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

Part 12 out of 15

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On the day on which Godolphin resigned his great office two
select meetings were called. In the morning the place of assembly
was Russell's house. In the afternoon there was a fuller muster
at the Lord Keeper's. Fenwick's confession, which, till that
time, had probably been known only by rumour to most of those who
were present, was read. The indignation of the hearers was
strongly excited, particularly by one passage, of which the sense
seemed to be that not only Russell, not only Shrewsbury, but the
great body of the Whig party was, and had long been, at heart
Jacobite. "The fellow insinuates," it was said, "that the
Assassination Plot itself was a Whig scheme." The general opinion
was that such a charge could not be lightly passed over. There
must be a solemn debate and decision in Parliament. The best
course would be that the King should himself see and examine the
prisoner, and that Russell should then request the royal
permission to bring the subject before the House of Commons. As
Fenwick did not pretend that he had any authority for the stories
which he had told except mere hearsay, there could be no
difficulty in carrying a resolution branding him as a slanderer,
and an address to the throne requesting that he might be
forthwith brought to trial for high treason.751

The opinion of the meeting was conveyed to William by his
ministers; and he consented, though not without reluctance, to
see the prisoner. Fenwick was brought into the royal closet at
Kensington. A few of the great officers of state and the Crown
lawyers were present. "Your papers, Sir John," said the King,
"are altogether unsatisfactory. Instead of giving me an account
of the plots formed by you and your accomplices, plots of which
all the details must be exactly known to you, you tell me
stories, without authority, without date, without place, about
noblemen and gentlemen with whom you do not pretend to have had
any intercourse. In short your confession appears to be a
contrivance intended to screen those who are really engaged in
designs against me, and to make me suspect and discard those in
whom I have good reason to place confidence. If you look for any
favour from me, give me, this moment and on this spot, a full and
straightforward account of what you know of your own knowledge."
Fenwick said that he was taken by surprise, and asked for time.
"No, Sir," said the King. "For what purpose can you want time?
You may indeed want time if you mean to draw up another paper
like this. But what I require is a plain narrative of what you
have yourself done and seen; and such a narrative you can give,
if you will, without pen and ink." Then Fenwick positively
refused to say any thing. "Be it so," said William. "I will
neither hear you nor hear from you any more."752 Fenwick was
carried back to his prison. He had at this audience shown a
boldness and determination which surprised those who had observed
his demeanour. He had, ever since he had been in confinement,
appeared to be anxious and dejected; yet now, at the very crisis
of his fate, he had braved the displeasure of the Prince whose
clemency he had, a short time before, submissively implored. In a
very few hours the mystery was explained. Just before he had been
summoned to Kensington, he had received from his wife
intelligence that his life was in no danger, that there was only
one witness against him, that she and her friends had succeeded
in corrupting Goodman.753

Goodman had been allowed a liberty which was afterwards, with
some reason, made matter of charge against the government. For
his testimony was most important; his character was notoriously
bad; the attempts which had been made to seduce Porter proved
that, if money could save Fenwick's life, money would not be
spared; and Goodman had not, like Porter, been instrumental in
sending Jacobites to the gallows, and therefore was not, like
Porter, bound to the cause of William by an indissoluble tie. The
families of the imprisoned conspirators employed the agency of a
cunning and daring adventurer named O'Brien. This man knew
Goodman well. Indeed they had belonged to the same gang of
highwaymen. They met at the Dog in Drury Lane, a tavern which was
frequented by lawless and desperate men. O'Brien was accompanied
by another Jacobite of determined character. A simple choice was
offered to Goodman, to abscond and to be rewarded with an annuity
of five hundred a year, or to have his throat cut on the spot. He
consented, half from cupidity, half from fear. O'Brien was not a
man to be tricked as Clancy had been. He never parted company
with Goodman from the moment when the bargain was struck till
they were at Saint Germains.754

On the afternoon of the day on which Fenwick was examined by the
King at Kensington it began to be noised abroad that Goodman was
missing. He had been many hours absent from his house. He had not
been seen at his usual haunts. At first a suspicion arose that he
had been murdered by the Jacobites; and this suspicion was
strengthened by a singular circumstance. Just after his
disappearance, a human head was found severed from the body to
which it belonged, and so frightfully mangled that no feature
could be recognised. The multitude, possessed by the notion that
there was no crime which an Irish Papist might not be found to
commit, was inclined to believe that the fate of Godfrey had
befallen another victim. On inquiry however it seemed certain
that Goodman had designedly withdrawn himself. A proclamation
appeared promising a reward of a thousand pounds to any person
who should stop the runaway; but it was too late.755

This event exasperated the Whigs beyond measure. No jury could
now find Fenwick guilty of high treason. Was he then to escape?
Was a long series of offences against the State to go unpunished
merely because to those offences had now been added the offence
of bribing a witness to suppress his evidence and to desert his
bail? Was there no extraordinary method by which justice might
strike a criminal who, solely because he was worse than other
criminals, was beyond the reach of the ordinary law? Such a
method there was, a method authorised by numerous precedents, a
method used both by Papists and by Protestants during the
troubles of the sixteenth century, a method used both by
Roundheads and by Cavaliers during the troubles of the
seventeenth century, a method which scarcely any leader of the
Tory party could condemn without condemning himself, a method of
which Fenwick could not decently complain, since he had, a few
years before, been eager to employ it against the unfortunate
Monmouth. To that method the party which was now supreme in the
State determined to have recourse.

Soon after the Commons had met, on the morning of the sixth of
November, Russell rose in his place and requested to be heard.
The task which he had undertaken required courage not of the most
respectable kind; but to him no kind of courage was wanting. Sir
John Fenwick, he said, had sent to the King a paper in which
grave accusations were brought against some of His Majesty's
servants; and His Majesty had, at the request of his accused
servants, graciously given orders that this paper should be laid
before the House. The confession was produced and read. The
Admiral then, with spirit and dignity worthy of a better man,
demanded justice for himself and Shrewsbury. "If we are innocent,
clear us. If we are guilty, punish us as we deserve. I put myself
on you as on my country, and am ready to stand or fall by your

It was immediately ordered that Fenwick should be brought to the
bar with all speed. Cutts, who sate in the House as member for
Cambridgeshire, was directed to provide a sufficient escort, and
was especially enjoined to take care that the prisoner should
have no opportunity of making or receiving any communication,
oral or written, on the road from Newgate to Westminster. The
House then adjourned till the afternoon.

At five o'clock, then a late hour, the mace was again put on the
table; candles were lighted; and the House and lobby were
carefully cleared of strangers. Fenwick was in attendance under a
strong guard. He was called in, and exhorted from the chair to
make a full and ingenuous confession. He hesitated and evaded. "I
cannot say any thing without the King's permission. His Majesty
may be displeased if what ought to be known only to him should be
divulged to others." He was told that his apprehensions were
groundless. The King well knew that it was the right and the duty
of his faithful Commons to inquire into whatever concerned the
safety of his person and of his government. "I may be tried in a
few days," said the prisoner. "I ought not to be asked to say any
thing which may rise up in judgment against me." "You have
nothing to fear," replied the Speaker, "if you will only make a
full and free discovery. No man ever had reason to repent of
having dealt candidly with the Commons of England." Then Fenwick
begged for delay. He was not a ready orator; his memory was bad;
he must have time to prepare himself. He was told, as he had been
told a few days before in the royal closet, that, prepared or
unprepared, he could not but remember the principal plots in
which he had been engaged, and the names of his chief
accomplices. If he would honestly relate what it was quite
impossible that he could have forgotten, the House would make all
fair allowances, and would grant him time to recollect
subordinate details. Thrice he was removed from the bar; and
thrice he was brought back. He was solemnly informed that the
opportunity then given him of earning the favour of the Commons
would probably be the last. He persisted in his refusal, and was
sent back to Newgate.

It was then moved that his confession was false and scandalous.
Coningsby proposed to add that it was a contrivance to create
jealousies between the King and good subjects for the purpose of
screening real traitors. A few implacable and unmanageable Whigs,
whose hatred of Godolphin had not been mitigated by his
resignation, hinted their doubts whether the whole paper ought to
be condemned. But after a debate in which Montague particularly
distinguished himself the motion was carried. One or two voices
cried "No;" but nobody ventured to demand a division.

Thus far all had gone smoothly; but in a few minutes the storm
broke forth. The terrible words, Bill of Attainder, were
pronounced; and all the fiercest passions of both the great
factions were instantly roused. The Tories had been taken by
surprise, and many of them had left the house. Those who remained
were loud in declaring that they never would consent to such a
violation of the first principles of justice. The spirit of the
Whigs was not less ardent, and their ranks were unbroken. The
motion for leave to bring in a bill attainting Sir John Fenwick
was carried very late at night by one hundred and seventy-nine
votes to sixty-one; but it was plain that the struggle would be
long and hard.756

In truth party spirit had seldom been more strongly excited. On
both sides there was doubtless much honest zeal; and on both
sides an observant eye might have detected fear, hatred, and
cupidity disguised under specious pretences of justice and public
good. The baleful heat of faction rapidly warmed into life
poisonous creeping things which had long been lying torpid,
discarded spies and convicted false witnesses, the leavings of
the scourge, the branding iron and the shears. Even Fuller hoped
that he might again find dupes to listen to him. The world had
forgotten him since his pillorying. He now had the effrontery to
write to the Speaker, begging to be heard at the bar and
promising much important information about Fenwick and others. On
the ninth of November the Speaker informed the House that he had
received this communication; but the House very properly refused
even to suffer the letter of so notorious a villain to be read.

On the same day the Bill of Attainder, having been prepared by
the Attorney and Solicitor General, was brought in and read a
first time. The House was full and the debate sharp. John Manley,
member for Bossiney, one of those stanch Tories who, in the
preceding session, had long refused to sign the Association,
accused the majority, in no measured terms, of fawning on the
Court and betraying the liberties of the people. His words were
taken down; and, though he tried to explain them away, he was
sent to the Tower. Seymour spoke strongly against the bill, and
quoted the speech which Caesar made in the Roman Senate against
the motion that the accomplices of Catiline should be put to
death in an irregular manner. A Whig orator keenly remarked that
the worthy Baron had forgotten that Caesar was grievously
suspected of having been himself concerned in Catiline's plot.757
In this stage a hundred and ninety-six members voted for the
bill, a hundred and four against it. A copy was sent to Fenwick,
in order that he might be prepared to defend himself. He begged
to be heard by counsel; his request was granted; and the
thirteenth was fixed for the hearing.

Never within the memory of the oldest member had there been such
a stir round the House as on the morning of the thirteenth. The
approaches were with some difficulty cleared; and no strangers,
except peers, were suffered to come within the doors. Of peers
the throng was so great that their presence had a perceptible
influence on the debate. Even Seymour, who, having formerly been
Speaker, ought to have been peculiarly mindful of the dignity of
the Commons, so strangely forgot himself as once to say "My
Lords." Fenwick, having been formally given up by the Sheriffs of
London to the Serjeant at Arms, was put to the bar, attended by
two barristers who were generally employed by Jacobite culprits,
Sir Thomas Powis and Sir Bartholomew Shower. Counsel appointed by
the House appeared in support of the bill.

