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

Part 6 out of 12

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be a Popish bastard. It does not appear that this absurd design
was ever countenanced by the King. The boy, however, was
acknowledged; and whatever distinctions a subject, not of the
royal blood, could hope to attain were bestowed on him. He had
been created Duke of Berwick; and he was now loaded with
honourable and lucrative employments, taken from those noblemen
who had refused to comply with the royal commands. He succeeded
the Earl of Oxford as Colonel of the Blues, and the Earl of
Gainsborough as Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Ranger of the New
Forest, and Governor of Portsmouth. On the frontier of Hampshire
Berwick expected to have been met, according to custom, by a long
cavalcade of baronets, knights and squires: but not a single
person of note appeared to welcome him. He sent out letters
commanding the attendance of the gentry: but only five or six
paid the smallest attention to his summons. The rest did not wait
to be dismissed. They declared that they would take no part in
the civil or military government of their county while the King
was represented there by a Papist, and voluntarily laid down
their commissions.334

Sunderland, who had been named Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire in
the room of the Earl of Northampton, found some excuse for not
going down to face the indignation and contempt of the gentry of
that shire; and his plea was the more readily admitted because
the King had, by that time, begun to feel that the spirit of the
rustic gentry was not to be bent.335

It is to be observed that those who displayed this spirit were
not the old enemies of the House of Stuart. The Commissions of
Peace and Lieutenancy had long been carefully purged of all
republican names. The persons from whom the court had in vain
attempted to extract any promise of support were, with scarcely
an exception, Tories. The elder among them could still show scars
given by the swords of Roundheads, and receipts for plate sent to
Charles the First in his distress. The younger had adhered firmly
to James against Shaftesury and Monmouth. Such were the men who
were now turned out of office in a mass by the very prince to
whom they had given such signal proofs of fidelity. Dismission
however only made them more resolute. It had become a sacred
point of honour among them to stand stoutly by one another in
this crisis. There could be no doubt that, if the suffrage of the
freeholders were fairly taken, not a single knight of the shire
favourable to the policy of the government would be returned. Men
therefore asked one another, with no small anxiety, whether the
suffrages were likely to be fairly taken. The list of the
Sheriffs for the new year was impatiently expected. It appeared
while the Lords Lieutenants were still engaged in their canvass,
and was received with a general cry of alarm and indignation.
Most of the functionaries who were to preside at the county
elections were either Roman Catholics or Protestant Dissenters
who had expressed their approbation of the Indulgence.336 For a
time the most gloomy apprehensions prevailed: but soon they began
to subside. There was good reason to believe that there was a
point beyond which the King could not reckon on the support even
of those Sheriffs who were members of his own Church. Between the
Roman Catholic courtier and the Roman Catholic country gentleman
there was very little sympathy. That cabal which domineered at
Whitehall consisted partly of fanatics, who were ready to break
through all rules of morality and to throw the world into
confusion for the purpose of propagating their religion, and
partly of hypocrites, who, for lucre, had apostatized from the
faith in which they had been brought up, and who now over acted
the zeal characteristic of neophytes. Both the fanatical and the
hypocritical courtiers were generally destitute of all English
feeling. In some of them devotion to their Church had
extinguished every national sentiment. Some were Irishmen, whose
patriotism consisted in mortal hatred of the Saxon conquerors of
Ireland. Some, again, were traitors, who received regular hire
from a foreign power. Some had passed a great part of their lives
abroad, and either were mere cosmopolites, or felt a positive
distaste for the manners and institutions of the country which
was now subjected to their rule. Between such men and the lord of
a Cheshire or Staffordshire manor who adhered to the old Church
there was scarcely anything in common. He was neither a fanatic
nor a hypocrite. He was a Roman Catholic because his father and
grandfather had been so; and he held his hereditary faith, as men
generally hold a hereditary faith, sincerely, but with little
enthusiasm. In all other points he was a mere English squire,
and, if he differed from the neighbouring squires, differed from
them by being somewhat more simple and clownish than they. The
disabilities under which he lay had prevented his mind from
expanding to the standard, moderate as that standard was, which
the minds of Protestant country gentlemen then ordinarily
attained. Excluded, when a boy, from Eton and Westminster, when a
youth, from Oxford and Cambridge, when a man, from Parliament and
from the bench of justice, he generally vegetated as quietly as
the elms of the avenue which led to his ancestral grange. His
cornfields, his dairy and his cider press, his greyhounds, his
fishing rod and his gun, his ale and his tobacco, occupied almost
all his thoughts. With his neighbours, in spite of his religion,
he was generally on good terms. They knew him to be unambitious
and inoffensive. He was almost always of a good old family. He
was always a Cavalier. His peculiar notions were not obtruded,
and caused no annoyance. He did not, like a Puritan, torment
himself and others with scruples about everything that was
pleasant. On the contrary, he was as keen a sportsman, and as
jolly a boon companion, as any man who had taken the oath of
supremacy and the declaration against transubstantiation. He met
his brother squires at the cover, was in with them at the death,
and, when the sport was over, took them home with him to a
venison pasty and to October four years in bottle. The
oppressions which he had undergone had not been such as to impel
him to any desperate resolution. Even when his Church was
barbarously persecuted, his life and property were in little
danger. The most impudent false witnesses could hardly venture to
shock the common sense of mankind by accusing him of being a
conspirator. The Papists whom Oates selected for attack were
peers, prelates, Jesuits, Benedictines, a busy political agent, a
lawyer in high practice, a court physician. The Roman Catholic
country gentleman, protected by his obscurity, by his peaceable
demeanour, and by the good will of those among whom he lived,
carted his hay or filled his bag with game unmolested, while
Coleman and Langhorne, Whitbread and Pickering, Archbishop
Plunkett and Lord Stafford, died by the halter or the axe. An
attempt was indeed made by a knot of villains to bring home a
charge of treason to Sir Thomas Gascoigne, an aged Roman Catholic
baronet of Yorkshire: but twelve of the best gentlemen of the
West Riding, who knew his way of life, could not be convinced
that their honest old acquaintance had hired cutthroats to murder
the King, and, in spite of charges which did very little honour
to the bench, found a verdict of Not Guilty. Sometimes, indeed,
the head of an old and respectable provincial family might
reflect with bitterness that he was excluded, on account of his
religion, from places of honour and authority which men of
humbler descent and less ample estate were thought competent to
fill: but he was little disposed to risk land and life in a
struggle against overwhelming odds; and his honest English spirit
would have shrunk with horror from means such as were
contemplated by the Petres and Tyrconnels. Indeed he would have
been as ready as any of his Protestant neighbours to gird on his
sword, and to put pistols in his holsters, for the defence of his
native land against an invasion of French or Irish Papists. Such
was the general character of the men to whom James now looked as
to his most trustworthy instruments for the conduct of county
elections. He soon found that they were not inclined to throw
away the esteem of their neighbours, and to endanger their beads
and their estates, by rendering him an infamous and criminal
service. Several of them refused to be Sheriffs. Of those who
accepted the shrievalty many declared that they would discharge
their duty as fairly as if they were members of the Established
Church, and would return no candidate who had not a real

If the King could place little confidence even in his Roman
Catholic Sheriffs, still less could he rely on the Puritans.
Since the publication of the Declaration several months had
elapsed, months crowded with important events, months of
unintermitted controversy. Discussion had opened the eyes of many
Dissenters: but the acts of the government, and especially the
severity with which Magdalene College had been treated, had done
more than even the pen of Halifax to alarm and to unite all
classes of Protestants. Most of those sectaries who had been
induced to express gratitude for the Indulgence were now ashamed
of their error, and were desirous of making atonement by casting
in their lot with the great body of their countrymen.

The consequence of this change in the feeling of the
Nonconformists, was that the government found almost as great
difficulty in the towns as in the counties. When the regulators
began their work, they had taken it for granted that every
Dissenter who had been induced to express gratitude for the
Indulgence would be favourable to the king's policy. They were
therefore confident that they should be able to fill all the
municipal offices in the kingdom with staunch friends. In the new
charters a power had been reserved to the crown of dismissing
magistrates at pleasure. This power was now exercised without
limit. It was by no means equally clear that James had the power
of appointing new magistrates: but, whether it belonged to him or
not, he determined to assume it. Everywhere, from the Tweed to
the Land's End, Tory functionaries were ejected, and the vacant
places were filled with Presbyterians, Independents, and
Baptists. In the new charter of the City of London the crown had
reserved the power of displacing the masters, wardens, and
assistants of all the companies. Accordingly more than eight
hundred citizens of the first consideration, all of them members
of that party which had opposed the Exclusion Bill, were turned
out of office by a single edict. In a short time appeared a
supplement to this long list.338 But scarcely had the new
officebearers been sworn in when it was discovered that they were
as unmanageable as their predecessors. At Newcastle on Tyne the
regulators appointed a Roman Catholic Mayor and Puritan Alderman.
No doubt was entertained that the municipal body, thus
remodelled, would vote an address promising to support the king's
measures. The address, however, was negatived. The mayor went up
to London in a fury, and told the king that the Dissenters were
all knaves and rebels, and that in the whole corporation the
government could not reckon on more than four votes.339 At
Reading twenty-four Tory aldermen were dismissed. Twenty-four new
aldermen were appointed. Twenty-three of these immediately
declared against the Indulgence, and were dismissed in their
turn.340 In the course of a few days the borough of Yarmouth was
governed by three different sets of magistrates, all equally
hostile to the court.341 These are mere examples of what was
passing all over the kingdom. The Dutch Ambassador informed the
States that at many towns the public functionaries had, within
one month, been changed twice, and even thrice, and yet changed
in vain.342 From the records of the Privy Council it appears that
the number of regulations, as they were called, exceeded two
hundred.343 The regulators indeed found that, in not a few
places, the change had been for the worse. The discontented
Tories, even while murmuring against the king's policy, had
constantly expressed respect for his person and his office, and
had disclaimed all thoughts of resistance. Very different was the
language of some of the new members of corporations. It was said
that old soldiers of the Commonwealth, who, to their own
astonishment and that of the public, had been made aldermen, gave
the agents of the court very distinctly to understand that blood
should flow before Popery and arbitrary power were established in

The regulators found that little or nothing had been gained by
what had as yet been done. There was one way, and one way only,
in which they could hope to effect their object. The charters of
the boroughs must be resumed; and other charters must be granted
confining the elective franchise to very small constituent bodies
appointed by the sovereign.345

