Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The History of England from the Accession of James II
By Thomas Babington MacAulay
Volume 5 Part 1

I HAVE thought it right to publish that portion of the continuation of the "History of England" which was fairly transcribed and revised by Lord Macaulay. It is given to the world precisely as it was left: no connecting link has been added; no reference verified; no authority sought for or examined. It would indeed have been possible, with the help I might have obtained from his friends, to have supplied much that is wanting; but I preferred, and I believe the public will prefer, that the last thoughts of the great mind passed away from among us should be preserved sacred from any touch but his own. Besides the revised manuscript, a few pages containing the first rough sketch of the last two months of William's reign are all that is left. From this I have with some difficulty deciphered the account of the death of William. No attempt has been made to join it on to the preceding part, or to supply the corrections which would have been given by the improving hand of the author. But, imperfect as it must be, I believe it will be received with pleasure and interest as a fit conclusion to the life of his great hero.

I will only add my grateful thanks for the kind advice and assistance given me by his most dear and valued friends, Dean Milman and Mr. Ellis.

THE rejoicings, by which London, on the second of December 1697, celebrated the return of peace and prosperity, continued till long after midnight. On the following morning the Parliament met; and one of the most laborious sessions of that age commenced. Among the questions which it was necessary that the Houses should speedily decide, one stood forth preeminent in interest and importance. Even in the first transports of joy with which the bearer of the treaty of Ryswick had been welcomed to England, men had eagerly and anxiously asked one another what was to be done with that army which had been famed in Ireland and Belgium, which had learned, in many hard campaigns, to obey and to conquer, and which now consisted of eighty-seven thousand excellent soldiers. Was any part of this great force to be retained in the service of the State? And, if any part, what part? The last two kings had, without the consent of the legislature, maintained military establishments in time of peace. But that they had done this in violation of the fundamental laws of England was acknowledged by all jurists, and had been expressly affirmed in the Bill of Rights. It was therefore impossible for William, now that the country was threatened by no foreign and no domestic enemy, to keep up even a single battalion without the sanction of the Estates of the Realm; and it might well be doubted whether such a sanction would be given.

It is not easy for us to see this question in the light in which it appeared to our ancestors. No man of sense has, in our days, or in the days of our fathers, seriously maintained that our island could be safe without an army. And, even if our island were perfectly secure from attack, an army would still be indispensably necessary to us. The growth of the empire has left us no choice. The regions which we have colonized or conquered since the accession of the House of Hanover contain a population exceeding twenty-fold that which the House of Stuart governed. There are now more English soldiers on the other side of the tropic of Cancer in time of peace than Cromwell had under his command in time of war. All the troops of Charles II. would not have been sufficient to garrison the posts which we now occupy in the Mediterranean Sea alone. The regiments which defend the remote dependencies of the Crown cannot be duly recruited and relieved, unless a force far larger than that which James collected in the camp at Hounslow for the purpose of overawing his capital be constantly kept up within the kingdom. The old national antipathy to permanent military establishments, an antipathy which was once reasonable and salutary, but which lasted some time after it had become unreasonable and noxious, has gradually yielded to the irresistible force of circumstances. We have made the discovery, that an army may be so constituted as to be in the highest degree efficient against an enemy, and yet obsequious to the civil magistrate. We have long ceased to apprehend danger to law and to freedom from the license of troops, and from the ambition of victorious generals. An alarmist who should now talk such language, as was common five generations ago, who should call for the entire disbanding of the land force; of the realm, and who should gravely predict that the warriors of Inkerman and Delhi would depose the Queen, dissolve the Parliament, and plunder the Bank, would be regarded as fit only for a cell in Saint Luke's. But before the Revolution our ancestors had known a standing army only as an instrument of lawless power. Judging by their own experience, they thought it impossible that such an army should exist without danger to the rights both of the Crown and of the people. One class of politicians was never weary of repeating that an Apostolic Church, a loyal gentry, an ancient nobility, a sainted King, had been foully outraged by the Joyces and the Prides; another class recounted the atrocities committed by the Lambs of Kirke, and by the Beelzebubs and Lucifers of Dundee; and both classes, agreeing in scarcely any thing else, were disposcd to agree in aversion to the red coats.

