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

Part 10 out of 15

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The fall of Namur was the great military event of this year. The
Turkish war still kept a large part of the forces of the Emperor
employed in indecisive operations on the Danube. Nothing
deserving to be mentioned took place either in Piedmont or on the
Rhine. In Catalonia the Spaniards obtained some slight
advantages, advantages due to their English and Dutch allies, who
seem to have done all that could be done to help a nation never
much disposed to help itself. The maritime superiority of England
and Holland was now fully established. During the whole year
Russell was the undisputed master of the Mediterranean, passed
and repassed between Spain and Italy, bombarded Palamos, spread
terror along the whole shore of Provence, and kept the French
fleet imprisoned in the harbour of Toulon. Meanwhile Berkeley was
the undisputed master of the Channel, sailed to and fro in sight
of the coasts of Artois, Picardy, Normandy and Brittany, threw
shells into Saint Maloes, Calais and Dunkirk, and burned
Granville to the ground. The navy of Lewis, which, five years
before, had been the most formidable in Europe, which had ranged
the British seas unopposed from the Downs to the Land's End,
which had anchored in Torbay and had laid Teignmouth in ashes,
now gave no sign of existence except by pillaging merchantmen
which were unprovided with convoy. In this lucrative war the
French privateers were, towards the close of the summer, very
successful. Several vessels laden with sugar from Barbadoes were
captured. The losses of the unfortunate East India Company,
already surrounded by difficulties and impoverished by boundless
prodigality in corruption, were enormous. Five large ships
returning from the Eastern seas, with cargoes of which the value
was popularly estimated at a million, fell into the hands of the
enemy. These misfortunes produced some murmuring on the Royal
Exchange. But, on the whole, the temper of the capital and of the
nation was better than it had been during some years.

Meanwhile events which no preceding historian has condescended to
mention, but which were of far greater importance than the
achievements of William's army or of Russell's fleet, were taking
place in London. A great experiment was making. A great
revolution was in progress. Newspapers had made their appearance.

While the Licensing Act was in force there was no newspaper in
England except the London Gazette, which was edited by a clerk in
the office of the Secretary of State, and which contained nothing
but what the Secretary of State wished the nation to know. There
were indeed many periodical papers; but none of those papers
could be called a newspaper. Welwood, a zealous Whig, published a
journal called the Observator; but his Observator, like the
Observator which Lestrange had formerly edited, contained, not
the news, but merely dissertations on politics. A crazy
bookseller, named John Dunton, published the Athenian Mercury;
but the Athenian Mercury merely discussed questions of natural
philosophy, of casuistry and of gallantry. A fellow of the Royal
Society, named John Houghton, published what he called a
Collection for the Improvement of Industry and Trade. But his
Collection contained little more than the prices of stocks,
explanations of the modes of doing business in the City, puffs of
new projects, and advertisements of books, quack medicines,
chocolate, spa water, civet cats, surgeons wanting ships, valets
wanting masters and ladies wanting husbands. If ever he printed
any political news, he transcribed it from the Gazette. The
Gazette was so partial and so meagre a chronicle of events that,
though it had no competitors, it had but a small circulation.
Only eight thousand copies were printed, much less than one to
each parish in the kingdom. In truth a person who had studied the
history of his own time only in the Gazette would have been
ignorant of many events of the highest importance. He would, for
example, have known nothing about the Court Martial on
Torrington, the Lancashire Trials, the burning of the Bishop of
Salisbury's Pastoral Letter or the impeachment of the Duke of
Leeds. But the deficiencies of the Gazette were to a certain
extent supplied in London by the coffeehouses, and in the country
by the newsletters.

On the third of May 1695 the law which had subjected the press to
a censorship expired. Within a fortnight, a stanch old Whig,
named Harris, who had, in the days of the Exclusion Bill,
attempted to set up a newspaper entitled Intelligence Domestic
and Foreign, and who had been speedily forced to relinquish that
design, announced that the Intelligence Domestic and Foreign,
suppressed fourteen years before by tyranny, would again appear.
Ten days after the first number of the Intelligence Domestic and
Foreign was printed the first number of the English Courant. Then
came the Packet Boat from Holland and Flanders, the Pegasus, the
London Newsletter, the London Post, the Flying Post, the Old
Postmaster, the Postboy and the Postman. The history of the
newspapers of England from that time to the present day is a most
interesting and instructive part of the history of the country.
At first they were small and meanlooking. Even the Postboy and
the Postman, which seem to have been the best conducted and the
most prosperous, were wretchedly printed on scraps of dingy paper
such as would not now be thought good enough for street ballads.
Only two numbers came out in a week, and a number contained
little more matter than may be found in a single column of a
daily paper of our time. What is now called a leading article
seldom appeared, except when there was a scarcity of
intelligence, when the Dutch mails were detained by the west
wind, when the Rapparees were quiet in the Bog of Allen, when no
stage coach had been stopped by highwaymen, when no nonjuring
congregation had been dispersed by constables, when no ambassador
had made his entry with a long train of coaches and six, when no
lord or poet had been buried in the Abbey, and when consequently
it was difficult to fill up four scanty pages. Yet the leading
articles, though inserted, as it should seem, only in the absence
of more attractive matter, are by no means contemptibly written.

It is a remarkable fact that the infant newspapers were all on
the side of King William and the Revolution. This fact may be
partly explained by the circumstance that the editors were, at
first, on their good behaviour. It was by no means clear that
their trade was not in itself illegal. The printing of newspapers
was certainly not prohibited by any statute. But, towards the
close of the reign of Charles the Second, the judges had
pronounced that it was a misdemeanour at common law to publish
political intelligence without the King's license. It is true
that the judges who laid down this doctrine were removable at the
royal pleasure and were eager on all occasions to exalt the royal
prerogative. How the question, if it were again raised, would be
decided by Holt and Treby was doubtful; and the effect of the
doubt was to make the ministers of the Crown indulgent and to
make the journalists cautious. On neither side was there a wish
to bring the question of right to issue. The government therefore
connived at the publication of the newspapers; and the conductors
of the newspapers carefully abstained from publishing any thing
that could provoke or alarm the government. It is true that, in
one of the earliest numbers of one of the new journals, a
paragraph appeared which seemed intended to convey an insinuation
that the Princess Anne did not sincerely rejoice at the fall of
Namur. But the printer made haste to atone for his fault by the
most submissive apologies. During a considerable time the
unofficial gazettes, though much more garrulous and amusing than
the official gazette, were scarcely less courtly. Whoever
examines them will find that the King is always mentioned with
profound respect. About the debates and divisions of the two
Houses a reverential silence is preserved. There is much
invective; but it is almost all directed against the Jacobites
and the French. It seems certain that the government of William
gained not a little by the substitution of these printed
newspapers, composed under constant dread of the Attorney
General, for the old newsletters, which were written with
unbounded license.616

The pamphleteers were under less restraint than the journalists;
yet no person who has studied with attention the political
controversies of that time can have failed to perceive that the
libels on William's person and government were decidedly less
coarse and rancorous during the latter half of his reign than
during the earlier half. And the reason evidently is that the
press, which had been fettered during the earlier half of his
reign, was free during the latter half. While the censorship
existed, no tract blaming, even in the most temperate and
decorous language, the conduct of any public department, was
likely to be printed with the approbation of the licenser. To
print such a tract without the approbation of the licenser was
illegal. In general, therefore, the respectable and moderate
opponents of the Court, not being able to publish in the manner
prescribed by law, and not thinking it right or safe to publish
in a manner prohibited by law, held their peace, and left the
business of criticizing the administration to two classes of men,
fanatical nonjurors who sincerely thought that the Prince of
Orange was entitled to as little charity or courtesy as the
Prince of Darkness, and Grub Street hacks, coarseminded,
badhearted and foulmouthed. Thus there was scarcely a single man
of judgment, temper and integrity among the many who were in the
habit of writing against the government. Indeed the habit of
writing against the government had, of itself, an unfavourable
effect on the character. For whoever was in the habit of writing
against the government was in the habit of breaking the law; and
the habit of breaking even an unreasonable law tends to make men
altogether lawless. However absurd a tariff may be, a smuggler is
but too likely to be a knave and a ruffian. How ever oppressive a
game law may be, the transition is but too easy from a poacher to
a murderer. And so, though little indeed can be said in favour of
the statutes which imposed restraints on literature, there was
much risk that a man who was constantly violating those statutes
would not be a man of high honour and rigid uprightness. An
author who was determined to print, and could not obtain the
sanction of the licenser, must employ the services of needy and
desperate outcasts, who, hunted by the peace officers, and forced
to assume every week new aliases and new disguises, hid their
paper and their types in those dens of vice which are the pest
and the shame of great capitals. Such wretches as these he must
bribe to keep his secret and to run the chance of having their
backs flayed and their ears clipped in his stead. A man stooping
to such companions and to such expedients could hardly retain
unimpaired the delicacy of his sense of what was right and
becoming. The emancipation of the press produced a great and
salutary change. The best and wisest men in the ranks of the
opposition now assumed an office which had hitherto been
abandoned to the unprincipled or the hotheaded. Tracts against
the government were written in a style not misbecoming statesmen
and gentlemen; and even the compositions of the lower and fiercer
class of malecontents became somewhat less brutal and less ribald
than in the days of the licensers.

Some weak men had imagined that religion and morality stood in
need of the protection of the licenser. The event signally proved
that they were in error. In truth the censorship had scarcely put
any restraint on licentiousness or profaneness. The Paradise Lost
had narrowly escaped mutilation; for the Paradise Lost was the
work of a man whose politics were hateful to the ruling powers.
But Etherege's She Would If She Could, Wycherley's Country Wife,
Dryden's Translations from the Fourth Book of Lucretius, obtained
the Imprimatur without difficulty; for Dryden, Etherege and
Wycherley were courtiers. From the day on which the emancipation
of our literature was accomplished, the purification of our
literature began. That purification was effected, not by the
intervention of senates or magistrates, but by the opinion of the
great body of educated Englishmen, before whom good and evil were
set, and who were left free to make their choice. During a
hundred and sixty years the liberty of our press has been
constantly becoming more and more entire; and during those
hundred and sixty years the restraint imposed on writers by the
general feeling of readers has been constantly becoming more and
more strict. At length even that class of works in which it was
formerly thought that a voluptuous imagination was privileged to
disport itself, love songs, comedies, novels, have become more
decorous than the sermons of the seventeenth century. At this day
foreigners, who dare not print a word reflecting on the
government under which they live, are at a loss to understand how
it happens that the freest press in Europe is the most prudish.

On the tenth of October, the King, leaving his army in winter
quarters, arrived in England, and was received with unwonted
enthusiasm. During his passage through the capital to his palace,
the bells of every church were ringing, and every street was
lighted up. It was late before he made his way through the
shouting crowds to Kensington. But, late as it was, a council was
instantly held. An important point was to be decided. Should the
House of Commons be permitted to sit again, or should there be an
immediate dissolution? The King would probably have been willing
to keep that House to the end of his reign. But this was not in
his power. The Triennial Act had fixed the twenty-fifth of March
as the latest day of the existence of the Parliament. If
therefore there were not a general election in 1695, there must
be a general election in 1696; and who could say what might be
the state of the country in 1696? There might be an unfortunate
campaign. There might be, indeed there was but too good reason to
believe that there would be, a terrible commercial crisis. In
either case, it was probable that there would be much ill humour.
The campaign of 1695 had been brilliant; the nation was in an
excellent temper; and William wisely determined to seize the
fortunate moment. Two proclamations were immediately published.
One of them announced, in the ordinary form, that His Majesty had
determined to dissolve the old Parliament and had ordered writs
to be issued for a new Parliament. The other proclamation was
unprecedented. It signified the royal pleasure to be that every
regiment quartered in a place where an election was to be held
should march out of that place the day before the nomination, and
should not return till the people had made their choice. From
this order, which was generally considered as indicating a
laudable respect for popular rights, the garrisons of fortified
towns and castles were necessarily excepted.