But how was this plan to be carried into effect? In a few of the
new charters, indeed, a right of revocation had been reserved to
the crown: but the rest James could get into his hands only by
voluntary surrender on the part of corporations, or by judgment
of the King's Bench. Few corporations were now disposed to
surrender their charters voluntarily; and such judgments as would
suit the purposes of the government were hardly to be expected
even from such a slave as Wright. The writs of Quo Warranto which
had been brought a few years before for the purpose of crushing
the Whig party had been condemned by every impartial man. Yet
those writs had at least the semblance of justice; for they were
brought against ancient municipal bodies; and there were few
ancient municipal bodies in which some abuse, sufficient to
afford a pretext for a penal proceeding, had not grown up in the
course of ages. But the corporations now to be attacked were
still in the innocence of infancy. The oldest among them had not
completed its fifth year. It was impossible that many of them
should have committed offences meriting disfranchisement. The
Judges themselves were uneasy. They represented that what they
were required to do was in direct opposition to the plainest
principles of law and justice: but all remonstrance was vain. The
boroughs were commanded to surrender their charters. Few
complied; and the course which the King took with those few did
not encourage others to trust him. In several towns the right of
voting was taken away from the commonalty, and given to a very
small number of persons, who were required to bind themselves by
oath to support the candidates recommended by the government. At
Tewkesbury, for example, the franchise was confined to thirteen
persons. Yet even this number was too large. Hatred and fear had
spread so widely through the community that it was scarcely
possible to bring together in any town, by any process of
packing, thirteen men on whom the court could absolutely depend.
It was rumoured that the majority of the new constituent body of
Tewkesbury was animated by the same sentiment which was general
throughout the nation, and would, when the decisive day should
arrive, send true Protestants to Parliament. The regulators in
great wrath threatened to reduce the number of electors to
three.346 Meanwhile the great majority of the boroughs firmly
refused to give up their privileges. Barnstaple, Winchester, and
Buckingham, distinguished themselves by the boldness of their
opposition. At Oxford the motion that the city should resign its
franchises to the King was negatived by eighty votes to two.347
The Temple and Westminster Hall were in a ferment with the sudden
rush of business from all corners of the kingdom. Every lawyer in
high practice was overwhelmed with the briefs from corporations.
Ordinary litigants complained that their business was
neglected.348 It was evident that a considerable time must elapse
before judgment could be given in so great a number of important
cases. Tyranny could ill brook this delay. Nothing was omitted
which could terrify the refractory boroughs into submission. At
Buckingham some of the municipal officers had spoken of Jeffreys
in language which was not laudatory. They were prosecuted, and
were given to understand that no mercy should be shown to them
unless they would ransom themselves by surrendering their
charter.349 At Winchester still more violent measures were
adopted. A large body of troops was marched into the town for the
sole purpose of burdening and harassing the inhabitants.350 The
town continued resolute; and the public voice loudly accused the
King of imitating the worst crimes of his brother of France. The
dragonades, it was said, had begun. There was indeed reason for
alarm. It had occurred to James that he could not more
effectually break the spirit of an obstinate town than by
quartering soldiers on the inhabitants. He must have known that
this practice had sixty years before excited formidable
discontents, and had been solemnly pronounced illegal by the
Petition of Right, a statute scarcely less venerated by
Englishmen than the Great Charter. But he hoped to obtain from
the courts of law a declaration that even the Petition of Right
could not control the prerogative. He actually consulted the
Chief justice of the King's Bench on this subject:351 but the
result of the consultation remained secret; and in a very few
weeks the aspect of affairs became such that a fear stronger than
even the fear of the royal displeasure began to impose some
restraint even on a man so servile as Wright.

While the Lords Lieutenants were questioning the justices of the
Peace, while the regulators were remodelling the boroughs, all
the public departments were subjected to a strict inquisition.
The palace was first purified. Every battered old Cavalier, who,
in return for blood and lands lost in the royal cause, had
obtained some small place under the Keeper of the Wardrobe or the
Master of the Harriers, was called upon to choose between the
King and the Church. The Commissioners of Customs and Excise were
ordered to attend His Majesty at the Treasury. There he demanded
from them a promise to support his policy, and directed them to
require a similar promise from all their subordinates.352 One
Customhouse officer notified his submission to the royal will in
a way which excited both merriment and compassion. "I have," he
said, "fourteen reasons for obeying His Majesty's commands, a
wife and thirteen young children."353 Such reasons were indeed
cogent; yet there were not a few instances in which, even against
such reasons, religious and patriotic feelings prevailed.

There is reason to believe that the government at this time
seriously meditated a blow which would have reduced many
thousands of families to beggary, and would have disturbed the
whole social system of every part of the country. No wine, beer,
or coffee could be sold without a license. It was rumoured that
every person holding such a license would shortly be required to
enter into the same engagements which had been imposed on public
functionaries, or to relinquish his trade.354 It seems certain
that, if such a step had been taken, the houses of entertainment
and of public resort all over the kingdom would have been at once
shut up by hundreds. What effect such an interference with the
comfort of all ranks would have produced must be left to
conjecture. The resentment produced by grievances is not always
proportioned to their dignity; and it is by no means improbable
that the resumption of licenses might have done what the
resumption of charters had failed to do. Men of fashion would
have missed the chocolate house in Saint James's Street, and men
of business the coffee pot, round which they were accustomed to
smoke and talk politics, in Change Alley. Half the clubs would
have been wandering in search of shelter. The traveller at
nightfall would have found the inn where he had expected to sup
and lodge deserted. The clown would have regretted the hedge
alehouse, where he had been accustomed to take his pot on the
bench before the door in summer, and at the chimney corner in
winter. The nation might, perhaps under such provocation, have
risen in general rebellion without waiting for the help of
foreign allies.

It was not to be expected that a prince who required all the
humblest servants of the government to support his policy on pain
of dismission would continue to employ an Attorney General whose
aversion to that policy was no secret. Sawyer had been suffered
to retain his situation more than a year and a half after he had
declared against the dispensing power. This extraordinary
indulgence he owed to the extreme difficulty which the government
found in supplying his place. It was necessary, for the
protection of the pecuniary interests of the crown, that at least
one of the two chief law officers should be a man of ability and
knowledge; and it was by no means easy to induce any barrister of
ability and knowledge to put himself in peril by committing every
day acts which the next Parliament would probably treat as high
crimes and misdemeanours. It had been impossible to procure a
better Solicitor General than Powis, a man who indeed stuck at
nothing, but who was incompetent to perform the ordinary duties
of his post. In these circumstances it was thought desirable that
there should be a division of labour. An Attorney, the value of
whose professional talents was much diminished by his
conscientious scruples, was coupled with a Solicitor whose want
of scruples made some amends for his want of talents. When the
government wished to enforce the law, recourse was had to Sawyer.
When the government wished to break the law, recourse was had to
Powis. This arrangement lasted till the king obtained the
services of an advocate who was at once baser than Powis and
abler than Sawyer.

No barrister living had opposed the court with more virulence
than William Williams. He had distinguished himself in the late
reign as a Whig and an Exclusionist. When faction was at the
height, he had been chosen Speaker of the House of Commons. After
the prorogation of the Oxford Parliament he had commonly been
counsel for the most noisy demagogues who had been accused of
sedition. He was allowed to possess considerable quickness and
knowledge. His chief faults were supposed to be rashness and
party spirit. It was not yet suspected that he had faults
compared with which rashness and party spirit might well pass for
virtues. The government sought occasion against him, and easily
found it. He had published, by order of the House of Commons, a
narrative which Dangerfield had written. This narrative, if
published by a private man, would undoubtedly have been a
seditious libel. A criminal information was filed in the King's
Bench against Williams: he pleaded the privileges of Parliament
in vain: he was convicted and sentenced to a fine of ten thousand
pounds. A large part of this sum he actually paid: for the rest
he gave a bond. The Earl of Peterborough, who had been
injuriously mentioned in Dangerfield's narrative, was encouraged,
by the success of the criminal information, to bring a civil
action, and to demand large damages. Williams was driven to
extremity. At this juncture a way of escape presented itself. It
was indeed a way which, to a man of strong principles or high
spirit, would have been more dreadful than beggary, imprisonment,
or death. He might sell himself to that government of which he
had been the enemy and the victim. He might offer to go on the
forlorn hope in every assault on those liberties and on that
religion for which he had professed an inordinate zeal. He might
expiate his Whiggism by performing services from which bigoted
Tories, stained with the blood of Russell and Sidney, shrank in
horror. The bargain was struck. The debt still due to the crown
was remitted. Peterborough was induced, by royal mediation, to
compromise his action. Sawyer was dismissed. Powis became
Attorney General. Williams was made Solicitor, received the
honour of knighthood, and was soon a favourite. Though in rank he
was only the second law officer of the crown, his abilities,
learning, and energy were such that he completely threw his
superior into the shade.355

Williams had not been long in office when he was required to bear
a chief part in the most memorable state trial recorded in the
British annals.

On the twenty-seventh of April 1688, the King put forth a second
Declaration of Indulgence. In this paper he recited at length the
Declaration of the preceding April. His past life, he said, ought
to have convinced his people that he was not a person who could
easily be induced to depart from any resolution which he had
formed. But, as designing men had attempted to persuade the world
that he might be prevailed on to give way in this matter, he
thought it necessary to proclaim that his purpose was immutably
fixed, that he was resolved to employ those only who were
prepared to concur in his design, and that he had, in pursuance
of that resolution, dismissed many of his disobedient servants
from civil and military employments. He announced that he meant
to hold a Parliament in November at the latest; and he exhorted
his subjects to choose representatives who would assist him in
the great work which he had undertaken.356

This Declaration at first produced little sensation. It contained
nothing new; and men wondered that the King should think it worth
while to publish a solemn manifesto merely for the purpose of
telling them that he had not changed his mind.357 Perhaps James
was nettled by the indifference with which the announcement of
his fixed resolution was received by the public, and thought that
his dignity and authority would suffer unless he without delay
did something novel and striking. On the fourth of May,
accordingly, he made an Order in Council that his Declaration of
the preceding week should be read, on two successive Sundays at
the time of divine service, by the officiating ministers of all
the churches and chapels of the kingdom. In London and in the
suburbs the reading was to take place on the twentieth and
twenty-seventh of May, in other parts of England on the third and
tenth of June. The Bishops were directed to distribute copies of
the Declaration through their respective dioceses.358

When it is considered that the clergy of the Established Church,
with scarcely an exception, regarded the Indulgence as a
violation of the laws of the realm, as a breach of the plighted
faith of the King, and as a fatal blow levelled at the interest
and dignity of their own profession, it will scarcely admit of
doubt that the Order in Council was intended to be felt by them
as a cruel affront. It was popularly believed that Petre had
avowed this intention in a coarse metaphor borrowed from the
rhetoric of the East. He would, he said, make them eat dirt, the
vilest and most loathsome of all dirt. But, tyrannical and
malignant as the mandate was, would the Anglican priesthood
refuse to obey? The King's temper was arbitrary and severe. The
proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commission were as summary as
those of a court martial. Whoever ventured to resist might in a
week be ejected from his parsonage, deprived of his whole income,
pronounced incapable of holding any other spiritual preferment,
and left to beg from door to door. If, indeed, the whole body
offered an united opposition to the royal will, it was probable
that even James would scarcely venture to punish ten thousand
delinquents at once. But there was not time to form an extensive
combination. The Order in Council was gazetted on the seventh of
May. On the twentieth the Declaration was to be read in all the
pulpits of London and the neighbourhood. By no exertion was it
possible in that age to ascertain within a fortnight the
intentions of one tenth part of the parochial ministers who were
scattered over the kingdom. It was not easy to collect in so
short a time the sense even of the episcopal order. It might also
well be apprehended that, if the clergy refused to read the
Declaration, the Protestant Dissenters would misinterpret the
refusal, would despair of obtaining any toleration from the
members of the Church of England, and would throw their whole
weight into the scale of the court.

