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

Part 11 out of 15

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take the command of the fleet. In the evening the Council sate
again. Some of the prisoners were examined and committed. The
Lord Mayor was in attendance, was informed of what had been
discovered, and was specially charged to look well to the peace
of the capital.668

On Monday morning all the trainbands of the City were under arms.
The King went in state to the House of Lords, sent for the
Commons, and from the throne told the Parliament that, but for
the protection of a gracious Providence, he should at that moment
have been a corpse, and the kingdom would have been invaded by a
French army. The danger of invasion, he added, was still great;
but he had already given such orders as would, he hoped, suffice
for the protection of the realm. Some traitors were in custody;
warrants were out against others; he should do his part in this
emergency; and he relied on the Houses to do theirs.669

The Houses instantly voted a joint address in which they
thankfully acknowledged the divine goodness which had preserved
him to his people, and implored him to take more than ordinary
care of his person. They concluded by exhorting him to seize and
secure all persons whom he regarded as dangerous.

On the same day two important bills were brought into the
Commons. By one the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended. The other
provided that the Parliament should not be dissolved by the death
of William. Sir Rowland Gwyn, an honest country gentleman, made a
motion of which he did not at all foresee the important
consequences. He proposed that the members should enter into an
association for the defence of their Sovereign and their country.
Montague, who of all men was the quickest at taking and improving
a hint, saw how much such an association would strengthen the
government and the Whig party.670 An instrument was immediately
drawn tip, by which the representatives of the people, each for
himself, solemnly recognised William as rightful and lawful King,
and bound themselves to stand by him and by each other against
James and James's adherents. Lastly they vowed that, if His
Majesty's life should be shortened by violence, they would avenge
him signally on his murderers, and would, with one heart,
strenuously support the order of succession settled by the Bill
of Rights. It was ordered that the House should be called over
the next morning.671 The attendance was consequently great; the
Association, engrossed on parchment, was on the table; and the
members went up, county by county, to sign their names.672

The King's speech, the joint address of both Houses, the
Association framed by the Commons, and a proclamation, containing
a list of the conspirators and offering a reward of a thousand
pounds for the apprehension of any one of them, were soon cried
in all the streets of the capital and carried out by all the
postbags. Wherever the news came it raised the whole country.
Those two hateful words, assassination and invasion, acted like a
spell. No impressment was necessary. The seamen came forth from
their hiding places by thousands to man the fleet. Only three
days after the King had appealed to the nation, Russell sailed
out of the Thames with one great squadron. Another was ready for
action at Spithead. The militia of all the maritime counties from
the Wash to the Land's End was under arms. For persons accused of
offences merely political there was generally much sympathy. But
Barclay's assassins were hunted like wolves by the whole
population. The abhorrence which the English have, through many
generations, felt for domiciliary visits, and for all those
impediments which the police of continental states throws in the
way of travellers, was for a time suspended. The gates of the
City of London were kept many hours closed while a strict search
was made within. The magistrates of almost every walled town in
the kingdom followed the example of the capital. On every highway
parties of armed men were posted with orders to stop passengers
of suspicious appearance. During a few days it was hardly
possible to perform a journey without a passport, or to procure
posthorses without the authority of a justice of the peace. Nor
was any voice raised against these precautions. The common people
indeed were, if possible, more eager than the public
functionaries to bring the traitors to justice. This eagerness
may perhaps be in part ascribed to the great rewards promised by
the royal proclamation. The hatred which every good Protestant
felt for Popish cutthroats was not a little strengthened by the
songs in which the street poets celebrated the lucky hackney
coachman who had caught his traitor, had received his thousand
pounds, and had set up as a gentleman.673 The zeal of the
populace could in some places hardly be kept within the limits of
the law. At the country seat of Parkyns in Warwickshire, arms and
accoutrements sufficient to equip a troop of cavalry were found.
As soon as this was known, a furious mob assembled, pulled down
the house and laid the gardens utterly waste.674 Parkyns himself
was tracked to a garret in the Temple. Porter and Keyes, who had
fled into Surrey, were pursued by the hue and cry, stopped by the
country people near Leatherhead, and, after some show of
resistance, secured and sent to prison. Friend was found hidden
in the house of a Quaker. Knightley was caught in the dress of a
fine lady, and recognised in spite of his patches and paint. In a
few days all the chief conspirators were in custody except
Barclay, who succeeded in making his escape to France.

At the same time some notorious malecontents were arrested, and
were detained for a time on suspicion. Old Roger Lestrange, now
in his eightieth year, was taken up. Ferguson was found hidden
under a bed in Gray's Inn Lane, and was, to the general joy,
locked up in Newgate.675 Meanwhile a special commission was
issued for the trial of the traitors. There was no want of
evidence. For, of the conspirators who had been seized, ten or
twelve were ready to save themselves by bearing witness against
their associates. None had been deeper in guilt, and none shrank
with more abject terror from death, than Porter. The government
consented to spare him, and thus obtained, not only his evidence,
but the much more respectable evidence of Pendergrass.
Pendergrass was in no danger; he had committed no offence; his
character was fair; and his testimony would have far greater
weight with a jury than the testimony of a crowd of approvers
swearing for their necks. But he had the royal word of honour
that he should not be a witness without his own consent; and he
was fully determined not to be a witness unless he were assured
of Porter's safety. Porter was now safe; and Pendergrass had no
longer any scruple about relating the whole truth.

Charnock, King and Keyes were set first to the bar. The Chiefs of
the three Courts of Common Law and several other judges were on
the bench; and among the audience were many members of both
Houses of Parliament.

It was the eleventh of March. The new Act which regulated the
procedure in cases of high treason was not to come into force
till the twenty-fifth. The culprits urged that, as the
Legislature had, by passing that Act, recognised the justice of
allowing them to see their indictment, and to avail themselves of
the assistance of an advocate, the tribunal ought either to grant
them what the highest authority had declared to be a reasonable
indulgence, or to defer the trial for a fortnight. The judges,
however, would consent to no delay. They have therefore been
accused by later writers of using the mere letter of the law in
order to destroy men who, if that law had been construed
according to its spirit, might have had some chance of escape.
This accusation is unjust. The judges undoubtedly carried the
real intention of the Legislature into effect; and, for whatever
injustice was committed, the Legislature, and not the judges,
ought to be held accountable. The words, "twenty-fifth of March,"
had not slipped into the Act by mere inadvertence. All parties in
Parliament had long been agreed as to the principle of the new
regulations. The only matter about which there was any dispute
was the time at which those regulations should take effect. After
debates extending through several sessions, after repeated
divisions with various results, a compromise had been made; and
it was surely not for the Courts to alter the terms of that
compromise. It may indeed be confidently affirmed that, if the
Houses had foreseen the Assassination Plot, they would have
fixed, not an earlier, but a later day for the commencement of
the new system. Undoubtedly the Parliament, and especially the
Whig party, deserved serious blame. For, if the old rules of
procedure gave no unfair advantage to the Crown, there was no
reason for altering them; and if, as was generally admitted, they
did give an unfair advantage to the Crown, and that against a
defendant on trial for his life, they ought not to have been
suffered to continue in force a single day. But no blame is due
to the tribunals for not acting in direct opposition both to the
letter and to the spirit of the law.

The government might indeed have postponed the trials till the
new Act came into force; and it would have been wise, as well as
right, to do so; for the prisoners would have gained nothing by
the delay. The case against them was one on which all the
ingenuity of the Inns of Court could have made no impression.
Porter, Pendergrass, De la Rue and others gave evidence which
admitted of no answer. Charnock said the very little that he had
to say with readiness and presence of mind. The jury found all
the defendants guilty. It is not much to the honour of that age
that the announcement of the verdict was received with loud
huzzas by the crowd which surrounded the Courthouse. Those huzzas
were renewed when the three unhappy men, having heard their doom,
were brought forth under a guard.676

Charnock had hitherto shown no sign of flinching; but when he was
again in his cell his fortitude gave way. He begged hard for
mercy. He would be content, he said, to pass the rest of his days
in an easy confinement. He asked only for his life. In return for
his life, he promised to discover all that he knew of the schemes
of the Jacobites against the government. If it should appear that
he prevaricated or that he suppressed any thing, he was willing
to undergo the utmost rigour of the law. This offer produced much
excitement, and some difference of opinion, among the councillors
of William. But the King decided, as in such cases he seldom
failed to decide, wisely and magnanimously. He saw that the
discovery of the Assassination Plot had changed the whole posture
of affairs. His throne, lately tottering, was fixed on an
immovable basis. His popularity had risen impetuously to as great
a height as when he was on his march from Torbay to London. Many
who had been out of humour with his administration, and who had,
in their spleen, held some communication with Saint Germains,
were shocked to find that they had been, in some sense, leagued
with murderers. He would not drive such persons to despair. He
would not even put them to the blush. Not only should they not be
punished; they should not undergo the humiliation of being pardoned.
He would not know that they had offended. Charnock was left to his
fate.677 When he found that he had no chance of being received as
a deserter, he assumed the dignity of a martyr, and played his
part resolutely to the close. That he might bid farewell to the
world with a better grace, he ordered a fine new coat to be
hanged in, and was very particular on his last day about the
powdering and curling of his wig.678 Just before he was turned
off, he delivered to the Sheriffs a paper in which he avowed that
he had conspired against the life of the Prince of Orange, but
solemnly denied that James had given any commission authorising
assassination. The denial was doubtless literally correct; but
Charnock did not deny, and assuredly could not with truth have
denied, that he had seen a commission written and signed by
James, and containing words which might without any violence be
construed, and which were, by all to whom they were shown,
actually construed, to authorise the murderous ambuscade of
Turnham Green.

Indeed Charnock, in another paper, which is still in existence,
but has never been printed, held very different language. He
plainly said that, for reasons too obvious to be mentioned, he
could not tell the whole truth in the paper which be had
delivered to the Sheriffs. He acknowledged that the plot in which
he had been engaged seemed, even to many loyal subjects, highly
criminal. They called him assassin and murderer. Yet what had he
done more than had been done by Mucius Scaevola? Nay, what had he
done more than had been done by every body who bore arms against
the Prince of Orange? If an array of twenty thousand men had
suddenly landed in England and surprised the usurper, this would
have been called legitimate war. Did the difference between war
and assassination depend merely on the number of persons engaged?
What then was the smallest number which could lawfully surprise
an enemy? Was it five thousand, or a thousand, or a hundred?
Jonathan and his armourbearer were only two. Yet they made a
great slaughter of the Philistines. Was that assassination? It
cannot, said Charnock, be the mere act, it must be the cause,
that makes killing assassination. It followed that it was not
assassination to kill one,--and here the dying man gave a loose to
all his hatred,--who had declared a war of extermination against
loyal subjects, who hung, drew and quartered every man who stood
up for the right, and who had laid waste England to enrich the
Dutch. Charnock admitted that his enterprise would have been
unjustifiable if it had not been authorised by James; but he
maintained that it had been authorised, not indeed expressly, but
by implication. His Majesty had indeed formerly prohibited
similar attempts; but had prohibited them, not as in themselves
criminal, but merely as inexpedient at this or that conjuncture
of affairs. Circumstances had changed. The prohibition might
therefore reasonably be considered as withdrawn. His Majesty's
faithful subjects had then only to look to the words of his
commission; and those words, beyond all doubt, fully warranted an
attack on the person of the usurper.679

King and Keyes suffered with Charnock. King behaved with
firmness and decency. He acknowledged his crime, and said that he
repented of it. He thought it due to the Church of which he was a
member, and on which his conduct had brought reproach, to declare
that he had been misled, not by any casuistry about tyrannicide,
but merely by the violence of his own evil passions. Poor Keyes
was in an agony of terror. His tears and lamentations moved the
pity of some of the spectators. It was said at the time, and it
has often since been repeated, that a servant drawn into crime by
a master was a proper object of royal clemency. But those who
have blamed the severity with which Keyes was treated have
altogether omitted to notice the important circumstance which
distinguished his case from that of every other conspirator. He
had been one of the Blues. He had kept up to the last an
intercourse with his old comrades. On the very day fixed for the
murder he had contrived to mingle with them and to pick up
intelligence from them. The regiment had been so deeply infected
with disloyalty that it had been found necessary to confine some
men and to dismiss many more. Surely, if any example was to be
made, it was proper to make an example of the agent by whose
instrumentality the men who meant to shoot the King communicated
with the men whose business was to guard him.

