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The History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 4 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 3 out of 15

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favour which he enjoyed at Whitehall confirmed his power at the
India House. A present of ten thousand guineas was graciously
received from him by Charles. Ten thousand more were accepted by
James, who readily consented to become a holder of stock. All who
could help or hurt at Court, ministers, mistresses, priests, were
kept in good humour by presents of shawls and silks, birds' nests
and atar of roses, bulses of diamonds and bags of guineas.166 Of
what the Dictator expended no account was asked by his
colleagues; and in truth he seems to have deserved the confidence
which they reposed in him. His bribes, distributed with judicious
prodigality, speedily produced a large return. Just when the
Court became all powerful in the State, he became all powerful at
the Court. Jeffreys pronounced a decision in favour of the
monopoly, and of the strongest acts which had been done in
defence of the monopoly. James ordered his seal to be put to a
new charter which confirmed and extended all the privileges
bestowed on the Company by his predecessors. All captains of
Indiamen received commissions from the Crown, and were permitted
to hoist the royal ensigns.167 John Child, brother of Sir Josiah,
and Governor of Bombay, was created a baronet by the style of Sir
John Child of Surat: he was declared General of all the English
forces in the East; and he was authorised to assume the title of
Excellency. The Company, on the other hand, distinguished itself
among many servile corporations by obsequious homage to the
throne, and set to all the merchants of the kingdom the example
of readily and even eagerly paying those customs which James, at
the commencement of his reign, exacted without the authority of

It seemed that the private trade would now be utterly crushed,
and that the monopoly, protected by the whole strength of the
royal prerogative, would be more profitable than ever. But
unfortunately just at this moment a quarrel arose between the
agents of the Company in India and the Mogul Government. Where
the fault lay is a question which was vehemently disputed at the
time, and which it is now impossible to decide. The interlopers
threw all the blame on the Company. The Governor of Bombay, they
affirmed, had always been grasping and violent; but his baronetcy
and his military commission had completely turned his head. The
very natives who were employed about the factory had noticed the
change, and had muttered, in their broken English, that there
must be some strange curse attending the word Excellency; for
that, ever since the chief of the strangers was called
Excellency, every thing had gone to ruin. Meanwhile, it was said,
the brother in England had sanctioned all the unjust and
impolitic acts of the brother in India, till at length insolence
and rapine, disgraceful to the English nation and to the
Christian religion, had roused the just resentment of the native
authorities. The Company warmly recriminated. The story told at
the India House was that the quarrel was entirely the work of the
interlopers, who were now designated not only as interlopers but
as traitors. They had, it was alleged, by flattery, by presents,
and by false accusations, induced the viceroys of the Mogul to
oppress and persecute the body which in Asia represented the
English Crown. And indeed this charge seems not to have been
altogether without foundation. It is certain that one of the most
pertinacious enemies of the Childs went up to the Court of
Aurengzebe, took his station at the palace gate, stopped the
Great King who was in the act of mounting on horseback, and,
lifting a petition high in the air, demanded justice in the name
of the common God of Christians and Mussulmans.169 Whether
Aurengzebe paid much attention to the charges brought by infidel
Franks against each other may be doubted. But it is certain that
a complete rupture took place between his deputies and the
servants of the Company. On the sea the ships of his subjects
were seized by the English. On land the English settlements were
taken and plundered. The trade was suspended; and, though great
annual dividends were still paid in London, they were no longer
paid out of annual profits.

Just at this conjuncture, while every Indiaman that arrived in
the Thames was bringing unwelcome news from the East, all the
politics of Sir Josiah were utterly confounded by the Revolution.
He had flattered himself that he had secured the body of which he
was the chief against the machinations of interlopers, by uniting
it closely with the strongest government that had existed within
his memory. That government had fallen; and whatever had leaned
on the ruined fabric began to totter. The bribes had been thrown
away. The connections which had been the strength and boast of
the corporation were now its weakness and its shame. The King
who had been one of its members was an exile. The judge by whom
all its most exorbitant pretensions had been pronounced
legitimate was a prisoner. All the old enemies of the Company,
reinforced by those great Whig merchants whom Child had expelled
from the direction, demanded justice and vengeance from the Whig
House of Commons, which had just placed William and Mary on the
throne. No voice was louder in accusation than that of Papillon,
who had, some years before, been more zealous for the charter
than any man in London.170 The Commons censured in severe terms
the persons who had inflicted death by martial law at Saint
Helena, and even resolved that some of those offenders should be
excluded from the Act of Indemnity.171 The great question, how
the trade with the East should for the future be carried on, was
referred to a Committee. The report was to have been made on the
twenty-seventh of January 1690; but on that very day the
Parliament ceased to exist.

The first two sessions of the succeeding Parliament were so short
and so busy that little was said about India in either House.
But, out of Parliament, all the arts both of controversy and of
intrigue were employed on both sides. Almost as many pamphlets
were published about the India trade as about the oaths. The
despot of Leadenhall Street was libelled in prose and verse.
Wretched puns were made on his name. He was compared to Cromwell,
to the King of France, to Goliath of Gath, to the Devil. It was
vehemently declared to be necessary that, in any Act which might
be passed for the regulation of our traffic with the Eastern
seas, Sir Josiah should be by name excluded from all trust.172

There were, however, great differences of opinion among those who
agreed in hating Child and the body of which he was the head. The
manufacturers of Spitalfields, of Norwich, of Yorkshire, and of
the Western counties, considered the trade with the Eastern seas
as rather injurious than beneficial to the kingdom. The
importation of Indian spices, indeed, was admitted to be
harmless, and the importation of Indian saltpetre to be
necessary. But the importation of silks and of Bengals, as shawls
were then called, was pronounced to be a curse to the country.
The effect of the growing taste for such frippery was that our
gold and silver went abroad, and that much excellent English
drapery lay in our warehouses till it was devoured by the moths.
Those, it was said, were happy days for the inhabitants both of
our pasture lands and of our manufacturing towns, when every
gown, every hanging, every bed, was made of materials which our
own flocks had furnished to our own looms. Where were now the
brave old hangings of arras which had adorned the walls of lordly
mansions in the days of Elizabeth? And was it not a shame to see
a gentleman, whose ancestors had worn nothing but stuffs made by
English workmen out of English fleeces, flaunting in a calico
shirt and a pair of silk stockings? Clamours such as these had, a
few years before, extorted from Parliament the Act which required
that the dead should be wrapped in woollen; and some sanguine
clothiers hoped that the legislature would, by excluding all
Indian textures from our ports, impose the same necessity on the

But this feeling was confined to a minority. The public was,
indeed, inclined rather to overrate than to underrate the
benefits which might be derived by England from the Indian trade.
What was the most effectual mode of extending that trade was a
question which excited general interest, and which was answered
in very different ways.

A small party, consisting chiefly of merchants resident at
Bristol and other provincial seaports, maintained that the best
way to extend trade was to leave it free. They urged the well
known arguments which prove that monopoly is injurious to
commerce; and, having fully established the general law, they
asked why the commerce between England and India was to be
considered as an exception to that law. Any trader ought, they
said, to be permitted to send from any port a cargo to Surat or
Canton as freely as he now sent a cargo to Hamburg or Lisbon.174
In our time these doctrines may probably be considered, not only
as sound, but as trite and obvious. In the seventeenth century,
however, they were thought paradoxical. It was then generally
held to be a certain, and indeed an almost selfevident truth,
that our trade with the countries lying beyond the Cape of Good
Hope could be advantageously carried on only by means of a great
Joint Stock Company. There was no analogy, it was said, between
our European trade and our Indian trade. Our government had
diplomatic relations with the European States. If necessary, a
maritime force could easily be sent from hence to the mouth of
the Elbe or of the Tagus. But the English Kings had no envoy at
the Court of Agra or Pekin. There was seldom a single English man
of war within ten thousand miles of the Bay of Bengal or of the
Gulf of Siam. As our merchants could not, in those remote seas,
be protected by their Sovereign, they must protect themselves,
and must, for that end, exercise some of the rights of
sovereignty. They must have forts, garrisons and armed ships.
They must have power to send and receive embassies, to make a
treaty of alliance with one Asiatic prince, to wage war on
another. It was evidently impossible that every merchant should
have this power independently of the rest. The merchants trading
to India must therefore be joined together in a corporation which
could act as one man. In support of these arguments the example
of the Dutch was cited, and was generally considered as decisive.
For in that age the immense prosperity of Holland was every where
regarded with admiration, not the less earnest because it was
largely mingled with envy and hatred. In all that related to
trade, her statesmen were considered as oracles, and her
institutions as models.

The great majority, therefore, of those who assailed the Company
assailed it, not because it traded on joint funds and possessed
exclusive privileges, but because it was ruled by one man, and
because his rule had been mischievous to the public, and
beneficial only to himself and his creatures. The obvious remedy,
it was said, for the evils which his maladministration had
produced was to transfer the monopoly to a new corporation so
constituted as to be in no danger of falling under the dominion
either of a despot or of a narrow oligarchy. Many persons who
were desirous to be members of such a corporation, formed
themselves into a society, signed an engagement, and entrusted
the care of their interests to a committee which contained some
of the chief traders of the City. This society, though it had, in
the eye of the law, no personality, was early designated, in
popular speech, as the New Company; and the hostilities between
the New Company and the Old Company soon caused almost as much
excitement and anxiety, at least in that busy hive of which the
Royal Exchange was the centre, as the hostilities between the
Allies and the French King. The headquarters of the younger
association were in Dowgate; the Skinners lent their stately
hall; and the meetings were held in a parlour renowned for the
fragrance which exhaled from a magnificent wainscot of cedar.175

While the contention was hottest, important news arrived from
India, and was announced in the London Gazette as in the highest
degree satisfactory. Peace had been concluded between the great
Mogul and the English. That mighty potentate had not only
withdrawn his troops from the factories, but had bestowed on the
Company privileges such as it had never before enjoyed. Soon,
however, appeared a very different version of the story. The
enemies of Child had, before this time, accused him of
systematically publishing false intelligence. He had now, they
said, outlied himself. They had obtained a true copy of the
Firman which had put an end to the war; and they printed a
translation of it. It appeared that Aurengzebe had contemptuously
granted to the English, in consideration of their penitence and
of a large tribute, his forgiveness for their past delinquency,
had charged them to behave themselves better for the future, and
had, in the tone of a master, laid on them his commands to remove
the principal offender, Sir John Child, from power and trust. The
death of Sir John occurred so seasonably that these commands
could not be obeyed. But it was only too evident that the
pacification which the rulers of the India House had represented
as advantageous and honourable had really been effected on terms
disgraceful to the English name.176

During the summer of 1691, the controversy which raged on this
subject between the Leadenhall Street Company and the Dowgate
Company kept the City in constant agitation. In the autumn, the
Parliament had no sooner met than both the contending parties
presented petitions to the House of Commons.177 The petitions
were immediately taken into serious consideration, and
resolutions of grave importance were passed. The first resolution
was that the trade with the East Indies was beneficial to the
kingdom; the second was that the trade with the East Indies would
be best carried on by a joint stock company possessed of
exclusive privileges.178 It was plain, therefore, that neither
those manufacturers who wished to prohibit the trade, nor those
merchants at the outports who wished to throw it open, had the
smallest chance of attaining their objects. The only question
left was the question between the Old and the New Company.
Seventeen years elapsed before that question ceased to disturb
both political and commercial circles. It was fatal to the honour
and power of one great minister, and to the peace and prosperity
of many private families. The tracts which the rival bodies put
forth against each other were innumerable. If the drama of that
age may be trusted, the feud between the India House and
Skinners' Hall was sometimes as serious an impediment to the
course of true love in London as the feud of the Capulets and
Montagues had been at Verona.179 Which of the two contending
parties was the stronger it is not easy to say. The New Company
was supported by the Whigs, the Old Company by the Tories. The
New Company was popular; for it promised largely, and could not
be accused of having broken its promises; it made no dividends,
and therefore was not envied; it had no power to oppress, and had
therefore been guilty of no oppression. The Old Company, though
generally regarded with little favour by the public, had the
immense advantage of being in possession, and of having only to
stand on the defensive. The burden of framing a plan for the
regulation of the India trade, and of proving that plan to be
better than the plan hitherto followed, lay on the New Company.
The Old Company had merely to find objections to every change
that was proposed; and such objections there was little
difficulty in finding. The members of the New Company were ill
provided with the means of purchasing support at Court and in
Parliament. They had no corporate existence, no common treasury.
If any of them gave a bribe, he gave it out of his own pocket,
with little chance of being reimbursed. But the Old Company,
though surrounded by dangers, still held its exclusive
privileges, and still made its enormous profits. Its stock had
indeed gone down greatly in value since the golden days of
Charles the Second; but a hundred pounds still sold for a hundred
and twenty-two.180 After a large dividend had been paid to the
proprietors, a surplus remained amply sufficient, in those days,
to corrupt half a cabinet; and this surplus was absolutely at the
disposal of one able, determined and unscrupulous man, who
maintained the fight with wonderful art and pertinacity.