The clergy therefore hesitated; and this hesitation may well be
excused: for some eminent laymen, who possessed a large share of
the public confidence, were disposed to recommend submission.
They thought that a general opposition could hardly be expected,
and that a partial opposition would be ruinous to individuals,
and of little advantage to the Church and to the nation. Such was
the opinion given at this time by Halifax and Nottingham. The day
drew near; and still there was no concert and no formed

At this conjuncture the Protestant Dissenters of London won for
themselves a title to the lasting gratitude of their country.
They had hitherto been reckoned by the government as part of its
strength. A few of their most active and noisy preachers,
corrupted by the favours of the court, had got up addresses in
favour of the King's policy. Others, estranged by the
recollection of many cruel wrongs both from the Church of England
and from the House of Stuart, had seen with resentful pleasure
the tyrannical prince and the tyrannical hierarchy separated by a
bitter enmity, and bidding against each other for the help of
sects lately persecuted and despised. But this feeling, however
natural, had been indulged long enough. The time had come when it
was necessary to make a choice: and the Nonconformists of the
City, with a noble spirit, arrayed themselves side by side with
the members of the Church in defence of the fundamental laws of
the realm. Baxter, Bates, and Howe distinguished themselves by
their efforts to bring about this coalition: but the generous
enthusiasm which pervaded the whole Puritan body made the task
easy. The zeal of the flocks outran that of the pastors. Those
Presbyterian and Independent teachers who showed an inclination
to take part with the King against the ecclesiastical
establishment received distinct notice that, unless they changed
their conduct, their congregations would neither hear them nor
pay them. Alsop, who had flattered himself that he should be able
to bring over a great body of his disciples to the royal side,
found himself on a sudden an object of contempt and abhorrence to
those who had lately revered him as their spiritual guide, sank
into a deep melancholy, and hid himself from the public eye.
Deputations waited on several of the London clergy imploring them
not to judge of the dissenting body from the servile adulation
which had lately filled the London Gazette, and exhorting them,
placed as they were in the van of this great fight, to play the
men for the liberties of England and for the faith delivered to
the Saints. These assurances were received with joy and
gratitude. Yet there was still much anxiety and much difference
of opinion among those who had to decide whether, on Sunday the
twentieth, they would or would not obey the King's command. The
London clergy, then universally acknowledged to be the flower of
their profession, held a meeting. Fifteen Doctors of Divinity
were present. Tillotson, Dean of Canterbury, the most celebrated
preacher of the age, came thither from a sick bed. Sherlock,
Master of the Temple, Patrick, Dean of Peterborough and Rector of
the important parish of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, and
Stillingfleet, Archdeacon of London and Dean of St. Paul's
Cathedral, attended. The general feeling of the assembly seemed
to be that it was, on the whole, advisable to obey the Order in
Council. The dispute began to wax warm, and might have produced
fatal consequences, if it had not been brought to a close by the
firmness and wisdom of Doctor Edward Fowler, Vicar of St.
Giles's, Cripplegate, one of a small but remarkable class of
divines who united that love of civil liberty which belonged to
the school of Calvin with the theology of the school of
Arminius.360 Standing up, Fowler spoke thus: "I must be plain.
The question is so simple that argument can throw no new light on
it, and can only beget heat. Let every man say Yes or No. But I
cannot consent to be bound by the vote of the majority. I shall
be sorry to cause a breach of unity. But this Declaration I
cannot in conscience read." Tillotson, Patrick, Sherlock, and
Stillingfleet declared that they were of the same mind. The
majority yielded to the authority of a minority so respectable. A
resolution by which all present pledged themselves to one another
not to read the Declaration was then drawn up. Patrick was the
first who set his hand to it; Fowler was the second. The paper
was sent round the city, and was speedily subscribed by eighty-
five incumbents.361

Meanwhile several of the Bishops were anxiously deliberating as to the course
which they should take. On the twelfth of May a
grave and learned company was assembled round the table of the
Primate at Lambeth. Compton, Bishop of London, Turner, Bishop of
Ely, White, Bishop of Peterborough, and Tenison, Rector of St.
Martin's parish, were among the guests. The Earl of Clarendon, a
zealous and uncompromising friend of the Church, had been
invited. Cartwright, Bishop of Chester, intruded himself on the
meeting, probably as a spy. While he remained, no confidential
communication could take place; but, after his departure, the
great question of which all minds were full was propounded and
discussed. The general opinion was that the Declaration ought not
to be read. Letters were forthwith written to several of the most
respectable prelates of the province of Canterbury, entreating
them to come up without delay to London, and to strengthen the
hands of their metropolitan at this conjuncture.362 As there was
little doubt that these letters would be opened if they passed
through the office in Lombard Street, they were sent by horsemen
to the nearest country post towns on the different roads. The
Bishop of Winchester, whose loyalty had been so signally proved
at Sedgemoor, though suffering from indisposition, resolved to
set out in obedience to the summons, but found himself unable to
bear the motion of a coach. The letter addressed to William
Lloyd, Bishop of Norwich, was, in spite of all precautions,
detained by a postmaster; and that prelate, inferior to none of
his brethren in courage and in zeal for the common cause of his
order, did not reach London in time.363 His namesake, William
Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, a pious, honest, and learned man, but
of slender judgment, and half crazed by his persevering
endeavours to extract from Daniel and the Revelations some
information about the Pope and the King of France, hastened to
the capital and arrived on the sixteenth.364 On the following day
came the excellent Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Lake, Bishop of
Chichester, and Sir John Trelawney, Bishop of Bristol, a baronet
of an old and honourable Cornish family.

On the eighteenth a meeting of prelates and of other eminent
divines was held at Lambeth. Tillotson, Tenison, Stillingfleet,
Patrick, and Sherlock, were present. Prayers were solemnly read
before the consultation began. After long deliberation, a
petition embodying the general sense was written by the
Archbishop with his own hand. It was not drawn up with much
felicity of style. Indeed, the cumbrous and inelegant structure
of the sentences brought on Sancroft some raillery, which he bore
with less patience than he showed under much heavier trials. But
in substance nothing could be more skilfully framed than this
memorable document. All disloyalty, all intolerance, was
earnestly disclaimed. The King was assured that the Church still
was, as she had ever been, faithful to the throne. He was assured
also that the Bishops would, in proper place and time, as Lords
of Parliament and members of the Upper House of Convocation, show
that they by no means wanted tenderness for the conscientious
scruples of Dissenters. But Parliament had, both in the late and
in the present reign, pronounced that the sovereign was not
constitutionally competent to dispense with statutes in matters
ecclesiastical. The Declaration was therefore illegal; and the
petitioners could not, in prudence, honour, or conscience, be
parties to the solemn publication of an illegal Declaration in
the house of God, and during the time of divine service.

This paper was signed by the Archbishop and by six of his
suffragans, Lloyd of St. Asaph, Turner of Ely, Lake of
Chichester, Ken of Bath and Wells, White of Peterborough, and
Trelawney of Bristol. The Bishop of London, being under
suspension, did not sign.

It was now late on Friday evening: and on Sunday morning the
Declaration was to be read in the churches of London. It was
necessary to put the paper into the King's hands without delay.
The six Bishops set off for Whitehall. The Archbishop, who had
long been forbidden the court, did not accompany them. Lloyd,
leaving his five brethren at the house of Lord Dartmouth in the
vicinity of the palace, went to Sunderland, and begged that
minister to read the petition, and to ascertain when the King
would be willing to receive it. Sunderland, afraid of
compromising himself, refused to look at the paper, but went
immediately to the royal closet. James directed that the Bishops
should be admitted. He had heard from his tool Cartwright that
they were disposed to obey the royal mandate, but that they
wished for some little modifications in form, and that they meant
to present a humble request to that effect. His Majesty was
therefore in very good humour. When they knelt before him, he
graciously told them to rise, took the paper from Lloyd, and
said, "This is my Lord of Canterbury's hand." "Yes, sir, his own
hand," was the answer. James
read the petition; he folded it up; and his countenance grew
dark. "This," he said, "is a great surprise to me. I did not
expect this from your Church, especially from some of you. This
is a standard of rebellion." The Bishops broke out into
passionate professions of loyalty: but the King, as usual,
repeated the same words over and over. "I tell you, this is a
standard of rebellion." "Rebellion!" cried Trelawney, falling on
his knees. "For God's sake, sir, do not say so hard a thing of
us. No Trelawney can be a rebel. Remember that my family has
fought for the crown. Remember how I served your Majesty when
Monmouth was in the West." "We put down the last rebellion," said
Lake, "we shall not raise another." "We rebel!" exclaimed Turner;
"we are ready to die at your Majesty's feet." "Sir," said Ken, in
a more manly tone, "I hope that you will grant to us that liberty
of conscience which you grant to all mankind." Still James went
on. "This is rebellion. This is a standard of rebellion. Did ever
a good Churchman question the dispensing power before? Have not
some of you preached for it and written for it? It is a standard
of rebellion. I will have my Declaration published." "We have two
duties to perform," answered Ken, "our duty to God, and our duty
to your Majesty. We honour you, but we fear God." "Have I
deserved this?" said the King, more and more, angry, "I who have
been such a friend to your Church! I did not expect this from
some of you. I will be obeyed. My Declaration shall be published.
You are trumpeters of sedition. What do you do here? Go to your
dioceses and see that I am obeyed. I will keep this paper. I will
not part with it. I will remember you that have signed it."
"God's will be done," said Ken. "God has given me the dispensing
power," said the King, "and I will maintain it. I tell you that
there are still seven thousand of your Church who have not bowed
the knee to Baal." The Bishops respectfully retired.365 That very
evening the document which they had put into the hands of the
King appeared word for word in print, was laid on the tables of
all the coffeehouses, and was cried about the streets. Everywhere
the people rose from their beds, and came out to stop the
hawkers. It was said that the printer cleared a thousand pounds
in a few hours by this penny broadside. This is probably an
exaggeration; but it is an exaggeration which proves that the
sale was enormous. How the petition got abroad is still a
mystery. Sancroft declared that he had taken every precaution
against publication, and that he knew of no copy except that
which he had himself written, and which James had taken out of
Lloyd's hand. The veracity of the Archbishop is beyond all
suspicion. It is, however, by no means improbable that some of
the divines who assisted in framing the petition may have
remembered so short a composition accurately, and may have sent
it to the press. The prevailing opinion, however, was that some
person about the King had been indiscreet or treacherous.366
Scarcely less sensation was produced by a short letter which was
written with great power of argument and language, printed
secretly, and largely circulated on the same day by the post and
by the common carriers. A copy was sent to every clergyman in the
kingdom. The writer did not attempt to disguise the danger which
those who disobeyed the royal mandate would incur: but he set
forth in a lively manner the still greater danger of submission.
"If we read the Declaration," said he, "we fall to rise no more.
We fall unpitied and despised. We fall amidst the curses of a
nation whom our compliance will have ruined." Some thought that
this paper came from Holland. Others attributed it to Sherlock.
But Prideaux, Dean of Norwich, who was a principal agent in
distributing it, believed it to be the work of Halifax.

The conduct of the prelates was rapturously extolled by the
general voice: but some murmurs were heard. It was said that such
grave men, if they thought themselves bound in conscience to
remonstrate with the King, ought to have remonstrated earlier.
Was it fair to him to leave him in the dark till within thirty-
six hours of the time fixed for the reading of the Declaration?
Even if he wished to revoke the Order in Council, it was too late
to do so. The inference seemed to be that the petition was
intended, not to move the royal mind, but merely to inflame the
discontents of the people.367 These complaints were utterly
groundless. The King had laid on the Bishops a command new,
surprising, and embarrassing. It was their duty to communicate
with each other, and to ascertain as far as possible the sense of
the profession of which they were the heads before they took any
step. They were dispersed over the whole kingdom. Some of them
were distant from others a full week's journey. James allowed
them only a fortnight to inform themselves, to meet, to
deliberate, and to decide; and he surely had no right to think
himself aggrieved because that fortnight was drawing to a close
before he learned their decision. Nor is it true that they did
not leave him time to revoke his order if he had been wise enough
to do so. He might have called together his Council on Saturday
morning, and before night it might have been known throughout
London and the suburbs that he had yielded to the intreaties of
the fathers of the Church. The Saturday, however, passed over
without any sign of relenting on the part of the government, and
the Sunday arrived, a day long remembered.

