglican party was in amazement and terror.
This new turn in affairs was indeed alarming. The House of Stuart
leagued with republican and regicide sects against the old
Cavaliers of England; Popery leagued with Puritanism against an
ecclesiastical system with which the Puritans had no quarrel,
except that it had retained too much that was Popish, these were
portents which confounded all the calculations of statesmen. The
Church was then to be attacked at once on every side and the
attack was to be under the direction of him who, by her
constitution, was her head. She might well be struck with
surprise and dismay. And mingled with surprise and dismay came
other bitter feelings; resentment against the perjured Prince
whom she had served too well, and remorse for the cruelties in
which he had been her accomplice, and for which he was now, as it
seemed, about to be her punisher. Her chastisement was just. She
reaped that which she had sown. After the Restoration, when her
power was at the height, she had breathed nothing hut vengeance.
She had encouraged, urged, almost compelled the Stuarts to
requite with perfidious ingratitude the recent services of the
Presbyterians. Had she, in that season of her prosperity,
pleaded, as became her, for her enemies, she might now, in her
distress, have found them her friends. Perhaps it was not yet too
late. Perhaps she might still be able to turn the tactics of her
faithless oppressor against himself. There was among the Anglican
clergy a moderate party which had always felt kindly towards the
Protestant Dissenters. That party was not large; but the
abilities, acquirements, and virtues of those who belonged to it
made it respectable. It had been regarded with little favour by
the highest ecclesiastical dignitaries, and had been mercilessly
reviled by bigots of the school of Laud but, from the day on
which the Declaration of Indulgence appeared to the day on which
the power of James ceased to inspire terror, the whole Church
seemed to be animated by the spirit, and guided by the counsels,
of the calumniated Latitudinarians.

Then followed an auction, the strangest that history has
recorded. On one side the King, on the other the Church, began to
bid eagerly against each other for the favour of those whom tip
to that time King and Church had combined to oppress. The
Protestant Dissenters, who, a few months before, had been a
despised and proscribed class, now held the balance of power. The
harshness with which they had been treated was universally
condemned. The court tried to throw all the blame on the
hierarchy. The hierarchy flung it back on the court. The King
declared that he had unwillingly persecuted the separatists only
because his affairs had been in such a state that he could not
venture to disoblige the established clergy. The established
clergy protested that they had borne a part in severity
uncongenial to their feelings only from deference to the
authority of the King. The King got together a collection of
stories about rectors and vicars who had by threats of
prosecution wrung money out of Protestant Dissenters. He talked
on this subject much and publicly, threatened to institute an
inquiry which would exhibit the parsons in their true character
to the whole world, and actually issued several commissions
empowering agents on whom he thought that he could depend to
ascertain the amount of the sums extorted in different parts of
the country by professors of the dominant religion from
sectaries. The advocates of the Church, on the other hand, cited
instances of honest parish priests who had been reprimanded and
menaced by the court for recommending toleration in the pulpit,
and for refusing to spy out and hunt down little congregations of
Nonconformists. The King asserted that some of the Churchmen whom
he had closeted had offered to make large concessions to the
Catholics, on condition that the persecution of the Puritans
might go on. The accused Churchmen vehemently denied the truth of
this charge; and alleged that, if they would have complied with
what he demanded for his own religion, he would most gladly have
suffered them to indemnify themselves by harassing and pillaging
Protestant Dissenters.240

The court had changed its face. The scarf and cassock could
hardly appear there without calling forth sneers and malicious
whispers. Maids of honour forbore to giggle, and Lords of the
Bedchamber bowed low, when the Puritanical visage and the
Puritanical garb, so long the favourite subjects of mockery in
fashionable circles, were seen in the galleries. Taunton, which
had been during two generations the stronghold of the Roundhead
party in the West, which had twice resolutely repelled the armies
of Charles the First, which had risen as one man to support
Monmouth, and which had been turned into a shambles by Kirke and
Jeffreys, seemed to have suddenly succeeded to the place which
Oxford had once occupied in the royal favour.241 The King
constrained himself to show even fawning courtesy to eminent
Dissenters. To some he offered money, to some municipal honours,
to some pardons for their relations and friends who, having been
implicated in the Rye House Plot, or having joined the standard
of Monmouth, were now wandering on the Continent, or toiling
among the sugar canes of Barbadoes. He affected even to
sympathize with the kindness which the English Puritans felt for
their foreign brethren. A second and a third proclamation were
published at Edinburgh, which greatly extended the nugatory
toleration granted to the Presbyterians by the edict of
February.242 The banished Huguenots, on whom the King had frowned
during many months, and whom he had defrauded of the alms
contributed by the nation, were now relieved and caressed. An
Order in Council was issued, appealing again in their behalf to
the public liberality. The rule which required them to qualify
themselves for the receipt of charity, by conforming to the
Anglican worship, seems to have been at this time silently
abrogated; and the defenders of the King's policy had the
effrontery to affirm that this rule, which, as we know from the
best evidence, was really devised by himself in concert with
Barillon, had been adopted at the instance of the prelates of the
Established Church.243

While the King was thus courting his old adversaries, the friends
of the Church were not less active. Of the acrimony and scorn
with which prelates and priests had, since the Restoration, been
in the habit of treating the sectaries scarcely a trace was
discernible. Those who had lately been designated as schismatics
and fanatics were now dear fellow Protestants, weak brethren it
might be, but still brethren, whose scruples were entitled to
tender regard. If they would but be true at this crisis to the
cause of the English constitution and of the reformed religion,
their generosity should be speedily and largely rewarded. They
should have, instead of an indulgence which was of no legal
validity, a real indulgence, secured by Act of Parliament. Nay,
many Churchmen, who had hitherto been distinguished by their
inflexible attachment to every gesture and every word prescribed
in the Book of Common Prayer, now declared themselves favourable,
not only to toleration, but even to comprehension. The dispute,
they said, about surplices and attitudes, had too long divided
those who were agreed as to the essentials of religion. When the
struggle for life and death against the common enemy was over, it
would be found that the Anglican clergy would be ready to make
every fair concession. If the Dissenters would demand only what
was reasonable, not only civil but ecclesiastical dignities would
be open to them; and Baxter and Howe would be able, without any
stain on their honour or their conscience, to sit on the
episcopal bench.

Of the numerous pamphlets in which the cause of the Court and the
cause of the Church were at this time eagerly and anxiously
pleaded before the Puritan, now, by a strange turn of fortune,
the arbiter of the fate of his persecutors, one only is still
remembered, the Letter to a Dissenter. In this masterly little
tract, all the arguments which could convince a Nonconformist
that it was his duty and his interest to prefer an alliance with
the Church to an alliance with the Court were condensed into the
smallest compass, arranged in the most perspicuous order,
illustrated with lively wit, and enforced by an eloquence earnest
indeed, yet never in its utmost vehemence transgressing the
limits of exact good sense and good breeding. The effect of this
paper was immense; for, as it was only a single sheet, more than
twenty thousand copies were circulated by the post; and there was
no corner of the kingdom in which the effect was not felt.
Twenty-four answers were published, but the town pronounced that
they were all bad, and that Lestrange's was the worst of the
twenty-four.244 The government was greatly irritated, and spared
no pains to discover the author of the Letter: but it was found
impossible to procure legal evidence against him. Some imagined
that they recognised the sentiments and diction of Temple.245 But
in truth that amplitude and acuteness of intellect, that vivacity
of fancy, that terse and energetic style, that placid dignity,
half courtly half philosophical, which the utmost excitement of
conflict could not for a moment derange, belonged to Halifax, and
to Halifax alone.

