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A History of the Early Part of the Reign of James the Second by Charles James Fox

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Fox's "History of the Reign of James II.," which begins with his
view of the reign of Charles II. and breaks off at the execution of
Monmouth, was the beginning of a History of England from the
Revolution, upon which he worked in the last years of his life, for
which he collected materials in Paris after the Peace of Amiens, in
1802--he died in September, 1806--and which was first published in

The grandfather of Charles James Fox was Stephen, son of William
Fox, of Farley, in Wiltshire. Stephen Fox was a young royalist
under Charles I. He was twenty-two at the time of the king's
execution, went into exile during the Commonwealth, came back at the
Restoration, was appointed paymaster of the first two regiments of
guards that were raised, and afterwards Paymaster of all the Forces.
In that office he made much money, but rebuilt the church at Farley,
and earned lasting honour as the actual founder of Chelsea Hospital,
which was opened in 1682 for wounded and superannuated soldiers.
The ground and buildings had been appointed by James I., in 1609, as
Chelsea College, for the training of disputants against the Roman
Catholics. Sir Stephen Fox himself contributed thirteen thousand
pounds to the carrying out of this design. Fox's History dealt,
therefore, with times in which his grandfather had played a part.

In 1703, when his age was seventy-six, Stephen Fox took a second
wife, by whom he had two sons, who became founders of two families;
Stephen, the elder, became first Earl of Ilchester; Henry, the
younger, who married Georgina, daughter of the Duke of Richmond, and
was himself created, in 1763, Baron Holland of Farley. Of the
children of that marriage Charles James Fox was the third son, born
on the 24th of January, 1749. The second son had died in infancy.

Henry Fox inherited Tory opinions. He was regarded by George II. as
a good man of business, and was made Secretary of War in 1754, when
Charles James, whose cleverness made him a favoured child, was five
years old. In the next year Henry Fox was Secretary of State for
the Southern Department. The outbreak of the Seven Years' War bred
discontent and change of Ministry. The elder Fox had then to give
place to the elder Pitt. But Henry Fox was compensated by the
office of Paymaster of the Forces, from which he knew even better
than his father had known how to extract profit. He rapidly
acquired the wealth which he joined to his title as Lord Holland of
Farley, and for which he was attacked vigorously, until two hundred
thousand pounds--some part of the money that stayed by him--had been

Henry Fox, Lord Holland, found his boy, Charles James, brilliant and
lively, made him a companion, and indulged him to the utmost. Once
he expressed a strong desire to break a watch that his father was
winding up: his father gave it him to dash upon the floor. Once
his father had promised that when an old garden wall at Holland
House was blown down with gunpowder before replacing it with iron
railings, he should see the explosion. The workmen blew it down in
the boy's absence: his father had the wall rebuilt in its old form
that it might be blown down again in his presence, and his promise
kept. He was sent first to Westminster School, and then to Eton.
At home he was his father's companion, joined in the talk of men at
his father's dinner-parties, travelled at fourteen with his father
to the Continent, and is said to have been allowed five guineas a
night for gambling-money. He grew up reckless of the worth of
money, and for many years the excitement of gambling was to him as
one of the necessaries of life. His immense energy at school and
college made him work as hard as the most diligent man who did
nothing else, and devote himself to gambling, horse-racing, and
convivial pleasures as vigorously as if he were the weak man capable
of nothing else. The Eton boys all prophesied his future fame. At
Oxford, where he entered Hertford College, he was one of the best
men of his time, and one of the wildest. A clergyman, strong in
Greek, was arguing with young Fox against the genuineness of a verse
of the Iliad because its measure was unusual. Fox at once quoted
from memory some twenty parallels.

From college he went on the usual tour of Europe, spending lavishly,
incurring heavy debts, and sending home large bills for his father
to pay. One bill alone, paid by his father to a creditor at Naples,
was for sixteen thousand pounds. He came back in raiment of the
highest fashion, and was put into Parliament in 1768, not yet twenty
years old, as member for Midhurst. He began his political life with
the family opinions, defended the Ministry against John Wilkes, and
was provided promptly with a place as Paymaster of the Pensions to
the Widows of Land Officers, and then, when he had reached the age
of twenty-one, there was a seat found for him at the Board of

At once Fox made his mark in the House as a brilliant debater with
an intellectual power and an industry that made him master of the
subjects he discussed. Still also he was scattering money, and
incurring debt, training race-horses, and staking heavily at
gambling tables. When a noble friend, who was not a gambler,
offered to bet fifty pounds upon a throw, Fox declined, saying, "I
never play for pence."

After a few years of impatient submission to Lord North, Fox broke
from him, and it was not long before he had broken from Lord North's
opinions and taken the side of the people in all leading questions.
He became the friend of Burke; and joined in the attack upon the
policy of Coercion that destroyed the union between England and her
American colonies. In 1774, at the age of twenty-five, Fox lost by
death his father, his mother, and his elder brother, who had
succeeded to the title, and who had left a little son to be his
heir. In February of that year Lord North had finally broken with
Fox by causing a letter to be handed to him in the House of Commons
while he was sitting by his side on the Treasury Bench.

"His Majesty has thought proper to order a new commission of the
Treasury to be made out, in which I do not perceive your name.

By the end of the year he was member for Malmesbury, and one of the
chiefs in opposition. When Lord North opened the session of 1775
with a speech arguing the need of coercion, Fox compared what ought
to have been done with what was done, and said that Lord Chatham,
the King of Prussia, nay, even Alexander the Great, never gained
more in one campaign than Lord North had lost. He had lost a whole
continent. When Lord North's ministry fell in 1782, Fox became a
Secretary of State, resigning on the death of Rockingham. In
coalition with Lord North, Fox brought in an India Bill, which was
rejected by the Lords, and caused a resignation of the Ministry.
Pitt then came into office, and there was rivalry between a Pitt and
a Fox of the second generation, with some reversal in each son of
the political bias of his father.

In opposing the policy that caused the American Revolution Fox and
Burke were of one mind. He opposed the slave trade. After the
outbreak of the French Revolution he differed from Burke, and
resolutely opposed Pitt's policy of interference by armed force.

William Pitt died on the 23rd January, 1806. Charles James Fox
became again a Secretary of State, and had set on foot negotiations
for a peace with France before his own death, eight months later, at
the age of fifty-seven.

During the last ten or twelve years of his life Fox had withdrawn
from the dissipations of his earlier years. His interest in horse-
racing flagged after the death, in 1793, of his friend Lord Foley, a
kindly, honourable man, upon whose judgment in such matters Fox had
greatly relied. Lord Foley began his sporting life with a clear
estate of 1,800 pounds a year, and 100,000 pounds in ready money.
He ended his sporting and his earthly life with an estate heavily
encumbered and an empty pocket.

H. M.



Introductory observations--First period, from Henry VII. to the year
1588--Second period, from 1588 to 1640--Meeting of Parliament--
Redress of grievances--Strafford's attainder--The commencement of
the Civil War--Treaty from the Isle of Wight--The king's execution--
Cromwell's power; his character--Indifference of the nation
respecting forms of government--The Restoration--Ministry of
Clarendon sod Southampton--Cabal--Dutch War--De Witt--The Prince of
Orange--The Popish plot--The Habeas Corpus Act--The Exclusion Bill--
Dissolution of Charles the Second's last Parliament--His power; his
tyranny in Scotland; in England--Exorbitant fines--Executions--
Forfeitures of charters--Despotism established--Despondency of good
men--Charles's death; his character--Reflections upon the probable
consequences of his reign and death.

In reading the history of every country there are certain periods at
which the mind naturally pauses to meditate upon, and consider them,
with reference, not only to their immediate effects, but to their
more remote consequences. After the wars of Marius and Sylla, and
the incorporation, as it were, of all Italy with the city of Rome,
we cannot but stop to consider the consequences likely to result
from these important events; and in this instance we find them to be
just such as might have been expected.

The reign of our Henry VII. affords a field of more doubtful
speculation. Every one who takes a retrospective view of the wars
of York and Lancaster, and attends to the regulations effected by
the policy of that prince, must see they would necessarily lead to
great and important changes in the government; but what the tendency
of such changes would be, and much more, in what manner they would
be produced, might be a question of great difficulty. It is now the
generally received opinion, and I think a probable opinion, that to
the provisions of that reign we are to refer the origin, both of the
unlimited power of the Tudors and of the liberties wrested by our
ancestors from the Stuarts; that tyranny was their immediate, and
liberty their remote, consequence; but he must have great confidence
in his own sagacity who can satisfy himself that, unaided by the
knowledge of subsequent events, he could, from a consideration of
the causes, have foreseen the succession of effects so different.

Another period that affords ample scope for speculation of this kind
is that which is comprised between the years 1588 and 1640, a period
of almost uninterrupted tranquillity and peace. The general
improvement in all arts of civil life, and, above all, the
astonishing progress of literature, are the most striking among the
general features of that period, and are in themselves causes
sufficient to produce effects of the utmost importance. A country
whose language was enriched by the works of Hooker, Raleigh, and
Bacon, could not but experience a sensible change in its manners and
in its style of thinking; and even to speak the same language in
which Spenser and Shakespeare had written seemed a sufficient plea
to rescue the commons of England from the appellation of brutes,
with which Henry VIII. had addressed them. Among the more
particular effects of this general improvement the most material and
worthy to be considered appear to me to have been the frequency of
debate in the House of Commons, and the additional value that came
to be set on a seat in that assembly.

From these circumstances a sagacious observer may be led to expect
the most important revolutions; and from the latter he may be
enabled to foresee that the House of Commons will be the principal
instrument in bringing them to pass. But in what manner will that
house conduct itself? Will it content itself with its regular share
of legislative power, and with the influence which it cannot fail to
possess whenever it exerts itself upon the other branches of the
legislative, and on the executive power; or will it boldly (perhaps
rashly) pretend to a power commensurate with the natural rights of
the representative of the people? If it should, will it not be
obliged to support its claims by military force? And how long will
such a force be under its control? How long before it follows the
usual course of all armies, and ranges itself under a single master?
If such a master should arise, will he establish an hereditary or an
elective government? If the first, what will be gained but a change
of dynasty? If the second, will not the military force, as it chose
the first king or protector (the name is of no importance), choose
in effect all his successors? Or will he fail, and shall we have a
restoration, usually the most dangerous and worst of all
revolutions? To some of these questions the answers may, from the
experience of past ages, be easy, but to many of them far otherwise.
And he will read history with most profit who the most canvasses
questions of this nature, especially if he can divest his mind for
the time of the recollection of the event as it in fact succeeded.

The next period, as it is that which immediately precedes the
commencement of this history, requires a more detailed examination;
nor is there any more fertile of matter, whether for reflection or
speculation. Between the year 1640 and the death of Charles II. we
have the opportunity of contemplating the state in almost every
variety of circumstance. Religious dispute, political contest in
all its forms and degrees, from the honest exertions of party and
the corrupt intrigues of faction to violence and civil war;
despotism, first, in the person of a usurper, and afterwards in that
of an hereditary king; the most memorable and salutary improvements
in the laws, the most abandoned administration of them; in fine,
whatever can happen to a nation, whether of glorious of calamitous,
makes a part of this astonishing and instructive picture.