Friend was tried next. His crime was not of so black a dye as
that of the three conspirators who had just suffered. He had
indeed invited foreign enemies to invade the realm, and had made
preparations for joining them. But, though he had been privy to
the design of assassination, he had not been a party to it. His
large fortune however, and the use which he was well known to
have made of it, marked him out as a fit object for punishment.
He, like Charnock, asked for counsel, and, like Charnock, asked
in vain. The judges could not relax the law; and the Attorney
General would not postpone the trial. The proceedings of that day
furnish a strong argument in favour of the Act from the benefit
of which Friend was excluded. It is impossible to read them over
at this distance of time without feeling compassion for a silly
ill educated man, unnerved by extreme danger, and opposed to
cool, astute and experienced antagonists. Charnock had defended
himself and those who were tried with him as well as any
professional advocate could have done. But poor Friend was as
helpless as a child. He could do little more than exclaim that he
was a Protestant, and that the witnesses against him were
Papists, who had dispensations from their priests for perjury,
and who believed that to swear away the lives of heretics was a
meritorious work. He was so grossly ignorant of law and history
as to imagine that the statute of treasons, passed in the reign
of Edward the Third, at a time when there was only one religion
in Western Europe, contained a clause providing that no Papist
should be a witness, and actually forced the Clerk of the Court
to read the whole Act from beginning to end. About his guilt it
was impossible that there could be a doubt in any rational mind.
He was convicted; and he would have been convicted if he had been
allowed the privileges for which he asked.

Parkyns came next. He had been deeply concerned in the worst part
of the plot, and was, in one respect, less excusable than any of
his accomplices; for they were all nonjurors; and he had taken
the oaths to the existing government. He too insisted that he
ought to be tried according to the provisions of the new Act. But
the counsel for the Crown stood on their extreme right; and his
request was denied. As he was a man of considerable abilities,
and had been bred to the bar, he probably said for himself all
that counsel could have said for him; and that all amounted to
very little. He was found guilty, and received sentence of death
on the evening of the twenty-fourth of March, within six hours of
the time when the law of which he had vainly demanded the benefit
was to come into force.680

The execution of the two knights was eagerly expected by the
population of London. The States General were informed by their
correspondent that, of all sights, that in which the English most
delighted was a hanging, and that, of all hangings within the
memory of the oldest man, that of Friend and Parkyns excited the
greatest interest. The multitude had been incensed against Friend
by reports touching the exceeding badness of the beer which he
brewed. It was even rumoured that he had, in his zeal for the
Jacobite cause, poisoned all the casks which he had furnished to
the navy. An innumerable crowd accordingly assembled at Tyburn.
Scaffolding had been put up which formed an immense amphitheatre
round the gallows. On this scaffolding the wealthier spectators
stood, row above row; and expectation was at the height when it
was announced that the show was deferred. The mob broke up in bad
humour, and not without many fights between those who had given
money for their places and those who refused to return it.681

The cause of this severe disappointment was a resolution suddenly
passed by the Commons. A member had proposed that a Committee
should be sent to the Tower with authority to examine the
prisoners, and to hold out to them the hope that they might, by a
full and ingenuous confession, obtain the intercession of the
House. The debate appears, from the scanty information which has
come down to us, to have been a very curious one. Parties seemed
to have changed characters. It might have been expected that the
Whigs would have been inexorably severe, and that, if there was
any tenderness for the unhappy men, that tenderness would have
been found among the Tories. But in truth many of the Whigs hoped
that they might, by sparing two criminals who had no power to do
mischief, be able to detect and destroy numerous criminals high
in rank and office. On the other hand, every man who had ever had
any dealings direct or indirect with Saint Germains, or who took
an interest in any person likely to have had such dealings,
looked forward with dread to the disclosures which the captives
might, under the strong terrors of death, be induced to make.
Seymour, simply because he had gone further in treason than
almost any other member of the House, was louder than any other
member of the House in exclaiming against all indulgence to his
brother traitors. Would the Commons usurp the most sacred
prerogative of the Crown? It was for His Majesty, and not for
them, to judge whether lives justly forfeited could be without
danger spared. The Whigs however carried their point. A
Committee, consisting of all the Privy Councillors in the House,
set off instantly for Newgate. Friend and Parkyns were
interrogated, but to no purpose. They had, after sentence had
been passed on them, shown at first some symptoms of weakness;
but their courage had been fortified by the exhortations of
nonjuring divines who had been admitted to the prison. The rumour
was that Parkyns would have given way but for the entreaties of
his daughter, who adjured him to suffer like a man for the good
cause. The criminals acknowledged that they had done the acts of
which they had been convicted, but, with a resolution which is
the more respectable because it seems to have sprung, not from
constitutional hardihood, but from sentiments of honour and
religion, refused to say any thing which could compromise

In a few hours the crowd again assembled at Tyburn; and this time
the sightseers were not defrauded of their amusement. They saw
indeed one sight which they had not expected, and which produced
a greater sensation than the execution itself. Jeremy Collier and
two other nonjuring divines of less celebrity, named Cook and
Snatt, had attended the prisoners in Newgate, and were in the
cart under the gallows. When the prayers were over, and just
before the hangman did his office, the three schismatical priests
stood up, and laid their hands on the heads of the dying men who
continued to kneel. Collier pronounced a form of absolution taken
from the service for the Visitation of the Sick, and his brethren
exclaimed "Amen!"

This ceremony raised a great outcry; and the outcry became louder
when, a few hours after the execution, the papers delivered by
the two traitors to the Sheriffs were made public. It had been
supposed that Parkyns at least would express some repentance for
the crime which had brought him to the gallows. Indeed he had,
before the Committee of the Commons, owned that the Assassination
Plot could not be justified. But, in his last declaration, he
avowed his share in that plot, not only without a word indicating
remorse, but with something which resembled exultation. Was this
a man to be absolved by Christian divines, absolved before the
eyes of tens of thousands, absolved with rites evidently intended
to attract public attention, with rites of which there was no
trace in the Book of Common Prayer or in the practice of the
Church of England?

In journals, pamphlets and broadsides, the insolence of the three
Levites, as they were called, was sharply reprehended. Warrants
were soon out. Cook and Snatt were taken and imprisoned; but
Collier was able to conceal himself, and, by the help of one of
the presses which were at the service of his party, sent forth
from his hiding place a defence of his conduct. He declared that
he abhorred assassination as much as any of those who railed
against him; and his general character warrants us in believing
that this declaration was perfectly sincere. But the rash act
into which he had been hurried by party spirit furnished his
adversaries with very plausible reasons for questioning his
sincerity. A crowd of answers to his defence appeared. Preeminent
among them in importance was a solemn manifesto signed by the two
Archbishops and by all the Bishops who were then in London,
twelve in number. Even Crewe of Durham and Sprat of Rochester set
their names to this document. They condemned the proceedings of
the three nonjuring divines, as in form irregular and in
substance impious. To remit the sins of impenitent sinners was a
profane abuse of the power which Christ had delegated to his
ministers. It was not denied that Parkyns had planned an
assassination. It was not pretended that he had professed any
repentance for planning an assassination. The plain inference was
that the divines who absolved him did not think it sinful to
assassinate King William. Collier rejoined; but, though a
pugnacious controversialist, he on this occasion shrank from
close conflict, and made his escape as well as he could under a
cloud of quotations from Tertullian, Cyprian and Jerome,
Albaspinaeus and Hammond, the Council of Carthage and the Council
of Toledo. The public feeling was strongly against the three
absolvers. The government however wisely determined not to confer
on them the honour of martyrdom. A bill was found against them by
the grand jury of Middlesex; but they were not brought to trial.
Cook and Snatt were set at liberty after a short detention; and
Collier would have been treated with equal lenity if he would
have consented to put in bail. But he was determined to do no act
which could be construed into a recognition of the usurping
government. He was therefore outlawed; and when he died, more
than thirty years later, his outlawry had not been reversed.683

Parkyns was the last Englishman who was tried for high treason
under the old system of procedure. The first who was tried under
the new system was Rockwood. He was defended by Sir Bartholomew
Shower, who in the preceding reign had made himself unenviably
conspicuous as a servile and cruel sycophant, who had obtained
from James the Recordership of London when Holt honourably
resigned it, and who had, as Recorder, sent soldiers to the
gibbet for breaches of military discipline. By his servile
cruelty he had earned the nickname of the Manhunter. Shower
deserved, if any offender deserved, to be excepted from the Act
of Indemnity, and left to the utmost rigour of those laws which
he had so shamelessly perverted. But he had been saved by the
clemency of William, and had requited that clemency by
pertinacious and malignant opposition.684 It was doubtless on
account of Shower's known leaning towards Jacobitism that he was
employed on this occasion. He raised some technical objections
which the Court overruled. On the merits of the case he could
make no defence. The jury returned a verdict of guilty. Cranburne
and Lowick were then tried and convicted. They suffered with
Rookwood; and there the executions stopped.685

The temper of the nation was such that the government might have
shed much more blood without incurring the reproach of cruelty.
The feeling which had been called forth by the discovery of the
plot continued during several weeks to increase day by day. Of
that feeling the able men who were at the head of the Whig party
made a singularly skilful use. They saw that the public
enthusiasm, if left without guidance, would exhaust itself in
huzzas, healths and bonfires, but might, if wisely guided, be the
means of producing a great and lasting effect. The Association,
into which the Commons had entered while the King's speech was
still in their ears, furnished the means of combining four fifths
of the nation in one vast club for the defence of the order of
succession with which were inseparably combined the dearest
liberties of the English people, and of establishing a test which
would distinguish those who were zealous for that order of
succession from those who sullenly and reluctantly acquiesced in
it. Of the five hundred and thirty members of the Lower House
about four hundred and twenty voluntarily subscribed the
instrument which recognised William as rightful and lawful King
of England. It was moved in the Upper House that the same form
should be adopted; but objections were raised by the Tories.
Nottingham, ever conscientious, honourable and narrow minded,
declared that he could not assent to the words "rightful and
lawful." He still held, as he had held from the first, that a
prince who had taken the Crown, not by birthright, but by the
gift of the Convention, could not properly be so described.
William was doubtless King in fact, and, as King in fact, was
entitled to the obedience of Christians. "No man," said
Nottingham, "has served or will serve His Majesty more faithfully
than I. But to this document I cannot set my hand." Rochester and
Normanby held similar language. Monmouth, in a speech of two
hours and a half, earnestly exhorted the Lords to agree with the
Commons. Burnet was vehement on the same side. Wharton, whose
father had lately died, and who was now Lord Wharton, appeared in
the foremost rank of the Whig peers. But no man distinguished
himself more in the debate than one whose life, both public and
private, had been one long series of faults and disasters, the
incestuous lover of Henrietta Berkeley, the unfortunate
lieutenant of Monmouth. He had recently ceased to be called by
the tarnished name of Grey of Wark, and was now Earl of
Tankerville. He spoke on that day with great force and eloquence
for the words, "rightful and lawful." Leeds, after expressing his
regret that a question about a mere phrase should have produced
dissension among noble persons who were all equally attached to
the reigning Sovereign, undertook the office of mediator. He
proposed that their Lordships, instead of recognising William as
rightful and lawful King, should declare that William had the
right by law to the English Crown, and that no other person had
any right whatever to that Crown. Strange to say, almost all the
Tory peers were perfectly satisfied with what Leeds had
suggested. Among the Whigs there was some unwillingness to
consent to a change which, slight as it was, might be thought to
indicate a difference of opinion between the two Houses on a
subject of grave importance. But Devonshire and Portland declared
themselves content; their authority prevailed; and the alteration
was made. How a rightful and lawful possessor is to be
distinguished from a possessor who has the exclusive right by law
is a question which a Whig may, without any painful sense of
shame, acknowledge to be beyond the reach of his faculties, and
leave to be discussed by High Churchmen. Eighty-three peers
immediately affixed their names to the amended form of
association; and Rochester was among them. Nottingham, not yet
quite satisfied, asked time for consideration.686