But, though William carefully abstained from disgusting the
constituent bodies by any thing that could look like coercion or
intimidation, he did not disdain to influence their votes by
milder means. He resolved to spend the six weeks of the general
election in showing himself to the people of many districts which
he had never yet visited. He hoped to acquire in this way a
popularity which might have a considerable effect on the returns.
He therefore forced himself to behave with a graciousness and
affability in which he was too often deficient; and the
consequence was that he received, at every stage of his progress,
marks of the good will of his subjects. Before he set out he paid
a visit in form to his sister in law, and was much pleased with
his reception. The Duke of Gloucester, only six years old, with a
little musket on his shoulder, came to meet his uncle, and
presented arms. "I am learning my drill," the child said, "that I
may help you to beat the French." The King laughed much, and, a
few days later, rewarded the young soldier with the Garter.617

On the seventeenth of October William went to Newmarket, now a
place rather of business than of pleasure, but, in the autumns of
the seventeenth century, the gayest and most luxurious spot in
the island. It was not unusual for the whole Court and Cabinet to
go down to the meetings. Jewellers and milliners, players and
fiddlers, venal wits and venal beauties followed in crowds. The
streets were made impassable by coaches and six. In the places of
public resort peers flirted with maids of honour; and officers of
the Life Guards, all plumes and gold lace, jostled professors in
trencher caps and black gowns. For the neighbouring University of
Cambridge always sent her highest functionaries with loyal
addresses, and selected her ablest theologians to preach before
the Sovereign and his splendid retinue. In the wild days of the
Restoration, indeed, the most learned and eloquent divine might
fail to draw a fashionable audience, particularly if Buckingham
announced his intention of holding forth; for sometimes His Grace
would enliven the dulness of a Sunday morning by addressing to
the bevy of fine gentlemen and fine ladies a ribald exhortation
which he called a sermon. But the Court of William was more
decent; and the Academic dignitaries were treated with marked
respect. With lords and ladies from Saint James's and Soho, and
with doctors from Trinity College and King's College, were
mingled the provincial aristocracy, foxhunting squires and their
rosycheeked daughters, who had come in queerlooking family
coaches drawn by carthorses from the remotest parishes of three
or four counties to see their Sovereign. The heath was fringed by
a wild gipsylike camp of vast extent. For the hope of being able
to feed on the leavings of many sumptuous tables, and to pick up
some of the guineas and crowns which the spendthrifts of London
were throwing about, attracted thousands of peasants from a
circle of many miles.618

William, after holding his court a few days at this joyous place,
and receiving the homage of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and
Suffolk, proceeded to Althorpe. It seems strange that he should,
in the course of what was really a canvassing tour, have honoured
with such a mark of favour a man so generally distrusted and
hated as Sunderland. But the people were determined to be
pleased. All Northamptonshire crowded to kiss the royal hand in
that fine gallery which had been embellished by the pencil of
Vandyke and made classical by the muse of Waller; and the Earl
tried to conciliate his neighbours by feasting them at eight
tables, all blazing with plate. From Althorpe the King proceeded
to Stamford. The Earl of Exeter, whose princely seat was, and
still is, one of the great sights of England, had never taken the
oaths, and had, in order to avoid an interview which must have
been disagreeable, found some pretext for going up to London, but
had left directions that the illustrious guest should be received
with fitting hospitality. William was fond of architecture and of
gardening; and his nobles could not flatter him more than by
asking his opinion about the improvement of their country seats.
At a time when he had many cares pressing on his mind he took a
great interest in the building of Castle Howard; and a wooden
model of that edifice, the finest specimen of a vicious style,
was sent to Kensington for his inspection. We cannot therefore
wonder that he should have seen Burleigh with delight. He was
indeed not content with one view, but rose early on the
following morning for the purpose of examining the building a
second time. From Stamford he went on to Lincoln, where he was
greeted by the clergy in full canonicals, by the magistrates in
scarlet robes, and by a multitude of baronets, knights and
esquires, from all parts of the immense plain which lies between
the Trent and the German Ocean. After attending divine service in
the magnificent cathedral, he took his departure, and journeyed
eastward. On the frontier of Nottinghamshire the Lord Lieutenant
of the county, John Holles, Duke of Newcastle, with a great
following, met the royal carriages and escorted them to his seat
at Welbeck, a mansion surrounded by gigantic oaks which scarcely
seem older now than on the day when that splendid procession
passed under their shade. The house in which William was then,
during a few hours, a guest, passed long after his death, by
female descents, from the Holleses to the Harleys, and from the
Harleys to the Bentincks, and now contains the originals of those
singularly interesting letters which passed between him and his
trusty friend and servant Portland. At Welbeck the grandees of
the north were assembled. The Lord Mayor of York came thither
with a train of magistrates, and the Archbishop of York with a
train of divines. William hunted several times in that forest,
the finest in the kingdom, which in old times gave shelter to
Robin Hood and Little John, and which is now portioned out into
the princely domains of Welbeck, Thoresby, Clumber and Worksop.
Four hundred gentlemen on horseback partook of his sport. The
Nottinghamshire squires were delighted to hear him say at table,
after a noble stag chase, that he hoped that this was not the
last run which he should have with them, and that he must hire a
hunting box among their delightful woods. He then turned
southward. He was entertained during one day by the Earl of
Stamford at Bradgate, the place where Lady Jane Grey sate alone
reading the last words of Socrates while the deer was flying
through the park followed by the whirlwind of hounds and hunters.
On the morrow the Lord Brook welcomed his Sovereign to Warwick
Castle, the finest of those fortresses of the middle ages which
have been turned into peaceful dwellings. Guy's Tower was
illuminated. A hundred and twenty gallons of punch were drunk to
His Majesty's health; and a mighty pile of faggots blazed in the
middle of the spacious court overhung by ruins green with the ivy
of centuries. The next morning the King, accompanied by a
multitude of Warwickshire gentlemen on horseback, proceeded
towards the borders of Gloucestershire. He deviated from his
route to dine with Shrewsbury at a secluded mansion in the Wolds,
and in the evening went on to Burford. The whole population of
Burford met him, and entreated him to accept a small token of
their love. Burford was then renowned for its saddles. One
inhabitant of the town, in particular, was said by the English to
be the best saddler in Europe. Two of his masterpieces were
respectfully offered to William, who received them with much
grace, and ordered them to be especially reserved for his own

At Oxford he was received with great pomp, complimented in a
Latin oration, presented with some of the most beautiful
productions of the Academic press, entertained with music, and
invited to a sumptuous feast in the Sheldonian theatre. He
departed in a few hours, pleading as an excuse for the shortness
of his stay that he had seen the colleges before, and that this
was a visit, not of curiosity, but of kindness. As it was well
known that he did not love the Oxonians and was not loved by
them, his haste gave occasion to some idle rumours which found
credit with the vulgar. It was said that he hurried away without
tasting the costly banquet which had been provided for him,
because he had been warned by an anonymous letter, that, if he
ate or drank in the theatre, he was a dead man. But it is
difficult to believe that a Prince who could scarcely be induced,
by the most earnest entreaties of his friends, to take the most
common precautions against assassins of whose designs he had
trustworthy evidence, would have been scared by so silly a hoax;
and it is quite certain that the stages of his progress had been
marked, and that he remained at Oxford as long as was compatible
with arrangements previously made.620

He was welcomed back to his capital by a splendid show, which had
been prepared at great cost during his absence. Sidney, now Earl
of Romney and Master of the Ordnance, had determined to astonish
London by an exhibition which had never been seen in England on
so large a scale. The whole skill of the pyrotechnists of his
department was employed to produce a display of fireworks which
might vie with any that had been seen in the gardens of
Versailles or on the great tank at the Hague. Saint James's
Square was selected as the place for the spectacle. All the
stately mansions on the northern, eastern and western sides were
crowded with people of fashion. The King appeared at a window of
Romney's drawing room. The Princess of Denmark, her husband and
her court occupied a neighbouring house. The whole diplomatic
body assembled at the dwelling of the minister of the United
Provinces. A huge pyramid of flame in the centre of the area
threw out brilliant cascades which were seen by hundreds of
thousands who crowded the neighbouring streets and parks. The
States General were informed by their correspondent that, great
as the multitude was, the night had passed without the slightest

By this time the elections were almost completed. In every part
of the country it had been manifest that the constituent bodies
were generally zealous for the King and for the war. The City of
London, which had returned four Tories in 1690, returned four
Whigs in 1695. Of the proceedings at Westminster an account more
than usually circumstantial has come down to us. In 1690 the
electors, disgusted by the Sacheverell Clause, had returned two
Tories. In 1695, as soon as it was known that a new Parliament
was likely to be called, a meeting was held, at which it was
resolved that a deputation should be sent with an invitation to
two Commissioners of the Treasury, Charles Montague and Sir
Stephen Fox. Sir Walter Clarges stood on the Tory interest. On
the day of nomination near five thousand electors paraded the
streets on horseback. They were divided into three bands; and at
the head of each band rode one of the candidates. It was easy to
estimate at a glance the comparative strength of the parties. For
the cavalcade which followed Clarges was the least numerous of
the three; and it was well known that the followers of Montague
would vote for Fox, and the followers of Fox for Montague. The
business of the day was interrupted by loud clamours. The Whigs
cried shame on the Jacobite candidate who wished to make the
English go to mass, eat frogs and wear wooden shoes. The Tories
hooted the two placemen who were raising great estates out of the
plunder of the poor overburdened nation. From words the incensed
factions proceeded to blows; and there was a riot which was with
some difficulty quelled. The High Bailiff then walked round the
three companies of horsemen, and pronounced, on the view, that
Montague and Fox were duly elected. A poll was demanded. The
Tories exerted themselves strenuously. Neither money nor ink was
spared. Clarges disbursed two thousand pounds in a few hours, a
great outlay in times when the average income of a member of
Parliament was not estimated at more than eight hundred a year.
In the course of the night which followed the nomination,
broadsides filled with invectives against the two courtly
upstarts who had raised themselves by knavery from poverty and
obscurity to opulence and power were scattered all over the
capital. The Bishop of London canvassed openly against the
government; for the interference of peers in elections had not
yet been declared by the Commons to be a breach of privilege. But
all was vain. Clarges was at the bottom of the poll without hope
of rising. He withdrew; and Montague was carried on the shoulders
of an immense multitude from Westminster Abbey to his office at

The same feeling exhibited itself in many other places. The
freeholders of Cumberland instructed their representatives to
support the King, and to vote whatever supplies might be
necessary for the purpose of carrying on the war with vigour; and
this example was followed by several counties and towns.623
Russell did not arrive in England till after the writs had gone
out. But he had only to choose for what place he would sit. His
popularity was immense; for his villanies were secret, and his
public services were universally known. He had won the battle of
La Hogue. He had commanded two years in the Mediterranean. He had
there shut up the French fleets in the harbour of Toulon, and had
stopped and turned back the French armies in Catalonia. He had
taken many vessels, and among them two ships of the line; and he
had not, during his long absence in a remote sea, lost a single
vessel either by war or by weather. He had made the red cross of
Saint George an object of terror to all the princes and
commonwealths of Italy. The effect of his successes was that
embassies were on their way from Florence, Genoa and Venice, with
tardy congratulations to William on his accession. Russell's
merits, artfully magnified by the Whigs, made such an impression
that he was returned to Parliament not only by Portsmouth where
his official situation gave him great influence, and by
Cambridgeshire where his private property was considerable, but
also by Middlesex. This last distinction, indeed, he owed chiefly
to the name which he bore. Before his arrival in England it had
been generally thought that two Tories would be returned for the
metropolitan county. Somers and Shrewsbury were of opinion that
the only way to avert such a misfortune was to conjure with the
name of the most virtuous of all the martyrs of English liberty.
They entreated Lady Russell to suffer her eldest son, a boy of
fifteen, who was about to commence his studies at Cambridge, to
be put in nomination. He must, they said, drop, for one day, his
new title of Marquess of Tavistock, and call himself Lord
Russell. There will be no expense. There will be no contest.
Thousands of gentlemen on horseback will escort him to the
hustings; nobody will dare to stand against him; and he will not
only come in himself, but bring in another Whig. The widowed
mother, in a letter written with all the excellent sense and
feeling which distinguished her, refused to sacrifice her son to
her party. His education, she said, would be interrupted; his
head would be turned; his triumph would be his undoing. Just at
this conjuncture the Admiral arrived. He made his appearance
before the freeholders of Middlesex assembled on the top of
Hampstead Hill, and was returned without opposition.624

Meanwhile several noted malecontents received marks of public
disapprobation. John Knight, the most factious and insolent of
those Jacobites who had dishonestly sworn fealty to King William
in order to qualify themselves to sit in Parliament, ceased to
represent the great city of Bristol. Exeter, the capital of the
west, was violently agitated. It had been long supposed that the
ability, the eloquence, the experience, the ample fortune, the
noble descent of Seymour would make it impossible to unseat him.
But his moral character, which had never stood very high, had,
during the last three or four years, been constantly sinking. He
had been virulent in opposition till he had got a place. While he
had a place he had defended the most unpopular acts of the
government. As soon as he was out of place, he had again been
virulent in opposition.

