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The History of England from the Accession of James II
By Thomas Babington MacAulay
Chapter 4 Part 1


ON the eighteenth of January 1691, the King, having been detained some days by adverse winds, went on board at Gravesend. Four yachts had been fitted up for him and for his retinue. Among his attendants were Norfolk, Ormond, Devonshire, Dorset, Portland, Monmouth, Zulestein, and the Bishop of London. Two distinguished admirals, Cloudesley Shovel and George Rooke, commanded the men of war which formed the convoy. The passage was tedious and disagreeable. During many hours the fleet was becalmed off the Godwin Sands; and it was not till the fifth day that the soundings proved the coast of Holland to be near. The sea fog was so thick that no land could be seen; and it was not thought safe for the ships to proceed further in the darkness. William, tired out by the voyage, and impatient to be once more in his beloved country, determined to land in an open boat. The noblemen who were in his train tried to dissuade him from risking so valuable a life; but, when they found that his mind was made up, they insisted on sharing the danger. That danger proved more serious than they had expected. It had been supposed that in an hour the party would be on shore. But great masses of floating ice impeded the progress of the skiff; the night came on; the fog grew thicker; the waves broke over the King and the courtiers. Once the keel struck on a sand bank, and was with great difficulty got off. The hardiest mariners showed some signs of uneasiness. But William, through the whole night, was as composed as if he had been in the drawingroom at Kensington. "For shame," he said to one of the dismayed sailors "are you afraid to die in my company?" A bold Dutch seaman ventured to spring out, and, with great difficulty, swam and scrambled through breakers, ice and mud, to firm ground. Here he discharged a musket and lighted a fire as a signal that he was safe. None of his fellow passengers, however, thought it prudent to follow his example. They lay tossing in sight of the flame which he had kindled, till the first pale light of a January morning showed them that they were close to the island of Goree. The King and his Lords, stiff with cold and covered with icicles, gladly landed to warm and rest themselves.

After reposing some hours in the hut of a peasant, William proceeded to the Hague. He was impatiently expected there for, though the fleet which brought him was not visible from the shore, the royal salutes had been heard through the mist, and had apprised the whole coast of his arrival. Thousands had assembled at Honslaerdyk to welcome him with applause which came from their hearts and which went to his heart. That was one of the few white days of a life, beneficent indeed and glorious, but far from happy. After more than two years passed in a strange land, the exile had again set foot on his native soil. He heard again the language of his nursery. He saw again the scenery and the architecture which were inseparably associated in his mind with the recollections of childhood and the sacred feeling of home; the dreary mounds of sand, shells and weeds, on which the waves of the German Ocean broke; the interminable meadows intersected by trenches; the straight canals; the villas bright with paint and adorned with quaint images and inscriptions. He had lived during many weary months among a people who did not love him, who did not understand him, who could never forget that he was a foreigner.

Those Englishmen who served him most faithfully served him without enthusiasm, without personal attachment, and merely from a sense of public duty. In their hearts they were sorry that they had no choice but between an English tyrant and a Dutch deliverer. All was now changed. William was among a population by which he was adored, as Elizabeth had been adored when she rode through her army at Tilbury, as Charles the Second had been adored when he landed at Dover. It is true that the old enemies of the House of Orange had not been inactive during the absence of the Stadtholder. There had been, not indeed clamours, but mutterings against him. He had, it was said, neglected his native land for his new kingdom. Whenever the dignity of the English flag, whenever the prosperity of the English trade was concerned, he forgot that he was a Hollander. But, as soon as his well remembered face was again seen, all jealousy, all coldness, was at an end. There was not a boor, not a fisherman, not an artisan, in the crowds which lined the road from Honslaerdyk to the Hague, whose heart did not swell with pride at the thought that the first minister of Holland had become a great King, had freed the English, and had conquered the Irish.