In the City and Liberties of London were about a hundred parish
churches. In only four of these was the Order in Council obeyed.
At Saint Gregory's the Declaration was read by a divine of the
name of Martin. As soon as he uttered the first words, the whole
congregation rose and withdrew. At Saint Matthew's, in Friday
Street, a wretch named Timothy Hall, who had disgraced his gown
by acting as broker for the Duchess of Portsmouth in the sale of
pardons, and who now had hopes of obtaining the vacant bishopric
of Oxford, was in like manner left alone in his church. At
Serjeant's Inn, in Chancery Lane, the clerk pretended that he had
forgotten to bring a copy; and the Chief justice of the King's
Bench, who had attended in order to see that the royal mandate
was obeyed, was forced to content himself with this excuse.
Samuel Wesley, the father of John and Charles Wesley, a curate in
London, took for his text that day the noble answer of the three
Jews to the Chaldean tyrant. "Be it known unto thee, O King, that
we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which
thou hast set up." Even in the chapel of Saint James's Palace the
officiating minister had the courage to disobey the order. The
Westminster boys long remembered what took place that day in the
Abbey. Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, officiated there as Dean. As
soon as he began to read the Declaration, murmurs and the noise
of people crowding out of the choir drowned his voice. He
trembled so violently that men saw the paper shake in his hand.
Long before he had finished, the place was deserted by all but
those whose situation made it necessary for them to remain.368

Never had the Church been so dear to the nation as on the
afternoon of that day. The spirit of dissent seemed to be
extinct. Baxter from his pulpit pronounced an eulogium on the
Bishops and parochial clergy. The Dutch minister, a few hours
later, wrote to inform the States General that the Anglican
priesthood had risen in the estimation of the public to an
incredible degree. The universal cry of the Nonconformists, he
said, was that they would rather continue to lie under the penal
statutes than separate their cause from that of the prelates.369

Another week of anxiety and agitation passed away. Sunday came
again. Again the churches of the capital were thronged by
hundreds of thousands. The Declaration was read nowhere except at
the very few places where it had been read the week before. The
minister who had officiated at the chapel in Saint James's Palace
had been turned out of his situation, and a more obsequious
divine appeared with the paper in his hand: but his agitation was
so great that he could not articulate. In truth the feeling of
the whole nation had now become such as none but the very best
and noblest, or the very worst and basest, of mankind could
without much discomposure encounter.370

Even the King stood aghast for a moment at the violence of the
tempest which he had raised. What step was he next to take? He
must either advance or recede: and it was impossible to advance
without peril, or to recede without humiliation. At one moment he
determined to put forth a second order enjoining the clergy in
high and angry terms to publish his Declaration, and menacing
every one who should be refractory with instant suspension. This
order was drawn up and sent to the press, then recalled, then a
second time sent to the press, then recalled a second time.371 A
different plan was suggested by some of those who were for
rigorous measures. The prelates who had signed the petition might
be cited before the Ecclesiastical Commission and deprived of
their sees. But to this course strong objections were urged in
Council. It had been announced that the Houses would be convoked
before the end of the year. The Lords would assuredly treat the
sentence of deprivation as a nullity, would insist that Sancroft
and his fellow petitioners should be summoned to Parliament, and
would refuse to acknowledge a new Archbishop of Canterbury or a
new Bishop of Bath and Wells. Thus the session, which at best was
likely to be sufficiently stormy, would commence with a deadly
quarrel between the crown and the peers. If therefore it were
thought necessary to punish the Bishops, the punishment ought to
be inflicted according to the known course of English law.
Sunderland had from the beginning objected, as far as he dared,
to the Order in Council. He now suggested a course which, though
not free from inconveniences, was the most prudent and the most
dignified that a series of errors had left open to the
government. The King might with grace and majesty announce to the
world that he was deeply hurt by the undutiful conduct of the
Church of England; but that he could not forget all the services
rendered by that Church, in trying times, to his father, to his
brother, and to himself; that, as a friend to the liberty of
conscience, he was unwilling to deal severely by men whom
conscience, ill informed indeed, and unreasonably scrupulous,
might have prevented from obeying his commands; and that he would
therefore leave the offenders to that punishment which their own
reflections would inflict whenever they should calmly compare
their recent acts with the loyal doctrines of which they had so
loudly boasted. Not only Powis and Bellasyse, who had always been
for moderate counsels, but even Dover and Arundell, leaned
towards this proposition. Jeffreys, on the other hand, maintained
that the government would be disgraced if such transgressors as
the seven Bishops were suffered to escape with a mere reprimand.
He did not, however, wish them to be cited before the
Ecclesiastical Commission, in which he sate as chief or rather as
sole judge. For the load of public hatred under which he already
lay was too much even for his shameless forehead and obdurate
heart; and he shrank from the responsibility which he would have
incurred by pronouncing an illegal sentence on the rulers of the
Church and the favourites of the nation. He therefore recommended
a criminal information. It was accordingly resolved that the
Archbishop and the six other petititioners should be brought
before the Court of King's Bench on a charge of seditious libel.
That they would be convicted it was scarcely possible to doubt.
The judges and their officers were tools of the court. Since the
old charter of the City of London had been forfeited, scarcely
one prisoner whom the government was bent on bringing to
punishment had been absolved by a jury. The refractory prelates
would probably be condemned to ruinous fines and to long
imprisonment, and would be glad to ransom themselves by serving,
both in and out of Parliament, the designs of the Sovereign.372

On the twenty-seventh of May it was notified to the Bishops that
on the
eighth of June they must appear before the King in Council. Why
so long an interval was allowed we are not informed. Perhaps
James hoped that some of the offenders, terrified by his
displeasure, might submit before the day fixed for the reading of
the Declaration in their dioceses, and might, in order to make
their peace with him, persuade their clergy to obey his order. If
such was his hope it was signally disappointed.

Sunday the third of June came; and all parts of England followed
the example of the capital. Already the Bishops of Norwich,
Gloucester, Salisbury, Winchester, and Exeter, had signed copies
of the petition in token of their approbation. The Bishop of
Worcester had refused to distribute the Declaration among his
clergy. The Bishop of Hereford had distributed it: but it was
generally understood that he was overwhelmed by remorse and shame
for having done so. Not one parish priest in fifty complied with
the Order in Council. -In the great diocese of Chester, including
the county of Lancaster, only three clergymen could be prevailed
on by Cartwright to obey the King. In the diocese of Norwich are
many hundreds of parishes. In only four of these was the
Declaration read. The courtly Bishop of Rochester could not
overcome the scruples of the minister of the ordinary of Chatham,
who depended on the government for bread. There is still extant a
pathetic letter which this honest priest sent to the Secretary of
the Admiralty. "I cannot," he wrote, "reasonably expect your
Honour's protection. God's will be done. I must choose suffering
rather than sin."373

On the evening of the eighth of June the seven prelates,
furnished by the ablest lawyers in England with full advice,
repaired to the palace, and were called into the Council chamber.
Their petition was lying on the table. The Chancellor took the
paper up, showed it to the Archbishop, and said, "Is this the
paper which your Grace wrote, and which the six Bishops present
delivered to his Majesty?" Sancroft looked at the paper, turned
to the King, and spoke thus: "Sir, I stand here a culprit. I
never was so before. Once I little thought that I ever should be
so. Least of all could I think that I should be charged with any
offence against my King: but, since I am so unhappy as to be in
this situation, your Majesty will not be offended if I avail
myself of my lawful right to decline saying anything which may
criminate me." "This is mere chicanery," said the King. "I hope
that your Grace will not do so ill a thing as to deny your own
hand? "Sir," said Lloyd, whose studies had been much among the
casuists, "all divines agree that a person situated as we are may
refuse to answer such a question." The King, as slow of
understanding as quick of temper, could not comprehend what the
prelates meant. He persisted, and was evidently becoming very
angry. "Sir," said the Archbishop, "I am not bound to accuse
myself. Nevertheless, if your Majesty positively commands me to
answer, I will do so in the confidence that a just and generous
prince will not suffer what I say in obedience to his orders to
be brought in evidence against me." "You must not capitulate with
your Sovereign," said the Chancellor. "No," said the King; "I
will not give any such command. If you choose to deny your own
hands, I have nothing more to say to you."

The Bishops were repeatedly sent out into the antechamber, and
repeatedly called back into the Council room. At length James
positively commanded them to answer the question. He did not
expressly engage that their confession should not be used against
them. But they, not unnaturally, supposed that, after what had
passed, such an engagement was implied in his command. Sancroft
acknowledged his handwriting; and his brethren followed his
example. They were then interrogated about the meaning of some
words in the petition, and about the letter which had been
circulated with so much effect all over the kingdom: but their
language was so guarded that nothing was gained by the
examination. The Chancellor then told them that a criminal
information would be exhibited against them in the Court of
King's Bench, and called upon them to enter into recognisances.
They refused. They were peers of the realm, they said. They were
advised by the best lawyers in Westminster Hall that no peer
could be required to enter into a recognisance in a case of
libel; and they should not think themselves justified in
relinquishing the privilege of their order. The King was so
absurd as to think himself personally affronted because they
chose, on a legal question, to be guided by legal advice. "You
believe everybody," he said, "rather than me." He was indeed
mortified and alarmed. For he had gone so far that, if they
persisted, he had no choice left but to send them to prison; and,
though he by no means foresaw all the consequences of such a
step, he foresaw probably enough to disturb him. They were
resolute. A warrant was therefore made out directing the
Lieutenant of the Tower to keep them in safe custody, and a barge
was manned to convey them down the river.374

It was known all over London that the Bishops were before the
Council. The public anxiety was intense. A great multitude filled
the courts of Whitehall and all the neighbouring streets. Many
people were in the habit of refreshing themselves at the close of
a summer day with the cool air of the Thames. But on this evening
the whole river was alive with wherries. When the Seven came
forth under a guard, the emotions of the people broke through
all restraint. Thousands fell on their knees and prayed aloud for
the men who had, with the Christian, courage of Ridley and
Latimer, confronted a tyrant inflamed by all the bigotry of
Mary. Many dashed into the stream, and, up to their waists in
ooze and water, cried to the holy fathers to bless them. All down
the river, from Whitehall to London Bridge, the royal barge
passed between lines of boats, from which arose a shout of "God
bless your Lordships." The King, in great alarm, gave orders that
the garrison of the Tower should be doubled, that the Guards
should be held ready for action, and that two companies should be
detached from every regiment in the kingdom, and sent up
instantly to London. But the force on which he relied as the
means of coercing the people shared all the feelings of the
people. The very sentinels who were under arms at the Traitors'
Gate reverently asked for a blessing from the martyrs whom they
were to guard. Sir Edward Hales was Lieutenant of the Tower. He
was little inclined to treat his prisoners with kindness. For he
was an apostate from that Church for which they suffered; and he
held several lucrative posts by virtue of that dispensing power
against which they had protested. He learned with indignation
that his soldiers were drinking the health of the Bishops. He
ordered his officers to see that it was done no more. But the
officers came back with a report that the thing could not be
prevented, and that no other health was drunk in the garrison.
Nor was it only by carousing that the troops showed their
reverence for the fathers of the Church. There was such a show of
devotion throughout the Tower that pious divines thanked God for
bringing good out of evil, and for making the persecution of His
faithful servants the means of saving many souls. All day the
coaches and liveries of the first nobles of England were seen
round the prison gates. Thousands of humbler spectators
constantly covered Tower Hill.375 But among the marks of public
respect and sympathy which the prelates received there was one
which more than all the rest enraged and alarmed the King. He
learned that a deputation of ten Nonconformist ministers had
visited the Tower. He sent for four of these persons, and himself
upbraided them. They courageously answered that they thought it
their duty to forget past quarrels, and to stand by the men who
stood by the Protestant religion.376

Scarcely had the gates of the Tower been closed on the prisoners
when an event took place which increased the public excitement.
It had been announced that the Queen did not expect to be
delivered till July. But, on the day after the Bishops had
appeared before the Council, it was observed that the King seemed
to be anxious about her state. In the evening, however, she sate
playing cards at Whitehall till near midnight. Then she was
carried in a sedan to Saint James's Palace, where apartments had
been very hastily fitted up for her reception. Soon messengers
were running about in all directions to summon physicians and
priests, Lords of the Council, and Ladies of the Bedchamber. In a
few hours many public functionaries and women of rank were
assembled in the Queen's room. There, on the morning of Sunday,
the tenth of June, a day long kept sacred by the too faithful
adherents of a bad cause, was born the most unfortunate of
princes, destined to seventy-seven years of exile and wandering,
of vain projects, of honours more galling than insults, and of
hopes such as make the heart sick.