Beyond the walls of Parliament there was none of this verbal
quibbling. The language of the House of Commons was adopted by
the whole country. The City of London led the way. Within thirty-
six hours after the Association had been published under the
direction of the Speaker it was subscribed by the Lord Mayor, by
the Aldermen, and by almost all the members of the Common
Council. The municipal corporations all over the kingdom followed
the example. The spring assizes were just beginning; and at every
county town the grand jurors and the justices of the peace put
down their names. Soon shopkeepers, artisans, yeomen, farmers,
husbandmen, came by thousands to the tables where the parchments
were laid out. In Westminster there were thirty-seven thousand
associators, in the Tower Hamlets eight thousand, in Southwark
eighteen thousand. The rural parts of Surrey furnished seventeen
thousand. At Ipswich all the freemen signed except two. At
Warwick all the male inhabitants who had attained the age of
sixteen signed, except two Papists and two Quakers. At Taunton,
where the memory of the Bloody Circuit was fresh, every man who
could write gave in his adhesion to the government. All the
churches and all the meeting houses in the town were crowded, as
they had never been crowded before, with people who came to thank
God for having preserved him whom they fondly called William the
Deliverer. Of all the counties of England Lancashire was the most
Jacobitical. Yet Lancashire furnished fifty thousand signatures.
Of all the great towns of England Norwich was the most
Jacobitical. The magistrates of that city were supposed to be in
the interest of the exiled dynasty. The nonjurors were numerous,
and had, just before the discovery of the plot, seemed to be in
unusual spirits and ventured to take unusual liberties. One of
the chief divines of the schism had preached a sermon there which
gave rise to strange suspicions. He had taken for his text the
verse in which the Prophet Jeremiah announced that the day of
vengeance was come, that the sword would be drunk with blood,
that the Lord God of Hosts had a sacrifice in the north country
by the river Euphrates. Very soon it was known that, at the time
when this discourse was delivered, swords had actually been
sharpening, under the direction of Barclay and Parkyns, for a
bloody sacrifice on the north bank of the river Thames. The
indignation of the common people of Norwich was not to be
restrained. They came in multitudes, though discouraged by the
municipal authorities, to plight faith to William, rightful and
lawful King. In Norfolk the number of signatures amounted to
forty-eight thousand, in Suffolk to seventy thousand. Upwards of
five hundred rolls went up to London from every part of England.
The number of names attached to twenty-seven of those rolls
appears from the London Gazette to have been three hundred and
fourteen thousand. After making the largest allowance for fraud,
it seems certain that the Association included the great majority
of the adult male inhabitants of England who were able to sign
their names. The tide of popular feeling was so strong that a man
who was known not to have signed ran considerable risk of being
publicly affronted. In many places nobody appeared without
wearing in his hat a red riband on which were embroidered the
words, "General Association for King William." Once a party of
Jacobites had the courage to parade a street in London with an
emblematic device which seemed to indicate their contempt for the
new Solemn League and Covenant. They were instantly put to rout
by the mob, and their leader was well ducked. The enthusiasm
spread to secluded isles, to factories in foreign countries, to
remote colonies. The Association was signed by the rude fishermen
of the Scilly Rocks, by the English merchants of Malaga, by the
English merchants of Genoa, by the citizens of New York, by the
tobacco planters of Virginia and by the sugar planters of

Emboldened by success, the Whig leaders ventured to proceed a
step further. They brought into the Lower House a bill for the
securing of the King's person and government. By this bill it was
provided that whoever, while the war lasted, should come from
France into England without the royal license should incur the
penalties of treason, that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus
Act should continue to the end of the year 1696, and that all
functionaries appointed by William should retain their offices,
notwithstanding his death, till his successor should be pleased
to dismiss them. The form of Association which the House of
Commons had adopted was solemnly ratified; and it was provided
that no person should sit in that House or should hold any
office, civil or military, without signing. The Lords were
indulged in the use of their own form; and nothing was said about
the clergy.

The Tories, headed by Finch and Seymour, complained bitterly of
this new test, and ventured once to divide, but were defeated.
Finch seems to have been heard patiently; but, notwithstanding
all Seymour's eloquence, the contemptuous manner in which he
spoke of the Association raised a storm against which he could
not stand. Loud cries of "the Tower, the Tower," were heard.
Haughty and imperious as he was, he was forced to explain away
his words, and could scarcely, by apologizing in a manner to
which he was little accustomed, save himself from the humiliation
of being called to the bar and reprimanded on his knees. The bill
went up to the Lords, and passed with great speed in spite of the
opposition of Rochester and Nottingham.688

The nature and extent of the change which the discovery of the
Assassination Plot had produced in the temper of the House of
Commons and of the nation is strikingly illustrated by the
history of a bill entitled a Bill for the further Regulation of
Elections of Members of Parliament. The moneyed interest was
almost entirely Whig, and was therefore an object of dislike to
the Tories. The rapidly growing power of that interest was
generally regarded with jealousy by landowners whether they were
Whigs or Tories. It was something new and monstrous to see a
trader from Lombard Street, who had no tie to the soil of our
island, and whose wealth was entirely personal and movable, post
down to Devonshire or Sussex with a portmanteau full of guineas,
offer himself as candidate for a borough in opposition to a
neighbouring gentleman whose ancestors had been regularly
returned ever since the Wars of the Roses, and come in at the
head of the poll. Yet even this was not the worst. More than one
seat in Parliament, it was said, had been bought and sold over a
dish of coffee at Garraway's. The purchaser had not been required
even to go through the form of showing himself to the electors.
Without leaving his counting house in Cheapside, he had been
chosen to represent a place which he had never seen. Such things
were intolerable. No man, it was said, ought to sit in the
English legislature who was not master of some hundreds of acres
of English ground.689 A bill was accordingly brought in which
provided that every member of the House of Commons must have a
certain estate in land. For a knight of a shire the qualification
was fixed at five hundred a year; for a burgess at two hundred a
year. Early in February this bill was read a second time and
referred to a Select Committee. A motion was made that the
Committee should be instructed to add a clause enacting that all
elections should be by ballot. Whether this motion proceeded from
a Whig or a Tory, by what arguments it was supported and on what
grounds it was opposed, we have now no means of discovering. We
know only that it was rejected without a division.

Before the bill came back from the Committee, some of the most
respectable constituent bodies in the kingdom had raised their
voices against the new restriction to which it was proposed to
subject them. There had in general been little sympathy between
the commercial towns and the Universities. For the commercial
towns were the chief seats of Whiggism and Non conformity; and
the Universities were zealous for the Crown and the Church. Now,
however, Oxford and Cambridge made common cause with London and
Bristol. It was hard, said the Academics, that a grave and
learned man, sent by a large body of grave and learned men to the
Great Council of the nation, should be thought less fit to sit in
that Council than a boozing clown who had scarcely literature
enough to entitle him to the benefit of clergy. It was hard, said
the traders, that a merchant prince, who had been the first
magistrate of the first city in the world, whose name on the back
of a bill commanded entire confidence at Smyrna and at Genoa, at
Hamburg and at Amsterdam, who had at sea ships every one of which
was worth a manor, and who had repeatedly, when the liberty and
religion of the kingdom were in peril, advanced to the
government, at an hour's notice, five or ten thousand pounds,
should be supposed to have a less stake in the prosperity of the
commonwealth than a squire who sold his own bullocks and hops
over a pot of ale at the nearest market town. On the report, it
was moved that the Universities should be excepted; but the
motion was lost by a hundred and fifty-one votes to a hundred and
forty-three. On the third reading it was moved that the City of
London should be excepted; but it was not thought advisable to
divide. The final question that the bill do pass, was carried by
a hundred and seventy-three votes to a hundred and fifty on the
day which preceded the discovery of the Assassination Plot. The
Lords agreed to the bill without any amendment.

William had to consider whether he would give or withhold his
assent. The commercial towns of the kingdom, and among them the
City of London, which had always stood firmly by him, and which
had extricated him many times from great embarrassments, implored
his protection. It was represented to him that the Commons were
far indeed from being unanimous on this subject; that, in the
last stage, the majority had been only twenty-three in a full
House; that the motion to except the Universities had been lost
by a majority of only eight. On full consideration he resolved
not to pass the bill. Nobody, he said, could accuse him of acting
selfishly on this occasion; his prerogative was not concerned in
the matter; and he could have no objection to the proposed law
except that it would be mischievous to his people.

On the tenth of April 1696, therefore, the Clerk of the
Parliament was commanded to inform the Houses that the King would
consider of the Bill for the further Regulation of Elections.
Some violent Tories in the House of Commons flattered themselves
that they might be able to carry a resolution reflecting on the
King. They moved that whoever had advised His Majesty to refuse
his assent to their bill was an enemy to him and to the nation.
Never was a greater blunder committed. The temper of the House
was very different from what it had been on the day when the
address against Portland's grant had been voted by acclamation.
The detection of a murderous conspiracy, the apprehension of a
French invasion, had changed every thing. The King was popular.
Every day ten or twelve bales of parchment covered with the
signatures of associators were laid at his feet. Nothing could be
more imprudent than to propose, at such a time, a thinly
disguised vote of censure on him. The moderate Tories accordingly
separated themselves from their angry and unreasonable brethren.
The motion was rejected by two hundred and nineteen votes to
seventy; and the House ordered the question and the numbers on
both sides to be published, in order that the world might know
how completely the attempt to produce a quarrel between the King
and the Parliament had failed.690

The country gentlemen might perhaps have been more inclined to
resent the loss of their bill, had they not been put into high
goodhumour by another bill which they considered as even more
important. The project of a Land Bank had been revived; not in
the form in which it had, two years before, been brought under
the consideration of the House of Commons, but in a form much
less shocking to common sense and less open to ridicule.
Chamberlayne indeed protested loudly against all modifications of
his plan, and proclaimed, with undiminished confidence, that he
would make all his countrymen rich if they would only let him. He
was not, he said, the first great discoverer whom princes and
statesmen had regarded as a dreamer. Henry the Seventh had, in an
evil hour, refused to listen to Christopher Columbus; the
consequence had been that England had lost the mines of Mexico
and Peru; yet what were the mines of Mexico and Peru to the
riches of a nation blessed with an unlimited paper currency? But
the united force of reason and ridicule had reduced the once
numerous sect which followed Chamberlayne to a small and select
company of incorrigible fools. Few even of the squires now
believed in his two great doctrines; the doctrine that the State
can, by merely calling a bundle of old rags ten millions
sterling, add ten millions sterling to the riches of the nation;
and the doctrine that a lease of land for a term of years may be
worth many times the fee simple. But it was still the general
opinion of the country gentlemen that a bank, of which it should
be the special business to advance money on the security of land,
might be a great blessing to the nation. Harley and the Speaker
Foley now proposed that such a bank should be established by Act
of Parliament, and promised that, if their plan was adopted, the
King should be amply supplied with money for the next campaign.

