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The History of England from the Accession of James II. - Volume 3 (of 5)
by Thomas Babington Macaulay
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This event facilitated an important change in our polity, a change which, it is true, could not have been long delayed, but which would not have been easily accomplished except at a moment of extreme danger. The time had at length arrived at which it was necessary to make a legal distinction between the soldier and the citizen. Under the Plantagenets and the Tudors there had been no standing army. The standing army which had existed under the last kings of the House of Stuart had been regarded by every party in the state with strong and not unreasonable aversion. The common law gave the Sovereign no power to control his troops. The Parliament, regarding them as mere tools of tyranny, had not been disposed to give such power by statute. James indeed had induced his corrupt and servile judges to put on some obsolete laws a construction which enabled him to punish desertion capitally. But this construction was considered by all respectable jurists as unsound, and, had it been sound, would have been far from effecting all that was necessary for the purpose of maintaining military discipline. Even James did not venture to inflict death by sentence of a court martial. The deserter was treated as an ordinary felon, was tried at the assizes by a petty jury on a bill found by a grand jury, and was at liberty to avail himself of any technical flaw which might be discovered in the indictment.

The Revolution, by altering the relative position of the prince and the parliament, had altered also the relative position of the army and the nation. The King and the Commons were now at unity; and both were alike menaced by the greatest military power which had existed in Europe since the downfall of the Roman empire. In a few weeks thirty thousand veterans, accustomed to conquer, and led by able and experienced captains, might cross from the ports of Normandy and Brittany to our shores. That such a force would with little difficulty scatter three times that number of militia, no man well acquainted with war could doubt. There must then be regular soldiers; and, if there were to be regular soldiers, it must be indispensable, both to their efficiency, and to the security of every other class, that they should be kept under a strict discipline. An ill disciplined army has ever been a more costly and a more licentious militia, impotent against a foreign enemy, and formidable only to the country which it is paid to defend. A strong line of demarcation must therefore be drawn between the soldiers and the rest of the community. For the sake of public freedom, they must, in the midst of freedom, be placed under a despotic rule. They must be subject to a sharper penal code, and to a more stringent code of procedure, than are administered by the ordinary tribunals. Some acts which in the citizen are innocent must in the soldier be crimes. Some acts which in the citizen are punished with fine or imprisonment must in the soldier be punished with death. The machinery by which courts of law ascertain the guilt or innocence of an accused citizen is too slow and too intricate to be applied to an accused soldier. For, of all the maladies incident to the body politic, military insubordination is that which requires the most prompt and drastic remedies. If the evil be not stopped as soon as it appears, it is certain to spread; and it cannot spread far without danger to the very vitals of the commonwealth. For the general safety, therefore, a summary jurisdiction of terrible extent must, in camps, be entrusted to rude tribunals composed of men of the sword.

But, though it was certain that the country could not at that moment be secure without professional soldiers, and equally certain that professional soldiers must be worse than useless unless they were placed under a rule more arbitrary and severe than that to which other men were subject, it was not without great misgivings that a House of Commons could venture to recognise the existence and to make provision for the government of a standing army. There was scarcely a public man of note who had not often avowed his conviction that our polity and a standing army could not exist together. The Whigs had been in the constant habit of repeating that standing armies had destroyed the free institutions of the neighbouring nations. The Tories had repeated as constantly that, in our own island, a standing army had subverted the Church, oppressed the gentry, and murdered the King. No leader of either party could, without laying himself open to the charge of gross inconsistency, propose that such an army should henceforth be one of the permanent establishments of the realm. The mutiny at Ipswich, and the panic which that mutiny produced, made it easy to effect what would otherwise have been in the highest degree difficult. A short bill was brought in which began by declaring, in explicit terms, that standing armies and courts martial were unknown to the law of England. It was then enacted that, on account of the extreme perils impending at that moment over the state, no man mustered on pay in the service of the crown should, on pain of death, or of such lighter punishment as a court martial should deem sufficient, desert his colours or mutiny against his commanding officers. This statute was to be in force only six months; and many of those who voted for it probably believed that it would, at the close of that period, be suffered to expire. The bill passed rapidly and easily. Not a single division was taken upon it in the House of Commons. A mitigating clause indeed, which illustrates somewhat curiously the manners of that age, was added by way of rider after the third reading. This clause provided that no court martial should pass sentence of death except between the hours of six in the morning and one in the afternoon. The dinner hour was then early; and it was but too probable that a gentleman who had dined would be in a state in which he could not safely be trusted with the lives of his fellow creatures. With this amendment, the first and most concise of our many Mutiny Bills was sent up to the Lords, and was, in a few hours, hurried by them through all its stages and passed by the King. [48]

Thus was made, without one dissentient voice in Parliament, without one murmur in the nation, the first step towards a change which had become necessary to the safety of the state, yet which every party in the state then regarded with extreme dread and aversion. Six months passed; and still the public danger continued. The power necessary to the maintenance of military discipline was a second time entrusted to the crown for a short term. The trust again expired, and was again renewed. By slow degrees familiarity reconciled the public mind to the names, once so odious, of standing army and court martial. It was proved by experience that, in a well constituted society, professional soldiers may be terrible to a foreign enemy, and yet submissive to the civil power. What had been at first tolerated as the exception began to be considered as the rule. Not a session passed without a Mutiny Bill. When at length it became evident that a political change of the highest importance was taking place in such a manner as almost to escape notice, a clamour was raised by some factious men desirous to weaken the hands of the government, and by some respectable men who felt an honest but injudicious reverence for every old constitutional tradition, and who were unable to understand that what at one stage in the progress of society is pernicious may at another stage be indispensable. This clamour however, as years rolled on, became fainter and fainter. The debate which recurred every spring on the Mutiny Bill came to be regarded merely as an occasion on which hopeful young orators fresh from Christchurch were to deliver maiden speeches, setting forth how the guards of Pisistratus seized the citadel of Athens, and how the Praetorian cohorts sold the Roman empire to Didius. At length these declamations became too ridiculous to be repeated. The most oldfashioned, the most eccentric, politician could hardly, in the reign of George the Third, contend that there ought to be no regular soldiers, or that the ordinary law, administered by the ordinary courts, would effectually maintain discipline among such soldiers. All parties being agreed as to the general principle, a long succession of Mutiny Bills passed without any discussion, except when some particular article of the military code appeared to require amendment. It is perhaps because the army became thus gradually, and almost imperceptibly, one of the institutions of England, that it has acted in such perfect harmony with all her other institutions, has never once, during a hundred and sixty years, been untrue to the throne or disobedient to the law, has never once defied the tribunals or overawed the constituent bodies. To this day, however, the Estates of the Realm continue to set up periodically, with laudable jealousy, a landmark on the frontier which was traced at the time of the Revolution. They solemnly reassert every year the doctrine laid down in the Declaration of Rights; and they then grant to the Sovereign an extraordinary power to govern a certain number of soldiers according to certain rules during twelve months more.

In the same week in which the first Mutiny Bill was laid on the table of the Commons, another temporary law, made necessary by the unsettled state of the kingdom, was passed. Since the flight of James many persons who were believed to have been deeply implicated in his unlawful acts, or to be engaged in plots for his restoration, had been arrested and confined. During the vacancy of the throne, these men could derive no benefit from the Habeas Corpus Act. For the machinery by which alone that Act could be carried into execution had ceased to exist; and, through the whole of Hilary term, all the courts in Westminster Hall had remained closed. Now that the ordinary tribunals were about to resume their functions, it was apprehended that all those prisoners whom it was not convenient to bring instantly to trial would demand and obtain their liberty. A bill was therefore brought in which empowered the King to detain in custody during a few weeks such persons as he should suspect of evil designs against his government. This bill passed the two Houses with little or no opposition. [49] But the malecontents out of doors did not fail to remark that, in the late reign, the Habeas Corpus Act had not been one day suspended. It was the fashion to call James a tyrant, and William a deliverer. Yet, before the deliverer had been a month on the throne, he had deprived Englishmen of a precious right which the tyrant had respected. [50] This is a kind of reproach which a government sprung from a popular revolution almost inevitably incurs. From such a government men naturally think themselves entitled to demand a more gentle and liberal administration than is expected from old and deeply rooted power. Yet such a government, having, as it always has, many active enemies, and not having the strength derived from legitimacy and prescription, can at first maintain itself only by a vigilance and a severity of which old and deeply rooted power stands in no need. Extraordinary and irregular vindications of public liberty are sometimes necessary: yet, however necessary, they are almost always followed by some temporary abridgments of that very liberty; and every such abridgment is a fertile and plausible theme for sarcasm and invective.

