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

Even those Presbyterian ministers whose scruples the Comprehension Bill was expressly intended to remove were by no means unanimous in wishing it to pass. The ablest and most eloquent preachers among them had, since the Declaration of Indulgence had appeared, been very agreeably settled in the capital and in other large towns, and were now about to enjoy, under the sure guarantee of an Act of Parliament, that toleration which, under the Declaration of Indulgence, had been illicit and precarious. The situation of these men was such as the great majority of the divines of the Established Church might well envy. Few indeed of the parochial clergy were so abundantly supplied with comforts as the favourite orator of a great assembly of nonconformists in the City. The voluntary contributions of his wealthy hearers, Aldermen and Deputies, West India merchants and Turkey merchants, Wardens of the Company of Fishmongers and Wardens of the Company of Goldsmiths, enabled him to become a landowner or a mortgagee. The best broadcloth from Blackwell Hall, and the best poultry from Leadenhall Market, were frequently left at his door. His influence over his flock was immense. Scarcely any member of a congregation of separatists entered into a partnership, married a daughter, put a son out as apprentice, or gave his vote at an election, without consulting his spiritual guide. On all political and literary questions the minister was the oracle of his own circle. It was popularly remarked, during many years, that an eminent dissenting minister had only to make his son an attorney or a physician; that the attorney was sure to have clients, and the physician to have patients. While a waiting woman was generally considered as a help meet for a chaplain in holy orders of the Established Church, the widows and daughters of opulent citizens were supposed to belong in a peculiar manner to nonconformist pastors. One of the great Presbyterian Rabbies, therefore, might well doubt whether, in a worldly view, he should be benefited by a comprehension. He might indeed hold a rectory or a vicarage, when he could get one. But in the meantime he would be destitute: his meeting house would be closed: his congregation would be dispersed among the parish churches: if a benefice were bestowed on him, it would probably be a very slender compensation for the income which he had lost. Nor could he hope to have, as a minister of the Anglican Church, the authority and dignity which he had hitherto enjoyed. He would always, by a large portion of the members of that Church, be regarded as a deserter. He might therefore, on the whole, very naturally wish to be left where he was. [89]

There was consequently a division in the Whig party. One section of that party was for relieving the dissenters from the Test Act, and giving up the Comprehension Bill. Another section was for pushing forward the Comprehension Bill, and postponing to a more convenient time the consideration of the Test Act. The effect of this division among the friends of religious liberty was that the High Churchmen, though a minority in the House of Commons, and not a majority in the House of Lords, were able to oppose with success both the reforms which they dreaded. The Comprehension Bill was not passed; and the Test Act was not repealed.

Just at the moment when the question of the Test and the question of the Comprehension became complicated together in a manner which might well perplex an enlightened and honest politician, both questions became complicated with a third question of grave importance.

The ancient oaths of allegiance and supremacy contained some expressions which had always been disliked by the Whigs, and other expressions which Tories, honestly attached to the new settlement, thought inapplicable to princes who had not the hereditary right. The Convention had therefore, while the throne was still vacant, framed those oaths of allegiance and supremacy by which we still testify our loyalty to our Sovereign. By the Act which turned the Convention into a Parliament, the members of both Houses were required to take the new oaths. As to other persons in public trust, it was hard to say how the law stood. One form of words was enjoined by statutes, regularly passed, and not yet regularly abrogated. A different form was enjoined by the Declaration of Right, an instrument which was indeed revolutionary and irregular, but which might well be thought equal in authority to any statute. The practice was in as much confusion as the law. It was therefore felt to be necessary that the legislature should, without delay, pass an Act abolishing the old oaths, and determining when and by whom the new oaths should be taken.

The bill which settled this important question originated in the Upper House. As to most of the provisions there was little room for dispute. It was unanimously agreed that no person should, at any future time, be admitted to any office, civil, military, ecclesiastical, or academical, without taking the oaths to William and Mary. It was also unanimously agreed that every person who already held any civil or military office should be ejected from it, unless he took the oaths on or before the first of August 1689. But the strongest passions of both parties were excited by the question whether persons who already possessed ecclesiastical or academical offices should be required to swear fealty to the King and Queen on pain of deprivation. None could say what might be the effect of a law enjoining all the members of a great, a powerful, a sacred profession to make, under the most solemn sanction of religion, a declaration which might be plausibly represented as a formal recantation of all that they had been writing and preaching during many years. The Primate and some of the most eminent Bishops had already absented themselves from Parliament, and would doubtless relinquish their palaces and revenues, rather than acknowledge the new Sovereigns. The example of these great prelates might perhaps be followed by a multitude of divines of humbler rank, by hundreds of canons, prebendaries, and fellows of colleges, by thousands of parish priests. To such an event no Tory, however clear his own conviction that he might lawfully swear allegiance to the King who was in possession, could look forward without the most painful emotions of compassion for the sufferers and of anxiety for the Church.

There were some persons who went so far as to deny that the Parliament was competent to pass a law requiring a Bishop to swear on pain of deprivation. No earthly power, they said, could break the tie which bound the successor of the apostles to his diocese. What God had joined no man could sunder. Dings and senates might scrawl words on parchment or impress figures on wax; but those words and figures could no more change the course of the spiritual than the course of the physical world. As the Author of the universe had appointed a certain order, according to which it was His pleasure to send winter and summer, seedtime and harvest, so He had appointed a certain order, according to which He communicated His grace to His Catholic Church; and the latter order was, like the former, independent of the powers and principalities of the world. A legislature might alter the flames of the months, might call June December, and December June; but, in spite of the legislature, the snow would fall when the sun was in Capricorn, and the flowers would bloom when he was in Cancer. And so the legislature might enact that Ferguson or Muggleton should live in the palace at Lambeth, should sit on the throne of Augustin, should be called Your Grace, and should walk in processions before the Premier Duke; but, in spite of the legislature, Sancroft would, while Sancroft lived, be the only true Archbishop of Canterbury; and the person who should presume to usurp the archiepiscopal functions would be a schismatic. This doctrine was proved by reasons drawn from the budding of Aaron's rod, and from a certain plate which Saint James the Less, according to a legend of the fourth century, used to wear on his forehead. A Greek manuscript, relating to the deprivation of bishops, was discovered, about this time, in the Bodleian Library, and became the subject of a furious controversy. One party held that God had wonderfully brought this precious volume to light, for the guidance of His Church at a most critical moment. The other party wondered that any importance could be attached to the nonsense of a nameless scribbler of the thirteenth century. Much was written about the deprivations of Chrysostom and Photius, of Nicolaus Mysticus and Cosmas Atticus. But the case of Abiathar, whom Solomon put out of the sacerdotal office for treason, was discussed with peculiar eagerness. No small quantity of learning and ingenuity was expended in the attempt to prove that Abiathar, though he wore the ephod and answered by Urim, was not really High Priest, that he ministered only when his superior Zadoc was incapacitated by sickness or by some ceremonial pollution, and that therefore the act of Solomon was not a precedent which would warrant King William in deposing a real Bishop. [90]

But such reasoning as this, though backed by copious citations from the Misna and Maimonides, was not generally satisfactory even to zealous churchmen. For it admitted of one answer, short, but perfectly intelligible to a plain man who knew nothing about Greek fathers or Levitical genealogies. There might be some doubt whether King Solomon had ejected a high priest; but there could be no doubt at all that Queen Elizabeth had ejected the Bishops of more than half the sees in England. It was notorious that fourteen prelates had, without any proceeding in any spiritual court, been deprived by Act of Parliament for refusing to acknowledge her supremacy. Had that deprivation been null? Had Bonner continued to be, to the end of his life, the only true Bishop of London? Had his successor been an usurper? Had Parker and Jewel been schismatics? Had the Convocation of 1562, that Convocation which had finally settled the doctrine of the Church of England, been itself out of the pale of the Church of Christ? Nothing could be more ludicrous than the distress of those controversialists who had to invent a plea for Elizabeth which should not be also a plea for William. Some zealots, indeed, gave up the vain attempt to distingush between two cases which every man of common sense perceived to be undistinguishable, and frankly owned that the deprivations of 1559 could not be justified. But no person, it was said, ought to be troubled in mind on that account; for, though the Church of England might once have been schismatical, she had become Catholic when the Bishops deprived by Elizabeth had ceased to live. [91] The Tories, however, were not generally disposed to admit that the religious society to which they were fondly attached had originated in an unlawful breach of unity. They therefore took ground lower and more tenable. They argued the question as a question of humanity and of expediency. They spoke much of the debt of gratitude which the nation owed to the priesthood; of the courage and fidelity with which the order, from the primate down to the youngest deacon, had recently defended the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the realm; of the memorable Sunday when, in all the hundred churches of the capital, scarcely one slave could be found to read the Declaration of Indulgence; of the Black Friday when, amidst the blessings and the loud weeping of a mighty population, the barge of the seven prelates passed through the watergate of the Tower. The firmness with which the clergy had lately, in defiance of menace and of seduction, done what they conscientiously believed to be right, had saved the liberty and religion of England. Was no indulgence to be granted to them if they now refused to do what they conscientiously apprehended to be wrong? And where, it was said, is the danger of treating them with tenderness? Nobody is so absurd as to propose that they shall be permitted to plot against the Government, or to stir up the multitude to insurrection. They are amenable to the law, like other men. If they are guilty of treason, let them be hanged. If they are guilty of sedition, let them be fined and imprisoned. If they omit, in their public ministrations, to pray for King William, for Queen Mary, and for the Parliament assembled under those most religious sovereigns, let the penal clauses of the Act of Uniformity be put in force. If this be not enough, let his Majesty be empowered to tender the oaths to any clergyman; and, if the oaths so tendered are refused, let deprivation follow. In this way any nonjuring bishop or rector who may be suspected, though he cannot be legally convicted, of intriguing, of writing, of talking, against the present settlement, may be at once removed from his office. But why insist on ejecting a pious and laborious minister of religion, who never lifts a finger or utters a word against the government, and who, as often as he performs morning and evening service, prays from his heart for a blessing on the rulers set over him by Providence, but who will not take an oath which seems to him to imply a right in the people to depose a sovereign? Surely we do all that is necessary if we leave men of this sort to the mercy of the very prince to whom they refuse to swear fidelity. If he is willing to bear with their scrupulosity, if he considers them, notwithstanding their prejudices, as innocent and useful members of society, who else can be entitled to complain?