While such was the feeling of the nation, the King was, both as a statesman and as a general, most unwilling to see that superb body of troops which he had formed with infinite difficulty broken up and dispersed. But, as to this matter, he could not absolutely rely on the support of his ministers; nor could his ministers absolutely rely on the support of that parliamentary majority whose attachment had enabled them to confront enemies abroad and to crush traitors at home, to restore a debased currency, and to fix public credit on deep and solid foundations. The difficulties of the King's situation are to be, in part at least, attributed to an error which he had committed in the preceding spring. The Gazette which announced that Sunderland been appointed Chamberlain of the Royal Household, sworn of the Privy Council, and named one of the Lords Justices who were to administer the government during the summer had caused great uneasiness among plain men who remembered all the windings and doublings of his long career. In truth, his countrymen were unjust to him. For they thought him, not only an unprincipled and faithless politician, which he was, but a deadly enemy of the liberties of the nation, which he was not. What he wanted was simply to be safe, rich and great. To these objects he had been constant through all the vicissitudes of his life. For these objects he had passed from Church to Church and from faction to faction, had joined the most turbulent of oppositions without any zeal for freedom, and had served the most arbitrary of monarchs without any zeal for monarchy; had voted for the Exclusion Bill without being a Protestant, and had adored the Host without being a Papist; had sold his country at once to both the great parties which divided the Continent; had taken money from France, and had sent intelligence to Holland. As far, however, as he could be said to have any opinions, his opinions were Whiggish. Since his return from exile, his influence had been generally exerted in favour of the Whig party. It was by his counsel that the Great Seal had been entrusted to Somers, that Nottingham had been sacrificed to Russell, and that Montague had been preferred to Fox. It was by his dexterous management that the Princess Anne had been detached from the opposition, and that Godolphin had been removed from the head of the hoard of Treasury. The party which Sunderland had done so much to serve now held a new pledge for his fidelity. His only son, Charles Lord Spencer, was just entering on public life. The precocious maturity of the young man's intellectual and moral character had excited hopes which were not destined to be realized. His knowledge of ancient literature, and his skill in imitating the styles of the masters of Roman eloquence, were applauded by veteran scholars. The sedateness of his deportment and the apparent regularity of his life delighted austere moralists. He was known indeed to have one expensive taste; but it was a taste of the most respectable kind. He loved books, and was bent or forming the most magnificent private library in England. While other heirs of noble houses were inspecting patterns of steinkirks and sword knots, dangling after actresses, or betting on fighting cocks, he was in pursuit of the Mentz editions of Tully's Offices, of the Parmesan Statius, and of the inestimable Virgin of Zarottus. It was natural that high expectations should be formed of the virtue and wisdom of a youth whose very luxury and prodigality had a grave and erudite air, and that even discerning men should be unable to detect the vices which were hidden under that show of premature sobriety.

Spencer was a Whig, unhappily for the Whig party, which, before the unhonoured and unlamented close of his life, was more than once brought to the verge of ruin by his violent temper and his crooked politics. His Whiggism differed widely from that of his father. It was not a languid, speculative, preference of one theory of government to another, but a fierce and dominant passion. Unfortunately, though an ardent, it was at the same time a corrupt and degenerate, Whiggism; a Whiggism so narrow and oligarchical as to be little, if at all, preferable to the worst forms of Toryism. The young lord's imagination had been fascinated by those swelling sentiments of liberty which abound in the Latin poets and orators; and he, like those poets and orators, meant by liberty something very different from the only liberty which is of importance to the happiness of mankind. Like them, he could see no danger to liberty except from kings. A commonwealth, oppressed and pillaged by such men as Opimius and Verres, was free, because it had no king. A member of the Grand Council of Venice, who passed his whole life under tutelage and in fear, who could not travel where he chose, or visit whom he chose, or invest his property as he chose, whose path was beset with spies, who saw at the corners of the streets the mouth of bronze gaping for anonymous accusations against him, and whom the Inquisitors of State could, at any moment, and for any or no reason, arrest, torture, fling into the Grand Canal, was free, because he had no king. To curtail, for the benefit of a small privileged class, prerogatives which the Sovereign possesses and ought to possess for the benefit of the whole nation, was the object on which Spencer's heart was set. During many years he was restrained by older and wiser men; and it was not till those whom he had early been accustomed to respect had passed away, and till he was himself at the head of affairs, that he openly attempted to obtain for the hereditary nobility a precarious and invidious ascendency in the State, at the expense both of the Commons and of the Throne.

In 1695, Spencer had taken his seat in the House of Commons as member for Tiverton, and had, during two sessions, conducted himself as a steady and zealous Whig. The party to which he had attached himself might perhaps have reasonably considered him as a hostage sufficient to ensure the good faith of his father; for the Earl was approaching that time of life at which even the most ambitious and rapacious men generally toil rather for their children than for themselves. But the distrust which Sunderland inspired was such as no guarantee could quiet. Many fancied that he was,--with what object they never took the trouble to inquire,--employing the same arts which had ruined James for the purpose of ruining William. Each prince had had his weak side. One was too much a Papist, and the other too much a soldier, for such a nation as this. The same intriguing sycophant who had encouraged the Papist in one fatal error was now encouraging the soldier in another. It might well be apprehended that, under the influence of this evil counsellor, the nephew might alienate as many hearts by trying to make England a military country as the uncle had alienated by trying to make her a Roman Catholic country.

The parliamentary conflict on the great question of a standing army was preceded by a literary conflict. In the autumn of 1697 began a controversy of no common interest and importance. The press was now free. An exciting and momentous political question could be fairly discussed. Those who held uncourtly opinions could express those opinions without resorting to illegal expedients and employing the agency of desperate men. The consequence was that the dispute was carried on, though with sufficient keenness, yet, on the whole, with a decency which would have been thought extraordinary in the days of the censorship.

