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The History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 3 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 2 out of 13

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and the zeal, which, combined, make a valuable servant of the
state must at that time be had separately or not at all. If he
employed men of one party, there was great risk of mistakes. If
he employed men of the other party, there was great risk of
treachery. If he employed men of both parties, there was still
some risk of mistakes; there was still some risk of treachery;
and to these risks was added the certainty of dissension. He
might join Whigs and Tories; but it was beyond his power to mix
them. In the same office, at the same desk, they were still
enemies, and agreed only in murmuring at the Prince who tried to
mediate between them. It was inevitable that, in such
circumstances, the administration, fiscal, military, naval,
should be feeble and unsteady; that nothing should be done in
quite the right way or at quite the right time; that the
distractions from which scarcely any public office was exempt
should produce disasters, and that every disaster should increase
the distractions from which it had sprung.

There was indeed one department of which the business was well
conducted; and that was the department of Foreign Affairs. There
William directed every thing, and, on important occasions,
neither asked the advice nor employed the agency of any English
politician. One invaluable assistant he had, Anthony Heinsius,
who, a few weeks after the Revolution had been accomplished,
became Pensionary of Holland. Heinsius had entered public life as
a member of that party which was jealous of the power of the
House of Orange, and desirous to be on friendly terms with
France. But he had been sent in 1681 on a diplomatic mission to
Versailles; and a short residence there had produced a complete
change in his views. On a near acquaintance, he was alarmed by
the power and provoked by the insolence of that Court of which,
while he contemplated it only at a distance, he had formed a
favourable opinion. He found that his country was despised. He
saw his religion persecuted. His official character did not save
him from some personal affronts which, to the latest day of his
long career, he never forgot. He went home a devoted adherent of
William and a mortal enemy of Lewis.76

The office of Pensionary, always important, was peculiarly
important when the Stadtholder was absent from the Hague. Had the
politics of Heinsius been still what they once were, all the
great designs of William might have been frustrated. But happily
there was between these two eminent men a perfect friendship
which, till death dissolved it, appears never to have been
interrupted for one moment by suspicion or ill humour. On all
large questions of European policy they cordially agreed. They
corresponded assiduously and most unreservedly. For though
William was slow to give his confidence, yet, when he gave it,
he gave it entire. The correspondence is still extant, and is
most honourable to both. The King's letters would alone suffice
to prove that he was one of the greatest statesmen whom Europe
has produced. While he lived, the Pensionary was content to be
the most obedient, the most trusty, and the most discreet of
servants. But, after the death of the master, the servant proved
himself capable of supplying with eminent ability the master's
place, and was renowned throughout Europe as one of the great
Triumvirate which humbled the pride of Lewis the Fourteenth.77

The foreign policy of England, directed immediately by William in
close concert with Heinsius, was, at this time, eminently skilful
and successful. But in every other part of the administration the
evils arising from the mutual animosity of factions were but too
plainly discernible. Nor was this all. To the evils arising from
the mutual animosity of factions were added other evils arising
from the mutual animosity of sects.

The year 1689 is a not less important epoch in the ecclesiastical
than in the civil history of England. In that year was granted
the first legal indulgence to Dissenters. In that year was made
the last serious attempt to bring the Presbyterians within the
pale of the Church of England. From that year dates a new schism,
made, in defiance of ancient precedents, by men who had always
professed to regard schism with peculiar abhorrence, and ancient
precedents with peculiar veneration. In that year began the long
struggle between two great parties of conformists. Those parties
indeed had, under various forms, existed within the Anglican
communion ever since the Reformation; but till after the
Revolution they did not appear marshalled in regular and
permanent order of battle against each other, and were therefore
not known by established names. Some time after the accession of
William they began to be called the High Church party and the Low
Church party; and, long before the end of his reign, these
appellations were in common use.78

In the summer of 1688 the breaches which had long divided the
great body of English Protestants had seemed to be almost closed.
Disputes about Bishops and Synods, written prayers and
extemporaneous prayers, white gowns and black gowns, sprinkling
and dipping, kneeling and sitting, had been for a short space
intermitted. The serried array which was then drawn up against
Popery measured the whole of the vast interval which separated
Sancroft from Bunyan. Prelates recently conspicuous as
persecutors now declared themselves friends of religious liberty,
and exhorted their clergy to live in a constant interchange of
hospitality and of kind offices with the separatists.
Separatists, on the other hand, who had recently considered
mitres and lawn sleeves as the livery of Antichrist, were putting
candles in windows and throwing faggots on bonfires in honour of
the prelates.

These feelings continued to grow till they attained their
greatest height on the memorable day on which the common
oppressor finally quitted Whitehall, and on which an innumerable
multitude, tricked out in orange ribands, welcomed the common
deliverer to Saint James's. When the clergy of London came,
headed by Compton, to express their gratitude to him by whose
instrumentality God had wrought salvation for the Church and the
State, the procession was swollen by some eminent nonconformist
divines. It was delightful to many good men to learn that pious
and learned Presbyterian ministers had walked in the train of a
Bishop, had been greeted by him with fraternal kindness, and had
been announced by him in the presence chamber as his dear and
respected friends, separated from him indeed by some differences
of opinion on minor points, but united to him by Christian
charity and by common zeal for the essentials of the reformed
faith. There had never before been such a day in England; and
there has never since been such a day. The tide of feeling was
already on the turn; and the ebb was even more rapid than the
flow had been. In a very few hours the High Churchman began to
feel tenderness for the enemy whose tyranny was now no longer
feared, and dislike of the allies whose services were now no
longer needed. It was easy to gratify both feelings by imputing
to the dissenters the misgovernment of the exiled King. His
Majesty-such was now the language of too many Anglican divines-
would have been an excellent sovereign had he not been too
confiding, too forgiving. He had put his trust in a class of men
who hated his office, his family, his person, with implacable
hatred. He had ruined himself in the vain attempt to conciliate
them. He had relieved them, in defiance of law and of the
unanimous sense of the old royalist party, from the pressure of
the penal code; had allowed them to worship God publicly after
their own mean and tasteless fashion; had admitted them to the
bench of justice and to the Privy Council; had gratified them
with fur robes, gold chains, salaries, and pensions. In return
for his liberality, these people, once so uncouth in demeanour,
once so savage in opposition even to legitimate authority, had
become the most abject of flatterers. They had continued to
applaud and encourage him when the most devoted friends of his
family had retired in shame and sorrow from his palace. Who had
more foully sold the religion and liberty of his country than
Titus? Who had been more zealous for the dispensing power than
Alsop? Who had urged on the persecution of the seven Bishops more
fiercely than Lobb? What chaplain impatient for a deanery had
ever, even when preaching in the royal presence on the thirtieth
of January or the twenty-ninth of May, uttered adulation more
gross than might easily be found in those addresses by which
dissenting congregations had testified their gratitude for the
illegal Declaration of Indulgence? Was it strange that a prince
who had never studied law books should have believed that he was
only exercising his rightful prerogative, when he was thus
encouraged by a faction which had always ostentatiously professed
hatred of arbitrary power? Misled by such guidance, he had gone
further and further in the wrong path: he had at length estranged
from him hearts which would once have poured forth their best
blood in his defence: he had left himself no supporters except
his old foes; and, when the day of peril came, he had found that
the feeling of his old foes towards him was still what it had
been when they had attempted to rob him of his inheritance, and
when they had plotted against his life. Every man of sense had
long known that the sectaries bore no love to monarchy. It had
now been found that they bore as little love to freedom. To trust
them with power would be an error not less fatal to the nation
than to the throne. If, in order to redeem pledges somewhat
rashly given, it should be thought necessary to grant them
relief, every concession ought to be accompanied by limitations
and precautions. Above all, no man who was an enemy to the
ecclesiastical constitution of the realm ought to be permitted to
bear any part in the civil government.

Between the nonconformists and the rigid conformists stood the
Low Church party. That party contained, as it still contains, two
very different elements, a Puritan element and a Latitudinarian
element. On almost every question, however, relating either to
ecclesiastical polity or to the ceremonial of public worship, the
Puritan Low Churchman and the Latitudinarian Low Churchman were
perfectly agreed. They saw in the existing polity and in the
existing ceremonial no defect, no blemish, which could make it
their duty to become dissenters. Nevertheless they held that both
the polity and the ceremonial were means and not ends, and that
the essential spirit of Christianity might exist without
episcopal orders and without a Book of Common Prayer. They had,
while James was on the throne, been mainly instrumental in
forming the great Protestant coalition against Popery and
tyranny; and they continued in 1689 to hold the same conciliatory
language which they had held in 1688. They gently blamed the
scruples of the nonconformists. It was undoubtedly a great
weakness to imagine that there could be any sin in wearing a
white robe, in tracing a cross, in kneeling at the rails of an
altar. But the highest authority had given the plainest
directions as to the manner in which such weakness was to be
treated. The weak brother was not to be judged: he was not to be
despised: believers who had stronger minds were commanded to
soothe him by large compliances, and carefully to remove out of
his path every stumbling block which could cause him to offend.
An apostle had declared that, though he had himself no misgivings
about the use of animal food or of wine, he would eat herbs and
drink water rather than give scandal to the feeblest of his
flock. What would he have thought of ecclesiastical rulers who,
for the sake of a vestment, a gesture, a posture, had not only
torn the Church asunder, but had filled all the gaols of England
with men of orthodox faith and saintly life? The reflections
thrown by the High Churchmen on the recent conduct of the
dissenting body the Low Churchmen pronounced to be grossly
unjust. The wonder was, not that a few nonconformists should have
accepted with thanks an indulgence which, illegal as it was, had
opened the doors of their prisons and given security to their
hearths, but that the nonconformists generally should have been
true to the cause of a constitution from the benefits of which
they had been long excluded. It was most unfair to impute to a
great party the faults of a few individuals. Even among the
Bishops of the Established Church James had found tools and
sycophants. The conduct of Cartwright and Parker had been much
more inexcusable than that of Alsop and Lobb. Yet those who held
the dissenters answerable for the errors of Alsop and Lobb would
doubtless think it most unreasonable to hold the Church
answerable for the far deeper guilt of Cartwright and Parker.

The Low Church clergymen were a minority, and not a large
minority, of their profession: but their weight was much more
than proportioned to their numbers: for they mustered strong in
the capital: they had great influence there; and the average of
intellect and knowledge was higher among them than among their
order generally. We should probably overrate their numerical
strength, if we were to estimate them at a tenth part of the
priesthood. Yet it will scarcely be denied that there were among
them as many men of distinguished eloquence and learning as could
be found in the other nine tenths. Among the laity who conformed
to the established religion the parties were not unevenly
balanced. Indeed the line which separated them deviated very
little from the line which separated the Whigs and the Tories. In
the House of Commons, which had been elected when the Whigs were
triumphant, the Low Church party greatly preponderated. In the
Lords there was an almost exact equipoise; and very slight
circumstances sufficed to turn the scale.

The head of the Low Church party was the King. He had been bred a
Presbyterian: he was, from rational conviction, a Latitudinarian;
and personal ambition, as well as higher motives, prompted him to
act as mediator among Protestant sects. He was bent on effecting
three great reforms in the laws touching ecclesiastical matters.
His first object was to obtain for dissenters permission to
celebrate their worship in freedom and security. His second
object was to make such changes in the Anglican ritual and polity
as, without offending those to whom that ritual and polity were
dear, might conciliate the moderate nonconformists. His third
object was to throw open civil offices to Protestants without
distinction of sect. All his three objects were good; but the
first only was at that time attainable. He came too late for the
second, and too early for the third.