The majority of the Commons wished to effect a compromise, to
retain the Old Company, but to remodel it, to impose on it new
conditions, and to incorporate with it the members of the New
Company. With this view it was, after long and vehement debates
and close divisions, resolved that the capital should be
increased to a million and a half. In order to prevent a single
person or a small junto from domineering over the whole society,
it was determined that five thousand pounds of stock should be
the largest quantity that any single proprietor could hold, and
that those who held more should be required to sell the overplus
at any price not below par. In return for the exclusive privilege
of trading to the Eastern seas, the Company was to be required to
furnish annually five hundred tons of saltpetre to the Crown at a
low price, and to export annually English manufactures to the
value of two hundred thousand pounds.181

A bill founded on these resolutions was brought in, read twice,
and committed, but was suffered to drop in consequence of the
positive refusal of Child and his associates to accept the
offered terms. He objected to every part of the plan; and his
objections are highly curious and amusing. The great monopolist
took his stand on the principles of free trade. In a luminous and
powerfully written paper he exposed the absurdity of the
expedients which the House of Commons had devised. To limit the
amount of stock which might stand in a single name would, he
said, be most unreasonable. Surely a proprietor whose whole
fortune was staked on the success of the Indian trade was far
more likely to exert all his faculties vigorously for the
promotion of that trade than a proprietor who had risked only
what it would be no great disaster to lose. The demand that
saltpetre should be furnished to the Crown for a fixed sum Child
met by those arguments, familiar to our generation, which prove
that prices should be left to settle themselves. To the demand
that the Company should bind itself to export annually two
hundred thousand pounds' worth of English manufactures he very
properly replied that the Company would most gladly export two
millions' worth if the market required such a supply, and that,
if the market were overstocked, it would be mere folly to send
good cloth half round the world to be eaten by white ants. It was
never, he declared with much spirit, found politic to put trade
into straitlaced bodices, which, instead of making it grow
upright and thrive, must either kill it or force it awry.

The Commons, irritated by Child's obstinacy, presented an address
requesting the King to dissolve the Old Company, and to grant a
charter to a new Company on such terms as to His Majesty's wisdom
might seem fit.182 It is plainly implied in the terms of this
address that the Commons thought the King constitutionally
competent to grant an exclusive privilege of trading to the East

The King replied that the subject was most important, that he
would consider it maturely, and that he would, at a future time,
give the House a more precise answer.183 In Parliament nothing
more was said on the subject during that session; but out of
Parliament the war was fiercer than ever; and the belligerents
were by no means scrupulous about the means which they employed.
The chief weapons of the New Company were libels; the chief
weapons of the Old Company were bribes.

In the same week in which the bill for the regulation of the
Indian trade was suffered to drop, another bill which had
produced great excitement and had called forth an almost
unprecedented display of parliamentary ability, underwent the
same fate.

During the eight years which preceded the Revolution, the Whigs
had complained bitterly, and not more bitterly than justly, of
the hard measure dealt out to persons accused of political
offences. Was it not monstrous, they asked, that a culprit should
be denied a sight of his indictment? Often an unhappy prisoner
had not known of what he was accused till he had held up his hand
at the bar. The crime imputed to him might be plotting to shoot
the King; it might be plotting to poison the King. The more
innocent the defendant was, the less likely he was to guess the
nature of the charge on which he was to be tried; and how could
he have evidence ready to rebut a charge the nature of which he
could not guess? The Crown had power to compel the attendance of
witnesses. The prisoner had no such power. If witnesses
voluntarily came forward to speak in his favour, they could not
be sworn. Their testimony therefore made less impression on a
jury than the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution,
whose veracity was guaranteed by the most solemn sanctions of law
and of religion. The juries, carefully selected by Sheriffs whom
the Crown had named, were men animated by the fiercest party
spirit, men who had as little tenderness for an Exclusionist of a
Dissenter as for a mad dog. The government was served by a band
of able, experienced and unprincipled lawyers, who could, by
merely glancing over a brief, distinguish every weak and every
strong point of a case, whose presence of mind never failed them,
whose flow of speech was inexhaustible, and who had passed their
lives in dressing up the worse reason so as to make it appear the
better. Was it not horrible to see three or four of these shrewd,
learned and callous orators arrayed against one poor wretch who
had never in his life uttered a word in public, who was ignorant
of the legal definition of treason and of the first principles of
the law of evidence, and whose intellect, unequal at best to a
fencing match with professional gladiators, was confused by the
near prospect of a cruel and ignominious death? Such however was
the rule; and even for a man so much stupefied by sickness that
he could not hold up his hand or make his voice heard, even for a
poor old woman who understood nothing of what was passing except
that she was going to be roasted alive for doing an act of
charity, no advocate was suffered to utter a word. That a state
trial so conducted was little better than a judicial murder had
been, during the proscription of the Whig party, a fundamental
article of the Whig creed. The Tories, on the other hand, though
they could not deny that there had been some hard cases,
maintained that, on the whole, substantial justice had been done.
Perhaps a few seditious persons who had gone very near to the
frontier of treason, but had not actually passed that frontier,
might have suffered as traitors. But was that a sufficient reason
for enabling the chiefs of the Rye House Plot and of the Western
Insurrection to elude, by mere chicanery, the punishment of their
guilt? On what principle was the traitor to have chances of
escape which were not allowed to the felon? The culprit who was
accused of larceny was subject to all the same disadvantages
which, in the case of regicides and rebels, were thought so
unjust; ye nobody pitied him. Nobody thought it monstrous that he
should not have time to study a copy of his indictment, that his
witnesses should be examined without being sworn, that he should
be left to defend himself, without the help of counsel against
the best abilities which the Inns of Court could furnish. The
Whigs, it seemed, reserved all their compassion for those crimes
which subvert government and dissolve the whole frame of human
society. Guy Faux was to be treated with an indulgence which was
not to be extended to a shoplifter. Bradshaw was to have
privileges which were refused to a boy who had robbed a henroost.

The Revolution produced, as was natural, some change in the
sentiments of both the great parties. In the days when none but
Roundheads and Nonconformists were accused of treason, even the
most humane and upright Cavaliers were disposed to think that the
laws which were the safeguard of the throne could hardly be too
severe. But, as soon as loyal Tory gentlemen and venerable
fathers of the Church were in danger of being called in question
for corresponding with Saint Germains, a new light flashed on
many understandings which had been unable to discover the
smallest injustice in the proceedings against Algernon Sidney
and Alice Lisle. It was no longer thought utterly absurd to
maintain that some advantages which were withheld from a man
accused of felony might reasonably be allowed to a man accused of
treason. What probability was there that any sheriff would pack a
jury, that any barrister would employ all the arts of sophistry
and rhetoric, that any judge would strain law and misrepresent
evidence, in order to convict an innocent person of burglary or
sheep stealing? But on a trial for high treason a verdict of
acquittal must always be considered as a defeat of the
government; and there was but too much reason to fear that many
sheriffs, barristers and judges might be impelled by party
spirit, or by some baser motive, to do any thing which might save
the government from the inconvenience and shame of a defeat. The
cry of the whole body of Tories was that the lives of good
Englishmen who happened to be obnoxious to the ruling powers were
not sufficiently protected; and this cry was swelled by the
voices of some lawyers who had distinguished themselves by the
malignant zeal and dishonest ingenuity with which they had
conducted State prosecutions in the days of Charles and James.

The feeling of the Whigs, though it had not, like the feeling of
the Tories, undergone a complete change, was yet not quite what
it had been. Some, who had thought it most unjust that Russell
should have no counsel and that Cornish should have no copy of
his indictment, now began to mutter that the times had changed;
that the dangers of the State were extreme; that liberty,
property, religion, national independence, were all at stake;
that many Englishmen were engaged in schemes of which the object
was to make England the slave of France and of Rome; and that it
would be most unwise to relax, at such a moment, the laws against
political offences. It was true that the injustice with which, in
the late reigns, State trials had been conducted, had given great
scandal. But this injustice was to be ascribed to the bad kings
and bad judges with whom the nation had been cursed. William was
now on the throne; Holt was seated for life on the bench; and
William would never exact, nor would Holt ever perform, services
so shameful and wicked as those for which the banished tyrant had
rewarded Jeffreys with riches and titles. This language however
was at first held but by few. The Whigs, as a party, seem to have
felt that they could not honourably defend, in the season of
their prosperity, what, in the time of their adversity, they had
always designated as a crying grievance. A bill for regulating
trials in cases of high treason was brought into the House of
Commons, and was received with general applause. Treby had the
courage to make some objections; but no division took place. The
chief enactments were that no person should be convicted of high
treason committed more than three years before the indictment was
found; that every person indicted for high treason should be
allowed to avail himself of the assistance of counsel, and should
be furnished, ten days before the trial, with a copy of the
indictment, and with a list of the freeholders from among whom
the jury was to be taken; that his witnesses should be sworn, and
that they should be cited by the same process by which the
attendance of the witnesses against him was secured.

The Bill went to the Upper House, and came back with an important
amendment. The Lords had long complained of the anomalous and
iniquitous constitution of that tribunal which had jurisdiction
over them in cases of life and death. When a grand jury has found
a bill of indictment against a temporal peer for any offence
higher than a misdemeanour, the Crown appoints a Lord High
Steward; and in the Lord High Steward's Court the case is tried.
This Court was anciently composed in two very different ways. It
consisted, if Parliament happened to be sitting, of all the
members of the Upper House. When Parliament was not sitting, the
Lord High Steward summoned any twelve or more peers at his
discretion to form a jury. The consequence was that a peer
accused of high treason during a recess was tried by a jury which
his prosecutors had packed. The Lords now demanded that, during a
recess as well as during a session, every peer accused of high
treason should be tried by the whole body of the peerage.

The demand was resisted by the House of Commons with a vehemence
and obstinacy which men of the present generation may find it
difficult to understand. The truth is that some invidious
privileges of peerage which have since been abolished, and others
which have since fallen into entire desuetude, were then in full
force, and were daily used. No gentleman who had had a dispute
with a nobleman could think, without indignation, of the
advantages enjoyed by the favoured caste. If His Lordship were
sued at law, his privilege enabled him to impede the course of
justice. If a rude word were spoken of him, such a word as he
might himself utter with perfect impunity, he might vindicate his
insulted dignity both by civil and criminal proceedings. If a
barrister, in the discharge of his duty to a client, spoke with
severity of the conduct of a noble seducer, if an honest squire
on the racecourse applied the proper epithets to the tricks of a
noble swindler, the affronted patrician had only to complain to
the proud and powerful body of which he was a member. His
brethren made his cause their own. The offender was taken into
custody by Black Rod, brought to the bar, flung into prison, and
kept there till he was glad to obtain forgiveness by the most
degrading submissions. Nothing could therefore be more natural
than that an attempt of the Peers to obtain any new advantage for
their order should be regarded by the Commons with extreme
jealousy. There is strong reason to suspect that some able Whig
politicians, who thought it dangerous to relax, at that moment,
the laws against political offences, but who could not, without
incurring the charge of inconsistency, declare themselves adverse
to any relaxation, had conceived a hope that they might, by
fomenting the dispute about the Court of the Lord High Steward,
defer for at least a year the passing of a bill which they
disliked, and yet could not decently oppose. If this really was
their plan, it succeeded perfectly. The Lower House rejected the
amendment; the Upper House persisted; a free conference was held;
and the question was argued with great force and ingenuity on
both sides.

