HotFreeBooks.com
The History of England from the Accession of James II. - Volume 3 (of 5)
by Thomas Babington Macaulay
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The truth was that the Princess's prompters hoped to obtain from Parliament a much larger sum than was offered by the King. Nothing less than seventy thousand a year would content them. But their cupidity overreached itself. The House of Commons showed a great disposition to gratify Her Royal Highness. But, when at length her too eager adherents ventured to name the sum which they wished to grant, the murmurs were loud. Seventy thousand a year at a time when the necessary expenses of the State were daily increasing, when the receipt of the customs was daily diminishing, when trade was low, when every gentleman, every farmer, was retrenching something from the charge of his table and his cellar! The general opinion was that the sum which the King was understood to be willing to give would be amply sufficient, [605] At last something was conceded on both sides. The Princess was forced to content herself with fifty thousand a year; and William agreed that this sum should be settled on her by Act of Parliament. She rewarded the services of Lady Marlborough with a pension of a thousand a year; [606] but this was in all probability a very small part of what the Churchills gained by the arrangement.

After these transactions the two royal sisters continued during many months to live on terms of civility and even of apparent friendship. But Mary, though she seems to have borne no malice to Anne, undoubtedly felt against Lady Marlborough as much resentment as a very gentle heart is capable of feeling. Marlborough had been out of England during a great part of the time which his wife had spent in canvassing among the Tories, and, though he had undoubtedly acted in concert with her, had acted, as usual, with temper and decorum. He therefore continued to receive from William many marks of favour which were unaccompanied by any indication of displeasure.

In the debates on the settling of the revenue, the distinction between Whigs and Tories does not appear to have been very clearly marked. In truth, if there was any thing about which the two parties were agreed, it was the expediency of granting the customs to the Crown for a time not exceeding four years. But there were other questions which called forth the old animosity in all its strength. The Whigs were now in a minority, but a minority formidable in numbers, and more formidable in ability. They carried on the parliamentary war, not less acrimoniously than when they were a majority, but somewhat more artfully. They brought forward several motions, such as no High Churchman could well support, yet such as no servant of William and Mary could well oppose. The Tory who voted for these motions would run a great risk of being pointed at as a turncoat by the sturdy Cavaliers of his county. The Tory who voted against those motions would run a great risk of being frowned upon at Kensington.

It was apparently in pursuance of this policy that the Whigs laid on the table of the House of Lords a bill declaring all the laws passed by the late Parliament to be valid laws. No sooner had this bill been read than the controversy of the preceeding spring was renewed. The Whigs were joined on this occasion by almost all those noblemen who were connected with the government. The rigid Tories, with Nottingham at their head, professed themselves willing to enact that every statute passed in 1689 should have the same force that it would have had if it had been passed by a parliament convoked in a regular manner; but nothing would induce them to acknowledge that an assembly of lords and gentlemen, who had come together without authority from the Great Seal, was constitutionally a Parliament. Few questions seem to have excited stronger passions than the question, practically altogether unimportant, whether the bill should or should not be declaratory. Nottingham, always upright and honourable, but a bigot and a formalist, was on this subject singularly obstinate and unreasonable. In one debate he lost his temper, forgot the decorum which in general he strictly observed, and narrowly escaped being committed to the custody of the Black Rod, [607] After much wrangling, the Whigs carried their point by a majority of seven, [608] Many peers signed a strong protest written by Nottingham. In this protest the bill, which was indeed open to verbal criticism, was impolitely described as being neither good English nor good sense. The majority passed a resolution that the protest should be expunged; and against this resolution Nottingham and his followers again protested, [609] The King was displeased by the pertinacity of his Secretary of State; so much displeased indeed that Nottingham declared his intention of resigning the Seals; but the dispute was soon accommodated. William was too wise not to know the value of an honest man in a dishonest age. The very scrupulosity which made Nottingham a mutineer was a security that he would never be a traitor, [610]

The bill went down to the Lower House; and it was full expected that the contest there would be long and fierce; but a single speech settled the question. Somers, with a force and eloquence which surprised even an audience accustomed to hear him with pleasure, exposed the absurdity of the doctrine held by the high Tories. "If the Convention,"—it was thus that he argued,—"was not a Parliament, how can we be a Parliament? An Act of Elizabeth provides that no person shall sit or vote in this House till he has taken the old oath of supremacy. Not one of us has taken that oath. Instead of it, we have all taken the new oath of supremacy which the late Parliament substituted for the old oath. It is therefore a contradiction to say that the Acts of the late Parliament are not now valid, and yet to ask us to enact that they shall henceforth be valid. For either they already are so, or we never can make them so." This reasoning, which was in truth as unanswerable as that of Euclid, brought the debate to a speedy close. The bill passed the Commons within forty-eight hours after it had been read the first time, [611]

This was the only victory won by the Whigs during the whole session. They complained loudly in the Lower House of the change which had been made in the military government of the city of London. The Tories, conscious of their strength, and heated by resentment, not only refused to censure what had been done, but determined to express publicly and formally their gratitude to the King for having brought in so many churchmen and turned out so many schismatics. An address of thanks was moved by Clarges, member for Westminster, who was known to be attached to Caermarthen. "The alterations which have been made in the City," said Clarges, "show that His Majesty has a tender care of us. I hope that he will make similar alterations in every county of the realm." The minority struggled hard. "Will you thank the King," they said, "for putting the sword into the hands of his most dangerous enemies? Some of those whom he has been advised to entrust with military command have not yet been able to bring themselves to take the oath of allegiance to him. Others were well known, in the evil days, as stanch jurymen, who were sure to find an Exclusionist guilty on any evidence or no evidence." Nor did the Whig orators refrain from using those topics on which all factions are eloquent in the hour of distress, and which all factions are but too ready to treat lightly in the hour of prosperity. "Let us not," they said, "pass a vote which conveys a reflection on a large body of our countrymen, good subjects, good Protestants. The King ought to be the head of his whole people. Let us not make him the head of a party." This was excellent doctrine; but it scarcely became the lips of men who, a few weeks before, had opposed the Indemnity Bill and voted for the Sacheverell Clause. The address was carried by a hundred and eighty-five votes to a hundred and thirty-six, [612]

As soon as the numbers had been announced, the minority, smarting from their defeat, brought forward a motion which caused no little embarrassment to the Tory placemen. The oath of allegiance, the Whigs said, was drawn in terms far too lax. It might exclude from public employment a few honest Jacobites who were generally too dull to be mischievous; but it was altogether inefficient as a means of binding the supple and slippery consciences of cunning priests, who, while affecting to hold the Jesuits in abhorrence, were proficients in that immoral casuistry which was the worst part of Jesuitism. Some grave divines had openly said, others had even dared to write, that they had sworn fealty to William in a sense altogether different from that in which they had sworn fealty to James. To James they had plighted the entire faith which a loyal subject owes to a rightful sovereign; but, when they promised to bear true allegiance to William, they meant only that they would not, whilst he was able to hang them for rebelling or conspiring against him, run any risk of being hanged. None could wonder that the precepts and example of the malecontent clergy should have corrupted the malecontent laity. When Prebendaries and Rectors were not ashamed to avow that they had equivocated, in the very act of kissing the New Testament, it was hardly to be expected that attorneys and taxgatherers would be more scrupulous. The consequence was that every department swarmed with traitors; that men who ate the King's bread, men who were entrusted with the duty of collecting and disbursing his revenues, of victualling his ships, of clothing his soldiers, of making his artillery ready for the field, were in the habit of calling him an usurper, and of drinking to his speedy downfall. Could any government be safe which was hated and betrayed by its own servants? And was not the English government exposed to the dangers which, even if all its servants were true, might well excite serious apprehensions? A disputed succession, war with France, war in Scotland, war in Ireland, was not all this enough without treachery in every arsenal and in every custom house? There must be an oath drawn in language too precise to be explained away, in language which no Jacobite could repeat without the consciousness that he was perjuring himself. Though the zealots of indefeasible hereditary right had in general no objection to swear allegiance to William, they would probably not choose to abjure James. On such grounds as these, an Abjuration Bill of extreme severity was brought into the House of Commons. It was proposed to enact that every person who held any office, civil, military, or spiritual, should, on pain of deprivation, solemnly abjure the exiled King; that the oath of abjuration might be tendered by any justice of the peace to any subject of their Majesties; and that, if it were refused, the recusant should be sent to prison, and should lie there as long as he continued obstinate.