The commencement of this period is marked by exertions of the
people, through their representatives in the House of Commons, not
only justifiable in their principle, but directed to the properest
objects, and in a manner the most judicious. Many of their leaders
were greatly versed in ancient as well as modern learning, and were
even enthusiastically attached to the great names of antiquity; but
they never conceived the wild project of assimilating the government
of England to that of Athens, of Sparta, or of Rome. They were
content with applying to the English constitution, and to the
English laws, the spirit of liberty which had animated and rendered
illustrious the ancient republics. Their first object was to obtain
redress of past grievances, with a proper regard to the individuals
who had suffered; the next, to prevent the recurrence of such
grievances by the abolition of tyrannical tribunals acting upon
arbitrary maxims in criminal proceedings, and most improperly
denominated courts of justice. They then proceeded to establish
that fundamental principle of all free government, the preserving of
the purse to the people and their representatives. And though there
may be more difference of opinion upon their proposed regulations in
regard to the militia, yet surely, when a contest was to be
foreseen, they could not, consistently with prudence, leave the
power of the sword altogether in the hands of an adverse party.

The prosecution of Lord Strafford, or rather, the manner in which it
was carried on, is less justifiable. He was, doubtless, a great
delinquent, and well deserved the severest punishment; but nothing
short of a clearly proved case of self-defence can justify, or even
excuse, a departure from the sacred rules of criminal justice. For
it can rarely indeed happen that the mischief to be apprehended from
suffering any criminal, however guilty, to escape, can be equal to
that resulting from the violation of those rules to which the
innocent owe the security of all that is dear to them. If such
cases have existed they must have been in instances where trial has
been wholly out of the question, as in that of Caesar and other
tyrants; but when a man is once in a situation to be tried, and his
person in the power of his accusers and his judges, he can no longer
be formidable in that degree which alone can justify (if anything
can) the violation of the substantial rules of criminal proceedings.

At the breaking out of the Civil War, so intemperately denominated a
rebellion by Lord Clarendon and other Tory writers, the material
question appears to me to be, whether or not sufficient attempts
were made by the Parliament and their leaders to avoid bringing
affairs to such a decision? That, according to the general
principles of morality, they had justice on their side cannot fairly
be doubted; but did they sufficiently attend to that great dictum of
Tully in questions of civil dissension, wherein he declares his
preference of even an unfair peace to the most just war? Did they
sufficiently weigh the dangers that might ensue even from victory;
dangers, in such cases, little less formidable to the cause of
liberty than those which might follow a defeat? Did they consider
that it is not peculiar to the followers of Pompey, and the civil
wars of Rome, that the event to be looked for is, as the same Tully
describes it, in case of defeat--proscription; in that of victory--
servitude? Is the failure of the negotiation when the king was in
the Isle of Wight to be imputed to the suspicions justly entertained
of his sincerity, or to the ambition of the parliamentary leaders?
If the insincerity of the king was the real cause, ought not the
mischief to be apprehended from his insincerity rather to have been
guarded against by treaty than alleged as a pretence for breaking
off the negotiation? Sad, indeed, will be the condition of the
world if we are never to make peace with an adverse party whose
sincerity we have reason to suspect. Even just grounds for such
suspicions will but too often occur, and when such fail, the
proneness of man to impute evil qualities, as well as evil designs,
to his enemies, will suggest false ones. In the present case the
suspicion of insincerity was, it is true, so just, as to amount to a
moral certainty. The example of the petition of right was a
satisfactory proof that the king made no point of adhering to
concessions which he considered as extorted from him; and a
philosophical historian, writing above a century after the time, can
deem the pretended hard usage Charles met with as a sufficient
excuse for his breaking his faith in the first instance, much more
must that prince himself, with all his prejudices and notions of his
divine right, have thought it justifiable to retract concessions,
which to him, no doubt, appeared far more unreasonable than the
petition of right, and which, with much more colour, he might
consider as extorted. These considerations were probably the cause
why the Parliament so long delayed their determination of accepting
the king's offer as a basis for treaty; but, unfortunately, they had
delayed so long that when at last they adopted it they found
themselves without power to carry it into execution. The army
having now ceased to be the servants, had become the masters of the
Parliament, and, being entirely influenced by Cromwell, gave a
commencement to what may, properly speaking, be called a new reign.
The subsequent measures, therefore, the execution of the king, as
well as others, are not to be considered as acts of the Parliament,
but of Cromwell; and great and respectable as are the names of some
who sat in the high court, they must be regarded, in this instance,
rather as ministers of that usurper than as acting from themselves.

The execution of the king, though a far less violent measure than
that of Lord Strafford, is an event of so singular a nature that we
cannot wonder that it should have excited more sensation than any
other in the annals of England. This exemplary act of substantial
justice, as it has been called by some, of enormous wickedness by
others, must be considered in two points of view. First, was it not
in itself just and necessary? Secondly, was the example of it
likely to be salutary or pernicious? In regard to the first of
these questions, Mr. Hume, not perhaps intentionally, makes the best
justification of it by saying that while Charles lived the projected
republic could never be secure. But to justify taking away the life
of an individual upon the principle of self-defence, the danger must
be not problematical and remote, but evident and immediate. The
danger in this instance was not of such a nature, and the
imprisonment or even banishment of Charles might have given to the
republic such a degree of security as any government ought to be
content with. It must be confessed, however, on the other aide,
that if the republican government had suffered the king to escape,
it would have been an act of justice and generosity wholly
unexampled; and to have granted him even his life would have been
one among the more rare efforts of virtue. The short interval
between the deposal and death of princes is become proverbial, and
though there may be some few examples on the other side as far as
life is concerned, I doubt whether a single instance can be found
where liberty has been granted to a deposed monarch. Among the
modes of destroying persons in such a situation, there can be little
doubt but that that adopted by Cromwell and his adherents is the
least dishonourable. Edward II., Richard II., Henry VI., Edward V.,
had none of them long survived their deposal, but this was the first
instance, in our history at least, where, of such an act, it could
be truly said that it was not done in a corner.

As to the second question, whether the advantage to be derived from
the example was such as to justify an act of such violence, it
appears to me to be a complete solution of it to observe that, with
respect to England (and I know not upon what ground we are to set
examples for other nations; or, in other words, to take the criminal
justice of the world into our hands) it was wholly needless, and
therefore unjustifiable, to set one for kings at a time when it was
intended the office of king should be abolished, and consequently
that no person should be in the situation to make it the rule of his
conduct. Besides, the miseries attendant upon a deposed monarch
seem to be sufficient to deter any prince, who thinks of
consequences, from running the risk of being placed in such a
situation; or, if death be the only evil that can deter him, the
fate of former tyrants deposed by their subjects would by no means
encourage him to hope he could avoid even that catastrophe. As far
as we can judge from the event, the example was certainly not very
effectual, since both the sons of Charles, though having their
father's fate before their eyes, yet feared not to violate the
liberties of the people even more than he had attempted to do.

If we consider this question of example in a more extended view, and
look to the general effect produced upon the minds of men, it cannot
be doubted but the opportunity thus given to Charles to display his
firmness and piety has created more respect for his memory than it
could otherwise have obtained. Respect and pity for the sufferer on
the one hand, and hatred to his enemies on the other, soon produce
favour and aversion to their respective causes; and thus, even
though it should be admitted (which is doubtful) that some advantage
may have been gained to the cause of liberty by the terror of the
example operating upon the minds of princes, such advantage is far
outweighed by the zeal which admiration for virtue, and pity for
sufferings, the best passions of the human heart, have excited in
favour of the royal cause. It has been thought dangerous to the
morals of mankind, even in fiction and romance, to make us
sympathise with characters whose general conduct is blameable; but
how much greater must the effect be when in real history our
feelings are interested in favour of a monarch with whom, to say the
least, his subjects were obliged to contend in arms for their
liberty? After all, however, notwithstanding what the more
reasonable part of mankind may think upon this question, it is much
to be doubted whether this singular proceeding has not as much as
any other circumstance, served to raise the character of the English
nation in the opinion of Europe in general. He who has read, and
still more, he who has heard in conversation discussions upon this
subject by foreigners, must have perceived that, even in the minds
of those who condemn the act, the impression made by it has been far
more that of respect and admiration than that of disgust and horror.
The truth is that the guilt of the action--that is to say, the
taking away of the life of the king, is what most men in the place
of Cromwell and his associates would have incurred; what there is of
splendour and of magnanimity in it, I mean the publicity and
solemnity of the act, is what few would be capable of displaying.
It is a degrading fact to human nature, that even the sending away
of the Duke of Gloucester was an instance of generosity almost
unexampled in the history of transactions of this nature.

From the execution of the king to the death of Cromwell, the
government was, with some variation of forms, in substance
monarchical and absolute, as a government established by a military
force will almost invariably be, especially when the exertions of
such a force are continued for any length of time. If to this
general rule our own age, and a people whom their origin and near
relation to us would almost warrant us to call our own nation, have
afforded a splendid and perhaps a solitary exception, we must
reflect not only that a character of virtues so happily tempered by
one another, and so wholly unalloyed with any vices, as that of
Washington, is hardly to be found in the pages of history, but that
even Washington himself might not have been able to act his most
glorious of all parts without the existence of circumstances
uncommonly favourable, and almost peculiar to the country which was
to be the theatre of it. Virtue like his depends not indeed upon
time or place; but although in no country or time would he have
degraded himself into a Pisistratus, or a Caesar, or a Cromwell, he
might have shared the fate of a Cato, or a De Witt; or, like Ludlow
and Sidney, have mourned in exile the lost liberties of his country.

With the life of the protector almost immediately ended the
government which he had established. The great talents of this
extraordinary person had supported during his life a system
condemned equally by reason and by prejudice: by reason, as wanting
freedom; by prejudice, as a usurpation; and it must be confessed to
be no mean testimony to his genius, that notwithstanding the radical
defects of such a system, the splendour of his character and
exploits render the era of the protectorship one of the most
brilliant in English history. It is true his conduct in foreign
concerns is set off to advantage by a comparison of it with that of
those who preceded and who followed him. If he made a mistake in
espousing the French interest instead of the Spanish, we should
recollect that in examining this question we must divest our minds
entirely of all the considerations which the subsequent relative
state of those two empires suggest to us before we can become
impartial judges in it; and at any rate we must allow his reign, in
regard to European concerns, to have been most glorious when
contrasted with the pusillanimity of James I., with the levity of
Charles I., and the mercenary meanness of the two last princes of
the house of Stuart. Upon the whole, the character of Cromwell must
ever stand high in the list of those who raised themselves to
supreme power by the force of their genius; and among such, even in
respect of moral virtue, it would be found to be one of the least
exceptionable if it had not been tainted with that most odious and
degrading of all human vices, hypocrisy.

The short interval between Cromwell's death and the restoration
exhibits the picture of a nation either so wearied with changes as
not to feel, or so subdued by military power as not to dare to show,
any care or even preference with regard to the form of their
government. All was in the army; and that army, by such a
concurrence of fortuitous circumstances as history teaches us not to
be surprised at, had fallen into the hands of a man than whom a
baser could not be found in its lowest ranks. Personal courage
appears to have been Monk's only virtue; reserve and dissimulation
made up the whole stock of his wisdom. But to this man did the
nation look up, ready to receive from his orders the form of
government he should choose to prescribe. There is reason to
believe that, from the general bias of the Presbyterians, as well as
of the Cavaliers, monarchy was the prevalent wish; but it is
observable that although the Parliament was, contrary to the
principle upon which it was pretended to be called, composed of many
avowed royalists, yet none dared to hint at the restoration of the
king till they had Monk's permission, or rather command to receive
and consider his letters. It is impossible, in reviewing the whole
of this transaction, not to remark that a general who had gained his
rank, reputation, and station in the service of a republic, and of
what he, as well as others, called, however falsely, the cause of
liberty, made no scruple to lay the nation prostrate at the feet of
a monarch, without a single provision in favour of that cause; and
if the promise of indemnity may seem to argue that there was some
attention, at least, paid to the safety of his associates in arms,
his subsequent conduct gives reason to suppose that even this
provision was owing to any other cause rather than to a generous
feeling of his breast. For he afterwards not only acquiesced in the
insults so meanly put upon the illustrious corpse of Blake, under
whose auspices and command he had performed the most creditable
services of his life, but in the trial of Argyle produced letters of
friendship and confidence to take away the life of a nobleman, the
zeal and cordiality of whose co-operation with him, proved by such
documents, was the chief ground of his execution; thus gratuitously
surpassing in infamy those miserable wretches who, to save their own
lives, are sometimes persuaded to impeach and swear away the lives
of their accomplices.