The reasons in favour of the amendment are obvious, and indeed at
first sight seem unanswerable. It was surely difficult to defend
a system under which the Sovereign nominated a conclave of his
own creatures to decide the fate of men whom he regarded as his
mortal enemies. And could any thing be more absurd than that a
nobleman accused of high treason should be entitled to be tried
by the whole body of his peers if his indictment happened to be
brought into the House of Lords the minute before a prorogation,
but that, if the indictment arrived a minute after the
prorogation, he should be at the mercy of a small junto named by
the very authority which prosecuted him? That any thing could
have been said on the other side seems strange; but those who
managed the conference for the Commons were not ordinary men, and
seem on this occasion to have put forth all their powers.
Conspicuous among them was Charles Montague, who was rapidly
attaining a foremost rank among the orators of that age. To him
the lead seems on this occasion to have been left; and to his pen
we owe an account of the discussion, which gives a very high
notion of his talents for debate. "We have framed"--such was in
substance his reasoning,--"we have framed a law which has in it
nothing exclusive, a law which will be a blessing to every class,
from the highest to the lowest. The new securities, which we
propose to give to innocence oppressed by power, are common
between the premier peer and the humblest day labourer. The
clause which establishes a time of limitation for prosecutions
protects us all alike. To every Englishman accused of the highest
crime against the state, whatever be his rank, we give the
privilege of seeing his indictment, the privilege of being
defended by counsel, the privilege of having his witnesses
summoned by writ of subpoena and sworn on the Holy Gospels. Such
is the bill which we sent up to your Lordships; and you return it
to us with a clause of which the effect is to give certain
advantages to your noble order at the expense of the ancient
prerogatives of the Crown. Surely before we consent to take away
from the King any power which his predecessors have possessed for
ages, and to give it to your Lordships, we ought to be satisfied
that you are more likely to use it well than he. Something we
must risk; somebody we must trust; and; since we are forced, much
against our will, to institute what is necessarily an invidious
comparison, we must own ourselves unable to discover any reason
for believing that a prince is less to be trusted than an

"Is it reasonable, you ask, that you should be tried for your
lives before a few members of your House, selected by the Crown?
Is it reasonable, we ask in our turn, that you should have the
privilege of being tried by all the members of your House, that
is to say, by your brothers, your uncles, your first cousins,
your second cousins, your fathers in law, your brothers in law,
your most intimate friends? You marry so much into each other's
families, you live so much in each other's society, that there is
scarcely a nobleman who is not connected by consanguinity or
affinity with several others, and who is not on terms of
friendship with several more. There have been great men whose
death put a third or fourth part of the baronage of England into
mourning. Nor is there much danger that even those peers who may
be unconnected with an accused lord will be disposed to send him
to the block if they can with decency say 'Not Guilty, upon my
honour.' For the ignominious death of a single member of a small
aristocratical body necessarily leaves a stain on the reputation
of his fellows. If, indeed, your Lordships proposed that every
one of your body should be compelled to attend and vote, the
Crown might have some chance of obtaining justice against a
guilty peer, however strongly connected. But you propose that
attendance shall be voluntary. Is it possible to doubt what the
consequence will be? All the prisoner's relations and friends
will be in their places to vote for him. Good nature and the fear
of making powerful enemies will keep away many who, if they voted
at all, would be forced by conscience and honour to vote against
him. The new system which you propose would therefore evidently
be unfair to the Crown; and you do not show any reason for
believing that the old system has been found in practice unfair
to yourselves. We may confidently affirm that, even under a
government less just and merciful than that under which we have
the happiness to live, an innocent peer has little to fear from
any set of peers that can be brought together in Westminster Hall
to try him. How stands the fact? In what single case has a
guiltless head fallen by the verdict of this packed jury? It
would be easy to make out a long list of squires, merchants,
lawyers, surgeons, yeomen, artisans, ploughmen, whose blood,
barbarously shed during the late evil times, cries for vengeance
to heaven. But what single member of your House, in our days, or
in the days of our fathers, or in the days of our grandfathers,
suffered death unjustly by sentence of the Court of the Lord High
Steward? Hundreds of the common people were sent to the gallows
by common juries for the Rye House Plot and the Western
Insurrection. One peer, and one alone, my Lord Delamere, was
brought at that time before the Court of the Lord High Steward;
and he was acquitted. But, it is said, the evidence against him
was legally insufficient. Be it so. So was the evidence against
Sidney, against Cornish, against Alice Lisle; yet it sufficed to
destroy them. But, it is said, the peers before whom my Lord
Delamere was brought were selected with shameless unfairness by
King James and by Jeffreys. Be it so. But this only proves that,
under the worst possible King, and under the worst possible High
Steward, a lord tried by lords has a better chance for life than
a commoner who puts himself on his country. We cannot, therefore,
under the mild government which we now possess, feel much
apprehension for the safety of any innocent peer. Would that we
felt as little apprehension for the safety of that government!
But it is notorious that the settlement with which our liberties
are inseparably bound up is attacked at once by foreign and by
domestic enemies. We cannot consent at such a crisis to relax the
restraints which have, it may well be feared, already proved too
feeble to prevent some men of high rank from plotting the ruin of
their country. To sum up the whole, what is asked of us is that
we will consent to transfer a certain power from their Majesties
to your Lordships. Our answer is that, at this time, in our
opinion, their Majesties have not too much power, and your
Lordships have quite power enough."

These arguments, though eminently ingenious, and not without real
force, failed to convince the Upper House. The Lords insisted
that every peer should be entitled to be a Trier. The Commons
were with difficulty induced to consent that the number of Triers
should never be less than thirty-six, and positively refused to
make any further concession. The bill was therefore suffered to

It is certain that those who in the conference on this bill
represented the Commons, did not exaggerate the dangers to which
the government was exposed. While the constitution of the Court
which was to try peers for treason was under discussion, a
treason planned with rare skill by a peer was all but carried
into execution.

Marlborough had never ceased to assure the Court of Saint
Germains that the great crime which he had committed was
constantly present to his thoughts, and that he lived only for
the purpose of repentance and reparation. Not only had he been
himself converted; he had also converted the Princess Anne. In
1688, the Churchills had, with little difficulty, induced her to
fly from her father's palace. In 1691, they, with as little
difficulty, induced her to copy out and sign a letter expressing
her deep concern for his misfortunes and her earnest wish to
atone for her breach of duty.185 At the same time Marlborough
held out hopes that it might be in his power to effect the
restoration of his old master in the best possible way, without
the help of a single foreign soldier or sailor, by the votes of
the English Lords and Commons, and by the support of the English
army. We are not fully informed as to all the details of his
plan. But the outline is known to us from a most interesting
paper written by James, of which one copy is in the Bodleian
Library, and another among the archives of the French Foreign

The jealousy with which the English regarded the Dutch was at
this time intense. There had never been a hearty friendship
between the nations. They were indeed near of kin to each other.
They spoke two dialects of one widespread language. Both boasted
of their political freedom. Both were attached to the reformed
faith. Both were threatened by the same enemy, and would be safe
only while they were united. Yet there was no cordial feeling
between them. They would probably have loved each other more, if
they had, in some respects, resembled each other less. They were
the two great commercial nations, the two great maritime nations.
In every sea their flags were found together, in the Baltic and
in the Mediterranean, in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Straits of
Malacca. Every where the merchant of London and the merchant of
Amsterdam were trying to forestall each other and to undersell
each other. In Europe the contest was not sanguinary. But too
often, in barbarous countries, where there was no law but force,
the competitors had met, burning with cupidity, burning with
animosity, armed for battle, each suspecting the other of hostile
designs and each resolved to give the other no advantage. In such
circumstances it is not strange that many violent and cruel acts
should have been perpetrated. What had been done in those distant
regions could seldom be exactly known in Europe. Every thing was
exaggerated and distorted by vague report and by national
prejudice. Here it was the popular belief that the English were
always blameless, and that every quarrel was to be ascribed to
the avarice and inhumanity of the Dutch. Lamentable events which
had taken place in the Spice Islands were repeatedly brought on
our stage. The Englishmen were all saints and heroes; the
Dutchmen all fiends in human shape, lying, robbing, ravishing,
murdering, torturing. The angry passions which these pieces
indicated had more than once found vent in war. Thrice in the
lifetime of one generation the two nations had contended, with
equal courage and with various fortune, for the sovereignty of
the German Ocean. The tyranny of James, as it had reconciled
Tories to Whigs and Churchmen to Nonconformists, had also
reconciled the English to the Dutch. While our ancestors were
looking to the Hague for deliverance, the massacre of Amboyna and
the great humiliation of Chatham had seemed to be forgotten. But
since the Revolution the old feeling had revived. Though England
and Holland were now closely bound together by treaty, they were
as far as ever from being bound together by affection. Once, just
after the battle of Beachy Head, our countrymen had seemed
disposed to be just; but a violent reaction speedily followed.
Torrington, who deserved to be shot, became a popular favourite;
and the allies whom he had shamefully abandoned were accused of
persecuting him without a cause. The partiality shown by the King
to the companions of his youth was the favourite theme of the
sewers of sedition. The most lucrative posts in his household, it
was said, were held by Dutchmen; the House of Lords was fast
filling with Dutchmen; the finest manors of the Crown were given
to Dutchmen; the army was commanded by Dutchmen. That it would
have been wise in William to exhibit somewhat less obtrusively
his laudable fondness for his native country, and to remunerate
his early friends somewhat more sparingly, is perfectly true. But
it will not be easy to prove that, on any important occasion
during his whole reign, he sacrificed the interests of our island
to the interests of the United Provinces. The English, however,
were on this subject prone to fits of jealousy which made them
quite incapable of listening to reason. One of the sharpest of
those fits came on in the autumn of 1691. The antipathy to the
Dutch was at that time strong in all classes, and nowhere
stronger than in the Parliament and in the army.186

Of that antipathy Marlborough determined to avail himself for the
purpose, as he assured James and James's adherents, of effecting
a restoration. The temper of both Houses was such that they might
not improbably be induced by skilful management to present a
joint address requesting that all foreigners might be dismissed
from the service of their Majesties. Marlborough undertook to
move such an address in the Lords; and there would have been no
difficulty in finding some gentleman of great weight to make a
similar motion in the Commons.

If the address should be carried, what could William do? Would he
yield? Would he discard all his dearest, his oldest, his most
trusty friends? It was hardly possible to believe that he would
make so painful, so humiliating a concession. If he did not
yield, there would be a rupture between him and the Parliament;
and the Parliament would be backed by the people. Even a King
reigning by a hereditary title might well shrink from such a
contest with the Estates of the Realm. But to a King whose title
rested on a resolution of the Estates of the Realm such a contest
must almost necessarily be fatal. The last hope of William would
be in the army. The army Marlborough undertook to manage; and it
is highly probable that what he undertook he could have
performed. His courage, his abilities, his noble and winning
manners, the splendid success which had attended him on every
occasion on which he had been in command, had made him, in spite
of his sordid vices, a favourite with his brethren in arms. They
were proud of having one countryman who had shown that he wanted
nothing but opportunity to vie with the ablest Marshal of
France. The Dutch were even more disliked by the English troops
than by the English nation generally. Had Marlborough therefore,
after securing the cooperation of some distinguished officers,
presented himself at the critical moment to those regiments which
he had led to victory in Flanders and in Ireland, had he called
on them to rally round him, to protect the Parliament, and to
drive out the aliens, there is strong reason to think that the
call would have been obeyed. He would then have had it in his
power to fulfil the promises which he had so solemnly made to his
old master.