His saltpetre contract had left a deep stain on his personal
honour. Two candidates were therefore brought forward against
him; and a contest, the longest and fiercest of that age, fixed
the attention of the whole kingdom, and was watched with interest
even by foreign governments. The poll was open five weeks. The
expense on both sides was enormous. The freemen of Exeter, who,
while the election lasted, fared sumptuously every day, were by
no means impatient for the termination of their luxurious
carnival. They ate and drank heartily; they turned out every
evening with good cudgels to fight for Mother Church or for King
William; but the votes came in very slowly. It was not till the
eve of the meeting of Parliament that the return was made.
Seymour was defeated, to his bitter mortification, and was forced
to take refuge in the small borough of Totness.625

It is remarkable that, at this election as at the preceding
election, John Hampden failed to obtain a seat. He had, since he
ceased to be a member of Parliament, been brooding over his evil
fate and his indelible shame, and occasionally venting his spleen
in bitter pamphlets against the government. When the Whigs had
become predominant at the Court and in the House of Commons, when
Nottingham had retired, when Caermarthen had been impeached,
Hampden, it should seem, again conceived the hope that he might
play a great part in public life. But the leaders of his party,
apparently, did not wish for an ally of so acrimonious and
turbulent a spirit. He found himself still excluded from the
House of Commons. He led, during a few months, a miserable life,
sometimes trying to forget his cares among the wellbred gamblers
and frail beauties who filled the drawingroom of the Duchess of
Mazarine, and sometimes sunk in religious melancholy. The thought
of suicide often rose in his mind. Soon there was a vacancy in
the representation of Buckinghamshire, the county which had
repeatedly sent himself and his progenitors to Parliament; and he
expected that he should, by the help of Wharton, whose dominion
over the Buckinghamshire Whigs was absolute, be returned without
difficulty. Wharton, however, gave his interest to another
candidate. This was a final blow. The town was agitated by the
news that John Hampden had cut his throat, that he had survived
his wound a few hours, that he had professed deep penitence for
his sins, had requested the prayers of Burnet, and had sent a
solemn warning to the Duchess of Mazarine. A coroner's jury found
a verdict of insanity. The wretched man had entered on life with
the fairest prospects. He bore a name which was more than noble.
He was heir to an ample estate and to a patrimony much more
precious, the confidence and attachment of hundreds of thousands
of his countrymen. His own abilities were considerable, and had
been carefully cultivated. Unhappily ambition and party spirit
impelled him to place himself in a situation full of danger. To
that danger his fortitude proved unequal. He stooped to
supplications which saved him and dishonoured him. From that
moment, he never knew peace of mind. His temper became perverse;
and his understanding was perverted by his temper. He tried to
find relief in devotion and in revenge, in fashionable
dissipation and in political turmoil. But the dark shade never
passed away from his mind, till, in the twelfth year of his
humiliation, his unhappy life was terminated by an unhappy

The result of the general election proved that William had chosen
a fortunate moment for dissolving. The number of new members was
about a hundred and sixty; and most of these were known to be
thoroughly well affected to the government.627

It was of the highest importance that the House of Commons
should, at that moment, be disposed to cooperate cordially with
the King. For it was absolutely necessary to apply a remedy to an
internal evil which had by slow degrees grown to a fearful
magnitude. The silver coin, which was then the standard coin of
the realm, was in a state at which the boldest and most
enlightened statesmen stood aghast.628

Till the reign of Charles the Second our coin had been struck by
a process as old as the thirteenth century. Edward the First had
invited hither skilful artists from Florence, which, in his time,
was to London what London, in the time of William the Third, was
to Moscow. During many generations, the instruments which were
then introduced into our mint continued to be employed with
little alteration. The metal was divided with shears, and
afterwards shaped and stamped by the hammer. In these operations
much was left to the hand and eye of the workman. It necessarily
happened that some pieces contained a little more and some a
little less than the just quantity of silver; few pieces were
exactly round; and the rims were not marked. It was therefore in
the course of years discovered that to clip the coin was one of
the easiest and most profitable kinds of fraud. In the reign of
Elizabeth it had been thought necessary to enact that the clipper
should be, as the coiner had long been, liable to the penalties
of high treason.629 The practice of paring down money, however,
was far too lucrative to be so checked; and, about the time of
the Restoration, people began to observe that a large proportion
of the crowns, halfcrowns and shillings which were passing from
hand to hand had undergone some slight mutilation.

That was a time fruitful of experiments and inventions in all the
departments of science. A great improvement in the mode of
shaping and striking the coin was suggested. A mill, which to a
great extent superseded the human hand, was set up in the Tower
of London. This mill was worked by horses, and would doubtless be
considered by modern engineers as a rude and feeble machine. The
pieces which it produced, however, were among the best in Europe.
It was not easy to counterfeit them; and, as their shape was
exactly circular, and their edges were inscribed with a legend,
clipping was not to be apprehended.630 The hammered coins and the
milled coins were current together. They were received without
distinction in public, and consequently in private, payments. The
financiers of that age seem to have expected that the new money,
which was excellent, would soon displace the old money which was
much impaired. Yet any man of plain understanding might have
known that, when the State treats perfect coin and light coin as
of equal value, the perfect coin will not drive the light coin
out of circulation, but will itself be driven out. A clipped
crown, on English ground, went as far in the payment of a tax or
a debt as a milled crown. But the milled crown, as soon as it had
been flung into the crucible or carried across the Channel,
became much more valuable than the clipped crown. It might
therefore have been predicted, as confidently as any thing can be
predicted which depends on the human will, that the inferior
pieces would remain in the only market in which they could fetch
the same price as the superior pieces, and that the superior
pieces would take some form or fly to some place in which some
advantage could be derived from their superiority.631

The politicians of that age, however, generally overlooked these
very obvious considerations. They marvelled exceedingly that
every body should be so perverse as to use light money in
preference to good money. In other words, they marvelled that
nobody chose to pay twelve ounces of silver when ten would serve
the turn. The horse in the Tower still paced his rounds. Fresh
waggon loads of choice money still came forth from the mill; and
still they vanished as fast as they appeared. Great masses were
melted down; great masses exported; great masses hoarded; but
scarcely one new piece was to be found in the till of a shop, or
in the leathern bag which the farmer carried home from the cattle
fair. In the receipts and payments of the Exchequer the milled
money did not exceed ten shillings in a hundred pounds. A writer
of that age mentions the case of a merchant who, in a sum of
thirty-five pounds, received only a single halfcrown in milled
silver. Meanwhile the shears of the clippers were constantly at
work. The comers too multiplied and prospered; for the worse the
current money became the more easily it was imitated. During more
than thirty years this evil had gone on increasing. At first it
had been disregarded; but it had at length become an
insupportable curse to the country. It was to no purpose that the
rigorous laws against coining and clipping were rigorously
executed. At every session that was held at the Old Bailey
terrible examples were made. Hurdles, with four, five, six
wretches convicted of counterfeiting or mutilating the money of
the realm, were dragged month after month up Holborn Hill. On one
morning seven men were hanged and a woman burned for clipping;
But all was vain. The gains were such as to lawless spirits
seemed more than proportioned to the risks. Some clippers were
said to have made great fortunes. One in particular offered six
thousand pounds for a pardon. His bribe was indeed rejected; but
the fame of his riches did much to counteract the effect which
the spectacle of his death was designed to produce.632 Nay the
severity of the punishment gave encouragement to the crime. For
the practice of clipping, pernicious as it was, did not excite in
the common mind a detestation resembling that with which men
regard murder, arson, robbery, nay, even theft. The injury done
by the whole body of clippers to the whole society was indeed
immense; but each particular act of clipping was a trifle. To
pass a halfcrown, after paring a pennyworth of silver from it,
seemed a minute, an almost imperceptible, fault. Even while the
nation was crying out most loudly under the distress which the
state of the currency had produced, every individual who was
capitally punished for contributing to bring the currency into
that state had the general sympathy on his side. Constables were
unwilling to arrest the offenders. Justices were unwilling to
commit. Witnesses were unwilling to tell the whole truth. Juries
were unwilling to pronounce the word Guilty. It was vain to tell
the common people that the mutilators of the coin were causing
far more misery than all the highwaymen and housebreakers in the
island. For, great as the aggregate of the evil was, only an
infinitesimal part of that evil was brought home to the
individual malefactor. There was, therefore, a general conspiracy
to prevent the law from taking its course. The convictions,
numerous as they might seem, were few indeed when compared with
the offences; and the offenders who were convicted looked on
themselves as murdered men, and were firm in the belief that
their sin, if sin it were, was as venial as that of a schoolboy
who goes nutting in the wood of a neighbour. All the eloquence of
the ordinary could seldom induce them to conform to the wholesome
usage of acknowledging in their dying speeches the enormity of
their wickedness.633

The evil proceeded with constantly accelerating velocity. At
length in the autumn of 1695 it could hardly be said that the
country possessed, for practical purposes, any measure of the
value of commodities. It was a mere chance whether what was
called a shilling was really tenpence, sixpence or a groat. The
results of some experiments which were tried at that time deserve
to be mentioned. The officers of the Exchequer weighed fifty-
seven thousand two hundred pounds of hammered money which had
recently been paid in. The weight ought to have been above two
hundred and twenty thousand ounces. It proved to be under one
hundred and fourteen thousand ounces.634 Three eminent London
goldsmiths were invited to send a hundred pounds each in current
silver to be tried by the balance. Three hundred pounds ought to
have weighed about twelve hundred ounces. The actual weight
proved to be six hundred and twenty-four ounces. The same test
was applied in various parts of the kingdom. It was found that a
hundred pounds, which should have weighed about four hundred
ounces, did actually weigh at Bristol two hundred and forty
ounces, at Cambridge two hundred and three, at Exeter one hundred
and eighty, and at Oxford only one hundred and sixteen.635 There
were, indeed, some northern districts into which the clipped
money had only begun to find its way. An honest Quaker, who lived
in one of these districts, recorded, in some notes which are
still extant, the amazement with which, when he travelled
southward, shopkeepers and innkeepers stared at the broad and
heavy halfcrowns with which he paid his way. They asked whence
he came, and where such money was to be found. The guinea which
he purchased for twenty-two shillings at Lancaster bore a
different value at every stage of his journey. When he reached
London it was worth thirty shillings, and would indeed have been
worth more had not the government fixed that rate as the highest
at which gold should be received in the payment of taxes.636