On this occasion the Tories, though they felt strongly, wrote but little. The paper war was almost entirely carried on between two sections of the Whig party. The combatants on both sides were generally anonymous. But it was well known that one of the foremost champions of the malecontent Whigs was John Trenchard, son of the late Secretary of State. Preeminent among the ministerial Whigs was one in whom admirable vigour and quickness of intellect were united to a not less admirable moderation and urbanity, one who looked on the history of past ages with the eye of a practical statesman, and on the events which were passing before him with the eye of a philosophical historian. It was not necessary for him to name himself. He could be none but Somers. The pamphleteers who recommended the immediate and entire disbanding of the army had an easy task. If they were embarrassed, it was only by the abundance of the matter from which they had to make their selection. On their side were claptraps and historical commonplaces without number, the authority of a crowd of illustrious names, all the prejudices, all the traditions, of both the parties in the state. These writers laid it down as a fundamental principle of political science that a standing army and a free constitution could not exist together. What, they asked, had destroyed the noble commonwealths of Greece? What had enslaved the mighty Roman people? What had turned the Italian republics of the middle ages into lordships and duchies? How was it that so many of the kingdoms of modern Europe had been transformed from limited into absolute monarchies? The States General of France, the Cortes of Castile, the Grand Justiciary of Arragon, what had been fatal to them all? History was ransacked for instances of adventurers who, by the help of mercenary troops, had subjugated free nations or deposed legitimate princes; and such instances were easily found. Much was said about Pisistratus, Timophanes, Dionysius, Agathocles, Marius and Sylla, Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, Carthage besieged by her own mercenaries, Rome put up to auction by her own Praetorian cohorts, Sultan Osman butchered by his own Janissaries, Lewis Sforza sold into captivity by his own Switzers. But the favourite instance was taken from the recent history of our own land. Thousands still living had seen the great usurper, who, strong in the power of the sword, had triumphed over both royalty and freedom. The Tories were reminded that his soldiers had guarded the scaffold before the Banqueting House. The Whigs were reminded that those same soldiers had taken the mace from the table of the House of Commons. From such evils, it was said, no country could be secure which was cursed with a standing army. And what were the advantages which could be set off against such evils? Invasion was the bugbear with which the Court tried to frighten the nation. But we were not children to be scared by nursery tales. We were at peace; and, even in time of war, an enemy who should attempt to invade us would probably be intercepted by our fleet, and would assuredly, if he reached our shores, be repelled by our militia. Some people indeed talked as if a militia could achieve nothing great. But that base doctrine was refuted by all ancient and all modern history. What was the Lacedaemonian phalanx in the best days of Lacedaemon?

What was, the Roman legion in the best days of Rome? What were the armies which conquered at Cressy, at Poitiers, at Agincourt, at Halidon, or at Flodden? What was that mighty array which Elizabeth reviewed at Tilbury? In the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries Englishmen who did not live by the trade of war had made war with success and glory. Were the English of the seventeenth century so degenerate that they could not be trusted to play the men for their own homesteads and parish churches? For such reasons as these the disbanding of the forces was strongly recommended. Parliament, it was said, might perhaps, from respect and tenderness for the person of His Majesty, permit him to have guards enough to escort his coach and to pace the rounds before his palace. But this was the very utmost that it would be right to concede. The defence of the realm ought to be confided to the sailors and the militia. Even the Tower ought to have no garrison except the trainbands of the Tower Hamlets.

It must be evident to every intelligent and dispassionate man that these declaimers contradicted themselves. If an army composed of regular troops really was far more efficient than an army composed of husbandmen taken from the plough and burghers taken from the counter, how could the country be safe with no defenders but husbandmen and burghers, when a great prince, who was our nearest neighbour, who had a few months before been our enemy, and who might, in a few months, be our enemy again, kept up not less than a hundred and fifty thousand regular troops? If, on the other hand, the spirit of the English people was such that they would, with little or no training, encounter and defeat the most formidable array of veterans from the continent, was it not absurd to apprehend that such a people could be reduced to slavery by a few regiments of their own countrymen? But our ancestors were generally so much blinded by prejudice that this inconsistency passed unnoticed. They were secure where they ought to have been wary, and timorous where they might well have been secure. They were not shocked by hearing the same man maintain, in the same breath, that, if twenty thousand professional soldiers were kept up, the liberty and property of millions of Englishmen would be at the mercy of the Crown, and yet that those millions of Englishmen, fighting for liberty and property, would speedily annihilate an invading army composed of fifty or sixty thousand of the conquerors of Steinkirk and Landen. Whoever denied the former proposition was called a tool of the Court. Whoever denied the latter was accused of insulting and slandering the nation.

Somers was too wise to oppose himself directly to the strong current of popular feeling. With rare dexterity he took the tone, not of an advocate, but of a judge. The danger which seemed so terrible to many honest friends of liberty he did not venture to pronounce altogether visionary. But he reminded his countrymen that a choice between dangers was sometimes all that was left to the wisest of mankind. No lawgiver had ever been able to devise a perfect and immortal form of government. Perils lay thick on the right and on the left; and to keep far from one evil was to draw near to another. That which, considered merely with reference to the internal polity of England, might be, to a certain extent, objectionable, might be absolutely essential to her rank among European Powers, and even to her independence. All that a statesman could do in such a case was to weigh inconveniences against each other, and carefully to observe which way the scale leaned. The evil of having regular soldiers, and the evil of not having them, Somers set forth and compared in a little treatise, which was once widely renowned as the Balancing Letter, and which was admitted, even by the malecontents, to be an able and plausible composition. He well knew that mere names exercise a mighty influence on the public mind; that the most perfect tribunal which a legislator could construct would be unpopular if it were called the Star Chamber; that the most judicious tax which a financier could devise would excite murmurs if it were called the Shipmoney; and that the words Standing Army then had to English ears a sound as unpleasing as either Shipmoney or Star Chamber. He declared therefore that he abhorred the thought of a standing army. What he recommended was, not a standing, but a temporary army, an army of which Parliament would annually fix the number, an army for which Parliament would annually frame a military code, an army which would cease to exist as soon as either the Lords or the Commons should think that its services were not needed. From such an army surely the danger to public liberty could not by wise men be thought serious. On the other hand, the danger to which the kingdom would be exposed if all the troops were disbanded was such as might well disturb the firmest mind. Suppose a war with the greatest power in Christendom to break out suddenly, and to find us without one battalion of regular infantry, without one squadron of regular cavalry; what disasters might we not reasonably apprehend? It was idle to say that a descent could not take place without ample notice, and that we should have time to raise and discipline a great force.