Of all the schemes ever formed for the restoration of James or of
his descendants, this scheme promised the fairest. That national
pride, that hatred of arbitrary power, which had hitherto been on
William's side, would now be turned against him. Hundreds of
thousands who would have put their lives in jeopardy to prevent a
French army from imposing a government on the English, would have
felt no disposition to prevent an English army from driving out
the Dutch. Even the Whigs could scarcely, without renouncing
their old doctrines, support a prince who obstinately refused to
comply with the general wish of his people signified to him by
his Parliament. The plot looked well. An active canvass was made.
Many members of the House of Commons, who did not at all suspect
that there was any ulterior design, promised to vote against the
foreigners. Marlborough was indefatigable in inflaming the
discontents of the army. His house was constantly filled with
officers who heated each other into fury by talking against the
Dutch. But, before the preparations were complete, a strange
suspicion rose in the minds of some of the Jacobites. That the
author of this bold and artful scheme wished to pull down the
existing government there could be little doubt. But was it quite
certain what government he meant to set up? Might he not depose
William without restoring James? Was it not possible that a man
so wise, so aspiring, and so wicked, might be meditating a double
treason, such as would have been thought a masterpiece of
statecraft by the great Italian politicians of the fifteenth
century, such as Borgia would have envied, such as Machiavel
would have extolled to the skies?

What if this consummate dissembler should cheat both the rival
kings? What if, when he found himself commander of the army and
protector of the Parliament, he should proclaim Queen Anne? Was
it not possible that the weary and harassed nation might gladly
acquiesce in such a settlement? James was unpopular because he
was a Papist, influenced by Popish priests. William was unpopular
because he was a foreigner, attached to foreign favourites. Anne
was at once a Protestant and an Englishwoman. Under her
government the country would be in no danger of being overrun
either by Jesuits or by Dutchmen. That Marlborough had the
strongest motives for placing her on the throne was evident. He
could never, in the court of her father, be more than a repentant
criminal, whose services were overpaid by a pardon. In her court
the husband of her adored friend would be what Pepin Heristal and
Charles Martel had been to the Chilperics and Childeberts. He
would be the chief director of the civil and military government.
He would wield the whole power of England. He would hold the
balance of Europe. Great kings and commonwealths would bid
against each other for his favour, and exhaust their treasuries
in the vain hope of satiating his avarice. The presumption was,
therefore, that, if he had the English crown in his hands, he
would put in on the head of the Princess. What evidence there was
to confirm this presumption is not known; but it is certain that
something took place which convinced some of the most devoted
friends of the exiled family that he was meditating a second
perfidy, surpassing even the feat which he had performed at
Salisbury. They were afraid that if, at that moment, they
succeeded in getting rid of William, the situation of James would
be more hopeless than ever. So fully were they persuaded of the
duplicity of their accomplice, that they not only refused to
proceed further in the execution of the plan which he had formed,
but disclosed his whole scheme to Portland.

William seems to have been alarmed and provoked by this
intelligence to a degree very unusual with him. In general he was
indulgent, nay, wilfully blind to the baseness of the English
statesmen whom he employed. He suspected, indeed he knew, that
some of his servants were in correspondence with his competitor;
and yet he did not punish them, did not disgrace them, did not
even frown on them. He thought meanly, and he had but too good
reason for thinking meanly, of the whole of that breed of public
men which the Restoration had formed and had bequeathed to the
Revolution. He knew them too well to complain because he did not
find in them veracity, fidelity, consistency, disinterestedness.
The very utmost that he expected from them was that they would
serve him as far as they could serve him without serious danger
to themselves. If he learned that, while sitting in his council
and enriched by his bounty, they were trying to make for
themselves at Saint Germains an interest which might be of use to
them in the event of a counterrevolution he was more inclined to
bestow on them the contemptuous commendation which was bestowed
of old on the worldly wisdom of the unjust steward than to call
them to a severe account. But the crime of Marlborough was of a
very different kind. His treason was not that of a fainthearted
man desirous to keep a retreat open for himself in every event,
but that of a man of dauntless courage, profound policy and
measureless ambition. William was not prone to fear; but, if
there was anything on earth that he feared, it was Marlborough. To treat the
criminal as he
deserved was indeed impossible; for those by whom his designs had
been made known to the government would never have consented to
appear against him in the witness box. But to permit him to
retain high command in that army which he was then engaged in
seducing would have been madness.

Late in the evening of the ninth of January the Queen had a
painful explanation with the Princess Anne. Early the next
morning Marlborough was informed that their Majesties had no
further occasion for his services, and that he must not presume
to appear in the royal presence. He had been loaded with honours,
and with what he loved better, riches. All was at once taken

The real history of these events was known to very few. Evelyn,
who had in general excellent sources of information, believed
that the corruption and extortion of which Marlborough was
notoriously guilty had roused the royal indignation. The Dutch
ministers could only tell the States General that six different
stories were spread abroad by Marlborough's enemies. Some said
that he had indiscreetly suffered an important military secret to
escape him; some that he had spoken disrespectfully of their
Majesties; some that he had done ill offices between the Queen
and the Princess; some that he had been forming cabals in the
army; some that he had carried on an unauthorised correspondence
with the Danish government about the general politics of Europe;
and some that he had been trafficking with the agents of the
Court of Saint Germains.187 His friends contradicted every one of
these stories, and affirmed that his only crime was his dislike
of the foreigners who were lording it over his countrymen, and
that he had fallen a victim to the machinations of Portland, whom
he was known to dislike, and whom he had not very politely
described as a wooden fellow. The mystery, which from the first
overhung the story of Marlborough's disgrace, was darkened, after
the lapse of fifty years, by the shameless mendacity of his
widow. The concise narrative of James dispels the mystery, and
makes it clear, not only why Marlborough was disgraced, but also
how several of the reports about the cause of his disgrace

Though William assigned to the public no reason for exercising
his undoubted prerogative by dismissing his servant, Anne had
been informed of the truth; and it had been left to her to judge
whether an officer who had been guilty of a foul treason was a
fit inmate of the palace. Three weeks passed. Lady Marlborough
still retained her post and her apartments at Whitehall. Her
husband still resided with her; and still the King and Queen gave
no sign of displeasure. At length the haughty and vindictive
Countess, emboldened by their patience, determined to brave them
face to face, and accompanied her mistress one evening to the
drawingroom at Kensington. This was too much even for the gentle
Mary. She would indeed have expressed her indignation before the
crowd which surrounded the card tables, had she not remembered
that her sister was in a state which entitles women to peculiar
indulgence. Nothing was said that night; but on the following day
a letter from the Queen was delivered to the Princess. Mary
declared that she was unwilling to give pain to a sister whom she
loved, and in whom she could easily pass over any ordinary fault;
but this was a serious matter. Lady Marlborough must be
dismissed. While she lived at Whitehall her lord would live
there. Was it proper that a man in his situation should be
suffered to make the palace of his injured master his home? Yet
so unwilling was His Majesty to deal severely with the worst
offenders, that even this had been borne, and might have been
borne longer, had not Anne brought the Countess to defy the King
and Queen in their own presence chamber. "It was unkind," Mary
wrote, "in a sister; it would have been uncivil in an equal; and
I need not say that I have more to claim." The Princess, in her
answer, did not attempt to exculpate or excuse Marlborough, but
expressed a firm conviction that his wife was innocent, and
implored the Queen not to insist on so heartrending a separation.
"There is no misery," Anne wrote, "that I cannot resolve to
suffer rather than the thoughts of parting from her."

The Princess sent for her uncle Rochester, and implored him to
carry her letter to Kensington, and to be her advocate there.
Rochester declined the office of messenger, and, though he tried
to restore harmony between his kinswomen, was by no means
disposed to plead the cause of the Churchills. He had indeed long
seen with extreme uneasiness the absolute dominion exercised over
his younger niece by that unprincipled pair. Anne's expostulation
was sent to the Queen by a servant. The only reply was a message
from the Lord Chamberlain, Dorset, commanding Lady Marlborough to
leave the palace. Mrs. Morley would not be separated from Mrs.
Freeman. As to Mr. Morley, all places where he could have his
three courses and his three bottles were alike to him. The
Princess and her whole family therefore retired to Sion House, a
villa belonging to the Duke of Somerset, and situated on the
margin of the Thames. In London she occupied Berkeley House,
which stood in Piccadilly, on the site now covered by Devonshire
House.189 Her income was secured by Act of Parliament; but no
punishment which it was in the power of the Crown to inflict on
her was spared. Her guard of honour was taken away. The foreign
ministers ceased to wait upon her. When she went to Bath the
Secretary of State wrote to request the Mayor of that city not to
receive her with the ceremonial with which royal visitors were
usually welcomed. When she attended divine service at Saint
James's Church she found that the rector had been forbidden to
show her the customary marks of respect, to bow to her from his
pulpit, and to send a copy of his text to be laid on her cushion.
Even the bellman of Piccadilly, it was said, perhaps falsely, was
ordered not to chaunt her praises in his doggrel verse under the
windows of Berkeley House.190

That Anne was in the wrong is clear; but it is not equally clear
that the King and Queen were in the right. They should have
either dissembled their displeasure, or openly declared the true
reasons for it. Unfortunately, they let every body see the
punishment, and they let scarcely any body know the provocation.
They should have remembered that, in the absence of information
about the cause of a quarrel, the public is naturally inclined to
side with the weaker party, and that this inclination is likely
to be peculiarly strong when a sister is, without any apparent
reason, harshly treated by a sister. They should have remembered,
too, that they were exposing to attack what was unfortunately the
one vulnerable part of Mary's character. A cruel fate had put
enmity between her and her father. Her detractors pronounced her
utterly destitute of natural affection; and even her eulogists,
when they spoke of the way in which she had discharged the duties
of the filial relation, were forced to speak in a subdued and
apologetic tone. Nothing therefore could be more unfortunate than
that she should a second time appear unmindful of the ties of
consanguinity. She was now at open war with both the two persons
who were nearest to her in blood. Many who thought that her
conduct towards her parent was justified by the extreme danger
which had threatened her country and her religion, were unable to
defend her conduct towards her sister. While Mary, who was really
guilty in this matter of nothing more than imprudence, was
regarded by the world as an oppressor, Anne, who was as culpable
as her small faculties enabled her to be, assumed the interesting
character of a meek, resigned sufferer. In those private letters,
indeed, to which the name of Morley was subscribed, the Princess
expressed the sentiments of a fury in the style of a fishwoman,
railed savagely at the whole Dutch nation, and called her brother
in law sometimes the abortion, sometimes the monster, sometimes
Caliban.191 But the nation heard nothing of her language and saw
nothing of her deportment but what was decorous and submissive.
The truth seems to have been that the rancorous and coarseminded
Countess gave the tone to Her Highness's confidential
correspondence, while the graceful, serene and politic Earl was
suffered to prescribe the course which was to be taken before the
public eye. During a short time the Queen was generally blamed.
But the charm of her temper and manners was irresistible; and in
a few months she regained the popularity which she had lost.192

It was a most fortunate circumstance for Marlborough that, just
at the very time when all London was talking about his disgrace,
and trying to guess at the cause of the King's sudden anger
against one who had always seemed to be a favourite, an
accusation of treason was brought by William Fuller against many
persons of high consideration, was strictly investigated, and was
proved to be false and malicious. The consequence was that the
public, which rarely discriminates nicely, could not, at that
moment, be easily brought to believe in the reality of any
Jacobite conspiracy.