It would have been madness in William to travel from Hampton Court to Westminster without a guard; but in his own land he needed no swords or carbines to defend him. "Do not keep the people off;" he cried: "let them come close to me; they are all my good friends." He soon learned that sumptuous preparations were making for his entrance into the Hague. At first he murmured and objected. He detested, he said, noise and display. The necessary cost of the war was quite heavy enough. He hoped that his kind fellow townsmen would consider him as a neighbour, born and bred among them, and would not pay him so bad a compliment as to treat him ceremoniously. But all his expostulations were vain. The Hollanders, simple and parsimonious as their ordinary habits were, had set their hearts on giving their illustrious countryman a reception suited to his dignity and to his merit; and he found it necessary to yield.

On the day of his triumph the concourse was immense. All the wheeled carriages and horses of the province were too few for the multitude of those who flocked to the show. Many thousands came sliding or skating along the frozen canals from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Leyden, Haarlem, Delft. At ten in the morning of the twenty-sixth of January, the great bell of the Town House gave the signal. Sixteen hundred substantial burghers, well armed, and clad in the finest dresses which were to be found in the recesses of their wardrobes, kept order in the crowded streets. Balconies and scaffolds, embowered in evergreens and hung with tapestry, hid the windows. The royal coach, escorted by an army of halberdiers and running footmen, and followed by a long train of splendid equipages, passed under numerous arches rich with carving and painting, amidst incessant shouts of "Long live the King our Stadtholder." The front of the Town House and the whole circuit of the marketplace were in a blaze with brilliant colours. Civic crowns, trophies, emblems of arts, of sciences, of commerce and of agriculture, appeared every where. In one place William saw portrayed the glorious actions of his ancestors.

There was the silent prince, the founder of the Batavian commonwealth, passing the Meuse with his warriors. There was the more impetuous Maurice leading the charge at Nieuport. A little further on, the hero might retrace the eventful story of his own life. He was a child at his widowed mother's knee. He was at the altar with Diary's hand in his. He was landing at Torbay. He was swimming through the Boyne. There, too, was a boat amidst the ice and the breakers; and above it was most appropriately inscribed, in the majestic language of Rome, the saying of the great Roman, "What dost thou fear? Thou hast Caesar on board." The task of furnishing the Latin mottoes had been intrusted to two men, who, till Bentley appeared, held the highest place among the classical scholars of that age. Spanheim, whose knowledge of the Roman medals was unrivalled, imitated, not unsuccessfully, the noble conciseness of those ancient legends which he had assiduously studied; and he was assisted by Graevius, who then filled a chair at Utrecht, and whose just reputation had drawn to that University multitudes of students from every part of Protestant Europe.

When the night came, fireworks were exhibited on the great tank which washes the walls of the Palace of the Federation. That tank was now as hard as marble; and the Dutch boasted that nothing had ever been seen, even on the terrace of Versailles, more brilliant than the effect produced by the innumerable cascades of flame which were reflected in the smooth mirror of ice. The English Lords congratulated their master on his immense popularity. "Yes," said he; "but I am not the favourite. The shouting was nothing to what it would have been if Mary had been with me."

A few hours after the triumphal entry, the King attended a sitting of the States General. His last appearance among them had been on the day on which he embarked for England. He had then, amidst the broken words and loud weeping of those grave Senators, thanked them for the kindness with which they had watched over his childhood, trained his young mind, and supported his authority in his riper years; and he had solemnly commended his beloved wife to their care. He now came back among them the King of three kingdoms, the head of the greatest coalition that Europe had seen during a hundred and eighty years; and nothing was heard in the hall but applause and congratulations.