A few days after his accession, he took a step which indicated,
in a manner not to be mistaken, his sentiments touching
ecclesiastical polity and public worship. He found only one see
unprovided with a Bishop. Seth Ward, who had during many years
had charge of the diocese of Salisbury, and who had been
honourably distinguished as one of the founders of the Royal
Society, having long survived his faculties, died while the
country was agitated by the elections for the Convention, without
knowing that great events, of which not the least important had
passed under his own roof, had saved his Church and his country
from ruin. The choice of a successor was no light matter. That
choice would inevitably be considered by the country as a
prognostic of the highest import. The King too might well be
perplexed by the number of divines whose erudition, eloquence,
courage, and uprightness had been conspicuously displayed during
the contentions of the last three years. The preference was given
to Burnet. His claims were doubtless great. Yet William might
have had a more tranquil reign if he had postponed for a time the
well earned promotion of his chaplain, and had bestowed the first
great spiritual preferment, which, after the Revolution, fell to
the disposal of the Crown, on some eminent theologian, attached
to the new settlement, yet not generally hated by the clergy.
Unhappily the name of Burnet was odious to the great majority of
the Anglican priesthood. Though, as respected doctrine, he by no
means belonged to the extreme section of the Latitudinarian
party, he was popularly regarded as the personification of the
Latitudinarian spirit. This distinction he owed to the prominent
place which he held in literature and politics, to the readiness
of his tongue and of his pert, and above all to the frankness and
boldness of his nature, frankness which could keep no secret, and
boldness which flinched from no danger. He had formed but a low
estimate of the character of his clerical brethren considered as
a body; and, with his usual indiscretion, he frequently suffered
his opinion to escape him. They hated him in return with a hatred
which has descended to their successors, and which, after the
lapse of a century and a half, does not appear to languish.

As soon as the King's decision was known, the question was every
where asked, What will the Archbishop do? Sancroft had absented
himself from the Convention: he had refused to sit in the Privy
Council: he had ceased to confirm, to ordain, and to institute;
and he was seldom seen out of the walls of his palace at Lambeth.
He, on all occasions, professed to think himself still bound by
his old oath of allegiance. Burnet he regarded as a scandal to
the priesthood, a Presbyterian in a surplice. The prelate who
should lay hands on that unworthy head would commit more than one
great sin. He would, in a sacred place, and before a great
congregation of the faithful, at once acknowledge an usurper as a
King, and confer on a schismatic the character of a Bishop.
During some time Sancroft positively declared that he would not
obey the precept of William. Lloyd of Saint Asaph, who was the
common friend of the Archbishop and of the Bishop elect,
intreated and expostulated in vain. Nottingham, who, of all the
laymen connected with the new government, stood best with the
clergy, tried his influence, but to no better purpose. The
Jacobites said every where that they were sure of the good old
Primate; that he had the spirit of a martyr; that he was
determined to brave, in the cause of the Monarchy and of the
Church, the utmost rigour of those laws with which the obsequious
parliaments of the sixteenth century had fenced the Royal
Supremacy. He did in truth hold out long. But at the last moment
his heart failed him, and he looked round him for some mode of
escape. Fortunately, as childish scruples often disturbed his
conscience, childish expedients often quieted it. A more childish
expedient than that to which he now resorted is not to be found
in all the tones of the casuists. He would not himself bear a
part in the service. He would not publicly pray for the Prince
and Princess as King and Queen. He would not call for their
mandate, order it to be read, and then proceed to obey it. But he
issued a commission empowering any three of his suffragans to
commit, in his name, and as his delegates, the sins which he did
not choose to commit in person. The reproaches of all parties
soon made him ashamed of himself. He then tried to suppress the
evidence of his fault by means more discreditable than the fault
itself. He abstracted from among the public records of which he
was the guardian the instrument by which he had authorised his
brethren to act for him, and was with difficulty induced to give
it up.79

Burnet however had, under the authority of this instrument, been
consecrated. When he next waited on Mary, she reminded him of the
conversations which they had held at the Hague about the high
duties and grave responsibility of Bishops. "I hope," she said,
"that you will put your notions in practice." Her hope was not
disappointed. Whatever may be thought of Burnet's opinions
touching civil and ecclesiastical polity, or of the temper and
judgment which he showed in defending those opinions, the utmost
malevolence of faction could not venture to deny that he tended
his flock with a zeal, diligence, and disinterestedness worthy of
the purest ages of the Church. His jurisdiction extended over
Wiltshire and Berkshire. These counties he divided into districts
which he sedulously visited. About two months of every summer he
passed in preaching, catechizing, and confirming daily from
church to church. When he died there was no corner of his diocese
in which the people had not had seven or eight opportunities of
receiving his instructions and of asking his advice. The worst
weather, the worst roads, did not prevent him from discharging
these duties. On one occasion, when the floods were out, he
exposed his life to imminent risk rather than disappoint a rural
congregation which was in expectation of a discourse from the
Bishop. The poverty of the inferior clergy was a constant cause
of uneasiness to his kind and generous heart. He was
indefatigable and at length successful in his attempts to obtain
for them from the Crown that grant which is known by the name of
Queen Anne's Bounty.80 He was especially careful, when he travelled through
his diocese, to lay no burden on them. Instead of requiring them
to entertain him, he entertained them. He always fixed his
headquarters at a market town, kept a table there, and, by his
decent hospitality and munificent charities, tried to conciliate
those who were prejudiced against his doctrines. When he bestowed
a poor benefice, and he had many such to bestow, his practice was
to add out of his own purse twenty pounds a year to the income.
Ten promising young men, to each of whom he allowed thirty pounds
a year, studied divinity under his own eye in the close of
Salisbury. He had several children but he did not think himself
justified in hoarding for them. Their mother had brought him a
good fortune. With that fortune, he always said, they must be
content: He would not, for their sakes, be guilty of the crime of
raising an estate out of revenues sacred to piety and charity.
Such merits as these will, in the judgment of wise and candid
men, appear fully to atone for every offence which can be justly
imputed to him.81

When he took his seat in the House of Lords, he found that
assembly busied in ecclesiastical legislation. A statesman who
was well known to be devoted to the Church had undertaken to
plead the cause of the Dissenters. No subject in the realm
occupied so important and commanding a position with reference to
religious parties as Nottingham. To the influence derived from
rank, from wealth, and from office, he added the higher influence
which belongs to knowledge, to eloquence, and to integrity. The
orthodoxy of his creed, the regularity of his devotions, and the
purity of his morals gave a peculiar weight to his opinions on
questions in which the interests of Christianity were concerned.
Of all the ministers of the new Sovereigns, he had the largest
share of the confidence of the clergy. Shrewsbury was certainly a
Whig, and probably a freethinker: he had lost one religion; and
it did not very clearly appear that he had found another. Halifax
had been during many years accused of scepticism, deism, atheism.
Danby's attachment to episcopacy and the liturgy was rather
political than religious. But Nottingham was such a son as the
Church was proud to own. Propositions, therefore, which, if made
by his colleagues, would infallibly produce a violent panic among
the clergy, might, if made by him, find a favourable reception
even in universities and chapter houses. The friends of religious
liberty were with good reason desirous to obtain his cooperation;
and, up to a certain point, he was not unwilling to cooperate
with them. He was decidedly for a toleration. He was even for
what was then called a comprehension: that is to say, he was
desirous to make some alterations in the Anglican discipline and
ritual for the purpose of removing the scruples of the moderate
Presbyterians. But he was not prepared to give up the Test Act.
The only fault which he found with that Act was that it was not
sufficiently stringent, and that it left loopholes through which
schismatics sometimes crept into civil employments. In truth it
was because he was not disposed to part with the Test that he was
willing to consent to some changes in the Liturgy. He conceived
that, if the entrance of the Church were but a very little
widened, great numbers who had hitherto lingered near the
threshold would press in. Those who still remained without would
then not be sufficiently numerous or powerful to extort any
further concession, and would be glad to compound for a bare

The opinion of the Low Churchmen concerning the Test Act differed
widely from his. But many of them thought that it was of the
highest importance to have his support on the great questions of
Toleration and Comprehension. From the scattered fragments of
information which have come down to us, it appears that a
compromise was made. It is quite certain that Nottingham
undertook to bring in a Toleration Bill and a Comprehension Bill,
and to use his best endeavours to carry both bills through the
House of Lords. It is highly probable that, in return for this
great service, some of the leading Whigs consented to let the
Test Act remain for the present unaltered.

There was no difficulty in framing either the Toleration Bill or
the Comprehension Bill. The situation of the dissenters had been
much discussed nine or ten years before, when the kingdom was
distracted by the fear of a Popish plot, and when there was among
Protestants a general disposition to unite against the common
enemy. The government had then been willing to make large
concessions to the Whig party, on condition that the crown should
be suffered to descend according to the regular course. A draught
of a law authorising the public worship of the nonconformists,
and a draught of a law making some alterations in the public
worship of the Established Church, had been prepared, and would
probably have been passed by both Houses without difficulty, had
not Shaftesbury and his coadjutors refused to listen to any
terms, and, by grasping at what was beyond their reach, missed
advantages which might easily have been secured. In the framing
of these draughts, Nottingham, then an active member of the House
of Commons, had borne a considerable part. He now brought them
forth from the obscurity in which they had remained since the
dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, and laid them, with some
slight alterations, on the table of the Lords.83

The Toleration Bill passed both Houses with little debate. This
celebrated statute, long considered as the Great Charter of
religious liberty, has since been extensively modified, and is
hardly known to the present generation except by name. The name,
however, is still pronounced with respect by many who will
perhaps learn with surprise and disappointment the real nature of
the law which they have been accustomed to hold in honour.

Several statutes which had been passed between the accession of
Queen Elizabeth and the Revolution required all people under
severe penalties to attend the services of the Church of England,
and to abstain from attending conventicles. The Toleration Act
did not repeal any of these statutes, but merely provided that
they should not be construed to extend to any person who should
testify his loyalty by taking the Oaths of Allegiance and
Supremacy, and his Protestantism by subscribing the Declaration
against Transubstantiation.

The relief thus granted was common between the dissenting laity
and the dissenting clergy. But the dissenting clergy had some
peculiar grievances. The Act of Uniformity had laid a mulct of a
hundred pounds on every person who, not having received episcopal
ordination, should presume to administer the Eucharist. The Five
Mile Act had driven many pious and learned ministers from their
houses and their friends, to live among rustics in obscure
villages of which the name was not to be seen on the map. The
Conventicle Act had imposed heavy fines on divines who should
preach in any meeting of separatists; and, in direct opposition
to the humane spirit of our common law, the Courts were enjoined
to construe this Act largely and beneficially for the suppressing
of dissent and for the encouraging of informers. These severe
statutes were not repealed, but were, with many conditions and
precautions, relaxed. It was provided that every dissenting
minister should, before he exercised his function, profess under
his hand his belief in the articles of the Church of England,
with a few exceptions. The propositions to which he was not
required to assent were these; that the Church has power to
regulate ceremonies; that the doctrines set forth in the Book of
Homilies are sound; and that there is nothing superstitious and
idolatrous in the ordination service. If he declared himself a
Baptist, he was also excused from affirming that the baptism of
infants is a laudable practice. But, unless his conscience
suffered him to subscribe thirty-four of the thirty-nine
articles, and the greater part of two other articles, he could
not preach without incurring all the punishments which the
Cavaliers, in the day of their power and their vengeance, had
devised for the tormenting and ruining of schismatical teachers.

The situation of the Quaker differed from that of other
dissenters, and differed for the worse. The Presbyterian, the
Independent, and the Baptist had no scruple about the Oath of
Supremacy. But the Quaker refused to take it, not because he
objected to the proposition that foreign sovereigns and prelates
have no jurisdiction in England, but because his conscience would
not suffer him to swear to any proposition whatever. He was
therefore exposed to the severity of part of that penal code
which, long before Quakerism existed, had been enacted against
Roman Catholics by the Parliaments of Elizabeth. Soon after the
Restoration, a severe law, distinct from the general law which
applied to all conventicles, had been passed against meetings of
Quakers. The Toleration Act permitted the members of this
harmless sect to hold their assemblies in peace, on condition of
signing three documents, a declaration against
Transubstantiation, a promise of fidelity to the government, and
a confession of Christian belief. The objections which the Quaker
had to the Athanasian phraseology had brought on him the
imputation of Socinianism; and the strong language in which he
sometimes asserted that he derived his knowledge of spiritual
things directly from above had raised a suspicion that he thought
lightly of the authority of Scripture. He was therefore required
to profess his faith in the divinity of the Son and of the Holy
Ghost, and in the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments.