The Whig leaders, and especially Montague, saw that the scheme
was a delusion, that it must speedily fail, and that, before it
failed, it might not improbably ruin their own favourite
institution, the Bank of England. But on this point they had
against them, not only the whole Tory party, but also their
master and many of their followers. The necessities of the State
were pressing. The offers of the projectors were tempting. The
Bank of England had, in return for its charter, advanced to the
State only one million at eight per cent. The Land Bank would
advance more than two millions and a half at seven per cent.
William, whose chief object was to procure money for the service
of the year, was little inclined to find fault with any source
from which two millions and a half could be obtained. Sunderland,
who generally exerted his influence in favour of the Whig
leaders, failed them on this occasion. The Whig country gentlemen
were delighted by the prospect of being able to repair their
stables, replenish their cellars, and give portions to their
daughters. It was impossible to contend against such a
combination of force. A bill was passed which authorised the
government to borrow two million five hundred and sixty-four
thousand pounds at seven per cent. A fund, arising chiefly from a
new tax on salt, was set apart for the payment of the interest.
If, before the first of August, the subscription for one half of
this loan should have been filled, and if one half of the sum
subscribed should have been paid into the Exchequer, the
subscribers were to become a corporate body, under the name of
the National Land Bank. As this bank was expressly intended to
accommodate country gentlemen, it was strictly interdicted from
lending money on any private security other than a mortgage of
land, and was bound to lend on mortgage at least half a million
annually. The interest on this half million was not to exceed
three and a half per cent., if the payments were quarterly, or
four per cent., if the payments were half yearly. At that time
the market rate of interest on the best mortgages was full six
per cent. The shrewd observers at the Dutch Embassy therefore
thought that capitalists would eschew all connection with what
must necessarily be a losing concern, and that the subscription
would never be half filled up; and it seems strange that any sane
person should have thought otherwise.691

It was vain however to reason against the general infatuation.
The Tories exultingly predicted that the Bank of Robert Harley
would completely eclipse the Bank of Charles Montague. The bill
passed both Houses. On the twenty-seventh of April it received
the royal assent; and the Parliament was immediately afterwards


Military Operations in the Netherlands--Commercial Crisis in
England--Financial Crisis--Efforts to restore the Currency--
Distress of the People; their Temper and Conduct--Negotiations
with France; the Duke of Savoy deserts the Coalition--Search for
Jacobite Conspirators in England; Sir John Fenwick--Capture of
Fenwick--Fenwick's Confession--Return of William to England--
Meeting of Parliament; State of the Country; Speech of William at
the Commencement of the Session--Resolutions of the House of
Commons--Return of Prosperity--Effect of the Proceedings of the
House of Commons on Foreign Governments--Restoration of the
Finances--Effects of Fenwick's Confession--Resignation of
Godolphin--Feeling of the Whigs about Fenwick--William examines
Fenwick--Disappearance of Goodman--Parliamentary Proceedings
touching Fenwick's Confession--Bill for attainting Fenwick--
Debates of the Commons on the Bill of Attainder--The Bill of
Attainder carried up to the Lords--Artifices of Monmouth--Debates
of the Lords on the Bill of Attainder--Proceedings against
Monmouth--Position and Feelings of Shrewsbury--The Bill of
Attainder passed; Attempts to save Fenwick--Fenwick's Execution;
Bill for the Regulating of Elections--Bill for the Regulation of
the Press--Bill abolishing the Privileges of Whitefriars and the
Savoy--Close of the Session; Promotions and Appointments--State
of Ireland--State of Scotland--A Session of Parliament at
Edinburgh; Act for the Settling of Schools--Case of Thomas
Aikenhead--Military Operations in the Netherlands--Terms of Peace
offered by France--Conduct of Spain; Conduct of the Emperor--
Congress of Ryswick--William opens a distinct Negotiation--
Meetings of Portland and Boufflers--Terms of Peace between France
and England settled--Difficulties caused by Spain and the
Emperor--Attempts of James to prevent a general Pacification--The
Treaty of Ryswick signed; Anxiety in England--News of the Peace
arrives in England--Dismay of the Jacobites--General Rejoicing--
The King's Entry into London--The Thanksgiving Day

ON the seventh of May 1696, William landed in Holland.692 Thence
he proceeded to Flanders, and took the command of the allied
forces, which were collected in the neighbourhood of Ghent.
Villeroy and Boufflers were already in the field. All Europe
waited impatiently for great news from the Netherlands, but
waited in vain. No aggressive movement was made. The object of
the generals on both sides was to keep their troops from dying of
hunger; and it was an object by no means easily attained. The
treasuries both of France and England were empty. Lewis had,
during the winter, created with great difficulty and expense a
gigantic magazine at Givet on the frontier of his kingdom. The
buildings were commodious and of vast extent. The quantity of
provender laid up in them for horses was immense. The number of
rations for men was commonly estimated at from three to four
millions. But early in the spring Athlone and Cohorn had, by a
bold and dexterous move, surprised Givet, and had utterly
destroyed both storehouses and stores.693 France, already
fainting from exhaustion, was in no condition to repair such a
loss. Sieges such as those of Mons and Namur were operations too
costly for her means. The business of her army now was, not to
conquer, but to subsist.

The army of William was reduced to straits not less painful. The
material wealth of England, indeed, had not been very seriously
impaired by the drain which the war had caused; but she was
suffering severely from the defective state of that instrument by
which her material wealth was distributed.

Saturday, the second of May, had been fixed by Parliament as the
last day on which the clipped crowns, halfcrowns and shillings
were to be received by tale in payment of taxes.694 The Exchequer
was besieged from dawn till midnight by an immense multitude. It
was necessary to call in the guards for the purpose of keeping
order. On the following Monday began a cruel agony of a few
months, which was destined to be succeeded by many years of
almost unbroken prosperity.695

Most of the old silver had vanished. The new silver had scarcely
made its appearance. About four millions sterling, in ingots and
hammered coin, were lying in the vaults of the Exchequer; and the
milled money as yet came forth very slowly from the Mint.696
Alarmists predicted that the wealthiest and most enlightened
kingdom in Europe would be reduced to the state of those
barbarous societies in which a mat is bought with a hatchet, and
a pair of mocassins with a piece of venison.

There were, indeed, some hammered pieces which had escaped
mutilation; and sixpences not clipped within the innermost ring
were still current. This old money and the new money together
made up a scanty stock of silver, which, with the help of gold,
was to carry the nation through the summer.697 The manufacturers
generally contrived, though with extreme difficulty, to pay their
workmen in coin.698 The upper classes seem to have lived to a
great extent on credit. Even an opulent man seldom had the means
of discharging the weekly bills of his baker and butcher.699 A
promissory note, however, subscribed by such a man, was readily
taken in the district where his means and character were well
known. The notes of the wealthy moneychangers of Lombard Street
circulated widely.700 The paper of the Bank of England did much
service, and would have done more, but for the unhappy error into
which the Parliament had recently been led by Harley and Foley.
The confidence which the public had felt in that powerful and
opulent Company had been shaken by the Act which established the
Land Bank. It might well be doubted whether there would be room
for the two rival institutions; and of the two, the younger
seemed to be the favourite of the government and of the
legislature. The stock of the Bank of England had gone rapidly
down from a hundred and ten to eighty-three. Meanwhile the
goldsmiths, who had from the first been hostile to that great
corporation, were plotting against it. They collected its paper
from every quarter; and on the fourth of May, when the Exchequer
had just swallowed up most of the old money, and when scarcely
any of the new money had been issued, they flocked to Grocers'
Hall, and insisted on immediate payment. A single goldsmith
demanded thirty thousand pounds. The Directors, in this
extremity, acted wisely and firmly. They refused to cash the
notes which had been thus maliciously presented, and left the
holders to seek a remedy in Westminster Hall. Other creditors,
who came in good faith to ask for their due, were paid. The
conspirators affected to triumph over the powerful body, which
they hated and dreaded. The bank which had recently begun to
exist under such splendid auspices, which had seemed destined to
make a revolution in commerce and in finance, which had been the
boast of London and the envy of Amsterdam, was already insolvent,
ruined, dishonoured. Wretched pasquinades were published, the
Trial of the Land Bank for murdering the Bank of England, the
last Will and Testament of the Bank of England, the Epitaph of
the Bank of England, the Inquest on the Bank of England. But, in
spite of all this clamour and all this wit, the correspondents of
the States General reported, that the Bank of England had not
really suffered in the public esteem, and that the conduct of the
goldsmiths was generally condemned.701

The Directors soon found it impossible to procure silver enough to
meet every claim which was made on them in good faith. They then
bethought them of a new expedient. They made a call of twenty per
cent. on the proprietors, and thus raised a sum which enabled them
to give every applicant fifteen per cent. in milled money on what
was due to him. They returned him his note, after making a minute
upon it that part had been paid.702 A few notes thus marked are
still preserved among the archives of the Bank, as memorials of
that terrible year. The paper of the Corporation continued to
circulate, but the value fluctuated violently from day to day, and
indeed from hour to hour; for the public mind was in so excitable
a state that the most absurd lie which a stockjobber could invent
sufficed to send the price up or down. At one time the discount
was only six per cent., at another time twenty-four per cent. A
tenpound note, which had been taken in the morning as worth more
than nine pounds, was often worth less than eight pounds before

Another, and, at that conjuncture, a more effectual substitute
for a metallic currency, owed its existence to the ingenuity of
Charles Montague. He had succeeded in engrafting on Harley's Land
Bank Bill a clause which empowered the government to issue
negotiable paper bearing interest at the rate of threepence a day
on a hundred pounds. In the midst of the general distress and
confusion appeared the first Exchequer Bills, drawn for various
amounts from a hundred pounds down to five pounds. These
instruments were rapidly distributed over the kingdom by the
post, and were every where welcome. The Jacobites talked
violently against them in every coffeehouse, and wrote much
detestable verse against them, but to little purpose. The success
of the plan was such, that the ministers at one time resolved to
issue twentyshilling bills, and even fifteenshilling bills, for
the payment of the troops. But it does not appear that this
resolution was carried into effect.704

It is difficult to imagine how, without the Exchequer Bills, the
government of the country could have been carried on during that
year. Every source of revenue had been affected by the state of
the currency; and one source, on which the Parliament had
confidently reckoned for the means of defraying more than half
the charge of the war, had yielded not a single farthing.

The sum expected from the Land Bank was near two million six
hundred thousand pounds. Of this sum one half was to be
subscribed, and one quarter paid up by the first of August. The
King, just before his departure, had signed a warrant appointing
certain commissioners, among whom Harley and Foley were the most
eminent, to receive the names of the contributors.705 A great
meeting of persons interested in the scheme was held in the Hall
of the Middle Temple. One office was opened at Exeter Change,
another at Mercers' Hall. Forty agents went down into the
country, and announced to the landed gentry of every shire the
approach of the golden age of high rents and low interest. The
Council of Regency, in order to set an example to the nation, put
down the King's name for five thousand pounds; and the newspapers
assured the world that the subscription would speedily be
filled.706 But when three weeks had passed away, it was found
that only fifteen hundred pounds had been added to the five
thousand contributed by the King. Many wondered at this; yet
there was little cause for wonder. The sum which the friends of
the project had undertaken to raise was a sum which only the
enemies of the project could furnish. The country gentlemen
wished well to Harley's scheme; but they wished well to it
because they wanted to borrow money on easy terms; and, wanting
to borrow money, they of course were not able to lend it. The
moneyed class alone could supply what was necessary to the
existence of the Land Bank; and the Land Bank was avowedly
intended to diminish the profits, to destroy the political
influence and to lower the social position of the moneyed class.
As the usurers did not choose to take on themselves the expense
of putting down usury, the whole plan failed in a manner which,
if the aspect of public affairs had been less alarming, would
have been exquisitely ludicrous. The day drew near. The neatly
ruled pages of the subscription book at Mercers' Hall were still
blank. The Commissioners stood aghast. In their distress they
applied to the government for indulgence. Many great capitalists,
they said, were desirous to subscribe, but stood aloof because
the terms were too hard. There ought to be some relaxation. Would
the Council of Regency consent to an abatement of three hundred
thousand pounds? The finances were in such a state, and the
letters in which the King represented his wants were so urgent,
that the Council of Regency hesitated. The Commissioners were
asked whether they would engage to raise the whole sum, with this
abatement. Their answer was unsatisfactory. They did not venture
to say that they could command more than eight hundred thousand
pounds. The negotiation was, therefore, broken off. The first of
August came; and the whole amount contributed by the whole nation
to the magnificent undertaking from which so much had been
expected was two thousand one hundred pounds.707