The reign of Charles II. forms one of the most singular as well as
of the most important periods of history. It is the era of good
laws and bad government. The abolition of the court of wards, the
repeal of the writ De Heretico Comburendo, the Triennial Parliament
Bill, the establishment of the rights of the House of Commons in
regard to impeachment, the expiration of the Licence Act, and, above
all, the glorious statute of Habeas Corpus, have therefore induced a
modern writer of great eminence to fix the year 1679 as the period
at which our constitution had arrived at its greatest theoretical
perfection; but he owns, in a short note upon the passage alluded
to, that the times immediately following were times of great
practical oppression. What a field for meditation does this short
observation from such a man furnish! What reflections does it not
suggest to a thinking mind upon the inefficacy of human laws and the
imperfection of human constitutions! We are called from the
contemplation of the progress of our constitution, and our attention
fixed with the most minute accuracy to a particular point, when it
is said to have risen to its utmost perfection. Here we are, then,
at the best moment of the best constitution that ever human wisdom
framed. What follows? A tide of oppression and misery, not arising
from external or accidental causes, such as war, pestilence, or
famine, nor even from any such alteration of the laws as might be
supposed to impair this boasted perfection, but from a corrupt and
wicked administration, which all the so much admired checks of the
constitution were not able to prevent. How vain, then, how idle,
how presumptuous is the opinion that laws can do everything! and how
weak and pernicious the maxim founded upon it, that measures, not
men, are to be attended to.

The first years of this reign, under the administration of
Southampton and Clarendon, form by far the least exceptionable part
of it; and even in this period the executions of Argyle and Vane and
the whole conduct of the Government with respect to church matters,
both in England and in Scotland, were gross instances of tyranny.
With respect to the execution of those who were accused of having
been more immediately concerned in the king's death, that of Scrope,
who had come in upon the proclamation, and of the military officers
who had attended the trial, was a violation of every principle of
law and justice. But the fate of the others, though highly
dishonourable to Monk, whose whole power had arisen from his zeal in
their service, and the favour and confidence with which they had
rewarded him, and not, perhaps, very creditable to the nation, of
which many had applauded, more had supported, and almost all had
acquiesced in the act, is not certainly to be imputed as a crime to
the king, or to those of his advisers who were of the Cavalier
party. The passion of revenge, though properly condemned both by
philosophy and religion, yet when it is excited by injurious
treatment of persons justly dear to us, is among the most excusable
of human frailties; and if Charles, in his general conduct, had
shown stronger feelings of gratitude for services performed to his
father, his character, in the eyes of many, would be rather raised
than lowered by this example of severity against the regicides.
Clarendon is said to have been privy to the king's receiving money
from Louis XIV.; but what proofs exist of this charge (for a heavy
charge it is) I know not. Southampton was one of the very few of
the Royalist party who preserved any just regard for the liberties
of the people; and the disgust which a person possessed of such
sentiments must unavoidably feel is said to have determined him to
quit the king's service, and to retire altogether from public
affairs. Whether he would have acted upon this determination, his
death, which happened in the year 1667, prevents us now from

After the fall of Clarendon, which soon followed, the king entered
into that career of misgovernment which, that he was able to pursue
it to its end, is a disgrace to the history of our country. If
anything can add to our disgust at the meanness with which he
solicited a dependence upon Louis XIV., it is, the hypocritical
pretence upon which he was continually pressing that monarch. After
having passed a law, making it penal to affirm (what was true) that
he was a papist, he pretended (which was certainly not true) to be a
zealous and bigoted papist; and the uneasiness of his conscience at
so long delaying a public avowal of his conversion, was more than
once urged by him as an argument to increase the pension, and to
accelerate the assistance, he was to receive from France. In a
later period of his reign, when his interest, as he thought, lay the
other way, that he might at once continue to earn his wages, and yet
put off a public conversion, he stated some scruples, contracted, no
doubt, by his affection to the Protestant churches, in relation to
the popish mode of giving the sacrament, and pretended a wish that
the pope might be induced by Louis to consider of some alterations
in that respect, to enable him to reconcile himself to the Roman
church with a clear and pure conscience.

The ministry known by the name of the Cabal seems to have consisted
of characters so unprincipled, as justly to deserve the severity
with which they have been treated by all writers who have mentioned
them; but if it is probable that they were ready to betray their
king, as well as their country, it is certain that the king betrayed
them, keeping from them the real state of his connexion with France,
and from some of them, at least, the secret of what he was pleased
to call his religion. Whether this concealment on his part arose
from his habitual treachery, and from the incapacity which men of
that character feel of being open and honest, even when they know it
is their interest to be so, or from an apprehension that they might
demand for themselves some share of the French money, which he was
unwilling to give them, cannot now be determined. But to the want
of genuine and reciprocal confidence between him and those ministers
is to be attributed, in a great measure, the escape which the nation
at that time experienced--an escape, however, which proved to be
only a reprieve from that servitude to which they were afterwards
reduced in the latter years of the reign.

The first Dutch war had been undertaken against all maxims of policy
as well as of justice; but the superior infamy of the second,
aggravated by the disappointment of all the hopes entertained by
good men from the triple alliance, and by the treacherous attempt at
piracy with which it was commenced, seems to have effaced the
impression of it, not only from the minds of men living at the time,
but from most of the writers who have treated of this reign. The
principle, however, of both was the same, and arbitrary power at
home was the object of both. The second Dutch war rendered the
king's system and views so apparent to all who were not determined
to shut their eyes against conviction, that it is difficult to
conceive how persons who had any real care or regard either for the
liberty or honour of the country, could trust him afterwards. And
yet even Sir William Temple, who appears to have been one of the
most honest, as well as of the most enlightened, statesmen of his
time, could not believe his treachery to be quite so deep as it was
in fact, and seems occasionally to have hoped that he was in earnest
in his professed intentions of following the wise and just system
that was recommended to him. Great instances of credulity and
blindness in wise men are often liable to the suspicion of being
pretended, for the purpose of justifying the continuing in
situations of power and employment longer than strict honour would
allow. But to Temple's sincerity his subsequent conduct gives
abundant testimony. When he had reason to think that his services
could no longer be useful to his country he withdrew wholly from
public business, and resolutely adhered to the preference of
philosophical retirement, which, in his circumstances, was just, in
spite of every temptation which occurred to bring him back to the
more active scene. The remainder of his life he seems to have
employed in the most noble contemplations and the most elegant
amusements; every enjoyment heightened, no doubt, by reflecting on
the honourable part he had acted in public affairs, and without any
regret on his own account (whatever he might feel for his country)
at having been driven from them.

Besides the important consequences produced by this second Dutch war
in England, it gave birth to two great events in Holland; the one as
favourable as the other was disastrous to the cause of general
liberty. The catastrophe of De Witt, the wisest, best, and most
truly patriotic minister that ever appeared upon the public stage,
as it was an act of the most crying injustice and ingratitude, so,
likewise, is it the most completely discouraging example that
history affords to the lovers of liberty. If Aristides was
banished, he was also recalled; if Dion was repaid for his services
to the Syracusans by ingratitude, that ingratitude was more than
once repented of; if Sidney and Russell died upon the scaffold, they
had not the cruel mortification of falling by the hands of the
people; ample justice was done to their memory, and the very sound
of their names is still animating to every Englishman attached to
their glorious cause. But with De Witt fell also his cause and his
party; and although a name so respected by all who revere virtue and
wisdom, when employed in their noblest sphere, the political service
of the public, must undoubtedly be doubly dear to his countrymen,
yet I do not know that, even to this day, any public honours have
been paid by them to his memory.

On the other hand, the circumstances attending the first appearance
of the Prince of Orange in public affairs, were, in every respect,
most fortunate for himself, for England, for Europe. Of an age to
receive the strongest impressions, and of a character to render such
impressions durable, he entered the world in a moment when the
calamitous situation of the United Provinces could not but excite in
every Dutchman the strongest detestation of the insolent ambition of
Louis XIV., and the greatest contempt of an English government,
which could so far mistake or betray the interests of the country as
to lend itself to his projects. Accordingly, the circumstances
attending his outset seem to have given a lasting bias to his
character; and through the whole course of his life the prevailing
sentiments of his mind seem to have been those which he imbibed at
this early period. These sentiments were most peculiarly adapted to
the positions in which this great man was destined to be placed.
The light in which he viewed Louis rendered him the fittest champion
of the independence of Europe; and in England, French influence and
arbitrary power were in those times so intimately connected, that he
who had not only seen with disapprobation, but had so sensibly felt
the baneful effects of Charles's connection with France, seemed
educated, as it were, to be the defender of English liberty. This
prince's struggles in defence of his country, his success in
rescuing it from a situation to all appearance so desperate, and the
consequent failure and mortification of Louis XIV., form a scene in
history upon which the mind dwells with unceasing delight. One
never can read Louis's famous declaration against the Hollanders,
knowing the event which is to follow, without feeling the heart
dilate with exultation, and a kind of triumphant contempt, which,
though not quite consonant to the principles of pure philosophy,
never fails to give the mind inexpressible satisfaction. Did the
relation of such events form the sole, or even any considerable part
of the historian's task, pleasant indeed would be his labours; but,
though far less agreeable, it is not a less useful or necessary part
of his business, to relate the triumphs of successful wickedness,
and the oppression of truth, justice, and liberty.

The interval from the separate peace between England and the United
Provinces, to the peace of Nymwegen, was chiefly employed by Charles
in attempts to obtain money from France and other foreign powers, in
which he was sometimes more, sometimes less successful; and in
various false professions, promises, and other devices to deceive
his parliament and his people, in which he uniformly failed. Though
neither the nature and extent of his connection with France, nor his
design of introducing popery into England, were known at that time
as they now are, yet there were not wanting many indications of the
king's disposition, and of the general tendency of his designs.
Reasonable persons apprehended that the supplies asked were intended
to be used, not for the specious purpose of maintaining the balance
of Europe, but for that of subduing the parliament and people who
should give them; and the great antipathy of the bulk of the nation
to popery caused many to be both more clear-sighted in discovering,
and more resolute in resisting the designs of the court, than they
would probably have shown themselves, if civil liberty alone had
been concerned.