Unhappily sarcasm and invective directed against William were but too likely to find favourable audience. Each of the two great parties had its own reasons for being dissatisfied with him; and there were some complaints in which both parties joined. His manners gave almost universal offence. He was in truth far better qualified to save a nation than to adorn a court. In the highest parts of statesmanship, he had no equal among his contemporaries. He had formed plans not inferior in grandeur and boldness to those of Richelieu, and had carried them into effect with a tact and wariness worthy of Mazarin. Two countries, the seats of civil liberty and of the Reformed Faith, had been preserved by his wisdom and courage from extreme perils. Holland he had delivered from foreign, and England from domestic foes. Obstacles apparently insurmountable had been interposed between him and the ends on which he was intent; and those obstacles his genius had turned into stepping stones. Under his dexterous management the hereditary enemies of his house had helped him to mount a throne; and the persecutors of his religion had helped him to rescue his religion from persecution. Fleets and armies, collected to withstand him, had, without a struggle, submitted to his orders. Factions and sects, divided by mortal antipathies, had recognised him as their common head. Without carnage, without devastation, he had won a victory compared with which all the victories of Gustavus and Turenne were insignificant. In a few weeks he had changed the relative position of all the states in Europe, and had restored the equilibrium which the preponderance of one power had destroyed. Foreign nations did ample justice to his great qualities. In every Continental country where Protestant congregations met, fervent thanks were offered to God, who, from among the progeny of His servants, Maurice, the deliverer of Germany, and William, the deliverer of Holland, had raised up a third deliverer, the wisest and mightiest of all. At Vienna, at Madrid, nay, at Rome, the valiant and sagacious heretic was held in honour as the chief of the great confederacy against the House of Bourbon; and even at Versailles the hatred which he inspired was largely mingled with admiration.

Here he was less favourably judged. In truth, our ancestors saw him in the worst of all lights. By the French, the Germans, and the Italians, he was contemplated at such a distance that only what was great could be discerned, and that small blemishes were invisible. To the Dutch he was brought close: but he was himself a Dutchman. In his intercourse with them he was seen to the best advantage, he was perfectly at his ease with them; and from among them he had chosen his earliest and dearest friends. But to the English he appeared in a most unfortunate point of view. He was at once too near to them and too far from them. He lived among them, so that the smallest peculiarity of temper or manner could not escape their notice. Yet he lived apart from them, and was to the last a foreigner in speech, tastes, and habits.

One of the chief functions of our Sovereigns had long been to preside over the society of the capital. That function Charles the Second had performed with immense success. His easy bow, his good stories, his style of dancing and playing tennis, the sound of his cordial laugh, were familiar to all London. One day he was seen among the elms of Saint James's Park chatting with Dryden about poetry. [51] Another day his arm was on Tom Durfey's shoulder; and his Majesty was taking a second, while his companion sang "Phillida, Phillida," or "To horse, brave boys, to Newmarket, to horse." [52] James, with much less vivacity and good nature, was accessible, and, to people who did not cross him, civil. But of this sociableness William was entirely destitute. He seldom came forth from his closet; and, when he appeared in the public rooms, he stood among the crowd of courtiers and ladies, stern and abstracted, making no jest and smiling at none. His freezing look, his silence, the dry and concise answers which he uttered when he could keep silence no longer, disgusted noblemen and gentlemen who had been accustomed to be slapped on the back by their royal masters, called Jack or Harry, congratulated about race cups or rallied about actresses. The women missed the homage due to their sex. They observed that the King spoke in a somewhat imperious tone even to the wife to whom he owed so much, and whom he sincerely loved and esteemed. [53] They were amused and shocked to see him, when the Princess Anne dined with him, and when the first green peas of the year were put on the table, devour the whole dish without offering a spoonful to her Royal Highness; and they pronounced that this great soldier and politician was no better than a Low Dutch bear. [54]

One misfortune, which was imputed to him as a crime, was his bad English. He spoke our language, but not well. His accent was foreign: his diction was inelegant; and his vocabulary seems to have been no larger than was necessary for the transaction of business. To the difficulty which he felt in expressing himself, and to his consciousness that his pronunciation was bad, must be partly ascribed the taciturnity and the short answers which gave so much offence. Our literature he was incapable of enjoying or of understanding. He never once, during his whole reign, showed himself at the theatre. [55] The poets who wrote Pindaric verses in his praise complained that their flights of sublimity were beyond his comprehension. [56] Those who are acquainted with the panegyrical odes of that age will perhaps be of opinion that he did not lose much by his ignorance.

It is true that his wife did her best to supply what was wanting, and that she was excellently qualified to be the head of the Court. She was English by birth, and English also in her tastes and feelings. Her face was handsome, her port majestic, her temper sweet and lively, her manners affable and graceful. Her understanding, though very imperfectly cultivated, was quick. There was no want of feminine wit and shrewdness in her conversation; and her letters were so well expressed that they deserved to be well spelt. She took much pleasure in the lighter kinds of literature, and did something towards bringing books into fashion among ladies of quality. The stainless purity of her private life and the strict attention which she paid to her religious duties were the more respectable, because she was singularly free from censoriousness, and discouraged scandal as much as vice. In dislike of backbiting indeed she and her husband cordially agreed; but they showed their dislike in different and in very characteristic ways. William preserved profound silence, and gave the talebearer a look which, as was said by a person who had once encountered it, and who took good care never to encounter it again, made your story go back down your throat. [57] Mary had a way of interrupting tattle about elopements, duels, and playdebts by asking the tattlers, very quietly yet significantly, whether they had ever read her favourite sermon, Doctor Tillotson's on Evil Speaking. Her charities were munificent and judicious; and, though she made no ostentatious display of them, it was known that she retrenched from her own state in order to relieve Protestants whom persecution had driven from France and Ireland, and who were starving in the garrets of London. So amiable was her conduct, that she was generally spoken of with esteem and tenderness by the most respectable of those who disapproved of the manner in which she had been raised to the throne, and even of those who refused to acknowledge her as Queen. In the Jacobite lampoons of that time, lampoons which, in virulence and malignity, far exceed any thing that our age has produced, she was not often mentioned with severity. Indeed she sometimes expressed her surprise at finding that libellers who respected nothing else respected her name. God, she said, knew where her weakness lay. She was too sensitive to abuse and calumny; He had mercifully spared her a trial which was beyond her strength; and the best return which she could make to Him was to discountenance all malicious reflections on the characters of others. Assured that she possessed her husband's entire confidence and affection, she turned the edge of his sharp speeches sometimes by soft and sometimes by playful answers, and employed all the influence which she derived from her many pleasing qualities to gain the hearts of the people for him. [58]

If she had long continued to assemble round her the best society of London, it is probable that her kindness and courtesy would have done much to efface the unfavourable impression made by his stern and frigid demeanour. Unhappily his physical infirmities made it impossible for him to reside at Whitehall. The air of Westminster, mingled with the fog of the river which in spring tides overflowed the courts of his palace, with the smoke of seacoal from two hundred thousand chimneys, and with the fumes of all the filth which was then suffered to accumulate in the streets, was insupportable to him; for his lungs were weak, and his sense of smell exquisitely keen. His constitutional asthma made rapid progress. His physicians pronounced it impossible that he could live to the end of the year. His face was so ghastly that he could hardly be recognised. Those who had to transact business with him were shocked to hear him gasping for breath, and coughing till the tears ran down his cheeks. [59] His mind, strong as it was, sympathized with his body. His judgment was indeed as clear as ever. But there was, during some months, a perceptible relaxation of that energy by which he had been distinguished. Even his Dutch friends whispered that he was not the man that he had been at the Hague. [60] It was absolutely necessary that he should quit London. He accordingly took up his residence in the purer air of Hampton Court. That mansion, begun by the magnificent Wolsey, was a fine specimen of the architecture which flourished in England under the first Tudors; but the apartments were not, according to the notions of the seventeenth century, well fitted for purposes of state. Our princes therefore had, since the Restoration, repaired thither seldom, and only when they wished to live for a time in retirement. As William purposed to make the deserted edifice his chief palace, it was necessary for him to build and to plant; nor was the necessity disagreeable to him. For he had, like most of his countrymen, a pleasure in decorating a country house; and next to hunting, though at a great interval, his favourite amusements were architecture and gardening. He had already created on a sandy heath in Guelders a paradise, which attracted multitudes of the curious from Holland and Westphalia. Mary had laid the first stone of the house. Bentinck had superintended the digging of the fishponds. There were cascades and grottoes, a spacious orangery, and an aviary which furnished Hondekoeter with numerous specimens of manycoloured plumage. [61] The King, in his splendid banishment, pined for this favourite seat, and found some consolation in creating another Loo on the banks of the Thames. Soon a wide extent of ground was laid out in formal walks and parterres. Much idle ingenuity was employed in forming that intricate labyrinth of verdure which has puzzled and amused five generations of holiday visitors from London. Limes thirty years old were transplanted from neighbouring woods to shade the alleys. Artificial fountains spouted among the flower beds. A new court, not designed with the purest taste, but stately, spacious, and commodious, rose under the direction of Wren. The wainscots were adorned with the rich and delicate carvings of Gibbons. The staircases were in a blaze with the glaring frescoes of Verrio. In every corner of the mansion appeared a profusion of gewgaws, not yet familiar to English eyes. Mary had acquired at the Hague a taste for the porcelain of China, and amused herself by forming at Hampton a vast collection of hideous images, and of vases on which houses, trees, bridges, and mandarins were depicted in outrageous defiance of all the laws of perspective. The fashion, a frivolous and inelegant fashion it must be owned, which was thus set by the amiable Queen, spread fast and wide. In a few years almost every great house in the kingdom contained a museum of these grotesque baubles. Even statesmen and generals were not ashamed to be renowned as judges of teapots and dragons; and satirists long continued to repeat that a fine lady valued her mottled green pottery quite as much as she valued her monkey, and much more than she valued her husband. [62] But the new palace was embellished with works of art of a very different kind. A gallery was erected for the cartoons of Raphael. Those great pictures, then and still the finest on our side of the Alps, had been preserved by Cromwell from the fate which befell most of the other masterpieces in the collection of Charles the First, but had been suffered to lie during many years nailed up in deal boxes. They were now brought forth from obscurity to be contemplated by artists with admiration and despair. The expense of the works at Hampton was a subject of bitter complaint to many Tories, who had very gently blamed the boundless profusion with which Charles the Second had built and rebuilt, furnished and refurnished, the dwelling of the Duchess of Portsmouth. [63] The expense, however, was not the chief cause of the discontent which William's change of residence excited. There was no longer a Court at Westminster. Whitehall, once the daily resort of the noble and the powerful, the beautiful and the gay, the place to which fops came to show their new peruques, men of gallantry to exchange glances with fine ladies, politicians to push their fortunes, loungers to hear the news, country gentlemen to see the royal family, was now, in the busiest season of the year, when London was full, when Parliament was sitting, left desolate. A solitary sentinel paced the grassgrown pavement before that door which had once been too narrow for the opposite streams of entering and departing courtiers. The services which the metropolis had rendered to the King were great and recent; and it was thought that he might have requited those services better than by treating it as Lewis had treated Paris. Halifax ventured to hint this, but was silenced by a few words which admitted of no reply. "Do you wish," said William peevishly, "to see me dead?" [64]