That Fuller's plot is less celebrated than the Popish plot is
rather the fault of the historians than of Fuller, who did all
that man could do to secure an eminent place among villains.
Every person well read in history must have observed that
depravity has its temporary modes, which come in and go out like
modes of dress and upholstery. It may be doubted whether, in our
country, any man ever before the year 1678 invented and related
on oath a circumstantial history, altogether fictitious, of a
treasonable plot, for the purpose of making himself important by
destroying men who had given him no provocation. But in the year
1678 this execrable crime became the fashion, and continued to be
so during the twenty years which followed. Preachers designated
it as our peculiar national sin, and prophesied that it would
draw on us some awful national judgment. Legislators proposed new
punishments of terrible severity for this new atrocity.193 It was
not however found necessary to resort to those punishments. The
fashion changed; and during the last century and a half there has
perhaps not been a single instance of this particular kind of

The explanation is simple. Oates was the founder of a school. His
success proved that no romance is too wild to be received with
faith by understandings which fear and hatred have disordered.
His slanders were monstrous; but they were well timed; he spoke
to a people made credulous by their passions; and thus, by
impudent and cruel lying, he raised himself in a week from
beggary and obscurity to luxury, renown and power. He had once
eked out the small tithes of a miserable vicarage by stealing the
pigs and fowls of his parishioners.194 He was now lodged in a
palace; he was followed by admiring crowds; he had at his mercy
the estates and lives of Howards and Herberts. A crowd of
imitators instantly appeared. It seemed that much more might be
got, and that much less was risked, by testifying to an imaginary
conspiracy than by robbing on the highway or clipping the coin.
Accordingly the Bedloes, Dangerfields, Dugdales, Turberviles,
made haste to transfer their industry to an employment at once
more profitable and less perilous than any to which they were
accustomed. Till the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament Popish
plots were the chief manufacture. Then, during seven years, Whig
plots were the only plots which paid. After the Revolution
Jacobite plots came in; but the public had become cautious; and
though the new false witnesses were in no respect less artful
than their predecessors, they found much less encouragement. The
history of the first great check given to the practices of this
abandoned race of men well deserves to be circumstantially

In 1689, and in the beginning of 1690, William Fuller had
rendered to the government service such as the best governments
sometimes require, and such as none but the worst men ever
perform. His useful treachery had been rewarded by his employers,
as was meet, with money and with contempt. Their liberality
enabled him to live during some months like a fine gentleman. He
called himself a Colonel, hired servants, clothed them in
gorgeous liveries, bought fine horses, lodged in Pall Mall, and
showed his brazen forehead, overtopped by a wig worth fifty
guineas, in the antechambers of the palace and in the stage box
at the theatre. He even gave himself the airs of a favourite of
royalty, and, as if he thought that William could not live
without him, followed His Majesty first to Ireland, and then to
the Congress of Princes at the Hague. Fuller afterwards boasted
that, at the Hague, he appeared with a retinue fit for an
ambassador, that he gave ten guineas a week for an apartment, and
that the worst waistcoat which he condescended to wear was of
silver stuff at forty shillings a yard. Such profusion, of
course, brought him to poverty. Soon after his return to England
he took refuge from the bailiffs in Axe Yard, a place lying
within the verge of Whitehall. His fortunes were desperate; he
owed great sums; on the government he had no claim; his past
services had been overpaid; no future service was to be expected
from him having appeared in the witness box as evidence for the
Crown, he could no longer be of any use as a spy on the
Jacobites; and by all men of virtue and honour, to whatever party
they might belong, he was abhorred and shunned.

Just at this time, when he was in the frame of mind in which men
are open to the worst temptations, he fell in with the worst of
tempters, in truth, with the Devil in human shape. Oates had
obtained his liberty, his pardon, and a pension which made him a
much richer man than nineteen twentieths of the members of that
profession of which he was the disgrace. But he was still
unsatisfied. He complained that he had now less than three
hundred a year. In the golden days of the Plot he had been
allowed three times as much, had been sumptuously lodged in the
palace, had dined on plate and had been clothed in silk. He
clamoured for an increase of his stipend. Nay, he was even
impudent enough to aspire to ecclesiastical preferment, and
thought it hard that, while so many mitres were distributed, he
could not get a deanery, a prebend, or even a living. He missed
no opportunity of urging his pretensions. He haunted the public
offices and the lobbies of the Houses of Parliament. He might be
seen and heard every day, hurrying, as fast as his uneven legs
would carry him, between Charing Cross and Westminster Hall,
puffing with haste and self importance, chattering about what he
had done for the good cause, and reviling, in the style of the
boatmen on the river, all the statesmen and divines whom he
suspected of doing him ill offices at Court, and keeping him back
from a bishopric. When he found that there was no hope for him in
the Established Church, he turned to the Baptists. They, at
first, received him very coldly; but he gave such touching
accounts of the wonderful work of grace which had been wrought in
his soul, and vowed so solemnly, before Jehovah and the holy
angels, to be thenceforth a burning and shining light, that it
was difficult for simple and well meaning people to think him
altogether insincere. He mourned, he said, like a turtle. On one
Lord's day he thought he should have died of grief at being shut
out from fellowship with the saints. He was at length admitted to
communion; but before he had been a year among his new friends
they discovered his true character, and solemnly cast him out as
a hypocrite. Thenceforth he became the mortal enemy of the
leading Baptists, and persecuted them with the same treachery,
the same mendacity, the same effrontery, the same black malice
which had many years before wrought the destruction of more
celebrated victims. Those who had lately been edified by his
account of his blessed experiences stood aghast to hear him
crying out that he would be revenged, that revenge was God's own
sweet morsel, that the wretches who had excommunicated him should
be ruined, that they should be forced to fly their country, that
they should be stripped to the last shilling. His designs were at
length frustrated by a righteous decree of the Court of Chancery,
a decree which would have left a deep stain on the character of
an ordinary man, but which makes no perceptible addition to the
infamy of Titus Oates.195 Through all changes, however, he was
surrounded by a small knot of hotheaded and foulmouthed
agitators, who, abhorred and despised by every respectable Whig,
yet called themselves Whigs, and thought themselves injured
because they were not rewarded for scurrility and slander with
the best places under the Crown.

In 1691, Titus, in order to be near the focal point of political
intrigue and faction, had taken a house within the precinct of
Whitehall. To this house Fuller, who lived hard by, found
admission. The evil work which had been begun in him, when he was
still a child, by the memoirs of Dangerfield, was now completed
by the conversation of Oates. The Salamanca Doctor was, as a
witness, no longer formidable; but he was impelled, partly by the
savage malignity which he felt towards all whom he considered as
his enemies, and partly by mere monkeylike restlessness and love
of mischief, to do, through the instrumentality of others, what
he could no longer do in person. In Fuller he had found the
corrupt heart, the ready tongue and the unabashed front which are
the first qualifications for the office of a false accuser. A
friendship, if that word may be so used, sprang up between the
pair. Oates opened his house and even his purse to Fuller. The
veteran sinner, both directly and through the agency of his
dependents, intimated to the novice that nothing made a man so
important as the discovering of a plot, and that these were times
when a young fellow who would stick at nothing and fear nobody
might do wonders. The Revolution,--such was the language
constantly held by Titus and his parasites,--had produced little
good. The brisk boys of Shaftesbury had not been recompensed
according to their merits. Even the Doctor, such was the
ingratitude of men, was looked on coldly at the new Court. Tory
rogues sate at the council board, and were admitted to the royal
closet. It would be a noble feat to bring their necks to the
block. Above all, it would be delightful to see Nottingham's long
solemn face on Tower Hill. For the hatred with which these bad
men regarded Nottingham had no bounds, and was probably excited
less by his political opinions, in which there was doubtless much
to condemn, than by his moral character, in which the closest
scrutiny will detect little that is not deserving of approbation.
Oates, with the authority which experience and success entitle a
preceptor to assume, read his pupil a lecture on the art of
bearing false witness. "You ought," he said, with many oaths and
curses, "to have made more, much more, out of what you heard and
saw at Saint Germains. Never was there a finer foundation for a
plot. But you are a fool; you are a coxcomb; I could beat you; I
would not have done so. I used to go to Charles and tell him his
own. I called Lauderdale rogue to his face. I made King,
Ministers, Lords, Commons, afraid of me. But you young men have
no spirit." Fuller was greatly edified by these exhortations. It
was, however, hinted to him by some of his associates that, if he
meant to take up the trade of swearing away lives, he would do
well not to show himself so often at coffeehouses in the company
of Titus. "The Doctor," said one of the gang, "is an excellent
person, and has done great things in his time; but many people
are prejudiced against him; and, if you are really going to
discover a plot, the less you are seen with him the better."
Fuller accordingly ceased to frequent Oates's house, but still
continued to receive his great master's instructions in private.

To do Fuller justice, he seems not to have taken up the trade of
a false witness till he could no longer support himself by
begging or swindling. He lived for a time on the charity of the
Queen. He then levied contributions by pretending to be one of
the noble family of Sidney. He wheedled Tillotson out of some
money, and requited the good Archbishop's kindness by passing
himself off as His Grace's favourite nephew. But in the autumn of
1691 all these shifts were exhausted. After lying in several
spunging houses, Fuller was at length lodged in the King's Bench
prison, and he now thought it time to announce that he had
discovered a plot.196

He addressed himself first to Tillotson and Portland; but both
Tillotson and Portland soon perceived that he was lying. What he
said was, however, reported to the King, who, as might have been
expected, treated the information and the informant with cold
contempt. All that remained was to try whether a flame could be
raised in the Parliament.

Soon after the Houses met, Fuller petitioned the Commons to hear
what he had to say, and promised to make wonderful disclosures.
He was brought from his prison to the bar of the House; and he
there repeated a long romance. James, he said, had delegated the
regal authority to six commissioners, of whom Halifax was first.
More than fifty lords and gentlemen had signed an address to the
French King, imploring him to make a great effort for the
restoration of the House of Stuart. Fuller declared that he had
seen this address, and recounted many of the names appended to
it. Some members made severe remarks on the improbability of the
story and on the character of the witness. He was, they said, one
of the greatest rogues on the face of the earth; and he told such
things as could scarcely be credited if he were an angel from
heaven. Fuller audaciously pledged himself to bring proofs which
would satisfy the most incredulous. He was, he averred, in
communication with some agents of James. Those persons were ready
to make reparation to their country. Their testimony would be
decisive; for they were in possession of documentary evidence
which would confound the guilty. They held back only because they
saw some of the traitors high in office and near the royal
person, and were afraid of incurring the enmity of men so
powerful and so wicked. Fuller ended by asking for a sum of
money, and by assuring the Commons that he would lay it out to
good account.197 Had his impudent request been granted, he would
probably have paid his debts, obtained his liberty, and
absconded; but the House very wisely insisted on seeing his
witnesses first. He then began to shuffle. The gentlemen were on
the Continent, and could not come over without passports.
Passports were delivered to him; but he complained that they were
insufficient. At length the Commons, fully determined to get at
the truth, presented an address requesting the King to send
Fuller a blank safe conduct in the largest terms.198 The safe
conduct was sent. Six weeks passed, and nothing was heard of the
witnesses. The friends of the lords and gentlemen who had been
accused represented strongly that the House ought not to separate
for the summer without coming to some decision on charges so
grave. Fuller was ordered to attend. He pleaded sickness, and
asserted, not for the first time, that the Jacobites had poisoned
him. But all his plans were confounded by the laudable
promptitude and vigour with which the Commons acted. A Committee
was sent to his bedside, with orders to ascertain whether he
really had any witnesses, and where those witnesses resided. The
members who were deputed for this purpose went to the King's
Bench prison, and found him suffering under a disorder, produced,
in all probability, by some emetic which he had swallowed for the
purpose of deceiving them. In answer to their questions he said
that two of his witnesses, Delaval and Hayes, were in England,
and were lodged at the house of a Roman Catholic apothecary in
Holborn. The Commons, as soon as the Committee had reported, sent
some members to the house which he had indicated. That house and
all the neighbouring houses were searched. Delaval and Hayes were
not to be found, nor had any body in the vicinity ever seen such
men or heard of them. The House, therefore, on the last day of
the session, just before Black Rod knocked at the door,
unanimously resolved that William Fuller was a cheat and a false
accuser; that he had insulted the Government and the Parliament;
that he had calumniated honourable men, and that an address
should be carried up to the throne, requesting that he might be
prosecuted for his villany.199 He was consequently tried,
convicted, and sentenced to fine, imprisonment and the pillory.
The exposure, more terrible than death to a mind not lost to all
sense of shame, he underwent with a hardihood worthy of his two
favourite models, Dangerfield and Oates. He had the impudence to
persist, year after year, in affirming that he had fallen a
victim to the machinations of the late King, who had spent six
thousand pounds in order to ruin him. Delaval and Hayes--so this
fable ran--had been instructed by James in person. They had, in
obedience to his orders, induced Fuller to pledge his word for
their appearance, and had then absented themselves, and left him
exposed to the resentment of the House of Commons.200 The story
had the reception which it deserved, and Fuller sank into an
obscurity from which he twice or thrice, at long intervals, again
emerged for a moment into infamy.