But this time the streets of the Hague were overflowing with the equipages and retinues of princes and ambassadors who came flocking to the great Congress. First appeared the ambitious and ostentatious Frederic, Elector of Brandenburg, who, a few years later, took the title of King of Prussia. Then arrived the young Elector of Bavaria, the Regent of Wirtemberg, the Landgraves of Hesse Cassel and Hesse Darmstadt, and a long train of sovereign princes, sprung from the illustrious houses of Brunswick, of Saxony, of Holstein, and of Nassau. The Marquess of Gastanaga, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, repaired to the assembly from the viceregal Court of Brussels. Extraordinary ministers had been sent by the Emperor, by the Kings of Spain, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden, and by the Duke of Savoy. There was scarcely room in the town and the neighbourhood for the English Lords and gentlemen and the German Counts and Barons whom curiosity or official duty had brought to the place of meeting. The grave capital of the most thrifty and industrious of nations was as gay as Venice in the Carnival. The walks cut among those noble limes and elms in which the villa of the Princes of Orange is embosomed were gay with the plumes, the stars, the flowing wigs, the embroidered coats and the gold hilted swords of gallants from London, Berlin and Vienna. With the nobles were mingled sharpers not less gorgeously attired than they. At night the hazard tables were thronged; and the theatre was filled to the roof. Princely banquets followed one another in rapid succession. The meats were served in gold; and, according to that old Teutonic fashion with which Shakspeare had made his countrymen familiar, as often as any of the great princes proposed a health, the kettle drums and trumpets sounded. Some English lords, particularly Devonshire, gave entertainments which vied with those of Sovereigns. It was remarked that the German potentates, though generally disposed to be litigious and punctilious about etiquette, associated, on this occasion, in an unceremonious manner, and seemed to have forgotten their passion for genealogical and heraldic controversy. The taste for wine, which was then characteristic of their nation, they had not forgotten. At the table of the Elector of Brandenburg much mirth was caused by the gravity of the statesmen of Holland, who, sober themselves, confuted out of Grotius and Puffendorf the nonsense stuttered by the tipsy nobles of the Empire. One of those nobles swallowed so many bumpers that he tumbled into the turf fire, and was not pulled out till his fine velvet suit had been burned.

In the midst of all this revelry, business was not neglected. A formal meeting of the Congress was held at which William presided. In a short and dignified speech, which was speedily circulated throughout Europe, he set forth the necessity of firm union and strenuous exertion. The profound respect with which he was heard by that splendid assembly caused bitter mortification to his enemies both in England and in France. The German potentates were bitterly reviled for yielding precedence to an upstart. Indeed the most illustrious among them paid to him such marks of deference as they would scarcely have deigned to pay to the Imperial Majesty, mingled with the crowd in his antechamber, and at his table behaved as respectfully as any English lord in waiting. In one caricature the allied princes were represented as muzzled bears, some with crowns, some with caps of state. William had them all in a chain, and was teaching them to dance. In another caricature, he appeared taking his ease in an arm chair, with his feet on a cushion, and his hat on his head, while the Electors of Brandenburg and Bavaria, uncovered, occupied small stools on the right and left; the crowd of Landgraves and Sovereign dukes stood at humble distance; and Gastanaga, the unworthy successor of Alva, awaited the orders of the heretic tyrant on bended knee.

It was soon announced by authority that, before the beginning of summer, two hundred and twenty thousand men would be in the field against France.7 The contingent which each of the allied powers was to furnish was made known. Matters about which it would have been inexpedient to put forth any declaration were privately discussed by the King of England with his allies. On this occasion, as on every other important occasion during his reign, he was his own minister for foreign affairs. It was necessary for the sake of form that he should be attended by a Secretary of State; and Nottingham had therefore followed him to Holland. But Nottingham, though, in matters concerning the internal government of England, he enjoyed a large share of his master's confidence, knew little more about the business of the Congress than what he saw in the Gazettes.

This mode of transacting business would now be thought most unconstitutional; and many writers, applying the standard of their own age to the transactions of a former age, have severely blamed William for acting without the advice of his ministers, and his ministers for submitting to be kept in ignorance of transactions which deeply concerned the honour of the Crown and the welfare of the nation. Yet surely the presumption is that what the most honest and honourable men of both parties, Nottingham, for example, among the Tories, and Somers among the Whigs, not only did, but avowed, cannot have been altogether inexcusable; and a very sufficient excuse will without difficulty be found.