An absolute prince, whose orders, given in profound secresy, were promptly obeyed at once by his captains on the Rhine and on the Scheld, and by his admirals in the Bay of Biscay and in the Mediterranean, might be ready to strike a blow long before we were prepared to parry it. We might be appalled by learning that ships from widely remote parts, and troops from widely remote garrisons, had assembled at a single point within sight of our coast. To trust to our fleet was to trust to the winds and the waves. The breeze which was favourable to the invader might prevent our men of war from standing out to sea. Only nine years ago this had actually happened. The Protestant wind, before which the Dutch armament had run full sail down the Channel, had driven King James's navy back into the hames. It must then be acknowledged to be not improbable that the enemy might land. And, if he landed, what would he find? An open country; a rich country; provisions everywhere; not a river but which could be forded; no natural fastnesses such as protect the fertile plains of Italy; no artificial fastnesses such as, at every step, impede the progress of a conqueror in the Netherlands. Every thing must then be staked on the steadiness of the militia; and it was pernicious flattery to represent the militia as equal to a conflict in the field with veterans whose whole life had been a preparation for the day of battle. The instances which it was the fashion to cite of the great achievements of soldiers taken from the threshing floor and the shopboard were fit only for a schoolboy's theme. Somers, who had studied ancient literature like a man,--a rare thing in his time,--said that those instances refuted the doctrine which they were meant to prove. He disposed of much idle declamation about the Lacedaemonians by saying, most concisely, correctly and happily, that the Lacedaemonian commonwealth really was a standing army which threatened all the rest of Greece. In fact, the Spartan had no calling except war.

Of arts, sciences and letters he was ignorant. The labour of the spade and of the loom, and the petty gains of trade, he contemptuously abandoned to men of a lower caste. His whole existence from childhood to old age was one long military training. Meanwhile the Athenian, the Corinthian, the Argive, the Theban, gave his chief attention to his oliveyard or his vineyard, his warehouse or his workshop, and took up his shield and spear only for short terms and at long intervals. The difference therefore between a Lacedaemonian phalanx and any other phalanx was long as great as the difference between a regiment of the French household troops and a regiment of the London trainbands. Lacedaemon consequently continued to be dominant in Greece till other states began to employ regular troops. Then her supremacy was at an end. She was great while she was a standing army among militias. She fell when she had to contend with other standing armies. The lesson which is really to be learned from her ascendency and from her decline is this, that the occasional soldier is no match for the professional soldier.

The same lesson Somers drew from the history of Rome; and every scholar who really understands that history will admit that he was in the right. The finest militia that ever existed was probably that of Italy in the third century before Christ. It might have been thought that seven or eight hundred thousand fighting men, who assuredly wanted neither natural courage nor public spirit, would have been able to protect their own hearths and altars against an invader. An invader came, bringing with him an army small and exhausted by a march over the snows of the Alps, but familiar with battles and sieges. At the head of this army he traversed the peninsula to and fro, gained a succession of victories against immense numerical odds, slaughtered the hardy youth of Latium like sheep, by tens of thousands, encamped under the walls of Rome, continued during sixteen years to maintain himself in a hostile country, and was never dislodged till he had by a cruel discipline gradually taught his adversaries how to resist him.

It was idle to repeat the names of great battles won, in the middle ages, by men who did not make war their chief calling; those battles proved only that one militia might beat another, and not that a militia could beat a regular army. As idle was it to declaim about the camp at Tilbury. We had indeed reason to be proud of the spirit which all classes of Englishmen, gentlemen and yeomen, peasants and burgesses, had so signally displayed in the great crisis of 1588. But we had also reason to be thankful that, with all their spirit, they were not brought face to face with the Spanish battalions. Somers related an anecdote, well worthy to be remembered, which had been preserved by tradition in the noble house of De Vere. One of the most illustrious men of that house, a captain who had acquired much experience and much fame in the Netherlands, had, in the crisis of peril, been summoned back to England by Elizabeth, and rode with her through the endless ranks of shouting pikemen. She asked him what he thought of the army. "It is," he said, "a brave army." There was something in his tone or manner which showed that he meant more than his words expressed. The Queen insisted on his speaking out.

"Madam," he said, "Your Grace's army is brave indeed. I have not in the world the name of a coward, and yet I am the greatest coward here. All these fine fellows are praying that the enemy may land, and that there may be a battle; and I, who know that enemy well, cannot think of such a battle without dismay." De Vere was doubtless in the right. The Duke of Parma, indeed, would not have subjected our country; but it is by no means improbable that, if he had effected a landing, the island would have been the theatre of a war greatly resembling that which Hannibal waged in Italy, and that the invaders would not have been driven out till many cities had been sacked, till many counties had been wasted, and till multitudes of our stout-hearted rustics and artisans had perished in the carnage of days not less terrible than those of Thrasymene and Cannae. While the pamphlets of Trenchard and Somers were in every hand, the Parliament met.