The evils produced by this state of the currency were not such as
have generally been thought worthy to occupy a prominent place in
history. Yet it may well be doubted whether all the misery which
had been inflicted on the English nation in a quarter of a
century by bad Kings, bad Ministers, bad Parliaments and bad
judges, was equal to the misery caused in a single year by bad
crowns and bad shillings. Those events which furnish the best
themes for pathetic or indignant eloquence are not always those
which most affect the happiness of the great body of the people.
The misgovernment of Charles and James, gross as it had been, had
not prevented the common business of life from going steadily and
prosperously on. While the honour and independence of the State
were sold to a foreign power, while chartered rights were
invaded, while fundamental laws were violated, hundreds of
thousands of quiet, honest and industrious families laboured and
traded, ate their meals and lay down to rest, in comfort and
security. Whether Whigs or Tories, Protestants or Jesuits were
uppermost, the grazier drove his beasts to market; the grocer
weighed out his currants; the draper measured out his broadcloth;
the hum of buyers and sellers was as loud as ever in the towns;
the harvest home was celebrated as joyously as ever in the
hamlets; the cream overflowed the pails of Cheshire; the apple
juice foamed in the presses of Herefordshire; the piles of
crockery glowed in the furnaces of the Trent; and the barrows of
coal rolled fast along the timber railways of the Tyne. But when
the great instrument of exchange became thoroughly deranged, all
trade, all industry, were smitten as with a palsy. The evil was
felt daily and hourly in almost every place and by almost every
class, in the dairy and on the threshing floor, by the anvil and
by the loom, on the billows of the ocean and in the depths of the
mine. Nothing could be purchased without a dispute. Over every
counter there was wrangling from morning to night. The workman
and his employer had a quarrel as regularly as the Saturday came
round. On a fair day or a market day the clamours, the
reproaches, the taunts, the curses, were incessant; and it was
well if no booth was overturned and no head broken.637 No
merchant would contract to deliver goods without making some
stipulation about the quality of the coin in which he was to be
paid. Even men of business were often bewildered by the confusion
into which all pecuniary transactions were thrown. The simple and
the careless were pillaged without mercy by extortioners whose
demands grew even more rapidly than the money shrank. The price
of the necessaries of life, of shoes, of ale, of oatmeal, rose
fast. The labourer found that the bit of metal which when he
received it was called a shilling would hardly, when he wanted to
purchase a pot of beer or a loaf of rye bread, go as far as
sixpence. Where artisans of more than usual intelligence were
collected together in great numbers, as in the dockyard at
Chatham, they were able to make their complaints heard and to
obtain some redress.638 But the ignorant and helpless peasant was
cruelly ground between one class which would give money only by
tale and another which would take it only by weight. Yet his
sufferings hardly exceeded those of the unfortunate race of
authors. Of the way in which obscure writers were treated we may
easily form a judgment from the letters, still extant, of Dryden
to his bookseller Tonson. One day Tonson sends forty brass
shillings, to say nothing of clipped money. Another day he pays a
debt with pieces so bad that none of them will go. The great poet
sends them all back, and demands in their place guineas at
twenty-nine shillings each. "I expect," he says in one letter,
"good silver, not such as I have had formerly." "If you have any
silver that will go," he says in another letter, "my wife will be
glad of it. I lost thirty shillings or more by the last payment
of fifty pounds." These complaints and demands, which have been
preserved from destruction only by the eminence of the writer,
are doubtless merely a fair sample of the correspondence which
filled all the mail bags of England during several months.

In the midst of the public distress one class prospered greatly,
the bankers; and among the bankers none could in skill or in luck
bear a comparison with Charles Duncombe. He had been, not many
years before, a goldsmith of very moderate wealth. He had
probably, after the fashion of his craft, plied for customers
under the arcades of the Royal Exchange, had saluted merchants
with profound bows, and had begged to be allowed the honour of
keeping their cash. But so dexterously did he now avail himself
of the opportunities of profit which the general confusion of
prices gave to a moneychanger, that, at the moment when the trade
of the kingdom was depressed to the lowest point, he laid down
near ninety thousand pounds for the estate of Helmsley in the
North Riding of Yorkshire. That great property had, in a troubled
time, been bestowed by the Commons of England on their victorious
general Fairfax, and had been part of the dower which Fairfax's
daughter had brought to the brilliant and dissolute Buckingham.
Thither Buckingham, having wasted in mad intemperance, sensual
and intellectual, all the choicest bounties of nature and of
fortune, had carried the feeble ruins of his fine person and of
his fine mind; and there he had closed his chequered life under
that humble roof and on that coarse pallet which the great
satirist of the succeeding generation described in immortal
verse. The spacious domain passed to a new race; and in a few
years a palace more splendid and costly than had ever been
inhabited by the magnificent Villiers rose amidst the beautiful
woods and waters which had been his, and was called by the once
humble name of Duncombe.

Since the Revolution the state of the currency had been
repeatedly discussed in Parliament. In 1689 a committee of the
Commons had been appointed to investigate the subject, but had
made no report. In 1690 another committee had reported that
immense quantities of silver were carried out of the country by
Jews, who, it was said, would do any thing for profit. Schemes
were formed for encouraging the importation and discouraging the
exportation of the precious metals. One foolish bill after
another was brought in and dropped. At length, in the beginning
of the year 1695, the question assumed so serious an aspect that
the Houses applied themselves to it in earnest. The only
practical result of their deliberations, however, was a new penal
law which, it was hoped, would prevent the clipping of the
hammered coin and the melting and exporting of the milled coin.
It was enacted that every person who informed against a clipper
should be entitled to a reward of forty pounds, that every
clipper who informed against two clippers should be entitled to a
pardon, and that whoever should be found in possession of silver
filings or parings should be burned in the cheek with a redhot
iron. Certain officers were empowered to search for bullion. If
bullion were found in a house or on board of a ship, the burden
of proving that it had never been part of the money of the realm
was thrown on the owner. If he failed in making out a
satisfactory history of every ingot he was liable to severe
penalties. This Act was, as might have been expected, altogether
ineffective. During the following summer and autumn, the coins
went on dwindling, and the cry of distress from every county in
the realm became louder and more piercing.

But happily for England there were among her rulers some who
clearly perceived that it was not by halters and branding irons
that her decaying industry and commerce could be restored to
health. The state of the currency had during some time occupied
the serious attention of four eminent men closely connected by
public and private ties. Two of them were politicians who had
never, in the midst of official and parliamentary business,
ceased to love and honour philosophy; and two were philosophers,
in whom habits of abstruse meditation had not impaired the homely
good sense without which even genius is mischievous in politics.
Never had there been an occasion which more urgently required
both practical and speculative abilities; and never had the world
seen the highest practical and the highest speculative abilities
united in an alliance so close, so harmonious, and so honourable
as that which bound Somers and Montague to Locke and Newton.

It is much to be lamented that we have not a minute history of
the conferences of the men to whom England owed the restoration
of her currency and the long series of prosperous years which
dates from that restoration. It would be interesting to see how
the pure gold of scientific truth found by the two philosophers
was mingled by the two statesmen with just that quantity of alloy
which was necessary for the working. It would be curious to study
the many plans which were propounded, discussed and rejected,
some as inefficacious, some as unjust, some as too costly, some
as too hazardous, till at length a plan was devised of which the
wisdom was proved by the best evidence, complete success.

Newton has left to posterity no exposition of his opinions
touching the currency. But the tracts of Locke on this subject
are happily still extant; and it may be doubted whether in any of
his writings, even in those ingenious and deeply meditated
chapters on language which form perhaps the most valuable part of
the Essay on the Human Understanding, the force of his mind
appears more conspicuously. Whether he had ever been acquainted
with Dudley North is not known. In moral character the two men
bore little resemblance to each other. They belonged to different
parties. Indeed, had not Locke taken shelter from tyranny in
Holland, it is by no means impossible that he might have been
sent to Tyburn by a jury which Dudley North had packed.
Intellectually, however, there was much in common between the
Tory and the Whig. They had laboriously thought out, each for
himself, a theory of political economy, substantially the same
with that which Adam Smith afterwards expounded. Nay, in some
respects the theory of Locke and North was more complete and
symmetrical than that of their illustrious successor. Adam Smith
has often been justly blamed for maintaining, in direct
opposition to all his own principles, that the rate of interest
ought to be regulated by the State; and he is the more blamable
because, long before he was born, both Locke and North had taught
that it was as absurd to make laws fixing the price of money as
to make laws fixing the price of cutlery or of broadcloth.639

Dudley North died in 1693. A short time before his death he
published, without his name, a small tract which contains a
concise sketch of a plan for the restoration of the currency.
This plan appears to have been substantially the same with that
which was afterwards fully developed and ably defended by Locke.

One question, which was doubtless the subject of many anxious
deliberations, was whether any thing should be done while the war
lasted. In whatever way the restoration of the coin might be
effected, great sacrifices must be made, the whole community or
by a part of the community. And to call for such sacrifices at a
time when the nation was already paying taxes such as, ten years
before, no financier would have thought it possible to raise, was
undoubtedly a course full of danger. Timorous politicians were
for delay; but the deliberate conviction of the great Whig
leaders was that something must be hazarded, or that every thing
was lost. Montague, in particular, is said to have expressed in
strong language his determination to kill or cure. If indeed
there had been any hope that the evil would merely continue to be
what it was, it might have been wise to defer till the return of
peace an experiment which must severely try the strength of the
body politic. But the evil was one which daily made progress
almost visible to the eye. There might have been a recoinage in
1691 with half the risk which must be run in 1696; and, great as
would be the risk in 1696, that risk would be doubled if the
coinage were postponed till 1698.

Those politicians whose voice was for delay gave less trouble
than another set of politicians, who were for a general and
immediate recoinage, but who insisted that the new shilling
should be worth only ninepence or ninepence halfpenny. At the
head of this party was William Lowndes, Secretary of the
Treasury, and member of Parliament for the borough of Seaford, a
most respectable and industrious public servant, but much more
versed in the details of his office than in the higher parts of
political philosophy. He was not in the least aware that a piece
of metal with the King's head on it was a commodity of which the
price was governed by the same laws which govern the price of a
piece of metal fashioned into a spoon or a buckle, and that it
was no more in the power of Parliament to make the kingdom richer
by calling a crown a pound than to make the kingdom larger by
calling a furlong a mile. He seriously believed, incredible as it
may seem, that, if the ounce of silver were divided into seven
shillings instead of five, foreign nations would sell us their
wines and their silks for a smaller number of ounces. He had a
considerable following, composed partly of dull men who really
believed what he told them, and partly of shrewd men who were
perfectly willing to be authorised by law to pay a hundred pounds
with eighty. Had his arguments prevailed, the evils of a vast
confiscation would have been added to all the other evils which
afflicted the nation; public credit, still in its tender and
sickly infancy, would have been destroyed; and there would have
been much risk of a general mutiny of the fleet and army. Happily
Lowndes was completely refuted by Locke in a paper drawn up for
the use of Somers. Somers was delighted with this little
treatise, and desired that it might be printed. It speedily
became the text book of all the most enlightened politicians in
the kingdom, and may still be read with pleasure and profit. The
effect of Locke's forcible and perspicuous reasoning is greatly
heightened by his evident anxiety to get at the truth, and by the
singularly generous and graceful courtesy with which he treats an
antagonist of powers far inferior to his own. Flamsteed, the
Astronomer Royal, described the controversy well by saying that
the point in dispute was whether five was six or only five.640

Thus far Somers and Montague entirely agreed with Locke; but as
to the manner in which the restoration of the currency ought to
be effected there was some difference of opinion. Locke
recommended, as Dudley North had recommended, that the King
should by proclamation fix a near day after which the hammered
money should in all payments pass only by weight. The advantages
of this plan were doubtless great and obvious. It was most
simple, and, at the same time, most efficient. What searching,
fining, branding, hanging, burning, had failed to do would be
done in an instant. The clipping of the hammered pieces, the
melting of the milled pieces would cease. Great quantities of
good coin would come forth from secret drawers and from behind
the panels of wainscots. The mutilated silver would gradually
flow into the mint, and would come forth again in a form which
would make mutilation impossible. In a short time the whole
currency of the realm would be in a sound state, and, during the
progress of this great change, there would never at any moment be
any scarcity of money.

These were weighty considerations; and to the joint authority of
North and Locke on such a question great respect is due. Yet it
must be owned that their plan was open to one serious objection,
which did not indeed altogether escape their notice, but of which
they seem to have thought too lightly. The restoration of the
currency was a benefit to the whole community. On what principle
then was the expense of restoring the currency to be borne by a
part of the community? It was most desirable doubtless that the
words pound and shilling should again have a fixed signification,
that every man should know what his contracts meant and what his
property was worth. But was it just to attain this excellent end
by means of which the effect would be that every farmer who had
put by a hundred pounds to pay his rent, every trader who had
scraped together a hundred pounds to meet his acceptances, would
find his hundred pounds reduced in a moment to fifty or sixty? It
was not the fault of such a farmer or of such a trader that his
crowns and halfcrowns were not of full weight. The government
itself was to blame. The evil which the State had caused the
State was bound to repair, and it would evidently have been wrong
to throw the charge of the reparation on a particular class,
merely because that class was so situated that it could
conveniently be pillaged. It would have been as reasonable to
require the timber merchants to bear the whole cost of fitting
out the Channel fleet, or the gunsmiths to bear the whole cost of
supplying arms to the regiments in Flanders, as to restore the
currency of the kingdom at the expense of those individuals in
whose hands the clipped sliver happened at a particular moment to

Locke declared that he regretted the loss which, if his advice
were taken, would fall on the holders of the short money. But it
appeared to him that the nation must make a choice between evils.
And in truth it was much easier to lay down the general
proposition that the expenses of restoring the currency ought to
be borne by the public than to devise any mode in which they
could without extreme inconvenience and danger be so borne. Was
it to be announced that every person who should within a term of
a year or half a year carry to the mint a clipped crown should
receive in exchange for it a milled crown, and that the
difference between the value of the two pieces should be made
good out of the public purse? That would be to offer a premium
for clipping. The shears would be more busy than ever. The short
money would every day become shorter. The difference which the
taxpayers would have to make good would probably be greater by a
million at the end of the term than at the beginning; and the
whole of this million would go to reward malefactors. If the time
allowed for the bringing in of the hammered coin were much
shortened, the danger of further clipping would be proportionally
diminished; but another danger would be incurred. The silver
would flow into the mint so much faster than it could possibly
flow out, that there must during some months be a grievous
scarcity of money.

A singularly bold and ingenious expedient occurred to Somers and
was approved by William. It was that a proclamation should be
prepared with great secresy, and published at once in all parts
of the kingdom. This proclamation was to announce that hammered
coins would thenceforth pass only by weight. But every possessor
of such coins was to be invited to deliver them up within three
days, in a sealed packet, to the public authorities. The coins
were to be examined, numbered, weighed, and returned to the owner
with a promissory note entitling him to receive from the Treasury
at a future time the difference between the actual quantity of
silver in his pieces and the quantity of silver which, according
to the standard, those pieces ought to have contained.641 Had
this plan been adopted an immediate stop would have been put to
the clipping, the melting and the exporting; and the expense of
the restoration of the currency would have been borne, as was
right, by the public. The inconvenience arising from a scarcity
of money would have been of very short duration; for the
mutilated pieces would have been detained only till they could be
told and weighed; they would then have been sent back into
circulation, and the recoinage would have taken place gradually
and without any perceptible suspension or disturbance of trade.
But against these great advantages were to be set off hazards,
which Somers was prepared to brave, but from which it is not
strange that politicians of less elevated character should have
shrunk. The course which he recommended to his colleagues was
indeed the safest for the country, but was by no means the safest
for themselves. His plan could not be successful unless the
execution were sudden; the execution could not be sudden if the
previous sanction of Parliament were asked and obtained; and to
take a step of such fearful importance without the previous
sanction of Parliament was to run the risk of censure,
impeachment, imprisonment, ruin. The King and the Lord Keeper
were alone in the Council. Even Montague quailed; and it was
determined to do nothing without the authority of the
legislature. Montague undertook to submit to the Commons a
scheme, which was not indeed without dangers and inconveniences,
but which was probably the best which he could hope to carry.

On the twenty-second of November the Houses met. Foley was on
that day again chosen Speaker. On the following day he was
presented and approved. The King opened the session with a speech
very skilfully framed. He congratulated his hearers on the
success of the campaign on the Continent. That success he
attributed, in language which must have gratified their feelings,
to the bravery of the English army. He spoke of the evils which
had arisen from the deplorable state of the coin, and of the
necessity of applying a speedy remedy. He intimated very plainly
his opinion that the expense of restoring the currency ought to
be borne by the State; but he declared that he referred the whole
matter to the wisdom of his Great Council. Before he concluded he
addressed himself particularly to the newly elected House of
Commons, and warmly expressed his approbation of the excellent
choice which his people had made. The speech was received with a
low but very significant hum of assent both from above and from
below the bar, and was as favourably received by the public as by
the Parliament.642 In the Commons an address of thanks was moved
by Wharton, faintly opposed by Musgrave, adopted without a
division, and carried up by the whole House to Kensington. At the
palace the loyalty of the crowd of gentlemen showed itself in a
way which would now be thought hardly consistent with senatorial
gravity. When refreshments were handed round in the antechamber,
the Speaker filled his glass, and proposed two toasts, the health
of King William, and confusion to King Lewis; and both were drunk
with loud acclamations. Yet near observers could perceive that,
though the representatives of the nation were as a body zealous
for civil liberty and for the Protestant religion, and though
they were prepared to endure every thing rather than see their
country again reduced to vassalage, they were anxious and
dispirited. All were thinking of the state of the coin; all were
saying that something must be done; and all acknowledged that
they did not know what could be done. "I am afraid," said a
member who expressed what many felt, "that the nation can bear
neither the disease nor the cure."643

There was indeed a minority by which the difficulties and dangers
of that crisis were seen with malignant delight; and of that
minority the keenest, boldest and most factious leader was Howe,
whom poverty had made more acrimonious than ever. He moved that
the House should resolve itself into a Committee on the State of
the Nation; and the Ministry, for that word may now with
propriety be used, readily consented. Indeed the great question
touching the currency could not be brought forward more
conveniently than in such a Committee. When the Speaker had left
the chair, Howe harangued against the war as vehemently as he had
in former years harangued for it. He called for peace, peace on
any terms. The nation, he said, resembled a wounded man, fighting
desperately on, with blood flowing in torrents. During a short
time the spirit might bear up the frame; but faintness must soon
come on. No moral energy could long hold out against physical
exhaustion. He found very little support. The great majority of
his hearers were fully determined to put every thing to hazard
rather than submit to France. It was sneeringly remarked that the
state of his own finances had suggested to him the image of a man
bleeding to death, and that, if a cordial were administered to
him in the form of a salary, he would trouble himself little
about the drained veins of the commonwealth. "We did not," said
the Whig orators, "degrade ourselves by suing for peace when our
flag was chased out of our own Channel, when Tourville's fleet
lay at anchor in Torbay, when the Irish nation was in arms
against us, when every post from the Netherlands brought news of
some disaster, when we had to contend against the genius of
Louvois in the Cabinet and of Luxemburg in the field. And are we
to turn suppliants now, when no hostile squadron dares to show
itself even in the Mediterranean, when our arms are victorious on
the Continent, when God has removed the great statesman and the
great soldier whose abilities long frustrated our efforts, and
when the weakness of the French administration indicates, in a
manner not to be mistaken, the ascendency of a female favourite?"
Howe's suggestion was contemptuously rejected; and the Committee
proceeded to take into consideration the state of the

Meanwhile the newly liberated presses of the capital never rested
a moment. Innumerable pamphlets and broadsides about the coin lay
on the counters of the booksellers, and were thrust into the
hands of members of Parliament in the lobby. In one of the most
curious and amusing of these pieces Lewis and his ministers are
introduced, expressing the greatest alarm lest England should
make herself the richest country in the world by the simple
expedient of calling ninepence a shilling, and confidently
predicting that, if the old standard were maintained, there would
be another revolution. Some writers vehemently objected to the
proposition that the public should bear the expense of restoring
the currency; some urged the government to take this opportunity
of assimilating the money of England to the money of neighbouring
nations; one projector was for coining guilders; another for
coining dollars.645

Within the walls of Parliament the debates continued during
several anxious days. At length Montague, after defeating, first
those who were for letting things remain unaltered till the
peace, and then those who were for the little shilling, carried
eleven resolutions in which the outlines of his own plan were set
forth. It was resolved that the money of the kingdom should be
recoined according to the old standard both of weight and of
fineness; that all the new pieces should be milled; that the loss
on the clipped pieces should be borne by the public; that a time
should be fixed after which no clipped money should pass, except
in payments to the government; and that a later time should be
fixed, after which no clipped money should pass at all. What
divisions took place in the Committee cannot be ascertained. When
the resolutions were reported there was one division. It was on
the question whether the old standard of weight should be
maintained. The Noes were a hundred and fourteen; the Ayes two
hundred and twenty-five.646

It was ordered that a bill founded on the resolutions should be
brought in. A few days later the Chancellor of the Exchequer
explained to the Commons, in a Committee of Ways and Means, the
plan by which he proposed to meet the expense of the recoinage.
It was impossible to estimate with precision the charge of making
good the deficiencies of the clipped money. But it was certain
that at least twelve hundred thousand pounds would be required.
Twelve hundred thousand pounds the Bank of England undertook to
advance on good security. It was a maxim received among
financiers that no security which the government could offer was
so good as the old hearth money had been. That tax, odious as it
was to the great majority of those who paid it, was remembered
with regret at the Treasury and in the City. It occurred to the
Chancellor of the Exchequer that it might be possible to devise
an impost on houses, which might be not less productive nor less
certain than the hearth money, but which might press less heavily
on the poor, and might be collected by a less vexatious process.
The number of hearths in a house could not be ascertained without
domiciliary visits. The windows a collector might count without
passing the threshold. Montague proposed that the inhabitants of
cottages, who had been cruelly harassed by the chimney men,
should be altogether exempted from the new duty. His plan was
approved by the Committee of Ways and Means, and was sanctioned
by the House without a division. Such was the origin of the
window tax, a tax which, though doubtless a great evil, must be
considered as a blessing when compared with the curse from which
it rescued the nation.647

Thus far things had gone smoothly. But now came a crisis which
required the most skilful steering. The news that the Parliament
and the government were determined on a reform of the currency
produced an ignorant panic among the common people. Every man
wished to get rid of his clipped crowns and halfcrowns. No man
liked to take them. There were brawls approaching to riots in
half the streets of London. The Jacobites, always full of joy and
hope in a day of adversity and public danger, ran about with
eager looks and noisy tongues. The health of King James was
publicly drunk in taverns and on ale benches. Many members of
Parliament, who had hitherto supported the government, began to
waver; and, that nothing might be wanting to the difficulties of
the conjuncture, a dispute on a point of privilege arose between
the Houses. The Recoinage Bill, framed in conformity with
Montague's resolutions, had gone up to the Peers and had come
back with amendments, some of which, in the opinion of the
Commons, their Lordships had no right to make. The emergency was
too serious to admit of delay. Montague brought in a new bill;
which was in fact his former bill modified in some points to meet
the wishes of the Lords; the Lords, though not perfectly
contented with the new bill, passed it without any alteration;
and the royal assent was immediately given. The fourth of May, a
date long remembered over the whole kingdom and especially in the
capital, was fixed as the day on which the government would cease
to receive the clipped money in payment of taxes.648

The principles of the Recoinage Act are excellent. But some of
the details, both of that Act and of a supplementary Act which
was passed at a later period of the session, seem to prove that
Montague had not fully considered what legislation can, and what
it cannot, effect. For example, he persuaded the Parliament to
enact that it should be penal to give or take more than twenty-
two shillings for a guinea. It may be confidently affirmed that
this enactment was not suggested or approved by Locke. He well
knew that the high price of gold was not the evil which afflicted
the State, but merely a symptom of that evil, and that a fall in
the price of gold would inevitably follow, and could by no human
power or ingenuity be made to precede, the recoinage of the
silver. In fact, the penalty seems to have produced no effect
whatever, good or bad. Till the milled silver was in circulation,
the guinea continued, in spite of the law, to pass for thirty
shillings. When the milled silver became plentiful, the guinea
fell, not to twenty-two shillings, which was the highest price
allowed by the law, but to twenty-one shillings and sixpence.649

Early in February the panic which had been caused by the first
debates on the currency subsided; and, from that time till the
fourth of May, the want of money was not very severely felt. The
recoinage began. Ten furnaces were erected, in the garden behind
the Treasury; and every day huge heaps of pared and defaced
crowns and shillings were turned into massy ingots which were
instantly sent off to the mint in the Tower.650

With the fate of the law which restored the currency was closely
connected the fate of another law, which had been several years
under the consideration of Parliament, and had caused several
warm disputes between the hereditary and the elective branch of
the legislature. The session had scarcely commenced when the Bill
for regulating Trials in cases of High Treason was again laid on
the table of the Commons. Of the debates to which it gave
occasion nothing is known except one interesting circumstance
which has been preserved by tradition. Among those who supported
the bill appeared conspicuous a young Whig of high rank, of ample
fortune, and of great abilities which had been assiduously
improved by study. This was Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Ashley,
eldest son of the second Earl of Shaftesbury, and grandson of
that renowned politician who had, in the days of Charles the
Second, been at one time the most unprincipled of ministers, and
at another the most unprincipled of demagogues. Ashley had just
been returned to Parliament for the borough of Poole, and was in
his twenty-fifth year. In the course of his speech he faltered,
stammered and seemed to lose the thread of his reasoning. The
House, then, as now, indulgent to novices, and then, as now, well
aware that, on a first appearance, the hesitation which is the
effect of modesty and sensibility is quite as promising a sign as
volubility of utterance and ease of manner, encouraged him to
proceed. "How can I, Sir," said the young orator, recovering
himself, "produce a stronger argument in favour of this bill than
my own failure? My fortune, my character, my life, are not at
stake. I am speaking to an audience whose kindness might well
inspire me with courage. And yet, from mere nervousness, from
mere want of practice in addressing large assemblies, I have lost
my recollection; I am unable to go on with my argument. How
helpless, then, must be a poor man who, never having opened his
lips in public, is called upon to reply, without a moment's
preparation, to the ablest and most experienced advocates in the
kingdom, and whose faculties are paralysed by the thought that,
if he fails to convince his hearers, he will in a few hours die
on a gallows, and leave beggary and infamy to those who are
dearest to him." It may reasonably be suspected that Ashley's
confusion and the ingenious use which he made of it had been
carefully premeditated. His speech, however, made a great
impression, and probably raised expectations which were not
fulfilled. His health was delicate; his taste was refined even to
fastidiousness; he soon left politics to men whose bodies and
minds were of coarser texture than his own, gave himself up to
mere intellectual luxury, lost himself in the mazes of the old
Academic philosophy, and aspired to the glory of reviving the old
Academic eloquence. His diction, affected and florid, but often
singularly beautiful and melodious, fascinated many young
enthusiasts. He had not merely disciples, but worshippers. His
life was short; but he lived long enough to become the founder of
a new sect of English freethinkers, diametrically opposed in
opinions and feelings to that sect of freethinkers of which
Hobbes was the oracle. During many years the Characteristics
continued to be the Gospel of romantic and sentimental
unbelievers, while the Gospel of coldblooded and hardheaded
unbelievers was the Leviathan.

The bill, so often brought in and so often lost, went through the
Commons without a division, and was carried up to the Lords. It
soon came back with the long disputed clause altering the
constitution of the Court of the Lord High Steward. A strong
party among the representatives of the people was still unwilling
to grant any new privilege to the nobility; but the moment was
critical. The misunderstanding which had arisen beween the Houses
touching the Recoinage Bill had produced inconveniences which
might well alarm even a bold politician. It was necessary to
purchase concession by concession. The Commons, by a hundred and
ninety-two votes to a hundred and fifty, agreed to the amendment
on which the Lords had, during four years, so obstinately
insisted; and the Lords in return immediately passed the
Recoinage Bill without any amendment.

There had been much contention as to the time at which the new
system of procedure in cases of high treason should come into
operation; and the bill had once been lost in consequence of a
dispute on this point. Many persons were of opinion that the
change ought not to take place till the close of the war. It was
notorious, they said, that the foreign enemy was abetted by too
many traitors at home; and, at such a time, the severity of the
laws which protected the commonwealth against the machinations of
bad citizens ought not to be relaxed. It was at last determined
that the new regulations should take effect on the twenty-fifth
of March, the first day, according to the old Calendar, of the
year 1696.

On the twenty-first of January the Recoinage Bill and the Bill
for regulating Trials in cases of High Treason received the royal
assent. On the following day the Commons repaired to Kensington
on an errand by no means agreeable either to themselves or to the
King. They were, as a body, fully resolved to support him, at
whatever cost and at whatever hazard, against every foreign and
domestic foe. But they were, as indeed every assembly of five
hundred and thirteen English gentlemen that could by any process
have been brought together must have been, jealous of the favour
which he showed to the friends of his youth. He had set his heart
on placing the house of Bentinck on a level in wealth and
splendour with the houses of Howard and Seymour, of Russell and

Some of the fairest hereditary domains of the Crown had been
granted to Portland, not without murmuring on the part both of
Whigs and Tories. Nothing had been done, it is true, which was
not in conformity with the letter of the law and with a long
series of precedents. Every English sovereign had from time
immemorial considered the lands to which he had succeeded in
virtue of his office as his private property. Every family that
had been great in England, from the De Veres down to the Hydes,
had been enriched by royal deeds of gift. Charles the Second had
carved ducal estates for his bastards out of his hereditary
domain. Nor did the Bill of Rights contain a word which could be
construed to mean that the King was not at perfect liberty to
alienate any part of the estates of the Crown. At first,
therefore, William's liberality to his countrymen, though it
caused much discontent, called forth no remonstrance from the
Parliament. But he at length went too far. In 1695 he ordered the
Lords of the Treasury to make out a warrant granting to Portland
a magnificent estate in Denbighshire. This estate was said to be
worth more than a hundred thousand pounds. The annual income,
therefore, can hardly have been less than six thousand pounds;
and the annual rent which was reserved to the Crown was only six
and eightpence. This, however, was not the worst. With the
property were inseparably connected extensive royalties, which
the people of North Wales could not patiently see in the hands of
any subject. More than a century before Elizabeth had bestowed a
part of the same territory on her favourite Leicester. On that
occasion the population of Denbighshire had risen in arms; and,
after much tumult and several executions, Leicester had thought
it advisable to resign his mistress's gift back to her. The
opposition to Portland was less violent, but not less effective.
Some of the chief gentlemen of the principality made strong
representations to the ministers through whose offices the
warrant had to pass, and at length brought the subject under the
consideration of the Lower House. An address was unanimously
voted requesting the King to stop the grant; Portland begged that
he might not be the cause of a dispute between his master and the
Parliament; and the King, though much mortified, yielded to the
general wish of the nation.651

This unfortunate affair, though it terminated without an open
quarrel, left much sore feeling. The King was angry with the
Commons, and still more angry with the Whig ministers who had not
ventured to defend his grant. The loyal affection which the
Parliament had testified to him during the first days of the
session had perceptibly cooled; and he was almost as unpopular as
he had ever been, when an event took place which suddenly brought
back to him the hearts of millions, and made him for a time as
much the idol of the nation as he had been at the end of 1688.652

The plan of assassination which had been formed in the preceding
spring had been given up in consequence of William's departure
for the Continent. The plan of insurrection which had been formed
in the summer had been given up for want of help from France. But
before the end of the autumn both plans were resumed. William had
returned to England; and the possibility of getting rid of him by
a lucky shot or stab was again seriously discussed. The French
troops had gone into winter quarters; and the force, which
Charnock had in vain demanded while war was raging round Namur,
might now be spared without inconvenience. Now, therefore, a plot
was laid, more formidable than any that had yet threatened the
throne and the life of William; or rather, as has more than once
happened in our history, two plots were laid, one within the
other. The object of the greater plot was an open insurrection,
an insurrection which was to be supported by a foreign army. In
this plot almost all the Jacobites of note were more or less
concerned. Some laid in arms; some bought horses; some made lists
of the servants and tenants in whom they could place firm
reliance. The less warlike members of the party could at least
take off bumpers to the King over the water, and intimate by
significant shrugs and whispers that he would not be over the
water long. It was universally remarked that the malecontents
looked wiser than usual when they were sober, and bragged more
loudly than usual when they were drunk.653 To the smaller plot,
of which the object was the murder of William, only a few select
traitors were privy.

Each of these plots was under the direction of a leader specially
sent from Saint Germains. The more honourable mission was
entrusted to Berwick. He was charged to communicate with the
Jacobite nobility and gentry, to ascertain what force they could
bring into the field, and to fix a time for the rising. He was
authorised to assure them that the French government was
collecting troops and transports at Calais, and that, as soon as
it was known there that a rebellion had broken out in England,
his father would embark with twelve thousand veteran soldiers,
and would be among them in a few hours.

A more hazardous part was assigned to an emissary of lower rank,
but of great address, activity and courage. This was Sir George
Barclay, a Scotch gentleman who had served with credit under
Dundee, and who, when the war in the Highlands had ended, had
retired to Saint Germains. Barclay was called into the royal
closet, and received his orders from the royal lips. He was
directed to steal across the Channel and to repair to London. He
was told that a few select officers and soldiers should speedily
follow him by twos and threes. That they might have no difficulty
in finding him, he was to walk, on Mondays and Thursdays, in the
Piazza of Covent Garden after nightfall, with a white
handkerchief hanging from his coat pocket. He was furnished with
a considerable sum of money, and with a commission which was not
only signed but written from beginning to end by James himself.
This commission authorised the bearer to do from time to time
such acts of hostility against the Prince of Orange and that
Prince's adherents as should most conduce to the service of the
King. What explanation of these very comprehensive words was
orally given by James we are not informed.

Lest Barclay's absence from Saint Germains should cause any
suspicion, it was given out that his loose way of life had made
it necessary for him to put himself under the care of a surgeon
at Paris.654 He set out with eight hundred pounds in his
portmanteau, hastened to the coast, and embarked on board of a
privateer which was employed by the Jacobites as a regular packet
boat between France and England. This vessel conveyed him to a
desolate spot in Romney Marsh. About half a mile from the landing
place a smuggler named Hunt lived on a dreary and unwholesome fen
where he had no neighbours but a few rude shepherds. His dwelling
was singularly well situated for a contraband traffic in French
wares. Cargoes of Lyons silk and Valenciennes lace sufficient to
load thirty packhorses had repeatedly been landed in that dismal
solitude without attracting notice. But, since the Revolution,
Hunt had discovered that of all cargoes a cargo of traitors paid
best. His lonely abode became the resort of men of high
consideration, Earls and Barons, Knights and Doctors of Divinity.
Some of them lodged many days under his roof while waiting for a
passage. A clandestine post was established between his house and
London. The couriers were constantly going and returning; they
performed their journeys up and down on foot; but they appeared
to be gentlemen, and it was whispered that one of them was the
son of a titled man. The letters from Saint Germains were few and
small. Those directed to Saint Germains were numerous and bulky;
they were made up like parcels of millinery, and were buried in
the morass till they were called for by the privateer.

