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The History of England from the Accession of James II
By Thomas Babington MacAulay
Chapter 2 Part 4


After the Restoration, the Cavaliers who filled the House of Commons, zealous as they were for the prerogative, still remembered with bitterness the tyranny of the High Commission, and were by no means disposed to revive an institution so odious. They at the same time thought, and not without reason, that the statute which had swept away all the courts Christian of the realm, without providing any substitute, was open to grave objection. They accordingly repealed that statute, with the exception of the part which related to the High Commission. Thus, the Archidiaconal Courts, the Consistory Courts, the Court of Arches, the Court of Peculiars, and the Court of Delegates were revived: but the enactment by which Elizabeth and her successors had been empowered to appoint Commissioners with visitatorial authority over the Church was not only not revived, but was declared, with the utmost strength of language, to be completely abrogated. It is therefore as clear as any point of constitutional law can be that James the Second was not competent to appoint a Commission with power to visit and govern the Church of England.94 But, if this were so, it was to little purpose that the Act of Supremacy, in high sounding words, empowered him to amend what was amiss in that Church. Nothing but a machinery as stringent as that which the Long Parliament had destroyed could force the Anglican clergy to become his agents for the destruction of the Anglican doctrine and discipline. He therefore, as early as the month of April 1686, determined to create a new Court of High Commission. This design was not immediately executed. It encountered the opposition of every minister who was not devoted to France and to the Jesuits. It was regarded by lawyers as an outrageous violation of the law, and by Churchmen as a direct attack upon the Church. Perhaps the contest might have lasted longer, but for an event which wounded the pride and inflamed the rage of the King. He had, as supreme ordinary, put forth directions, charging the clergy of the establishment to abstain from touching in their discourses on controverted points of doctrine. Thus, while sermons in defence of the Roman Catholic religion were preached on every Sunday and holiday within the precincts of the royal palaces, the Church of the state, the Church of the great majority of the nation, was forbidden to explain and vindicate her own principles. The spirit of the whole clerical order rose against this injustice. William Sherlock, a divine of distinguished abilities, who had written with sharpness against Whigs and Dissenters, and had been rewarded by the government with the Mastership of the Temple and with a pension, was one of the first who incurred the royal displeasure. His pension was stopped, and he was severely reprimanded. John Sharp, Dean of Norwich and Rector of St. Giles's in the Fields, soon gave still greater offence. He was a man of learning and fervent piety, a preacher of great fame, and an exemplary parish priest. In politics he was, like most of his brethren, a Tory, and had just been appointed one of the royal chaplains. He received an anonymous letter which purported to come from one of his parishioners who had been staggered by the arguments of Roman Catholic theologians, and who was anxious to be satisfied that the Church of England was a branch of the true Church of Christ. No divine, not utterly lost to all sense of religious duty and of professional honour, could refuse to answer such a call. On the following Sunday Sharp delivered an animated discourse against the high pretensions of the see of Rome. Some of his expressions were exaggerated, distorted, and carried by talebearers to Whitehall. It was falsely said that he had spoken with contumely of the theological disquisitions which had been found in the strong box of the late King, and which the present King had published. Compton, the Bishop of London, received orders from Sunderland to suspend Sharp till the royal pleasure should be further known. The Bishop was in great perplexity. His recent conduct in the House of Lords had given deep offence to the court. Already his name had been struck out of the list of Privy Councillors. Already he had been dismissed from his office in the royal chapel. He was unwilling to give fresh provocation but the act which he was directed to perform was a judicial act. He felt that it was unjust, and he was assured by the best advisers that it was also illegal, to inflict punishment without giving any opportunity for defence. He accordingly, in the humblest terms, represented his difficulties to the King, and privately requested Sharp not to appear in the pulpit for the present. Reasonable as were Compton's scruples, obsequious as were his apologies, James was greatly incensed. What insolence to plead either natural justice or positive law in opposition to an express command of the Sovereign Sharp was forgotten.

The Bishop became a mark for the whole vengeance of the government. The King felt more painfully than ever the want of that tremendous engine which had once coerced refractory ecclesiastics. He probably knew that, for a few angry words uttered against his father's government, Bishop Williams had been suspended by the High Commission from all ecclesiastical dignities and functions. The design of reviving that formidable tribunal was pushed on more eagerly than ever. In July London was alarmed by the news that the King had, in direct defiance of two acts of Parliament drawn in the strongest terms, entrusted the whole government of the Church to seven Commissioners. The words in which the jurisdiction of these officers was described were loose, and might be stretched to almost any extent. All colleges and grammar schools, even those founded by the liberality of private benefactors, were placed under the authority of the new board. All who depended for bread on situations in the Church or in academical institutions, from the Primate down to the youngest curate, from the Vicechancellors of Oxford and Cambridge down to the humblest pedagogue who taught Corderius, were at the royal mercy. If any one of those many thousands was suspected of doing or saying anything distasteful to the government, the Commissioners might cite him before them. In their mode of dealing with him they were fettered by no rules. They were themselves at once prosecutors and judges. The accused party was furnished with no copy of the charge. He was examined and crossexamined. If his answers did not give satisfaction, he was liable to be suspended from his office, to be ejected from it, to be pronounced incapable of holding any preferment in future. If he were contumacious, he might be excommunicated, or, in other words, be deprived of all civil rights and imprisoned for life. He might also, at the discretion of the court, be loaded with all the costs of the proceeding by which he had been reduced to beggary. No appeal was given. The Commissioners were directed to execute their office notwithstanding any law which might be, or might seem to be, inconsistent with these regulations. Lastly, lest any person should doubt that it was intended to revive that terrible court from which the Long Parliament had freed the nation, the new tribunal was directed to use a seal bearing exactly the same device and the same superscription with the seal of the old High Commission.