Such were the terms on which the Protestant dissenters of England
were, for the first time, permitted by law to worship God
according to their own conscience. They were very properly
forbidden to assemble with barred doors, but were protected
against hostile intrusion by a clause which made it penal to
enter a meeting house for the purpose of molesting the

As if the numerous limitations and precautions which have been
mentioned were insufficient, it was emphatically declared that
the legislature did not intend to grant the smallest indulgence
to any Papist, or to any person who denied the doctrine of the
Trinity as that doctrine is set forth in the formularies of the
Church of England.

Of all the Acts that have ever been passed by Parliament, the
Toleration Act is perhaps that which most strikingly illustrates
the peculiar vices and the peculiar excellences of English
legislation. The science of Politics bears in one respect a close
analogy to the science of Mechanics. The mathematician can easily
demonstrate that a certain power, applied by means of a certain
lever or of a certain system of pulleys, will suffice to raise a
certain weight. But his demonstration proceeds on the supposition
that the machinery is such as no load will bend or break. If the
engineer, who has to lift a great mass of real granite by the
instrumentality of real timber and real hemp, should absolutely
rely on the propositions which he finds in treatises on Dynamics,
and should make no allowance for the imperfection of his
materials, his whole apparatus of beams, wheels, and ropes would
soon come down in ruin, and, with all his geometrical skill, he
would be found a far inferior builder to those painted barbarians
who, though they never heard of the parallelogram of forces,
managed to pile up Stonehenge. What the engineer is to the
mathematician, the active statesman is to the contemplative
statesman. It is indeed most important that legislators and
administrators should be versed in the philosophy of government,
as it is most important that the architect, who has to fix an
obelisk on its pedestal, or to hang a tubular bridge over an
estuary, should be versed in the philosophy of equilibrium and
motion. But, as he who has actually to build must bear in mind
many things never noticed by D'Alembert and Euler, so must he who
has actually to govern be perpetually guided by considerations to
which no allusion can be found in the writings of Adam Smith or
Jeremy Bentham. The perfect lawgiver is a just temper between the
mere man of theory, who can see nothing but general principles,
and the mere man of business, who can see nothing but particular
circumstances. Of lawgivers in whom the speculative element has
prevailed to the exclusion of the practical, the world has during
the last eighty years been singularly fruitful. To their wisdom
Europe and America have owed scores of abortive constitutions,
scores of constitutions which have lived just long enough to make
a miserable noise, and have then gone off in convulsions. But in
the English legislature the practical element has always
predominated, and not seldom unduly predominated, over the
speculative. To think nothing of symmetry and much of
convenience; never to remove an anomaly merely because it is an
anomaly; never to innovate except when some grievance is felt;
never to innovate except so far as to get rid of the grievance;
never to lay down any proposition of wider extent than the
particular case for which it is necessary to provide; these are
the rules which have, from the age of John to the age of
Victoria, generally guided the deliberations of our two hundred
and fifty Parliaments. Our national distaste for whatever is
abstract in political science amounts undoubtedly to a fault. But
it is, perhaps, a fault on the right side. That we have been far
too slow to improve our laws must be admitted. But, though in
other countries there may have occasionally been more rapid
progress, it would not be easy to name any other country in which
there has been so little retrogression.

The Toleration Act approaches very near to the idea of a great
English law. To a jurist, versed in the theory of legislation,
but not intimately acquainted with the temper of the sects and
parties into which the nation was divided at the time of the
Revolution, that Act would seem to be a mere chaos of absurdities
and contradictions. It will not bear to be tried by sound general
principles. Nay, it will not bear to be tried by any principle,
sound or unsound. The sound principle undoubtedly is, that mere
theological error ought not to be punished by the civil
magistrate. This principle the Toleration Act not only does not
recognise, but positively disclaims. Not a single one of the
cruel laws enacted against nonconformists by the Tudors or the
Stuarts is repealed. Persecution continues to be the general
rule. Toleration is the exception. Nor is this all. The freedom
which is given to conscience is given in the most capricious
manner. A Quaker, by making a declaration of faith in general
terms, obtains the full benefit of the Act without signing one of
the thirty-nine Articles. An Independent minister, who is
perfectly willing to make the declaration required from the
Quaker, but who has doubts about six or seven of the Articles,
remains still subject to the penal laws. Howe is liable to
punishment if he preaches before he has solemnly declared his
assent to the Anglican doctrine touching the Eucharist. Penn, who
altogether rejects the Eucharist, is at perfect liberty to preach
without making any declaration whatever on the subject.

These are some of the obvious faults which must strike every
person who examines the Toleration Act by that standard of just
reason which is the same in all countries and in all ages. But
these very faults may perhaps appear to be merits, when we take
into consideration the passions and prejudices of those for whom
the Toleration Act was framed. This law, abounding with
contradictions which every smatterer in political philosophy can
detect, did what a law framed by the utmost skill of the greatest
masters of political philosophy might have failed to do. That the
provisions which have been recapitulated are cumbrous, puerile,
inconsistent with each other, inconsistent with the true theory
of religious liberty, must be acknowledged. All that can be said
in their defence is this; that they removed a vast mass of evil
without shocking a vast mass of prejudice; that they put an end,
at once and for ever, without one division in either House of
Parliament, without one riot in the streets, with scarcely one
audible murmur even from the classes most deeply tainted with
bigotry, to a persecution which had raged during four
generations, which had broken innumerable hearts, which had made
innumerable firesides desolate, which had filled the prisons with
men of whom the world was not worthy, which had driven thousands
of those honest, diligent and godfearing yeomen and artisans, who
are the true strength of a nation, to seek a refuge beyond the
ocean among the wigwams of red Indians and the lairs of panthers.
Such a defence, however weak it may appear to some shallow
speculators, will probably be thought complete by statesmen.

The English, in 1689, were by no means disposed to admit the
doctrine that religious error ought to be left unpunished. That
doctrine was just then more unpopular than it had ever been. For
it had, only a few months before, been hypocritically put forward
as a pretext for persecuting the Established Church, for
trampling on the fundamental laws of the realm, for confiscating
freeholds, for treating as a crime the modest exercise of the
right of petition. If a bill had then been drawn up granting
entire freedom of conscience to all Protestants, it may be
confidently affirmed that Nottingham would never have introduced
such a bill; that all the bishops, Burnet included, would have
voted against it; that it would have been denounced, Sunday after
Sunday, from ten thousand pulpits, as an insult to God and to all
Christian men, and as a license to the worst heretics and
blasphemers; that it would have been condemned almost as
vehemently by Bates and Baxter as by Ken and Sherlock; that it
would have been burned by the mob in half the market places of
England; that it would never have become the law of the land, and
that it would have made the very name of toleration odious during
many years to the majority of the people. And yet, if such a bill
had been passed, what would it have effected beyond what was
effected by the Toleration Act?

It is true that the Toleration Act recognised persecution as the
rule, and granted liberty of conscience only as the exception.
But it is equally true that the rule remained in force only
against a few hundreds of Protestant dissenters, and that the
benefit of the exceptions extended to hundreds of thousands.

It is true that it was in theory absurd to make Howe sign thirty-
four or thirty-five of the Anglican articles before he could
preach, and to let Penn preach without signing one of those
articles. But it is equally true that, under this arrangement,
both Howe and Penn got as entire liberty to preach as they could
have had under the most philosophical code that Beccaria or
Jefferson could have framed.

The progress of the bill was easy. Only one amendment of grave
importance was proposed. Some zealous churchmen in the Commons
suggested that it might be desirable to grant the toleration only
for a term of seven years, and thus to bind over the
nonconformists to good behaviour. But this suggestion was so
unfavourably received that those who made it did not venture to
divide the House.84

The King gave his consent with hearty satisfaction: the bill
became law; and the Puritan divines thronged to the Quarter
Sessions of every county to swear and sign. Many of them probably
professed their assent to the Articles with some tacit
reservations. But the tender conscience of Baxter would not
suffer him to qualify, till he had put on record an explanation
of the sense in which he understood every proposition which
seemed to him to admit of misconstruction. The instrument
delivered by him to the Court before which he took the oaths is
still extant, and contains two passages of peculiar interest. He
declared that his approbation of the Athanasian Creed was
confined to that part which was properly a Creed, and that he did
not mean to express any assent to the damnatory clauses. He also
declared that he did not, by signing the article which
anathematizes all who maintain that there is any other salvation
than through Christ, mean to condemn those who entertain a hope
that sincere and virtuous unbelievers may be admitted to partake
in the benefits of Redemption. Many of the dissenting clergy of
London expressed their concurrence in these charitable

The history of the Comprehension Bill presents a remarkable
contrast to the history of the Toleration Bill. The two bills had
a common origin, and, to a great extent, a common object. They
were framed at the same time, and laid aside at the same time:
they sank together into oblivion; and they were, after the lapse
of several years, again brought together before the world. Both
were laid by the same peer on the table of the Upper House; and
both were referred to the same select committee. But it soon
began to appear that they would have widely different fates. The
Comprehension Bill was indeed a neater specimen of legislative
workmanship than the Toleration Bill, but was not, like the
Toleration Bill, adapted to the wants, the feelings, and the
prejudices of the existing generation. Accordingly, while the
Toleration Bill found support in all quarters, the Comprehension
Bill was attacked from all quarters, and was at last coldly and
languidly defended even by those who had introduced it. About the
same time at which the Toleration bill became law with the
general concurrence of public men, the Comprehension Bill was,
with a concurrence not less general, suffered to drop. The
Toleration Bill still ranks among those great statutes which are
epochs in our constitutional history. The Comprehension Bill is
forgotten. No collector of antiquities has thought it worth
preserving. A single copy, the same which Nottingham presented to
the peers, is still among our parliamentary records, but has been
seen by only two or three persons now living. It is a fortunate
circumstance that, in this copy, almost the whole history of the
Bill can be read. In spite of cancellations and interlineations,
the original words can easily be distinguished from those which
were inserted in the committee or on the report.86

The first clause, as it stood when the bill was introduced,
dispensed all the ministers of the Established Church from the
necessity of subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles. For the
Articles was substituted a Declaration which ran thus; "I do
approve of the doctrine and worship and government of the Church
of England by law established, as containing all things necessary
to salvation; and I promise, in the exercise of my ministry, to
preach and practice according thereunto." Another clause granted
similar indulgence to the members of the two universities.

Then it was provided that any minister who had been ordained
after the Presbyterian fashion might, without reordination,
acquire all the privileges of a priest of the Established Church.
He must, however, be admitted to his new functions by the
imposition of the hands of a bishop, who was to pronounce the
following form of words; "Take thou authority to preach the word
of God, and administer the sacraments, and to perform all other
ministerial offices in the Church of England." The person thus
admitted was to be capable of holding any rectory or vicarage in
the kingdom.

Then followed clauses providing that a clergyman might, except in
a few churches of peculiar dignity, wear the surplice or not as
he thought fit, that the sign of the cross might be omitted in
baptism, that children might be christened, if such were the wish
of their parents, without godfathers or godmothers, and that
persons who had a scruple about receiving the Eucharist kneeling
might receive it sitting.

The concluding clause was drawn in the form of a petition. It was
proposed that the two Houses should request the King and Queen to
issue a commission empowering thirty divines of the Established
Church to revise the liturgy, the canons, and the constitution of
the ecclesiastical courts, and to recommend such alterations as
might on inquiry appear to be desirable.