Here Barclay landed in January 1696; and hence he took the road
to London. He was followed, a few days later, by a tall youth,
who concealed his name, but who produced credentials of the
highest authority. This youth too proceeded to London. Hunt
afterwards discovered that his humble roof had had the honour of
sheltering the Duke of Berwick.655

The part which Barclay had to perform was difficult and
hazardous; and he omitted no precaution. He had been little in
London; and his face was consequently unknown to the agents of
the government. Nevertheless he had several lodgings; he
disguised himself so well that his oldest friends would not have
known him by broad daylight; and yet he seldom ventured into the
streets except in the dark. His chief agent was a monk who, under
several names, heard confessions and said masses at the risk of
his neck. This man intimated to some of the zealots with whom he
consorted a special agent of the royal family was to be spoken
with in Covent Garden, on certain nights, at a certain hour, and
might be known by certain signs.656 In this way Barclay became
acquainted with several men fit for his purpose. The first
persons to whom he fully opened himself were Charnock and
Parkyns. He talked with them about the plot which they and some
of their friends had formed in the preceding spring against the
life of William. Both Charnock and Parkyns declared that the
scheme might easily be executed, that there was no want of
resolute hearts among the Royalists, and that all that was
wanting was some sign of His Majesty's approbation.

Then Barclay produced his commission. He showed his two
accomplices that James had expressly commanded all good
Englishmen, not only to rise in arms, not only to make war on the
usurping government, not only to seize forts and towns, but also
to do from time to time such other acts of hostility against the
Prince of Orange as might be for the royal service. These words,
Barclay said, plainly authorised an attack on the Prince's
person. Charnock and Parkyns were satisfied. How in truth was it
possible for them to doubt that James's confidential agent
correctly construed James's expressions? Nay, how was it possible
for them to understand the large words of the commission in any
sense but one, even if Barclay had not been there to act as
commentator? If indeed
the subject had never been brought under James's consideration,
it might well be thought that those words had dropped from his
pen without any definite meaning. But he had been repeatedly
apprised that some of his friends in England meditated a deed of
blood, and that they were waiting only for his approbation. They
had importuned him to speak one word, to give one sign. He had
long kept silence; and, now that he had broken silence, he
merely told them to do what ever might be beneficial to himself
and prejudicial to the usurper. They had his authority as plainly
given as they could reasonably expect to have it given in such a

All that remained was to find a sufficient number of courageous
and trustworthy assistants, to provide horses and weapons, and to
fix the hour and the place of the slaughter. Forty or fifty men,
it was thought, would be sufficient. Those troopers of James's
guard who had already followed Barclay across the Channel made up
nearly half that number. James had himself seen some of these men
before their departure from Saint Germains, had given them money
for their journey, had told them by what name each of them was to
pass in England, had commanded them to act as they should be
directed by Barclay, and had informed them where Barclay was to
be found and by what tokens he was to be known.658 They were
ordered to depart in small parties, and to assign different
reasons for going. Some were ill; some were weary of the service;
Cassels, one of the most noisy and profane among them, announced
that, since he could not get military promotion, he should enter
at the Scotch college and study for a learned profession. Under
such pretexts about twenty picked men left the palace of James,
made their way by Romney Marsh to London, and found their captain
walking in the dim lamplight of the Piazza with the handkerchief
hanging from his pocket. One of these men was Ambrose Rockwood,
who held the rank of Brigadier, and who had a high reputation for
courage and honour; another was Major John Bernardi, an
adventurer of Genoese extraction, whose name has derived a
melancholy celebrity from a punishment so strangely prolonged
that it at length shocked a generation which could not remember
his crime.659

It was in these adventurers from France that Barclay placed his
chief trust. In a moment of elation he once called them his
Janissaries, and expressed a hope that they would get him the
George and Garter. But twenty more assassins at least were
wanted. The conspirators probably expected valuable help from Sir
John Friend, who had received a Colonel's commission signed by
James, and had been most active in enlisting men and providing
arms against the day when the French should appear on the coast
of Kent. The design was imparted to him; but he thought it so
rash, and so likely to bring reproach and disaster on the good
cause, that he would lend no assistance to his friends, though he
kept their secret religiously.660 Charnock undertook to find
eight brave and trusty fellows. He communicated the design to
Porter, not with Barclay's entire approbation; for Barclay
appears to have thought that a tavern brawler, who had recently
been in prison for swaggering drunk about the streets and
huzzaing in honour of the Prince of Wales, was hardly to be
trusted with a secret of such fearful import. Porter entered into
the plot with enthusiasm, and promised to bring in others who
would be useful. Among those whose help he engaged was his
servant Thomas Keyes. Keyes was a far more formidable conspirator
than might have been expected from his station in life. The
household troops generally were devoted to William; but there was
a taint of disaffection among the Blues. The chief conspirators
had already been tampering with some Roman Catholics who were in
that regiment; and Keyes was excellently qualified to bear a part
in this work; for he had formerly been trumpeter of the corps,
and, though he had quitted the service, he still kept up an
acquaintaince with some of the old soldiers in whose company he
had lived at free quarter on the Somersetshire farmers after the
battle of Sedgemoor.

Parkyns, who was old and gouty, could not himself take a share in
the work of death. But he employed himself in providing horses,
saddles and weapons for his younger and more active accomplices.
In this department of business he was assisted by Charles
Cranburne, a person who had long acted as a broker between
Jacobite plotters and people who dealt in cutlery and firearms.
Special orders were given by Barclay that the swords should be
made rather for stabbing than for slashing. Barclay himself
enlisted Edward Lowick, who had been a major in the Irish army,
and who had, since the capitulation of Limerick, been living
obscurely in London. The monk who had been Barclay's first
confidant recommended two busy Papists, Richard Fisher and
Christopher Knightley; and this recommendation was thought
sufficient. Knightley drew in Edward King, a Roman Catholic
gentleman of hot and restless temper; and King procured the
assistance of a French gambler and bully named De la Rue.661

Meanwhile the heads of the conspiracy held frequent meetings at
treason taverns, for the purpose of settling a plan of operations.
Several schemes were proposed, applauded, and, on full
consideration, abandoned. At one time it was thought that an
attack on Kensington House at dead of night might probably be
successful. The outer wall might easily be scaled. If once forty
armed men were in the garden, the palace would soon be stormed or
set on fire. Some were of opinion that it would be best to strike
the blow on a Sunday as William went from Kensington to attend
divine service at the chapel of Saint James's Palace. The
murderers might assemble near the spot where Apsley House and
Hamilton Place now stand. Just as the royal coach passed out of
Hyde Park, and was about to enter what has since been called the
Green Park, thirty of the conspirators, well mounted, might fall
on the guards. The guards were ordinarily only five and twenty.
They would be taken completely by surprise; and probably half of
them would be shot or cut down before they could strike a blow.
Meanwhile ten or twelve resolute men on foot would stop the
carriage by shooting the horses, and would then without difficulty
despatch the King. At last the preference was given to a plan
originally sketched by Fisher and put into shape by Porter.
William was in the habit of going every Saturday from Kensington
to hunt in Richmond Park. There was then no bridge over the Thames
between London and Kingston. The King therefore went, in a coach
escorted by some of his body guards, through Turnham Green to the
river. There he took boat, crossed the water and found another
coach and another set of guards ready to receive him on the Surrey
side. The first coach and the first set of guards awaited his
return on the northern bank. The conspirators ascertained with
great precision the whole order of these journeys, and carefully
examined the ground on both sides of the Thames. They thought that
they should attack the King with more advantage on the Middlesex
than on the Surrey bank, and when he was returning than when he
was going. For, when he was going, he was often attended to the
water side by a great retinue of lords and gentlemen; but on his
return he had only his guards about him. The place and time were
fixed. The place was to be a narrow and winding lane leading from
the landingplace on the north of the rover to Turnham Green. The
spot may still be easily found. The ground has since been drained
by trenches. But in the seventeenth century it was a quagmire,
through which the royal coach was with difficulty tugged at a
foot's pace. The time was to be the afternoon of Saturday the
fifteenth of February. On that day the Forty were to assemble in
small parties at public houses near the Green. When the signal was
given that the coach was approaching they were to take horse and
repair to their posts. As the cavalcade came up this lane Charnock
was to attack the guards in the rear, Rockwood on one flank,
Porter on the other. Meanwhile Barclay, with eight trusty men, was
to stop the coach and to do the deed. That no movement of the King
might escape notice, two orderlies were appointed to watch the
palace. One of these men, a bold and active Fleming, named Durant,
was especially charged to keep Barclay well informed. The other,
whose business was to communicate with Charnock, was a ruffian
named Chambers, who had served in the Irish army, had received a
severe wound in the breast at the Boyne, and, on account of that
wound, bore a savage personal hatred to William.662

While Barclay was making all his arrangements for the
assassination, Berwick was endeavouring to persuade the Jacobite
aristocracy to rise in arms. But this was no easy task. Several
consultations were held; and there was one great muster of the
party under the pretence of a masquerade, for which tickets were
distributed among the initiated at one guinea each.663 All ended
however in talking, singing and drinking. Many men of rank and
fortune indeed declared that they would draw their swords for
their rightful Sovereign as soon as their rightful Sovereign was
in the island with a French army; and Berwick had been empowered
to assure there that a French army should be sent as soon as they
had drawn the sword. But between what they asked and what he was
authorised to grant there was a difference which admitted of no
compromise. Lewis, situated as he was, would not risk ten or
twelve thousand excellent soldiers on the mere faith of promises.
Similar promises had been made in 1690; and yet, when the fleet
of Tourville had appeared on the coast of Devonshire, the western
counties had risen as one man in defence of the government, and
not a single malecontent had dared to utter a whisper in favour
of the invaders. Similar promises had been made in 1692; and to
the confidence which had been placed in those promises was to be
attributed the great disaster of La Hogue. The French King would
not be deceived a third time. He would gladly help the English
royalists; but he must first see them help themselves. There was
much reason in this; and there was reason also in what the
Jacobites urged on the other side. If, they said, they were to
rise, without a single disciplined regiment to back them, against
an usurper supported by a regular army, they should all be cut to
pieces before the news that they were up could reach Versailles.
As Berwick could hold out no hope that there would be an invasion
before there was an insurrection, and as his English friends were
immovable in their determination that there should be no
insurrection till there was an invasion, he had nothing more to
do here, and became impatient to depart.

