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The History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 5 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

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The History of England from the Accession of James the Second

by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Volume V

(Chapters XXIII-XXV)


I HAVE thought it right to publish that portion of the
continuation of the "History of England" which was fairly
transcribed and revised by Lord Macaulay. It is given to the
world precisely as it was left: no connecting link has been
added; no reference verified; no authority sought for or
examined. It would indeed have been possible, with the help I
might have obtained from his friends, to have supplied much that
is wanting; but I preferred, and I believe the public will
prefer, that the last thoughts of the great mind passed away from
among us should be preserved sacred from any touch but his own.
Besides the revised manuscript, a few pages containing the first
rough sketch of the last two months of William's reign are all
that is left. From this I have with some difficulty deciphered
the account of the death of William. No attempt has been made to
join it on to the preceding part, or to supply the corrections
which would have been given by the improving hand of the author.
But, imperfect as it must be, I believe it will be received with
pleasure and interest as a fit conclusion to the life of his
great hero.

I will only add my grateful thanks for the kind advice and
assistance given me by his most dear and valued friends, Dean
Milman and Mr. Ellis.


Standing Armies--Sunderland--Lord Spencer--Controversy touching
Standing Armies--Meeting of Parliament--The King's Speech well
received; Debate on a Peace Establishment--Sunderland attacked--
The Nation averse to a Standing Army--Mutiny Act; the Navy Acts
concerning High Treason--Earl of Clancarty--Ways and Means;
Rights of the Sovereign in reference to Crown Lands--Proceedings
in Parliament on Grants of Crown Lands--Montague accused of
Peculation--Bill of Pains and Penalties against Duncombe--
Dissension between the houses--Commercial Questions--Irish
Manufactures--East India Companies--Fire at Whitehall--Visit of
the Czar--Portland's Embassy to France--The Spanish Succession--
The Count of Tallard's Embassy--Newmarket Meeting: the insecure
State of the Roads--Further Negotiations relating to the Spanish
Succession--The King goes to Holland--Portland returns from his
Embassy--William is reconciled to Marlborough

THE rejoicings, by which London, on the second of December 1697,
celebrated the return of peace and prosperity, continued till
long after midnight. On the following morning the Parliament met;
and one of the most laborious sessions of that age commenced.

Among the questions which it was necessary that the Houses should
speedily decide, one stood forth preeminent in interest and
importance. Even in the first transports of joy with which the
bearer of the treaty of Ryswick had been welcomed to England, men
had eagerly and anxiously asked one another what was to be done
with that army which had been formed in Ireland and Belgium, which
had learned, in many hard campaigns, to obey and to conquer, and
which now consisted of eighty-seven thousand excellent soldiers.
Was any part of this great force to be retained in the service of
the State? And, if any part, what part? The last two kings had,
without the consent of the legislature, maintained military
establishments in time of peace. But that they had done this in
violation of the fundamental laws of England was acknowledged by
all jurists, and had been expressly affirmed in the Bill of
Rights. It was therefore impossible for William, now that the
country was threatened by no foreign and no domestic enemy, to
keep up even a single battalion without the sanction of the
Estates of the Realm; and it might well be doubted whether such a
sanction would be given.

It is not easy for us to see this question in the light in which
it appeared to our ancestors.

No man of sense has, in our days, or in the days of our fathers,
seriously maintained that our island could be safe without an
army. And, even if our island were perfectly secure from attack,
an army would still be indispensably necessary to us. The growth
of the empire has left us no choice. The regions which we have
colonized or conquered since the accession of the House of
Hanover contain a population exceeding twenty-fold that which the
House of Stuart governed. There are now more English soldiers on
the other side of the tropic of Cancer in time of peace than
Cromwell had under his command in time of war. All the troops of
Charles II. would not have been sufficient to garrison the posts
which we now occupy in the Mediterranean Sea alone. The regiments
which defend the remote dependencies of the Crown cannot be duly
recruited and relieved, unless a force far larger than that which
James collected in the camp at Hounslow for the purpose of
overawing his capital be constantly kept up within the kingdom.
The old national antipathy to permanent military establishments,
an antipathy which was once reasonable and salutary, but which
lasted some time after it had become unreasonable and noxious,
has gradually yielded to the irresistible force of circumstances.
We have made the discovery, that an army may be so constituted as
to be in the highest degree efficient against an enemy, and yet
obsequious to the civil magistrate. We have long ceased to
apprehend danger to law and to freedom from the license of
troops, and from the ambition of victorious generals. An alarmist
who should now talk such language, as was common five generations
ago, who should call for the entire disbanding of the land force;
of the realm, and who should gravely predict that the warriors of
Inkerman and Delhi would depose the Queen, dissolve the
Parliament, and plunder the Bank, would be regarded as fit only
for a cell in Saint Luke's. But before the Revolution our
ancestors had known a standing army only as an instrument of
lawless power. Judging by their own experience, they thought it
impossible that such an army should exist without danger to the
rights both of the Crown and of the people. One class of
politicians was never weary of repeating that an Apostolic
Church, a loyal gentry, an ancient nobility, a sainted King, had
been foully outraged by the Joyces and the Prides; another class
recounted the atrocities committed by the Lambs of Kirke, and by
the Beelzebubs and Lucifers of Dundee; and both classes, agreeing
in scarcely any thing else, were disposcd to agree in aversion to
the red coats.

While such was the feeling of the nation, the King was, both as a
statesman and as a general, most unwilling to see that superb body
of troops which he had formed with infinite difficulty broken up
and dispersed. But, as to this matter, he could not absolutely
rely on the support of his ministers; nor could his ministers
absolutely rely on the support of that parliamentary majority
whose attachment had enabled them to confront enemies abroad and
to crush traitors at home, to restore a debased currency, and to
fix public credit on deep and solid foundations.

The difficulties of the King's situation are to be, in part at
least, attributed to an error which he had committed in the
preceding spring. The Gazette which announced that Sunderland been
appointed Chamberlain of the Royal Household, sworn of the Privy
Council, and named one of the Lords Justices who were to
administer the government during the summer had caused great
uneasiness among plain men who remembered all the windings and
doublings of his long career. In truth, his countrymen were unjust
to him. For they thought him, not only an unprincipled and
faithless politician, which he was, but a deadly enemy of the
liberties of the nation, which he was not. What he wanted was
simply to be safe, rich and great. To these objects he had been
constant through all the vicissitudes of his life. For these
objects he had passed from Church to Church and from faction to
faction, had joined the most turbulent of oppositions without any
zeal for freedom, and had served the most arbitrary of monarchs
without any zeal for monarchy; had voted for the Exclusion Bill
without being a Protestant, and had adored the Host without being
a Papist; had sold his country at once to both the great parties
which divided the Continent; had taken money from France, and had
sent intelligence to Holland. As far, however, as he could be said
to have any opinions, his opinions were Whiggish. Since his return
from exile, his influence had been generally exerted in favour of
the Whig party. It was by his counsel that the Great Seal had been
entrusted to Somers, that Nottingham had been sacrificed to
Russell, and that Montague had been preferred to Fox. It was by
his dexterous management that the Princess Anne had been detached
from the opposition, and that Godolphin had been removed from the
head of the hoard of Treasury. The party which Sunderland had done
so much to serve now held a new pledge for his fidelity. His only
son, Charles Lord Spencer, was just entering on public life. The
precocious maturity of the young man's intellectual and moral
character had excited hopes which were not destined to be
realized. His knowledge of ancient literature, and his skill in
imitating the styles of the masters of Roman eloquence, were
applauded by veteran scholars. The sedateness of his deportment
and the apparent regularity of his life delighted austere
moralists. He was known indeed to have one expensive taste; but it
was a taste of the most respectable kind. He loved books, and was
bent or forming the most magnificent private library in England.
While other heirs of noble houses were inspecting patterns of
steinkirks and sword knots, dangling after actresses, or betting
on fighting cocks, he was in pursuit of the Mentz editions of
Tully's Offices, of the Parmesan Statius, and of the inestimable
Virgin of Zarottus.1 It was natural that high expectations should
be formed of the virtue and wisdom of a youth whose very luxury
and prodigality had a grave and erudite air, and that even
discerning men should be unable to detect the vices which were
hidden under that show of premature sobriety.

Spencer was a Whig, unhappily for the Whig party, which, before
the unhonoured and unlamented close of his life, was more than
once brought to the verge of ruin by his violent temper and his
crooked politics. His Whiggism differed widely from that of his
father. It was not a languid, speculative, preference of one
theory of government to another, but a fierce and dominant
passion. Unfortunately, though an ardent, it was at the same time
a corrupt and degenerate, Whiggism; a Whiggism so narrow and
oligarchical as to be little, if at all, preferable to the worst
forms of Toryism. The young lord's imagination had been
fascinated by those swelling sentiments of liberty which abound
in the Latin poets and orators; and he, like those poets and
orators, meant by liberty something very different from the only
liberty which is of importance to the happiness of mankind. Like
them, he could see no danger to liberty except from kings. A
commonwealth, oppressed and pillaged by such men as Opimius and
Verres, was free, because it had no king. A member of the Grand
Council of Venice, who passed his whole life under tutelage and
in fear, who could not travel where he chose, or visit whom he
chose, or invest his property as he chose, whose path was beset
with spies, who saw at the corners of the streets the mouth of
bronze gaping for anonymous accusations against him, and whom the
Inquisitors of State could, at any moment, and for any or no
reason, arrest, torture, fling into the Grand Canal, was free,
because he had no king. To curtail, for the benefit of a small
privileged class, prerogatives which the Sovereign possesses and
ought to possess for the benefit of the whole nation, was the
object on which Spencer's heart was set. During many years he was
restrained by older and wiser men; and it was not till those whom
he had early been accustomed to respect had passed away, and till
he was himself at the head of affairs, that he openly attempted
to obtain for the hereditary nobility a precarious and invidious
ascendency in the State, at the expense both of the Commons and
of the Throne.

In 1695, Spencer had taken his seat in the House of Commons as
member for Tiverton, and had, during two sessions, conducted
himself as a steady and zealous Whig.

The party to which he had attached himself might perhaps have
reasonably considered him as a hostage sufficient to ensure the
good faith of his father; for the Earl was approaching that time
of life at which even the most ambitious and rapacious men
generally toil rather for their children than for themselves. But
the distrust which Sunderland inspired was such as no guarantee
could quiet. Many fancied that he was,--with what object they
never took the trouble to inquire,--employing the same arts which
had ruined James for the purpose of ruining William. Each prince
had had his weak side. One was too much a Papist, and the other
too much a soldier, for such a nation as this. The same
intriguing sycophant who had encouraged the Papist in one fatal
error was now encouraging the soldier in another. It might well
be apprehended that, under the influence of this evil counsellor,
the nephew might alienate as many hearts by trying to make
England a military country as the uncle had alienated by trying
to make her a Roman Catholic country.

The parliamentary conflict on the great question of a standing
army was preceded by a literary conflict. In the autumn of 1697
began a controversy of no common interest and importance. The
press was now free. An exciting and momentous political question
could be fairly discussed. Those who held uncourtly opinions
could express those opinions without resorting to illegal
expedients and employing the agency of desperate men. The
consequence was that the dispute was carried on, though with
sufficient keenness, yet, on the whole, with a decency which
would have been thought extraordinary in the days of the

On this occasion the Tories, though they felt strongly, wrote but
little. The paper war was almost entirely carried on between two
sections of the Whig party. The combatants on both sides were
generally anonymous. But it was well known that one of the
foremost champions of the malecontent Whigs was John Trenchard,
son of the late Secretary of State. Preeminent among the
ministerial Whigs was one in whom admirable vigour and quickness
of intellect were united to a not less admirable moderation and
urbanity, one who looked on the history of past ages with the eye
of a practical statesman, and on the events which were passing
before him with the eye of a philosophical historian. It was not
necessary for him to name himself. He could be none but Somers.

