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

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The History of England from the Accession of James the Second

Volume III

(Chapters XI-XVI)

by Thomas Babington Macaulay


William and Mary proclaimed in London–Rejoicings throughout England; Rejoicings in Holland–Discontent of the Clergy and of the Army–Reaction of Public Feeling–Temper of the Tories– Temper of the Whigs–Ministerial Arrangements–William his own Minister for Foreign Affairs–Danby–Halifax–Nottingham Shrewsbury The Board of Admiralty; the Board of Treasury–The Great Seal–The Judges–The Household–Subordinate Appointments– The Convention turned into a Parliament–The Members of the two Houses required to take the Oaths Questions relating to the Revenue–Abolition of the Hearth Money–Repayment of the Expenses of the United Provinces–Mutiny at Ipswich–The first Mutiny Bill–Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act–Unpopularity of William–Popularity of Mary–The Court removed from Whitehall to Hampton Court–The Court at Kensington; William’s foreign Favourites–General Maladministration–Dissensions among Men in Office–Department of Foreign Affairs–Religious Disputes–The High Church Party–The Low Church Party–William’s Views concerning Ecclesiastical Polity–Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury– Nottingham’s Views concerning Ecclesiastical Polity–The Toleration Bill–The Comprehension Bill–The Bill for settling the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy–The Bill for settling the Coronation Oath–The Coronation–Promotions–The Coalition against France; the Devastation of the Palatinate–War declared against France

THE Revolution had been accomplished. The decrees of the Convention were everywhere received with submission. London, true during fifty eventful years to the cause of civil freedom and of the reformed religion, was foremost in professing loyalty to the new Sovereigns. Garter King at arms, after making proclamation under the windows of Whitehall, rode in state along the Strand to Temple Bar. He was followed by the maces of the two Houses, by the two Speakers, Halifax and Powle, and by a long train of coaches filled with noblemen and gentlemen. The magistrates of the City threw open their gates and joined the procession. Four regiments of militia lined the way up Ludgate Hill, round Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and along Cheapside. The streets, the balconies, and the very housetops were crowded with gazers. All the steeples from the Abbey to the Tower sent forth a joyous din. The proclamation was repeated, with sound of trumpet, in front of the Royal Exchange, amidst the shouts of the citizens.

In the evening every window from Whitechapel to Piccadilly was lighted up. The state rooms of the palace were thrown open, and were filled by a gorgeous company of courtiers desirous to kiss the hands of the King and Queen. The Whigs assembled there, flushed with victory and prosperity. There were among them some who might be pardoned if a vindictive feeling mingled with their joy. The most deeply injured of all who had survived the evil times was absent. Lady Russell, while her friends were crowding the galleries of Whitehall, remained in her retreat, thinking of one who, if he had been still living, would have held no undistinguished place in the ceremonies of that great day. But her daughter, who had a few months before become the wife of Lord Cavendish, was presented to the royal pair by his mother the Countess of Devonshire. A letter is still extant in which the young lady described with great vivacity the roar of the populace, the blaze in the streets, the throng in the presence chamber, the beauty of Mary, and the expression which ennobled and softened the harsh features of William. But the most interesting passage is that in which the orphan girl avowed the stern delight with which she had witnessed the tardy punishment of her father’s murderer.1

The example of London was followed by the provincial towns. During three weeks the Gazettes were filled with accounts of the solemnities by which the public joy manifested itself, cavalcades of gentlemen and yeomen, processions of Sheriffs and Bailiffs in scarlet gowns, musters of zealous Protestants with orange flags and ribands, salutes, bonfires, illuminations, music, balls, dinners, gutters running with ale and conduits spouting claret.2

Still more cordial was the rejoicing among the Dutch, when they learned that the first minister of their Commonwealth had been raised to a throne. On the very day of his accession he had written to assure the States General that the change in his situation had made no change in the affection which he bore to his native land, and that his new dignity would, he hoped, enable him to discharge his old duties more efficiently than ever. That oligarchical party, which had always been hostile to the doctrines of Calvin and to the House of Orange, muttered faintly that His Majesty ought to resign the Stadtholdership. But all such mutterings were drowned by the acclamations of a people proud of the genius and success of their great countryman. A day of thanksgiving was appointed. In all the cities of the Seven Provinces the public joy manifested itself by festivities of which the expense was chiefly defrayed by voluntary gifts. Every class assisted. The poorest labourer could help to set up an arch of triumph, or to bring sedge to a bonfire. Even the ruined Huguenots of France could contribute the aid of their ingenuity. One art which they had carried with them into banishment was the art of making fireworks; and they now, in honour of the victorious champion of their faith, lighted up the canals of Amsterdam with showers of splendid constellations.3

To superficial observers it might well seem that William was, at this time, one of the most enviable of human beings. He was in truth one of the most anxious and unhappy. He well knew that the difficulties of his task were only beginning. Already that dawn which had lately been so bright was overcast; and many signs portended a dark and stormy day.

It was observed that two important classes took little or no part in the festivities by which, all over England, the inauguration of the new government was celebrated. Very seldom could either a priest or a soldier be seen in the assemblages which gathered round the market crosses where the King and Queen were proclaimed. The professional pride both of the clergy and of the army had been deeply wounded. The doctrine of nonresistance had been dear to the Anglican divines. It was their distinguishing badge. It was their favourite theme. If we are to judge by that portion of their oratory which has come down to us, they had preached about the duty of passive obedience at least as often and as zealously as about the Trinity or the Atonement.4 Their attachment to their political creed had indeed been severely tried, and had, during a short time, wavered. But with the tyranny of James the bitter feeling which that tyranny had excited among them had passed away. The parson of a parish was naturally unwilling to join in what was really a triumph over those principles which, during twenty-eight years, his flock had heard him proclaim on every anniversary of the Martyrdom and on every anniversary of the Restoration.

The soldiers, too, were discontented. They hated Popery indeed; and they had not loved the banished King. But they keenly felt that, in the short campaign which had decided the fate of their country, theirs had been an inglorious part. Forty fine regiments, a regular army such as had never before marched to battle under the royal standard of England, had retreated precipitately before an invader, and had then, without a struggle, submitted to him. That great force had been absolutely of no account in the late change, had done nothing towards keeping William out, and had done nothing towards bringing him in. The clowns, who, armed with pitchforks and mounted on carthorses, had straggled in the train of Lovelace or Delamere, had borne a greater part in the Revolution than those splendid household troops, whose plumed hats, embroidered coats, and curvetting chargers the Londoners had so often seen with admiration in Hyde Park. The mortification of the army was increased by the taunts of the foreigners, taunts which neither orders nor punishments could entirely restrain.5 At several places the anger which a brave and highspirited body of men might, in such circumstances, be expected to feel, showed itself in an alarming manner. A battalion which lay at Cirencester put out the bonfires, huzzaed for King James, and drank confusion to his daughter and his nephew. The garrison of Plymouth disturbed the rejoicings of the County of Cornwall: blows were exchanged, and a man was killed in the fray.6

The ill humour of the clergy and of the army could not but be noticed by the most heedless; for the clergy and the army were distinguished from other classes by obvious peculiarities of garb. “Black coats and red coats,” said a vehement Whig in the House of Commons, “are the curses of the nation.” 7 But the discontent was not confined to the black coats and the red coats. The enthusiasm with which men of all classes had welcomed William to London at Christmas had greatly abated before the close of February. The new king had, at the very moment at which his fame and fortune reached the highest point, predicted the coming reaction. That reaction might, indeed, have been predicted by a less sagacious observer of human affairs. For it is to be chiefly ascribed to a law as certain as the laws which regulate the succession of the seasons and the course of the trade winds. It is the nature of man to overrate present evil, and to underrate present good; to long for what he has not, and to be dissatisfied with what he has. This propensity, as it appears in individuals, has often been noticed both by laughing and by weeping philosophers. It was a favourite theme of Horace and of Pascal, of Voltaire and of Johnson. To its influence on the fate of great communities may be ascribed most of the revolutions and counterrevolutions recorded in history. A hundred generations have elapsed since the first great national emancipation, of which an account has come down to us. We read in the most ancient of books that a people bowed to the dust under a cruel yoke, scourged to toil by hard taskmasters, not supplied with straw, yet compelled to furnish the daily tale of bricks, became sick of life, and raised such a cry of misery as pierced the heavens. The slaves were wonderfully set free: at the moment of their liberation they raised a song of gratitude and triumph: but, in a few hours, they began to regret their slavery, and to murmur against the leader who had decoyed them away from the savoury fare of the house of bondage to the dreary waste which still separated them from the land flowing with milk and honey. Since that time the history of every great deliverer has been the history of Moses retold. Down to the present hour rejoicings like those on the shore of the Red Sea have ever been speedily followed by murmurings like those at the Waters of Strife.8 The most just and salutary revolution must produce much suffering. The most just and salutary revolution cannot produce all the good that had been expected from it by men of uninstructed minds and sanguine tempers. Even the wisest cannot, while it is still recent, weigh quite fairly the evils which it has caused against the evils which it has removed. For the evils which it has caused are felt; and the evils which it has removed are felt no longer.

Thus it was now in England. The public was, as it always is during the cold fits which follow its hot fits, sullen, hard to please, dissatisfied with itself, dissatisfied with those who had lately been its favourites. The truce between the two great parties was at an end. Separated by the memory of all that had been done and suffered during a conflict of half a century, they had been, during a few months, united by a common danger. But the danger was over: the union was dissolved; and the old animosity broke forth again in all its strength.

