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The History of England from the Accession of James the Second
by Thomas Babington Macaulay
William’s Voyage to Holland–William’s Entrance into the Hague– Congress at the Hague–William his own Minister for Foreign Affairs–William obtains a Toleration for the Waldenses; Vices inherent in the Nature of Coalitions–Siege and Fall of Mons– William returns to England; Trials of Preston and Ashton– Execution of Ashton–Preston’s Irresolution and Confessions– Lenity shown to the Conspirators–Dartmouth–Turner; Penn–Death of George Fox; his Character–Interview between Penn and Sidney– Preston pardoned–Joy of the Jacobites at the Fall of Mons–The vacant Sees filled–Tillotson Archbishop of Canterbury–Conduct of Sancroft–Difference between Sancroft and Ken–Hatred of Sancroft to the Established Church; he provides for the episcopal Succession among the Nonjurors–The new Bishops–Sherlock Dean of Saint Paul’s–Treachery of some of William’s Servants–Russell– Godolphin–Marlborough–William returns to the Continent–The Campaign of 1691 in Flanders–The War in Ireland; State of the English Part of Ireland–State of the Part of Ireland which was subject to James–Dissensions among the Irish at Limerick–Return of Tyrconnel to Ireland–Arrival of a French Fleet at Limerick; Saint Ruth–The English take the Field–Fall of Ballymore; Siege and Fall of Athlone–Retreat of the Irish Army–Saint Ruth determines to fight–Battle of Aghrim–Fall of Galway–Death of Tyrconnel–Second Siege of Limerick–The Irish desirous to capitulate–Negotiations between the Irish Chiefs and the Besiegers–The Capitulation of Limerick–The Irish Troops required to make their Election between their Country and France- -Most of the Irish Troops volunteer for France–Many of the Irish who had volunteered for France desert–The last Division of the Irish Army sails from Cork for France–State of Ireland after the War
ON the eighteenth of January 1691, the King, having been detained some days by adverse winds, went on board at Gravesend. Four yachts had been fitted up for him and for his retinue. Among his attendants were Norfolk, Ormond, Devonshire, Dorset, Portland, Monmouth, Zulestein, and the Bishop of London. Two distinguished admirals, Cloudesley Shovel and George Rooke, commanded the men of war which formed the convoy. The passage was tedious and disagreeable. During many hours the fleet was becalmed off the Godwin Sands; and it was not till the fifth day that the soundings proved the coast of Holland to be near. The sea fog was so thick that no land could be seen; and it was not thought safe for the ships to proceed further in the darkness. William, tired out by the voyage, and impatient to be once more in his beloved country, determined to land in an open boat. The noblemen who were in his train tried to dissuade him from risking so valuable a life; but, when they found that his mind was made up, they insisted on sharing the danger. That danger proved more serious than they had expected. It had been supposed that in an hour the party would be on shore. But great masses of floating ice impeded the progress of the skiff; the night came on; the fog grew thicker; the waves broke over the King and the courtiers. Once the keel struck on a sand bank, and was with great difficulty got off. The hardiest mariners showed some signs of uneasiness. But William, through the whole night, was as composed as if he had been in the drawingroom at Kensington. “For shame,” he said to one of the dismayed sailors “are you afraid to die in my company?” A bold Dutch seaman ventured to spring out, and, with great difficulty, swam and scrambled through breakers, ice and mud, to firm ground. Here he discharged a musket and lighted a fire as a signal that he was safe. None of his fellow passengers, however, thought it prudent to follow his example. They lay tossing in sight of the flame which he had kindled, till the first pale light of a January morning showed them that they were close to the island of Goree. The King and his Lords, stiff with cold and covered with icicles, gladly landed to warm and rest themselves.1
After reposing some hours in the hut of a peasant, William proceeded to the Hague. He was impatiently expected there for, though the fleet which brought him was not visible from the shore, the royal salutes had been heard through the mist, and had apprised the whole coast of his arrival. Thousands had assembled at Honslaerdyk to welcome him with applause which came from their hearts and which went to his heart. That was one of the few white days of a life, beneficent indeed and glorious, but far from happy. After more than two years passed in a strange land, the exile had again set foot on his native soil. He heard again the language of his nursery. He saw again the scenery and the architecture which were inseparably associated in his mind with the recollections of childhood and the sacred feeling of home; the dreary mounds of sand, shells and weeds, on which the waves of the German Ocean broke; the interminable meadows intersected by trenches; the straight canals; the villas bright with paint and adorned with quaint images and inscriptions. He had lived during many weary months among a people who did not love him, who did not understand him, who could never forget that he was a foreigner. Those Englishmen who served him most faithfully served him without enthusiasm, without personal attachment, and merely from a sense of public duty. In their hearts they were sorry that they had no choice but between an English tyrant and a Dutch deliverer. All was now changed. William was among a population by which he was adored, as Elizabeth had been adored when she rode through her army at Tilbury, as Charles the Second had been adored when he landed at Dover. It is true that the old enemies of the House of Orange had not been inactive during the absence of the Stadtholder. There had been, not indeed clamours, but mutterings against him. He had, it was said, neglected his native land for his new kingdom. Whenever the dignity of the English flag, whenever the prosperity of the English trade was concerned, he forgot that he was a Hollander. But, as soon as his well remembered face was again seen, all jealousy, all coldness, was at an end. There was not a boor, not a fisherman, not an artisan, in the crowds which lined the road from Honslaerdyk to the Hague, whose heart did not swell with pride at the thought that the first minister of Holland had become a great King, had freed the English, and had conquered the Irish. It would have been madness in William to travel from Hampton Court to Westminster without a guard; but in his own land he needed no swords or carbines to defend him. “Do not keep the people off;” he cried: “let them come close to me; they are all my good friends.” He soon learned that sumptuous preparations were making for his entrance into the Hague. At first he murmured and objected. He detested, he said, noise and display. The necessary cost of the war was quite heavy enough. He hoped that his kind fellow townsmen would consider him as a neighbour, born and bred among them, and would not pay him so bad a compliment as to treat him ceremoniously. But all his expostulations were vain. The Hollanders, simple and parsimonious as their ordinary habits were, had set their hearts on giving their illustrious countryman a reception suited to his dignity and to his merit; and he found it necessary to yield. On the day of his triumph the concourse was immense. All the wheeled carriages and horses of the province were too few for the multitude of those who flocked to the show. Many thousands came sliding or skating along the frozen canals from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leyden, Haarlem, Delft. At ten in the morning of the twenty-sixth of January, the great bell of the Town House gave the signal. Sixteen hundred substantial burghers, well armed, and clad in the finest dresses which were to be found in the recesses of their wardrobes, kept order in the crowded streets. Balconies and scaffolds, embowered in evergreens and hung with tapestry, hid the windows. The royal coach, escorted by an army of halberdiers and running footmen, and followed by a long train of splendid equipages, passed under numerous arches rich with carving and painting, amidst incessant shouts of “Long live the King our Stadtholder.” The front of the Town House and the whole circuit of the marketplace were in a blaze with brilliant colours. Civic crowns, trophies, emblems of arts, of sciences, of commerce and of agriculture, appeared every where. In one place William saw portrayed the glorious actions of his ancestors. There was the silent prince, the founder of the Batavian commonwealth, passing the Meuse with his warriors. There was the more impetuous Maurice leading the charge at Nieuport. A little further on, the hero might retrace the eventful story of his own life. He was a child at his widowed mother’s knee. He was at the altar with Diary’s hand in his. He was landing at Torbay. He was swimming through the Boyne. There, too, was a boat amidst the ice and the breakers; and above it was most appropriately inscribed, in the majestic language of Rome, the saying of the great Roman, “What dost thou fear? Thou hast Caesar on board.” The task of furnishing the Latin mottoes had been intrusted to two men, who, till Bentley appeared, held the highest place among the classical scholars of that age. Spanheim, whose knowledge of the Roman medals was unrivalled, imitated, not unsuccessfully, the noble conciseness of those ancient legends which he had assiduously studied; and he was assisted by Graevius, who then filled a chair at Utrecht, and whose just reputation had drawn to that University multitudes of students from every part of Protestant Europe.2 When the night came, fireworks were exhibited on the great tank which washes the walls of the Palace of the Federation. That tank was now as hard as marble; and the Dutch boasted that nothing had ever been seen, even on the terrace of Versailles, more brilliant than the effect produced by the innumerable cascades of flame which were reflected in the smooth mirror of ice.3 The English Lords congratulated their master on his immense popularity. “Yes,” said he; “but I am not the favourite. The shouting was nothing to what it would have been if Mary had been with me.”
A few hours after the triumphal entry, the King attended a sitting of the States General. His last appearance among them had been on the day on which he embarked for England. He had then, amidst the broken words and loud weeping of those grave Senators, thanked them for the kindness with which they had watched over his childhood, trained his young mind, and supported his authority in his riper years; and he had solemnly commended his beloved wife to their care. He now came back among them the King of three kingdoms, the head of the greatest coalition that Europe had seen during a hundred and eighty years; and nothing was heard in the hall but applause and congratulations.4
But this time the streets of the Hague were overflowing with the equipages and retinues of princes and ambassadors who came flocking to the great Congress. First appeared the ambitious and ostentatious Frederic, Elector of Brandenburg, who, a few years later, took the title of King of Prussia. Then arrived the young Elector of Bavaria, the Regent of Wirtemberg, the Landgraves of Hesse Cassel and Hesse Darmstadt, and a long train of sovereign princes, sprung from the illustrious houses of Brunswick, of Saxony, of Holstein, and of Nassau. The Marquess of Gastanaga, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, repaired to the assembly from the viceregal Court of Brussels. Extraordinary ministers had been sent by the Emperor, by the Kings of Spain, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden, and by the Duke of Savoy. There was scarcely room in the town and the neighbourhood for the English Lords and gentlemen and the German Counts and Barons whom curiosity or official duty had brought to the place of meeting. The grave capital of the most thrifty and industrious of nations was as gay as Venice in the Carnival. The walks cut among those noble limes and elms in which the villa of the Princes of Orange is embosomed were gay with the plumes, the stars, the flowing wigs, the embroidered coats and the gold hilted swords of gallants from London, Berlin and Vienna. With the nobles were mingled sharpers not less gorgeously attired than they. At night the hazard tables were thronged; and the theatre was filled to the roof. Princely banquets followed one another in rapid succession. The meats were served in gold; and, according to that old Teutonic fashion with which Shakspeare had made his countrymen familiar, as often as any of the great princes proposed a health, the kettle drums and trumpets sounded. Some English lords, particularly Devonshire, gave entertainments which vied with those of Sovereigns. It was remarked that the German potentates, though generally disposed to be litigious and punctilious about etiquette, associated, on this occasion, in an unceremonious manner, and seemed to have forgotten their passion for genealogical and heraldic controversy. The taste for wine, which was then characteristic of their nation, they had not forgotten. At the table of the Elector of Brandenburg much mirth was caused by the gravity of the statesmen of Holland, who, sober themselves, confuted out of Grotius and Puffendorf the nonsense stuttered by the tipsy nobles of the Empire. One of those nobles swallowed so many bumpers that he tumbled into the turf fire, and was not pulled out till his fine velvet suit had been burned.5
In the midst of all this revelry, business was not neglected. A formal meeting of the Congress was held at which William presided. In a short and dignified speech, which was speedily circulated throughout Europe, he set forth the necessity of firm union and strenuous exertion. The profound respect with which he was heard by that splendid assembly caused bitter mortification to his enemies both in England and in France. The German potentates were bitterly reviled for yielding precedence to an upstart. Indeed the most illustrious among them paid to him such marks of deference as they would scarcely have deigned to pay to the Imperial Majesty, mingled with the crowd in his antechamber, and at his table behaved as respectfully as any English lord in waiting. In one caricature the allied princes were represented as muzzled bears, some with crowns, some with caps of state. William had them all in a chain, and was teaching them to dance. In another caricature, he appeared taking his ease in an arm chair, with his feet on a cushion, and his hat on his head, while the Electors of Brandenburg and Bavaria, uncovered, occupied small stools on the right and left; the crowd of Landgraves and Sovereign dukes stood at humble distance; and Gastanaga, the unworthy successor of Alva, awaited the orders of the heretic tyrant on bended knee.6
It was soon announced by authority that, before the beginning of summer, two hundred and twenty thousand men would be in the field against France.7 The contingent which each of the allied powers was to furnish was made known. Matters about which it would have been inexpedient to put forth any declaration were privately discussed by the King of England with his allies. On this occasion, as on every other important occasion during his reign, he was his own minister for foreign affairs. It was necessary for the sake of form that he should be attended by a Secretary of State; and Nottingham had therefore followed him to Holland. But Nottingham, though, in matters concerning the internal government of England, he enjoyed a large share of his master’s confidence, knew little more about the business of the Congress than what he saw in the Gazettes.