The Whigs were vehement on the other side. They scrutinised, with ingenuity sharpened by hatred, the claims of the clergy to the public gratitude, and sometimes went so far as altogether to deny that the order had in the preceding year deserved well of the nation. It was true that bishops and priests had stood up against the tyranny of the late King: but it was equally true that, but for the obstinacy with which they had opposed the Exclusion Bill, he never would have been King, and that, but for their adulation and their doctrine of passive obedience, he would never have ventured to be guilty of such tyranny. Their chief business, during a quarter of a century, had been to teach the people to cringe and the prince to domineer. They were guilty of the blood of Russell, of Sidney, of every brave and honest Englishman who had been put to death for attempting to save the realm from Popery and despotism. Never had they breathed a whisper against arbitrary power till arbitrary power began to menace their own property and dignity. Then, no doubt, forgetting all their old commonplaces about submitting to Nero, they had made haste to save themselves. Grant,—such was the cry of these eager disputants,—grant that, in saving themselves, they saved the constitution. Are we therefore to forget that they had previously endangered it? And are we to reward them by now permitting them to destroy it? Here is a class of men closely connected with the state. A large part of the produce of the soil has been assigned to them for their maintenance. Their chiefs have seats in the legislature, wide domains, stately palaces. By this privileged body the great mass of the population is lectured every week from the chair of authority. To this privileged body has been committed the supreme direction of liberal education. Oxford and Cambridge, Westminster, Winchester, and Eton, are under priestly government. By the priesthood will to a great extent be formed the character of the nobility and gentry of the next generation. Of the higher clergy some have in their gift numerous and valuable benefices; others have the privilege of appointing judges who decide grave questions affecting the liberty, the property, the reputation of their Majesties' subjects. And is an order thus favoured by the state to give no guarantee to the state? On what principle can it be contended that it is unnecessary to ask from an Archbishop of Canterbury or from a Bishop of Durham that promise of fidelity to the government which all allow that it is necessary to demand from every layman who serves the Crown in the humblest office. Every exciseman, every collector of the customs, who refuses to swear, is to be deprived of his bread. For these humble martyrs of passive obedience and hereditary right nobody has a word to say. Yet an ecclesiastical magnate who refuses to swear is to be suffered to retain emoluments, patronage, power, equal to those of a great minister of state. It is said that it is superfluous to impose the oaths on a clergyman, because he may be punished if he breaks the laws. Why is not the same argument urged in favour of the layman? And why, if the clergyman really means to observe the laws, does he scruple to take the oaths? The law commands him to designate William and Mary as King and Queen, to do this in the most sacred place, to do this in the administration of the most solemn of all the rites of religion. The law commands him to pray that the illustrious pair may be defended by a special providence, that they may be victorious over every enemy, and that their Parliament may by divine guidance be led to take such a course as may promote their safety, honour, and welfare. Can we believe that his conscience will suffer him to do all this, and yet will not suffer him to promise that he will be a faithful subject to them?

To the proposition that the nonjuring clergy should be left to the mercy of the King, the Whigs, with some justice, replied that no scheme could be devised more unjust to his Majesty. The matter, they said, is one of public concern, one in which every Englishman who is unwilling to be the slave of France and of Rome has a deep interest. In such a case it would be unworthy of the Estates of the Realm to shrink from the responsibility of providing for the common safety, to try to obtain for themselves the praise of tenderness and liberality, and to leave to the Sovereign the odious task of proscription. A law requiring all public functionaries, civil, military, ecclesiastical, without distinction of persons, to take the oaths is at least equal. It excludes all suspicion of partiality, of personal malignity, of secret shying and talebearing. But, if an arbitrary discretion is left to the Government, if one nonjuring priest is suffered to keep a lucrative benefice while another is turned with his wife and children into the street, every ejection will be considered as an act of cruelty, and will be imputed as a crime to the sovereign and his ministers. [92]

Thus the Parliament had to decide, at the same moment, what quantity of relief should be granted to the consciences of dissenters, and what quantity of pressure should be applied to the consciences of the clergy of the Established Church. The King conceived a hope that it might be in his power to effect a compromise agreeable to all parties. He flattered himself that the Tories might be induced to make some concession to the dissenters, on condition that the Whigs would be lenient to the Jacobites. He determined to try what his personal intervention would effect. It chanced that, a few hours after the Lords had read the Comprehension Bill a second time and the Bill touching the Oaths a first time, he had occasion to go down to Parliament for the purpose of giving his assent to a law. From the throne he addressed both Houses, and expressed an earnest wish that they would consent to modify the existing laws in such a manner that all Protestants might be admitted to public employment. [93] It was well understood that he was willing, if the legislature would comply with his request, to let clergymen who were already beneficed continue to hold their benefices without swearing allegiance to him. His conduct on this occasion deserves undoubtedly the praise of disinterestedness. It is honourable to him that he attempted to purchase liberty of conscience for his subjects by giving up a safeguard of his own crown. But it must be acknowledged that he showed less wisdom than virtue. The only Englishman in his Privy Council whom he had consulted, if Burnet was correctly informed, was Richard Hampden; [94] and Richard Hampden, though a highly respectable man, was so far from being able to answer for the Whig party that he could not answer even for his own son John, whose temper, naturally vindictive, had been exasperated into ferocity by the stings of remorse and shame. The King soon found that there was in the hatred of the two great factions an energy which was wanting to their love. The Whigs, though they were almost unanimous in thinking that the Sacramental Test ought to be abolished, were by no means unanimous in thinking that moment well chosen for the abolition; and even those Whigs who were most desirous to see the nonconformists relieved without delay from civil disabilities were fully determined not to forego the opportunity of humbling and punishing the class to whose instrumentality chiefly was to be ascribed that tremendous reflux of public feeling which had followed the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament. To put the Janes, the Souths, the Sherlocks into such a situation that they must either starve, or recant, publicly, and with the Gospel at their lips, all the ostentatious professions of many years, was a revenge too delicious to be relinquished. The Tory, on the other hand, sincerely respected and pitied those clergymen who felt scruples about the oaths. But the Test was, in his view, essential to the safety of the established religion, and must not be surrendered for the purpose of saving any man however eminent from any hardship however serious. It would be a sad day doubtless for the Church when the episcopal bench, the chapter houses of cathedrals, the halls of colleges, would miss some men renowned for piety and learning. But it would be a still sadder day for the Church when an Independent should bear the white staff or a Baptist sit on the woolsack. Each party tried to serve those for whom it was interested: but neither party would consent to grant favourable terms to its enemies. The result was that the nonconformists remained excluded from office in the State, and the nonjurors were ejected from office in the Church.