The examination of the witnesses and the arguments of the
advocates occupied three days. Porter was called in and
interrogated. It was established, not indeed by legal proof, but
by such moral proof as determines the conduct of men in the
affairs of common life, that Goodman's absence was to be
attributed to a scheme planned and executed by Fenwick's friends
with Fenwick's privity. Secondary evidence of what Goodman, if he
had been present, would have been able to prove, was, after a
warm debate, admitted. His confession, made on oath and
subscribed by his hand, was put in. Some of the grand jurymen who
had found the bill against Sir John gave an account of what
Goodman had sworn before them; and their testimony was confirmed
by some of the petty jurymen who had convicted another
conspirator. No evidence was produced in behalf of the prisoner.
After counsel for him and against him had been heard, he was sent
back to his cell.758 Then the real struggle began. It was long
and violent. The House repeatedly sate from daybreak till near
midnight. Once the Speaker was in the chair fifteen hours without
intermission. Strangers were freely admitted; for it was felt
that, since the House chose to take on itself the functions of a
court of justice, it ought, like a court of justice, to sit with
open doors.759 The substance of the debates has consequently been
preserved in a report, meagre, indeed, when compared with the
reports of our time, but for that age unusually full. Every man
of note in the House took part in the discussion. The bill was
opposed by Finch with that fluent and sonorous rhetoric which had
gained him the name of Silvertongue, and by Howe with all the
sharpness both of his wit and of his temper, by Seymour with
characteristic energy, and by Harley with characteristic
solemnity. On the other side Montague displayed the powers of a
consummate debater, and was zealously supported by Littleton.
Conspicuous in the front ranks of the hostile parties were two
distinguished lawyers, Simon Harcourt and William Cowper.

Both were gentlemen of honourable descent; both were
distinguished by their fine persons and graceful manners; both
were renowned for eloquence; and both loved learning and learned
men. It may be added that both had early in life been noted for
prodigality and love of pleasure. Dissipation had made them poor;
poverty had made them industrious; and though they were still, as
age is reckoned at the Inns of Court, very young men, Harcourt
only thirty-six, Cowper only thirty-two, they already had the
first practice at the bar. They were destined to rise still
higher, to be the bearers of the great seal of the realm, and the
founders of patrician houses. In politics they were diametrically
opposed to each other. Harcourt had seen the Revolution with
disgust, had not chosen to sit in the Convention, had with
difficulty reconciled his conscience to the oaths, and had
tardily and unwillingly signed the Association. Cowper had been
in arms for the Prince of Orange and a free Parliament, and had,
in the short and tumultuary campaign which preceded the flight of
James, distinguished himself by intelligence and courage. Since
Somers had been removed to the Woolsack, the law officers of the
Crown had not made a very distinguished figure in the Lower
House, or indeed any where else; and their deficiencies had been
more than once supplied by Cowper. His skill had, at the trial of
Parkyns, recovered the verdict which the mismanagement of the
Solicitor General had, for a moment, put in jeopardy. He had been
chosen member for Hertford at the general election of 1695, and
had scarcely taken his seat when he attained a high place among
parliamentary speakers. Chesterfield many years later, in one of
his letters to his son, described Cowper as an orator who never
spoke without applause, but who reasoned feebly, and who owed the
influence which he long exercised over great assemblies to the
singular charm of his style, his voice and his action.
Chesterfield was, beyond all doubt, intellectually qualified to
form a correct judgment on such a subject. But it must be
remembered that the object of his letters was to exalt good taste
and politeness in opposition to much higher qualities. He
therefore constantly and systematically attributed the success of
the most eminent persons of his age to their superiority, not in
solid abilities and acquirements, but in superficial graces of
diction and manner. He represented even Marlborough as a man of
very ordinary capacity, who, solely because he was extremely well
bred and well spoken, had risen from poverty and obscurity to the
height of power and glory. It may confidently be pronounced that
both to Marlborough and to Cowper Chesterfield was unjust. The
general who saved the Empire and conquered the Low Countries was
assuredly something more than a fine gentleman; and the judge who
presided during nine years in the Court of Chancery with the
approbation of all parties must have been something more than a
fine declaimer.

Whoever attentively and impartially studies the report of the
debates will be of opinion that, on many points which were
discussed at great length and with great animation, the Whigs had
a decided superiority in argument, but that on the main question
the Tories were in the right.

It was true that the crime of high treason was brought home to
Fenwick by proofs which could leave no doubt on the mind of any
man of common sense, and would have been brought home to him
according to the strict rules of law, if he had not, by
committing another crime, eluded the justice of the ordinary
tribunals. It was true that he had, in the very act of professing
repentance and imploring mercy, added a new offence to his former
offences, that, while pretending to make a perfectly ingenuous
confession, he had, with cunning malice, concealed every thing
which it was for the interest of the government that he should
divulge, and proclaimed every thing which it was for the interest
of the government to bury in silence. It was a great evil that he
should be beyond the reach of punishment; it was plain that he
could be reached only by a bill of pains and penalties; and it
could not be denied, either that many such bills had passed, or
that no such bill had ever passed in a clearer case of guilt or
after a fairer hearing.

All these propositions the Whigs seem to have fully established.
They had also a decided advantage in the dispute about the rule
which requires two witnesses in cases of high treason. The truth
is that the rule is absurd. It is impossible to understand why
the evidence which would be sufficient to prove that a man has
fired at one of his fellow subjects should not be sufficient to
prove that he has fired at his Sovereign. It can by no means be
laid down as a general maxim that the assertion of two witnesses
is more convincing to the mind than the assertion of one witness.
The story told by one witness may be in itself probable. The
story told by two witnesses may be extravagant. The story told by
one witness may be uncontradicted. The story told by two
witnesses may be contradicted by four witnesses. The story told
by one witness may be corroborated by a crowd of circumstances.
The story told by two witnesses may have no such corroboration.
The one witness may be Tillotson or Ken. The two witnesses may be
Oates and Bedloe.

The chiefs of the Tory party, however, vehemently maintained that
the law which required two witnesses was of universal and eternal
obligation, part of the law of nature, part of the law of God.
Seymour quoted the book of Numbers and the book of Deuteronomy to
prove that no man ought to be condemned to death by the mouth of
a single witness. "Caiaphas and his Sanhedrim," said Harley,
"were ready enough to set up the plea of expediency for a
violation of justice; they said,--and we have heard such things
said,--'We must slay this man, or the Romans will come and take
away our place and nation.' Yet even Caiaphas and his Sanhedrim,
in that foulest act of judicial murder, did not venture to set
aside the sacred law which required two witnesses." "Even
Jezebel," said another orator, "did not dare to take Naboth's
vineyard from him till she had suborned two men of Belial to
swear falsely." "If the testimony of one grave elder had been
sufficient," it was asked, "what would have become of the
virtuous Susannah?" This last allusion called forth a cry of
"Apocrypha, Apocrypha," from the ranks of the Low Churchmen.760

Over these arguments, which in truth can scarcely have imposed on
those who condescended to use them, Montague obtained a complete
and easy victory. "An eternal law! Where was this eternal law
before the reign of Edward the Sixth? Where is it now, except in
statutes which relate only to one very small class of offences.
If these texts from the Pentateuch and these precedents from the
practice of the Sanhedrim prove any thing, they prove the whole
criminal jurisprudence of the realm to be a mass of injustice and
impiety. One witness is sufficient to convict a murderer, a
burglar, a highwayman, an incendiary, a ravisher. Nay, there are
cases of high treason in which only one witness is required. One
witness can send to Tyburn a gang of clippers and comers. Are
you, then, prepared to say that the whole law of evidence,
according to which men have during ages been tried in this
country for offences against life and property, is vicious and
ought to be remodelled? If you shrink from saying this, you must
admit that we are now proposing to dispense, not with a divine
ordinance of universal and perpetual obligation, but simply with
an English rule of procedure, which applies to not more than two
or three crimes, which has not been in force a hundred and fifty
years, which derives all its authority from an Act of Parliament,
and which may therefore be by another, Act abrogated or suspended
without offence to God or men."

It was much less easy to answer the chiefs of the opposition when
they set forth the danger of breaking down the partition which
separates the functions of the legislator from those of the
judge. "This man," it was said, "may be a bad Englishman; and yet
his cause may be the cause of all good Englishmen. Only last year
we passed an Act to regulate the procedure of the ordinary courts
in cases of treason. We passed that Act because we thought that,
in those courts, the life of a subject obnoxious to the
government was not then sufficiently secured. Yet the life of a
subject obnoxious to the government was then far more secure than
it will be if this House takes on itself to be the supreme
criminal judicature in political cases." Warm eulogies were
pronounced on the ancient national mode of trial by twelve good
men and true; and indeed the advantages of that mode of trial in
political cases are obvious. The prisoner is allowed to challenge
any number of jurors with cause, and a considerable number
without cause. The twelve, from the moment at which they are
invested with their short magistracy, till the moment when they
lay it down, are kept separate from the rest of the community.
Every precaution is taken to prevent any agent of power from
soliciting or corrupting them. Every one of them must hear every
word of the evidence and every argument used on either side. The
case is then summed up by a judge who knows that, if he is guilty
of partiality, he may be called to account by the great inquest
of the nation. In the trial of Fenwick at the bar of the House of
Commons all these securities were wanting. Some hundreds of
gentlemen, every one of whom had much more than half made up his
mind before the case was opened, performed the functions both of
judge and jury. They were not restrained, as a judge is
restrained, by the sense of responsibility; for who was to punish
a Parliament? They were not selected, as a jury is selected, in a
manner which enables the culprit to exclude his personal and
political enemies. The arbiters of his fate came in and went out
as they chose. They heard a fragment here and there of what was
said against him, and a fragment here and there of what was said
in his favour. During the progress of the bill they were exposed
to every species of influence. One member was threatened by the
electors of his borough with the loss of his seat; another might
obtain a frigate for his brother from Russell; the vote of a
third might be secured by the caresses and Burgundy of Wharton.
In the debates arts were practised and passions excited which are
unknown to well constituted tribunals, but from which no great
popular assembly divided into parties ever was or ever will be
free. The rhetoric of one orator called forth loud cries of "Hear
him." Another was coughed and scraped down. A third spoke against
time in order that his friends who were supping might come in to
divide.761 If the life of the most worthless man could be sported
with thus, was the life of the most virtuous man secure?

The opponents of the bill did not, indeed, venture to say that
there could be no public danger sufficient to justify an Act of
Attainder. They admitted that there might be cases in which the
general rule must bend to an overpowering necessity. But was this
such a case? Even if it were granted, for the sake of argument,
that Strafford and Monmouth were justly attainted, was Fenwick,
like Strafford, a great minister who had long ruled England north
of Trent, and all Ireland, with absolute power, who was high in
the royal favour, and whose capacity, eloquence and resolution
made him an object of dread even in his fall? Or was Fenwick,
like Monmouth, a pretender to the Crown and the idol of the
common people? Were all the finest youths of three counties
crowding to enlist under his banners? What was he but a
subordinate plotter? He had indeed once had good employments; but
he had long lost them. He had once had a good estate; but he had
wasted it. Eminent abilities and weight of character he had never
had. He was, no doubt, connected by marriage with a very noble
family; but that family did not share his political prejudices.
What importance, then, had he, except that importance which his
persecutors were most unwisely giving him by breaking through all
the fences which guard the lives of Englishmen in order to
destroy him? Even if he were set at liberty, what could he do but
haunt Jacobite coffeehouses, squeeze oranges, and drink the
health of King James and the Prince of Wales? If, however, the
government, supported by the Lords and the Commons, by the fleet
and the army, by a militia one hundred and sixty thousand strong,
and by the half million of men who had signed the Association,
did really apprehend danger from this poor ruined baronet, the
benefit of the Habeas Corpus Act might be withheld from him. He
might be kept within four walls as long as there was the least
chance of his doing mischief. It could hardly be contended that
he was an enemy so terrible that the State could be safe only
when he was in the grave.