This mode of transacting business would now be thought most unconstitutional; and many writers, applying the standard of their own age to the transactions of a former age, have severely blamed William for acting without the advice of his ministers, and his ministers for submitting to be kept in ignorance of transactions which deeply concerned the honour of the Crown and the welfare of the nation. Yet surely the presumption is that what the most honest and honourable men of both parties, Nottingham, for example, among the Tories, and Somers among the Whigs, not only did, but avowed, cannot have been altogether inexcusable; and a very sufficient excuse will without difficulty be found.
The doctrine that the Sovereign is not responsible is doubtless as old as any part of our constitution. The doctrine that his ministers are responsible is also of immemorial antiquity. That where there is no responsibility there can be no trustworthy security against maladministration, is a doctrine which, in our age and country, few people will be inclined to dispute. From these three propositions it plainly follows that the administration is likely to be best conducted when the Sovereign performs no public act without the concurrence and instrumentality of a minister. This argument is perfectly sound. But we must remember that arguments are constructed in one way, and governments in another. In logic, none but an idiot admits the premises and denies the legitimate conclusion. But in practice, we see that great and enlightened communities often persist, generation after generation, in asserting principles, and refusing to act upon those principles. It may be doubted whether any real polity that ever existed has exactly corresponded to the pure idea of that polity. According to the pure idea of constitutional royalty, the prince reigns and does not govern; and constitutional royalty, as it now exists in England, comes nearer than in any other country to the pure idea. Yet it would be a great error to imagine that our princes merely reign and never govern. In the seventeenth century, both Whigs and Tories thought it, not only the right, but the duty, of the first magistrate to govern. All parties agreed in blaming Charles the Second for not being his own Prime Minister; all parties agreed in praising James for being his own Lord High Admiral; and all parties thought it natural and reasonable that William should be his own Foreign Secretary.
It may be observed that the ablest and best informed of those who have censured the manner in which the negotiations of that time were conducted are scarcely consistent with themselves. For, while they blame William for being his own Ambassador Plenipotentiary at the Hague, they praise him for being his own Commander in Chief in Ireland. Yet where is the distinction in principle between the two cases? Surely every reason which can be brought to prove that he violated the constitution, when, by his own sole authority, he made compacts with the Emperor and the Elector of Brandenburg, will equally prove that he violated the constitution, when, by his own sole authority, he ordered one column to plunge into the water at Oldbridge and another to cross the bridge of Slane. If the constitution gave him the command of the forces of the State, the constitution gave him also the direction of the foreign relations of the State. On what principle then can it be maintained that he was at liberty to exercise the former power without consulting any body, but that he was bound to exercise the latter power in conformity with the advice of a minister? Will it be said that an error in diplomacy is likely to be more injurious to the country than an error in strategy? Surely not. It is hardly conceivable that any blunder which William might have made at the Hague could have been more injurious to the public interests than a defeat at the Boyne. Or will it be said that there was greater reason for placing confidence in his military than in his diplomatic skill? Surely not. In war he showed some great moral and intellectual qualities; but, as a tactician, he did not rank high; and of his many campaigns only two were decidedly successful. In the talents of a negotiator, on the other hand, he has never been surpassed. Of the interests and the tempers of the continental courts he knew more than all his Privy Council together. Some of his ministers were doubtless men of great ability, excellent orators in the House of Lords, and versed in our insular politics. But, in the deliberations of the Congress, Caermarthen and Nottingham would have been found as far inferior to him as he would have been found inferior to them in a parliamentary debate on a question purely English. The coalition against France was his work. He alone had joined together the parts of that great whole; and he alone could keep them together. If he had trusted that vast and complicated machine in the hands of any of his subjects, it would instantly have fallen to pieces.
Some things indeed were to be done which none of his subjects would have ventured to do. Pope Alexander was really, though not in name, one of the allies; it was of the highest importance to have him for a friend; and yet such was the temper of the English nation that an English minister might well shrink from having any dealings, direct or indirect, with the Vatican. The Secretaries of State were glad to leave a matter so delicate and so full of risk to their master, and to be able to protest with truth that not a line to which the most intolerant Protestant could object had ever gone out of their offices.
It must not be supposed however that William ever forgot that his especial, his hereditary, mission was to protect the Reformed Faith. His influence with Roman Catholic princes was constantly and strenuously exerted for the benefit of their Protestant subjects. In the spring of 1691, the Waldensian shepherds, long and cruelly persecuted, and weary of their lives, were surprised by glad tidings. Those who had been in prison for heresy returned to their homes. Children, who had been taken from their parents to be educated by priests, were sent back. Congregations, which had hitherto met only by stealth and with extreme peril, now worshipped God without molestation in the face of day. Those simple mountaineers probably never knew that their fate had been a subject of discussion at the Hague, and that they owed the happiness of their firesides, and the security of their humble temples to the ascendency which William exercised over the Duke of Savoy.8
No coalition of which history has preserved the memory has had an abler chief than William. But even William often contended in vain against those vices which are inherent in the nature of all coalitions. No undertaking which requires the hearty and long continued cooperation of many independent states is likely to prosper. Jealousies inevitably spring up. Disputes engender disputes. Every confederate is tempted to throw on others some part of the burden which he ought himself to bear. Scarcely one honestly furnishes the promised contingent. Scarcely one exactly observes the appointed day. But perhaps no coalition that ever existed was in such constant danger of dissolution as the coalition which William had with infinite difficulty formed. The long list of potentates, who met in person or by their representatives at the Hague, looked well in the Gazettes. The crowd of princely equipages, attended by manycoloured guards and lacqueys, looked well among the lime trees of the Voorhout. But the very circumstances which made the Congress more splendid than other congresses made the league weaker than other leagues. The more numerous the allies, the more numerous were the dangers which threatened the alliance. It was impossible that twenty governments, divided by quarrels about precedence, quarrels about territory, quarrels about trade, quarrels about religion, could long act together in perfect harmony. That they acted together during several years in imperfect harmony is to be ascribed to the wisdom, patience and firmness of William.
The situation of his great enemy was very different. The resources of the French monarchy, though certainly not equal to those of England, Holland, the House of Austria, and the Empire of Germany united, were yet very formidable; they were all collected in a central position; they were all under the absolute direction of a single mind. Lewis could do with two words what William could hardly bring about by two months of negotiation at Berlin, Munich, Brussels, Turin and Vienna. Thus France was found equal in effective strength to all the states which were combined against her. For in the political, as in the natural world, there may be an equality of momentum between unequal bodies, when the body which is inferior in weight is superior in velocity.
This was soon signally proved. In March the princes and ambassadors who had been assembled at the Hague separated and scarcely had they separated when all their plans were disconcerted by a bold and skilful move of the enemy.
Lewis was sensible that the meeting of the Congress was likely to produce a great effect on the public mind of Europe. That effect he determined to counteract by striking a sudden and terrible blow. While his enemies were settling how many troops each of them should furnish, he ordered numerous divisions of his army to march from widely distant points towards Mons, one of the most important, if not the most important, of the fortresses which protected the Spanish Netherlands. His purpose was discovered only when it was all but accomplished. William, who had retired for a few days to Loo, learned, with surprise and extreme vexation, that cavalry, infantry, artillery, bridges of boats, were fast approaching the fated city by many converging routes. A hundred thousand men had been brought together. All the implements of war had been largely provided by Louvois, the first of living administrators. The command was entrusted to Luxemburg, the first of living generals. The scientific operations were directed by Vauban, the first of living engineers. That nothing might be wanting which could kindle emulation through all the ranks of a gallant and loyal army, the magnificent King himself had set out from Versailles for the camp. Yet William had still some faint hope that it might be possible to raise the siege. He flew to the Hague, put all the forces of the States General in motion, and sent pressing messages to the German Princes. Within three weeks after he had received the first hint of the danger, he was in the neighbourhood of the besieged city, at the head of near fifty thousand troops of different nations. To attack a superior force commanded by such a captain as Luxemburg was a bold, almost a desperate, enterprise. Yet William was so sensible that the loss of Mons would be an almost irreparable disaster and disgrace that he made up his mind to run the hazard. He was convinced that the event of the siege would determine the policy of the Courts of Stockholm and Copenhagen. Those Courts had lately seemed inclined to join the coalition. If Mons fell, they would certainly remain neutral; they might possibly become hostile. “The risk,” he wrote to Heinsius, “is great; yet I am not without hope. I will do what can be done. The issue is in the hands of God.” On the very day on which this letter was written Mons fell. The siege had been vigorously pressed. Lewis himself, though suffering from the gout, had set the example of strenuous exertion. His household troops, the finest body of soldiers in Europe, had, under his eye, surpassed themselves. The young nobles of his court had tried to attract his notice by exposing themselves to the hottest fire with the same gay alacrity with which they were wont to exhibit their graceful figures at his balls. His wounded soldiers were charmed by the benignant courtesy with which he walked among their pallets, assisted while wounds were dressed by the hospital surgeons, and breakfasted on a porringer of the hospital broth. While all was obedience and enthusiasm among the besiegers, all was disunion and dismay among the besieged. The duty of the French lines was so well performed that no messenger sent by William was able to cross them. The garrison did not know that relief was close at hand. The burghers were appalled by the prospect of those horrible calamities which befall cities taken by storm. Showers of shells and redhot bullets were falling in the streets. The town was on fire in ten places at once. The peaceful inhabitants derived an unwonted courage from the excess of their fear, and rose on the soldiers. Thenceforth resistance was impossible; and a capitulation was concluded. The armies then retired into quarters. Military operations were suspended during some weeks; Lewis returned in triumph to Versailles; and William paid a short visit to England, where his presence was much needed.9
He found the ministers still employed in tracing out the ramifications of the plot which had been discovered just before his departure. Early in January, Preston, Ashton and Elliot had been arraigned at the Old Bailey. They claimed the right of severing in their challenges. It was therefore necessary to try them separately. The audience was numerous and splendid. Many peers were present. The Lord President and the two Secretaries of State attended in order to prove that the papers produced in Court were the same which Billop had brought to Whitehall. A considerable number of judges appeared on the bench; and Holt presided. A full report of the proceedings has come down to us, and well deserves to be attentively studied, and to be compared with the reports of other trials which had not long before taken place under the same roof. The whole spirit of the tribunal had undergone in a few months a change so complete that it might seem to have been the work of ages. Twelve years earlier, unhappy Roman Catholics, accused of wickedness which had never entered into their thoughts, had stood in that dock. The witnesses for the Crown had repeated their hideous fictions amidst the applauding hums of the audience. The judges had shared, or had pretended to share, the stupid credulity and the savage passions of the populace, had exchanged smiles and compliments with the perjured informers, had roared down the arguments feebly stammered forth by the prisoners, and had not been ashamed, in passing the sentence of death, to make ribald jests on purgatory and the mass. As soon as the butchery of Papists was over, the butchery of Whigs had commenced; and the judges had applied themselves to their new work with even more than their old barbarity. To these scandals the Revolution had put an end. Whoever, after perusing the trials of Ireland and Pickering, of Grove and Berry, of Sidney, Cornish and Alice Lisle, turns to the trials of Preston and Ashton, will be astonished by the contrast. The Solicitor General, Somers, conducted the prosecutions with a moderation and humanity of which his predecessors had left him no example. “I did never think,” he said, “that it was the part of any who were of counsel for the King in cases of this nature to aggravate the crime of the prisoners, or to put false colours on the evidence.”10 Holt’s conduct was faultless. Pollexfen, an older man than Holt or Somers, retained a little,–and a little was too much,–of the tone of that bad school in which he had been bred. But, though he once or twice forgot the austere decorum of his place, he cannot be accused of any violation of substantial justice. The prisoners themselves seem to have been surprised by the fairness and gentleness with which they were treated. “I would not mislead the jury, I’ll assure you,” said Holt to Preston, “nor do Your Lordship any manner of injury in the world.” “No, my Lord;” said Preston; “I see it well enough that Your Lordship would not.” “Whatever my fate may be,” said Ashton, “I cannot but own that I have had a fair trial for my life.”