The severity of this last provision was generally and most justly blamed. To turn every ignorant meddling magistrate into a state inquisitor, to insist that a plain man, who lived peaceably, who obeyed the laws, who paid his taxes, who had never held and who did not expect ever to hold any office, and who had never troubled his head about problems of political philosophy, should declare, under the sanction of an oath, a decided opinion on a point about which the most learned Doctors of the age had written whole libraries of controversial books, and to send him to rot in a gaol if he could not bring himself to swear, would surely have been the height of tyranny. The clause which required public functionaries to abjure the deposed King was not open to the same objections. Yet even against this clause some weighty arguments were urged. A man, it was said, who has an honest heart and a sound understanding is sufficiently bound by the present oath. Every such man, when he swears to be faithful and to bear true allegiance to King William, does, by necessary implication, abjure King James. There may doubtless be among the servants of the State, and even among the ministers of the Church, some persons who have no sense of honour or religion, and who are ready to forswear themselves for lucre. There may be others who have contracted the pernicious habit of quibbling away the most sacred obligations of morality, and who have convinced themselves that they can innocently make, with a mental reservation, a promise which it would be sinful to make without such a reservation. Against these two classes of Jacobites it is true that the present test affords no security. But will the new test, will any test, be more efficacious? Will a person who has no conscience, or a person whose conscience can be set at rest by immoral sophistry, hesitate to repeat any phrase that you can dictate? The former will kiss the book without any scruple at all. The scruples of the latter will be very easily removed. He now swears allegiance to one King with a mental reservation. He will then abjure the other King with a mental reservation. Do not flatter yourselves that the ingenuity of lawgivers will ever devise an oath which the ingenuity of casuists will not evade. What indeed is the value of any oath in such a matter? Among the many lessons which the troubles of the last generation have left us none is more plain than this, that no form of words, however precise, no imprecation, however awful, ever saved, or ever will save, a government from destruction, Was not the Solemn League and Covenant burned by the common hangman amidst the huzzas of tens of thousands who had themselves subscribed it? Among the statesmen and warriors who bore the chief part in restoring Charles the Second, how many were there who had not repeatedly abjured him? Nay, is it not well known that some of those persons boastfully affirmed that, if they had not abjured him, they never could have restored him?

The debates were sharp; and the issue during a short time seemed doubtful; for some of the Tories who were in office were unwilling to give a vote which might be thought to indicate that they were lukewarm in the cause of the King whom they served. William, however, took care to let it be understood that he had no wish to impose a new test on his subjects. A few words from him decided the event of the conflict. The bill was rejected thirty-six hours after it had been brought in by a hundred and ninety-two votes to a hundred and sixty-five, [613]

Even after this defeat the Whigs pertinaciously returned to the attack. Having failed in one House they renewed the battle in the other. Five days after the Abjuration Bill had been thrown out in the Commons, another Abjuration Bill, somewhat milder, but still very severe, was laid on the table of the Lords, [614] What was now proposed was that no person should sit in either House of Parliament or hold any office, civil, military, or judicial, without making a declaration that he would stand by William and Mary against James and James's adherents. Every male in the kingdom who had attained the age of sixteen was to make the same declaration before a certain day. If he failed to do so he was to pay double taxes and to be incapable of exercising the elective franchise.

On the day fixed for the second reading, the King came down to the House of Peers. He gave his assent in form to several laws, unrobed, took his seat on a chair of state which had been placed for him, and listened with much interest to the debate. To the general surprise, two noblemen who had been eminently zealous for the Revolution spoke against the proposed test. Lord Wharton, a Puritan who had fought for the Long Parliament, said, with amusing simplicity, that he was a very old man, that he had lived through troubled times, that he had taken a great many oaths in his day, and that he was afraid that he had not kept them all. He prayed that the sin might not be laid to his charge; and he declared that he could not consent to lay any more snares for his own soul and for the souls of his neighbours. The Earl of Macclesfield, the captain of the English volunteers who had accompanied William from Helvoetsluys to Torbay, declared that he was much in the same case with Lord Wharton. Marlborough supported the bill. He wondered, he said, that it should be opposed by Macclesfield, who had borne so preeminent a part in the Revolution. Macclesfield, irritated by the charge of inconsistency, retorted with terrible severity: "The noble Earl," he said, "exaggerates the share which I had in the deliverance of our country. I was ready, indeed, and always shall be ready, to venture my life in defence of her laws and liberties. But there are lengths to which, even for the sake of her laws and liberties, I could never go. I only rebelled against a bad King; there were those who did much more."

Marlborough, though not easily discomposed, could not but feel the edge of this sarcasm; William looked displeased; and the aspect of the whole House was troubled and gloomy. It was resolved by fifty-one votes to forty that the bill should be committed; and it was committed, but never reported. After many hard struggles between the Whigs headed by Shrewsbury and the Tories headed by Caermarthen, it was so much mutilated that it retained little more than its name, and did not seem to those who had introduced it to be worth any further contest, [615]

The discomfiture of the Whigs was completed by a communication from the King. Caermarthen appeared in the House of Lords bearing in his hand a parchment signed by William. It was an Act of Grace for political offences.

Between an Act of Grace originating with the Sovereign and an Act of Indemnity originating with the Estates of the Realm there are some remarkable distinctions. An Act of Indemnity passes through all the stages through which other laws pass, and may, during its progress, be amended by either House. An Act of Grace is received with peculiar marks of respect, is read only once by the Lords and once by the Commons, and must be either rejected altogether or accepted as it stands, [616] William had not ventured to submit such an Act to the preceding Parliament. But in the new Parliament he was certain of a majority. The minority gave no trouble. The stubborn spirit which had, during two sessions, obstructed the progress of the Bill of Indemnity had been at length broken by defeats and humiliations. Both Houses stood up uncovered while the Act of Grace was read, and gave their sanction to it without one dissentient voice.

There would not have been this unanimity had not a few great criminals been excluded from the benefits of the amnesty. Foremost among them stood the surviving members of the High Court of Justice which had sate on Charles the First. With these ancient men were joined the two nameless executioners who had done their office, with masked faces, on the scaffold before the Banqueting House. None knew who they were, or of what rank. It was probable that they had been long dead. Yet it was thought necessary to declare that, if even now, after the lapse of forty-one years, they should be discovered, they would still be liable to the punishment of their great crime. Perhaps it would hardly have been thought necessary to mention these men, if the animosities of the preceding generation had not been rekindled by the recent appearance of Ludlow in England. About thirty of the agents of the tyranny of James were left to the law. With these exceptions, all political offences, committed before the day on which the royal signature was affixed to the Act, were covered with a general oblivion, [617] Even the criminals who were by name excluded had little to fear. Many of them were in foreign countries; and those who were in England were well assured that, unless they committed some new fault, they would not be molested.

The Act of Grace the nation owed to William alone; and it is one of his noblest and purest titles to renown. From the commencement of the civil troubles of the seventeenth century down to the Revolution, every victory gained by either party had been followed by a sanguinary proscription. When the Roundheads triumphed over the Cavaliers, when the Cavaliers triumphed over the Roundheads, when the fable of the Popish plot gave the ascendency to the Whigs, when the detection of the Rye House Plot transferred the ascendency to the Tories, blood, and more blood, and still more blood had flowed. Every great explosion and every great recoil of public feeling had been accompanied by severities which, at the time, the predominant faction loudly applauded, but which, on a calm review, history and posterity have condemned. No wise and humane man, whatever may be his political opinions, now mentions without reprehension the death either of Laud or of Vane, either of Stafford or of Russell. Of the alternate butcheries the last and the worst is that which is inseparably associated with the names of James and Jeffreys. But it assuredly would not have been the last, perhaps it might not have been the worst, if William had not had the virtue and the firmness resolutely to withstand the importunity of his most zealous adherents. These men were bent on exacting a terrible retribution for all they had undergone during seven disastrous years. The scaffold of Sidney, the gibbet of Cornish, the stake at which Elizabeth Gaunt had perished in the flames for the crime of harbouring a fugitive, the porches of the Somersetshire churches surmounted by the skulls and quarters of murdered peasants, the holds of those Jamaica ships from which every day the carcass of some prisoner dead of thirst and foul air had been flung to the sharks, all these things were fresh in the memory of the party which the Revolution had made, for a time, dominant in the State. Some chiefs of that party had redeemed their necks by paying heavy ransom. Others had languished long in Newgate. Others had starved and shivered, winter after winter, in the garrets of Amsterdam. It was natural that in the day of their power and prosperity they should wish to inflict some part of what they had suffered. During a whole year they pursued their scheme of revenge. They succeeded in defeating Indemnity Bill after Indemnity Bill. Nothing stood between them and their victims, but William's immutable resolution that the glory of the great deliverance which he had wrought should not be sullied by cruelty. His clemency was peculiar to himself. It was not the clemency of an ostentatious man, or of a sentimental man, or of an easy tempered man. It was cold, unconciliating, inflexible. It produced no fine stage effects. It drew on him the savage invectives of those whose malevolent passions he refused to satisfy. It won for him no gratitude from those who owed to him fortune, liberty and life. While the violent Whigs railed at his lenity, the agents of the fallen government, as soon as they found themselves safe, instead of acknowledging their obligations to him, reproached him in insulting language with the mercy which he had extended to them. His Act of Grace, they said, had completely refuted his Declaration. Was it possible to believe that, if there had been any truth in the charges which he had brought against the late government, he would have granted impunity to the guilty? It was now acknowledged by himself, under his own hand, that the stories by which he and his friends had deluded the nation and driven away the royal family were mere calumnies devised to serve a turn. The turn had been served; and the accusations by which he had inflamed the public mind to madness were coolly withdrawn, [618] But none of these things moved him. He had done well. He had risked his popularity with men who had been his warmest admirers, in order to give repose and security to men by whom his name was never mentioned without a curse. Nor had he conferred a less benefit on those whom he had disappointed of their revenge than on those whom he had protected. If he had saved one faction from a proscription, he had saved the other from the reaction which such a proscription would inevitably have produced. If his people did not justly appreciate his policy, so much the worse for them. He had discharged his duty by them. He feared no obloquy; and he wanted no thanks.

On the twentieth of May the Act of Grace was passed. The King then informed the Houses that his visit to Ireland could no longer be delayed, that he had therefore determined to prorogue them, and that, unless some unexpected emergency made their advice and assistance necessary to him, he should not call them again from their homes till the next winter. "Then," he said, "I hope, by the blessing of God, we shall have a happy meeting."

The Parliament had passed an Act providing that, whenever he should go out of England, it should be lawful for Mary to administer the government of the kingdom in his name and her own. It was added that he should nevertheless, during his absence, retain all his authority. Some objections were made to this arrangement. Here, it was said, were two supreme Powers in one State. A public functionary might receive diametrically opposite orders from the King and the Queen, and might not know which to obey. The objection was, beyond all doubt, speculatively just; but there was such perfect confidence and affection, between the royal pair that no practical inconvenience was to be apprehended, [619]

As far as Ireland was concerned, the prospects of William were much more cheering than they had been a few months earlier. The activity with which he had personally urged forward the preparations for the next campaign had produced an extraordinary effect. The nerves of the government were new strung. In every department of the military administration the influence of a vigorous mind was perceptible. Abundant supplies of food, clothing and medicine, very different in quality from those which Shales had furnished, were sent across Saint George's Channel. A thousand baggage waggons had been made or collected with great expedition; and, during some weeks, the road between London and Chester was covered with them. Great numbers of recruits were sent to fill the chasms which pestilence had made in the English ranks. Fresh regiments from Scotland, Cheshire, Lancashire, and Cumberland had landed in the Bay of Belfast. The uniforms and arms of the new corners clearly indicated the potent influence of the master's eye. With the British battalions were interspersed several hardy bands of German and Scandinavian mercenaries. Before the end of May. the English force in Ulster amounted to thirty thousand fighting men. A few more troops and an immense quantity of military stores were on board of a fleet which lay in the estuary of the Dee, and which was ready to weigh anchor as soon as the King was on board, [620]

James ought to have made an equally good use of the time during which his army had been in winter quarters. Strict discipline and regular drilling might, in the interval between November and May, have turned the athletic and enthusiastic peasants who were assembled under his standard into good soldiers. But the opportunity was lost. The Court of Dublin was, during that season of inaction, busied with dice and claret, love letters and challenges. The aspect of the capital was indeed not very brilliant. The whole number of coaches which could be mustered there, those of the King and of the French Legation included, did not amount to forty, [621] But though there was little splendour there was much dissoluteness. Grave Roman Catholics shook their heads and said that the Castle did not look like the palace of a King who gloried in being the champion of the Church, [622] The military administration was as deplorable as ever. The cavalry indeed was, by the exertions of some gallant officers, kept in a high state of efficiency. But a regiment of infantry differed in nothing but name from a large gang of Rapparees. Indeed a gang of Rapparees gave less annoyance to peaceable citizens, and more annoyance to the enemy, than a regiment of infantry. Avaux strongly represented, in a memorial which he delivered to James, the abuses which made the Irish foot a curse and a scandal to Ireland. Whole companies, said the ambassador, quit their colours on the line of march and wander to right and left pillaging and destroying; the soldier takes no care of his arms; the officer never troubles himself to ascertain whether the arms are in good order; the consequence is that one man in every three has lost his musket, and that another man in every three has a musket that will not go off. Avaux adjured the King to prohibit marauding, to give orders that the troops should be regularly exercised, and to punish every officer who suffered his men to neglect their weapons and accoutrements. If these things were done, His Majesty might hope to have, in the approaching spring, an army with which the enemy would be unable to contend. This was good advice; but James was so far from taking it that he would hardly listen to it with patience. Before he had heard eight lines read he flew into a passion and accused the ambassador of exaggeration. "This paper, Sir," said Avaux, "is not written to be published. It is meant solely for Your Majesty's information; and, in a paper meant solely for Your Majesty's information, flattery and disguise would be out of place; but I will not persist in reading what is so disagreeable." "Go on," said James very angrily; "I will hear the whole." He gradually became calmer, took the memorial, and promised to adopt some of the suggestions which it contained. But his promise was soon forgotten, [623]

His financial administration was of a piece with his military administration. His one fiscal resource was robbery, direct or indirect. Every Protestant who had remained in any part of the three southern provinces of Ireland was robbed directly, by the simple process of taking money out of his strong box, drink out of his cellars, fuel from his turf stack, and clothes from his wardrobe. He was robbed indirectly by a new issue of counters, smaller in size and baser in material than any which had yet borne the image and superscription of James. Even brass had begun to be scarce at Dublin; and it was necessary to ask assistance from Lewis, who charitably bestowed on his ally an old cracked piece of cannon to be coined into crowns and shillings, [624]

But the French king had determined to send over succours of a very different kind. He proposed to take into his own service, and to form by the best discipline then known in the world, four Irish regiments. They were to be commanded by Macarthy, who had been severely wounded and taken prisoner at Newton Butler. His wounds had been healed; and he had regained his liberty by violating his parole. This disgraceful breach of faith he had made more disgraceful by paltry tricks and sophistical excuses which would have become a Jesuit better than a gentleman and a soldier. Lewis was willing that the Irish regiments should be sent to him in rags and unarmed, and insisted only that the men should be stout, and that the officers should not be bankrupt traders and discarded lacqueys, but, if possible, men of good family who had seen service. In return for these troops, who were in number not quite four thousand, he undertook to send to Ireland between seven and eight thousand excellent French infantry, who were likely in a day of battle to be of more use than all the kernes of Leinster, Munster and Connaught together, [625]

One great error he committed. The army which he was sending to assist James, though small indeed when compared with the army of Flanders or with the army of the Rhine, was destined for a service on which the fate of Europe might depend, and ought therefore to have been commanded by a general of eminent abilities. There was no want of such generals in the French service. But James and his Queen begged hard for Lauzun, and carried this point against the strong representations of Avaux, against the advice of Louvois, and against the judgment of Lewis himself.

When Lauzun went to the cabinet of Louvois to receive instructions, the wise minister held language which showed how little confidence he felt in the vain and eccentric knight errant. "Do not, for God's sake, suffer yourself to be hurried away by your desire of fighting. Put all your glory in tiring the English out; and, above all things, maintain strict discipline." [626]

Not only was the appointment of Lauzun in itself a bad appointment: but, in order that one man might fill a post for which he was unfit, it was necessary to remove two men from posts for which they were eminently fit. Immoral and hardhearted as Rosen and Avaux were, Rosen was a skilful captain, and Avaux was a skilful politician. Though it is not probable that they would have been able to avert the doom of Ireland, it is probable that they might have been able to protract the contest; and it was evidently for the interest of France that the contest should be protracted. But it would have been an affront to the old general to put him under the orders of Lauzun; and between the ambassador and Lauzun there was such an enmity that they could not be expected to act cordially together. Both Rosen and Avaux, therefore, were, with many soothing assurances of royal approbation and favour, recalled to France. They sailed from Cork early in the spring by the fleet which had conveyed Lauzun thither, [627] Lauzun had no sooner landed than he found that, though he had been long expected, nothing had been prepared for his reception. No lodgings had been provided for his men, no place of security for his stores, no horses, no carriages, [628] His troops had to undergo the hardships of a long march through a desert before they arrived at Dublin. At Dublin, indeed, they found tolerable accommodation. They were billeted on Protestants, lived at free quarter, had plenty of bread, and threepence a day. Lauzun was appointed Commander in Chief of the Irish army, and took up his residence in the Castle, [629] His salary was the same with that of the Lord Lieutenant, eight thousand Jacobuses, equivalent to ten thousand pounds sterling, a year. This sum James offered to pay, not in the brass which bore his own effigy, but in French gold. But Lauzun, among whose faults avarice had no place, refused to fill his own coffers from an almost empty treasury, [630]

On him and on the Frenchmen who accompanied him the misery of the Irish people and the imbecility of the Irish government produced an effect which they found it difficult to describe. Lauzun wrote to Louvois that the Court and the whole kingdom were in a state not to be imagined by a person who had always lived in well governed countries. It was, he said, a chaos, such as he had read of in the book of Genesis. The whole business of all the public functionaries was to quarrel with each other, and to plunder the government and the people. After he had been about a month at the Castle, he declared that he would not go through such another month for all the world. His ablest officers confirmed his testimony, [631] One of them, indeed, was so unjust as to represent the people of Ireland not merely as ignorant and idle, which they were, but as hopelessly stupid and unfeeling, which they assuredly were not. The English policy, he said, had so completely brutalised them, that they could hardly be called human beings. They were insensible to praise and blame, to promises and threats. And yet it was pity of them; for they were physically the finest race of men in the world, [632]

By this time Schomberg had opened the campaign auspiciously. He had with little difficulty taken Charlemont, the last important fastness which the Irish occupied in Ulster. But the great work of reconquering the three southern provinces of the island he deferred till William should arrive. William meanwhile was busied in making arrangements for the government and defence of England during his absence. He well knew that the Jacobites were on the alert. They had not till very lately been an united and organized faction. There had been, to use Melfort's phrase, numerous gangs, which were all in communication with James at Dublin Castle, or with Mary of Modena at Saint Germains, but which had no connection with each other and were unwilling to trust each other, [633] But since it had been known that the usurper was about to cross the sea, and that his sceptre would be left in a female hand, these gangs had been drawing close together, and had begun to form one extensive confederacy. Clarendon, who had refused the oaths, and, Aylesbury, who had dishonestly taken them, were among the chief traitors. Dartmouth, though he had sworn allegiance to the sovereigns who were in possession, was one of their most active enemies, and undertook what may be called the maritime department of the plot. His mind was constantly occupied by schemes, disgraceful to an English seaman, for the destruction of the English fleets and arsenals. He was in close communication with some naval officers, who, though they served the new government, served it sullenly and with half a heart; and he flattered himself that by promising these men ample rewards, and by artfully inflaming the jealous animosity with which they regarded the Dutch flag, he should prevail on them to desert and to carry their ships into some French or Irish port, [634]

The conduct of Penn was scarcely less scandalous. He was a zealous and busy Jacobite; and his new way of life was even more unfavourable than his late way of life had been to moral purity. It was hardly possible to be at once a consistent Quaker and a courtier: but it was utterly impossible to be at once a consistent Quaker and a conspirator. It is melancholy to relate that Penn, while professing to consider even defensive war as sinful, did every thing in his power to bring a foreign army into the heart of his own country. He wrote to inform James that the adherents of the Prince of Orange dreaded nothing so much as an appeal to the sword, and that, if England were now invaded from France or from Ireland, the number of Royalists would appear to be greater than ever. Avaux thought this letter so important, that he sent a translation of it to Lewis, [635] A good effect, the shrewd ambassador wrote, had been produced, by this and similar communications, on the mind of King James. His Majesty was at last convinced that he could recover his dominions only sword in hand. It is a curious fact that it should have been reserved for the great preacher of peace to produce this conviction in the mind of the old tyrant, [636] Penn's proceedings had not escaped the observation of the government. Warrants had been out against him; and he had been taken into custody; but the evidence against him had not been such as would support a charge of high treason: he had, as with all his faults he deserved to have, many friends in every party; he therefore soon regained his liberty, and returned to his plots, [637]

But the chief conspirator was Richard Graham, Viscount Preston, who had, in the late reign, been Secretary of State. Though a peer in Scotland, he was only a baronet in England. He had, indeed, received from Saint Germains an English patent of nobility; but the patent bore a date posterior to that flight which the Convention had pronounced an abdication. The Lords had, therefore, not only refused to admit him to a share of their privileges, but had sent him to prison for presuming to call himself one of their order. He had, however, by humbling himself, and by withdrawing his claim, obtained his liberty, [638] Though the submissive language which he had condescended to use on this occasion did not indicate a spirit prepared for martyrdom, he was regarded by his party, and by the world in general, as a man of courage and honour. He still retained the seals of his office, and was still considered by the adherents of indefeasible hereditary right as the real Secretary of State. He was in high favour with Lewis, at whose court he had formerly resided, and had, since the Revolution, been intrusted by the French government with considerable sums of money for political purposes, [639]

While Preston was consulting in the capital with the other heads of the faction, the rustic Jacobites were laying in arms, holding musters, and forming themselves into companies, troops, and regiments. There were alarming symptoms in Worcestershire. In Lancashire many gentlemen had received commissions signed by James, called themselves colonels and captains, and made out long lists of noncommissioned officers and privates. Letters from Yorkshire brought news that large bodies of men, who seemed to have met for no good purpose, had been seen on the moors near Knaresborough. Letters from Newcastle gave an account of a great match at football which had been played in Northumberland, and was suspected to have been a pretext for a gathering of the disaffected. In the crowd, it was said, were a hundred and fifty horsemen well mounted and armed, of whom many were Papists, [640]

Meantime packets of letters full of treason were constantly passing and repassing between Kent and Picardy, and between Wales and Ireland. Some of the messengers were honest fanatics; but others were mere mercenaries, and trafficked in the secrets of which they were the bearers.

Of these double traitors the most remarkable was William Fuller. This man has himself told us that, when he was very young, he fell in with a pamphlet which contained an account of the flagitious life and horrible death of Dangerfield. The boy's imagination was set on fire; he devoured the book; he almost got it by heart; and he was soon seized, and ever after haunted, by a strange presentiment that his fate would resemble that of the wretched adventurer whose history he had so eagerly read, [641] It might have been supposed that the prospect of dying in Newgate, with a back flayed and an eye knocked out, would not have seemed very attractive. But experience proves that there are some distempered minds for which notoriety, even when accompanied with pain and shame, has an irresistible fascination. Animated by this loathsome ambition, Fuller equalled, and perhaps surpassed, his model. He was bred a Roman Catholic, and was page to Lady Melfort, when Lady Melfort shone at Whitehall as one of the loveliest women in the train of Mary of Modena. After the Revolution, he followed his mistress to France, was repeatedly employed in delicate and perilous commissions, and was thought at Saint Germains to be a devoted servant of the House of Stuart. In truth, however, he had, in one of his journeys to London, sold himself to the new government, and had abjured the faith in which he had been brought up. The honour, if it is to be so called, of turning him from a worthless Papist into a worthless Protestant he ascribed, with characteristic impudence, to the lucid reasoning and blameless life of Tillotson.

In the spring of 1690, Mary of Modena wished to send to her correspondents in London some highly important despatches. As these despatches were too bulky to be concealed in the clothes of a single messenger, it was necessary to employ two confidential persons. Fuller was one. The other was a zealous young Jacobite called Crone. Before they set out, they received full instructions from the Queen herself. Not a scrap of paper was to be detected about them by an ordinary search: but their buttons contained letters written in invisible ink.

The pair proceeded to Calais. The governor of that town furnished them with a boat, which, under cover of the night, set them on the low marshy coast of Kent, near the lighthouse of Dungeness. They walked to a farmhouse, procured horses, and took different roads to London. Fuller hastened to the palace at Kensington, and delivered the documents with which he was charged into the King's hand. The first letter which William unrolled seemed to contain only florid compliments: but a pan of charcoal was lighted: a liquor well known to the diplomatists of that age was applied to the paper: an unsavoury steam filled the closet; and lines full of grave meaning began to appear.

The first thing to be done was to secure Crone. He had unfortunately had time to deliver his letters before he was caught: but a snare was laid for him into which he easily fell. In truth the sincere Jacobites were generally wretched plotters. There was among them an unusually large proportion of sots, braggarts, and babblers; and Crone was one of these. Had he been wise, he would have shunned places of public resort, kept strict guard over his lips, and stinted himself to one bottle at a meal. He was found by the messengers of the government at a tavern table in Gracechurch Street, swallowing bumpers to the health of King James, and ranting about the coming restoration, the French fleet, and the thousands of honest Englishmen who were awaiting the signal to rise in arms for their rightful Sovereign. He was carried to the Secretary's office at Whitehall. He at first seemed to be confident and at his ease: but when Fuller appeared among the bystanders at liberty, and in a fashionable garb, with a sword, the prisoner's courage fell; and he was scarcely able to articulate, [642]

The news that Fuller had turned king's evidence, that Crone had been arrested, and that important letters from Saint Germains were in the hands of William, flew fast through London, and spread dismay among all who were conscious of guilt, [643] It was true that the testimony of one witness, even if that witness had been more respectable than Fuller, was not legally sufficient to convict any person of high treason. But Fuller had so managed matters that several witnesses could be produced to corroborate his evidence against Crone; and, if Crone, under the strong terror of death, should imitate Fuller's example, the heads of all the chiefs of the conspiracy would be at the mercy of the government. The spirits of the Jacobites rose, however, when it was known that Crone, though repeatedly interrogated by those who had him in their power, and though assured that nothing but a frank confession could save his life, had resolutely continued silent. What effect a verdict of Guilty and the near prospect of the gallows might produce on him remained to be seen. His accomplices were by no means willing that his fortitude should be tried by so severe a test. They therefore employed numerous artifices, legal and illegal, to avert a conviction. A woman named Clifford, with whom he had lodged, and who was one of the most active and cunning agents of the Jacobite faction, was entrusted with the duty of keeping him steady to the cause, and of rendering to him services from which scrupulous or timid agents might have shrunk. When the dreaded day came, Fuller was too ill to appear in the witness box, and the trial was consequently postponed. He asserted that his malady was not natural, that a noxious drug had been administered to him in a dish of porridge, that his nails were discoloured, that his hair came off, and that able physicians pronounced him poisoned. But such stories, even when they rest on authority much better than that of Fuller, ought to be received with great distrust.

While Crone was awaiting his trial, another agent of the Court of Saint Germains, named Tempest, was seized on the road between Dover and London, and was found to be the bearer of numerous letters addressed to malecontents in England, [644]

Every day it became more plain that the State was surrounded by dangers: and yet it was absolutely necessary that, at this conjuncture, the able and resolute Chief of the State should quit his post.

William, with painful anxiety, such as he alone was able to conceal under an appearance of stoical serenity, prepared to take his departure. Mary was in agonies of grief; and her distress affected him more than was imagined by those who judged of his heart by his demeanour, [645] He knew too that he was about to leave her surrounded by difficulties with which her habits had not qualified her to contend. She would be in constant need of wise and upright counsel; and where was such counsel to be found? There were indeed among his servants many able men and a few virtuous men. But, even when he was present, their political and personal animosities had too often made both their abilities and their virtues useless to him. What chance was there that the gentle Mary would be able to restrain that party spirit and that emulation which had been but very imperfectly kept in order by her resolute and politic lord? If the interior cabinet which was to assist the Queen were composed exclusively either of Whigs or of Tories, half the nation would be disgusted. Yet, if Whigs and Tories were mixed, it was certain that there would be constant dissension. Such was William's situation that he had only a choice of evils.

All these difficulties were increased by the conduct of Shrewsbury. The character of this man is a curious study. He seemed to be the petted favourite both of nature and of fortune. Illustrious birth, exalted rank, ample possessions, fine parts, extensive acquirements, an agreeable person, manners singularly graceful and engaging, combined to make him an object of admiration and envy. But, with all these advantages, he had some moral and intellectual peculiarities which made him a torment to himself and to all connected with him. His conduct at the time of the Revolution had given the world a high opinion, not merely of his patriotism, but of his courage, energy and decision. It should seem, however, that youthful enthusiasm and the exhilaration produced by public sympathy and applause had, on that occasion, raised him above himself. Scarcely any other part of his life was of a piece with that splendid commencement. He had hardly become Secretary of State when it appeared that his nerves were too weak for such a post. The daily toil, the heavy responsibility, the failures, the mortifications, the obloquy, which are inseparable from power, broke his spirit, soured his temper, and impaired his health. To such natures as his the sustaining power of high religious principle seems to be peculiarly necessary; and unfortunately Shrewsbury had, in the act of shaking off the yoke of that superstition in which he had been brought up, liberated himself also from more salutary bands which might perhaps have braced his too delicately constituted mind into stedfastness and uprightness. Destitute of such support, he was, with great abilities, a weak man, and, though endowed with many amiable and attractive qualities, could not be called an honest man. For his own happiness, he should either have been much better or much worse. As it was, he never knew either that noble peace of mind which is the reward of rectitude, or that abject peace of mind which springs from impudence and insensibility. Few people who have had so little power to resist temptation have suffered so cruelly from remorse and shame.