The chief Commissioner was the Chancellor. His presence and assent were necessary to every proceeding. All men knew how unjustly, insolently, and barbarously he had acted in courts where he had been, to a certain extent, restrained by the known laws of England. It was, therefore, not difficult to foresee how he would conduct himself in a situation in which he was at entire liberty to make forms of procedure and rules of evidence for himself.

Of the other six Commissioners three were prelates and three laymen. The name of Archbishop Sancroft stood first. But he was fully convinced that the court was illegal, that all its judgments would be null, and that by sitting in it he should incur a serious responsibility. He therefore determined not to comply with the royal mandate. He did not, however, act on this occasion with that courage and sincerity which he showed when driven to extremity two years later. He begged to be excused on the plea of business and ill health. The other members of the board, he added, were men of too much ability to need his assistance. These disingenuous apologies ill became the Primate of all England at such a crisis; nor did they avert the royal displeasure. Sancroft's name was not indeed struck out of the list of Privy Councillors: but, to the bitter mortification of the friends of the Church, he was no longer summoned on Council days. "If," said the King, "he is too sick or too busy to go to the Commission, it is a kindness to relieve him from attendance at Council."

The government found no similar difficulty with Nathaniel Crewe, Bishop of the great and opulent see of Durham, a man nobly born, and raised so high in his profession that he could scarcely wish to rise higher, but mean, vain, and cowardly. He had been made Dean of the Chapel Royal when the Bishop of London was banished from the palace. The honour of being an Ecclesiastical Commissioner turned Crewe's head. It was to no purpose that some of his friends represented to him the risk which he ran by sitting in an illegal tribunal. He was not ashamed to answer that he could not live out of the royal smile, and exultingly expressed his hope that his name would appear in history, a hope which has not been altogether disappointed.

Thomas Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, was the third clerical Commissioner. He was a man to whose talents posterity has scarcely done justice. Unhappily for his fame, it has been usual to print his verses in collections of the British poets; and those who judge of him by his verses must consider him as a servile imitator, who, without one spark of Cowley's admirable genius, mimicked whatever was least commendable in Cowley's manner: but those who are acquainted with Sprat's prose writings will form a very different estimate of his powers. He was indeed a great master of our language, and possessed at once the eloquence of the orator, of the controversialist, and of the historian. His moral character might have passed with little censure had he belonged to a less sacred profession; for the worst that can be said of him is that he was indolent, luxurious, and worldly: but such failings, though not commonly regarded as very heinous in men of secular callings, are scandalous in a prelate. The Archbishopric of York was vacant; Sprat hoped to obtain it, and therefore accepted a seat at the ecclesiastical board: but he was too goodnatured a man to behave harshly; and he was too sensible a man not to know that he might at some future time be called to a serious account by a Parliament. He therefore, though he consented to act, tried to do as little mischief, and to make as few enemies, as possible.

The three remaining Commissioners were the Lord Treasurer, the Lord President, and the Chief Justice of the King's Bench. Rochester, disapproving and murmuring, consented to serve. Much as he had to endure at the court, he could not bear to quit it. Much as he loved the Church, he could not bring himself to sacrifice for her sake his white staff, his patronage, his salary of eight thousand pounds a year, and the far larger indirect emoluments of his office. He excused his conduct to others, and perhaps to himself, by pleading that, as a Commissioner, he might be able to prevent much evil, and that, if he refused to act, some person less attached to the Protestant religion would be found to replace him. Sunderland was the representative of the Jesuitical cabal. Herbert's recent decision on the question of the dispensing power seemed to prove that he would not flinch from any service which the King might require.

As soon as the Commission had been opened, the Bishop of London was cited before the new tribunal. He appeared. "I demand of you," said Jeffreys, "a direct and positive answer. Why did not you suspend Dr. Sharp?"

The Bishop requested a copy of the Commission in order that he might know by what authority he was thus interrogated. "If you mean," said Jeffreys, "to dispute our authority, I shall take another course with you. As to the Commission, I do not doubt that you have seen it. At all events you may see it in any coffeehouse for a penny." The insolence of the Chancellor's reply appears to have shocked the other Commissioners, and he was forced to make some awkward apologies. He then returned to the point from which he had started. "This," he said, "is not a court in which written charges are exhibited. Our proceedings are summary, and by word of mouth. The question is a plain one. Why did you not obey the King?" With some difficulty Compton obtained a brief delay, and the assistance of counsel. When the case had been heard, it was evident to all men that the Bishop had done only what he was bound to do. The Treasurer, the Chief Justice, and Sprat were for acquittal. The King's wrath was moved. It seemed that his Ecclesiastical Commission would fail him as his Tory Parliament had failed him. He offered Rochester a simple choice, to pronounce the Bishop guilty, or to quit the Treasury. Rochester was base enough to yield. Compton was suspended from all spiritual functions; and the charge of his great diocese was committed to his judges, Sprat and Crewe. He continued, however, to reside in his palace and to receive his revenues; for it was known that, had any attempt been made to deprive him of his temporalities, he would have put himself under the protection of the common law; and Herbert himself declared that, at common law, judgment must be given against the crown. This consideration induced the King to pause. Only a few weeks had elapsed since he had packed the courts of Westminster Hall in order to obtain a decision in favour of his dispensing power. He now found that, unless he packed them again, he should not be able to obtain a decision in favour of the proceedings of his Ecclesiastical Commission. He determined, therefore, to postpone for a short time the confiscation of the freehold property of refractory clergymen.