Just at this conjuncture Portland arrived from the Continent. He
had been sent by William with charge to obtain money, at whatever
cost and from whatever quarter. The King had strained his private
credit in Holland to procure bread for his army. But all was
insufficient. He wrote to his Ministers that, unless they could
send him a speedy supply, his troops would either rise in mutiny
or desert by thousands. He knew, he said, that it would be
hazardous to call Parliament together during his absence. But, if
no other resource could be devised, that hazard must be run.708
The Council of Regency, in extreme embarrassment, began to wish
that the terms, hard as they were, which had been offered by the
Commissioners at Mercers' Hall had been accepted. The negotiation
was renewed. Shrewsbury, Godolphin and Portland, as agents for
the King, had several conferences with Harley and Foley, who had
recently pretended that eight hundred thousand pounds were ready
to be subscribed to the Land Bank. The Ministers gave assurances,
that, if, at this conjuncture, even half that sum were advanced,
those who had done this service to the State should, in the next
session, be incorporated as a National Land Bank. Harley and
Foley at first promised, with an air of confidence, to raise what
was required. But they soon went back from their word; they
showed a great inclination to be punctilious and quarrelsome
about trifles; at length the eight hundred thousand pounds
dwindled to forty thousand; and even the forty thousand could be
had only on hard conditions.709 So ended the great delusion of
the Land Bank. The commission expired; and the offices were

And now the Council of Regency, almost in despair, had recourse
to the Bank of England. Two hundred thousand pounds was the very
smallest sum which would suffice to meet the King's most pressing
wants. Would the Bank of England advance that sum? The
capitalists who lead the chief sway in that corporation were in
bad humour, and not without reason. But fair words, earnest
entreaties and large promises were not spared; all the influence
of Montague, which was justly great, was exerted; the Directors
promised to do their best; but they apprehended that it would be
impossible for them to raise the money without making a second
call of twenty per cent. on their constituents. It was necessary
that the question should be submitted to a General Court; in such
a court more than six hundred persons were entitled to vote; and
the result might well be doubted. The proprietors were summoned
to meet on the fifteenth of August at Grocers' Hall. During the
painful interval of suspense, Shrewsbury wrote to his master in
language more tragic than is often found in official letters. "If
this should not succeed, God knows what can be done. Any thing
must be tried and ventured rather than lie down and die."710 On
the fifteenth of August, a great epoch in the history of the
Bank, the General Court was held. In the chair sate Sir John
Houblon, the Governor, who was also Lord Mayor of London, and,
what would in our time be thought strange, a Commissioner of the
Admiralty. Sir John, in a speech, every word of which had been
written and had been carefully considered by the Directors,
explained the case, and implored the assembly to stand by King
William. There was at first a little murmuring. "If our notes
would do," it was said, "we should be most willing to assist His
Majesty; but two hundred thousand pounds in hard money at a time
like this." The Governor announced explicitly that nothing but
gold or silver would supply the necessities of the army in
Flanders. At length the question was put to the vote; and every
hand in the Hall was held up for sending the money. The letters
from the Dutch Embassy informed the States General that the
events of that day had bound the Bank and the government together
in close alliance, and that several of the ministers had,
immediately after the meeting, purchased stock merely in order to
give a pledge of their attachment to the body which had rendered
so great a service to the State.711

Meanwhile strenuous exertions were making to hasten the
recoinage. Since the Restoration the Mint had, like every other
public establishment in the kingdom, been a nest of idlers and
jobbers. The important office of Warden, worth between six and
seven hundred a year, had become a mere sinecure, and had been
filled by a succession of fine gentlemen, who were well known at
the hazard table of Whitehall, but who never condescended to come
near the Tower. This office had just become vacant, and Montague
had obtained it for Newton.712 The ability, the industry and the
strict uprightness of the great philosopher speedily produced a
complete revolution throughout the department which was under his
direction.713 He devoted himself to his task with an activity
which left him no time to spare for those pursuits in which he
had surpassed Archimedes and Galileo. Till the great work was
completely done, he resisted firmly, and almost angrily, every
attempt that was made by men of science, here or on the
Continent, to draw him away from his official duties.714 The old
officers of the Mint had thought it a great feat to coin silver
to the amount of fifteen thousand pounds in a week. When Montague
talked of thirty or forty thousand, these men of form and
precedent pronounced the thing impracticable. But the energy of
the young Chancellor of the Exchequer and of his friend the
Warden accomplished far greater wonders. Soon nineteen mills were
going at once in the Tower. As fast as men could be trained to
the work in London, bands of them were sent off to other parts of
the kingdom. Mints were established at Bristol, York, Exeter,
Norwich and Chester. This arrangement was in the highest degree
popular. The machinery and the workmen were welcomed to the new
stations with the ringing of bells and the firing of guns. The
weekly issue increased to sixty thousand pounds, to eighty
thousand, to a hundred thousand, and at length to a hundred and
twenty thousand.715 Yet even this issue, though great, not only
beyond precedent, but beyond hope, was scanty when compared with
the demands of the nation. Nor did all the newly stamped silver
pass into circulation; for during the summer and autumn those
politicians who were for raising the denomination of the coin
were active and clamorous; and it was generally expected that, as
soon as the Parliament should reassemble, the standard would be
lowered. Of course no person who thought it probable that he
should, at a day not far distant, be able to pay a debt of a
pound with three crown pieces instead of four, was willing to
part with a crown piece, till that day arrived. Most of the
milled pieces were therefore hoarded.716 May, June and July
passed away without any perceptible increase in the quantity of
good money. It was not till August that the keenest observer
could discern the first faint signs of returning prosperity.717

The distress of the common people was severe, and was aggravated
by the follies of magistrates and by the arts of malecontents. A
squire who was one of the quorum would sometimes think it his
duty to administer to his neighbours, at this trying conjuncture,
what seemed to him to be equity; and as no two of these rural
praetors had exactly the same notion of what was equitable, their
edicts added confusion to confusion. In one parish people were,
in outrageous violation of the law, threatened with the stocks,
if they refused to take clipped shillings by tale. In the next
parish it was dangerous to pay such shillings except by
weight.718 The enemies of the government, at the same time,
laboured indefatigably in their vocation. They harangued in every
place of public resort, from the Chocolate House in Saint James's
Street to the sanded kitchen of the alehouse on the village
green. In verse and prose they incited the suffering multitude to
rise up in arms. Of the tracts which they published at this time,
the most remarkable was written by a deprived priest named
Grascombe, of whose ferocity and scurrility the most respectable
nonjurors had long been ashamed. He now did his best to persuade
the rabble to tear in pieces those members of Parliament who had
voted for the restoration of the currency.719 It would be too
much to say that the malignant industry of this man and of men
like him produced no effect on a population which was doubtless
severely tried. There were riots in several parts of the country,
but riots which were suppressed with little difficulty, and, as
far as can be discovered, without the shedding of a drop of
blood.720 In one place a crowd of poor ignorant creatures,
excited by some knavish agitator, besieged the house of a Whig
member of Parliament, and clamorously insisted on having their
short money changed. The gentleman consented, and desired to know
how much they had brought. After some delay they were able to
produce a single clipped halfcrown.721 Such tumults as this were
at a distance exaggerated into rebellions and massacres. At Paris
it was gravely asserted in print that, in an English town which
was not named, a soldier and a butcher had quarrelled about a
piece of money, that the soldier had killed the butcher, that the
butcher's man had snatched up a cleaver and killed the soldier,
that a great fight had followed, and that fifty dead bodies had
been left on the ground.722 The truth was, that the behaviour of
the great body of the people was beyond all praise. The judges
when, in September, they returned from their circuits, reported
that the temper of the nation was excellent.723 There was a
patience, a reasonableness, a good nature, a good faith, which
nobody had anticipated. Every body felt that nothing but mutual
help and mutual forbearance could prevent the dissolution of
society. A hard creditor, who sternly demanded payment to the day
in milled money, was pointed at in the streets, and was beset by
his own creditors with demands which soon brought him to reason.
Much uneasiness had been felt about the troops. It was scarcely
possible to pay them regularly; if they were not paid regularly,
it might well be apprehended that they would supply their wants
by rapine; and such rapine it was certain that the nation,
altogether unaccustomed to military exaction and oppression,
would not tamely endure. But, strange to say, there was, through
this trying year, a better understanding than had ever been known
between the soldiers and the rest of the community. The gentry,
the farmers, the shopkeepers supplied the redcoats with
necessaries in a manner so friendly and liberal that there was no
brawling and no marauding. "Severely as these difficulties have
been felt," L'Hermitage writes, "they have produced one happy
effect; they have shown how good the spirit of the country is. No
person, however favourable his opinion of the English may have
been, could have expected that a time of such suffering would
have been a time of such tranquillity."724

Men who loved to trace, in the strangely complicated maze of
human affairs, the marks of more than human wisdom, were of
opinion that, but for the interference of a gracious Providence,
the plan so elaborately devised by great statesmen and great
philosophers would have failed completely and ignominiously.
Often, since the Revolution, the English had been sullen and
querulous, unreasonably jealous of the Dutch, and disposed to put
the worst construction on every act of the King. Had the fourth
of May found our ancestors in such a mood, it can scarcely be
doubted that sharp distress, irritating minds already irritable,
would have caused an outbreak which must have shaken and might
have subverted the throne of William. Happily, at the moment at
which the loyalty of the nation was put to the most severe test,
the King was more popular than he had ever been since the day on
which the Crown was tendered to him in the Banqueting House. The
plot which had been laid against his life had excited general
disgust and horror. His reserved manners, his foreign attachments
were forgotten. He had become an object of personal interest and
of personal affection to his people. They were every where coming
in crowds to sign the instrument which bound them to defend and
to avenge him. They were every where carrying about in their hats
the badges of their loyalty to him. They could hardly be
restrained from inflicting summary punishment on the few who
still dared openly to question his title. Jacobite was now a
synonyme for cutthroat. Noted Jacobite laymen had just planned a
foul murder. Noted Jacobite priests had, in the face of day, and
in the administration of a solemn ordinance of religion,
indicated their approbation of that murder. Many honest and pious
men, who thought that their allegiance was still due to James,
had indignantly relinquished all connection with zealots who
seemed to think that a righteous end justified the most
unrighteous means. Such was the state of public feeling during
the summer and autumn of 1696; and therefore it was that
hardships which, in any of the seven preceding years, would
certainly have produced a rebellion, and might perhaps have
produced a counterrevolution, did not produce a single tumult too
serious to be suppressed by the constable's staff.