To a man of this temper the situation of a minister of state during the year which followed the Revolution must have been constant torture. The difficulties by which the government was beset on all sides, the malignity of its enemies, the unreasonableness of its friends, the virulence with which the hostile factions fell on each other and on every mediator who attempted to part them, might indeed have discouraged a more resolute spirit. Before Shrewsbury had been six months in office, he had completely lost heart and head. He began to address to William letters which it is difficult to imagine that a prince so strongminded can have read without mingled compassion and contempt. "I am sensible,"—such was the constant burden of these epistles,—"that I am unfit for my place. I cannot exert myself. I am not the same man that I was half a year ago. My health is giving way. My mind is on the rack. My memory is failing. Nothing but quiet and retirement can restore me." William returned friendly and soothing answers; and, for a time, these answers calmed the troubled mind of his minister, [646] But at length the dissolution, the general election, the change in the Commissions of Peace and Lieutenancy, and finally the debates on the two Abjuration Bills, threw Shrewsbury into a state bordering on distraction. He was angry with the Whigs for using the King ill, and yet was still more angry with the King for showing favour to the Tories. At what moment and by what influence, the unhappy man was induced to commit a treason, the consciousness of which threw a dark shade over all his remaining years, is not accurately known. But it is highly probable that his mother, who, though the most abandoned of women, had great power over him, took a fatal advantage of some unguarded hour when he was irritated by finding his advice slighted, and that of Danby and Nottingham preferred. She was still a member of that Church which her son had quitted, and may have thought that, by reclaiming him from rebellion, she might make some atonement for the violation of her marriage vow and the murder of her lord, [647] What is certain is that, before the end of the spring of 1690, Shrewsbury had offered his services to James, and that James had accepted them. One proof of the sincerity of the convert was demanded. He must resign the seals which he had taken from the hand of the usurper, [648] It is probable that Shrewsbury had scarcely committed his fault when he began to repent of it. But he had not strength of mind to stop short in the path of evil. Loathing his own baseness, dreading a detection which must be fatal to his honour, afraid to go forward, afraid to go back, he underwent tortures of which it is impossible to think without commiseration. The true cause of his distress was as yet a profound secret; but his mental struggles and changes of purpose were generally known, and furnished the town, during some weeks, with topics of conversation. One night, when he was actually setting out in a state of great excitement for the palace, with the seals in his hand, he was induced by Burnet to defer his resignation for a few hours. Some days later, the eloquence of Tillotson was employed for the same purpose, [649] Three or four times the Earl laid the ensigns of his office on the table of the royal closet, and was three or four times induced, by the kind expostulations of the master whom he was conscious of having wronged, to take them up and carry them away. Thus the resignation was deferred till the eve of the King's departure. By that time agitation had thrown Shrewsbury into a low fever. Bentinck, who made a last effort to persuade him to retain office, found him in bed and too ill for conversation, [650] The resignation so often tendered was at length accepted; and during some months Nottingham was the only Secretary of State.

It was no small addition to William's troubles that, at such a moment, his government should be weakened by this defection. He tried, however, to do his best with the materials which remained to him, and finally selected nine privy councillors, by whose advice he enjoined Mary to be guided. Four of these, Devonshire, Dorset, Monmouth, and Edward Russell, were Whigs. The other five, Caermarthen, Pembroke, Nottingham, Marlborough, and Lowther, were Tories, [651]

William ordered the Nine to attend him at the office of the Secretary of State. When they were assembled, he came leading in the Queen, desired them to be seated, and addressed to them a few earnest and weighty words. "She wants experience," he said; "but I hope that, by choosing you to be her counsellors, I have supplied that defect. I put my kingdom into your hands. Nothing foreign or domestic shall be kept secret from you. I implore you to be diligent and to be united." [652] In private he told his wife what he thought of the characters of the Nine; and it should seem, from her letters to him, that there were few of the number for whom he expressed any high esteem. Marlborough was to be her guide in military affairs, and was to command the troops in England. Russell, who was Admiral of the Blue, and had been rewarded for the service which he had done at the time of the Revolution with the lucrative place of Treasurer of the Navy, was well fitted to be her adviser on all questions relating to the fleet. But Caermarthen was designated as the person on whom, in case of any difference of opinion in the council, she ought chiefly to rely. Caermarthen's sagacity and experience were unquestionable; his principles, indeed, were lax; but, if there was any person in existence to whom he was likely to be true, that person was Mary. He had long been in a peculiar manner her friend and servant: he had gained a high place in her favour by bringing about her marriage; and he had, in the Convention, carried his zeal for her interests to a length which she had herself blamed as excessive. There was, therefore, every reason to hope that he would serve her at this critical conjuncture with sincere good will, [653]

One of her nearest kinsmen, on the other hand, was one of her bitterest enemies. The evidence which was in the possession of the government proved beyond dispute that Clarendon was deeply concerned in the Jacobite schemes of insurrection. But the Queen was most unwilling that her kindred should be harshly treated; and William, remembering through what ties she had broken, and what reproaches she had incurred, for his sake, readily gave her uncle's life and liberty to her intercession. But, before the King set out for Ireland, he spoke seriously to Rochester. "Your brother has been plotting against me. I am sure of it. I have the proofs under his own hand. I was urged to leave him out of the Act of Grace; but I would not do what would have given so much pain to the Queen. For her sake I forgive the past; but my Lord Clarendon will do well to be cautious for the future. If not, he will find that these are no jesting matters." Rochester communicated the admonition to Clarendon. Clarendon, who was in constant correspondence with Dublin and Saint Germains, protested that his only wish was to be quiet, and that, though he had a scruple about the oaths, the existing government had not a more obedient subject than he purposed to be, [654]

Among the letters which the government had intercepted was one from James to Penn. That letter, indeed, was not legal evidence to prove that the person to whom it was addressed had been guilty of high treason; but it raised suspicions which are now known to have been well founded. Penn was brought before the Privy Council, and interrogated. He said very truly that he could not prevent people from writing to him, and that he was not accountable for what they might write to him. He acknowledged that he was bound to the late King by ties of gratitude and affection which no change of fortune could dissolve. "I should be glad to do him any service in his private affairs: but I owe a sacred duty to my country; and therefore I was never so wicked as even to think of endeavouring to bring him back." This was a falsehood; and William was probably aware that it was so. He was unwilling however to deal harshly with a man who had many titles to respect, and who was not likely to be a very formidable plotter. He therefore declared himself satisfied, and proposed to discharge the prisoner. Some of the Privy Councillors, however, remonstrated; and Penn was required to give bail, [655]

On the day before William's departure, he called Burnet into his closet, and, in firm but mournful language, spoke of the dangers which on every side menaced the realm, of the fury or the contending factions, and of the evil spirit which seemed to possess too many of the clergy. "But my trust is in God. I will go through with my work or perish in it. Only I cannot help feeling for the poor Queen;" and twice he repeated with unwonted tenderness, "the poor Queen." "If you love me," he added, "wait on her often, and give her what help you can. As for me, but for one thing, I should enjoy the prospect of being on horseback and under canvass again. For I am sure I am fitter to direct a campaign than to manage your House of Lords and Commons. But, though I know that I am in the path of duty, it is hard on my wife that her father and I must be opposed to each other in the field. God send that no harm may happen to him. Let me have your prayers, Doctor." Burnet retired greatly moved, and doubtless put up, with no common fervour, those prayers for which his master had asked, [656]

On the following day, the fourth of June, the King set out for Ireland. Prince George had offered his services, had equipped himself at great charge, and fully expected to be complimented with a seat in the royal coach. But William, who promised himself little pleasure or advantage from His Royal Highness's conversation, and who seldom stood on ceremony, took Portland for a travelling companion, and never once, during the whole of that eventful campaign, seemed to be aware of the Prince's existence, [657] George, if left to himself, would hardly have noticed the affront. But, though he was too dull to feel, his wife felt for him; and her resentment was studiously kept alive by mischiefmakers of no common dexterity. On this, as on many other occasions, the infirmities of William's temper proved seriously detrimental to the great interests of which he was the guardian. His reign would have been far more prosperous if, with his own courage, capacity and elevation of mind, he had had a little of the easy good humour and politeness of his uncle Charles.