The words with which the King opened the session brought the great question to a speedy issue. "The circumstances," he said, "of affairs abroad are such, that I think myself obliged to tell you my opinion, that, for the present, England cannot be safe without a land force; and I hope we shall not give those that mean us ill the opportunity of effecting that under the notion of a peace which they could not bring to pass by war."

The speech was well received; for that Parliament was thoroughly well affected to the Government. The members had, like the rest of the community, been put into high good humour by the return of peace and by the revival of trade. They were indeed still under the influence of the feelings of the preceding day; and they had still in their ears the thanksgiving sermons and thanksgiving anthems; all the bonfires had hardly burned out; and the rows of lamps and candles had hardly been taken down. Many, therefore, who did not assent to all that the King had said, joined in a loud hum of approbation when he concluded. As soon as the Commons had retired to their own chamber, they resolved to present an address assuring His Majesty that they would stand by him in peace as firmly as they had stood by him in war. Seymour, who had, during the autumn, been going from shire to shire, for the purpose of inflaming the country gentlemen against the ministry, ventured to make some uncourtly remarks; but he gave so much offence that he was hissed down, and did not venture to demand a division.

The friends of the Government were greatly elated by the proceedings of this day. During the following week hopes were entertained that the Parliament might be induced to vote a peace establishment of thirty thousand men. But these hopes were delusive. The hum with which William's speech had been received, and the hiss which had drowned the voice of Seymour, had been misunderstood. The Commons were indeed warmly attached to theKing's person and government, and quick to resent any disrespectful mention of his name. But the members who were disposed to let him have even half as many troops as he thought necessary were a minority. On the tenth of December his speech was considered in a Committee of the whole House; and Harley came forward as the chief of the opposition. He did not, like some hot headed men, among both the Whigs and the Tories, contend that there ought to be no regular soldiers. But he maintained that it was unnecessary to keep up, after the peace of Ryswick, a larger force than had been kept up after the peace of Nimeguen. He moved, therefore, that the military establishment should be reduced to what it had been in the year 1680. The Ministers found that, on this occasion, neither their honest nor their dishonest supporters could be trusted. For, in the minds of the most respectable men, the prejudice against standing armies was of too long growth and too deep root to be at once removed; and those means by which the Court might, at another time, have secured the help of venal politicians were, at that moment, of less avail than usual. The Triennial Act was beginning to produce its effects. A general election was at hand. Every member who had constituents was desirous to please them; and it was certain that no member would please his constituents by voting for a standing army; and the resolution moved by Harvey was strongly supported by Howe, was carried, was reported to the House on the following day, and, after a debate in which several orators made a great display of their knowledge of ancient and modern history, was confirmed by one hundred and eighty-five votes to one hundred and forty-eight.

In this debate the fear and hatred with which many of the best friends of the Government regarded Sunderland were unequivocally manifested. "It is easy," such was the language of several members, "it is easy to guess by whom that unhappy sentence was inserted in the speech from the Throne. No person well acquainted with the disastrous and disgraceful history of the last two reigns can doubt who the minister is, who is now whispering evil counsel in the ear of a third master." The Chamberlain, thus fiercely attacked, was very feebly defended. There was indeed in the House of Commons a small knot of his creatures; and they were men not destitute of a certain kind of ability; but their moral character was as bad as his. One of them was the late Secretary of the Treasury, Guy, who had been turned out of his place for corruption. Another was the late Speaker, Trevor, who had, from the chair, put the question whether he was or was not a rogue, and had been forced to pronounce that the Ayes had it. A third was Charles Duncombe, long the greatest goldsmith of Lombard Street, and now one of the greatest landowners of the North Riding of Yorkshire. Possessed of a private fortune equal to that of any duke, he had not thought it beneath him to accept the place of Cashier of the Excise, and had perfectly understood how to make that place lucrative; but he had recently been ejected from office by Montague, who thought, with good reason, that he was not a man to be trusted. Such advocates as Trevor, Guy and Duncombe could do little for Sunderland in debate. The statesmen of the junto would do nothing for him. They had undoubtedly owed much to him. His influence, cooperating with their own great abilities and with the force of circumstances, had induced the King to commit the direction of the internal administration of the realm to a Whig Cabinet. But the distrust which the old traitor and apostate inspired was not to be overcome. The ministers could not be sure that he was not, while smiling on them, whispering in confidential tones to them, pouring out, as it might seem, all his heart to them, really calumniating them in the closet or suggesting to the opposition some ingenious mode of attacking them. They had very recently been thwarted by him. They were bent on making Wharton a Secretary of State, and had therefore looked forward with impatience to the retirement of Trumball, who was indeed hardly equal to the duties of his great place. To their surprise and mortification they learned, on the eve of the meeting of Parliament, that Trumball had suddenly resigned, and Vernon, the Under Secretary, had been summoned to Kensington, and had returned thence with the seals. Vernon was a zealous Whig, and not personally unacceptable to the chiefs of his party. But the Lord Chancellor, the First Lord of the Treasury, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, might not unnaturally think it strange that a post of the highest importance should have been filled up in opposition to their known wishes, and with a haste and a secresy which plainly showed that the King did not wish to be annoyed by their remonstrances. The Lord Chamberlain pretended that he had done all in his power to serve Wharton. But the Whig chiefs were not men to be duped by the professions of so notorious a liar. Montague bitterly described him as a fireship, dangerous at best, but on the whole most dangerous as a consort, and least dangerous when showing hostile colours. Smith, who was the most efficient of Montague's lieutenants, both in the Treasury and in the Parliament, cordially sympathised with his leader. Sunderland was therefore left undefended. His enemies became bolder and more vehement every day. Sir Thomas Dyke, member for Grinstead, and Lord Norris, son of the Earl of Abingdon, talked of moving an address requesting the King to banish for ever from the Court and the Council that evil adviser who had misled His Majesty's royal uncles, had betrayed the liberties of the people, and had abjured the Protestant religion.