Nevertheless, the effect of the commercial and financial crisis
in England was felt through all the fleets and armies of the
coalition. The great source of subsidies was dry. No important
military operation could any where be attempted. Meanwhile
overtures tending to peace had been made, and a negotiation had
been opened. Callieres, one of the ablest of the many able envoys
in the service of France, had been sent to the Netherlands, and
had held many conferences with Dykvelt. Those conferences might
perhaps have come to a speedy and satisfactory close, had not
France, at this time, won a great diplomatic victory in another
quarter. Lewis had, during seven years, been scheming and
labouring in vain to break the great array of potentates whom the
dread of his might and of his ambition had brought together and
kept together. But, during seven years, all his arts had been
baffled by the skill of William; and, when the eighth campaign
opened, the confederacy had not been weakened by a single
desertion. Soon however it began to be suspected that the Duke of
Savoy was secretly treating with the enemy. He solemnly assured
Galway, who represented England at the Court of Turin, that there
was not the slightest ground for such suspicions, and sent to
William letters filled with professions of zeal for the common
cause, and with earnest entreaties for more money. This
dissimulation continued till a French army, commanded by Catinat,
appeared in Piedmont. Then the Duke threw off his disguise,
concluded peace with France, joined his troops to those of
Catinat, marched into the Milanese, and informed the allies whom
he had just abandoned that, unless they wished to have him for an
enemy, they must declare Italy neutral ground. The Courts of
Vienna and Madrid, in great dismay, submitted to the terms which
he dictated. William expostulated and protested in vain. His
influence was no longer what it had been. The general opinion of
Europe was, that the riches and the credit of England were
completely exhausted; and both her confederates and her enemies
imagined that they might safely treat her with indignity. Spain,
true to her invariable maxim that every thing ought to be done
for her and nothing by her, had the effrontery to reproach the
Prince to whom she owed it that she had not lost the Netherlands
and Catalonia, because he had not sent troops and ships to defend
her possessions in Italy. The Imperial ministers formed and
executed resolutions gravely affecting the interests of the
coalition without consulting him who had been the author and the
soul of the coalition.725 Lewis had, after the failure of the
Assassination Plot, made up his mind to the disagreeable
necessity of recognising William, and had authorised Callieres to
make a declaration to that effect. But the defection of Savoy,
the neutrality of Italy, the disunion among the allies, and,
above all, the distresses of England, exaggerated as they were in
all the letters which the Jacobites of Saint Germains received
from the Jacobites of London, produced a change. The tone of
Callieres became high and arrogant; he went back from his word,
and refused to give any pledge that his master would acknowledge
the Prince of Orange as King of Great Britain. The joy was great
among the nonjurors. They had always, they said, been certain
that the Great Monarch would not be so unmindful of his own glory
and of the common interest of Sovereigns as to abandon the cause
of his unfortunate guests, and to call an usurper his brother.
They knew from the best authority that His Most Christian Majesty
had lately, at Fontainebleau, given satisfactory assurances on
this subject to King James. Indeed, there is reason to believe
that the project of an invasion of our island was again seriously
discussed at Versailles.726 Catinat's army was now at liberty.
France, relieved from all apprehension on the side of Savoy,
might spare twenty thousand men for a descent on England; and, if
the misery and discontent here were such as was generally
reported, the nation might be disposed to receive foreign
deliverers with open arms.

So gloomy was the prospect which lay before William, when, in the
autumn of 1696, he quitted his camp in the Netherlands for
England. His servants here meanwhile were looking forward to his
arrival with very strong and very various emotions. The whole
political world had been thrown into confusion by a cause which
did not at first appear commensurate to such an effect.

During his absence, the search for the Jacobites who had been
concerned in the plots of the preceding winter had not been
intermitted; and of these Jacobites none was in greater peril
than Sir John Fenwick. His birth, his connections, the high
situations which he had filled, the indefatigable activity with
which he had, during several years, laboured to subvert the
government, and the personal insolence with which he had treated
the deceased Queen, marked him out as a man fit to be made an
example. He succeeded, however, in concealing himself from the
officers of justice till the first heat of pursuit was over. In
his hiding place he thought of an ingenious device which might,
as he conceived, save him from the fate of his friends Charnock
and Parkyns. Two witnesses were necessary to convict him. It
appeared from what had passed on the trials of his accomplices,
that there were only two witnesses who could prove his guilt,
Porter and Goodman. His life was safe if either of these men
could be persuaded to abscond.

Fenwick was not the only person who had strong reason to wish
that Porter or Goodman, or both, might be induced to leave
England. Aylesbury had been arrested, and committed to the Tower;
and he well knew that, if these men appeared against him, his
head would be in serious danger. His friends and Fenwick's raised
what was thought a sufficient sum; and two Irishmen, or, in the
phrase of the newspapers of that day, bogtrotters, a barber named
Clancy, and a disbanded captain named Donelagh, undertook the
work of corruption.

The first attempt was made on Porter. Clancy contrived to fall in
with him at a tavern, threw out significant hints, and, finding
that those hints were favourably received, opened a regular
negotiation. The terms offered were alluring; three hundred
guineas down, three hundred more as soon as the witness should be
beyond sea, a handsome annuity for life, a free pardon from King
James, and a secure retreat in France. Porter seemed inclined,
and perhaps was really inclined, to consent. He said that he
still was what he had been, that he was at heart attached to the
good cause, but that he had been tried beyond his strength. Life
was sweet. It was easy for men who had never been in danger to
say that none but a villain would save himself by hanging his
associates; but a few hours in Newgate, with the near prospect of
a journey on a sledge to Tyburn, would teach such boasters to be
more charitable. After repeatedly conferring with Clancy, Porter
was introduced to Fenwick's wife, Lady Mary, a sister of the Earl
of Carlisle. Every thing was soon settled. Donelagh made the
arrangements for the flight. A boat was in waiting. The letters
which were to secure to the fugitive the protection of King James
were prepared by Fenwick. The hour and place were fixed at which
Porter was to receive the first instalment of the promised
reward. But his heart misgave him. He had, in truth, gone such
lengths that it would have been madness in him to turn back. He
had sent Charnock, King, Keyes, Friend, Parkyns, Rookwood,
Cranburne, to the gallows. It was impossible that such a Judas
could ever be really forgiven. In France, among the friends and
comrades of those whom he had destroyed, his life would not be
worth one day's purchase. No pardon under the Great Seal would
avert the stroke of the avenger of blood. Nay, who could say that
the bribe now offered was not a bait intended to lure the victim
to the place where a terrible doom awaited him? Porter resolved
to be true to that government under which alone he could be safe;
he carried to Whitehall information of the whole intrigue; and he
received full instructions from the ministers. On the eve of the
day fixed for his departure he had a farewell meeting with Clancy
at a tavern. Three hundred guineas were counted out on the table.
Porter pocketed them, and gave a signal. Instantly several
messengers from the office of the Secretary of State rushed into
the room, and produced a warrant. The unlucky barber was carried
off to prison, tried for his offence, convicted and pilloried.727

This mishap made Fenwick's situation more perilous than ever. At
the next sessions for the City of London a bill of indictment
against him, for high treason, was laid before the grand jury.
Porter and Goodman appeared as witnesses for the Crown; and the
bill was found. Fenwick now thought that it was high time to
steal away to the Continent. Arrangements were made for his
passage. He quitted his hiding place, and repaired to Romney
Marsh. There he hoped to find shelter till the vessel which was
to convey him across the Channel should arrive. For, though
Hunt's establishment had been broken up, there were still in that
dreary region smugglers who carried on more than one lawless
trade. It chanced that two of these men had just been arrested on
a charge of harbouring traitors. The messenger who had taken them
into custody was returning to London with them, when, on the high
road, he met Fenwick face to face. Unfortunately for Fenwick, no
face in England was better known than his. "It is Sir John," said
the officer to the prisoners: "Stand by me, my good fellows, and,
I warrant you, you will have your pardons, and a bag of guineas
besides." The offer was too tempting to be refused; but Fenwick
was better mounted than his assailants; he dashed through them,
pistol in hand, and was soon out of sight. They pursued him; the
hue and cry was raised; the bells of all the parish churches of
the Marsh rang out the alarm; the whole country was up; every
path was guarded; every thicket was beaten; every hut was
searched; and at length the fugitive was found in bed. Just then
a bark, of very suspicious appearance, came in sight; she soon
approached the shore, and showed English colours; but to the
practised eyes of the Kentish fishermen she looked much like a
French privateer. It was not difficult to guess her errand. After
waiting a short time in vain for her passenger, she stood out to

Fenwick, unluckily for himself, was able so far to elude the
vigilance of those who had charge of him as to scrawl with a lead
pencil a short letter to his wife. Every line contained evidence
of his guilt. All, he wrote, was over; he was a dead man, unless,
indeed, his friends could, by dint of solicitation, obtain a
pardon for him. Perhaps the united entreaties of all the Howards
might succeed. He would go abroad; he would solemnly promise
never again to set foot on English ground, and never to draw
sword against the government. Or would it be possible to bribe a
juryman or two to starve out the rest? "That," he wrote, "or
nothing can save me." This billet was intercepted in its way to
the post, and sent up to Whitehall. Fenwick was soon carried to
London and brought before the Lords Justices. At first he held
high language and bade defiance to his accusers. He was told that
he had not always been so confident; and his letter to his wife
was laid before him. He had not till then been aware that it had
fallen into hands for which it was not intended. His distress and
confusion became great. He felt that, if he were instantly sent
before a jury, a conviction was inevitable. One chance remained.
If he could delay his trial for a short time, the judges would
leave town for their circuits; a few weeks would be gained; and
in the course of a few weeks something might be done.

He addressed himself particularly to the Lord Steward,
Devonshire, with whom he had formerly had some connection of a
friendly kind. The unhappy man declared that he threw himself
entirely on the royal mercy, and offered to disclose all that he
knew touching the plots of the Jacobites. That he knew much
nobody could doubt. Devonshire advised his colleagues to postpone
the trial till the pleasure of William could be known. This
advice was taken. The King was informed of what had passed; and
he soon sent an answer directing Devonshire to receive the
prisoner's confession in writing, and to send it over to the
Netherlands with all speed.729

Fenwick had now to consider what he should confess. Had he,
according to his promise, revealed all that he knew, there can be
no doubt that his evidence would have seriously affected many
Jacobite noblemen, gentlemen and clergymen. But, though he was
very unwilling to die, attachment to his party was in his mind a
stronger sentiment than the fear of death. The thought occurred
to him that he might construct a story, which might possibly be
considered as sufficient to earn his pardon, which would at least
put off his trial some months, yet which would not injure a
single sincere adherent of the banished dynasty, nay, which would
cause distress and embarrassment to the enemies of that dynasty,
and which would fill the Court, the Council, and the Parliament
of William with fears and animosities. He would divulge nothing
that could affect those true Jacobites who had repeatedly
awaited, with pistols loaded and horses saddled, the landing of
the rightful King accompanied by a French army. But if there were
false Jacobites who had mocked their banished Sovereign year
after year with professions of attachment and promises of
service, and yet had, at every great crisis, found some excuse
for disappointing him, and who were at that moment among the
chief supports of the usurper's throne, why should they be
spared? That there were such false Jacobites, high in political
office and in military command, Fenwick had good reason to
believe. He could indeed say nothing against them to which a
Court of Justice would have listened; for none of them had ever
entrusted him with any message or letter for France; and all that
he knew about their treachery he had learned at second hand and
third hand. But of their guilt he had no doubt. One of them was
Marlborough. He had, after betraying James to William, promised
to make reparation by betraying William to James, and had, at
last, after much shuffling, again betrayed James and made peace
with William. Godolphin had practised similar deception. He had
long been sending fair words to Saint Germains; in return for
those fair words he had received a pardon; and, with this pardon
in his secret drawer, he had continued to administer the finances
of the existing government. To ruin such a man would be a just
punishment for his baseness, and a great service to King James.
Still more desirable was it to blast the fame and to destroy the
influence of Russell and Shrewsbury. Both were distinguished
members of that party which had, under different names, been,
during three generations, implacably hostile to the Kings of the
House of Stuart. Both had taken a great part in the Revolution.
The names of both were subscribed to the instrument which had
invited the Prince of Orange to England. One of them was now his
Minister for Maritime Affairs; the other his Principal Secretary
of State; but neither had been constantly faithful to him. Both
had, soon after his accession, bitterly resented his wise and
magnanimous impartiality, which, to their minds, disordered by
party spirit, seemed to be unjust and ungrateful partiality for
the Tory faction; and both had, in their spleen, listened to
agents from Saint Germains. Russell had vowed by all that was
most sacred that he would himself bring back his exiled
Sovereign. But the vow was broken as soon as it had been uttered;
and he to whom the royal family had looked as to a second Monk
had crushed the hopes of that family at La Hogue. Shrewsbury had
not gone such lengths. Yet he too, while out of humour with
William, had tampered with the agents of James. With the power
and reputation of these two great men was closely connected the
power and reputation of the whole Whig party. That party, after
some quarrels, which were in truth quarrels of lovers, was now
cordially reconciled to William, and bound to him by the
strongest ties. If those ties could be dissolved, if he could be
induced to regard with distrust and aversion the only set of men
which was on principle and with enthusiasm devoted to his
interests, his enemies would indeed have reason to rejoice.