On the twenty-fourth of February 1692, about an hour after the
Commons had voted Fuller an impostor, they were summoned to the
chamber of the Lords. The King thanked the Houses for their
loyalty and liberality, informed them that he must soon set out
for the Continent, and commanded them to adjourn themselves. He
gave his assent on that day to many bills, public and private;
but when the title of one bill, which had passed the Lower House
without a single division and the Upper House without a single
protest, had been read by the Clerk of the Crown, the Clerk of
the Parliaments declared, according to the ancient form, that the
King and the Queen would consider of the matter. Those words had
very rarely been pronounced before the accession of William. They
have been pronounced only once since his death. But by him the
power of putting a Veto on laws which had been passed by the
Estates of the Realm was used on several important occasions. His
detractors truly asserted that he rejected a greater number of
important bills than all the Kings of the House of Stuart put
together, and most absurdly inferred that the sense of the
Estates of the Realm was much less respected by him than by his
uncles and his grandfather. A judicious student of history will
have no difficulty in discovering why William repeatedly
exercised a prerogative to which his predecessors very seldom had
recourse, and which his successors have suffered to fall into
utter desuetude.

His predecessors passed laws easily because they broke laws
easily. Charles the First gave his assent to the Petition of
Right, and immediately violated every clause of that great
statute. Charles the Second gave his assent to an Act which
provided that a Parliament should be held at least once in three
years; but when he died the country had been near four years
without a Parliament. The laws which abolished the Court of High
Commission, the laws which instituted the Sacramental Test, were
passed without the smallest difficulty; but they did not prevent
James the Second from reestablishing the Court of High
Commission, and from filling the Privy Council, the public
offices, the courts of justice, and the municipal corporations
with persons who had never taken the Test. Nothing could be more
natural than that a King should not think it worth while to
withhold his assent from a statute with which he could dispense
whenever he thought fit.

The situation of William was very different. He could not, like
those who had ruled before him, pass an Act in the spring and
violate it in the summer. He had, by assenting to the Bill of
Rights, solemnly renounced the dispensing power; and he was
restrained, by prudence as well as by conscience and honour, from
breaking the compact under which he held his crown. A law might
be personally offensive to him; it might appear to him to be
pernicious to his people; but, as soon as he had passed it, it
was, in his eyes, a sacred thing. He had therefore a motive,
which preceding Kings had not, for pausing before he passed such
a law. They gave their word readily, because they had no scruple
about breaking it. He gave his word slowly, because he never
failed to keep it.

But his situation, though it differed widely from that of the
princes of the House of Stuart, was not precisely that of the
princes of the House of Brunswick. A prince of the House of
Brunswick is guided, as to the use of every royal prerogative, by
the advice of a responsible ministry; and this ministry must be
taken from the party which predominates in the two Houses, or, at
least, in the Lower House. It is hardly possible to conceive
circumstances in which a Sovereign so situated can refuse to
assent to a bill which has been approved by both branches of the
legislature. Such a refusal would necessarily imply one of two
things, that the Sovereign acted in opposition to the advice of
the ministry, or that the ministry was at issue, on a question of
vital importance, with a majority both of the Commons and of the
Lords. On either supposition the country would be in a most
critical state, in a state which, if long continued, must end in
a revolution. But in the earlier part of the reign of William
there was no ministry. The heads of the executive departments had
not been appointed exclusively from either party. Some were
zealous Whigs, others zealous Tories. The most enlightened
statesmen did not hold it to be unconstitutional that the King
should exercise his highest prerogatives on the most important
occasions without any other guidance than that of his own
judgment. His refusal, therefore, to assent to a bill which had
passed both Houses indicated, not, as a similar refusal would now
indicate, that the whole machinery of government was in a state
of fearful disorder, but merely that there was a difference of
opinion between him and the two other branches of the legislature
as to the expediency of a particular law. Such a difference of
opinion might exist, and, as we shall hereafter see, actually did
exist, at a time when he was, not merely on friendly, but on most
affectionate terms with the Estates of the Realm.

The circumstances under which he used his Veto for the first time
have never yet been correctly stated. A well meant but unskilful
attempt had been made to complete a reform which the Bill of
Rights had left imperfect. That great law had deprived the Crown
of the power of arbitrarily removing the judges, but had not made
them entirely independent. They were remunerated partly by fees
and partly by salaries. Over the fees the King had no control;
but the salaries he had full power to reduce or to withhold. That
William had ever abused this power was not pretended; but it was
undoubtedly a power which no prince ought to possess; and this
was the sense of both Houses. A bill was therefore brought in by
which a salary of a thousand a year was strictly secured to each
of the twelve judges. Thus far all was well. But unfortunately
the salaries were made a charge on the hereditary revenue. No
such proposition would now be entertained by the House of
Commons, without the royal consent previously signified by a
Privy Councillor. But this wholesome rule had not then been
established; and William could defend the proprietary rights of
the Crown only by putting his negative on the bill. At the time
there was, as far as can now be ascertained, no outcry. Even the
Jacobite libellers were almost silent. It was not till the
provisions of the bill had been forgotten, and till nothing but
its title was remembered, that William was accused of having been
influenced by a wish to keep the judges in a state of

The Houses broke up; and the King prepared to set out for the
Continent. Before his departure he made some changes in his
household and in several departments of the government; changes,
however, which did not indicate a very decided preference for
either of the great political parties. Rochester was sworn of the
Council. It is probable that he had earned this mark of royal
favour by taking the Queen's side in the unhappy dispute between
her and her sister. Pembroke took charge of the Privy Seal, and
was succeeded at the Board of Admiralty by Charles Lord
Cornwallis, a moderate Tory; Lowther accepted a seat at the same
board, and was succeeded at the Treasury by Sir Edward Seymour.
Many Tory country gentlemen, who had looked on Seymour as their
leader in the war against placemen and Dutchmen, were moved to
indignation by learning that he had become a courtier. They
remembered that he had voted for a Regency, that he had taken the
oaths with no good grace, that he had spoken with little respect
of the Sovereign whom he was now ready to serve for the sake of
emoluments hardly worthy of the acceptance of a man of his wealth
and parliamentary interest. It was strange that the haughtiest of
human beings should be the meanest, that one who seethed to
reverence nothing on earth but himself should abase himself for
the sake of quarter day. About such reflections he troubled
himself very little. He found, however, that there was one
disagreeable circumstance connected with his new office. At the
Board of Treasury he must sit below the Chancellor of the
Exchequer. The First Lord, Godolphin, was a peer of the realm;
and his right to precedence, according to the rules of the
heralds, could not be questioned. But every body knew who was the
first of English commoners. What was Richard Hampden that he
should take the place of a Seymour, of the head of the Seymours?
With much difficulty, the dispute was compromised. Many
concessions were made to Sir Edward's punctilious pride. He was
sworn of the Council. He was appointed one of the Cabinet. The
King took him by the hand and presented him to the Queen. "I
bring you," said William, "a gentleman who will in my absence be
a valuable friend." In this way Sir Edward was so much soothed
and flattered that he ceased to insist on his right to thrust
himself between the First Lord and the Chancellor of the

In the same Commission of Treasury in which the name of Seymour
appeared, appeared also the name of a much younger politician,
who had during the late session raised himself to high
distinction in the House of Commons, Charles Montague. This
appointment gave great satisfaction to the Whigs, in whose esteem
Montague now stood higher than their veteran chiefs Sacheverell
and Littleton, and was indeed second to Somers alone.

Sidney delivered up the seals which he had held during more than
a year, and was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Some months
elapsed before the place which he had quitted was filled up; and
during this interval the whole business which had ordinarily been
divided between two Secretaries of State was transacted by

While these arrangements were in progress, events had taken place
in a distant part of the island which were not, till after the
lapse of many months, known in the best informed circles of
London, but which gradually obtained a fearful notoriety, and
which, after the lapse of more than a hundred and sixty years,
are never mentioned without horror.

Soon after the Estates of Scotland had separated in the autumn of
1690, a change was made in the administration of that kingdom.
William was not satisfied with the way in which he had been
represented in the Parliament House. He thought that the rabbled
curates had been hardly treated. He had very reluctantly suffered
the law which abolished patronage to be touched with his sceptre.
But what especially displeased him was that the Acts which
established a new ecclesiastical polity had not been accompanied
by an Act granting liberty of conscience to those who were
attached to the old ecclesiastical polity. He had directed his
Commissioner Melville to obtain for the Episcopalians of Scotland
an indulgence similar to that which Dissenters enjoyed in
England.203 But the Presbyterian preachers were loud and vehement
against lenity to Amalekites. Melville, with useful talents, and
perhaps with fair intentions, had neither large views nor an
intrepid spirit. He shrank from uttering a word so hateful to the
theological demagogues of his country as Toleration. By
obsequiously humouring their prejudices he quelled the clamour
which was rising at Edinburgh; but the effect of his timid
caution was that a far more formidable clamour soon rose in the
south of the island against the bigotry of the schismatics who
domineered in the north, and against the pusillanimity of the
government which had not dared to withstand that bigotry. On this
subject the High Churchman and the Low Churchman were of one
mind, or rather the Low Churchman was the more angry of the two.
A man like South, who had during many years been predicting that,
if ever the Puritans ceased to be oppressed, they would become
oppressors, was at heart not ill pleased to see his prophecy
fulfilled. But in a man like Burnet, the great object of whose
life had been to mitigate the animosity which the ministers of
the Anglican Church felt towards the Presbyterians, the
intolerant conduct of the Presbyterians could awaken no feeling
but indignation, shame and grief. There was, therefore, at the
English Court nobody to speak a good word for Melville. It was
impossible that in such circumstances he should remain at the
head of the Scottish administration. He was, however, gently let
down from his high position. He continued during more than a year
to be Secretary of State; but another Secretary was appointed,
who was to reside near the King, and to have the chief direction
of affairs. The new Prime Minister for Scotland was the able,
eloquent and accomplished Sir John Dalrymple. His father, the
Lord President of the Court of Session, had lately been raised to
the peerage by the title of Viscount Stair; and Sir John
Dalrymple was consequently, according to the ancient usage of
Scotland, designated as the Master of Stair. In a few months
Melville resigned his secretaryship, and accepted an office of
some dignity and emolument, but of no political importance.204

The Lowlands of Scotland were, during the year which followed the
parliamentary session of 1690, as quiet as they had ever been
within the memory of man; but the state of the Highlands caused
much anxiety to the government. The civil war in that wild
region, after it had ceased to flame, had continued during some
time to smoulder. At length, early in the year 1691, the rebel
chiefs informed the Court of Saint Germains that, pressed as they
were on every side, they could hold out no longer without succour
from France. James had sent them a small quantity of meal, brandy
and tobacco, and had frankly told them that he could do nothing
more. Money was so scarce among them that six hundred pounds
sterling would have been a most acceptable addition to their
funds, but even such a sum he was unable to spare. He could scarcely,
in such circumstances, expect them to defend his cause against a
government which had a regular army and a large revenue. He
therefore informed them that he should not take it ill of them if
they made their peace with the new dynasty, provided always that
they were prepared to rise in insurrection as soon as he should
call on them to do so.205

Meanwhile it had been determined at Kensington, in spite of the
opposition of the Master of Stair, to try the plan which Tarbet
had recommended two years before, and which, if it had been tried
when he recommended it, would probably have prevented much
bloodshed and confusion. It was resolved that twelve or fifteen
thousand pounds should be laid out in quieting the Highlands.
This was a mass of treasure which to an inhabitant of Appin or
Lochaber seemed almost fabulous, and which indeed bore a greater
proportion to the income of Keppoch or Glengarry than fifteen
hundred thousand pounds bore to the income of Lord Bedford or
Lord Devonshire. The sum was ample; but the King was not
fortunate in the choice of an agent.206

John Earl of Breadalbane, the head of a younger branch of the
great House of Campbell, ranked high among the petty princes of
the mountains. He could bring seventeen hundred claymores into
the field; and, ten years before the Revolution, he had actually
marched into the Lowlands with this great force for the purpose
of supporting the prelatical tyranny.207 In those days he had
affected zeal for monarchy and episcopacy; but in truth he cared
for no government and no religion. He seems to have united two
different sets of vices, the growth of two different regions, and
of two different stages in the progress of society. In his castle
among the hills he had learned the barbarian pride and ferocity
of a Highland chief. In the Council Chamber at Edinburgh he had
contracted the deep taint of treachery and corruption. After the
Revolution he had, like too many of his fellow nobles, joined and
betrayed every party in turn, had sworn fealty to William and
Mary, and had plotted against them. To trace all the turns and
doublings of his course, during the year 1689 and the earlier
part of 1690, would be wearisome.208 That course became somewhat
less tortuous when the battle of the Boyne had cowed the spirit
of the Jacobites. It now seemed probable that the Earl would be a
loyal subject of their Majesties, till some great disaster should
befall them. Nobody who knew him could trust him; but few
Scottish statesmen could then be trusted; and yet Scottish
statesmen must be employed. His position and connections marked
him out as a man who might, if he would, do much towards the work
of quieting the Highlands; and his interest seemed to be a
guarantee for his zeal. He had, as he declared with every
appearance of truth, strong personal reasons for wishing to see
tranquillity restored. His domains were so situated that, while
the civil war lasted, his vassals could not tend their herds or
sow their oats in peace. His lands were daily ravaged; his cattle
were daily driven away; one of his houses had been burned down.
It was probable, therefore, that he would do his best to put an
end to hostilities.209

He was accordingly commissioned to treat with the Jacobite
chiefs, and was entrusted with the money which was to be
distributed among them. He invited them to a conference at his
residence in Glenorchy. They came; but the treaty went on very
slowly. Every head of a tribe asked for a larger share of the
English gold than was to be obtained. Breadalbane was suspected
of intending to cheat both the clans and the King. The dispute
between the rebels and the government was complicated with
another dispute still more embarrassing. The Camerons and
Macdonalds were really at war, not with William, but with Mac
Callum More; and no arrangement to which Mac Callum More was not
a party could really produce tranquillity. A grave question
therefore arose, whether the money entrusted to Breadalbane
should be paid directly to the discontented chiefs, or should be
employed to satisfy the claims which Argyle had upon them. The
shrewdness of Lochiel and the arrogant pretensions of Glengarry
contributed to protract the discussions. But no Celtic potentate
was so impracticable as Macdonald of Glencoe, known among the
mountains by the hereditary appellation of Mac Ian.210

Mac Ian dwelt in the mouth of a ravine situated not far from the
southern shore of Lochleven, an arm of the sea which deeply
indents the western coast of Scotland, and separates Argyleshire
from Invernesshire. Near his house were two or three small
hamlets inhabited by his tribe. The whole population which he
governed was not supposed to exceed two hundred souls. In the
neighbourhood of the little cluster of villages was some
copsewood and some pasture land; but a little further up the
defile no sign of population or of fruitfulness was to be seen.
In the Gaelic tongue Glencoe signifies the Glen of Weeping; and
in truth that pass is the most dreary and melancholy of all the
Scottish passes, the very Valley of the Shadow of Death. Mists
and storms brood over it through the greater part of the finest
summer; and even on those rare days when the sun is bright, and
when there is no cloud in the sky, the impression made by the
landscape is sad and awful. The path lies along a stream which
issues from the most sullen and gloomy of mountain pools. Huge
precipices of naked stone frown on both sides. Even in July the
streaks of snow may often be discerned in the rifts near the
summits. All down the sides of the crags heaps of ruin mark the
headlong paths of the torrents. Mile after mile the traveller
looks in vain for the smoke of one hut, for one human form
wrapped in plaid, and listens in vain for the bark of a
shepherd's dog or the bleat of a lamb. Mile after mile the only
sound that indicates life is the faint cry of a bird of prey from
some stormbeaten pinnacle of rock. The progress of civilisation,
which has turned so many wastes into fields yellow with harvests
or gay with apple blossoms, has only made Glencoe more desolate.
All the science and industry of a peaceful age can extract
nothing valuable from that wilderness; but, in an age of violence
and rapine, the wilderness itself was valued on account of the
shelter which it afforded to the plunderer and his plunder.
Nothing could be more natural than that the clan to which this
rugged desert belonged should have been noted for predatory
habits. For, among the Highlanders generally, to rob was thought
at least as honourable an employment as to cultivate the soil;
and, of all the Highlanders, The Macdonalds of Glencoe had the
least productive soil, and the most convenient and secure den of
robbers. Successive governments had tried to punish this wild
race; but no large force had ever been employed for that purpose;
and a small force was easily resisted or eluded by men familiar
with every recess and every outlet of the natural fortress in
which they had been born and bred. The people of Glencoe would
probably have been less troublesome neighbours if they had lived
among their own kindred. But they were an outpost of the Clan
Donald, separated from every other branch of their own family,
and almost surrounded by the domains of the hostile race of
Diarmid.211 They were impelled by hereditary enmity, as well as
by want, to live at the expense of the tribe of Campbell.
Breadalbane's property had suffered greatly from their
depredations; and he was not of a temper to forgive such
injuries. When, therefore, the Chief of Glencoe made his
appearance at the congress in Glenorchy, he was ungraciously
received. The Earl, who ordinarily bore himself with the solemn
dignity of a Castilian grandee, forgot, in his resentment, his
wonted gravity, forgot his public character, forgot the laws of
hospitality, and, with angry reproaches and menaces, demanded
reparation for the herds which had been driven from his lands by
Mac Ian's followers. Mac Ian was seriously apprehensive of some
personal outrage, and was glad to get safe back to his own
glen.212 His pride had been wounded; and the promptings of
interest concurred with those of pride. As the head of a people
who lived by pillage, he had strong reasons for wishing that the
country might continue to be in a perturbed state. He had little
chance of receiving one guinea of the money which was to be
distributed among the malecontents. For his share of that money
would scarcely meet Breadalbane's demands for compensation; and
there could be little doubt that, whoever might be unpaid,
Breadalbane would take care to pay himself. Mac Ian therefore did
his best to dissuade his allies from accepting terms from which
he could himself expect no benefit; and his influence was not
small. His own vassals, indeed, were few in number; but he came
of the best blood of the Highlands; he had kept up a close
connection with his more powerful kinsmen; nor did they like him
the less because he was a robber; for he never robbed them; and
that robbery, merely as robbery, was a wicked and disgraceful
act, had never entered into the mind of any Celtic chief. Mac Ian
was therefore held in high esteem by the confederates. His age
was venerable; his aspect was majestic; and he possessed in large
measure those intellectual qualities which, in rude societies,
give men an ascendency over their fellows. Breadalbane found
himself, at every step of the negotiation, thwarted by the arts
of his old enemy, and abhorred the name of Glencoe more and more
every day.213

But the government did not trust solely to Breadalbane's
diplomatic skill. The authorities at Edinburgh put forth a
proclamation exhorting the clans to submit to King William and
Queen Mary, and offering pardon to every rebel who, on or before
the thirty-first of December 1691, should swear to live peaceably
under the government of their Majesties. It was announced that
those who should hold out after that day would be treated as
enemies and traitors.214 Warlike preparations were made, which
showed that the threat was meant in earnest. The Highlanders were
alarmed, and, though the pecuniary terms had not been
satisfactorily settled, thought it prudent to give the pledge
which was demanded of them. No chief, indeed, was willing to set
the example of submission. Glengarry blustered, and pretended to
fortify his house.215 "I will not," said Lochiel, "break the ice.
That is a point of honour with me. But my tacksmen and people may
use their freedom."216 His tacksmen and people understood him,
and repaired by hundreds to the Sheriff to take the oaths. The
Macdonalds of Sleat, Clanronald, Keppoch, and even Glengarry,
imitated the Camerons; and the chiefs, after trying to outstay
each other as long as they durst, imitated their vassals.

The thirty-first of December arrived; and still the Macdonalds of
Glencoe had not come in. The punctilious pride of Mac Ian was
doubtless gratified by the thought that he had continued to defy
the government after the boastful Glengarry, the ferocious
Keppoch, the magnanimous Lochiel had yielded: but he bought his
gratification dear.

At length, on the thirty-first of December, he repaired to Fort
William, accompanied by his principal vassals, and offered to
take the oaths. To his dismay he found that there was in the fort
no person competent to administer them. Colonel Hill, the
Governor, was not a magistrate; nor was there any magistrate
nearer than Inverary. Mac Ian, now fully sensible of the folly of
which he had been guilty in postponing to the very last moment an
act on which his life and his estate depended, set off for
Inverary in great distress. He carried with him a letter from
Hill to the Sheriff of Argyleshire, Sir Colin Campbell of
Ardkinglass, a respectable gentleman, who, in the late reign, had
suffered severely for his Whig principles. In this letter the
Colonel expressed a goodnatured hope that, even out of season, a
lost sheep, and so fine a lost sheep, would be gladly received.
Mac Ian made all the haste in his power, and did not stop even at
his own house, though it lay nigh to the road. But at that time a
journey through Argyleshire in the depth of winter was
necessarily slow. The old man's progress up steep mountains and
along boggy valleys was obstructed by snow storms; and it was not
till the sixth of January that he presented himself before the
Sheriff at Inverary. The Sheriff hesitated. His power, he said,
was limited by the terms of the proclamation, and he did not see
how he could swear a rebel who had not submitted within the
prescribed time. Mac Ian begged earnestly and with tears that he
might be sworn. His people, he said, would follow his example. If
any of them proved refractory, he would himself send the recusant
to prison, or ship him off for Islanders. His entreaties and
Hill's letter overcame Sir Colin's scruples. The oath was
administered; and a certificate was transmitted to the Council at
Edinburgh, setting forth the special circumstances which had
induced the Sheriff to do what he knew not to be strictly

The news that Mac Ian had not submitted within the prescribed
time was received with cruel joy by three powerful Scotchmen who
were then at the English Court. Breadalbane had gone up to London
at Christmas in order to give an account of his stewardship.
There he met his kinsman Argyle. Argyle was, in personal
qualities, one of the most insignificant of the long line of
nobles who have borne that great name. He was the descendant of
eminent men, and the parent of eminent men. He was the grandson
of one of the ablest of Scottish politicians; the son of one of
the bravest and most truehearted of Scottish patriots; the father
of one Mac Callum More renowned as a warrior and as an orator, as
the model of every courtly grace, and as the judicious patron of
arts and letters, and of another Mac Callum More distinguished by
talents for business and command, and by skill in the exact
sciences. Both of such an ancestry and of such a progeny Argyle
was unworthy. He had even been guilty of the crime, common enough
among Scottish politicians, but in him singularly disgraceful, of
tampering with the agents of James while professing loyalty to
William. Still Argyle had the importance inseparable from high
rank, vast domains, extensive feudal rights, and almost boundless
patriarchal authority. To him, as to his cousin Breadalbane, the
intelligence that the tribe of Glencoe was out of the protection
of the law was most gratifying; and the Master of Stair more than
sympathized with them both.