In a short time it was found that Hampton Court was too far from the Houses of Lords and Commons, and from the public offices, to be the ordinary abode of the Sovereign. Instead, however, of returning to Whitehall, William determined to have another dwelling, near enough to his capital for the transaction of business, but not near enough to be within that atmosphere in which he could not pass a night without risk of suffocation. At one time he thought of Holland House, the villa of the noble family of Rich; and he actually resided there some weeks. [65] But he at length fixed his choice on Kensington House, the suburban residence of the Earl of Nottingham. The purchase was made for eighteen thousand guineas, and was followed by more building, more planting, more expense, and more discontent. [66] At present Kensington House is considered as a part of London. It was then a rural mansion, and could not, in those days of highwaymen and scourers, of roads deep in mire and nights without lamps, be the rallying point of fashionable society.

It was well known that the King, who treated the English nobility and gentry so ungraciously, could, in a small circle of his own countrymen, be easy, friendly, even jovial, could pour out his feelings garrulously, could fill his glass, perhaps too often; and this was, in the view of our forefathers, an aggravation of his offences. Yet our forefathers should have had the sense and the justice to acknowledge that the patriotism which they considered as a virtue in themselves, could not be a fault in him. It was unjust to blame him for not at once transferring to our island the love which he bore to the country of his birth. If, in essentials, he did his duty towards England, he might well be suffered to feel at heart an affectionate preference for Holland. Nor is it a reproach to him that he did not, in this season of his greatness, discard companions who had played with him in his childhood, who had stood by him firmly through all the vicissitudes of his youth and manhood, who had, in defiance of the most loathsome and deadly forms of infection, kept watch by his sick-bed, who had, in the thickest of the battle, thrust themselves between him and the French swords, and whose attachment was, not to the Stadtholder or to the King, but to plain William of Nassau. It may be added that his old friends could not but rise in his estimation by comparison with his new courtiers. To the end of his life all his Dutch comrades, without exception, continued to deserve his confidence. They could be out of humour with him, it is true; and, when out of humour, they could be sullen and rude; but never did they, even when most angry and unreasonable, fail to keep his secrets and to watch over his interests with gentlemanlike and soldierlike fidelity. Among his English councillors such fidelity was rare. [67] It is painful, but it is no more than just, to acknowledge that he had but too good reason for thinking meanly of our national character. That character was indeed, in essentials, what it has always been. Veracity, uprightness, and manly boldness were then, as now, qualities eminently English. But those qualities, though widely diffused among the great body of the people, were seldom to be found in the class with which William was best acquainted. The standard of honour and virtue among our public men was, during his reign, at the very lowest point. His predecessors had bequeathed to him a court foul with all the vices of the Restoration, a court swarming with sycophants, who were ready, on the first turn of fortune, to abandon him as they had abandoned his uncle. Here and there, lost in that ignoble crowd, was to be found a man of true integrity and public spirit. Yet even such a man could not long live in such society without much risk that the strictness of his principles would be relaxed, and the delicacy of his sense of right and wrong impaired. It was unjust to blame a prince surrounded by flatterers and traitors for wishing to keep near him four or five servants whom he knew by proof to be faithful even to death.

Nor was this the only instance in which our ancestors were unjust to him. They had expected that, as soon as so distinguished a soldier and statesman was placed at the head of affairs, he would give some signal proof, they scarcely knew what, of genius and vigour. Unhappily, during the first months of his reign, almost every thing went wrong. His subjects, bitterly disappointed, threw the blame on him, and began to doubt whether he merited that reputation which he had won at his first entrance into public life, and which the splendid success of his last great enterprise had raised to the highest point. Had they been in a temper to judge fairly, they would have perceived that for the maladministration of which they with good reason complained he was not responsible. He could as yet work only with the machinery which he had found; and the machinery which he had found was all rust and rottenness. From the time of the Restoration to the time of the Revolution, neglect and fraud had been almost constantly impairing the efficiency of every department of the government. Honours and public trusts, peerages, baronetcies, regiments, frigates, embassies, governments, commissionerships, leases of crown lands, contracts for clothing, for provisions, for ammunition, pardons for murder, for robbery, for arson, were sold at Whitehall scarcely less openly than asparagus at Covent Garden or herrings at Billingsgate. Brokers had been incessantly plying for custom in the purlieus of the court; and of these brokers the most successful had been, in the days of Charles, the harlots, and in the days of James, the priests. From the palace which was the chief seat of this pestilence the taint had diffused itself through every office and through every rank in every office, and had every where produced feebleness and disorganization. So rapid was the progress of the decay that, within eight years after the time when Oliver had been the umpire of Europe, the roar of the guns of De Ruyter was heard in the Tower of London. The vices which had brought that great humiliation on the country had ever since been rooting themselves deeper and spreading themselves wider. James had, to do him justice, corrected a few of the gross abuses which disgraced the naval administration. Yet the naval administration, in spite of his attempts to reform it, moved the contempt of men who were acquainted with the dockyards of France and Holland. The military administration was still worse. The courtiers took bribes from the colonels; the colonels cheated the soldiers: the commissaries sent in long bills for what had never been furnished: the keepers of the arsenals sold the public stores and pocketed the price. But these evils, though they had sprung into existence and grown to maturity under the government of Charles and James, first made themselves severely felt under the government of William. For Charles and James were content to be the vassals and pensioners of a powerful and ambitious neighbour: they submitted to his ascendency: they shunned with pusillanimous caution whatever could give him offence; and thus, at the cost of the independence and dignity of that ancient and glorious crown which they unworthily wore, they avoided a conflict which would instantly have shown how helpless, under their misrule, their once formidable kingdom had become. Their ignominious policy it was neither in William's power nor in his nature to follow. It was only by arms that the liberty and religion of England could be protected against the most formidable enemy that had threatened our island since the Hebrides were strown with the wrecks of the Armada. The body politic, which, while it remained in repose, had presented a superficial appearance of health and vigour, was now under the necessity of straining every nerve in a wrestle for life or death, and was immediately found to be unequal to the exertion. The first efforts showed an utter relaxation of fibre, an utter want of training. Those efforts were, with scarcely an exception, failures; and every failure was popularly imputed, not to the rulers whose mismanagement had produced the infirmities of the state, but to the ruler in whose time the infirmities of the state became visible.

William might indeed, if he had been as absolute as Lewis, have used such sharp remedies as would speedily have restored to the English administration that firm tone which had been wanting since the death of Oliver. But the instantaneous reform of inveterate abuses was a task far beyond the powers of a prince strictly restrained by law, and restrained still more strictly by the difficulties of his situation. [68]

Some of the most serious difficulties of his situation were caused by the conduct of the ministers on whom, new as he was to the details of English affairs, he was forced to rely for information about men and things. There was indeed no want of ability among his chief counsellors: but one half of their ability was employed in counteracting the other half. Between the Lord President and the Lord Privy Seal there was an inveterate enmity. [69] It had begun twelve years before when Danby was Lord High Treasurer, a persecutor of nonconformists, an uncompromising defender of prerogative, and when Halifax was rising to distinction as one of the most eloquent leaders of the country party. In the reign of James, the two statesmen had found themselves in opposition together; and their common hostility to France and to Rome, to the High Commission and to the dispensing power, had produced an apparent reconciliation; but as soon as they were in office together the old antipathy revived. The hatred which the Whig party felt towards them both ought, it should seem, to have produced a close alliance between them: but in fact each of them saw with complacency the danger which threatened the other. Danby exerted himself to rally round him a strong phalanx of Tories. Under the plea of ill health, he withdrew from court, seldom came to the Council over which it was his duty to preside, passed much time in the country, and took scarcely any part in public affairs except by grumbling and sneering at all the acts of the government, and by doing jobs and getting places for his personal retainers. [70] In consequence of this defection, Halifax became prime minister, as far any minister could, in that reign, be called prime minister. An immense load of business fell on him; and that load he was unable to sustain. In wit and eloquence, in amplitude of comprehension and subtlety of disquisition, he had no equal among the statesmen of his time. But that very fertility, that very acuteness, which gave a singular charm to his conversation, to his oratory and to his writings, unfitted him for the work of promptly deciding practical questions. He was slow from very quickness. For he saw so many arguments for and against every possible course that he was longer in making up his mind than a dull man would have been. Instead of acquiescing in his first thoughts, he replied on himself, rejoined on himself, and surrejoined on himself. Those who heard him talk owned that he talked like an angel: but too often, when he had exhausted all that could be said, and came to act, the time for action was over.