The culprits gained nothing by the moderation of the Solicitor General or by the impartiality of the Court; for the evidence was irresistible. The meaning of the papers seized by Billop was so plain that the dullest juryman could not misunderstand it. Of those papers part was fully proved to be in Preston’s handwriting. Part was in Ashton’s handwriting but this the counsel for the prosecution had not the means of proving. They therefore rested the case against Ashton on the indisputable facts that the treasonable packet had been found in his bosom, and that he had used language which was quite unintelligible except on the supposition that he had a guilty knowledge of the contents.11
Both Preston and Ashton were convicted and sentenced to death. Ashton was speedily executed. He might have saved his life by making disclosures. But though he declared that, if he were spared, he would always be a faithful subject of Their Majesties, he was fully resolved not to give up the names of his accomplices. In this resolution he was encouraged by the nonjuring divines who attended him in his cell. It was probably by their influence that he was induced to deliver to the Sheriffs on the scaffold a declaration which he had transcribed and signed, but had not, it is to be hoped, composed or attentively considered. In this paper he was made to complain of the unfairness of a trial which he had himself in public acknowledged to have been eminently fair. He was also made to aver, on the word of a dying man, that he knew nothing of the papers which had been found upon him. Unfortunately his declaration, when inspected, proved to be in the same handwriting with one of the most important of those papers. He died with manly fortitude.12
Elliot was not brought to trial. The evidence against him was not quite so clear as that on which his associates had been convicted; and he was not worth the anger of the government. The fate of Preston was long in suspense. The Jacobites affected to be confident that the government would not dare to shed his blood. He was, they said, a favourite at Versailles, and his death would be followed by a terrible retaliation. They scattered about the streets of London papers in which it was asserted that, if any harm befell him, Mountjoy, and all the other Englishmen of quality who were prisoners in France, would be broken on the wheel.13 These absurd threats would not have deferred the execution one day. But those who had Preston in their power were not unwilling to spare him on certain conditions. He was privy to all the counsels of the disaffected party, and could furnish information of the highest value. He was informed that his fate depended on himself. The struggle was long and severe. Pride, conscience, party spirit, were on one side; the intense love of life on the other. He went during a time irresolutely to and fro. He listened to his brother Jacobites; and his courage rose. He listened to the agents of the government; and his heart sank within him. In an evening when he had dined and drunk his claret, he feared nothing. He would die like a man, rather than save his neck by an act of baseness. But his temper was very different when he woke the next morning, when the courage which he had drawn from wine and company had evaporated, when he was alone with the iron grates and stone walls, and when the thought of the block, the axe and the sawdust rose in his mind. During some time he regularly wrote a confession every forenoon when he was sober, and burned it every night when he was merry.14 His nonjuring friends formed a plan for bringing Sancroft to visit the Tower, in the hope, doubtless, that the exhortations of so great a prelate and so great a saint would confirm the wavering virtue of the prisoner.15 Whether this plan would have been successful may be doubted; it was not carried into effect; the fatal hour drew near; and the fortitude of Preston gave way. He confessed his guilt, and named Clarendon, Dartmouth, the Bishop of Ely and William Penn, as his accomplices. He added a long list of persons against whom he could not himself give evidence, but who, if he could trust to Penn’s assurances, were friendly to King James. Among these persons were Devonshire and Dorset.16 There is not the slightest reason to believe that either of these great noblemen ever had any dealings, direct or indirect, with Saint Germains. It is not, however, necessary to accuse Penn of deliberate falsehood. He was credulous and garrulous. The Lord Steward and the Lord Chamberlain had shared in the vexation with which their party had observed the leaning of William towards the Tories; and they had probably expressed that vexation unguardedly. So weak a man as Penn, wishing to find Jacobites every where, and prone to believe whatever he wished, might easily put an erroneous construction on invectives such as the haughty and irritable Devonshire was but too ready to utter, and on sarcasms such as, in moments of spleen, dropped but too easily from the lips of the keenwitted Dorset. Caermarthen, a Tory, and a Tory who had been mercilessly persecuted by the Whigs, was disposed to make the most of this idle hearsay. But he received no encouragement from his master, who, of all the great politicians mentioned in history, was the least prone to suspicion. When William returned to England, Preston was brought before him, and was commanded to repeat the confession which had already been made to the ministers. The King stood behind the Lord President’s chair and listened gravely while Clarendon, Dartmouth, Turner and Penn were named. But as soon as the prisoner, passing from what he could himself testify, began to repeat the stories which Penn had told him, William touched Caermarthen on the shoulder and said, “My Lord, we have had too much of this.”17 This judicious magnanimity had its proper reward. Devonshire and Dorset became from that day more zealous than ever in the cause of the master who, in spite of calumny for which their own indiscretion had perhaps furnished some ground, had continued to repose confidence in their loyalty.18
Even those who were undoubtedly criminal were generally treated with great lenity. Clarendon lay in the Tower about six months. His guilt was fully established; and a party among the Whigs called loudly and importunately for his head. But he was saved by the pathetic entreaties of his brother Rochester, by the good offices of the humane and generous Burnet, and by Mary’s respect for the memory of her mother. The prisoner’s confinement was not strict. He was allowed to entertain his friends at dinner. When at length his health began to suffer from restraint, he was permitted to go into the country under the care of a warder; the warder was soon removed; and Clarendon was informed that, while he led a quiet rural life, he should not be molested.19
The treason of Dartmouth was of no common dye. He was an English seaman; and he had laid a plan for betraying Portsmouth to the French, and had offered to take the command of a French squadron against his country. It was a serious aggravation of his guilt that he had been one of the very first persons who took the oaths to William and Mary. He was arrested and brought to the Council Chamber. A narrative of what passed there, written by himself, has been preserved. In that narrative he admits that he was treated with great courtesy and delicacy. He vehemently asserted his innocence. He declared that he had never corresponded with Saint Germains, that he was no favourite there, and that Mary of Modena in particular owed him a grudge. “My Lords,” he said, “I am an Englishman. I always, when the interest of the House of Bourbon was strongest here, shunned the French, both men and women. I would lose the last drop of my blood rather than see Portsmouth in the power of foreigners. I am not such a fool as to think that King Lewis will conquer us merely for the benefit of King James. I am certain that nothing can be truly imputed to me beyond some foolish talk over a bottle.” His protestations seem to have produced some effect; for he was at first permitted to remain in the gentle custody of the Black Rod. On further inquiry, however, it was determined to send him to the Tower. After a confinement of a few weeks he died of apoplexy; but he lived long enough to complete his disgrace by offering his sword to the new government, and by expressing in fervent language his hope that he might, by the goodness of God and of Their Majesties, have an opportunity of showing how much he hated the French.20
Turner ran no serious risk; for the government was most unwilling to send to the scaffold one of the Seven who had signed the memorable petition. A warrant was however issued for his apprehension; and his friends had little hope that he would escape; for his nose was such as none who had seen it could forget; and it was to little purpose that he put on a flowing wig and that he suffered his beard to grow. The pursuit was probably not very hot; for, after skulking a few weeks in England, he succeeded in crossing the Channel, and remained some time in France.21
A warrant was issued against Penn; and he narrowly escaped the messengers. It chanced that, on the day on which they were sent in search of him, he was attending a remarkable ceremony at some distance from his home. An event had taken place which a historian, whose object is to record the real life of a nation, ought not to pass unnoticed. While London was agitated by the news that a plot had been discovered, George Fox, the founder of the sect of Quakers, died.