The doctrine that the Sovereign is not responsible is doubtless as old as any part of our constitution. The doctrine that his ministers are responsible is also of immemorial antiquity. That where there is no responsibility there can be no trustworthy security against maladministration, is a doctrine which, in our age and country, few people will be inclined to dispute. From these three propositions it plainly follows that the administration is likely to be best conducted when the Sovereign performs no public act without the concurrence and instrumentality of a minister. This argument is perfectly sound. But we must remember that arguments are constructed in one way, and governments in another. In logic, none but an idiot admits the premises and denies the legitimate conclusion. But in practice, we see that great and enlightened communities often persist, generation after generation, in asserting principles, and refusing to act upon those principles. It may be doubted whether any real polity that ever existed has exactly corresponded to the pure idea of that polity. According to the pure idea of constitutional royalty, the prince reigns and does not govern; and constitutional royalty, as it now exists in England, comes nearer than in any other country to the pure idea. Yet it would be a great error to imagine that our princes merely reign and never govern. In the seventeenth century, both Whigs and Tories thought it, not only the right, but the duty, of the first magistrate to govern. All parties agreed in blaming Charles the Second for not being his own Prime Minister; all parties agreed in praising James for being his own Lord High Admiral; and all parties thought it natural and reasonable that William should be his own Foreign Secretary.

It may be observed that the ablest and best informed of those who have censured the manner in which the negotiations of that time were conducted are scarcely consistent with themselves. For, while they blame William for being his own Ambassador Plenipotentiary at the Hague, they praise him for being his own Commander in Chief in Ireland. Yet where is the distinction in principle between the two cases? Surely every reason which can be brought to prove that he violated the constitution, when, by his own sole authority, he made compacts with the Emperor and the Elector of Brandenburg, will equally prove that he violated the constitution, when, by his own sole authority, he ordered one column to plunge into the water at Oldbridge and another to cross the bridge of Slane. If the constitution gave him the command of the forces of the State, the constitution gave him also the direction of the foreign relations of the State. On what principle then can it be maintained that he was at liberty to exercise the former power without consulting any body, but that he was bound to exercise the latter power in conformity with the advice of a minister? Will it be said that an error in diplomacy is likely to be more injurious to the country than an error in strategy? Surely not. It is hardly conceivable that any blunder which William might have made at the Hague could have been more injurious to the public interests than a defeat at the Boyne. Or will it be said that there was greater reason for placing confidence in his military than in his diplomatic skill? Surely not. In war he showed some great moral and intellectual qualities; but, as a tactician, he did not rank high; and of his many campaigns only two were decidedly successful. In the talents of a negotiator, on the other hand, he has never been surpassed. Of the interests and the tempers of the continental courts he knew more than all his Privy Council together. Some of his ministers were doubtless men of great ability, excellent orators in the House of Lords, and versed in our insular politics. But, in the deliberations of the Congress, Caermarthen and Nottingham would have been found as far inferior to him as he would have been found inferior to them in a parliamentary debate on a question purely English. The coalition against France was his work. He alone had joined together the parts of that great whole; and he alone could keep them together. If he had trusted that vast and complicated machine in the hands of any of his subjects, it would instantly have fallen to pieces. Some things indeed were to be done which none of his subjects would have ventured to do. Pope Alexander was really, though not in name, one of the allies; it was of the highest importance to have him for a friend; and yet such was the temper of the English nation that an English minister might well shrink from having any dealings, direct or indirect, with the Vatican. The Secretaries of State were glad to leave a matter so delicate and so full of risk to their master, and to be able to protest with truth that not a line to which the most intolerant Protestant could object had ever gone out of their offices.

It must not be supposed however that William ever forgot that his especial, his hereditary, mission was to protect the Reformed Faith. His influence with Roman Catholic princes was constantly and strenuously exerted for the benefit of their Protestant subjects. In the spring of 1691, the Waldensian shepherds, long and cruelly persecuted, and weary of their lives, were surprised by glad tidings. Those who had been in prison for heresy returned to their homes. Children, who had been taken from their parents to be educated by priests, were sent back. Congregations, which had hitherto met only by stealth and with extreme peril, now worshipped God without molestation in the face of day. Those simple mountaineers probably never knew that their fate had been a subject of discussion at the Hague, and that they owed the happiness of their firesides, and the security of their humble temples to the ascendency which William exercised over the Duke of Savoy.

No coalition of which history has preserved the memory has had an abler chief than William. But even William often contended in vain against those vices which are inherent in the nature of all coalitions. No undertaking which requires the hearty and long continued cooperation of many independent states is likely to prosper. Jealousies inevitably spring up. Disputes engender disputes. Every confederate is tempted to throw on others some part of the burden which he ought himself to bear. Scarcely one honestly furnishes the promised contingent. Scarcely one exactly observes the appointed day. But perhaps no coalition that ever existed was in such constant danger of dissolution as the coalition which William had with infinite difficulty formed. The long list of potentates, who met in person or by their representatives at the Hague, looked well in the Gazettes. The crowd of princely equipages, attended by manycoloured guards and lacqueys, looked well among the lime trees of the Voorhout. But the very circumstances which made the Congress more splendid than other congresses made the league weaker than other leagues. The more numerous the allies, the more numerous were the dangers which threatened the alliance. It was impossible that twenty governments, divided by quarrels about precedence, quarrels about territory, quarrels about trade, quarrels about religion, could long act together in perfect harmony. That they acted together during several years in imperfect harmony is to be ascribed to the wisdom, patience and firmness of William.

The situation of his great enemy was very different. The resources of the French monarchy, though certainly not equal to those of England, Holland, the House of Austria, and the Empire of Germany united, were yet very formidable; they were all collected in a central position; they were all under the absolute direction of a single mind. Lewis could do with two words what William could hardly bring about by two months of negotiation at Berlin, Munich, Brussels, Turin and Vienna. Thus France was found equal in effective strength to all the states which were combined against her. For in the political, as in the natural world, there may be an equality of momentum between unequal bodies, when the body which is inferior in weight is superior in velocity. This was soon signally proved. In March the princes and ambassadors who had been assembled at the Hague separated and scarcely had they separated when all their plans were disconcerted by a bold and skilful move of the enemy.

Lewis was sensible that the meeting of the Congress was likely to produce a great effect on the public mind of Europe. That effect he determined to counteract by striking a sudden and terrible blow. While his enemies were settling how many troops each of them should furnish, he ordered numerous divisions of his army to march from widely distant points towards Mons, one of the most important, if not the most important, of the fortresses which protected the Spanish Netherlands. His purpose was discovered only when it was all but accomplished. William, who had retired for a few days to Loo, learned, with surprise and extreme vexation, that cavalry, infantry, artillery, bridges of boats, were fast approaching the fated city by many converging routes. A hundred thousand men had been brought together. All the implements of war had been largely provided by Louvois, the first of living administrators.

The command was entrusted to Luxemburg, the first of living generals. The scientific operations were directed by Vauban, the first of living engineers. That nothing might be wanting which could kindle emulation through all the ranks of a gallant and loyal army, the magnificent King himself had set out from Versailles for the camp. Yet William had still some faint hope that it might be possible to raise the siege. He flew to the Hague, put all the forces of the States General in motion, and sent pressing messages to the German Princes. Within three weeks after he had received the first hint of the danger, he was in the neighbourhood of the besieged city, at the head of near fifty thousand troops of different nations. To attack a superior force commanded by such a captain as Luxemburg was a bold, almost a desperate, enterprise. Yet William was so sensible that the loss of Mons would be an almost irreparable disaster and disgrace that he made up his mind to run the hazard. He was convinced that the event of the siege would determine the policy of the Courts of Stockholm and Copenhagen. Those Courts had lately seemed inclined to join the coalition. If Mons fell, they would certainly remain neutral; they might possibly become hostile. "The risk," he wrote to Heinsius, "is great; yet I am not without hope. I will do what can be done. The issue is in the hands of God." On the very day on which this letter was written Mons fell. The siege had been vigorously pressed. Lewis himself, though suffering from the gout, had set the example of strenuous exertion. His household troops, the finest body of soldiers in Europe, had, under his eye, surpassed themselves. The young nobles of his court had tried to attract his notice by exposing themselves to the hottest fire with the same gay alacrity with which they were wont to exhibit their graceful figures at his balls. His wounded soldiers were charmed by the benignant courtesy with which he walked among their pallets, assisted while wounds were dressed by the hospital surgeons, and breakfasted on a porringer of the hospital broth. While all was obedience and enthusiasm among the besiegers, all was disunion and dismay among the besieged. The duty of the French lines was so well performed that no messenger sent by William was able to cross them. The garrison did not know that relief was close at hand. The burghers were appalled by the prospect of those horrible calamities which befall cities taken by storm. Showers of shells and redhot bullets were falling in the streets. The town was on fire in ten places at once. The peaceful inhabitants derived an unwonted courage from the excess of their fear, and rose on the soldiers. Thenceforth resistance was impossible; and a capitulation was concluded. The armies then retired into quarters. Military operations were suspended during some weeks; Lewis returned in triumph to Versailles; and William paid a short visit to England, where his presence was much needed.

He found the ministers still employed in tracing out the ramifications of the plot which had been discovered just before his departure. Early in January, Preston, Ashton and Elliot had been arraigned at the Old Bailey. They claimed the right of severing in their challenges. It was therefore necessary to try them separately. The audience was numerous and splendid. Many peers were present. The Lord President and the two Secretaries of State attended in order to prove that the papers produced in Court were the same which Billop had brought to Whitehall. A considerable number of judges appeared on the bench; and Holt presided. A full report of the proceedings has come down to us, and well deserves to be attentively studied, and to be compared with the reports of other trials which had not long before taken place under the same roof. The whole spirit of the tribunal had undergone in a few months a change so complete that it might seem to have been the work of ages. Twelve years earlier, unhappy Roman Catholics, accused of wickedness which had never entered into their thoughts, had stood in that dock. The witnesses for the Crown had repeated their hideous fictions amidst the applauding hums of the audience. The judges had shared, or had pretended to share, the stupid credulity and the savage passions of the populace, had exchanged smiles and compliments with the perjured informers, had roared down the arguments feebly stammered forth by the prisoners, and had not been ashamed, in passing the sentence of death, to make ribald jests on purgatory and the mass. As soon as the butchery of Papists was over, the butchery of Whigs had commenced; and the judges had applied themselves to their new work with even more than their old barbarity. To these scandals the Revolution had put an end. Whoever, after perusing the trials of Ireland and Pickering, of Grove and Berry, of Sidney, Cornish and Alice Lisle, turns to the trials of Preston and Ashton, will be astonished by the contrast. The Solicitor General, Somers, conducted the prosecutions with a moderation and humanity of which his predecessors had left him no example. "I did never think," he said, "that it was the part of any who were of counsel for the King in cases of this nature to aggravate the crime of the prisoners, or to put false colours on the evidence."

Holt's conduct was faultless. Pollexfen, an older man than Holt or Somers, retained a little,--and a little was too much,--of the tone of that bad school in which he had been bred. But, though he once or twice forgot the austere decorum of his place, he cannot be accused of any violation of substantial justice. The prisoners themselves seem to have been surprised by the fairness and gentleness with which they were treated. "I would not mislead the jury, I'll assure you," said Holt to Preston, "nor do Your Lordship any manner of injury in the world." "No, my Lord;" said Preston; "I see it well enough that Your Lordship would not." "Whatever my fate may be," said Ashton, "I cannot but own that I have had a fair trial for my life."

The culprits gained nothing by the moderation of the Solicitor General or by the impartiality of the Court; for the evidence was irresistible. The meaning of the papers seized by Billop was so plain that the dullest juryman could not misunderstand it. Of those papers part was fully proved to be in Preston's handwriting. Part was in Ashton's handwriting but this the counsel for the prosecution had not the means of proving. They therefore rested the case against Ashton on the indisputable facts that the treasonable packet had been found in his bosom, and that he had used language which was quite unintelligible except on the supposition that he had a guilty knowledge of the contents.

Both Preston and Ashton were convicted and sentenced to death. Ashton was speedily executed. He might have saved his life by making disclosures. But though he declared that, if he were spared, he would always be a faithful subject of Their Majesties, he was fully resolved not to give up the names of his accomplices. In this resolution he was encouraged by the nonjuring divines who attended him in his cell. It was probably by their influence that he was induced to deliver to the Sheriffs on the scaffold a declaration which he had transcribed and signed, but had not, it is to be hoped, composed or attentively considered. In this paper he was made to complain of the unfairness of a trial which he had himself in public acknowledged to have been eminently fair. He was also made to aver, on the word of a dying man, that he knew nothing of the papers which had been found upon him. Unfortunately his declaration, when inspected, proved to be in the same handwriting with one of the most important of those papers. He died with manly fortitude.

Elliot was not brought to trial. The evidence against him was not quite so clear as that on which his associates had been convicted; and he was not worth the anger of the government. The fate of Preston was long in suspense. The Jacobites affected to be confident that the government would not dare to shed his blood. He was, they said, a favourite at Versailles, and his death would be followed by a terrible retaliation. They scattered about the streets of London papers in which it was asserted that, if any harm befell him, Mountjoy, and all the other Englishmen of quality who were prisoners in France, would be broken on the wheel.

These absurd threats would not have deferred the execution one day. But those who had Preston in their power were not unwilling to spare him on certain conditions. He was privy to all the counsels of the disaffected party, and could furnish information of the highest value. He was informed that his fate depended on himself. The struggle was long and severe. Pride, conscience, party spirit, were on one side; the intense love of life on the other. He went during a time irresolutely to and fro. He listened to his brother Jacobites; and his courage rose. He listened to the agents of the government; and his heart sank within him. In an evening when he had dined and drunk his claret, he feared nothing. He would die like a man, rather than save his neck by an act of baseness. But his temper was very different when he woke the next morning, when the courage which he had drawn from wine and company had evaporated, when he was alone with the iron grates and stone walls, and when the thought of the block, the axe and the sawdust rose in his mind. During some time he regularly wrote a confession every forenoon when he was sober, and burned it every night when he was merry.14 His nonjuring friends formed a plan for bringing Sancroft to visit the Tower, in the hope, doubtless, that the exhortations of so great a prelate and so great a saint would confirm the wavering virtue of the prisoner.

Whether this plan would have been successful may be doubted; it was not carried into effect; the fatal hour drew near; and the fortitude of Preston gave way. He confessed his guilt, and named Clarendon, Dartmouth, the Bishop of Ely and William Penn, as his accomplices. He added a long list of persons against whom he could not himself give evidence, but who, if he could trust to Penn's assurances, were friendly to King James. Among these persons were Devonshire and Dorset.