It was acknowledged that precedents might be found for this bill,
or even for a bill far more objectionable. But it was said that
whoever reviewed our history would be disposed to regard such
precedents rather as warnings than as examples. It had many times
happened that an Act of Attainder, passed in a fit of servility
or animosity, had, when fortune had changed, or when passion had
cooled, been repealed and solemnly stigmatized as unjust. Thus,
in old times, the Act which was passed against Roger Mortimer, in
the paroxysm of a resentment not unprovoked, had been, at a
calmer moment, rescinded on the ground that, however guilty he
might have been, he had not had fair play for his life. Thus,
within the memory of the existing generation, the law which
attainted Strafford had been annulled, without one dissentient
voice. Nor, it was added, ought it to be left unnoticed that,
whether by virtue of the ordinary law of cause and effect, or by
the extraordinary judgment of God, persons who had been eager to
pass bills of pains and penalties, had repeatedly perished by
such bills. No man had ever made a more unscrupulous use of the
legislative power for the destruction of his enemies than Thomas
Cromwell; and it was by an unscrupulous use of the legislative
power that he was himself destroyed. If it were true that the
unhappy gentleman whose fate was now trembling in the balance had
himself formerly borne a part in a proceeding similar to that
which was now instituted against him, was not this a fact which
ought to suggest very serious reflections? Those who tauntingly
reminded Fenwick that he had supported the bill which attainted
Monmouth might perhaps themselves be tauntingly reminded, in some
dark and terrible hour, that they had supported the bill which
had attainted Fenwick. "Let us remember what vicissitudes we have
seen. Let us, from so many signal examples of the inconstancy of
fortune, learn moderation in prosperity. How little we thought,
when we saw this man a favourite courtier at Whitehall, a general
surrounded with military pomp at Hounslow, that we should live to
see him standing at our bar, and awaiting his doom from our lips!
And how far is it from certain that we may not one day, in the
bitterness of our souls, vainly invoke the protection of those
mild laws which we now treat so lightly! God forbid that we
should ever again be subject to tyranny! But God forbid, above
all, that our tyrants should ever be able to plead, in
justification of the worst that they can inflict upon us,
precedents furnished by ourselves!"

These topics, skilfully handled, produced a great effect on many
moderate Whigs. Montague did his best to rally his followers. We
still possess the rude outline of what must have been a most
effective peroration. "Gentlemen warn us"--this, or very nearly
this, seems to have been what he said--"not to furnish King James
with a precedent which, if ever he should be restored, he may use
against ourselves. Do they really believe that, if that evil day
shall ever come, this just and necessary law will be the pattern
which he will imitate? No, Sir, his model will be, not our bill
of attainder, but his own; not our bill, which, on full proof,
and after a most fair hearing, inflicts deserved retribution on a
single guilty head; but his own bill, which, without a defence,
without an investigation, without an accusation, doomed near
three thousand people, whose only crimes were their English blood
and their Protestant faith, the men to the gallows and the women
to the stake. That is the precedent which he has set, and which
he will follow. In order that he never may be able to follow it,
in order that the fear of a righteous punishment may restrain
those enemies of our country who wish to see him ruling in London
as he ruled at Dublin, I give my vote for this bill."

In spite of all the eloquence and influence of the ministry, the
minority grew stronger and stronger as the debates proceeded. The
question that leave should be given to bring in the bill had been
carried by nearly three to one. On the question that the bill
should be committed, the Ayes were a hundred and eighty-six, the
Noes a hundred and twenty-eight. On the question that the bill
should pass, the Ayes were a hundred and eighty-nine, the Noes a
hundred and fifty-six.

On the twenty-sixth of November the bill was carried up to the
Lords. Before it arrived, the Lords had made preparations to
receive it. Every peer who was absent from town had been summoned
up: every peer who disobeyed the summons and was unable to give a
satisfactory explanation of his disobedience was taken into
custody by Black Rod. On the day fixed for the first reading, the
crowd on the benches was unprecedented. The whole number of
temporal Lords, exclusive of minors, Roman Catholics and
nonjurors, was about a hundred and forty. Of these a hundred and
five were in their places. Many thought that the Bishops ought to
have been permitted, if not required, to withdraw; for, by an
ancient canon, those who ministered at the altars of God were
forbidden to take any part in the infliction of capital
punishment. On the trial of a peer impeached of high treason, the
prelates always retire, and leave the culprit to be absolved or
condemned by laymen. And surely, if it be unseemly that a divine
should doom his fellow creatures to death as a judge, it must be
still more unseemly that he should doom them to death as a
legislator. In the latter case, as in the former, he contracts
that stain of blood which the Church regards with horror; and it
will scarcely be denied that there are some grave objections to
the shedding of blood by Act of Attainder which do not apply to
the shedding of blood in the ordinary course of justice. In fact,
when the bill for taking away the life of Strafford was under
consideration, all the spiritual peers withdrew. Now, however,
the example of Cranmer, who had voted for some of the most
infamous acts of attainder that ever passed, was thought more
worthy of imitation; and there was a great muster of lawn
sleeves. It was very properly resolved that, on this occasion,
the privilege of voting by proxy should be suspended, that the
House should be called over at the beginning and at the end of
every sitting, and that every member who did not answer to his
name should be taken into custody.762

Meanwhile the unquiet brain of Monmouth was teeming with strange
designs. He had now reached a time of life at which youth could
no longer be pleaded as an excuse for his faults; but he was more
wayward and eccentric than ever. Both in his intellectual and in
his moral character there was an abundance of those fine
qualities which may be called luxuries, and a lamentable
deficiency of those solid qualities which are of the first
necessity. He had brilliant wit and ready invention without
common sense, and chivalrous generosity and delicacy without
common honesty. He was capable of rising to the part of the Black
Prince; and yet he was capable of sinking to the part of Fuller.
His political life was blemished by some most dishonourable
actions; yet he was not under the influence of those motives to
which most of the dishonourable actions of politicians are to be
ascribed. He valued power little and money less. Of fear he was
utterly insensible. If he sometimes stooped to be a villain,--for
no milder word will come up to the truth,--it was merely to amuse
himself and to astonish other people. In civil as in military
affairs, he loved ambuscades, surprises, night attacks. He now
imagined that he had a glorious opportunity of making a
sensation, of producing a great commotion; and the temptation was
irresistible to a spirit so restless as his.

He knew, or at least strongly suspected, that the stories which
Fenwick had told on hearsay, and which King, Lords and Commons,
Whigs and Tories, had agreed to treat as calumnies, were, in the
main, true. Was it impossible to prove that they were true, to
cross the wise policy of William, to bring disgrace at once on
some of the most eminent men of both parties, to throw the whole
political world into inextricable confusion?

Nothing could be done without the help of the prisoner; and with
the prisoner it was impossible to communicate directly. It was
necessary to employ the intervention of more than one female
agent. The Duchess of Norfolk was a Mordaunt, and Monmouth's
first cousin. Her gallantries were notorious; and her husband
had, some years before, tried to induce his brother nobles to
pass a bill for dissolving his marriage; but the attempt had been
defeated, in consequence partly of the zeal with which Monmouth
had fought the battle of his kinswoman. The lady, though
separated from her lord, lived in a style suitable to her rank,
and associated with many women of fashion, among others, with
Lady Mary Fenwick, and with a relation of Lady Mary, named
Elizabeth Lawson. By the instrumentality of the Duchess, Monmouth
conveyed to the prisoner several papers containing suggestions
framed with much art. Let Sir John,--such was the substance of
these suggestions,--boldly affirm that his confession is true,
that he has brought accusations, on hearsay indeed, but not on
common hearsay, that he has derived his knowledge of the facts
which he has asserted from the highest quarters; and let him
point out a mode in which his veracity may be easily brought to
the test. Let him pray that the Earls of Portland and Romney, who
are well known to enjoy the royal confidence, may be called upon
to declare whether they are not in possession of information
agreeing with what he has related. Let him pray that the King may
be requested to lay before Parliament the evidence which caused
the sudden disgrace of Lord Marlborough, and any letters which
may have been intercepted while passing between Saint Germains
and Lord Godolphin. "Unless," said Monmouth to his female agents,
"Sir John is under a fate, unless he is out of his mind, he will
take my counsel. If he does, his life and honour are safe. If he
does not, he is a dead man." Then this strange intriguer, with
his usual license of speech, reviled William for what was in
truth one of William's best titles to glory. "He is the worst of
men. He has acted basely. He pretends not to believe these
charges against Shrewsbury, Russell, Marlborough, Godolphin. And
yet he knows,"--and Monmouth confirmed the assertion by a
tremendous oath,--"he knows that every word of the charges is

The papers written by Monmouth were delivered by Lady Mary to her
husband. If the advice which they contained had been followed,
there can be little doubt that the object of the adviser would
have been attained. The King would have been bitterly mortified;
there would have been a general panic among public men of every
party; even Marlborough's serene fortitude would have been
severely tried; and Shrewsbury would probably have shot himself.
But that Fenwick would have put himself in a better situation is
by no means clear. Such was his own opinion. He saw that the step
which he was urged to take was hazardous. He knew that he was
urged to take that step, not because it was likely to save
himself, but because it was certain to annoy others; and he was
resolved not to be Monmouth's tool.

On the first of December the bill went through the earliest stage
without a division. Then Fenwick's confession, which had, by the
royal command, been laid on the table, was read; and then
Marlborough stood up. "Nobody can wonder," he said, "that a man
whose head is in danger should try to save himself by accusing
others. I assure Your Lordships that, since the accession of his
present Majesty, I have had no intercourse with Sir John on any
subject whatever; and this I declare on my word of honour."763
Marlborough's assertion may have been true; but it was perfectly
compatible with the truth of all that Fenwick had said. Godolphin
went further. "I certainly did," he said, "continue to the last
in the service of King James and of his Queen. I was esteemed by
them both. But I cannot think that a crime. It is possible that
they and those who are about them may imagine that I am still
attached to their interest. That I cannot help. But it is utterly
false that I have had any such dealings with the Court of Saint
Germains as are described in the paper which Your Lordships have
heard read."764

Fenwick was then brought in, and asked whether he had any further
confession to make. Several peers interrogated him, but to no
purpose. Monmouth, who could not believe that the papers which he
had sent to Newgate had produced no effect, put, in a friendly
and encouraging manner, several questions intended to bring out
answers which would have been by no means agreeable to the
accused Lords. No such answer however was to be extracted from
Fenwick. Monmouth saw that his ingenious machinations had failed.
Enraged and disappointed, he suddenly turned round, and became
more zealous for the bill than any other peer in the House. Every
body noticed the rapid change in his temper and manner; but that
change was at first imputed merely to his well known levity.

On the eighth of December the bill was again taken into
consideration; and on that day Fenwick, accompanied by his
counsel, was in attendance. But, before he was called in, a
previous question was raised. Several distinguished Tories,
particularly Nottingham, Rochester, Normanby and Leeds, said
that, in their opinion, it was idle to inquire whether the
prisoner was guilty or not guilty, unless the House was of
opinion that he was a person so formidable that, if guilty, he
ought to be attainted by Act of Parliament. They did not wish,
they said, to hear any evidence. For, even on the supposition
that the evidence left no doubt of his criminality, they should
still think it better to leave him unpunished than to make a law
for punishing him. The general sense, however, was decidedly for
proceeding.765 The prisoner and his counsel were allowed another
week to prepare themselves; and, at length, on the fifteenth of
December, the struggle commenced in earnest.

The debates were the longest and the hottest, the divisions were
the largest, the protests were the most numerously signed that
had ever been known in the whole history of the House of Peers.
Repeatedly the benches continued to be filled from ten in the
morning till past midnight.766 The health of many lords suffered
severely; for the winter was bitterly cold; but the majority was
not disposed to be indulgent. One evening Devonshire was unwell;
he stole away and went to bed; but Black Rod was soon sent to
bring him back. Leeds, whose constitution was extremely infirm,
complained loudly. "It is very well," he said, "for young
gentlemen to sit down to their suppers and their wine at two
o'clock in the morning; but some of us old men are likely to be
of as much use here as they; and we shall soon be in our graves
if we are forced to keep such hours at such a season."767 So
strongly was party spirit excited that this appeal was
disregarded, and the House continued to sit fourteen or fifteen
hours a day. The chief opponents of the bill were Rochester,
Nottingham, Normanby and Leeds. The chief orators on the other
side were Tankerville, who, in spite of the deep stains which a
life singularly unfortunate had left on his public and private
character, always spoke with an eloquence which riveted the
attention of his hearers; Burnet, who made a great display of
historical learning; Wharton, whose lively and familiar style of
speaking, acquired in the House of Commons, sometimes shocked the
formality of the Lords; and Monmouth, who had always carried the
liberty of debate to the verge of licentiousness, and who now
never opened his lips without inflicting a wound on the feelings
of some adversary. A very few nobles of great weight, Devonshire,
Dorset, Pembroke and Ormond, formed a third party. They were
willing to use the Bill of Attainder as an instrument of torture
for the purpose of wringing a full confession out of the
prisoner. But they were determined not to give a final vote for
sending him to the scaffold.