The temper of the nation was indeed such as might well make him hesitate. During some months discontent had been steadily and rapidly increasing. The celebration of the Roman Catholic worship had long been prohibited by Act of Parliament. During several generations no Roman Catholic clergyman had dared to exhibit himself in any public place with the badges of his office. Against the regular clergy, and against the restless and subtle Jesuits by name, had been enacted a succession of rigorous statutes. Every Jesuit who set foot in this country was liable to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. A reward was offered for his detection. He was not allowed to take advantage of the general rule, that men are not bound to accuse themselves. Whoever was suspected of being a Jesuit might be interrogated, and, if he refused to answer, might be sent to prison for life. These laws, though they had not, except when there was supposed to be some peculiar danger, been strictly executed, and though they had never prevented Jesuits from resorting to England, had made disguise necessary. But all disguise was now thrown off. Injudicious members of the King's Church, encouraged by him, took a pride in defying statutes which were still of undoubted validity, and feelings which had a stronger hold of the national mind than at any former period. Roman Catholic chapels rose all over the country. Cowls, girdles of ropes, and strings of beads constantly appeared in the, streets, and astonished a population, the oldest of whom had never seen a conventual garb except on the stage. A convent rose at Clerkenwell on the site of the ancient cloister of Saint John. The Franciscans occupied a mansion in Lincoln's Inn Fields. The Carmelites were quartered in the City. A society of Benedictine monks was lodged in Saint James's Palace. In the Savoy a spacious house, including a church and a school, was built for the Jesuits. The skill and care with which those fathers had, during several generations, conducted the education of youth, had drawn forth reluctant praises from the wisest Protestants. Bacon had pronounced the mode of instruction followed in the Jesuit colleges to be the best yet known in the world, and had warmly expressed his regret that so admirable a system of intellectual and moral discipline should be subservient to the interests of a corrupt religion. It was not improbable that the new academy in the Savoy might, under royal patronage, prove a formidable rival to the great foundations of Eton, Westminster, and Winchester. Indeed, soon after the school was opened, the classes consisted of four hundred boys, about one half of whom were Protestants. The Protestant pupils were not required to attend mass: but there could be no doubt that the influence of able preceptors, devoted to the Roman Catholic Church, and versed in all the arts which win the confidence and affection of youth, would make many converts.

These things produced great excitement among the populace, which is always more moved by what impresses the senses than by what is addressed to the reason. Thousands of rude and ignorant men, to whom the dispensing power and the Ecclesiastical Commission were words without a meaning, saw with dismay and indignation a Jesuit college rising on the banks of the Thames, friars in hoods and gowns walking in the Strand, and crowds of devotees pressing in at the doors of temples where homage was paid to graven images. Riots broke out in several parts of the country. At Coventry and Worcester the Roman Catholic worship was violently interrupted. At Bristol the rabble, countenanced, it was said, by the magistrates, exhibited a profane and indecent pageant, in which the Virgin Mary was represented by a buffoon, and in which a mock host was carried in procession. The garrison was called out to disperse the mob. The mob, then and ever since one of the fiercest in the kingdom, resisted. Blows were exchanged, and serious hurts inflicted. The agitation was great in the capital, and greater in the City, properly so called, than at Westminster. For the people of Westminster had been accustomed to see among them the private chapels of Roman Catholic Ambassadors: but the City had not, within living memory, been polluted by any idolatrous exhibition. Now, however, the resident of the Elector Palatine, encouraged by the King, fitted up a chapel in Lime Street. The heads of the corporation, though men selected for office on account of their known Toryism, protested against this proceeding, which, as they said, the ablest gentlemen of the long robe regarded as illegal. The Lord Mayor was ordered to appear before the Privy Council. "Take heed what you do," said the King. "Obey me; and do not trouble yourself either about gentlemen of the long robe or gentlemen of the short robe." The Chancellor took up the word, and reprimanded the unfortunate magistrate with the genuine eloquence of the Old Bailey bar. The chapel was opened. All the neighbourhood was soon in commotion. Great crowds assembled in Cheapside to attack the new mass house. The priests were insulted. A crucifix was taken out of the building and set up on the parish pump. The Lord Mayor came to quell the tumult, but was received with cries of "No wooden gods." The trainbands were ordered to disperse the crowd: but they shared in the popular feeling; and murmurs were heard from the ranks, "We cannot in conscience fight for Popery."

The Elector Palatine was, like James, a sincere and zealous Catholic, and was, like James, the ruler of a Protestant people; but the two princes resembled each other little in temper and understanding. The Elector had promised to respect the rights of the Church which he found established in his dominions. He had strictly kept his word, and had not suffered himself to be provoked to any violence by the indiscretion of preachers who, in their antipathy to his faith, occasionally forgot the respect which they owed to his person. He learned, with concern, that great offence had been given to the people of London by the injudicious act of his representative, and, much to his honour, declared that he would forego the privilege to which, as a sovereign prince, he was entitled, rather than endanger the peace of a great city. "I, too," he wrote to James, "have Protestant subjects; and I know with how much caution and delicacy it is necessary that a Catholic prince so situated should act." James, instead of expressing gratitude for this humane and considerate conduct, turned the letter into ridicule before the foreign ministers. It was determined that the Elector should have a chapel in the City whether he would or not, and that, if the trainbands refused to do their duty, their place should be supplied by the Guards.

The effect of these disturbances on trade was serious. The Dutch minister informed the States General that the business of the Exchange was at a stand. The Commissioners of the Customs reported to the King that, during the month which followed the opening of Lime Street Chapel, the receipt in the port of the Thames had fallen off by some thousands of pounds. Several Aldermen, who, though zealous royalists appointed under the new charter, were deeply interested in the commercial prosperity of their city, and loved neither Popery nor martial law, tendered their resignations. But the King was resolved not to yield. He formed a camp on Hounslow Heath, and collected there, within a circumference of about two miles and a half, fourteen battalions of foot and thirty-two squadrons of horse, amounting to thirteen thousand fighting men. Twenty-six pieces of artillery, and many wains laden with arms and ammunition, were dragged from the Tower through the City to Hounslow. The Londoners saw this great force assembled in their neighbourhood with a terror which familiarity soon diminished. A visit to Hounslow became their favourite amusement on holidays. The camp presented the appearance of a vast fair. Mingled with the musketeers and dragoons, a multitude of fine gentlemen and ladies from Soho Square, sharpers and painted women from Whitefriars, invalids in sedans, monks in hoods and gowns, lacqueys in rich liveries, pedlars, orange girls, mischievous apprentices and gaping clowns, was constantly passing and repassing through the long lanes of tents. From some pavilions were heard the noises of drunken revelry, from others the curses of gamblers. In truth the place was merely a gay suburb of the capital. The King, as was amply proved two years later, had greatly miscalculated. He had forgotten that vicinity operates in more ways than one. He had hoped that his army would overawe London: but the result of his policy was that the feelings and opinions of London took complete possession of his army.