The calamities of the poor child had begun before his birth. The
nation over which, according to the ordinary course of
succession, he would have reigned, was fully persuaded that his
mother was not really pregnant. By whatever evidence the fact of
his birth had been proved, a considerable number of people would
probably have persisted in maintaining that the Jesuits had
practised some skilful sleight of hand: and the evidence, partly
from accident, partly from gross mismanagement, was open to some
objections. Many persons of both sexes were in the royal
bedchamber when the child first saw the light but none of them
enjoyed any large measure of public confidence. Of the Privy
Councillors present half were Roman Catholics; and those who
called themselves Protestants were generally regarded as traitors
to their country and their God. Many of the women in attendance
were French, Italian, and Portuguese. Of the English ladies some
were Papists, and some were the wives of Papists. Some persons
who were peculiarly entitled to be present, and whose testimony
would have satisfied all minds accessible to reason, were absent,
and for their absence the King was held responsible. The Princess
Anne was, of all the inhabitants of the island, the most deeply
interested in the event. Her sex and her experience qualified her
to act as the guardian of her sister's birthright and her own.
She had conceived strong suspicions which were daily confirmed by
circumstances trifling or imaginary. She fancied that the Queen
carefully shunned her scrutiny, and ascribed to guilt a reserve
which was perhaps the effect of delicacy.377 In this temper Anne
had determined to be present and vigilant when the critical day
should arrive. But she had not thought it necessary to be at her
post a month before that day, and had, in compliance, it was
said, with her father's advice, gone to drink the Bath waters.
Sancroft, whose great place made it his duty to attend, and on
whose probity the nation placed entire reliance, had a few hours
before been sent to the Tower by James. The Hydes were the proper
protectors of the rights of the two Princesses. The Dutch
Ambassador might be regarded as the representative of William,
who, as first prince of the blood and consort of the King's
eldest daughter, had a deep interest in what was passing. James
never thought of summoning any member, male or female, of the
family of Hyde; nor was the Dutch Ambassador invited to be

Posterity has fully acquitted the King of the fraud which his
people imputed to him. But it is impossible to acquit him of
folly and perverseness such as explain and excuse the error of
his contemporaries. He was perfectly aware of the suspicions
which were abroad.378 He ought to have known that those
suspicions would not be dispelled by the evidence of members of
the Church of Rome, or of persons who, though they might call
themselves members of the Church of England, had shown themselves
ready to sacrifice the interests of the Church of England in
order to obtain his favour. That he was taken by surprise is
true. But he had twelve hours to make his arrangements. He found
no difficulty in crowding St. James's Palace with bigots and
sycophants on whose word the nation placed no reliance. It would
have been quite as easy to procure the attendance of some eminent
persons whose attachment to the Princesses and to the established
religion was unquestionable.

At a later period, when he had paid dearly for his foolhardy
contempt of public opinion, it was the fashion at Saint Germains
to excuse him by throwing the blame on others. Some Jacobites
charged Anne with having purposely kept out of the way. Nay, they
were not ashamed to say that Sancroft had provoked the King to
send him to the Tower, in order that the evidence which was to
confound the calumnies of the malecontents might be defective.379
The absurdity of these imputations is palpable. Could Anne or
Sancroft possibly have foreseen that the Queen's calculations
would turn out to be erroneous by a whole month? Had those
calculations been correct, Anne would have been back from Bath,
and Sancroft would have been out of the Tower, in ample time for
the birth. At all events the maternal uncles of the King's
daughters were neither at a distance nor in a prison. The same
messenger who summoned the whole bevy of renegades, Dover,
Peterborough, Murray, Sunderland, and Mulgrave, could just as
easily have summoned Clarendon. If they were Privy Councillors,
so was he. His house was in Jermyn Street, not two hundred yards
from the chamber of the Queen. Yet he was left to learn at St.
James's Church, from the agitation and whispers of the
congregation, that his niece had ceased to be heiress presumptive
of the crown.380 Was it a disqualification that he was the near
kinsman of the Princesses of Orange and Denmark? Or was it a
disqualification that he was unalterably attached to the Church
of England?

The cry of the whole nation was that an imposture bad been
practised. Papists had, during some months, been predicting,
from, the pulpit and through the press, in prose and verse, in
English and Latin, that a Prince of Wales would be given to the
prayers of the Church; and they had now accomplished their own
prophecy. Every witness who could not be corrupted or deceived
had been studiously excluded. Anne had been tricked into visiting
Bath. The Primate had, on the very day preceding that which had
been fixed for the villainy, been sent to prison in defiance of
the rules of law and of the privileges of peerage. Not a single
man or woman who had the smallest interest in detecting the fraud
had been suffered to he present. The Queen had been removed
suddenly and at the dead of night to St. James's Palace, because
that building, less commodious for honest purposes than
Whitehall, had some rooms and passages well suited for the
purpose of the Jesuits. There, amidst a circle of zealots who
thought nothing a crime that tended to promote the interests of
their Church, and of courtiers who thought nothing a crime that
tended to enrich and aggrandise themselves, a new born child had
been introduced into the royal bed, and then handed round in
triumph, as heir of the three kingdoms. Heated by such
suspicions, suspicions unjust, it is true, but not altogether
unnatural, men thronged more eagerly than ever to pay their
homage to the saintly victims of the tyrant who, having long
foully injured his people, had now filled up the measure of his
iniquities by more foully injuring his children.381

The Prince of Orange, not himself suspecting any trick, and not
aware of the state of public feeling in England, ordered prayers
to be said under his own roof for his little brother in law, and
sent Zulestein to London with a formal message of congratulation.
Zulestein, to his amazement, found all the people whom he met
open mouthed about the infamous fraud just committed by the
Jesuits, and saw every hour some fresh pasquinade on the
pregnancy and the delivery. He soon wrote to the Hague that not
one person in ten believed the child to have been born of the

The demeanour of the seven prelates meanwhile strengthened the
interest which their situation excited. On the evening of the
Black Friday, as it was called, on which they were committed,
they reached their prison just at the hour of divine service.
They instantly hastened to the chapel. It chanced that in the
second lesson were these words: "In all things approving
ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in
afflictions, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments." All
zealous Churchmen were delighted by this coincidence, and
remembered how much comfort a similar coincidence had given, near
forty years before, to Charles the First at the time of his

On the evening of the next day, Saturday the ninth, a letter came
from Sunderland enjoining the chaplain of the Tower to read the
Declaration during divine service on the following morning. As
the time fixed by the Order in Council for the reading in London
had long expired, this proceeding of the government could be
considered only as a personal insult of the meanest and most
childish kind to the venerable prisoners. The chaplain refused to
comply: he was dismissed from his situation; and the chapel was
shut up.383

The Bishops edified all who approached them by the firmness and
cheerfulness with which they endured confinement, by the modesty
and meekness with which they received the applauses and blessings
of the whole nation, and by the loyal attachment which they
professed for the persecutor who sought their destruction. They
remained only a week in custody. On Friday the fifteenth of June,
the first day of term, they were brought before the King's Bench.
An immense throng awaited their coming. From the landingplace to
the Court of Requests they passed through a lane of spectators
who blessed and applauded them. "Friends," said the prisoners as
they passed, "honour the King; and remember us in your prayers."
These humble and pious expressions moved the hearers, even to
tears. When at length the procession had made its way through the
crowd into the presence of the judges, the Attorney General
exhibited the information which he had been commanded to prepare,
and moved that the defendants might be ordered to plead. The
counsel on the other side objected that the Bishops had been
unlawfully committed, and were therefore not regularly before the
Court. The question whether a peer could be required to enter
into recognisances on a charge of libel was argued at great
length, and decided by a majority of judges in favour of the
crown. The prisoners then pleaded Not Guilty. That day fortnight,
the twenty-ninth of June, was fixed for their trial. In the
meantime they were allowed to be at large on their own
recognisances. The crown lawyers acted prudently in not requiring
sureties. For Halifax had arranged that twenty-one temporal peers
of the highest consideration should be ready to put in bail,
three for each defendant; and such a manifestation of the feeling
of the nobility would have been no slight blow to the government.
It was also known that one of the most opulent Dissenters of the
City had begged that he might have the honour of giving security
for Ken.

The Bishops were now permitted to depart to their own homes. The
common people, who did not understand the nature of the legal
proceedings which had taken place in the King's Bench, and who
saw that their favourites had been brought to Westminster Hall in
custody and were suffered to go away in freedom, imagined that
the good cause was prospering. Loud acclamations were raised. The
steeples of the churches sent forth joyous peals. Sprat was
amazed to hear the bells of his own Abbey ringing merrily. He
promptly silenced them: but his interference caused much angry
muttering. The Bishops found it difficult to escape from the
importunate crowd of their wellwishers. Lloyd was detained in
Palace Yard by admirers who struggled to touch his hands and to
kiss the skirt of his robe, till Clarendon, with some difficulty,
rescued him and conveyed him home by a bye path. Cartwright, it
is said, was so unwise as to mingle with the crowd. Some person
who saw his episcopal habit asked and received his blessing. A
bystander cried out, "Do you know who blessed you?" "Surely,"
said he who had just been honoured by the benediction, "it was
one of the Seven." "No," said the other "it is the Popish Bishop
of Chester." "Popish dog," cried the enraged Protestant; "take
your blessing back again."

Such was the concourse, and such the agitation, that the Dutch
Ambassador was surprised to see the day close without an
insurrection. The King had been by no means at ease. In order
that he might be ready to suppress any disturbance, he had passed
the morning in reviewing several battalions of infantry in Hyde
Park. It is, however, by no means certain that his troops would
have stood by him if he had needed their services. When Sancroft
reached Lambeth, in the afternoon, he found the grenadier guards,
who were quartered in that suburb, assembled before the gate of
his palace. They formed in two lines on his right and left, and
asked his benediction as he went through them. He with difficulty
prevented them from lighting a bonfire in honour of his return to
his dwelling. There were, however, many bonfires that evening in
the City. Two Roman Catholics who were so indiscreet as to beat
some boys for joining in these rejoicings were seized by the mob,
stripped naked, and ignominiously branded.384

Sir Edward Hales now came to demand fees from those who had
lately been his prisoners. They refused to pay anything for the
detention which they regarded as illegal to an officer whose
commission was, on their principles, a nullity. The Lieutenant
hinted very intelligibly that, if they came into his hands again,
they should be put into heavy irons and should lie on bare
stones. "We are under our King's displeasure," was the answer;
"and most deeply do we feel it: but a fellow subject who
threatens us does but lose his breath." It is easy to imagine
with what indignation the people, excited as they were, must have
learned that a renegade from the Protestant faith, who held a
command in defiance of the fundamental laws of England, had dared
to menace divines of venerable age and dignity with all the
barbarities of Lollard's Tower.385

Before the day of trial the agitation had spread to the farthest
corners of the island. From Scotland the Bishops received letters
assuring them of the sympathy of the Presbyterians of that
country, so long and so bitterly hostile to prelacy.386 The
people of Cornwall, a fierce, bold, and athletic race, among whom
there was a stronger provincial feeling than in any other part of
the realm, were greatly moved by the danger of Trelawney, whom
they reverenced less as a ruler of the Church than as the head of
an honourable house, and the heir through twenty descents of
ancestors who had been of great note before the Normans had set
foot on English ground. All over the county the peasants chanted
a ballad of which the burden is still remembered:

"And shall Trelawney die, and shall Trelawney die?
Then thirty thousand Cornish boys will know the reason why."