The first division was on the question whether secondary evidence
of what Goodman could have proved should be admitted. On this
occasion Burnet closed the debate by a powerful speech which none
of the Tory orators could undertake to answer without
premeditation. A hundred and twenty-six lords were present, a
number unprecedented in our history. There were seventy-three
Contents, and fifty-three Not Contents. Thirty-six of the
minority protested against the decision of the House.768

The next great trial of strength was on the question whether the
bill should be read a second time. The debate was diversified by
a curious episode. Monmouth, in a vehement declamation, threw
some severe and well merited reflections on the memory of the
late Lord Jeffreys. The title and part of the ill gotten wealth
of Jeffreys had descended to his son, a dissolute lad, who had
lately come of age, and who was then sitting in the House. The
young man fired at hearing his father reviled. The House was
forced to interfere, and to make both the disputants promise that
the matter should go no further. On this day a hundred and
twenty-eight peers were present. The second reading was carried
by seventy-three to fifty-five; and forty-nine of the fifty-five

It was now thought by many that Fenwick's courage would give way.
It was known that he was very unwilling to die. Hitherto he might
have flattered himself with hopes that the bill would miscarry.
But now that it had passed one House, and seemed certain to pass
the other, it was probable that he would save himself by
disclosing all that he knew. He was again put to the bar and
interrogated. He refused to answer, on the ground that his
answers might be used against him by the Crown at the Old Bailey.
He was assured that the House would protect him; but he pretended
that this assurance was not sufficient; the House was not always
sitting; he might be brought to trial during a recess, and hanged
before their Lordships met again. The royal word alone, he said,
would be a complete guarantee. The Peers ordered him to be
removed, and immediately resolved that Wharton should go to
Kensington, and should entreat His Majesty to give the pledge
which the prisoner required. Wharton hastened to Kensington, and
hastened back with a gracious answer. Fenwick was again placed at
the bar. The royal word, he was told, had been passed that
nothing which he might say there should be used against him in
any other place. Still he made difficulties. He might confess all
that he knew, and yet might be told that he was still keeping
something back. In short, he would say nothing till he had a
pardon. He was then, for the last time, solemnly cautioned from
the Woolsack. He was assured that, if he would deal ingenuously
with the Lords, they would be intercessors for him at the foot of
the throne, and that their intercession would not be
unsuccessful. If he continued obstinate, they would proceed with
the bill. A short interval was allowed him for consideration; and
he was then required to give his final answer. "I have given it,"
he said; "I have no security. If I had, I should be glad to
satisfy the House." He was then carried back to his cell; and the
Peers separated, having sate far into the night.770

At noon they met again. The third reading was moved. Tenison
spoke for the bill with more ability than was expected from him,
and Monmouth with as much sharpness as in the previous debates.
But Devonshire declared that he could go no further. He had hoped
that fear would induce Fenwick to make a frank confession; that
hope was at an end; the question now was simply whether this man
should be put to death by an Act of Parliament; and to that
question Devonshire said that he must answer, "Not Content." It
is not easy to understand on what principle he can have thought
himself justified in threatening to do what he did not think
himself justified in doing. He was, however, followed by Dorset,
Ormond, Pembroke, and two or three others. Devonshire, in the
name of his little party, and Rochester, in the name of the
Tories, offered to waive all objections to the mode of
proceeding, if the penalty were reduced from death to perpetual
imprisonment. But the majority, though weakened by the defection
of some considerable men, was still a majority, and would hear of
no terms of compromise. The third reading was carried by only
sixty-eight votes to sixty-one. Fifty-three Lords recorded their
dissent; and forty-one subscribed a protest, in which the
arguments against the bill were ably summed up.771 The peers whom
Fenwick had accused took different sides. Marlborough steadily
voted with the majority, and induced Prince George to do the
same. Godolphin as steadily voted with the minority, but, with
characteristic wariness, abstained from giving any reasons for
his votes. No part of his life warrants us in ascribing his
conduct to any exalted motive. It is probable that, having been
driven from office by the Whigs and forced to take refuge among
the Tories, he thought it advisable to go with his party.772

As soon as the bill had been read a third time, the attention of
the Peers was called to a matter which deeply concerned the honour
of their order. Lady Mary Fenwick had been, not unnaturally, moved
to the highest resentment by the conduct of Monmouth. He had,
after professing a great desire to save her husband, suddenly
turned round, and become the most merciless of her husband's
persecutors; and all this solely because the unfortunate prisoner
would not suffer himself to be used as an instrument for the
accomplishing of a wild scheme of mischief. She might be excused
for thinking that revenge would be sweet. In her rage she showed
to her kinsman the Earl of Carlisle the papers which she had
received from the Duchess of Norfolk. Carlisle brought the subject
before the Lords. The papers were produced. Lady Mary declared
that she had received them from the Duchess. The Duchess declared
that she had received them from Monmouth. Elizabeth Lawson
confirmed the evidence of her two friends. All the bitter things
which the petulant Earl had said about William were repeated. The
rage of both the great factions broke forth with ungovernable
violence. The Whigs were exasperated by discovering that Monmouth
had been secretly labouring to bring to shame and ruin two eminent
men with whose reputation the reputation of the whole party was
bound up. The Tories accused him of dealing treacherously and
cruelly by the prisoner and the prisoner's wife. Both among the
Whigs and among the Tories Monmouth had, by his sneers and
invectives, made numerous personal enemies, whom fear of his wit
and of his sword had hitherto kept in awe.773 All these enemies
were now openmouthed against him. There was great curiosity to
know what he would be able to say in his defence. His eloquence,
the correspondent of the States General wrote, had often annoyed
others. He would now want it all to protect himself.774 That
eloquence indeed was of a kind much better suited to attack than
to defence. Monmouth spoke near three hours in a confused and
rambling manner, boasted extravagantly of his services and
sacrifices, told the House that he had borne a great part in the
Revolution, that he had made four voyages to Holland in the evil
times, that he had since refused great places, that he had always
held lucre in contempt. "I," he said, turning significantly to
Nottingham, "have bought no great estate; I have built no palace;
I am twenty thousand pounds poorer than when I entered public
life. My old hereditary mansion is ready to fall about my ears.
Who that remembers what I have done and suffered for His Majesty
will believe that I would speak disrespectfully of him?" He
solemnly declared,--and this was the most serious of the many
serious faults of his long and unquiet life,--that he had nothing
to do with the papers which had caused so much scandal. The
Papists, he said, hated him; they had laid a scheme to ruin him;
his ungrateful kinswoman had consented to be their implement, and
had requited the strenuous efforts which he had made in defence of
her honour by trying to blast his. When he concluded there was a
long silence. He asked whether their Lordships wished him to
withdraw. Then Leeds, to whom he had once professed a strong
attachment, but whom he had deserted with characteristic
inconstancy and assailed with characteristic petulance, seized the
opportunity of revenging himself. "It is quite unnecessary," the
shrewd old statesman said, "that the noble Earl should withdraw at
present. The question which we have now to decide is merely
whether these papers do or do not deserve our censure. Who wrote
them is a question which may be considered hereafter." It was then
moved and unanimously resolved that the papers were scandalous,
and that the author had been guilty of a high crime and
misdemeanour. Monmouth himself was, by these dexterous tactics,
forced to join in condemning his own compositions.775 Then the
House proceeded to consider the charge against him. The character
of his cousin the Duchess did not stand high; but her testimony
was confirmed both by direct and by circumstantial evidence. Her
husband said, with sour pleasantry, that he gave entire faith to
what she had deposed. "My Lord Monmouth thought her good enough to
be wife to me; and, if she is good enough to be wife to me, I am
sure that she is good enough to be a witness against him." In a
House of near eighty peers only eight or ten seemed inclined to
show any favour to Monmouth. He was pronounced guilty of the act
of which he had, in the most solemn manner, protested that he was
innocent; he was sent to the Tower; he was turned out of all his
places; and his name was struck out of the Council Book.776 It
might well have been thought that the ruin of his fame and of his
fortunes was irreparable. But there was about his nature an
elasticity which nothing could subdue. In his prison, indeed, he
was as violent as a falcon just caged, and would, if he had been
long detained, have died of mere impatience. His only solace was
to contrive wild and romantic schemes for extricating himself from
his difficulties and avenging himself on his enemies. When he
regained his liberty, he stood alone in the world, a dishonoured
man, more hated by the Whigs than any Tory, and by the Tories than
any Whig, and reduced to such poverty that he talked of retiring
to the country, living like a farmer, and putting his Countess
into the dairy to churn and to make cheeses. Yet even after this
fall, that mounting spirit rose again, and rose higher than ever.
When he next appeared before the world, he had inherited the
earldom of the head of his family; he had ceased to be called by
the tarnished name of Monmouth; and he soon added new lustre to
the name of Peterborough. He was still all air and fire. His ready
wit and his dauntless courage made him formidable; some amiable
qualities which contrasted strangely with his vices, and some
great exploits of which the effect was heightened by the careless
levity with which they were performed, made him popular; and his
countrymen were willing to forget that a hero of whose
achievements they were proud, and who was not more distinguished
by parts and valour than by courtesy and generosity, had stooped
to tricks worthy of the pillory.

It is interesting and instructive to compare the fate of
Shrewsbury with the fate of Peterborough. The honour of
Shrewsbury was safe. He had been triumphantly acquitted of the
charges contained in Fenwick's confession. He was soon afterwards
still more triumphantly acquitted of a still more odious charge.
A wretched spy named Matthew Smith, who thought that he had not
been sufficiently rewarded, and was bent on being revenged,
affirmed that Shrewsbury had received early information of the
Assassination Plot, but had suppressed that information, and had
taken no measures to prevent the conspirators from accomplishing
their design. That this was a foul calumny no person who has
examined the evidence can doubt. The King declared that he could
himself prove his minister's innocence; and the Peers, after
examining Smith, pronounced the accusation unfounded. Shrewsbury
was cleared as far as it was in the power of the Crown and of the
Parliament to clear him. He had power and wealth, the favour of
the King and the favour of the people. No man had a greater
number of devoted friends. He was the idol of the Whigs; yet he
was not personally disliked by the Tories. It should seem that
his situation was one which Peterborough might well have envied.
But happiness and misery are from within. Peterborough had one of
those minds of which the deepest wounds heal and leave no scar.
Shrewsbury had one of those minds in which the slightest scratch
may fester to the death. He had been publicly accused of
corresponding with Saint Germains; and, though King, Lords and
Commons had pronounced him innocent, his conscience told him that
he was guilty. The praises which he knew that he had not deserved
sounded to him like reproaches. He never regained his lost peace
of mind. He left office; but one cruel recollection accompanied
him into retirement. He left England; but one cruel recollection
pursued him over the Alps and the Apennines. On a memorable day,
indeed, big with the fate of his country, he again, after many
inactive and inglorious years, stood forth the Shrewsbury of
1688. Scarcely any thing in history is more melancholy than that
late and solitary gleam, lighting up the close of a life which
had dawned so splendidly, and which had so early become
hopelessly troubled and gloomy.