There is not the slightest reason to believe that either of these great noblemen ever had any dealings, direct or indirect, with Saint Germains. It is not, however, necessary to accuse Penn of deliberate falsehood. He was credulous and garrulous. The Lord Steward and the Lord Chamberlain had shared in the vexation with which their party had observed the leaning of William towards the Tories; and they had probably expressed that vexation unguardedly. So weak a man as Penn, wishing to find Jacobites every where, and prone to believe whatever he wished, might easily put an erroneous construction on invectives such as the haughty and irritable Devonshire was but too ready to utter, and on sarcasms such as, in moments of spleen, dropped but too easily from the lips of the keenwitted Dorset. Caermarthen, a Tory, and a Tory who had been mercilessly persecuted by the Whigs, was disposed to make the most of this idle hearsay. But he received no encouragement from his master, who, of all the great politicians mentioned in history, was the least prone to suspicion. When William returned to England, Preston was brought before him, and was commanded to repeat the confession which had already been made to the ministers. The King stood behind the Lord President's chair and listened gravely while Clarendon, Dartmouth, Turner and Penn were named. But as soon as the prisoner, passing from what he could himself testify, began to repeat the stories which Penn had told him, William touched Caermarthen on the shoulder and said, "My Lord, we have had too much of this."

This judicious magnanimity had its proper reward. Devonshire and Dorset became from that day more zealous than ever in the cause of the master who, in spite of calumny for which their own indiscretion had perhaps furnished some ground, had continued to repose confidence in their loyalty.

Even those who were undoubtedly criminal were generally treated with great lenity. Clarendon lay in the Tower about six months. His guilt was fully established; and a party among the Whigs called loudly and importunately for his head. But he was saved by the pathetic entreaties of his brother Rochester, by the good offices of the humane and generous Burnet, and by Mary's respect for the memory of her mother. The prisoner's confinement was not strict. He was allowed to entertain his friends at dinner. When at length his health began to suffer from restraint, he was permitted to go into the country under the care of a warder; the warder was soon removed; and Clarendon was informed that, while he led a quiet rural life, he should not be molested.

The treason of Dartmouth was of no common dye. He was an English seaman; and he had laid a plan for betraying Portsmouth to the French, and had offered to take the command of a French squadron against his country. It was a serious aggravation of his guilt that he had been one of the very first persons who took the oaths to William and Mary. He was arrested and brought to the Council Chamber. A narrative of what passed there, written by himself, has been preserved. In that narrative he admits that he was treated with great courtesy and delicacy. He vehemently asserted his innocence. He declared that he had never corresponded with Saint Germains, that he was no favourite there, and that Mary of Modena in particular owed him a grudge. "My Lords," he said, "I am an Englishman. I always, when the interest of the House of Bourbon was strongest here, shunned the French, both men and women. I would lose the last drop of my blood rather than see Portsmouth in the power of foreigners. I am not such a fool as to think that King Lewis will conquer us merely for the benefit of King James. I am certain that nothing can be truly imputed to me beyond some foolish talk over a bottle." His protestations seem to have produced some effect; for he was at first permitted to remain in the gentle custody of the Black Rod. On further inquiry, however, it was determined to send him to the Tower. After a confinement of a few weeks he died of apoplexy; but he lived long enough to complete his disgrace by offering his sword to the new government, and by expressing in fervent language his hope that he might, by the goodness of God and of Their Majesties, have an opportunity of showing how much he hated the French.

Turner ran no serious risk; for the government was most unwilling to send to the scaffold one of the Seven who had signed the memorable petition. A warrant was however issued for his apprehension; and his friends had little hope that he would escape; for his nose was such as none who had seen it could forget; and it was to little purpose that he put on a flowing wig and that he suffered his beard to grow. The pursuit was probably not very hot; for, after skulking a few weeks in England, he succeeded in crossing the Channel, and remained some time in France.

A warrant was issued against Penn; and he narrowly escaped the messengers. It chanced that, on the day on which they were sent in search of him, he was attending a remarkable ceremony at some distance from his home. An event had taken place which a historian, whose object is to record the real life of a nation, ought not to pass unnoticed. While London was agitated by the news that a plot had been discovered, George Fox, the founder of the sect of Quakers, died.


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