In the House of Commons, no member thought it expedient to propose the repeal of the Test Act. But leave was given to bring in a bill repealing the Corporation Act, which had been passed by the Cavalier Parliament soon after the Restoration, and which contained a clause requiring all municipal magistrates to receive the sacrament according to the forms of the Church of England. When this bill was about to be committed, it was moved by the Tories that the committee should be instructed to make no alteration in the law touching the sacrament. Those Whigs who were zealous for the Comprehension must have been placed by this motion in an embarrassing position. To vote for the instruction would have been inconsistent with their principles. To vote against it would have been to break with Nottingham. A middle course was found. The adjournment of the debate was moved and carried by a hundred and sixteen votes to a hundred and fourteen; and the subject was not revived. [95] In the House of Lords a motion was made for the abolition of the sacramental test, but was rejected by a large majority. Many of those who thought the motion right in principle thought it ill timed. A protest was entered; but it was signed only by a few peers of no great authority. It is a remarkable fact that two great chiefs of the Whig party, who were in general very attentive to their parliamentary duty, Devonshire and Shrewsbury, absented themselves on this occasion. [96]

The debate on the Test in the Upper House was speedily followed by a debate on the last clause of the Comprehension Bill. By that clause it was provided that thirty Bishops and priests should be commissioned to revise the liturgy and canons, and to suggest amendments. On this subject the Whig peers were almost all of one mind. They mustered strong, and spoke warmly. Why, they asked, were none but members of the sacerdotal order to be intrusted with this duty? Were the laity no part of the Church of England? When the Commission should have made its report, laymen would have to decide on the recommendations contained in that report. Not a line of the Book of Common Prayer could be altered but by the authority of King, Lords, and Commons. The King was a layman. Five sixths of the Lords were laymen. All the members of the House of Commons were laymen. Was it not absurd to say that laymen were incompetent to examine into a matter which it was acknowledged that laymen must in the last resort determine? And could any thing be more opposite to the whole spirit of Protestantism than the notion that a certain preternatural power of judging in spiritual cases was vouchsafed to a particular caste, and to that caste alone; that such men as Selden, as Hale, as Boyle, were less competent to give an opinion on a collect or a creed than the youngest and silliest chaplain who, in a remote manor house, passed his life in drinking ale and playing at shovelboard? What God had instituted no earthly power, lay or clerical, could alter: and of things instituted by human beings a layman was surely as competent as a clergyman to judge. That the Anglican liturgy and canons were of purely human institution the Parliament acknowledged by referring them to a Commission for revision and correction. How could it then be maintained that in such a Commission the laity, so vast a majority of the population, the laity, whose edification was the main end of all ecclesiastical regulations, and whose innocent tastes ought to be carefully consulted in the framing of the public services of religion, ought not to have a single representative? Precedent was directly opposed to this odious distinction. Repeatedly since the light of reformation had dawned on England Commissioners had been empowered by law to revise the canons; and on every one of those occasions some of the Commissioners had been laymen. In the present case the proposed arrangement was peculiarly objectionable. For the object of issuing the commission was the conciliating of dissenters; and it was therefore most desirable that the Commissioners should be men in whose fairness and moderation dissenters could confide. Would thirty such men be easily found in the higher ranks of the clerical profession? The duty of the legislature was to arbitrate between two contending parties, the Nonconformist divines and the Anglican divines, and it would be the grossest injustice to commit to one of those parties the office of umpire.

On these grounds the Whigs proposed an amendment to the effect that laymen should be joined with clergymen in the Commission. The contest was sharp. Burnet, who had just taken his seat among the peers, and who seems to have been bent on winning at almost any price the good will of his brethren, argued with all his constitutional warmth for the clause as it stood. The numbers on the division proved to be exactly equal. The consequence was that, according to the rules of the House, the amendment was lost. [97]

At length the Comprehension Bill was sent down to the Commons. There it would easily have been carried by two to one, if it had been supported by all the friends of religious liberty. But on this subject the High Churchmen could count on the support of a large body of Low Churchmen. Those members who wished well to Nottingham's plan saw that they were outnumbered, and, despairing of a victory, began to meditate a retreat. Just at this time a suggestion was thrown out which united all suffrages. The ancient usage was that a Convocation should be summoned together with a Parliament; and it might well be argued that, if ever the advice of a Convocation could be needed, it must be when changes in the ritual and discipline of the Church were under consideration. But, in consequence of the irregular manner in which the Estates of the Realm had been brought together during the vacancy of the throne, there was no Convocation. It was proposed that the House should advise the King to take measures for supplying this defect, and that the fate of the Comprehension Bill should not be decided till the clergy had had an opportunity of declaring their opinion through the ancient and legitimate organ.

This proposition was received with general acclamation. The Tories were well pleased to see such honour done to the priesthood. Those Whigs who were against the Comprehension Bill were well pleased to see it laid aside, certainly for a year, probably for ever. Those Whigs who were for the Comprehension Bill were well pleased to escape without a defeat. Many of them indeed were not without hopes that mild and liberal counsels might prevail in the ecclesiastical senate. An address requesting William to summon the Convocation was voted without a division: the concurrence of the Lords was asked: the Lords concurred, the address was carried up to the throne by both Houses: the King promised that he would, at a convenient season, do what his Parliament desired; and Nottingham's Bill was not again mentioned.

Many writers, imperfectly acquainted with the history of that age, have inferred from these proceedings that the House of Commons was an assembly of High Churchmen: but nothing is more certain than that two thirds of the members were either Low Churchmen or not Churchmen at all. A very few days before this time an occurrence had taken place, unimportant in itself, but highly significant as an indication of the temper of the majority. It had been suggested that the House ought, in conformity with ancient usage, to adjourn over the Easter holidays. The Puritans and Latitudinarians objected: there was a sharp debate: the High Churchmen did not venture to divide; and, to the great scandal of many grave persons, the Speaker took the chair at nine o'clock on Easter Monday; and there was a long and busy sitting. [98]

This however was by no means the strongest proof which the Commons gave that they were far indeed from feeling extreme reverence or tenderness for the Anglican hierarchy. The bill for settling the oaths had just come down from the Lords framed in a manner favourable to the clergy. All lay functionaries were required to swear fealty to the King and Queen on pain of expulsion from office. But it was provided that every divine who already held a benefice might continue to hold it without swearing, unless the Government should see reason to call on him specially for an assurance of his loyalty. Burnett had, partly, no doubt, from the goodnature and generosity which belonged to his character, and partly from a desire to conciliate his brethren, supported this arrangement in the Upper House with great energy. But in the Lower House the feeling against the Jacobite priests was irresistibly strong. On the very day on which that House voted, without a division, the address requesting the King to summon the Convocation, a clause was proposed and carried which required every person who held any ecclesiastical or academical preferment to take the oaths by the first of August 1689, on pain of suspension. Six months, to be reckoned from that day, were allowed to the nonjuror for reconsideration. If, on the first of February 1690, he still continued obstinate, he was to be finally deprived.

The bill, thus amended, was sent back to the Lords. The Lords adhered to their original resolution. Conference after conference was held. Compromise after compromise was suggested. From the imperfect reports which have come down to us it appears that every argument in favour of lenity was forcibly urged by Burnet. But the Commons were firm: time pressed: the unsettled state of the law caused inconvenience in every department of the public service; and the peers very reluctantly gave way. They at the same time added a clause empowering the King to bestow pecuniary allowances out of the forfeited benefices on a few nonjuring clergymen. The number of clergymen thus favoured was not to exceed twelve. The allowance was not to exceed one third of the income forfeited. Some zealous Whigs were unwilling to grant even this indulgence: but the Commons were content with the victory which they had won, and justly thought that it would be ungracious to refuse so slight a concession. [99]

These debates were interrupted, during a short time, by the festivities and solemnities of the Coronation. When the day fixed for that great ceremony drew near, the House of Commons resolved itself into a committee for the purpose of settling the form of words in which our Sovereigns were thenceforward to enter into covenant with the nation. All parties were agreed as to the propriety of requiring the King to swear that, in temporal matters, he would govern according to law, and would execute justice in mercy. But about the terms of the oath which related to the spiritual institutions of the realm there was much debate. Should the chief magistrate promise simply to maintain the Protestant religion established by law, or should he promise to maintain that religion as it should be hereafter established by law? The majority preferred the former phrase. The latter phrase was preferred by those Whigs who were for a Comprehension. But it was universally admitted that the two phrases really meant the same thing, and that the oath, however it might be worded, would bind the Sovereign in his executive capacity only. This was indeed evident from the very nature of the transaction. Any compact may be annulled by the free consent of the party who alone is entitled to claim the performance. It was never doubted by the most rigid casuist that a debtor, who has bound himself under the most awful imprecations to pay a debt, may lawfully withhold payment if the creditor is willing to cancel the obligation. And it is equally clear that no assurance, exacted from a King by the Estates of his kingdom, can bind him to refuse compliance with what may at a future time be the wish of those Estates.

A bill was drawn up in conformity with the resolutions of the Committee, and was rapidly passed through every stage. After the third reading, a foolish man stood up to propose a rider, declaring that the oath was not meant to restrain the Sovereign from consenting to any change in the ceremonial of the Church, provided always that episcopacy and a written form of prayer were retained. The gross absurdity of this motion was exposed by several eminent members. Such a clause, they justly remarked, would bind the King under pretence of setting him free. The coronation oath, they said, was never intended to trammel him in his legislative capacity. Leave that oath as it is now drawn, and no prince can misunderstand it. No prince can seriously imagine that the two Houses mean to exact from him a promise that he will put a Veto on laws which they may hereafter think necessary to the wellbeing of the country. Or if any prince should so strangely misapprehend the nature of the contract between him and his subjects, any divine, any lawyer, to whose advice he may have recourse, will set his mind at ease. But if this rider should pass, it will be impossible to deny that the coronation oath is meant to prevent the King from giving his assent to bills which may be presented to him by the Lords and Commons; and the most serious inconvenience may follow. These arguments were felt to be unanswerable, and the proviso was rejected without a division, [100]

Every person who has read these debates must be fully convinced that the statesmen who framed the coronation oath did not mean to bind the King in his legislative capacity, [101] Unhappily, more than a hundred years later, a scruple, which those statesmen thought too absurd to be seriously entertained by any human being, found its way into a mind, honest, indeed, and religious, but narrow and obstinate by nature, and at once debilitated and excited by disease. Seldom, indeed, have the ambition and perfidy of tyrants produced evils greater than those which were brought on our country by that fatal conscientiousness. A conjuncture singularly auspicious, a conjuncture at which wisdom and justice might perhaps have reconciled races and sects long hostile, and might have made the British islands one truly United Kingdom, was suffered to pass away. The opportunity, once lost, returned no more. Two generations of public men have since laboured with imperfect success to repair the error which was then committed; nor is it improbable that some of the penalties of that error may continue to afflict a remote posterity.