On the day on which the Lords passed the Bill of Attainder, they
adjourned over the Christmas holidays. The fate of Fenwick
consequently remained during more than a fortnight in suspense.
In the interval plans of escape were formed; and it was thought
necessary to place a strong military guard round Newgate.777 Some
Jacobites knew William so little as to send him anonymous
letters, threatening that he should be shot or stabbed if he
dared to touch a hair of the prisoner's head.778 On the morning
of the eleventh of January he passed the bill. He at the same
time passed a bill which authorised the government to detain
Bernardi and some other conspirators in custody during twelve
months. On the evening of that day a deeply mournful event was
the talk of all London. The Countess of Aylesbury had watched
with intense anxiety the proceedings against Sir John. Her lord
had been as deep as Sir John in treason, was, like Sir John, in
confinement, and had, like Sir John, been a party to Goodman's
flight. She had learned with dismay that there was a method by
which a criminal who was beyond the reach of the ordinary law
might be punished. Her terror had increased at every stage in the
progress of the Bill of Attainder. On the day on which the royal
assent was to be given, her agitation became greater than her
frame could support. When she heard the sound of the guns which
announced that the King was on his way to Westminster, she fell
into fits, and died in a few hours.779

Even after the bill had become law, strenuous efforts were made
to save Fenwick. His wife threw herself at William's feet, and
offered him a petition. He took the petition, and said, very
gently, that it should be considered, but that the matter was one
of public concern, and that he must deliberate with his ministers
before he decided.780 She then addressed herself to the Lords.
She told them that her husband had not expected his doom, that he
had not had time to prepare himself for death, that he had not,
during his long imprisonment, seen a divine. They were easily
induced to request that he might be respited for a week. A
respite was granted; but, forty-eight hours before it expired,
Lady Mary presented to the Lords another petition, imploring them
to intercede with the King that her husband's punishment might be
commuted to banishment. The House was taken by surprise; and a
motion to adjourn was with difficulty carried by two votes.781 On
the morrow, the last day of Fenwick's life, a similar petition
was presented to the Commons. But the Whig leaders were on their
guard; the attendance was full; and a motion for reading the
Orders of the Day was carried by a hundred and fifty-two to a
hundred and seven.782 In truth, neither branch of the legislature
could, without condemning itself, request William to spare
Fenwick's life. Jurymen, who have, in the discharge of a painful
duty, pronounced a culprit guilty, may, with perfect consistency,
recommend him to the favourable consideration of the Crown. But
the Houses ought not to have passed the Bill of Attainder unless
they were convinced, not merely that Sir John had committed high
treason, but also that he could not, without serious danger to
the Commonwealth, be suffered to live. He could not be at once a
proper object of such a bill and a proper object of the royal

On the twenty-eighth of January the execution took place. In
compliment to the noble families with which Fenwick was
connected, orders were given that the ceremonial should be in all
respects the same as when a peer of the realm suffers death. A
scaffold was erected on Tower Hill and hung with black. The
prisoner was brought from Newgate in the coach of his kinsman the
Earl of Carlisle, which was surrounded by a troop of the Life
Guards. Though the day was cold and stormy, the crowd of
spectators was immense; but there was no disturbance, and no sign
that the multitude sympathized with the criminal. He behaved with
a firmness which had not been expected from him. He ascended the
scaffold with steady steps, and bowed courteously to the persons
who were assembled on it, but spoke to none, except White, the
deprived Bishop of Peterborough. White prayed with him during
about half an hour. In the prayer the King was commended to the
Divine protection; but no name which could give offence was
pronounced. Fenwick then delivered a sealed paper to the
Sheriffs, took leave of the Bishop, knelt down, laid his neck on
the block, and exclaimed, "Lord Jesus, receive my soul." His head
was severed from his body at a single blow. His remains were
placed in a rich coffin, and buried that night, by torchlight,
under the pavement of Saint Martin's Church. No person has, since
that day, suffered death in England by Act of Attainder.783

Meanwhile an important question, about which public feeling was
much excited, had been under discussion. As soon as the
Parliament met, a Bill for Regulating Elections, differing little
in substance from the bill which the King had refused to pass in
the preceding session, was brought into the House of Commons, was
eagerly welcomed by the country gentlemen, and was pushed through
every stage. On the report it was moved that five thousand pounds
in personal estate should be a sufficient qualification for the
representative of a city or borough. But this amendment was
rejected. On the third reading a rider was added, which permitted
a merchant possessed of five thousand pounds to represent the
town in which he resided; but it was provided that no person
should be considered as a merchant because he was a proprietor of
Bank Stock or East India Stock. The fight was hard. Cowper
distinguished himself among the opponents of the bill. His
sarcastic remarks on the hunting, hawking boors, who wished to
keep in their own hands the whole business of legislation, called
forth some sharp rustic retorts. A plain squire, he was told, was
as likely to serve the country well as the most fluent gownsman,
who was ready, for a guinea, to prove that black was white. On
the question whether the bill should pass, the Ayes were two
hundred, the Noes a hundred and sixty.784

The Lords had, twelve months before, readily agreed to a similar
bill; but they had since reconsidered the subject and changed
their opinion. The truth is that, if a law requiring every member
of the House of Commons to possess an estate of some hundreds of
pounds a year in land could have been strictly enforced, such a
law would have been very advantageous to country gentlemen of
moderate property, but would have been by no means advantageous
to the grandees of the realm. A lord of a small manor would have
stood for the town in the neighbourhood of which his family had
resided during centuries, without any apprehension that he should
be opposed by some alderman of London, whom the electors had
never seen before the day of nomination, and whose chief title to
their favour was a pocketbook full of bank notes. But a great
nobleman, who had an estate of fifteen or twenty thousand pounds
a year, and who commanded two or three boroughs, would no longer
be able to put his younger son, his younger brother, his man of
business, into Parliament, or to earn a garter or a step in the
peerage by finding a seat for a Lord of the Treasury or an
Attorney General. On this occasion therefore the interest of the
chiefs of the aristocracy, Norfolk and Somerset, Newcastle and
Bedford, Pembroke and Dorset, coincided with that of the wealthy
traders of the City and of the clever young aspirants of the
Temple, and was diametrically opposed to the interest of a squire
of a thousand or twelve hundred a year. On the day fixed for the
second reading the attendance of lords was great. Several
petitions from constituent bodies, which thought it hard that a
new restriction should be imposed on the exercise of the elective
franchise, were presented and read. After a debate of some hours
the bill was rejected by sixty-two votes to thirty-seven.785 Only
three days later, a strong party in the Commons, burning with
resentment, proposed to tack the bill which the Peers had just
rejected to the Land Tax Bill. This motion would probably have
been carried, had not Foley gone somewhat beyond the duties of
his place, and, under pretence of speaking to order, shown that
such a tack would be without a precedent in parliamentary
history. When the question was put, the Ayes raised so loud a cry
that it was believed that they were the majority; but on a
division they proved to be only a hundred and thirty-five. The
Noes were a hundred and sixty-three.786

Other parliamentary proceedings of this session deserve mention.
While the Commons were busily engaged in the great work of
restoring the finances, an incident took place which seemed,
during a short time, likely to be fatal to the infant liberty of
the press, but which eventually proved the means of confirming
that liberty. Among the many newspapers which had been
established since the expiration of the censorship, was one
called the Flying Post. The editor, John Salisbury, was the tool
of a band of stockjobbers in the City, whose interest it happened
to be to cry down the public securities. He one day published a
false and malicious paragraph, evidently intended to throw
suspicion on the Exchequer Bills. On the credit of the Exchequer
Bills depended, at that moment, the political greatness and the
commercial prosperity of the realm. The House of Commons was in a
flame. The Speaker issued his warrant against Salisbury. It was
resolved without a division that a bill should be brought in to
prohibit the publishing of news without a license. Forty-eight
hours later the bill was presented and read. But the members had
now had time to cool. There was scarcely one of them whose
residence in the country had not, during the preceding summer,
been made more agreeable by the London journals. Meagre as those
journals may seem to a person who has the Times daily on his
breakfast table, they were to that generation a new and abundant
source of pleasure. No Devonshire or Yorkshire gentleman, Whig or
Tory, could bear the thought of being again dependent, during
seven months of every year, for all information about what was
doing in the world, on newsletters. If the bill passed, the
sheets, which were now so impatiently expected twice a week at
every country seat in the kingdom, would contain nothing but what
it suited the Secretary of State to make public; they would be,
in fact, so many London Gazettes; and the most assiduous reader
of the London Gazette might be utterly ignorant of the most
important events of his time. A few voices, however, were raised
in favour of a censorship. "These papers," it was said,
"frequently contain mischievous matter." "Then why are they not
prosecuted?" was the answer. "Has the Attorney-General filed an
information against any one of them? And is it not absurd to ask
us to give a new remedy by statute, when the old remedy afforded
by the common law has never been tried?" On the question whether
the bill should be read a second time, the Ayes were only
sixteen, the Noes two hundred.787

Another bill, which fared better, ought to be noticed as an
instance of the slow, but steady progress of civilisation. The
ancient immunities enjoyed by some districts of the capital, of
which the largest and the most infamous was Whitefriars, had
produced abuses which could no longer be endured. The Templars on
one side of Alsatia, and the citizens on the other, had long been
calling on the government and the legislature to put down so
monstrous a nuisance. Yet still, bounded on the west by the great
school of English jurisprudence, and on the east by the great
mart of English trade, stood this labyrinth of squalid, tottering
houses, close packed, every one, from cellar to cockloft, with
outcasts whose life was one long war with society. The best part
of the population consisted of debtors who were in fear of
bailiffs. The rest were attorneys struck off the roll, witnesses
who carried straw in their shoes as a sign to inform the public
where a false oath might be procured for half a crown, sharpers,
receivers of stolen goods, clippers of coin, forgers of bank
notes, and tawdry women, blooming with paint and brandy, who, in
their anger, made free use of their nails and their scissors, yet
whose anger was less to be dreaded than their kindness. With
these wretches the narrow alleys of the sanctuary swarmed. The
rattling of dice, the call for more punch and more wine, and the
noise of blasphemy and ribald song never ceased during the whole
night. The benchers of the Inner Temple could bear the scandal
and the annoyance no longer. They ordered the gate leading into
Whitefriars to be bricked up. The Alsatians mustered in great
force, attacked the workmen, killed one of them, pulled down the
wall, knocked down the Sheriff who came to keep the peace, and
carried off his gold chain, which, no doubt, was soon in the
melting pot. The riot was not suppressed till a company of the
Foot Guards arrived. This outrage excited general indignation.
The City, indignant at the outrage offered to the Sheriff, cried
loudly for justice. Yet, so difficult was it to execute any
process in the dens of Whitefriars, that near two years elapsed
before a single ringleader was apprehended.788

The Savoy was another place of the same kind, smaller indeed, and
less renowned, but inhabited by a not less lawless population. An
unfortunate tailor, who ventured to go thither for the purpose of
demanding payment of a debt, was set upon by the whole mob of
cheats, ruffians and courtesans. He offered to give a full
discharge to his debtor and a treat to the rabble, but in vain.
He had violated their franchises; and this crime was not to be
pardoned. He was knocked down, stripped, tarred, feathered. A
rope was tied round his waist. He was dragged naked up and down
the streets amidst yells of "A bailiff! A bailiff!" Finally he
was compelled to kneel down and to curse his father and mother.
Having performed this ceremony he was permitted,--and the
permission was blamed by many of the Savoyards,--to limp home
without a rag upon him.789 The Bog of Allen, the passes of the
Grampians, were not more unsafe than this small knot of lanes,
surrounded by the mansions of the greatest nobles of a
flourishing and enlightened kingdom.