Meanwhile the two Secretaries of State were constantly labouring to draw their master in diametrically opposite directions. Every scheme, every person, recommended by one of them was reprobated by the other. Nottingham was never weary of repeating that the old Roundhead party, the party which had taken the life of Charles the First and had plotted against the life of Charles the Second, was in principle republican, and that the Tories were the only true friends of monarchy. Shrewsbury replied that the Tories might be friends of monarchy, but that they regarded James as their monarch. Nottingham was always bringing to the closet intelligence of the wild daydreams in which a few old eaters of calf's head, the remains of the once formidable party of Bradshaw and Ireton, still indulged at taverns in the city. Shrewsbury produced ferocious lampoons which the Jacobites dropped every day in the coffeehouses. "Every Whig," said the Tory Secretary, "is an enemy of your Majesty's prerogative." "Every Tory," said the Whig Secretary, "is an enemy of your Majesty's title." [71]

At the treasury there was a complication of jealousies and quarrels. [72] Both the First Commissioner, Mordaunt, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Delamere, were zealous Whigs but, though they held the same political creed, their tempers differed widely. Mordaunt was volatile, dissipated, and generous. The wits of that time laughed at the way in which he flew about from Hampton Court to the Royal Exchange, and from the Royal Exchange back to Hampton Court. How he found time for dress, politics, lovemaking and balladmaking was a wonder. [73] Delamere was gloomy and acrimonious, austere in his private morals, and punctual in his devotions, but greedy of ignoble gain. The two principal ministers of finance, therefore, became enemies, and agreed only in hating their colleague Godolphin. What business had he at Whitehall in these days of Protestant ascendency, he who had sate at the same board with Papists, he who had never scrupled to attend Mary of Modena to the idolatrous worship of the Mass? The most provoking circumstance was that Godolphin, though his name stood only third in the commission, was really first Lord. For in financial knowledge and in habits of business Mordaunt and Delamere were mere children when compared with him; and this William soon discovered. [74]

Similar feuds raged at the other great boards and through all the subordinate ranks of public functionaries. In every customhouse, in every arsenal, were a Shrewsbury and a Nottingham, a Delamere and a Godolphin. The Whigs complained that there was no department in which creatures of the fallen tyranny were not to be found. It was idle to allege that these men were versed in the details of business, that they were the depositaries of official traditions, and that the friends of liberty, having been, during many years, excluded from public employment, must necessarily be incompetent to take on themselves at once the whole management of affairs. Experience doubtless had its value: but surely the first of all the qualifications of a servant was fidelity; and no Tory could be a really faithful servant of the new government. If King William were wise, he would rather trust novices zealous for his interest and honour than veterans who might indeed possess ability and knowledge, but who would use that ability and that knowledge to effect his ruin.

The Tories, on the other hand, complained that their share of power bore no proportion to their number and their weight in the country, and that every where old and useful public servants were, for the crime of being friends to monarchy and to the Church, turned out of their posts to make way for Rye House plotters and haunters of conventicles. These upstarts, adepts in the art of factious agitation, but ignorant of all that belonged to their new calling, would be just beginning to learn their business when they had undone the nation by their blunders. To be a rebel and a schismatic was surely not all that ought to be required of a man in high employment. What would become of the finances, what of the marine, if Whigs who could not understand the plainest balance sheet were to manage the revenue, and Whigs who had never walked over a dockyard to fit out the fleet. [75]

The truth is that the charges which the two parties brought against each other were, to a great extent, well founded, but that the blame which both threw on William was unjust. Official experience was to be found almost exclusively among the Tories, hearty attachment to the new settlement almost exclusively among the Whigs. It was not the fault of the King that the knowledge and the zeal, which, combined, make a valuable servant of the state must at that time be had separately or not at all. If he employed men of one party, there was great risk of mistakes. If he employed men of the other party, there was great risk of treachery. If he employed men of both parties, there was still some risk of mistakes; there was still some risk of treachery; and to these risks was added the certainty of dissension. He might join Whigs and Tories; but it was beyond his power to mix them. In the same office, at the same desk, they were still enemies, and agreed only in murmuring at the Prince who tried to mediate between them. It was inevitable that, in such circumstances, the administration, fiscal, military, naval, should be feeble and unsteady; that nothing should be done in quite the right way or at quite the right time; that the distractions from which scarcely any public office was exempt should produce disasters, and that every disaster should increase the distractions from which it had sprung.

There was indeed one department of which the business was well conducted; and that was the department of Foreign Affairs. There William directed every thing, and, on important occasions, neither asked the advice nor employed the agency of any English politician. One invaluable assistant he had, Anthony Heinsius, who, a few weeks after the Revolution had been accomplished, became Pensionary of Holland. Heinsius had entered public life as a member of that party which was jealous of the power of the House of Orange, and desirous to be on friendly terms with France. But he had been sent in 1681 on a diplomatic mission to Versailles; and a short residence there had produced a complete change in his views. On a near acquaintance, he was alarmed by the power and provoked by the insolence of that Court of which, while he contemplated it only at a distance, he had formed a favourable opinion. He found that his country was despised. He saw his religion persecuted. His official character did not save him from some personal affronts which, to the latest day of his long career, he never forgot. He went home a devoted adherent of William and a mortal enemy of Lewis. [76]

The office of Pensionary, always important, was peculiarly important when the Stadtholder was absent from the Hague. Had the politics of Heinsius been still what they once were, all the great designs of William might have been frustrated. But happily there was between these two eminent men a perfect friendship which, till death dissolved it, appears never to have been interrupted for one moment by suspicion or ill humour. On all large questions of European policy they cordially agreed. They corresponded assiduously and most unreservedly. For though William was slow to give his confidence, yet, when he gave it, he gave it entire. The correspondence is still extant, and is most honourable to both. The King's letters would alone suffice to prove that he was one of the greatest statesmen whom Europe has produced. While he lived, the Pensionary was content to be the most obedient, the most trusty, and the most discreet of servants. But, after the death of the master, the servant proved himself capable of supplying with eminent ability the master's place, and was renowned throughout Europe as one of the great Triumvirate which humbled the pride of Lewis the Fourteenth. [77]

The foreign policy of England, directed immediately by William in close concert with Heinsius, was, at this time, eminently skilful and successful. But in every other part of the administration the evils arising from the mutual animosity of factions were but too plainly discernible. Nor was this all. To the evils arising from the mutual animosity of factions were added other evils arising from the mutual animosity of sects.

The year 1689 is a not less important epoch in the ecclesiastical than in the civil history of England. In that year was granted the first legal indulgence to Dissenters. In that year was made the last serious attempt to bring the Presbyterians within the pale of the Church of England. From that year dates a new schism, made, in defiance of ancient precedents, by men who had always professed to regard schism with peculiar abhorrence, and ancient precedents with peculiar veneration. In that year began the long struggle between two great parties of conformists. Those parties indeed had, under various forms, existed within the Anglican communion ever since the Reformation; but till after the Revolution they did not appear marshalled in regular and permanent order of battle against each other, and were therefore not known by established names. Some time after the accession of William they began to be called the High Church party and the Low Church party; and, long before the end of his reign, these appellations were in common use. [78]

In the summer of 1688 the breaches which had long divided the great body of English Protestants had seemed to be almost closed. Disputes about Bishops and Synods, written prayers and extemporaneous prayers, white gowns and black gowns, sprinkling and dipping, kneeling and sitting, had been for a short space intermitted. The serried array which was then drawn up against Popery measured the whole of the vast interval which separated Sancroft from Bunyan. Prelates recently conspicuous as persecutors now declared themselves friends of religious liberty, and exhorted their clergy to live in a constant interchange of hospitality and of kind offices with the separatists. Separatists, on the other hand, who had recently considered mitres and lawn sleeves as the livery of Antichrist, were putting candles in windows and throwing faggots on bonfires in honour of the prelates.