The miners from their caverns reechoed the song with a

"Then twenty thousand under ground will know the reason why."387

The rustics in many parts of the country loudly expressed a
strange hope which had never ceased to live in their hearts. Their Protestant
Duke, their beloved Monmouth, would suddenly appear, would lead them to victory,
and would tread down the King and the Jesuits under his feet.388 The ministers
were appalled. Even Jeffreys would gladly have retraced his steps. He charged
Clarendon with friendly messages to the Bishops, and threw on
others the blame of the prosecution which he had himself recommended. Sunderland
again ventured to recommend concession. The late auspicious birth, he said, had
furnished the King with an
excellent opportunity of withdrawing from a position full of
danger and inconvenience without incurring the reproach of
timidity or of caprice. On such happy occasions it had been
usual for sovereigns to make the hearts of subjects glad by acts
of clemency; and nothing could be more advantageous to the Prince
of Wales than that he should, while still in his cradle, be the
peacemaker between his father and the agitated nation. But the
King's resolution was fixed. "I will go on," be said. "I have
been only too indulgent. Indulgence ruined my father."389 The
artful minister found that his advice had been formerly taken
only because it had been shaped to suit the royal temper, and
that, from the moment at which he began to counsel well, he began
to counsel in vain. He had shown some signs of slackness in the
proceeding against Magdalene College. He had recently attempted
to convince the King that Tyrconnel's scheme of confiscating the
property of the English colonists in Ireland was full of danger,
and had, with the help of Powis and Bellasyse, so far succeeded
that the execution of the design had been postponed for another
year. But this timidity and scrupulosity had excited disgust and
suspicion in the royal mind.390 The day of retribution had
arrived. Sunderland was in the same situation in which his rival
Rochester had been some months before. Each of the two statesmen
in turn experienced the misery of clutching, with an agonizing
grasp, power which was perceptibly slipping away. Each in turn
saw his suggestions scornfully rejected. Both endured the pain of
reading displeasure and distrust in the countenance and demeanour
of their master; yet both were by their country held responsible
for those crimes and errors from which they had vainly
endeavoured to dissuade him. While he suspected them of trying to
win popularity at the expense of his authority and dignity, the
public voice loudly accused them of trying to win his favour at
the expense of their own honour and of the general weal. Yet, in
spite of mortifications and humiliations, they both clung to
office with the gripe of drowning men. Both attempted to
propitiate the King by affecting a willingness to be reconciled
to his Church. But there was a point at which Rochester was
determined to stop. He went to the verge of apostasy: but there
he recoiled: and the world, in consideration of the firmness with
which he refused to take the final step, granted him a liberal
amnesty for all former compliances. Sunderland, less scrupulous
and less sensible of shame, resolved to atone for his late
moderation, and to recover the royal confidence, by an act which,
to a mind impressed with the importance of religious truth, must
have appeared to be one of the most flagitious of crimes, and
which even men of the world regard as the last excess of
baseness. About a week before the day fixed for the great trial,
it was publicly announced that he was a Papist. The King talked
with delight of this triumph of divine grace. Courtiers and
envoys kept their countenances as well as they could while the
renegade protested that he had been long convinced of the
impossibility of finding salvation out of the communion of Rome,
and that his conscience would not let him rest till he had
renounced the heresies in which he had been brought up. The news
spread fast. At all the coffeehouses it was told how the prime
minister of England, his feet bare, and a taper in his hand, had
repaired to the royal chapel and knocked humbly for admittance;
how a priestly voice from within had demanded who was there, how
Sunderland had made answer that a poor sinner who had long
wandered from the true Church implored her to receive and to
absolve him; how the doors were opened; and how the neophyte
partook of the holy mysteries.391

This scandalous apostasy could not but heighten the interest with
which the nation looked forward to the day when the fate of the
seven brave confessors of the English Church was to be decided.
To pack a jury was now the great object of the King. The crown
lawyers were ordered to make strict inquiry as to the sentiments
of the persons who were registered in the freeholders' book. Sir
Samuel Astry, Clerk of the Crown, whose duty it was, in cases of
this description, to select the names, was summoned to the
palace, and had an interview with James in the presence of the
Chancellor.392 Sir Samuel seems to have done his best. For, among
the forty-eight persons whom he nominated, were said to be
several servants of the King, and several Roman Catholics.393 But
as the counsel for the Bishops had a right to strike off twelve,
these persons were removed. The crown lawyers also struck off
twelve. The list was thus reduced to twenty-four. The first
twelve who answered to their names were to try the issue.

On the twenty-ninth of June, Westminster Hall, Old and New Palace
Yard, and all the neighbouring streets to a great distance were
thronged with people. Such an auditory had never before and has
never since been assembled in the Court of King's Bench. Thirty-
five temporal peers of the realm were counted in the crowd.394

All the four judges of the Court were on the bench. Wright, who
presided, had been raised to his high place over the heads of
many abler and more learned men solely on account of his
unscrupulous servility. Allybone was a Papist, and owed his
situation to that dispensing power, the legality of which was now
in question. Holloway had hitherto been a serviceable tool of the
government. Even Powell, whose character for honesty stood high,
had borne a part in some proceedings which it is impossible to
defend. He had, in the great case of Sir Edward Hales, with some
hesitation, it is true, and after some delay, concurred with the
majority of the bench, and had thus brought on his character a
stain which his honourable conduct on this day completely

The counsel were by no means fairly matched. The government had
required from its law officers services so odious and disgraceful
that all the ablest jurists and advocates of the Tory party had,
one after another, refused to comply, and had been dismissed from
their employments. Sir Thomas Powis, the Attorney General, was
scarcely of the third rank in his profession. Sir William
Williams, the Solicitor General, had quick parts and dauntless
courage: but he wanted discretion; he loved wrangling; he had no
command over his temper; and he was hated and despised by all
political parties. The most conspicuous assistants of the
Attorney and Solicitor were Serjeant Trinder, a Roman Catholic,
and Sir Bartholomew Shower, Recorder of London, who had some
legal learning, but whose fulsome apologies and endless
repetitions were the jest of Westminster Hall. The government had
wished to secure the services of Maynard: but he had plainly
declared that he could not in conscience do what was asked of

On the other side were arrayed almost all the eminent forensic
talents of the age. Sawyer and Finch, who, at the time of the
accession of James, had been Attorney and Solicitor General, and
who, during the persecution of the Whigs in the late reign, had served the crown
with but too much vehemence and
success, were of counsel for the defendants. With them were
joined two persons who, since age had diminished the activity of
Maynard, were reputed the two best lawyers that could be found in
the Inns of Court: Pemberton, who had, in the time of Charles the
Second, been Chief justice of the King's Bench, who had been
removed from his high place on account of his humanity and
moderation, and who had resumed his practice at the bar; and
Pollexfen, who had long been at the head of the Western circuit,
and who, though he had incurred much unpopularity by holding
briefs for the crown at the Bloody Assizes, and particularly by
appearing against Alice Lisle, was known to be at heart a Whig,
if not a republican. Sir Creswell Levinz was also there, a man of
great knowledge and experience, but of singularly timid nature.
He had been removed from the bench some years before, because he
was afraid to serve the purposes of the government. He was now
afraid to appear as the advocate of the Bishops, and had at first
refused to receive their retainer: but it had been intimated to
him by the whole body of attorneys who employed him that, if he
declined this brief, he should never have another.396

Sir George Treby, an able and zealous Whig, who had been Recorder
of London under the old charter, was on the same side. Sir John
Holt, a still more eminent Whig lawyer, was not retained for the
defence, in consequence, it should seem, of some prejudice
conceived against him by Sancroft, but was privately consulted on
the case by the Bishop of London.397 The junior counsel for the
Bishops was a young barrister named John Somers. He had no
advantages of birth or fortune; nor had he yet had any
opportunity of distinguishing himself before the eyes of the
public: but his genius, his industry, his great and various
accomplishments, were well known to a small circle of friends;
and, in spite of his Whig opinions, his pertinent and lucid mode
of arguing and the constant propriety of his demeanour had
already secured to him the ear of the Court of King's Bench. The
importance of obtaining his services had been strongly
represented to the Bishops by Johnstone; and Pollexfen, it is
said, had declared that no man in Westminster Hall was so well
qualified to treat a historical and constitutional question as

The jury was sworn; it consisted of persons of highly respectable
station. The foreman was Sir Roger Langley, a baronet of old and
honourable family. With him were joined a knight and ten
esquires, several of whom are known to have been men of large
possessions. There were some Nonconformists in the number; for
the Bishops had wisely resolved not to show any distrust of the
Protestant Dissenters. One name excited considerable alarm, that
of Michael Arnold. He was brewer to the palace; and it was
apprehended that the government counted on his voice. The story
goes that he complained bitterly of the position in which he
found himself. "Whatever I do," he said, "I am sure to be half
ruined. If I say Not Guilty, I shall brew no more for the King;
and if I say Guilty, I shall brew no more for anybody else."398

The trial then commenced, a trial which, even when coolly perused
after the lapse of more than a century and a half, has all the
interest of a drama. The advocates contended on both sides with
far more than professional keenness and vehemence: the audience
listened with as much anxiety as if the fate of every one of them
was to be decided by the verdict; and the turns of fortune were
so sudden and amazing that the multitude repeatedly passed in a
single minute from anxiety to exultation and back again from
exultation to still deeper anxiety.

The information charged the Bishops with having written or
published, in the county of Middlesex, a false, malicious, and
seditious libel. The Attorney and Solicitor first tried to prove
the writing. For this purpose several persons were called to
speak to the hands of the Bishops. But the witnesses were so
unwilling that hardly a single plain answer could be extracted
from any of them. Pemberton, Pollexfen, and Levinz contended
that there was no evidence to go to the jury. Two of the judges,
Holloway and Powell, declared themselves of the same opinion; and
the hopes of the spectators rose high. All at once the crown
lawyers announced their intention to take another line. Powis,
with shame and reluctance which he could not dissemble, put into
the witness box Blathwayt, a Clerk of the Privy Council, who had
been present when the King interrogated the Bishops. Blathwayt
swore that he had heard them own their signatures. His testimony
was decisive. "Why," said judge Holloway to the Attorney, "when
you had such evidence, did you not produce it at first, without
all this waste of time?" It soon appeared why the counsel for the
crown had been unwilling, without absolute necessity, to resort
to this mode of proof. Pemberton stopped Blathwayt, subjected him
to a searching cross examination, and insisted upon having all
that had passed between the King and the defendants fully
related. "That is a pretty thing indeed," cried Williams. "Do you
think," said Powis, "that you are at liberty to ask our witnesses
any impertinent question that comes into your heads?" The
advocates of the Bishops were not men to be so put down. "He is
sworn," said Pollexfen, "to tell the truth and the whole truth:
and an answer we must and will have." The witness shuffled,
equivocated, pretended to misunderstand the questions, implored
the protection of the Court. But he was in hands from which it
was not easy to escape. At length the Attorney again interposed.
"If," he said, "you persist in asking such a question, tell us,
at least, what use you mean to make of it." Pemberton, who,
through the whole trial, did his duty manfully and ably, replied
without hesitation; "My Lords, I will answer Mr. Attorney. I will
deal plainly with the Court. If the Bishops owned this paper
under a promise from His Majesty that their confession should not
be used against them, I hope that no unfair advantage will be
taken of them." "You put on His Majesty what I dare hardly name,"
said Williams: "since you will be so pressing, I demand, for the
King, that the question may be recorded." "What do you mean, Mr.
Solicitor?" said Sawyer, interposing. "I know what I mean," said
the apostate: "I desire that the question may be recorded in
Court." "Record what you will, I am not afraid of you, Mr.
Solicitor," said Pemberton. Then came a loud and fierce
altercation, which the Chief Justice could with difficulty quiet.
In other circumstances, he would probably have ordered the
question to be recorded and Pemberton to be committed. But on
this great day he was overawed. He often cast a side glance
towards the thick rows of Earls and Barons by whom he was
watched, and who in the next Parliament might be his judges. He
looked, a bystander said, as if all the peers present had halters
in their pockets.399 At length Blathwayt was forced to give a
full account of what had passed. It appeared that the King had
entered into no express covenant with the Bishops. But it
appeared also that the Bishops might not unreasonably think that
there was an implied engagement. Indeed, from the unwillingness
of the crown lawyers to put the Clerk of the Council into the
witness box, and from the vehemence with which they objected to
Pemberton's cross examination, it is plain that they were
themselves of this opinion.