He was the more impatient to depart because the fifteenth of
February drew near. For he was in constant communication with
Barclay, and was perfectly apprised of all the details of the
crime which was to be perpetrated on that day. He was generally
considered as a man of sturdy and even ungracious integrity. But
to such a degree had his sense of right and wrong been perverted
by his zeal for the interests of his family, and by his respect
for the lessons of his priests, that he did not, as he has
himself ingenuously confessed, think that he lay under any
obligation to dissuade the assassins from the execution of their
purpose. He had indeed only one objection to their design; and
that objection he kept to himself. It was simply this, that all
who were concerned were very likely to be hanged. That, however,
was their affair; and, if they chose to run such a risk in the
good cause, it was not his business to discourage them. His
mission was quite distinct from theirs; he was not to act with
them; and he had no inclination to suffer with then. He therefore
hastened down to Romney Marsh, and crossed to Calais.664

At Calais he found preparations making for a descent on Kent.
Troops filled the town; transports filled the port. Boufflers had
been ordered to repair thither from Flanders, and to take the
command. James himself was daily expected. In fact he had already
left Saint Germains. Berwick, however, would not wait. He took
the road to Paris, met his father at Clermont, and made a full
report of the state of things in England. His embassy had failed;
the Royalist nobility and gentry seemed resolved not to rise till
a French army was in the island; but there was still a hope; news
would probably come within a few days that the usurper was no
more; and such news would change the whole aspect of affairs.
James determined to go on to Calais, and there to await the event
of Barclay's plot. Berwick hastened to Versailles for the purpose
of giving explanations to Lewis. What the nature of the
explanations was we know from Berwick's own narrative. He
plainly told the French King that a small band of loyal men would
in a short time make an attempt on the life of the great enemy of
France. The next courier might bring tidings of an event which
would probably subvert the English government and dissolve the
European coalition. It might have been thought that a prince who
ostentatiously affected the character of a devout Christian and
of a courteous knight would instantly have taken measures for
conveying to his rival a caution which perhaps might still arrive
in time, and would have severely reprimanded the guests who had
so grossly abused his hospitality. Such, however, was not the
conduct of Lewis. Had he been asked to give his sanction to a
murder he would probably have refused with indignation. But he
was not moved to indignation by learning that, without his
sanction, a crime was likely to be committed which would be far
more beneficial to his interests than ten such victories as that
of Landen. He sent down orders to Calais that his fleet should be
in such readiness as might enable him to take advantage of the
great crisis which he anticipated. At Calais James waited with
still more impatience for the signal that his nephew was no more.
That signal was to be given by a fire, of which the fuel was
already prepared on the cliffs of Kent, and which would be
visible across the straits.665

But a peculiar fate has, in our country, always attended such
conspiracies as that of Barclay and Charnock. The English regard
assassination, and have during some ages regarded it, with a
loathing peculiar to themselves. So English indeed is this
sentiment that it cannot even now be called Irish, and till a
recent period, it was not Scotch. In Ireland to this day the
villain who shoots at his enemy from behind a hedge is too often
protected from justice by public sympathy. In Scotland plans of
assassination were often, during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, successfully executed, though known to great numbers
of persons. The murders of Beaton, of Rizzio, of Darnley, of
Murray, of Sharpe, are conspicuous instances. The royalists who
murdered Lisle in Switzerland were Irishmen; the royalists who
murdered Ascham at Madrid were Irishmen; the royalists who
murdered Dorislaus at the Hague were Scotchmen. In England, as
soon as such a design ceases to be a secret hidden in the
recesses of one gloomy and ulcerated heart, the risk of detection
and failure becomes extreme. Felton and Bellingham reposed trust
in no human being; and they were therefore able to accomplish
their evil purposes. But Babington's conspiracy against
Elizabeth, Fawkes's conspiracy against James, Gerard's conspiracy
against Cromwell, the Rye House conspiracy, the Cato Street
conspiracy, were all discovered, frustrated and punished. In
truth such a conspiracy is here exposed to equal danger from the
good and from the bad qualities of the conspirators. Scarcely
any Englishman, not utterly destitute of conscience and honour,
will engage in a plot for slaying an unsuspecting fellow
creature; and a wretch who has neither conscience nor honour is
likely to think much on the danger which he incurs by being true
to his associates, and on the rewards which he may obtain by
betraying them. There are, it is true, persons in whom religious
or political fanaticism has destroyed all moral sensibility on
one particular point, and yet has left that sensibility generally
unimpaired. Such a person was Digby. He had no scruple about
blowing King, Lords and Commons into the air. Yet to his
accomplices he was religiously and chivalrously faithful; nor
could even the fear of the rack extort from him one word to their
prejudice. But this union of depravity and heroism is very rare.
The vast majority of men are either not vicious enough or not
virtuous enough to be loyal and devoted members of treacherous
and cruel confederacies; and, if a single member should want
either the necessary vice or the necessary virtue, the whole
confederacy is in danger. To bring together in one body forty
Englishmen, all hardened cutthroats, and yet all so upright and
generous that neither the hope of opulence nor the dread of the
gallows can tempt any one of them to be false to the rest, has
hitherto been found, and will, it is to be hoped, always be found

There were among Barclay's followers both men too bad and men too
good to be trusted with such a secret as his. The first whose
heart failed him was Fisher. Even before the time and place of
the crime had been fixed, he obtained an audience of Portland,
and told that lord that a design was forming against the King's
life. Some days later Fisher came again with more precise
intelligence. But his character was not such as entitled him to
much credit; and the knavery of Fuller, of Young, of Whitney and
of Taffe, had made men of sense slow to believe stories of
plots. Portland, therefore, though in general very easily alarmed
where the safety of his master and friend was concerned, seems
to have thought little about the matter. But, on the evening of
the fourteenth of February, he received a visit from a person
whose testimony he could not treat lightly. This was a Roman
Catholic gentleman of known courage and honour, named
Pendergrass. He had, on the preceding day, come up to town from
Hampshire, in consequence of a pressing summons from Porter, who,
dissolute and unprincipled as he was, had to Pendergrass been a
most kind friend, indeed almost a father. In a Jacobite
insurrection Pendergrass would probably have been one of the
foremost. But he learned with horror that he was expected to bear
a part in a wicked and shameful deed. He found himself in one of
those situations which most cruelly torture noble and sensitive
natures. What was he to do? Was he to commit a murder? Was he to
suffer a murder which he could prevent to be committed? Yet was
he to betray one who, however culpable, had loaded him with
benefits? Perhaps it might be possible to save William without
harming Porter? Pendergrass determined to make the attempt. "My
Lord," he said to Portland, "as you value King William's life, do
not let him hunt tomorrow. He is the enemy of my religion; yet my
religion constrains me to give him this caution. But the names of
the conspirators I am resolved to conceal; some of them are my
friends; one of them especially is my benefactor; and I will not
betray them."

Portland went instantly to the King; but the King received the
intelligence very coolly, and seemed determined not to be
frightened out of a good day's sport by such an idle story.
Portland argued and implored in vain. He was at last forced to
threaten that he would immediately make the whole matter public,
unless His Majesty would consent to remain within doors during
the next day; and this threat was successful.666

Saturday the fifteenth came. The Forty were all ready to mount,
when they received intelligence from the orderlies who watched
Kensington House that the King did not mean to hunt that morning.
"The fox," said Chambers, with vindictive bitterness, "keeps his
earth." Then he opened his shirt; showed the great scar in his
breast, and vowed revenge on William.

The first thought of the conspirators was that their design had
been detected. But they were soon reassured. It was given out
that the weather had kept the King at home; and indeed the day
was cold and stormy. There was no sign of agitation at the
palace. No extraordinary precaution was taken. No arrest was
made. No ominous whisper was heard at the coffeehouses. The delay
was vexatious; but Saturday the twenty-second would do as well.

But, before Saturday the twenty-second arrived, a third informer,
De la Rue, had presented himself at the palace. His way of life
did not entitle him to much respect; but his story agreed so
exactly with what had been said by Fisher and Pendergrass that
even William began to believe that there was real danger.

Very late in the evening of Friday the twenty-first, Pendergrass,
who had as yet disclosed much less than either of the other
informers, but whose single word was worth much more than their
joint oath, was sent for to the royal closet. The faithful
Portland and the gallant Cutts were the only persons who
witnessed the singular interview between the King and his
generous enemy. William, with courtesy and animation which he
rarely showed, but which he never showed without making a deep
impression, urged Pendergrass to speak out. "You are a man of
true probity and honour; I am deeply obliged to you; but you must
feel that the same considerations which have induced you to tell
us so much ought to induce you to tell us something more. The
cautions which you have as yet given can only make me suspect
every body that comes near me. They are sufficient to embitter my
life, but not sufficient to preserve it. You must let me know the
names of these men." During more than half an hour the King
continued to entreat and Pendergrass to refuse. At last
Pendergrass said that he would give the information which was
required, if he could be assured that it would be used only for
the prevention of the crime, and not for the destruction of the
criminals. "I give you my word of honour," said William, "that
your evidence shall not be used against any person without your
own free consent." It was long past midnight when Pendergrass
wrote down the names of the chief conspirators.

While these things were passing at Kensington, a large party of
the assassins were revelling at a Jacobite tavern in Maiden Lane.
Here they received their final orders for the morrow. "Tomorrow
or never," said King. "Tomorrow, boys," cried Cassels with a
curse, "we shall have the plunder of the field." The morrow came.
All was ready; the horses were saddled; the pistols were loaded;
the swords were sharpened; the orderlies were on the alert; they
early sent intelligence from the palace that the King was
certainly going a hunting; all the usual preparations had been
made; a party of guards had been sent round by Kingston Bridge to
Richmond; the royal coaches, each with six horses, had gone from
the stables at Charing Cross to Kensington. The chief murderers
assembled in high glee at Porter's lodgings. Pendergrass, who, by
the King's command, appeared among them, was greeted with
ferocious mirth. "Pendergrass," said Porter, "you are named one
of the eight who are to do his business. I have a musquetoon for
you that will carry eight balls." "Mr. Pendergrass," said King,
"pray do not be afraid of smashing the glass windows." From
Porter's lodgings the party adjourned to the Blue Posts in Spring
Gardens, where they meant to take some refreshment before they
started for Turnham Green. They were at table when a message came
from an orderly that the King had changed his mind and would not
hunt; and scarcely had they recovered from their first surprise
at this ominous news, when Keyes, who had been out scouting among
his old comrades, arrived with news more ominous still. "The
coaches have returned to Charing Cross. The guards that were sent
round to Richmond have just come back to Kensington at full
gallop, the flanks of the horses all white with foam. I have had
a word with one of the Blues. He told me that strange things are
muttered." Then the countenances of the assassins fell; and their
hearts died within them. Porter made a feeble attempt to disguise
his uneasiness. He took up an orange and squeezed it. "What
cannot be done one day may be done another. Come, gentlemen,
before we part let us have one glass to the squeezing of the
rotten orange." The squeezing of the rotten orange was drunk; and
the company dispersed.667

A few hours elapsed before all the conspirators abandoned all
hope. Some of them derived comfort from a report that the King
had taken physic, and that this was his only reason for not going
to Richmond. If it were so, the blow might still be struck. Two
Saturdays had been unpropitious. But Sunday was at hand. One of
the plans which had formerly been discussed and abandoned might
be resumed. The usurper might be set upon at Hyde Park Corner on
his way to his chapel. Charnock was ready for any enterprise
however desperate. If the hunt was up, it was better to die
biting and scratching to the last than to be worried without
resistance or revenge. He assembled some of his accomplices at
one of the numerous houses at which he had lodgings, and plied
there hard with healths to the King, to the Queen, to the Prince,
and to the Grand Monarch, as they called Lewis. But the terror
and dejection of the gang were beyond the power of wine; and so
many had stolen away that those who were left could effect
nothing. In the course of the afternoon it was known that the
guards had been doubled at the palace; and soon after nightfall
messengers from the Secretary of State's office were hurrying to
and fro with torches through the streets, accompanied by files
and musketeers. Before the dawn of Sunday Charnock was in
custody. A little later, Rockwood and Bernardi were found in bed
at a Jacobite alehouse on Tower Hill. Seventeen more traitors
were seized before noon; and three of the Blues were put under
arrest. That morning a Council was held; and, as soon as it rose,
an express was sent off to call home some regiments from
Flanders; Dorset set out for Sussex, of which he was Lord
Lieutenant; Romney, who was Warden of the Cinque Ports, started
for the coast of Kent; and Russell hastened down the Thames to

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