These feelings continued to grow till they attained their greatest height on the memorable day on which the common oppressor finally quitted Whitehall, and on which an innumerable multitude, tricked out in orange ribands, welcomed the common deliverer to Saint James's. When the clergy of London came, headed by Compton, to express their gratitude to him by whose instrumentality God had wrought salvation for the Church and the State, the procession was swollen by some eminent nonconformist divines. It was delightful to many good men to learn that pious and learned Presbyterian ministers had walked in the train of a Bishop, had been greeted by him with fraternal kindness, and had been announced by him in the presence chamber as his dear and respected friends, separated from him indeed by some differences of opinion on minor points, but united to him by Christian charity and by common zeal for the essentials of the reformed faith. There had never before been such a day in England; and there has never since been such a day. The tide of feeling was already on the turn; and the ebb was even more rapid than the flow had been. In a very few hours the High Churchman began to feel tenderness for the enemy whose tyranny was now no longer feared, and dislike of the allies whose services were now no longer needed. It was easy to gratify both feelings by imputing to the dissenters the misgovernment of the exiled King. His Majesty-such was now the language of too many Anglican divines-would have been an excellent sovereign had he not been too confiding, too forgiving. He had put his trust in a class of men who hated his office, his family, his person, with implacable hatred. He had ruined himself in the vain attempt to conciliate them. He had relieved them, in defiance of law and of the unanimous sense of the old royalist party, from the pressure of the penal code; had allowed them to worship God publicly after their own mean and tasteless fashion; had admitted them to the bench of justice and to the Privy Council; had gratified them with fur robes, gold chains, salaries, and pensions. In return for his liberality, these people, once so uncouth in demeanour, once so savage in opposition even to legitimate authority, had become the most abject of flatterers. They had continued to applaud and encourage him when the most devoted friends of his family had retired in shame and sorrow from his palace. Who had more foully sold the religion and liberty of his country than Titus? Who had been more zealous for the dispensing power than Alsop? Who had urged on the persecution of the seven Bishops more fiercely than Lobb? What chaplain impatient for a deanery had ever, even when preaching in the royal presence on the thirtieth of January or the twenty-ninth of May, uttered adulation more gross than might easily be found in those addresses by which dissenting congregations had testified their gratitude for the illegal Declaration of Indulgence? Was it strange that a prince who had never studied law books should have believed that he was only exercising his rightful prerogative, when he was thus encouraged by a faction which had always ostentatiously professed hatred of arbitrary power? Misled by such guidance, he had gone further and further in the wrong path: he had at length estranged from him hearts which would once have poured forth their best blood in his defence: he had left himself no supporters except his old foes; and, when the day of peril came, he had found that the feeling of his old foes towards him was still what it had been when they had attempted to rob him of his inheritance, and when they had plotted against his life. Every man of sense had long known that the sectaries bore no love to monarchy. It had now been found that they bore as little love to freedom. To trust them with power would be an error not less fatal to the nation than to the throne. If, in order to redeem pledges somewhat rashly given, it should be thought necessary to grant them relief, every concession ought to be accompanied by limitations and precautions. Above all, no man who was an enemy to the ecclesiastical constitution of the realm ought to be permitted to bear any part in the civil government.

Between the nonconformists and the rigid conformists stood the Low Church party. That party contained, as it still contains, two very different elements, a Puritan element and a Latitudinarian element. On almost every question, however, relating either to ecclesiastical polity or to the ceremonial of public worship, the Puritan Low Churchman and the Latitudinarian Low Churchman were perfectly agreed. They saw in the existing polity and in the existing ceremonial no defect, no blemish, which could make it their duty to become dissenters. Nevertheless they held that both the polity and the ceremonial were means and not ends, and that the essential spirit of Christianity might exist without episcopal orders and without a Book of Common Prayer. They had, while James was on the throne, been mainly instrumental in forming the great Protestant coalition against Popery and tyranny; and they continued in 1689 to hold the same conciliatory language which they had held in 1688. They gently blamed the scruples of the nonconformists. It was undoubtedly a great weakness to imagine that there could be any sin in wearing a white robe, in tracing a cross, in kneeling at the rails of an altar. But the highest authority had given the plainest directions as to the manner in which such weakness was to be treated. The weak brother was not to be judged: he was not to be despised: believers who had stronger minds were commanded to soothe him by large compliances, and carefully to remove out of his path every stumbling block which could cause him to offend. An apostle had declared that, though he had himself no misgivings about the use of animal food or of wine, he would eat herbs and drink water rather than give scandal to the feeblest of his flock. What would he have thought of ecclesiastical rulers who, for the sake of a vestment, a gesture, a posture, had not only torn the Church asunder, but had filled all the gaols of England with men of orthodox faith and saintly life? The reflections thrown by the High Churchmen on the recent conduct of the dissenting body the Low Churchmen pronounced to be grossly unjust. The wonder was, not that a few nonconformists should have accepted with thanks an indulgence which, illegal as it was, had opened the doors of their prisons and given security to their hearths, but that the nonconformists generally should have been true to the cause of a constitution from the benefits of which they had been long excluded. It was most unfair to impute to a great party the faults of a few individuals. Even among the Bishops of the Established Church James had found tools and sycophants. The conduct of Cartwright and Parker had been much more inexcusable than that of Alsop and Lobb. Yet those who held the dissenters answerable for the errors of Alsop and Lobb would doubtless think it most unreasonable to hold the Church answerable for the far deeper guilt of Cartwright and Parker.

The Low Church clergymen were a minority, and not a large minority, of their profession: but their weight was much more than proportioned to their numbers: for they mustered strong in the capital: they had great influence there; and the average of intellect and knowledge was higher among them than among their order generally. We should probably overrate their numerical strength, if we were to estimate them at a tenth part of the priesthood. Yet it will scarcely be denied that there were among them as many men of distinguished eloquence and learning as could be found in the other nine tenths. Among the laity who conformed to the established religion the parties were not unevenly balanced. Indeed the line which separated them deviated very little from the line which separated the Whigs and the Tories. In the House of Commons, which had been elected when the Whigs were triumphant, the Low Church party greatly preponderated. In the Lords there was an almost exact equipoise; and very slight circumstances sufficed to turn the scale.

The head of the Low Church party was the King. He had been bred a Presbyterian: he was, from rational conviction, a Latitudinarian; and personal ambition, as well as higher motives, prompted him to act as mediator among Protestant sects. He was bent on effecting three great reforms in the laws touching ecclesiastical matters. His first object was to obtain for dissenters permission to celebrate their worship in freedom and security. His second object was to make such changes in the Anglican ritual and polity as, without offending those to whom that ritual and polity were dear, might conciliate the moderate nonconformists. His third object was to throw open civil offices to Protestants without distinction of sect. All his three objects were good; but the first only was at that time attainable. He came too late for the second, and too early for the third.

A few days after his accession, he took a step which indicated, in a manner not to be mistaken, his sentiments touching ecclesiastical polity and public worship. He found only one see unprovided with a Bishop. Seth Ward, who had during many years had charge of the diocese of Salisbury, and who had been honourably distinguished as one of the founders of the Royal Society, having long survived his faculties, died while the country was agitated by the elections for the Convention, without knowing that great events, of which not the least important had passed under his own roof, had saved his Church and his country from ruin. The choice of a successor was no light matter. That choice would inevitably be considered by the country as a prognostic of the highest import. The King too might well be perplexed by the number of divines whose erudition, eloquence, courage, and uprightness had been conspicuously displayed during the contentions of the last three years. The preference was given to Burnet. His claims were doubtless great. Yet William might have had a more tranquil reign if he had postponed for a time the well earned promotion of his chaplain, and had bestowed the first great spiritual preferment, which, after the Revolution, fell to the disposal of the Crown, on some eminent theologian, attached to the new settlement, yet not generally hated by the clergy. Unhappily the name of Burnet was odious to the great majority of the Anglican priesthood. Though, as respected doctrine, he by no means belonged to the extreme section of the Latitudinarian party, he was popularly regarded as the personification of the Latitudinarian spirit. This distinction he owed to the prominent place which he held in literature and politics, to the readiness of his tongue and of his pert, and above all to the frankness and boldness of his nature, frankness which could keep no secret, and boldness which flinched from no danger. He had formed but a low estimate of the character of his clerical brethren considered as a body; and, with his usual indiscretion, he frequently suffered his opinion to escape him. They hated him in return with a hatred which has descended to their successors, and which, after the lapse of a century and a half, does not appear to languish.