However, the handwriting was now proved. But a new and serious
objection was raised. It was not sufficient to prove that the
Bishops had written the alleged libel. It was necessary to prove
also that they had written it in the county of Middlesex. And not
only was it out of the power of the Attorney and Solicitor to
prove this; but it was in the power of the defendants to prove
the contrary. For it so happened that Sancroft had never once
left the palace, at Lambeth from the time when the Order in
Council appeared till after the petition was in the King's hands.
The whole case for the prosecution had therefore completely
broken down; and the audience, with great glee, expected a speedy

The crown lawyers then changed their ground again, abandoned
altogether the charge of writing a libel, and undertook to prove
that the Bishops had published a libel in the county of
Middlesex. The difficulties were great. The delivery of the
petition to the King was undoubtedly, in the eye of the law, a
publication. But how was this delivery to be proved? No person
had been present at the audience in the royal closet, except the
King and the defendants. The King could not well be sworn. It was
therefore only by the admissions of the defendants that the fact
of publication could be established. Blathwayt was again
examined, but in vain. He well remembered, he said, that the
Bishops owned their hands; but he did not remember that they
owned the paper which lay on the table of the Privy Council to be
the same paper which they had delivered to the King, or that they
were even interrogated on that point. Several other official men
who had been in attendance on the Council were called, and among
them Samuel Pepys, Secretary of the Admiralty; but none of them
could remember that anything was said about the delivery. It was
to no purpose that Williams put leading questions till the
counsel on the other side declared that such twisting, such
wiredrawing, was never seen in a court of justice, and till
Wright himself was forced to admit that the Solicitor's mode of
examination was contrary to all rule. As witness after witness
answered in the negative, roars of laughter and shouts of
triumph, which the judges did not even attempt to silence, shook
the hall.

It seemed that at length this hard fight had been won. The case
for the crown was closed. Had the counsel for the Bishops
remained silent, an acquittal was certain; for nothing which the
most corrupt and shameless judge could venture to call legal
evidence of publication had been given. The Chief justice was
beginning to charge the jury, and would undoubtedly have directed
them to acquit the defendants; but Finch, too anxious to be
perfectly discreet, interfered, and begged to be heard. "If you
will be heard," said Wright, "you shall be heard; but you do not
understand your own interests." The other counsel for the defence
made Finch sit down, and begged the Chief justice to proceed. He
was about to do so when a messenger came to the Solicitor General
with news that Lord Sunderland could prove the publication, and
would come down to the court immediately. Wright maliciously told
the counsel for the defence that they had only themselves to
thank for the turn which things had taken. The countenances of
the great multitude fell. Finch was, during some hours, the most
unpopular man in the country. Why could he not sit still as his
betters, Sawyer, Pemberton, and Pollexfen had done? His love of
meddling, his ambition to make a fine speech, had ruined

Meanwhile the Lord President was brought in a sedan chair through
the hall. Not a hat moved as he passed; and many voices cried out
"Popish dog." He came into Court pale and trembling, with eyes
fixed on the ground, and gave his evidence in a faltering voice.
He swore that the Bishops had informed him of their intention to
present a petition to the King, and that they had been admitted
into the royal closet for that purpose. This circumstance,
coupled with the circumstance that, after they left the closet,
there was in the King's hands a petition signed by them, was such
proof as might reasonably satisfy a jury of the fact of the

Publication in Middlesex was then proved. But was the paper thus
published a false, malicious, and seditious libel? Hitherto the
matter in dispute had been whether a fact which everybody well
knew to be true could be proved according to technical rules of
evidence; but now the contest became one of deeper interest. It
was necessary to inquire into the limits of prerogative and
liberty, into the right of the King to dispense with statutes,
into the right of the subject to petition for the redress of
grievances. During three hours the counsel for the petitioners
argued with great force in defence of the fundamental principles
of the constitution, and proved from the journals of the House of
Commons that the Bishops had affirmed no more than the truth when
they represented to the King that the dispensing power which he
claimed had been repeatedly declared illegal by Parliament.
Somers rose last. He spoke little more than five minutes; but
every word was full of weighty matter; and when he sate down his
reputation as an orator and a constitutional lawyer was
established. He went through the expressions which were used in
the information to describe the offence imputed to the Bishops,
and showed that every word, whether adjective or substantive, was
altogether inappropriate. The offence imputed was a false, a
malicious, a seditious libel. False the paper was not; for every
fact which it set forth had been proved from the journals of
Parliament to be true. Malicious the paper was not; for the
defendants had not sought an occasion of strife, but had been
placed by the government in such a situation that they must
either oppose themselves to the royal will, or violate the most
sacred obligations of conscience and honour. Seditious the paper
was not; for it had not been scattered by the writers among the
rabble, but delivered privately into the hands of the King alone:
and a libel it was not, but a decent petition such as, by the
laws of England, nay, by the laws of imperial Rome, by the laws
of all civilised states, a subject who thinks himself aggrieved
may with propriety present to the sovereign.

The Attorney replied shortly and feebly. The Solicitor spoke at
great length and with great acrimony, and was often interrupted
by the clamours and hisses of the audience. He went so far as to
lay it down that no subject or body of subjects, except the
Houses of Parliament, had a right to petition the King. The
galleries were furious; and the Chief justice himself stood
aghast at the effrontery of this venal turncoat.

At length Wright proceeded to sum up the evidence. His language
showed that the awe in which he stood of the government was
tempered by the awe with which the audience, so numerous, so
splendid, and so strongly excited, had impressed him. He said
that he would give no opinion on the question of the dispensing
power, that it was not necessary for him to do so, that he could
not agree with much of the Solicitor's speech, that it was the
right of the subject to petition, but that the particular
petition before the Court was improperly worded, and was, in the
contemplation of law, a libel. Allybone was of the same mind,
but, in giving his opinion, showed such gross ignorance of law
and history as brought on him the contempt of all who heard him.
Holloway evaded the question of the dispensing power, but said
that the petition seemed to him to be such as subjects who think
themselves aggrieved are entitled to present, and therefore no
libel. Powell took a bolder course. He avowed that, in his
judgment, the Declaration of Indulgence was a nullity, and that
the dispensing power, as lately exercised, was utterly
inconsistent with all law. If these encroachments of prerogative
were allowed, there was an end of Parliaments. The whole
legislative authority would be in the King. "That issue,
gentlemen," he said, "I leave to God and to your consciences."400

It was dark before the jury retired to consider of their verdict.
The night was a night of intense anxiety. Some letters are extant
which were despatched during that period of suspense, and which
have therefore an interest of a peculiar kind. "It is very late,"
wrote the Papal Nuncio; "and the decision is not yet known. The
judges and the culprits have gone to their own homes. The jury
remain together. Tomorrow we shall learn the event of this great

The solicitor for the Bishops sate up all night with a body of
servants on the stairs leading to the room where the jury was,
consulting. It was absolutely necessary to watch the officers who
watched the doors; for those officers were supposed to be in the
interest of the crown, and might, if not carefully observed, have
furnished a courtly juryman with food, which would have enabled
him to starve out the other eleven. Strict guard was therefore
kept. Not even a candle to light a pipe was permitted to enter.
Some basins of water for washing were suffered to pass at about
four in the morning. The jurymen, raging with thirst, soon lapped
up the whole. Great numbers of people walked the neighbouring
streets till dawn. Every hour a messenger came from Whitehall to
know what was passing. Voices, high in altercation, were
repeatedly heard within the room: but nothing certain was

At first nine were for acquitting and three for convicting. Two
of the minority soon gave way; but Arnold was obstinate. Thomas
Austin, a country gentleman of great estate, who had paid close
attention to the evidence and speeches, and had taken full notes,
wished to argue the question. Arnold declined. He was not used,
he doggedly said, to reasoning and debating. His conscience was
not satisfied; and he should not acquit the Bishops. "If you come
to that," said Austin, "look at me. I am the largest and
strongest of the twelve; and before I find such a petition as
this a libel, here I will stay till I am no bigger than a tobacco
pipe." It was six in the morning before Arnold yielded. It was
soon known that the jury were agreed: but what the verdict would
be was still a secret.402

At ten the Court again met. The crowd was greater than ever. The
jury appeared in their box; and there was a breathless stillness.

Sir Samuel Astry spoke. "Do you find the defendants, or any of
them, guilty of the misdemeanour whereof they are impeached, or
not guilty?" Sir Roger Langley answered, "Not guilty." As the
words passed his lips, Halifax sprang up and waved his hat. At
that signal, benches and galleries raised a shout. In a moment
ten thousand persons, who crowded the great hall, replied with a
still louder shout, which made the old oaken roof crack; and in
another moment the innumerable throng without set up a third
huzza, which was heard at Temple Bar. The boats which covered the
Thames, gave an answering cheer. A peal of gunpowder was heard on
the water, and another, and another; and so, in a few moments,
the glad tidings went flying past the Savoy and the Friars to
London Bridge, and to the forest of masts below. As the news
spread, streets and squares, market places and coffeehouses,
broke forth into acclamations. Yet were the acclamations less
strange than the weeping. For the feelings of men had been wound
up to such a point that at length the stern English nature, so
little used to outward signs of emotion, gave way, and thousands
sobbed aloud for very joy. Meanwhile, from the outskirts of the
multitude, horsemen were spurring off to bear along all the great
roads intelligence of the victory of our Church and nation. Yet
not even that astounding explosion could awe the bitter and
intrepid spirit of the Solicitor. Striving to make himself heard
above the din, he called on the judges to commit those who had
violated, by clamour, the dignity of a court of justice. One of
the rejoicing populace was seized. But the tribunal felt that it
would be absurd to punish a single individual for an offence
common to hundreds of thousands, and dismissed him with a gentle

It was vain to think of passing at that moment to any other
business. Indeed the roar of the multitude was such that, for
half an hour, scarcely a word could be heard in court. Williams
got to his coach amidst a tempest of hisses and curses.
Cartwright, whose curiosity was ungovernable, had been guilty of
the folly and indecency of coming to Westminster in order to hear
the decision. He was recognised by his sacerdotal garb and by his
corpulent figure, and was hooted through the hall. "Take care,"
said one, "of the wolf in sheep's clothing." "Make room," cried
another, "for the man with the Pope in his belly."404

The acquitted prelates took refuge from the crowd which implored
their blessing in the nearest chapel where divine service was
performing. Many churches were open on that morning throughout
the capital; and many pious persons repaired thither. The bells
of all the parishes of the City and liberties were ringing. The
jury meanwhile could scarcely make their way out of the hall.
They were forced to shake hands with hundreds. "God bless you,"
cried the people; "God prosper your families; you have done like
honest goodnatured gentlemen; you have saved us all today." As
the noblemen who had appeared to support the good cause drove
off, they flung from their carriage windows handfuls of money,
and bade the crowd drink to the health of the King, the Bishops,
and the jury.405

The Attorney went with the tidings to Sunderland, who happened to
be conversing with the Nuncio. "Never," said Powis, "within man's
memory, have there been such shouts and such tears of joy as
today."406 The King had that morning visited the camp on
Hounslow Heath. Sunderland instantly sent a courier thither with
the news. James was in Lord Feversham's tent when the express
arrived. He was greatly disturbed, and exclaimed in French, "So
much the worse for them." He soon set out for London. While he
was present, respect prevented the soldiers from giving a loose
to their feelings; but he had scarcely quitted the camp when he
heard a great shouting behind him. He was surprised, and asked
what that uproar meant. "Nothing," was the answer: "the soldiers
are glad that the Bishops are acquitted." "Do you call that
nothing? "said James. And then he repeated, "So much the worse
for them."407

He might well be out of temper. His defeat had been complete and
most humiliating. Had the prelates escaped on account of some
technical defect in the case for the crown, had they escaped
because they had not written the petition in Middlesex, or
because it was impossible to prove, according to the strict rules
of law, that they had delivered to the King the paper for which
they were called in question, the prerogative would have suffered
no shock. Happily for the country, the fact of publication had
been fully established. The counsel for the defence had therefore
been forced to attack the dispensing power. They had attacked it
with great learning, eloquence, and boldness. The advocates of
the government had been by universal acknowledgment overmatched
in the contest. Not a single judge had ventured to declare that
the Declaration of Indulgence was legal. One Judge had in the
strongest terms pronounced it illegal. The language of the whole
town was that the dispensing power had received a fatal blow.
Finch, who had the day before been universally reviled, was now
universally applauded. He had been unwilling, it was said, to let
the case be decided in a way which would have left the great
constitutional question still doubtful. He had felt that a
verdict which should acquit his clients, without condemning the
Declaration of Indulgence, would be but half a victory. It is
certain that Finch deserved neither the reproaches which had been
cast on him while the event was doubtful, nor the praises which
he received when it had proved happy. It was absurd to blame him
because, during the short delay which he occasioned, the crown
lawyers unexpectedly discovered new evidence. It was equally
absurd to suppose that he deliberately exposed his clients to
risk, in order to establish a general principle: and still more
absurd was it to praise him for what would have been a gross
violation of professional duty.