With such views as these Fenwick delivered to Devonshire a paper
so cunningly composed that it would probably have brought some
severe calamity on the Prince to whom it was addressed, had not
that Prince been a man of singularly clear judgment and
singularly lofty spirit. The paper contained scarcely any thing
respecting those Jacobite plots in which the writer had been
himself concerned, and of which he intimately knew all the
details. It contained nothing which could be of the smallest
prejudice to any person who was really hostile to the existing
order of things. The whole narrative was made up of stories, too
true for the most part, yet resting on no better authority than
hearsay, about the intrigues of some eminent warriors and
statesmen, who, whatever their former conduct might have been,
were now at least hearty in support of William. Godolphin,
Fenwick averred, had accepted a seat at the Board of Treasury,
with the sanction and for the benefit of King James. Marlborough
had promised to carry over the army, Russell to carry over the
fleet. Shrewsbury, while out of office, had plotted with
Middleton against the government and King. Indeed the Whigs were
now the favourites at Saint Germains. Many old friends of
hereditary right were moved to jealousy by the preference which
James gave to the new converts. Nay, he had been heard to express
his confident hope that the monarchy would be set up again by the
very hands which had pulled it down.

Such was Fenwick's confession. Devonshire received it and sent it
by express to the Netherlands, without intimating to any of his
fellow councillors what it contained. The accused ministers
afterwards complained bitterly of this proceeding. Devonshire
defended himself by saying that he had been specially deputed by
the King to take the prisoner's information, and was bound, as a
true servant of the Crown, to transmit that information to His
Majesty and to His Majesty alone.

The messenger sent by Devonshire found William at Loo. The King
read the confession, and saw at once with what objects it had
been drawn up. It contained little more than what he had long
known, and had long, with politic and generous dissimulation,
affected not to know. If he spared, employed and promoted men who
had been false to him, it was not because he was their dupe. His
observation was quick and just; his intelligence was good; and he
had, during some years, had in his hands proofs of much that
Fenwick had only gathered from wandering reports. It has seemed
strange to many that a Prince of high spirit and acrimonious
temper should have treated servants, who had so deeply wronged
him, with a kindness hardly to be expected from the meekest of
human beings. But William was emphatically a statesman. Ill
humour, the natural and pardonable effect of much bodily and much
mental suffering, might sometimes impel him to give a tart
answer. But never did he on any important occasion indulge his
angry passions at the expense of the great interests of which he
was the guardian. For the sake of those interests, proud and
imperious as he was by nature, he submitted patiently to galling
restraints, bore cruel indignities and disappointments with the
outward show of serenity, and not only forgave, but often
pretended not to see, offences which might well have moved him to
bitter resentment. He knew that he must work with such tools as
he had. If he was to govern England he must employ the public men
of England; and in his age, the public men of England, with much
of a peculiar kind of ability, were, as a class, lowminded and
immoral. There were doubtless exceptions. Such was Nottingham
among the Tories, and Somers among the Whigs. But the majority,
both of the Tory and of the Whig ministers of William, were men
whose characters had taken the ply in the days of the Antipuritan
reaction. They had been formed in two evil schools, in the most
unprincipled of courts, and the most unprincipled of oppositions,
a court which took its character from Charles, an opposition
headed by Shaftesbury. From men so trained it would have been
unreasonable to expect disinterested and stedfast fidelity to any
cause. But though they could not be trusted, they might be used
and they might be useful. No reliance could be placed on their
principles but much reliance might be placed on their hopes and on
their fears; and of the two Kings who laid claim to the English
crown, the King from whom there was most to hope and most to fear
was the King in possession. If therefore William had little reason
to esteem these politicians his hearty friends, he had still less
reason to number them among his hearty foes. Their conduct towards
him, reprehensible as it was, might be called upright when
compared with their conduct towards James. To the reigning
Sovereign they had given valuable service; to the banished
Sovereign little more than promises and professions. Shrewsbury
might, in a moment of resentment or of weakness, have trafficked
with Jacobite agents; but his general conduct had proved that he
was as far as ever from being a Jacobite. Godolphin had been
lavish of fair words to the dynasty which was out; but he had
thriftily and skilfully managed the revenues of the dynasty which
was in. Russell had sworn that he would desert with the English
fleet; but he had burned the French fleet. Even Marlborough's
known treasons,--for his share in the disaster of Brest and the
death of Talmash was unsuspected--, had not done so much harm as
his exertions at Walcourt, at Cork and at Kinsale had done good.
William had therefore wisely resolved to shut his eyes to perfidy,
which, however disgraceful it might be, had not injured him, and
still to avail himself, with proper precautions, of the eminent
talents which some of his unfaithful counsellors possessed, Having
determined on this course, and having long followed it with happy
effect, he could not but be annoyed and provoked by Fenwick's
confession. Sir John, it was plain, thought himself a Machiavel.
If his trick succeeded, the Princess, whom it was most important
to keep in good humour, would be alienated from the government by
the disgrace of Marlborough. The whole Whig party, the firmest
support of the throne, would be alienated by the disgrace of
Russell and Shrewsbury. In the meantime not one of those plotters
whom Fenwick knew to have been deeply concerned in plans of
insurrection, invasion, assassination, would be molested. This
cunning schemer should find that he had not to do with a novice.
William, instead of turning his accused servants out of their
places, sent the confession to Shrewsbury, and desired that it
might be laid before the Lords Justices. "I am astonished," the
King wrote, "at the fellow's effrontery. You know me too well to
think that such stories as his can make any impression on me.
Observe this honest man's sincerity. He has nothing to say except
against my friends. Not a word about the plans of his brother
Jacobites." The King concluded by directing the Lords justices to
send Fenwick before a jury with all speed.730

The effect produced by William's letter was remarkable. Every one
of the accused persons behaved himself in a manner singularly
characteristic. Marlborough, the most culpable of all, preserved
a serenity, mild, majestic and slightly contemptuous. Russell,
scarcely less criminal than Marlborough, went into a towering
passion, and breathed nothing but vengeance against the villanous
informer. Godolphin, uneasy, but wary, reserved and
selfpossessed, prepared himself to stand on the defensive. But
Shrewsbury, who of all the four was the least to blame, was
utterly overwhelmed. He wrote in extreme distress to William,
acknowledged with warm expressions of gratitude the King's rare
generosity, and protested that Fenwick had malignantly
exaggerated and distorted mere trifles into enormous crimes. "My
Lord Middleton,"--such was the substance of the letter,--"was
certainly in communication with me about the time of the battle
of La Hogue. We are relations; we frequently met; we supped
together just before he returned to France; I promised to take
care of his interests here; he in return offered to do me good
offices there; but I told him that I had offended too deeply to
be forgiven, and that I would not stoop to ask forgiveness."
This, Shrewsbury averred, was the whole extent of his offence.731
It is but too fully proved that this confession was by no means
ingenuous; nor is it likely that William was deceived. But he was
determined to spare the repentant traitor the humiliation of
owning a fault and accepting a pardon. "I can see," the King
wrote, "no crime at all in what you have acknowledged. Be assured
that these calumnies have made no unfavourable impression on me.
Nay, you shall find that they have strengthened my confidence in
you."732 A man hardened in depravity would have been perfectly
contented with an acquittal so complete, announced in language so
gracious. But Shrewsbury was quite unnerved by a tenderness which
he was conscious that he had not merited. He shrank from the
thought of meeting the master whom he had wronged, and by whom he
had been forgiven, and of sustaining the gaze of the peers, among
whom his birth and his abilities had gained for him a station of
which he felt that he was unworthy. The campaign in the
Netherlands was over. The session of Parliament was approaching.
The King was expected with the first fair wind. Shrewsbury left
town and retired to the Wolds of Gloucestershire. In that
district, then one of the wildest in the south of the island, he
had a small country seat, surrounded by pleasant gardens and
fish-ponds. William had, in his progress a year before, visited
this dwelling, which lay far from the nearest high road and from
the nearest market town, and had been much struck by the silence
and loneliness of the retreat in which he found the most graceful
and splendid of English courtiers.

At one in the morning of the sixth of October, the King landed at
Margate. Late in the evening he reached Kensington. The following
morning a brilliant crowd of ministers and nobles pressed to kiss
his hand; but he missed one face which ought to have been there,
and asked where the Duke of Shrewsbury was, and when he was
expected in town. The next day came a letter from the Duke,
averring that he had just had a bad fall in hunting. His side had
been bruised; his lungs had suffered; he had spit blood, and
could not venture to travel.733 That he had fallen and hurt
himself was true; but even those who felt most kindly towards him
suspected, and not without strong reason, that he made the most
of his convenient misfortune, and, that if he had not shrunk from
appearing in public, he would have performed the journey with
little difficulty. His correspondents told him that, if he was
really as ill as he thought himself, he would do well to consult
the physicians and surgeons of the capital. Somers, especially,
implored him in the most earnest manner to come up to London.
Every hour's delay was mischievous. His Grace must conquer his
sensibility. He had only to face calumny courageously, and it
would vanish.734 The King, in a few kind lines, expressed his
sorrow for the accident. "You are much wanted here," he wrote: "I
am impatient to embrace you, and to assure you that my esteem for
you is undiminished."735 Shrewsbury answered that he had resolved
to resign the seals.736 Somers adjured him not to commit so fatal
an error. If at that moment His Grace should quit office, what
could the world think, except that he was condemned by his own
conscience? He would, in fact, plead guilty; he would put a stain
on his own honour, and on the honour of all who lay under the
same accusation. It would no longer be possible to treat
Fenwick's story as a romance. "Forgive me," Somers wrote, "for
speaking after this free manner; for I do own I can scarce be
temperate in this matter."737 A few hours later William himself
wrote to the same effect. "I have so much regard for you, that,
if I could, I would positively interdict you from doing what must
bring such grave suspicions on you. At any time, I should
consider your resignation as a misfortune to myself but I protest
to you that, at this time, it is on your account more than on
mine that I wish you to remain in my service."738 Sunderland,
Portland, Russell and Wharton joined their entreaties to their
master's; and Shrewsbury consented to remain Secretary in name.
But nothing could induce him to face the Parliament which was
about to meet. A litter was sent down to him from London, but to
no purpose. He set out, but declared that he found it impossible
to proceed, and took refuge again in his lonely mansion among the

While these things were passing, the members of both Houses were
from every part of the kingdom going up to Westminster. To the
opening of the session, not only England, but all Europe, looked
forward with intense anxiety. Public credit had been deeply
injured by the failure of the Land Bank. The restoration of the
currency was not yet half accomplished. The scarcity of money was
still distressing. Much of the milled silver was buried in
private repositories as fast as it came forth from the Mint.
Those politicians who were bent on raising the denomination of
the coin had found too ready audience from a population suffering
under severe pressure; and, at one time, the general voice of the
nation had seemed to be on their side.740 Of course every person
who thought it likely that the standard would be lowered, hoarded
as much money as he could hoard; and thus the cry for little
shillings aggravated the pressure from which it had sprung.741
Both the allies and the enemies of England imagined that her
resources were spent, that her spirit was broken, that the
Commons, so often querulous and parsimonious even in tranquil and
prosperous times, would now positively refuse to bear any
additional burden, and would, with an importunity not to be
withstood, insist on having peace at any price.

But all these prognostications were confounded by the firmness
and ability of the Whig leaders, and by the steadiness of the
Whig majority. On the twentieth of October the Houses met.
William addressed to them a speech remarkable even among all the
remarkable speeches in which his own high thoughts and purposes
were expressed in the dignified and judicious language of Somers.
There was, the King said, great reason for congratulation. It was
true that the funds voted in the preceding session for the
support of the war had failed, and that the recoinage had
produced great distress. Yet the enemy had obtained no advantage
abroad; the State had been torn by no convulsion at home; the
loyalty shown by the army and by the nation under severe trials
had disappointed all the hopes of those who wished evil to
England. Overtures tending to peace had been made. What might be
the result of those overtures, was uncertain; but this was
certain, that there could be no safe or honourable peace for a
nation which was not prepared to wage vigorous war. "I am sure we
shall all agree in opinion that the only way of treating with
France is with our swords in our hands."

The Commons returned to their chamber; and Foley read the speech
from the chair. A debate followed which resounded through all
Christendom. That was the proudest day of Montague's life, and
one of the proudest days in the history of the English
Parliament. In 1798, Burke held up the proceedings of that day as
an example to the statesmen whose hearts had failed them in the
conflict with the gigantic power of the French republic. In 1822,
Huskisson held up the proceedings of that day as an example to a
legislature which, under the pressure of severe distress, was
tempted to alter the standard of value and to break faith with
the public creditor. Before the House rose the young Chancellor
of the Exchequer, whose ascendency, since the ludicrous failure
of the Tory scheme of finance, was undisputed, proposed and
carried three memorable resolutions. The first, which passed with
only one muttered No, declared that the Commons would support the
King against all foreign and domestic enemies, and would enable
him to prosecute the war with vigour. The second, which passed,
not without opposition, but without a division, declared that the
standard of money should not be altered in fineness, weight or
denomination. The third, against which not a single opponent of
the government dared to raise his voice, pledged the House to
make good all the deficiencies of all parliamentary fund's
established since the King's accession. The task of framing an
answer to the royal speech was entrusted to a Committee
exclusively composed of Whigs. Montague was chairman; and the
eloquent and animated address which he drew up may still be read
in the journals with interest and pride.742

Within a fortnight two millions and a half were granted for the
military expenditure of the approaching year, and nearly as much
for the maritime expenditure. Provision was made without any
dispute for forty thousand seamen. About the amount of the land
force there was a division. The King asked for eighty-seven
thousand soldiers; and the Tories thought that number too large.
The vote was carried by two hundred and twenty-three to sixty-

The malecontents flattered themselves, during a short time, that
the vigorous resolutions of the Commons would be nothing more
than resolutions, that it would be found impossible to restore
public credit, to obtain advances from capitalists, or to wring
taxes out of the distressed population, and that therefore the
forty thousand seamen and the eighty-seven thousand soldiers
would exist only on paper. Howe, who had been more cowed than was
usual with him on the first day of the session, attempted, a week
later, to make a stand against the Ministry. "The King," he said,
"must have been misinformed; or His Majesty never would have
felicitated Parliament on the tranquil state of the country. I
come from Gloucestershire. I know that part of the kingdom well.
The people are all living on alms, or ruined by paying alms. The
soldier helps himself, sword in hand, to what he wants. There
have been serious riots already; and still more serious riots are
to be apprehended." The disapprobation of the House was strongly
expressed. Several members declared that in their counties every
thing was quiet. If Gloucestershire were in a more disturbed
state than the rest of England, might not the cause be that
Gloucestershire was cursed with a more malignant and unprincipled
agitator than all the rest of England could show? Some
Gloucestershire gentlemen took issue with Howe on the facts.
There was no such distress, they said, no such discontent, no
such rioting as he had described. In that county, as in every
other county, the great body of the population was fully
determined to support the King in waging a vigorous war till he
could make an honourable peace.743

In fact the tide had already turned. From the moment at which the
Commons notified their fixed determination not to raise the
denomination of the coin, the milled money began to come forth
from a thousand strong boxes and private drawers. There was still
pressure; but that pressure was less and less felt day by day.
The nation, though still suffering, was joyful and grateful. Its
feelings resembled those of a man who, having been long tortured
by a malady which has embittered his life, has at last made up
his mind to submit to the surgeon's knife, who has gone through a
cruel operation with safety, and who, though still smarting from
the steel, sees before him many years of health and enjoyment,
and thanks God that the worst is over. Within four days after the
meeting of Parliament there was a perceptible improvement in
trade. The discount on bank notes had diminished by one third.
The price of those wooden tallies, which, according to an usage
handed to us from a rude age, were given as receipts for sums
paid into the Exchequer, had risen. The exchanges, which had
during many months been greatly against England, had begun to
turn.744 Soon the effect of the magnanimous firmness of the House
of Commons was felt at every Court in Europe. So high indeed was
the spirit of that assembly that the King had some difficulty in
preventing the Whigs from moving and carrying a resolution that
an address should be presented to him, requesting him to enter
into no negotiation with France, till she should have
acknowledged him as King of England.745 Such an address was
unnecessary. The votes of the Parliament had already forced on
Lewis the conviction that there was no chance of a
counterrevolution. There was as little chance that he would be
able to effect that compromise of which he had, in the course of
the negotiations, thrown out hints. It was not to be hoped that
either William or the English nation would ever consent to make
the settlement of the English crown a matter of bargain with
France. And even had William and the English nation been disposed
to purchase peace by such a sacrifice of dignity, there would
have been insuperable difficulties in another quarter. James
could not endure to hear of the expedient which Lewis had
suggested. "I can bear," the exile said to his benefactor, "I can
bear with Christian patience to be robbed by the Prince of
Orange; but I never will consent to be robbed by my own son."
Lewis never again mentioned the subject. Callieres received
orders to make the concession on which the peace of the civilised
world depended. He and Dykvelt came together at the Hague before
Baron Lilienroth, the representative of the King of Sweden, whose
mediation the belligerent powers had accepted. Dykvelt informed
Lilienroth that the Most Christian King had engaged, whenever the
Treaty of Peace should be signed, to recognise the Prince of
Orange as King of Great Britain, and added, with a very
intelligible allusion to the compromise proposed by France, that
the recognition would be without restriction, condition or
reserve. Callieres then declared that he confirmed, in the name
of his master, what Dykvelt had said.746 A letter from Prior,
containing the good news, was delivered to James Vernon, the
Under Secretary of State, in the House of Commons. The tidings
ran along the benches--such is Vernon's expression--like fire in
a field of stubble. A load was taken away from every heart; and
all was joy and triumph.747 The Whig members might indeed well
congratulate each other. For it was to the wisdom and resolution
which they had shown, in a moment of extreme danger and distress,
that their country was indebted for the near prospect of an
honourable peace.

Meanwhile public credit, which had, in the autumn, sunk to the
lowest point, was fast reviving. Ordinary financiers stood aghast
when they learned that more than five millions were required to
make good the deficiencies of past years. But Montague was not an
ordinary financier. A bold and simple plan proposed by him, and
popularly called the General Mortgage, restored confidence. New
taxes were imposed; old taxes were augmented or continued; and
thus a consolidated fund was formed sufficient to meet every just
claim on the State. The Bank of England was at the same time
enlarged by a new subscription; and the regulations for the
payment of the subscription were framed in such a manner as to
raise the value both of the notes of the corporation and of the
public securities.

Meanwhile the mints were pouring forth the new silver faster than
ever. The distress which began on the fourth of May 1696, which
was almost insupportable during the five succeeding months, and
which became lighter from the day on which the Commons declared
their immutable resolution to maintain the old standard, ceased
to be painfully felt in March 1697. Some months were still to
elapse before credit completely recovered from the most
tremendous shock that it has ever sustained. But already the deep
and solid foundation had been laid on which was to rise the most
gigantic fabric of commercial prosperity that the world had ever
seen. The great body of the Whigs attributed the restoration of
the health of the State to the genius and firmness of their
leader Montague. His enemies were forced to confess, sulkily and
sneeringly, that every one of his schemes had succeeded, the
first Bank subscription, the second Bank subscription, the
Recoinage, the General Mortgage, the Exchequer Bills. But some
Tories muttered that he deserved no more praise than a prodigal
who stakes his whole estate at hazard, and has a run of good
luck. England had indeed passed safely through a terrible crisis,
and was the stronger for having passed through it. But she had
been in imminent danger of perishing; and the minister who had
exposed her to that danger deserved, not to be praised, but to be
hanged. Others admitted that the plans which were popularly
attributed to Montague were excellent, but denied that those
plans were Montague's. The voice of detraction, however, was for
a time drowned by the loud applauses of the Parliament and the
City. The authority which the Chancellor of the Exchequer
exercised in the House of Commons was unprecedented and
unrivalled. In the Cabinet his influence was daily increasing. He
had no longer a superior at the Board of Treasury. In consequence
of Fenwick's confession, the last Tory who held a great and
efficient office in the State had been removed, and there was at
length a purely Whig Ministry.

It had been impossible to prevent reports about that confession
from getting abroad. The prisoner, indeed, had found means of
communicating with his friends, and had doubtless given them to
understand that he had said nothing against them, and much
against the creatures of the usurper. William wished the matter
to be left to the ordinary tribunals, and was most unwilling that
it should be debated elsewhere. But his counsellors, better
acquainted than himself with the temper of large and divided
assemblies, were of opinion that a parliamentary discussion,
though perhaps undesirable, was inevitable. It was in the power
of a single member of either House to force on such a discussion;
and in both Houses there were members who, some from a sense of
duty, some from mere love of mischief, were determined to know
whether the prisoner had, as it was rumoured, brought grave
charges against some of the most distinguished men in the
kingdom. If there must be an inquiry, it was surely desirable
that the accused statesmen should be the first to demand it.
There was, however, one great difficulty. The Whigs, who formed
the majority of the Lower House, were ready to vote, as one man,
for the entire absolution of Russell and Shrewsbury, and had no
wish to put a stigma on Marlborough, who was not in place, and
therefore excited little jealousy. But a strong body of honest
gentlemen, as Wharton called them, could not, by any management,
be induced to join in a resolution acquitting Godolphin. To them
Godolphin was an eyesore. All the other Tories who, in the
earlier years of William's reign, had borne a chief part in the
direction of affairs, had, one by one, been dismissed.
Nottingham, Trevor, Leeds, were no longer in power. Pembroke
could hardly be called a Tory, and had never been really in
power. But Godolphin still retained his post at Whitehall; and to
the men of the Revolution it seemed intolerable that
one who had sate at the Council Board of Charles and James, and
who had voted for a Regency, should be the principal minister of
finance. Those who felt thus had learned with malicious delight
that the First Lord of the Treasury was named in the confession
about which all the world was talking; and they were determined
not to let slip so good an opportunity of ejecting him from
office. On the other hand, every body who had seen Fenwick's
paper, and who had not, in the drunkenness of factious animosity,
lost all sense of reason and justice, must have felt that it was
impossible to make a distinction between two parts of that paper,
and to treat all that related to Shrewsbury and Russell as false,
and all that related to Godolphin as true. This was acknowledged
even by Wharton, who of all public men was the least troubled by
scruples or by shame.748 If Godolphin had stedfastly refused to
quit his place, the Whig leaders would have been in a most
embarrassing position. But a politician of no common dexterity
undertook to extricate them from their difficulties. In the art
of reading and managing the minds of men Sunderland had no equal;
and he was, as he had been during several years, desirous to see
all the great posts in the kingdom filled by Whigs. By his
skilful management Godolphin was induced to go into the royal
closet, and to request permission to retire from office; and
William granted that permission with a readiness by which
Godolphin was much more surprised than pleased.749

One of the methods employed by the Whig junto, for the purpose of
instituting and maintaining through all the ranks of the Whig
party a discipline never before known, was the frequent holding
of meetings of members of the House of Commons. Some of those
meetings were numerous; others were select. The larger were held
at the Rose, a tavern frequently mentioned in the political
pasquinades of that time;750 the smaller at Russell's in Covent
Garden, or at Somers's in Lincoln's Inn Fields.

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