At length, in 1697, a bill for abolishing the franchises of these
places passed both Houses, and received the royal assent. The
Alsatians and Savoyards were furious. Anonymous letters,
containing menaces of assassination, were received by members of
Parliament who had made themselves conspicuous by the zeal with
which they had supported the bill; but such threats only
strengthened the general conviction that it was high time to
destroy these nests of knaves and ruffians. A fortnight's grace
was allowed; and it was made known that, when that time had
expired, the vermin who had been the curse of London would be
unearthed and hunted without mercy. There was a tumultuous flight
to Ireland, to France, to the Colonies, to vaults and garrets in
less notorious parts of the capital; and when, on the prescribed
day, the Sheriff's officers ventured to cross the boundary, they
found those streets where, a few weeks before, the cry of "A
writ!" would have drawn together a thousand raging bullies and
vixens, as quiet as the cloister of a cathedral.790

On the sixteenth of April, the King closed the session with a
speech, in which he returned warm and well merited thanks to the
Houses for the firmness and wisdom which had rescued the nation
from commercial and financial difficulties unprecedented in our
history. Before he set out for the Continent, he conferred some
new honours, and made some new ministerial arrangements. Every
member of the Whig junto was distinguished by some conspicuous
mark of royal favour. Somers delivered up the seal, of which he
was Keeper; he received it back again with the higher title of
Chancellor, and was immediately commanded to affix it to a
patent, by which he was created Baron Somers of Evesham.791
Russell became Earl of Orford and Viscount Barfleur. No English
title had ever before been taken from a place of battle lying
within a foreign territory. But the precedent then set has been
repeatedly followed; and the names of Saint Vincent, Trafalgar,
Camperdown, and Douro are now borne by the successors of great
commanders. Russell seems to have accepted his earldom, after his
fashion, not only without gratitude, but grumblingly, and as if
some great wrong had been done him. What was a coronet to him? He
had no child to inherit it. The only distinction which he should
have prized was the garter; and the garter had been given to
Portland. Of course, such things were for the Dutch; and it was
strange presumption in an Englishman, though he might have won a
victory which had saved the State, to expect that his pretensions
would be considered till all the Mynheers about the palace had
been served.792

Wharton, still retaining his place of Comptroller of the
Household, obtained the lucrative office of Chief Justice in
Eyre, South of Trent; and his brother, Godwin Wharton, was made a
Lord of the Admiralty.793

Though the resignation of Godolphin had been accepted in
October, no new commission of Treasury was issued till after the
prorogation. Who should be First Commissioner was a question long
and fiercely disputed. For Montague's faults had made him many
enemies, and his merits many more, Dull formalists sneered at him
as a wit and poet, who, no doubt, showed quick parts in debate,
but who had already been raised far higher than his services
merited or than his brain would bear. It would be absurd to place
such a young coxcomb, merely because he could talk fluently and
cleverly, in an office on which the wellbeing of the kingdom
depended. Surely Sir Stephen Fox was, of all the Lords of the
Treasury, the fittest to be at the head of the Board. He was an
elderly man, grave, experienced, exact, laborious; and he had
never made a verse in his life. The King hesitated during a
considerable time between the two candidates; but time was all in
Montague's favour; for, from the first to the last day of the
session, his fame was constantly rising. The voice of the House
of Commons and of the City loudly designated him as preeminently
qualified to be the chief minister of finance. At length Sir
Stephen Fox withdrew from the competition, though not with a very
good grace. He wished it to be notified in the London Gazette
that the place of First Lord had been offered to him, and
declined by him. Such a notification would have been an affront
to Montague; and Montague, flushed with prosperity and glory, was
not in a mood to put up with affronts. The dispute was
compromised. Montague became First Lord of the Treasury; and the
vacant seat at the Board was filled by Sir Thomas Littleton, one
of the ablest and most consistent Whigs in the House of Commons.
But, from tenderness to Fox, these promotions were not announced
in the Gazette.794

Dorset resigned the office of Chamberlain, but not in ill humour,
and retired loaded with marks of royal favour. He was succeeded
by Sunderland, who was also appointed one of the Lords Justices,
not without much murmuring from various quarters.795 To the
Tories Sunderland was an object of unmixed detestation. Some of
the Whig leaders had been unable to resist his insinuating
address; and others were grateful for the services which he had
lately rendered to the party. But the leaders could not restrain
their followers. Plain men, who were zealous for civil liberty
and for the Protestant religion, who were beyond the range of
Sunderland's irresistible fascination, and who knew that he had
sate in the High Commission, concurred in the Declaration of
Indulgence, borne witness against the Seven Bishops, and received
the host from a Popish priest, could not, without indignation and
shame, see him standing, with the staff in his hand, close to the
throne. Still more monstrous was it that such a man should be
entrusted with the administration of the government during the
absence of the Sovereign. William did not understand these
feelings. Sunderland was able; he was useful; he was unprincipled
indeed; but so were all the English politicians of the generation
which had learned, under the sullen tyranny of the Saints, to
disbelieve in virtue, and which had, during the wild jubilee of
the Restoration, been utterly dissolved in vice. He was a fair
specimen of his class, a little worse, perhaps, than Leeds or
Godolphin, and about as bad as Russell or Marlborough. Why he was
to be hunted from the herd the King could not imagine.

Notwithstanding the discontent which was caused by Sunderland's
elevation, England was, during this summer, perfectly quiet and
in excellent temper. All but the fanatical Jacobites were elated
by the rapid revival of trade and by the near prospect of peace.
Nor were Ireland and Scotland less tranquil.

In Ireland nothing deserving to be minutely related had taken
place since Sidney had ceased to be Lord Lieutenant. The
government had suffered the colonists to domineer unchecked over
the native population; and the colonists had in return been
profoundly obsequious to the government. The proceedings of the
local legislature which sate at Dublin had been in no respect
more important or more interesting than the proceedings of the
Assembly of Barbadoes. Perhaps the most momentous event in the
parliamentary history of Ireland at this time was a dispute
between the two Houses which was caused by a collision between
the coach of the Speaker and the coach of the Chancellor. There
were, indeed, factions, but factions which sprang merely from
personal pretensions and animosities. The names of Whig and Tory
had been carried across Saint George's Channel, but had in the
passage lost all their meaning. A man who was called a Tory at
Dublin would have passed at Westminster for as stanch a Whig as
Wharton. The highest Churchmen in Ireland abhorred and dreaded
Popery so much that they were disposed to consider every
Protestant as a brother. They remembered the tyranny of James,
the robberies, the burnings, the confiscations, the brass money,
the Act of Attainder, with bitter resentment. They honoured
William as their deliverer and preserver. Nay, they could not
help feeling a certain respect even for the memory of Cromwell;
for, whatever else he might have been, he had been the champion
and the avenger of their race. Between the divisions of England,
therefore, and the divisions of Ireland, there was scarcely any
thing in common. In England there were two parties, of the same
race and religion, contending with each other. In Ireland there
were two castes, of different races and religions, one trampling
on the other.

Scotland too was quiet. The harvest of the last year had indeed
been scanty; and there was consequently much suffering. But the
spirit of the nation was buoyed up by wild hopes, destined to end
in cruel disappointment. A magnificent daydream of wealth and
empire so completely occupied the minds of men that they hardly
felt the present distress. How that dream originated, and by how
terrible an awakening it was broken, will be related hereafter.

In the autumn of 1696 the Estates of Scotland met at Edinburgh.
The attendance was thin; and the session lasted only five weeks.
A supply amounting to little more than a hundred thousand pounds
sterling was voted. Two Acts for the securing of the government
were passed. One of those Acts required all persons in public
trust to sign an Association similar to the Association which had
been so generally subscribed in the south of the island. The
other Act provided that the Parliament of Scotland should not be
dissolved by the death of the King. But by far the most important
event of this short session was the passing of the Act for the
settling of Schools. By this memorable law it was, in the Scotch
phrase, statuted and ordained that every parish in the realm
should provide a commodious schoolhouse and should pay a moderate
stipend to a schoolmaster. The effect could not be immediately
felt. But, before one generation had passed away, it began to be
evident that the common people of Scotland were superior in
intelligence to the common people of any other country in Europe.
To whatever land the Scotchman might wander, to whatever calling
he might betake himself, in America or in India, in trade or in
war, the advantage which he derived from his early training
raised him above his competitors. If he was taken into a
warehouse as a porter, he soon became foreman. If he enlisted in
the army, he soon became a serjeant. Scotland, meanwhile, in
spite of the barrenness of her soil and the severity of her
climate, made such progress in agriculture, in manufactures, in
commerce, in letters, in science, in all that constitutes
civilisation, as the Old World had never seen equalled, and as
even the New World has scarcely seen surpassed.

This wonderful change is to be attributed, not indeed solely, but
principally, to the national system of education. But to the men
by whom that system was established posterity owes no gratitude.
They knew not what they were doing. They were the unconscious
instruments of enlightening the understandings and humanising the
hearts of millions. But their own understandings were as dark and
their own hearts as obdurate as those of the Familiars of the
Inquisition at Lisbon. In the very month in which the Act for the
settling of Schools was touched with the sceptre, the rulers of
the Church and State in Scotland began to carry on with vigour two
persecutions worthy of the tenth century, a persecution of witches
and a persecution of infidels. A crowd of wretches, guilty only of
being old and miserable, were accused of trafficking with the
devil. The Privy Council was not ashamed to issue a Commission for
the trial of twenty-two of these poor creatures.796 The shops of
the booksellers of Edinburgh were strictly searched for heretical
works. Impious books, among which the sages of the Presbytery
ranked Thomas Burnet's Sacred Theory of the Earth, were strictly
suppressed.797 But the destruction of mere paper and sheepskin
would not satisfy the bigots. Their hatred required victims who
could feel, and was not appeased till they had perpetrated a crime
such as has never since polluted the island.

A student of eighteen, named Thomas Aikenhead, whose habits were
studious and whose morals were irreproachable, had, in the course
of his reading, met with some of the ordinary arguments against
the Bible. He fancied that he had lighted on a mine of wisdom
which had been hidden from the rest of mankind, and, with the
conceit from which half educated lads of quick parts are seldom
free, proclaimed his discoveries to four or five of his
companions. Trinity in unity, he said, was as much a
contradiction as a square circle. Ezra was the author of the
Pentateuch. The Apocalypse was an allegorical book about the
philosopher's stone. Moses had learned magic in Egypt.
Christianity was a delusion which would not last till the year
1800. For this wild talk, of which, in all probability, he would
himself have been ashamed long before he was five and twenty, he
was prosecuted by the Lord Advocate. The Lord Advocate was that
James Stewart who had been so often a Whig and so often a
Jacobite that it is difficult to keep an account of his
apostasies. He was now a Whig for the third if not for the fourth
time. Aikenhead might undoubtedly have been, by the law of
Scotland, punished with imprisonment till he should retract his
errors and do penance before the congregation of his parish; and
every man of sense and humanity would have thought this a
sufficient punishment for the prate of a forward boy. But
Stewart, as cruel as he was base, called for blood. There was
among the Scottish statutes one which made it a capital crime to
revile or curse the Supreme Being or any person of the Trinity.
Nothing that Aikenhead had said could, without the most violent
straining, be brought within the scope of this statute. But the
Lord Advocate exerted all his subtlety. The poor youth at the bar
had no counsel. He was altogether unable to do justice to his own
cause. He was convicted, and sentenced to be hanged and buried at
the foot of the gallows. It was in vain that he with tears
abjured his errors and begged piteously for mercy. Some of those
who saw him in his dungeon believed that his recantation was
sincere; and indeed it is by no means improbable that in him, as
in many other pretenders to philosophy who imagine that they have
completely emancipated themselves from the religion of their
childhood, the near prospect of death may have produced an entire
change of sentiment. He petitioned the Privy Council that, if his
life could not be spared, he might be allowed a short respite to
make his peace with the God whom he had offended. Some of the
Councillors were for granting this small indulgence. Others
thought that it ought not to be granted unless the ministers of
Edinburgh would intercede. The two parties were evenly balanced;
and the question was decided against the prisoner by the casting
vote of the Chancellor. The Chancellor was a man who has been
often mentioned in the course of this history, and never
mentioned with honour. He was that Sir Patrick Hume whose
disputatious and factious temper had brought ruin on the
expedition of Argyle, and had caused not a little annoyance to
the government of William. In the Club which had braved the King
and domineered over the Parliament there had been no more noisy
republican. But a title and a place had produced a wonderful
conversion. Sir Patrick was now Lord Polwarth; he had the custody
of the Great Seal of Scotland; he presided in the Privy Council;
and thus he had it in his power to do the worst action of his bad