The Bill by which the oath was settled passed the Upper House without amendment. All the preparations were complete; and, on the eleventh of April, the coronation took place. In some things it differed from ordinary coronations. The representatives of the people attended the ceremony in a body, and were sumptuously feasted in the Exchequer Chamber. Mary, being not merely Queen Consort, but also Queen Regnant, was inaugurated in all things like a King, was girt with the sword, lifted up into the throne, and presented with the Bible, the spurs, and the orb. Of the temporal grandees of the realm, and of their wives and daughters, the muster was great and splendid. None could be surprised that the Whig aristocracy should swell the triumph of Whig principles. But the Jacobites saw, with concern, that many Lords who had voted for a Regency bore a conspicuous part in the ceremonial. The King's crown was carried by Grafton, the Queen's by Somerset. The pointed sword, emblematical of temporal justice, was borne by Pembroke. Ormond was Lord High Constable for the day, and rode up the Hall on the right hand of the hereditary champion, who thrice flung down his glove on the pavement, and thrice defied to mortal combat the false traitor who should gainsay the title of William and Mary. Among the noble damsels who supported the gorgeous train of the Queen was her beautiful and gentle cousin, the Lady Henrietta Hyde, whose father, Rochester, had to the last contended against the resolution which declared the throne vacant, [102] The show of Bishops, indeed, was scanty. The Primate did not make his appearance; and his place was supplied by Compton. On one side of Compton, the paten was carried by Lloyd, Bishop of Saint Asaph, eminent among the seven confessors of the preceding year. On the other side, Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, lately a member of the High Commission, had charge of the chalice. Burnet, the junior prelate, preached with all his wonted ability, and more than his wonted taste and judgment. His grave and eloquent discourse was polluted neither by adulation nor by malignity. He is said to have been greatly applauded; and it may well be believed that the animated peroration in which he implored heaven to bless the royal pair with long life and mutual love, with obedient subjects, wise counsellors, and faithful allies, with gallant fleets and armies, with victory, with peace, and finally with crowns more glorious and more durable than those which then glittered on the altar of the Abbey, drew forth the loudest hums of the Commons, [103]

On the whole the ceremony went off well, and produced something like a revival, faint, indeed, and transient, of the enthusiasm of the preceding December. The day was, in London and in many other places, a day of general rejoicing. The churches were filled in the morning: the afternoon was spent in sport and carousing; and at night bonfires were lighted, rockets discharged, and windows lighted up. The Jacobites however contrived to discover or to invent abundant matter for scurrility and sarcasm. They complained bitterly, that the way from the hall to the western door of the Abbey had been lined by Dutch soldiers. Was it seemly that an English king should enter into the most solemn of engagements with the English nation behind a triple hedge of foreign swords and bayonets? Little affrays, such as, at every great pageant, almost inevitably take place between those who are eager to see the show and those whose business it is to keep the communications clear, were exaggerated with all the artifices of rhetoric. One of the alien mercenaries had backed his horse against an honest citizen who pressed forward to catch a glimpse of the royal canopy. Another had rudely pushed back a woman with the but end of his musket. On such grounds as these the strangers were compared to those Lord Danes whose insolence, in the old time, had provoked the Anglo-saxon population to insurrection and massacre. But there was no more fertile theme for censure than the coronation medal, which really was absurd in design and mean in execution. A chariot appeared conspicuous on the reverse; and plain people were at a loss to understand what this emblem had to do with William and Mary. The disaffected wits solved the difficulty by suggesting that the artist meant to allude to that chariot which a Roman princess, lost to all filial affection, and blindly devoted to the interests of an ambitious husband, drove over the still warm remains of her father, [104]

Honours were, as usual, liberally bestowed at this festive season. Three garters which happened to be at the disposal of the Crown were given to Devonshire, Ormond, and Schomberg. Prince George was created Duke of Cumberland. Several eminent men took new appellations by which they must henceforth be designated. Danby became Marquess of Caermarthen, Churchill Earl of Marlborough, and Bentinck Earl of Portland. Mordaunt was made Earl of Monmouth, not without some murmuring on the part of old Exclusionists, who still remembered with fondness their Protestant Duke, and who had hoped that his attainder would be reversed, and that his title would be borne by his descendants. It was remarked that the name of Halifax did not appear in the list of promotions. None could doubt that he might easily have obtained either a blue riband or a ducal coronet; and, though he was honourably distinguished from most of his contemporaries by his scorn of illicit gain, it was well known that he desired honorary distinctions with a greediness of which he was himself ashamed, and which was unworthy of his fine understanding. The truth is that his ambition was at this time chilled by his fears. To those whom he trusted he hinted his apprehensions that evil times were at hand. The King's life was not worth a year's purchase: the government was disjointed, the clergy and the army disaffected, the parliament torn by factions: civil war was already raging in one part of the empire: foreign war was impending. At such a moment a minister, whether Whig or Tory, might well be uneasy; but neither Whig nor Tory had so much to fear as the Trimmer, who might not improbably find himself the common mark at which both parties would take aim. For these reasons Halifax determined to avoid all ostentation of power and influence, to disarm envy by a studied show of moderation, and to attach to himself by civilities and benefits persons whose gratitude might be useful in the event of a counterrevolution. The next three months, he said, would be the time of trial. If the government got safe through the summer it would probably stand, [105]

Meanwhile questions of external policy were every day becoming more and more important. The work at which William had toiled indefatigably during many gloomy and anxious years was at length accomplished. The great coalition was formed. It was plain that a desperate conflict was at hand. The oppressor of Europe would have to defend himself against England allied with Charles the Second King of Spain, with the Emperor Leopold, and with the Germanic and Batavian federations, and was likely to have no ally except the Sultan, who was waging war against the House of Austria on the Danube.

Lewis had, towards the close of the preceding year, taken his enemies at a disadvantage, and had struck the first blow before they were prepared to parry it. But that blow, though heavy, was not aimed at the part where it might have been mortal. Had hostilities been commenced on the Batavian frontier, William and his army would probably have been detained on the continent, and James might have continued to govern England. Happily, Lewis, under an infatuation which many pious Protestants confidently ascribed to the righteous judgment of God, had neglected the point on which the fate of the whole civilised world depended, and had made a great display of power, promptitude, and energy, in a quarter where the most splendid achievements could produce nothing more than an illumination and a Te Deum. A French army under the command of Marshal Duras had invaded the Palatinate and some of the neighbouring principalities. But this expedition, though it had been completely successful, and though the skill and vigour with which it had been conducted had excited general admiration, could not perceptibly affect the event of the tremendous struggle which was approaching. France would soon be attacked on every side. It would be impossible for Duras long to retain possession of the provinces which he had surprised and overrun. An atrocious thought rose in the mind of Louvois, who, in military affairs, had the chief sway at Versailles. He was a man distinguished by zeal for what he thought the public interests, by capacity, and by knowledge of all that related to the administration of war, but of a savage and obdurate nature. If the cities of the Palatinate could not be retained, they might be destroyed. If the soil of the Palatinate was not to furnish supplies to the French, it might be so wasted that it would at least furnish no supplies to the Germans. The ironhearted statesman submitted his plan, probably with much management and with some disguise, to Lewis; and Lewis, in an evil hour for his fame, assented. Duras received orders to turn one of the fairest regions of Europe into a wilderness. Fifteen years earlier Turenne had ravaged part of that fine country. But the ravages committed by Turenne, though they have left a deep stain on his glory, were mere sport in comparison with the horrors of this second devastation. The French commander announced to near half a million of human beings that he granted them three days of grace, and that, within that time, they must shift for themselves. Soon the roads and fields, which then lay deep in snow, were blackened by innumerable multitudes of men, women, and children flying from their homes. Many died of cold and hunger: but enough survived to fill the streets of all the cities of Europe with lean and squalid beggars, who had once been thriving farmers and shopkeepers. Meanwhile the work of destruction began. The flames went up from every marketplace, every hamlet, every parish church, every country seat, within the devoted provinces. The fields where the corn had been sown were ploughed up. The orchards were hewn down. No promise of a harvest was left on the fertile plains near what had once been Frankenthal. Not a vine, not an almond tree, was to be seen on the slopes of the sunny hills round what had once been Heidelberg. No respect was shown to palaces, to temples, to monasteries, to infirmaries, to beautiful works of art, to monuments of the illustrious dead. The farfamed castle of the Elector Palatine was turned into a heap of ruins. The adjoining hospital was sacked. The provisions, the medicines, the pallets on which the sick lay were destroyed. The very stones of which Mannheim had been built were flung into the Rhine. The magnificent Cathedral of Spires perished, and with it the marble sepulchres of eight Caesars. The coffins were broken open. The ashes were scattered to the winds, [106] Treves, with its fair bridge, its Roman amphitheatre, its venerable churches, convents, and colleges, was doomed to the same fate. But, before this last crime had been perpetrated, Lewis was recalled to a better mind by the execrations of all the neighbouring nations, by the silence and confusion of his flatterers, and by the expostulations of his wife. He had been more than two years secretly married to Frances de Maintenon, the governess of his natural children. It would be hard to name any woman who, with so little romance in her temper, has had so much in her life. Her early years had been passed in poverty and obscurity. Her first husband had supported himself by writing burlesque farces and poems. When she attracted the notice of her sovereign, she could no longer boast of youth or beauty: but she possessed in an extraordinary degree those more lasting charms, which men of sense, whose passions age has tamed, and whose life is a life of business and care, prize most highly in a female companion. Her character was such as has been well compared to that soft green on which the eye, wearied by warm tints and glaring lights, reposes with pleasure. A just understanding; an inexhaustible yet never redundant flow of rational, gentle, and sprightly conversation; a temper of which the serenity was never for a moment ruffled, a tact which surpassed the tact of her sex as much as the tact of her sex surpasses the tact of ours; such were the qualities which made the widow of a buffoon first the confidential friend, and then the spouse, of the proudest and most powerful of European kings. It was said that Lewis had been with difficulty prevented by the arguments and vehement entreaties of Louvois from declaring her Queen of France. It is certain that she regarded Louvois as her enemy. Her hatred of him, cooperating perhaps with better feelings, induced her to plead the cause of the unhappy people of the Rhine. She appealed to those sentiments of compassion which, though weakened by many corrupting influences, were not altogether extinct in her husband's mind, and to those sentiments of religion which had too often impelled him to cruelty, but which, on the present occasion, were on the side of humanity. He relented: and Treves was spared, [107] In truth he could hardly fail to perceive that he had committed a great error. The devastation of the Palatinate, while it had not in any sensible degree lessened the power of his enemies, had inflamed their animosity, and had furnished them with inexhaustible matter for invective. The cry of vengeance rose on every side. Whatever scruple either branch of the House of Austria might have felt about coalescing with Protestants was completely removed. Lewis accused the Emperor and the Catholic King of having betrayed the cause of the Church; of having allied themselves with an usurper who was the avowed champion of the great schism; of having been accessary to the foul wrong done to a lawful sovereign who was guilty of no crime but zeal for the true religion. James sent to Vienna and Madrid piteous letters, in which he recounted his misfortunes, and implored the assistance of his brother kings, his brothers also in the faith, against the unnatural children and the rebellious subjects who had driven him into exile. But there was little difficulty in framing a plausible answer both to the reproaches of Lewis and to the supplications of James. Leopold and Charles declared that they had not, even for purposes of just selfdefence, leagued themselves with heretics, till their enemy had, for purposes of unjust aggression, leagued himself with Mahometans. Nor was this the worst. The French King, not content with assisting the Moslem against the Christians, was himself treating Christians with a barbarity which would have shocked the very Moslem. His infidel allies, to do them justice, had not perpetrated on the Danube such outrages against the edifices and the members of the Holy Catholic Church as he who called himself the eldest son of that Church was perpetrating on the Rhine. On these grounds, the princes to whom James had appealed replied by appealing, with many professions of good will and compassion, to himself. He was surely too just to blame them for thinking that it was their first duty to defend their own people against such outrages as had turned the Palatinate into a desert, or for calling in the aid of Protestants against an enemy who had not scrupled to call in the aid of the Turks, [108]

During the winter and the earlier part of the spring, the powers hostile to France were gathering their strength for a great effort, and were in constant communication with one another. As the season for military operations approached, the solemn appeals of injured nations to the God of battles came forth in rapid succession. The manifesto of the Germanic body appeared in February; that of the States General in March; that of the House of Brandenburg in April; and that of Spain in May, [109]

Here, as soon as the ceremony of the coronation was over, the House of Commons determined to take into consideration the late proceedings of the French king, [110] In the debate, that hatred of the powerful, unscrupulous and imperious Lewis, which had, during twenty years of vassalage, festered in the hearts of Englishmen, broke violently forth. He was called the most Christian Turk, the most Christian ravager of Christendom, the most Christian barbarian who had perpetrated on Christians outrages of which his infidel allies would have been ashamed, [111] A committee, consisting chiefly of ardent Whigs, was appointed to prepare an address. John Hampden, the most ardent Whig among them, was put into the chair; and he produced a composition too long, too rhetorical, and too vituperative to suit the lips of the Speaker or the ears of the King. Invectives against Lewis might perhaps, in the temper in which the House then was, have passed without censure, if they had not been accompanied by severe reflections on the character and administration of Charles the Second, whose memory, in spite of all his faults, was affectionately cherished by the Tories. There were some very intelligible allusions to Charles's dealings with the Court of Versailles, and to the foreign woman whom that Court had sent to lie like a snake in his bosom. The House was with good reason dissatisfied. The address was recommitted, and, having been made more concise, and less declamatory and acrimonious, was approved and presented, [112] William's attention was called to the wrongs which France had done to him and to his kingdom; and he was assured that, whenever he should resort to arms for the redress of those wrongs, he should be heartily supported by his people. He thanked the Commons warmly. Ambition, he said, should never induce him to draw the sword: but he had no choice: France had already attacked England; and it was necessary to exercise the right of selfdefence. A few days later war was proclaimed, [113]

Of the grounds of quarrel alleged by the Commons in their address, and by the King in his manifesto, the most serious was the interference of Lewis in the affairs of Ireland. In that country great events had, during several months, followed one another in rapid succession. Of those events it is now time to relate the history, a history dark with crime and sorrow, yet full of interest and instruction.


State of Ireland at the Time of the Revolution; the Civil Power in the Hands of the Roman Catholics—The Military Power in the Hands of the Roman Catholics—Mutual Enmity between the Englishry and Irishry—Panic among the Englishry—History of the Town of Kenmare—Enniskillen—Londonderry—Closing of the Gates of Londonderry—Mountjoy sent to pacify Ulster—William opens a Negotiation with Tyrconnel—The Temples consulted—Richard Hamilton sent to Ireland on his Parole—Tyrconnel sends Mountjoy and Rice to France—Tyrconnel calls the Irish People to Arms—Devastation of the Country—The Protestants in the South unable to resist—Enniskillen and Londonderry hold out; Richard Hamilton marches into Ulster with an Army—James determines to go to Ireland—Assistance furnished by Lewis to James—Choice of a French Ambassador to accompany James—The Count of Avaux—James lands at Kinsale—James enters Cork—Journey of James from Cork to Dublin—Discontent in England—Factions at Dublin Castle—James determines to go to Ulster—Journey of James to Ulster—The Fall of Londonderry expected—Succours arrive from England—Treachery of Lundy; the Inhabitants of Londonderry resolve to defend themselves—Their Character—Londonderry besieged—The Siege turned into a Blockade—Naval Skirmish in Bantry Bay—A Parliament summoned by James sits at Dublin—A Toleration Act passed; Acts passed for the Confiscation of the Property of Protestants—Issue of base Money—The great Act of Attainder—James prorogues his Parliament; Persecution of the Protestants in Ireland—Effect produced in England by the News from Ireland—Actions of the Enniskilleners—Distress of Londonderry—Expedition under Kirke arrives in Loch Foyle—Cruelty of Rosen—The Famine in Londonderry extreme—Attack on the Boom—The Siege of Londonderry raised—Operations against the Enniskilleners—Battle of Newton Butler—Consternation of the Irish

WILLIAM had assumed, together with the title of King of England, the title of King of Ireland. For all our jurists then regarded Ireland as a mere colony, more important indeed than Massachusetts, Virginia, or Jamaica, but, like Massachusetts, Virginia, and Jamaica, dependent on the mother country, and bound to pay allegiance to the Sovereign whom the mother country had called to the throne, [114]

In fact, however, the Revolution found Ireland emancipated from the dominion of the English colony. As early as the year 1686, James had determined to make that island a place of arms which might overawe Great Britain, and a place of refuge where, if any disaster happened in Great Britain, the members of his Church might find refuge. With this view he had exerted all his power for the purpose of inverting the relation between the conquerors and the aboriginal population. The execution of his design he had intrusted, in spite of the remonstrances of his English counsellors, to the Lord Deputy Tyrconnel. In the autumn of 1688, the process was complete. The highest offices in the state, in the army, and in the Courts of justice, were, with scarcely an exception, filled by Papists. A pettifogger named Alexander Fitton, who had been detected in forgery, who had been fined for misconduct by the House of Lords at Westminster, who had been many years in prison, and who was equally deficient in legal knowledge and in the natural good sense and acuteness by which the want of legal knowledge has sometimes been supplied, was Lord Chancellor. His single merit was that he had apostatized from the Protestant religion; and this merit was thought sufficient to wash out even the stain of his Saxon extraction. He soon proved himself worthy of the confidence of his patrons. On the bench of justice he declared that there was not one heretic in forty thousand who was not a villain. He often, after hearing a cause in which the interests of his Church were concerned, postponed his decision, for the purpose, as he avowed, of consulting his spiritual director, a Spanish priest, well read doubtless in Escobar, [115] Thomas Nugent, a Roman Catholic who had never distinguished himself at the bar except by his brogue and his blunders, was Chief Justice of the King's Bench, [116] Stephen Rice, a Roman Catholic, whose abilities and learning were not disputed even by the enemies of his nation and religion, but whose known hostility to the Act of Settlement excited the most painful apprehensions in the minds of all who held property under that Act, was Chief Baron of the Exchequer, [117] Richard Nagle, an acute and well read lawyer, who had been educated in a Jesuit college, and whose prejudices were such as might have been expected from his education, was Attorney General, [118]

Keating, a highly respectable Protestant, was still Chief Justice of the Common Pleas: but two Roman Catholic judges sate with him. It ought to be added that one of those judges, Daly, was a man of sense, moderation and integrity. The matters however which came before the Court of Common Pleas were not of great moment. Even the King's Bench was at this time almost deserted. The Court of Exchequer overflowed with business; for it was the only court at Dublin from which no writ of error lay to England, and consequently the only court in which the English could be oppressed and pillaged without hope of redress. Rice, it was said, had declared that they should have from him exactly what the law, construed with the utmost strictness, gave them, and nothing more. What, in his opinion, the law, strictly construed, gave them, they could easily infer from a saying which, before he became a judge, was often in his mouth. "I will drive," he used to say, "a coach and six through the Act of Settlement." He now carried his threat daily into execution. The cry of all Protestants was that it mattered not what evidence they produced before him; that, when their titles were to be set aside, the rankest forgeries, the most infamous witnesses, were sure to have his countenance. To his court his countrymen came in multitudes with writs of ejectment and writs of trespass. In his court the government attacked at once the charters of all the cities and boroughs in Ireland; and he easily found pretexts for pronouncing all those charters forfeited. The municipal corporations, about a hundred in number, had been instituted to be the strongholds of the reformed religion and of the English interest, and had consequently been regarded by the Irish Roman Catholics with an aversion which cannot be thought unnatural or unreasonable. Had those bodies been remodelled in a judicious and impartial manner, the irregularity of the proceedings by which so desirable a result had been attained might have been pardoned. But it soon appeared that one exclusive system had been swept away only to make room for another. The boroughs were subjected to the absolute authority of the Crown. Towns in which almost every householder was an English Protestant were placed under the government of Irish Roman Catholics. Many of the new Aldermen had never even seen the places over which they were appointed to bear rule. At the same time the Sheriffs, to whom belonged the execution of writs and the nomination of juries, were selected in almost every instance from the caste which had till very recently been excluded from all public trust. It was affirmed that some of these important functionaries had been burned in the hand for theft. Others had been servants to Protestants; and the Protestants added, with bitter scorn, that it was fortunate for the country when this was the case; for that a menial who had cleaned the plate and rubbed down the horse of an English gentleman might pass for a civilised being, when compared with many of the native aristocracy whose lives had been spent in coshering or marauding. To such Sheriffs no colonist, even if he had been so strangely fortunate as to obtain a judgment, dared to intrust an execution, [119]

Thus the civil power had, in the space of a few months, been transferred from the Saxon to the Celtic population. The transfer of the military power had been not less complete. The army, which, under the command of Ormond, had been the chief safeguard of the English ascendency, had ceased to exist. Whole regiments had been dissolved and reconstructed. Six thousand Protestant veterans, deprived of their bread, were brooding in retirement over their wrongs, or had crossed the sea and joined the standard of William. Their place was supplied by men who had long suffered oppression, and who, finding themselves suddenly transformed from slaves into masters, were impatient to pay back, with accumulated usury, the heavy debt of injuries and insults. The new soldiers, it was said, never passed an Englishman without cursing him and calling him by some foul name. They were the terror of every Protestant innkeeper; for, from the moment when they came under his roof, they ate and drank every thing: they paid for nothing; and by their rude swaggering they scared more respectable guests from his door, [120]

Such was the state of Ireland when the Prince of Orange landed at Torbay. From that time every packet which arrived at Dublin brought tidings, such as could not but increase the mutual fear and loathing of the hostile races. The colonist, who, after long enjoying and abusing power, had now tasted for a moment the bitterness of servitude, the native, who, having drunk to the dregs all the bitterness of servitude, had at length for a moment enjoyed and abused power, were alike sensible that a great crisis, a crisis like that of 1641, was at hand. The majority impatiently expected Phelim O'Neil to revive in Tyrconnel. The minority saw in William a second Over.

On which side the first blow was struck was a question which Williamites and Jacobites afterwards debated with much asperity. But no question could be more idle. History must do to both parties the justice which neither has ever done to the other, and must admit that both had fair pleas and cruel provocations. Both had been placed, by a fate for which neither was answerable, in such a situation that, human nature being what it is, they could not but regard each other with enmity. During three years the government which might have reconciled them had systematically employed its whole power for the purpose of inflaming their enmity to madness. It was now impossible to establish in Ireland a just and beneficent government, a government which should know no distinction of race or of sect, a government which, while strictly respecting the rights guaranteed by law to the new landowners, should alleviate by a judicious liberality the misfortunes of the ancient gentry. Such a government James might have established in the day of his power. But the opportunity had passed away: compromise had become impossible: the two infuriated castes were alike convinced that it was necessary to oppress or to be oppressed, and that there could be no safety but in victory, vengeance, and dominion. They agreed only in spurning out of the way every mediator who sought to reconcile them.

During some weeks there were outrages, insults, evil reports, violent panics, the natural preludes of the terrible conflict which was at hand. A rumour spread over the whole island that, on the ninth of December, there would be a general massacre of the Englishry. Tyrconnel sent for the chief Protestants of Dublin to the Castle, and, with his usual energy of diction, invoked on himself all the vengeance of heaven if the report was not a cursed, a blasted, a confounded lie. It was said that, in his rage at finding his oaths ineffectual, he pulled off his hat and wig, and flung them into the fire, [121] But lying Dick Talbot was so well known that his imprecations and gesticulations only strengthened the apprehension which they were meant to allay. Ever since the recall of Clarendon there had been a large emigration of timid and quiet people from the Irish ports to England. That emigration now went on faster than ever. It was not easy to obtain a passage on board of a well built or commodious vessel. But many persons, made bold by the excess of fear, and choosing rather to trust the winds and waves than the exasperated Irishry, ventured to encounter all the dangers of Saint George's Channel and of the Welsh coast in open boats and in the depth of winter. The English who remained began, in almost every county, to draw close together. Every large country house became a fortress. Every visitor who arrived after nightfall was challenged from a loophole or from a barricaded window; and, if he attempted to enter without pass words and explanations, a blunderbuss was presented to him. On the dreaded night of the ninth of December, there was scarcely one Protestant mansion from the Giant's Causeway to Bantry Bay in which armed men were not watching and lights burning from the early sunset to the late sunrise, [122]

A minute account of what passed in one district at this time has come down to us, and well illustrates the general state of the kingdom. The south-western part of Kerry is now well known as the most beautiful tract in the British isles. The mountains, the glens, the capes stretching far into the Atlantic, the crags on which the eagles build, the rivulets brawling down rocky passes, the lakes overhung by groves in which the wild deer find covert, attract every summer crowds of wanderers sated with the business and the pleasures of great cities. The beauties of that country are indeed too often hidden in the mist and rain which the west wind brings up from a boundless ocean. But, on the rare days when the sun shines out in all his glory, the landscape has a freshness and a warmth of colouring seldom found in our latitude. The myrtle loves the soil. The arbutus thrives better than even on the sunny shore of Calabria, [123] The turf is of livelier hue than elsewhere: the hills glow with a richer purple: the varnish of the holly and ivy is more glossy; and berries of a brighter red peep through foliage of a brighter green. But during the greater part of the seventeenth century, this paradise was as little known to the civilised world as Spitzbergen or Greenland. If ever it was mentioned, it was mentioned as a horrible desert, a chaos of bogs, thickets, and precipices, where the she wolf still littered, and where some half naked savages, who could not speak a word of English, made themselves burrows in the mud, and lived on roots and sour milk, [124]

At length, in the year 1670, the benevolent and enlightened Sir William Petty determined to form an English settlement in this wild district. He possessed a large domain there, which has descended to a posterity worthy of such an ancestor. On the improvement of that domain he expended, it was said, not less than ten thousand pounds. The little town which he founded, named from the bay of Kenmare, stood at the head of that bay, under a mountain ridge, on the summit of which travellers now stop to gaze upon the loveliest of the three lakes of Killarney. Scarcely any village, built by an enterprising band of New Englanders, far from the dwellings of their countrymen, in the midst of the hunting grounds of the Red Indians, was more completely out of the pale of civilisation than Kenmare. Between Petty's settlement and the nearest English habitation the journey by land was of two days through a wild and dangerous country. Yet the place prospered. Forty-two houses were erected. The population amounted to a hundred and eighty. The land round the town was well cultivated. The cattle were numerous. Two small barks were employed in fishing and trading along the coast. The supply of herrings, pilchards, mackerel, and salmon was plentiful, and would have been still more plentiful, had not the beach been, in the finest part of the year, covered by multitudes of seals, which preyed on the fish of the bay. Yet the seal was not an unwelcome visitor: his fur was valuable,; and his oil supplied light through the long nights of winter. An attempt was made with great success to set up iron works. It was not yet the practice to employ coal for the purpose of smelting; and the manufacturers of Kent and Sussex had much difficulty in procuring timber at a reasonable price. The neighbourhood of Kenmare was then richly wooded; and Petty found it a gainful speculation to send ore thither. The lovers of the picturesque still regret the woods of oak and arbutus which were cut down to feed his furnaces. Another scheme had occurred to his active and intelligent mind. Some of the neighbouring islands abounded with variegated marble, red and white, purple and green. Petty well knew at what cost the ancient Romans had decorated their baths and temples with many coloured columns hewn from Laconian and African quarries; and he seems to have indulged the hope that the rocks of his wild domain in Kerry might furnish embellishments to the mansions of Saint James's Square, and to the choir of Saint Paul's Cathedral, [125]

From the first, the settlers had found that they must be prepared to exercise the right of selfdefence to an extent which would have been unnecessary and unjustifiable in a well governed country. The law was altogether without force in the highlands which lie on the south of the vale of Tralee. No officer of justice willingly ventured into those parts. One pursuivant who in 1680 attempted to execute a warrant there was murdered. The people of Kenmare seem however to have been sufficiently secured by their union, their intelligence and their spirit, till the close of the year 1688. Then at length the effects of the policy of Tyrconnel began to be felt ever, in that remote corner of Ireland. In the eyes of the peasantry of Munster the colonists were aliens and heretics. The buildings, the boats, the machines, the granaries, the dairies, the furnaces, were doubtless contemplated by the native race with that mingled envy and contempt with which the ignorant naturally regard the triumphs of knowledge. Nor is it at all improbable that the emigrants had been guilty of those faults from which civilised men who settle among an uncivilised people are rarely free. The power derived from superior intelligence had, we may easily believe, been sometimes displayed with insolence, and sometimes exerted with injustice. Now therefore, when the news spread from altar to altar, and from cabin to cabin, that the strangers were to be driven out, and that their houses and lands were to be given as a booty to the children of the soil, a predatory war commenced. Plunderers, thirty, forty, seventy in a troop, prowled round the town, some with firearms, some with pikes. The barns were robbed. The horses were stolen. In one foray a hundred and forty cattle were swept away and driven off through the ravines of Glengariff. In one night six dwellings were broken open and pillaged. At last the colonists, driven to extremity, resolved to die like men rather than be murdered in their beds. The house built by Petty for his agent was the largest in the place. It stood on a rocky peninsula round which the waves of the bay broke. Here the whole population assembled, seventy-five fighting men, with about a hundred women and children. They had among them sixty firelocks, and as many pikes and swords. Round the agent's house they threw up with great speed a wall of turf fourteen feet in height and twelve in thickness. The space enclosed was about half an acre. Within this rampart all the arms, the ammunition and the provisions of the settlement were collected, and several huts of thin plank were built. When these preparations were completed, the men of Kenmare began to make vigorous reprisals on their Irish neighbours, seized robbers, recovered stolen property, and continued during some weeks to act in all things as an independent commonwealth. The government was carried on by elective officers, to whom every member of the society swore fidelity on the Holy Gospels, [126]

While the people of the small town of Kenmare were thus bestirring themselves, similar preparations for defence were made by larger communities on a larger scale. Great numbers of gentlemen and yeomen quitted the open country, and repaired to those towns which had been founded and incorporated for the purpose of bridling the native population, and which, though recently placed under the government of Roman Catholic magistrates, were still inhabited chiefly by Protestants. A considerable body of armed colonists mustered at Sligo, another at Charleville, a third at Marlow, a fourth still more formidable at Bandon, [127] But the principal strongholds of the Englishry during this evil time were Enniskillen and Londonderry.

Enniskillen, though the capital of the county of Fermanagh, was then merely a village. It was built on an island surrounded by the river which joins the two beautiful sheets of water known by the common name of Lough Erne. The stream and both the lakes were overhung on every side by natural forests. Enniskillen consisted of about eighty dwellings clustering round an ancient castle. The inhabitants were, with scarcely an exception, Protestants, and boasted that their town had been true to the Protestant cause through the terrible rebellion which broke out in 1641. Early in December they received from Dublin an intimation that two companies of Popish infantry were to be immediately quartered on them. The alarm of the little community was great, and the greater because it was known that a preaching friar had been exerting himself to inflame the Irish population of the neighbourhood against the heretics. A daring resolution was taken. Come what might, the troops should not be admitted. Yet the means of defence were slender. Not ten pounds of powder, not twenty firelocks fit for use, could be collected within the walls. Messengers were sent with pressing letters to summon the Protestant gentry of the vicinage to the rescue; and the summons was gallantly obeyed. In a few hours two hundred foot and a hundred and fifty horse had assembled. Tyrconnel's soldiers were already at hand. They brought with them a considerable supply of arms to be distributed among the peasantry. The peasantry greeted the royal standard with delight, and accompanied the march in great numbers. The townsmen and their allies, instead of waiting to be attacked, came boldly forth to encounter the intruders. The officers of James had expected no resistance. They were confounded when they saw confronting them a column of foot, flanked by a large body of mounted gentlemen and yeomen. The crowd of camp followers ran away in terror. The soldiers made a retreat so precipitate that it might be called a flight, and scarcely halted till they were thirty miles off at Cavan, [128]

The Protestants, elated by this easy victory, proceeded to make arrangements for the government and defence of Enniskillen and of the surrounding country. Gustavus Hamilton, a gentleman who had served in the army, but who had recently been deprived of his commission by Tyrconnel, and had since been living on an estate in Fermanagh, was appointed Governor, and took up his residence in the castle. Trusty men were enlisted, and armed with great expedition. As there was a scarcity of swords and pikes, smiths were employed to make weapons by fastening scythes on poles. All the country houses round Lough Erne were turned into garrisons. No Papist was suffered to be at large in the town; and the friar who was accused of exerting his eloquence against the Englishry was thrown into prison, [129]

The other great fastness of Protestantism was a place of more importance. Eighty years before, during the troubles caused by the last struggle of the houses of O'Neil and O'Donnel against the authority of James the First, the ancient city of Derry had been surprised by one of the native chiefs: the inhabitants had been slaughtered, and the houses reduced to ashes. The insurgents were speedily put down and punished: the government resolved to restore the ruined town: the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of London were invited to assist in the work; and King James the First made over to them in their corporate capacity the ground covered by the ruins of the old Derry, and about six thousand English acres in the neighbourhood, [130]

This country, then uncultivated and uninhabited, is now enriched by industry, embellished by taste, and pleasing even to eyes accustomed to the well tilled fields and stately manor houses of England. A new city soon arose which, on account of its connection with the capital of the empire, was called Londonderry. The buildings covered the summit and slope of a hill which overlooked the broad stream of the Foyle, then whitened by vast flocks of wild swans, [131] On the highest ground stood the Cathedral, a church which, though erected when the secret of Gothic architecture was lost, and though ill qualified to sustain a comparison with the awful temples of the middle ages, is not without grace and dignity. Near the Cathedral rose the palace of the Bishop, whose see was one of the most valuable in Ireland. The city was in form nearly an ellipse; and the principal streets formed a cross, the arms of which met in a square called the Diamond. The original houses have been either rebuilt or so much repaired that their ancient character can no longer be traced; but many of them were standing within living memory. They were in general two stories in height; and some of them had stone staircases on the outside. The dwellings were encompassed by a wall of which the whole circumference was little less than a mile. On the bastions were planted culverins and sakers presented by the wealthy guilds of London to the colony. On some of these ancient guns, which have done memorable service to a great cause, the devices of the Fishmongers' Company, of the Vintners' Company, and of the Merchant Tailors' Company are still discernible, [132]

The inhabitants were Protestants of Anglosaxon blood. They were indeed not all of one country or of one church but Englishmen and Scotchmen, Episcopalians and Presbyterians, seem to have generally lived together in friendship, a friendship which is sufficiently explained by their common antipathy to the Irish race and to the Popish religion. During the rebellion of 1641, Londonderry had resolutely held out against the native chieftains, and had been repeatedly besieged in vain, [133] Since the Restoration the city had prospered. The Foyle, when the tide was high, brought up ships of large burden to the quay. The fisheries throve greatly. The nets, it was said, were sometimes so full that it was necessary to fling back multitudes of fish into the waves. The quantity of salmon caught annually was estimated at eleven hundred thousand pounds' weight, [134]

The people of Londonderry shared in the alarm which, towards the close of the year 1688, was general among the Protestants settled in Ireland. It was known that the aboriginal peasantry of the neighbourhood were laying in pikes and knives. Priests had been haranguing in a style of which, it must be owned, the Puritan part of the Anglosaxon colony had little right to complain, about the slaughter of the Amalekites, and the judgments which Saul had brought on himself by sparing one of the proscribed race. Rumours from various quarters and anonymous letters in various hands agreed in naming the ninth of December as the day fixed for the extirpation of the strangers. While the minds of the citizens were agitated by these reports, news came that a regiment of twelve hundred Papists, commanded by a Papist, Alexander Macdonnell, Earl of Antrim, had received orders from the Lord Deputy to occupy Londonderry, and was already on the march from Coleraine. The consternation was extreme. Some were for closing the gates and resisting; some for submitting; some for temporising. The corporation had, like the other corporations of Ireland, been remodelled. The magistrates were men of low station and character. Among them was only one person of Anglosaxon extraction; and he had turned Papist. In such rulers the inhabitants could place no confidence, [135] The Bishop, Ezekiel Hopkins, resolutely adhered to the doctrine of nonresistance, which he had preached during many years, and exhorted his flock to go patiently to the slaughter rather than incur the guilt of disobeying the Lord's Anointed, [136] Antrim was meanwhile drawing nearer and nearer. At length the citizens saw from the walls his troops arrayed on the opposite shore of the Foyle. There was then no bridge: but there was a ferry which kept up a constant communication between the two banks of the river; and by this ferry a detachment from Antrim's regiment crossed. The officers presented themselves at the gate, produced a warrant directed to the Mayor and Sheriffs, and demanded admittance and quarters for his Majesty's soldiers.

Just at this moment thirteen young apprentices, most of whom appear, from their names, to have been of Scottish birth or descent, flew to the guard room, armed themselves, seized the keys of the city, rushed to the Ferry Gate, closed it in the face of the King's officers, and let down the portcullis. James Morison, a citizen more advanced in years, addressed the intruders from the top of the wall and advised them to be gone. They stood in consultation before the gate till they heard him cry, "Bring a great gun this way." They then thought it time to get beyond the range of shot. They retreated, reembarked, and rejoined their comrades on the other side of the river. The flame had already spread. The whole city was up. The other gates were secured. Sentinels paced the ramparts everywhere. The magazines were opened. Muskets and gunpowder were distributed. Messengers were sent, under cover of the following night, to the Protestant gentlemen of the neighbouring counties. The bishop expostulated in vain. It is indeed probable that the vehement and daring young Scotchmen who had taken the lead on this occasion had little respect for his office. One of them broke in on a discourse with which he interrupted the military preparations by exclaiming, "A good sermon, my lord; a very good sermon; but we have not time to hear it just now." [137]

The Protestants of the neighbourhood promptly obeyed the summons of Londonderry. Within forty-eight hours hundreds of horse and foot came by various roads to the city. Antrim, not thinking himself strong enough to risk an attack, or not disposed to take on himself the responsibility of commencing a civil war without further orders, retired with his troops to Coleraine.

It might have been expected that the resistance of Enniskillen and Londonderry would have irritated Tyrconnel into taking some desperate step. And in truth his savage and imperious temper was at first inflamed by the news almost to madness. But, after wreaking his rage, as usual, on his wig, he became somewhat calmer. Tidings of a very sobering nature had just reached him. The Prince of Orange was marching unopposed to London. Almost every county and every great town in England had declared for him. James, deserted by his ablest captains and by his nearest relatives, had sent commissioners to treat with the invaders, and had issued writs convoking a Parliament. While the result of the negotiations which were pending in England was uncertain, the Viceroy could not venture to take a bloody revenge on the refractory Protestants of Ireland. He therefore thought it expedient to affect for a time a clemency and moderation which were by no means congenial to his disposition. The task of quieting the Englishry of Ulster was intrusted to William Stewart, Viscount Mountjoy. Mountjoy, a brave soldier, an accomplished scholar, a zealous Protestant, and yet a zealous Tory, was one of the very few members of the Established Church who still held office in Ireland. He was Master of the Ordnance in that kingdom, and was colonel of a regiment in which an uncommonly large proportion of the Englishry had been suffered to remain. At Dublin he was the centre of a small circle of learned and ingenious men who had, under his presidency, formed themselves into a Royal Society, the image, on a small scale, of the Royal Society of London. In Ulster, with which he was peculiarly connected, his name was held in high honour by the colonists, [138] He hastened with his regiment to Londonderry, and was well received there. For it was known that, though he was firmly attached to hereditary monarchy, he was not less firmly attached to the reformed religion. The citizens readily permitted him to leave within their walls a small garrison exclusively composed of Protestants, under the command of his lieutenant colonel, Robert Lundy, who took the title of Governor, [139]

The news of Mountjoy's visit to Ulster was highly gratifying to the defenders of Enniskillen. Some gentlemen deputed by that town waited on him to request his good offices, but were disappointed by the reception which they found. "My advice to you is," he said, "to submit to the King's authority." "What, my Lord?" said one of the deputies; "Are we to sit still and let ourselves be butchered?" "The King," said Mountjoy, "will protect you." "If all that we hear be true," said the deputy, "his Majesty will find it hard enough to protect himself." The conference ended in this unsatisfactory manner. Enniskillen still kept its attitude of defiance; and Mountjoy returned to Dublin, [140]

By this time it had indeed become evident that James could not protect himself. It was known in Ireland that he had fled; that he had been stopped; that he had fled again; that the Prince of Orange had arrived at Westminster in triumph, had taken on himself the administration of the realm, and had issued letters summoning a Convention.

Those lords and gentlemen at whose request the Prince had assumed the government, had earnestly intreated him to take the state of Ireland into his immediate consideration; and he had in reply assured them that he would do his best to maintain the Protestant religion and the English interest in that kingdom. His enemies afterwards accused him of utterly disregarding this promise: nay, they alleged that he purposely suffered Ireland to sink deeper and deeper in calamity. Halifax, they said, had, with cruel and perfidious ingenuity, devised this mode of placing the Convention under a species of duress; and the trick had succeeded but too well. The vote which called William to the throne would not have passed so easily but for the extreme dangers which threatened the state; and it was in consequence of his own dishonest inactivity that those dangers had become extreme, [141] As this accusation rests on no proof, those who repeat it are at least bound to show that some course clearly better than the course which William took was open to him; and this they will find a difficult task. If indeed he could, within a few weeks after his arrival in London, have sent a great expedition to Ireland, that kingdom might perhaps, after a short struggle, or without a struggle, have submitted to his authority; and a long series of crimes and calamities might have been averted. But the factious orators and pamphleteers, who, much at their ease, reproached him for not sending such an expedition, would have been perplexed if they had been required to find the men, the ships, and the funds. The English army had lately been arrayed against him: part of it was still ill disposed towards him; and the whole was utterly disorganized. Of the army which he had brought from Holland not a regiment could be spared. He had found the treasury empty and the pay of the navy in arrear. He had no power to hypothecate any part of the public revenue. Those who lent him money lent it on no security but his bare word. It was only by the patriotic liberality of the merchants of London that he was enabled to defray the ordinary charges of government till the meeting of the Convention. It is surely unjust to blame him for not instantly fitting out, in such circumstances, an armament sufficient to conquer a kingdom.

Perceiving that, till the government of England was settled, it would not be in his power to interfere effectually by arms in the affairs of Ireland, he determined to try what effect negotiation would produce. Those who judged after the event pronounced that he had not, on this occasion, shown his usual sagacity. He ought, they said, to have known that it was absurd to expect submission from Tyrconnel. Such however was not at the time the opinion of men who had the best means of information, and whose interest was a sufficient pledge for their sincerity. A great meeting of noblemen and gentlemen who had property in Ireland was held, during the interregnum, at the house of the Duke of Ormond in Saint James's Square. They advised the Prince to try whether the Lord Deputy might not be induced to capitulate on honourable and advantageous terms, [142] In truth there is strong reason to believe that Tyrconnel really wavered. For, fierce as were his passions, they never made him forgetful of his interest; and he might well doubt whether it were not for his interest, in declining years and health, to retire from business with full indemnity for all past offences, with high rank and with an ample fortune, rather than to stake his life and property on the event of a war against the whole power of England. It is certain that he professed himself willing to yield. He opened a communication with the Prince of Orange, and affected to take counsel with Mountjoy, and with others who, though they had not thrown off their allegiance to James, were yet firmly attached to the Established Church and to the English connection.

In one quarter, a quarter from which William was justified in expecting the most judicious counsel, there was a strong conviction that the professions of Tyrconnel were sincere. No British statesman had then so high a reputation throughout Europe as Sir William Temple. His diplomatic skill had, twenty years before, arrested the progress of the French power. He had been a steady and an useful friend to the United Provinces and to the House of Nassau. He had long been on terms of friendly confidence with the Prince of Orange, and had negotiated that marriage to which England owed her recent deliverance. With the affairs of Ireland Temple was supposed to be peculiarly well acquainted. His family had considerable property there: he had himself resided there during several years: he had represented the county of Carlow in parliament; and a large part of his income was derived from a lucrative Irish office. There was no height of power, of rank, or of opulence, to which he might not have risen, if he would have consented to quit his retreat, and to lend his assistance and the weight of his name to the new government. But power, rank, and opulence had less attraction for his Epicurean temper than ease and security. He rejected the most tempting invitations, and continued to amuse himself with his books, his tulips, and his pineapples, in rural seclusion. With some hesitation, however, he consented to let his eldest son John enter into the service of William. During the vacancy of the throne, John Temple was employed in business of high importance; and, on subjects connected with Ireland, his opinion, which might reasonably be supposed to agree with his father's, had great weight. The young politician flattered himself that he had secured the services of an agent eminently qualified to bring the negotiation with Tyrconnel to a prosperous issue.

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