The feeling of Argyle and Breadalbane is perfectly intelligible.
They were the heads of a great clan; and they had an opportunity
of destroying a neighbouring clan with which they were at deadly
feud. Breadalbane had received peculiar provocation. His estate
had been repeatedly devastated; and he had just been thwarted in
a negotiation of high moment. Unhappily there was scarcely any
excess of ferocity for which a precedent could not be found in
Celtic tradition. Among all warlike barbarians revenge is
esteemed the most sacred of duties and the most exquisite of
pleasures; and so it had long been esteemed among the
Highlanders. The history of the clans abounds with frightful
tales, some perhaps fabulous or exaggerated, some certainly true,
of vindictive massacres and assassinations. The Macdonalds of
Glengarry, for example, having been affronted by the people of
Culloden, surrounded Culloden church on a Sunday, shut the doors,
and burned the whole congregation alive. While the flames were
raging, the hereditary musician of the murderers mocked the
shrieks of the perishing crowd with the notes of his bagpipe.218
A band of Macgregors, having cut off the head of an enemy, laid
it, the mouth filled with bread and cheese, on his sister's
table, and had the satisfaction of seeing her go mad with horror
at the sight. They then carried the ghastly trophy in triumph to
their chief. The whole clan met under the roof of an ancient
church. Every one in turn laid his hand on the dead man's scalp,
and vowed to defend the slayers.219 The inhabitants of Eigg
seized some Macleods, bound them hand and foot, and turned them
adrift in a boat to be swallowed up by the waves or to perish of
hunger. The Macleods retaliated by driving the population of Eigg
into a cavern, lighting a fire at the entrance, and suffocating
the whole race, men, women and children.220 It is much less
strange that the two great Earls of the house of Campbell,
animated by the passions of Highland chieftains, should have
planned a Highland revenge, than that they should have found an
accomplice, and something more than an accomplice, in the Master
of Stair.

The Master of Stair was one of the first men of his time, a
jurist, a statesman, a fine scholar, an eloquent orator. His
polished manners and lively conversation were the delight of
aristocratical societies; and none who met him in such societies
would have thought it possible that he could bear the chief part
in any atrocious crime. His political principles were lax, yet
not more lax than those of most Scotch politicians of that age.
Cruelty had never been imputed to him. Those who most disliked
him did him the justice to own that, where his schemes of policy
were not concerned, he was a very goodnatured man.221 There is
not the slightest reason to believe that he gained a single pound
Scots by the act which has covered his name with infamy. He had
no personal reason to wish the Glencoe men ill. There had been no
feud between them and his family. His property lay in a district
where their tartan was never seen. Yet he hated them with a
hatred as fierce and implacable as if they had laid waste his
fields, burned his mansion, murdered his child in the cradle.

To what cause are we to ascribe so strange an antipathy? This
question perplexed the Master's contemporaries; and any answer
which may now be offered ought to be offered with diffidence.222
The most probable conjecture is that he was actuated by an
inordinate, an unscrupulous, a remorseless zeal for what seemed
to him to be the interest of the state. This explanation may
startle those who have not considered how large a proportion of
the blackest crimes recorded in history is to be ascribed to ill
regulated public spirit. We daily see men do for their party, for
their sect, for their country, for their favourite schemes of
political and social reform, what they would not do to enrich or
to avenge themselves. At a temptation directly addressed to our
private cupidity or to our private animosity, whatever virtue we
have takes the alarm. But, virtue itself may contribute to the
fall of him who imagines that it is in his power, by violating
some general rule of morality, to confer an important benefit on
a church, on a commonwealth, on mankind. He silences the
remonstrances of conscience, and hardens his heart against the
most touching spectacles of misery, by repeating to himself that
his intentions are pure, that his objects are noble, that he is
doing a little evil for the sake of a great good. By degrees he
comes altogether to forget the turpitude of the means in the
excellence of the end, and at length perpetrates without one
internal twinge acts which would shock a buccaneer. There is no
reason to believe that Dominic would, for the best archbishopric
in christendom, have incited ferocious marauders to plunder and
slaughter a peaceful and industrious population, that Everard
Digby would for a dukedom have blown a large assembly of people
into the air, or that Robespierre would have murdered for hire
one of the thousands whom he murdered from philanthropy.

The Master of Stair seems to have proposed to himself a truly
great and good end, the pacification and civilisation of the
Highlands. He was, by the acknowledgment of those who most hated
him, a man of large views. He justly thought it monstrous that a
third part of Scotland should be in a state scarcely less savage
than New Guinea, that letters of fire and sword should, through a
third part of Scotland, be, century after century, a species of
legal process, and that no attempt should be made to apply a
radical remedy to such evils. The independence affected by a
crowd of petty sovereigns, the contumacious resistance which they
were in the habit of offering to the authority of the Crown and
of the Court of Session, their wars, their robberies, their
fireraisings, their practice of exacting black mail from people
more peaceable and more useful than themselves, naturally excited
the disgust and indignation of an enlightened and politic
gownsman, who was, both by the constitution of his mind and by
the habits of his profession, a lover of law and order. His
object was no less than a complete dissolution and reconstruction
of society in the Highlands, such a dissolution and
reconstruction as, two generations later, followed the battle of
Culloden. In his view the clans, as they existed, were the
plagues of the kingdom; and of all the clans, the worst was that
which inhabited Glencoe. He had, it is said, been particularly
struck by a frightful instance of the lawlessness and ferocity of
those marauders. One of them, who had been concerned in some act
of violence or rapine, had given information against his
companions. He had been bound to a tree and murdered. The old
chief had given the first stab; and scores of dirks had then been
plunged into the wretch's body.223 By the mountaineers such an
act was probably regarded as a legitimate exercise of patriarchal
jurisdiction. To the Master of Stair it seemed that people among
whom such things were done and were approved ought to be treated
like a pack of wolves, snared by any device, and slaughtered
without mercy. He was well read in history, and doubtless knew
how great rulers had, in his own and other countries, dealt with
such banditti. He doubtless knew with what energy and what
severity James the Fifth had put down the mosstroopers of the
border, how the chief of Henderland had been hung over the gate
of the castle in which he had prepared a banquet for the King;
how John Armstrong and his thirty-six horsemen, when they came
forth to welcome their sovereign, had scarcely been allowed time
to say a single prayer before they were all tied up and turned
off. Nor probably was the Secretary ignorant of the means by
which Sixtus the Fifth had cleared the ecclesiastical state of
outlaws. The eulogists of that great pontiff tell us that there
was one formidable gang which could not be dislodged from a
stronghold among the Apennines. Beasts of burden were therefore
loaded with poisoned food and wine, and sent by a road which ran
close to the fastness. The robbers sallied forth, seized the
prey, feasted and died; and the pious old Pope exulted greatly
when he heard that the corpses of thirty ruffians, who had been
the terror of many peaceful villages, had been found lying among
the mules and packages. The plans of the Master of Stair were
conceived in the spirit of James and of Sixtus; and the rebellion
of the mountaineers furnished what seemed to be an excellent
opportunity for carrying those plans into effect. Mere rebellion,
indeed, he could have easily pardoned. On Jacobites, as
Jacobites, he never showed any inclination to bear hard. He hated
the Highlanders, not as enemies of this or that dynasty, but as
enemies of law, of industry and of trade. In his private
correspondence he applied to them the short and terrible form of
words in which the implacable Roman pronounced the doom of
Carthage. His project was no less than this, that the whole hill
country from sea to sea, and the neighbouring islands, should be
wasted with fire and sword, that the Camerons, the Macleans, and
all the branches of the race of Macdonald, should be rooted out.
He therefore looked with no friendly eye on schemes of
reconciliation, and, while others were hoping that a little
money would set everything right, hinted very intelligibly his
opinion that whatever money was to be laid out on the clans would
be best laid out in the form of bullets and bayonets. To the last
moment he continued to flatter himself that the rebels would be
obstinate, and would thus furnish him with a plea for
accomplishing that great social revolution on which his heart was
set.224 The letter is still extant in which he directed the
commander of the forces in Scotland how to act if the Jacobite
chiefs should not come in before the end of December. There is
something strangely terrible in the calmness and conciseness with
which the instructions are given. "Your troops will destroy
entirely the country of Lochaber, Lochiel's lands, Keppoch's,
Glengarry's and Glencoe's. Your power shall be large enough. I
hope the soldiers will not trouble the government with

This despatch had scarcely been sent off when news arrived in
London that the rebel chiefs, after holding out long, had at last
appeared before the Sheriffs and taken the oaths. Lochiel, the
most eminent man among them, had not only declared that he would
live and die a true subject to King William, but had announced
his intention of visiting England, in the hope of being permitted
to kiss His Majesty's hand. In London it was announced exultingly
that every clan, without exception, had submitted in time; and
the announcement was generally thought most satisfactory.226 But
the Master of Stair was bitterly disappointed. The Highlands were
then to continue to be what they had been, the shame and curse of
Scotland. A golden opportunity of subjecting them to the law had
been suffered to escape, and might never return. If only the
Macdonalds would have stood out, nay, if an example could but
have been made of the two worst Macdonalds, Keppoch and Glencoe,
it would have been something. But it seemed that even Keppoch and
Glencoe, marauders who in any well governed country would have
been hanged thirty years before, were safe.227 While the Master
was brooding over thoughts like these, Argyle brought him some
comfort. The report that Mac Ian had taken the oaths within the
prescribed time was erroneous. The Secretary was consoled. One
clan, then, was at the mercy of the government, and that clan the
most lawless of all. One great act of justice, nay of charity,
might be performed. One terrible and memorable example might be

Yet there was a difficulty. Mac Ian had taken the oaths. He had
taken them, indeed, too late to be entitled to plead the letter
of the royal promise; but the fact that he had taken them was one
which evidently ought not to have been concealed from those who
were to decide his fate. By a dark intrigue, of which the history
is but imperfectly known, but which was, in all probability,
directed by the Master of Stair, the evidence of Mac Ian's tardy
submission was suppressed. The certificate which the Sheriff of
Argyleshire had transmitted to the Council at Edinburgh, was
never laid before the board, but was privately submitted to some
persons high in office, and particularly to Lord President Stair,
the father of the Secretary. These persons pronounced the
certificate irregular, and, indeed, absolutely null; and it was

Meanwhile the Master of Stair was forming, in concert with
Breadalbane and Argyle, a plan for the destruction of the people
of Glencoe. It was necessary to take the King's pleasure, not,
indeed, as to the details of what was to be done, but as to the
question whether Mac Ian and his people should or should not be
treated as rebels out of the pale of the ordinary law. The Master
of Stair found no difficulty in the royal closet. William had, in
all probability, never heard the Glencoe men mentioned except as
banditti. He knew that they had not come in by the prescribed
day. That they had come in after that day he did not know. If he
paid any attention to the matter, he must have thought that so
fair an opportunity of putting an end to the devastations and
depredations from which a quiet and industrious population had
suffered so much ought not to be lost.

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