It remained to be seen how the clergy of Edinburgh would act.
That divines should be deaf to the entreaties of a penitent who
asks, not for pardon, but for a little more time to receive their
instructions and to pray to Heaven for the mercy which cannot be
extended to him on earth, seems almost incredible. Yet so it was.
The ministers demanded, not only the poor boy's death, but his
speedy death, though it should be his eternal death. Even from
their pulpits they cried out for cutting him off. It is probable
that their real reason for refusing him a respite of a few days
was their apprehension that the circumstances of his case might
be reported at Kensington, and that the King, who, while reciting
the Coronation Oath, had declared from the throne that he would
not be a persecutor, might send down positive orders that the
sentence should not be executed. Aikenhead was hanged between
Edinburgh and Leith. He professed deep repentance, and suffered
with the Bible in his hand. The people of Edinburgh, though
assuredly not disposed to think lightly of his offence, were
moved to compassion by his youth, by his penitence, and by the
cruel haste with which he was hurried out of the world. It seems
that there was some apprehension of a rescue; for a strong body
of fusileers was under arms to support the civil power. The
preachers who were the boy's murderers crowded round him at the
gallows, and, while he was struggling in the last agony, insulted
Heaven with prayers more blasphemous than any thing that he had
ever uttered. Wodrow has told no blacker story of Dundee.798

On the whole, the British islands had not, during ten years, been
so free from internal troubles as when William, at the close of
April 1697, set out for the Continent. The war in the Netherlands
was a little, and but a little, less languid than in the
preceding year. The French generals opened the campaign by taking
the small town of Aeth. They then meditated a far more important
conquest. They made a sudden push for Brussels, and would
probably have succeeded in their design but for the activity of
William. He was encamped on ground which lies within sight of the
Lion of Waterloo, when he received, late in the evening,
intelligence that the capital of the Netherlands was in danger.
He instantly put his forces in motion, marched all night, and,
having traversed the field destined to acquire, a hundred and
eighteen years later, a terrible renown, and threaded the long
defiles of the Forest of Soignies, he was at ten in the morning
on the spot from which Brussels had been bombarded two years
before, and would, if he had been only three hours later, have
been bombarded again. Here he surrounded himself with
entrenchments which the enemy did not venture to attack. This was
the most important military event which, during that summer, took
place in the Low Countries. In both camps there was an
unwillingness to run any great risk on the eve of a general

Lewis had, early in the spring, for the first time during his
long reign, spontaneously offered equitable and honourable
conditions to his foes. He had declared himself willing to
relinquish the conquests which he had made in the course of the
war, to cede Lorraine to its own Duke, to give back Luxemburg to
Spain, to give back Strasburg to the Empire and to acknowledge
the existing government of England.799

Those who remembered the great woes which his faithless and
merciless ambition had brought on Europe might well suspect that
this unwonted moderation was not to be ascribed to sentiments of
justice or humanity. But, whatever might be his motive for
proposing such terms, it was plainly the interest and the duty of
the Confederacy to accept them. For there was little hope indeed
of wringing from him by war concessions larger than those which
he now tendered as the price of peace. The most sanguine of his
enemies could hardly expect a long series of campaigns as
successful as the campaign of 1695. Yet in a long series of
campaigns, as successful as that of 1695, the allies would hardly
be able to retake all that he now professed himself ready to
restore. William, who took, as usual, a clear and statesmanlike
view of the whole situation, now gave his voice as decidedly for
concluding peace as he had in former years given it for
vigorously prosecuting the war; and he was backed by the public
opinion both of England and of Holland. But, unhappily, just at
the time when the two powers which alone, among the members of
the coalition, had manfully done their duty in the long struggle,
were beginning to rejoice in the near prospect of repose, some of
those governments which had never furnished their full
contingents, which had never been ready in time, which had been
constantly sending excuses in return for subsidies, began to
raise difficulties such as seemed likely to make the miseries of
Europe eternal.

Spain had, as William, in the bitterness of his spirit, wrote to
Heinsius, contributed nothing to the common cause but
rodomontades. She had made no vigorous effort even to defend her
own territories against invasion. She would have lost Flanders
and Brabant but for the English and Dutch armies. She would have
lost Catalonia but for the English and Dutch fleets. The Milanese
she had saved, not by arms, but by concluding, in spite of the
remonstrances of the English and Dutch governments, an
ignominious treaty of neutrality. She had not a ship of war able
to weather a gale. She had not a regiment that was not ill paid
and ill disciplined, ragged and famished. Yet repeatedly, within
the last two years, she had treated both William and the States
General with an impertinence which showed that she was altogether
ignorant of her place among states. She now became punctilious,
demanded from Lewis concessions which the events of the war gave
her no right to expect, and seemed to think it hard that allies,
whom she was constantly treating with indignity, were not willing
to lavish their blood and treasure for her during eight years

The conduct of Spain is to be attributed merely to arrogance and
folly. But the unwillingness of the Emperor to consent even to
the fairest terms of accommodation was the effect of selfish
ambition. The Catholic King was childless; he was sickly; his
life was not worth three years' purchase; and when he died, his
dominions would be left to be struggled for by a crowd of
competitors. Both the House of Austria and the House of Bourbon
had claims to that immense heritage. It was plainly for the
interest of the House of Austria that the important day, come
when it might, should find a great European coalition in arms
against the House of Bourbon. The object of the Emperor therefore
was that the war should continue to be carried on, as it had
hitherto been carried on, at a light charge to him and a heavy
charge to England and Holland, not till just conditions of peace
could be obtained, but simply till the King of Spain should die.
"The ministers of the Emperor," William wrote to Heinsius, "ought
to be ashamed of their conduct. It is intolerable that a
government which is doing every thing in its power to make the
negotiations fail, should contribute nothing to the common

It is not strange that in such circumstances the work of
pacification should have made little progress. International law,
like other law, has its chicanery, its subtle pleadings, its
technical forms, which may too easily be so employed as to make
its substance inefficient. Those litigants therefore who did not
wish the litigation to come to a speedy close had no difficulty
in interposing delays. There was a long dispute about the place
where the conferences should be held. The Emperor proposed Aix la
Chapelle. The French objected, and proposed the Hague. Then the
Emperor objected in his turn. At last it was arranged that the
ministers of the Allied Powers should meet at the Hague, and that
the French plenipotentiaries should take up their abode five
miles off at Delft.801 To Delft accordingly repaired Harlay, a
man of distinguished wit and good breeding, sprung from one of
the great families of the robe; Crecy, a shrewd, patient and
laborious diplomatist; and Cailleres, who, though he was named
only third in the credentials, was much better informed than
either of his colleagues touching all the points which were
likely to be debated.802 At the Hague were the Earl of Pembroke
and Edward, Viscount Villiers, who represented England. Prior
accompanied them with the rank of Secretary. At the head of the
Imperial Legation was Count Kaunitz; at the head of the Spanish
Legation was Don Francisco Bernardo de Quiros; the ministers of
inferior rank it would be tedious to enumerate.803

Half way between Delft and the Hague is a village named Ryswick;
and near it then stood, in a rectangular garden, which was
bounded by straight canals, and divided into formal woods, flower
beds and melon beds, a seat of the Princes of Orange. The house
seemed to have been built expressly for the accommodation of such
a set of diplomatists as were to meet there. In the centre was a
large hall painted by Honthorst. On the right hand and on the
left were wings exactly corresponding to each other. Each wing
was accessible by its own bridge, its own gate and its own
avenue. One wing was assigned to the Allies, the other to the
French, the hall in the centre to the mediator.804 Some
preliminary questions of etiquette were, not without difficulty,
adjusted; and at length, on the ninth of May, many coaches and
six, attended by harbingers, footmen and pages, approached the
mansion by different roads. The Swedish Minister alighted at the
grand entrance. The procession from the Hague came up the side
alley on the right. The procession from Delft came up the side
alley on the left. At the first meeting, the full powers of the
representatives of the belligerent governments were delivered to
the mediator. At the second meeting, forty-eight hours later, the
mediator performed the ceremony of exchanging these full powers.
Then several meetings were spent in settling how many carriages,
how many horses, how many lacqueys, how many pages, each minister
should be entitled to bring to Ryswick; whether the serving men
should carry canes; whether they should wear swords; whether they
should have pistols in their holsters; who should take the upper
hand in the public walks, and whose carriage should break the way
in the streets. It soon appeared that the mediator would have to
mediate, not only between the coalition and the French, but also
between the different members of the coalition. The Imperial
Ambassadors claimed a right to sit at the head of the table. The
Spanish Ambassador would not admit this pretension, and tried to
thrust himself in between two of them. The Imperial Ambassadors
refused to call the Ambassadors of Electors and Commonwealths by
the title of Excellency. "If I am not called Excellency," said
the Minister of the Elector of Brandenburg, "my master will
withdraw his troops from Hungary." The Imperial Ambassadors
insisted on having a room to themselves in the building, and on
having a special place assigned to their carriages in the court.
All the other Ministers of the Confederacy pronounced this a most
unjustifiable demand, and a whole sitting was wasted in this
childish dispute. It may easily be supposed that allies who were
so punctilious in their dealings with each other were not likely
to be very easy in their intercourse with the common enemy. The
chief business of Earlay and Kaunitz was to watch each other's
legs. Neither of them thought it consistent with the dignity of
the Crown which he served to advance towards the other faster
than the other advanced towards him. If therefore one of them
perceived that he had inadvertently stepped forward too quick, he
went back to the door, and the stately minuet began again. The
ministers of Lewis drew up a paper in their own language. The
German statesmen protested against this innovation, this insult
to the dignity of the Holy Roman Empire, this encroachment on the
rights of independent nations, and would not know any thing about
the paper till it had been translated from good French into bad
Latin. In the middle of April it was known to every body at the
Hague that Charles the Eleventh, King of Sweden, was dead, and
had been succeeded by his son; but it was contrary to etiquette
that any of the assembled envoys should appear to be acquainted
with this fact till Lilienroth had made a formal announcement; it
was not less contrary to etiquette that Lilienroth should make
such an announcement till his equipages and his household had
been put into mourning; and some weeks elapsed before his
coachmakers and tailors had completed their task. At length, on
the twelfth of June, he came to Ryswick in a carriage lined with
black and attended by servants in black liveries, and there, in
full congress, proclaimed that it had pleased God to take to
himself the most puissant King Charles the Eleventh. All the
Ambassadors then condoled with him on the sad and unexpected
news, and went home to put off their embroidery and to dress
themselves in the garb of sorrow. In such solemn trifling week
after week passed away. No real progress was made. Lilienroth had
no wish to accelerate matters. While the congress lasted, his
position was one of great dignity. He would willingly have gone
on mediating for ever; and he could not go on mediating, unless
the parties on his right and on his left went on wrangling.805

In June the hope of peace began to grow faint. Men remembered
that the last war had continued to rage, year after year, while a
congress was sitting at Nimeguen. The mediators had made their
entrance into that town in February 1676. The treaty had not been
signed till February 1679. Yet the negotiation of Nimeguen had
not proceeded more slowly than the negotiation of Ryswick. It
seemed but too probable that the eighteenth century would find
great armies still confronting each other on the Meuse and the
Rhine, industrious populations still ground down by taxation,
fertile provinces still lying waste, the ocean still made
impassable by corsairs, and the plenipotentiaries still
exchanging notes, drawing up protocols, and wrangling about the
place where this minister should sit, and the title by which that
minister should be called.