As soon as the King's decision was known, the question was every where asked, What will the Archbishop do? Sancroft had absented himself from the Convention: he had refused to sit in the Privy Council: he had ceased to confirm, to ordain, and to institute; and he was seldom seen out of the walls of his palace at Lambeth. He, on all occasions, professed to think himself still bound by his old oath of allegiance. Burnet he regarded as a scandal to the priesthood, a Presbyterian in a surplice. The prelate who should lay hands on that unworthy head would commit more than one great sin. He would, in a sacred place, and before a great congregation of the faithful, at once acknowledge an usurper as a King, and confer on a schismatic the character of a Bishop. During some time Sancroft positively declared that he would not obey the precept of William. Lloyd of Saint Asaph, who was the common friend of the Archbishop and of the Bishop elect, intreated and expostulated in vain. Nottingham, who, of all the laymen connected with the new government, stood best with the clergy, tried his influence, but to no better purpose. The Jacobites said every where that they were sure of the good old Primate; that he had the spirit of a martyr; that he was determined to brave, in the cause of the Monarchy and of the Church, the utmost rigour of those laws with which the obsequious parliaments of the sixteenth century had fenced the Royal Supremacy. He did in truth hold out long. But at the last moment his heart failed him, and he looked round him for some mode of escape. Fortunately, as childish scruples often disturbed his conscience, childish expedients often quieted it. A more childish expedient than that to which he now resorted is not to be found in all the tones of the casuists. He would not himself bear a part in the service. He would not publicly pray for the Prince and Princess as King and Queen. He would not call for their mandate, order it to be read, and then proceed to obey it. But he issued a commission empowering any three of his suffragans to commit, in his name, and as his delegates, the sins which he did not choose to commit in person. The reproaches of all parties soon made him ashamed of himself. He then tried to suppress the evidence of his fault by means more discreditable than the fault itself. He abstracted from among the public records of which he was the guardian the instrument by which he had authorised his brethren to act for him, and was with difficulty induced to give it up. [79]

Burnet however had, under the authority of this instrument, been consecrated. When he next waited on Mary, she reminded him of the conversations which they had held at the Hague about the high duties and grave responsibility of Bishops. "I hope," she said, "that you will put your notions in practice." Her hope was not disappointed. Whatever may be thought of Burnet's opinions touching civil and ecclesiastical polity, or of the temper and judgment which he showed in defending those opinions, the utmost malevolence of faction could not venture to deny that he tended his flock with a zeal, diligence, and disinterestedness worthy of the purest ages of the Church. His jurisdiction extended over Wiltshire and Berkshire. These counties he divided into districts which he sedulously visited. About two months of every summer he passed in preaching, catechizing, and confirming daily from church to church. When he died there was no corner of his diocese in which the people had not had seven or eight opportunities of receiving his instructions and of asking his advice. The worst weather, the worst roads, did not prevent him from discharging these duties. On one occasion, when the floods were out, he exposed his life to imminent risk rather than disappoint a rural congregation which was in expectation of a discourse from the Bishop. The poverty of the inferior clergy was a constant cause of uneasiness to his kind and generous heart. He was indefatigable and at length successful in his attempts to obtain for them from the Crown that grant which is known by the name of Queen Anne's Bounty. [80] He was especially careful, when he travelled through his diocese, to lay no burden on them. Instead of requiring them to entertain him, he entertained them. He always fixed his headquarters at a market town, kept a table there, and, by his decent hospitality and munificent charities, tried to conciliate those who were prejudiced against his doctrines. When he bestowed a poor benefice, and he had many such to bestow, his practice was to add out of his own purse twenty pounds a year to the income. Ten promising young men, to each of whom he allowed thirty pounds a year, studied divinity under his own eye in the close of Salisbury. He had several children but he did not think himself justified in hoarding for them. Their mother had brought him a good fortune. With that fortune, he always said, they must be content: He would not, for their sakes, be guilty of the crime of raising an estate out of revenues sacred to piety and charity. Such merits as these will, in the judgment of wise and candid men, appear fully to atone for every offence which can be justly imputed to him. [81]

When he took his seat in the House of Lords, he found that assembly busied in ecclesiastical legislation. A statesman who was well known to be devoted to the Church had undertaken to plead the cause of the Dissenters. No subject in the realm occupied so important and commanding a position with reference to religious parties as Nottingham. To the influence derived from rank, from wealth, and from office, he added the higher influence which belongs to knowledge, to eloquence, and to integrity. The orthodoxy of his creed, the regularity of his devotions, and the purity of his morals gave a peculiar weight to his opinions on questions in which the interests of Christianity were concerned. Of all the ministers of the new Sovereigns, he had the largest share of the confidence of the clergy. Shrewsbury was certainly a Whig, and probably a freethinker: he had lost one religion; and it did not very clearly appear that he had found another. Halifax had been during many years accused of scepticism, deism, atheism. Danby's attachment to episcopacy and the liturgy was rather political than religious. But Nottingham was such a son as the Church was proud to own. Propositions, therefore, which, if made by his colleagues, would infallibly produce a violent panic among the clergy, might, if made by him, find a favourable reception even in universities and chapter houses. The friends of religious liberty were with good reason desirous to obtain his cooperation; and, up to a certain point, he was not unwilling to cooperate with them. He was decidedly for a toleration. He was even for what was then called a comprehension: that is to say, he was desirous to make some alterations in the Anglican discipline and ritual for the purpose of removing the scruples of the moderate Presbyterians. But he was not prepared to give up the Test Act. The only fault which he found with that Act was that it was not sufficiently stringent, and that it left loopholes through which schismatics sometimes crept into civil employments. In truth it was because he was not disposed to part with the Test that he was willing to consent to some changes in the Liturgy. He conceived that, if the entrance of the Church were but a very little widened, great numbers who had hitherto lingered near the threshold would press in. Those who still remained without would then not be sufficiently numerous or powerful to extort any further concession, and would be glad to compound for a bare toleration. [82]

The opinion of the Low Churchmen concerning the Test Act differed widely from his. But many of them thought that it was of the highest importance to have his support on the great questions of Toleration and Comprehension. From the scattered fragments of information which have come down to us, it appears that a compromise was made. It is quite certain that Nottingham undertook to bring in a Toleration Bill and a Comprehension Bill, and to use his best endeavours to carry both bills through the House of Lords. It is highly probable that, in return for this great service, some of the leading Whigs consented to let the Test Act remain for the present unaltered.

There was no difficulty in framing either the Toleration Bill or the Comprehension Bill. The situation of the dissenters had been much discussed nine or ten years before, when the kingdom was distracted by the fear of a Popish plot, and when there was among Protestants a general disposition to unite against the common enemy. The government had then been willing to make large concessions to the Whig party, on condition that the crown should be suffered to descend according to the regular course. A draught of a law authorising the public worship of the nonconformists, and a draught of a law making some alterations in the public worship of the Established Church, had been prepared, and would probably have been passed by both Houses without difficulty, had not Shaftesbury and his coadjutors refused to listen to any terms, and, by grasping at what was beyond their reach, missed advantages which might easily have been secured. In the framing of these draughts, Nottingham, then an active member of the House of Commons, had borne a considerable part. He now brought them forth from the obscurity in which they had remained since the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, and laid them, with some slight alterations, on the table of the Lords. [83]

The Toleration Bill passed both Houses with little debate. This celebrated statute, long considered as the Great Charter of religious liberty, has since been extensively modified, and is hardly known to the present generation except by name. The name, however, is still pronounced with respect by many who will perhaps learn with surprise and disappointment the real nature of the law which they have been accustomed to hold in honour.

Several statutes which had been passed between the accession of Queen Elizabeth and the Revolution required all people under severe penalties to attend the services of the Church of England, and to abstain from attending conventicles. The Toleration Act did not repeal any of these statutes, but merely provided that they should not be construed to extend to any person who should testify his loyalty by taking the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, and his Protestantism by subscribing the Declaration against Transubstantiation.

The relief thus granted was common between the dissenting laity and the dissenting clergy. But the dissenting clergy had some peculiar grievances. The Act of Uniformity had laid a mulct of a hundred pounds on every person who, not having received episcopal ordination, should presume to administer the Eucharist. The Five Mile Act had driven many pious and learned ministers from their houses and their friends, to live among rustics in obscure villages of which the name was not to be seen on the map. The Conventicle Act had imposed heavy fines on divines who should preach in any meeting of separatists; and, in direct opposition to the humane spirit of our common law, the Courts were enjoined to construe this Act largely and beneficially for the suppressing of dissent and for the encouraging of informers. These severe statutes were not repealed, but were, with many conditions and precautions, relaxed. It was provided that every dissenting minister should, before he exercised his function, profess under his hand his belief in the articles of the Church of England, with a few exceptions. The propositions to which he was not required to assent were these; that the Church has power to regulate ceremonies; that the doctrines set forth in the Book of Homilies are sound; and that there is nothing superstitious and idolatrous in the ordination service. If he declared himself a Baptist, he was also excused from affirming that the baptism of infants is a laudable practice. But, unless his conscience suffered him to subscribe thirty-four of the thirty-nine articles, and the greater part of two other articles, he could not preach without incurring all the punishments which the Cavaliers, in the day of their power and their vengeance, had devised for the tormenting and ruining of schismatical teachers.

The situation of the Quaker differed from that of other dissenters, and differed for the worse. The Presbyterian, the Independent, and the Baptist had no scruple about the Oath of Supremacy. But the Quaker refused to take it, not because he objected to the proposition that foreign sovereigns and prelates have no jurisdiction in England, but because his conscience would not suffer him to swear to any proposition whatever. He was therefore exposed to the severity of part of that penal code which, long before Quakerism existed, had been enacted against Roman Catholics by the Parliaments of Elizabeth. Soon after the Restoration, a severe law, distinct from the general law which applied to all conventicles, had been passed against meetings of Quakers. The Toleration Act permitted the members of this harmless sect to hold their assemblies in peace, on condition of signing three documents, a declaration against Transubstantiation, a promise of fidelity to the government, and a confession of Christian belief. The objections which the Quaker had to the Athanasian phraseology had brought on him the imputation of Socinianism; and the strong language in which he sometimes asserted that he derived his knowledge of spiritual things directly from above had raised a suspicion that he thought lightly of the authority of Scripture. He was therefore required to profess his faith in the divinity of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and in the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments.

Such were the terms on which the Protestant dissenters of England were, for the first time, permitted by law to worship God according to their own conscience. They were very properly forbidden to assemble with barred doors, but were protected against hostile intrusion by a clause which made it penal to enter a meeting house for the purpose of molesting the congregation.