Scarcely indeed had the encampment been formed when there were rumours of quarrels between the Protestant and Popish soldiers. A little tract, entitled A humble and hearty Address to all English Protestants in the Army, had been actively circulated through the ranks. The writer vehemently exhorted the troops to use their arms in defence, not of the mass book, but of the Bible, of the Great Charter, and of the Petition of Right. He was a man already under the frown of power. His character was remarkable, and his history not uninstructive.

His name was Samuel Johnson. He was a priest of the Church of England, and had been chaplain to Lord Russell. Johnson was one of those persons who are mortally hated by their opponents, and less loved than respected by their allies. His morals were pure, his religious feelings ardent, his learning and abilities not contemptible, his judgment weak, his temper acrimonious, turbulent, and unconquerably stubborn. His profession made him peculiarly odious to the zealous supporters of monarchy; for a republican in holy orders was a strange and almost an unnatural being. During the late reign Johnson had published a book entitled Julian the Apostate. The object of this work was to show that the Christians of the fourth century did not hold the doctrine of nonresistance. It was easy to produce passages from Chrysostom and Jerome written in a spirit very different from that of the Anglican divines who preached against the Exclusion Bill. Johnson, however, went further. He attempted to revive the odious imputation which had, for very obvious reasons, been thrown by Libanius on the Christian soldiers of Julian, and insinuated that the dart which slew the imperial renegade came, not from the enemy, but from some Rumbold or Ferguson in the Roman ranks. A hot controversy followed. Whig and Tory disputants wrangled fiercely about an obscure passage, in which Gregory of Nazianzus praises a pious Bishop who was going to bastinado somebody. The Whigs maintained that the holy man was going to bastinado the Emperor; the Tories that, at the worst, he was only going to bastinado a captain of the guard. Johnson prepared a reply to his assailants, in which he drew an elaborate parallel between Julian and James, then Duke of York, Julian had, during many years, pretended to abhor idolatry, while in heart an idolater. Julian had, to serve a turn, occasionally affected respect for the rights of conscience. Julian had punished cities which were zealous for the true religion, by taking away their municipal privileges. Julian had, by his flatterers, been called the Just. James was provoked beyond endurance. Johnson was prosecuted for a libel, convicted, and condemned to a fine which he had no means of paying. He was therefore kept in gaol; and it seemed likely that his confinement would end only with his life.

Over the room which he occupied in the King's Bench prison lodged another offender whose character well deserves to be studied. This was Hugh Speke, a young man of good family, but of a singularly base and depraved nature. His love of mischief and of dark and crooked ways amounted almost to madness. To cause confusion without being found out was his business and his pastime; and he had a rare skill in using honest enthusiasts as the instruments of his coldblooded malice. He had attempted, by means of one of his puppets, to fasten on Charles and James the crime of murdering Essex in the Tower. On this occasion the agency of Speke had been traced and, though he succeeded in throwing the greater part of the blame on his dupe, he had not escaped with impunity. He was now a prisoner; but his fortune enabled him to live with comfort; and he was under so little restraint that he was able to keep up regular communication with one of his confederates who managed a secret press.

Johnson was the very man for Speke's purposes, zealous and intrepid, a scholar and a practised controversialist, yet as simple as a child. A close intimacy sprang up between the two fellow prisoners. Johnson wrote a succession of bitter and vehement treatises which Speke conveyed to the printer. When the camp was formed at Hounslow, Speke urged Johnson to compose an address which might excite the troops to mutiny. The paper was instantly drawn up. Many thousands of copies were struck off and brought to Speke's room, whence they were distributed over the whole country, and especially among the soldiers. A milder government than that which then ruled England would have been moved to high resentment by such a provocation. Strict search was made. A subordinate agent who had been employed to circulate the address saved himself by giving up Johnson; and Johnson was not the man to save himself by giving up Speke. An information was filed, and a conviction obtained without difficulty. Julian Johnson, as he was popularly called, was sentenced to stand thrice in the pillory, and to be whipped from Newgate to Tyburn. The Judge, Sir Francis Withins, told the criminal to be thankful for the great lenity of the Attorney General, who might have treated the case as one of high treason. "I owe him no thanks," answered Johnson, dauntlessly. "Am I, whose only crime is that I have defended the Church and the laws, to be grateful for being scourged like a dog, while Popish scribblers are suffered daily to insult the Church and to violate the laws with impunity?" The energy with which he spoke was such that both the Judges and the crown lawyers thought it necessary to vindicate themselves, and protested that they knew of no Popish publications such as those to which the prisoner alluded. He instantly drew from his pocket some Roman Catholic books and trinkets which were then freely exposed for sale under the royal patronage, read aloud the titles of the books, and threw a rosary across the table to the King's counsel. "And now," he cried with a loud voice, "I lay this information before God, before this court, and before the English people. We shall soon see whether Mr. Attorney will do his duty."

It was resolved that, before the punishment was inflicted, Johnson should be degraded from the priesthood. The prelates who had been charged by the Ecclesiastical Commission with the care of the diocese of London cited him before them in the chapter house of Saint Paul's Cathedral. The manner in which he went through the ceremony made a deep impression on many minds. When he was stripped of his sacred robe he exclaimed, "You are taking away my gown because I have tried to keep your gowns on your backs." The only part of the formalities which seemed to distress him was the plucking of the Bible out of his hand. He made a faint struggle to retain the sacred book, kissed it, and burst into tears. "You cannot," he said, "deprive me of the hopes which I owe to it." Some attempts were made to obtain a remission of the flogging. A Roman Catholic priest offered to intercede in consideration of a bribe of two hundred pounds. The money was raised; and the priest did his best, but in vain.