The bill went smoothly through the first stages. Compton, who,
since Sancroft had shut himself up at Lambeth, was virtually
Primate, supported Nottingham with ardour.87 In the committee,
however, it appeared that there was a strong body of churchmen,
who were determined not to give up a single word or form; to whom
it seemed that the prayers were no prayers without the surplice,
the babe no Christian if not marked with the cross, the bread and
wine no memorials of redemption or vehicles of grace if not
received on bended knee. Why, these persons asked, was the docile
and affectionate son of the Church to be disgusted by seeing the
irreverent practices of a conventicle introduced into her
majestic choirs? Why should his feelings, his prejudices, if
prejudices they were, be less considered than the whims of
schismatics? If, as Burnet and men like Burnet were never weary
of repeating, indulgence was due to a weak brother, was it less
due to the brother whose weakness consisted in the excess of his
love for an ancient, a decent, a beautiful ritual, associated in
his imagination from childhood with all that is most sublime and
endearing, than to him whose morose and litigious mind was always
devising frivolous objections to innocent and salutary usages?
But, in truth, the scrupulosity of the Puritan was not that sort
of scrupulosity which the Apostle had commanded believers to
respect. It sprang, not from morbid tenderness of conscience, but
from censoriousness and spiritual pride; and none who had studied
the New Testament could have failed to observe that, while we are
charged carefully to avoid whatever may give scandal to the
feeble, we are taught by divine precept and example to make no
concession to the supercilious and uncharitable Pharisee. Was
every thing which was not of the essence of religion to be given
up as soon as it became unpleasing to a knot of zealots whose
heads had been turned by conceit and the love of novelty? Painted
glass, music, holidays, fast days, were not of the essence of
religion. Were the windows of King's College Chapel to be broken
at the demand of one set of fanatics? Was the organ of Exeter to
be silenced to please another? Were all the village bells to be
mute because Tribulation Wholesome and Deacon Ananias thought
them profane? Was Christmas no longer to be a day of rejoicing?
Was Passion week no longer to be a season of humiliation? These
changes, it is true, were not yet proposed. Put if,--so the High
Churchmen reasoned,--we once admit that what is harmless and
edifying is to be given up because it offends some narrow
understandings and some gloomy tempers, where are we to stop? And
is it not probable that, by thus attempting to heal one schism,
we may cause another? All those things which the Puritans regard
as the blemishes of the Church are by a large part of the
population reckoned among her attractions. May she not, in
ceasing to give scandal to a few sour precisians, cease also to
influence the hearts of many who now delight in her ordinances?
Is it not to be apprehended that, for every proselyte whom she
allures from the meeting house, ten of her old disciples may turn
away from her maimed rites and dismantled temples, and that these
new separatists may either form themselves into a sect far more
formidable than the sect which we are now seeking to conciliate,
or may, in the violence of their disgust at a cold and ignoble
worship, be tempted to join in the solemn and gorgeous idolatry
of Rome?

It is remarkable that those who held this language were by no
means disposed to contend for the doctrinal Articles of the
Church. The truth is that, from the time of James the First, that
great party which has been peculiarly zealous for the Anglican
polity and the Anglican ritual has always leaned strongly towards
Arminianism, and has therefore never been much attached to a
confession of faith framed by reformers who, on questions of
metaphysical divinity, generally agreed with Calvin. One of the
characteristic marks of that party is the disposition which it
has always shown to appeal, on points of dogmatic theology,
rather to the Liturgy, which was derived from Rome, than to the
Articles and Homilies, which were derived from Geneva. The
Calvinistic members of the Church, on the other hand, have always
maintained that her deliberate judgment on such points is much
more likely to be found in an Article or a Homily than in an
ejaculation of penitence or a hymn of thanksgiving. It does not
appear that, in the debates on the Comprehension Bill, a single
High Churchman raised his voice against the clause which relieved
the clergy from the necessity of subscribing the Articles, and of
declaring the doctrine contained in the Homilies to be sound.
Nay, the Declaration which, in the original draught, was
substituted for the Articles, was much softened down on the
report. As the clause finally stood, the ministers of the Church
were required to declare, not that they approved of her
constitution, but merely that they submitted to it. Had the bill
become law, the only people in the kingdom who would have been
under the necessity of signing the Articles would have been the
dissenting preachers.88

The easy manner in which the zealous friends of the Church gave
up her confession of faith presents a striking contrast to the
spirit with which they struggled for her polity and her ritual.
The clause which admitted Presbyterian ministers to hold
benefices without episcopal ordination was rejected. The clause
which permitted scrupulous persons to communicate sitting very
narrowly escaped the same fate. In the Committee it was struck
out, and, on the report, was with great difficulty restored. The
majority of peers in the House was against the proposed
indulgence, and the scale was but just turned by the proxies.

But by this time it began to appear that the bill which the High
Churchmen were so keenly assailing was menaced by dangers from a
very different quarter. The same considerations which had induced
Nottingham to support a comprehension made comprehension an
object of dread and aversion to a large body of dissenters. The
truth is that the time for such a scheme had gone by. If, a
hundred years earlier, when the division in the Protestant body
was recent, Elizabeth had been so wise as to abstain from
requiring the observance of a few forms which a large part of her
subjects considered as Popish, she might perhaps have averted
those fearful calamities which, forty years after her death,
afflicted the Church. But the general tendency of schism is to
widen. Had Leo the Tenth, when the exactions and impostures of
the Pardoners first roused the indignation of Saxony, corrected
those evil practices with a vigorous hand, it is not improbable
that Luther would have died in the bosom of the Church of Rome.
But the opportunity was suffered to escape; and, when, a few
years later, the Vatican would gladly have purchased peace by
yielding the original subject of quarrel, the original subject of
quarrel was almost forgotten. The inquiring spirit which had been
roused by a single abuse had discovered or imagined a thousand:
controversies engendered controversies: every attempt that was
made to accommodate one dispute ended by producing another; and
at length a General Council, which, during the earlier stages of
the distemper, had been supposed to be an infallible remedy, made
the case utterly hopeless. In this respect, as in many others,
the history of Puritanism in England bears a close analogy to the
history of Protestantism in Europe. The Parliament of 1689 could
no more put an end to nonconformity by tolerating a garb or a
posture than the Doctors of Trent could have reconciled the
Teutonic nations to the Papacy by regulating the sale of
indulgences. In the sixteenth century Quakerism was unknown; and
there was not in the whole realm a single congregation of
Independents or Baptists. At the time of the Revolution, the
Independents, Baptists, and Quakers were a majority of the
dissenting body; and these sects could not be gained over on any
terms which the lowest of Low Churchmen would have been willing
to offer. The Independent held that a national Church, governed
by any central authority whatever, Pope, Patriarch, King, Bishop,
or Synod, was an unscriptural institution, and that every
congregation of believers was, under Christ, a sovereign society.
The Baptist was even more irreclaimable than the Independent, and
the Quaker even more irreclaimable than the Baptist. Concessions,
therefore, which would once have extinguished nonconformity would
not now satisfy even one half of the nonconformists; and it was
the obvious interest of every nonconformist whom no concession
would satisfy that none of his brethren should be satisfied. The
more liberal the terms of comprehension, the greater was the
alarm of every separatist who knew that he could, in no case, be
comprehended. There was but slender hope that the dissenters,
unbroken and acting as one man, would be able to obtain from the
legislature full admission to civil privileges; and all hope of
obtaining such admission must be relinquished if Nottingham
should, by the help of some wellmeaning but shortsighted friends
of religious liberty, be enabled to accomplish his design. If his
bill passed, there would doubtless be a considerable defection
from the dissenting body; and every defection must be severely
felt by a class already outnumbered, depressed, and struggling
against powerful enemies. Every proselyte too must be reckoned
twice over, as a loss to the party which was even now too weak,
and as a gain to the party which was even now too strong. The
Church was but too well able to hold her own against all the
sects in the kingdom; and, if those sects were to be thinned by a
large desertion, and the Church strengthened by a large
reinforcement, it was plain that all chance of obtaining any
relaxation of the Test Act would be at an end; and it was but too
probable that the Toleration Act might not long remain

Even those Presbyterian ministers whose scruples the
Comprehension Bill was expressly intended to remove were by no
means unanimous in wishing it to pass. The ablest and most
eloquent preachers among them had, since the Declaration of
Indulgence had appeared, been very agreeably settled in the
capital and in other large towns, and were now about to enjoy,
under the sure guarantee of an Act of Parliament, that toleration
which, under the Declaration of Indulgence, had been illicit and
precarious. The situation of these men was such as the great
majority of the divines of the Established Church might well
envy. Few indeed of the parochial clergy were so abundantly
supplied with comforts as the favourite orator of a great
assembly of nonconformists in the City. The voluntary
contributions of his wealthy hearers, Aldermen and Deputies, West
India merchants and Turkey merchants, Wardens of the Company of
Fishmongers and Wardens of the Company of Goldsmiths, enabled him
to become a landowner or a mortgagee. The best broadcloth from
Blackwell Hall, and the best poultry from Leadenhall Market, were
frequently left at his door. His influence over his flock was
immense. Scarcely any member of a congregation of separatists
entered into a partnership, married a daughter, put a son out as
apprentice, or gave his vote at an election, without consulting
his spiritual guide. On all political and literary questions the
minister was the oracle of his own circle. It was popularly
remarked, during many years, that an eminent dissenting minister
had only to make his son an attorney or a physician; that the
attorney was sure to have clients, and the physician to have
patients. While a waiting woman was generally considered as a
help meet for a chaplain in holy orders of the Established
Church, the widows and daughters of opulent citizens were
supposed to belong in a peculiar manner to nonconformist pastors.
One of the great Presbyterian Rabbies, therefore, might well
doubt whether, in a worldly view, he should be benefited by a
comprehension. He might indeed hold a rectory or a vicarage, when
he could get one. But in the meantime he would be destitute: his
meeting house would be closed: his congregation would be
dispersed among the parish churches: if a benefice were bestowed
on him, it would probably be a very slender compensation for the
income which he had lost. Nor could he hope to have, as a
minister of the Anglican Church, the authority and dignity which
he had hitherto enjoyed. He would always, by a large portion of
the members of that Church, be regarded as a deserter. He might
therefore, on the whole, very naturally wish to be left where he

There was consequently a division in the Whig party. One section
of that party was for relieving the dissenters from the Test Act,
and giving up the Comprehension Bill. Another section was for
pushing forward the Comprehension Bill, and postponing to a more
convenient time the consideration of the Test Act. The effect of
this division among the friends of religious liberty was that the
High Churchmen, though a minority in the House of Commons, and
not a majority in the House of Lords, were able to oppose with
success both the reforms which they dreaded. The Comprehension
Bill was not passed; and the Test Act was not repealed.

Just at the moment when the question of the Test and the question
of the Comprehension became complicated together in a manner
which might well perplex an enlightened and honest politician,
both questions became complicated with a third question of grave

The ancient oaths of allegiance and supremacy contained some
expressions which had always been disliked by the Whigs, and
other expressions which Tories, honestly attached to the new
settlement, thought inapplicable to princes who had not the
hereditary right. The Convention had therefore, while the throne
was still vacant, framed those oaths of allegiance and supremacy
by which we still testify our loyalty to our Sovereign. By the
Act which turned the Convention into a Parliament, the members of
both Houses were required to take the new oaths. As to other
persons in public trust, it was hard to say how the law stood.
One form of words was enjoined by statutes, regularly passed, and
not yet regularly abrogated. A different form was enjoined by the
Declaration of Right, an instrument which was indeed
revolutionary and irregular, but which might well be thought
equal in authority to any statute. The practice was in as much
confusion as the law. It was therefore felt to be necessary that
the legislature should, without delay, pass an Act abolishing the
old oaths, and determining when and by whom the new oaths should
be taken.

The bill which settled this important question originated in the
Upper House. As to most of the provisions there was little room
for dispute. It was unanimously agreed that no person should, at
any future time, be admitted to any office, civil, military,
ecclesiastical, or academical, without taking the oaths to
William and Mary. It was also unanimously agreed that every
person who already held any civil or military office should be
ejected from it, unless he took the oaths on or before the first
of August 1689. But the strongest passions of both parties were
excited by the question whether persons who already possessed
ecclesiastical or academical offices should be required to swear
fealty to the King and Queen on pain of deprivation. None could
say what might be the effect of a law enjoining all the members
of a great, a powerful, a sacred profession to make, under the
most solemn sanction of religion, a declaration which might be
plausibly represented as a formal recantation of all that they
had been writing and preaching during many years. The Primate and
some of the most eminent Bishops had already absented themselves
from Parliament, and would doubtless relinquish their palaces and
revenues, rather than acknowledge the new Sovereigns. The example
of these great prelates might perhaps be followed by a multitude
of divines of humbler rank, by hundreds of canons, prebendaries,
and fellows of colleges, by thousands of parish priests. To such
an event no Tory, however clear his own conviction that he might
lawfully swear allegiance to the King who was in possession,
could look forward without the most painful emotions of
compassion for the sufferers and of anxiety for the Church.

There were some persons who went so far as to deny that the
Parliament was competent to pass a law requiring a Bishop to
swear on pain of deprivation. No earthly power, they said, could
break the tie which bound the successor of the apostles to his
diocese. What God had joined no man could sunder. Dings and
senates might scrawl words on parchment or impress figures on
wax; but those words and figures could no more change the course
of the spiritual than the course of the physical world. As the
Author of the universe had appointed a certain order, according
to which it was His pleasure to send winter and summer, seedtime
and harvest, so He had appointed a certain order, according to
which He communicated His grace to His Catholic Church; and the
latter order was, like the former, independent of the powers and
principalities of the world. A legislature might alter the flames
of the months, might call June December, and December June; but,
in spite of the legislature, the snow would fall when the sun was
in Capricorn, and the flowers would bloom when he was in Cancer.
And so the legislature might enact that Ferguson or Muggleton
should live in the palace at Lambeth, should sit on the throne of
Augustin, should be called Your Grace, and should walk in
processions before the Premier Duke; but, in spite of the
legislature, Sancroft would, while Sancroft lived, be the only
true Archbishop of Canterbury; and the person who should presume
to usurp the archiepiscopal functions would be a schismatic. This
doctrine was proved by reasons drawn from the budding of Aaron's
rod, and from a certain plate which Saint James the Less,
according to a legend of the fourth century, used to wear on his
forehead. A Greek manuscript, relating to the deprivation of
bishops, was discovered, about this time, in the Bodleian
Library, and became the subject of a furious controversy. One
party held that God had wonderfully brought this precious volume
to light, for the guidance of His Church at a most critical
moment. The other party wondered that any importance could be
attached to the nonsense of a nameless scribbler of the
thirteenth century. Much was written about the deprivations of
Chrysostom and Photius, of Nicolaus Mysticus and Cosmas Atticus.
But the case of Abiathar, whom Solomon put out of the sacerdotal
office for treason, was discussed with peculiar eagerness. No
small quantity of learning and ingenuity was expended in the
attempt to prove that Abiathar, though he wore the ephod and
answered by Urim, was not really High Priest, that he ministered
only when his superior Zadoc was incapacitated by sickness or by
some ceremonial pollution, and that therefore the act of Solomon
was not a precedent which would warrant King William in deposing
a real Bishop.90

But such reasoning as this, though backed by copious citations
from the Misna and Maimonides, was not generally satisfactory
even to zealous churchmen. For it admitted of one answer, short,
but perfectly intelligible to a plain man who knew nothing about
Greek fathers or Levitical genealogies. There might be some doubt
whether King Solomon had ejected a high priest; but there could
be no doubt at all that Queen Elizabeth had ejected the Bishops
of more than half the sees in England. It was notorious that
fourteen prelates had, without any proceeding in any spiritual
court, been deprived by Act of Parliament for refusing to
acknowledge her supremacy. Had that deprivation been null? Had
Bonner continued to be, to the end of his life, the only true
Bishop of London? Had his successor been an usurper? Had Parker
and Jewel been schismatics? Had the Convocation of 1562, that
Convocation which had finally settled the doctrine of the Church
of England, been itself out of the pale of the Church of Christ?
Nothing could be more ludicrous than the distress of those
controversialists who had to invent a plea for Elizabeth which
should not be also a plea for William. Some zealots, indeed, gave
up the vain attempt to distingush between two cases which every
man of common sense perceived to be undistinguishable, and
frankly owned that the deprivations of 1559 could not be
justified. But no person, it was said, ought to be troubled in
mind on that account; for, though the Church of England might
once have been schismatical, she had become Catholic when the
Bishops deprived by Elizabeth had ceased to live.91 The Tories,
however, were not generally disposed to admit that the religious
society to which they were fondly attached had originated in an
unlawful breach of unity. They therefore took ground lower and
more tenable. They argued the question as a question of humanity
and of expediency. They spoke much of the debt of gratitude which
the nation owed to the priesthood; of the courage and fidelity
with which the order, from the primate down to the youngest
deacon, had recently defended the civil and ecclesiastical
constitution of the realm; of the memorable Sunday when, in all
the hundred churches of the capital, scarcely one slave could be
found to read the Declaration of Indulgence; of the Black Friday
when, amidst the blessings and the loud weeping of a mighty
population, the barge of the seven prelates passed through the
watergate of the Tower. The firmness with which the clergy had
lately, in defiance of menace and of seduction, done what they
conscientiously believed to be right, had saved the liberty and
religion of England. Was no indulgence to be granted to them if
they now refused to do what they conscientiously apprehended to
be wrong? And where, it was said, is the danger of treating them
with tenderness? Nobody is so absurd as to propose that they
shall be permitted to plot against the Government, or to stir up
the multitude to insurrection. They are amenable to the law, like
other men. If they are guilty of treason, let them be hanged. If
they are guilty of sedition, let them be fined and imprisoned. If
they omit, in their public ministrations, to pray for King
William, for Queen Mary, and for the Parliament assembled under
those most religious sovereigns, let the penal clauses of the Act
of Uniformity be put in force. If this be not enough, let his
Majesty be empowered to tender the oaths to any clergyman; and,
if the oaths so tendered are refused, let deprivation follow. In
this way any nonjuring bishop or rector who may be suspected,
though he cannot be legally convicted, of intriguing, of writing,
of talking, against the present settlement, may be at once
removed from his office. But why insist on ejecting a pious and
laborious minister of religion, who never lifts a finger or
utters a word against the government, and who, as often as he
performs morning and evening service, prays from his heart for a
blessing on the rulers set over him by Providence, but who will
not take an oath which seems to him to imply a right in the
people to depose a sovereign? Surely we do all that is necessary
if we leave men of this sort to the mercy of the very prince to
whom they refuse to swear fidelity. If he is willing to bear with
their scrupulosity, if he considers them, notwithstanding their
prejudices, as innocent and useful members of society, who else
can be entitled to complain?

The Whigs were vehement on the other side. They scrutinised, with
ingenuity sharpened by hatred, the claims of the clergy to the
public gratitude, and sometimes went so far as altogether to deny
that the order had in the preceding year deserved well of the
nation. It was true that bishops and priests had stood up against
the tyranny of the late King: but it was equally true that, but
for the obstinacy with which they had opposed the Exclusion Bill,
he never would have been King, and that, but for their adulation
and their doctrine of passive obedience, he would never have
ventured to be guilty of such tyranny. Their chief business,
during a quarter of a century, had been to teach the people to
cringe and the prince to domineer. They were guilty of the blood
of Russell, of Sidney, of every brave and honest Englishman who
had been put to death for attempting to save the realm from
Popery and despotism. Never had they breathed a whisper against
arbitrary power till arbitrary power began to menace their own
property and dignity. Then, no doubt, forgetting all their old
commonplaces about submitting to Nero, they had made haste to
save themselves. Grant,--such was the cry of these eager
disputants,--grant that, in saving themselves, they saved the
constitution. Are we therefore to forget that they had previously
endangered it? And are we to reward them by now permitting them
to destroy it? Here is a class of men closely connected with the
state. A large part of the produce of the soil has been assigned
to them for their maintenance. Their chiefs have seats in the
legislature, wide domains, stately palaces. By this privileged
body the great mass of the population is lectured every week from
the chair of authority. To this privileged body has been
committed the supreme direction of liberal education. Oxford and
Cambridge, Westminster, Winchester, and Eton, are under priestly
government. By the priesthood will to a great extent be formed
the character of the nobility and gentry of the next generation.
Of the higher clergy some have in their gift numerous and
valuable benefices; others have the privilege of appointing
judges who decide grave questions affecting the liberty, the
property, the reputation of their Majesties' subjects. And is an
order thus favoured by the state to give no guarantee to the
state? On what principle can it be contended that it is
unnecessary to ask from an Archbishop of Canterbury or from a
Bishop of Durham that promise of fidelity to the government which
all allow that it is necessary to demand from every layman who
serves the Crown in the humblest office. Every exciseman, every
collector of the customs, who refuses to swear, is to be deprived
of his bread. For these humble martyrs of passive obedience and
hereditary right nobody has a word to say. Yet an ecclesiastical
magnate who refuses to swear is to be suffered to retain
emoluments, patronage, power, equal to those of a great minister
of state. It is said that it is superfluous to impose the oaths
on a clergyman, because he may be punished if he breaks the laws.
Why is not the same argument urged in favour of the layman? And
why, if the clergyman really means to observe the laws, does he
scruple to take the oaths? The law commands him to designate
William and Mary as King and Queen, to do this in the most sacred
place, to do this in the administration of the most solemn of all
the rites of religion. The law commands him to pray that the
illustrious pair may be defended by a special providence, that
they may be victorious over every enemy, and that their
Parliament may by divine guidance be led to take such a course as
may promote their safety, honour, and welfare. Can we believe
that his conscience will suffer him to do all this, and yet will
not suffer him to promise that he will be a faithful subject to

To the proposition that the nonjuring clergy should be left to
the mercy of the King, the Whigs, with some justice, replied that
no scheme could be devised more unjust to his Majesty. The
matter, they said, is one of public concern, one in which every
Englishman who is unwilling to be the slave of France and of Rome
has a deep interest. In such a case it would be unworthy of the
Estates of the Realm to shrink from the responsibility of
providing for the common safety, to try to obtain for themselves
the praise of tenderness and liberality, and to leave to the
Sovereign the odious task of proscription. A law requiring all
public functionaries, civil, military, ecclesiastical, without
distinction of persons, to take the oaths is at least equal. It
excludes all suspicion of partiality, of personal malignity, of
secret shying and talebearing. But, if an arbitrary discretion is
left to the Government, if one nonjuring priest is suffered to
keep a lucrative benefice while another is turned with his wife
and children into the street, every ejection will be considered
as an act of cruelty, and will be imputed as a crime to the
sovereign and his ministers.92

Thus the Parliament had to decide, at the same moment, what
quantity of relief should be granted to the consciences of
dissenters, and what quantity of pressure should be applied to
the consciences of the clergy of the Established Church. The King
conceived a hope that it might be in his power to effect a
compromise agreeable to all parties. He flattered himself that
the Tories might be induced to make some concession to the
dissenters, on condition that the Whigs would be lenient to the
Jacobites. He determined to try what his personal intervention
would effect. It chanced that, a few hours after the Lords had
read the Comprehension Bill a second time and the Bill touching
the Oaths a first time, he had occasion to go down to Parliament
for the purpose of giving his assent to a law. From the throne he
addressed both Houses, and expressed an earnest wish that they
would consent to modify the existing laws in such a manner that
all Protestants might be admitted to public employment.93 It was
well understood that he was willing, if the legislature would
comply with his request, to let clergymen who were already
beneficed continue to hold their benefices without swearing
allegiance to him. His conduct on this occasion deserves
undoubtedly the praise of disinterestedness. It is honourable to
him that he attempted to purchase liberty of conscience for his
subjects by giving up a safeguard of his own crown. But it must
be acknowledged that he showed less wisdom than virtue. The only
Englishman in his Privy Council whom he had consulted, if Burnet
was correctly informed, was Richard Hampden;94 and Richard
Hampden, though a highly respectable man, was so far from being
able to answer for the Whig party that he could not answer even
for his own son John, whose temper, naturally vindictive, had
been exasperated into ferocity by the stings of remorse and
shame. The King soon found that there was in the hatred of the
two great factions an energy which was wanting to their love. The
Whigs, though they were almost unanimous in thinking that the
Sacramental Test ought to be abolished, were by no means
unanimous in thinking that moment well chosen for the abolition;
and even those Whigs who were most desirous to see the
nonconformists relieved without delay from civil disabilities
were fully determined not to forego the opportunity of humbling
and punishing the class to whose instrumentality chiefly was to
be ascribed that tremendous reflux of public feeling which had
followed the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament. To put the
Janes, the Souths, the Sherlocks into such a situation that they
must either starve, or recant, publicly, and with the Gospel at
their lips, all the ostentatious professions of many years, was a
revenge too delicious to be relinquished. The Tory, on the other
hand, sincerely respected and pitied those clergymen who felt
scruples about the oaths. But the Test was, in his view,
essential to the safety of the established religion, and must not
be surrendered for the purpose of saving any man however eminent
from any hardship however serious. It would be a sad day
doubtless for the Church when the episcopal bench, the chapter
houses of cathedrals, the halls of colleges, would miss some men
renowned for piety and learning. But it would be a still sadder
day for the Church when an Independent should bear the white
staff or a Baptist sit on the woolsack. Each party tried to serve
those for whom it was interested: but neither party would consent
to grant favourable terms to its enemies. The result was that the
nonconformists remained excluded from office in the State, and
the nonjurors were ejected from office in the Church.

In the House of Commons, no member thought it expedient to
propose the repeal of the Test Act. But leave was given to bring
in a bill repealing the Corporation Act, which had been passed by
the Cavalier Parliament soon after the Restoration, and which
contained a clause requiring all municipal magistrates to receive
the sacrament according to the forms of the Church of England.
When this bill was about to be committed, it was moved by the
Tories that the committee should be instructed to make no
alteration in the law touching the sacrament. Those Whigs who
were zealous for the Comprehension must have been placed by this
motion in an embarrassing position. To vote for the instruction
would have been inconsistent with their principles. To vote
against it would have been to break with Nottingham. A middle
course was found. The adjournment of the debate was moved and
carried by a hundred and sixteen votes to a hundred and fourteen;
and the subject was not revived.95 In the House of Lords a motion
was made for the abolition of the sacramental test, but was
rejected by a large majority. Many of those who thought the
motion right in principle thought it ill timed. A protest was
entered; but it was signed only by a few peers of no great
authority. It is a remarkable fact that two great chiefs of the
Whig party, who were in general very attentive to their
parliamentary duty, Devonshire and Shrewsbury, absented
themselves on this occasion.96

The debate on the Test in the Upper House was speedily followed
by a debate on the last clause of the Comprehension Bill. By that
clause it was provided that thirty Bishops and priests should be
commissioned to revise the liturgy and canons, and to suggest
amendments. On this subject the Whig peers were almost all of one
mind. They mustered strong, and spoke warmly. Why, they asked,
were none but members of the sacerdotal order to be intrusted
with this duty? Were the laity no part of the Church of England?
When the Commission should have made its report, laymen would
have to decide on the recommendations contained in that report.
Not a line of the Book of Common Prayer could be altered but by
the authority of King, Lords, and Commons. The King was a layman.
Five sixths of the Lords were laymen. All the members of the
House of Commons were laymen. Was it not absurd to say that
laymen were incompetent to examine into a matter which it was
acknowledged that laymen must in the last resort determine? And
could any thing be more opposite to the whole spirit of
Protestantism than the notion that a certain preternatural power
of judging in spiritual cases was vouchsafed to a particular
caste, and to that caste alone; that such men as Selden, as Hale,
as Boyle, were less competent to give an opinion on a collect or
a creed than the youngest and silliest chaplain who, in a remote
manor house, passed his life in drinking ale and playing at
shovelboard? What God had instituted no earthly power, lay or
clerical, could alter: and of things instituted by human beings a
layman was surely as competent as a clergyman to judge. That the
Anglican liturgy and canons were of purely human institution the
Parliament acknowledged by referring them to a Commission for
revision and correction. How could it then be maintained that in
such a Commission the laity, so vast a majority of the
population, the laity, whose edification was the main end of all
ecclesiastical regulations, and whose innocent tastes ought to be
carefully consulted in the framing of the public services of
religion, ought not to have a single representative? Precedent
was directly opposed to this odious distinction. Repeatedly since
the light of reformation had dawned on England Commissioners had
been empowered by law to revise the canons; and on every one of
those occasions some of the Commissioners had been laymen. In the
present case the proposed arrangement was peculiarly
objectionable. For the object of issuing the commission was the
conciliating of dissenters; and it was therefore most desirable
that the Commissioners should be men in whose fairness and
moderation dissenters could confide. Would thirty such men be
easily found in the higher ranks of the clerical profession? The
duty of the legislature was to arbitrate between two contending
parties, the Nonconformist divines and the Anglican divines, and
it would be the grossest injustice to commit to one of those
parties the office of umpire.

On these grounds the Whigs proposed an amendment to the effect
that laymen should be joined with clergymen in the Commission.
The contest was sharp. Burnet, who had just taken his seat among
the peers, and who seems to have been bent on winning at almost
any price the good will of his brethren, argued with all his
constitutional warmth for the clause as it stood. The numbers on
the division proved to be exactly equal. The consequence was
that, according to the rules of the House, the amendment was

At length the Comprehension Bill was sent down to the Commons.
There it would easily have been carried by two to one, if it had
been supported by all the friends of religious liberty. But on
this subject the High Churchmen could count on the support of a
large body of Low Churchmen. Those members who wished well to
Nottingham's plan saw that they were outnumbered, and, despairing
of a victory, began to meditate a retreat. Just at this time a
suggestion was thrown out which united all suffrages. The ancient
usage was that a Convocation should be summoned together with a
Parliament; and it might well be argued that, if ever the advice
of a Convocation could be needed, it must be when changes in the
ritual and discipline of the Church were under consideration.
But, in consequence of the irregular manner in which the Estates
of the Realm had been brought together during the vacancy of the
throne, there was no Convocation. It was proposed that the House
should advise the King to take measures for supplying this
defect, and that the fate of the Comprehension Bill should not be
decided till the clergy had had an opportunity of declaring their
opinion through the ancient and legitimate organ.

This proposition was received with general acclamation. The
Tories were well pleased to see such honour done to the
priesthood. Those Whigs who were against the Comprehension Bill
were well pleased to see it laid aside, certainly for a year,
probably for ever. Those Whigs who were for the Comprehension
Bill were well pleased to escape without a defeat. Many of them
indeed were not without hopes that mild and liberal counsels
might prevail in the ecclesiastical senate. An address requesting
William to summon the Convocation was voted without a division:
the concurrence of the Lords was asked: the Lords concurred, the
address was carried up to the throne by both Houses: the King
promised that he would, at a convenient season, do what his
Parliament desired; and Nottingham's Bill was not again

Many writers, imperfectly acquainted with the history of that
age, have inferred from these proceedings that the House of
Commons was an assembly of High Churchmen: but nothing is more
certain than that two thirds of the members were either Low
Churchmen or not Churchmen at all. A very few days before this
time an occurrence had taken place, unimportant in itself, but
highly significant as an indication of the temper of the
majority. It had been suggested that the House ought, in
conformity with ancient usage, to adjourn over the Easter
holidays. The Puritans and Latitudinarians objected: there was a
sharp debate: the High Churchmen did not venture to divide; and,
to the great scandal of many grave persons, the Speaker took the
chair at nine o'clock on Easter Monday; and there was a long and
busy sitting.98

This however was by no means the strongest proof which the
Commons gave that they were far indeed from feeling extreme
reverence or tenderness for the Anglican hierarchy. The bill for
settling the oaths had just come down from the Lords framed in a
manner favourable to the clergy. All lay functionaries were
required to swear fealty to the King and Queen on pain of
expulsion from office. But it was provided that every divine who
already held a benefice might continue to hold it without
swearing, unless the Government should see reason to call on him
specially for an assurance of his loyalty. Burnett had, partly,
no doubt, from the goodnature and generosity which belonged to
his character, and partly from a desire to conciliate his
brethren, supported this arrangement in the Upper House with
great energy. But in the Lower House the feeling against the
Jacobite priests was irresistibly strong. On the very day on
which that House voted, without a division, the address
requesting the King to summon the Convocation, a clause was
proposed and carried which required every person who held any
ecclesiastical or academical preferment to take the oaths by the
first of August 1689, on pain of suspension. Six months, to be
reckoned from that day, were allowed to the nonjuror for
reconsideration. If, on the first of February 1690, he still
continued obstinate, he was to be finally deprived.

The bill, thus amended, was sent back to the Lords. The Lords
adhered to their original resolution. Conference after conference
was held. Compromise after compromise was suggested. From the
imperfect reports which have come down to us it appears that
every argument in favour of lenity was forcibly urged by Burnet.
But the Commons were firm: time pressed: the unsettled state of
the law caused inconvenience in every department of the public
service; and the peers very reluctantly gave way. They at the
same time added a clause empowering the King to bestow pecuniary
allowances out of the forfeited benefices on a few nonjuring
clergymen. The number of clergymen thus favoured was not to
exceed twelve. The allowance was not to exceed one third of the
income forfeited. Some zealous Whigs were unwilling to grant even
this indulgence: but the Commons were content with the victory
which they had won, and justly thought that it would be
ungracious to refuse so slight a concession.99

These debates were interrupted, during a short time, by the
festivities and solemnities of the Coronation. When the day fixed
for that great ceremony drew near, the House of Commons resolved
itself into a committee for the purpose of settling the form of
words in which our Sovereigns were thenceforward to enter into
covenant with the nation. All parties were agreed as to the
propriety of requiring the King to swear that, in temporal
matters, he would govern according to law, and would execute
justice in mercy. But about the terms of the oath which related
to the spiritual institutions of the realm there was much debate.
Should the chief magistrate promise simply to maintain the
Protestant religion established by law, or should he promise to
maintain that religion as it should be hereafter established by
law? The majority preferred the former phrase. The latter phrase
was preferred by those Whigs who were for a Comprehension. But it
was universally admitted that the two phrases really meant the
same thing, and that the oath, however it might be worded, would
bind the Sovereign in his executive capacity only. This was
indeed evident from the very nature of the transaction. Any
compact may be annulled by the free consent of the party who
alone is entitled to claim the performance. It was never doubted
by the most rigid casuist that a debtor, who has bound himself
under the most awful imprecations to pay a debt, may lawfully
withhold payment if the creditor is willing to cancel the
obligation. And it is equally clear that no assurance, exacted
from a King by the Estates of his kingdom, can bind him to refuse
compliance with what may at a future time be the wish of those

A bill was drawn up in conformity with the resolutions of the
Committee, and was rapidly passed through every stage. After the
third reading, a foolish man stood up to propose a rider,
declaring that the oath was not meant to restrain the Sovereign
from consenting to any change in the ceremonial of the Church,
provided always that episcopacy and a written form of prayer were
retained. The gross absurdity of this motion was exposed by
several eminent members. Such a clause, they justly remarked,
would bind the King under pretence of setting him free. The
coronation oath, they said, was never intended to trammel him in
his legislative capacity. Leave that oath as it is now drawn, and
no prince can misunderstand it. No prince can seriously imagine
that the two Houses mean to exact from him a promise that he will
put a Veto on laws which they may hereafter think necessary to
the wellbeing of the country. Or if any prince should so
strangely misapprehend the nature of the contract between him and
his subjects, any divine, any lawyer, to whose advice he may have
recourse, will set his mind at ease. But if this rider should
pass, it will be impossible to deny that the coronation oath is
meant to prevent the King from giving his assent to bills which
may be presented to him by the Lords and Commons; and the most
serious inconvenience may follow. These arguments were felt to be
unanswerable, and the proviso was rejected without a division.100

Every person who has read these debates must be fully convinced
that the statesmen who framed the coronation oath did not mean to
bind the King in his legislative capacity.101 Unhappily, more
than a hundred years later, a scruple, which those statesmen
thought too absurd to be seriously entertained by any human
being, found its way into a mind, honest, indeed, and religious,
but narrow and obstinate by nature, and at once debilitated and
excited by disease. Seldom, indeed, have the ambition and perfidy
of tyrants produced evils greater than those which were brought
on our country by that fatal conscientiousness. A conjuncture
singularly auspicious, a conjuncture at which wisdom and justice
might perhaps have reconciled races and sects long hostile, and
might have made the British islands one truly United Kingdom, was
suffered to pass away. The opportunity, once lost, returned no
more. Two generations of public men have since laboured with
imperfect success to repair the error which was then committed;
nor is it improbable that some of the penalties of that error
may continue to afflict a remote posterity.

The Bill by which the oath was settled passed the Upper House
without amendment. All the preparations were complete; and, on
the eleventh of April, the coronation took place. In some things
it differed from ordinary coronations. The representatives of the
people attended the ceremony in a body, and were sumptuously
feasted in the Exchequer Chamber. Mary, being not merely Queen
Consort, but also Queen Regnant, was inaugurated in all things
like a King, was girt with the sword, lifted up into the throne,
and presented with the Bible, the spurs, and the orb. Of the
temporal grandees of the realm, and of their wives and daughters,
the muster was great and splendid. None could be surprised that
the Whig aristocracy should swell the triumph of Whig principles.
But the Jacobites saw, with concern, that many Lords who had
voted for a Regency bore a conspicuous part in the ceremonial.
The King's crown was carried by Grafton, the Queen's by Somerset.
The pointed sword, emblematical of temporal justice, was borne by
Pembroke. Ormond was Lord High Constable for the day, and rode up
the Hall on the right hand of the hereditary champion, who thrice
flung down his glove on the pavement, and thrice defied to mortal
combat the false traitor who should gainsay the title of William
and Mary. Among the noble damsels who supported the gorgeous
train of the Queen was her beautiful and gentle cousin, the Lady
Henrietta Hyde, whose father, Rochester, had to the last
contended against the resolution which declared the throne
vacant.102 The show of Bishops, indeed, was scanty. The Primate
did not make his appearance; and his place was supplied by
Compton. On one side of Compton, the paten was carried by Lloyd,
Bishop of Saint Asaph, eminent among the seven confessors of the
preceding year. On the other side, Sprat, Bishop of Rochester,
lately a member of the High Commission, had charge of the
chalice. Burnet, the junior prelate, preached with all his wonted
ability, and more than his wonted taste and judgment. His grave
and eloquent discourse was polluted neither by adulation nor by
malignity. He is said to have been greatly applauded; and it may
well be believed that the animated peroration in which he
implored heaven to bless the royal pair with long life and mutual
love, with obedient subjects, wise counsellors, and faithful
allies, with gallant fleets and armies, with victory, with peace,
and finally with crowns more glorious and more durable than those
which then glittered on the altar of the Abbey, drew forth the
loudest hums of the Commons.103

On the whole the ceremony went off well, and produced something
like a revival, faint, indeed, and transient, of the enthusiasm
of the preceding December. The day was, in London and in many
other places, a day of general rejoicing. The churches were
filled in the morning: the afternoon was spent in sport and
carousing; and at night bonfires were lighted, rockets
discharged, and windows lighted up. The Jacobites however
contrived to discover or to invent abundant matter for scurrility
and sarcasm. They complained bitterly, that the way from the hall
to the western door of the Abbey had been lined by Dutch
soldiers. Was it seemly that an English king should enter into
the most solemn of engagements with the English nation behind a
triple hedge of foreign swords and bayonets? Little affrays, such
as, at every great pageant, almost inevitably take place between
those who are eager to see the show and those whose business it
is to keep the communications clear, were exaggerated with all
the artifices of rhetoric. One of the alien mercenaries had
backed his horse against an honest citizen who pressed forward to
catch a glimpse of the royal canopy. Another had rudely pushed
back a woman with the but end of his musket. On such grounds as
these the strangers were compared to those Lord Danes whose
insolence, in the old time, had provoked the Anglo-saxon
population to insurrection and massacre. But there was no more
fertile theme for censure than the coronation medal, which really
was absurd in design and mean in execution. A chariot appeared
conspicuous on the reverse; and plain people were at a loss to
understand what this emblem had to do with William and Mary. The
disaffected wits solved the difficulty by suggesting that the
artist meant to allude to that chariot which a Roman princess,
lost to all filial affection, and blindly devoted to the
interests of an ambitious husband, drove over the still warm
remains of her father.104

Honours were, as usual, liberally bestowed at this festive
season. Three garters which happened to be at the disposal of the
Crown were given to Devonshire, Ormond, and Schomberg. Prince
George was created Duke of Cumberland. Several eminent men took
new appellations by which they must henceforth be designated.
Danby became Marquess of Caermarthen, Churchill Earl of
Marlborough, and Bentinck Earl of Portland. Mordaunt was made
Earl of Monmouth, not without some murmuring on the part of old
Exclusionists, who still remembered with fondness their
Protestant Duke, and who had hoped that his attainder would be
reversed, and that his title would be borne by his descendants.
It was remarked that the name of Halifax did not appear in the
list of promotions. None could doubt that he might easily have
obtained either a blue riband or a ducal coronet; and, though he
was honourably distinguished from most of his contemporaries by
his scorn of illicit gain, it was well known that he desired
honorary distinctions with a greediness of which he was himself
ashamed, and which was unworthy of his fine understanding. The
truth is that his ambition was at this time chilled by his fears.
To those whom he trusted he hinted his apprehensions that evil
times were at hand. The King's life was not worth a year's
purchase: the government was disjointed, the clergy and the army
disaffected, the parliament torn by factions: civil war was
already raging in one part of the empire: foreign war was
impending. At such a moment a minister, whether Whig or Tory,
might well be uneasy; but neither Whig nor Tory had so much to
fear as the Trimmer, who might not improbably find himself the
common mark at which both parties would take aim. For these
reasons Halifax determined to avoid all ostentation of power and
influence, to disarm envy by a studied show of moderation, and to
attach to himself by civilities and benefits persons whose
gratitude might be useful in the event of a counterrevolution.
The next three months, he said, would be the time of trial. If
the government got safe through the summer it would probably

Meanwhile questions of external policy were every day becoming
more and more important. The work at which William had toiled
indefatigably during many gloomy and anxious years was at length
accomplished. The great coalition was formed. It was plain that a
desperate conflict was at hand. The oppressor of Europe would
have to defend himself against England allied with Charles the
Second King of Spain, with the Emperor Leopold, and with the
Germanic and Batavian federations, and was likely to have no ally
except the Sultan, who was waging war against the House of
Austria on the Danube.

Lewis had, towards the close of the preceding year, taken his
enemies at a disadvantage, and had struck the first blow before
they were prepared to parry it. But that blow, though heavy, was
not aimed at the part where it might have been mortal. Had
hostilities been commenced on the Batavian frontier, William and
his army would probably have been detained on the continent, and
James might have continued to govern England. Happily, Lewis,
under an infatuation which many pious Protestants confidently
ascribed to the righteous judgment of God, had neglected the
point on which the fate of the whole civilised world depended,
and had made a great display of power, promptitude, and energy,
in a quarter where the most splendid achievements could produce
nothing more than an illumination and a Te Deum. A French army
under the command of Marshal Duras had invaded the Palatinate and
some of the neighbouring principalities. But this expedition,
though it had been completely successful, and though the skill
and vigour with which it had been conducted had excited general
admiration, could not perceptibly affect the event of the
tremendous struggle which was approaching. France would soon be
attacked on every side. It would be impossible for Duras long to
retain possession of the provinces which he had surprised and
overrun. An atrocious thought rose in the mind of Louvois, who,
in military affairs, had the chief sway at Versailles. He was a
man distinguished by zeal for what he thought the public
interests, by capacity, and by knowledge of all that related to
the administration of war, but of a savage and obdurate nature.
If the cities of the Palatinate could not be retained, they might
be destroyed. If the soil of the Palatinate was not to furnish
supplies to the French, it might be so wasted that it would at
least furnish no supplies to the Germans. The ironhearted
statesman submitted his plan, probably with much management and
with some disguise, to Lewis; and Lewis, in an evil hour for his
fame, assented. Duras received orders to turn one of the fairest
regions of Europe into a wilderness. Fifteen years earlier
Turenne had ravaged part of that fine country. But the ravages
committed by Turenne, though they have left a deep stain on his
glory, were mere sport in comparison with the horrors of this
second devastation. The French commander announced to near half a
million of human beings that he granted them three days of grace,
and that, within that time, they must shift for themselves. Soon
the roads and fields, which then lay deep in snow, were blackened
by innumerable multitudes of men, women, and children flying from
their homes. Many died of cold and hunger: but enough survived to
fill the streets of all the cities of Europe with lean and
squalid beggars, who had once been thriving farmers and
shopkeepers. Meanwhile the work of destruction began. The flames
went up from every marketplace, every hamlet, every parish
church, every country seat, within the devoted provinces. The
fields where the corn had been sown were ploughed up. The
orchards were hewn down. No promise of a harvest was left on the
fertile plains near what had once been Frankenthal. Not a vine,
not an almond tree, was to be seen on the slopes of the sunny
hills round what had once been Heidelberg. No respect was shown
to palaces, to temples, to monasteries, to infirmaries, to
beautiful works of art, to monuments of the illustrious dead. The
farfamed castle of the Elector Palatine was turned into a heap of
ruins. The adjoining hospital was sacked. The provisions, the
medicines, the pallets on which the sick lay were destroyed. The
very stones of which Mannheim had been built were flung into the
Rhine. The magnificent Cathedral of Spires perished, and with it
the marble sepulchres of eight Caesars. The coffins were broken
open. The ashes were scattered to the winds.106 Treves, with its
fair bridge, its Roman amphitheatre, its venerable churches,
convents, and colleges, was doomed to the same fate. But, before
this last crime had been perpetrated, Lewis was recalled to a
better mind by the execrations of all the neighbouring nations,
by the silence and confusion of his flatterers, and by the
expostulations of his wife. He had been more than two years
secretly married to Frances de Maintenon, the governess of his
natural children. It would be hard to name any woman who, with so
little romance in her temper, has had so much in her life. Her
early years had been passed in poverty and obscurity. Her first
husband had supported himself by writing burlesque farces and
poems. When she attracted the notice of her sovereign, she could
no longer boast of youth or beauty: but she possessed in an
extraordinary degree those more lasting charms, which men of
sense, whose passions age has tamed, and whose life is a life of
business and care, prize most highly in a female companion. Her
character was such as has been well compared to that soft green
on which the eye, wearied by warm tints and glaring lights,
reposes with pleasure. A just understanding; an inexhaustible yet
never redundant flow of rational, gentle, and sprightly
conversation; a temper of which the serenity was never for a
moment ruffled, a tact which surpassed the tact of her sex as
much as the tact of her sex surpasses the tact of ours; such were
the qualities which made the widow of a buffoon first the
confidential friend, and then the spouse, of the proudest and
most powerful of European kings. It was said that Lewis had been
with difficulty prevented by the arguments and vehement
entreaties of Louvois from declaring her Queen of France. It is
certain that she regarded Louvois as her enemy. Her hatred of
him, cooperating perhaps with better feelings, induced her to
plead the cause of the unhappy people of the Rhine. She appealed
to those sentiments of compassion which, though weakened by many
corrupting influences, were not altogether extinct in her
husband's mind, and to those sentiments of religion which had too
often impelled him to cruelty, but which, on the present
occasion, were on the side of humanity. He relented: and Treves
was spared.107 In truth he could hardly fail to perceive that he
had committed a great error. The devastation of the Palatinate,
while it had not in any sensible degree lessened the power of his
enemies, had inflamed their animosity, and had furnished them
with inexhaustible matter for invective. The cry of vengeance
rose on every side. Whatever scruple either branch of the House
of Austria might have felt about coalescing with Protestants was
completely removed. Lewis accused the Emperor and the Catholic
King of having betrayed the cause of the Church; of having allied
themselves with an usurper who was the avowed champion of the
great schism; of having been accessary to the foul wrong done to
a lawful sovereign who was guilty of no crime but zeal for the
true religion. James sent to Vienna and Madrid piteous letters,
in which he recounted his misfortunes, and implored the
assistance of his brother kings, his brothers also in the faith,
against the unnatural children and the rebellious subjects who
had driven him into exile. But there was little difficulty in
framing a plausible answer both to the reproaches of Lewis and to
the supplications of James. Leopold and Charles declared that
they had not, even for purposes of just selfdefence, leagued
themselves with heretics, till their enemy had, for purposes of
unjust aggression, leagued himself with Mahometans. Nor was this
the worst. The French King, not content with assisting the Moslem
against the Christians, was himself treating Christians with a
barbarity which would have shocked the very Moslem. His infidel
allies, to do them justice, had not perpetrated on the Danube
such outrages against the edifices and the members of the Holy
Catholic Church as he who called himself the eldest son of that
Church was perpetrating on the Rhine. On these grounds, the
princes to whom James had appealed replied by appealing, with
many professions of good will and compassion, to himself. He was
surely too just to blame them for thinking that it was their
first duty to defend their own people against such outrages as
had turned the Palatinate into a desert, or for calling in the
aid of Protestants against an enemy who had not scrupled to call
in the aid of the Turks.108

During the winter and the earlier part of the spring, the powers
hostile to France were gathering their strength for a great
effort, and were in constant communication with one another. As
the season for military operations approached, the solemn appeals
of injured nations to the God of battles came forth in rapid
succession. The manifesto of the Germanic body appeared in
February; that of the States General in March; that of the House
of Brandenburg in April; and that of Spain in May.109

Here, as soon as the ceremony of the coronation was over, the
House of Commons determined to take into consideration the late
proceedings of the French king.110 In the debate, that hatred of
the powerful, unscrupulous and imperious Lewis, which had, during
twenty years of vassalage, festered in the hearts of Englishmen,
broke violently forth. He was called the most Christian Turk, the
most Christian ravager of Christendom, the most Christian
barbarian who had perpetrated on Christians outrages of which his
infidel allies would have been ashamed.111 A committee,
consisting chiefly of ardent Whigs, was appointed to prepare an
address. John Hampden, the most ardent Whig among them, was put
into the chair; and he produced a composition too long, too
rhetorical, and too vituperative to suit the lips of the Speaker
or the ears of the King. Invectives against Lewis might perhaps,
in the temper in which the House then was, have passed without
censure, if they had not been accompanied by severe reflections
on the character and administration of Charles the Second, whose
memory, in spite of all his faults, was affectionately cherished
by the Tories. There were some very intelligible allusions to
Charles's dealings with the Court of Versailles, and to the
foreign woman whom that Court had sent to lie like a snake in his
bosom. The House was with good reason dissatisfied. The address
was recommitted, and, having been made more concise, and less
declamatory and acrimonious, was approved and presented.112
William's attention was called to the wrongs which France had
done to him and to his kingdom; and he was assured that, whenever
he should resort to arms for the redress of those wrongs, he
should be heartily supported by his people. He thanked the
Commons warmly. Ambition, he said, should never induce him to
draw the sword: but he had no choice: France had already attacked
England; and it was necessary to exercise the right of
selfdefence. A few days later war was proclaimed.113

Of the grounds of quarrel alleged by the Commons in their
address, and by the King in his manifesto, the most serious was
the interference of Lewis in the affairs of Ireland. In that
country great events had, during several months, followed one
another in rapid succession. Of those events it is now time to
relate the history, a history dark with crime and sorrow, yet
full of interest and instruction.


State of Ireland at the Time of the Revolution; the Civil Power
in the Hands of the Roman Catholics--The Military Power in the
Hands of the Roman Catholics--Mutual Enmity between the Englishry
and Irishry--Panic among the Englishry--History of the Town of
Kenmare--Enniskillen--Londonderry--Closing of the Gates of
Londonderry--Mountjoy sent to pacify Ulster--William opens a
Negotiation with Tyrconnel--The Temples consulted--Richard
Hamilton sent to Ireland on his Parole--Tyrconnel sends Mountjoy
and Rice to France--Tyrconnel calls the Irish People to Arms--
Devastation of the Country--The Protestants in the South unable
to resist--Enniskillen and Londonderry hold out; Richard Hamilton
marches into Ulster with an Army--James determines to go to
Ireland--Assistance furnished by Lewis to James--Choice of a
French Ambassador to accompany James--The Count of Avaux--James
lands at Kinsale--James enters Cork--Journey of James from Cork
to Dublin--Discontent in England--Factions at Dublin Castle--
James determines to go to Ulster--Journey of James to Ulster--The
Fall of Londonderry expected--Succours arrive from England--
Treachery of Lundy; the Inhabitants of Londonderry resolve to
defend themselves--Their Character--Londonderry besieged--The
Siege turned into a Blockade--Naval Skirmish in Bantry Bay--A
Parliament summoned by James sits at Dublin--A Toleration Act
passed; Acts passed for the Confiscation of the Property of
Protestants--Issue of base Money--The great Act of Attainder--
James prorogues his Parliament; Persecution of the Protestants in
Ireland--Effect produced in England by the News from Ireland--
Actions of the Enniskilleners--Distress of Londonderry--
Expedition under Kirke arrives in Loch Foyle--Cruelty of Rosen--
The Famine in Londonderry extreme--Attack on the Boom--The Siege
of Londonderry raised--Operations against the Enniskilleners--
Battle of Newton Butler--Consternation of the Irish

WILLIAM had assumed, together with the title of King of England,
the title of King of Ireland. For all our jurists then regarded
Ireland as a mere colony, more important indeed than
Massachusetts, Virginia, or Jamaica, but, like Massachusetts,
Virginia, and Jamaica, dependent on the mother country, and bound
to pay allegiance to the Sovereign whom the mother country had
called to the throne.114

In fact, however, the Revolution found Ireland emancipated from
the dominion of the English colony. As early as the year 1686,
James had determined to make that island a place of arms which
might overawe Great Britain, and a place of refuge where, if any
disaster happened in Great Britain, the members of his Church
might find refuge. With this view he had exerted all his power
for the purpose of inverting the relation between the conquerors
and the aboriginal population. The execution of his design he had
intrusted, in spite of the remonstrances of his English
counsellors, to the Lord Deputy Tyrconnel. In the autumn of 1688,
the process was complete. The highest offices in the state, in
the army, and in the Courts of justice, were, with scarcely an
exception, filled by Papists. A pettifogger named Alexander
Fitton, who had been detected in forgery, who had been fined for
misconduct by the House of Lords at Westminster, who had been
many years in prison, and who was equally deficient in legal
knowledge and in the natural good sense and acuteness by which
the want of legal knowledge has sometimes been supplied, was Lord
Chancellor. His single merit was that he had apostatized from the
Protestant religion; and this merit was thought sufficient to
wash out even the stain of his Saxon extraction. He soon proved
himself worthy of the confidence of his patrons. On the bench of
justice he declared that there was not one heretic in forty
thousand who was not a villain. He often, after hearing a cause
in which the interests of his Church were concerned, postponed
his decision, for the purpose, as he avowed, of consulting his
spiritual director, a Spanish priest, well read doubtless in
Escobar.115 Thomas Nugent, a Roman Catholic who had never
distinguished himself at the bar except by his brogue and his
blunders, was Chief Justice of the King's Bench.116 Stephen Rice,
a Roman Catholic, whose abilities and learning were not disputed
even by the enemies of his nation and religion, but whose known
hostility to the Act of Settlement excited the most painful
apprehensions in the minds of all who held property under that
Act, was Chief Baron of the Exchequer.117 Richard Nagle, an acute
and well read lawyer, who had been educated in a Jesuit college,
and whose prejudices were such as might have been expected from
his education, was Attorney General.118

Keating, a highly respectable Protestant, was still Chief Justice
of the Common Pleas: but two Roman Catholic judges sate with him.
It ought to be added that one of those judges, Daly, was a man of
sense, moderation and integrity. The matters however which came
before the Court of Common Pleas were not of great moment. Even
the King's Bench was at this time almost deserted. The Court of
Exchequer overflowed with business; for it was the only court at
Dublin from which no writ of error lay to England, and
consequently the only court in which the English could be
oppressed and pillaged without hope of redress. Rice, it was
said, had declared that they should have from him exactly what
the law, construed with the utmost strictness, gave them, and
nothing more. What, in his opinion, the law, strictly construed,
gave them, they could easily infer from a saying which, before he
became a judge, was often in his mouth. "I will drive," he used
to say, "a coach and six through the Act of Settlement." He now
carried his threat daily into execution. The cry of all
Protestants was that it mattered not what evidence they produced
before him; that, when their titles were to be set aside, the
rankest forgeries, the most infamous witnesses, were sure to have
his countenance. To his court his countrymen came in multitudes
with writs of ejectment and writs of trespass. In his court the
government attacked at once the charters of all the cities and
boroughs in Ireland; and he easily found pretexts for pronouncing
all those charters forfeited. The municipal corporations, about a
hundred in number, had been instituted to be the strongholds of
the reformed religion and of the English interest, and had
consequently been regarded by the Irish Roman Catholics with an
aversion which cannot be thought unnatural or unreasonable. Had
those bodies been remodelled in a judicious and impartial manner,
the irregularity of the proceedings by which so desirable a
result had been attained might have been pardoned. But it soon
appeared that one exclusive system had been swept away only to
make room for another. The boroughs were subjected to the
absolute authority of the Crown. Towns in which almost every
householder was an English Protestant were placed under the
government of Irish Roman Catholics. Many of the new Aldermen had
never even seen the places over which they were appointed to bear
rule. At the same time the Sheriffs, to whom belonged the
execution of writs and the nomination of juries, were selected in
almost every instance from the caste which had till very recently
been excluded from all public trust. It was affirmed that some of
these important functionaries had been burned in the hand for
theft. Others had been servants to Protestants; and the
Protestants added, with bitter scorn, that it was fortunate for
the country when this was the case; for that a menial who had
cleaned the plate and rubbed down the horse of an English
gentleman might pass for a civilised being, when compared with
many of the native aristocracy whose lives had been spent in
coshering or marauding. To such Sheriffs no colonist, even if he
had been so strangely fortunate as to obtain a judgment, dared to
intrust an execution.119

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