Sunderland had been uneasy from the first moment at which his name had been mentioned in the House of Commons. He was now in an agony of terror. The whole enigma of his life, an enigma of which many unsatisfactory and some absurd explanations have been propounded, is at once solved if we consider him as a man insatiably greedy of wealth and power, and yet nervously apprehensive of danger. He rushed with ravenous eagerness at every bait which was offered to his cupidity. But any ominous shadow, any threatening murmur, sufficed to stop him in his full career, and to make him change his course or bury himself in a hiding place. He ought to have thought himself fortunate indeed, when, after all the crimes which he had committed, he found himself again enjoying his picture gallery and his woods at Althorpe, sitting in the House of Lords, admitted to the royal closet, pensioned from the Privy Purse, consulted about the most important affairs of state. But his ambition and avarice would not suffer him to rest till he held a high and lucrative office, till he was a regent of the kingdom. The consequence was, as might have been expected, a violent clamour; and that clamour he had not the spirit to face.

His friends assured him that the threatened address would not be carried. Perhaps a hundred and sixty members might vote for it; but hardly more. "A hundred and sixty!" he cried: "No minister can stand against a hundred and sixty. I am sure that I will not try." It must be remembered that a hundred and sixty votes in a House of five hundred and thirteen members would correspond to more than two hundred votes in the present House of Commons; a very formidable minority on the unfavourable side of a question deeply affecting the personal character of a public man. William, unwilling to part with a servant whom he knew to be unprincipled, but whom he did not consider as more unprincipled than many other English politicians, and in whom he had found much of a very useful sort of knowledge, and of a very useful sort of ability, tried to induce the ministry to come to the rescue. It was particularly important to soothe Wharton, who had been exasperated by his recent disappointment, and had probably exasperated the other members of the junto. He was sent for to the palace. The King himself intreated him to be reconciled to the Lord Chamberlain, and to prevail on the Whig leaders in the Lower House to oppose any motion which Dyke or Norris might make. Wharton answered in a manner which made it clear that from him no help was to be expected. Sunderland's terrors now became insupportable. He had requested some of his friends to come to his house that he might consult them; they came at the appointed hour, but found that he had gone to Kensington, and had left word that he should soon be back. When he joined them, they observed that he had not the gold key which is the badge of the Lord Chamberlain, and asked where it was. "At Kensington," answered Sunderland. They found that he had tendered his resignation, and that it had been, after a long struggle, accepted. They blamed his haste, and told him that, since he had summoned them to advise him on that day, he might at least have waited till the morrow. "To morrow," he exclaimed, "would have ruined me. To night has saved me."

Meanwhile, both the disciples of Somers and the disciples of Trenchard were grumbling at Harley's resolution. The disciples of Somers maintained that, if it was right to have an army at all, it must be right to have an efficient army. The disciples of Trenchard complained that a great principle had been shamefully given up. On the vital issue, Standing Army or no Standing Army, the Commons had pronounced an erroneous, a fatal decision. Whether that army should consist of five regiments or of fifteen was hardly worth debating. The great dyke which kept out arbitrary power had been broken. It was idle to say that the breach was narrow; for it would soon be widened by the flood which would rush in. The war of pamphlets raged more fiercely than ever. At the same time alarming symptoms began to appear among the men of the sword. They saw themselves every day described in print as the scum of society, as mortal enemies of the liberties of their country. Was it reasonable,--such was the language of some scribblers,--that an honest gentleman should pay a heavy land tax, in order to support in idleness and luxury a set of fellows who requited him by seducing his dairy maids and shooting his partridges? Nor was it only in Grub Street tracts that such reflections were to be found. It was known all over the town that uncivil things had been said of the military profession in the House of Commons, and that Jack Howe, in particular, had, on this subject, given the rein to his wit and to his ill nature. Some rough and daring veterans, marked with the scars of Steinkirk and singed with the smoke of Namur, threatened vengeance for these insults. The writers and speakers who had taken the greatest liberties went in constant fear of being accosted by fierce-looking captains, and required to make an immediate choice between fighting and being caned. One gentleman, who had made himself conspicuous by the severity of his language, went about with pistols in his pockets. Howe, whose courage was not proportionate to his malignity and petulance, was so much frightened, that he retired into the country. The King, well aware that a single blow given, at that critical conjuncture, by a soldier to a member of Parliament might produce disastrous consequences, ordered the officers of the army to their quarters, and, by the vigorous exertion of his authority and influence, succeeded in preventing all outrage.