"Mr. Johnson," said the King, "has the spirit of a martyr; and it is fit that he should be one." William the Third said, a few years later, of one of the most acrimonious and intrepid Jacobites, "He has set his heart on being a martyr, and I have set mine on disappointing him." These two speeches would alone suffice to explain the widely different fates of the two princes.

The day appointed for the flogging came. A whip of nine lashes was used. Three hundred and seventeen stripes were inflicted; but the sufferer never winced. He afterwards said that the pain was cruel, but that, as he was dragged at the tail of the cart, he remembered how patiently the cross had been borne up Mount Calvary, and was so much supported by the thought that, but for the fear of incurring the suspicion of vain glory, he would have sung a psalm with as firm and cheerful a voice as if he had been worshipping God in the congregation. It is impossible not to wish that so much heroism had been less alloyed by intemperance and intolerance.

Among the clergy of the Church of England Johnson found no sympathy. He had attempted to justify rebellion; he had even hinted approbation of regicide; and they still, in spite of much provocation, clung to the doctrine of nonresistance. But they saw with alarm and concern the progress of what they considered as a noxious superstition, and, while they abjured all thought of defending their religion by the sword, betook themselves manfully to weapons of a different kind. To preach against the errors of Popery was now regarded by them as a point of duty and a point of honour. The London clergy, who were then in abilities and influence decidedly at the head of their profession, set an example which was bravely followed by their ruder brethren all over the country. Had only a few bold men taken this freedom, they would probably have been at once cited before the Ecclesiastical Commission; but it was hardly possible to punish an offence which was committed every Sunday by thousands of divines, from Berwick to Penzance. The presses of the capital, of Oxford, and of Cambridge, never rested. The act which subjected literature to a censorship did not seriously impede the exertions of Protestant controversialists; for it contained a proviso in favour of the two Universities, and authorised the publication of theological works licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was therefore out of the power of the government to silence the defenders of the established religion. They were a numerous, an intrepid, and a well appointed band of combatants. Among them were eloquent declaimers, expert dialecticians, scholars deeply read in the writings of the fathers and in all parts of ecclesiastical history. Some of them, at a later period, turned against one another the formidable arms which they had wielded against the common enemy, and by their fierce contentions and insolent triumphs brought reproach on the Church which they had saved. But at present they formed an united phalanx. In the van appeared a rank of steady and skilful veterans, Tillotson, Stillingfleet, Sherlock, Prideaux, Whitby, Patrick, Tenison, Wake. The rear was brought up by the most distinguished bachelors of arts who were studying for deacon's orders. Conspicuous amongst the recruits whom Cambridge sent to the field was a distinguished pupil of the great Newton, Henry Wharton, who had, a few months before, been senior wrangler of his year, and whose early death was soon after deplored by men of all parties as an irreparable loss to letters. Oxford was not less proud of a youth, whose great powers, first essayed in this conflict, afterwards troubled the Church and the State during forty eventful years, Francis Atterbury. By such men as these every question in issue between the Papists and the Protestants was debated, sometimes in a popular style which boys and women could comprehend, sometimes with the utmost subtlety of logic, and sometimes with an immense display of learning. The pretensions of the Holy See, the authority of tradition, purgatory, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, the adoration of the host, the denial of the cup to the laity, confession, penance, indulgences, extreme unction, the invocation of saints, the adoration of images, the celibacy of the clergy, the monastic vows, the practice of celebrating public worship in a tongue unknown to the multitude, the corruptions of the court of Rome, the history of the Reformation, the characters of the chief reformers, were copiously discussed. Great numbers of absurd legends about miracles wrought by saints and relics were translated from the Italian and published as specimens of the priestcraft by which the greater part of Christendom had been fooled. Of the tracts put forth on these subjects by Anglican divines during the short reign of James the Second many have probably perished. Those which may still be found in our great libraries make up a mass of near twenty thousand pages.

The Roman Catholics did not yield the victory without a struggle. One of them, named Henry Hills, had been appointed printer to the royal household and chapel, and had been placed by the King at the head of a great office in London from which theological tracts came forth by hundreds. Obadiah Walker's press was not less active at Oxford. But, with the exception of some bad translations of Bossuet's admirable works, these establishments put forth nothing of the smallest value. It was indeed impossible for any intelligent and candid Roman Catholic to deny that the champions of his Church were, in every talent and acquirement, completely over-matched. The ablest of them would not, on the other side, have been considered as of the third rate. Many of them, even when they had something to say, knew not how to say it. They had been excluded by their religion from English schools and universities; nor had they ever, till the accession of James, found England an agreeable, or even a safe, residence. They had therefore passed the greater part of their lives on the Continent, and had almost unlearned their mother tongue. When they preached, their outlandish accent moved the derision of the audience. They spelt like washerwomen. Their diction was disfigured by foreign idioms; and, when they meant to be eloquent, they imitated, as well as they could, what was considered as fine writing in those Italian academies where rhetoric had then reached the last stage of corruption. Disputants labouring under these disadvantages would scarcely, even with truth on their side, have been able to make head against men whose style is eminently distinguished by simple purity and grace.

The situation of England in the year 1686 cannot be better described than in the words of the French Ambassador. "The discontent," he wrote, "is great and general: but the fear of incurring still worse evils restrains all who have anything to lose. The King openly expresses his joy at finding himself in a situation to strike bold strokes. He likes to be complimented on this subject. He has talked to me about it, and has assured me that he will not flinch."

Meanwhile in other parts of the empire events of grave importance had taken place. The situation of the episcopalian Protestants of Scotland differed widely from that in which their English brethren stood. In the south of the island the religion of the state was the religion of the people, and had a strength altogether independent of the strength derived from the support of the government. The sincere conformists were far more numerous than the Papists and the Protestant Dissenters taken together. The Established Church of Scotland was the Church of a small minority. The majority of the lowland population was firmly attached to the Presbyterian discipline. Prelacy was abhorred by the great body of Scottish Protestants, both as an unscriptural and as a foreign institution. It was regarded by the disciples of Knox as a relic of the abominations of Babylon the Great. It painfully reminded a people proud of the memory of Wallace and Bruce that Scotland, since her sovereigns had succeeded to a fairer inheritance, had been independent in name only. The episcopal polity was also closely associated in the public mind with all the evils produced by twenty-five years of corrupt and cruel maladministration. Nevertheless this polity stood, though on a narrow basis and amidst fearful storms, tottering indeed, yet upheld by the civil magistrate, and leaning for support, whenever danger became serious, on the power of England. The records of the Scottish Parliament were thick set with laws denouncing vengeance on those who in any direction strayed from the prescribed pale. By an Act passed in the time of Knox, and breathing his spirit, it was a high crime to hear mass, and the third offence was capital. An Act recently passed, at the instance of James, made it death to preach in any Presbyterian conventicle whatever, and even to attend such a conventicle in the open air. The Eucharist was not, as in England, degraded into a civil test; but no person could hold any office, could sit in Parliament, or could even vote for a member of Parliament, without subscribing, under the sanction of an oath, a declaration which condemned in the strongest terms the principles both of the Papists and of the Covenanters.

In the Privy Council of Scotland there were two parties corresponding to the two parties which were contending against each other at Whitehall. William Douglas, Duke of Queensberry, was Lord Treasurer, and had, during some years, been considered as first minister. He was nearly connected by affinity, by similarity of opinions, and by similarity of temper, with the Treasurer of England. Both were Tories: both were men of hot temper and strong prejudices; both were ready to support their master in any attack on the civil liberties of his people; but both were sincerely attached to the Established Church. Queensberry had early notified to the court that, if any innovation affecting that Church were contemplated, to such innovation he could be no party. But among his colleagues were several men not less unprincipled than Sunderland. In truth the Council chamber at Edinburgh had been, during a quarter of a century, a seminary of all public and private vices; and some of the politicians whose character had been formed there had a peculiar hardness of heart and forehead to which Westminster, even in that bad age, could hardly show anything quite equal. The Chancellor, James Drummond, Earl of Perth, and his brother, the Secretary of State, John Lord Melfort, were bent on supplanting Queensberry. The Chancellor had already an unquestionable title to the royal favour. He had brought into use a little steel thumbscrew which gave such exquisite torment that it had wrung confessions even out of men on whom His Majesty's favourite boot had been tried in vain. But it was well known that even barbarity was not so sure a way to the heart of James as apostasy. To apostasy, therefore, Perth and Melfort resorted with a certain audacious baseness which no English statesman could hope to emulate. They declared that the papers found in the strong box of Charles the Second had converted them both to the true faith; and they began to confess and to hear mass. How little conscience had to do with Perth's change of religion he amply proved by taking to wife, a few weeks later, in direct defiance of the laws of the Church which he had just joined, a lady who was his cousin german, without waiting for a dispensation. When the good Pope learned this, he said, with scorn and indignation which well became him, that this was a strange sort of conversion. But James was more easily satisfied. The apostates presented themselves at Whitehall, and there received such assurances of his favour, that they ventured to bring direct charges against the Treasurer. Those charges, however, were so evidently frivolous that James was forced to acquit the accused minister; and many thought that the Chancellor had ruined himself by his malignant eagerness to ruin his rival. There were a few, however, who judged more correctly. Halifax, to whom Perth expressed some apprehensions, answered with a sneer that there was no danger. "Be of good cheer, my Lord; thy faith hath made thee whole." The prediction was correct. Perth and Melfort went back to Edinburgh, the real heads of the government of their country. Another member of the Scottish Privy Council, Alexander Stuart, Earl of Murray, the descendant and heir of the Regent, abjured the religion of which his illustrious ancestor had been the foremost champion, and declared himself a member of the Church of Rome. Devoted as Queensberry had always been to the cause of prerogative, he could not stand his ground against competitors who were willing to pay such a price for the favour of the court. He had to endure a succession of mortifications and humiliations similar to those which, about the same time, began to embitter the life of his friend Rochester. Royal letters came down authorising Papists to hold offices without taking the test. The clergy were strictly charged not to reflect on the Roman Catholic religion in their discourses. The Chancellor took on himself to send the macers of the Privy Council round to the few printers and booksellers who could then be found in Edinburgh, charging them not to publish any work without his license. It was well understood that this order was intended to prevent the circulation of Protestant treatises. One honest stationer told the messengers that he had in his shop a book which reflected in very coarse terms on Popery, and begged to know whether he might sell it. They asked to see it; and he showed them a copy of the Bible. A cargo of images, beads, crosses and censers arrived at Leith directed to Lord Perth. The importation of such articles had long been considered as illegal; but now the officers of the customs allowed the superstitious garments and trinkets to pass. In a short time it was known that a Popish chapel had been fitted up in the Chancellor's house, and that mass was regularly said there. The mob rose. The mansion where the idolatrous rites were celebrated was fiercely attacked. The iron bars which protected the windows were wrenched off. Lady Perth and some of her female friends were pelted with mud. One rioter was seized, and ordered by the Privy Council to be whipped. His fellows rescued him and beat the hangman. The city was all night in confusion. The students of the University mingled with the crowd and animated the tumult. Zealous burghers drank the health of the college lads and confusion to Papists, and encouraged each other to face the troops. The troops were already under arms. They were received with a shower of stones, which wounded an officer. Orders were given to fire; and several citizens were killed. The disturbance was serious; but the Drummonds, inflamed by resentment and ambition, exaggerated it strangely. Queensberry observed that their reports would lead any person, who had not been a witness of the tumult, to believe that a sedition as formidable as that of Masaniello had been raging at Edinburgh. They in return accused the Treasurer, not only of extenuating the crime of the insurgents, but of having himself prompted it, and did all in their power to obtain evidence of his guilt. One of the ringleaders, who had been taken, was offered a pardon if he would own that Queensberry had set him on; but the same religious enthusiasm, which had impelled the unhappy prisoner to criminal violence, prevented him from purchasing his life by a calumny. He and several of his accomplices were hanged. A soldier, who was accused of exclaiming, during the affray, that he should like to run his sword through a Papist, was shot; and Edinburgh was again quiet: but the sufferers were regarded as martyrs; and the Popish Chancellor became an object of mortal hatred, which in no long time was largely gratified.

The King was much incensed. The news of the tumult reached him when the Queen, assisted by the Jesuits, had just triumphed over Lady Dorchester and her Protestant allies. The malecontents should find, he declared, that the only effect of the resistance offered to his will was to make him more and more resolute. He sent orders to the Scottish Council to punish the guilty with the utmost severity, and to make unsparing use of the boot. He pretended to be fully convinced of the Treasurer's innocence, and wrote to that minister in gracious words; but the gracious words were accompanied by ungracious acts. The Scottish Treasury was put into commission in spite of the earnest remonstrances of Rochester, who probably saw his own fate prefigured in that of his kinsman. Queensberry was, indeed, named First Commissioner, and was made President of the Privy Council: but his fall, though thus broken, was still a fall. He was also removed from the government of the castle of Edinburgh, and was succeeded in that confidential post by the Duke of Gordon, a Roman Catholic.

And now a letter arrived from London, fully explaining to the Scottish Privy Council the intentions of the King. What he wanted was that the Roman Catholics should be exempted from all laws imposing penalties and disabilities on account of nonconformity, but that the persecution of the Covenanters should go on without mitigation. This scheme encountered strenuous opposition in the Council. Some members were unwilling to see the existing laws relaxed. Others, who were by no means averse to some relaxation, yet felt that it would he monstrous to admit Roman Catholics to the highest honours of the state, and yet to leave unrepealed the Act which made it death to attend a Presbyterian conventicle. The answer of the board was, therefore, less obsequious than usual. The King in reply sharply reprimanded his undutiful Councillors, and ordered three of them, the Duke of Hamilton, Sir George Lockhart, and General Drummond, to attend him at Westminster. Hamilton's abilities and knowledge, though by no means such as would have sufficed to raise an obscure man to eminence, appeared highly respectable in one who was premier peer of Scotland. Lockhart had long been regarded as one of the first jurists, logicians, and orators that his country had produced, and enjoyed also that sort of consideration which is derived from large possessions; for his estate was such as at that time very few Scottish nobles possessed. He had been lately appointed President of the Court of Session. Drummond, a younger brother of Perth and Melfort, was commander of the forces in Scotland. He was a loose and profane man: but a sense of honour which his two kinsmen wanted restrained him from a public apostasy. He lived and died, in the significant phrase of one of his countrymen, a bad Christian, but a good Protestant.

James was pleased by the dutiful language which the three Councillors used when first they appeared before him. He spoke highly of them to Barillon, and particularly extolled Lockhart as the ablest and most eloquent Scotchman living. They soon proved, however, less tractable than had been expected; and it was rumoured at court that they had been perverted by the company which they had kept in London. Hamilton lived much with zealous churchmen; and it might be feared that Lockhart, who was related to the Wharton family, had fallen into still worse society. In truth it was natural that statesmen fresh from a country where opposition in any other form than that of insurrection and assassination had long been almost unknown, and where all that was not lawless fury was abject submission, should have been struck by the earnest and stubborn, yet sober, discontent which pervaded England, and should have been emboldened to try the experiment of constitutional resistance to the royal will. They indeed declared themselves willing to grant large relief to the Roman Catholics; but on two conditions; first, that similar indulgence should be extended to the Calvinistic sectaries; and, secondly, that the King should bind himself by a solemn promise not to attempt anything to the prejudice of the Protestant religion.

Both conditions were highly distasteful to James. He reluctantly agreed, however, after a dispute which lasted several days, that some indulgence should be granted to the Presbyterians but he would by no means consent to allow them the full liberty which he demanded for members of his own communion. To the second condition proposed by the three Scottish Councillors he positively refused to listen. The Protestant religion, he said, was false and he would not give any guarantee that he would not use his power to the prejudice of a false religion. The altercation was long, and was not brought to a conclusion satisfactory to either party.

The time fixed for the meeting of the Scottish Estates drew near; and it was necessary that the three Councillors should leave London to attend their parliamentary duty at Edinburgh. On this occasion another affront was offered to Queensberry. In the late session he had held the office of Lord High Commissioner, and had in that capacity represented the majesty of the absent King. This dignity, the greatest to which a Scottish noble could aspire, was now transferred to the renegade Murray.

On the twenty-ninth of April the Parliament met at Edinburgh. A letter from the King was read. He exhorted the Estates to give relief to his Roman Catholic subjects, and offered in return a free trade with England and an amnesty for political offences. A committee was appointed to draw up an answer. That committee, though named by Murray, and composed of Privy Councillors and courtiers, framed a reply, full indeed of dutiful and respectful expressions, yet clearly indicating a determination to refuse what the King demanded. The Estates, it was said, would go as far as their consciences would allow to meet His Majesty's wishes respecting his subjects of the Roman Catholic religion. These expressions were far from satisfying the Chancellor; yet, such as they were, he was forced to content himself with them, and even had some difficulty in persuading the Parliament to adopt them. Objection was taken by some zealous Protestants to the mention made of the Roman Catholic religion. There was no such religion. There was an idolatrous apostasy, which the laws punished with the halter, and to which it did not become Christian men to give flattering titles. To call such a superstition Catholic was to give up the whole question which was at issue between Rome and the reformed Churches. The offer of a free trade with England was treated as an insult. "Our fathers," said one orator, "sold their King for southern gold; and we still lie under the reproach of that foul bargain. Let it not be said of us that we have sold our God!" Sir John Lauder of Fountainhall, one of the Senators of the College of Justice, suggested the words, "the persons commonly called Roman Catholics." "Would you nickname His Majesty?" exclaimed the Chancellor. The answer drawn by the committee was carried; but a large and respectable minority voted against the proposed words as too courtly. It was remarked that the representatives of the towns were, almost to a man, against the government. Hitherto those members had been of small account in the Parliament, and had generally, been considered as the retainers of powerful noblemen. They now showed, for the first time, an independence, a resolution, and a spirit of combination which alarmed the court.

The answer was so unpleasing to James that he did not suffer it to be printed in the Gazette. Soon he learned that a law, such as he wished to see passed, would not even be brought in. The Lords of Articles, whose business was to draw up the acts on which the Estates were afterwards to deliberate, were virtually nominated by himself. Yet even the Lords of Articles proved refractory. When they met, the three Privy Councillors who had lately returned from London took the lead in opposition to the royal will. Hamilton declared plainly that he could not do what was asked. He was a faithful and loyal subject; but there was a limit imposed by conscience. "Conscience!" said the Chancellor: "conscience is a vague word, which signifies any thing or nothing." Lockhart, who sate in Parliament as representative of the great county of Lanark, struck in. "If conscience," he said, "be a word without meaning, we will change it for another phrase which, I hope, means something. For conscience let us put the fundamental laws of Scotland." These words raised a fierce debate. General Drummond, who represented Perthshire, declared that he agreed with Hamilton and Lockhart. Most of the Bishops present took the same side.

It was plain that, even in the Committee of Articles, James could not command a majority. He was mortified and irritated by the tidings. He held warm and menacing language, and punished some of his mutinous servants, in the hope that the rest would take warning. Several persons were dismissed from the Council board. Several were deprived of pensions, which formed an important part of their income. Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh was the most distinguished victim. He had long held the office of Lord Advocate, and had taken such a part in the persecution of the Covenanters that to this day he holds, in the estimation of the austere and godly peasantry of Scotland, a place not far removed from the unenviable eminence occupied by Claverhouse. The legal attainments of Mackenzie were not of the highest order: but, as a scholar, a wit, and an orator, he stood high in the opinion of his countrymen; and his renown had spread even to the coffeehouses of London and the cloisters of Oxford. The remains of his forensic speeches prove him to have been a man of parts, but are somewhat disfigured by what he doubtless considered as Ciceronian graces, interjections which show more art than passion, and elaborate amplifications, in which epithet rises above epithet in wearisome climax. He had now, for the first time, been found scrupulous. He was, therefore, in spite of all his claims on the gratitude of the government, deprived of his office. He retired into the country, and soon after went up to London for the purpose of clearing himself, but was refused admission to the royal presence. While the King was thus trying to terrify the Lords of Articles into submission, the popular voice encouraged them to persist. The utmost exertions of the Chancellor could not prevent the national sentiment from expressing itself through the pulpit and the press. One tract, written with such boldness and acrimony that no printer dared to put it in type, was widely circulated in manuscript. The papers which appeared on the other side of the question had much less effect, though they were disseminated at the public charge, and though the Scottish defenders of the government were assisted by an English auxiliary of great note, Lestrange, who had been sent down to Edinburgh, and had apartments in Holyrood House.

At length, after three weeks of debate, the Lords of Articles came to a decision. They proposed merely that Roman Catholics should be permitted to worship God in private houses without incurring any penalty; and it soon appeared that, far as this measure was from coming up to the King's demands and expectations, the Estates either would not pass it at all, or would pass it with great restrictions and modifications.

While the contest lasted the anxiety in London was intense. Every report, every line, from Edinburgh was eagerly devoured. One day the story ran that Hamilton had given way and that the government would carry every point. Then came intelligence that the opposition had rallied and was more obstinate than ever. At the most critical moment orders were sent to the post-office that the bags from Scotland should be transmitted to Whitehall. During a whole week not a single private letter from beyond the Tweed was delivered in London. In our age such an interruption of communication would throw the whole island into confusion: but there was then so little trade and correspondence between England and Scotland that the inconvenience was probably much smaller than has been often occasioned in our own time by a short delay in the arrival of the Indian mail. While the ordinary channels of information were thus closed, the crowd in the galleries of Whitehall observed with attention the countenances of the King and his ministers. It was noticed, with great satisfaction, that, after every express from the North, the enemies of the Protestant religion looked more and more gloomy. At length, to the general joy, it was announced that the struggle was over, that the government had been unable to carry its measures, and that the Lord High Commissioner had adjourned the Parliament.

If James had not been proof to all warning, these events would have sufficed to warn him. A few months before this time the most obsequious of English Parliaments had refused to submit to his pleasure. But the most obsequious of English Parliaments might be regarded as an independent and high spirited assembly when compared with any Parliament that had ever sate in Scotland; and the servile spirit of Scottish Parliaments was always to be found in the highest perfection, extracted and condensed, among the Lords of Articles. Yet even the Lords of Articles had been refractory. It was plain that all those classes, all those institutions, which, up to this year, had been considered as the strongest supports of monarchical power, must, if the King persisted in his insane policy, be reckoned as parts of the strength of the opposition. All these signs, however, were lost upon him. To every expostulation he had one answer: he would never give way; for concession had ruined his father; and his unconquerable firmness was loudly applauded by the French embassy and by the Jesuitical cabal.


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