In four days the King arrived at Chester, where a fleet of transports was awaiting the signal for sailing. He embarked on the eleventh of June, and was convoyed across Saint George's Channel by a squadron of men of war under the command of Sir Cloudesley Shovel, [658]

The month which followed William's departure from London was one of the most eventful and anxious months in the whole history of England. A few hours after he had set out, Crone was brought to the bar of the Old Bailey. A great array of judges was on the Bench. Fuller had recovered sufficiently to make his appearance in court; and the trial proceeded. The Jacobites had been indefatigable in their efforts to ascertain the political opinions of the persons whose names were on the jury list. So many were challenged that there was some difficulty in making up the number of twelve; and among the twelve was one on whom the malecontents thought that they could depend. Nor were they altogether mistaken; for this man held out against his eleven companions all night and half the next day; and he would probably have starved them into submission had not Mrs. Clifford, who was in league with him, been caught throwing sweetmeats to him through the window. His supplies having been cut off, he yielded; and a verdict of Guilty, which, it was said, cost two of the jurymen their lives, was returned. A motion in arrest of judgment was instantly made, on the ground that a Latin word indorsed on the back of the indictment was incorrectly spelt. The objection was undoubtedly frivolous. Jeffreys would have at once overruled it with a torrent of curses, and would have proceeded to the most agreeable part of his duty, that of describing to the prisoner the whole process of half hanging, disembowelling, mutilating, and quartering. But Holt and his brethren remembered that they were now for the first time since the Revolution trying a culprit on a charge of high treason. It was therefore desirable to show, in a manner not to be misunderstood, that a new era had commenced, and that the tribunals would in future rather err on the side of humanity than imitate the cruel haste and levity with which Cornish had, when pleading for his life, been silenced by servile judges. The passing of the sentence was therefore deferred: a day was appointed for considering the point raised by Crone; and counsel were assigned to argue in his behalf. "This would not have been done, Mr. Crone," said the Lord Chief Justice significantly, "in either of the last two reigns." After a full hearing, the Bench unanimously pronounced the error to be immaterial; and the prisoner was condemned to death. He owned that his trial had been fair, thanked the judges for their patience, and besought them to intercede for him with the Queen, [659]

He was soon informed that his fate was in his own hands. The government was willing to spare him if he would earn his pardon by a full confession. The struggle in his mind was terrible and doubtful. At one time Mrs. Clifford, who had access to his cell, reported to the Jacobite chiefs that he was in a great agony. He could not die, he said; he was too young to be a martyr, [660] The next morning she found him cheerful and resolute, [661] He held out till the eve of the day fixed for his execution. Then he sent to ask for an interview with the Secretary of State. Nottingham went to Newgate; but, before he arrived, Crone had changed his mind and was determined to say nothing. "Then," said Nottingham, "I shall see you no more—for tomorrow will assuredly be your last day." But, after Nottingham had departed, Monmouth repaired to the gaol, and flattered himself that he had shaken the prisoner's resolution. At a very late hour that night came a respite for a week, [662] The week however passed away without any disclosure; the gallows and quartering block were ready at Tyburn; the sledge and axe were at the door of Newgate; the crowd was thick all up Holborn Hill and along the Oxford Road; when a messenger brought another respite, and Crone, instead of being dragged to the place of execution, was conducted to the Council chamber at Whitehall. His fortitude had been at last overcome by the near prospect of death; and on this occasion he gave important information, [663]

Such information as he had it in his power to give was indeed at that moment much needed. Both an invasion and an insurrection were hourly expected, [664] Scarcely had William set out from London when a great French fleet commanded by the Count of Tourville left the port of Brest and entered the British Channel. Tourville was the ablest maritime commander that his country then possessed. He had studied every part of his profession. It was said of him that he was competent to fill any place on shipboard from that of carpenter up to that of admiral. It was said of him, also, that to the dauntless courage of a seaman he united the suavity and urbanity of an accomplished gentleman, [665] He now stood over to the English shore, and approached it so near that his ships could be plainly descried from the ramparts of Plymouth. From Plymouth he proceeded slowly along the coast of Devonshire and Dorsetshire. There was great reason to apprehend that his movements had been concerted with the English malecontents, [666]

The Queen and her Council hastened to take measures for the defence of the country against both foreign and domestic enemies. Torrington took the command of the English fleet which lay in the Downs, and sailed to Saint Helen's. He was there joined by a Dutch squadron under the command of Evertsen. It seemed that the cliffs of the Isle of Wight would witness one of the greatest naval conflicts recorded in history. A hundred and fifty ships of the line could be counted at once from the watchtower of Saint Catharine's. On the cast of the huge precipice of Black Gang Chine, and in full view of the richly wooded rocks of Saint Lawrence and Ventnor, were mustered the maritime forces of England and Holland. On the west, stretching to that white cape where the waves roar among the Needles, lay the armament of France.

It was on the twenty-sixth of June, less than a fortnight after William had sailed for Ireland, that the hostile fleets took up these positions. A few hours earlier, there had been an important and anxious sitting of the Privy Council at Whitehall. The malecontents who were leagued with France were alert and full of hope. Mary had remarked, while taking her airing, that Hyde Park was swarming with them. The whole board was of opinion that it was necessary to arrest some persons of whose guilt the government had proofs. When Clarendon was named, something was said in his behalf by his friend and relation, Sir Henry Capel. The other councillors stared, but remained silent. It was no pleasant task to accuse the Queen's kinsman in the Queen's presence. Mary had scarcely ever opened her lips at Council; but now, being possessed of clear proofs of her uncle's treason in his own handwriting, and knowing that respect for her prevented her advisers from proposing what the public safety required, she broke silence. "Sir Henry," she said, "I know, and every body here knows as well as I, that there is too much against my Lord Clarendon to leave him out." The warrant was drawn up; and Capel signed it with the rest. "I am more sorry for Lord Clarendon," Mary wrote to her husband, "than, may be, will be believed." That evening Clarendon and several other noted Jacobites were lodged in the Tower, [667]

When the Privy Council had risen, the Queen and the interior Council of Nine had to consider a question of the gravest importance. What orders were to be sent to Torrington? The safety of the State might depend on his judgment and presence of mind; and some of Mary's advisers apprehended that he would not be found equal to the occasion. Their anxiety increased when news came that he had abandoned the coast of the Isle of Wight to the French, and was retreating before them towards the Straits of Dover. The sagacious Caermarthen and the enterprising Monmouth agreed in blaming these cautious tactics. It was true that Torrington had not so many vessels as Tourville; but Caermarthen thought that, at such a time, it was advisable to fight, although against odds; and Monmouth was, through life, for fighting at all times and against all odds. Russell, who was indisputably one of the best seamen of the age, held that the disparity of numbers was not such as ought to cause any uneasiness to an officer who commanded English and Dutch sailors. He therefore proposed to send to the Admiral a reprimand couched in terms so severe that the Queen did not like to sign it. The language was much softened; but, in the main, Russell's advice was followed. Torrington was positively ordered to retreat no further, and to give battle immediately. Devonshire, however, was still unsatisfied. "It is my duty, Madam," he said, "to tell Your Majesty exactly what I think on a matter of this importance; and I think that my Lord Torrington is not a man to be trusted with the fate of three kingdoms." Devonshire was right; but his colleagues were unanimously of opinion that to supersede a commander in sight of the enemy, and on the eve of a general action, would be a course full of danger, and it is difficult to say that they were wrong. "You must either," said Russell, "leave him where he is, or send for him as a prisoner." Several expedients were suggested. Caermarthen proposed that Russell should be sent to assist Torrington. Monmouth passionately implored permission to join the fleet in any capacity, as a captain, or as a volunteer. "Only let me be once on board; and I pledge my life that there shall be a battle." After much discussion and hesitation, it was resolved that both Russell and Monmouth should go down to the coast, [668] They set out, but too late. The despatch which ordered Torrington to fight had preceded them. It reached him when he was off Beachy Head. He read it, and was in a great strait. Not to give battle was to be guilty of direct disobedience. To give battle was, in his judgment, to incur serious risk of defeat. He probably suspected,—for he was of a captious and jealous temper,—that the instructions which placed him in so painful a dilemma had been framed by enemies and rivals with a design unfriendly to his fortune and his fame. He was exasperated by the thought that he was ordered about and overruled by Russell, who, though his inferior in professional rank, exercised, as one of the Council of Nine, a supreme control over all the departments of the public service. There seems to be no ground for charging Torrington with disaffection. Still less can it be suspected that an officer, whose whole life had been passed in confronting danger, and who had always borne himself bravely, wanted the personal courage which hundreds of sailors on board of every ship under his command possessed. But there is a higher courage of which Torrington was wholly destitute. He shrank from all responsibility, from the responsibility of fighting, and from the responsibility of not fighting; and he succeeded in finding out a middle way which united all the inconveniences which he wished to avoid. He would conform to the letter of his instructions; yet he would not put every thing to hazard. Some of his ships should skirmish with the enemy; but the great body of his fleet should not be risked. It was evident that the vessels which engaged the French would be placed in a most dangerous situation, and would suffer much loss; and there is but too good reason to believe that Torrington was base enough to lay his plans in such a manner that the danger and loss might fall almost exclusively to the share of the Dutch. He bore them no love; and in England they were so unpopular that the destruction of their whole squadron was likely to cause fewer murmurs than the capture of one of our own frigates.