As if the numerous limitations and precautions which have been mentioned were insufficient, it was emphatically declared that the legislature did not intend to grant the smallest indulgence to any Papist, or to any person who denied the doctrine of the Trinity as that doctrine is set forth in the formularies of the Church of England.

Of all the Acts that have ever been passed by Parliament, the Toleration Act is perhaps that which most strikingly illustrates the peculiar vices and the peculiar excellences of English legislation. The science of Politics bears in one respect a close analogy to the science of Mechanics. The mathematician can easily demonstrate that a certain power, applied by means of a certain lever or of a certain system of pulleys, will suffice to raise a certain weight. But his demonstration proceeds on the supposition that the machinery is such as no load will bend or break. If the engineer, who has to lift a great mass of real granite by the instrumentality of real timber and real hemp, should absolutely rely on the propositions which he finds in treatises on Dynamics, and should make no allowance for the imperfection of his materials, his whole apparatus of beams, wheels, and ropes would soon come down in ruin, and, with all his geometrical skill, he would be found a far inferior builder to those painted barbarians who, though they never heard of the parallelogram of forces, managed to pile up Stonehenge. What the engineer is to the mathematician, the active statesman is to the contemplative statesman. It is indeed most important that legislators and administrators should be versed in the philosophy of government, as it is most important that the architect, who has to fix an obelisk on its pedestal, or to hang a tubular bridge over an estuary, should be versed in the philosophy of equilibrium and motion. But, as he who has actually to build must bear in mind many things never noticed by D'Alembert and Euler, so must he who has actually to govern be perpetually guided by considerations to which no allusion can be found in the writings of Adam Smith or Jeremy Bentham. The perfect lawgiver is a just temper between the mere man of theory, who can see nothing but general principles, and the mere man of business, who can see nothing but particular circumstances. Of lawgivers in whom the speculative element has prevailed to the exclusion of the practical, the world has during the last eighty years been singularly fruitful. To their wisdom Europe and America have owed scores of abortive constitutions, scores of constitutions which have lived just long enough to make a miserable noise, and have then gone off in convulsions. But in the English legislature the practical element has always predominated, and not seldom unduly predominated, over the speculative. To think nothing of symmetry and much of convenience; never to remove an anomaly merely because it is an anomaly; never to innovate except when some grievance is felt; never to innovate except so far as to get rid of the grievance; never to lay down any proposition of wider extent than the particular case for which it is necessary to provide; these are the rules which have, from the age of John to the age of Victoria, generally guided the deliberations of our two hundred and fifty Parliaments. Our national distaste for whatever is abstract in political science amounts undoubtedly to a fault. But it is, perhaps, a fault on the right side. That we have been far too slow to improve our laws must be admitted. But, though in other countries there may have occasionally been more rapid progress, it would not be easy to name any other country in which there has been so little retrogression.

The Toleration Act approaches very near to the idea of a great English law. To a jurist, versed in the theory of legislation, but not intimately acquainted with the temper of the sects and parties into which the nation was divided at the time of the Revolution, that Act would seem to be a mere chaos of absurdities and contradictions. It will not bear to be tried by sound general principles. Nay, it will not bear to be tried by any principle, sound or unsound. The sound principle undoubtedly is, that mere theological error ought not to be punished by the civil magistrate. This principle the Toleration Act not only does not recognise, but positively disclaims. Not a single one of the cruel laws enacted against nonconformists by the Tudors or the Stuarts is repealed. Persecution continues to be the general rule. Toleration is the exception. Nor is this all. The freedom which is given to conscience is given in the most capricious manner. A Quaker, by making a declaration of faith in general terms, obtains the full benefit of the Act without signing one of the thirty-nine Articles. An Independent minister, who is perfectly willing to make the declaration required from the Quaker, but who has doubts about six or seven of the Articles, remains still subject to the penal laws. Howe is liable to punishment if he preaches before he has solemnly declared his assent to the Anglican doctrine touching the Eucharist. Penn, who altogether rejects the Eucharist, is at perfect liberty to preach without making any declaration whatever on the subject.

These are some of the obvious faults which must strike every person who examines the Toleration Act by that standard of just reason which is the same in all countries and in all ages. But these very faults may perhaps appear to be merits, when we take into consideration the passions and prejudices of those for whom the Toleration Act was framed. This law, abounding with contradictions which every smatterer in political philosophy can detect, did what a law framed by the utmost skill of the greatest masters of political philosophy might have failed to do. That the provisions which have been recapitulated are cumbrous, puerile, inconsistent with each other, inconsistent with the true theory of religious liberty, must be acknowledged. All that can be said in their defence is this; that they removed a vast mass of evil without shocking a vast mass of prejudice; that they put an end, at once and for ever, without one division in either House of Parliament, without one riot in the streets, with scarcely one audible murmur even from the classes most deeply tainted with bigotry, to a persecution which had raged during four generations, which had broken innumerable hearts, which had made innumerable firesides desolate, which had filled the prisons with men of whom the world was not worthy, which had driven thousands of those honest, diligent and godfearing yeomen and artisans, who are the true strength of a nation, to seek a refuge beyond the ocean among the wigwams of red Indians and the lairs of panthers. Such a defence, however weak it may appear to some shallow speculators, will probably be thought complete by statesmen.

The English, in 1689, were by no means disposed to admit the doctrine that religious error ought to be left unpunished. That doctrine was just then more unpopular than it had ever been. For it had, only a few months before, been hypocritically put forward as a pretext for persecuting the Established Church, for trampling on the fundamental laws of the realm, for confiscating freeholds, for treating as a crime the modest exercise of the right of petition. If a bill had then been drawn up granting entire freedom of conscience to all Protestants, it may be confidently affirmed that Nottingham would never have introduced such a bill; that all the bishops, Burnet included, would have voted against it; that it would have been denounced, Sunday after Sunday, from ten thousand pulpits, as an insult to God and to all Christian men, and as a license to the worst heretics and blasphemers; that it would have been condemned almost as vehemently by Bates and Baxter as by Ken and Sherlock; that it would have been burned by the mob in half the market places of England; that it would never have become the law of the land, and that it would have made the very name of toleration odious during many years to the majority of the people. And yet, if such a bill had been passed, what would it have effected beyond what was effected by the Toleration Act?

It is true that the Toleration Act recognised persecution as the rule, and granted liberty of conscience only as the exception. But it is equally true that the rule remained in force only against a few hundreds of Protestant dissenters, and that the benefit of the exceptions extended to hundreds of thousands.

It is true that it was in theory absurd to make Howe sign thirty-four or thirty-five of the Anglican articles before he could preach, and to let Penn preach without signing one of those articles. But it is equally true that, under this arrangement, both Howe and Penn got as entire liberty to preach as they could have had under the most philosophical code that Beccaria or Jefferson could have framed.

The progress of the bill was easy. Only one amendment of grave importance was proposed. Some zealous churchmen in the Commons suggested that it might be desirable to grant the toleration only for a term of seven years, and thus to bind over the nonconformists to good behaviour. But this suggestion was so unfavourably received that those who made it did not venture to divide the House. [84]

The King gave his consent with hearty satisfaction: the bill became law; and the Puritan divines thronged to the Quarter Sessions of every county to swear and sign. Many of them probably professed their assent to the Articles with some tacit reservations. But the tender conscience of Baxter would not suffer him to qualify, till he had put on record an explanation of the sense in which he understood every proposition which seemed to him to admit of misconstruction. The instrument delivered by him to the Court before which he took the oaths is still extant, and contains two passages of peculiar interest. He declared that his approbation of the Athanasian Creed was confined to that part which was properly a Creed, and that he did not mean to express any assent to the damnatory clauses. He also declared that he did not, by signing the article which anathematizes all who maintain that there is any other salvation than through Christ, mean to condemn those who entertain a hope that sincere and virtuous unbelievers may be admitted to partake in the benefits of Redemption. Many of the dissenting clergy of London expressed their concurrence in these charitable sentiments. [85]

The history of the Comprehension Bill presents a remarkable contrast to the history of the Toleration Bill. The two bills had a common origin, and, to a great extent, a common object. They were framed at the same time, and laid aside at the same time: they sank together into oblivion; and they were, after the lapse of several years, again brought together before the world. Both were laid by the same peer on the table of the Upper House; and both were referred to the same select committee. But it soon began to appear that they would have widely different fates. The Comprehension Bill was indeed a neater specimen of legislative workmanship than the Toleration Bill, but was not, like the Toleration Bill, adapted to the wants, the feelings, and the prejudices of the existing generation. Accordingly, while the Toleration Bill found support in all quarters, the Comprehension Bill was attacked from all quarters, and was at last coldly and languidly defended even by those who had introduced it. About the same time at which the Toleration bill became law with the general concurrence of public men, the Comprehension Bill was, with a concurrence not less general, suffered to drop. The Toleration Bill still ranks among those great statutes which are epochs in our constitutional history. The Comprehension Bill is forgotten. No collector of antiquities has thought it worth preserving. A single copy, the same which Nottingham presented to the peers, is still among our parliamentary records, but has been seen by only two or three persons now living. It is a fortunate circumstance that, in this copy, almost the whole history of the Bill can be read. In spite of cancellations and interlineations, the original words can easily be distinguished from those which were inserted in the committee or on the report. [86]

The first clause, as it stood when the bill was introduced, dispensed all the ministers of the Established Church from the necessity of subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles. For the Articles was substituted a Declaration which ran thus; "I do approve of the doctrine and worship and government of the Church of England by law established, as containing all things necessary to salvation; and I promise, in the exercise of my ministry, to preach and practice according thereunto." Another clause granted similar indulgence to the members of the two universities.