The pamphleteers who recommended the immediate and entire
disbanding of the army had an easy task. If they were
embarrassed, it was only by the abundance of the matter from
which they had to make their selection. On their side were
claptraps and historical commonplaces without number, the
authority of a crowd of illustrious names, all the prejudices,
all the traditions, of both the parties in the state. These
writers laid it down as a fundamental principle of political
science that a standing army and a free constitution could not
exist together. What, they asked, had destroyed the noble
commonwealths of Greece? What had enslaved the mighty Roman
people? What had turned the Italian republics of the middle ages
into lordships and duchies? How was it that so many of the
kingdoms of modern Europe had been transformed from limited into
absolute monarchies? The States General of France, the Cortes of
Castile, the Grand Justiciary of Arragon, what had been fatal to
them all? History was ransacked for instances of adventurers who,
by the help of mercenary troops, had subjugated free nations or
deposed legitimate princes; and such instances were easily found.
Much was said about Pisistratus, Timophanes, Dionysius,
Agathocles, Marius and Sylla, Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar,
Carthage besieged by her own mercenaries, Rome put up to auction
by her own Praetorian cohorts, Sultan Osman butchered by his own
Janissaries, Lewis Sforza sold into captivity by his own
Switzers. But the favourite instance was taken from the recent
history of our own land. Thousands still living had seen the
great usurper, who, strong in the power of the sword, had
triumphed over both royalty and freedom. The Tories were reminded
that his soldiers had guarded the scaffold before the Banqueting
House. The Whigs were reminded that those same soldiers had taken
the mace from the table of the House of Commons. From such evils,
it was said, no country could be secure which was cursed with a
standing army. And what were the advantages which could be set
off against such evils? Invasion was the bugbear with which the
Court tried to frighten the nation. But we were not children to
be scared by nursery tales. We were at peace; and, even in time
of war, an enemy who should attempt to invade us would probably
be intercepted by our fleet, and would assuredly, if he reached
our shores, be repelled by our militia. Some people indeed talked
as if a militia could achieve nothing great. But that base
doctrine was refuted by all ancient and all modern history. What
was the Lacedaemonian phalanx in the best days of Lacedaemon?
What was, the Roman legion in the best days of Rome? What were
the armies which conquered at Cressy, at Poitiers, at Agincourt,
at Halidon, or at Flodden? What was that mighty array which
Elizabeth reviewed at Tilbury? In the fourteenth, fifteenth, and
sixteenth centuries Englishmen who did not live by the trade of
war had made war with success and glory. Were the English of the
seventeenth century so degenerate that they could not be trusted
to play the men for their own homesteads and parish churches?

For such reasons as these the disbanding of the forces was
strongly recommended. Parliament, it was said, might perhaps,
from respect and tenderness for the person of His Majesty, permit
him to have guards enough to escort his coach and to pace the
rounds before his palace. But this was the very utmost that it
would be right to concede. The defence of the realm ought to be
confided to the sailors and the militia. Even the Tower ought to
have no garrison except the trainbands of the Tower Hamlets.

It must be evident to every intelligent and dispassionate man
that these declaimers contradicted themselves. If an army
composed of regular troops really was far more efficient than an
army composed of husbandmen taken from the plough and burghers
taken from the counter, how could the country be safe with no
defenders but husbandmen and burghers, when a great prince, who
was our nearest neighbour, who had a few months before been our
enemy, and who might, in a few months, be our enemy again, kept
up not less than a hundred and fifty thousand regular troops? If,
on the other hand, the spirit of the English people was such that
they would, with little or no training, encounter and defeat the
most formidable array of veterans from the continent, was it not
absurd to apprehend that such a people could be reduced to
slavery by a few regiments of their own countrymen? But our
ancestors were generally so much blinded by prejudice that this
inconsistency passed unnoticed. They were secure where they ought
to have been wary, and timorous where they might well have been
secure. They were not shocked by hearing the same man maintain,
in the same breath, that, if twenty thousand professional
soldiers were kept up, the liberty and property of millions of
Englishmen would be at the mercy of the Crown, and yet that those
millions of Englishmen, fighting for liberty and property, would
speedily annihilate an invading army composed of fifty or sixty
thousand of the conquerors of Steinkirk and Landen. Whoever
denied the former proposition was called a tool of the Court.
Whoever denied the latter was accused of insulting and slandering
the nation.

Somers was too wise to oppose himself directly to the strong
current of popular feeling. With rare dexterity he took the tone,
not of an advocate, but of a judge. The danger which seemed so
terrible to many honest friends of liberty he did not venture to
pronounce altogether visionary. But he reminded his countrymen
that a choice between dangers was sometimes all that was left to
the wisest of mankind. No lawgiver had ever been able to devise a
perfect and immortal form of government. Perils lay thick on the
right and on the left; and to keep far from one evil was to draw
near to another. That which, considered merely with reference to
the internal polity of England, might be, to a certain extent,
objectionable, might be absolutely essential to her rank among
European Powers, and even to her independence. All that a
statesman could do in such a case was to weigh inconveniences
against each other, and carefully to observe which way the scale
leaned. The evil of having regular soldiers, and the evil of not
having them, Somers set forth and compared in a little treatise,
which was once widely renowned as the Balancing Letter, and which
was admitted, even by the malecontents, to be an able and
plausible composition. He well knew that mere names exercise a
mighty influence on the public mind; that the most perfect
tribunal which a legislator could construct would be unpopular if
it were called the Star Chamber; that the most judicious tax
which a financier could devise would excite murmurs if it were
called the Shipmoney; and that the words Standing Army then had
to English ears a sound as unpleasing as either Shipmoney or Star
Chamber. He declared therefore that he abhorred the thought of a
standing army. What he recommended was, not a standing, but a
temporary army, an army of which Parliament would annually fix
the number, an army for which Parliament would annually frame a
military code, an army which would cease to exist as soon as
either the Lords or the Commons should think that its services
were not needed. From such an army surely the danger to public
liberty could not by wise men be thought serious. On the other
hand, the danger to which the kingdom would be exposed if all the
troops were disbanded was such as might well disturb the firmest
mind. Suppose a war with the greatest power in Christendom to
break out suddenly, and to find us without one battalion of
regular infantry, without one squadron of regular cavalry; what
disasters might we not reasonably apprehend? It was idle to say
that a descent could not take place without ample notice, and
that we should have time to raise and discipline a great force.
An absolute prince, whose orders, given in profound secresy, were
promptly obeyed at once by his captains on the Rhine and on the
Scheld, and by his admirals in the Bay of Biscay and in the
Mediterranean, might be ready to strike a blow long before we
were prepared to parry it. We might be appalled by learning that
ships from widely remote parts, and troops from widely remote
garrisons, had assembled at a single point within sight of our
coast. To trust to our fleet was to trust to the winds and the
waves. The breeze which was favourable to the invader might
prevent our men of war from standing out to sea. Only nine years
ago this had actually happened. The Protestant wind, before which
the Dutch armament had run full sail down the Channel, had driven
King James's navy back into the Thames. It must then be
acknowledged to be not improbable that the enemy might land. And,
if he landed, what would he find? An open country; a rich
country; provisions everywhere; not a river but which could be
forded; no natural fastnesses such as protect the fertile plains
of Italy; no artificial fastnesses such as, at every step, impede
the progress of a conqueror in the Netherlands. Every thing must
then be staked on the steadiness of the militia; and it was
pernicious flattery to represent the militia as equal to a
conflict in the field with veterans whose whole life had been a
preparation for the day of battle. The instances which it was the
fashion to cite of the great achievements of soldiers taken from
the threshing floor and the shopboard were fit only for a
schoolboy's theme. Somers, who had studied ancient literature
like a man,--a rare thing in his time,--said that those instances
refuted the doctrine which they were meant to prove. He disposed
of much idle declamation about the Lacedaemonians by saying, most
concisely, correctly and happily, that the Lacedaemonian
commonwealth really was a standing army which threatened all the
rest of Greece. In fact, the Spartan had no calling except war.
Of arts, sciences and letters he was ignorant. The labour of the
spade and of the loom, and the petty gains of trade, he
contemptuously abandoned to men of a lower caste. His whole
existence from childhood to old age was one long military
training. Meanwhile the Athenian, the Corinthian, the Argive,
the Theban, gave his chief attention to his oliveyard or his
vineyard, his warehouse or his workshop, and took up his shield
and spear only for short terms and at long intervals. The
difference therefore between a Lacedaemonian phalanx and any
other phalanx was long as great as the difference between a
regiment of the French household troops and a regiment of the
London trainbands. Lacedaemon consequently continued to be
dominant in Greece till other states began to employ regular
troops. Then her supremacy was at an end. She was great while she
was a standing army among militias. She fell when she had to
contend with other standing armies. The lesson which is really to
be learned from her ascendency and from her decline is this, that
the occasional soldier is no match for the professional soldier.2

The same lesson Somers drew from the history of Rome; and every
scholar who really understands that history will admit that he
was in the right. The finest militia that ever existed was
probably that of Italy in the third century before Christ. It
might have been thought that seven or eight hundred thousand
fighting men, who assuredly wanted neither natural courage nor
public spirit, would have been able to protect their own hearths
and altars against an invader. An invader came, bringing with him
an army small and exhausted by a march over the snows of the
Alps, but familiar with battles and sieges. At the head of this
army he traversed the peninsula to and fro, gained a succession
of victories against immense numerical odds, slaughtered the
hardy youth of Latium like sheep, by tens of thousands, encamped
under the walls of Rome, continued during sixteen years to
maintain himself in a hostile country, and was never dislodged
till he had by a cruel discipline gradually taught his
adversaries how to resist him.

It was idle to repeat the names of great battles won, in the
middle ages, by men who did not make war their chief calling;
those battles proved only that one militia might beat another,
and not that a militia could beat a regular army. As idle was it
to declaim about the camp at Tilbury. We had indeed reason to be
proud of the spirit which all classes of Englishmen, gentlemen
and yeomen, peasants and burgesses, had so signally displayed in
the great crisis of 1588. But we had also reason to be thankful
that, with all their spirit, they were not brought face to face
with the Spanish battalions. Somers related an anecdote, well
worthy to be remembered, which had been preserved by tradition in
the noble house of De Vere. One of the most illustrious men of
that house, a captain who had acquired much experience and much
fame in the Netherlands, had, in the crisis of peril, been
summoned back to England by Elizabeth, and rode with her through
the endless ranks of shouting pikemen. She asked him what he
thought of the army. "It is," he said, "a brave army." There was
something in his tone or manner which showed that he meant more
than his words expressed. The Queen insisted on his speaking out.
"Madam," he said, "Your Grace's army is brave indeed. I have not
in the world the name of a coward, and yet I am the greatest
coward here. All these fine fellows are praying that the enemy
may land, and that there may be a battle; and I, who know that
enemy well, cannot think of such a battle without dismay." De
Vere was doubtless in the right. The Duke of Parma, indeed, would
not have subjected our country; but it is by no means improbable
that, if he had effected a landing, the island would have been
the theatre of a war greatly resembling that which Hannibal waged
in Italy, and that the invaders would not have been driven out
till many cities had been sacked, till many counties had been
wasted, and till multitudes of our stout-hearted rustics and
artisans had perished in the carnage of days not less terrible
than those of Thrasymene and Cannae.

While the pamphlets of Trenchard and Somers were in every hand,
the Parliament met.

The words with which the King opened the session brought the
great question to a speedy issue. "The circumstances," he said,
"of affairs abroad are such, that I think myself obliged to tell
you my opinion, that, for the present, England cannot be safe
without a land force; and I hope we shall not give those that
mean us ill the opportunity of effecting that under the notion of
a peace which they could not bring to pass by war."

The speech was well received; for that Parliament was thoroughly
well affected to the Government. The members had, like the rest
of the community, been put into high good humour by the return of
peace and by the revival of trade. They were indeed still under
the influence of the feelings of the preceding day; and they had
still in their ears the thanksgiving sermons and thanksgiving
anthems; all the bonfires had hardly burned out; and the rows of
lamps and candles had hardly been taken down. Many, therefore,
who did not assent to all that the King had said, joined in a
loud hum of approbation when he concluded.3 As soon as the
Commons had retired to their own chamber, they resolved to
present an address assuring His Majesty that they would stand by
him in peace as firmly as they had stood by him in war. Seymour,
who had, during the autumn, been going from shire to shire, for
the purpose of inflaming the country gentlemen against the
ministry, ventured to make some uncourtly remarks; but he gave so
much offence that he was hissed down, and did not venture to
demand a division.4

The friends of the Government were greatly elated by the
proceedings of this day. During the following week hopes were
entertained that the Parliament might be induced to vote a peace
establishment of thirty thousand men. But these hopes were
delusive. The hum with which William's speech had been received,
and the hiss which had drowned the voice of Seymour, had been
misunderstood. The Commons were indeed warmly attached to the
King's person and government, and quick to resent any
disrespectful mention of his name. But the members who were
disposed to let him have even half as many troops as he thought
necessary were a minority. On the tenth of December his speech
was considered in a Committee of the whole House; and Harley came
forward as the chief of the opposition. He did not, like some hot
headed men, among both the Whigs and the Tories, contend that
there ought to be no regular soldiers. But he maintained that it
was unnecessary to keep up, after the peace of Ryswick, a larger
force than had been kept up after the peace of Nimeguen. He
moved, therefore, that the military establishment should be
reduced to what it had been in the year 1680. The Ministers found
that, on this occasion, neither their honest nor their dishonest
supporters could be trusted. For, in the minds of the most
respectable men, the prejudice against standing armies was of too
long growth and too deep root to be at once removed; and those
means by which the Court might, at another time, have secured the
help of venal politicians were, at that moment, of less avail
than usual. The Triennial Act was beginning to produce its
effects. A general election was at hand. Every member who had
constituents was desirous to please them; and it was certain that
no member would please his constituents by voting for a standing
army; and the resolution moved by Harvey was strongly supported
by Howe, was carried, was reported to the House on the following
day, and, after a debate in which several orators made a great
display of their knowledge of ancient and modern history, was
confirmed by one hundred and eighty-five votes to one hundred and

In this debate the fear and hatred with which many of the best
friends of the Government regarded Sunderland were unequivocally
manifested. "It is easy," such was the language of several
members, "it is easy to guess by whom that unhappy sentence was
inserted in the speech from the Throne. No person well acquainted
with the disastrous and disgraceful history of the last two
reigns can doubt who the minister is, who is now whispering evil
counsel in the ear of a third master." The Chamberlain, thus
fiercely attacked, was very feebly defended. There was indeed in the
House of Commons a small knot of his creatures; and they were men
not destitute of a certain kind of ability; but their moral
character was as bad as his. One of them was the late Secretary
of the Treasury, Guy, who had been turned out of his place for
corruption. Another was the late Speaker, Trevor, who had, from
the chair, put the question whether he was or was not a rogue,
and had been forced to pronounce that the Ayes had it. A third
was Charles Duncombe, long the greatest goldsmith of Lombard
Street, and now one of the greatest landowners of the North
Riding of Yorkshire. Possessed of a private fortune equal to that
of any duke, he had not thought it beneath him to accept the
place of Cashier of the Excise, and had perfectly understood
how to make that place lucrative; but he had recently been
ejected from office by Montague, who thought, with good reason,
that he was not a man to be trusted. Such advocates as Trevor,
Guy and Duncombe could do little for Sunderland in debate. The
statesmen of the junto would do nothing for him. They had
undoubtedly owed much to him. His influence, cooperating with
their own great abilities and with the force of circumstances,
had induced the King to commit the direction of the internal
administration of the realm to a Whig Cabinet. But the distrust
which the old traitor and apostate inspired was not to be
overcome. The ministers could not be sure that he was not, while
smiling on them, whispering in confidential tones to them,
pouring out, as it might seem, all his heart to them, really
calumniating them in the closet or suggesting to the opposition
some ingenious mode of attacking them. They had very recently
been thwarted by him. They were bent on making Wharton a
Secretary of State, and had therefore looked forward with
impatience to the retirement of Trumball, who was indeed hardly
equal to the duties of his great place. To their surprise and
mortification they learned, on the eve of the meeting of
Parliament, that Trumball had suddenly resigned, and Vernon, the
Under Secretary, had been summoned to Kensington, and had
returned thence with the seals. Vernon was a zealous Whig, and
not personally unacceptable to the chiefs of his party. But the
Lord Chancellor, the First Lord of the Treasury, and the First
Lord of the Admiralty, might not unnaturally think it strange
that a post of the highest importance should have been filled up
in opposition to their known wishes, and with a haste and a
secresy which plainly showed that the King did not wish to be
annoyed by their remonstrances. The Lord Chamberlain pretended
that he had done all in his power to serve Wharton. But the Whig
chiefs were not men to be duped by the professions of so
notorious a liar. Montague bitterly described him as a fireship,
dangerous at best, but on the whole most dangerous as a consort,
and least dangerous when showing hostile colours. Smith, who was
the most efficient of Montague's lieutenants, both in the
Treasury and in the Parliament, cordially sympathised with his
leader. Sunderland was therefore left undefended. His enemies
became bolder and more vehement every day. Sir Thomas Dyke,
member for Grinstead, and Lord Norris, son of the Earl of
Abingdon, talked of moving an address requesting the King to
banish for ever from the Court and the Council that evil adviser
who had misled His Majesty's royal uncles, had betrayed the
liberties of the people, and had abjured the Protestant religion.

Sunderland had been uneasy from the first moment at which his
name had been mentioned in the House of Commons. He was now in an
agony of terror. The whole enigma of his life, an enigma of which
many unsatisfactory and some absurd explanations have been
propounded, is at once solved if we consider him as a man
insatiably greedy of wealth and power, and yet nervously
apprehensive of danger. He rushed with ravenous eagerness at
every bait which was offered to his cupidity. But any ominous
shadow, any threatening murmur, sufficed to stop him in his full
career, and to make him change his course or bury himself in a
hiding place. He ought to have thought himself fortunate indeed,
when, after all the crimes which he had committed, he found
himself again enjoying his picture gallery and his woods at
Althorpe, sitting in the House of Lords, admitted to the royal
closet, pensioned from the Privy Purse, consulted about the most
important affairs of state. But his ambition and avarice would
not suffer him to rest till he held a high and lucrative office,
till he was a regent of the kingdom. The consequence was, as
might have been expected, a violent clamour; and that clamour he
had not the spirit to face.

His friends assured him that the threatened address would not be
carried. Perhaps a hundred and sixty members might vote for it;
but hardly more. "A hundred and sixty!" he cried: "No minister
can stand against a hundred and sixty. I am sure that I will not
try." It must be remembered that a hundred and sixty votes in a
House of five hundred and thirteen members would correspond to
more than two hundred votes in the present House of Commons; a
very formidable minority on the unfavourable side of a question
deeply affecting the personal character of a public man. William,
unwilling to part with a servant whom he knew to be unprincipled,
but whom he did not consider as more unprincipled than many other
English politicians, and in whom he had found much of a very
useful sort of knowledge, and of a very useful sort of ability,
tried to induce the ministry to come to the rescue. It was
particularly important to soothe Wharton, who had been
exasperated by his recent disappointment, and had probably
exasperated the other members of the junto. He was sent for to
the palace. The King himself intreated him to be reconciled to
the Lord Chamberlain, and to prevail on the Whig leaders in the
Lower House to oppose any motion which Dyke or Norris might make.
Wharton answered in a manner which made it clear that from him no
help was to be expected. Sunderland's terrors now became
insupportable. He had requested some of his friends to come to
his house that he might consult them; they came at the appointed
hour, but found that he had gone to Kensington, and had left word
that he should soon be back. When he joined them, they observed
that he had not the gold key which is the badge of the Lord
Chamberlain, and asked where it was. "At Kensington," answered
Sunderland. They found that he had tendered his resignation, and
that it had been, after a long struggle, accepted. They blamed
his haste, and told him that, since he had summoned them to
advise him on that day, he might at least have waited till the
morrow. "To morrow," he exclaimed, "would have ruined me. To
night has saved me."

Meanwhile, both the disciples of Somers and the disciples of
Trenchard were grumbling at Harley's resolution. The disciples of
Somers maintained that, if it was right to have an army at all,
it must be right to have an efficient army. The disciples of
Trenchard complained that a great principle had been shamefully
given up. On the vital issue, Standing Army or no Standing Army,
the Commons had pronounced an erroneous, a fatal decision.
Whether that army should consist of five regiments or of fifteen
was hardly worth debating. The great dyke which kept out
arbitrary power had been broken. It was idle to say that the
breach was narrow; for it would soon be widened by the flood
which would rush in. The war of pamphlets raged more fiercely
than ever. At the same time alarming symptoms began to appear
among the men of the sword. They saw themselves every day
described in print as the scum of society, as mortal enemies of
the liberties of their country. Was it reasonable,--such was the
language of some scribblers,--that an honest gentleman should pay
a heavy land tax, in order to support in idleness and luxury a
set of fellows who requited him by seducing his dairy maids and
shooting his partridges? Nor was it only in Grub Street tracts
that such reflections were to be found. It was known all over the
town that uncivil things had been said of the military profession
in the House of Commons, and that Jack Howe, in particular, had,
on this subject, given the rein to his wit and to his ill nature.
Some rough and daring veterans, marked with the scars of
Steinkirk and singed with the smoke of Namur, threatened
vengeance for these insults. The writers and speakers who had
taken the greatest liberties went in constant fear of being
accosted by fierce-looking captains, and required to make an
immediate choice between fighting and being caned. One gentleman,
who had made himself conspicuous by the severity of his language,
went about with pistols in his pockets. Howe, whose courage was
not proportionate to his malignity and petulance, was so much
frightened, that he retired into the country. The King, well
aware that a single blow given, at that critical conjuncture, by
a soldier to a member of Parliament might produce disastrous
consequences, ordered the officers of the army to their quarters,
and, by the vigorous exertion of his authority and influence,
succeeded in preventing all outrage.6

All this time the feeling in favour of a regular force seemed to
be growing in the House of Commons. The resignation of Sunderland
had put many honest gentlemen in good humour. The Whig leaders
exerted themselves to rally their followers, held meetings at the
"Rose," and represented strongly the dangers to which the country
would be exposed, if defended only by a militia. The opposition
asserted that neither bribes nor promises were spared. The
ministers at length flattered themselves that Harley's resolution
might be rescinded. On the eighth of January they again tried
their strength, and were again defeated, though by a smaller
majority than before. A hundred and sixty-four members divided
with them. A hundred and eighty-eight were for adhering to the
vote of the eleventh of December. It was remarked that on this
occasion the naval men, with Rooke at their head, voted against
the Government.7

It was necessary to yield. All that remained was to put on the
words of the resolution of the eleventh of December the most
favourable sense that they could be made to bear. They did indeed
admit of very different interpretations. The force which was
actually in England in 1680 hardly amounted to five thousand men.
But the garrison of Tangier and the regiments in the pay of the
Batavian federation, which, as they were available for the
defence of England against a foreign or domestic enemy, might be
said to be in some sort part of the English army, amounted to at
least five thousand more. The construction which the ministers
put on the resolution of the eleventh of December was, that the
army was to consist of ten thousand men; and in this construction
the House acquiesced. It was not held to be necessary that the
Parliament should, as in our time, fix the amount of the land
force. The Commons thought that they sufficiently limited the
number of soldiers by limiting the sum which was to be expended
in maintaining soldiers. What that sum should be was a question
which raised much debate. Harley was unwilling to give more than
three hundred thousand pounds. Montague struggled for four
hundred thousand. The general sense of the House was that Harley
offered too little, and that Montague demanded too much. At last,
on the fourteenth of January, a vote was taken for three hundred
and fifty thousand pounds. Four days later the House resolved to
grant half-pay to the disbanded officers till they should be
otherwise provided for. The half-pay was meant to be a retainer
as well as a reward. The effect of this important vote therefore
was that, whenever a new war should break out, the nation would
be able to command the services of many gentlemen of great
military experience. The ministry afterwards succeeded in
obtaining, much against the will of a portion of the opposition,
a separate vote for three thousand marines.

A Mutiny Act, which had been passed in 1697, expired in the
spring of 1698. As yet no such Act had been passed except in time
of war; and the temper of the Parliament and of the nation was
such that the ministers did not venture to ask, in time of peace,
for a renewal of powers unknown to the constitution. For the
present, therefore, the soldier was again, as in the times which
preceded the Revolution, subject to exactly the same law which
governed the citizen.

It was only in matters relating to the army that the government
found the Commons unmanageable. Liberal provision was made for
the navy. The number of seamen was fixed at ten thousand, a great
force, according to the notions of that age, for a time of peace.
The funds assigned some years before for the support of the civil
list had fallen short of the estimate. It was resolved that a new
arrangement should be made, and that a certain income should be
settled on the King. The amount was fixed, by an unanimous vote,
at seven hundred thousand pounds; and the Commons declared that,
by making this ample provision for his comfort and dignity, they
meant to express their sense of the great things which he had
done for the country. It is probable, however, that so large a
sum would not have been given without debates and divisions, had
it not been understood that he meant to take on himself the
charge of the Duke of Gloucester's establishment, and that he
would in all probability have to pay fifty thousand pounds a year
to Mary of Modena. The Tories were unwilling to disoblige the
Princess of Denmark; and the Jacobites abstained from offering
any opposition to a grant in the benefit of which they hoped that
the banished family would participate.

It was not merely by pecuniary liberality that the Parliament
testified attachment to the Sovereign. A bill was rapidly passed
which withheld the benefit of the Habeas Corpus Act, during
twelve months more, from Bernardi and some other conspirators who
had been concerned in the Assassination Plot, but whose guilt,
though demonstrated to the conviction of every reasonable man,
could not be proved by two witnesses. At the same time new
securities were provided against a new danger which threatened
the government. The peace had put an end to the apprehension that
the throne of William might be subverted by foreign arms, but
had, at the same time, facilitated domestic treason. It was no
longer necessary for an agent from Saint Germains to cross the
sea in a fishing boat, under the constant dread of being
intercepted by a cruiser. It was no longer necessary for him to
land on a desolate beach, to lodge in a thatched hovel, to dress
himself like a carter, or to travel up to town on foot. He came
openly by the Calais packet, walked into the best inn at Dover,
and ordered posthorses for London. Meanwhile young Englishmen of
quality and fortune were hastening in crowds to Paris. They would
naturally wish to see him who had once been their king; and this
curiosity, though in itself innocent, might have evil
consequences. Artful tempters would doubtless be on the watch for
every such traveller; and many such travellers might be well
pleased to be courteously accosted, in a foreign land, by
Englishmen of honourable name, distinguished appearance, and
insinuating address. It was not to be expected that a lad fresh
from the university would be able to refute all the sophisms and
calumnies which might be breathed in his ear by dexterous and
experienced seducers. Nor would it be strange if he should, in no
long time, accept an invitation to a private audience at Saint
Germains, should be charmed by the graces of Mary of Modena,
should find something engaging in the childish innocence of the
Prince of Wales, should kiss the hand of James, and should return
home an ardent Jacobite. An Act was therefore passed forbidding
English subjects to hold any intercourse orally, or by writing,
or by message, with the exiled family. A day was fixed after
which no English subject, who had, during the late war, gone into
France without the royal permission or borne arms against his
country was to be permitted to reside in this kingdom, except
under a special license from the King. Whoever infringed these
rules incurred the penalties of high treason.

The dismay was at first great among the malecontents. For English
and Irish Jacobites, who had served under the standards of Lewis
or hung about the Court of Saint Germains, had, since the peace,
come over in multitudes to England. It was computed that
thousands were within the scope of the new Act. But the severity
of that Act was mitigated by a beneficent administration. Some
fierce and stubborn non-jurors who would not debase themselves by
asking for any indulgence, and some conspicuous enemies of the
government who had asked for indulgence in vain, were under the
necessity of taking refuge on the Continent. But the great
majority of those offenders who promised to live peaceably under
William's rule obtained his permission to remain in their native

In the case of one great offender there were some circumstances
which attracted general interest, and which might furnish a good
subject to a novelist or a dramatist. Near fourteen years before
this time, Sunderland, then Secretary of State to Charles the
Second, had married his daughter Lady Elizabeth Spencer to
Donough Macarthy, Earl of Clancarty, the lord of an immense
domain in Munster. Both the bridegroom and the bride were mere
children, the bridegroom only fifteen, the bride only eleven.
After the ceremony they were separated; and many years full of
strange vicissitudes elapsed before they again met. The boy soon
visited his estates in Ireland. He had been bred a member of the
Church of England; but his opinions and his practice were loose.
He found himself among kinsmen who were zealous Roman Catholics.
A Roman Catholic king was on the throne. To turn Roman Catholic
was the best recommendation to favour both at Whitehall and at
Dublin Castle. Clancarty speedily changed his religion, and from
a dissolute Protestant became a dissolute Papist. After the
Revolution he followed the fortunes of James; sate in the Celtic
Parliament which met at the King's Inns; commanded a regiment in
the Celtic army; was forced to surrender himself to Marlborough
at Cork; was sent to England, and was imprisoned in the Tower.
The Clancarty estates, which were supposed to yield a rent of not
much less than ten thousand a year, were confiscated. They were
charged with an annuity to the Earl's brother, and with another
annuity to his wife; but the greater part was bestowed by the
King on Lord Woodstock, the eldest son of Portland; During some
time, the prisoner's life was not safe. For the popular voice
accused him of outrages for which the utmost license of civil war
would not furnish a plea. It is said that he was threatened with
an appeal of murder by the widow of a Protestant clergyman who
had been put to death during the troubles. After passing three
years in confinement, Clancarty made his escape to the Continent,
was graciously received at St. Germains, and was entrusted with
the command of a corps of Irish refugees. When the treaty of
Ryswick had put an end to the hope that the banished dynasty
would be restored by foreign arms, he flattered himself that he
might be able to make his peace with the English Government. But
he was grievously disappointed. The interest of his wife's family
was undoubtedly more than sufficient to obtain a pardon for him.
But on that interest he could not reckon. The selfish, base,
covetous, father-in-law was not at all desirous to have a
highborn beggar and the posterity of a highborn beggar to
maintain. The ruling passion of the brother-in-law was a stern
and acrimonious party spirit. He could not bear to think that he
was so nearly connected with an enemy of the Revolution and of
the Bill of Rights, and would with pleasure have seen the odious
tie severed even by the hand of the executioner. There was one,
however, from whom the ruined, expatriated, proscribed young
nobleman might hope to find a kind reception. He stole across the
Channel in disguise, presented himself at Sunderland's door, and
requested to see Lady Clancarty. He was charged, he said, with a
message to her from her mother, who was then lying on a sick bed
at Windsor. By this fiction he obtained admission, made himself
known to his wife, whose thoughts had probably been constantly
fixed on him during many years, and prevailed on her to give him
the most tender proofs of an affection sanctioned by the laws
both of God and of man. The secret was soon discovered and
betrayed by a waiting woman. Spencer learned that very night that
his sister had admitted her husband to her apartment. The
fanatical young Whig, burning with animosity which he mistook for
virtue, and eager to emulate the Corinthian who assassinated his
brother, and the Roman who passed sentence of death on his son,
flew to Vernon's office, gave information that the Irish rebel,
who had once already escaped from custody, was in hiding hard by,
and procured a warrant and a guard of soldiers. Clancarty was
found in the arms of his wife, and dragged to the Tower. She
followed him and implored permission to partake his cell. These
events produced a great stir throughout the society of London.
Sunderland professed everywhere that he heartily approved of his
son's conduct; but the public had made up its mind about
Sunderland's veracity, and paid very little attention to his
professions on this or on any other subject. In general,
honourable men of both parties, whatever might be their opinion
of Clancarty, felt great compassion for his mother who was dying
of a broken heart, and his poor young wife who was begging
piteously to be admitted within the Traitor's Gate. Devonshire
and Bedford joined with Ormond to ask for mercy. The aid of a
still more powerful intercessor was called in. Lady Russell was
esteemed by the King as a valuable friend; she was venerated by
the nation generally as a saint, the widow of a martyr; and, when
she deigned to solicit favours, it was scarcely possible that she
should solicit in vain. She naturally felt a strong sympathy for
the unhappy couple, who were parted by the walls of that gloomy
old fortress in which she had herself exchanged the last sad
endearments with one whose image was never absent from her. She
took Lady Clancarty with her to the palace, obtained access to
William, and put a petition into his hand. Clancarty was pardoned
on condition that he should leave the kingdom and never return to
it. A pension was granted to him, small when compared with the
magnificent inheritance which he had forfeited, but quite
sufficient to enable him to live like a gentleman on the
Continent. He retired, accompanied by his Elizabeth, to Altona.

All this time the ways and means for the year were under
consideration. The Parliament was able to grant some relief to
the country. The land tax was reduced from four shillings in the
pound to three. But nine expensive campaigns had left a heavy
arrear behind them; and it was plain that the public burdens
must, even in the time of peace, be such as, before the
Revolution, would have been thought more than sufficient to
support a vigorous war. A country gentleman was in no very good
humour, when he compared the sums which were now exacted from him
with those which he had been in the habit of paying under the
last two kings; his discontent became stronger when he compared
his own situation with that of courtiers, and above all of Dutch
courtiers, who had been enriched by grants of Crown property; and
both interest and envy made him willing to listen to politicians
who assured him that, if those grants were resumed, he might be
relieved from another shilling.

The arguments against such a resumption were not likely to be
heard with favour by a popular assembly composed of taxpayers,
but to statesmen and legislators will seem unanswerable.

There can be no doubt that the Sovereign was, by the old polity
of the realm, competent to give or let the domains of the Crown
in such manner as seemed good to him. No statute defined the
length of the term which he might grant, or the amount of the
rent which he must reserve. He might part with the fee simple of
a forest extending over a hundred square miles in consideration
of a tribute of a brace of hawks to be delivered annually to his
falconer, or of a napkin of fine linen to be laid on the royal
table at the coronation banquet. In fact, there had been hardly a
reign since the Conquest, in which great estates had not been
bestowed by our princes on favoured subjects. Anciently, indeed,
what had been lavishly given was not seldom violently taken away.
Several laws for the resumption of Crown lands were passed by the
Parliaments of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Of those
laws the last was that which, in the year 1485, immediately after
the battle of Bosworth, annulled the donations of the kings of
the House of York. More than two hundred years had since elapsed
without any Resumption Act. An estate derived from the royal
liberality had long been universally thought as secure as an
estate which had descended from father to son since the
compilation of Domesday Book. No title was considered as more
perfect than that of the Russells to Woburn, given by Henry the
Eighth to the first Earl of Bedford, or than that of the Cecils
to Hatfield, purchased from the Crown for less than a third of
the real value by the first Earl of Salisbury. The Long
Parliament did not, even in that celebrated instrument of
nineteen articles, which was framed expressly for the purpose of
making the King a mere Doge, propose to restrain him from dealing
according to his pleasure with his parks and his castles, his
fisheries and his mines. After the Restoration, under the
government of an easy prince, who had indeed little disposition
to give, but who could not bear to refuse, many noble private
fortunes were carved out of the property of the Crown. Some of
the persons who were thus enriched, Albemarle, for example,
Sandwich and Clarendon, might be thought to have fairly earned
their master's favour by their services. Others had merely amused
his leisure or pandered to his vices. His mistresses were
munificently rewarded. Estates sufficient to support the highest
rank in the peerage were distributed among his illegitimate
children. That these grants, however prodigal, were strictly
legal, was tacitly admitted by the Estates of the Realm, when, in
1689, they recounted and condemned the unconstitutional acts of
the kings of the House of Stuart. Neither in the Declaration of
Right nor in the Bill of Rights is there a word on the subject.
William, therefore, thought himself at liberty to give away his
hereditary domains as freely as his predecessors had given away
theirs. There was much murmuring at the profusion with which he
rewarded his Dutch favourites; and we have seen that, on one
occasion in the year 1696, the House of Commons interfered for
the purpose of restraining his liberality. An address was
presented requesting him not to grant to Portland an extensive
territory in North Wales. But it is to be observed that, though
in this address a strong opinion was expressed that the grant
would be mischievous, the Commons did not deny, and must
therefore be considered as having admitted, that it would be
perfectly legal. The King, however, yielded; and Portland was
forced to content himself with ten or twelve manors scattered
over various counties from Cumberland to Sussex.

It seems, therefore, clear that our princes were, by the law of
the land, competent to do what they would with their hereditary
estates. It is perfectly true that the law was defective, and
that the profusion with which mansions, abbeys, chaces, warrens,
beds of ore, whole streets, whole market towns, had been bestowed
on courtiers was greatly to be lamented. Nothing could have been
more proper than to pass a prospective statute tying up in strict
entail the little which still remained of the Crown property. But
to annul by a retrospective statute patents, which in Westminster
Hall were held to be legally valid, would have been simply
robbery. Such robbery must necessarily have made all property
insecure; and a statesman must be short-sighted indeed who
imagines that what makes property insecure can really make
society prosperous.

But it is vain to expect that men who are inflamed by anger, who
are suffering distress, and who fancy that it is in their power
to obtain immediate relief from their distresses at the expense
of those who have excited their anger, will reason as calmly as
the historian who, biassed neither by interest nor passion,
reviews the events of a past age. The public burdens were heavy.
To whatever extent the grants of royal domains were revoked,
those burdens would be lightened. Some of the recent grants had
undoubtedly been profuse. Some of the living grantees were
unpopular. A cry was raised which soon became formidably loud.
All the Tories, all the malecontent Whigs, and multitudes who,
without being either Tories or malecontent Whigs, disliked taxes
and disliked Dutchmen, called for a resumption of all the Crown
property which King William had, as it was phrased, been deceived
into giving away.

On the seventh of February 1698, this subject, destined to
irritate the public mind at intervals during many years, was
brought under the consideration of the House of Commons. The
opposition asked leave to bring in a bill vacating all grants of
Crown property which had been made since the Revolution. The
ministers were in a great strait; the public feeling was strong;
a general election was approaching; it was dangerous and it would
probably be vain to encounter the prevailing sentiment directly.
But the shock which could not be resisted might be eluded. The
ministry accordingly professed to find no fault with the proposed
bill, except that it did not go far enough, and moved for leave
to bring in two more bills, one for annulling the grants of James
the Second, the other for annulling the grants of Charles the
Second. The Tories were caught in their own snare. For most of
the grants of Charles and James had been made to Tories; and a
resumption of those grants would have reduced some of the chiefs
of the Tory party to poverty. Yet it was impossible to draw a
distinction between the grants of William and those of his two
predecessors. Nobody could pretend that the law had been altered
since his accession. If, therefore, the grants of the Stuarts
were legal, so were his; if his grants were illegal, so were the
grants of his uncles. And, if both his grants and the grants of
his uncles were illegal, it was absurd to say that the mere lapse
of time made a difference. For not only was it part of the
alphabet of the law that there was no prescription against the
Crown, but the thirty-eight years which had elapsed since the
Restoration would not have sufficed to bar a writ of right
brought by a private demandant against a wrongful tenant. Nor
could it be pretended that William had bestowed his favours less
judiciously than Charles and James. Those who were least friendly
to the Dutch would hardly venture to say that Portland, Zulestein
and Ginkell was less deserving of the royal bounty than the
Duchess of Cleveland and the Duchess of Portsmouth, than the
progeny of Nell Gwynn, than the apostate Arlington or the butcher
Jeffreys. The opposition, therefore, sullenly assented to what
the ministry proposed. From that moment the scheme was doomed.
Everybody affected to be for it; and everybody was really against
it. The three bills were brought in together, read a second time
together, ordered to be committed together, and were then, first
mutilated, and at length quietly dropped.

In the history of the financial legislation of this session,
there were some episodes which deserve to be related. Those
members, a numerous body, who envied and dreaded Montague readily
became the unconscious tools of the cunning malice of Sunderland,
whom Montague had refused to defend in Parliament, and who,
though detested by the opposition, contrived to exercise some
influence over that party through the instrumentality of Charles
Duncombe. Duncombe indeed had his own reasons for hating
Montague, who had turned him out of the place of Cashier of the
Excise. A serious charge was brought against the Board of
Treasury, and especially against its chief. He was the inventor
of Exchequer Bills; and they were popularly called Montague's
notes. He had induced the Parliament to enact that those bills,
even when at a discount in the market, should be received at par
by the collectors of the revenue. This enactment, if honestly
carried into effect, would have been unobjectionable. But it was
strongly rumoured that there had been foul play, peculation, even
forgery. Duncombe threw the most serious imputations on the Board
of Treasury, and pretended that he had been put out of his office
only because he was too shrewd to be deceived, and too honest to
join in deceiving the public. Tories and malecontent Whigs,
elated by the hope that
Montague might be convicted of malversation, eagerly called for
inquiry. An inquiry was instituted; but the result not only
disappointed but utterly confounded the accusers. The persecuted
minister obtained both a complete acquittal, and a signal
revenge. Circumstances were discovered which seemed to indicate
that Duncombe himself was not blameless. The clue was followed;
he was severely cross-examined; he lost his head; made one
unguarded admission after another, and was at length compelled to
confess, on the floor of the House, that he had been guilty of an
infamous fraud, which, but for his own confession, it would have
been scarcely possible to bring home to him. He had been ordered
by the Commissioners of the Excise to pay ten thousand pounds
into the Exchequer for the public service. He had in his hands,
as cashier, more than double that sum in good milled silver. With
some of this money he bought Exchequer Bills which were then at a
considerable discount; he paid those bills in; and he pocketed
the discount, which amounted to about four hundred pounds. Nor
was this all. In order to make it appear that the depreciated
paper, which he had fraudulently substituted for silver, had been
received by him in payment of taxes, he had employed a knavish
Jew to forge endorsements of names, some real and some imaginary.
This scandalous story, wrung out of his own lips, was heard by
the opposition with consternation and shame, by the ministers and
their friends with vindictive exultation. It was resolved,
without any division, that he should be sent to the Tower, that
he should be kept close prisoner there, that he should be
expelled from the House. Whether any further punishment could be
inflicted on him was a perplexing question. The English law
touching forgery became, at a later period, barbarously severe;
but, in 1698, it was absurdly lax. The prisoner's offence was
certainly not a felony; and lawyers apprehended that there would
be much difficulty in convicting him even of a misdemeanour. But
a recent precedent was fresh in the minds of all men. The weapon
which had reached Fenwick might reach Duncombe. A bill of pains
and penalties was brought in, and carried through the earlier
stages with less opposition than might have been expected. Some
Noes might perhaps be uttered; but no members ventured to say
that the Noes had it. The Tories were mad with shame and
mortification, at finding that their rash attempt to ruin an
enemy had produced no effect except the ruin of a friend. In
their rage, they eagerly caught at a new hope of revenge, a hope
destined to end, as their former hope had ended, in discomfiture
and disgrace. They learned, from the agents of Sunderland, as
many people suspected, but certainly from informants who were
well acquainted with the offices about Whitehall, that some
securities forfeited to the Crown in Ireland had been bestowed by
the King ostensibly on one Thomas Railton, but really on the
Chancellor of the Exchequer. The value of these securities was
about ten thousand pounds. On the sixteenth of February this
transaction was brought without any notice under the
consideration of the House of Commons by Colonel Granville, a
Tory member, nearly related to the Earl of Bath. Montague was
taken completely by surprise, but manfully avowed the whole
truth, and defended what he had done. The orators of the
opposition declaimed against him with great animation and
asperity. "This gentleman," they said, "has at once violated
three distinct duties. He is a privy councillor, and, as such, is
bound to advise the Crown with a view, not to his own selfish
interests, but to the general good. He is the first minister of
finance, and is, as such, bound to be a thrifty manager of the
royal treasure. He is a member of this House, and is, as such,
bound to see that the burdens borne by his constituents are not
made heavier by rapacity and prodigality. To all these trusts he
has been unfaithful. The advice of the privy councillor to his
master is, 'Give me money.' The first Lord of the Treasury signs
a warrant for giving himself money out of the Treasury. The
member for Westminster puts into his pocket money which his
constituents must be taxed to replace." The surprise was
complete; the onset was formidable; but the Whig majority, after
a moment of dismay and wavering, rallied firmly round their
leader. Several speakers declared that they highly approved of
the prudent liberality with which His Majesty had requited the
services of a most able, diligent and trusty counsellor. It was
miserable economy indeed to grudge a reward of a few thousands to
one who had made the State richer by millions. Would that all the
largesses of former kings had been as well bestowed! How those
largesses had been bestowed none knew better than some of the
austere patriots who harangued so loudly against the avidity of
Montague. If there is, it was said, a House in England which has
been gorged with undeserved riches by the prodigality of weak
sovereigns, it is the House of Bath. Does it lie in the mouth of
a son of that house to blame the judicious munificence of a wise
and good King? Before the Granvilles complain that distinguished
merit has been rewarded with ten thousand pounds, let them refund
some part of the hundreds of thousands which they have pocketed
without any merit at all.

The rule was, and still is, that a member against whom a charge
is made must be heard in his own defence, and must then leave the
House. The Opposition insisted that Montague should retire. His
friends maintained that this case did not fall within the rule.
Distinctions were drawn; precedents were cited; and at length the
question was put, that Mr. Montague do withdraw. The Ayes were
only ninety-seven; the Noes two hundred and nine. This decisive
result astonished both parties. The Tories lost heart and hope.
The joy of the Whigs was boundless. It was instantly moved that
the Honourable Charles Montague, Esquire, Chancellor of the
Exchequer, for his good services to this Government does deserve
His Majesty's favour. The Opposition, completely cowed, did not
venture to demand another division. Montague scornfully thanked
them for the inestimable service which they had done him. But for
their malice he never should have had the honour and happiness of
being solemnly pronounced by the Commons of England a benefactor
of his country. As to the grant which had been the subject of
debate, he was perfectly ready to give it up, if his accusers
would engage to follow his example.

Even after this defeat the Tories returned to the charge. They
pretended that the frauds which had been committed with respect
to the Exchequer Bills had been facilitated by the mismanagement
of the Board of Treasury, and moved a resolution which implied a
censure on that Board, and especially on its chief. This
resolution was rejected by a hundred and seventy votes to eighty-
eight. It was remarked that Spencer, as if anxious to show that
he had taken no part in the machinations of which his father was
justly or unjustly suspected, spoke in this debate with great
warmth against Duncombe and for Montague.

A few days later, the bill of pains and penalties against
Duncombe passed the Commons. It provided that two thirds of his
enormous property, real and personal, should be confiscated and
applied to the public service. Till the third reading there was
no serious opposition. Then the Tories mustered their strength.
They were defeated by a hundred and thirty-eight votes to a
hundred and three; and the bill was carried up to the Lords by
the Marquess of Hartington, a young nobleman whom the great body
of Whigs respected as one of their hereditary chiefs, as the heir
of Devonshire, and as the son in law of Russell.

That Duncombe had been guilty of shameful dishonesty was
acknowledged by all men of sense and honour in the party to which
he belonged. He had therefore little right to expect indulgence
from the party which he had unfairly and malignantly assailed.
Yet it is not creditable to the Whigs that they should have been
so much disgusted by his frauds, or so much irritated by his
attacks, as to have been bent on punishing him in a manner
inconsistent with all the principles which governments ought to
hold most sacred.

Those who concurred in the proceeding against Duncombe tried to
vindicate their conduct by citing as an example the proceeding
against Fenwick. So dangerous is it to violate, on any pretence,
those principles which the experience of ages has proved to be
the safeguards of all that is most precious to a community.
Twelve months had hardly elapsed since the legislature had, in
very peculiar circumstances, and for very plausible reasons,
taken upon itself to try and to punish a great criminal whom it
was impossible to reach in the ordinary course of justice; and
already the breach then made in the fences which protect the
dearest rights of Englishmen was widening fast. What had last
year been defended only as a rare exception seemed now to be
regarded as the ordinary rule. Nay, the bill of pains and
penalties which now had an easy passage through the House of
Commons was infinitely more objectionable than the bill which had
been so obstinately resisted at every stage in the preceding

The writ of attainder against Fenwick was not, as the vulgar
imagined and still imagine, objectionable because it was
retrospective. It is always to be remembered that retrospective
legislation is bad in principle only when it affects the
substantive law. Statutes creating new crimes or increasing the
punishment of old crimes ought in no case to be retrospective.
But statutes which merely alter the procedure, if they are in
themselves good statutes, ought to be retrospective. To take
examples from the legislation of our own time, the Act passed in
1845, for punishing the malicious destruction of works of art
with whipping, was most properly made prospective only. Whatever
indignation the authors of that Act might feel against the
ruffian who had broken the Barberini Vase, they knew that they
could not, without the most serious detriment to the
commonwealth, pass a law for scourging him. On the other hand the
Act which allowed the affirmation of a Quaker to be received in
criminal cases allowed, and most justly and reasonably, such
affirmation to be received in the case of a past as well as of a
future misdemeanour or felony. If we try the Act which attainted
Fenwick by these rules we shall find that almost all the numerous
writers who have condemned it have condemned it on wrong grounds.
It made no retrospective change in the substantive law. The crime
was not new. It was high treason as defined by the Statute of
Edward the Third. The punishment was not new. It was the
punishment which had been inflicted on traitors of ten
generations. All that was new was the procedure; and, if the new
procedure had been intrinsically better than the old procedure,
the new procedure might with perfect propriety have been
employed. But the procedure employed in Fenwick's case was the
worst possible, and would have been the worst possible if it had
been established from time immemorial. However clearly political
crime may have been defined by ancient laws, a man accused of it
ought not to be tried by a crowd of five hundred and thirteen
eager politicians, of whom he can challenge none even with cause,
who have no judge to guide them, who are allowed to come in and
go out as they choose, who hear as much or as little as they
choose of the accusation and of the defence, who are exposed,
during the investigation, to every kind of corrupting influence,
who are inflamed by all the passions which animated debates
naturally excite, who cheer one orator and cough down another,
who are roused from sleep to cry Aye or No, or who are hurried
half drunk from their suppers to divide. For this reason, and for
no other, the attainder of Fenwick is to be condemned. It was
unjust and of evil example, not because it was a retrospective
Act, but because it was an act essentially judicial, performed by
a body destitute of all judicial qualities.

The bill for punishing Duncombe was open to all the objections
which can be urged against the bill for punishing Fenwick, and to
other objections of even greater weight. In both cases the
judicial functions were usurped by a body unfit to exercise such
functions. But the bill against Duncombe really was, what the
bill against Fenwick was not, objectionable as a retrospective
bill. It altered the substantive criminal law. It visited an
offence with a penalty of which the offender, at the time when he
offended, had no notice.

It may be thought a strange proposition that the bill against
Duncombe was a worse bill than the bill against Fenwick, because
the bill against Fenwick struck at life, and the bill against
Duncombe struck only at property. Yet this apparent paradox is a
sober truth. Life is indeed more precious than property. But the
power of arbitrarily taking away the lives of men is infinitely
less likely to be abused than the power of arbitrarily taking
away their property. Even the lawless classes of society
generally shrink from blood. They commit thousands of offences
against property to one murder; and most of the few murders which
they do commit are committed for the purpose of facilitating or
concealing some offence against property. The unwillingness of
juries to find a fellow creature guilty of a capital felony even
on the clearest evidence is notorious; and it may well be
suspected that they frequently violate their oaths in favour of
life. In civil suits, on the other hand, they too often forget
that their duty is merely to give the plaintiff a compensation
for evil suffered; and, if the conduct of the defendant has moved
their indignation and his fortune is known to be large, they turn
themselves into a criminal tribunal, and, under the name of
damages, impose a large fine. As housebreakers are more likely to
take plate and jewellery than to cut throats; as juries are far
more likely to err on the side of pecuniary severity in assessing
damages than to send to the gibbet any man who has not richly
deserved it; so a legislature, which should be so unwise as to
take on itself the functions properly belonging to the Courts of
Law, would be far more likely to pass Acts of Confiscation than
Acts of Attainder. We naturally feel pity even for a bad man
whose head is about to fall. But, when a bad man is compelled to
disgorge his ill-gotten gains, we naturally feel a vindictive
pleasure, in which there is much danger that we may be tempted to
indulge too largely.

The hearts of many stout Whigs doubtless bled at the thought of
what Fenwick must have suffered, the agonizing struggle, in a
mind not of the firmest temper, between the fear of shame and the
fear of death, the parting from a tender wife, and all the gloomy
solemnity of the last morning. But whose heart was to bleed at
the thought that Charles Duncombe, who was born to carry parcels
and to sweep down a counting-house, was to be punished for his
knavery by having his income reduced to eight thousand a year,
more than most earls then possessed?

His judges were not likely to feel compassion for him; and they
all had strong selfish reasons to vote against him. They were all
in fact bribed by the very bill by which he would be punished.

His property was supposed to amount to considerably more than
four hundred thousand pounds. Two thirds of that property were
equivalent to about sevenpence in the pound on the rental of the
kingdom as assessed to the land tax. If, therefore, two thirds of
that property could have been brought into the Exchequer, the
land tax for 1699, a burden most painfully felt by the class
which had the chief power in England, might have been reduced
from three shillings to two and fivepence. Every squire of a
thousand a year in the House of Commons would have had thirty
pounds more to spend; and that sum might well have made to him
the whole difference between being at ease and being pinched
during twelve months. If the bill had passed, if the gentry and
yeomanry of the kingdom had found that it was possible for them
to obtain a welcome remission of taxation by imposing on a
Shylock or an Overreach, by a retrospective law, a fine not
heavier than his misconduct might, in a moral view, seem to have
deserved, it is impossible to believe that they would not soon
have recurred to so simple and agreeable a resource. In every age
it is easy to find rich men who have done bad things for which
the law has provided no punishment or an inadequate punishment.
The estates of such men would soon have been considered as a fund
applicable to the public service. As often as it was necessary to
vote an extraordinary supply to the Crown, the Committee of Ways
and Means would have looked about for some unpopular capitalist
to plunder. Appetite would have grown with indulgence.
Accusations would have been eagerly welcomed. Rumours and
suspicions would have been received as proofs. The wealth of the
great goldsmiths of the Royal Exchange would have become as
insecure as that of a Jew under the Plantagenets, as that of a
Christian under a Turkish Pasha. Rich men would have tried to
invest their acquisitions in some form in which they could lie
closely hidden and could be speedily removed. In no long time it
would have been found that of all financial resources the least
productive is robbery, and that the public had really paid far
more dearly for Duncombe's hundreds of thousands than if it had
borrowed them at fifty per cent.

These considerations had more weight with the Lords than with the
Commons. Indeed one of the principal uses of the Upper House is
to defend the vested rights of property in cases in which those
rights are unpopular, and are attacked on grounds which to
shortsighted politicians seem valid. An assembly composed of men
almost all of whom have inherited opulence, and who are not under
the necessity of paying court to constituent bodies, will not
easily be hurried by passion or seduced by sophistry into
robbery. As soon as the bill for punishing Duncombe had been read
at the table of the Peers, it became clear that there would be a
sharp contest. Three great Tory noblemen, Rochester, Nottingham
and Leeds, headed the opposition; and they were joined by some
who did not ordinarily act with them. At an early stage of the
proceedings a new and perplexing question was raised. How did it
appear that the facts set forth in the preamble were true, that
Duncombe had committed the frauds for which it was proposed to
punish him in so extraordinary a manner? In the House of Commons,
he had been taken by surprise; he had made admissions of which he
had not foreseen the consequences; and he had then been so much
disconcerted by the severe manner in which he had been
interrogated that he had at length avowed everything. But he had
now had time to prepare himself; he had been furnished with
advice by counsel; and, when he was placed at the bar of the
Peers, he refused to criminate himself and defied his persecutors
to prove him guilty. He was sent back to the Tower. The Lords
acquainted the Commons with the difficulty which had arisen. A
conference was held in the Painted Chamber; and there Hartington,
who appeared for the Commons, declared that he was authorized, by
those who had sent him, to assure the Lords that Duncombe had, in
his place in Parliament, owned the misdeeds which he now
challenged his accusers to bring home to him. The Lords, however,
rightly thought that it would be a strange and a dangerous thing
to receive a declaration of the House of Commons in its
collective character as conclusive evidence of the fact that a
man had committed a crime. The House of Commons was under none of
those restraints which were thought necessary in ordinary cases
to protect innocent defendants against false witnesses. The House
of Commons could not be sworn, could not be cross-examined, could
not be indicted, imprisoned, pilloried, mutilated, for perjury.
Indeed the testimony of the House of Commons in its collective
character was of less value than the uncontradicted testimony of
a single member. For it was only the testimony of the majority of
the House. There might be a large respectable minority whose
recollections might materially differ from the recollections of
the majority. This indeed was actually the case. For there had
been a dispute among those who had heard Duncombe's confession as
to the precise extent of what he had confessed; and there had
been a division; and the statement which the Upper House was
expected to receive as decisive on the point of fact had been at
last carried only by ninety votes to sixty-eight. It should seem
therefore that, whatever moral conviction the Lords might feel of
Duncombe's guilt, they were bound, as righteous judges, to
absolve him.

After much animated debate, they divided; and the bill was lost
by forty-eight votes to forty-seven. It was proposed by some of
the minority that proxies should be called; but this scandalous
proposition was strenuously resisted; and the House, to its great
honour, resolved that on questions which were substantially
judicial, though they might be in form legislative, no peer who
was absent should be allowed to have a voice.

Many of the Whig Lords protested. Among them were Orford and
Wharton. It is to be lamented that Burnet, and the excellent
Hough, who was now Bishop of Oxford, should have been impelled by
party spirit to record their dissent from a decision which all
sensible and candid men will now pronounce to have been just and
salutary. Somers was present; but his name is not attached to the
protest which was subscribed by his brethren of the junto. We may
therefore not unreasonably infer that, on this as on many other
occasions, that wise and virtuous statesman disapproved of the
violence of his friends.

In rejecting the bill, the Lords had only exercised their
indisputable right. But they immediately proceeded to take a step
of which the legality was not equally clear. Rochester moved that
Duncombe should be set at liberty. The motion was carried; a
warrant for the discharge of the prisoner was sent to the Tower,
and was obeyed without hesitation by Lord Lucas, who was
Lieutenant of that fortress. As soon as this was known, the anger
of the Commons broke forth with violence. It was by their order
that the upstart Duncombe had been put in ward. He was their
prisoner; and it was monstrous insolence in the Peers to release
him. The Peers defended what they had done by arguments which
must be allowed to have been ingenious, if not satisfactory. It
was quite true that Duncombe had originally been committed to the
Tower by the Commons. But, it was said, the Commons, by sending a
penal bill against him to the Lords, did, by necessary
implication, send him also to the Lords. For it was plainly
impossible for the Lords to pass the bill without hearing what he
had to say against it. The Commons had felt this, and had not
complained when he had, without their consent, been brought from
his place of confinement, and set at the bar of the Peers. From
that moment he was the prisoner of the Peers. He had been taken
back from the bar to the Tower, not by virtue of the Speaker's
warrant, of which the force was spent, but by virtue of their
order which had remanded him. They, therefore, might with perfect
propriety discharge him.

Whatever a jurist might have thought of these arguments, they had
no effect on the Commons. Indeed, violent as the spirit of party
was in those times, it was less violent than the spirit of caste.
Whenever a dispute arose between the two Houses, many members of
both forgot that they were Whigs or Tories, and remembered only
that they were Patricians or Plebeians. On this occasion nobody
was louder in asserting the privileges of the representatives of
the people in opposition to the encroachments of the nobility
than Harley. Duncombe was again arrested by the Serjeant at Arms,
and remained in confinement till the end of the session. Some
eager men were for addressing the King to turn Lucas out of
office. This was not done; but during several days the ill humour
of the Lower House showed itself by a studied discourtesy. One of
the members was wanted as a witness in a matter which the Lords
were investigating. They sent two judges with a message
requesting the permission of the Commons to examine him. At any
other time the judges would have been called in immediately, and
the permission would have been granted as of course. But on this
occasion the judges were kept waiting some hours at the door; and
such difficulties were made about the permission that the Peers
desisted from urging a request which seemed likely to be
ungraciously refused.

The attention of the Parliament was, during the remainder of the
session, chiefly occupied by commercial questions. Some of those
questions required so much investigation, and gave occasion to so
much dispute, that the prorogation did not take place till the
fifth of July. There was consequently some illness and much
discontent among both Lords and Commons. For, in that age, the
London season usually ended soon after the first notes of the
cuckoo had been heard, and before the poles had been decked for
the dances and mummeries which welcomed the genial May day of the
ancient calendar. Since the year of the Revolution, a year which
was an exception to all ordinary rules, the members of the two
Houses had never been detained from their woods and haycocks even
so late as the beginning of June.

The Commons had, soon after they met, appointed a Committee to
enquire into the state of trade, and had referred to this
Committee several petitions from merchants and manufacturers who
complained that they were in danger of being undersold, and who
asked for additional protection.

A highly curious report on the importation of silks and the
exportation of wool was soon presented to the House. It was in
that age believed by all but a very few speculative men that the
sound commercial policy was to keep out of the country the
delicate and brilliantly tinted textures of southern looms, and
to keep in the country the raw material on which most of our own
looms were employed. It was now fully proved that, during eight
years of war, the textures which it was thought desirable to keep
out had been constantly coming in, and the material which it was
thought desirable to keep in had been constantly going out. This
interchange, an interchange, as it was imagined, pernicious to
England, had been chiefly managed by an association of Huguenot
refugees, residing in London. Whole fleets of boats with illicit
cargoes had been passing and repassing between Kent and Picardy.
The loading and unloading had taken place sometimes in Romney
Marsh, sometimes on the beach under the cliffs between Dover and
Folkstone. All the inhabitants of the south eastern coast were in
the plot. It was a common saying among them that, if a gallows
were set up every quarter of a mile along the coast, the trade
would still go on briskly. It had been discovered, some years
before, that the vessels and the hiding places which were
necessary to the business of the smuggler had frequently afforded
accommodation to the traitor. The report contained fresh evidence
upon this point. It was proved that one of the contrabandists had
provided the vessel in which the ruffian O'Brien had carried Scum
Goodman over to France.

The inference which ought to have been drawn from these facts was
that the prohibitory system was absurd. That system had not
destroyed the trade which was so much dreaded, but had merely
called into existence a desperate race of men who, accustomed to
earn their daily bread by the breach of an unreasonable law, soon
came to regard the most reasonable laws with contempt, and,
having begun by eluding the custom house officers, ended by
conspiring against the throne. And, if, in time of war, when the
whole Channel was dotted with our cruisers, it had been found
impossible to prevent the regular exchange of the fleeces of
Cotswold for the alamodes of Lyons, what chance was there that
any machinery which could be employed in time of peace would be
more efficacious? The politicians of the seventeenth century,
however, were of opinion that sharp laws sharply administered
could not fail to save Englishmen from the intolerable grievance
of selling dear what could be best produced by themselves, and of
buying cheap what could be best produced by others. The penalty
for importing French silks was made more severe. An Act was
passed which gave to a joint stock company an absolute monopoly
of lustrings for a term of fourteen years. The fruit of these
wise counsels was such as might have been foreseen. French silks
were still imported; and, long before the term of fourteen years
had expired, the funds of the Lustring Company had been spent,
its offices had been shut up, and its very name had been
forgotten at Jonathan's and Garraway's.

Not content with prospective legislation, the Commons unanimously
determined to treat the offences which the Committee had brought
to light as high crimes against the State, and to employ against
a few cunning mercers in Nicholas Lane and the Old Jewry all the
gorgeous and cumbrous machinery which ought to be reserved for
the delinquencies of great Ministers and Judges. It was
resolved, without a division, that several Frenchmen and one
Englishman who had been deeply concerned in the contraband trade
should be impeached. Managers were appointed; articles were drawn
up; preparations were made for fitting up Westminster Hall with
benches and scarlet hangings; and at one time it was thought that
the trials would last till the partridge shooting began. But the
defendants, having little hope of acquittal, and not wishing that
the Peers should come to the business of fixing the punishment in
the temper which was likely to be the effect of an August passed
in London, very wisely declined to give their lordships
unnecessary trouble, and pleaded guilty. The sentences were
consequently lenient. The French offenders were merely fined; and
their fines probably did not amount to a fifth part of the sums
which they had realised by unlawful traffic. The Englishman who
had been active in managing the escape of Goodman was both fined
and imprisoned.

The progress of the woollen manufactures of Ireland excited even
more alarm and indignation than the contraband trade with France.
The French question indeed had been simply commercial. The Irish
question, originally commercial, became political. It was not
merely the prosperity of the clothiers of Wiltshire and of the
West Riding that was at stake; but the dignity of the Crown, the
authority of the Parliament, and the unity of the empire. Already
might be discerned among the Englishry, who were now, by the help
and under the protection of the mother country, the lords of the
conquered island, some signs of a spirit, feeble indeed, as yet,
and such as might easily be put down by a few resolute words, but
destined to revive at long intervals, and to be stronger and more
formidable at every revival.

The person who on this occasion came forward as the champion of
the colonists, the forerunner of Swift and of Grattan, was
William Molyneux. He would have rejected the name of Irishman as
indignantly as a citizen of Marseilles or Cyrene, proud of his
pure Greek blood, and fully qualified to send a chariot to the
Olympic race course, would have rejected the name of Gaul or
Libyan. He was, in the phrase of that time, an English gentleman
of family and fortune born in Ireland. He had studied at the
Temple, had travelled on the Continent, had become well known to
the most eminent scholars and philosophers of Oxford and
Cambridge, had been elected a member of the Royal Society of
London, and had been one of the founders of the Royal Society of
Dublin. In the days of Popish ascendancy he had taken refuge
among his friends here; he had returned to his home when the
ascendancy of his own caste had been reestablished; and he had
been chosen to represent the University of Dublin in the House of
Commons. He had made great efforts to promote the manufactures of
the kingdom in which he resided; and he had found those efforts
impeded by an Act of the English Parliament which laid severe
restrictions on the exportation of woollen goods from Ireland. In
principle this Act was altogether indefensible. Practically it
was altogether unimportant. Prohibitions were not needed to
prevent the Ireland of the seventeenth century from being a great
manufacturing country; nor could the most liberal bounties have
made her so. The jealousy of commerce, however, is as fanciful
and unreasonable as the jealousy of love. The clothiers of Wilts
and Yorkshire were weak enough to imagine that they should be
ruined by the competition of a half barbarous island, an island
where there was far less capital than in England, where there was
far less security for life and property than in England, and
where there was far less industry and energy among the labouring
classes than in England. Molyneux, on the other hand, had the
sanguine temperament of a projector. He imagined that, but for
the tyrannical interference of strangers, a Ghent would spring up
in Connemara, and a Bruges in the Bog of Allen. And what right
had strangers to interfere? Not content with showing that the law
of which he complained was absurd and unjust, he undertook to
prove that it was null and void. Early in the year 1698 he
published and dedicated to the King a treatise in which it was
asserted in plain terms that the English Parliament had no
authority over Ireland.

Whoever considers without passion or prejudice the great
constitutional question which was thus for the first time raised
will probably be of opinion that Molyneux was in error. The right
of the Parliament of England to legislate for Ireland rested on
the broad general principle that the paramount authority of the
mother country extends over all colonies planted by her sons in
all parts of the world. This principle was the subject of much
discussion at the time of the American troubles, and was then
maintained, without any reservation, not only by the English
Ministers, but by Burke and all the adherents of Rockingham, and
was admitted, with one single reservation, even by the Americans
themselves. Down to the moment of separation the Congress fully
acknowledged the competency of the King, Lords and Commons to
make laws, of any kind but one, for Massachusetts and Virginia.
The only power which such men as Washington and Franklin denied
to the Imperial legislature was the power of taxing. Within
living memory, Acts which have made great political and social
revolutions in our Colonies have been passed in this country; nor
has the validity of those Acts ever been questioned; and
conspicuous among them were the law of 1807 which abolished the
slave trade, and the law of 1833 which abolished slavery.

The doctrine that the parent state has supreme power over the
colonies is not only borne out by authority and by precedent, but
will appear, when examined, to be in entire accordance with
justice and with policy. During the feeble infancy of colonies
independence would be pernicious, or rather fatal, to them.
Undoubtedly, as they grow stronger and stronger, it will be wise
in the home government to be more and more indulgent. No
sensible parent deals with a son of twenty in the same way as
with a son of ten. Nor will any government not infatuated treat
such a province as Canada or Victoria in the way in which it
might be proper to treat a little band of emigrants who have just
begun to build their huts on a barbarous shore, and to whom the
protection of the flag of a great nation is indispensably
necessary. Nevertheless, there cannot really be more than one
supreme power in a society. If, therefore, a time comes at which
the mother country finds it expedient altogether to abdicate her
paramount authority over a colony, one of two courses ought to be
taken. There ought to be complete incorporation, if such
incorporation be possible. If not, there ought to be complete
separation. Very few propositions in polities can be so perfectly
demonstrated as this, that parliamentary government cannot be
carried on by two really equal and independent parliaments in one

And, if we admit the general rule to be that the English
parliament is competent to legislate for colonies planted by
English subjects, what reason was there for considering the case
of the colony in Ireland as an exception? For it is to be
observed that the whole question was between the mother country
and the colony. The aboriginal inhabitants, more than five sixths
of the population, had no more interest in the matter than the
swine or the poultry; or, if they had an interest, it was for
their interest that the caste which domineered over them should
not be emancipated from all external control. They were no more
represented in the parliament which sate at Dublin than in the
parliament which sate at Westminster. They had less to dread from
legislation at Westminster than from legislation at Dublin. They
were, indeed, likely to obtain but a very scanty measure of
justice from the English Tories, a more scanty measure still from
the English Whigs; but the most acrimonious English Whig did not
feel towards them that intense antipathy, compounded of hatred,
fear and scorn, with which they were regarded by the Cromwellian
who dwelt among them.8 For the Irishry Molyneux, though boasting
that he was the champion of liberty, though professing to have
learned his political principles from Locke's writings, and
though confidently expecting Locke's applause, asked nothing but
a more cruel and more hopeless slavery. What he claimed was that,
as respected the colony to which he belonged, England should
forego rights which she has exercised and is still exercising
over every other colony that she has ever planted. And what
reason could be given for making such a distinction? No colony
had owed so much to England. No colony stood in such need of the
support of England. Twice, within the memory of men then living,
the natives had attempted to throw off the alien yoke; twice the
intruders had been in imminent danger of extirpation; twice
England had come to the rescue, and had put down the Celtic
population under the feet of her own progeny. Millions of English
money had been expended in the struggle. English blood had flowed
at the Boyne and at Athlone, at Aghrim and at Limerick. The
graves of thousands of English soldiers had been dug in the
pestilential morass of Dundalk. It was owing to the exertions and
sacrifices of the English people that, from the basaltic pillars
of Ulster to the lakes of Kerry, the Saxon settlers were
trampling on the children of the soil. The colony in Ireland was
therefore emphatically a dependency; a dependency, not merely by
the common law of the realm, but by the nature of things. It was
absurd to claim independence for a community which could not
cease to be dependent without ceasing to exist.

Molyneux soon found that he had ventured on a perilous
undertaking. A member of the English House of Commons complained
in his place that a book which attacked the most precious
privileges of the supreme legislature was in circulation. The
volume was produced; some passages were read; and a Committee was
appointed to consider the whole subject. The Committee soon
reported that the obnoxious pamphlet was only one of several
symptoms which indicated a spirit such as ought to be suppressed.
The Crown of Ireland had been most improperly described in public
instruments as an imperial Crown. The Irish Lords and Commons had
presumed, not only to reenact an English Act passed expressly for
the purpose of binding them, but to reenact it with alterations.
The alterations were indeed small; but the alteration even of a
letter was tantamount to a declaration of independence. Several
addresses were voted without a division. The King was entreated
to discourage all encroachments of subordinate powers on the
supreme authority of the English legislature, to bring to justice
the pamphleteer who had dared to question that authority, to
enforce the Acts which had been passed for the protection of the
woollen manufactures of England, and to direct the industry and
capital of Ireland into the channel of the linen trade, a trade
which might grow and flourish in Leinster and Ulster without
exciting the smallest jealousy at Norwich or at Halifax.

The King promised to do what the Commons asked; but in truth
there was little to be done. The Irish, conscious of their
impotence, submitted without a murmur. The Irish woollen
manufacture languished and disappeared, as it would, in all
probability, have languished and disappeared if it had been left
to itself. Had Molyneux lived a few months longer he would
probably have been impeached. But the close of the session was
approaching; and before the Houses met again a timely death had
snatched him from their vengeance; and the momentous question
which had been first stirred by him slept a deep sleep till it
was revived in a more formidable shape, after the lapse of
twenty-six years, by the fourth letter of The Drapier.

Of the commercial questions which prolonged this session far into
the summer the most important respected India. Four years had
elapsed since the House of Commons had decided that all
Englishmen had an equal right to traffic in the Asiatic Seas,
unless prohibited by Parliament; and in that decision the King
had thought it prudent to acquiesce. Any merchant of London or
Bristol might now fit out a ship for Bengal or for China, without
the least apprehension of being molested by the Admiralty or sued
in the Courts of Westminster. No wise man, however, was disposed
to stake a large sum on such a venture. For the vote which
protected him from annoyance here left him exposed to serious
risks on the other side of the Cape of Good Hope. The Old
Company, though its exclusive privileges were no more, and though
its dividends had greatly diminished, was still in existence, and
still retained its castles and warehouses, its fleet of fine
merchantmen, and its able and zealous factors, thoroughly
qualified by a long experience to transact business both in the
palaces and in the bazaars of the East, and accustomed to look
for direction to the India House alone. The private trader
therefore still ran great risk of being treated as a smuggler, if
not as a pirate. He might indeed, if he was wronged, apply for
redress to the tribunals of his country. But years must elapse
before his cause could be heard; his witnesses must be conveyed
over fifteen thousand miles of sea; and in the meantime he was a
ruined man. The experiment of free trade with India had therefore
been tried under every disadvantage, or, to speak more correctly,
had not been tried at all. The general opinion had always been
that some restriction was necessary; and that opinion had been
confirmed by all that had happened since the old restrictions had
been removed. The doors of the House of Commons were again
besieged by the two great contending factions of the City. The
Old Company offered, in return for a monopoly secured by law, a
loan of seven hundred thousand pounds; and the whole body of
Tories was for accepting the offer. But those indefatigable
agitators who had, ever since the Revolution, been striving to
obtain a share in the trade of the Eastern seas exerted
themselves at this conjuncture more strenuously than ever, and
found a powerful patron in Montague.

That dexterous and eloquent statesman had two objects in view.
One was to obtain for the State, as the price of the monopoly, a
sum much larger than the Old Company was able to give. The other
was to promote the interest of his own party. Nowhere was the
conflict between Whigs and Tories sharper than in the City of
London; and the influence of the City of London was felt to the
remotest corner of the realm. To elevate the Whig section of that
mighty commercial aristocracy which congregated under the arches
of the Royal Exchange, and to depress the Tory section, had long
been one of Montague's favourite schemes. He had already formed
one citadel in the heart of that great emporium; and he now
thought that it might be in his power to erect and garrison a
second stronghold in a position scarcely less commanding. It had
often been said, in times of civil war, that whoever was master
of the Tower and of Tilbury Fort was master of London. The
fastnesses by means of which Montague proposed to keep the
capital obedient in times of peace and of constitutional
government were of a different kind. The Bank was one of his
fortresses; and he trusted that a new India House would be the

The task which he had undertaken was not an easy one. For, while
his opponents were united, his adherents were divided. Most of
those who were for a New Company thought that the New Company
ought, like the Old Company, to trade on a joint stock. But there
were some who held that our commerce with India would be best
carried on by means of what is called a regulated Company. There
was a Turkey Company, the members of which contributed to a
general fund, and had in return the exclusive privilege of
trafficking with the Levant; but those members trafficked, each
on his own account; they forestalled each other; they undersold
each other; one became rich; another became bankrupt. The
Corporation meanwhile watched over the common interest of all the
members, furnished the Crown with the means of maintaining an
embassy at Constantinople, and placed at several important ports
consuls and vice-consuls, whose business was to keep the Pacha
and the Cadi in good humour, and to arbitrate in disputes among
Englishmen. Why might not the same system be found to answer in
regions lying still further to the east? Why should not every
member of the New Company be at liberty to export European
commodities to the countries beyond the Cape, and to bring back
shawls, saltpetre and bohea to England, while the Company, in its
collective capacity, might treat with Asiatic potentates, or
exact reparation from them, and might be entrusted with powers
for the administration of justice and for the government of forts
and factories?

Montague tried to please all those whose support was necessary to
him; and this he could effect only by bringing forward a plan so
intricate that it cannot without some pains be understood. He
wanted two millions to extricate the State from its financial
embarrassments. That sum he proposed to raise by a loan at eight
per cent. The lenders might be either individuals or
corporations. But they were all, individuals and corporations, to
be united in a new corporation, which was to be called the
General Society. Every member of the General Society, whether
individual or corporation, might trade separately with India to
an extent not exceeding the amount which such member had advanced
to the government. But all the members or any of them might, if
they so thought fit, give up the privilege of trading separately,
and unite themselves under a royal Charter for the purpose of
trading in common. Thus the General Society was, by its original
constitution, a regulated company; but it was provided that
either the whole Society or any part of it might become a joint
stock company.

The opposition to the scheme was vehement and pertinacious. The
Old Company presented petition after petition. The Tories, with
Seymour at their head, appealed both to the good faith and to the
compassion of Parliament. Much was said about the sanctity of the
existing Charter, and much about the tenderness due to the
numerous families which had, in reliance on that Charter,
invested their substance in India stock. On the other side there
was no want of plausible topics or of skill to use them. Was it
not strange that those who talked so much about the Charter
should have altogether overlooked the very clause of the Charter
on which the whole question turned? That clause expressly
reserved to the government power of revocation, after three
years' notice, if the Charter should not appear to be beneficial
to the public. The Charter had not been found beneficial to the
public; the three years' notice should be given; and in the year
1701 the revocation would take effect. What could be fairer? If
anybody was so weak as to imagine that the privileges of the Old
Company were perpetual, when the very instrument which created
those privileges expressly declared them to be terminable, what
right had he to blame the Parliament, which was bound to do the
best for the State, for not saving him, at the expense of the
State, from the natural punishment of his own folly? It was
evident that nothing was proposed inconsistent with strict
justice. And what right had the Old Company to more than strict
justice? These petitioners who implored the legislature to deal
indulgently with them in their adversity, how had they used their
boundless prosperity? Had not the India House recently been the
very den of corruption, the tainted spot from which the plague
had spread to the Court and the Council, to the House of Commons
and the House of Lords? Were the disclosures of 1695 forgotten,
the eighty thousand pounds of secret service money disbursed in
one year, the enormous bribes direct and indirect, Seymour's
saltpetre contracts, Leeds's bags of golds? By the malpractices
which the inquiry in the Exchequer Chamber then brought to light,
the Charter had been forfeited; and it would have been well if
the forfeiture had been immediately enforced. "Had not time then
pressed," said Montague, "had it not been necessary that the
session should close, it is probable that the petitioners, who
now cry out that they cannot get justice, would have got more

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