It was on the twenty-ninth of June that the Admiral received the order to fight. The next day, at four in the morning, he bore down on the French fleet, and formed his vessels in order of battle. He had not sixty sail of the line, and the French had at least eighty; but his ships were more strongly manned than those of the enemy. He placed the Dutch in the van and gave them the signal to engage. That signal was promptly obeyed. Evertsen and his countrymen fought with a courage to which both their English allies and their French enemies, in spite of national prejudices, did full justice. In none of Van Tromp's or De Ruyter's battles had the honour of the Batavian flag been more gallantly upheld. During many hours the van maintained the unequal contest with very little assistance from any other part of the fleet. At length the Dutch Admiral drew off, leaving one shattered and dismasted hull to the enemy. His second in command and several officers of high rank had fallen. To keep the sea against the French after this disastrous and ignominious action was impossible. The Dutch ships which had come out of the fight were in lamentable condition. Torrington ordered some of them to be destroyed: the rest he took in tow: he then fled along the coast of Kent, and sought a refuge in the Thames. As soon as he was in the river, he ordered all the buoys to be pulled up, and thus made the navigation so dangerous, that the pursuers could not venture to follow him, [669]

It was, however, thought by many, and especially by the French ministers, that, if Tourville had been more enterprising, the allied fleet might have been destroyed. He seems to have borne, in one respect, too much resemblance to his vanquished opponent. Though a brave man, he was a timid commander. His life he exposed with careless gaiety; but it was said that he was nervously anxious and pusillanimously cautious when his professional reputation was in danger. He was so much annoyed by these censures that he soon became, unfortunately for his country, bold even to temerity, [670]

There has scarcely ever been so sad a day in London as that on which the news of the Battle of Beachy Head arrived. The shame was insupportable; the peril was imminent. What if the victorious enemy should do what De Ruyter had done? What if the dockyards of Chatham should again be destroyed? What if the Tower itself should be bombarded? What if the vast wood of masts and yardarms below London Bridge should be in ablaze? Nor was this all. Evil tidings had just arrived from the Low Countries. The allied forces under Waldeck had, in the neighbourhood of Fleurus, encountered the French commanded by the Duke of Luxemburg. The day had been long and fiercely disputed. At length the skill of the French general and the impetuous valour of the French cavalry had prevailed, [671] Thus at the same moment the army of Lewis was victorious in Flanders, and his navy was in undisputed possession of the Channel. Marshal Humieres with a considerable force lay not far from the Straits of Dover. It had been given out that he was about to join Luxemburg. But the information which the English government received from able military men in the Netherlands and from spies who mixed with the Jacobites, and which to so great a master of the art of war as Marlborough seemed to deserve serious attention, was, that the army of Humieres would instantly march to Dunkirk and would there be taken on board of the fleet of Tourville, [672] Between the coast of Artois and the Nore not a single ship bearing the red cross of Saint George could venture to show herself. The embarkation would be the business of a few hours. A few hours more might suffice for the voyage. At any moment London might be appalled by the news that thirty thousand French veterans were in Kent, and that the Jacobites of half the counties of the kingdom were in arms. All the regular troops who could be assembled for the defence of the island did not amount to more than ten thousand men. It may be doubted whether our country has ever passed through a more alarming crisis than that of the first week of July 1690.

But the evil brought with it its own remedy. Those little knew England who imagined that she could be in danger at once of rebellion and invasion; for in truth the danger of invasion was the best security against the danger of rebellion. The cause of James was the cause of France; and, though to superficial observers the French alliance seemed to be his chief support, it really was the obstacle which made his restoration impossible. In the patriotism, the too often unamiable and unsocial patriotism of our forefathers, lay the secret at once of William's weakness and of his strength. They were jealous of his love for Holland; but they cordially sympathized with his hatred of Lewis. To their strong sentiment of nationality are to be ascribed almost all those petty annoyances which made the throne of the Deliverer, from his accession to his death, so uneasy a seat. But to the same sentiment it is to be ascribed that his throne, constantly menaced and frequently shaken, was never subverted. For, much as his people detested his foreign favourites, they detested his foreign adversaries still more. The Dutch were Protestants; the French were Papists. The Dutch were regarded as selfseeking, grasping overreaching allies; the French were mortal enemies. The worst that could be apprehended from the Dutch was that they might obtain too large a share of the patronage of the Crown, that they might throw on us too large a part of the burdens of the war, that they might obtain commercial advantages at our expense. But the French would conquer us; the French would enslave us; the French would inflict on us calamities such as those which had turned the fair fields and cities of the Palatinate into a desert. The hopgrounds of Kent would be as the vineyards of the Neckar. The High Street of Oxford and the close of Salisbury would be piled with ruins such as those which covered the spots where the palaces and churches of Heidelberg and Mannheim had once stood. The parsonage overshadowed by the old steeple, the farmhouse peeping from among beehives and appleblossoms, the manorial hall embosomed in elms, would be given up to a soldiery which knew not what it was to pity old men or delicate women or sticking children. The words, "The French are coming," like a spell, quelled at once all murmur about taxes and abuses, about William's ungracious manners and Portland's lucrative places, and raised a spirit as high and unconquerable as had pervaded, a hundred years before, the ranks which Elizabeth reviewed at Tilbury. Had the army of Humieres landed, it would assuredly have been withstood by almost every male capable of bearing arms. Not only the muskets and pikes but the scythes and pitchforks would have been too few for the hundreds of thousands who, forgetting all distinction of sect or faction, would have risen up like one man to defend the English soil.

The immediate effect therefore of the disasters in the Channel and in Flanders was to unite for a moment the great body of the people. The national antipathy to the Dutch seemed to be suspended. Their gallant conduct in the fight off Beachy Head was loudly applauded. The inaction of Torrington was loudly condemned. London set the example of concert and of exertion. The irritation produced by the late election at once subsided. All distinctions of party disappeared. The Lord Mayor was summoned to attend the Queen. She requested him to ascertain as soon as possible what the capital would undertake to do if the enemy should venture to make a descent. He called together the representatives of the wards, conferred with them, and returned to Whitehall to report that they had unanimously bound themselves to stand by the government with life and fortune; that a hundred thousand pounds were ready to be paid into the Exchequer; that ten thousand Londoners, well armed and appointed, were prepared to march at an hour's notice; and that an additional force, consisting of six regiments of foot, a strong regiment of horse, and a thousand dragoons, should be instantly raised without costing the Crown a farthing. Of Her Majesty the City had nothing to ask, but that she would be pleased to set over these troops officers in whom she could confide. The same spirit was shown in every part of the country. Though in the southern counties the harvest was at hand, the rustics repaired with unusual cheerfulness to the musters of the militia. The Jacobite country gentlemen, who had, during several months, been making preparations for the general rising which was to take place as soon as William was gone and as help arrived from France, now that William was gone, now that a French invasion was hourly expected, burned their commissions signed by James, and hid their arms behind wainscots or in haystacks. The Jacobites in the towns were insulted wherever they appeared, and were forced to shut themselves up in their houses from the exasperated populace, [673]

Nothing is more interesting to those who love to study the intricacies of the human heart than the effect which the public danger produced on Shrewsbury. For a moment he was again the Shrewsbury of 1688. His nature, lamentably unstable, was not ignoble; and the thought, that, by standing foremost in the defence of his country at so perilous a crisis, he might repair his great fault and regain his own esteem, gave new energy to his body and his mind. He had retired to Epsom, in the hope that quiet and pure air would produce a salutary effect on his shattered frame and wounded spirit. But a few hours after the news of the Battle of Beachy Head had arrived, he was at Whitehall, and had offered his purse and sword to the Queen. It had been in contemplation to put the fleet under the command of some great nobleman with two experienced naval officers to advise him. Shrewsbury begged that, if such an arrangement were made, he might be appointed. It concerned, he said, the interest and the honour of every man in the kingdom not to let the enemy ride victorious in the Channel; and he would gladly risk his life to retrieve the lost fame of the English flag, [674]

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17     Next Part
Home - Random Browse