Then it was provided that any minister who had been ordained after the Presbyterian fashion might, without reordination, acquire all the privileges of a priest of the Established Church. He must, however, be admitted to his new functions by the imposition of the hands of a bishop, who was to pronounce the following form of words; "Take thou authority to preach the word of God, and administer the sacraments, and to perform all other ministerial offices in the Church of England." The person thus admitted was to be capable of holding any rectory or vicarage in the kingdom.

Then followed clauses providing that a clergyman might, except in a few churches of peculiar dignity, wear the surplice or not as he thought fit, that the sign of the cross might be omitted in baptism, that children might be christened, if such were the wish of their parents, without godfathers or godmothers, and that persons who had a scruple about receiving the Eucharist kneeling might receive it sitting.

The concluding clause was drawn in the form of a petition. It was proposed that the two Houses should request the King and Queen to issue a commission empowering thirty divines of the Established Church to revise the liturgy, the canons, and the constitution of the ecclesiastical courts, and to recommend such alterations as might on inquiry appear to be desirable.

The bill went smoothly through the first stages. Compton, who, since Sancroft had shut himself up at Lambeth, was virtually Primate, supported Nottingham with ardour. [87] In the committee, however, it appeared that there was a strong body of churchmen, who were determined not to give up a single word or form; to whom it seemed that the prayers were no prayers without the surplice, the babe no Christian if not marked with the cross, the bread and wine no memorials of redemption or vehicles of grace if not received on bended knee. Why, these persons asked, was the docile and affectionate son of the Church to be disgusted by seeing the irreverent practices of a conventicle introduced into her majestic choirs? Why should his feelings, his prejudices, if prejudices they were, be less considered than the whims of schismatics? If, as Burnet and men like Burnet were never weary of repeating, indulgence was due to a weak brother, was it less due to the brother whose weakness consisted in the excess of his love for an ancient, a decent, a beautiful ritual, associated in his imagination from childhood with all that is most sublime and endearing, than to him whose morose and litigious mind was always devising frivolous objections to innocent and salutary usages? But, in truth, the scrupulosity of the Puritan was not that sort of scrupulosity which the Apostle had commanded believers to respect. It sprang, not from morbid tenderness of conscience, but from censoriousness and spiritual pride; and none who had studied the New Testament could have failed to observe that, while we are charged carefully to avoid whatever may give scandal to the feeble, we are taught by divine precept and example to make no concession to the supercilious and uncharitable Pharisee. Was every thing which was not of the essence of religion to be given up as soon as it became unpleasing to a knot of zealots whose heads had been turned by conceit and the love of novelty? Painted glass, music, holidays, fast days, were not of the essence of religion. Were the windows of King's College Chapel to be broken at the demand of one set of fanatics? Was the organ of Exeter to be silenced to please another? Were all the village bells to be mute because Tribulation Wholesome and Deacon Ananias thought them profane? Was Christmas no longer to be a day of rejoicing? Was Passion week no longer to be a season of humiliation? These changes, it is true, were not yet proposed. Put if,—so the High Churchmen reasoned,—we once admit that what is harmless and edifying is to be given up because it offends some narrow understandings and some gloomy tempers, where are we to stop? And is it not probable that, by thus attempting to heal one schism, we may cause another? All those things which the Puritans regard as the blemishes of the Church are by a large part of the population reckoned among her attractions. May she not, in ceasing to give scandal to a few sour precisians, cease also to influence the hearts of many who now delight in her ordinances? Is it not to be apprehended that, for every proselyte whom she allures from the meeting house, ten of her old disciples may turn away from her maimed rites and dismantled temples, and that these new separatists may either form themselves into a sect far more formidable than the sect which we are now seeking to conciliate, or may, in the violence of their disgust at a cold and ignoble worship, be tempted to join in the solemn and gorgeous idolatry of Rome?

It is remarkable that those who held this language were by no means disposed to contend for the doctrinal Articles of the Church. The truth is that, from the time of James the First, that great party which has been peculiarly zealous for the Anglican polity and the Anglican ritual has always leaned strongly towards Arminianism, and has therefore never been much attached to a confession of faith framed by reformers who, on questions of metaphysical divinity, generally agreed with Calvin. One of the characteristic marks of that party is the disposition which it has always shown to appeal, on points of dogmatic theology, rather to the Liturgy, which was derived from Rome, than to the Articles and Homilies, which were derived from Geneva. The Calvinistic members of the Church, on the other hand, have always maintained that her deliberate judgment on such points is much more likely to be found in an Article or a Homily than in an ejaculation of penitence or a hymn of thanksgiving. It does not appear that, in the debates on the Comprehension Bill, a single High Churchman raised his voice against the clause which relieved the clergy from the necessity of subscribing the Articles, and of declaring the doctrine contained in the Homilies to be sound. Nay, the Declaration which, in the original draught, was substituted for the Articles, was much softened down on the report. As the clause finally stood, the ministers of the Church were required to declare, not that they approved of her constitution, but merely that they submitted to it. Had the bill become law, the only people in the kingdom who would have been under the necessity of signing the Articles would have been the dissenting preachers. [88]

The easy manner in which the zealous friends of the Church gave up her confession of faith presents a striking contrast to the spirit with which they struggled for her polity and her ritual. The clause which admitted Presbyterian ministers to hold benefices without episcopal ordination was rejected. The clause which permitted scrupulous persons to communicate sitting very narrowly escaped the same fate. In the Committee it was struck out, and, on the report, was with great difficulty restored. The majority of peers in the House was against the proposed indulgence, and the scale was but just turned by the proxies.

But by this time it began to appear that the bill which the High Churchmen were so keenly assailing was menaced by dangers from a very different quarter. The same considerations which had induced Nottingham to support a comprehension made comprehension an object of dread and aversion to a large body of dissenters. The truth is that the time for such a scheme had gone by. If, a hundred years earlier, when the division in the Protestant body was recent, Elizabeth had been so wise as to abstain from requiring the observance of a few forms which a large part of her subjects considered as Popish, she might perhaps have averted those fearful calamities which, forty years after her death, afflicted the Church. But the general tendency of schism is to widen. Had Leo the Tenth, when the exactions and impostures of the Pardoners first roused the indignation of Saxony, corrected those evil practices with a vigorous hand, it is not improbable that Luther would have died in the bosom of the Church of Rome. But the opportunity was suffered to escape; and, when, a few years later, the Vatican would gladly have purchased peace by yielding the original subject of quarrel, the original subject of quarrel was almost forgotten. The inquiring spirit which had been roused by a single abuse had discovered or imagined a thousand: controversies engendered controversies: every attempt that was made to accommodate one dispute ended by producing another; and at length a General Council, which, during the earlier stages of the distemper, had been supposed to be an infallible remedy, made the case utterly hopeless. In this respect, as in many others, the history of Puritanism in England bears a close analogy to the history of Protestantism in Europe. The Parliament of 1689 could no more put an end to nonconformity by tolerating a garb or a posture than the Doctors of Trent could have reconciled the Teutonic nations to the Papacy by regulating the sale of indulgences. In the sixteenth century Quakerism was unknown; and there was not in the whole realm a single congregation of Independents or Baptists. At the time of the Revolution, the Independents, Baptists, and Quakers were a majority of the dissenting body; and these sects could not be gained over on any terms which the lowest of Low Churchmen would have been willing to offer. The Independent held that a national Church, governed by any central authority whatever, Pope, Patriarch, King, Bishop, or Synod, was an unscriptural institution, and that every congregation of believers was, under Christ, a sovereign society. The Baptist was even more irreclaimable than the Independent, and the Quaker even more irreclaimable than the Baptist. Concessions, therefore, which would once have extinguished nonconformity would not now satisfy even one half of the nonconformists; and it was the obvious interest of every nonconformist whom no concession would satisfy that none of his brethren should be satisfied. The more liberal the terms of comprehension, the greater was the alarm of every separatist who knew that he could, in no case, be comprehended. There was but slender hope that the dissenters, unbroken and acting as one man, would be able to obtain from the legislature full admission to civil privileges; and all hope of obtaining such admission must be relinquished if Nottingham should, by the help of some wellmeaning but shortsighted friends of religious liberty, be enabled to accomplish his design. If his bill passed, there would doubtless be a considerable defection from the dissenting body; and every defection must be severely felt by a class already outnumbered, depressed, and struggling against powerful enemies. Every proselyte too must be reckoned twice over, as a loss to the party which was even now too weak, and as a gain to the party which was even now too strong. The Church was but too well able to hold her own against all the sects in the kingdom; and, if those sects were to be thinned by a large desertion, and the Church strengthened by a large reinforcement, it was plain that all chance of obtaining any relaxation of the Test Act would be at an end; and it was but too probable that the Toleration Act might not long remain unrepealed.

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