All this time the feeling in favour of a regular force seemed to be growing in the House of Commons. The resignation of Sunderland had put many honest gentlemen in good humour. The Whig leaders exerted themselves to rally their followers, held meetings at the "Rose," and represented strongly the dangers to which the country would be exposed, if defended only by a militia. The opposition asserted that neither bribes nor promises were spared. The ministers at length flattered themselves that Harley's resolution might be rescinded. On the eighth of January they again tried their strength, and were again defeated, though by a smaller majority than before. A hundred and sixty-four members divided with them. A hundred and eighty-eight were for adhering to the vote of the eleventh of December. It was remarked that on this occasion the naval men, with Rooke at their head, voted against the Government.

It was necessary to yield. All that remained was to put on the words of the resolution of the eleventh of December the most favourable sense that they could be made to bear. They did indeed admit of very different interpretations. The force which was actually in England in 1680 hardly amounted to five thousand men. But the garrison of Tangier and the regiments in the pay of the Batavian federation, which, as they were available for the defence of England against a foreign or domestic enemy, might be said to be in some sort part of the English army, amounted to at least five thousand more. The construction which the ministers put on the resolution of the eleventh of December was, that the army was to consist of ten thousand men; and in this construction the House acquiesced. It was not held to be necessary that the Parliament should, as in our time, fix the amount of the land force. The Commons thought that they sufficiently limited the number of soldiers by limiting the sum which was to be expended in maintaining soldiers. What that sum should be was a question which raised much debate. Harley was unwilling to give more than three hundred thousand pounds. Montague struggled for four hundred thousand. The general sense of the House was that Harley offered too little, and that Montague demanded too much. At last, on the fourteenth of January, a vote was taken for three hundred and fifty thousand pounds. Four days later the House resolved to grant half-pay to the disbanded officers till they should be otherwise provided for. The half-pay was meant to be a retainer as well as a reward. The effect of this important vote therefore was that, whenever a new war should break out, the nation would be able to command the services of many gentlemen of great military experience. The ministry afterwards succeeded in obtaining, much against the will of a portion of the opposition, a separate vote for three thousand marines.

A Mutiny Act, which had been passed in 1697, expired in the spring of 1698. As yet no such Act had been passed except in time of war; and the temper of the Parliament and of the nation was such that the ministers did not venture to ask, in time of peace, for a renewal of powers unknown to the constitution. For the present, therefore, the soldier was again, as in the times which preceded the Revolution, subject to exactly the same law which governed the citizen.

It was only in matters relating to the army that the government found the Commons unmanageable. Liberal provision was made for the navy. The number of seamen was fixed at ten thousand, a great force, according to the notions of that age, for a time of peace. The funds assigned some years before for the support of the civil list had fallen short of the estimate. It was resolved that a new arrangement should be made, and that a certain income should be settled on the King. The amount was fixed, by an unanimous vote, at seven hundred thousand pounds; and the Commons declared that, by making this ample provision for his comfort and dignity, they meant to express their sense of the great things which he had done for the country. It is probable, however, that so large a sum would not have been given without debates and divisions, had it not been understood that he meant to take on himself the charge of the Duke of Gloucester's establishment, and that he would in all probability have to pay fifty thousand pounds a year to Mary of Modena. The Tories were unwilling to disoblige the Princess of Denmark; and the Jacobites abstained from offering any opposition to a grant in the benefit of which they hoped that the banished family would participate.

It was not merely by pecuniary liberality that the Parliament testified attachment to the Sovereign. A bill was rapidly passed which withheld the benefit of the Habeas Corpus Act, during twelve months more, from Bernardi and some other conspirators who had been concerned in the Assassination Plot, but whose guilt, though demonstrated to the conviction of every reasonable man, could not be proved by two witnesses. At the same time new securities were provided against a new danger which threatened the government. The peace had put an end to the apprehension that the throne of William might be subverted by foreign arms, but had, at the same time, facilitated domestic treason. It was no longer necessary for an agent from Saint Germains to cross the sea in a fishing boat, under the constant dread of being intercepted by a cruiser. It was no longer necessary for him to land on a desolate beach, to lodge in a thatched hovel, to dress himself like a carter, or to travel up to town on foot. He came openly by the Calais packet, walked into the best inn at Dover, and ordered posthorses for London. Meanwhile young Englishmen of quality and fortune were hastening in crowds to Paris. They would naturally wish to see him who had once been their king; and this curiosity, though in itself innocent, might have evil consequences. Artful tempters would doubtless be on the watch for every such traveller; and many such travellers might be well pleased to be courteously accosted, in a foreign land, by Englishmen of honourable name, distinguished appearance, and insinuating address. It was not to be expected that a lad fresh from the university would be able to refute all the sophisms and calumnies which might be breathed in his ear by dexterous and experienced seducers. Nor would it be strange if he should, in no long time, accept an invitation to a private audience at Saint Germains, should be charmed by the graces of Mary of Modena, should find something engaging in the childish innocence of the Prince of Wales, should kiss the hand of James, and should return home an ardent Jacobite. An Act was therefore passed forbidding English subjects to hold any intercourse orally, or by writing, or by message, with the exiled family. A day was fixed after which no English subject, who had, during the late war, gone into France without the royal permission or borne arms against his country was to be permitted to reside in this kingdom, except under a special license from the King. Whoever infringed these rules incurred the penalties of high treason.