James had during the last year of his reign, been even more hated by the Tories than by the Whigs; and not without cause for the Whigs he was only an enemy; and to the Tories he had been a faithless and thankless friend. But the old royalist feeling, which had seemed to be extinct in the time of his lawless domination, had been partially revived by his misfortunes. Many lords and gentlemen, who had, in December, taken arms for the Prince of Orange and a Free Parliament, muttered, two months later, that they had been drawn in; that they had trusted too much to His Highness’s Declaration; that they had given him credit for a disinterestedness which, it now appeared, was not in his nature. They had meant to put on King James, for his own good, some gentle force, to punish the Jesuits and renegades who had misled him, to obtain from him some guarantee for the safety of the civil and ecclesiastical institutions of the realm, but not to uncrown and banish him. For his maladministration, gross as it had been, excuses were found. Was it strange that, driven from his native land, while still a boy, by rebels who were a disgrace to the Protestant name, and forced to pass his youth in countries where the Roman Catholic religion was established, he should have been captivated by that most attractive of all superstitions? Was it strange that, persecuted and calumniated as he had been by an implacable faction, his disposition should have become sterner and more severe than it had once been thought, and that, when those who had tried to blast his honour and to rob him of his birthright were at length in his power, he should not have sufficiently tempered justice with mercy? As to the worst charge which had been brought against him, the charge of trying to cheat his daughters out of their inheritance by fathering a supposititious child, on what grounds did it rest? Merely on slight circumstances, such as might well be imputed to accident, or to that imprudence which was but too much in harmony with his character. Did ever the most stupid country justice put a boy in the stocks without requiring stronger evidence than that on which the English people had pronounced their King guilty of the basest and most odious of all frauds? Some great faults he had doubtless committed, nothing could be more just or constitutional than that for those faults his advisers and tools should be called to a severe reckoning; nor did any of those advisers and tools more richly deserve punishment than the Roundhead sectaries whose adulation had encouraged him to persist in the fatal exercise of the dispensing power. It was a fundamental law of the land that the King could do no wrong, and that, if wrong were done by his authority, his counsellors and agents were responsible. That great rule, essential to our polity, was now inverted. The sycophants, who were legally punishable, enjoyed impunity: the King, who was not legally punishable, was punished with merciless severity. Was it possible for the Cavaliers of England, the sons of the warriors who had fought under Rupert, not to feel bitter sorrow and indignation when they reflected on the fate of their rightful liege lord, the heir of a long line of princes, lately enthroned in splendour at Whitehall, now an exile, a suppliant, a mendicant? His calamities had been greater than even those of the Blessed Martyr from whom he sprang. The father had been slain by avowed and mortal foes: the ruin of the son had been the work of his own children. Surely the punishment, even if deserved, should have been inflicted by other hands. And was it altogether deserved? Had not the unhappy man been rather weak and rash than wicked? Had he not some of the qualities of an excellent prince? His abilities were certainly not of a high order: but he was diligent: he was thrifty: he had fought bravely: he had been his own minister for maritime affairs, and had, in that capacity, acquitted himself respectably: he had, till his spiritual guides obtained a fatal ascendency over his mind, been regarded as a man of strict justice; and, to the last, when he was not misled by them, he generally spoke truth and dealt fairly. With so many virtues he might, if he had been a Protestant, nay, if he had been a moderate Roman Catholic, have had a prosperous and glorious reign. Perhaps it might not be too late for him to retrieve his errors. It was difficult to believe that he could be so dull and perverse as not to have profited by the terrible discipline which he had recently undergone; and, if that discipline had produced the effects which might reasonably be expected from it, England might still enjoy, under her legitimate ruler, a larger measure of happiness and tranquillity than she could expect from the administration of the best and ablest usurper.

We should do great injustice to those who held this language, if we supposed that they had, as a body, ceased to regard Popery and despotism with abhorrence. Some zealots might indeed be found who could not bear the thought of imposing conditions on their King, and who were ready to recall him without the smallest assurance that the Declaration of Indulgence should not be instantly republished, that the High Commission should not be instantly revived, that Petre should not be again seated at the Council Board, and that the fellows of Magdalene should not again be ejected. But the number of these men was small. On the other hand, the number of those Royalists, who, if James would have acknowledged his mistakes and promised to observe the laws, were ready to rally round him, was very large. It is a remarkable fact that two able and experienced statesmen, who had borne a chief part in the Revolution, frankly acknowledged, a few days after the Revolution had been accomplished, their apprehension that a Restoration was close at hand. “If King James were a Protestant,” said Halifax to Reresby, “we could not keep him out four months.” “If King James,” said Danby to the same person about the same time, “would but give the country some satisfaction about religion, which he might easily do, it would be very hard to make head against him.”9 Happily for England, James was, as usual, his own worst enemy. No word indicating that he took blame to himself on account of the past, or that he intended to govern constitutionally for the future, could be extracted from him. Every letter, every rumour, that found its way from Saint Germains to England made men of sense fear that, if, in his present temper, he should be restored to power, the second tyranny would be worse than the first. Thus the Tories, as a body, were forced to admit, very unwillingly, that there was, at that moment, no choice but between William and public ruin. They therefore, without altogether relinquishing the hope that he who was King by right might at some future time be disposed to listen to reason, and without feeling any thing like loyalty towards him who was King in possession, discontentedly endured the new government.

It may be doubted whether that government was not, during the first months of its existence, in more danger from the affection of the Whigs than from the disaffection of the Tories. Enmity can hardly be more annoying than querulous, jealous, exacting fondness; and such was the fondness which the Whigs felt for the Sovereign of their choice. They were loud in his praise. They were ready to support him with purse and sword against foreign and domestic foes. But their attachment to him was of a peculiar kind. Loyalty such as had animated the gallant gentlemen who fought for Charles the First, loyalty such as had rescued Charles the Second from the fearful dangers and difficulties caused by twenty years of maladministration, was not a sentiment to which the doctrines of Milton and Sidney were favourable; nor was it a sentiment which a prince, just raised to power by a rebellion, could hope to inspire. The Whig theory of government is that kings exist for the people, and not the people for the kings; that the right of a king is divine in no other sense than that in which the right of a member of parliament, of a judge, of a juryman, of a mayor, of a headborough, is divine; that, while the chief magistrate governs according to law, he ought to be obeyed and reverenced; that, when he violates the law, he ought to be withstood; and that, when he violates the law grossly, systematically and pertinaciously, he ought to be deposed. On the truth of these principles depended the justice of William’s title to the throne. It is obvious that the relation between subjects who held these principles, and a ruler whose accession had been the triumph of these principles, must have been altogether different from the relation which had subsisted between the Stuarts and the Cavaliers. The Whigs loved William indeed: but they loved him not as a King, but as a party leader; and it was not difficult to foresee that their enthusiasm would cool fast if he should refuse to be the mere leader of their party, and should attempt to be King of the whole nation. What they expected from him in return for their devotion to his cause was that he should be one of themselves, a stanch and ardent Whig; that he should show favour to none but Whigs; that he should make all the old grudges of the Whigs his own; and there was but too much reason to apprehend that, if he disappointed this expectation, the only section of the community which was zealous in his cause would be estranged from him.10

Such were the difficulties by which, at the moment of his elevation, he found himself beset. Where there was a good path he had seldom failed to choose it. But now he had only a choice among paths every one of which seemed likely to lead to destruction. From one faction he could hope for no cordial support. The cordial support of the other faction he could retain only by becoming himself the most factious man in his kingdom, a Shaftesbury on the throne. If he persecuted the Tories, their sulkiness would infallibly be turned into fury. If he showed favour to the Tories, it was by no means certain that he would gain their goodwill; and it was but too probable that he might lose his hold on the hearts of the Whigs. Something however he must do: something he must risk: a Privy Council must be sworn in: all the great offices, political and judicial, must be filled. It was impossible to make an arrangement that would please every body, and difficult to make an arrangement that would please any body; but an arrangement must be made.

What is now called a ministry he did not think of forming. Indeed what is now called a ministry was never known in England till he had been some years on the throne. Under the Plantagenets, the Tudors, and the Stuarts, there had been ministers; but there had been no ministry. The servants of the Crown were not, as now, bound in frankpledge for each other. They were not expected to be of the same opinion even on questions of the gravest importance. Often they were politically and personally hostile to each other, and made no secret of their hostility. It was not yet felt to be inconvenient or unseemly that they should accuse each other of high crimes, and demand each other’s heads. No man had been more active in the impeachment of the Lord Chancellor Clarendon than Coventry, who was a Commissioner of the Treasury. No man had been more active in the impeachment of the Lord Treasurer Danby than Winnington, who was Solicitor General. Among the members of the Government there was only one point of union, their common head, the Sovereign. The nation considered him as the proper chief of the administration, and blamed him severely if he delegated his high functions to any subject. Clarendon has told us that nothing was so hateful to the Englishmen of his time as a Prime Minister. They would rather, he said, be subject to an usurper like Oliver, who was first magistrate in fact as well as in name, than to a legitimate King who referred them to a Grand Vizier. One of the chief accusations which the country party had brought against Charles the Second was that he was too indolent and too fond of pleasure to examine with care the balance sheets of public accountants and the inventories of military stores. James, when he came to the crown, had determined to appoint no Lord High Admiral or Board of Admiralty, and to keep the entire direction of maritime affairs in his own hands; and this arrangement, which would now be thought by men of all parties unconstitutional and pernicious in the highest degree, was then generally applauded even by people who were not inclined to see his conduct in a favourable light. How completely the relation in which the King stood to his Parliament and to his ministers had been altered by the Revolution was not at first understood even by the most enlightened statesmen. It was universally supposed that the government would, as in time past, be conducted by functionaries independent of each other, and that William would exercise a general superintendence over them all. It was also fully expected that a prince of William’s capacity and experience would transact much important business without having recourse to any adviser.

There were therefore no complaints when it was understood that he had reserved to himself the direction of foreign affairs. This was indeed scarcely matter of choice: for, with the single exception of Sir William Temple, whom nothing would induce to quit his retreat for public life, there was no Englishman who had proved himself capable of conducting an important negotiation with foreign powers to a successful and honourable issue. Many years had elapsed since England had interfered with weight and dignity in the affairs of the great commonwealth of nations. The attention of the ablest English politicians had long been almost exclusively occupied by disputes concerning the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of their own country. The contests about the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Bill, the Habeas Corpus Act and the Test Act, had produced an abundance, it might almost be said a glut, of those talents which raise men to eminence in societies torn by internal factions. All the Continent could not show such skilful and wary leaders of parties, such dexterous parliamentary tacticians, such ready and eloquent debaters, as were assembled at Westminister. But a very different training was necessary to form a great minister for foreign affairs; and the Revolution had on a sudden placed England in a situation in which the services of a great minister for foreign affairs were indispensable to her.

William was admirably qualified to supply that in which the most accomplished statesmen of his kingdom were deficient. He had long been preeminently distinguished as a negotiator. He was the author and the soul of the European coalition against the French ascendency. The clue, without which it was perilous to enter the vast and intricate maze of Continental politics, was in his hands. His English counsellors, therefore, however able and active, seldom, during his reign, ventured to meddle with that part of the public business which he had taken as his peculiar province.11

The internal government of England could be carried on only by the advice and agency of English ministers. Those ministers William selected in such a manner as showed that he was determined not to proscribe any set of men who were willing to support his throne. On the day after the crown had been presented to him in the Banqueting House, the Privy Council was sworn in. Most of the Councillors were Whigs; but the names of several eminent Tories appeared in the list.12 The four highest offices in the state were assigned to four noblemen, the representatives of four classes of politicians.

In practical ability and official experience Danby had no superior among his contemporaries. To the gratitude of the new Sovereigns he had a strong claim; for it was by his dexterity that their marriage had been brought about in spite of difficulties which had seemed insuperable. The enmity which he had always borne to France was a scarcely less powerful recommendation. He had signed the invitation of the thirtieth of June, had excited and directed the northern insurrection, and had, in the Convention, exerted all his influence and eloquence in opposition to the scheme of Regency. Yet the Whigs regarded him with unconquerable distrust and aversion. They could not forget that he had, in evil days, been the first minister of the state, the head of the Cavaliers, the champion of prerogative, the persecutor of dissenters. Even in becoming a rebel, he had not ceased to be a Tory. If he had drawn the sword against the Crown, he had drawn it only in defence of the Church. If he had, in the Convention, done good by opposing the scheme of Regency, he had done harm by obstinately maintaining that the throne was not vacant, and that the Estates had no right to determine who should fill it. The Whigs were therefore of opinion that he ought to think himself amply rewarded for his recent merits by being suffered to escape the punishment of those offences for which he had been impeached ten years before. He, on the other hand, estimated his own abilities and services, which were doubtless considerable, at their full value, and thought himself entitled to the great place of Lord High Treasurer, which he had formerly held. But he was disappointed. William, on principle, thought it desirable to divide the power and patronage of the Treasury among several Commissioners. He was the first English King who never, from the beginning to the end of his reign, trusted the white staff in the hands of a single subject. Danby was offered his choice between the Presidency of the Council and a Secretaryship of State. He sullenly accepted the Presidency, and, while the Whigs murmured at seeing him placed so high, hardly attempted to conceal his anger at not having been placed higher.13

Halifax, the most illustrious man of that small party which boasted that it kept the balance even between Whigs and Tories, took charge of the Privy Seal, and continued to be Speaker of the House of Lords.14 He had been foremost in strictly legal opposition to the late Government, and had spoken and written with great ability against the dispensing power: but he had refused to know any thing about the design of invasion: he had laboured, even when the Dutch were in full march towards London, to effect a reconciliation; and he had never deserted James till James had deserted the throne. But, from the moment of that shameful flight, the sagacious Trimmer, convinced that compromise was thenceforth impossible, had taken a decided part. He had distinguished himself preeminently in the Convention: nor was it without a peculiar propriety that he had been appointed to the honourable office of tendering the crown, in the name of all the Estates of England, to the Prince and Princess of Orange; for our Revolution, as far as it can be said to bear the character of any single mind, assuredly bears the character of the large yet cautious mind of Halifax. The Whigs, however, were not in a temper to accept a recent service as an atonement for an old offence; and the offence of Halifax had been grave indeed. He had long before been conspicuous in their front rank during a hard fight for liberty. When they were at length victorious, when it seemed that Whitehall was at their mercy, when they had a near prospect of dominion and revenge, he had changed sides; and fortune had changed sides with him. In the great debate on the Exclusion Bill, his eloquence had struck them dumb, and had put new life into the inert and desponding party of the Court. It was true that, though he had left them in the day of their insolent prosperity, he had returned to them in the day of their distress. But, now that their distress was over, they forgot that he had returned to them, and remembered only that he had left them.15

The vexation with which they saw Danby presiding in the Council, and Halifax bearing the Privy Seal, was not diminished by the news that Nottingham was appointed Secretary of State. Some of those zealous churchmen who had never ceased to profess the doctrine of nonresistance, who thought the Revolution unjustifiable, who had voted for a Regency, and who had to the last maintained that the English throne could never be one moment vacant, yet conceived it to be their duty to submit to the decision of the Convention. They had not, they said, rebelled against James. They had not selected William. But, now that they saw on the throne a Sovereign whom they never would have placed there, they were of opinion that no law, divine or human, bound them to carry the contest further. They thought that they found, both in the Bible and in the Statute Book, directions which could not be misunderstood. The Bible enjoins obedience to the powers that be. The Statute Book contains an act providing that no subject shall be deemed a wrongdoer for adhering to the King in possession. On these grounds many, who had not concurred in setting up the new government, believed that they might give it their support without offence to God or man. One of the most eminent politicians of this school was Nottingham. At his instance the Convention had, before the throne was filled, made such changes in the oath of allegiance as enabled him and those who agreed with him to take that oath without scruple. “My principles,” he said, “do not permit me to bear any part in making a King. But when a King has been made, my principles bind me to pay him an obedience more strict than he can expect from those who have made him.” He now, to the surprise of some of those who most esteemed him, consented to sit in the council, and to accept the seals of Secretary. William doubtless hoped that this appointment would be considered by the clergy and the Tory country gentlemen as a sufficient guarantee that no evil was meditated against the Church. Even Burnet, who at a later period felt a strong antipathy to Nottingham, owned, in some memoirs written soon after the Revolution, that the King had judged well, and that the influence of the Tory Secretary, honestly exerted in support of the new Sovereigns, had saved England from great calamities.16

The other Secretary was Shrewsbury.17 No man so young had within living memory occupied so high a post in the government. He had but just completed his twenty-eighth year. Nobody, however, except the solemn formalists at the Spanish embassy, thought his youth an objection to his promotion.18 He had already secured for himself a place in history by the conspicuous part which he had taken in the deliverance of his country. His talents, his accomplishments, his graceful manners, his bland temper, made him generally popular. By the Whigs especially he was almost adored. None suspected that, with many great and many amiable qualities, he had such faults both of head and of heart as would make the rest of a life which had opened under the fairest auspices burdensome to himself and almost useless to his country.

The naval administration and the financial administration were confided to Boards. Herbert was First Commissioner of the Admiralty. He had in the late reign given up wealth and dignities when he found that he could not retain them with honour and with a good conscience. He had carried the memorable invitation to the Hague. He had commanded the Dutch fleet during the voyage from Helvoetsluys to Torbay. His character for courage and professional skill stood high. That he had had his follies and vices was well known. But his recent conduct in the time of severe trial had atoned for all, and seemed to warrant the hope that his future career would be glorious. Among the commissioners who sate with him at the Admiralty were two distinguished members of the House of Commons, William Sacheverell, a veteran Whig, who had great authority in his party, and Sir John Lowther, an honest and very moderate Tory, who in fortune and parliamentary interest was among the first of the English gentry.19

Mordaunt, one of the most vehement of the Whigs, was placed at the head of the Treasury; why, it is difficult to say. His romantic courage, his flighty wit, his eccentric invention, his love of desperate risks and startling effects, were not qualities likely to be of much use to him in financial calculations and negotiations. Delamere, a more vehement Whig, if possible, than Mordaunt, sate second at the board, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Two Whig members of the House of Commons were in the Commission, Sir Henry Capel, brother of that Earl of Essex who died by his own hand in the Tower, and Richard Hampden, son of the great leader of the Long Parliament. But the Commissioner on whom the chief weight of business lay was Godolphin. This man, taciturn, clearminded, laborious, inoffensive, zealous for no government and useful to every government, had gradually become an almost indispensable part of the machinery of the state. Though a churchman, he had prospered in a Court governed by Jesuits. Though he had voted for a Regency, he was the real head of a treasury filled with Whigs. His abilities and knowledge, which had in the late reign supplied the deficiencies of Bellasyse and Dover, were now needed to supply the deficiencies of Mordaunt and Delamere.20

There were some difficulties in disposing of the Great Seal. The King at first wished to confide it to Nottingham, whose father had borne it during several years with high reputation.21 Nottingham, however, declined the trust; and it was offered to Halifax, but was again declined. Both these Lords doubtless felt that it was a trust which they could not discharge with honour to themselves or with advantage to the public. In old times, indeed, the Seal had been generally held by persons who were not lawyers. Even in the seventeenth century it had been confided to two eminent men, who had never studied at any Inn of Court. Dean Williams had been Lord Keeper to James the First. Shaftesbury had been Lord Chancellor to Charles the Second. But such appointments could no longer be made without serious inconvenience. Equity had been gradually shaping itself into a refined science, which no human faculties could master without long and intense application. Even Shaftesbury, vigorous as was his intellect, had painfully felt his want of technical knowledge;22 and, during the fifteen years which had elapsed since Shaftesbury had resigned the Seal, technical knowledge had constantly been becoming more and more necessary to his successors. Neither Nottingham therefore, though he had a stock of legal learning such as is rarely found in any person who has not received a legal education, nor Halifax, though, in the judicial sittings of the House of Lords, the quickness of his apprehension and the subtlety of his reasoning had often astonished the bar, ventured to accept the highest office which an English layman can fill. After some delay the Seal was confided to a commission of eminent lawyers, with Maynard at their head.23

The choice of judges did honour to the new government. Every Privy Councillor was directed to bring a list. The lists were compared; and twelve men of conspicuous merit were selected.24 The professional attainments and Whig principles of Pollexfen gave him pretensions to the highest place. But it was remembered that he had held briefs for the Crown, in the Western counties, at the assizes which followed the battle of Sedgemoor. It seems indeed from the reports of the trials that he did as little as he could do if he held the briefs at all, and that he left to the Judges the business of browbeating witnesses and prisoners. Nevertheless his name was inseparably associated in the public mind with the Bloody Circuit. He, therefore, could not with propriety be put at the head of the first criminal court in the realm.25 After acting during a few weeks as Attorney General, he was made Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Sir John Holt, a young man, but distinguished by learning, integrity, and courage, became Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. Sir Robert Atkyns, an eminent lawyer, who had passed some years in rural retirement, but whose reputation was still great in Westminster Hall, was appointed Chief Baron. Powell, who had been disgraced on account of his honest declaration in favour of the Bishops, again took his seat among the judges. Treby succeeded Pollexfen as Attorney General; and Somers was made Solicitor.26

Two of the chief places in the Royal household were filled by two English noblemen eminently qualified to adorn a court. The high spirited and accomplished Devonshire was named Lord Steward. No man had done more or risked more for England during the crisis of her fate. In retrieving her liberties he had retrieved also the fortunes of his own house. His bond for thirty thousand pounds was found among the papers which James had left at Whitehall, and was cancelled by William.27

Dorset became Lord Chamberlain, and employed the influence and patronage annexed to his functions, as he had long employed his private means, in encouraging genius and in alleviating misfortune. One of the first acts which he was under the necessity of performing must have been painful to a man of so generous a nature, and of so keen a relish for whatever was excellent in arts and letters. Dryden could no longer remain Poet Laureate. The public would not have borne to see any Papist among the servants of their Majesties; and Dryden was not only a Papist, but an apostate. He had moreover aggravated the guilt of his apostasy by calumniating and ridiculing the Church which he had deserted. He had, it was facetiously said, treated her as the Pagan persecutors of old treated her children. He had dressed her up in the skin of a wild beast, and then baited her for the public amusement.28 He was removed; but he received from the private bounty of the magnificent Chamberlain a pension equal to the salary which had been withdrawn. The deposed Laureate, however, as poor of spirit as rich in intellectual gifts, continued to complain piteously, year after year, of the losses which he had not suffered, till at length his wailings drew forth expressions of well merited contempt from brave and honest Jacobites, who had sacrificed every thing to their principles without deigning to utter one word of deprecation or lamentation.29

In the Royal household were placed some of those Dutch nobles who stood highest in the favour of the King. Bentinck had the great office of Groom of the Stole, with a salary of five thousand pounds a year. Zulestein took charge of the robes. The Master of the Horse was Auverquerque, a gallant soldier, who united the blood of Nassau to the blood of Horn, and who wore with just pride a costly sword presented to him by the States General in acknowledgment of the courage with which he had, on the bloody day of Saint Dennis, saved the life of William.

The place of Vice Chamberlain to the Queen was given to a man who had just become conspicuous in public life, and whose name will frequently recur in the history of this reign. John Howe, or, as he was more commonly called, Jack Howe, had been sent up to the Convention by the borough of Cirencester. His appearance was that of a man whose body was worn by the constant workings of a restless and acrid mind. He was tall, lean, pale, with a haggard eager look, expressive at once of flightiness and of shrewdness. He had been known, during several years, as a small poet; and some of the most savage lampoons which were handed about the coffeehouses were imputed to him. But it was in the House of Commons that both his parts and his illnature were most signally displayed. Before he had been a member three weeks, his volubility, his asperity, and his pertinacity had made him conspicuous. Quickness, energy, and audacity, united, soon raised him to the rank of a privileged man. His enemies, and he had many enemies, said that he consulted his personal safety even in his most petulant moods, and that he treated soldiers with a civility which he never showed to ladies or to Bishops. But no man had in larger measure that evil courage which braves and even courts disgust and hatred. No decencies restrained him: his spite was implacable: his skill in finding out the vulnerable parts of strong minds was consummate. All his great contemporaries felt his sting in their turns. Once it inflicted a wound which deranged even the stern composure of William, and constrained him to utter a wish that he were a private gentleman, and could invite Mr. Howe to a short interview behind Montague House. As yet, however, Howe was reckoned among the most strenuous supporters of the new government, and directed all his sarcasms and invectives against the malcontents.30

The subordinate places in every public office were divided between the two parties: but the Whigs had the larger share. Some persons, indeed, who did little honour to the Whig name, were largely recompensed for services which no good man would have performed. Wildman was made Postmaster General. A lucrative sinecure in the Excise was bestowed on Ferguson. The duties of the Solicitor of the Treasury were both very important and very invidious. It was the business of that officer to conduct political prosecutions, to collect the evidence, to instruct the counsel for the Crown, to see that the prisoners were not liberated on insufficient bail, to see that the juries were not composed of persons hostile to the government. In the days of Charles and James, the Solicitors of the Treasury had been with too much reason accused of employing all the vilest artifices of chicanery against men obnoxious to the Court. The new government ought to have made a choice which was above all suspicion. Unfortunately Mordaunt and Delamere pitched upon Aaron Smith, an acrimonious and unprincipled politician, who had been the legal adviser of Titus Oates in the days of the Popish Plot, and who had been deeply implicated in the Rye House Plot. Richard Hampden, a man of decided opinions but of moderate temper, objected to this appointment. His objections however were overruled. The Jacobites, who hated Smith and had reason to hate him, affirmed that he had obtained his place by bullying the Lords of the Treasury, and particularly by threatening that, if his just claims were disregarded, he would be the death of Hampden.31

Some weeks elapsed before all the arrangements which have been mentioned were publicly announced: and meanwhile many important events had taken place. As soon as the new Privy Councillors had been sworn in, it was necessary to submit to them a grave and pressing question. Could the Convention now assembled be turned into a Parliament? The Whigs, who had a decided majority in the Lower House, were all for the affirmative. The Tories, who knew that, within the last month, the public feeling had undergone a considerable change, and who hoped that a general election would add to their strength, were for the negative. They maintained that to the existence of a Parliament royal writs were indispensably necessary. The Convention had not been summoned by such writs: the original defect could not now be supplied: the Houses were therefore mere clubs of private men, and ought instantly to disperse.

It was answered that the royal writ was mere matter of form, and that to expose the substance of our laws and liberties to serious hazard for the sake of a form would be the most senseless superstition. Wherever the Sovereign, the Peers spiritual and temporal, and the Representatives freely chosen by the constituent bodies of the realm were met together, there was the essence of a Parliament. Such a Parliament was now in being; and what could be more absurd than to dissolve it at a conjuncture when every hour was precious, when numerous important subjects required immediate legislation, and when dangers, only to be averted by the combined efforts of King, Lords, and Commons, menaced the State? A Jacobite indeed might consistently refuse to recognise the Convention as a Parliament. For he held that it had from the beginning been an unlawful assembly, that all its resolutions were nullities, and that the Sovereigns whom it had set up were usurpers. But with what consistency could any man, who maintained that a new Parliament ought to be immediately called by writs under the great seal of William and Mary, question the authority which had placed William and Mary on the throne? Those who held that William was rightful King must necessarily hold that the body from which he derived his right was itself a rightful Great Council of the Realm. Those who, though not holding him to be rightful King, conceived that they might lawfully swear allegiance to him as King in fact, might surely, on the same principle, acknowledge the Convention as a Parliament in fact. It was plain that the Convention was the fountainhead from which the authority of all future Parliaments must be derived, and that on the validity of the votes of the Convention must depend the validity of every future statute. And how could the stream rise higher than the source? Was it not absurd to say that the Convention was supreme in the state, and yet a nullity; a legislature for the highest of all purposes, and yet no legislature for the humblest purposes; competent to declare the throne vacant, to change the succession, to fix the landmarks of the constitution, and yet not competent to pass the most trivial Act for the repairing of a pier or the building of a parish church?

These arguments would have had considerable weight, even if every precedent had been on the other side. But in truth our history afforded only one precedent which was at all in point; and that precedent was decisive in favour of the doctrine that royal writs are not indispensably necessary to the existence of a Parliament. No royal writ had summoned the Convention which recalled Charles the Second. Yet that Convention had, after his Restoration, continued to sit and to legislate, had settled the revenue, had passed an Act of amnesty, had abolished the feudal tenures. These proceedings had been sanctioned by authority of which no party in the state could speak without reverence. Hale had borne a considerable share in them, and had always maintained that they were strictly legal. Clarendon, little as he was inclined to favour any doctrine derogatory to the rights of the Crown, or to the dignity of that seal of which he was keeper, had declared that, since God had, at a most critical conjuncture, given the nation a good Parliament, it would be the height of folly to look for technical flaws in the instrument by which that Parliament was called together. Would it be pretended by any Tory that the Convention of 1660 had a more respectable origin than the Convention of 1689? Was not a letter written by the first Prince of the Blood, at the request of the whole peerage, and of hundreds of gentlemen who had represented counties and towns, at least as good a warrant as a vote of the Rump?

Weaker reasons than these would have satisfied the Whigs who formed the majority of the Privy Council. The King therefore, on the fifth day after he had been proclaimed, went with royal state to the House of Lords, and took his seat on the throne. The Commons were called in; and he, with many gracious expressions, reminded his hearers of the perilous situation of the country, and exhorted them to take such steps as might prevent unnecessary delay in the transaction of public business. His speech was received by the gentlemen who crowded the bar with the deep hum by which our ancestors were wont to indicate approbation, and which was often heard in places more sacred than the Chamber of the Peers.32 As soon as he had retired, a Bill declaring the Convention a Parliament was laid on the table of the Lords, and rapidly passed by them. In the Commons the debates were warm. The House resolved itself into a Committee; and so great was the excitement that, when the authority of the Speaker was withdrawn, it was hardly possible to preserve order. Sharp personalities were exchanged. The phrase, “hear him,” a phrase which had originally been used only to silence irregular noises, and to remind members of the duty of attending to the discussion, had, during some years, been gradually becoming what it now is; that is to say, a cry indicative, according to the tone, of admiration, acquiescence, indignation, or derision. On this occasion, the Whigs vociferated “Hear, hear,” so tumultuously that the Tories complained of unfair usage. Seymour, the leader of the minority, declared that there could be no freedom of debate while such clamour was tolerated. Some old Whig members were provoked into reminding him that the same clamour had occasionally been heard when he presided, and had not then been repressed. Yet, eager and angry as both sides were, the speeches on both sides indicated that profound reverence for law and prescription which has long been characteristic of Englishmen, and which, though it runs sometimes into pedantry and sometimes into superstition, is not without its advantages. Even at that momentous crisis, when the nation was still in the ferment of a revolution, our public men talked long and seriously about all the circumstances of the deposition of Edward the Second and of the deposition of Richard the Second, and anxiously inquired whether the assembly which, with Archbishop Lanfranc at its head, set aside Robert of Normandy, and put William Rufus on the throne, did or did not afterwards continue to act as the legislature of the realm. Much was said about the history of writs; much about the etymology of the word Parliament. It is remarkable, that the orator who took the most statesmanlike view of the subject was old Maynard. In the civil conflicts of fifty eventful years he had learned that questions affecting the highest interests of the commonwealth were not to be decided by verbal cavils and by scraps of Law French and Law Latin; and, being by universal acknowledgment the most subtle and the most learned of English jurists, he could express what he felt without the risk of being accused of ignorance and presumption. He scornfully thrust aside as frivolous and out of place all that blackletter learning, which some men, far less versed in such matters than himself, had introduced into the discussion. “We are,” he said, “at this moment out of the beaten path. If therefore we are determined to move only in that path, we cannot move at all. A man in a revolution resolving to do nothing which is not strictly according to established form resembles a man who has lost himself in the wilderness, and who stands crying ‘Where is the king’s highway? I will walk nowhere but on the king’s highway.’ In a wilderness a man should take the track which will carry him home. In a revolution we must have recourse to the highest law, the safety of the state.” Another veteran Roundhead, Colonel Birch, took the same side, and argued with great force and keenness from the precedent of 1660. Seymour and his supporters were beaten in the Committee, and did not venture to divide the House on the Report. The Bill passed rapidly, and received the royal assent on the tenth day after the accession of William and Mary.33

The law which turned the Convention into a Parliament contained a clause providing that no person should, after the first of March, sit or vote in either House without taking the oaths to the new King and Queen. This enactment produced great agitation throughout society. The adherents of the exiled dynasty hoped and confidently predicted that the recusants would be numerous. The minority in both Houses, it was said, would be true to the cause of hereditary monarchy. There might be here and there a traitor; but the great body of those who had voted for a Regency would be firm. Only two Bishops at most would recognise the usurpers. Seymour would retire from public life rather than abjure his principles. Grafton had determined to fly to France and to throw himself at the feet of his uncle. With such rumours as these all the coffeehouses of London were filled during the latter part of February. So intense was the public anxiety that, if any man of rank was missed, two days running, at his usual haunts, it was immediately whispered that he had stolen away to Saint Germains.34

The second of March arrived; and the event quieted the fears of one party, and confounded the hopes of the other. The Primate indeed and several of his suffragans stood obstinately aloof: but three Bishops and seventy-three temporal peers took the oaths. At the next meeting of the Upper House several more prelates came in. Within a week about a hundred Lords had qualified themselves to sit. Others, who were prevented by illness from appearing, sent excuses and professions of attachment to their Majesties. Grafton refuted all the stories which had been circulated about him by coming to be sworn on the first day. Two members of the Ecclesiastical Commission, Mulgrave and Sprat, hastened to make atonement for their fault by plighting their faith to William. Beaufort, who had long been considered as the type of a royalist of the old school, submitted after a very short hesitation. Aylesbury and Dartmouth, though vehement Jacobites, had as little scruple about taking the oath of allegiance as they afterwards had about breaking it.35 The Hydes took different paths. Rochester complied with the law; but Clarendon proved refractory. Many thought it strange that the brother who had adhered to James till James absconded should be less sturdy than the brother who had been in the Dutch camp. The explanation perhaps is that Rochester would have sacrificed much more than Clarendon by refusing to take the oaths. Clarendon’s income did not depend on the pleasure of the Government
but Rochester had a pension of four thousand a year, which he could not hope to retain if he refused to acknowledge the new Sovereigns. Indeed, he had so many enemies that, during some months, it seemed doubtful whether he would, on any terms, be suffered to retain the splendid reward which he had earned by persecuting the Whigs and by sitting in the High Commission. He was saved from what would have been a fatal blow to his fortunes by the intercession of Burnet, who had been deeply injured by him, and who revenged himself as became a Christian divine.36

In the Lower House four hundred members were sworn in on the second of March; and among them was Seymour. The spirit of the Jacobites was broken by his defection; and the minority with very few exceptions followed his example.37

Before the day fixed for the taking of the oaths, the Commons had begun to discuss a momentous question which admitted of no delay. During the interregnum, William had, as provisional chief of the administration, collected the taxes and applied them to the public service; nor could the propriety of this course be questioned by any person who approved of the Revolution. But the Revolution was now over: the vacancy of the throne had been supplied: the Houses were sitting: the law was in full force; and it became necessary immediately to decide to what revenue the Government was entitled.

Nobody denied that all the lands and hereditaments of the Crown had passed with the Crown to the new Sovereigns. Nobody denied that all duties which had been granted to the Crown for a fixed term of years might be constitutionally exacted till that term should expire. But large revenues had been settled by Parliament on James for life; and whether what had been settled on James for life could, while he lived, be claimed by William and Mary, was a question about which opinions were divided.

Holt, Treby, Pollexfen, indeed all the eminent Whig lawyers, Somers excepted, held that these revenues had been granted to the late King, in his political capacity, but for his natural life, and ought therefore, as long as he continued to drag on his existence in a strange land, to be paid to William and Mary. It appears from a very concise and unconnected report of the debate that Somers dissented from this doctrine. His opinion was that, if the Act of Parliament which had imposed the duties in question was to be construed according to the spirit, the word life must be understood to mean reign, and that therefore the term for which the grant had been made had expired. This was surely the sound opinion: for it was plainly irrational to treat the interest of James in this grant as at once a thing annexed to his person and a thing annexed to his office; to say in one breath that the merchants of London and Bristol must pay money because he was naturally alive, and that his successors must receive that money because he was politically defunct. The House was decidedly with Somers. The members generally were bent on effecting a great reform, without which it was felt that the Declaration of Rights would be but an imperfect guarantee for public liberty. During the conflict which fifteen successive Parliaments had maintained against four successive Kings, the chief weapon of the Commons had been the power of the purse; and never had the representatives of the people been induced to surrender that weapon without having speedy cause to repent of their too credulous loyalty. In that season of tumultuous joy which followed the Restoration, a large revenue for life had been almost by acclamation granted to Charles the Second. A few months later there was scarcely a respectable Cavalier in the kingdom who did not own that the stewards of the nation would have acted more wisely if they had kept in their hands the means of checking the abuses which disgraced every department of the government. James the Second had obtained from his submissive Parliament, without a dissentient voice, an income sufficient to defray the ordinary expenses of the state during his life; and, before he had enjoyed that income half a year, the great majority of those who had dealt thus liberally with him blamed themselves severely for their liberality. If experience was to be trusted, a long and painful experience, there could be no effectual security against maladministration, unless the Sovereign were under the necessity of recurring frequently to his Great Council for pecuniary aid. Almost all honest and enlightened men were therefore agreed in thinking that a part at least of the supplies ought to be granted only for short terms. And what time could be fitter for the introduction of this new practice than the year 1689, the commencement of a new reign, of a new dynasty, of a new era of constitutional government? The feeling on this subject was so strong and general that the dissentient minority gave way. No formal resolution was passed; but the House proceeded to act on the supposition that the grants which had been made to James for life had been annulled by his abdication.38

It was impossible to make a new settlement of the revenue without inquiry and deliberation. The Exchequer was ordered to furnish such returns as might enable the House to form estimates of the public expenditure and income. In the meantime, liberal provision was made for the immediate exigencies of the state. An extraordinary aid, to be raised by direct monthly assessment, was voted to the King. An Act was passed indemnifying all who had, since his landing, collected by his authority the duties settled on James; and those duties which had expired were continued for some months.

Along William’s whole line of march, from Torbay to London, he had been importuned by the common people to relieve them from the intolerable burden of the hearth money. In truth, that tax seems to have united all the worst evils which can be imputed to any tax. It was unequal, and unequal in the most pernicious way: for it pressed heavily on the poor, and lightly on the rich. A peasant, all whose property was not worth twenty pounds, was charged ten shillings. The Duke of Ormond, or the Duke of Newcastle, whose estates were worth half a million, paid only four or five pounds. The collectors were empowered to examine the interior of every house in the realm, to disturb families at meals, to force the doors of bedrooms, and, if the sum demanded were not punctually paid, to sell the trencher on which the barley loaf was divided among the poor children, and the pillow from under the head of the lying-in woman. Nor could the Treasury effectually restrain the chimneyman from using his powers with harshness: for the tax was farmed; and the government was consequently forced to connive at outrages and exactions such as have, in every age made the name of publican a proverb for all that is most hateful.

William had been so much moved by what he had heard of these grievances that, at one of the earliest sittings of the Privy Council, he introduced the subject. He sent a message requesting the House of Commons to consider whether better regulations would effectually prevent the abuses which had excited so much discontent. He added that he would willingly consent to the entire abolition of the tax if it should appear that the tax and the abuses were inseparable.39 This communication was received with loud applause. There were indeed some financiers of the old school who muttered that tenderness for the poor was a fine thing; but that no part of the revenue of the state came in so exactly to the day as the hearth money; that the goldsmiths of the City could not always be induced to lend on the security of the next quarter’s customs or excise, but that on an assignment of hearth money there was no difficulty in obtaining advances. In the House of Commons, those who thought thus did not venture to raise their voices in opposition to the general feeling. But in the Lords there was a conflict of which the event for a time seemed doubtful. At length the influence of the Court, strenuously exerted, carried an Act by which the chimney tax was declared a badge of slavery, and was, with many expressions of gratitude to the King, abolished for ever.40

The Commons granted, with little dispute, and without a division, six hundred thousand pounds for the purpose of repaying to the United Provinces the charges of the expedition which had delivered England. The facility with which this large sum was voted to a shrewd, diligent and thrifty people, our allies, indeed, politically, but commercially our most formidable rivals, excited some murmurs out of doors, and was, during many years, a favourite subject of sarcasm with Tory pamphleteers.41 The liberality of the House admits however of an easy explanation. On the very day on which the subject was under consideration, alarming news arrived at Westminster, and convinced many, who would at another time have been disposed to scrutinise severely any account sent in by the Dutch, that our country could not yet dispense with the services of the foreign troops.

France had declared war against the States General; and the States General had consequently demanded from the King of England those succours which he was bound by the treaty of Nimeguen to furnish.42 He had ordered some battalions to march to Harwich, that they might be in readiness to cross to the Continent. The old soldiers of James were generally in a very bad temper; and this order did not produce a soothing effect. The discontent was greatest in the regiment which now ranks as first of the line. Though borne on the English establishment, that regiment, from the time when it first fought under the great Gustavus, had been almost exclusively composed of Scotchmen; and Scotchmen have never, in any region to which their adventurous and aspiring temper has led them, failed to note and to resent every slight offered to Scotland. Officers and men muttered that a vote of a foreign assembly was nothing to them. If they could be absolved from their allegiance to King James the Seventh, it must be by the Estates at Edinburgh, and not by the Convention at Westminster. Their ill humour increased when they heard that Schomberg had been appointed their colonel. They ought perhaps to have thought it an honour to be called by the name of the greatest soldier in Europe. But, brave and skilful as he was, he was not their countryman: and their regiment, during the fifty- six years which had elapsed since it gained its first honourable distinctions in Germany, had never been commanded but by a Hepburn or a Douglas. While they were in this angry and punctilious mood, they were ordered to join the forces which were assembling at Harwich. There was much murmuring; but there was no outbreak till the regiment arrived at Ipswich. There the signal of revolt was given by two
captains who were zealous for the exiled King. The market place was soon filled with pikemen and musketeers running to and fro. Gunshots were wildly fired in all directions. Those officers who attempted to restrain the rioters were overpowered and disarmed. At length the chiefs of the insurrection established some order, and marched out of Ipswich at the head of their adherents. The little army consisted of about eight hundred men. They had seized four pieces of cannon, and had taken possession of the military chest, which contained a considerable sum of money. At the distance of half a mile from the town a halt was called: a general consultation was held; and the mutineers resolved that they would hasten back to their native country, and would live and die with their rightful King. They instantly proceeded northward by forced marches.43

When the news reached London the dismay was great. It was rumoured that alarming symptoms had appeared in other regiments, and particularly that a body of fusileers which lay at Harwich was likely to imitate the example set at Ipswich. “If these Scots,” said Halifax to Reresby, “are unsupported, they are lost. But if they have acted in concert with others, the danger is serious indeed.”44 The truth seems to be that there was a conspiracy which had ramifications in many parts of the army, but that the conspirators were awed by the firmness of the government and of the Parliament. A committee of the Privy Council was sitting when the tidings of the mutiny arrived in London. William Harbord, who represented the borough of Launceston, was at the board. His colleagues entreated him to go down instantly to the House of Commons, and to relate what had happened. He went, rose in his place, and told his story. The spirit of the assembly rose to the occasion. Howe was the first to call for vigorous action. “Address the King,” he said, “to send his Dutch troops after these men. I know not who else can be trusted.” “This is no jesting matter,” said old Birch, who had been a colonel in the service of the Parliament, and had seen the most powerful and renowned House of Commons that ever sate twice purged and twice expelled by its own soldiers; “if you let this evil spread, you will have an army upon you in a few days. Address the King to send horse and foot instantly, his own men, men whom he can trust, and to put these people down at once.” The men of the long robe caught the flame. “It is not the learning of my profession that is needed here,” said Treby. “What is now to be done is to meet force with force, and to maintain in the field what we have done in the senate.” “Write to the Sheriffs,” said Colonel Mildmay, member for Essex. “Raise the militia. There are a hundred and fifty thousand of them: they are good Englishmen: they will not fail you.” It was resolved that all members of the House who held commissions in the army should be dispensed from parliamentary attendance, in order that they might repair instantly to their military posts. An address was unanimously voted requesting the King to take effectual steps for the suppression of the rebellion, and to put forth a proclamation denouncing public vengeance on the rebels. One gentleman hinted that it might be well to advise his Majesty to offer a pardon to those who should peaceably submit: but the House wisely rejected the suggestion. “This is no time,” it was well said, “for any thing that looks like fear.” The address was instantly sent up to the Lords. The Lords concurred in it. Two peers, two knights of shires, and two burgesses were sent with it to Court. William received them graciously, and informed them that he had already given the necessary orders. In fact, several regiments of horse and dragoons had been sent northward under the command of Ginkell, one of the bravest and ablest officers of the Dutch army.45

Meanwhile the mutineers were hastening across the country which lies between Cambridge and the Wash. Their road lay through a vast and desolate fen, saturated with all the moisture of thirteen counties, and overhung during the greater part of the year by a low grey mist, high above which rose, visible many miles, the magnificent tower of Ely. In that dreary region, covered by vast flights of wild fowl, a half savage population, known by the name of the Breedlings, then led an amphibious life, sometimes wading, and sometimes rowing, from one islet of firm ground to another.46 The roads were amongst the worst in the island, and, as soon as rumour announced the approach of the rebels, were studiously made worse by the country people. Bridges were broken down. Trees were laid across the highways to obstruct the progress of the cannon. Nevertheless the Scotch veterans not only pushed forward with great speed, but succeeded in carrying their artillery with them. They entered Lincolnshire, and were not far from Sleaford, when they learned that Ginkell with an irresistible force was close on their track. Victory and escape were equally out of the question. The bravest warriors could not contend against fourfold odds. The most active infantry could not outrun horsemen. Yet the leaders, probably despairing of pardon, urged the men to try the chance of battle. In that region, a spot almost surrounded by swamps and pools was without difficulty found. Here the insurgents were drawn up; and the cannon were planted at the only point which was thought not to be sufficiently protected by natural defences. Ginkell ordered the attack to be made at a place which was out of the range of the guns; and his dragoons dashed gallantly into the water, though it was so deep that their horses were forced to swim. Then the mutineers lost heart. They beat a parley, surrendered at discretion, and were brought up to London under a strong guard. Their lives were forfeit: for they had been guilty, not merely of mutiny, which was then not a legal crime, but of levying war against the King. William, however, with politic clemency, abstained from shedding the blood even of the most culpable. A few of the ringleaders were brought to trial at the next Bury assizes, and were convicted of high treason; but their lives were spared. The rest were merely ordered to return to their duty. The regiment, lately so refractory, went submissively to the Continent, and there, through many hard campaigns, distinguished itself by fidelity, by discipline, and by valour.47

This event facilitated an important change in our polity, a change which, it is true, could not have been long delayed, but which would not have been easily accomplished except at a moment of extreme danger. The time had at length arrived at which it was necessary to make a legal distinction between the soldier and the citizen. Under the Plantagenets and the Tudors there had been no standing army. The standing army which had existed under the last kings of the House of Stuart had been regarded by every party in the state with strong and not unreasonable aversion. The common law gave the Sovereign no power to control his troops. The Parliament, regarding them as mere tools of tyranny, had not been disposed to give such power by statute. James indeed had induced his corrupt and servile judges to put on some obsolete laws a construction which enabled him to punish desertion capitally. But this construction was considered by all respectable jurists as unsound, and, had it been sound, would have been far from effecting all that was necessary for the purpose of maintaining military discipline. Even James did not venture to inflict death by sentence of a court martial. The deserter was treated as an ordinary felon, was tried at the assizes by a petty jury on a bill found by a grand jury, and was at liberty to avail himself of any technical flaw which might be discovered in the indictment.

The Revolution, by altering the relative position of the prince and the parliament, had altered also the relative position of the army and the nation. The King and the Commons were now at unity; and both were alike menaced by the greatest military power which had existed in Europe since the downfall of the Roman empire. In a few weeks thirty thousand veterans, accustomed to conquer, and led by able and experienced captains, might cross from the ports of Normandy and Brittany to our shores. That such a force would with little difficulty scatter three times that number of militia, no man well acquainted with war could doubt. There must then be regular soldiers; and, if there were to be regular soldiers, it must be indispensable, both to their efficiency, and to the security of every other class, that they should be kept under a strict discipline. An ill disciplined army has ever been a more costly and a more licentious militia, impotent against a foreign enemy, and formidable only to the country which it is paid to defend. A strong line of demarcation must therefore be drawn between the soldiers and the rest of the community. For the sake of public freedom, they must, in the midst of freedom, be placed under a despotic rule. They must be subject to a sharper penal code, and to a more stringent code of procedure, than are administered by the ordinary tribunals. Some acts which in the citizen are innocent must in the soldier be crimes. Some acts which in the citizen are punished with fine or imprisonment must in the soldier be punished with death. The machinery by which courts of law ascertain the guilt or innocence of an accused citizen is too slow and too intricate to be applied to an accused soldier. For, of all the maladies incident to the body politic, military insubordination is that which requires the most prompt and drastic remedies. If the evil be not stopped as soon as it appears, it is certain to spread; and it cannot spread far without danger to the very vitals of the commonwealth. For the general safety, therefore, a summary jurisdiction of terrible extent must, in camps, be entrusted to rude tribunals composed of men of the sword.

But, though it was certain that the country could not at that moment be secure without professional soldiers, and equally certain that professional soldiers must be worse than useless unless they were placed under a rule more arbitrary and severe than that to which other men were subject, it was not without great misgivings that a House of Commons could venture to recognise the existence and to make provision for the government of a standing army. There was scarcely a public man of note who had not often avowed his conviction that our polity and a standing army could not exist together. The Whigs had been in the constant habit of repeating that standing armies had destroyed the free institutions of the neighbouring nations. The Tories had repeated as constantly that, in our own island, a standing army had subverted the Church, oppressed the gentry, and murdered the King. No leader of either party could, without laying himself open to the charge of gross inconsistency, propose that such an army should henceforth be one of the permanent establishments of the realm. The mutiny at Ipswich, and the panic which that mutiny produced, made it easy to effect what would otherwise have been in the highest degree difficult. A short bill was brought in which began by declaring, in explicit terms, that standing armies and courts martial were unknown to the law of England. It was then enacted that, on account of the extreme perils impending at that moment over the state, no man mustered on pay in the service of the crown should, on pain of death, or of such lighter punishment as a court martial should deem sufficient, desert his colours or mutiny against his commanding officers. This statute was to be in force only six months; and many of those who voted for it probably believed that it would, at the close of that period, be suffered to expire. The bill passed rapidly and easily. Not a single division was taken upon it in the House of Commons. A mitigating clause indeed, which illustrates somewhat curiously the manners of that age, was added by way of rider after the third reading. This clause provided that no court martial should pass sentence of death except between the hours of six in the morning and one in the afternoon. The dinner hour was then early; and it was but too probable that a gentleman who had dined would be in a state in which he could not safely be trusted with the lives of his fellow creatures. With this amendment, the first and most concise of our many Mutiny Bills was sent up to the Lords, and was, in a few hours, hurried by them through all its stages and passed by the King.48

Thus was made, without one dissentient voice in Parliament, without one murmur in the nation, the first step towards a change which had become necessary to the safety of the state, yet which every party in the state then regarded with extreme dread and aversion. Six months passed; and still the public danger continued. The power necessary to the maintenance of military discipline was a second time entrusted to the crown for a short term. The trust again expired, and was again renewed. By slow degrees familiarity reconciled the public mind to the names, once so odious, of standing army and court martial. It was proved by experience that, in a well constituted society, professional soldiers may be terrible to a foreign enemy, and yet submissive to the civil power. What had been at first tolerated as the exception began to be considered as the rule. Not a session passed without a Mutiny Bill. When at length it became evident that a political change of the highest importance was taking place in such a manner as almost to escape notice, a clamour was raised by some factious men desirous to weaken the hands of the government, and by some respectable men who felt an honest but injudicious reverence for every old constitutional tradition, and who were unable to understand that what at one stage in the progress of society is pernicious may at another stage be indispensable. This clamour however, as years rolled on, became fainter and fainter. The debate which recurred every spring on the Mutiny Bill came to be regarded merely as an occasion on which hopeful young orators fresh from Christchurch were to deliver maiden speeches, setting forth how the guards of Pisistratus seized the citadel of Athens, and how the Praetorian cohorts sold the Roman empire to Didius. At length these declamations became too ridiculous to be repeated. The most oldfashioned, the most eccentric, politician could hardly, in the reign of George the Third, contend that there ought to be no regular soldiers, or that the ordinary law, administered by the ordinary courts, would effectually maintain discipline among such soldiers. All parties being agreed as to the general principle, a long succession of Mutiny Bills passed without any discussion, except when some particular article of the military code appeared to require amendment. It is perhaps because the army became thus gradually, and almost imperceptibly, one of the institutions of England, that it has acted in such perfect harmony with all her other institutions, has never once, during a hundred and sixty years, been untrue to the throne or disobedient to the law, has never once defied the tribunals or overawed the constituent bodies. To this day, however, the Estates of the Realm continue to set up periodically, with laudable jealousy, a landmark on the frontier which was traced at the time of the Revolution. They solemnly reassert every year the doctrine laid down in the Declaration of Rights; and they then grant to the Sovereign an extraordinary power to govern a certain number of soldiers according to certain rules during twelve months more.

In the same week in which the first Mutiny Bill was laid on the table of the Commons, another temporary law, made necessary by the unsettled state of the kingdom, was passed. Since the flight of James many persons who were believed to have been deeply implicated in his unlawful acts, or to be engaged in plots for his restoration, had been arrested and confined. During the vacancy of the throne, these men could derive no benefit from the Habeas Corpus Act. For the machinery by which alone that Act could be carried into execution had ceased to exist; and, through the whole of Hilary term, all the courts in Westminster Hall had remained closed. Now that the ordinary tribunals were about to resume their functions, it was apprehended that all those prisoners whom it was not convenient to bring instantly to trial would demand and obtain their liberty. A bill was therefore brought in which empowered the King to detain in custody during a few weeks such persons as he should suspect of evil designs against his government. This bill passed the two Houses with little or no opposition.49 But the malecontents out of doors did not fail to remark that, in the late reign, the Habeas Corpus Act had not been one day suspended. It was the fashion to call James a tyrant, and William a deliverer. Yet, before the deliverer had been a month on the throne, he had deprived Englishmen of a precious right which the tyrant had respected.50 This is a kind of reproach which a government sprung from a popular revolution almost inevitably incurs. From such a government men naturally think themselves entitled to demand a more gentle and liberal administration than is expected from old and deeply rooted power. Yet such a government, having, as it always has, many active enemies, and not having the strength derived from legitimacy and prescription, can at first maintain itself only by a vigilance and a severity of which old and deeply rooted power stands in no need. Extraordinary and irregular vindications of public liberty are sometimes necessary: yet, however necessary, they are almost always followed by some temporary abridgments of that very liberty; and every such abridgment is a fertile and plausible theme for sarcasm and invective.

Unhappily sarcasm and invective directed against William were but too likely to find favourable audience. Each of the two great parties had its own reasons for being dissatisfied with him; and there were some complaints in which both parties joined. His manners gave almost universal offence. He was in truth far better qualified to save a nation than to adorn a court. In the highest parts of statesmanship, he had no equal among his contemporaries. He had formed plans not inferior in grandeur and boldness to those of Richelieu, and had carried them into effect with a tact and wariness worthy of Mazarin. Two countries, the seats of civil liberty and of the Reformed Faith, had been preserved by his wisdom and courage from extreme perils. Holland he had delivered from foreign, and England from domestic foes. Obstacles apparently insurmountable had been interposed between him and the ends on which he was intent; and those obstacles his genius had turned into stepping stones. Under his dexterous management the hereditary enemies of his house had helped him to mount a throne; and the persecutors of his religion had helped him to rescue his religion from persecution. Fleets and armies, collected to withstand him, had, without a struggle, submitted to his orders. Factions and sects, divided by mortal antipathies, had recognised him as their common head. Without carnage, without devastation, he had won a victory compared with which all the victories of Gustavus and Turenne were insignificant. In a few weeks he had changed the relative position of all the states in Europe, and had restored the equilibrium which the preponderance of one power had destroyed. Foreign nations did ample justice to his great qualities. In every Continental country where Protestant congregations met, fervent thanks were offered to God, who, from among the progeny of His servants, Maurice, the deliverer of Germany, and William, the deliverer of Holland, had raised up a third deliverer, the wisest and mightiest of all. At Vienna, at Madrid, nay, at Rome, the valiant and sagacious heretic was held in honour as the chief of the great confederacy against the House of Bourbon; and even at Versailles the hatred which he inspired was largely mingled with admiration.

Here he was less favourably judged. In truth, our ancestors saw him in the worst of all lights. By the French, the Germans, and the Italians, he was contemplated at such a distance that only what was great could be discerned, and that small blemishes were invisible. To the Dutch he was brought close: but he was himself a Dutchman. In his intercourse with them he was seen to the best advantage, he was perfectly at his ease with them; and from among them he had chosen his earliest and dearest friends. But to the English he appeared in a most unfortunate point of view. He was at once too near to them and too far from them. He lived among them, so
that the smallest peculiarity of temper or manner could not escape their notice. Yet he lived apart from them, and was to the last a foreigner in speech, tastes, and habits.

One of the chief functions of our Sovereigns had long been to preside over the society of the capital. That function Charles the Second had performed with immense success. His easy bow, his good stories, his style of dancing and playing tennis, the sound of his cordial laugh, were familiar to all London. One day he was seen among the elms of Saint James’s Park chatting with Dryden about poetry.51 Another day his arm was on Tom Durfey’s shoulder; and his Majesty was taking a second, while his companion sang “Phillida, Phillida,” or “To horse, brave boys, to Newmarket, to horse.”52 James, with much less vivacity and good nature, was accessible, and, to people who did not cross him, civil. But of this sociableness William was entirely destitute. He seldom came forth from his closet; and, when he appeared in the public rooms, he stood among the crowd of courtiers and ladies, stern and abstracted, making no jest and smiling at none. His freezing look, his silence, the dry and concise answers which he uttered when he could keep silence no longer, disgusted noblemen and gentlemen who had been accustomed to be slapped on the back by their royal masters, called Jack or Harry, congratulated about race cups or rallied about actresses. The women missed the homage due to their sex. They observed that the King spoke in a somewhat imperious tone even to the wife to whom he owed so much, and whom he sincerely loved and esteemed.53 They were amused and shocked to see him, when the Princess Anne dined with him, and when the first green peas of the year were put on the table, devour the whole dish without offering a spoonful to her Royal Highness; and they pronounced that this great soldier and politician was no better than a Low Dutch bear.54

One misfortune, which was imputed to him as a crime, was his bad English. He spoke our language, but not well. His accent was foreign: his diction was inelegant; and his vocabulary seems to have been no larger than was necessary for the transaction of business. To the difficulty which he felt in expressing himself, and to his consciousness that his pronunciation was bad, must be partly ascribed the taciturnity and the short answers which gave so much offence. Our literature he was incapable of enjoying or of understanding. He never once, during his whole reign, showed himself at the theatre.55 The poets who wrote Pindaric verses in his praise complained that their flights of sublimity were beyond his comprehension.56 Those who are acquainted with the panegyrical odes of that age will perhaps be of opinion that he did not lose much by his ignorance.

It is true that his wife did her best to supply what was wanting, and that she was excellently qualified to be the head of the Court. She was English by birth, and English also in her tastes and feelings. Her face was handsome, her port majestic, her temper sweet and lively, her manners affable and graceful. Her understanding, though very imperfectly cultivated, was quick. There was no want of feminine wit and shrewdness in her conversation; and her letters were so well expressed that they deserved to be well spelt. She took much pleasure in the lighter kinds of literature, and did something towards bringing books into fashion among ladies of quality. The stainless purity of her private life and the strict attention which she paid to her religious duties were the more respectable, because she was singularly free from censoriousness, and discouraged scandal as much as vice. In dislike of backbiting indeed she and her husband cordially agreed; but they showed their dislike in different and in very characteristic ways. William preserved profound silence, and gave the talebearer a look which, as was said by a person who had once encountered it, and who took good care never to encounter it again, made your story go back down your throat.57 Mary had a way of interrupting tattle about elopements, duels, and playdebts by asking the tattlers, very quietly yet significantly, whether they had ever read her favourite sermon, Doctor Tillotson’s on Evil Speaking. Her charities were munificent and judicious; and, though she made no ostentatious display of them, it was known that she retrenched from her own state in order to relieve Protestants whom persecution had driven from France and Ireland, and who were starving in the garrets of London. So amiable was her conduct, that she was generally spoken of with esteem and tenderness by the most respectable of those who disapproved of the manner in which she had been raised to the throne, and even of those who refused to acknowledge her as Queen. In the Jacobite lampoons of that time, lampoons which, in virulence and malignity, far exceed any thing that our age has produced, she was not often mentioned with severity. Indeed she sometimes expressed her surprise at finding that libellers who respected nothing else respected her name. God, she said, knew where her weakness lay. She was too sensitive to abuse and calumny; He had mercifully spared her a trial which was beyond her strength; and the best return which she could make to Him was to discountenance all malicious reflections on the characters of others. Assured that she possessed her husband’s entire confidence and affection, she turned the edge of his sharp speeches sometimes by soft and sometimes by playful answers, and employed all the influence which she derived from her many pleasing qualities to gain the hearts of the people for him.58

If she had long continued to assemble round her the best society of London, it is probable that her kindness and courtesy would have done much to efface the unfavourable impression made by his stern and frigid demeanour. Unhappily his physical infirmities made it impossible for him to reside at Whitehall. The air of Westminster, mingled with tile fog of the river which in spring tides overflowed the courts of his palace, with the smoke of seacoal from two hundred thousand chimneys, and with the fumes of all the filth which was then suffered to accumulate in the streets, was insupportable to him; for his lungs were weak, and his sense of smell exquisitely keen. His constitutional asthma made rapid progress. His physicians pronounced it impossible that he could live to the end of the year. His face was so ghastly that he could hardly be recognised. Those who had to transact business with him were shocked to hear him gasping for breath, and coughing till the tears ran down his cheeks.59 His mind, strong as it was, sympathized with his body. His judgment was indeed as clear as ever. But there was, during some months, a perceptible relaxation of that energy by which he had been distinguished. Even his Dutch friends whispered that he was not the man that he had been at the Hague.60 It was absolutely necessary that he should quit London. He accordingly took up his residence in the purer air of Hampton Court. That mansion, begun by the magnificent Wolsey, was a fine specimen of the architecture which flourished in England under the first Tudors; but the apartments were not, according to the notions of the seventeenth century, well fitted for purposes of state. Our princes therefore had, since the Restoration, repaired thither seldom, and only when they wished to live for a time in retirement. As William purposed to make the deserted edifice his chief palace, it was necessary for him to build and to plant; nor was the necessity disagreeable to him. For he had, like most of his countrymen, a pleasure in decorating a country house; and next to hunting, though at a great interval, his favourite amusements were architecture and gardening. He had already created on a sandy heath in Guelders a paradise, which attracted multitudes of the curious from Holland and Westphalia. Mary had laid the first stone of the house. Bentinck had superintended the digging of the fishponds. There were cascades and grottoes, a spacious orangery, and an aviary which furnished Hondekoeter with numerous specimens of manycoloured plumage.61 The King, in his splendid banishment, pined for this favourite seat, and found some consolation in creating another Loo on the banks of the Thames. Soon a wide extent of ground was laid out in formal walks and parterres. Much idle ingenuity was employed in forming that intricate labyrinth of verdure which has puzzled and amused five generations of holiday visitors from London. Limes thirty years old were transplanted from neighbouring woods to shade the alleys. Artificial fountains spouted among the flower beds. A new court, not designed with the purest taste, but stately, spacious, and commodious, rose under the direction of Wren. The wainscots were adorned with the rich and delicate carvings of Gibbons. The staircases were in a blaze with the glaring frescoes of Verrio. In every corner of the mansion appeared a profusion of gewgaws, not yet familiar to English eyes. Mary had acquired at the Hague a taste for the porcelain of China, and amused herself by forming at Hampton a vast collection of hideous images, and of vases on which houses, trees, bridges, and mandarins were depicted in outrageous defiance of all the laws of perspective. The fashion, a frivolous and inelegant fashion it must be owned, which was thus set by the amiable Queen, spread fast and wide. In a few years almost every great house in the kingdom contained a museum of these grotesque baubles. Even statesmen and generals were not ashamed to be renowned as judges of teapots and dragons; and satirists long continued to repeat that a fine lady valued her mottled green pottery quite as much as she valued her monkey, and much more than she valued her husband.62 But the new palace was embellished with works of art of a very different kind. A gallery was erected for the cartoons of Raphael. Those great pictures, then and still the finest on our side of the Alps, had been preserved by Cromwell from the fate which befell most of the other masterpieces in the collection of Charles the First, but had been suffered to lie during many years nailed up in deal boxes. They were now brought forth from obscurity to be contemplated by artists with admiration and despair. The expense of the works at Hampton was a subject of bitter complaint to many Tories, who had very gently blamed the boundless profusion with which Charles the Second had built and rebuilt, furnished and refurnished, the dwelling of the Duchess of Portsmouth.63 The expense, however, was not the chief cause of the discontent which William’s change of residence excited. There was no longer a Court at Westminster. Whitehall, once the daily resort of the noble and the powerful, the beautiful and the gay, the place to which fops came to show their new peruques, men of gallantry to exchange glances with fine ladies, politicians to push their fortunes, loungers to hear the news, country gentlemen to see the royal family, was now, in the busiest season of the year, when London was full, when Parliament was sitting, left desolate. A solitary sentinel paced the grassgrown pavement before that door which had once been too narrow for the opposite streams of entering and departing courtiers. The services which the metropolis had rendered to the King were great and recent; and it was thought that he might have requited those services better than by treating it as Lewis had treated Paris. Halifax ventured to hint this, but was silenced by a few words which admitted of no reply. “Do you wish,” said William peevishly, “to see me dead?”64

In a short time it was found that Hampton Court was too far from the Houses of Lords and Commons, and from the public offices, to be the ordinary abode of the Sovereign. Instead, however, of returning to Whitehall, William determined to have another dwelling, near enough to his capital for the transaction of business, but not near enough to be within that atmosphere in which he could not pass a night without risk of suffocation. At one time he thought of Holland House, the villa of the noble family of Rich; and he actually resided there some weeks.65 But he at length fixed his choice on Kensington House, the suburban residence of the Earl of Nottingham. The purchase was made for eighteen thousand guineas, and was followed by more building, more planting, more expense, and more discontent.66 At present Kensington House is considered as a part of London. It was then a rural mansion, and could not, in those days of highwaymen and scourers, of roads deep in mire and nights without lamps, be the rallying point of fashionable society.

It was well known that the King, who treated the English nobility and gentry so ungraciously, could, in a small circle of his own countrymen, be easy, friendly, even jovial, could pour out his feelings garrulously, could fill his glass, perhaps too often; and this was, in the view of our forefathers, an aggravation of his offences. Yet our forefathers should have had the sense and the justice to acknowledge that the patriotism which they considered as a virtue in themselves, could not be a fault in him. It was unjust to blame him for not at once transferring to our island the love which he bore to the country of his birth. If, in essentials, he did his duty towards England, he might well be suffered to feel at heart an affectionate preference for Holland. Nor is it a reproach to him that he did not, in this season of his greatness, discard companions who had played with him in his childhood, who had stood by him firmly through all the vicissitudes of his youth and manhood, who had, in defiance of the most loathsome and deadly forms of infection, kept watch by his sick-bed, who had, in the thickest of the battle, thrust themselves between him and the French swords, and whose attachment was, not to the Stadtholder or to the King, but to plain William of Nassau. It may be added that his old friends could not but rise in his estimation by comparison with his new courtiers. To the end of his life all his Dutch comrades, without exception, continued to deserve his confidence. They could be out of humour with him, it is true; and, when out of humour, they could be sullen and rude; but never did they, even when most angry and unreasonable, fail to keep his secrets and to watch over his interests with gentlemanlike and soldierlike fidelity. Among his English councillors such fidelity was rare.67 It is painful, but it is no more than just, to acknowledge that he had but too good reason for thinking meanly of our national character. That character was indeed, in essentials, what it has always been. Veracity, uprightness, and manly boldness were then, as now, qualities eminently English. But those qualities, though widely diffused among the great body of the people, were seldom to be found in the class with which William was best acquainted. The standard of honour and virtue among our public men was, during his reign, at the very lowest point. His predecessors had bequeathed to him a court foul with all the vices of the Restoration, a court swarming with sycophants, who were ready, on the first turn of fortune, to abandon him as they had abandoned his uncle. Here and there, lost in that ignoble crowd, was to be found a man of true integrity and public spirit. Yet even such a man could not long live in such society without much risk that the strictness of his principles would be relaxed, and the delicacy of his sense of right and wrong impaired. It was unjust to blame a prince surrounded by flatterers and traitors for wishing to keep near him four or five servants whom he knew by proof to be faithful even to death.

Nor was this the only instance in which our ancestors were unjust to him. They had expected that, as soon as so distinguished a soldier and statesman was placed at the head of affairs, he would give some signal proof, they scarcely knew what, of genius and vigour. Unhappily, during the first months of his reign, almost every thing went wrong. His subjects, bitterly disappointed, threw the blame on him, and began to doubt whether he merited that reputation which he had won at his first entrance into public life, and which the splendid success of his last great enterprise had raised to the highest point. Had they been in a temper to judge fairly, they would have perceived that for the maladministration of which they with good reason complained he was not responsible. He could as yet work only with the machinery which he had found; and the machinery which he had found was all rust and rottenness. From the time of the Restoration to the time of the Revolution, neglect and fraud had been almost constantly impairing the efficiency of every department of the government. Honours and public trusts, peerages, baronetcies, regiments, frigates, embassies, governments, commissionerships, leases of crown lands, contracts for clothing, for provisions, for ammunition, pardons for murder, for robbery, for arson, were sold at Whitehall scarcely less openly than asparagus at Covent Garden or herrings at Billingsgate. Brokers had been incessantly plying for custom in the purlieus of the court; and of these brokers the most successful had been, in the days of Charles, the harlots, and in the days of James, the priests. From the palace which was the chief seat of this pestilence the taint had diffused itself through every office and through every rank in every office, and had every where produced feebleness and disorganization. So rapid was the progress of the decay that, within eight years after the time when Oliver had been the umpire of Europe, the roar of the guns of De Ruyter was heard in the Tower of London. The vices which had brought that great humiliation on the country had ever since been rooting themselves deeper and spreading themselves wider. James had, to do him justice, corrected a few of the gross abuses which disgraced the naval administration. Yet the naval administration, in spite of his attempts to reform it, moved the contempt of men who were acquainted with the dockyards of France and Holland. The military administration was still worse. The courtiers took bribes from the colonels; the colonels cheated the soldiers: the commissaries sent in long bills for what had never been furnished: the keepers of the arsenals sold the public stores and pocketed the price. But these evils, though they had sprung into existence and grown to maturity under the government of Charles and James, first made themselves severely felt under the government of William. For Charles and James were content to be the vassals and pensioners of a powerful and ambitious neighbour: they submitted to his ascendency: they shunned with pusillanimous caution whatever could give him offence; and thus, at the cost of the independence and dignity of that ancient and glorious crown which they unworthily wore, they avoided a conflict which would instantly have shown how helpless, under their misrule, their once formidable kingdom had become. Their ignominious policy it was neither in William’s power nor in his nature to follow. It was only by arms that the liberty and religion of England could be protected against the most formidable enemy that had threatened our island since the Hebrides were strown with the wrecks of the Armada. The body politic, which, while it remained in repose, had presented a superficial appearance of health and vigour, was now under the necessity of straining every nerve in a wrestle for life or death, and was immediately found to be unequal to the exertion. The first efforts showed an utter relaxation of fibre, an utter want of training. Those efforts were, with scarcely an exception, failures; and every failure was popularly imputed, not to the rulers whose mismanagement had produced the infirmities of the state, but to the ruler in whose time the infirmities of the state became visible.

William might indeed, if he had been as absolute as Lewis, have used such sharp remedies as would speedily have restored to the English administration that firm tone which had been wanting since the death of Oliver. But the instantaneous reform of inveterate abuses was a task far beyond the powers of a prince strictly restrained by law, and restrained still more strictly by the difficulties of his situation.68

Some of the most serious difficulties of his situation were caused by the conduct of the ministers on whom, new as he was to the details of English affairs, he was forced to rely for information about men and things. There was indeed no want of ability among his chief counsellors: but one half of their ability was employed in counteracting the other half. Between the Lord President and the Lord Privy Seal there was an inveterate enmity.69 It had begun twelve years before when Danby was Lord High Treasurer, a persecutor of nonconformists, an uncompromising defender of prerogative, and when Halifax was rising to distinction as one of the most eloquent leaders of the country party. In the reign of James, the two statesmen had found themselves in opposition together; and their common hostility to France and to Rome, to the High Commission and to the dispensing power, had produced an apparent reconciliation; but as soon as they were in office together the old antipathy revived. The hatred which the Whig party felt towards them both ought, it should seem, to have produced a close alliance between them: but in fact each of them saw with complacency the danger which threatened the other. Danby exerted himself to rally round him a strong phalanx of Tories. Under the plea of ill health, he withdrew from court, seldom came to the Council over which it was his duty to preside, passed much time in the country, and took scarcely any part in public affairs except by grumbling and sneering at all the acts of the government, and by doing jobs and getting places for his personal retainers.70 In consequence of this defection, Halifax became prime minister, as far any minister could, in that reign, be called prime minister. An immense load of business fell on him; and that load he was unable to sustain. In wit and eloquence, in amplitude of comprehension and subtlety of disquisition, he had no equal among the statesmen of his time. But that very fertility, that very acuteness, which gave a singular charm to his conversation, to his oratory and to his writings, unfitted him for the work of promptly deciding practical questions. He was slow from very quickness. For he saw so many arguments for and against every possible course that he was longer in making up his mind than a dull man would have been. Instead of acquiescing in his first thoughts, he replied on himself, rejoined on himself, and surrejoined on himself. Those who heard him talk owned that he talked like an angel: but too often, when he had exhausted all that could be said, and came to act, the time for action was over.

Meanwhile the two Secretaries of State were constantly labouring to draw their master in diametrically opposite directions. Every scheme, every person, recommended by one of them was reprobated by the other. Nottingham was never weary of repeating that the old Roundhead party, the party which had taken the life of Charles the First and had plotted against the life of Charles the Second, was in principle republican, and that the Tories were the only true friends of monarchy. Shrewsbury replied that the Tories might be friends of monarchy, but that they regarded James as their monarch. Nottingham was always bringing to the closet intelligence of the wild daydreams in which a few old eaters of calf’s head, the remains of the once formidable party of Bradshaw and Ireton, still indulged at taverns in the city. Shrewsbury produced ferocious lampoons which the Jacobites dropped every day in the coffeehouses. “Every Whig,” said the Tory Secretary, “is an enemy of your Majesty’s prerogative.” “Every Tory,” said the Whig Secretary, “is an enemy of your Majesty’s title.”71

At the treasury there was a complication of jealousies and quarrels.72 Both the First Commissioner, Mordaunt, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Delamere, were zealous Whigs but, though they held the same political creed, their tempers differed widely. Mordaunt was volatile, dissipated, and generous. The wits of that time laughed at the way in which he flew about from Hampton Court to the Royal Exchange, and from the Royal Exchange back to Hampton Court. How he found time for dress, politics, lovemaking and balladmaking was a wonder.73 Delamere was gloomy and acrimonious, austere in his private morals, and punctual in his devotions, but greedy of ignoble gain. The two principal ministers of finance, therefore, became enemies, and agreed only in hating their colleague Godolphin. What business had he at Whitehall in these days of Protestant ascendency, he who had sate at the same board with Papists, he who had never scrupled to attend Mary of Modena to the idolatrous worship of the Mass? The most provoking circumstance was that Godolphin, though his name stood only third in the commission, was really first Lord. For in financial knowledge and in habits of business Mordaunt and Delamere were mere children when compared with him; and this William soon discovered.74

Similar feuds raged at the other great boards and through all the subordinate ranks of public functionaries. In every customhouse, in every arsenal, were a Shrewsbury and a Nottingham, a Delamere and a Godolphin. The Whigs complained that there was no department in which creatures of the fallen tyranny were not to be found. It was idle to allege that these men were versed in the details of business, that they were the depositaries of official traditions, and that the friends of liberty, having been, during many years, excluded from public employment, must necessarily be incompetent to take on themselves at once the whole management of affairs. Experience doubtless had its value: but surely the first of all the qualifications of a servant was fidelity; and no Tory could be a really faithful servant of the new government. If King William were wise, he would rather trust novices zealous for his interest and honour than veterans who might indeed possess ability and knowledge, but who would use that ability and that knowledge to effect his ruin.

The Tories, on the other hand, complained that their share of power bore no proportion to their number and their weight in the country, and that every where old and useful public servants were, for the crime of being friends to monarchy and to the Church, turned out of their posts to make way for Rye House plotters and haunters of conventicles. These upstarts, adepts in the art of factious agitation, but ignorant of all that belonged to their new calling, would be just beginning to learn their business when they had undone the nation by their blunders. To be a rebel and a schismatic was surely not all that ought to be required of a man in high employment. What would become of the finances, what of the marine, if Whigs who could not understand the plainest balance sheet were to manage the revenue, and Whigs who had never walked over a dockyard to fit out the fleet.75

The truth is that the charges which the two parties brought against each other were, to a great extent, well founded, but that the blame which both threw on William was unjust. Official experience was to be found almost exclusively among the Tories, hearty attachment to the new settlement almost exclusively among the Whigs. It was not the fault of the King that the knowledge