But William was fully determined to bring this mummery to a
speedy close. He would have either peace or war. Either was, in
his view, better than this intermediate state which united the
disadvantages of both. While the negotiation was pending there
could be no diminution of the burdens which pressed on his
people; and yet he could expect no energetic action from his
allies. If France was really disposed to conclude a treaty on
fair terms, that treaty should be concluded in spite of the
imbecility of the Catholic King and in spite of the selfish
cunning of the Emperor. If France was insecure, the sooner the
truth was known, the sooner the farce which was acting at Ryswick
was over, the sooner the people of England and Holland,--for on
them every thing depended,--were told that they must make up
their minds to great exertions and sacrifices, the better.

Pembroke and Villiers, though they had now the help of a veteran
diplomatist, Sir Joseph Williamson, could do little or nothing to
accelerate the proceedings of the Congress. For, though France
had promised that, whenever peace should be made, she would
recognise the Prince of Orange as King of Great Britain and
Ireland, she had not yet recognised him. His ministers had
therefore had no direct intercourse with Harlay, Crecy and
Cailleres. William, with the judgment and decision of a true
statesman, determined to open a communication with Lewis through
one of the French Marshals who commanded in the Netherlands. Of
those Marshals Villeroy was the highest in rank. But Villeroy was
weak, rash, haughty, irritable. Such a negotiator was far more
likely to embroil matters than to bring them to an amicable
settlement. Boufflers was a man of sense and temper; and
fortunately he had, during the few days which he had passed at
Huy after the fall of Namur, been under the care of Portland, by
whom he had been treated with the greatest courtesy and kindness.
A friendship had sprung up between the prisoner and his keeper.
They were both brave soldiers, honourable gentlemen, trusty
servants. William justly thought that they were far more likely
to come to an understanding than Harlay and Kaunitz even with the
aid of Lilienroth. Portland indeed had all the essential
qualities of an excellent diplomatist. In England, the people
were prejudiced against him as a foreigner; his earldom, his
garter, his lucrative places,
his rapidly growing wealth, excited envy; his dialect was not
understood; his manners were not those of the men of fashion who
had been formed at Whitehall; his abilities were therefore
greatly underrated; and it was the fashion to call him a
blockhead, fit only to carry messages. But, on the Continent,
where he was judged without malevolence, he made a very different
impression. It is a remarkable fact that this man, who in the
drawingrooms and coffeehouses of London was described as an
awkward, stupid, Hogan Mogan,--such was the phrase at that
time,--was considered at Versailles as an eminently polished courtier
and an eminently expert negotiator.806 His chief recommendation
however was his incorruptible integrity. It was certain that the
interests which were committed to his care would be as dear to
him as his own life, and that every report which he made to his
master would be literally exact.

Towards the close of June Portland sent to Boufflers a friendly
message, begging for an interview of half an hour. Boufflers
instantly sent off an express to Lewis, and received an answer in
the shortest time in which it was possible for a courier to ride
post to Versailles and back again. Lewis directed the Marshal to
comply with Portland's request, to say as little as possible, and
to learn as much as possible.807

On the twenty-eighth of June, according to the Old Style, the
meeting took place in the neighbourhood of Hal, a town which lies
about ten miles from Brussels, on the road to Mons. After the
first civilities had been exchanged, Boufflers and Portland
dismounted; their attendants retired; and the two negotiators
were left alone in an orchard. Here they walked up and down
during two hours, and, in that time, did much more business than
the plenipotentiaries at Ryswick were able to despatch in as many

Till this time the French government had entertained a suspicion,
natural indeed, but altogether erroneous, that William was bent
on protracting the war, that he had consented to treat merely
because he could not venture to oppose himself to the public
opinion both of England and of Holland, but that he wished the
negotiation to be abortive, and that the perverse conduct of the
House of Austria and the difficulties which had arisen at Ryswick
were to be chiefly ascribed to his machinations. That suspicion
was now removed. Compliments, cold, austere and full of dignity,
yet respectful, were exchanged between the two great princes
whose enmity had, during a quarter of a century, kept Europe in
constant agitation. The negotiation between Boufflers and
Portland proceeded as fast as the necessity of frequent reference
to Versailles would permit. Their first five conferences were
held in the open air; but, at their sixth meeting, they retired
into a small house in which Portland had ordered tables, pens,
ink and paper to be placed; and here the result of their labours
was reduced to writing.

The really important points which had been in issue were four.
William had at first demanded two concessions from Lewis; and
Lewis had demanded two concessions from William.

William's first demand was that France should bind herself to
give no help or countenance, directly or indirectly, to any
attempt which might be made by James, or by James's adherents, to
disturb the existing order of things in England.

William's second demand was that James should no longer be
suffered to reside at a place so dangerously near to England as
Saint Germains.

To the first of these demands Lewis replied that he was perfectly
ready to bind himself by the most solemn engagements not to
assist or countenance, in any manner, any attempt to disturb the
existing order of things in England; but that it was inconsistent
with his honour that the name of his kinsman and guest should
appear in the treaty.

To the second demand Lewis replied that he could not refuse his
hospitality to an unfortunate king who had taken refuge in his
dominions, and that he could not promise even to indicate a wish
that James would quit Saint Germains. But Boufflers, as if
speaking his own thoughts, though doubtless saying nothing but
what he knew to be in conformity to his master's wishes, hinted
that the matter would probably be managed, and named Avignon as a
place where the banished family might reside without giving any
umbrage to the English government.

Lewis, on the other side, demanded, first, that a general amnesty
should be granted to the Jacobites; and secondly, that Mary of
Modena should receive her jointure of fifty thousand pounds a

With the first of these demands William peremptorily refused to
comply. He should always be ready, of his own free will, to
pardon the offences of men who showed a disposition to live
quietly for the future under his government; but he could not
consent to make the exercise of his prerogative of mercy a matter
of stipulation with any foreign power. The annuity claimed by
Mary of Modena he would willingly pay, if he could only be
satisfied that it would not be expended in machinations against
his throne and his person, in supporting, on the coast of Kent,
another establishment like that of Hunt, or in buying horses and
arms for another enterprise like that of Turnham Green. Boufflers
had mentioned Avignon. If James and his Queen would take up their
abode there, no difficulties would be made about the jointure.

At length all the questions in dispute were settled. After much
discussion an article was framed by which Lewis pledged his word
of honour that he would not favour, in any manner, any attempt to
subvert or disturb the existing government of England. William,
in return, gave his promise not to countenance any attempt
against the government of France. This promise Lewis had not
asked, and at first seemed inclined to consider as an affront.
His throne, he said, was perfectly secure, his title undisputed.
There were in his dominions no nonjurors, no conspirators; and he
did not think it consistent with his dignity to enter into a
compact which seemed to imply that he was in fear of plots and
insurrections such as a dynasty sprung from a revolution might
naturally apprehend. On this point, however, he gave way; and it
was agreed that the covenants should be strictly reciprocal.
William ceased to demand that James should be mentioned by name;
and Lewis ceased to demand that an amnesty should be granted to
James's adherents. It was determined that nothing should be said
in the treaty, either about the place where the banished King of
England should reside, or about the jointure of his Queen. But
William authorised his plenipotentiaries at the Congress to
declare that Mary of Modena should have whatever, on examination,
it should appear that she was by law entitled to have. What she
was by law entitled to have was a question which it would have
puzzled all Westminster Hall to answer. But it was well
understood that she would receive, without any contest, the
utmost that she could have any pretence for asking as soon as she
and her husband should retire to Provence or to Italy.809

Before the end of July every thing was settled, as far as France
and England were concerned. Meanwhile it was known to the
ministers assembled at Ryswick that Boufflers and Portland had
repeatedly met in Brabant, and that they were negotiating in a
most irregular and indecorous manner, without credentials, or
mediation, or notes, or protocols, without counting each other's
steps, and without calling each other Excellency. So barbarously
ignorant were they of the rudiments of the noble science of
diplomacy that they had very nearly accomplished the work of
restoring peace to Christendom while walking up and down an alley
under some apple trees. The English and Dutch loudly applauded
William's prudence and decision. He had cut the knot which the
Congress had only twisted and tangled. He had done in a month
what all the formalists and pedants assembled at the Hague would
not have done in ten years. Nor were the French plenipotentiaries
ill pleased. "It is curious," said Harlay, a man of wit and
sense, "that, while the Ambassadors are making war, the generals
should be making peace."810 But Spain preserved the same air of
arrogant listlessness; and the ministers of the Emperor,
forgetting apparently that their master had, a few months before,
concluded a treaty of neutrality for Italy without consulting
William, seemed to think it most extraordinary that William
should presume to negotiate without consulting their master. It
became daily more evident that the Court of Vienna was bent on
prolonging the war. On the tenth of July the French ministers
again proposed fair and honourable terms of peace, but added
that, if those terms were not accepted by the twenty-first of
August, the Most Christian King would not consider himself bound
by his offer.811 William in vain exhorted his allies to be
reasonable. The senseless pride of one branch of the House of
Austria and the selfish policy of the other were proof to all
argument. The twenty-first of August came and passed; the treaty
had not been signed.

France was at liberty to raise her demands; and she did so. For
just at this time news arrived of two great blows which had
fallen on Spain, one in the Old and one in the New World. A
French army, commanded by Vendome, had taken Barcelona. A French
squadron had stolen out of Brest, had eluded the allied fleets,
had crossed the Atlantic, had sacked Carthagena, and had returned
to France laden with treasure.812 The Spanish government passed
at once from haughty apathy to abject terror, and was ready to
accept any conditions which the conqueror might dictate. The
French plenipotentiaries announced to the Congress that their
master was determined to keep Strasburg, and that, unless the
terms which he had offered, thus modified, were accepted by the
tenth of September, he should hold himself at liberty to insist
on further modifications. Never had the temper of William been
more severely tried. He was provoked by the perverseness of his
allies; he was provoked by the imperious language of the enemy.
It was not without a hard struggle and a sharp pang that he made
up his mind to consent to what France now proposed. But he felt
that it would be utterly impossible, even if it were desirable,
to prevail on the House of Commons and on the States General to
continue the war for the purpose of wresting from France a single
fortress, a fortress in the fate of which neither England nor
Holland had any immediate interest, a fortress, too, which had
been lost to the Empire solely in consequence of the unreasonable
obstinacy of the Imperial Court. He determined to accept the
modified terms, and directed his Ambassadors at Ryswick to sign
on the prescribed day. The Ambassadors of Spain and Holland
received similar instructions. There was no doubt that the
Emperor, though he murmured and protested, would soon follow the
example of his confederates. That he might have time to make up
his mind, it was stipulated that he should be included in the
treaty if he notified his adhesion by the first of November.

Meanwhile James was moving the mirth and pity of all Europe by
his lamentations and menaces. He had in vain insisted on his
right to send, as the only true King of England, a minister to
the Congress.813 He had in vain addressed to all the Roman
Catholic princes of the Confederacy a memorial in which he
adjured them to join with France in a crusade against England for
the purpose of restoring him to his inheritance, and of annulling
that impious Bill of Rights which excluded members of the true
Church from the throne.814 When he found that this appeal was
disregarded, he put forth a solemn protest against the validity
of all treaties to which the existing government of England
should be a party. He pronounced all the engagements into which
his kingdom had entered since the Revolution null and void. He
gave notice that he should not, if he should regain his power,
think himself bound by any of those engagements. He admitted that
he might, by breaking those engagements, bring great calamities
both on his own dominions and on all Christendom. But for those
calamities he declared that he should not think himself
answerable either before God or before man. It seems almost
incredible that even a Stuart, and the worst and dullest of the
Stuarts, should
have thought that the first duty, not merely of his own subjects,
but of all mankind, was to support his rights; that Frenchmen,
Germans, Italians, Spaniards, were guilty of a crime if they did
not shed their blood and lavish their wealth, year after year, in
his cause; that the interests of the sixty millions of human
beings to whom peace would be a blessing were of absolutely no
account when compared with the interests of one man.815

In spite of his protests the day of peace drew nigh. On the tenth
of September the Ambassadors of France, England, Spain and the

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