When the minds of men were in the disposition which such a state of
things was naturally calculated to produce, it is not to be wondered
at that a ready, and, perhaps, a too facile belief should have been
accorded to the rumour of a popish plot. But with the largest
possible allowance for the just apprehensions which were
entertained, and the consequent irritation of the country, it is
wholly inconceivable how such a plot as that brought forward by
Tongue and Oates could obtain any general belief. Nor can any
stretch of candour make us admit it to be probable, that all who
pretended a belief of it did seriously entertain it. On the other
hand, it seems an absurdity, equal almost in degree to the belief of
the plot itself, to suppose that it was a story fabricated by the
Earl of Shaftesbury and the other leaders of the Whig party; and it
would be highly unjust, as well as uncharitable, not to admit that
the generality of those who were engaged in the prosecution of it
were probably sincere in their belief of it, since it is
unquestionable that at the time very many persons, whose political
prejudices were of a quite different complexion, were under the same
delusion. The unanimous votes of the two houses of parliament, and
the names, as well as the number of those who pronounced Lord
Strafford to be guilty, seem to put this beyond a doubt. Dryden,
writing soon after the time, says, in his "Absalom and Achitophel,"
that the plot was

"Bad in itself, but represented wore:"


"Some truth there was, but dash'd and brew'd with lies:"

and that

"Succeeding times did equal folly call,
Believing nothing, or believing all."

and Dryden will not, by those who are conversant in the history and
works of that immortal writer, be suspected either of party
prejudice in favour of Shaftesbury and the Whigs, or of any view to
prejudice the country against the Duke of York's succession to the
crown. The king repeatedly declared his belief of it. These
declarations, if sincere, would have some weight; but if insincere,
as may be reasonably suspected, they afford a still stronger
testimony to prove that such belief was not exclusively a party
opinion, since it cannot be supposed that even the crooked politics
of Charles could have led him to countenance fictions of his
enemies, which were not adopted by his own party. Wherefore, if
this question were to be decided upon the ground of authority, the
reality of the plot would be admitted; and it must be confessed,
that, with regard to facts remote, in respect either of time or
place, wise men generally diffide in their own judgment, and defer
to that of those who have had a nearer view of them. But there are
cases where reason speaks so plainly as to make all argument drawn
from authority of no avail, and this is surely one of them. Not to
mention correspondence by post on the subject of regicide, detailed
commissions from the pope, silver bullets, &c. &c., and other
circumstances equally ridiculous, we need only advert to the part
attributed to the Spanish government in this conspiracy, and to the
alleged intention of murdering the king, to satisfy ourselves that
it was a forgery.

Rapin, who argues the whole of this affair with a degree of weakness
as well as disingenuity very unusual to him, seems at last to offer
us a kind of compromise, and to be satisfied if we will admit that
there was a design or project to introduce popery and an arbitrary
power, at the head of which were the king and his brother. Of this
I am as much convinced as he can be; but how does this justify the
prosecution and execution of those who suffered, since few if any of
them, were in a situation to be trusted by the royal conspirators
with their designs? When he says, therefore, that that is precisely
what was understood by the conspiracy, he by no means justifies
those who were the principal prosecutors of the plot. The design to
murder the king he calls the appendage of the plot: a strange
expression this, to describe the projected murder of a king; though
not more strange than the notion itself when applied to a plot, the
object of which was to render that very king absolute, and to
introduce the religion which he most favoured. But it is to be
observed, that though in considering the bill of exclusion, the
militia bill, and other legislative proceedings, the plot, as he
defines it--that is to say, the design of introducing popery and
arbitrary power--was the important point to be looked to; yet in
courts of justice, and for juries and judges, that which he calls
the appendage was, generally speaking, the sole consideration.

Although, therefore, upon a review of this truly shocking
transaction, we may be fairly justified in adopting the milder
alternative, and in imputing to the greater part of those concerned
in it rather an extraordinary degree of blind credulity than the
deliberate wickedness of planning and assisting in the perpetration
of legal murders, yet the proceedings on the popish plot must always
be considered as an indelible disgrace upon the English nation, in
which king, parliament, judges, juries, witnesses, prosecutors, have
all their respective, though certainly not equal, shares.
Witnesses, of such a character as not to deserve credit in the most
trifling cause, upon the most immaterial facts, gave evidence so
incredible, or, to speak more properly, so impossible to be true,
that it ought not to have been believed if it had come from the
mouth of Cato; and upon such evidence, from such witnesses, were
innocent men condemned to death and executed. Prosecutors, whether
attorneys and solicitors-general, or managers of impeachment, acted
with the fury which in such circumstances might be expected; juries
partook naturally enough of the national ferment; and judges, whose
duty it was to guard them against such impressions, were
scandalously active in confirming them in their prejudices and
inflaming their passions. The king, who is supposed to have
disbelieved the whole of the plot, never once exercised his glorious
prerogative of mercy. It is said he dared not. His throne, perhaps
his life, was at stake; and history does not furnish us with the
example of any monarch with whom the lives of innocent or even
meritorious subjects ever appeared to be of much weight, when put in
balance against such considerations.

The measures of the prevailing party in the House of Commons, in
these times, appear (with the exception of their dreadful
proceedings in the business of the pretended plot, and of their
violence towards those who petitioned and addressed against
parliament) to have been, in general, highly laudable and
meritorious; and yet I am afraid it may be justly suspected that it
was precisely to that part of their conduct which related to the
plot, and which is most reprehensible, that they were indebted for
their power to make the noble, and, in some instances, successful
struggles for liberty, which do so much honour to their memory. The
danger to be apprehended from military force being always, in the
view of wise men, the most urgent, they first voted the disbanding
of the army, and the two houses passed a bill for that purpose, to
which the king found himself obliged to consent. But to the bill
which followed, for establishing the regular assembling of the
militia, and for providing for their being in arms six weeks in the
year, he opposed his royal negative; thus making his stand upon the
same point on which his father had done; a circumstance which, if
events had taken a turn against him, would not have failed of being
much noticed by historians. Civil securities for freedom came to be
afterwards considered; and it is to be remarked, that to these times
of heat and passion, and to one of those parliaments which so
disgraced themselves and the nation by the countenance given to
Oates and Bedloe, and by the persecution of so many innocent
victims, we are indebted for the Habeas Corpus act, the most
important barrier against tyranny, and best framed protection for
the liberty of individuals, that has ever existed in any ancient or
modern commonwealth.

But the inefficacy of mere laws in favour of the subjects, in the
case of the administration of them falling into the hands of persons
hostile to the spirit in which they had been provided, had been so
fatally evinced by the general history of England, ever since the
grant of the Great Charter, and more especially by the transactions
of the preceding reign, that the parliament justly deemed their work
incomplete unless the Duke of York were excluded from the succession
to the crown. A bill, therefore, for the purpose of excluding that
prince was prepared, and passed the House of Commons; but being
vigorously resisted by the court, by the church, and by the Tories,
was lost in the House of Lords. The restrictions offered by the
king to be put upon a popish successor are supposed to have been
among the most powerful of those means to which he was indebted for
his success.

The dispute was no longer, whether or not the dangers resulting from
James's succession were real, and such as ought to be guarded
against by parliamentary provisions, but whether the exclusion or
restrictions furnished the most safe and eligible mode of compassing
the object which both sides pretended to have in view. The argument
upon this state of the question is clearly, forcibly, and, I think,
convincingly, stated by Rapin, who exposes very ably the extreme
folly of trusting to measures, without consideration of the men who
are to execute them. Even in Hume's statement of the question,
whatever may have been his intention, the arguments in favour of the
exclusion appear to me greatly to preponderate. Indeed, it is not
easy to conceive upon what principles even the Tories could justify
their support of the restrictions. Many among them, no doubt, saw
the provisions in the same light in which the Whigs represented
them, as an expedient, admirably, indeed, adapted to the real object
of upholding the present king's power, by the defeat of the
exclusion, but never likely to take effect for their pretended
purpose of controlling that of his successor, and supported them for
that very reason. But such a principle of conduct was too
fraudulent to be avowed; nor ought it, perhaps, in candour to be
imputed to the majority of the party. To those who acted with good
faith, and meant that the restrictions should really take place and
be effectual, surely it ought to have occurred (and to those who
most prized the prerogatives of the crown it ought most forcibly to
have occurred), that in consenting to curtail the powers of the
crown, rather than to alter the succession, they were adopting the
greater in order to avoid the lesser evil. The question of what are
to be the powers of the crown, is surely of superior importance to
that of who shall wear it? Those, at least, who consider the royal
prerogative as vested in the king, not for his sake but for that of
his subjects, must consider the one of these questions as much above
the other in dignity as the rights of the public are more valuable
than those of an individual. In this view the prerogatives of the
crown are, in substance and effect, the rights of the people; and
these rights of the people were not to be sacrificed to the purpose
of preserving the succession to the most favoured prince much less
to one who, on account of his religious persuasion, was justly
feared and suspected. In truth, the question between the exclusion
and restrictions seems peculiarly calculated to ascertain the
different views in which the different parties in this country have
seen, and perhaps ever will see, the prerogatives of the crown. The
Whigs, who consider them as a trust for the people--a doctrine which
the Tories themselves, when pushed in argument, will sometimes
admit--naturally think it their duty rather to change the manager of
the trust than to impair the subject of it; while others, who
consider them as the right or property of the king, will as
naturally act as they would do in the case of any other property,
and consent to the loss or annihilation of any part of it, for the
purpose of preserving the remainder to him whom they style the
rightful owner. If the people be the sovereign and the king the
delegate, it is better to change the bailiff than to injure the
farm; but if the king be the proprietor, it is better the farm
should be impaired--nay, part of it destroyed--than that the whole
should pass over to an usurper. The royal prerogative ought,
according to the Whigs (not in the case of a popish successor only,
but in all cases), to be reduced to such powers as are in their
exercise beneficial to the people; and of the benefit of these they
will not rashly suffer the people to be deprived, whether the
executive power be in the hands of an hereditary or of an elected
king, of a regent, or of any other denomination of magistrate;
while, on the other hand, they who consider prerogative with
reference only to royalty, will, with equal readiness, consent
either to the extension or the suspension of its exercise, as the
occasional interests of the prince may seem to require. The
senseless plea of a divine and indefeasible right in James, which
even the legislature was incompetent to set aside, though as
inconsistent with the declarations of parliament in the statute
book, and with the whole practice of the English constitution, as it
is repugnant to nature and common sense, was yet warmly insisted
upon by the high church party. Such an argument, as might naturally
be expected, operated rather to provoke the Whigs to perseverance
than to dissuade them from their measure: it was, in their eyes, an
additional merit belonging to the exclusion bill that it
strengthened, by one instance more, the authority of former statutes
in reprobating a doctrine which seems to imply that man can have a
property in his fellow-creatures. By far the best argument in
favour of the restrictions, is the practical one that they could be
obtained, and that the exclusion could not; but the value of this
argument is chiefly proved by the event. The exclusionists had a
fair prospect of success, and their plan being clearly the best,
they were justified in pursuing it.

The spirit of resistance which the king showed in the instance of
the militia and the exclusion bills, seems to have been
systematically confined to those cases where he supposed his power
to be more immediately concerned. In the prosecution of the aged
and innocent Lord Stafford, he was so far from interfering in behalf
of that nobleman, that many of those most in his confidence, and, as
it is affirmed, the Duchess of Portsmouth herself, openly favoured
the prosecution. Even after the dissolution of him last parliament,
when he had so far subdued his enemies as to be no longer under any
apprehensions from them, he did not think it worth while to save the
life of Plunket, the popish Archbishop of Armagh, of whose innocence
no doubt could be entertained. But this is not to be wondered at,
since, in all transactions relative to the popish plot, minds of a
very different cast from Charles's became, as by some fatality,
divested of all their wonted sentiments of justice and humanity.
Who can read without horror, the account of that savage murmur of
applause, which broke out upon one of the villains at the bar,
swearing positively to Stafford's having proposed the murder of the
king? And how is this horror deepened, when we reflect, that in
that odious cry were probably mingled the voices of men to whose
memory every lover of the English constitution is bound to pay the
tribute of gratitude and respect! Even after condemnation, Lord
Russell himself, whose character is wholly (this instance excepted)
free from the stain of rancour or cruelty, stickled for the severer
mode of executing the sentence, in a manner which his fear of the
king's establishing a precedent of pardoning in cases of impeachment
(for this, no doubt, was his motive) cannot satisfactorily excuse.