The Dissenters wavered; nor is it any reproach to them that they
did so. They were suffering, and the King had given them relief.
Some eminent pastors had emerged from confinement; others had
ventured to return from exile. Congregations, which had hitherto
met only by stealth and in darkness, now assembled at noonday,
and sang psalms aloud in the hearing of magistrates,
churchwardens, and constables. Modest buildings for the worship
of God after the Puritan fashion began to rise all over England.
An observant traveller will still remark the date of 1687 on some
of the oldest meeting houses. Nevertheless the offers of the
Church were, to a prudent Dissenter, far more attractive than
those of the King. The Declaration was, in the eye of the law, a
nullity. It suspended the penal statutes against nonconformity
only for so long a time as the fundamental principles of the
constitution and the rightful authority of the legislature should
remain suspended. What was the value of privileges which must be
held by a tenure at once so ignominious and so insecure? There
might soon be a demise of the crown. A sovereign attached to the
established religion might sit on the throne. A Parliament
composed of Churchmen might be assembled. How deplorable would
then be the situation of Dissenters who had been in league with
Jesuits against the constitution. The Church offered an indulgence
very different from that granted by James, an indulgence as valid
and as sacred as the Great Charter. Both the contending parties
promised religious liberty to the separatist: but one party
required him to purchase it by sacrificing civil liberty; the
other party invited him to enjoy civil and religious liberty

For these reasons, even if it could be believed that the Court
was sincere, a Dissenter might reasonably have determined to cast
in his lot with the Church. But what guarantee was there for the
sincerity of the Court? All men knew what the conduct of James
had been tip to that very time. It was not impossible, indeed,
that a persecutor might be convinced by argument and by
experience of the advantages of toleration. But James did not
pretend to have been recently convinced. On the contrary, he
omitted no opportunity of protesting that he had, during many
years, been, on principle, adverse to all intolerance. Yet,
within a few months, he had persecuted men, women, young girls,
to the death for their religion. Had he been acting against light
and against the convictions of his conscience then? Or was he
uttering a deliberate falsehood now? From this dilemma there was
no escape; and either of the two suppositions was fatal to the
King's character for honesty. It was notorious also that he had
been completely subjugated by the Jesuits. Only a few days before
the publication of the Indulgence, that Order had been honoured,
in spite of the well known wishes of the Holy See, with a new
mark of his confidence and approbation. His confessor, Father
Mansuete, a Franciscan, whose mild temper and irreproachable life
commanded general respect, but who had long been hated by
Tyrconnel and Petre, had been discarded. The vacant place had
been filled by an Englishman named Warner, who had apostatized
from the religion of his country and had turned Jesuit. To the
moderate Roman Catholics and to the Nuncio this change was far
from agreeable. By every Protestant it was regarded as a proof
that the dominion of the Jesuits over the royal mind was
absolute.246 Whatever praises those fathers might justly claim,
flattery itself could not ascribe to them either wide liberality
or strict veracity. That they had never scrupled, when the
interest of their Order was at stake, to call in the aid of the
civil sword, or to violate the laws of truth and of good faith,
had been proclaimed to the world, not only by Protestant
accusers, but by men whose virtue and genius were the glory of
the Church of Rome. It was incredible that a devoted disciple of
the Jesuits should be on principle zealous for freedom of
conscience: but it was neither incredible nor improbable that he
might think himself justified in disguising his real sentiments,
in order to render a service to his religion. It was certain that
the King at heart preferred the Churchmen to the Puritans. It was
certain that, while he had any hope of gaining the Churchmen, he
had never shown the smallest kindness to the Puritans. Could it
then be doubted that, if the Churchmen would even now comply with
his wishes, he would willingly sacrifice the Puritans? His word,
repeatedly pledged, had not restrained him from invading the
legal rights of that clergy which had given such signal proofs of
affection and fidelity to his house. What security then could his
word afford to sects divided from him by the recollection of a
thousand inexpiable wounds inflicted and endured?

When the first agitation produced by the publication of the
Indulgence had subsided, it appeared that a breach had taken
place in the Puritan party. The minority, headed by a few busy
men whose judgment was defective or was biassed by interest,
supported the King. Henry Care, who had long been the bitterest
and most active pamphleteer among the Nonconformists, and who
had, in the days of the Popish plot, assailed James with the
utmost fury in a weekly journal entitled the Packet of Advice
from Rome, was now as loud in adulation, as he had formerly been
in calumny and insult.247 The chief agent who was employed by the
government to manage the Presbyterians was Vincent Alsop, a
divine of some note both as a preacher and as a writer. His son,
who had incurred the penalties of treason, received a pardon; and
the whole influence of the father was thus engaged on the side of
the Court.248 With Alsop was joined Thomas Rosewell. Rosewell
had, during that persecution of the Dissenters which followed the
detection of the Rye House Plot, been falsely accused of
preaching against the government, had been tried for his life by
Jeffreys, and had, in defiance of the clearest evidence, been
convicted by a packed jury. The injustice of the verdict was so
gross that the very courtiers cried shame. One Tory gentleman who
had heard the trial went instantly to Charles, and declared that
the neck of the most loyal subject in England would not be safe
if Rosewell suffered. The jurymen themselves were stung by
remorse when they thought over what they had done, and exerted
themselves to save the life of the prisoner. At length a pardon
was granted; but Rosewell remained bound under heavy
recognisances to good behaviour during life, and to periodical
appearance in the Court of King's Bench. His recognisances were
now discharged by the royal command; and in this way his services
were secured.249

The business of gaining the Independents was principally
intrusted to one of their ministers named Stephen Lobb. Lobb was
a weak, violent, and ambitious man. He had gone such lengths in
opposition to the government, that he had been by name proscribed
in several proclamations. He now made his peace, and went as far
in servility as he had ever done in faction. He joined the
Jesuitical cabal, and eagerly recommended measures from which the
wisest and most honest Roman Catholics recoiled. It was remarked
that he was constantly at the palace and frequently in the
closet, that he lived with a splendour to which the Puritan
divines were little accustomed, and that he was perpetually
surrounded by suitors imploring his interest to procure them
offices or pardons.250

With Lobb was closely connected William Penn. Penn had never been
a strongheaded man: the life which he had been leading during two
years had not a little impaired his moral sensibility; and, if
his conscience ever reproached him, he comforted himself by
repeating that he had a good and noble end in view, and that he
was not paid for his services in money.

By the influence of these men, and of others less conspicuous,
addresses of thanks to the King were procured from several bodies
of Dissenters. Tory writers have with justice remarked that the
language of these compositions was as fulsomely servile as
anything that could be found in the most florid eulogies
pronounced by Bishops on the Stuarts. But, on close inquiry, it
will appear that the disgrace belongs to but a small part of the
Puritan party. There was scarcely a market town in England
without at least a knot of separatists. No exertion was spared to
induce them to express their gratitude for the Indulgence.
Circular letters, imploring them to sign, were sent to every
corner of the kingdom in such numbers that the mail bags, it was
sportively said, were too heavy for the posthorses. Yet all the
addresses which could be obtained from all the Presbyterians,
Independents, and Baptists scattered over England did not in six
months amount to sixty; nor is there any reason to believe that
these addresses were numerously signed.251

The great body of Protestant Nonconformists, firmly attached to
civil liberty, and distrusting the promises of the King and of
the Jesuits, steadily refused to return thanks for a favour
which, it might well be suspected, concealed a snare. This was
the temper of all the most illustrious chiefs of the party. One
of these was Baxter. He had, as we have seen, been brought to
trial soon after the accession of James, had been brutally
insulted by Jeffreys, and had been convicted by a jury, such as
the courtly Sheriffs of those times were in the habit of
selecting. Baxter had been about a year and a half in prison when
the court began to think seriously of gaining the Nonconformists.
He was not only set at liberty, but was informed that, if he
chose to reside in London, he might do so without fearing that
the Five Mile Act would be enforced against him. The government
probably hoped that the recollection of past sufferings and the
sense of present ease would produce the same effect on him as on
Rosewell and Lobb. The hope was disappointed. Baxter was neither
to be corrupted nor to be deceived. He refused to join in an
address of thanks for the Indulgence, and exerted all his
influence to promote good feeling between the Church and the

If any man stood higher than Baxter in the estimation of the
Protestant Dissenters, that man was John Howe. Howe had, like
Baxter, been personally a gainer by the recent change of policy.
The same tyranny which had flung Baxter into gaol had driven Howe
into banishment; and, soon after Baxter had been let out of the
King's Bench prison, Howe returned from Utrecht to England. It
was expected at Whitehall that Howe would exert in favour of the
court all the authority which he possessed over his brethren. The
King himself condescended to ask the help of the subject whom he
had oppressed. Howe appears to have hesitated: but the influence
of the Hampdens, with whom he was on terms of close intimacy,
kept him steady to the cause of the constitution. A meeting of
Presbyterian ministers was held at his house, to consider the
state of affairs, and to determine on the course to be adopted.
There was great anxiety at the palace to know the result. Two
royal messengers were in attendance during the discussion. They
carried back the unwelcome news that Howe had declared himself
decidedly adverse to the dispensing power, and that he had, after
long debate, carried with him the majority of the assembly.253

To the names of Baxter and Howe must be added the name of a man
far below them in station and in acquired knowledge, but in
virtue their equal, and in genius their superior, John Bunyan.
Bunyan had been bred a tinker, and had served as a private
soldier in the parliamentary army. Early in his life he had been
fearfully tortured by remorse for his youthful sins, the worst of
which seem, however, to have been such as the world thinks
venial. His keen sensibility and his powerful imagination made
his internal conflicts singularly terrible. He fancied that he
was under sentence of reprobation, that he had committed
blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, that he had sold Christ, that
he was actually possessed by a demon. Sometimes loud voices from
heaven cried out to warn him. Sometimes fiends whispered impious
suggestions in his ear. He saw visions of distant mountain tops,
on which the sun shone brightly, hut from which he was separated
by a waste of snow. He felt the Devil behind him pulling his
clothes. He thought that the brand of Cain had been set upon him.
He feared that he was about to burst asunder like Judas. His
mental agony disordered his health. One day he shook like a man
in the palsy. On another day he felt a fire within his breast. It
is difficult to understand how he survived sufferings so intense,
and so long continued. At length the clouds broke. From the
depths of despair, the penitent passed to a state of serene
felicity. An irresistible impulse now urged him to impart to
others the blessing of which he was himself possessed.254 He
joined the Baptists, and became a preacher and writer. His
education had been that of a mechanic. He knew no language but
the English, as it was spoken by the common people. He had
studied no great model of composition, with the exception, an
important exception undoubtedly, of our noble translation of the
Bible. His spelling was bad. He frequently transgressed the rules
of grammar. Yet his native force of genius, and his experimental
knowledge of all the religious passions, from despair to ecstasy,
amply supplied in him the want of learning. His rude oratory
roused and melted hearers who listened without interest to the
laboured discourses of great logicians and Hebraists. His works
were widely circulated among the humbler classes. One of them,
the Pilgrim's Progress, was, in his own lifetime, translated into
several foreign languages. It was, however, scarcely known to the
learned and polite, and had been, during near a century, the
delight of pious cottagers and artisans before it was publicly
commended by any man of high literary eminence. At length
critics condescended to inquire where the secret of so wide and
so durable a popularity lay. They were compelled to own that the
ignorant multitude had judged more correctly than the learned,
and that the despised little book was really a masterpiece.
Bunyan is indeed as decidedly the first of allegorists, as
Demosthenes is the first of orators, or Shakspeare the first of
dramatists. Other allegorists have shown equal ingenuity but no
other allegorist has ever been able to touch the heart, and to
make abstractions objects of terror, of pity, and of love.255

It may be doubted whether any English Dissenter had suffered more
severely under the penal laws than John Bunyan. Of the twenty-
seven years which had elapsed since the Restoration, he had
passed twelve in confinement. He still persisted in preaching;
but, that he might preach, he was under the necessity of
disguising himself like a carter. He was often introduced into
meetings through back doors, with a smock frock on his back, and
a whip in his hand. If he had thought only of his own ease and
safety, he would have hailed the Indulgence with delight. He was
now, at length, free to pray and exhort in open day. His
congregation rapidly increased, thousands hung upon his words; and
at Bedford, where he ordinarily resided, money was plentifully
contributed to build a meeting house for him. His influence among
the common people was such that the government would willingly
have bestowed on him some municipal office: but his vigorous
understanding and his stout English heart were proof against all
delusion and all temptation. He felt assured that the proffered
toleration was merely a bait intended to lure the Puritan party
to destruction; nor would he, by accepting a place for which he
was not legally qualified, recognise the validity of the
dispensing power. One of the last acts of his virtuous life was
to decline an interview to which he was invited by an agent of
the government.256

Great as was the authority of Bunyan with the Baptists, that of
William Kiffin was still greater. Kiffin was the first man among
them in wealth and station. He was in the habit of exercising his
spiritual gifts at their meetings: but he did not live by
preaching. He traded largely; his credit on the Exchange of
London stood high; and he had accumulated an ample fortune.
Perhaps no man could, at that conjuncture, have rendered more
valuable services to the Court. But between him and the Court was
interposed the remembrance of one terrible event. He was the
grandfather of the two Hewlings, those gallant youths who, of all
the victims of the Bloody Assizes, had been the most generally
lamented. For the sad fate of one of them James was in a peculiar
manner responsible. Jeffreys had respited the younger brother.
The poor lad's sister had been ushered by Churchill into the
royal presence, and had begged for mercy; but the King's heart
had been obdurate. The misery of the whole family had been great:
but Kiffin was most to be pitied. He was seventy years old when
he was left desolate, the survivor of those who should have
survived him. The heartless and venal sycophants of Whitehall,
judging by themselves, thought that the old man would be easily
propitiated by an Alderman's gown, and by some compensation in
money for the property which his grandsons had forfeited. Penn
was employed in the work of seduction, but to no purpose. The
King determined to try what effect his own civilities would
produce. Kiffin was ordered to attend at the palace. He found a
brilliant circle of noblemen and gentlemen assembled. James
immediately came to him, spoke to him very graciously, and
concluded by saying, "I have put you down, Mr. Kiffin, for an
Alderman of London." The old man looked fixedly at the King,
burst into tears, and made answer, "Sir, I am worn out: I am unfit
to serve your Majesty or the City. And, sir, the death of my poor
boys broke my heart. That wound is as fresh as ever. I shall
carry it to my grave." The King stood silent for a minute in some
confusion, and then said, "Mr. Kiffin, I will find a balsam for
that sore." Assuredly James did not mean to say anything cruel or
insolent: on the contrary, he seems to have been in an unusually
gentle mood. Yet no speech that is recorded of him gives so
unfavourable a notion of his character as these few words. They
are the words of a hardhearted and lowminded man, unable to
conceive any laceration of the affections for which a place or a
pension would not be a full compensation.257

That section of the dissenting body which was favourable to the
King's new policy had from the first been a minority, and soon
began to diminish. For the Nonconformists perceived in no long
time that their spiritual privileges had been abridged rather
than extended by the Indulgence. The chief characteristic of the
Puritan was abhorrence of the peculiarities of the Church of
Rome. He had quitted the Church of England only because he
conceived that she too much resembled her superb and voluptuous
sister, the sorceress of the golden cup and of the scarlet robe.
He now found that one of the implied conditions of that alliance
which some of his pastors had formed with the Court was that the
religion of the Court should be respectfully and tenderly
treated. He soon began to regret the days of persecution. While
the penal laws were enforced, he had heard the words of life in
secret and at his peril: but still he had heard them. When the
brethren were assembled in the inner chamber, when the sentinels
had been posted, when the doors had been locked, when the
preacher, in the garb of a butcher or a drayman, had come in over
the tiles, then at least God was truly worshipped. No portion of
divine truth was suppressed or softened down for any worldly
object. All the distinctive doctrines of the Puritan theology
were fully, and even coarsely, set forth. To the Church of Rome
no quarter was given. The Beast, the Antichrist, the Man of Sin,
the mystical Jezebel, the mystical Babylon, were the phrases
ordinarily employed to describe that august and fascinating
superstition. Such had been once the style of Alsop, of Lobb, of
Rosewell, and of other ministers who had of late been well
received at the palace: but such was now their style no longer.
Divines who aspired to a high place in the King's favour and
confidence could not venture to speak with asperity of the King's
religion. Congregations therefore complained loudly that, since
the appearance of the Declaration which purported to give them
entire freedom of conscience, they had never once heard the
Gospel boldly and faithfully preached. Formerly they had been
forced to snatch their spiritual nutriment by stealth; but, when
they had snatched it, they had found it seasoned exactly to their
taste. They were now at liberty to feed: but their food had lost
all its savour. They met by daylight, and in commodious edifices:
but they heard discourses far less to their taste than they would
have heard from the rector. At the parish church the will worship
and idolatry of Rome were every Sunday attacked with energy: but,
at the meeting house, the pastor, who had a few months before
reviled the established clergy as little better than Papists, now
carefully abstained from censuring Popery, or conveyed his
censures in language too delicate to shock even the ears of
Father Petre. Nor was it possible to assign any creditable reason
for this change. The Roman Catholic doctrines had undergone no
alteration. Within living memory never had Roman Catholic priests
been so active in the work of making proselytes: never had so
many Roman Catholic publications issued from the press; never had
the attention of all who cared about religion been so closely
fixed on the dispute between the Roman Catholics and the
Protestants. What could be thought of the sincerity of
theologians who had never been weary of railing at Popery when
Popery was comparatively harmless and helpless, and who now, when
a time of real danger to the reformed faith had arrived,
studiously avoided tittering one word which could give offence to
a Jesuit? Their conduct was indeed easily explained. It was known
that some of them had obtained pardons. It was suspected that
others had obtained money. Their prototype might be found in that
weak apostle who from fear denied the Master to whom he had
boastfully professed the firmest attachment, or in that baser
apostle who sold his Lord for a handful of silver.258

Thus the dissenting ministers who had been gained by the Court
were rapidly losing the influence which they had once possessed
over their brethren. On the other hand, the sectaries found
themselves attracted by a strong religious sympathy towards those
prelates and priests of the Church of England who, spite of royal
mandates, of threats, and of promises, were waging vigorous war
with the Church of Rome. The Anglican body and the Puritan body,
so long separated by a mortal enmity, were daily drawing nearer
to each other, and every step which they made towards union
increased the influence of him who was their common head. William
was in all things fitted to be a mediator between these two great
sections of the English nation. He could not be said to be a
member of either. Yet neither, when in a reasonable mood, could
refuse to regard him as a friend. His system of theology agreed
with that of the Puritans. At the same time, he regarded
episcopacy not indeed as a divine institution, but as a perfectly
lawful and an eminently useful form of church government.
Questions respecting postures, robes, festivals and liturgies,
he considered as of no vital importance. A simple worship, such
as that to which he had been early accustomed, would have been
most to his personal taste. But he was prepared to conform to any
ritual which might be acceptable to the nation, and insisted only
that he should not be required to persecute his brother
Protestants whose consciences did not permit them to follow his
example. Two years earlier he would have been pronounced by
numerous bigots on both sides a mere Laodicean, neither cold nor
hot, and fit only to be spewed out. But the zeal which had
inflamed Churchmen against Dissenters and Dissenters against
Churchmen had been so tempered by common adversity and danger
that the lukewarmness which had once been imputed to him as a crime was now
reckoned among his chief virtues.

All men were anxious to know what he thought of the Declaration
of Indulgence. For a time hopes were entertained at Whitehall
that his known respect for the rights of conscience would at
least prevent him from publicly expressing disapprobation of a
policy which had a specious show of liberality. Penn sent copious
disquisitions to the Hague, and even went thither, in the hope
that his eloquence, of which he had a high opinion, would prove
irresistible. But, though he harangued on his favourite theme
with a copiousness which tired his hearers out, and though he
assured them that the approach of a golden age of religious
liberty had been revealed to him by a man who was permitted to
converse with angels, no impression was made on the Prince.259
"You ask me," said William to one of the King's agents, "to
countenance an attack on my own religion. I cannot with a safe
conscience do it, and I will not, no, not for the crown of
England, nor for the empire of the world." These words were
reported to the King and disturbed him greatly.260 He wrote
urgent letters with his own hand. Sometimes he took the tone of
an injured man. He was the head of the royal family, he was as
such entitled to expect the obedience of the younger branches and
it was very hard that he was to be crossed in a matter on which
his heart was set. At other times a bait which was thought
irresistible was offered. If William would but give way on this
one point, the English government would, in return, cooperate
with him strenuously against France. He was not to be so deluded.
He knew that James, without the support of a Parliament, would,
even if not unwilling, be unable to render effectual service to
the common cause of Europe; and there could be no doubt that, if
a Parliament were assembled, the first demand of both Houses
would be that the Declaration should he cancelled.

The Princess assented to all that was suggested by her husband.
Their joint opinion was conveyed to the King in firm but
temperate terms. They declared that they deeply regretted the
course which His Majesty had adopted. They were convinced that he
had usurped a prerogative which did not by law belong to him.
Against that usurpation they protested, not only as friends to
civil liberty, but as members of the royal house, who had a deep
interest in maintaining the rights of that crown which they might
one day wear. For experience had shown that in England arbitrary
government could not fail to produce a reaction even more
pernicious than itself; and it might reasonably be feared that
the nation, alarmed and incensed by the prospect of despotism,
might conceive a disgust even for constitutional monarchy. The
advice, therefore, which they tendered to the King was that he
would in all things govern according to law. They readily
admitted that the law might with advantage be altered by
competent authority, and that some part of his Declaration well
deserved to be embodied in an Act of Parliament. They were not
persecutors. They should with pleasure see Roman Catholics as
well as Protestant Dissenters relieved in a proper manner from
all penal statutes. They should with pleasure see Protestant
Dissenters admitted in a proper manner to civil office. At that
point their Highnesses must stop. They could not but entertain
grave apprehensions that, if Roman Catholics were made capable of
public trust, great evil would ensue; and it was intimated not
obscurely that these apprehensions arose chiefly from the conduct
of James.261

The opinion expressed by the Prince and Princess respecting the
disabilities to which the Roman Catholics were subject was that
of almost all the statesmen and philosophers who were then
zealous for political and religious freedom. In our age, on the
contrary, enlightened men have often pronounced, with regret,
that, on this one point, William appears to disadvantage when
compared with his father in law. The truth is that some
considerations which are necessary to the forming of a correct
judgment seem to have escaped the notice of many writers of the
nineteenth century.

There are two opposite errors into which those who study the
annals of our country are in constant danger of falling, the
error of judging the present by the past, and the error of
judging the past by the present. The former is the error of minds
prone to reverence whatever is old, the latter of minds readily
attracted by whatever is new. The former error may perpetually be
observed in the reasonings of conservative politicians on the
questions of their own day. The latter error perpetually infects
the speculations of writers of the liberal school when they
discuss the transactions of an earlier age. The former error is
the more pernicious in a statesman, and the latter in a

It is not easy for any person who, in our time, undertakes to
treat of the revolution which overthrew the Stuarts, to preserve
with steadiness the happy mean between these two extremes. The
question whether members of the Roman Catholic Church could be
safely admitted to Parliament and to office convulsed our country
during the reign of James the Second, was set at rest by his
downfall, and, having slept during more than a century, was
revived by that great stirring of the human mind which followed,
the meeting of the National Assembly of France. During thirty
years the contest went on in both Houses of Parliament, in every
constituent body, in every social circle. It destroyed
administrations, broke up parties, made all government in one
part of the empire impossible, and at length brought us to the
verge of civil war. Even when the struggle had terminated, the
passions to which it had given birth still continued to rage. It
was scarcely possible for any man whose mind was under the
influence of those passions to see the events of the years 1687
and 1688 in a perfectly correct light.

One class of politicians, starting from the true proposition that
the Revolution had been a great blessing to our country, arrived
at the false conclusion that no test which the statesmen of the
Revolution had thought necessary for the protection of our
religion and our freedom could be safely abolished. Another
class, starting from the true proposition that the disabilities
imposed on the Roman Catholics had long been productive of
nothing but mischief, arrived at the false conclusion that there
never could have been a time when those disabilities could have
been useful and necessary. The former fallacy pervaded the
speeches of the acute and learned Eldon. The latter was not
altogether without influence even on an intellect so calm and
philosophical as that of Mackintosh.

Perhaps, however, it will be found on examination that we may
vindicate the course which was unanimously approved by all the
great English statesmen of the seventeenth century, without
questioning the wisdom of the course which was as unanimously
approved by all the great English statesmen of our own time.

Undoubtedly it is an evil that any citizen should be excluded
from civil employment on account of his religious opinions: but a
choice between evils is sometimes all that is left to human
wisdom. A nation may be placed in such a situation that the
majority must either impose disabilities or submit to them, and
that what would, under ordinary circumstances, be justly
condemned as persecution, may fall within the bounds of
legitimate selfdefence: and such was in the year 1687 the
situation of England.

According to the constitution of the realm, James possessed the
right of naming almost all public functionaries, political,
judicial, ecclesiastical, military, and naval. In the exercise of
this right he was not, as our sovereigns now are, under the
necessity of acting in conformity with the advice of ministers
approved by the House of Commons. It was evident therefore that,
unless he were strictly bound by law to bestow office on none but
Protestants, it would be in his power to bestow office on none
but Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholics were few in number; and
among them was not a single man whose services could be seriously
missed by the commonwealth. The proportion which they bore to the
population of England was very much smaller than at present. For
at present a constant stream of emigration runs from Ireland to
our great towns: but in the seventeenth century there was not
even in London an Irish colony. Forty-nine fiftieths of the
inhabitants of the kingdom, forty-nine fiftieths of the property
of the kingdom, almost all the political, legal, and military
ability and knowledge to be found in the kingdom, were
Protestant. Nevertheless the King, under a strong infatuation,
had determined to use his vast patronage as a means of making
proselytes. To be of his Church was, in his view, the first of
all qualifications for office. To be of the national Church was a
positive disqualification. He reprobated, it is true, in language
which has been applauded by some credulous friends of religious
liberty, the monstrous injustice of that test which excluded a
small minority of the nation from public trust: but he was at the
same time instituting a test which excluded the majority. He
thought it hard that a man who was a good financier and a loyal
subject should be excluded from the post of Lord Treasurer merely
for being a Papist. But he had himself turned out a Lord
Treasurer whom he admitted to be a good financier and a loyal
subject merely for being a Protestant. He had repeatedly and
distinctly declared his resolution never to put the white staff
in the hands of any heretic. With many other great offices of
state he had dealt in the same way. Already the Lord President,
the Lord Privy
Seal, the Lord Chamberlain, the Groom of the Stole, the First
Lord of the Treasury, a Secretary of State, the Lord High
Commissioner of Scotland, the Chancellor of Scotland, the
Secretary of Scotland, were, or pretended to be, Roman Catholics.
Most of these functionaries had been bred Churchmen, and had been
guilty of apostasy, open or secret, in order to obtain or to keep
their high places. Every Protestant who still held an important
post in the government held it in constant uncertainty and fear.
It would be endless to recount the situations of a lower rank
which were filled by the favoured class. Roman Catholics already
swarmed in every department of the public service. They were
Lords Lieutenants, Deputy Lieutenants, judges, justices of the
Peace, Commissioners of the Customs, Envoys to foreign courts,
Colonels of regiments, Governors of fortresses. The share which
in a few months they had obtained of the temporal patronage of
the crown was much more than ten times as great as they would
have had under an impartial system. Yet this was not the worst.
They were made rulers of the Church of England. Men who had
assured the King that they held his faith sate in the High
Commission, and exercised supreme jurisdiction in spiritual
things over all the prelates and priests of the established
religion. Ecclesiastical benefices of great dignity had been
bestowed, some on avowed Papists, and some on half concealed
Papists. And all this had been done while the laws against Popery
were still unrepealed, and while James had still a strong
interest in affecting respect for the rights of conscience. What
then was his conduct likely to be, if his subjects consented to
free him, by a legislative act, from even the shadow of
restraint? Is it possible to doubt that Protestants would have
been as effectually excluded from employment, by a strictly legal
use of the royal prerogative, as ever Roman Catholics had been by
Act of Parliament?

How obstinately James was determined to bestow on the members of
his own Church a share of patronage altogether out of proportion
to their numbers and importance is proved by the instructions
which, in exile and old age, he drew up for the guidance of his
son. It is impossible to read without mingled pity and derision
those effusions of a mind on which all the discipline of
experience and adversity had been exhausted in vain. The
Pretender is advised if ever he should reign in England, to
make a partition of offices, and carefully to reserve for the
members of the Church of Rome a portion which might have sufficed
for them if they had been one half instead of one fiftieth part
of the nation. One Secretary of State, one Commissioner of the
Treasury, the Secretary at War, the majority of the great
dignitaries of the household, the majority of the officers of the
army, are always to be Catholics. Such were the designs of James
after his perverse bigotry had drawn on him a punishment which
had appalled the whole world. Is it then possible to doubt what
his conduct would have been if his people, deluded by the empty
name of religious liberty, had suffered him to proceed without
any check?

Even Penn, intemperate and undiscerning as was his zeal for the
Declaration, seems to have felt that the partiality with which
honours and emoluments were heaped on Roman Catholics, might not
unnaturally excite the jealousy of the nation. He owned that, if
the Test Act were repealed, the Protestants were entitled to an
equivalent, and went so far as to suggest several equivalents.
During some weeks the word equivalent, then lately imported from
France, was in the mouths of all the coffee-house orators, but at
length a few pages of keen logic and polished sarcasm written by
Halifax put an end to these idle projects. One of Penn's schemes
was that a law should be passed dividing the patronage of the
crown into three equal parts; and that to one only of those parts
members of the Church of Rome should be admitted. Even under such
an arrangement the members of the Church of Rome would have
obtained near twenty times their fair portion of official
appointments; and yet there is no reason to believe that even to
such an arrangement the King would have consented. But, had he
consented, what guarantee could he give that he would adhere to
his bargain? The dilemma propounded by Halifax was unanswerable.
If laws are binding on you, observe the law which now exists. If
laws are not binding on you, it is idle to offer us a law as a

It is clear, therefore, that the point at issue was not whether
secular offices should be thrown open to all sects
indifferently. While James was King it was inevitable that there
should be exclusion; and the only question was who should be
excluded, Papists or Protestants, the few or the many, a hundred
thousand Englishmen or five millions.

Such are the weighty arguments by which the conduct of the Prince
of Orange towards the English Roman Catholics may be reconciled
with the principles of religious liberty. These arguments, it
will be observed, have no reference to any part of the Roman
Catholic theology. It will also be observed that they ceased to
have any force when the crown had been settled on a race of
Protestant sovereigns, and when the power of the House of Commons
in the state had become so decidedly preponderant that no
sovereign, whatever might have been his opinions or his
inclinations, could have imitated the example of James. The
nation, however, after its terrors, its struggles, its narrow
escape, was in a suspicious and vindictive mood. Means of defence
therefore which necessity had once justified, and which necessity
alone could justify, were obstinately used long after the
necessity had ceased to exist, and were not abandoned till vulgar
prejudice had maintained a contest of many years against reason.
But in the time of James reason and vulgar prejudice were on the
same side. The fanatical and ignorant wished to exclude the Roman
Catholic from office because he worshipped stocks and stones,
because he had the mark of the Beast, because he had burned down
London, because he had strangled Sir Edmondsbury Godfrey; and the
most judicious and tolerant statesman, while smiling at the
delusions which imposed on the populace, was led, by a very
different road, to the same conclusion.

The great object of William now was to unite in one body the
numerous sections of the community which regarded him as their
common head. In this work he had several able and trusty
coadjutors, among whom two were preeminently useful, Burnet and

The services of Burnet indeed it was necessary to employ with
some caution. The kindness with which he had been welcomed at the
Hague had excited the rage of James. Mary received from her
father two letters filled with invectives against the insolent
and seditious divine whom she protected. But these accusations
had so little effect on her that she sent back answers dictated
by Burnet himself. At length, in January 1687, the King had
recourse to stronger measures. Skelton, who had represented the
English government in the United Provinces, was removed to Paris,
and was succeeded by Albeville, the weakest and basest of all the
members of the Jesuitical cabal. Money was Albeville's one
object; and he took it from all who offered it. He was paid at
once by France and by Holland. Nay, he stooped below even the
miserable dignity of corruption, and accepted bribes so small
that they seemed better suited to a porter or a lacquey than to
an Envoy who had been honoured with an English baronetcy and a
foreign marquisate. On one occasion he pocketed very complacently
a gratuity of fifty pistoles as the price of a service which he
had rendered to the States General. This man had it in charge to
demand that Burnet should no longer be countenanced at the Hague.
William, who was not inclined to part with a valuable friend,
answered at first with his usual coldness; "I am not aware, sir,
that, since the Doctor has been here, he has done or said
anything of which His Majesty can justly complain." But James was
peremptory; the time for an open rupture had not arrived; and it
was necessary to give way. During more than eighteen months
Burnet never came into the presence of either the Prince or the
Princess: but he resided near them; he was fully informed of all
that was passing; his advice was constantly asked; his pen was
employed on all important occasions; and many of the sharpest and
most effective tracts which about that time appeared in London
were justly attributed to him.

The rage of James flamed high. He had always been more than
sufficiently prone to the angry passions. But none of his
enemies, not even those who had conspired against his life, not
even those who had attempted by perjury to load him with the
guilt of treason and assassination, had ever been regarded by him
with such animosity as he now felt for Burnet. His Majesty railed
daily at the Doctor in unkingly language, and meditated plans of
unlawful revenge. Even blood would not slake that frantic hatred.
The insolent divine must be tortured before he was permitted to
die. Fortunately he was by birth a Scot; and in Scotland, before
he was gibbeted in the Grassmarket, his legs might be dislocated
in the boot. Proceedings were accordingly instituted against him
at Edinburgh: but he had been naturalised in Holland: he had
married a woman of fortune who was a native of that province: and
it was certain that his adopted country would not deliver him up.
It was therefore determined to kidnap him. Ruffians were hired
with great sums of money for this perilous and infamous service.
An order for three thousand pounds on this account was actually
drawn up for signature in the office of the Secretary of State.
Lewis was apprised of the design, and took a warm interest in it.
He would lend, he said, his best assistance to convey the villain
to England, and would undertake that the ministers of the
vengeance of James should find a secure asylum in France. Burnet
was well aware of his danger: but timidity was not among his
faults. He published a courageous answer to the charges which had
been brought against him at Edinburgh. He knew, he said, that it
was intended to execute him without a trial: but his trust was in
the King of Kings, to whom innocent blood would not cry in vain,
even against the mightiest princes of the earth. He gave a
farewell dinner to some friends, and, after the meal, took solemn
leave of them, as a man who was doomed to death, and with whom
they could no longer safely converse. Nevertheless he continued
to show himself in all the public places of the Hague so boldly
that his friends reproached him bitterly with his

While Burnet was William's secretary for English affairs in
Holland, Dykvelt had been not less usefully employed in London.
Dykvelt was one of a remarkable class of public men who, having
been bred to politics in the noble school of John De Witt, had,
after the fall of that great minister, thought that they should
best discharge their duty to the commonwealth by rallying round
the Prince of Orange. Of the diplomatists in the service of the
United Provinces none was, in dexterity, temper, and manners,
superior to Dykvelt. In knowledge of English affairs none seems
to have been his equal. A pretence was found for despatching him,
early in the year 1687, to England on a special mission with
credentials from the States General. But in truth his embassy was
not to the government, but to the opposition; and his conduct was
guided by private instructions which had been drawn by Burnet,
and approved by William.264

Dykvelt reported that James was bitterly mortified by the conduct
of the Prince and Princess. "My nephew's duty," said the King,
"is to strengthen my hands. But he has always taken a pleasure in
crossing me." Dykvelt answered that in matters of private concern
His Highness had shown, and was ready to show, the greatest
deference to the King's wishes; but that it was scarcely
reasonable to expect the aid of a Protestant prince against the
Protestant religion.265 The King was silenced, but not appeased.
He saw, with ill humour which he could not disguise, that Dykvelt
was mustering and drilling all the various divisions of the
opposition with a skill which would have been creditable to the
ablest English statesman, and which was marvellous in a
foreigner. The clergy were told that they would find the Prince a
friend to episcopacy and to the Book of Common Prayer. The
Nonconformists were encouraged to expect from him, not only
toleration, but also comprehension. Even the Roman Catholics were
conciliated; and some of the most respectable among them
declared, to the King's face, that they were satisfied with what
Dykvelt proposed, and that they would rather have a toleration,
secured by statute, than an illegal and precarious ascendency.266
The chiefs of all the important sections of the nation had
frequent conferences in the presence of the dexterous Envoy. At
these meetings the sense of the Tory party was chiefly spoken by
the Earls of Danby and Nottingham. Though more than eight years
had elapsed since Danby had fallen from power, his name was still
great among the old Cavaliers of England; and many even of those
Whigs who had formerly persecuted him were now disposed to admit
that he had suffered for faults not his own, and that his zeal
for the prerogative, though it had often misled him, had been
tempered by two feelings which did him honour, zeal for the
established religion, and zeal for the dignity and independence
of his country. He was also highly esteemed at the Hague, where
it was never forgotten that he was the person who, in spite of
the influence of France and of the Papists, had induced Charles
to bestow the hand of the Lady Mary on her cousin.

Daniel Finch, Earl of Nottingham, a nobleman whose name will
frequently recur in the history of three eventful reigns, sprang
from a family of unrivalled forensic eminence. One of his kinsmen
had borne the seal of Charles the First, had prostituted eminent
parts and learning to evil purposes, and had been pursued by the
vengeance of the Commons of England with Falkland at their head.
A more honourable renown had in the succeeding generation been
obtained by Heneage Finch. He had immediately after the
Restoration been appointed Solicitor General. He had subsequently
risen to be Attorney General, Lord Keeper, Lord Chancellor, Baron
Finch, and Earl of Nottingham. Through this prosperous career he
had always held the prerogative as high as he honestly or
decently could; but he had never been concerned in any
machinations against the fundamental laws of the realm. In the
midst of a corrupt court he had kept his personal integrity
unsullied. He had enjoyed high fame as an orator, though his
diction, formed on models anterior to the civil wars, was,
towards the close of his life, pronounced stiff and pedantic by
the wits of the rising generation. In Westminster Hall he is
still mentioned with respect as the man who first educed out of
the chaos anciently called by the name of equity a new system of
jurisprudence, as regular and complete as that which is
administered by the judges of the Common Law.267 A considerable
part of the moral and intellectual character of this great
magistrate had descended with the title of Nottingham to his
eldest son. This son, Earl Daniel, was an honourable and virtuous
man. Though enslaved by some absurd prejudices, and though liable
to strange fits of caprice, he cannot be accused of having
deviated from the path of right in search either of unlawful gain
or of unlawful pleasure. Like his father he was a distinguished
speaker, impressive, but prolix, and too monotonously solemn. The
person of the orator was in perfect harmony with his oratory. His
attitude was rigidly erect--his complexion so dark that he might
have passed for a native of a warmer climate than ours; and his
harsh features were composed to an expression resembling that of
a chief mourner at a funeral. It was commonly said that he looked
rather like a Spanish grandee than like an English gentleman. The
nicknames of Dismal, Don Dismallo, and Don Diego, were fastened
on him by jesters, and are not yet forgotten. He had paid much
attention to the science by which his family had been raised to
greatness, and was, for a man born to rank and wealth,
wonderfully well read in the laws of his country. He was a
devoted son of the Church, and showed his respect for her in two
ways not usual among those Lords who in his time boasted that
they were her especial friends, by writing tracts in defence of
her dogmas, and by shaping his private life according to her
precepts. Like other zealous churchmen, he had, till recently,
been a strenuous supporter of monarchical authority. But to the
policy which had been pursued since the suppression of the
Western insurrection he was bitterly hostile, and not the less
so because his younger brother Heneage had been turned out of the
office of Solicitor General for refusing to defend the King's
dispensing power.268

With these two great Tory Earls was now united Halifax, the
accomplished chief of the Trimmers. Over the mind of Nottingham
indeed Halifax appears to have had at this time a great
ascendency. Between Halifax and Danby there was an enmity which
began in the court of Charles, and which, at a later period,
disturbed the court of William, but which, like many other
enmities, remained suspended during the tyranny of James. The
foes frequently met in the councils held by Dykvelt, and agreed
in expressing dislike of the policy of the government and
reverence for the Prince of Orange. The different characters of
the two statesmen appeared strongly in their dealings with the
Dutch envoy. Halifax showed an admirable talent for disquisition,
but shrank from coming to any bold and irrevocable decision.
Danby far less subtle and eloquent, displayed more energy,
resolution, and practical sagacity.

Several eminent Whigs were in constant communication with
Dykvelt: but the heads of the great houses of Cavendish and
Russell could not take quite so active and prominent a part as
might have been expected from their station and their opinions,
The fame and fortunes of Devonshire were at that moment under a
cloud. He had an unfortunate quarrel with the court, arising, not
from a public and honourable cause, but from a private brawl in
which even his warmest friends could not pronounce him altogether
blameless. He had gone to Whitehall to pay his duty, and had
there been insulted by a man named Colepepper, one of a set of
bravoes who invested the perlieus of the court, and who attempted
to curry favour with the government by affronting members of the
opposition. The King himself expressed great indignation at the
manner in which one of his most distinguished peers had been
treated under the royal roof; and Devonshire was pacified by an
intimation that the offender should never again be admitted into
the palace. The interdict, however, was soon taken off. The
Earl's resentment revived. His servants took up his cause.
Hostilities such as seemed to belong to a ruder age disturbed the
streets of Westminster. The time of the Privy Council was
occupied by the criminations and recriminations of the adverse
parties. Colepepper's wife declared that she and her husband went
in danger of their lives, and that their house had been assaulted
by ruffians in the Cavendish livery. Devonshire replied that he
had been fired at from Colepepper's windows. This was vehemently
denied. A pistol, it was owned, loaded with gunpowder, had been
discharged. But this had been done in a moment of terror merely
for the purpose of alarming the Guards. While this feud was at
the height the Earl met Colepepper in the drawingroom at
Whitehall, and fancied that he saw triumph and defiance in the
bully's countenance. Nothing unseemly passed in the royal sight;
but, as soon as the enemies had left the presence chamber,
Devonshire proposed that they should instantly decide their
dispute with their swords. The challenge was refused. Then the
high spirited peer forgot the respect which he owed to the place
where he stood and to his own character, and struck Colepepper in
the face with a cane. All classes agreed in condemning this act
as most indiscreet and indecent; nor could Devonshire himself,
when he had cooled, think of it without vexation and shame. The
government, however, with its usual folly, treated him so
severely that in a short time the public sympathy was all on his
side. A criminal information was filed in the King's Bench. The
defendant took his stand on the privileges of the peerage but on
this point a decision was promptly given against him nor is it
possible to deny that the decision, whether it were or were not
according to the technical rules of English law, was in strict
conformity with the great principles on which all laws ought to
be framed. Nothing was then left to him but to plead guilty. The
tribunal had, by successive dismissions, been reduced to such
complete subjection, that the government which had instituted the
prosecution was allowed to prescribe the punishment. The judges
waited in a body on Jeffreys, who insisted that they should
impose a fine of not less than thirty thousand pounds. Thirty
thousand pounds, when compared with the revenues of the English
grandees of that age, may be considered as equivalent to a
hundred and fifty thousand pounds in the nineteenth century. In
the presence of the Chancellor not a word of disapprobation was
tittered: but, when the judges had retired, Sir John Powell, in
whom all the little honesty of the bench was concentrated,
muttered that the proposed penalty was enormous, and that one
tenth part would be amply sufficient. His brethren did not agree
with him; nor did he, on this occasion, show the courage by
which, on a memorable day some months later, he signally
retrieved his fame. The Earl was accordingly condemned to a fine
of thirty thousand pounds, and to imprisonment till payment
should be made. Such a sum could not then be raised at a day's
notice even by the greatest of the nobility. The sentence of
imprisonment, however, was more easily pronounced than executed.
Devonshire had retired to Chatsworth, where he was employed in
turning the old Gothic mansion of his family into an edifice
worthy of Palladio. The Peak was in those days almost as rude a
district as Connemara now is, and the Sheriff found, or
pretended, that it was difficult to arrest the lord of so wild a
region in the midst of a devoted household and tenantry. Some
days were thus gained: but at last both the Earl and the Sheriff
were lodged in prison. Meanwhile a crowd of intercessors exerted
their influence. The story ran that the Countess Dowager of
Devonshire had obtained admittance to the royal closet, that she
had reminded James how her brother in law, the gallant Charles
Cavendish, had fallen at Gainsborough fighting for the crown, and
that she had produced notes, written by Charles the First and
Charles the Second, in acknowledgment of great sums lent by her
Lord during the civil troubles. Those loans had never been
repaid, and, with the interest, amounted, it was said, to more
even than the immense fine which the Court of King's Bench had
imposed. There was another consideration which seems to have had
more weight with the King than the memory of former services. It
might be necessary to call a Parliament. Whenever that event took
place it was believed that Devonshire would bring a writ of
error. The point on which he meant to appeal from the judgment of
the King's Bench related to the privileges of peerage. The
tribunal before which the appeal must come was the House of
Peers. On such an occasion the court could not be certain of the
support even of the most courtly nobles. There was little doubt
that the sentence would be annulled, and that, by grasping at too
much, the government would lose all. James was therefore disposed
to a compromise. Devonshire was informed that, if he would give a
bond for the whole fine, and thus preclude himself from the
advantage which he might derive from a writ of error, he should
be set at liberty. Whether the bond should he enforced or not
would depend on his subsequent conduct. If he would support the
dispensing power nothing would be exacted from him. If he was
bent on popularity he must pay thirty thousand pounds for it. He
refused, during some time, to consent to these terms; but
confinement was insupportable to him. He signed the bond, and was
let out of prison: but, though he consented to lay this heavy
burden on his estate, nothing could induce him to promise that he
would abandon his principles and his party. He was still
entrusted with all the secrets of the opposition: but during some
months his political friends thought it best for himself and for
the cause that he should remain in the background.269