That joyful day was followed by a not less joyful night. The
Bishops, and some of their most respectable friends, in vain
exerted themselves to prevent tumultuous demonstrations of joy.
Never within the memory of the oldest, not even on that evening
on which it was known through London that the army of Scotland
had declared for a free Parliament, had the streets been in such
a glare with bonfires. Round every bonfire crowds were drinking
good health to the Bishops and confusion to the Papists. The
windows were lighted with rows of candles. Each row consisted of
seven; and the taper in the centre, which was taller than the
rest, represented the Primate. The noise of rockets, squibs, and
firearms, was incessant. One huge pile of faggots blazed right in
front of the great gate of Whitehall. Others were lighted before
the doors of Roman Catholic Peers. Lord Arundell of Wardour
wisely quieted the mob with a little money: but at Salisbury
House in the Strand an attempt at resistance was made. Lord
Salisbury's servants sallied out and fired: but they killed only
the unfortunate beadle of the parish, who had come thither to put
out the fire; and they were soon routed and driven back into the
house. None of the spectacles of that night interested the common
people so much as one with which they had, a few years before,
been familiar, and which they now, after a long interval, enjoyed
once more, the burning of the Pope. This once familiar pageant is
known to our generation only by descriptions and engravings. A
figure, by no means resembling those rude representations of Guy
Faux which are still paraded on the fifth of November, but made
of wax with some skill, and adorned at no small expense with
robes and a tiara, was mounted on a chair resembling that in
which the Bishops of Rome are still, on some great festivals,
borne through Saint Peter's Church to the high altar. His
Holiness was generally accompanied by a train of Cardinals and
Jesuits. At his ear stood a buffoon disguised as a devil with
horns and tail. No rich and zealous Protestant grudged his guinea
on such an occasion, and, if rumour could be trusted, the cost of
the procession was sometimes not less than a thousand pounds.
After the Pope had been borne some time in state over the heads
of the multitude, he was committed to the flames with loud
acclamations. In the time of the popularity of Oates and
Shaftesbury this show was exhibited annually in Fleet Street
before the windows of the Whig Club on the anniversary of the
birth of Queen Elizabeth. Such was the celebrity of these
grotesque rites, that Barillon once risked his life in order to
peep at them from a hiding place.408 But, from the day when the
Rye House Plot was discovered, till the day of the acquittal of
the Bishops, the ceremony had been disused. Now, however, several
Popes made their appearance in different parts of London. The
Nuncio was much shocked; and the King was more hurt by this
insult to his Church than by all the other affronts which he had
received. The magistrates, however, could do nothing. The Sunday
had dawned, and the bells of the parish churches were ringing for
early prayers, before the fires began to languish and the crowds
to disperse. A proclamation was speedily put forth against the
rioters. Many of them, mostly young apprentices, were
apprehended; but the bills were thrown out at the Middlesex
sessions. The magistrates, many of whom were Roman Catholics,
expostulated with the grand jury and sent them three or four
times back, but to no purpose.409

Meanwhile the glad tidings were flying to every part of the
kingdom, and were everywhere received with rapture. Gloucester,
Bedford, and Lichfield, were among the places which were
distinguished by peculiar zeal: but Bristol and Norwich, which
stood nearest to London in population and wealth, approached
nearest to London in enthusiasm on this joyful occasion.

The prosecution of the Bishops is an event which stands by itself
in our history. It was the first and the last occasion on which
two feelings of tremendous potency, two feelings which have
generally been opposed to each other, and either of which, when
strongly excited, has sufficed to convulse the state, were united
in perfect harmony. Those feelings were love of the Church and
love of freedom. During many generations every violent outbreak
of High Church feeling, with one exception, has been unfavourable
to civil liberty; every violent outbreak of zeal for liberty,
with one exception, has been unfavourable to the authority and
influence of the prelacy and the priesthood. In 1688 the cause of
the hierarchy was for a moment that of the popular party. More
than nine thousand clergymen, with the Primate and his most
respectable suffragans at their head, offered themselves to
endure bonds and the spoiling of their goods for the great
fundamental principle of our free constitution. The effect was a
coalition which included the most zealous Cavaliers, the most
zealous Republicans, and all the intermediate sections of the
community. The spirit which had supported Hampden in the
preceding generation, the spirit which, in the succeeding
generation, supported Sacheverell, combined to support the
Archbishop who was Hampden and Sacheverell in one. Those classes
of society which are most deeply interested in the preservation
of order, which in troubled times are generally most ready to
strengthen the hands of government, and which have a natural
antipathy to agitators, followed, without scruple, the guidance
of a venerable man, the first peer of the realm, the first
minister of the Church, a Tory in politics, a saint in manners,
whom tyranny had in his own despite turned into a demagogue.
Those, on the other hand, who had always abhorred episcopacy, as
a relic of Popery, and as an instrument of arbitrary power, now
asked on bended knees the blessing of a prelate who was ready to
wear fetters and to lay his aged limbs on bare stones rather than
betray the interests of the Protestant religion and set the
prerogative above the laws. With love of the Church and with love
of freedom was mingled, at this great crisis, a third feeling
which is among the most honourable peculiarities of our national
character. An individual oppressed by power, even when destitute
of all claim to public respect and gratitude, generally finds
strong sympathy among us. Thus, in the time of our grandfathers,
society was thrown into confusion by the persecution of Wilkes.
We have ourselves seen the nation roused almost to madness by the
wrongs of Queen Caroline. It is probable, therefore, that, even
if no great political and religious interests had been staked on
the event of the proceeding against the Bishops, England would
not have seen, without strong emotions of pity and anger, old men
of stainless virtue pursued by the vengeance of a harsh and
inexorable prince who owed to their fidelity the crown which he

Actuated by these sentiments our ancestors arrayed themselves
against the government in one huge and compact mass. All ranks,
all parties, all Protestant sects, made up that vast phalanx. In
the van were the Lords Spiritual and Temporal. Then came the
landed gentry and the clergy, both the Universities, all the Inns
of Court, merchants, shopkeepers, farmers, the porters who plied
in the streets of the great towns, the peasants who ploughed the
fields. The league against the King included the very foremast
men who manned his ships, the very sentinels who guarded his
palace. The names of Whig and Tory were for a moment forgotten.
The old Exclusionist took the old Abhorrer by the hand.
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, forgot
their long feuds, and remembered only their common Protestantism
and their common danger. Divines bred in the school of Laud
talked loudly, not only of toleration, but of comprehension. The
Archbishop soon after his acquittal put forth a pastoral letter
which is one of the most remarkable compositions of that age. He
had, from his youth up, been at war with the Nonconformists, and
had repeatedly assailed them with unjust and unchristian
asperity. His principal work was a hideous caricature of the
Calvinistic theology.410 He had drawn up for the thirtieth of
January and for the twenty-ninth of May forms of prayer which
reflected on the Puritans in language so strong that the
government had thought fit to soften it down. But now his heart
was melted and opened. He solemnly enjoined the Bishops and
clergy to have a very tender regard to their brethren the
Protestant Dissenters, to visit them often, to entertain them
hospitably, to discourse with them civilly, to persuade them, if
it might be, to conform to the Church, but, if that were found
impossible, to join them heartily and affectionately in exertions
for the blessed cause of the Reformation.411

Many pious persons in subsequent years remembered that time with
bitter regret. They described it as a short glimpse of a golden
age between two iron ages. Such lamentation, though natural, was
not reasonable. The coalition of 1688 was produced, and could be
produced, only by tyranny which approached to insanity, and by
danger which threatened at once all the great institutions of the
country. If there has never since been similar union, the reason
is that there has never since been similar misgovernment. It must
be remembered that, though concord is in itself better than
discord, discord may indicate a better state of things than is
indicated by concord. Calamity and peril often force men to
combine. Prosperity and security often encourage them to


Change in the Opinion of the Tories concerning the Lawfulness of
Resistance--Russell proposes to the Prince of Orange a Descent on
England--Henry Sidney--Devonshire; Shrewsbury; Halifax--Danby--
Bishop Compton--Nottingham; Lumley--Invitation to William
despatched--Conduct of Mary--Difficulties of William's
Enterprise--Conduct of James after the Trial of the Bishops--
Dismissions and Promotions--Proceedings of the High Commission;
Sprat resigns his Seat--Discontent of the Clergy; Transactions at
Oxford--Discontent of the Gentry--Discontent of the Army--Irish
Troops brought over; Public Indignation--Lillibullero--Politics
of the United Provinces; Errors of the French King--His Quarrel
with the Pope concerning Franchises--The Archbishopric of
Cologne--Skilful Management of William--His Military and Naval
Preparations--He receives numerous Assurances of Support from
England--Sunderland--Anxiety of William--Warnings conveyed to
James--Exertions of Lewis to save James--James frustrates them--
The French Armies invade Germany--William obtains the Sanction of
the States General to his Expedition--Schomberg--British
Adventurers at the Hague--William's Declaration--James roused to
a Sense of his Danger; his Naval Means--His Military Means--He
attempts to conciliate his Subjects--He gives Audience to the
Bishops--His Concessions ill received--Proofs of the Birth of the
Prince of Wales submitted to the--Privy Council--Disgrace of
Sunderland--William takes leave of the States of Holland--He
embarks and sails; he is driven back by a Storm--His Declaration
arrives in England; James questions the Lords--William sets sail
the second Time--He passes the Straits--He lands at Torbay--He
enters Exeter--Conversation of the King with the Bishops--
Disturbances in London--Men of Rank begin to repair to the Prince
--Lovelace--Colchester; Abingdon--Desertion of Cornbury--Petition
of the Lords for a Parliament--The King goes to Salisbury--
Seymour; Court of William at Exeter--Northern Insurrection--
Skirmish at Wincanton--Desertion of Churchill and Grafton--
Retreat of the Royal Army from Salisbury--Desertion of Prince
George and Ormond--Flight of the Princess Anne--Council of Lords
held by James--He appoints Commissioners to treat with William--
The Negotiation a Feint--Dartmouth refuses to send the Prince of
Wales into France--Agitation of London--Forged Proclamation--
Risings in various Parts of the Country--Clarendon joins the
Prince at Salisbury; Dissension in the Prince's Camp--The Prince
reaches Hungerford; Skirmish at Reading; the King's Commissioners
arrive at Hungerford--Negotiation--The Queen and the Prince of
Wales sent to France; Lauzun--The King's Preparations for Flight-
-His Flight

THE acquittal of the Bishops was not the only event which makes
the thirtieth of June 1688 a great epoch in history. On that day,
while the bells of a hundred churches were ringing, while
multitudes were busied, from Hyde Park to Mile End, in piling
faggots and dressing Popes for the rejoicings of the night, was

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