In an early period of the king's difficulties, Sir William Temple,
whose life and character is a refutation of the vulgar notion that
philosophy and practical good sense in business are incompatible
attainments, recommended to him the plan of governing by a council,
which was to consist in great part of the most popular noblemen and
gentlemen in the kingdom. Such persons being the natural, as well
as the safest, mediators between princes and discontented subjects,
this seems to have been the best possible expedient. Hume says it
was found too feeble a remedy; but he does not take notice that it
was never in fact tried, inasmuch as not only the king's confidence
was withheld from the most considerable members of the council, but
even the most important determinations were taken without consulting
the council itself. Nor can there be a doubt but the king's views,
in adopting Temple's advice, were totally different from those of
the adviser, whose only error in this transaction seems to have
consisted in recommending a plan, wherein confidence and fair
dealing were of necessity to be principal ingredients, to a prince
whom he well knew to be incapable of either. Accordingly, having
appointed the council in April, with a promise of being governed in
important matters by their advice, he in July dissolved one
parliament without their concurrence, and in October forbade them
even to give their opinions upon the propriety of a resolution which
he had taken of proroguing another. From that time he probably
considered the council to be, as it was, virtually dissolved; and it
was not long before means presented themselves to him, better
adapted, in his estimation, even to his immediate objects, and
certainly more suitable to his general designs. The union between
the court and the church party, which had been so closely cemented
by their successful resistance to the Exclusion Bill, and its
authors, had at length acquired such a degree of strength and
consistency, that the king ventured first to appoint Oxford, instead
of London, for the meeting of parliament; and then, having secured
to himself a good pension from France, to dissolve the parliament
there met, with a full resolution never to call another; to which
resolution, indeed, Louis had bound him, as one of the conditions on
which he was to receive a stipend. No measure was ever attended
with more complete success. The most flattering addresses poured in
from all parts of the kingdom; divine right, and indiscriminate
obedience, were everywhere the favourite doctrines; and men seemed
to vie with each other who should have the honour of the greatest
share in the glorious work of slavery, by securing to the king, for
the present, and after him to the duke, absolute and uncontrollable
power. They who, either because Charles had been called a forgiving
prince by his flatterers (upon what ground I could never discover),
or from some supposed connection between indolence and good nature,
had deceived themselves into a hope that his tyranny would be of the
milder sort, found themselves much disappointed in their

The whole history of the remaining part of his reign exhibits an
uninterrupted series of attacks upon the liberty, property, and
lives of his subjects. The character of the government appeared
first, and with the most marked and prominent features, in Scotland.
The condemnation of Argyle and Weir, the one for having subjoined an
explanation when he took the test oath, the other for having kept
company with a rebel, whom it was not proved he knew to be such, and
who had never been proclaimed, resemble more the acts of Tiberius
and Domitian, than those of even the most arbitrary modern
governments. It is true, the sentences were not executed; Weir was
reprieved; and whether or not Argyle, if he had not deemed it more
prudent to escape by flight, would have experienced the same
clemency, cannot now be ascertained. The terror of these examples
would have been, in the judgment of most men, abundantly sufficient
to teach the people of Scotland their duty, and to satisfy them that
their lives, as well as everything else they had been used to call
their own, were now completely in the power of their masters. But
the government did not stop here, and having outlawed thousands,
upon the same pretence upon which Weir had been condemned, inflicted
capital punishment upon such criminals of both sexes as refused to
answer, or answered otherwise than was prescribed to them to the
most ensnaring questions.

In England, the city of London seemed to hold out for a certain
time, like a strong fortress in a conquered country; and, by means
of this citadel, Shaftesbury and others were saved from the
vengeance of the court. But this resistance, however honourable to
the corporation who made it, could not be of long duration. The
weapons of law and justice were found feeble, when opposed to the
power of a monarch who was at the head of a numerous and bigoted
party of the nation, and who, which was most material of all, had
enabled himself to govern without a parliament. Civil resistance in
this country, even to the most illegal attacks of royal tyranny, has
never, I believe, been successful, unless when supported by
parliament, or at least by a great party in one or other of the two
houses. The court having wrested from the livery of London, partly
by corruption, and partly by violence, the free election of their
mayor and sheriffs, did not wait the accomplishment of their plan
for the destruction of the whole corporation, which, from their
first success, they justly deemed certain, but immediately proceeded
to put in execution their system of oppression. Pilkington, Colt,
and Oates, were fined a hundred thousand pounds each for having
spoken disrespectfully of the Duke of York; Barnardiston, ten
thousand, for having in a private letter expressed sentiments deemed
improper; and Sidney, Russell, and Armstrong, found that the just
and mild principles which characterise the criminal law of England
could no longer protect their lives, when the sacrifice was called
for by the policy or vengeance of the king. To give an account of
all the oppression of this period would be to enumerate every
arrest, every trial, every sentence, that took place in questions
between the crown and the subjects.

Of the Rye House plot it may be said, much more truly than of the
popish, that there was in it some truth, mixed with much falsehood;
and though many of the circumstances in Kealing's account are nearly
as absurd and ridiculous as those in Oates's, it seems probable that
there was among some of those accused a notion of assassinating the
king; but whether this notion was over ripened into what may be
called a design, and, much more, whether it were ever evinced by
such an overt act as the law requires for conviction, is very
doubtful. In regard to the conspirators of higher ranks, from whom
all suspicion of participation in the intended assassination has
been long since done away, there is unquestionably reason to believe
that they had often met and consulted, as well for the purpose of
ascertaining the means they actually possessed as for that of
devising others for delivering their country from the dreadful
servitude into which it had fallen; and thus far their conduct
appears clearly to have been laudable. If they went further, and
did anything which could be fairly construed into an actual
conspiracy to levy war against the king, they acted, considering the
disposition of the nation at that period, very indiscreetly. But
whether their proceedings had ever gone this length, is far from
certain. Monmouth's communications with the king, when we reflect
upon all the circumstances of those communications, deserve not the
smallest attention; nor indeed, if they did, does the letter which
he afterwards withdrew prove anything upon this point. And it is an
outrage to common-sense to call Lord Grey's narrative written, as he
himself states in his letter to James II., while the question of his
pardon was pending, an authentic account. That which is most
certain in this affair is, that they had committed no overt act,
indicating the imagining of the king's death, even according to the
most strained construction of the statute of Edward III.; much less
was any such act legally proved against them. And the conspiring to
levy war was not treason, except by a recent statute of Charles II.,
the prosecutions upon which were expressly limited to a certain
time, which in these cases had elapsed so that it is impossible not
to assent to the opinion of those who have ever stigmatised the
condemnation and execution of Russell as a most flagrant violation
of law and justice.

The proceedings in Sidney's case were still more detestable. The
production of papers, containing speculative opinions upon
government and liberty, written long before, and perhaps never even
intended to be published, together with the use made of those
papers, in considering them as a substitute for the second witness
to the overt act, exhibited such a compound of wickedness and
nonsense as is hardly to be paralleled in the history of juridical
tyranny. But the validity of pretences was little attended to at
that time, in the case of a person whom the court had devoted to
destruction, and upon evidence such as has been stated was this
great and excellent man condemned to die. Pardon was not to be
expected. Mr. Hume says, that such an interference on the part of
the king, though it might have been an act of heroic generosity,
could not be regarded as an indispensable duty. He might have said
with more propriety, that it was idle to expect that the government,
after having incurred so much guilt in order to obtain the sentence,
should, by remitting it, relinquish the object just when it was
within its grasp. The same historian considers the jury as highly
blamable, and so do I; but what was their guilt in comparison of
that of the court who tried, and of the government who prosecuted,
in this infamous cause? Yet the jury, being the only party that can
with any colour be stated as acting independently of the government,
is the only one mentioned by him as blamable. The prosecutor is
wholly omitted in his censure, and so is the court; this last, not
from any tenderness for the judge (who, to do this author justice,
is no favourite with him), but lest the odious connection between
that branch of the judicature and the government should strike the
reader too forcibly; for Jeffreys, in this instance, ought to be
regarded as the mere tool and instrument (a fit one, no doubt), of
the prince who had appointed him for the purpose of this and similar
services. Lastly, the king is gravely introduced on the question of
pardon, as if he had had no prior concern in the cause, and were now
to decide upon the propriety of extending mercy to a criminal
condemned by a court of judicature; nor are we once reminded what
that judicature was, by whom appointed, by whom influenced, by whom
called upon, to receive that detestable evidence, the very
recollection of which, even at this distance of time, fires every
honest heart with indignation. As well might we palliate the
murders of Tiberius, who seldom put to death his victims without a
previous decree of his senate. The moral of all this seems to be,
that whenever a prince can, by intimidation, corruption, illegal
evidence, or other such means, obtain a verdict against a subject
whom he dislikes, he may cause him to be executed without any breach
of indispensable duty; nay, that it is an act of heroic generosity
if he spares him. I never reflect on Mr. Hume's statement of this
matter but with the deepest regret. Widely as I differ from him
upon many other occasions, this appears to me to be the most
reprehensible passage of his whole work. A spirit of adulation
towards deceased princes, though in a good measure free from the
imputation of interested meanness, which is justly attached to
flattery when applied to living monarchs, yet, as it is less
intelligible with respect to its motives than the other, so is it in
its consequences still more pernicious to the general interests of
mankind. Fear of censure from contemporaries will seldom have much
effect upon men in situations of unlimited authority: they will too
often flatter themselves that the same power which enables them to
commit the crime will secure them from reproach. The dread of
posthumous infamy, therefore, being the only restraint, their
consciences excepted, upon the passions of such persons, it is
lamentable that this last defence (feeble enough at best) should in
any degree be impaired; and impaired it must be, if not totally
destroyed, when tyrants can hope to find in a man like Hume, no less
eminent for the integrity and benevolence of his heart than for the
depth and soundness of his understanding, an apologist for even
their foulest murders.

Thus fell Russell and Sidney, two names that will, it is hoped, be
for ever dear to every English heart. When their memory shall cease
to be an object of respect and veneration, it requires no spirit of
prophecy to foretell that English liberty will be fast approaching
to its final consummation. Their department was such as might be
expected from men who knew themselves to be suffering, not for their
crimes, but for their virtues. In courage they were equal, but the
fortitude of Russell, who was connected with the world by private
and domestic ties, which Sidney had not, was put to the severer
trial; and the story of the last days of this excellent man's life
fills the mind with such a mixture of tenderness and admiration,
that I know not any scene in history that more powerfully excites
our sympathy, or goes more directly to the heart.

The very day on which Russell was executed, the University of Oxford
passed their famous decree, condemning formally, as impious and
heretical propositions, every principle upon which the constitution
of this or any other free country can maintain itself. Nor was this
learned body satisfied with stigmatising such principles as contrary
to the Holy Scriptures, to the decrees of councils, to the writings
of the fathers, to the faith and profession of the primitive church,
as destructive of the kingly government, the safety of his majesty's
person, the public peace, the laws of nature, and bounds of human
society; but after enumerating the several obnoxious propositions,
among which was one declaring all civil authority derived from the
people; another, asserting a mutual contract, tacit or express,
between the king and his subjects; a third, maintaining the
lawfulness of changing the succession to the crown; with many others
of a like nature, they solemnly decreed all and every of those
propositions to be not only false and seditious, but impious, and
that the books which contained them were fitted to lead to
rebellion, murder of princes, and atheism itself. Such are the
absurdities which men are not ashamed to utter in order to cast
odious imputations upon their adversaries; and such the manner in
which churchmen will abuse, when it suits their policy, the holy
name of that religion whose first precept is to love one another,
for the purpose of teaching us to hate our neighbours with more than
ordinary rancour. If Much Ado about Nothing had been published in
those days, the town-clerk's declaration, that receiving a thousand
ducats for accusing the Lady Hero wrongfully, was flat burglary,
might be supposed to be a satire upon this decree; yet Shakespeare,
well as he knew human nature, not only as to its general course, but
in all its eccentric deviations, could never dream that, in the
persons of Dogberry, Verges, and their followers, he was
representing the vice-chancellors and doctors of our learned

Among the oppressions of this period, most of which were attended
with consequences so much more important to the several objects of
persecution, it may seem scarcely worth while to notice the
expulsion of John Locke from Christ Church College, Oxford. But
besides the interest which every incident in the life of a person so
deservedly eminent naturally excites, there appears to have been
something in the transaction itself characteristic of the spirit of
the times, as well as of the general nature of absolute power. Mr.
Locke was known to have been intimately connected with Lord
Shaftesbury, and had very prudently judged it advisable for him to
prolong for some time his residence upon the Continent, to which he
had resorted originally on account of his health. A suspicion, as
it has been since proved unfounded, that he was the author of a
pamphlet which gave offence to the government, induced the king to
insist upon his removal from his studentship at Christ Church.
Sunderland writes, by the king's command, to Dr. Fell, bishop of
Oxford and dean of Christ Church. The reverend prelate answers that
he has long had an eye upon Mr. Locke's behaviour; but though
frequent attempts had been made (attempts of which the bishop
expresses no disapprobation), to draw him into imprudent
conversation, by attacking, in his company, the reputation, and
insulting the memory of his late patron and friend, and thus to make
his gratitude and all the best feelings of his heart instrumental to
his ruin, these attempts all proved unsuccessful. Hence the bishop
infers, not the innocence of Mr. Locke, but that he was a great
master of concealment both as to words and looks; for looks, it is
to be supposed, would have furnished a pretext for his expulsion,
more decent than any which had yet been discovered. An expedient is
then suggested to drive Mr. Locke to a dilemma, by summoning him to
attend the college on the first of January ensuing. If he do not
appear, he shall be expelled for contumacy; if he come, matter of
charge may be found against him for what he shall have said at
London or elsewhere, where he will have been less upon his guard
than at Oxford. Some have ascribed Fell's hesitation, if it can be
so called, in executing the king's order, to his unwillingness to
injure Locke, who was his friend; others, with more reason, to the
doubt of the legality of the order. However this may have been,
neither his scruple nor his reluctance was regarded by a court who
knew its own power. A peremptory order was accordingly sent, and
immediate obedience ensued. Thus, while without the shadow of a
crime, Mr. Locke lost a situation attended with some emolument and
great convenience, was the university deprived of, or rather thus,
from the base principles of servility, did she cast away the man,
the having produced whom is now her chiefest glory; and thus, to
those who are not determined to be blind, did the true nature of
absolute power discover itself, against which the middling station
is not more secure than the most exalted. Tyranny, when glutted
with the blood of the great, and the plunder of the rich, will
condescend to bent humbler game, and make a peaceable and innocent
fellow of a college the object of its persecution. In this instance
one would almost imagine there was some instinctive sagacity in the
government of that time, which pointed out to them, even before he
had made himself known to the world, the man who was destined to be
the most successful adversary of superstition and tyranny.

The king, during the remainder of his reign, seems, with the
exception of Armstrong's execution, which must be added to the
catalogue of his murders, to have directed his attacks more against
the civil rights, properties, and liberties, than against the lives
of his subjects. Convictions against evidence, sentences against
law, enormous fines, cruel imprisonments, were the principal engines
employed for the purpose of breaking the spirit of individuals, and
fitting their necks for the yoke. But it was not thought fit to
trust wholly to the effect which such examples would produce upon
the public. That the subjugation of the people might be complete,
and despotism be established upon the most solid foundation,
measures of a more general nature and effect were adopted; and
first, the charter of London, and then those of almost all the other
corporations in England, were either forfeited or forced to a
surrender. By this act of violence two important points were
thought to be gained; one, that in every regular assemblage of the
people in any part of the kingdom the crown would have a commanding
influence; the other, that in case the king should find himself
compelled to break his engagement to France, and to call a
parliament, a great majority of members would be returned by
electors of his nomination, and subject to his control. In the
affair of the charter of London, it was seen, as in the case of
ship-money, how idle it is to look to the integrity of judges for a
barrier against royal encroachments, when the courts of justice are
not under the constant and vigilant control of parliament. And it
is not to be wondered at, that, after such a warning, and with no
hope of seeing a parliament assemble, even they who still retained
their attachment to the true constitution of their country, should
rather give way to the torrent than make a fruitless and dangerous

Charles being thus completely master, was determined that the
relative situation of him and his subjects should be clearly
understood, for which purpose he ordered a declaration to be framed,
wherein, after having stated that he considered the degree of
confidence they had reposed in him as an honour particular to his
reign, which not one of his predecessors had ever dared even to hope
for, he assured them he would use it with all possible moderation,
and convince even the most violent republicans, that as the crown
was the origin of the rights and liberties of the people, so was it
their most certain and secure support. This gracious declaration
was ready for the press at the time of the king's death, and if he
had lived to issue it, there can be little doubt how it would have
been received at a time when

"nunquam libertas gratior extat
Quam sub rege pio,"

was the theme of every song, and, by the help of some perversion of
Scripture, the text of every sermon. But whatever might be the
language of flatterers, and how loud soever the cry of a triumphant,
but deluded party, there were not wanting men of nobler sentiments
and of more rational views. Minds once thoroughly imbued with the
love of what Sidney, in his last moments, so emphatically called the
good old cause, will not easily relinquish their principles: nor
was the manner in which absolute power was exercised, such as to
reconcile to it, in practice, those who had always been averse to it
in speculation. The hatred of tyranny must, in such persons, have
been exasperated by the experience of its effects, and their
attachment to liberty proportionably confirmed. To them the state
of their country must have been intolerable: to reflect upon the
efforts of their fathers, once their pride and glory, and whom they
themselves had followed with no unequal steps, and to see the result
of all in the scenes that now presented themselves, must have filled
their minds with sensations of the deepest regret, and feelings
bordering at least on despondency. To us, who have the opportunity
of combining in our view of this period, not only the preceding but
subsequent transactions, the consideration of it may suggest
reflections far different and speculations more consolatory.
Indeed, I know not that history can furnish a more forcible lesson
against despondency, than by recording that within a short time from
those dismal days in which men of the greatest constancy despaired,
and had reason to do so, within five years from the death of Sidney
arose the brightest era of freedom known to the annals of our

It is said that the king, when at the summit of his power, was far
from happy; and a notion has been generally entertained that not
long before his death he had resolved upon the recall of Monmouth,
and a correspondent change of system. That some such change was
apprehended seems extremely probable, from the earnest desire which
the court of France, as well as the Duke of York's party in England,
entertained, in the last years of Charles's life, to remove the
Marquis of Halifax, who was supposed to have friendly dispositions
to Monmouth. Among the various objections to that nobleman's
political principles, we find the charge most relied upon, for the
purpose of injuring him in the mind of the king, was founded on the
opinion he had delivered in council, in favour of modelling the
charters of the British colonies in North America upon the
principles of the rights and privileges of Englishmen. There was no
room to doubt (he was accused of saying) that the same laws under
which we live in England, should be established in a country
composed of Englishmen. He even dilated upon this, and omitted none
of the reasons by which it can be proved that an absolute government
is neither so happy nor so safe as that which is tempered by laws,
and which limits the authority of the prince. He exaggerated, it
was said, the mischiefs of a sovereign power, and declared plainly
that he could not make up his mind to live under a king who should
have it in his power to take, when he pleased, the money he might
have in his pocket. All the other ministers had combated, as might
be expected, sentiments so extraordinary; and without entering into
the general question of the comparative value of different forms of
government, maintained that his majesty could and ought to govern
countries so distant in the manner that should appear to him most
suitable for preserving or augmenting the strength and riches of the
mother country. It had been, therefore, resolved that the
government and council of the provinces under the new charter should
not be obliged to call assemblies of the colonists for the purpose
of imposing taxes, or making other important regulations, but should
do what they thought fit, without rendering any account of their
actions except to his Britannic Majesty. The affair having been so
decided with a concurrence only short of unanimity, was no longer
considered as a matter of importance, nor would it be worth
recording, if the Duke of York and the French court had not fastened
upon it, as affording the best evidence of the danger to be
apprehended from having a man of Halifax's principles in any
situation of trust or power. There is something curious in
discovering that even at this early period a question relative to
North American liberty, and even to North American taxation, was
considered as the test of principles friendly or adverse to
arbitrary power at home. But the truth is, that among the several
controversies which have arisen there is no other wherein the
natural rights of man on the one hand, and the authority of
artificial institution on the other, as applied respectively by the
Whigs and Tories to the English constitution, are so fairly put in
issue, nor by which the line of separation between the two parties
is so strongly and distinctly marked.

There is some reason for believing that the court of Versailles had
either wholly discontinued, or, at least, had become very remiss in,
the payments of Charles's pension; and it is not unlikely that this
consideration induced him either really to think of calling a
parliament, or at least to threaten Louis with such a measure, in
order to make that prince more punctual in performing his part of
their secret treaty. But whether or not any secret change was
really intended, or if it were to what extent, and to what objects
directed, are points which cannot now be ascertained, no public
steps having ever been taken in this affair, and his majesty's
intentions, if in truth he had any such, becoming abortive by the
sudden illness which seized him on the 1st of February, 1685, and
which, in a few days afterwards, put an end to his reign and life.
His death was by many supposed to have been the effect of poison;
but although there is reason to believe that this suspicion was
harboured by persons very near to him, and, among others, as I have
heard, by the Duchess of Portsmouth, it appears, upon the whole, to
rest upon very slender foundations.

With respect to the character of this prince, upon the delineation
of which so much pains have been employed, by the various writers
who treat of the history of his time, it must be confessed that the
facts which have been noticed in the foregoing pages furnish but too
many illustrations of the more unfavourable parts of it. From these
we may collect that his ambition was directed solely against his
subjects, while he was completely indifferent concerning the figure
which he or they might make in the general affairs of Europe; and
that his desire of power was more unmixed with love of glory than
that of any other man whom history has recorded; that he was
unprincipled, ungrateful, mean, and treacherous, to which may be
added, vindictive and remorseless. For Burnet, in refusing to him
the praise of clemency and forgiveness, seems to be perfectly
justifiable, nor is it conceivable upon what pretence his partisans
have taken this ground of panegyric. I doubt whether a single
instance can be produced of his having spared the life of any one
whom motives either of policy, or of revenge, prompted him to
destroy. To allege that of Monmouth as it would be an affront to
human nature, so would it likewise imply the most severe of all
satires against the monarch himself, and we may add, too, an
undeserved one; for, in order to consider it as an act of
meritorious forbearance on his part, that he did not follow the
example of Constantine and Philip II., by imbruing his hands in the
blood of his son, we must first suppose him to have been wholly void
of every natural affection, which does not appear to have been the
case. His declaration that he would have pardoned Essex, being made
when that nobleman was dead, and not followed by any act evincing
its sincerity, can surely obtain no credit from men of sense. If he
had really had the intention, he ought not to have made such a
declaration, unless he accompanied it with some mark of kindness to
the relations, or with some act of mercy to the friends of the
deceased. Considering it as a mere piece of hypocrisy, we cannot
help looking upon it as one of the most odious passages of his life.
This ill-timed boast of his intended mercy, and the brutal taunt
with which he accompanied his mitigation (if so it may be called) of
Russell's sentence, show his insensibility and hardness to have been
such, that in questions where right feelings were concerned, his
good sense, and even the good taste for which he has been so much
extolled, seemed wholly to desert him.

On the other hand, it would be want of candour to maintain that
Charles was entirely destitute of good qualities; nor was the
propriety of Burnet's comparison between him and Tiberius ever felt,
I imagine, by any one but its author. He was gay and affable, and,
if incapable of the sentiments belonging to pride of a laudable
sort, he was at least free from haughtiness and insolence. The
praise of politeness, which the stoics are not perhaps wrong in
classing among the moral virtues, provided they admit it to be one
of the lowest order, has never been denied him, and he had in an
eminent degree that facility of temper which, though considered by
some moralists as nearly allied to vice, yet, inasmuch as it
contributes greatly to the happiness of those around us, is in
itself not only an engaging but an estimable quality. His support
of the queen during the heats raised by the popish plot ought to be
taken rather as a proof that he was not a monster than to be
ascribed to him as a merit; but his steadiness to his brother,
though it may and ought, in a great measure, to be accounted for
upon selfish principles, had at least a strong resemblance to

The best part of this prince's character seems to have been his
kindness towards his mistresses, and his affection for his children,
and others nearly connected to him by the ties of blood. His
recommendation of the Duchess of Portsmouth and Mrs. Gwyn, upon his
death-bed, to his successor is much to his honour; and they who
censure it seem, in their zeal to show themselves strict moralists,
to have suffered their notions of vice and virtue to have fallen
into strange confusion. Charles's connection with those ladies
might be vicious, but at a moment when that connection was upon the
point of being finally and irrevocably dissolved, to concern himself
about their future welfare and to recommend them to his brother with
earnest tenderness was virtue. It is not for the interest of
morality that the good and evil actions, even of bad men, should be
confounded. His affection for the Duke of Gloucester and for the
Duchess of Orleans seems to have been sincere and cordial. To
attribute, as some have done, his grief for the loss of the first to
political considerations, founded upon an intended balance of power
between his two brothers, would be an absurd refinement, whatever
were his general disposition; but when we reflect upon that
carelessness which, especially in his youth, was a conspicuous
feature of his character, the absurdity becomes still more striking.
And though Burnet more covertly, and Ludlow more openly, insinuate
that his fondness for his sister was of a criminal nature, I never
could find that there was any ground whatever for such a suspicion;
nor does the little that remains of their epistolary correspondence
give it the smallest countenance. Upon the whole, Charles II. was a
bad man and a bad king; let us not palliate his crimes, but neither
let us adopt false or doubtful imputations for the purpose of making
him a monster.

Whoever reviews the interesting period which we have been
discussing, upon the principle recommended in the outset of this
chapter, will find that, from the consideration of the past, to
prognosticate the future would at the moment of Charles's demise be
no easy task. Between two persons, one of whom should expect that
the country would remain sunk in slavery, the other, that the cause
of freedom would revive and triumph, it would be difficult to decide
whose reasons were better supported, whose speculations the more
probable. I should guess that he who desponded had looked more at
the state of the public, while he who was sanguine had fixed his
eyes more attentively upon the person who was about to mount the
throne. Upon reviewing the two great parties of the nation, one
observation occurs very forcibly, and that is, that the great
strength of the Whigs consisted in their being able to brand their
adversaries as favourers of popery; that of the Tories (as far as
their strength depended upon opinion, and not merely upon the power
of the crown), in their finding colour to represent the Whigs as
republicans. From this observation we may draw a further inference,
that, in proportion to the rashness of the crown in avowing and
pressing forward the cause of popery, and to the moderation and
steadiness of the Whigs in adhering to the form of monarchy, would
be the chance of the people of England for changing an ignominious
despotism for glory, liberty, and happiness.


Accession of James II.--His declaration in council; acceptable to
the nation--Arbitrary designs of his reign--Former ministers
continued--Money transactions with France--Revenue levied without
authority of Parliament--Persecution of Dissenters--Character of
Jeffreys--The King's affectation of independence--Advances to the
Prince of Orange--The primary object of this reign--Transactions in
Scotland--Severe persecutions there--Scottish Parliament--Cruelties
of government--English Parliament; its proceedings--Revenue--Votes
concerning religion--Bill for preservation of the King's person--
Solicitude for the Church of England--Reversal of Stafford's
attainder rejected--Parliament adjourned--Character of the Tories--
Situation of the Whigs.

Charles II. expired on the 6th of February, 1684-85, and on the same
day his successor was proclaimed king in London, with the usual
formalities, by the title of James the Second. The great influence
which this prince was supposed to have possessed in the government
during the latter years of his brother's reign, and the expectation
which was entertained in consequence, that his measures, when
monarch, would be of the same character and complexion with those
which he was known to have highly approved, and of which he was
thought by many to have been the principal author, when a subject
left little room for that spirit of speculation which generally
attends a demise of the crown. And thus an event, which when
apprehended a few years before had, according to a strong expression
of Sir William Temple, been looked upon as the end of the world, was
now deemed to be of small comparative importance.

Its tendency, indeed, was rather to ensure perseverance than to
effect any change in the system which had been of late years
pursued. As there are, however, some steps indispensably necessary
on the accession of a new prince to the throne, to these the public
attention was directed, and though the character of James had been
long so generally understood as to leave little doubt respecting the
political maxims and principles by which his reign would be
governed, there was probably much curiosity, as upon such occasions
there always is, with regard to the conduct he would pursue in
matters of less importance, and to the general language and
behaviour which he would adopt in his new situation. His first step
was, of course, to assemble the privy council, to whom he spoke as

"Before I enter upon any other business, I think fit to say
something to you. Since it hath pleated Almighty God to place me in
this station, and I am now to succeed so good and gracious a king,
as well as so very kind a brother, I think it fit to declare to you
that I will endeavour to follow his example, and most especially in
that of his great clemency and tenderness to his people. I have
been reported to be a man for arbitrary power; but that is not the
only story that has been made of me; and I shall make it my
endeavour to preserve this government, both in Church and State, as
it is now by law established. I know the principles of the Church
of England are for monarchy, and the members of it have shown
themselves good and loyal subjects; therefore I shall always take
care to defend and support it. I know, too, that the laws of
England are sufficient to make the king as great a monarch as I can
wish; and as I shall never depart from the just rights and
prerogatives of the crown, so I shall never invade any man's
property. I have often heretofore ventured my life in defence of
this nation and I shall go as far as any man in preserving it in all
its just rights and liberties."

With this declaration the council were so highly satisfied, that
they supplicated his majesty to make it public, which was
accordingly done; and it is reported to have been received with
unbounded applause by the greater part of the nation. Some,
perhaps, there were, who did not think the boast of having ventured
his life very manly, and who, considering the transactions of the
last years of Charles's reign, were not much encouraged by the
promise of imitating that monarch in clemency and tenderness to his
subjects. To these it might appear, that whatever there was of
consolatory in the king's disclaimer of arbitrary power and
professed attachment to the laws, was totally done away, as well by
the consideration of what his majesty's notions of power and law
were, as by his declaration that he would follow the example of a
predecessor, whose government had not only been marked with the
violation, in particular cases, of all the most sacred laws of the
realm, but had latterly, by the disuse of parliaments, in defiance
of the statute of the sixteenth year of his reign, stood upon a
foundation radically and fundamentally illegal. To others it might
occur that even the promise to the Church of England, though express
with respect to the condition of it, which was no other than perfect
acquiescence in what the king deemed to be the true principles of
monarchy, was rather vague with regard to the nature or degree of
support to which the royal speaker might conceive himself engaged.
The words, although in any interpretation of them they conveyed more
than he possibly ever intended to perform, did by no means express
the sense which at that time, by his friends, and afterwards by his
enemies, was endeavoured to be fixed on them. There was, indeed, a
promise to support the establishment of the Church, and consequently
the laws upon which that establishment immediately rested; but by no
means an engagement to maintain all the collateral provisions which
some of its more zealous members might judge necessary for its

But whatever doubts or difficulties might be felt, few or none were
expressed. The Whigs, as a vanquished party, were either silent or
not listened to, and the Tories were in a temper of mind which does
not easily admit suspicion. They were not more delighted with the
victory they had obtained over their adversaries, than with the
additional stability which, as they vainly imagined, the accession
of the new monarch was likely to give to their system. The truth is
that, his religion excepted (and that objection they were sanguine
enough to consider as done away by a few gracious words in favour of
the Church), James was every way better suited to their purpose than
his brother. They had entertained continual apprehensions, not
perhaps wholly unfounded, of the late king's returning kindness to
Monmouth, the consequences of which could not easily be calculated;
whereas, every occurrence that had happened, as well as every
circumstance in James's situation, seemed to make him utterly
irreconcilable with the Whigs. Besides, after the reproach, as well
as alarm, which the notoriety of Charles's treacherous character
must so often have caused them, the very circumstance of having at
their head a prince, of whom they could with any colour hold out to
their adherents that his word was to be depended upon, was in itself
a matter of triumph and exultation. Accordingly, the watchword of
the party was everywhere--"We have the word of a king, and a word
never yet broken;" and to such a length was the spirit of adulation,
or perhaps the delusion, carried, that this royal declaration was
said to be a better security for the liberty and religion of the
nation than any which the law could devise.

The king, though much pleased, no doubt, with the popularity which
seemed to attend the commencement of his reign, as a powerful medium
for establishing the system of absolute power, did not suffer
himself, by any show of affection from his people, to be diverted
from his design of rendering his government independent of them. To
this design we must look as the mainspring of all his actions at
this period; for with regard to the Roman Catholic religion, it is
by no means certain that he yet thought of obtaining for it anything
more than a complete toleration. With this view, therefore, he
could not take a more judicious resolution than that which he had
declared in his speech to the privy council, and to which he seems,
at this time, to have steadfastly adhered, of making the government
of his predecessor the model for his own. He therefore continued in
their offices, notwithstanding the personal objections he might have
to some of them, those servants of the late king, during whose
administration that prince had been so successful in subduing his
subjects, and eradicating almost from the minds of Englishmen every
sentiment of liberty.

Even the Marquis of Halifax, who was supposed to have remonstrated
against many of the late measures, and to have been busy in
recommending a change of system to Charles, was continued in high
employment by James, who told him that, of all his past conduct, he
should remember only his behaviour upon the exclusion bill, to which
that nobleman had made a zealous and distinguished opposition; a
handsome expression, which has been the more noticed, as well
because it is almost the single instance of this prince's showing
any disposition to forget injuries, as on account of a delicacy and
propriety in the wording of it, by no means familiar to him.

Lawrence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, whom he appointed lord treasurer,
was in all respects calculated to be a fit instrument for the
purposes then in view. Besides being upon the worst terms with
Halifax, in whom alone, of all his ministers, James was likely to
find any bias in favour of popular principles, he was, both from
prejudice of education, and from interest, inasmuch as he had
aspired to be the head of the Tories, a great favourer of those
servile principles of the Church of England which had been lately so
highly extolled from the throne. His near relation to the Duchess
of York might also be some recommendation, but his privity to the
late pecuniary transactions between the courts of Versailles and
London, and the cordiality with which he concurred in them, were by
far more powerful titles to his new master's confidence. For it
must be observed of this minister, as well as of many others of his
party, that his HIGH notions, as they are frequently styled, of
power, regarded only the relation between the king and his subjects,
and not that in which he might stand with respect to foreign
princes; so that, provided he could, by a dependence, however
servile, upon Louis XIV., be placed above the control of his
parliament and people at home, he considered the honour of the crown

Robert Spencer, Earl of Sunderland, who was continued as secretary
of state, had been at one period a supporter of the exclusion bill,
and had been suspected of having offered the Duchess of Portsmouth
to obtain the succession to the crown for her son, the Duke of
Richmond. Nay more, King James, in his "Memoirs," charges him with
having intended, just at the time of Charles's death, to send him
into a second banishment; but with regard to this last point, it
appears evident to me, that many things in those "Memoirs," relative
to this earl, were written after James's abdication, and in the
greatest bitterness of spirit, when he was probably in a frame of
mind to believe anything against a person by whom he conceived
himself to have been basely deserted. The reappointment, therefore,
of this nobleman to so important an office, is to be accounted for
partly upon the general principle above-mentioned, of making the new
reign a mere continuation of the former, and partly upon
Sunderland's extraordinary talents for ingratiating himself with
persons in power, and persuading them that he was the fittest
instrument for their purposes; a talent in which he seems to have
surpassed all the intriguing statesmen of his time, or perhaps of
any other.

An intimate connection with the court of Versailles being the
principal engine by which the favourite project of absolute monarchy
was to be effected, James, for the purpose of fixing and cementing
that connection, sent for M. de Barillon, the French ambassador, the
very day after his accession, and entered into the most confidential
discourse with him. He explained to him his motives for intending
to call a parliament, as well as his resolution to levy by authority
the revenue which his predecessor had enjoyed in virtue of a grant
of parliament which determined with his life. He made general
professions of attachment to Louis, declared that in all affairs of
importance it was his intention to consult that monarch, and
apologised, upon the ground of the urgency of the case, for acting
in the instance mentioned without his advice. Money was not
directly mentioned, owing, perhaps, to some sense of shame upon that
subject, which his brother had never experienced; but lest there
should be a doubt whether that object were implied in the desire of
support and protection, Rochester was directed to explain the matter
more fully, and to give a more distinct interpretation of these
general terms. Accordingly, that minister waited the next morning
upon Barillon, and after having repeated and enlarged upon the
reasons for calling a parliament, stated, as an additional argument
in defence of the measure, that without it his master would become
too chargeable to the French king; adding, however, that the
assistance which might be expected from a parliament, did not exempt
him altogether from the necessity of resorting to that prince for
pecuniary aids; for that without such, he would be at the mercy of
his subjects, and that upon this beginning would depend the whole
fortune of the reign. If Rochester actually expressed himself as
Barillon relates, the use intended to be made of parliament cannot
but cause the most lively indignation, while it furnishes a complete
answer to the historians who accuse the parliaments of those days of
unseasonable parsimony in their grants to the Stuart kings; for the
grants of the people of England were not destined, it seems, to
enable their kings to oppose the power of France, or even to be
independent of her, but to render the influence which Louis was
resolved to preserve in this country less chargeable to him, by
furnishing their quota to the support of his royal dependant.

The French ambassador sent immediately a detailed account of these
conversations to his court, where, probably, they were not received
with the less satisfaction on account of the request contained in
them having been anticipated. Within a very few days from that in
which the latter of them had passed, he was empowered to accompany
the delivery of a letter from his master, with the agreeable news of
having received from him bills of exchange to the amount of five
hundred thousand livres, to be used in whatever manner might be
convenient to the king of England's service. The account which
Barillon gives, of the manner in which this sum was received, is
altogether ridiculous: the king's eyes were full of tears, and
three of his ministers, Rochester, Sunderland, and Godolphin, came
severally to the French ambassador, to express the sense their
master had of the obligation, in terms the most lavish. Indeed,
demonstrations of gratitude from the king directly, as well as
through his ministers, for this supply were such, as if they had
been used by some unfortunate individual, who, with his whole
family, had been saved, by the timely succour of some kind and
powerful protector, from a gaol and all its horrors, would be deemed
rather too strong than too weak. Barillon himself seems surprised
when he relates them; but imputes them to what was probably their
real cause, to the apprehensions that had been entertained (very
unreasonable ones!) that the king of France might no longer choose
to interfere in the affairs of England, and consequently that his
support could not be relied on for the grand object of assimilating
this government to his own.

If such apprehensions did exist, it is probable that they were
chiefly owing to the very careless manner, to say the least, in
which Louis had of late fulfilled his pecuniary engagements to
Charles, so as to amount, in the opinion of the English ministers,
to an actual breach of promise. But the circumstances were in some
respects altered. The French king had been convinced that Charles
would never call a parliament; nay, further perhaps, that if he did,
he would not be trusted by one; and considering him therefore
entirely in his power, acted from that principle in insolent minds
which makes them fond of ill-treating and insulting those whom they
have degraded to a dependence on them. But James would probably be
obliged at the commencement of a new reign to call a parliament, and
if well used by such a body, and abandoned by France, might give up
his project of arbitrary power, and consent to govern according to
the law and constitution. In such an event, Louis easily foresaw,
that, instead of a useful dependent, he might find upon the throne
of England a formidable enemy. Indeed, this prince and his
ministers seem all along, with a sagacity that does them credit, to
have foreseen, and to have justly estimated, the dangers to which
they would be liable, if a cordial union should ever take place
between a king of England and his parliament, and the British
councils be directed by men enlightened and warmed by the genuine
principles of liberty. It was therefore an object of great moment
to bind the new king, as early as possible, to the system of
dependency upon France; and matter of less triumph to the court of
Versailles to have retained him by so moderate a fee, than to that
of London to receive a sum which, though small, was thought
valuable, no as an earnest of better wages and future protection.

It had for some time been Louis's favourite object to annex to his
dominion what remained of the Spanish Netherlands, as well on
account of their own intrinsic value, as to enable him to destroy
the United Provinces and the Prince of Orange; and this object
Charles had bound himself, by treaty with Spain, to oppose. In the
joy, therefore, occasioned by this noble manner of proceeding (for
such it was called by all the parties concerned), the first step was
to agree, without hesitation, that Charles's treaty with Spain
determined with his life, a decision which, if the disregard that
had been shown to it did not render the question concerning it
nugatory, it would be difficult to support upon any principles of
national law or justice. The manner in which the late king had
conducted himself upon the subject of this treaty, that is to say,
the violation of it, without formally renouncing it, was gravely
commended, and stated to be no more than what might justly be
expected from him; but the present king was declared to be still
more free, and in no way bound by a treaty, from the execution of
which his brother had judged himself to be sufficiently dispensed.
This appears to be a nice distinction, and what that degree of
obligation was, from which James was exempt, but which had lain upon
Charles, who neither thought himself bound, nor was expected by
others to execute the treaty, it is difficult to conceive.

This preliminary being adjusted, the meaning of which, through all
this contemptible shuffling, was, that James, by giving up all
concern for the Spanish Netherlands, should be at liberty to
acquiesce in, or to second, whatever might be the ambitious projects
of the court of Versailles, it was determined that Lord Churchill
should be sent to Paris to obtain further pecuniary aids. But such
was the impression made by the frankness and generosity of Louis,
that there was no question of discussing or capitulating, but
everything was remitted to that prince, and to the information his
ministers might give him, respecting the exigency of affairs in
England. He who had so handsomely been beforehand, in granting the
assistance of five hundred thousand livres, was only to be thanked
for past, not importuned for future, munificence. Thus ended, for
the present, this disgusting scene of iniquity and nonsense, in
which all the actors seemed to vie with each other in prostituting
the sacred names of friendship, generosity, and gratitude, in one of
the meanest and most criminal transactions which history records.

The principal parties in the business, besides the king himself, to
whose capacity, at least, if not to his situation it was more
suitable, and Lord Churchill, who acted as an inferior agent, were
Sunderland, Rochester, and Godolphin, all men of high rank and
considerable abilities, but whose understandings, as well as their
principles, seem to have been corrupted by the pernicious schemes in
which they were engaged. With respect to the last-mentioned
nobleman in particular, it is impossible, without pain, to see him
engaged in such transactions. With what self-humiliation must he
not have reflected upon them in subsequent periods of his life! How
little could Barillon guess that he was negotiating with one who was
destined to be at the head of an administration which, in a few
years, would send the same Lord Churchill not to Paris, to implore
Louis for succours towards enslaving England, or to thank him for
pensions to her monarch, but to combine all Europe against him in
the cause of liberty, to rout his armies, to take his towns, to
humble his pride, and to shake to the foundation that fabric of
power which it had been the business of a long life to raise, at the
expense of every sentiment of tenderness to his subjects, and of
justice and good faith to foreign nations. It is with difficulty
the reader can persuade himself that the Godolphin and Churchill
here mentioned are the same persons who were afterwards one in the
cabinet, one in the field, the great conductors of the war of the
succession. How little do they appear in one instance! how great in
the other! And the investigation of the cause to which this
excessive difference is principally owing, will produce a most
useful lesson. Is the difference to be attributed to any
superiority of genius in the prince whom they served in the latter
period of their lives? Queen Anne's capacity appears to have been
inferior even to her father's. Did they enjoy in a greater degree
her favour and confidence? The very reverse is the fact. But in
one case they were the tools of a king plotting against his people;
in the other, the ministers of a free government acting upon
enlarged principles, and with energies which no state that is not in
some degree republican can supply. How forcibly must the
contemplation of these men, in such opposite situations, teach
persons engaged in political life that a free and popular government
is desirable, not only for the public good, but for their own
greatness and consideration, for every object of generous ambition!

The king having, as has been related, first privately communicated
his intentions to the French ambassador, issued proclamations for
the meeting of parliament, and for levying, upon his sole authority,
the customs and other duties which had constituted part of the late
king's revenue, but to which, the acts granting them having expired
with the prince, James was not legally entitled. He was advised by
Lord Guildford, whom he had continued in the office of keeper of the
great seal, and who upon such a subject, therefore, was a person
likely to have the greatest weight, to satisfy himself with
directing the money to be kept in the exchequer for the disposal of
parliament, which was shortly to meet; and by others, to take bonds
from the merchants for the duties, to be paid when parliament should
legalise them. But these expedients were not suited to the king's
views, who, as well on account of his engagement with France, as
from his own disposition, was determined to take no step that might
indicate an intention of governing by parliaments, or a
consciousness of his being dependent upon them for his revenue, he
adopted, therefore, the advice of Jeffreys, advice not resulting so
much, probably, either from ignorance or violence of disposition, as
from his knowledge that it would be most agreeable to his master,
and directed the duties to be paid as in the former reign. It was
pretended, that an interruption in levying some of the duties might
be hurtful to trade; but as every difficulty of that kind was
obviated by the expedients proposed, this arbitrary and violent
measure can with no colour be ascribed to a regard to public
convenience, nor to any other motive than to a desire of reviving
Charles I.'s claims to the power of taxation, and of furnishing a
most intelligible comment upon his speech to the council on the day
of his accession. It became evident what the king's notions were,
with respect to that regal prerogative from which he professed
himself determined never to depart, and to that property which he
would never invade. What were the remaining rights and liberties of
the nation, which he was to preserve, might be more difficult to
discover; but that the laws of England, in the royal interpretation
of them, were sufficient to make the king as great a monarch as he,
or, indeed, any prince could desire, was a point that could not be
disputed. This violation of law was in itself most flagrant; it was
applied to a point well understood, and thought to have been so
completely settled by repeated and most explicit declarations of the
legislature, that it must have been doubtful whether even the most

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