The Earl of Bedford had never recovered from the effects of the
great calamity which, four years before, had almost broken his
heart. From private as well as from public feelings he was
adverse to the court: but he was not active in concerting
measures against it. His place in the meetings of the
malecontents was supplied by his nephew. This was the celebrated
Edward Russell, a man of undoubted courage and capacity, but of
loose principles and turbulent temper. He was a sailor, had
distinguished himself in his profession, and had in the late
reign held an office in the palace. But all the ties which bound
him to the royal family had been sundered by the death of his
cousin William. The daring, unquiet, and vindictive seaman now
sate in the councils called by the Dutch envoy as the
representative of the boldest and most eager section of the
opposition, of those men who, under the names of Roundheads,
Exclusionists, and Whigs, had maintained with various fortune a
contest of five and forty years against three successive Kings.
This party, lately prostrate and almost extinct, but now again
full of life and rapidly rising to ascendency, was troubled by
none of the scruples which still impeded the movements of Tories
and Trimmers, and was prepared to draw the sword against the
tyrant on the first day on which the sword could be drawn with
reasonable hope of success.

Three men are yet to be mentioned with whom Dykvelt was in
confidential communication, and by whose help he hoped to secure
the good will of three great professions. Bishop Compton was the
agent employed to manage the clergy: Admiral Herbert undertook to
exert all his influence over the navy; and an interest was
established in the army by the instrumentality of Churchill.

The conduct of Compton and Herbert requires no explanation.
Having, in all things secular, served the crown with zeal and
fidelity, they had incurred the royal displeasure by refusing
to be employed as tools for the destruction of their own
religion. Both of them had learned by experience how soon James
forgot obligations, and how bitterly he remembered what it
pleased him to consider as wrongs. The Bishop had by an illegal
sentence been suspended from his episcopal functions. The Admiral
had in one hour been reduced from opulence to penury. The
situation of Churchill was widely different. He had been raised
by the royal bounty from obscurity to eminence, and from poverty
to wealth. Having started in life a needy ensign, he was now, in
his thirty-seventh year, a Major General, a peer of Scotland, a
peer of England: he commanded a troop of Life Guards: he had been
appointed to several honourable and lucrative offices; and as yet
there was no sign that he had lost any part of the favour to
which he owed so much. He was bound to James, not only by the
common obligations of allegiance, but by military honour, by
personal gratitude, and, as appeared to superficial observers, by
the strongest ties of interest. But Churchill himself was no
superficial observer. He knew exactly what his interest really
was. If his master were once at full liberty to employ Papists,
not a single Protestant would be employed. For a time a few
highly favoured servants of the crown might possibly be exempted
from the general proscription in the hope that they would be
induced to change their religion. But even these would, after a
short respite, fall one by one, as Rochester had already fallen.
Churchill might indeed secure himself from this danger, and might
raise himself still higher in the royal favour, by conforming to
the Church of Rome; and it might seem that one who was not less
distinguished by avarice and baseness than by capacity and valour
was not likely to be shocked at the thought of hearing amass. But
so inconsistent is human nature that there are tender spots even
in seared consciences. And thus this man, who had owed his rise
to his sister's dishonour, who had been kept by the most profuse,
imperious, and shameless of harlots, and whose public life, to
those who can look steadily through the dazzling blaze of genius
and glory, will appear a prodigy of turpitude, believed
implicitly in the religion which he had learned as a boy, and
shuddered at the thought of formally abjuring it. A terrible
alternative was before him. The earthly evil which he most
dreaded was poverty. The one crime from which his heart recoiled
was apostasy. And, if the designs of the court succeeded, he
could not doubt that between poverty and apostasy he must soon
make his choice. He therefore determined to cross those designs;
and it soon appeared that there was no guilt and no disgrace
which he was not ready to incur, in order to escape from the
necessity of parting either with his places or with his

It was not only as a military commander, high in rank, and
distinguished by skill and courage, that Churchill was able to
render services to the opposition. It was, if not absolutely
essential, yet most important, to the success of William's plans
that his sister in law, who, in the order of succession to the
English throne, stood between his wife and himself, should act in
cordial union with him. All his difficulties would have been
greatly augmented if Anne had declared herself favourable to the
Indulgence. Which side she might take depended on the will of
others. For her understanding was sluggish; and, though there was
latent in her character a hereditary wilfulness and stubbornness
which, many years later, great power and great provocations
developed, she was as yet a willing slave to a nature far more
vivacious and imperious than her own. The person by whom she was
absolutely governed was the wife of Churchill, a woman who
afterwards exercised a great influence on the fate of England and
of Europe.

The name of this celebrated favourite was Sarah Jennings. Her
elder sister, Frances, had been distinguished by beauty and
levity even among the crowd of beautiful faces and light
characters which adorned and disgraced Whitehall during the wild
carnival of the Restoration. On one occasion Frances dressed
herself like an orange girl and cried fruit about the streets.271
Sober people predicted that a girl of so little discretion and
delicacy would not easily find a husband. She was however twice
married, and was now the wife of Tyrconnel. Baron, less regularly
beautiful, was perhaps more attractive. Her face was expressive:
her form wanted no feminine charm; and the profusion of her fine
hair, not yet disguised by powder according to that barbarous
fashion which she lived to see introduced, was the delight of
numerous admirers. Among the gallants who sued for her favour,
Colonel Churchill, young, handsome, graceful, insinuating,
eloquent and brave, obtained the preference. He must have been
enamoured indeed. For he had little property except the annuity
which he had bought with the infamous wages bestowed on him by
the Duchess of Cleveland: he was insatiable of riches: Sarah was
poor; and a plain girl with a large fortune was proposed to him.
His love, after a struggle, prevailed over his avarice: marriage
only strengthened his passion; and, to the last hour of his life,
Sarah enjoyed the pleasure and distinction of being the one human
being who was able to mislead that farsighted and surefooted
judgment, who was fervently loved by that cold heart, and who was
servilely feared by that intrepid spirit.

In a worldly sense the fidelity of Churchill's love was amply
rewarded. His bride, though slenderly portioned, brought with her
a dowry which, judiciously employed, made him at length a Duke of
England, a Prince of the Empire, the captain general of a great
coalition, the arbiter between mighty princes, and, what he
valued more, the wealthiest subject in Europe. She had been
brought up from childhood with the Princess Anne; and a close
friendship had arisen between the girls. In character they
resembled each other very little. Anne was slow and taciturn. To
those whom she loved she was meek. The form which her anger
assumed was sullenness. She had a strong sense of religion, and
was attached even with bigotry to the rites and government of the
Church of England. Sarah was lively and voluble, domineered over
those whom she regarded with most kindness, and, when she was
offended, vented her rage in tears and tempestuous reproaches. To
sanctity she made no pretence, and, indeed, narrowly escaped the
imputation of irreligion. She was not yet what she became when
one class of vices had been fully developed in her by
prosperity, and another by adversity, when her brain had been
turned by success and flattery, when her heart had been ulcerated
by disasters and mortifications. She lived to be that most odious
and miserable of human beings, an ancient crone at war with her
whole kind, at war with her own children and grandchildren, great
indeed and rich, but valuing greatness and riches chiefly because
they enabled her to brave public opinion and to indulge without
restraint her hatred to the living and the dead. In the reign of
James she was regarded as nothing worse than a fine highspirited
young woman, who could now and then be cross and arbitrary, but
whose flaws of temper might well be pardoned in consideration of
her charms.

It is a common observation that differences of taste,
understanding, and disposition, are no impediments to friendship,
and that the closest intimacies often exist between minds each of
which supplies what is wanting to the other. Lady Churchill was
loved and even worshipped by Anne. The Princess could not live
apart from the object of her romantic fondness. She married, and
was a faithful and even an affectionate wife. But Prince George,
a dull man whose chief pleasures were derived from his dinner and
his bottle, acquired over her no influence comparable to that
exercised by her female friend, and soon gave himself up with
stupid patience to the dominion of that vehement and commanding
spirit by which his wife was governed. Children were born to the
royal pair: and Anne was by no means without the feelings of a
mother. But the tenderness which she felt for her offspring was
languid when compared with her devotion to the companion of her
early years. At length the Princess became impatient of the
restraint which etiquette imposed on her. She could not bear to
hear the words Madam and Royal Highness from the lips of one who
was more to her than a sister. Such words were indeed necessary
in the gallery or the drawingroom; but they were disused in the
closet. Anne was Mrs. Morley: Lady Churchill was Mrs. Freeman;
and under these childish names was carried on during twenty years
a correspondence on which at last the fate of administrations and
dynasties depended. But as yet Anne had no political power and
little patronage. Her friend attended her as first Lady of the
Bedchamber, with a salary of only four hundred pounds a year.
There is reason, however, to believe that, even at this time,
Churchill was able to gratify his ruling passion by means of his
wife's influence. The Princess, though her income was large and
her tastes simple, contracted debts which her father, not without
some murmurs, discharged; and it was rumoured that her embarrassments had been
caused by her prodigal bounty to her

At length the time had arrived when this singular friendship was
to exercise a great influence on public affairs. What part Anne
would take in the contest which distracted England was matter of
deep anxiety. Filial duty was on one side. The interests of the
religion to which she was sincerely attached were on the other. A
less inert nature might well have remained long in suspense when
drawn in opposite directions by motives so strong and so
respectable. But the influence of the Churchills decided the
question; and their patroness became an important member of that
extensive league of which the Prince of Orange was the head.

In June 1687 Dykvelt returned to the Hague. He presented to the
States General a royal epistle filled with eulogies of his
conduct during his residence in London. These eulogies however
were merely formal. James, in private communications written with
his own hand, bitterly complained that the Envoy had lived in
close intimacy with the most factious men in the realm, and had
encouraged them in all their evil purposes. Dykvelt carried with
him also a packet of letters from the most eminent of those with
whom he had conferred during his stay in England. The writers
generally expressed unbounded reverence and affection for
William, and referred him to the bearer for fuller information as
to their views. Halifax discussed the state and prospects of the
country with his usual subtlety and vivacity, but took care not
to pledge himself to any perilous line of conduct. Danby wrote in
a bolder and more determined tone, and could not refrain from
slily sneering at the fears and scruples of his accomplished
rival. But the most remarkable letter was from Churchill. It was
written with that natural eloquence which, illiterate as he was,
he never wanted on great occasions, and with an air of
magnanimity which, perfidious as he was, he could with singular
dexterity assume. The Princess Anne, he said, had commanded him
to assure her illustrious relatives at the Hague that she was
fully resolved by God's help rather to lose her life than to be
guilty of apostasy. As for himself, his places and the royal
favour were as nothing to him in comparison with his religion. He
concluded by declaring in lofty language that, though he could
not pretend to have lived the life of a saint, he should be found
ready, on occasion, to die the death of a martyr.273

Dykvelt's mission had succeeded so well that a pretence was soon
found for sending another agent to continue the work which had
been so auspiciously commenced. The new Envoy, afterwards the
founder of a noble English house which became extinct in our own
time, was an illegitimate cousin german of William; and bore a
title taken from the lordship of Zulestein. Zulestein's
relationship to the House of Orange gave him importance in the
public eye. His bearing was that of a gallant soldier. He was
indeed in diplomatic talents and knowledge far inferior to
Dykvelt: but even this inferiority had its advantages. A military
man, who had never appeared to trouble himself about political
affairs, could, without exciting any suspicion, hold with the
English aristocracy an intercourse which, if he had been a noted
master of state craft, would have been jealously watched.
Zulestein, after a short absence, returned to his country charged
with letters and verbal messages not less important than those
which had been entrusted to his predecessor. A regular
correspondence was from this time established between the Prince
and the opposition. Agents of various ranks passed and repassed
between the Thames and the Hague. Among these a Scotchman, of
some parts and great activity, named Johnstone, was the most
useful. He was cousin of Burnet, and son of an eminent covenanter
who had, soon after the Restoration, been put to death for
treason, and who was honoured by his party as a martyr.

The estrangement between the King of England and the Prince of
Orange became daily more complete. A serious dispute had arisen
concerning the six British regiments which were in the pay of the
United Provinces. The King wished to put these regiments under
the command of Roman Catholic officers. The Prince resolutely
opposed this design. The King had recourse to his favourite
commonplaces about toleration. The Prince replied that he only
followed his Majesty's example. It was notorious that loyal and
able men had been turned out of office in England merely for
being Protestants. It was then surely competent to the
Stadtholder and the States General to withhold high public trusts
from Papists. This answer provoked James to such a degree that,
in his rage, he lost sight of veracity and common sense. It was
false, he vehemently said, that he had ever turned out any body
on religious grounds. And if he had, what was that to the Prince
or to the States? Were they his masters? Were they to sit in
judgment on the conduct of foreign sovereigns? From that time he
became desirous to recall his subjects who were in the Dutch
service. By bringing them over to England he should, he
conceived, at once strengthen himself, and weaken his worst
enemies. But there were financial difficulties which it was
impossible for him to overlook. The number of troops already in
his service was as great as his revenue, though large beyond all
precedent and though parsimoniously administered, would support.
If the battalions now in Holland were added to the existing
establishment, the Treasury would be bankrupt. Perhaps Lewis
might be induced to take them into his service. They would in
that case be removed from a country where they were exposed to
the corrupting influence of a republican government and a
Calvinistic worship, and would be placed in a country where none
ventured to dispute the mandates of the sovereign or the
doctrines of the true Church. The soldiers would soon unlearn
every political and religious heresy. Their native prince might
always, at short notice, command their help, and would, on any
emergency, be able to rely on their fidelity.

A negotiation on this subject was opened between Whitehall and
Versailles. Lewis had as many soldiers as he wanted; and, had it
been otherwise, he would not have been disposed to take
Englishmen into his service; for the pay of England, low as it
must seem to our generation, was much higher than the pay of
France. At the same time, it was a great object to deprive
William of so fine a brigade. After some weeks of correspondence,
Barillon was authorised to promise that, if James would recall
the British troops from Holland, Lewis would bear the charge of
supporting two thousand of them in England. This offer was
accepted by James with warm expressions of gratitude. Having made
these arrangements, he requested the States General to send back
the six regiments. The States General, completely governed by
William, answered that such a demand, in such circumstances, was
not authorised by the existing treaties, and positively refused
to comply. It is remarkable that Amsterdam, which had voted for
keeping these troops in Holland when James needed their help
against the Western insurgents, now contended vehemently that his
request ought to be granted. On both occasions, the sole object
of those who ruled that great city was to cross the Prince of

The Dutch arms, however, were scarcely so formidable to James as
the Dutch presses. English books and pamphlets against his
government were daily printed at the Hague; nor could any
vigilance prevent copies from being smuggled, by tens of
thousands, into the counties bordering on the German Ocean. Among
these publications, one was distinguished by its importance, and
by the immense effect which it produced. The opinion which the
Prince and Princess of Orange held respecting the Indulgence was
well known to all who were conversant with public affairs. But,
as no official announcement of that opinion had appeared, many
persons who had not access to good private sources of information
were deceived or perplexed by the confidence with which the
partisans of the Court asserted that their Highnesses approved of
the King's late acts. To contradict those assertions publicly
would have been a simple and obvious course, if the sole object
of William had been to strengthen his interest in England. But he
considered England chiefly as an instrument necessary to the
execution of his great European design. Towards that design he
hoped to obtain the cooperation of both branches of the House of
Austria, of the Italian princes, and even of the Sovereign
Pontiff. There was reason to fear that any declaration which was
satisfactory to British Protestants would excite alarm and
disgust at Madrid, Vienna, Turin, and Rome. For this reason the
Prince long abstained from formally expressing his sentiments. At
length it was represented to him that his continued silence had
excited much uneasiness and distrust among his wellwishers, and
that it was time to speak out. He therefore determined to explain

A Scotch Whig, named James Stewart, had fled, some years before,
to Holland, in order to avoid the boot and the gallows, and had
become intimate with the Grand Pensionary Fagel, who enjoyed a
large share of the Stadtholder's confidence and favour. By
Stewart had been drawn up the violent and acrimonious manifesto
of Argyle. When the Indulgence appeared, Stewart conceived that
he had an opportunity of obtaining, not only pardon, but reward.
He offered his services to the government of which he had been
the enemy: they were accepted; and he addressed to Fagel a

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