More than forty years had elapsed since Fox had begun to see visions and to cast out devils.22 He was then a youth of pure morals and grave deportment, with a perverse temper, with the education of a labouring man, and with an intellect in the most unhappy of all states, that is to say, too much disordered for liberty, and not sufficiently disordered for Bedlam. The circumstances in which he was placed were such as could scarcely fail to bring out in the strongest form the constitutional diseases of his mind. At the time when his faculties were ripening, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, were striving for mastery, and were, in every corner of the realm, refuting and reviling each other. He wandered from congregation to congregation; he heard priests harangue against Puritans; he heard Puritans harangue against priests; and he in vain applied for spiritual direction and consolation to doctors of both parties. One jolly old clergyman of the Anglican communion told him to smoke tobacco and sing psalms; another advised him to go and lose some blood.23 The young inquirer turned in disgust from these advisers to the Dissenters, and found them also blind guides.24 After some time he came to the conclusion that no human being was competent to instruct him in divine things, and that the truth had been communicated to him by direct inspiration from heaven. He argued that, as the division of languages began at Babel, and as the persecutors of Christ put on the cross an inscription in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, the knowledge of languages, and more especially of Latin, Greek and Hebrew, must be useless to a Christian minister.25 Indeed, he was so far from knowing many languages, that he knew none; nor can the most corrupt passage in Hebrew be more unintelligible to the unlearned than his English often is to the most acute and attentive reader.26 One of the precious truths which were divinely revealed to this new apostle was, that it was falsehood and adulation to use the second person plural instead of the second person singular. Another was, that to talk of the month of March was to worship the bloodthirsty god Mars, and that to talk of Monday was to pay idolatrous homage to the moon. To say Good morning or Good evening was highly reprehensible, for those phrases evidently imported that God had made bad days and bad nights.27 A Christian was bound to face death itself rather than touch his hat to the greatest of mankind. When Fox was challenged to produce any Scriptural authority for this dogma, he cited the passage in which it is written that Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace with their hats on; and, if his own narrative may be trusted, the Chief Justice of England was altogether unable to answer this argument except by crying out, “Take him away, gaoler.”28 Fox insisted much on the not less weighty argument that the Turks never show their bare heads to their superiors; and he asked, with great animation, whether those who bore the noble name of Christians ought not to surpass Turks in virtue.29 Bowing he strictly prohibited, and, indeed, seemed to consider it as the effect of Satanical influence; for, as he observed, the woman in the Gospel, while she had a spirit of infirmity, was bowed together, and ceased to bow as soon as Divine power had liberated her from the tyranny of the Evil One.30 His expositions of the sacred writings were of a very peculiar kind. Passages, which had been, in the apprehension of all the readers of the Gospels during sixteen centuries, figurative, he construed literally. Passages, which no human being before him had ever understood in any other than a literal sense, he construed figuratively. Thus, from those rhetorical expressions in which the duty of patience under injuries is enjoined he deduced the doctrine that selfdefence against pirates and assassins is unlawful. On the other hand, the plain commands to baptize with water, and to partake of bread and wine in commemoration of the redemption of mankind, he pronounced to be allegorical. He long wandered from place to place, teaching this strange theology, shaking like an aspen leaf in his paroxysms of fanatical excitement, forcing his way into churches, which he nicknamed steeple houses interrupting prayers and sermons with clamour and scurrility,31 and pestering rectors and justices with epistles much resembling burlesques of those sublime odes in which the Hebrew prophets foretold the calamities of Babylon and Tyre.32 He soon acquired great notoriety by these feats. His strange face, his strange chant, his immovable hat and his leather breeches were known all over the country; and he boasts that, as soon as the rumour was heard, “The Man in Leather Breeches is coming,” terror seized hypocritical professors, and hireling priests made haste to get out of his way.33 He was repeatedly imprisoned and set in the stocks, sometimes justly, for disturbing the public worship of congregations, and sometimes unjustly, for merely talking nonsense. He soon gathered round him a body of disciples, some of whom went beyond himself in absurdity. He has told us that one of his friends walked naked through Skipton declaring the truth.34 and that another was divinely moved to go naked during several years to marketplaces, and to the houses of gentlemen and clergymen.35 Fox complains bitterly that these pious acts, prompted by the Holy Spirit, were requited by an untoward generation with hooting, pelting, coachwhipping and horsewhipping. But, though he applauded the zeal of the sufferers, he did not go quite to their lengths. He sometimes, indeed, was impelled to strip himself partially. Thus he pulled off his shoes and walked barefoot through Lichfield, crying, “Woe to the bloody city.”36 But it does not appear that he ever thought it his duty to appear before the public without that decent garment from which his popular appellation was derived.
If we form our judgment of George Fox simply by looking at his own actions and writings, we shall see no reason for placing him, morally or intellectually, above Ludowick Muggleton or Joanna Southcote. But it would be most unjust to rank the sect which regards him as its founder with the Muggletonians or the Southcotians. It chanced that among the thousands whom his enthusiasm infected were a few persons whose abilities and attainments were of a very different order from his own. Robert Barclay was a man of considerable parts and learning. William Penn, though inferior to Barclay in both natural and acquired abilities, was a gentleman and a scholar. That such men should have become the followers of George Fox ought not to astonish any person who remembers what quick, vigorous and highly cultivated intellects were in our own times duped by the unknown tongues. The truth is that no powers of mind constitute a security against errors of this description. Touching God and His ways with man, the highest human faculties can discover little more than the meanest. In theology the interval is small indeed between Aristotle and a child, between Archimedes and a naked savage. It is not strange, therefore, that wise men, weary of investigation, tormented by uncertainty, longing to believe something, and yet seeing objections to every thing, should submit themselves absolutely to teachers who, with firm and undoubting faith, lay claim to a supernatural commission. Thus we frequently see inquisitive and restless spirits take refuge from their own scepticism in the bosom of a church which pretends to infallibility, and, after questioning the existence of a Deity, bring themselves to worship a wafer. And thus it was that Fox made some converts to whom he was immeasurably inferior in every thing except the energy of his convictions. By these converts his rude doctrines were polished into a form somewhat less shocking to good sense and good taste. No proposition which he had laid down was retracted. No indecent or ridiculous act which he had done or approved was condemned; but what was most grossly absurd in his theories and practices was softened down, or at least not obtruded on the public; whatever could be made to appear specious was set in the fairest light; his gibberish was translated into English; meanings which he would have been quite unable to comprehend were put on his phrases; and his system, so much improved that he would not have known it again, was defended by numerous citations from Pagan philosophers and Christian fathers whose names he had never heard.37 Still, however, those who had remodelled his theology continued to profess, and doubtless to feel, profound reverence for him; and his crazy epistles were to the last received and read with respect in Quaker meetings all over the country. His death produced a sensation which was not confined to his own disciples. On the morning of the funeral a great multitude assembled round the meeting house in Gracechurch Street. Thence the corpse was borne to the burial ground of the sect near Bunhill Fields. Several orators addressed the crowd which filled the cemetery. Penn was conspicuous among those disciples who committed the venerable corpse to the earth. The ceremony had scarcely been finished when he learned that warrants were out against him. He instantly took flight, and remained many months concealed from the public eye.38
A short time after his disappearance, Sidney received from him a strange communication. Penn begged for an interview, but insisted on a promise that he should be suffered to return unmolested to his hiding place. Sidney obtained the royal permission to make an appointment on these terms. Penn came to the rendezvous, and spoke at length in his own defence. He declared that he was a faithful subject of King William and Queen Mary, and that, if he knew of any design against them, he would discover it. Departing from his Yea and Nay, he protested, as in the presence of God, that he knew of no plot, and that he did not believe that there was any plot, unless the ambitious projects of the French government might be called plots. Sidney, amazed probably by hearing a person, who had such an abhorrence of lies that he would not use the common forms of civility, and such an abhorrence of oaths that he would not kiss the book in a court of justice, tell something very like a lie, and confirm it by something very like an oath, asked how, if there were really no plot, the letters and minutes which had been found on Ashton were to be explained. This question Penn evaded. “If,” he said, “I could only see the King, I would confess every thing to him freely. I would tell him much that it would be important for him to know. It is only in that way that I can be of service to him. A witness for the Crown I cannot be for my conscience will not suffer me to be sworn.” He assured Sidney that the most formidable enemies of the government were the discontented Whigs. “The Jacobites are not dangerous. There is not a man among them who has common understanding. Some persons who came over from Holland with the King are much more to be dreaded.” It does not appear that Penn mentioned any names. He was suffered to depart in safety. No active search was made for him. He lay hid in London during some months, and then stole down to the coast of Sussex and made his escape to France. After about three years of wandering and lurking he, by the mediation of some eminent men, who overlooked his faults for the sake of his good qualities, made his peace with the government, and again ventured to resume his ministrations. The return which he made for the lenity with which he had been treated does not much raise his character. Scarcely had he again begun to harangue in public about the unlawfulness of war, when he sent a message earnestly exhorting James to make an immediate descent on England with thirty thousand men.39
Some months passed before the fate of Preston was decided. After several respites, the government, convinced that, though he had told much, he could tell more, fixed a day for his execution, and ordered the sheriffs to have the machinery of death in readiness.40 But he was again respited, and, after a delay of some weeks, obtained a pardon, which, however, extended only to his life, and left his property subject to all the consequences of his attainder. As soon as he was set at liberty he gave new cause of offence and suspicion, and was again arrested, examined and sent to prison.41 At length he was permitted to retire, pursued by the hisses and curses of both parties, to a lonely manor house in the North Riding of Yorkshire. There, at least, he had not to endure the scornful looks of old associates who had once thought him a man of dauntless courage and spotless honour, but who now pronounced that he was at best a meanspirited coward, and hinted their suspicions that he had been from the beginning a spy and a trepan.42 He employed the short and sad remains of his life in turning the Consolation of Boethius into English. The translation was published after the translator’s death. It is remarkable chiefly on account of some very unsuccessful attempts to enrich our versification with new metres, and on account of the allusions with which the preface is filled. Under a thin veil of figurative language, Preston exhibited to the public compassion or contempt his own blighted fame and broken heart. He complained that the tribunal which had sentenced him to death had dealt with him more leniently than his former friends, and that many, who had never been tried by temptations like his, had very cheaply earned a reputation for courage by sneering at his poltroonery, and by bidding defiance at a distance to horrors which, when brought near, subdue even a constant spirit.
The spirit of the Jacobites, which had been quelled for a time by the detection of Preston’s plot, was revived by the fall of Mons. The joy of the whole party was boundless. The nonjuring priests ran backwards and forwards between Sam’s Coffee House and Westminster Hall, spreading the praises of Lewis, and laughing at the miserable issue of the deliberations of the great Congress. In the Park the malecontents wore their biggest looks, and talked sedition in their loudest tones. The most conspicuous among these swaggerers was Sir John Fenwick, who had, in the late reign, been high in favour and in military command, and was now an indefatigable agitator and conspirator. In his exultation he forgot the courtesy which man owes to woman. He had more than once made himself conspicuous by his impertinence to the Queen. He now ostentatiously put himself in her way when she took her airing; and, while all around him uncovered and bowed low, gave her a rude stare and cocked his hat in her face. The affront was not only brutal, but cowardly. For the law had provided no punishment for mere impertinence, however gross; and the King was the only gentleman and soldier in the kingdom who could not protect his wife from contumely with his sword. All that the Queen could do was to order the parkkeepers not to admit Sir John again within the gates. But, long after her death, a day came when he had reason to wish that he had restrained his insolence. He found, by terrible proof, that of all the Jacobites, the most desperate assassins not excepted, he was the only one for whom William felt an intense personal aversion.43
A few days after this event the rage of the malecontents began to flame more fiercely than ever. The detection of the conspiracy of which Preston was the chief had brought on a crisis in ecclesiastical affairs. The nonjuring bishops had, during the year which followed their deprivation, continued to reside in the official mansions which had once been their own. Burnet had, at Mary’s request, laboured to effect a compromise. His direct interference would probably have done more harm than good. He therefore judiciously employed the agency of Rochester, who stood higher in the estimation of the nonjurors than any statesman who was not a nonjuror, and of Trevor, who, worthless as he was, had considerable influence with the High Church party. Sancroft and his brethren were informed that, if they would consent to perform their spiritual duty, to ordain, to institute, to confirm, and to watch over the faith and the morality of the priesthood, a bill should be brought into Parliament to excuse them from taking the oaths.44 This offer was imprudently liberal; but those to whom it was made could not consistently accept it. For in the ordination service, and indeed in almost every service of the Church, William and Mary were designated as King and Queen. The only promise that could be obtained from the deprived prelates was that they would live quietly; and even this promise they had not all kept. One of them at least had been guilty of treason aggravated by impiety. He had, under the strong fear of being butchered by the populace, declared that he abhorred the thought of calling in the aid of France, and had invoked God to attest the sincerity of this declaration. Yet, a short time after, he bad been detected in plotting to bring a French army into England; and he had written to assure the Court of Saint Germains that he was acting in concert with his brethren, and especially with Sancroft. The Whigs called loudly for severity. Even the Tory counsellors of William owned that indulgence had been carried to the extreme point. They made, however, a last attempt to mediate. “Will you and your brethren,” said Trevor to Lloyd, the nonjuring Bishop of Norwich, “disown all connection with Doctor Turner, and declare that what he has in his letters imputed to you is false?” Lloyd evaded the question. It was now evident that William’s forbearance had only emboldened the adversaries whom he had hoped to conciliate. Even Caermarthen, even Nottingham, declared that it was high time to fill the vacant sees.45
Tillotson was nominated to the Archbishopric, and was consecrated on Whitsunday, in the church of St. Mary Le Bow. Compton, cruelly mortified, refused to bear any part in the ceremony. His place was supplied by Mew, Bishop of Winchester, who was assisted by Burnet, Stillingfleet and Hough. The congregation was the most splendid that had been seen in any place of worship since the coronation. The Queen’s drawingroom was, on that day, deserted. Most of the peers who were in town met in the morning at Bedford House, and went thence in procession to Cheapside. Norfolk, Caermarthen and Dorset were conspicuous in the throng. Devonshire, who was impatient to see his woods at Chatsworth in their summer beauty, had deferred his departure in order to mark his respect for Tillotson. The crowd which lined the streets greeted the new Primate warmly. For he had, during many years, preached in the City; and his eloquence, his probity and the singular gentleness of his temper and manners, had made him the favourite of the Londoners.46 But the congratulations and applauses of his friends could not drown the roar of execration which the Jacobites set up. According to them, he was a thief who had not entered by the door, but had climbed over the fences. He was a hireling whose own the sheep were not, who had usurped the crook of the good shepherd, and who might well be expected to leave the flock at the mercy of every wolf. He was an Arian, a Socinian, a Deist, an Atheist. He had cozened the world by fine phrases, and by a show of moral goodness: but he was in truth a far more dangerous enemy of the Church than he could have been if he had openly proclaimed himself a disciple of Hobbes, and had lived as loosely as Wilmot. He had taught the fine gentlemen and ladies who admired his style, and who were constantly seen round his pulpit, that they might be very good Christians, and yet might believe the account of the Fall in the book of Genesis to be allegorical. Indeed they might easily be as good Christians as he; for he had never been christened; his parents were Anabaptists; he had lost their religion when he was a boy; and he had never found another. In ribald lampoons he was nicknamed Undipped John. The parish register of his baptism was produced in vain. His enemies still continued to complain that they had lived to see fathers of the Church who never were her children. They made up a story that the Queen had felt bitter remorse for the great crime by which she had obtained a throne, that in her agony she had applied to Tillotson, and that he had comforted her by assuring her that the punishment of the wicked in a future state would not be eternal.47 The Archbishop’s mind was naturally of almost feminine delicacy, and had been rather softened than braced by the habits of a long life, during which contending sects and factions had agreed in speaking of his abilities with admiration and of his character with esteem. The storm of obloquy which he had to face for the first time at more than sixty years of age was too much for him. His spirits declined; his health gave way; yet he neither flinched from his duty nor attempted to revenge himself on his persecutors. A few days after his consecration, some persons were seized while dispersing libels in which he was reviled. The law officers of the Crown proposed to institute prosecutions; but he insisted that nobody should be punished on his account.48 Once, when he had company with him, a sealed packet was put into his hands; he opened it; and out fell a mask. His friends were shocked and incensed by this cowardly insult; but the Archbishop, trying to conceal his anguish by a smile, pointed to the pamphlets which covered his table, and said that the reproach which the emblem of the mask was intended to convey might be called gentle when compared with other reproaches which he daily had to endure. After his death a bundle of the savage lampoons which the nonjurors had circulated against him was found among his papers with this indorsement: “I pray God forgive them; I do.”49
The temper of the deposed primate was very different. He seems to have been under a complete delusion as to his own importance. The immense popularity which he had enjoyed three years before, the prayers and tears of the multitudes who had plunged into the Thames to implore his blessing, the enthusiasm with which the sentinels of the Tower had drunk his health under the windows of his prison, the mighty roar of joy which had risen from Palace Yard on the morning of his acquittal, the triumphant night when every window from Hyde Park to Mile End had exhibited seven candles, the midmost and tallest emblematical of him, were still fresh in his recollection; nor had he the wisdom to perceive that all this homage had been paid, not to his person, but to that religion and to those liberties of which he was, for a moment, the representative. The extreme tenderness with which the new government had long persisted in treating him seems to have confirmed him in his error. That a succession of conciliatory messages was sent to him from Kensington, that he was offered terms so liberal as to be scarcely consistent with the dignity of the Crown and the welfare of the State, that his cold and uncourteous answers could not tire out the royal indulgence, that, in spite of the loud clamours of the Whigs, and of the provocations daily given by the Jacobites, he was residing, fifteen months after deprivation, in the metropolitan palace, these things seemed to him to indicate not the lenity but the timidity of the ruling powers. He appears to have flattered himself that they would not dare to eject him. The news, therefore, that his see had been filled threw him into a passion which lasted as long as his life, and which hurried him into many foolish and unseemly actions. Tillotson, as soon as he was appointed, went to Lambeth in the hope that he might be able, by courtesy and kindness, to soothe the irritation of which he was the innocent cause. He stayed long in the antechamber, and sent in his name by several servants; but Sancroft would not even return an answer.50 Three weeks passed; and still the deprived Archbishop showed no disposition to move. At length he received an order intimating to him the royal pleasure that he should quit the dwelling which had long ceased to be his own, and in which he was only a guest. He resented this order bitterly, and declared that he would not obey it. He would stay till he was pulled out by the Sheriff’s officers. He would defend himself at law as long as he could do so without putting in any plea acknowledging the authority of the usurpers.51 The case was so clear that he could not, by any artifice of chicanery, obtain more than a short delay. When judgment had been given against him, he left the palace, but directed his steward to retain possession. The consequence was that the steward was taken into custody and heavily fined. Tillotson sent a kind message to assure his predecessor that the fine should not be exacted. But Sancroft was determined to have a grievance, and would pay the money.52
From that time the great object of the narrowminded and peevish old man was to tear in pieces the Church of which he had been the chief minister. It was in vain that some of those nonjurors, whose virtue, ability and learning were the glory of their party, remonstrated against his design. “Our deprivation,”–such was the reasoning of Ken,–“is, in the sight of God, a nullity. We are, and shall be, till we die or resign, the true Bishops of our sees. Those who assume our titles and functions will incur the guilt of schism. But with us, if we act as becomes us, the schism will die; and in the next generation the unity of the Church will be restored. On the other hand, if we consecrate Bishops to succeed us, the breach may last through ages, and we shall be justly held accountable, not indeed for its origin, but for its continuance.” These considerations ought, on Sancroft’s own principles, to have had decisive weight with him; but his angry passions prevailed. Ken quietly retired from the venerable palace of Wells. He had done, he said, with strife, and should henceforth vent his feelings not in disputes but in hymns. His charities to the unhappy of all persuasions, especially to the followers of Monmouth and to the persecuted Huguenots, had been so large that his whole private fortune consisted of seven hundred pounds, and of a library which he could not bear to sell. But Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, though not a nonjuror, did himself honour by offering to the most virtuous of the nonjurors a tranquil and dignified asylum in the princely mansion of Longleat. There Ken passed a happy and honoured old age, during which he never regretted the sacrifice which he had made to what he thought his duty, and yet constantly became more and more indulgent to those whose views of duty differed from his.53
Sancroft was of a very different temper. He had, indeed, as little to complain of as any man whom a revolution has ever hurled down from an exalted station. He had at Fressingfield, in Suffolk, a patrimonial estate, which, together with what he had saved during a primacy of twelve years, enabled him to live, not indeed as he had lived when he was the first peer of Parliament, but in the style of an opulent country gentleman. He retired to his hereditary abode; and there he passed the rest of his life in brooding over his wrongs. Aversion to the Established Church became as strong a feeling in him as it had been in Martin Marprelate. He considered all who remained in communion with her as heathens and publicans. He nicknamed Tillotson the Mufti. In the room which was used as a chapel at Fressingfield no person who had taken the oaths, or who attended the ministry of any divine who had taken the oaths, was suffered to partake of the sacred bread and wine. A distinction, however, was made between two classes of offenders. A layman who remained in communion with the Church was permitted to be present while prayers were read, and was excluded only from the highest of Christian mysteries. But with clergymen who had sworn allegiance to the Sovereigns in possession Sancroft would not even pray. He took care that the rule which he had laid down should be widely known, and, both by precept and by example, taught his followers to look on the most orthodox, the most devout, the most virtuous of those who acknowledged William’s authority with a feeling similar to that with which the Jew regarded the Samaritan.54 Such intolerance would have been reprehensible, even in a man contending for a great principle. But Sancroft was contending merely for a name. He was the author of the scheme of Regency. He was perfectly willing to transfer the whole kingly power from James to William. The question which, to this smallest and sourest of minds, seemed important enough to justify the excommunicating of ten thousand priests and of five millions of laymen was, whether the magistrate to whom the whole kingly power was transferred should assume the kingly title. Nor could Sancroft bear to think that the animosity which he had excited would die with himself. Having done all that he could to make the feud bitter, he determined to make it eternal. A list of the divines who had been ejected from their benefices was sent by him to Saint Germains with a request that James would nominate two who might keep up the episcopal succession. James, well pleased, doubtless, to see another sect added to that multitude of sects which he had been taught to consider as the reproach of Protestantism, named two fierce and uncompromising nonjurors, Hickes and Wagstaffe, the former recommended by Sancroft, the latter recommended by Lloyd, the ejected Bishop of Norwich.55 Such was the origin of a schismatical hierarchy, which, having, during a short time, excited alarm, soon sank into obscurity and contempt, but which, in obscurity and contempt, continued to drag on a languid existence during several generations. The little Church, without temples, revenues or dignities, was even more distracted by internal disputes than the great Church, which retained possession of cathedrals, tithes and peerages. Some nonjurors leaned towards the ceremonial of Rome; others would not tolerate the slightest departure from the Book of Common Prayer. Altar was set up against altar. One phantom prelate pronounced the consecration of another phantom prelate uncanonical. At length the pastors were left absolutely without flocks. One of these Lords spiritual very wisely turned surgeon; another left what he had called his see, and settled in Ireland; and at length, in 1805, the last Bishop of that society which had proudly claimed to be the only true Church of England dropped unnoticed into the grave.56
The places of the bishops who had been ejected with Sancroft were filled in a manner creditable to the government. Patrick succeeded the traitor Turner. Fowler went to Gloucester. Richard Cumberland, an aged divine, who had no interest at Court, and whose only recommendations were his piety and erudition, was astonished by learning from a newsletter which he found on the table of a coffeehouse that he had been nominated to the See of Peterborough.57 Beveridge was selected to succeed Ken; he consented; and the appointment was actually announced in the London Gazette. But Beveridge, though an honest, was not a strongminded man. Some Jacobites expostulated with him; some reviled him; his heart failed him; and he retracted. While the nonjurors were rejoicing in this victory, he changed his mind again; but too late. He had by his irresolution forfeited the favour of William, and never obtained a mitre till Anne was on the throne.58 The bishopric of Bath and Wells was bestowed on Richard Kidder, a man of considerable attainments and blameless character, but suspected of a leaning towards Presbyterianism. About the same time Sharp, the highest churchman that had been zealous for the Comprehension, and the lowest churchman that felt a scruple about succeeding a deprived prelate, accepted the Archbishopric of York, vacant by the death of Lamplugh.59
In consequence of the elevation of Tillotson to the See of Canterbury, the Deanery of Saint Paul’s became vacant. As soon as the name of the new Dean was known, a clamour broke forth such as perhaps no ecclesiastical appointment has ever produced, a clamour made up of yells of hatred, of hisses of contempt, and of shouts of triumphant and half insulting welcome; for the new Dean was William Sherlock.
The story of his conversion deserves to be fully told; for it throws great light on the character of the parties which then divided the Church and the State. Sherlock was, in influence and reputation, though not in rank, the foremost man among the nonjurors. His authority and example had induced some of his brethren, who had at first wavered, to resign their benefices. The day of suspension came; the day of deprivation came; and still he was firm. He seemed to have found, in the consciousness of rectitude, and in meditation on the invisible world, ample compensation for all his losses. While excluded from the pulpit where his eloquence had once delighted the learned and polite inmates of the Temple, he wrote that celebrated Treatise on Death which, during many years, stood next to the Whole Duty of Man in the bookcases of serious Arminians. Soon, however, it began to be suspected that his resolution was giving way. He declared that he would be no party to a schism; he advised those who sought his counsel not to leave their parish churches; nay, finding that the law which had ejected him from his cure did not interdict him from performing divine service, he officiated at Saint Dunstan’s, and there prayed for King William and Queen Mary. The apostolical injunction, he said, was that prayers should be made for all in authority, and William and Mary were visibly in authority. His Jacobite friends loudly blamed his inconsistency. How, they asked, if you admit that the Apostle speaks in this passage of actual authority, can you maintain that, in other passages of a similar kind, he speaks only of legitimate authority? Or how can you, without sin, designate as King, in a solemn address to God, one whom you cannot, without sin, promise to obey as King? These reasonings were unanswerable; and Sherlock soon began to think them so; but the conclusion to which they led him was diametrically opposed to the conclusion to which they were meant to lead him. He hesitated, however, till a new light flashed on his mind from a quarter from which there was little reason to expect any thing but tenfold darkness. In the reign of James the First, Doctor John Overall, Bishop of Exeter, had written an elaborate treatise on the rights of civil and ecclesiastical governors. This treatise had been solemnly approved by the Convocations of Canterbury and York, and might therefore be considered as an authoritative exposition of the doctrine of the Church of England. A copy of the manuscript was in Sancroft’s possession; and he, soon after the Revolution, sent it to the press. He hoped, doubtless, that the publication would injure the new government; but he was lamentably disappointed. The book indeed condemned all resistance in terms as strong as he could himself have used; but one passage which had escaped his notice was decisive against himself and his fellow schismatics. Overall, and the two Convocations which had given their sanction to Overall’s teaching, pronounced that a government, which had originated in rebellion, ought, when thoroughly settled, to be considered as ordained by God and to be obeyed by Christian men.60 Sherlock read, and was convinced. His venerable mother the Church had spoken; and he, with the docility of a child, accepted her decree. The government which had sprung from the Revolution might, at least since the battle of the Boyne and the flight of James from Ireland, be fairly called a settled government, and ought therefore to be passively obeyed till it should be subverted by another revolution and succeeded by another settled government.
Sherlock took the oaths, and speedily published, in justification of his conduct, a pamphlet entitled The Case of Allegiance to Sovereign Powers stated. The sensation produced by this work was immense. Dryden’s Hind and Panther had not raised so great an uproar. Halifax’s Letter to a Dissenter had not called forth so many answers. The replies to the Doctor, the vindications of the Doctor, the pasquinades on the Doctor, would fill a library. The clamour redoubled when it was known that the convert had not only been reappointed Master of the Temple, but had accepted the Deanery of Saint Paul’s, which had become vacant in consequence of the deprivation of Sancroft and the promotion of Tillotson. The rage of the nonjurors amounted almost to frenzy. Was it not enough, they asked, to desert the true and pure Church, in this her hour of sorrow and peril, without also slandering her? It was easy to understand why a greedy, cowardly hypocrite should refuse to take the oaths to the usurper as long as it seemed probable that the rightful King would be restored, and should make haste to swear after the battle of the Boyne. Such tergiversation in times of civil discord was nothing new. What was new was that the turncoat should try to throw his own guilt and shame on the Church of England, and should proclaim that she had taught him to turn against the weak who were in the right, and to cringe to the powerful who were in the wrong. Had such indeed been her doctrine or her practice in evil days? Had she abandoned her Royal Martyr in the prison or on the scaffold? Had she enjoined her children to pay obedience to the Rump or to the Protector? Yet was the government of the Rump or of the Protector less entitled to be called a settled government than the government of William and Mary? Had not the battle of Worcester been as great a blow to the hopes of the House of Stuart as the battle of the Boyne? Had not the chances of a Restoration seemed as small in 1657 as they could seem to any judicious man in 1691? In spite of invectives and sarcasms, however, there was Overall’s treatise; there were the approving votes of the two Convocations; and it was much easier to rail at Sherlock than to explain away either the treatise or the votes. One writer maintained that by a thoroughly settled government must have been meant a government of which the title was uncontested. Thus, he said, the government of the United Provinces became a settled government when it was recognised by Spain, and, but for that recognition, would never have been a settled government to the end of time. Another casuist, somewhat less austere, pronounced that a government, wrongful in its origin, might become a settled government after the lapse of a century. On the thirteenth of February 1789, therefore, and not a day earlier, Englishmen would be at liberty to swear allegiance to a government sprung from the Revolution. The history of the chosen people was ransacked for precedents. Was Eglon’s a settled government when Ehud stabbed him? Was Joram’s a settled government when Jehe shot him? But the leading case was that of Athaliah. It was indeed a case which furnished the malecontents with many happy and pungent allusions; a kingdom treacherously seized by an usurper near in blood to the throne; the rightful prince long dispossessed; a part of the sacerdotal order true, through many disastrous years, to the Royal House; a counterrevolution at length effected by the High Priest at the head of the Levites. Who, it was asked, would dare to blame the heroic pontiff who had restored the heir of David? Yet was not the government of Athaliah as firmly settled as that of the Prince of Orange?
Hundreds of pages written at this time about the rights of Joash and the bold enterprise of Jehoiada are mouldering in the ancient bookcases of Oxford and Cambridge. While Sherlock was thus fiercely attacked by his old friends, he was not left unmolested by his old enemies. Some vehement Whigs, among whom Julian Johnson was conspicuous, declared that Jacobitism itself was respectable when compared with the vile doctrine which had been discovered in the Convocation Book. That passive obedience was due to Kings was doubtless an absurd and pernicious notion. Yet it was impossible not to respect the consistency and fortitude of men who thought themselves bound to bear true allegiance, at all hazards, to an unfortunate, a deposed, an exiled oppressor. But the theory which Sherlock had learned from Overall was unmixed baseness and wickedness. A cause was to be abandoned, not because it was unjust, but because it was unprosperous. Whether James had been a tyrant or had been the father of his people was quite immaterial. If he had won the battle of the Boyne we should have been bound as Christians to be his slaves. He had lost it; and we were bound as Christians to be his foes. Other Whigs congratulated the proselyte on having come, by whatever road, to a right practical conclusion, but could not refrain from sneering at the history which he gave of his conversion. He was, they said, a man of eminent learning and abilities. He had studied the question of allegiance long and deeply. He had written much about it. Several months had been allowed him for reading, prayer and reflection before he incurred suspension, several months more before he incurred deprivation. He had formed an opinion for which he had declared himself ready to suffer martyrdom; he had taught that opinion to others; and he had then changed that opinion solely because he had discovered that it had been, not refuted, but dogmatically pronounced erroneous by the two Convocations more than eighty years before. Surely, this was to renounce all liberty of private judgment, and to ascribe to the Synods of Canterbury and York an infallibility which the Church of England had declared that even Oecumenical Councils could not justly claim. If, it was sarcastically said, all our notions of right and wrong, in matters of vital importance to the well being of society, are to be suddenly altered by a few lines of manuscript found in a corner of the library at Lambeth, it is surely much to be wished, for the peace of mind of humble Christians, that all the documents to which this sort of authority belongs should be rummaged out and sent to the press as soon as possible; for, unless this be done, we may all, like the Doctor when he refused the oaths last year, be committing sins in the full persuasion that we are discharging duties. In truth, it is not easy to believe that the Convocation Book furnished Sherlock with any thing more than a pretext for doing what he had made up his mind to do. The united force of reason and interest had doubtless convinced him that his passions and prejudices had led him into a great error. That error he determined to recant; and it cost him less to say that his opinion had been changed by newly discovered evidence, than that he had formed a wrong judgment with all the materials for the forming of a right judgment before him. The popular belief was that his retractation was the effect of the tears, expostulations and reproaches of his wife. The lady’s spirit was high; her authority in the family was great; and she cared much more about her house and her carriage, the plenty of her table and the prospects of her children, than about the patriarchal origin of government or the meaning of the word Abdication. She had, it was asserted, given her husband no peace by day or by night till he had got over his scruples. In letters, fables, songs, dialogues without number, her powers of seduction and intimidation were malignantly extolled. She was Xanthippe pouring water on the head of Socrates. She was Dalilah shearing Samson. She was Eve forcing the forbidden fruit into Adam’s mouth. She was Job’s wife, imploring her ruined lord, who sate scraping himself among the ashes, not to curse and die, but to swear and live. While the ballad makers celebrated the victory of Mrs. Sherlock, another class of assailants fell on the theological reputation of her spouse. Till he took the oaths, he had always been considered as the most orthodox of divines. But the captious and malignant criticism to which his writings were now subjected would have found heresy in the Sermon on the Mount; and he, unfortunately, was rash enough to publish, at the very moment when the outcry against his political tergiversation was loudest, his thoughts on the mystery of the Trinity. It is probable that, at another time, his work would have been hailed by good Churchmen as a triumphant answer to the Socinians and Sabellians. But, unhappily, in his zeal against Socinians and Sabellians, he used expressions which might be construed into Tritheism. Candid judges would have remembered that the true path was closely pressed on the right and on the left by error, and that it was scarcely possible to keep far enough from danger on one side without going very close to danger on the other. But candid judges Sherlock was not likely to find among the Jacobites. His old allies affirmed that he had incurred all the fearful penalties denounced in the Athanasian Creed against those who divide the substance. Bulky quartos were written to prove that he held the existence of three distinct Deities; and some facetious malecontents, who troubled themselves very little about the Catholic verity, amused the town by lampoons in English and Latin on his heterodoxy. “We,” said one of these jesters, “plight our faith to one King, and call one God to attest our promise. We cannot think it strange that there should be more than one King to whom the Doctor has sworn allegiance, when we consider that the Doctor has more Gods than one to swear by.”61
Sherlock would, perhaps, have doubted whether the government to which he had submitted was entitled to be called a settled government, if he had known all the dangers by which it was threatened. Scarcely had Preston’s plot been detected; when a new plot of a very different kind was formed in the camp, in the navy, in the treasury, in the very bedchamber of the King. This mystery of iniquity has, through five generations, been gradually unveiling, but is not yet entirely unveiled. Some parts which are still obscure may possibly, by the discovery of letters or diaries now reposing under the dust of a century and a half, be made clear to our posterity. The materials, however, which are at present accessible, are sufficient for the construction of a narrative not to be read without shame and loathing.62
We have seen that, in the spring of 1690, Shrewsbury, irritated by finding his counsels rejected, and those of his Tory rivals followed, suffered himself, in a fatal hour, to be drawn into a correspondence with the banished family. We have seen also by what cruel sufferings of body and mind he expiated his fault. Tortured by remorse, and by disease the effect of remorse, he had quitted the Court; but he had left behind him men whose principles were not less lax than his, and whose hearts were far harder and colder.
Early in 1691, some of these men began to hold secret communication with Saint Germains. Wicked and base as their conduct was, there was in it nothing surprising. They did after their kind. The times were troubled. A thick cloud was upon the future. The most sagacious and experienced politician could not see with any clearness three months before him. To a man of virtue and honour, indeed, this mattered little. His uncertainty as to what the morrow might bring forth might make him anxious, but could not make him perfidious. Though left in utter darkness as to what concerned his interests, he had the sure guidance of his principles. But, unhappily, men of virtue and honour were not numerous among the courtiers of that age. Whitehall had been, during thirty years, a seminary of every public and private vice, and swarmed with lowminded, doubledealing, selfseeking politicians. These politicians now acted as it was natural that men profoundly immoral should act at a crisis of which none could predict the issue. Some of them might have a slight predilection for William; others a slight predilection for James; but it was not by any such predilection that the conduct of any of the breed was guided. If it had seemed certain that William would stand, they would all have been for William. If it had seemed certain that James would be restored, they would all have been for James. But what was to be done when the chances appeared to be almost exactly balanced? There were honest men of one party who would have answered, To stand by the true King and the true Church, and, if necessary, to die for them like Laud. There were honest men of the other party who would have answered, To stand by the liberties of England and the Protestant religion, and, if necessary, to die for them like Sidney. But such consistency was unintelligible to many of the noble and the powerful. Their object was to be safe in every event. They therefore openly took the oath of allegiance to one King, and secretly plighted their word to the other. They were indefatigable in obtaining commissions, patents of peerage, pensions, grants of crown land, under the great seal of William; and they had in their secret drawers promises of pardon in the handwriting of James.
Among those who were guilty of this wickedness three men stand preeminent, Russell, Godolphin and Marlborough. No three men could be, in head and heart, more unlike to one another; and the peculiar qualities of each gave a peculiar character to his villany. The treason of Russell is to be attributed partly to fractiousness; the treason of Godolphin is to be attributed altogether to timidity; the treason of Marlborough was the treason of a man of great genius and boundless ambition.
It may be thought strange that Russell should have been out of humour. He had just accepted the command of the united naval forces of England and Holland with the rank of Admiral of the Fleet. He was Treasurer of the Navy. He had a pension of three thousand pounds a year. Crown property near Charing Cross, to the value of eighteen thousand pounds, had been bestowed on him. His indirect gains must have been immense. But he was still dissatisfed. In truth, with undaunted courage, with considerable talents both for war and for administration, and with a certain public spirit, which showed itself by glimpses even in the very worst parts of his life, he was emphatically a bad man, insolent, malignant, greedy, faithless. He conceived that the great services which he had performed at the time of the Revolution had not been adequately rewarded. Every thing that was given to others seemed to him to be pillaged from himself. A letter is still extant which he wrote to William about this time. It is made up of boasts, reproaches and sneers. The Admiral, with ironical professions of humility and loyalty, begins by asking permission to put his wrongs on paper, because his bashfulness would not suffer him to explain himself by word of mouth. His grievances were intolerable. Other people got grants of royal domains; but he could get scarcely any thing. Other people could provide for their dependants; but his recommendations were uniformly disregarded. The income which he derived from the royal favour might seem large; but he had poor relations; and the government, instead of doing its duty by them, had most unhandsomely left them to his care. He had a sister who ought to have a pension; for, without one, she could not give portions to her daughters. He had a brother who, for want of a place, had been reduced to the melancholy necessity of marrying an old woman for her money. Russell proceeded to complain bitterly that the Whigs were neglected, that the Revolution had aggrandised and enriched men who had made the greatest efforts to avert it. And there is reason to believe that this complaint came from his heart. For, next to his own interests, those of his party were dear to him; and, even when he was most inclined to become a Jacobite, he never had the smallest disposition to become a Tory. In the temper which this letter indicates, he readily listened to the suggestions of David Lloyd, one of the ablest and most active emissaries who at this time were constantly plying between France and England. Lloyd conveyed to James assurances that Russell would, when a favourable opportunity should present itself, try to effect by means of the fleet what Monk had effected in the preceding generation by means of the army.63 To what extent these assurances were sincere was a question about which men who knew Russell well, and who were minutely informed as to his conduct, were in doubt. It seems probable that, during many months, he did not know his own mind. His interest was to stand well, as long as possible, with both Kings. His irritable and imperious nature was constantly impelling him to quarrel with both. His spleen was excited one week by a dry answer from William, and the next week by an absurd proclamation from James. Fortunately the most important day of his life, the day from which all his subsequent years took their colour, found him out of temper with the banished King.
Godolphin had not, and did not pretend to have, any cause of complaint against the government which he served. He was First Commissioner of the Treasury. He had been protected, trusted, caressed. Indeed the favour shown to him had excited many murmurs. Was it fitting, the Whigs had indignantly asked, that a man who had been high in office through the whole of the late reign, who had promised to vote for the Indulgence, who had sate in the Privy Council with a Jesuit, who had sate at the Board of Treasury with two Papists, who had attended an idolatress to her altar, should be among the chief ministers of a Prince whose title to the throne was derived from the Declaration of Rights? But on William this clamour had produced no effect; and none of his English servants seems to have had at this time a larger share of his confidence than Godolphin.
Nevertheless, the Jacobites did not despair. One of the most zealous among them, a gentleman named Bulkeley, who had formerly been on terms of intimacy with Godolphin, undertook to see what could be done. He called at the Treasury, and tried to draw the First Lord into political talk. This was no easy matter; for Godolphin was not a man to put himself lightly into the power of others. His reserve was proverbial; and he was especially renowned for the dexterity with which he, through life, turned conversation away from matters of state to a main of cocks or the pedigree of a racehorse. The visit ended without his uttering a word indicating that he remembered the existence of King James.
Bulkeley, however, was not to be so repulsed. He came again, and introduced the subject which was nearest his heart. Godolphin then asked after his old master and mistress in the mournful tone of a man who despaired of ever being reconciled to them. Bulkeley assured him that King James was ready to forgive all the past. “May I tell His Majesty that you will try to deserve his favour?” At this Godolphin rose, said something about the trammels of office and his wish to be released from them, and put an end to the interview.
Bulkeley soon made a third attempt. By this time Godolphin had learned some things which shook his confidence in the stability of the government which he served. He began to think, as he would himself have expressed it, that he had betted too deep on the Revolution, and that it was time to hedge. Evasions would no longer serve his turn. It was necessary to speak out. He spoke out, and declared himself a devoted servant of King James. “I shall take an early opportunity of resigning my place. But, till then, I am under a tie. I must not betray my trust.” To enhance the value of the sacrifice which he proposed to make, he produced a most friendly and confidential letter which he had lately received from William. “You see how entirely the Prince of Orange trusts me. He tells me that he cannot do without me, and that there is no Englishman for whom he has so great a kindness; but all this weighs nothing with me in comparison of my duty to my lawful King.”
If the First Lord of the Treasury really had scruples about betraying his trust, those scruples were soon so effectually removed that he very complacently continued, during six years, to eat the bread of one master, while secretly sending professions of attachment and promises of service to another.
The truth is that Godolphin was under the influence of a mind far more powerful and far more depraved than his own. His perplexities had been imparted to Marlborough, to whom he had long been bound by such friendship as two very unprincipled men are capable of feeling for each other, and to whom he was afterwards bound by close domestic ties.
Marlborough was in a very different situation from that of William’s other servants. Lloyd might make overtures to Russell, and Bulkeley to Godolphin. But all the agents of the banished Court stood aloof from the traitor of Salisbury. That shameful night seemed to have for ever separated the perjured deserter from the Prince whom he had ruined. James had, even in the last extremity, when his army was in full retreat, when his whole kingdom had risen against him, declared that he would never pardon Churchill, never, never. By all the Jacobites the name of Churchill was held in peculiar abhorrence; and, in the prose and verse which came forth daily from their secret presses, a precedence in infamy, among all the many traitors of the age, was assigned to him. In the order of things which had sprung from the Revolution, he was one of the great men of England, high in the state, high in the army. He had been created an Earl. He had a large share in the military administration. The emoluments, direct and indirect, of the places and commands which he held under the Crown were believed at the Dutch Embassy to amount to twelve thousand pounds a year. In the event of a counterrevolution it seemed that he had nothing in prospect but a garret in Holland, or a scaffold on Tower Hill. It might therefore have been expected that he would serve his new master with fidelity, not indeed with the fidelity of Nottingham, which was the fidelity of conscientiousness, not with the fidelity of Portland, which was the fidelity of affection, but with the not less stubborn fidelity of despair.
Those who thought thus knew but little of Marlborough. Confident in his own powers of deception, he resolved, since the Jacobite agents would not seek him, to seek them. He therefore sent to beg an interview with Colonel Edward Sackville.
Sackville was astonished and not much pleased by the message. He was a sturdy Cavalier of the old school. He had been persecuted in the days of the Popish plot for manfully saying what he thought, and what every body now thinks, about Oates and Bedloe.64 Since the Revolution he had put his neck in peril for King James, had been chased by officers with warrants, and had been designated as a traitor in a proclamation to which Marlborough himself had been a party.65 It was not without reluctance that the stanch royalist crossed the hated threshold of the deserter. He was repaid for his effort by the edifying spectacle of such an agony of repentance as he had never before seen. “Will you,” said Marlborough, “be my intercessor with the King? Will you tell him what I suffer? My crimes now appear to me in their true light; and I shrink with horror from the contemplation. The thought of them is with me day and night. I sit down to table; but I cannot eat. I throw myself on my bed; but I cannot sleep. I am ready to sacrifice every thing, to brave every thing, to bring utter ruin on my fortunes, if only I may be free from the misery of a wounded spirit.” If appearances could be trusted, this great offender was as true a penitent as David or as Peter. Sackville reported to his friends what had passed. They could not but acknowledge that, if the arch traitor, who had hitherto opposed to conscience and to public opinion the same cool and placid hardihood which distinguished him on fields of battle, had really begun to feel remorse, it would be absurd to reject, on account of his unworthiness, the inestimable services which it was in his power to render to the good cause. He sate in the interior council; he held high command in the army; he had been recently entrusted, and would doubtless again be entrusted, with the direction of important military operations. It was true that no man had incurred equal guilt; but it was true also that no man had it in his power to make equal reparation. If he was sincere, he might doubtless earn the pardon which he so much desired. But was he sincere? Had he not been just as loud in professions of loyalty on the very eve of his crime? It was necessary to put him to the test. Several tests were applied by Sackville and Lloyd. Marlborough was required to furnish full information touching the strength and the distribution of all the divisions of the English army; and he complied. He was required to disclose the whole plan of the approaching campaign; and he did so. The Jacobite leaders watched carefully for inaccuracies in his reports, but could find none. It was thought a still stronger proof of his fidelity that he gave valuable intelligence about what was doing in the office of the Secretary of State. A deposition had been sworn against one zealous royalist. A warrant was preparing against another. These intimations saved several of the malecontents from imprisonment, if not from the gallows; and it was impossible for them not to feel some relenting towards the awakened sinner to whom they owed so much.
He however, in his secret conversations with his new allies, laid no claim to merit. He did not, he said, ask for confidence. How could he, after the villanies which he had committed against the best of Kings, hope ever to be trusted again? It was enough for a wretch like him to be permitted to make, at the cost of his life, some poor atonement to the gracious master, whom he had indeed basely injured, but whom he had never ceased to love. It was not improbable that, in the summer, he might command the English forces in Flanders. Was it wished that he should bring them over in a body to the French camp? If such were the royal pleasure, he would undertake that the thing should be done. But on the whole he thought that it would be better to wait till the next session of Parliament. And then he hinted at a plan which he afterwards more fully matured, for expelling the usurper by means of the English legislature and the English army. In the meantime he hoped that James would command Godolphin not to quit the Treasury. A private man could do little for the good cause. One who was the director of the national finances, and the depository of the gravest secrets of state, might render inestimable services.
Marlborough’s pretended repentance imposed so completely on those who managed the affairs of James in London that they sent Lloyd to France, with the cheering intelligence that the most depraved of all rebels had been wonderfully transformed into a loyal subject. The tidings filled James with delight and hope. Had he been wise, they would have excited in him only aversion and distrust. It was absurd to imagine that a man really heartbroken by remorse and shame for one act of perfidy would determine to lighten his conscience by committing a second act of perfidy as odious and as disgraceful as the first. The promised atonement was so wicked and base that it never could be made by any man sincerely desirous to atone for past wickedness and baseness. The truth was that, when Marlborough told the Jacobites that his sense of guilt prevented him from swallowing his food by day and taking his rest at night, he was laughing at them. The loss of half a guinea would have done more to spoil his appetite and to disturb his slumbers than all the terrors of an evil conscience. What his offers really proved was that his former crime had sprung, not from an ill regulated zeal for the interests of his country and his religion, but from a deep and incurable moral disease which had infected the whole man. James, however, partly from dulness and partly from selfishness, could never see any immorality in any action by which he was benefited. To conspire against him, to betray him, to break an oath of allegiance sworn to him, were crimes for which no punishment here or hereafter could be too severe. But to murder his enemies, to break faith with his enemies was not only innocent but laudable. The desertion at Salisbury had been the worst of crimes; for it had ruined him. A similar desertion in Flanders would be an honourable exploit; for it might restore him.
The penitent was informed by his Jacobite friends that he was forgiven. The news was most welcome; but something more was necessary to restore his lost peace of mind. Might he hope to have, in the royal handwriting, two lines containing a promise of pardon? It was not, of course, for his own sake that he asked this. But he was confident that, with such a document in his hands, he could bring back to the right path some persons of great note who adhered to the usurper, only because they imagined that they had no mercy to expect from the legitimate King. They would return to their duty as soon as they saw that even the worst of all criminals had, on his repentance, been generously forgiven. The promise was written, sent, and carefully treasured up. Marlborough had now attained one object, an object which was common to him with Russell and Godolphin. But he had other objects which neither Russell nor Godolphin had ever contemplated. There is, as we shall hereafter see, strong reason to believe that this wise, brave, wicked man, was meditating a plan worthy of his fertile intellect and daring spirit, and not less worthy of his deeply corrupted heart, a plan which, if it had not been frustrated by strange means, would have ruined William without benefiting James, and would have made the successful traitor master of England and arbiter of Europe.
Thus things stood, when, in May 1691, William, after a short and busy sojourn in England, set out again for the Continent, where the regular campaign was about to open. He took with him Marlborough, whose abilities he justly appreciated, and of whose recent negotiations with Saint Germains he had not the faintest suspicion. At the Hague several important military and political consultations were held; and, on every occasion, the superiority of the accomplished Englishman was felt by the most distinguished soldiers and statesmen of the United Provinces. Heinsius, long after, used to relate a conversation which took place at this time between William and the Prince of Vaudemont, one of the ablest commanders in the Dutch service. Vaudemont spoke well of several English officers, and among them of Talmash and Mackay, but pronounced Marlborough superior beyond comparison to the rest. “He has every quality of a general. His very look shows it. He cannot fail to achieve something great.” “I really believe, cousin,” answered the King, “that my Lord will make good every thing that you have said of him.”
There was still a short interval before the commencement of military operations. William passed that interval in his beloved park at Loo. Marlborough spent two or three days there, and was then despatched to Flanders with orders to collect all the English forces, to form a camp in the neighbourhood of Brussels, and to have every thing in readiness for the King’s arrival.
And now Marlborough had an opportunity of proving the sincerity of those professions by which he had obtained from a heart, well described by himself as harder than a marble chimneypiece, the pardon of an offence such as might have moved even a gentle nature to deadly resentment. He received from Saint Germains a message claiming the instant performance of his promise to desert at the head of his troops. He was told that this was the greatest service which he could render to the Crown. His word was pledged; and the gracious master who had forgiven all past errors confidently expected that it would be redeemed. The hypocrite evaded the demand with characteristic dexterity. In the most respectful and affectionate language he excused himself for not immediately obeying the royal commands. The promise which he was required to fulfil had not been quite correctly understood. There had been some misapprehension on the part of the messengers. To carry over a regiment or two would do more harm than good. To carry over a whole army was a business which would require much time and management.66 While James was murmuring over these apologies, and wishing that he had not been quite so placable, William arrived at the head quarters of the allied forces, and took the chief command.
The military operations in Flanders recommenced early in June and terminated at the close of September. No important action took place. The two armies marched and countermarched, drew near and receded. During some time they confronted each other with less than a league between them. But neither William nor Luxemburg would fight except at an advantage; and neither gave the other any advantage. Languid as the campaign was, it is on one account remarkable. During more than a century our country had sent no great force to make war by land out of the British isles. Our aristocracy had therefore long ceased to be a military class. The nobles of France, of Germany, of Holland, were generally soldiers. It would probably have been difficult to find in the brilliant circle which surrounded Lewis at Versailles a single Marquess or Viscount of forty who had not been at some battle or siege. But the immense majority of our peers, baronets and opulent esquires had never served except in the trainbands, and had never borne a part in any military exploit more serious than that of putting down a riot or of keeping a street clear for a procession. The generation which had fought at Edgehill and Lansdowne had nearly passed away. The wars of Charles the Second had been almost entirely maritime. During his reign therefore the sea service had been decidedly more the mode than the land service; and, repeatedly, when our fleet sailed to encounter the Dutch, such multitudes of men of fashion had gone on board that the parks and the theatres had been left desolate. In 1691 at length, for the first time since Henry the Eighth laid siege to Boulogne, an English army appeared on the Continent under the command of an English king. A camp, which was also a court, was irresistibly attractive to many young patricians full of natural intrepidity, and ambitious of the favour which men of distinguished bravery have always found in the eyes of women. To volunteer for Flanders became the rage among the fine gentlemen who combed their flowing wigs and exchanged their richly perfumed snuffs at the Saint James’s Coffeehouse. William’s headquarters were enlivened by a crowd of splendid equipages and by a rapid succession of sumptuous banquets. For among the high born and high spirited youths who repaired to his standard were some who, though quite willing to face a battery, were not at all disposed to deny themselves the luxuries with which they had been surrounded in Soho Square. In a few months Shadwell brought these valiant fops and epicures on the stage. The town was made merry with the character of a courageous but prodigal and effeminate coxcomb, who is impatient to cross swords with the best men in the French household troops, but who is much dejected by learning that he may find it difficult to have his champagne iced daily during the summer. He carries with him cooks, confectioners and laundresses, a waggonload of plate, a wardrobe of laced and embroidered suits, and much rich tent furniture, of which the patterns have been chosen by a committee of fine ladies.67
While the hostile armies watched each other in Flanders, hostilities were carried on with somewhat more vigour in other parts of Europe. The French gained some advantages in Catalonia and in Piedmont. Their Turkish allies, who in the east menaced the dominions of the Emperor, were defeated by Lewis of Baden in a great battle. But nowhere were the events of the summer so important as in Ireland.
From October 1690 till May 1691, no military operation on a large scale was attempted in that kingdom. The area of the island was, during the winter and spring, not unequally divided between the contending races. The whole of Ulster, the greater part of Leinster and about one third of Munster had submitted to the English. The whole of Connaught, the greater part of Munster, and two or three counties of Leinster were held by the Irish. The tortuous boundary formed by William’s garrisons ran in a north eastern direction from the bay of Castlehaven to Mallow, and then, inclining still further eastward, proceeded to Cashel. From Cashel the line went to Mullingar, from Mullingar to Longford, and from Longford to Cavan, skirted Lough Erne on the west, and met the ocean again at Ballyshannon.68
On the English side of this pale there was a rude and imperfect order. Two Lords Justices, Coningsby and Porter, assisted by a Privy Council, represented King William at Dublin Castle. Judges, Sheriffs and Justices of the Peace had been appointed; and assizes were, after a long interval, held in several county towns. The colonists had meanwhile been formed into a strong militia, under the command of officers who had commissions from the Crown. The trainbands of the capital consisted of two thousand five hundred foot, two troops of horse and two troops of dragoons, all Protestants and all well armed and clad.69 On the fourth of November, the anniversary of William’s birth, and on the fifth, the anniversary of his landing at Torbay, the whole of this force appeared in all the pomp of war. The vanquished and disarmed natives assisted, with suppressed grief and anger, at the triumph of the caste which they had, five months before, oppressed and plundered with impunity. The Lords Justices went in state to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral; bells were rung; bonfires were lighted; hogsheads of ale and claret were set abroach in the streets; fireworks were exhibited on College Green; a great company of nobles and public functionaries feasted at the Castle; and, as the second course came up, the trumpets sounded, and Ulster King at Arms proclaimed, in Latin, French and English, William and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of Great Britain, France, and Ireland.70
Within the territory where the Saxon race was dominant, trade and industry had already begun to revive. The brazen counters which bore the image and superscription of James gave place to silver. The fugitives who had taken refuge in England came back in multitudes; and, by their intelligence, diligence and thrift, the devastation caused by two years of confusion and robbery was soon in part repaired. Merchantmen heavily laden were constantly passing and repassing Saint George’s Channel. The receipts of the custom houses on the eastern coast, from Cork to Londonderry, amounted in six months to sixty-seven thousand five hundred pounds, a sum such as would have been thought extraordinary even in the most prosperous times.71
The Irish who remained within the English pale were, one and all, hostile to the English domination. They were therefore subjected to a rigorous system of police, the natural though lamentable effect of extreme danger and extreme provocation. A Papist was not permitted to have a sword or a gun. He was not permitted to go more than three miles out of his parish except to the market town on the market day. Lest he should give information or assistance to his brethren who occupied the western half of the island, he was forbidden to live within ten miles of the frontier. Lest he should turn his house into a place of resort