The dismay was at first great among the malecontents. For English and Irish Jacobites, who had served under the standards of Lewis or hung about the Court of Saint Germains, had, since the peace, come over in multitudes to England. It was computed that thousands were within the scope of the new Act. But the severity of that Act was mitigated by a beneficent administration. Some fierce and stubborn non-jurors who would not debase themselves by asking for any indulgence, and some conspicuous enemies of the government who had asked for indulgence in vain, were under the necessity of taking refuge on the Continent. But the great majority of those offenders who promised to live peaceably under William's rule obtained his permission to remain in their native land.

In the case of one great offender there were some circumstances which attracted general interest, and which might furnish a good subject to a novelist or a dramatist. Near fourteen years before this time, Sunderland, then Secretary of State to Charles the Second, had married his daughter Lady Elizabeth Spencer to Donough Macarthy, Earl of Clancarty, the lord of an immense domain in Munster. Both the bridegroom and the bride were mere children, the bridegroom only fifteen, the bride only eleven. After the ceremony they were separated; and many years full of strange vicissitudes elapsed before they again met. The boy soon visited his estates in Ireland. He had been bred a member of the Church of England; but his opinions and his practice were loose. He found himself among kinsmen who were zealous Roman Catholics. A Roman Catholic king was on the throne. To turn Roman Catholic was the best recommendation to favour both at Whitehall and at Dublin Castle. Clancarty speedily changed his religion, and from a dissolute Protestant became a dissolute Papist. After the Revolution he followed the fortunes of James; sate in the Celtic Parliament which met at the King's Inns; commanded a regiment in the Celtic army; was forced to surrender himself to Marlborough at Cork; was sent to England, and was imprisoned in the Tower.

The Clancarty estates, which were supposed to yield a rent of not much less than ten thousand a year, were confiscated. They were charged with an annuity to the Earl's brother, and with another annuity to his wife; but the greater part was bestowed by the King on Lord Woodstock, the eldest son of Portland; During some time, the prisoner's life was not safe. For the popular voice accused him of outrages for which the utmost license of civil war would not furnish a plea. It is said that he was threatened with an appeal of murder by the widow of a Protestant clergyman who had been put to death during the troubles. After passing three years in confinement, Clancarty made his escape to the Continent, was graciously received at St. Germains, and was entrusted with the command of a corps of Irish refugees. When the treaty of Ryswick had put an end to the hope that the banished dynasty would be restored by foreign arms, he flattered himself that he might be able to make his peace with the English Government. But he was grievously disappointed. The interest of his wife's family was undoubtedly more than sufficient to obtain a pardon for him. But on that interest he could not reckon. The selfish, base, covetous, father-in-law was not at all desirous to have a highborn beggar and the posterity of a highborn beggar to maintain. The ruling passion of the brother-in-law was a stern and acrimonious party spirit. He could not bear to think that he was so nearly connected with an enemy of the Revolution and of the Bill of Rights, and would with pleasure have seen the odious tie severed even by the hand of the executioner. There was one, however, from whom the ruined, expatriated, proscribed young nobleman might hope to find a kind reception. He stole across the Channel in disguise, presented himself at Sunderland's door, and requested to see Lady Clancarty. He was charged, he said, with a message to her from her mother, who was then lying on a sick bed at Windsor. By this fiction he obtained admission, made himself known to his wife, whose thoughts had probably been constantly fixed on him during many years, and prevailed on her to give him the most tender proofs of an affection sanctioned by the laws both of God and of man. The secret was soon discovered and betrayed by a waiting woman. Spencer learned that very night that his sister had admitted her husband to her apartment. The fanatical young Whig, burning with animosity which he mistook for virtue, and eager to emulate the Corinthian who assassinated his brother, and the Roman who passed sentence of death on his son, flew to Vernon's office, gave information that the Irish rebel, who had once already escaped from custody, was in hiding hard by, and procured a warrant and a guard of soldiers. Clancarty was found in the arms of his wife, and dragged to the Tower. She followed him and implored permission to partake his cell. These events produced a great stir throughout the society of London.

Sunderland professed everywhere that he heartily approved of his son's conduct; but the public had made up its mind about Sunderland's veracity, and paid very little attention to his professions on this or on any other subject. In general, honourable men of both parties, whatever might be their opinion of Clancarty, felt great compassion for his mother who was dying of a broken heart, and his poor young wife who was begging piteously to be admitted within the Traitor's Gate. Devonshire and Bedford joined with Ormond to ask for mercy. The aid of a still more powerful intercessor was called in. Lady Russell was esteemed by the King as a valuable friend; she was venerated by the nation generally as a saint, the widow of a martyr; and, when she deigned to solicit favours, it was scarcely possible that she should solicit in vain. She naturally felt a strong sympathy for the unhappy couple, who were parted by the walls of that gloomy old fortress in which she had herself exchanged the last sad endearments with one whose image was never absent from her. She took Lady Clancarty with her to the palace, obtained access to William, and put a petition into his hand. Clancarty was pardoned on condition that he should leave the kingdom and never return to it. A pension was granted to him, small when compared with the magnificent inheritance which he had forfeited, but quite sufficient to enable him to live like a gentleman on the Continent. He retired, accompanied by his Elizabeth, to Altona.

Return to the History of England Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus