Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION III: Of the Reign of Charles the First, from the Commencement of the Civil War to his Death. - An Historical View of the English Government
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SECTION III: Of the Reign of Charles the First, from the Commencement of the Civil War to his Death. - John Millar, An Historical View of the English Government 
An Historical View of the English Government, From the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Revolution in 1688, in four volumes, edited by Mark Salber Philips and Dale R. Smith, introduction by Mark Salber Philips (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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Of the Reign of Charles the First, from the Commencement of the Civil War to his Death.
The progress of the civil war was productive of many and great alterations, both in the state of the contending parties, and in the temper and disposition of the nation. After the king and parliament had appealed to the sword, as the sole arbiter of their differences, they were no longer capable of retreating; and it was vain to shrink from a decision which must render the one or the other party completely triumphant. Both became sensible that their all was at stake; and that nothing but a decisive victory could either support their respective claims, or ensure their personal safety. From their mutual exertions in prosecuting the quarrel, and from the dangers and bad treatment to which they were continually exposed,<281> their passions were daily inflamed and rendered more furious; while every new advantage, upon either side, becoming the source of exultation and oppression in the one party, and of provocation and resentment to the other, contributed to widen the breach between them, and afforded fresh fuel to their mutual animosities.
The progressive measures which, during the whole reign of James, and in the former part of that of Charles, were gradually adopted by parliaments, have already been pointed out. Before the year 1640, those great councils appear to have stood altogether upon the defensive, and to have aimed at nothing further than barely to defend the ancient modes of government. From the meeting of what is called the Long Parliament, the abuses committed by the king had given rise to different views, and were thought to require more effectual precautions for securing the liberties of the people. The various wheels and springs of the constitution having, from negligence, gone into disorder, or being, from the inexperience of the original artificers, left, in some particulars, inaccurate and imperfect, the opportunity<282> which then offered was accounted highly favourable, for repairing the state machine, and for removing its defects or imperfections. Men who entertained this opinion were friends to the monarchy, while they attempted to impose new limitations upon the monarch; and were anxious to preserve the spirit and principles of the constitution, though they contended that, in several of its parts, a reformation was indispensably necessary.
How far the pruning hand of a reformer should be permitted was a difficult question; about which even speculative reasoners might easily differ; and upon which men who had opposite interests were by no means likely to agree. When all hopes of accommodation, upon this point, were completely blasted, when both king and parliament had recourse to arms, the popular party were pushed on to greater extremities, and embraced a bolder system of reformation. The opposition to the crown had proved so ineffectual; the power, the influence, and the resources of the king were so extensive; and the artifices by which he might elude the controul of the legislature, and undermine the privileges of the people,<283> had been found so numerous and so various, that every attempt to confine the prerogative within due bounds, was in danger of being regarded as desperate. To many it appeared that the old constitution was no longer tenable, and that the only method of preventing the abuses of regal power was to abolish it altogether. The exaltation, it was observed, of an individual to the rank of a sovereign prince proves commonly such an incentive to ambition, as renders him impatient of restraint, and dissatisfied with any thing less than absolute dominion. Accustomed to the high station in which he is placed, and having received it through a long line of ancestors, he is apt to look upon it as his birthright; and instead of conceiving it to be an office derived ultimately from the consent of the people, or bestowed upon him for their benefit, he is disposed to consider it in the light of a private estate, intended for his own use, and to be enjoyed at his discretion. By the natural order of things; that is, by the disposition of Providence, it appears to be his province to command, as it is that of his subjects to obey; and every effort, upon their part, to limit his<284> authority, is regarded by him as an act of rebellion, which, in duty to himself and his posterity, and in the capacity of the vice-gerent of heaven, he is bound to elude by artifice or repel by force.
To avoid these dangers to liberty, with which recent events had strongly impressed men’s minds, it was by some thought requisite to abolish the kingly office altogether, and these republican doctrines came to be propagated especially by men of knowledge and speculation, who reasoned upon the general principles of government, and compared the different political systems which have taken place in different ages and countries. Those who consider the usual incitements to genius will not be surprised to find, that, amidst all the disorders of that period, the number of speculative reasoners upon government was far from being inconsiderable. The important disputes, and violent struggle in which a great part of the nation was engaged, by awakening a spirit of activity and enterprise, contributed to accelerate, instead of retarding the pursuits of science and literature; and by opening to men of letters a wide field of am-<285>bition, excited them to cultivate their talents, and to bring forward their learning to the public. To the operation of such causes we may, in part at least, refer the political treatises of Milton,34 which breathe that ardent love of liberty, and that vehement spirit of invective, to be expected from the sublime author of Paradise Lost; at the same time that they are apt, on some occasions, to disgust the reader by an appearance of prejudice and prepossession, and by an air of confidence and arrogance which runs throughout those performances.
During the horrors of the civil war, a number of philosophers, men totally free from the religious enthusiasm and party prejudices of the times, are said to have employed themselves in conversing and reasoning upon political subjects. After the death of the king, these persons were formed into a regular society, for examining and discussing the most important questions concerning the best form of a commonwealth, and the advantages or disadvantages of such forms as had, in different periods of the world, been reduced into practice. The Oceana, and other discourses,<286> published by Mr. Harrington;35 appear to have been, partly, the fruit of those lucubrations. These writings discover an extensive knowledge of history, the most liberal views with respect to government, a thorough acquaintance with the true principles of democracy, and great skill and discernment in accommodating those principles to the peculiar circumstances of the English nation.
The chief instances of popular government, which had fallen under the experience of that age, were the celebrated republics of Greece and Rome; which, for the most part, were established among a handful of people inhabiting a narrow district; in most cases, a single town with its dependencies. In these very limited states, there was little inconvenience or difficulty in convening the whole people to deliberate on public affairs, and to exercise the supreme powers of government. The legislative power, therefore, together with a considerable part of the executive, was commonly lodged in the great body of the people; though the privilege of proposing the subjects of deliberation to the legislative assembly was often committed, exclusively, to a smaller<287> council, or senate, composed of the higher order of citizens, or elected by the legislative body itself. A constitution of this nature was evidently impracticable in a large community, the members of which were spread over an extensive country. In a great nation, like that of England, the assembling of the whole people to make laws, or to deliberate upon the national business, would produce a meeting so numerous and disorderly, as must be incapable of any regular procedure, and liable to endless disorders. But, fortunately, in Britain, the custom of convening the representatives of the people, as a constituent part of the legislature, had been long established; and upon this principle Harrington, and the other speculative politicians of that time, laid the foundation of that commonwealth which they recommended to their fellow citizens. They proposed that the supreme powers of government should be committed to a body of representatives, chosen by the nation at large, in the manner which appeared the best calculated to prevent the effects of bribery and undue influence upon the electors; and in such a moderate number as might enable them to main-<288>tain the utmost regularity in their proceedings, and to extend their care and superintendence to every department of administration. By this expedient it was thought, that the evils incident to kingly government on the one hand, and to pure democracy on the other, at least in the shape in which it had been exhibited in the ancient republics, might be equally avoided. The dangers arising from the ignorance, the prejudices, the violence, and confusion, of a large tumultuary assembly were effectually precluded; while the interest of the people at large was understood to be sufficiently guarded by that controul and influence over their commissioners, which, from the frequency of elections, they might be expected to retain.
The commencement and progress of the civil war had an effect, no less remarkable, with respect to the religious, than with respect to the political sentiments of the nation. From the increasing heat of controversy, and according as the adversaries of the king had been more successful, the opposition to the hierarchy became, of course, more violent. For some time after the accession of James, the<289> Puritans, under which denomination were comprehended all the protestant dissenters, who were, for the most part, distributed into the two great branches of presbyterians and independents, were contented with liberty of conscience, and with an indulgence in their peculiar modes of worship. But the continuance of the controversy suggested other views to those two orders of sectaries, and inspired them with higher pretensions. After the meeting of the long parliament, the presbyterians, whose doctrines were supported by many leading members in that assembly, and particularly by a great majority in the house of commons, were encouraged to attempt the subversion of the established religion, by destroying all subordination in the rank and authority of churchmen. But when the king and parliament had come to decide their differences by force, even this religious reformation was held by many to be insufficient: the opinions of men deviated still farther from the old establishment; and the independents, who rejected all interposition of the public, either in the appointment of the clergy, or in the care and direction of religion,<290> advanced, with rapid strides, in consideration and popularity.
The different principles of those two branches of the sectaries produced a natural conjunction, as was formerly mentioned, with the respective systems of the two great political parties now in opposition to the king. The presbyterians, who, by abolishing the several ranks and dignities of the church, proposed to emancipate the clergy from their dependence upon the crown, as well as to diminish their influence over the laity, were disposed to support the system of those political reformers, whose object it was to check the abuses of prerogative, and circumscribe without subverting the authority of the sovereign. The independents, who advanced a step further in relation to the church, pushed also their political tenets to a proportional height, disapproved of all ecclesiastical establishments, and holding that every voluntary association of christians ought to have the liberty of choosing their own religious teachers, they were, in like manner, averse from every modification of monarchy, and were led to join those republicans who contended that all the<291> executive officers of the state should be under the appointment of the people.
As these republican doctrines were thus gaining ground in the nation, they made also considerable advances, though with less rapidity, in parliament. The leading members of that assembly, who had long acted in consequence of their professed opinions in favour of limited monarchy, were likely, the greater part of them, to retain their former sentiments. If some, during the violence of the struggle, were induced to aim at greater innovations, and to seek the total abolition of kingly power, there were others, corrupted by motives of interest, or alarmed by the ungovernable spirit of reformation which now discovered itself, who either seized the opportunity of joining the court, or thought proper to retire from public business. In a situation so new and hazardous, we need not wonder that several persons, who had hitherto withstood the encroachments of the prerogative, should now shrink from a contest which threatened to involve the kingdom in anarchy and blood; and should thus leave the field to men of keener tempers, and of more persevering re-<292>solution. Lord Falkland, and Mr. Hide,36 whose abilities and personal character entitled them to great consideration, and who, at the beginning of the long parliament, had stood forth in censuring the measures of the king, and concurred in the important regulations then introduced, deserted their former political friends; but though they were now enlisted upon the side of the crown, they still professed a regard to the ancient constitution, and a disposition to moderate the violent councils of Charles.
The proceedings of parliament were still more affected by the death of some of its principal members. Soon after the parties had recourse to arms, Mr. Hampden,37 whose inflexible integrity, and sound understanding, joined to his great modesty and vigour of mind, had procured him almost equal influence in war and in peace, and, without the appearance, had rendered him the real leader of the whole party, was killed in an action, while he conducted the troops under his command to repel a sudden attack of the enemy. The loss of such a man in that cloudy and tempestuous season, may justly be regarded as a<293> national calamity. He was, in religion, a presbyterian; and, in politics, a steady adherent of the old constitution. His death was followed, soon after, by that of Mr. Pym,38 whose talents for public speaking, and whose great experience in the business of parliament, had raised him to a principal share in all the important transactions of that period. His eloquence distinguished him above all his cotemporaries, and is said to have been productive of extraordinary effects. So far as we can form a judgment from the specimens that have come down to us, he seems to speak like a man who labours to convince and to persuade, more than to entertain; and though liable, perhaps, to the imputation of some formality and prolixity, he discovers great ability in bringing many arguments to centre in one point; and presenting such views of a subject as are calculated to lay hold of the prejudices, and to overpower the reason of his hearers.
Notwithstanding the extreme simplicity of manners and frugality for which Mr. Pym was noted; though, beside his private fortune, he enjoyed a salary as master of the ordnance;<294> and though he acted in a high department, at a time when parliament, in open war with the king, had occasion to manage considerable funds levied on that account; he died in great poverty, a satisfactory proof that he had served the cause with disinterested fidelity. So sensible were the commons of his faithful services, that they not only ordered a monument to be erected to his memory, and his corpse to be interred in Westminster-abbey, but also voted a considerable sum of money for the payment of his debts.
While time and accidents were thus producing great changes in the leading characters who had hitherto appeared upon the stage, the war opened a new scene of action, and gave birth to a new set of talents and accomplishments, by which individuals, formerly obscure and unknown, rose to consideration and importance. Eloquence, and dexterity in managing parliamentary business, were now degraded into a secondary rank; and, in a great measure, eclipsed by that courage and conduct in the field, and by those peculiar virtues and qualities displayed in the military profession. Men who, by serving in a foreign country, had<295> already acquired experience and reputation in war, were immediately placed in the higher military departments; while others, whose disposition and genius peculiarly fitted them for the service, found opportunities of signalising their activity, valour, or capacity, and were soon brought into notice.
The adherents of the king were chiefly composed of the nobility and higher gentry, men who, by their wealth and station, had much to lose; and who, in the annihilation of monarchy, and in the anarchy that was likely to follow, foresaw the ruin of their fortunes, and the extinction of their consideration and influence. The middling and inferior gentry, together with the inhabitants of towns; those who entertained a jealousy of the nobles, and of the king, or who, by the changes in the state of society, had lately been raised to independence, became, on the other hand, the great supporters of parliament, and formed the chief part of the armies levied by that assembly. The differences in the character and situation of the troops, which came, in this manner, to be arranged upon the opposite sides, were very remarkable. The forces of the king were<296> commanded by officers whose rank in life had led them frequently to serve in the wars upon the continent, and who possessed a degree of influence over their followers, which, in some measure, supplied the want of military discipline. The armies of parliament, on the contrary, were composed of an unruly and disorderly multitude, under the direction of persons, who, for the most part, had no natural authority corresponding to their stations, and who, unless in a few instances, appear, at the beginning of the war, to have been destitute of military knowledge. Mr. Hume has, with his usual discernment, pointed out the consequences of these different situations, which are such as might be expected. For some time after the war broke out, the king was generally successful, and in every struggle the forces of parliament were either worsted or rendered incapable of improving those advantages which fortune threw in their way.
It might easily be foreseen, however, that if the operations of the war should be protracted for any considerable period, the fortune and circumstances of the parties would be reversed. The nobility, who supported the cause of the<297> monarch, were too independent and too jealous of each other to be reduced under proper subordination, and were fitter to act in separate pillaging parties, at the head of their respective followers, than to unite and co-operate in such a large body as the execution of a great enterprise might require. The parliamentary troops were in a different situation. Without any previous attachment to particular leaders, they acquired habits of submission to those officers under whom they had fought; men who derived their preferment, not from their birth or their opulence, but from their military services; and whom different degrees of experience, of capacity, and of success, had established in their several stations. As the forces of parliament comprehended the great mass of the people, we need not wonder that when they came to surpass those of the king in subordination and discipline, as well as in numbers, they should immediately obtain a decided superiority.
Among all those who took party against the king, it is natural to suppose that such as had taken up arms in the cause, and had, through the whole course of the contest, been retained<298> in the service, would be distinguished by their zeal, and by the extremities to which they pushed their system of reformation. The greatest part of these troops were, accordingly, independents in religion, and in the state, republicans. That original ardour which led them to take so active a part in the controversy, joined to the circumstances which, during the progress of it, could not fail to inflame their passions, had confirmed their aversion to all regal power, and to all ecclesiastical establishments, and had riveted their affections to an opposite system, both of civil government and of religious worship.
By a singular concurrence of accidents, the command of the chief parliamentary army, towards the conclusion of the war, was devolved upon an officer* of great integrity and worth, distinguished by his military talents, but otherwise (which daily experience proves to be no inconsistency) of slender capacity; while the real direction and management of those forces, together with their commander, was acquired by a leader of the most extraordinary abilities which that, or perhaps any age, has produced.<299> This was the famous Oliver Cromwell,39 whose character is universally known.
During those parliamentary disputes which preceded the commencement of hostilities, Cromwell, though a member of parliament as early as the year 1628, appears to have remained in obscurity. It should seem that, although the ardent enthusiastic spirit by which he was possessed, could hardly fail to be remarked, and to gain him credit with the party to which he was devoted, the inelegance and rudeness of his manners, and his total deficiency in public speaking, prevented his acquiring much reputation or influence. But no sooner had the war opened a new scene of action, than he began to display that uncommon genius with which he was endowed, and to assume that consideration and importance to which he was entitled. The troop which he commanded was immediately distinguished by superior discipline, and by good behaviour in every engagement. The intrepidity, vigour, and enterprizing disposition of its leader were no less conspicuous.† By his decisive<300> judgment in forming resolutions, and by his rapidity and steadiness in the execution of them; by his penetration in discovering, and his dexterity in managing the characters of his adherents and associates, he quickly rose to eminence, both as a partizan, and as a military officer. That he was originally sincere in his religious professions is extremely probable; though he afterwards employed the mask of piety to cover and promote his ambitious designs. How far the characters of a hypocrite and a fanatic are capable of being reconciled; or whether inconsistency be not frequently a prominent feature of the human mind, I shall not pretend to determine;40 but certain it is, that the consummate hypocrisy of Cromwell<301> was the great engine by which he procured the confidence of his whole party, and obtained an ascendancy over all their movements.
One of the first and most masterly of all the stratagems employed by this arch politician, after he had risen to a high situation, was the new modelling of the army, by which he secured to himself and his party the entire direction of all the forces of parliament. Towards the conclusion of the war, although a great proportion of those troops were of the independent party, there were still among them a number of presbyterians. The Earl of Essex, Sir William Waller, the Earl of Manchester, (formerly Lord Kimbolton,)41 with many other distinguished officers, had shewn an uniform attachment to the principles of that sect; and, however they might think that, in the present emergency, it was proper to limit the prerogative, were still the friends of monarchical government. While such persons remained in the army, they could not fail to be possessed of considerable influence; and Cromwell saw that it was necessary to get rid of them, in order to accomplish his designs.
For this purpose his friends suggested a re-<302>formation in point of military discipline; the neglect of which became a topic of universal complaint, and was considered as the immediate cause of many important miscarriages. A measure of this kind, so popular in itself, was warmly supported by Fairfax,42 the general, and by those who, not entertaining any suspicion of the secret motives by which it was dictated, had been the most active and zealous in the cause of the people. In the prosecution of this plan, it was artfully represented, that those who had a voice in parliament were possessed of authority and rank incompatible with military subordination, and, by the attendance in that assembly which their duty required, were disqualified for the exercise of other employments. A self-denying ordinance43 was therefore proposed, by which members of parliament were declared incapable of civil and military offices; and this regulation, by means of the popular clamour which had been excited, was carried through both houses. In this manner the leaders of the presbyterian party, who had long enjoyed seats in parliament, and had been the chief conductors of parliamentary business, were excluded from all share in the<303> direction of the forces. The army was immediately new-modelled, and formed into different regiments and companies, under a new set of officers; with which measure many of the presbyterian party, whom the late regulation did not affect, were so disgusted as to throw up their commissions. Cromwell himself, though a member of parliament, found means, by the solicitation of the general, to delay, for some time, and afterwards entirely to evade the resignation of his command. The decisive battle of Naseby, which was fought soon after the self-denying ordinance was carried into execution, reflected no less credit upon that measure than upon the personal abilities of its contriver.
After the king’s troops had been completely defeated, and when his Majesty found it no longer practicable to face his enemies in the field, he seems to have placed his last refuge in the opposition and discord between those different parties into which the nation was divided. He appears to have thought that, by availing himself of their political animosities, he might hold a balance among them, and still, in some measure, maintain his authority.<304> With this view, he threw himself upon the protection of the Scottish army, then at Newark; thinking, perhaps, that the Scots, from the concessions which he had made to them, from their ancient hereditary connection with his family, and from their being of late under some discontent with the behaviour of the English parliament, were most likely to afford him a favourable reception. It must be admitted, however, that whether we consider the principles of the Scotch covenanters, or the strength which they could muster in opposition to the English forces, there was no ground to expect that, either from inclination or from prudential motives, they would undertake the defence of Charles, or attempt to rescue him from the hands of his enemies: Nor can it enter into the wildest imagination to conceive that such an attempt would have been either just or proper; they were the most violent religious adversaries of the king; they were the allies of parliament; they had hitherto struggled with all their might, and had been very instrumental in obliging the former to submit to the demands of the latter. Would it not have been the height of<305> absurdity, and even of bad faith, now that their object was nearly accomplished, to change sides all at once, and, by a vain effort in behalf of the king, to assist or countenance him in refusing or delaying that submission? They were, no doubt, highly censurable in delivering him up to parliament.44 It was incumbent on them to take no advantage of the circumstance by which they had obtained a power over his person. From a punctilio of delicacy, they should rather have connived at the escape than have agreed to the surrender of their prince, who had fled to them for shelter. But to make that surrender an expedient for extorting the arrears of pay, which they could not otherwise have procured, was unquestionably a disgraceful transaction.
The leaders of parliament, meanwhile, had penetrated the ambitious designs of Cromwell and his associates; and, upon the termination of the war, thought it high time to free themselves from such unruly and turbulent servants. They had accordingly taken measures for that purpose. It was proposed that a part of the troops should be sent to Ireland, to assist in quelling the disorders in that coun-<306>try; and that the remainder should be dismissed from the service. These proceedings did not escape the notice of that powerful body against which they were directed; and their tendency was too manifest not to excite universal commotion, and suggest precautions for guarding against the danger. A petition was drawn up by the army to their general, to be laid before parliament, complaining of grievances, requiring payment of arrears, relief of widows and maimed soldiers, and an indemnity for past irregularities committed in the course of the war. To watch over their interest, and to secure unanimity in their future operations, they appointed a sort of military parliament, composed of the superior officers, corresponding to the house of peers, and of representatives from each troop or company, under the name of agitators, in imitation of the house of commons. To this body all disputes with parliament, and the management of all common concerns, was committed. The parliament afterwards voted that a considerable part of the army should be disbanded; and, to avoid the tumult apprehended on that occasion, gave orders that different<307> regiments or bodies of men should be separated, and receive their dismission at different times and places. But the military council were too sharp-sighted to obey such orders; and too conscious of their power to pay any regard to this resolution of parliament.
Upon the delivery of the king to the commissioners of the English parliament, a treaty was immediately set on foot between his majesty and that assembly for composing the public disorders, and settling the future exercise of the government. The schemes of the republican party required that, without loss of time, this agreement should be prevented; and therefore, by the contrivance of Cromwell, with concurrence of the military council, but without the knowledge, it is said, of Fairfax, an officer, with a party of soldiers, was dispatched to seize the king, and bring him a prisoner to the army. With this violence Charles was not displeased; as it coincided with his plans of managing the different parties, and afforded the prospect of another power, capable of controuling or counter-balancing that of parliament.
The seizure of the king, in this manner,<308> was an open declaration of war against the two houses, and was followed, in a short time, by the march of the army to London. Upon their approach it appeared that all expectation of resistance was vain. The city, after having taken a decided part against the mutinous spirit of the troops, was struck with a panic, and surrendered without attempting any defence.—The speakers of each house, attended by a number of members, deserting their functions, came to meet the army at Hounslow-heath, and to solicit their protection. The remains of parliament, confounded and dispirited by so general a defection of their friends and partizans, were, after a few fruitless attempts to maintain their authority, obliged to surrender at discretion, to repeal all their former offensive resolutions, and to yield an implicit submission to the military force.
Charles was highly satisfied with these transactions, and did every thing in his power to promote them. He had hitherto been treated with the utmost respect by the military leaders, and he believed that the exaltation and triumph of the army over parliament would, in the end, produce the re-establishment of regal<309> authority. He was, in fact, courted at this time by all parties, which had such an effect upon his spirits that he was heard frequently to declare, “You cannot do without me; you will fall to ruin if I do not sustain you.” Misled by this idea, he held a correspondence with every party, while, expecting to procure still better terms from their adversaries, he was withheld from concluding an agreement with any. But these delusive appearances did not long remain. As soon as Cromwell and his associates had completely answered the purpose for which they got possession of the king’s person, they began to think of delivering themselves from that incumbrance; and this they accomplished without much difficulty, by treating him with less indulgence, and instilling apprehensions that he was in danger from the soldiery. Charles, now intimidated, and disgusted with the behaviour of those whom he had so lately regarded as favourable to his interest, took the first opportunity of making his escape, and fled to the Isle of Wight,45 by the governor of which he was detained a prisoner.
The late violent measures of the army had,<310> in the mean time, stirred up a flame in the nation, and by shewing, at once, the extent of the military power, and the immediate purpose of establishing a republican government, had roused the presbyterians both in England and Scotland, and induced them even to unite with the royalists in opposing such violent innovations. The commencement of a new civil war interrupted, for some time, the operations of the republicans in modelling the constitution, and gave leisure for new efforts to conclude a treaty between the king and parliament. But the sanguine expectations of Charles, which had been raised by this exertion in his favour, prevented his acceptance of the terms proposed, and retarded a final agreement till the opportunity was lost. The raw troops collected upon the part of the king were soon defeated by Cromwell and Fairfax, who, at the head of their veteran forces, found nothing in the kingdom capable of resistance.
It now appeared that the republican party were determined to lose no time in executing their designs. The leaders of the army presented to parliament a remonstrance, in which they painted the crimes of Charles in strong<311> colours, and demanded that he should be immediately brought to trial. They, at the same time, gave orders to lay hold of his person, and to keep him under confinement. The establishment of a common-wealth required that the king’s life should be made a sacrifice; for carrying which into execution it was necessary that parliament should be laid under compulsion. By a military force, therefore, under the command of a Colonel Pride, forty commoners on one day, and on the day following ninety-one more of the presbyterian persuasion were violently secluded from the house.46 After this operation a clear majority remained in the republican interest, and there was no longer any difficulty in procuring from them a resolution to authorise the trial of Charles. This measure was, with disdain, rejected by the upper house; upon which the commons declared that the peers were no essential part of the legislature, and proceeded to execute their own resolution. It was in virtue of a commission, appointed by this junto of the commons, that Charles was tried, condemned and executed.47
The character of this prince,48 as there was<312> reason to expect, has been represented in such opposite colours, by the writers of different parties, that we can pay little regard, either to the panegyric of the one set, or the invectives of the other; and if our object be the discovery of truth, we must fix our attention solely upon that series of actions by which the eventful history of his reign is distinguished. At the distance from which we now survey the conduct of Charles, his misfortunes can hardly fail to move our compassion, and to soften that resentment which the whole tenor of his conduct is apt to excite. It is impossible, however, to overlook this glaring circumstance, that his misfortunes were, in a great measure, owing to his crimes. Disregarding the ancient constitution of the kingdom, he formed the design of establishing an absolute power in the crown; and this design he incessantly prosecuted, in spite of numberless obstacles and disappointments; notwithstanding the determined resolution, displayed by his subjects, to maintain their natural rights; and without being deterred by the immediate prospect of involving his dominions in all the calamities and horrors of a civil war. Nei-<313>ther can it be forgotten, that in the execution of his plan for exalting the regal authority, Charles was ready to practise every artifice, every species of dissimulation; that he paid little regard to good faith; and even scrupled not to violate the most express and solemn engagements. From the beginning of the dispute with his parliaments, to the commencement of the war, every concession to his people seems to have been made with the view of retracting it, whenever he should find a convenient opportunity; the same duplicity is equally observable in those transactions which, after his forces had been finally subdued, he attempted to conclude with different parties; and through the whole of his life, we often discover, in his public declarations, a mean system of equivocation and mental reservation, peculiarly unsuitable to the characteristical gravity and loftiness of his deportment.
It has been the fortune of Charles to have the history of his reign transmitted to posterity by one of the first philosophers of the present age;49 whose favorite object seems to have been to pull down the prevailing doctrines of the whigs, and to represent the peculiar opinions<314> of the two great political parties into which the nation is divided, as equally erroneous, and equally founded upon a narrow and partial examination of human society. This has given rise to a strong bias in favour of the house of Stuart, which had formerly been borne down by the tide of popular clamour, and has produced, in particular, a laboured apology for the misconduct of Charles; in which, it must be confessed, that the facts are, for the most part, fairly stated, and the general principles apparently just; but the particulars agreeable to the author’s hypothesis are so amplified and brought forward, and those in opposition to it are so contracted and disguised, as to present, upon the whole, a very artful picture, calculated to mislead an incautious and superficial observer.
In vindication of Charles, it has been suggested, that his misconduct proceeded from the notions which he had imbibed of the English constitution: that he followed merely the footsteps of his father, by whom he was taught to look upon himself as an absolute prince, invested by heaven with an indefeasible hereditary dominion: that he found this<315> opinion supported by the example of many of his predecessors, those especially of the Tudor-family; and that he was farther confirmed in it, by observing the absolute authority exercised by most of the cotemporary princes upon the continent of Europe. That the dissimulation which he employed, in the pursuit of his plans, must be imputed to the extreme difficulties and embarrassments of his situation. Conscious of the rectitude of his aim, and unable to accomplish it by direct means, he was reduced to the necessity of pursuing it by crooked artifices and expedients. In maintaining the sacred rights which, he understood, were committed to him, as the vice-gerent of God Almighty, he seems to have thought that the temporising measures, which he adopted, were imputable to his enemies, by whom he was driven into those indirect and fraudulent courses.
These observations, though delivered with such address and eloquence as mark the ingenuity and abilities of the author, are far from appearing satisfactory. Who, that acknowledges the happiness of society to be the great end of all government, can enter so far into the feelings of a tyrant as to listen to his<316> justification? when he says, “I mistook the nature of my office. I thought the people were created solely for my benefit, not I for theirs. I believed that they had no rights independent of my arbitrary will; and that their lives and fortunes might be sacrificed at pleasure to my humour and caprice. I supposed that I was entitled to maintain, either by foul or by fair means, by dissimulation and treachery, or by direct force, and by shedding the blood of my subjects, all those powers which have been assumed and possessed by my forefathers.”50
This apology, such as it is, appears more applicable to the leader of a band of Arabs, or of Tartar freebooters, who subsist by robbery and murder, than to the king of a civilized nation, in which a regular system of law and government has been long established. The barbarous chief is probably unacquainted with any other mode of living, but Charles must have known better. He had cultivated his understanding by acquired knowledge, was no stranger to the different forms of government which had existed in different countries, nor probably to the professed purpose for which they were introduced, or to the respec-<317>tive advantages which have resulted from them. He was no stranger to the history of his own country, and could not fail to know that it never was, at any period, subjected to a despotical government. He could not overlook those great charters which his predecessors had so frequently granted to their subjects, and which expressly ascertained the privileges of the people and the limitations of the prerogative. If usurpations were occasionally committed by particular sovereigns, or their ministers, these were always complained of; were generally followed by a redress of grievances, and sometimes by an exemplary punishment of the offenders. Though some of the Tudor princes exercised many arbitrary powers, and stretched the prerogative beyond the pitch which it had attained at any former period; yet even their example could give no countenance to the principal usurpations of Charles; and there still were certain limits in the constitution which those tyrants did not venture to transgress. They never ventured to assume the direct power of taxation, without the concurrence of parliament, nor to carry on, for any long period, the various branches of administration without the advice of that national council.<318>
With respect to the governments upon the continent of Europe, they were originally limited like that of England, and had of late been rendered absolute from circumstances peculiar to themselves, which could never be supposed to authorise an English monarch to introduce a similar change in his own dominions. If Charles, therefore, was misled from the circumstances of the times, we cannot suppose that this proceeded from an error in judgment, but must believe that the deception was produced, as is usual in such cases, by the false lights arising from the irregularity of his passions. It is unfortunate for the memory of this monarch, that his ambition was not of that brilliant kind which is fitted to excite admiration. It was not connected with any great view, either of public or of private aggrandizement, or accompanied with the display of great military talents, or of any splendid abilities. By overturning the constitution, he neither proposed to acquire the eclat of a conqueror, nor to extend the empire of his country, nor to raise her importance in the scale of nations. Stately and forbidding in his deportment, obstinate in his opinions, and inflexible in his measures, he seems to have had no other object than to establish that po-<319>litical system which co-incided with his temper and disposition; to have aimed at nothing farther than to obviate the hazard of contradiction, and supersede the necessity of recommending himself to his people by affability and popular manners.
To estimate the degree of understanding or abilities possessed by Charles is not very easy. The talents and capacity ascribed to him by his friends are supposed to have been chiefly displayed in conversation and in his literary compositions. But the authenticity of the latter, which has been much questioned, can hardly be ascertained in a satisfactory manner; and the opinion entertained of the former is liable to the suspicion of being tinctured by an admiration of his high rank, and by compassion for his misfortunes. During his conferences with the commissioners of parliament in the Isle of Wight, he is said to have acquitted himself in a manner that impressed his hearers with respect and veneration. That he understood those topics, which had been the study of his whole life, may easily be conceived; and that his abilities were of a cast which qualified him for speculation more than for action, there is good ground to believe.<320> Let it also be remembered that he was a king whose crown “had not yet lost all its original brightness,” and we may account for this veneration without supposing any thing extraordinary. It is at least certain that the whole course of his public conduct exhibits one continued scene of arrogance, meanness, inconsistency, and imprudence. His extravagant claims were advanced with heat and precipitation, and supported with eagerness and violence, until the nation was alarmed and thrown into a ferment; after which he had recourse to apparent submission, to humiliating compliances, and to hypocritical professions. Those who endeavour to palliate the errors of his government, observe that he suffered himself to be guided by persons of much inferior capacity to his own. But this, in a temper so little influenced by the warmth of affection, affords a certain proof of the want of discernment. There is no doubt that his measures were frequently directed by ministers, whose views he ought to have distrusted; and by the queen, whose religious principles both excited the jealousy of the English nation, and subjected her to an influence of which he had reason to be apprehensive.<321>
The private virtues of Charles have been justly the subject of commendation. Sober and temperate, he set before his people an important example of decency and regularity of manners; while, by his taste in the fine arts, and by his attention to reward the exertions of genius, he was of signal service in promoting useful improvements. Though incessantly actuated by the love of power, and much irritated by opposition, he was not violent in his resentments, nor in his temper, unforgiving and revengeful. Had he been able quietly to obtain an unlimited authority, it is not likely that he would have been guilty of great excesses in the exercise of it. Neither does he seem, on the other hand, to have been animated with much generosity towards his friends, or to have felt a strong attachment to any of those favourites, who suffered in his cause, and in whose judgment he had placed an implicit confidence. From his lofty ideas of the sacred character with which he was invested, he probably thought that his subjects in sacrificing their lives and fortunes to his conveniency, did no more than their duty;<322> and that of consequence no returns of gratitude, upon that account, were due to them.
The enthusiasm inspired by an opinion of his own dignity and self-importance, enabled him to support with becoming decency, and even with magnanimity, the sad reverse of fortune which he experienced in the latter part of his reign; and contributed to the display of that patience, resignation, and meekness, with which he bore the insults and indignities of his unfeeling enemies.
The death of Charles appears to have struck all Europe with terror and astonishment. The execution of a king upon a public scaffold, and with all the forms of judicial procedure, at a period when the state of society had begun to mitigate the severity of penal laws, and had also very generally introduced a despotical government, was a measure which ran counter to the ordinary course of political events. It was beheld like that phenomenon, which
With regard to the justice of this measure, it should seem, that at this distance of time, when the animosities and prejudices of that age have in a great measure subsided, there is little room, among such as are qualified to judge, for any considerable difference of opinion; but we consider this prince merely in the light of a private individual, and compare his conduct with that of other criminals, there can, I should think, be no doubt that he merited the highest punishment. If rapine and murder are accounted capital crimes, what shall we say of that ambition, which breaks down, at once, all the barriers of personal security; overturns the whole fabric of the constitution; establishes the dominion of arbitrary will in place of legal restraint; and, in seeking to attain this object, destroys the lives and fortunes of thousands!
But the situation of a sovereign is so different from that of private individuals, and an attempt to punish him is attended with such complicated disorders, that the only circumstance which ought to regulate the interference of government, in such cases,<324> must be the consideration of public utility. Was the trial and condemnation of Charles regulated by this consideration? Was it a measure of public expediency? Was it calculated to remove disorders; to improve the constitution; to restore tranquillity? That it was not absolutely necessary for the preservation of the liberties of the people, must, I think, be admitted; for the spirit of the king was so reduced by his misfortunes, that he would, probably, have submitted to any restrictions; he would even have consented, it is said, that the crown should be directly transmitted to the prince of Wales, under the management of a regency. By rejecting such terms, it was manifest, that the leaders of the prevailing party had abandoned every idea of improving the old government, and had resolved, that monarchy, in every shape, and under any limitations whatever, should be entirely exploded. The trial and execution of Charles was doubtless intended for the purpose of introducing a republican form of government; and according as we hold such a revolution to have been expedient<325> or the contrary, we shall be led to condemn, or approve of that measure.
Concerning the general question, whether a government of this nature was, at that period, accommodated to the circumstances of the English nation, it may be difficult to form a decisive opinion. Many politicians have asserted, that a republican constitution is peculiarly adapted to a small state, and cannot be maintained in a large community. This doctrine seems to have arisen from a view of the ancient republics, in which the whole people composed the legislative assembly; and is evidently inapplicable to those modern systems of democracy, in which the legislative power is committed to national representatives. Nothing is more common than for philosophers to be imposed upon by the different acceptation of words. The nations of antiquity having no notion of a representative government, countries of large extent were subjected universally to an arbitrary and slovenly despotism; and it was only in a few small states that it was thought practicable for the mass of the people to retain, in their own<326> hands, the supreme powers of public administration. The expedient, employed first in modern times, of substituting representatives, in place of the whole people, to exercise the supreme powers in the state, has removed the difficulty of communicating a popular constitution to countries of a great extent; as it may prevent the legislative assembly from being too numerous, either for maintaining good order in its deliberations, or for superintending the conduct of the chief executive officers.
If, by a republic, is meant a government in which there is no king, or hereditary chief magistrate, it should seem, that this political system is peculiarly adapted to the two extremes, of a very small and a very great nation. In a very small state, no other form of government can subsist. Suppose a territory, containing no more than 30,000 inhabitants, and these paying taxes, one with another, at the rate of thirty shillings yearly; this would produce a public revenue, at the disposal of the crown, amounting annually to 450,000 l. a sum totally insufficient for supporting the dignity and autho-<327>rity of the crown, and for bestowing on the king an influence superior to that which might be possessed by casual combinations of a few of his richest subjects.
Suppose, on the other hand, a territory so extensive and populous as to contain thirty millions of inhabitants, paying taxes in the same proportion; this, at the free disposal of a king, would bestow upon him an annual revenue, so enormous as to create a degree of patronage and influence which no regulations could effectually restrain, and would render every attempt to limit the powers of the crown in a great measure vain and insignificant. In such a state, therefore, it seems extremely difficult to maintain the natural rights of mankind otherwise than by abolishing monarchy altogether. Thus, in a very small state, a democratical government is necessary, because the king would have too little authority; in a very great one, because he would have too much. In a state of moderate size, lying in a certain medium between the two extremes, it should seem, that monarchy may be established with advantage, and that the crown may be<328> expected to possess a sufficient share of authority for its own preservation, without endangering the people from the encroachments of prerogative. How far England was in these circumstances at the period in question, I shall not pretend to determine.
But, even supposing a republic to have been in itself, at that period, a preferable form of government, it could not, in England, be expected to produce beneficial consequences; because it was not supported by the general voice of the community. The death of the king, the preliminary steps to the establishment of that system, was neither authorized by the nation at large, nor by its representatives. It had no other authority than the determination of a house of commons, from which a great proportion of the members had been expelled by a military force. The peers refused their concurrence with indignation. Cromwell, and his associates, the leaders of the army, who had obtained the direction of the Independents, were in reality the authors of this transaction, which, we may safely affirm, was diametrically opposite to the opinions<329> and sentiments of by far the greater part of the nation.
In these peculiar circumstances, the execution of Charles cannot be approved of even by the warmest admirers of a republican constitution. The authority of every government is founded in opinion;52 and no system, be it ever so perfect in itself, can be expected to acquire stability, or to produce good order and submission, unless it coincides with the general voice of the community. He who frames a political constitution upon a model of ideal perfection, and attempts to introduce it into any country, without consulting the inclinations of the inhabitants, is a most pernicious projector, who, instead of being applauded as a Lycurgus, ought to be chained and confined as a madman.
Though, from these considerations, an impartial and candid observer will be disposed, upon the whole, to disapprove of the rigorous punishment of Charles, it seems impossible to deny, that it was productive of some incidental advantages. As a conspicuous example of the resentment incurred<330> by the exertions of arbitrary power, it contributed to intimidate the succeeding princes, and to render them less resolute in their violent measures. It was, probably, the memory of this event, which made James II. shrink from his attempts, and facilitated the accession of William III.
It is no less evident, however, that the unfortunate issue of the contest between the king and parliament, brought for some time a discredit upon the laudable efforts of that assembly to support the constitution, and supplied the partizans of despotism with an argument in favour of their doctrine of passive obedience, by shewing the disorders which may arise from all resistance to the will of the monarch.<331>
Of Oliver Cromwell, and the Protectorate.
The boldness, the dexterity, and the dissimulation of Cromwell, had been eminently successful in conducting those measures which had ended in the death of the king, and in bringing the whole kingdom under the power of the independents. But the talents of this profound politician, his enterprising spirit, and the extent of his designs, were yet far from being completely unfolded. He had hitherto only set himself at the head of his own party; and, by their assistance, at the head of the military force of the nation. But a more difficult and hazardous task yet remained—to deceive this party; to render them subservient to his private ambition; and, after they had flattered themselves with the near prospect of that political establishment with which they were so much intoxicated, to employ a great<332> part of them, together with the army which was devoted to their interest, in seating him on the throne of England, with greater power than had ever been enjoyed either by James or by Charles.
To have a proper conception of the means by which he was enabled to execute this master-piece of dexterity and villainy, we must, in the first place, consider his popularity in the army, whose power at that time, was unbounded. The weakness and the undesigning integrity of Fairfax, rendered him a mere tool in the hands of Cromwell, who made use of the name and credit of that general to accomplish his own views, while he avoided the odium and suspicion which their avowal must have drawn upon himself. The great body of the troops were devoted to Fairfax, with a blind veneration produced by an opinion of his military talents, and by a confidence in the sincerity of his professions. Possessed of little capacity or inclination, to scrutinize the conduct and motives of those who acted the chief parts on the political theatre, they were jealous of the interest and rights of the<333> soldiery, and gratified by every event which contributed to the exaltation of their favourite leaders. A few of the principal officers appear to have seconded the designs of Cromwell, either from personal attachment or considerations of private interest. The rest were for the most part men of low education, equally destitute of penetration to discover the tendency of his measures, and of capacity to prosecute any vigorous plan of opposition.
The diversity of opinion among the independents themselves, concerning the nature of that constitution which they had it in view to establish, created at the same time innumerable difficulties, and occasioned such delays as afforded ample scope to Cromwell, for preparing and ripening that peculiar system which he meant to introduce.
A great part of those who concurred in putting the late king to death, were men of principle. Whatever fanaticism in religion, or whatever prejudices in politics they had imbibed, they appear to have been animated with fervent zeal, and with sincere dispositions, to promote the good of the public.<334> They looked upon the tyranny of Charles as inseparably connected with monarchy; and, while the kingly office was permitted to remain, they regarded the punishment of the king as a mere palliative, incapable of producing a radical cure. But the idea of a republic was vague and general, admitting a great diversity of modifications. The celebrated republics of antiquity, supplied on this occasion, no models proper for imitation; for, as those governments were all established in very small communities, the people at large were in a capacity to exercise the legislative power; while in a large and populous country like England, it was evidently necessary that it should be committed to an assembly of representatives. From this radical difference many others must follow of course; and thus, in a matter not ascertained by experience, there was opened a boundless field to political projectors, in which they might range at pleasure, and declaim without end or measure, upon their different speculative improvements.
While the zealous and disinterested friends of republicanism continued in a state<335> of uncertainty, with respect to the precise object which was to terminate their labours, the old house of commons, that meeting which remained from the wreck of the long parliament, after the violent expulsion of those members who had disapproved of the trial of Charles, and after the house of peers had been declared no part of the legislature; this garbled house of commons endeavoured to hold itself up to the public, as forming the basis of the government in question. It was composed of about ninety persons, deriving their authority, not from the voice of the people, but from the direct interposition of that military force, by which they had been encouraged and supported in all their usurpations.1 They took upon them to abolish the upper house, but reserved to the peers the privilege of electing or being elected knights of shires, or burgesses. They ventured to declare, “that the office of a king is unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to the interest, liberty, and safety of the nation.” Assuming the title of the parliament of the Commonwealth of England, they exercised the legislative and executive<336> powers; and as an auxiliary for executing the business of the latter department, they appointed a council of state, composed of thirty-nine persons. Not satisfied with the supreme authority of England, they did not hesitate to effect an union with Scotland and Ireland, and to determine that from each of those countries thirty representatives should be admitted.
While this remnant of a national council maintained a good understanding with the army, its commands were easily enforced throughout the nation. But things did not long remain in this fortunate situation. Although its members owed their present establishment to the violent interference of a military force, they had no intention to continue in a state of dependence upon the power which had raised them. They had already, as was formerly observed, taken direct measures, however ineffectual, for disbanding the army, and had thus incurred the strong resentment of every person connected with that department. Their continuing to exercise all the functions of government, and their claiming even the<337> power in that extraordinary emergency of reforming and new-modelling the constitution, could not fail at the same time to shock all the feelings and principles of the real friends of liberty. It had, indeed, been enacted that the parliament called in 1640, should not be dissolved without its own consent; but it surely was a wide interpretation of that statute, to contend that this enactment should operate in favour of that mere shadow of national representation, which had been so recently made use of as a cover to the tyranny of the military power. The death of the king, according to the views of all those who wished to effectuate a thorough reformation of abuses, had produced an extinction of the old government; and it would be ridiculous to devolve the formation of the new system upon that handful of obscure individuals, who, by a train of accidents, had been left in the possession of the political machine. A transaction so important and extraordinary, seemed to require the concurrence of the whole nation; but, undoubtedly, could not with propriety be concluded, unless in a full and comprehen-<338>sive meeting of the national representatives. The existing members of this house of commons were probably not ignorant of what the public in this particular might expect from them. They had, accordingly, sometimes talked of dissolving themselves; but on these occasions found they had always pretences for delaying so disagreeable a measure; and at length they came to a resolution of superseding it altogether, by electing a set of new members to fill up their number.
These two circumstances, the resentment of the whole military order against that assembly, and the vague uncertain notions concerning that political system which the sincere republicans had in contemplation, were the main springs which Cromwell put in motion for effecting his ambitious designs.
His first object was to get rid of the old house of commons; a measure not altogether free from hazard; for that house contained the leaders of the independent and republican party, who had been embarked in the same cause with the army, in bringing the sovereign to the block; and however<339> these confederates were now embroiled by a difference of private interest, a reconciliation, from the recollection of their common sentiments, was far from being impossible. Cromwell employed every artifice to inflame this difference, and when the jealousy and resentment of the army had been raised to a sufficient pitch, he ventured, in concert with the principal officers, by a military force to turn that assembly out of doors.2 The circumstances with which he executed this bold measure are well known. With a mixture of rage, of religious cant, and of insolent jocularity, he called upon a party of soldiers whom he had provided for the occasion, and ordered them to lay hold of those members who appeared refractory; declaring “that they were no longer a parliament, and must give place to better men.”—“I have been wrestling,” says he, “with God, to excuse me from this, but in vain.”3 His purpose, no doubt, was to intimidate; but it is not improbable that he followed, at the same time, the natural bent of his temper. We may easily suppose that, however destitute of sensibility; how resolute soever in prosecut-<340>ing his plans; yet, in this emergency, when he was on a sudden to shift his ground, and to abandon his old friends and associates, all was not quiet within; and that he could not prevent unusual perturbation. To stifle reflection, a vigorous effort became necessary; and he was obliged to work himself up to a degree of passion and violence.
In whatever light this measure might be viewed by the army, it was of too decided a nature not to open the eyes of the nation, and to discover his real designs. Such of the republicans as were capable of discernment, must now have been fully convinced of the treachery of their leader, and have seen with shame and indignation, the total overthrow of a fabric which they had long been endeavouring to rear. They had the additional mortification to find that they were too insignificant to procure any attention to their complaints; and that the loss of their power was beheld by the people at large with exultation and triumph. The presbyterians, as well as the adherents of the late king, must have regarded this event with cordial satisfaction; the former, pleased<341> with the ruin of a party by whom they themselves had been supplanted; the latter, deducing a complete vindication of their political tenets from the unfortunate issue of the late attempts to limit the prerogative, and rejoicing in the prospect, that the present disorders would induce men of all parties to seek the restoration of public tranquillity by recalling the royal family.
Even some of the military officers penetrated the sinister designs of Cromwell, and immediately withdrew their support from him; but they possessed neither influence nor dexterity to produce a desertion of the forces under their command. The rest were pleased with any arrangement which exalted the military power, and were easily satisfied with the dissolution of the late house of commons, as a preliminary step to the calling of a more suitable representation of the whole community. The common herd of the troops, viewing this crafty politician, either in the light of a patron and protector, to whom they were indebted for their situations, and from whom they expected preferment; or in that of a saint, whose religious charac-<342>ter and professions inspired them with full confidence in his integrity, adhered invariably to his interest, and were disposed, without examination or suspicion, to promote and execute all his measures.
The army, having in this manner swept away the old government, became entirely masters of the field, and possessed an unlimited power. They had obtained a clear canvass upon which they might amuse themselves in designing future constitutions. As, in their former disputes with parliament, they had formed their several delegates into a deliberative council, under such regulations as enabled them, without confusion, to collect their general determinations, they now proceeded, in the capacity of legislators, to make trial of their political talents. One of their first attempts of this nature was to call a convention, the members of which, amounting to about an hundred and twenty, were elected by counties and towns in England, Scotland, and Ireland. But as this meeting, which is known by the name of Barebone’s parliament,4 did not, it seems, answer the views of Cromwell, he soon prevailed upon them,<343> notwithstanding a protestation by several members, to resign their authority.
This crude experiment was followed by the delineation of a system more full and complete in all its parts. In a military council, there was produced, and received with approbation, what was called an instrument of government, containing the outlines of the system proposed.5 It provided that the chief powers of government should be committed to a protector, a council of state, and a parliament.
To the office of protector, bestowed, as we might easily suppose, upon Cromwell himself, were annexed the greatest part of those prerogatives formerly belonging to the monarchs of England.
The council of state was to consist of not more than twenty-one, nor of less than thirteen persons. The first members were named by the instrument itself; they were to enjoy their office during life or good behaviour; and every vacancy was to be supplied by the council naming a list of three persons, out of which the protector was empowered to choose the member. In the determina-<344>tion of peace and war, and in the exercise of the executive power, the protector was to act with the advice and consent of the council.
The parliament consisted of 400 representatives for the whole of England and Wales; of whom 270 were to be elected by the counties, the right of election belonging to such as possessed a landed estate, amounting to the value of 200l. The small towns, known by the denomination of the rotten boroughs, were excluded from the privilege of sending representatives. To the English members were added thirty for Scotland, and the same number for Ireland.
That this national assembly might resemble the ancient parliaments of England, provision was made, though at a subsequent period, for a house of lords, to be composed not of the old hereditary nobility, but of members nominated by the protector, whose privilege of sitting in that house should remain during life. Their number was limited to seventy.* <345>
The protector was empowered to summon meetings of parliament; he was required to call them every three years, at least; and to allow their deliberations to continue for five months without interruption. He had no absolute negative upon such bills as passed through parliament; unless they were contrary to those fundamental laws contained in the instrument of government. But by this original deed he had secured a standing army of 20,000 foot, and 10,000 horse; for the maintenance of which regular funds were provided.
Such was the famous plan of government, by the establishment of which Cromwell appears to have attained the summit of power and grandeur. It is necessary to examine minutely the particulars of this new system; which, by not admitting its chief magistrate to assume the title of king, has commonly been considered as a species of republic. In this respect, and by its extending, and in some degree equalizing the national representation in the public assembly, it may seem, from a superficial view, to favour the great body of the people. But in reality it<346> had an opposite tendency; and subjected all the branches of administration, all the exertions of government, to the arbitrary will of a single person. It established a standing army of 30,000 men, under the direction of the protector, and which could not be disbanded without his consent. Such a force, in the state of military discipline which he had produced, was fully sufficient to overcome all resistance, and to govern the nation at pleasure. By such a body of mercenaries entirely at his devotion, he could easily sweep away those cob-web laws which were spread out to decoy and ensnare others, not to restrain his own conduct. We accordingly find that the first parliament which was called, in consequence of this new constitution, having proved refractory by disputing the title of the protector, he placed a guard at the door of the house, and refused admittance to the members, until they had subscribed an engagement to acknowledge his authority. In a future parliament, he employed a similar violence to subdue the opposition of its members.<347>
To facilitate, however, the interposition of that absolute authority which he intended to exercise, he found it convenient to make variations in the constitution which he had introduced; and in particular to enlarge the department of the army, by allowing its officers to interfere in the civil administration. An insurrection of the partizans of the royal family, which had been early discovered, and easily quelled, afforded a pretence for treating the whole party with extraordinary severity.6 By a regulation of a most arbitrary and oppressive nature, they were subjected to a contribution amounting to a tenth of their estates; and for levying this imposition, Cromwell divided the whole kingdom into twelve military jurisdictions; each of which was put under the government of a major-general with exorbitant powers, and from his determination there lay no appeal but to Cromwell himself.
From the slightest attention it must be obvious that this political system was not framed for duration. It was such a mixture of opposite elements, such a combination of discordant and jarring principles, as could not fail to counteract one another, and to<348> produce disorder and commotion. The protectorate of Cromwell was apparently a democracy, but in reality a military despotism; the most arbitrary and oppressive species of absolute monarchy. It held out to the people the show of liberty and of privileges, by inviting them to choose their own representatives, to exert themselves in acquiring political interest, in a word, to consider themselves as legislators, and to act accordingly; while in reality, their efforts were always to end in disappointment; their ideas of self-importance and dignity to produce only mortification; their pretended interference in the administration of public affairs to be in perfect subordination to the will of a single person, by whose hand, like puppets, all their movements were guided and directed.
To render an absolute government palatable to a whole nation, it must be confirmed by inveterate usage.7 The attention of the people must be turned away from the conduct of their governors, and diverted into other channels. Occupied with their private pursuits, they must be taught to look<349> upon the business of the magistrate as no business of theirs, and to esteem it his province to command, as it is their duty to yield implicit submission: they must be habitually convinced that they have nothing to do with the laws but to obey them. The forms of the constitution must be calculated to keep out of view the rights of subjects, to present continually the image of unbounded authority in the prince, and to inspire a veneration for his person and dignity. The grandeur of the monarch, the rank which he holds in the scale of sovereigns, the facility with which he collects an armed force, and provides resources for supporting it, the secresy and expedition with which he enters upon a war, attacks the neighbouring states, or procures information with respect to their designs, the tranquillity which he maintains through the whole of his dominions, by repressing the animosities, the turbulence and faction so prevalent in popular governments; these advantages must be constantly held up to the nation as the peculiar blessings of despotism, which, in the opinion of some, render that political establishment upon the whole<350> superior to every other. The people, in short, must be made to exult in that power by which they are kept in subjection, to regard their own glory as involved in that of their grand monarque, and their own debasement and servitude, as compensated by the splendor of his prerogative, and the extent of his dominion. Experience has shewn that by long custom, and by the influence of example, such a national spirit is not unattainable; nay, that sentiments of loyalty and affection to a despot, have, in the history of the world, and even of civilized nations been more prevalent than a sense of liberty and independence. But the union of the former and the latter, in one mass, is a mixture of heterogeneous particles, which incessantly repelling each other, must be frequently shaken, and kept in continual ferment, to prevent their separation. To introduce a despotism under the guise of a popular government is to dress an avowed and bitter enemy in the garments of a friend and benefactor: it is to tantalize the people with a prospect of pleasures which they are never to enjoy; to require that they should banish from their thoughts a set of rights and pri-<351>vileges which are constantly placed before their eyes.
To the native inconsistencies and contradictions which tended to overthrow the system of usurpation introduced by Cromwell, we must add a circumstance of still greater moment, that from the beginning it had, in every shape, been opposed by a prodigious majority of the nation. Exclusive of the army, every class or description of men, whether political or religious; the episcopal party, the presbyterian, and the independent; the friends of the royal family, the supporters of limited monarchy, and of a commonwealth; all united in their aversion to the present constitution, and in their detestation of the means by which it has been established.
These dispositions of the public mind had not escaped the penetrating eye of Cromwell. He knew that his government, as an innovation, which ran counter to all the former ideas and habits of the great body of the nation, was highly unpopular; he was willing, as far as possible, to remove this prepossession; and, in the latter part of his ad-<352>ministration, he seems to have had a serious intention to restore the monarchy. After the powers which he had already assumed, he probably thought that the army would have no objection to his obtaining the title of king; and by the restoration of the kingly office, provided it were settled in his family, together with the re-establishment of the ancient house of peers, there was reason to expect, that a great part of the nation, weary of the past disorders, and less adverse to the new government, than to the dominion of the imprudent and infatuated house of Stewart, might be at length reconciled to his authority.
With this view he secretly promoted an address, intituled the humble petition and advice of the parliament of England, Scotland, and Ireland, to his highness; by which he was entreated to accept the title of king, and to revive the practice of parliaments consisting of two houses.8 A committee was appointed to hold a conference with him upon the subject, and to urge the expediency of the measure proposed. The farce of persuading Cromwell to accept of the royal<353> dignity was carried on for some time; but the real difficulty lay in procuring the consent of the army, who hated the name of king; and more especially in procuring the consent of the principal officers, who entertained the hope of succeeding to the protectorship.
Many persons of moderate opinions, throughout the nation, seem to have approved of this project, as most likely to produce a permanent settlement.* The<354> protector himself treated the proposal with the utmost indifference; delivering his public declarations in a jargon wholly unintelligible; and speaking of it in private as a trifle, which he might comply with merely to gratify the humour of others. “He had tried all possible means,” says Ludlow,9 to prevail with the officers of the army to approve his design, and knowing that lieutenant-general Fleetwood,10 and colonel Desbrowe were particularly averse to it, he invited himself to dine personally with the colonel, and carried the lieutenant-general with him, where he began to droll with them about monarchy, and speaking slightly of it, said it was but a feather in a man’s cap, and therefore wondered that<355> men would not please children, and permit them to enjoy their rattle. But he received from them, as Col. Desbrowe since told me, such an answer as was not at all suitable to his expectations or desires. For they assured him there was more in this matter than he perceived; that those who put him upon it were no enemies to Charles Stuart; and that if he accepted of it, he would infallibly draw ruin on himself and his friends. Having thus sounded their inclinations, that he might conclude in the manner he had begun, he told them they were a couple of scrupulous fellows, and so departed.”*
His endeavours, however, were fruitless. A petition from the officers of the army was presented to parliament, requesting “that the protector might not be pressed to take upon him the title and government of a king”;11 and Cromwell, with great ostentation of humility, and much profession of declining a load of cares and difficulties, took the merit of refusing the crown.† But the office of protector<356> was confirmed to him, with the privilege of naming a successor.
It is probable that this attempt of Cromwell to restore the regal title and dignity, which discovered an effrontery beyond example, did not entirely proceed from the mere vanity of wishing to possess the pageantry of a crown. To think otherwise would be to suppose that he betrayed a weakness not of a piece with the rest of his character. The effect of this measure, had it been carried into execution, is extremely doubtful: but there is ground to believe that it occurred to this bold and impudent usurper as a stratagem to be hazarded, perhaps the only expedient by which he had any chance to extricate himself from the surrounding difficulties.
The time now evidently drew near, which, in spite of all his efforts, was to annihilate the ill-gotten authority of this extraordinary personage. During the four years in which he held the protectorate, he was exposed to desperate attempts from all quarters; from cavaliers,12 from presbyterians, from independents and republicans; and he seems to<357> have never enjoyed a moment, either of quiet or security. That he escaped assassination, considering the continued ferment of the nation, and the enthusiastic zeal of the parties whom he had so highly irritated, is wonderful. By his extraordinary vigilance, by the uncommon intelligence which he procured, by a judicious mixture of lenity and of severity towards those who conspired against him, he broke and disconcerted the schemes of his enemies, and reduced them to the necessity of temporising and acting with great circumspection. The obstacles, however, to a final and permanent settlement were daily encreasing. Deserted by every man of principle, unless perhaps, a few low-bred fanatics in the army, whose weakness rendered them unable to penetrate his designs, he found himself destitute of a friend in whose counsel he could repose any confidence, or from whose credit or influence he could expect any assistance. Concerning the desperate posture of his affairs, Thurloe,13 with great simplicity exclaims, “Truely, I think nothing but an unex-<358>pected providence, can remove the present difficulties.”
Towards the close of his life, he appears to have become sensible of the folly and vanity of those ambitious projects in which he had been engaged; and to have felt a conviction, that the power which he had attained was a mere shadow, likely upon the first gathering of a cloud, to vanish in a moment. If not touched with remorse, for his crimes, he was at least terrified by the prospect of that vengeance which they had provoked. He became dejected, and melancholy. The face of a stranger gave him uneasiness. He was haunted incessantly by gloomy apprehensions, and never thought himself secure in any situation. By concealing, and frequently changing the chamber which he slept, by the constant attendance of a strong guard, by wearing a coat of mail under his cloaths, by seeking indirect roads when he performed a journey, and pursuing a different way in his return home; by these, and such unavailing precautions, he endeavoured to prevent those attacks which his<359> anxious and tortured mind was continually foreboding.
The load of cares and vexation with which he was oppressed, at length affected his constitution, and produced a distemper which carried him off, in the forty-ninth year of his age. The thoughts of a future state had, for some time, suggested to him uneasy reflections; and the particulars which historians have transmitted upon that point, present the curious but disgusting spectacle of a violent enthusiast; conscious of having deserted all those principles with which he set out in life, and now covered with guilt, and with infamy, endeavouring by the illusions of fanaticism, to find religious consolation in his last moments. He is said to have asked Godwin, one of his preachers, whether the doctrine was true, that the elect could never fall, or suffer final reprobation? “Nothing more certain,” replied the preacher. “Then I am safe,” said the protector, “for I am sure that once I was in a state of grace.” So much of the original leaven remained, that he still was capable of being wrought up to his former<360> fervors. He believed that an answer had been given to his prayers, and to those of his chaplains, promising that he should not die of the present distemper.
Few characters have united more extraordinary qualities, or afford more subject for speculation, than that of Oliver Cromwell. The ardour of his disposition should naturally, it might be supposed, have rendered him tenacious of any opinion or system of conduct which he happened to embrace; and he seems from his infancy, to have acquired a strong predilection for the peculiar tenets both religious and political, embraced at that period, by the independents. His attachments, in this respect, were fortified by early habits, and by the intercourse and example of many kindred spirits, with whom he lived in the strictest intimacy and friendship. Yet this system he afterwards abandoned; those friends he betrayed; and all those principles by which he had been distinguished, and upon which he appeared to build his reputation, he scrupled not, for the sake of a temporary and precarious power or emolument, openly to renounce. The<361> man who in the company of Pym and Hambden, and other assertors of public liberty, had formed the resolution of leaving his native country14 rather than submit to the usurpations of the crown, was not ashamed to give the lie to all his professions; and after having put the king to death for tyranny, to hold himself up to public view as one of the most notorious tyrants and usurpers that the world ever beheld.
To his original and genuine fanaticism he was probably indebted for the success of his projects. Had he not been at first sincere in his professions, it is not to be supposed that he could have gained the confidence of his companions and associates, or that he would have risen to much consideration with the public. But being a real fanatic, and a real republican, he became distinguished among those of the same way of thinking; and in the subsequent progress of his mind towards a full and complete apostacy, it was probably a long time before they, or even before he himself, perceived the alteration. His hypocrisy and dissimulation might easily be considered as useful and excusable arts which<362> he employed in a good cause; and his own aggrandizement might be regarded as a mere collateral object, which was not incompatible with the interest of the public. The moment when he began, directly, and without any subterfuge, to sacrifice the latter to the former, when his irregular passions were no longer able to justify themselves, and when his conscience first avowed the naked truth of his detestable villainy, was doubtless a point scarcely visible, which he would have no pleasure in examining, but which, as soon as discovered, he would most carefully conceal.
It is at the same time observable, that though Cromwell was tempted by his ambition to abandon those patriotic views, to which his temper and early habits had strongly inclined him, his natural disposition still appeared conspicuously in all cases where it was not counteracted by the consideration of his own interest. Though he had set himself above the laws, and in the exercise of those illegal powers which he had assumed, was guilty of the most arbitrary proceedings, yet in maintaining the police<363> of the country, and in the ordinary administration of government, he displayed great vigour and public spirit. “Westminster hall,” by the confession of Lord Clarendon, “was never replenished with more learned and upright judges than by him; nor was justice either in law or in equity, in civil cases, more equally distributed where he was not a party.” He is admitted, even by his enemies, to have eagerly selected persons of ability and reputation to fill the various departments of public business; to have been a zealous promoter of science, and a munificent patron of genius and learning.
With whatever disgust or indignation every ingenuous mind will contemplate the successful villainy of this extraordinary person, it is impossible to withhold a degree of admiration from his uncommon abilities; the boldness with which he planned, and the steady resolution with which he executed his measures; the dexterity with which he availed himself of the animosity, and the jealousies prevailing among the different parties; the penetration with which he dis-<364>covered the foibles of his own partizans and the artful policy by which he rendered them the dupes of their own interested views. His situation admitted of no regular system of operations, but required such immediate exertions as were instantaneously suggested by the occasion; and in these he seldom was guilty of any oversight, or let slip any opportunity to forward his designs. The characteristical and prominent feature of his conduct was decision. Placed on a new ground, and frequently on the brink of a precipice, without any beaten path to direct him, he never hesitated in choosing his course and the pursuit of his object, seldom committed any false step, or met with any considerable disappointment.
His uncommon deficiency in elocution must appear surprising to those who consider the clearness of his judgment, and the quickness of determination which he exhibited in all his actions. This might arise from a variety of causes; from slowness of imagination, a quality not incompatible with sound understanding; from his early neglect to cultivate this useful talent; from the un-<365>intelligible jargon which his fanatical habits had rendered familiar to him; and lastly, from the necessity he frequently was under of disguising and concealing his real intentions and sentiments. Perspicuity is the foundation of eloquence; but those persons can never be perspicuous who are afraid of being understood.
A strong propensity to sarcastic mirth, and bufoonery, has been taken notice of as a remarkable ingredient in the composition of this wonderful character. The amusement he found in putting burning coals in the boots of his officers, or inviting them to a feast, while the common soldiers were directed at a certain signal, to rush in and run away with the dishes; his flinging a cushion at the head of Ludlow, when they were engaged in a conference upon a subject of no less importance than the settlement of the constitution; his taking the pen to sign the warrant for the execution of Charles, and bedaubing with ink the face of Martin, who sat next him; his indecent suggestion, that a person who saw him and his companions on their knees round the table, might<366> imagine they were seeking the Lord, while they were only seeking a bottle-screw; these and other instances of caurse and unseasonable mirth are collected by his biographers, as forming a manifest inconsistency in the character of so great a man. In that violent measure, when he dissolved the house of commons, we find him indulging a most absurd and whimsical vein of raillery and sarcasm, and insulting the members, while he put an end to their authority: “Thou art a whoremaster—thou art an adulterer—thou art a drunkard, and a glutton.—Take away this bauble (the mace.) O! Sir Harry Vane! Sir Harry Vane! The Lord deliver me from Sir Harry Vane!”15
When things which appear important and solemn to the rest of the world, are from a singular disposition, beheld by any individual with indifference or contempt, they are apt from the contrast of his own emotions and sentiments with those of others, to excite laughter and ridicule. Thus a melancholy man who derives no pleasure from the common enjoyments of life, is dis-<367>posed to make a jest of the bustle created by avarice or ambition, and of the idle pursuits in which the bulk of mankind are engaged. The hardened villain, whose mind has become callous to the impressions of humanity and virtue, is in the same situation with regard to the sacred ties of honour and conscience; and is apt to hold in derision those kind and generous feelings, those principles of right and wrong, by which men are bound together in society, and by which they are determined in many cases to sacrifice their interest to their duty. He not only beholds from the state of his own heart, every appearance of generosity and virtue under this ridiculous aspect, but is disposed, in defence of his own conduct, and as a kind of antidote to the censure and execration of mankind, to cherish and hold up this view of things, both to himself and to others. The great painter of the human heart16 has, in the character of Hamlet, exhibited a man of sensibility, and of a melancholy cast, indulging himself in the fancy, that the conqueror of the world might be employed to stop a beer barrel; and in such ludicrous views of<368> mankind as tend to demonstrate the vanity and folly of their boasted accomplishments, their eager desires, and their unwearied pursuits. In the character of Richard the Third, the same author has displayed the sarcastic humour of a villain, who makes a jest, not only of the follies and weaknesses, but of the virtuous dispositions and conscientious scruples of mankind. The piety of Saint Harry, the holy laws of Gray-beards, the credulity of Lady Anne, in believing his promises, the affection of his mother, and her tender concern for his welfare, with every quality that is commonly regarded as valuable and praise-worthy, are the standing objects of his derision and merriment. Somewhat akin to this disposition, in the dramatic character of Richard, is the rustic jocularity of Cromwell which appears to aim at laughing all virtue out of doors, at the same time that it seems to convey the expression of exultation and triumph in the success of his hypocrisy. Upon reading the treatise of Harrington, in which that author thought proper to express a confident expectation that the protector would establish<369> a commonwealth, this facetious usurper is reported to have said—“The gentleman had like to have trepanned me out of my power; but what I have got by the sword, I will not quit for a little paper shot.”*
When we examine the conduct of Cromwell in all its parts, it may seem surprising that his memory has been treated with more lenity and indulgence than it certainly deserves. This may be explained from the influence of popular feelings; and still more from the character and sentiments of political parties. His great abilities, the success of all his undertakings, and the respect which he commanded from all the powers<370> of Europe† seized the imagination of Englishmen, and were calculated to gratify national vanity. The partizans of the house of Stewart were, at the same time, induced to hold up the favourable side of the policy of Cromwell in order to blacken the memory of those patriots who were not less the enemies of that usurper than of the absolute power of the crown. They affected to consider the usurpation of the protector as a necessary consequence of the attempts to restrain the prerogative, were better pleased with the protectorate than with a republican system, and seem to have felt towards him a sort of gratitude for overthrowing that form of government to which they were most adverse.
The death of Cromwell put an end to that authority which, probably, even if he had lived, he would not have upheld much longer. His son Richard,17 whom he had nominated to the office of protector, had<371> neither the ambition or desire, nor the capacity to maintain it. The leaders of the army, whose influence encouraged them to aim at the supreme power, could not be retained in subjection. Richard was deposed. The remains of the long parliament were recalled. Fleetwood and Lambert,18 who were at the head of the English forces, attempted to give law to this assembly; but they wanted the transcendant genius of Cromwell to effect their purposes. General Monk,19 who commanded a smaller but probably a better disciplined army in Scotland, was immediately summoned to the assistance of parliament. Having marched up to London, he proceeded so far in obedience to the commons as to carry military execution into the city, for refusing to pay the taxes imposed by parliamentary authority.
This attempt shews pretty clearly that he intended to tread in the paths of Oliver Cromwell; but finding by the general voice of the public, that the plot was not likely to succeed, he seems to have quickly changed his ground; and endeavoured without loss of time to repair this unlucky step; he<372> exerted all his interest in recalling the royal family. In this design he was seconded by a great part of the nation; by all who had been shocked and disgusted with the late violent measures, and who saw no end to the disorders and calamities arising from the ambition and sinister views of the military leaders.<373>
Of the Reigns of Charles the Second, and James the Second.
The restoration of Charles II.1 to the throne of his ancestors, was produced in such hurry and agitation of spirits as precluded every attention and precaution which prudence and deliberation would have suggested. The different parties who united in this precipitate measure, were too heterogeneous in their principles, and too jealous of one another, as well as too much afraid of the partisans of the protectorate, or the supporters of a republican system, to form any regular concert, and thus to hazard the delay which an attempt to limit the powers, and to regulate the conduct of the sovereign, would have required. Having no leisure for entering into particulars, they were satisfied with the professions of Charles, conceived in vague and general terms; that, in matters of religion, he would shew indul-<374>gence to differences of opinion; that he would grant a free pardon to all offences committed against him by his subjects, reserving to the consideration of parliament the exceptions that ought to be made; and that, in relation to the changes lately introduced in the state of property, he would refer all future claims to the determination of that assembly. None of those political points, therefore, which, after the accession of James I. had been the subject of controversy, were, on this occasion, settled or explained; and the monarch, assuming the reins of government, without any limitations or conditions, was understood to recover all that extent of prerogative which, before the commencement of the civil war, had been vested in the crown.
The principal events in this reign exhibit a disgusting repetition of similar struggles to those which had occurred under the two first princes of the House of Stewart, and afford no prospect of that splendid success with which, in a short time after, the cause of liberty was fully crowned. The great unanimity with which the nation had concurred in restoring the royal family was<375> represented as an experimental proof of the futility and imprudence of those pretended improvements in the government, which had of late been attempted; but which had ended in a new and most arbitrary species of despotism, or rather in total anarchy and confusion. The tide was now turned in favour of the monarch; and his old adherents became the governing party in the state. The shame and disgrace attending the late measures were, in some degree, communicated to all who had any share in their accomplishment, and became the subject of exultation and triumph to those who had followed the opposite course. Men strove, by their services, to compensate their former disaffection; and, in proportion to the severity with which they had treated the father, they were warm in their professions of attachment and loyalty to the son.
The agreeable qualities and accomplishments of the king, joined to the memory of the hardships which he had suffered, contributed to improve those favourable dispositions. Equally removed from the pedantic vulgarity of his grandfather, and from the haughty reserve and formality of his father,<376> Charles II. possessed an affability and ease of deportment, a fund of wit and pleasantry in conversation, a knowledge of the world, and discernment of the weaknesses of mankind, which qualified him to win the hearts of his subjects, and to procure their indulgence even to the blemishes and vices of his character. The popularity of the prince was, in some measure, extended to all that party who, having been his fellow-sufferers, had acquired, by their fidelity and attachment, a strong claim to his favour and confidence. As they now filled the principal offices of trust and emolument, the influence and power, the consideration and rank, which they now enjoyed, gave reputation and consequence to their peculiar ways of thinking and modes of behaviour. Those who had followed the fortunes of Charles were chiefly among the higher class of gentry, who, by their situation in life, had acquired that relish of pleasure and dissipation which affluence naturally bestows; and this original disposition was confirmed by their long residence in France, where gaiety<377> and elegance had made greater advances than in any other part of Europe. Upon returning to England, they propagated all their own habits and prepossessions. The sour and rigid sobriety of the puritans was now laughed out of doors. All extraordinary pretensions to devotion, all inward illuminations of the spirit, were treated as knavery and hypocrisy. Loyalty to the king; generosity, frankness, and hospitality; a taste for conversation, and for the enjoyments of society and good fellowship, were looked upon as the characteristics of a gentleman, and the distinguishing marks of a liberal education. Charles himself, from his indolence, and the easiness of his temper, had an utter aversion to business, and a strong propensity to pleasure. Careless about religion and government, and studying only to gratify his own inclinations, he was little attracted by objects of ambition, or by the pomp and pageantry of a crown; and set no value upon any talents and accomplishments but such as were subservient to his amusement, or conducive to mirth and<378> festivity. The obsequiousness of the court in adopting the manners of the sovereign, and the effect of its influence and example throughout the nation, may easily be conceived. Thus the fashion of the times passed suddenly from one extreme to another; from fanaticism, and a cynical contempt of the innocent enjoyments of life, to irreligion and libertinism, to voluptuousness and debauchery.
Upon the restoration of Charles, the first national object was the procuring an act of general indemnity and oblivion; which the king passed with great alacrity.2 The exceptions, in exclusion of such as had been accounted notorious offenders, were not numerous; and even among those who had sat upon the trial of his father, only ten were put to death. To do justice to this prince, it must be acknowledged, that a revengeful temper was not in the number of his vices. He had, besides, every reason to court popularity; and it was necessary, for conciliating the affection and future loyalty of his subjects, to convince them that their past offences were forgotten.<379>
To procure a revenue, which might render him in some degree independent, was, on the other hand, the immediate object of the king. In this he was not unsuccessful; having obtained from parliament not only 1,200,000 l. as an ordinary peace establishment, a revenue much larger than had been enjoyed by his predecessors; but also a variety of large sums for occasional purposes; in particular, for enabling him to pay off and disband the army, that army which had been the basis of the late usurpation, and from which the nation, we may suppose, was now anxious to be delivered.*
The disputes and disturbances which began early, and which continually clouded and disgraced this unpropitious reign, may be traced to two sources, which, however, were intimately connected; to the jealousy and bigotry produced by religious differences; and to the designs of the crown, partly through the medium of those differences, to establish a despotism.<380>
When Charles was recalled from poverty and exile to the throne of his ancestors, it is probable that, humbled in the school of adversity, he had formed the resolution to avoid any such contest as might endanger, a second time, the loss of his crown. But after he had been seated, with apparent firmness, in the full possession of regal authority, his thoughtless temper, easily subdued by the counsel of friends and favourites, disposed him to forget the salutary lesson inculcated by his misfortunes, and betrayed him into measures no less arbitrary and unconstitutional than those which had brought his father to the block. Though not ambitious of power, he was rapacious of money for the support of his pleasures; and, from his extravagant dissipation, feeling constantly the vexatious pressure of wants, he was never contented with those moderate supplies which he occasionally obtained from parliament. Weary, therefore, of continual, and often vain applications to that assembly, and impatient of the mortifications to which he was frequently subjected, he listened with avidity<381> to every proposal for delivering him from such restraints, and for enabling him to supply his necessities by virtue of his own prerogative.
With respect to religion, the jealousy, the partialities, and prejudices of the court, and of the people, operated in various directions. It is now sufficiently known, though it was then only suspected, that the king, while abroad, had been reconciled to the church of Rome;† a measure not, in all probability, dictated by any religious impressions, of which he was not very susceptible; but proceeding from political motives, or from the facility of his nature, which rendered him incapable of resisting the importunity of his friends. His brother the Duke of York,3 the presumptive heir of the crown, was a bigoted Roman Catholic, and with inferior abilities, but more obstinacy and more talents for business, had gained a complete ascendant over the mind of Charles. But whatever desire these two princes might feel to establish the Popish religion, it was necessary to conceal their<382> sentiments, and to accommodate their behaviour to the popular opinion. The partisans of the church of England, who had been the great supporters of the crown in the reign of Charles I. and who formed the most numerous and powerful body in promoting the restoration, were justly entitled, according to the views entertained in that period, to claim the re-establishment of that authority, and of those modes of worship which they had formerly possessed. The restoration of episcopacy, therefore, went hand in hand with that of monarchical government; the bishops resumed their seats in parliament; and the lands of the church, together with those of the crown, which had been alienated under the protectorate, were immediately restored to those public uses for which they had anciently been appropriated. That no compensation was made, in this case, to the purchasers, whose titles had originated in an usurpation, now execrated by all ranks of men, will not appear surprising.* <383>
In this peculiar state of things, there prevailed universally, among the protestants of every denomination, an apprehension of the designs of the crown to promote the establishment of the Romish religion; as there existed, in the members of the church of England, a strong resentment against the puritans, and a violent suspicion of their future machinations. It may be observed, at the same time, that these two branches of Protestants felt reciprocally more jealousy and hatred of each other, than they entertained against their common enemy, the Roman Catholics; in proportion as their systems were more akin, and as their mutual animosities had been excited by more recent hostilities, as the church of England had been so lately overturned by the dissenters, it was natural to look for similar attempts from the same quarter, and to guard against them with the utmost anxiety. Unhappily, the means adopted for this purpose, were equally illiberal and imprudent. By requiring a strict uniformity in matters of religion, and by inflicting severe penalties against all non-conformists, it was proposed<384> to defend the church from the attacks of the sectaries, and to secure her establishment from the hazard of religious innovation. To say nothing of the tyranny of domineering over the rights of conscience, by compelling mankind to embrace, or profess opinions which their understandings have rejected; the experience of all ages has demonstrated that persecution, instead of exterminating, is the most effectual instrument for propagating systems of religion; and that the courage and resolution almost universally displayed by those who are martyrs to their faith, enflames the enthusiastic ardour of their adherents, and excites a general admiration, which becomes the natural source of reputation and proselytism.4 By a statute, it was declared unlawful for more than five persons, beside those of the same family, to assemble for any species of worship different from that established by law;5 and every transgressor was, for the first offence, subjected to the payment of five pounds, or three months imprisonment; for the second, to the payment of ten pounds, or six months imprisonment; and<385> for the third, to the payment of an hundred pounds, or transportation for seven years. Not content with these immoderate severities, the church procured a prohibition against every dissenting teacher from coming within five miles of any corporation, or of any place where he had formerly preached; and this under the penalty of fifty pounds, and six months imprisonment.*
Episcopal church government was introduced also into Scotland; and, being known in that country to be extremely adverse to the inclination of a great part of the inhabitants, was enforced by regulations yet more severe and oppressive. Meetings of the sectaries for public worship, or, as they were called, conventicles, were prohibited, under similar penalties as in England; but those who frequented field conventicles, were punished with death and confiscation of goods; a large pecuniary reward was offered to any who should apprehend those offenders; and high penalties were inflicted<386> upon such as, being called upon oath, refused to give information against them. A military force was employed to kill or disperse the people discovered in those illegal assemblies; and the execution of these barbarous measures was entrusted by the administration to men of unfeeling and brutal tempers, who, endeavouring to recommend themselves by their activity, were guilty of the most horrible enormities.* Even those who absented themselves from church, were, upon the mere report of the clergy, and without any trial, subjected to arbitrary fines; the payment of which was enforced by quartering soldiers upon the supposed delinquents.†
The oppressive treatment of the Presbyterians, which, in consequence of these laws, was continued in Scotland for a long period, has not been sufficiently held up to the public by historians of credit, nor marked with that indignation and abhorrence which it ought to inspire. The sufferers, indeed,<387> were a set of poor fanatics, whose tenets and manners have become, in this age, the objects of ridicule: but this consideration will, surely, afford no apology for such acts of cruelty and injustice. Charles appears to have conceived a peculiar dislike to the Scottish covenanters, by whom he had been much harrassed and disgusted when under the necessity, in Scotland, of hearing their long prayers and sermons, whose enthusiastic spirit had involved his father in those difficulties which gave rise to the civil war, and whose treachery had finally delivered that unfortunate monarch into the hands of his enemies.
But though the king had, probably, little fellow-feeling with that obnoxious class of Presbyterians, he was desirous of alleviating the hardships to which the unreasonable jealousy of the church had subjected the Catholics, as well as the other sects of non-conformists; and he seems to have been pleased with an opportunity, upon plausible pretences, of granting such relief by means of the dispensing power of the crown. It soon became evident, that this monarch enter-<388>tained the same notions of the English government which had been inculcated by his father and grandfather; and though cautious, at first, of exciting any disgust in the nation, he was emboldened by successful experiments, and ventured more and more to shake off those restraints which had been imposed upon him by his fears. The convention which restored the monarchy, and was afterwards turned into a parliament, had contained a great proportion of Presbyterians, and of such as entertained very limited ideas of monarchy. It was, therefore, dissolved in a few months after the new settlement had been effected; and gave place to a new parliament, which, agreeably to the prevailing spirit of the times, exhibited opinions and sentiments, both in church and state, more conformable to those of the king.
In the year 1664, the triennial act, which had passed in the reign of Charles= I. and which had effectually provided that there should be no greater interval than three years between one meeting of parliament and another, was repealed; and the regular<389> calling of those assemblies was again trusted to the discretion, or rather to the occasional necessities of the king. This parliament was continued for about eighteen years; and, during a considerable part of that long period, shewed a pretty strong and uniform disposition to humour the inclinations of the sovereign; but it seemed to imbibe a different spirit, in proportion as the terror occasioned by the late civil war had abated, and as the arbitrary maxims of the crown were more clearly discovered.
So early as the year 1662, Charles declared his intention of dispensing with the penalties contained in the act of uniformity; at the same time that he requested the concurrence of parliament for enabling him, with more universal satisfaction, to exercise a power which he conceived to be inherent in the prerogative.* But this purpose, however cautiously expressed, and artfully recommended, was far from being agreeable to the nation. It was touching an old string which had formerly sounded an alarm to<390> the people, and reviving those apprehensions of popery and arbitrary power, which had given rise to the civil war. It produced, therefore, a remonstrance from the two houses of parliament; and was, for the present, laid aside.
In the year 1670, Charles, with concurrence of his brother, concluded a treaty with France, by which Lewis XIV.6 undertook to assist the King of England in establishing popery and absolute monarchy; and, for that purpose, to pay him a yearly pension of 200,000 l. and to supply him with an army of 6000 men.† This scandalous transaction was kept, as we may easily believe, a profound secret from all but a few persons, whose religion and political profligacy disposed them to promote its accomplishment. The king, at this time, professed to be his own minister; but, in reality, was commonly directed by a secret council, or cabal;7 while the great officers of state, who held the ostensible administration,<391> were left without influence or confidence. The nation was in this manner deprived of that security which, by the constitution, they were entitled to expect from the responsibility of those individuals who filled the higher departments of government, and who might with justice, and without endangering the public tranquillity, be called to account for the measures committed to their direction. Even of this cabal, it is said, that none were made acquainted with the French treaty but those who had embraced the popish religion.
Having thus obtained the support of a monarch so powerful, and so warmly interested in the success of his measures, Charles thought himself in a condition to act with more vigour, and ventured, by his own authority, to grant an indulgence to all non-conformists, whether of the protestant or catholic persuasion.8 He issued, therefore, a proclamation, suspending all the penal laws against those two branches of the sectaries; and allowing to the former in public, to the latter in private, the free<392> exercise of their religion.* By this exertion of prerogative, the national suspicion was awakened; the jealousy among different sects of protestants was overwhelmed by the terror of their common adversary; and parliament, which had long connived at the designs of the crown, was roused in defence of its own privileges. The feeble mind of Charles was overcome by the violent opposition of that assembly, together with the clamour excited throughout the nation; and he retracted the measure with much profession of regard to the constitution, and of willingness to remove the grievances of the people.† By this unsteadiness of conduct, he encreased the confidence of his opposers, without removing the suspicions by which they were actuated.
From the animosity, hatred, and mutual jealousy which, during the course of this reign, prevailed among different sects and parties, men were easily disposed to credit the reports of plots and conspiracies propa-<393>gated to the prejudice of one another; and hence encouragement had been given to numerous criminal prosecutions, followed by the condemnation of the supposed offenders upon insufficient evidence. Thus in 1662, six persons of low rank were charged with a design to restore the commonwealth, and, being condemned upon the testimony of two infamous witnesses, four of them were executed.9 In the following year, a similar charge was brought against no less than twenty-one persons, who, upon the evidence of one pretended accomplice, were all convicted and put to death. Such fictitious conspiracies, the fruit of groundless apprehension and terror, were at first imputed most frequently to the protestant sectaries and friends of republican government; but, when the immediate fear for popery and of arbitrary power had become prevalent, imputations of a similar nature were circulated, and readily believed against the Roman Catholics.
That the King, and his brother the Duke of York, had resolved to subvert the established government, in church and state,<394> and had entered into a treaty with France for this purpose, is now universally admitted. That many Roman Catholics were looking eagerly towards the same object; that they had suggested particular schemes, and held consultations for promoting and accelerating its accomplishment; or that, impatient of delays, they had even expressed, occasionally, their wishes for the King’s death, which might raise to the throne his brother, their zealous patron, who now openly professed the Romish religion, is highly probable. From a few scraps of intelligence concerning such vague intentions or expressions, Oates and Bedloe, two profligates, no less ignorant than shameless and unprincipled, with other associates who became willing to participate in the same harvest, appear to have reared the structure of the Popish Plot;10 by which they asserted, that a regular plan was laid, not only for the establishment of popery and despotism, but also for the murder of the King; and several persons, at different times, had been hired to carry this latter purpose into execution. The accusation was at first limited to men<395> of obscure and doubtful characters; but afterwards, noblemen professing the popish religion, and even the Queen, were involved as accomplices.11
Though the story told by these witnesses was, in many respects, full of contradiction and absurdity, though it was varied materially in the course of the different trials, and was not supported by any person of good reputation, there occurred some remarkable incidents, which contributed to bestow upon it, at least in the main articles, an air of credibility.
Godfrey,12 an active justice of peace, before whom Oates had made oath of the narrative which he afterwards delivered to the privy council, was, in a few days thereafter, found lying dead in a ditch, with his own sword run through his body, but with evident marks of his having been previously strangled. As he had not been robbed of his money, his death was imputed to the resentment of the catholics, or considered as an attempt to intimidate the discoverers of their practices.<396>
When Coleman, secretary to the Duke of York, one of the supposed accomplices in this conspiracy, was apprehended, letters were found in his possession, containing part of a correspondence with Father La Chaise, in the years 1674, 1675, and 1676, which mentioned a design of the Roman Catholics, in conjunction with France, to overturn the established religion in England. It was conjectured that, if the subsequent parts of this correspondence had been found, they would have discovered also the later measures relating to the murder of the King, with which Coleman was charged.13
After the popish lords had been imprisoned, one Reading, their agent, or solicitor, was clearly detected in tampering with the witnesses, and endeavouring, by an offer of money, to make them soften their evidence. There was no proof that he had any commission for that purpose from his clients; but the transaction could not fail to throw upon them a suspicion of guilt.
These different circumstances were far from being conclusive as to the reality of the plot in question; but, concurring with the panic<397> which had seized the nation, they created a general belief of its existence. The verdicts of jurymen were found in this, as in other cases, to echo the national prejudice; and many persons apparently innocent, at least of any attempt to murder the King, were condemned and executed. The Viscount of Stafford14 was, upon the same account, found guilty by a majority of the peers, and suffered a capital punishment.
That the Popish Plot was a gross imposture, can hardly, it should seem, at this day, be disputed: but that it was entirely a fabrication of the party in opposition to the court, for the purpose of promoting their political interest, as has been alleged by some authors, there is no room to imagine. Had it been invented by a set of artful politicians, it would have exhibited a more plausible appearance, and have been less liable to detection from its numerous inconsistencies. It was the offspring of alarm and credulity, propagated, in all probability, from a small ground-work of truth; and, when it had grown to maturity, employed by an interested policy, as a convenient<398> engine for counteracting the pernicious measures of the crown.*
During the ferment which had thus been excited in the minds of the people, it is not surprising that the Roman Catholics had recourse to a similar expedient, and endeavoured by a counter-plot, not only to retaliate the sufferings they had met with, but also to turn the tide in their own favour. This undertaking was conducted by one Dangerfield, a man in low circumstances, and of infamous character, who offered to make discoveries of a conspiracy, for new-modelling the government, and for driving the King and the royal family out of the kingdom. He was well received by the Duke of York and the King; but the imposture was quickly detected, and even acknowledged; so as to recoil upon the inventors, and produce consequences directly opposite<399> to those which were intended.† This pretended conspiracy was, from the place where Dangerfield’s papers were found, called the Meal Tub Plot.15
The alarm which, from the belief of a popish plot, had thus been excited and spread over the nation, was now pointed more immediately to the prospect, that, upon the demise of Charles, the crown would devolve upon the Duke of York, a professed Roman Catholic, totally under the dominion of the priests of that persuasion, and who, in the present reign, had, according to the general opinion, influenced and directed all the violent measures of the crown. Under such a prince, conducting with his own hands the machine of government, supported and assisted by all the catholic powers of Europe, and believing it highly meritorious to employ either fraud or force to accomplish his purposes, there was reason to apprehend that neither civil nor religious liberty could be maintained. For securing, therefore, the most important<400> rights of the community, for guarding the constitution and the protestant religion, it was thought necessary that the ordinary rules of government should, in this emergency, be superseded, and that, by an act of the legislature, the lineal heir should, in such particular circumstances, be excluded from the throne.16 That the crown of England was commonly transmissible by inheritance, like a private estate, could not be disputed; but that this regulation, intended for the good of the people, by avoiding the inconveniences of an elective monarchy, might be set aside in extraordinary cases, was equally certain; and, if ever there occurred a case of extreme necessity, demanding imperiously a measure of that sort, the present emergency, in which the nation was threatened with the loss of every thing dear and valuable, was, doubtless, a remarkable instance.* <401>
A bill for excluding the Duke of York from the succession to the crown was accordingly introduced into the house of commons, and pushed with great violence in three several parliaments. The King, instead of yielding to the desires of the people with that facility which he had shewn on former occasions, remained inflexible in opposing the measure, and at length, when every other expedient had failed, put a stop to it by a dissolution of parliament. The bill, however, was finally permitted to pass through the commons, but was rejected in the house of peers. To explain this, it may be observed, that, beside the general influence of the crown in the upper house, there had occurred a change in the current of political opinions, which had, probably, an effect upon the sentiments of the nobility, and more especially of the bishops. In the course of the investigations concerning the popish plot, the numerous falsehoods and absurdities reported by the witnesses could not fail, by degrees, to shake the credit which had been at first given to their testimony, and even to create in many a total<402> disbelief of that supposed conspiracy. In proportion as the terror of popery subsided, the jealousy which the church of England had long entertained of the dissenters was revived; and gave rise to an apprehension that the hierarchy would be endangered by such limitations upon the right of the crown. This jealousy the King had the address to promote, by representing the exclusioners as a combination of sectaries, who meant now to overturn the government, both in church and state, as they had done in the reign of his father.
The entire defeat of the exclusion bill was followed by the complete triumph of the royalists, who, supported by the zealous friends of the hierarchy, were now become the popular party. The church and the King were now understood to be linked together by the ties of mutual interest; and they went hand in hand, exalting and confirming the powers of each other. In Scotland, great severities were committed against the Presbyterians. In England, the late behaviour of parliament afforded the Monarch a pretence for neglecting to call<403> those assemblies; and his conducting every branch of administration without their concurrence, occasioned less complaint or uneasiness than might have been expected.
To new-model the government of the city of London, Charles issued a writ of quo warranto,17 by which a forfeiture of the corporation, upon some frivolous pretence of delinquency, was alleged; and the city, to preserve its privileges, was under the necessity of submitting to such conditions as the King thought proper to impose. By the terror of a similar process, most of the other boroughs in the kingdom were induced to surrender their charters, and to accept of such new constitutions as the court thought proper to grant. The direction and management of those corporations was thus brought entirely into the hands of the crown; and preparation was made for establishing an unlimited authority over the commons, if ever the calling of a future parliament should be found expedient.
While the King was thus advancing with rapid strides in the extension of his prerogative, we may easily conceive the disap-<404>pointment, indignation, and despair, of those patriots who had struggled to maintain the ancient constitution. That they should complain loudly of these proceedings; that they should vent their discontent and resentment in menacing expressions; and that, as other methods had failed, they should even think of resorting to violent measures in defence of their natural rights, is not surprising. It was likewise to be expected, that government would have a watchful eye over the conduct of these malcontents, and would listen with avidity to every information which might give a handle for bringing them to punishment. In this irritable state of the public mind, what is called the Ryehouse Plot was discovered, and became the subject of judicial investigation.18 It seems now to be understood, that the persons engaged in this conspiracy had formed various plans of insurrection, and had even proposed the killing of the King; but that none of their measures had ever been carried into execution.* Such of them as<405> could be convicted were punished with the utmost rigour. Every one knows that Lord Russel, and the famous Algernon Sidney suffered upon the same account. It seems, however, to be now universally admitted, that the proof brought against them was not legal.† There is no reason to suspect, that they had any accession to the Ryehouse Plot, or that they had ever intended the King’s death. Though it is not improbable that they had held discourses concerning insurrections, they do not appear to have taken any specific resolution upon that subject; far less to have been guilty of any overt act of rebellion: but they were the leaders of the party in opposition to the crown; the great patrons and promoters of the exclusion bill; the irreconcileable enemies to the exaltation of the Duke of York, and to those political and religious projects which he was determined to pursue.† <406>
The public has of late been amused, and several well-meaning persons have been disturbed by the discovery of some particulars, from which it is alleged that both Lord Russel and Mr. Sidney, with other distinguished members of parliament, were engaged by the intrigues of the French court to oppose the English ministry, and that Mr. Sidney received money from Lewis XIV. for the part which he acted on that occasion.*
Though the merits of the great political questions which were agitated at that period, or since, have no dependence upon the degree of integrity or public spirit displayed by the adherents of different parties, it is not only a piece of justice, but a matter of some importance in the political history of England, to vindicate from such disagreeable aspersions those highly celebrated charac-<407>ters, who have hitherto possessed the esteem and admiration of their countrymen.
With respect to their co-operation with the court of France, in opposing the designs of Charles and his ministry, which is all that is alleged against Lord Russel and some others of the party, we must form our opinion from the peculiar circumstances of the times. About the year 1678, when the designs of the English court to establish an absolute government had become very apparent, England, by the marriage of the Prince of Orange to the daughter of the Duke of York,19 had been driven into a temporary connection with the States of Holland, and, in that view, had raised a considerable army to be employed against France. The interest of the French court, therefore, who dreaded the operations of this hostile armament, coincided, at this time, with the views of the Whig party in England, who, from a jealousy of the crown, were eager that the troops might be speedily disbanded; and the latter could incur no blame in making use of the incidental, and, perhaps, unexpected assistance of the former, for<408> promoting their great object, the defence of their liberties. It seems to be acknowledged, that by doing so, this party reposed no confidence in the French councils, and followed no other line of conduct than would have been adopted, if no such agreement had taken place. They forfeited no advantage, they sacrificed no duty to their own country, but merely availed themselves of the temporary policy of the French monarch, and, whatever might be his motives, employed him as an instrument to prop that constitution which he had long been endeavouring to undermine.
With respect to the allegation, that Mr. Sidney was a pensioner of France, the proof of this fact depends upon the letters and memorials of Barillon,20 the French agent, and the accounts laid before his own court, in which he states two several sums, of 500 l. each, advanced to Mr. Sidney.*
The authenticity of these accounts, examined, it should seem, and transcribed with little precaution, and produced, for the<409> first time, at the distance of near one hundred years, has been thought liable to suspicion; more especially when it is considered, that the odium occasioned by the illegal condemnation of Sidney, which fell unavoidably on Charles and the Duke of York, would have been in some measure alleviated by the immediate publication of this mysterious transaction with France. But, even supposing the accounts to be genuine, there may be some reason to doubt, how far the representation of this money-jobber, in a matter where his own pecuniary interest, and his reputation and consequence with his constituents, were so nearly concerned, is worthy of credit. Barillon himself acknowledges, that “Sidney always appeared to him to have the same sentiments, and not to have changed his maxims.”† —“That he is a man of great views, and very high designs, which tend to the establishment of a republic.”† That Sidney was known, on that occasion, to be the steady friend of<410> those measures which Barillon was employed to promote, is not disputed. How, then, came this French agent to be so lavish of his master’s money, as to throw it away upon a person who had already embarked in the same cause, and who, from this bribe, was induced to do nothing which he would not have done without it? There seems to be but one explanation which this will admit of; that, if the money was actually given to this eminent leader; it must have been intended merely to pass through his hands, for gaining those inferior persons, whose assistance, in the present emergency, it might be convenient to purchase. But that either Lord Russel or Mr. Sidney betrayed the interest of their own country to that of France, or deviated in any particular, from their avowed political principles, has never been alleged, nor does there seem to be any colour for supposing it.§
The death of Charles II. which happened in the beginning of the year 1685, prevented his completing that system of absolute go-<411>vernment, in which he had made such considerable progress. Towards the end of his reign he found himself involved in great difficulties from want of money; and is said to have been filled with apprehension, that his late arbitrary measures would be attended with fatal consequences. It is reported that, in a conversation with the Duke, he was overheard to say: “Brother, I am too old to go again to my travels; you may, if you chuse it.”21 And it was believed, that he had formed a resolution to give up all further contest with his people, to change his counsellors, to call a parliament, and to govern for the future according to the principles of the ancient constitution.*
The character of this prince is too obvious to require any full discussion. He possessed a sociable temper, with such an eminent portion of the talents and accomplishments connected with this disposition, as rarely falls to the lot of a king. Here we must finish his eulogy. In every other view we can discover nothing commendable; and it is<412> well if we can apologize for foibles by the mere absence of criminal intention. His open licentiousness and profligacy in the pursuit of his pleasures, not only tended, by example, to corrupt the national manners, but occasioned an extravagance and profusion in his expences, which drove him to unwarrantable methods of procuring money from his subjects. He had little ambition to render himself absolute. He had no attachment to any plan of despotic government. The divine indefeasible right of kings was a doctrine to which he was willing to sacrifice neither his ease nor his amusement. But, on the other hand, he was totally destitute of that public spirit which excites an active and superior mind to admire, and to promote, at the expence of his own safety or interest, the nice adjustment of parts in the great machine of government. He was no less negligent of the national honour and dignity, than indifferent about his own. His extreme indolence, and aversion to business, leading him to devolve the weight of public affairs upon others, and particularly upon the Duke of York, who gained<413> an absolute ascendant over him, and pursued a regular system of tyranny. Upon the whole, when we consider how far the misconduct of this careless monarch was imputable to his ministers, we shall, perhaps, be disposed to admit that, with all his infirmities and vices, he had less personal demerit than any other king of the Stewart family.
The accession of James II.22 afforded a complete justification of those who had contended, that his exclusion from the throne was necessary for securing the liberties of the people. No sooner did he assume the reins of government, than his fixed resolution to overturn the constitution, both in church and state, became perfectly evident. It was happy for the rights of mankind, that he was actuated no less by the principle of superstition than of civil tyranny; as the former contributed much more powerfully than the latter, to alarm the apprehensions, and to rouse the spirit of the nation. It was yet more fortunate that he proved to be a prince of narrow capacity, of unpo-<414>pular and forbidding manners, blinded and misled by his prejudices, and though, to the last degree, obstinate and inflexible, totally destitute of steadiness and resolution.
One of the first acts of the administration of James, after declaring in the privy council his determined purpose to maintain the rights and liberties of the nation, was to issue a proclamation, ordering that the customs and excise should be paid as in the preceding reign. By this arbitrary measure he assumed the most important province of the legislature; and though, for saving appearances, an expedient had been suggested, that the order of payment should be suspended until the meeting of parliament, he rejected this proposal, because it might seem to imply that the authority of the national council was requisite for giving validity to this exertion of the prerogative.
From the power over the city of London, and over the other boroughs in the kingdom, which had been acquired in the late reign, James had no reason to fear opposition from parliament, and was, therefore, willing to make an early trial of the disposi-<415>tions of that assembly. At their first meeting, he demanded, in a high tone of authority, that the revenue which had been enjoyed by his brother should be settled upon him during life; and this demand he accompanied with a plain intimation, that their implicit compliance was the only way to secure their frequent meetings, and to prevent his resorting to other methods for procuring a revenue.* Instead of being alarmed by such a declaration, the two houses appeared to vie with each other in their alacrity and readiness to gratify the monarch.
But, though James had good reason to rely upon the uniform support of parliament, he was not negligent of other precautions for promoting his designs. It is impossible to withhold our indignation when we discover that this king, like his brother, had so far degraded himself and the nation, as to become the abject pensioner of France, and to render the national forces subservient to the ambition of the French monarch,<416> upon receiving from him a regular subsidy, with a promise of assistance in subverting the English government. Soon after his accession to the throne, we find him apologizing to Barillon, the French ambassador, for summoning a parliament. “You may, perhaps, be surprised,” says he, “but I hope you will be of my opinion when I have told you my reasons. I have resolved to call a parliament immediately, and to assemble it in the month of May. I shall publish, at the same time, that I am to maintain myself in the enjoyment of the same revenues the king my brother had. Without this proclamation for a parliament, I should hazard too much, by taking possession directly of the revenue which was established during the life-time of my deceased brother. It is a decisive stroke for me to enter into possession and enjoyment; for, hereafter, it will be much more easy for me, either to put off the assembling of parliament, or to maintain myself by other means which may appear more convenient for me.”* Upon re-<417>ceiving from Lewis XIV. the sum of 500,000 livres, this magnanimous prince said to Barillon, with tears in his eyes: “It is the part of the king your master alone, to act in a manner so noble, and so full of goodness to me.”† From the subsequent dispatches of this ambassador, it is clearly proved, that James was determined to render himself independent of parliament, and was totally engrossed by those two objects, the establishment of the popish religion, and that of his own absolute power. With these views, he thought it necessary to court the protection of Lewis, from whom he was constantly begging money with unwearied and shameless importunity.† Barillon, in writing to his master, mentions the expressions used by James in a conversation upon that subject: “That he had been brought up in France, and had eat your majesty’s bread; and that his heart was French.”§
In pursuance of the plan which he had laid, his immediate design was, according<418> to the same testimony, to make the parliament revoke the test act and the habeas corpus act;23 “one of which,” as he told Barillon, “was the destruction of the catholic religion, and the other of the royal authority.”*
The precipitate and ill-conducted attempts of the Duke of Monmouth in England, and of the Earl of Argyle in Scotland,24 which met with little encouragement, and were easily crushed by the king’s forces, contributed to render this infatuated monarch more sanguine with respect to the success of his projects, and, by inspiring him with greater confidence, prompted him to act with less moderation and caution. The shocking cruelty exhibited on that occasion by the military, and the gross injustice committed, under the form of law, by the civil courts, which could not have happened without the approbation and countenance of the king, convey a still more unfavourable idea of his disposition as a man, than of his abilities as a politician. Bishop Burnet25 <419> affirms, that regular accounts of those judicial proceedings were transmitted to James, who was accustomed to repeat the several particulars with marks of triumph and satisfaction. It is certain, that this king mentions, in a letter to the Prince of Orange, the hundreds who had been condemned in what he jocularly distinguishes by the appellation of Jeffery’s campaign;26 and that, for his services, this infamous tool was rewarded with a peerage, and with the office of lord high chancellor.†
Both Charles and James had been taught by the example of their father and by their own experience, that without an army it was in vain to think of subjecting the English nation to an absolute government. The king, therefore, after the late insurrections had been suppressed, informed the parliament, that he meant to keep up all the forces which the state of the country had obliged him to levy; and he demanded an additional supply for that purpose. Not satisfied with as large an army in England, in Scotland,<420> and in Ireland, as his own revenue was capable of supporting; he entered into a treaty with the French king, who took into his pay three English regiments, and, besides, agreed to furnish James with whatever troops might be necessary in the prosecution of his designs.*
But the grand and favourite object of James, which contributed more than any other to alarm the people, was the dispensing power which he assumed in favour of popery. So far from concealing his intention in this particular, he thought proper, near the beginning of his reign, to make an open avowal of it in parliament; which produced an address from the house of commons, and a motion to the same effect in that of the peers. These measures, being regarded by the king as inconsistent with his dignity, were followed by several prorogations of that assembly, and at length by a dissolution.
In examining the earlier part of our history, I had formerly occasion to consider<421> the origin of the dispensing power; which arose from the interest of the sovereign, as chief magistrate, in the condemnation and punishment of crimes. As the king was the public prosecutor, against whom all transgressions of the law were understood to be chiefly directed, and who, besides, drew the pecuniary emolument from all fines and forfeitures, which were anciently the most common species of punishments, he came by degrees to exercise, not only the privilege of pardoning the offences which were actually committed, but even that of previously excusing individuals from such penalties as might be incurred by a future misdemeanor. It is commonly said, that this power was borrowed by our kings from the practice of the Roman Pontiff, who claimed the right of granting indulgences for every sort of religious transgression; but in reality, a privilege of this nature seems to have resulted from the situation of the chief civil, as well as of the chief ecclesiastical magistrate; though, in Europe, it was for obvious reasons carried to a greater extent by the latter than by the former. In<422> England, however, the king having upon the reformation, succeeded to the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, he, of course, united in his own person these different sources of power.
As the dispensing power of the crown was originally exerted in extraordinary cases only, it probably was of advantage to the community, by providing relief to such persons as were in danger of suffering oppression from a rigid observance of the common rules of law. But the occasions for soliciting this relief were gradually multiplied; people who found it their interest, as in evading the restrictions upon some branches of trade, were led to purchase dispensations from the crown; and the exercise of this extraordinary privilege degenerated more and more into abuse. It can hardly be doubted, that such dispensations as were granted for money would be confined to individuals, and not extended to classes or general descriptions of people; for the crown, we may suppose, receiving a profit from this branch of the prerogative, would seldom bestow an indulgence upon any but<423> those who had paid for it. But even in this limited shape, the dispensing power, which might lead to a shameful traffick upon the part of administration, and interrupt the due execution of the most salutary laws, was regarded as incompatible with the principles of the English constitution, and was reprobated in direct terms by the legislature. In the reign of Richard II. there was passed an act of parliament permitting the king, in particular cases, and for a limited time, to dispense with the statute of provisors,27 but declaring such dispensations, in all other cases, to be illegal and unwarrantable. It must be acknowledged, however, that even after this act the dispensing power was not abandoned; and that lawyers, under the influence of the crown, were sufficiently ready in their judicial capacity, to support all such exertions of the prerogative.
The differences between the two great religious parties which took place at the reformation, afforded a new inducement for this extraordinary interposition of the crown, and in a different form from what<424> had hitherto been thought of. In particular, the princes of the house of Stewart, from their favour to the Roman catholicks, were disposed to free them from the penalties to which, by various statutes, they had been subjected; and to do this effectually, it was necessary that the dispensation should be granted not to single individuals; but, at one and the same time, to all persons of that persuasion; that is, to all those who fell under the penalties imposed by the statutes in question.28 When the dispensing power of the crown was exhibited in this new and more extended form, it must have been universally regarded as a repeal of the acts of parliament, and as a direct assumption of legislative authority.
In the petition of right,29 the dispensing power is expressly enumerated among those remarkable grievances, of which redress was claimed from Charles I. and which, on that occasion, were declared to be violations of the English constitution. As the petition of right had passed into a law before the commencement of the civil war, and had never<425> been repealed, it continued in force during the reigns of Charles II. and of his brother.
In these circumstances, we cannot wonder that the revival of the dispensing power by James, a bigotted papist, with the avowed purpose of admitting the Roman catholics to all offices, both civil and military, should be regarded as an unequivocal declaration of his firm resolution to subvert the religion and liberties of the nation.
As in the late reign, the exclusion bill was defeated by exciting the jealousy of the church against the puritans, an attempt was now made to unite the Roman catholics in one common cause with the protestant non-conformists, by granting to both of them the same relief from the hardships under which they laboured. The artifice had in the beginning, some degree of success; but was in a short time detected by the dissenters, who had too much penetration and foresight, to sacrifice their ultimate safety to a mere temporary advantage.
To reconcile the nation to the doctrine of the dispensing power, a judicial determination was thought necessary, but could not<426> be procured without displacing several of the judges, and appointing others over whom the king had more influence. This produced a mock-trial, the issue of which might easily be foreseen; but so far from removing objections, it gave rise to new apprehension and disgust, by shewing, in strong colours, the inclination, as well as the ability of the crown, to poison the fountains of justice.
For this exertion of the prerogative, James alledged the most plausible motive: that of securing liberty of conscience, and preventing any person from suffering hardships on account of his religious principles. This was the reason which he gave to the prince of Orange; at the very time, that, with unparalleled effrontery, he was dispatching an ambassador to Lewis XIV. expressing his approbation of the barbarity inflicted on the protestants by the revocation of the edict of Nantes.30 By this dissimulation of James, no person could be deceived; for that he was the real author of all the persecution committed against the presbyterians in Scotland was universally known.<427>
But that none might mistake his meaning, he took care that it should be illustrated by his immediate conduct. The single purpose for which he dispensed with the test, and with the penal laws against non-conformists and recusants, was evidently the introduction of Roman catholics into all offices of trust. To accomplish this end he was indefatigable, and had, in a short time, made far greater advances than could have been expected. Those who had no religion of their own were easily persuaded to embrace that of his majesty; while many, whose consciences did not permit them to take an active share in the present measures were unwilling, by their opposition, to incur his resentment, and endeavoured by keeping themselves out of public view, to avoid the impending storm.
In Ireland, the protestants were disarmed; the army was new modelled; and a multitude, both of private soldiers and officers of that persuasion were dismissed. The public administration, as well as the distribution of justice, was placed in the hands of Roman catholics. A plan was formed of<428> revoking what was called the act of settlement, by which, at the restoration of the late king, the protestants, in that country, had been secured in the possession of certain estates; and as for this purpose it was necessary to summon the Irish parliament, similar expedients to those which had formerly taken place in England, for securing elections in favour of the crown, were upon this occasion adopted. The charters of Dublin, and of other boroughs were annulled; and those communities, by a new set of regulations,31 were brought entirely under the management of Roman catholics.*
The government of Scotland was committed to men of the same principles. In England, the king was not contented with pushing the catholics into offices in the army, and in the civil department; he had even formed the resolution of introducing them into the church and the universities. The violence with which he endeavoured to force a popish president upon the fellows of Magdalen college, Oxford, the public conse-<429>cration of four bishops in the King’s chapel, with authority to exercise episcopal functions in different districts; the royal permission which was given them to print and circulate their pastoral letters to the Roman catholics of England; the sending an ambassador to Rome, to acknowledge the authority of the Pope, and to make preparations for reconciling the kingdom to the holy see; these events which followed one another in rapid succession, plainly demonstrated that James was not satisfied with giving liberty of conscience to the professors of the Romish religion, but that he meant to invest them with a legal jurisdiction. The church of England, who from opposition to the sectaries, had supported the crown in the late usurpations of prerogative, was now roused by the dangers which threatened her establishment; and those pulpits which formerly resounded with the doctrines of passive obedience,32 were employed in exciting the people to the defence of their religious and civil rights.* <430>
Among those who utter inflammatory discourses against the measures of the court, Dr. Sharpe, a clergyman of London, distinguished himself by the severity of his reflections upon the late proselytes to popery. The king enraged at this boldness, gave orders to the bishop of London, that Sharpe should be immediately suspended from his clerical functions; but that prelate, who seems to have entertained higher notions of liberty than most of his brethren, excused him from proceeding in that summary manner, which he alledged was inconsistent with the forms of church discipline. James was determined, not only to prevent Sharpe from escaping, but even to punish this disobedience of the bishop. With this view, and for procuring an absolute authority over the conduct of churchmen, he ventured to revive the court of high-commission, which, in the reign of Charles I. had been abolished by the legislature, with an express prohibition that this or any similar tribunal, should ever be erected. Upon this new ecclesiastical commission, the king, in open defiance of the statute, bestowed the same<431> inquistorial powers which that court had formerly possessed; and here he found no difficulty in suspending both the delinquents.†
Armed with the powers of this tyrannical jurisdiction, James was determined, not only to overturn the church of England, but to render her the instrument of her own destruction. He now issued a new proclamation,33 suspending all the penal laws against non-conformists, accompanied with orders that it should be read by the clergy in all their churches. The primate, and six of the bishops, who, God knows, were not guilty of carrying their principles of resistance to any extravagant pitch, ventured, in the most humble and private manner, to petition the king, that he would excuse them from reading this proclamation. This was followed by a resolution of the king, which nothing but an infatuation, without example, could have dictated, to prosecute those prelates for a seditious libel. Had this measure been successful, the fate of English liberty would<432> have been decided. It was vain to seek relief from oppression, if even to complain of hardships, and to petition for redress, though in terms the most respectful and submissive was to be regarded as an atrocious crime. This trial, the deep concern about the issue of which appeared among all ranks, the final acquittal of the prisoners in opposition to the utmost exertions of the crown, and the violent demonstrations of joy and triumph which followed that event, afforded a decisive proof of the national spirit, and served as a watch-word to communicate that indignation and terror which filled the breasts of the people.*
The situation and character of the prince of Orange made the nation look up to him as the person whom heaven had pointed out for their deliverer. Applications accordingly were made to him from every description of protestants, containing a warm and pressing solicitation, to assist with an armed force, in the re-establishment of our religion and liberties; an enterprise which was doubtless flattering<433> to his ambition; while it coincided with those patriotic views which he had uniformly discovered, and which had produced the noblest exertions in behalf of the independence of his own country, and of all Europe.34
When James had received information concerning the invasion intended by that prince, he was thrown into the utmost consternation; and endeavoured to avert the resentment of his subjects by pretending to relinquish the most unpopular of his measures. But the accident of a storm which dispersed the prince’s fleet, and was believed to have defeated the whole undertaking, destroyed at once this temporising system of concession, and exposed the insincerity of his repentance.* A variety of circumstances now co-operated in producing a revolution of greater importance, and with less hurt or inconvenience to the nation, than perhaps any other that occurs in the history of the world. It is observable, that the standing army, overlooking the ordinary punctilios and objects of their profession, deserted the<434> sovereign when he became the declared enemy of the constitution. The pusillanimity of James, in forsaking his friends, and in quitting the kingdom, gave rise to an easy settlement where much difficulty was apprehended. He had the weakness to imagine that his throwing the great seal into the river would create some embarrassment to the new administration.
As the character of this prince procured no esteem, his misfortunes appear to have excited little compassion. He possessed no amiable or respectable qualities to compensate or alleviate his great public vices. His ambition was not connected with magnanimity; his obstinacy and zeal were not supported by steadiness and resolution; though, as it frequently happens, they appear to have been deeply tinctured with cruelty. The gravity of his deportment, and his high professions of religion, were disgraced by narrow prejudices, and by a course of dissimulation and falsehood. His fate was not more severe than he deserved; for, certainly, the sovereign of a limited monarchy cannot complain of injustice, when he is expelled from that<435> kingdom whose government he has attempted to subvert, and deprived of that power which he has grossly and manifestly abused. Impartial justice, perhaps, would determine that he was far from suffering according to his demerits; that he was guilty of crimes, which, in the nature and consequences, infer the highest enormity; and that, instead of forfeiting his crown, he well deserved the highest punishment which the law can inflict.
There have lately been published several extracts from the life of this prince, written by himself, from which it is supposed that the mistakes of former historians may be corrected and much light thrown upon the history of that period. What has already been published is a meagre detail, destitute of such particulars as might enable the reader to form a judgment concerning the credibility of the narration.35 From the character, besides, and circumstances of the writer, it should seem, that even if the whole work was laid before the public, it would be intitled to little authority. The writers of memoirs concerning their own conduct are, in all<436> cases, to be perused with caution, and allowances for such embellishment, and such perversion of facts, as may proceed from motives of private interest or vanity. But of all men, James, who appears to have written his life with a view to publication, or at least of its being produced in his own vindication, was under great temptation to exaggerate or extenuate those particulars which might affect the reputation, either of himself and his friends, or of his numerous enemies. How is it possible to trust the private anecdotes of a writer, who, in a letter to the prince of Orange, could deny that he had any accession to a treaty with France, after he had been for some months eagerly engaged in promoting it; or who gravely professed to the same person his principles of universal toleration, while he was congratulating Lewis XIV. on the most intolerant act of his reign, and expressing his great satisfaction with the violent measure of that monarch for the extirpation of heresy?* As James must have been sensible that he<437> was hated by a great part of the nation, and that his views and conduct were severely censured, the relation which he gives of his transactions must be considered as, in some measure, the representation of a culprit placed at the bar of the public; and which, though affording good evidence against himself, yet when adduced in his own favour, is worthy of belief only according to its internal probability, and to the degree of confirmation which it may receive from collateral evidence.<438>
Of the Revolution-Settlement; and the Reign of William and Mary.
Of all the great revolutions recorded in the history of ancient or of modern times, that which happened in England, in the year 1688, appears to have been productive of the least disorder, and to have been conducted in a manner the most rational, and consistent with the leading principles of civil society. When a sovereign has violated the fundamental laws of the constitution, and shewn a deliberate purpose of persevering in acts of tyranny and oppression, there cannot be a doubt but that the people are entitled to resist his encroachments, and to adopt such precautions as are found requisite for the preservation of their liberty. To deny this, would be to maintain that government is intended for the benefit of those who govern, not of the whole community; and, that the general happiness of<439> the human race, ought to be sacrificed to the private interest, or caprice, of a few individuals. It cannot, however, be supposed, that such resistance will ever be effected without some disturbance, and without a deviation from those forms and rules which are observed in the ordinary course of administration.1 When the machine is out of order, it must be taken to pieces; and in the repairing and cleaning of the wheels and springs, there must be some interruption and derangement of its movements. When a general reformation of government has become indispensable, it must be conducted according to the exigency of times and circumstances; and few situations will occur, in which it is practicable without many temporary inconveniencies, or even without violence and bloodshed. It is the part of prudence and of justice, in those cases, to adopt such measures as are likely to produce the end in view with the least possible hardship; so that, although violent and irregular, they may be justified by the great law of necessity.<440>
In consequence of a very general and pressing invitation from the English nobility and gentry, the prince of Orange, about the end of the year 1688, landed, with an armed force, in England; and immediately published a declaration,2 that the sole purpose of his undertaking, was to obtain the dismission of Roman catholics from those offices of trust which they held contrary to law, and the calling of a free parliament for the redress of grievances. Though the nation was in some measure apprised of this event, yet, intimidated by the unusual situation, they remained, for a short time, irresolute and in suspense; but soon after, an universal approbation of the enterprise was manifest from the conduct of the people in all quarters, who resorted to the prince, and formed an association to support his measures. The king found himself deserted by those upon whose fidelity he had most reason to rely; even by his own family, the prince and princess of Denmark, and by a great part of that army which he had provided to enforce his authority.<441>
In this alarming conjuncture, it might have been expected that James, to extricate himself from the difficulties in which he was involved, would have embraced one or other of two different plans. By encountering the present danger with firmness and resolution, by collecting the forces that were still faithful to him, and by endeavouring to scatter dissention among his enemies, who, notwithstanding their union in demanding a free parliament, were far from coinciding in their political opinions, he might perhaps have been successful, in defending his crown, at least, in protracting the war, till he might obtain assistance from France. By conciliatory measures, on the other hand, by giving way to the complaints of the people, by assembling a new parliament, and submitting to certain restraints upon the prerogative, he might have endeavoured to lull the nation in security, trusting to some future opportunity of retracting or evading those concessions. If either of these plans, however liable to censure, had been pursued, it is likely that the consequences to the public would have been fatal. But, happily, James was<442> thrown into such consternation as to be incapable of persisting in any settled resolution. Yielding to the impressions of fear and despondency, he quitted entirely the field of action, and withdrew, for the present, into a foreign country.3 By this imprudent step, the remains of his party became quite disheartened, and were no longer in a condition to oppose the new settlement.
The prince of Orange, having thus no enemy to cope with, proceeded to execute the task he had undertaken, by referring to the people themselves, the redress of their own grievances, and by employing the power which he possessed, for no other purpose than that of securing to them the privilege of settling their own government. As, in the absence of the King, the ordinary powers of the constitution could not be exerted, the most rational and proper expedients were adopted to supply the deficiency. The prince invited all those who had been members of any of the three last parliaments, to hold a meeting for the purpose of giving their advice in the present conjuncture. By their direction, he called a convention,<443> composed of the usual members of the house of peers, and of the representatives of the counties and boroughs, elected in the same manner as in a regular parliament.4 This meeting assembling at a time when the whole nation was in a ferment, and when the people, having arms in their hands, were capable of making an effectual opposition, its determinations, which passed, not only without censure, but with strong marks of public approbation and satisfaction, must be considered as the voice of the community at large, delivered with as much formality, and in a manner as unexceptionable as the nature of things would permit. In this convention the main articles of the revolution-settlement were adjusted; though to remove, as far as possible, every appearance of objection, they were afterwards confirmed by the sanction of a regular parliament.
That the King, who had shewn such a determined resolution to overturn the religion and government of the kingdom, and that his son,5 then an infant, who, it was foreseen, would be educated in the same principles, and until he should arrive at the age of man-<444>hood, would be under the direction of his father, and of his father’s counsellors; that those two persons, whatever might be the reverence paid to their title, should be excluded from the throne, was, in the present state of the nation, rendered indispensibly necessary. In the convention, however, this point was not settled without much hesitation and controversy. The two great parties who, since the reign of Charles the First, in a great measure divided the kingdom, had shewn themselves almost equally disposed to resist the arbitrary measures of James for introducing the popish religion. But though a great part of the tories had, from the terror of popery, joined in the application to the prince of Orange, that he would assist them with a foreign army, to procure the redress of grievances; no sooner were they delivered from their immediate apprehensions, than they seemed to repent of their boldness, relapsed into their old political principles, and resumed their former doctrines of passive obedience. They at least carried those doctrines so far as to maintain, that the people had no right, upon any<445> abuse of the regal power, or upon any pretence whatever, to punish the sovereign, or deprive him of the sovereignty; and that even supposing the King to have resigned or abandoned his royal dignity, the throne could not upon that account, be rendered vacant, but must immediately be filled by the prince of Wales, to whom, upon the death of his father, the crown must be instantly transferred. According to this view, it was contended, that, in the present emergency, the administration should be committed to a regency; either in the name of James, if he was to be considered merely as absent; or in the name of his son, if the father had actually abandoned the sovereignty.
The whigs, though they entertained more liberal notions of government, were unwilling to fall out with their present confederates, and endeavoured by a temporising system, to avoid unnecessary disputes upon abstract political questions, and to render the new-settlement, as much as possible, unanimous and permanent.
It is a matter of curiosity to observe the public debates on this important occasion;<446> in which the natural spirit and feelings of men, made up for the narrowness of their philosophical principles; and in which a feigned and ridiculous pretence was employed to justify a measure which they did not scruple to execute. They supposed that, by leaving the kingdom, James had abdicated the government; instead of boldly asserting that, by his gross misbehaviour, he had forfeited his right to the crown. That James made his escape rather than comply with the desires of his people, or assemble a parliament to deliberate upon the redress of grievances, was the real state of the fact.—But that he meant by this to yield up, or relinquish his authority, there certainly was no ground to imagine. His flight was the effect of his obstinacy and his fear; and was calculated to procure the protection of a foreign power, by whose aid he entertained the prospect of being soon re-instated in his dominion. We cannot help pitying the most enlightened friends of liberty, when we see them reduced, on that occasion, to the necessity of softening the retreat of James, and his attempt to overturn the government, by<447> regarding them as a virtual renunciation of his trust, or voluntary abdication of his crown; instead of holding them up in their true colours, of crimes deserving the highest punishment, and for which the welfare of society required, that he should at least be deprived of his office.
In Scotland, where a majority of the people were presbyterians, and felt an utter abhorrence, not only of popery, but of that episcopal hierarchy to which they had been forcibly subjected, and where the reformation, as I formerly took notice, had diffused among all ranks, a more literary and inquiring spirit than was known in England; the convention, which was likewise called by the prince of Orange for the same purpose as in the latter country, discovered, or at least uttered, without any subterfuge, more manly and liberal sentiments. “The estates of the kingdom found and declared, that James VII. had invaded the fundamental laws of this kingdom, and altered it from a legal and limited monarchy, to an arbitrary despotic power; and had governed the same to the subversion of the protestant<448> religion, and violation of the laws and liberties of the nation, inverting all the ends of government; whereby he had forfeited the crown, and the throne was become vacant.”*
But though the language employed by the leaders in the English convention, was accommodated to the narrow prejudices of the times, their measures were dictated by sound and liberal policy. Setting aside the king, and the prince of Wales, in consequence of the declaration already made, the right of succession to the crown devolved upon the princess of Orange, the king’s eldest daughter, who had been educated in the protestant religion, and was thought to be under no disqualification from holding the reins of government. There was no intention of converting the constitution into an elective monarchy, or of deviating further from the lineal course of inheritance than the present<449> exigence required. The same circumstances, however, which demanded the advancement of the princess of Orange to the throne, made it also necessary that the regal authority should be communicated to her husband. It would have been absurd to banish an arbitrary and despotical prince, to break the line of descent, by which the crown was commonly transmitted, and for promoting the great ends of society, to run the hazards always attendant on the correcting former abuses, without making, at the same time, a suitable provision for maintaining the new settlement. But the state of Britain, and of Europe, rendered this a difficult matter. From the efforts of the popish party at home, from the power of Lewis= XIV. and the machinations of the whole Roman catholic interest abroad; not to mention the prepossessions of the populace in favour of that hereditary succession to the crown which old usage had rendered venerable, there was every reason to fear a second restoration, with consequences more fatal than those which had attended the former. Against those impending calamities, nothing less than the<450> abilities, and the authority of the prince of Orange, the head of the protestant interest in Europe, could be deemed a sufficient guard; and it was happy for the liberties of mankind, that the matrimonial connection of Mary with a person so eminent, and so circumstanced, had, by suggesting his participation of her throne, provided a barrier so natural, and so effectual.
From these considerations, the prince and princess of Orange were declared, by the convention, to be king and queen of England; but the administration of the government, was committed solely to the prince.* After determining this great point, the convention, in imitation of the mode of procedure at the restoration, was, by a bill passing through the two houses, and obtaining the royal assent, converted into a parliament; and that assembly proceeded immediately to a redress of grievances.<451>
Considering the disputes which, from the accession of the house of Stewart, had been the source of continual disturbance, and the extravagant claims which had been repeatedly advanced by the princes of that family, it was highly proper to lay hold of the present occasion, for ascertaining the boundaries of the prerogative, and for preventing, as much as possible, all future controversy upon the subject. The omission of this necessary and obvious precaution, at the restoration of Charles II. was an unpardonable neglect. The parliament, therefore, after the example of the petition of right, which had been intended for a similar purpose in the reign of Charles I. now prepared the famous bill of rights; which, in the year 1689, was passed into a law; and by which the constitution, in several important articles, where it had lately been invaded, was expressly declared and established.
Of the violations of the constitution, which had been the subject of complaint, the most flagrant, perhaps, was the power assumed by the crown of dispensing with statutes, and of issuing proclamations in place of laws.<452> Other encroachments might contribute to impair or disfigure our government; this was calculated to destroy the whole structure, by completely undermining its foundations. Had such a power been admitted, the king would in reality have become a legislator; the authority of parliament would have been annihilated; and the government changed into an absolute monarchy. Though all such exertions of the prerogative had been expressly reprobated and condemned in the petition of right, they had not been abandoned by the two succeeding monarchs; but were more especially renewed, and prosecuted with great vehemence by James II. In the bill of rights, therefore, it was thought necessary, once more, to mark this procedure with the express condemnation of the legislature; and to declare, “that the pretended power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal.”6
A similar declaration was made with respect to another grievance; that of levying money by virtue of the prerogative, and without the authority of parliament. That<453> the national council had the sole right of imposing taxes, was an undoubted principle of the constitution, and reaching as far back as the records of parliament. But as the crown, when pressed for money, had invented a variety of shifts for procuring supplies in a clandestine and irregular manner, the legislature again interposed its authority to prohibit, in all cases, those evasive and unwarrantable practices. No part of the constitution had oftener than this attracted the eye of the public, or, by repeated decisions, been rendered more clear and indisputable. No branch of parliamentary authority, we may also observe, tends more effectually to secure the liberties of the nation, by rendering the king dependent upon the liberality of parliament, and laying him under the necessity of calling frequent meetings of the national representatives.
But little advantage could be expected from the meetings of that assembly, unless its members, when called to deliberate on the business of the nation, possessed an unbounded freedom of expressing their sentiments. Parliaments, originally, were composed of a few great barons, who maintained this free-<454>dom by their own opulence and power. Those distinguished personages were often in a condition, singly, to defy their sovereign in the field, and would have laughed at his pretensions to hinder them from speaking their minds in council. But when the splitting of large estates, and the introduction of representatives from counties and boroughs, had extended the right of sitting in parliament to many small proprietors, their authority and weight came to depend more upon their collective, than their separate power; and the greater weakness of individuals obliged them to unite more in a body for the defence of their parliamentary privileges. The increase of their members, as well as the greater extent of their business, introduced, at the same time, the practice of arguing and debating, at more length upon the different subjects before them, and rendered the eloquence, and the popular talents of particular members, an engine of greater importance in the determinations of every meeting. Their speeches, calculated to make a strong impression upon their hearers, became frequently, as we may easily suppose, offensive to the sovereign, and provoked<455> him, in some cases, to interrupt their proceedings, and even to harrass with imprisonment, and criminal prosecution, those individuals who, by their resolute opposition, or intemperance of language, had incurred his resentment.
Such measures were, no doubt, arbitrary and illegal. The English parliament, composed of the immediate vassals of the crown, formed originally the supreme court of justice in the kingdom; and its members could not, on account of any alledged irregularity in delivering their opinions, be prosecuted before an inferior judicatory. If they were guilty of any indecorum in their speeches, or of any misdemeanor in their senatorial capacity, they were liable to the correction and censure of their own tribunal, the members of which had been witnesses of the offence, and were the best judges of its demerit. But the prosecution of the offender before any other court, or magistrate, was reversing the order of judicial establishments, by authorising a subordinate jurisdiction to review the conduct of a superior, and<456> rendering the lower officers of justice, in some degree, paramount to the highest.
As the members of the ancient parliament, in questions relating to their behaviour in their own court, were not amenable to any other jurisdiction; this privilege, which had been established when that assembly consisted of one house only, was not abolished or altered when it came to be divided into two houses: For though the judicial power was, in general, appropriated to the peers; the case now under consideration was excepted. The commons becoming sharers in the rank and dignity of the national council, were led to assume the same authority with the peers, over the conduct of their own members, to judge of their misbehaviour in the character of national representatives, and to establish the same exemption from every extraneous enquiry or challenge.
It is manifest, at the same time, that an unbounded freedom of debate is necessary for enabling the members of either house to perform their duty. If they have a right to determine any measure, they must, of course,<457> be entitled to argue and reason upon it, to examine its nature and consequences, and, by placing it in a variety of lights, to prepare and ripen their minds for a proper decision. Unless they are permitted to do this, it surely is impossible for them to exercise, with national benefit, those important powers with which they are intrusted. The super-eminent authority of parliament is intended to controul and limit the executive and judicial powers; to prevent those abuses which may be expected from the ambition of the crown, or from the rapacity and dishonesty of its ministers. But how can we believe, that members of parliament will take effectual measures for this purpose, if they deliver their opinions under the terrors of the rod, and are sensible of being at the mercy of those powerful delinquents whom they ought to censure and expose, or whose illegal proceedings it is their duty to condemn and to restrain?
Towards the latter part of the Tudor line, and after the accession of the house of Stewart, when the circumstances of the nation had instilled a new spirit into the commons, and disposed them to animadvert with greater<458> freedom and severity upon the measures of the crown, the encroachments of the prerogative upon this parliamentary privilege, by imprisoning members of parliament, and subjecting them to heavy fines in the Star-chamber, were carried to such a height as threatened to destroy the independence of that assembly. This, therefore, was a grievance which, in the petition of right, the legislature had endeavoured to redress; and the bill of rights contained a declaration, “that the freedom of speech, and debates, or proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached, or questioned in any court or place out of parliament.”7
Another great object which excited the attention of parliament, in this famous bill, was the power of the king to levy and maintain a mercenary army. In all the feudal governments the king had a right to summon at pleasure his vassals into the field; where they were obliged, for a limited time, to serve him at their own expence. When the stated period of their service, which was generally forty days, had elapsed, they were entitled to demand their dismission; though<459> they sometimes were induced to remain longer, upon the king promising to bear the charges of this additional attendance. But after mercenary troops had come to be substituted in place of the feudal militia, they were engaged for an indefinite time; and as fighting became their profession, from which they drew a regular subsistence, they were commonly willing to continue it as long as they could find employment. The king, who, upon the immediate pressure of a war, had been obliged to levy these troops, found it commonly expedient, even after the conclusion of a peace, to be prepared for any new enterprise, by retaining a part of them in his pay; and thus, in most of the countries upon the western continent of Europe, standing armies were introduced and increased. In Britain, however, from its insular situation, there was little danger from any foreign invasion, and as mercenary and standing armies, being less requisite for defence than in other countries, the king had less inducement to be at the expence of maintaining them. Neither James I. nor Charles I. before the commencement of<460> hostilities with his parliament, had any considerable body of mercenaries. At the conclusion of the civil war, indeed, the ruling party found itself at the head of a large and well-disciplined army; and a great part of these troops were afterwards maintained by Cromwell for the support of his government. The disbanding of Cromwell’s army was one of the first acts of the reign of Charles II.; though this monarch, when he avowed the purpose of governing without a parliament, had also recourse to the expedient of providing a military force; which his immediate successor endeavoured with all his might, to increase. But exclusive of those two instances, the English were hitherto unacquainted with mercenary standing armies, and were not accustomed to consider a discretionary power of raising and maintaining a military force, in that shape, as a branch of the prerogative. The few instances, besides, in which the sovereign or chief magistrate, had exercised this power, were such, as clearly to demonstrate its pernicious tendency, and to point out the utility of subjecting in this particular, the authority of the crown,<461> at least in times of public tranquillity, to the controul of the legislature. With great propriety, therefore, and in perfect conformity to the spirit of the ancient constitution, it was declared in the bill of rights, “that the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of parliament, is against law.”8
By another regulation, the maintenance of a military force, whether in peace or war, was rendered entirely dependent upon the authority of parliament.
The successful operations of an army require that all its members should be under the command of a single person, that they should be compelled in the strictest manner to obey his orders, and that they should be subjected one to another in regular subordination. For attaining these ends, it is found necessary, that all disobedience in the troops, and every transgression of military duty, should be punished with greater severity and with more dispatch, than would be expedient in delinquencies committed by the rest of the inhabitants: As the king, the<462> great feudal superior, was the supreme general of the national forces, he was led, in that capacity, to introduce a military discipline, by inflicting such extraordinary penalties; and as, upon calling out his vassals into the field, with their dependents and followers, he might, at pleasure, convert all the free people of the kingdom into an army, a foundation was laid for the application of what was called, martial law, to all the inhabitants. In early times, this exertion of prerogative was probably little felt, and therefore overlooked; but when it had acquired such magnitude as to become vexatious and oppressive, it excited the attention of the public, and was considered as a grievance. The genius of the English constitution demanded that any deviation from the common rules of punishment should be subjected to the inspection and controul of the legislature; and there could be no good reason, at any time, for extending this peculiar system of penal law further than to the forces actually in the service of government.
Another grievance, connected with the former, arose from the power of the crown<463> in marching and distributing the armies over the country. As the inhabitants at large were bound to supply the troops, in passing from place to place, with lodgings and with various articles of entertainment; they were apt to be more or less burdened with this duty, according as by their compliance or opposition, they merited the favour or incurred the resentment of the Sovereign. Those who had refused him a loan or a benevolence, were frequently harrassed by the quartering of soldiers upon them, until they found it expedient to acquiesce in the demand.
By the petition of right, both these grievances were completely redressed, the exercise of martial law by virtue of the prerogative, and the quartering of soldiers on the inhabitants without their consent, having been totally prohibited. But as without some extraordinary powers of this kind, the order and discipline requisite for conducting and regulating a military force can hardly subsist, the king, ever since the revolution, has, by special acts of parliament, been empowered to authorise courts martial for punishing mutiny and desertion, and to distribute the<464> troops among the inn-keepers and victuallers of the kingdom. The powers, however, conferred upon the sovereign by these acts, have always been regarded with a jealous eye, and have therefore been granted only from year to year.
To these articles were subjoined several others, of manifest utility, respecting the illegality of the court of ecclesiastical commission; the right of the people to petition the king, and the free election of their representatives; together with some other immunities and privileges, which were considered as the birth-right of Englishmen, but which, in the late reigns, had been either violated or disputed. Upon the whole, the bill of rights contained no new limitations of the prerogative. It is merely a declaratory statute, exhibiting the judgment of the legislature with regard to some of the principal branches of the English constitution; and it accordingly bears this express clause, “that all and singular, the rights and liberties asserted and claimed in the declaration, are the true, ancient, and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”9 <465>
After the revolution-settlement was compleated, the same spirit which had given rise to that great event was kept alive, and during the reign of William III. became productive of several regulations, tending to improve the police of the kingdom, to secure the proper distribution of justice, to guard against the corruption of ministers, and to restrain the abuses of prerogative.
In the bill of rights there was inserted a general clause; “that, for the redress of grievances, and for the amending, strengthening, and preserving of the laws, parliaments ought to be held frequently.”10 During the long controversy between the people and the princes of the house of Stewart, the regular meetings of that assembly became the object of national concern; and in the reign of Charles I. it was provided, that the interval between one meeting of parliament and another, should not exceed the period of three years; but no sooner had the frequency of parliamentary assemblies been secured at the revolution, by the impossibility of conducting the machine of government without their concurrence, than<466> there started up a new ground of suspicion, which began to occupy the public attention. As parliaments were now, of necessity, consulted by the crown in all business of importance, they became less afraid of its encroachments, and consented more freely and readily to its demands. No longer engrossed by the defence of their political rights, it was apprehended that their members would be more attentive to their private interest, would endeavour to render themselves independent of their constituents, or might be improperly influenced by the executive power. Before the revolution, the nation was jealous of the crown only; after it, they became jealous of parliament. They became apprehensive of the long continuance of the same parliament, by which its members might have leisure to form a regular connection with ministry; and were eager to establish the frequency of elections, by which the representatives might be retained under the authority and controul of the electors. This gave rise to the triennial bill; by which it was provided that the same parliament should not be continued for more<467> than three years; a regulation to which, as it contained a new limitation of the prerogative, the king was, not without some hesitation and reluctance, prevailed upon to give the royal assent.*
Among the different subjects of parliamentary enquiry, the disposal of the revenues which fell under the administration of the crown was none of the least important. In early times, when the ordinary expence of government was defrayed out of the private estate of the king, the nation seems to have taken little concern in the administration of the royal demesnes, but to have entrusted the management of them to the prudence and discretion of the person whom they regarded as the proprietor; but, when the advancement of national wealth had increased the expence of administration much beyond what the ancient patrimony of the crown was able to discharge; and when, of course, every new enterprise was unavoidably the occasion of new impositions upon the people, it was considered more and more as the<468> duty of the national representatives to examine the expenditure of public money, and to refuse their consent to taxes, unless they were satisfied, both of the frugality with which the former funds had been managed, and of the expediency and propriety of the purposes for which the new demand was made. This, however, it may easily be conceived, was likely to be the source of endless disputes; it was difficult, in every case, to point out the exact line by which the scrutiny of parliament should be directed, or to determine the degree of latitude which, in this respect, the sovereign ought to enjoy. Though the examination of the public expenditure was highly necessary, it might undoubtedly be pushed to such a degree of minuteness as would retard the movements of government, and be equally inconsistent with the dignity of the crown than with that secrecy in the conduct of national business, which is often indispensible. To remove these inconveniencies, it was thought proper, that there should be an allowance of a certain sum, for the support of the king’s household, and for the private exigencies<469> of the crown; and that, concerning the disposal of this, no account should, at least in ordinary cases, be required. The remainder of the public revenue, being more immediately regarded as the estate of the nation, was brought under the annual and regular inspection of parliament. This regulation was not a new limitation, but rather an extension of the prerogative; since it restricted to a part of the national funds, that parliamentary enquiry, which might formerly have been extended to the whole. It appeared, at the same time, to steer in a due medium between the interest of both parties, and was calculated to avoid contention, by placing in the crown a reasonable pecuniary trust, while it secured the nation from the effects of gross mismanagement and extravagance. About the end of the reign of James II. the whole public revenue amounted, at an average, to near two millions; and the civil list, settled upon William and Mary, including the hereditary rents and duties, still drawn by the crown, was fixed at about 700,000 l. a year.<470>
With respect to the internal government of the kingdom, no circumstance appeared more immediately to call for a reformation than the distribution of justice. In all the principal tribunals, the judges had been hitherto appointed by the king during pleasure. In such a situation, chosen from the mercenary profession of the bar, where a servile dependence upon the crown must open the great road to preferment, and being indebted to the sovereign for the continuance of those offices from which they derived their livelihood and rank, it was not to be expected that they should often be willing to distinguish themselves by supporting the rights of the people, in opposition to the encroachments of prerogative. Wherever the king was warmly interested in a cause, or a political job was to be served, they were laid under so great a temptation to shrink from their duty, that they had seldom the resolution to withhold any decision which he wished to procure. This observation may be extended from the days of Tresilian down to those of Scroggs and Jeffries;11 and is applicable to the ordi-<471>nary courts of law, as well as to the star-chamber and high commission, which were confessedly under the direction of the crown. Witness the opinion of the judges, in the case of ship-money, and in the question concerning the king’s dispensing power, in which those grave interpreters of the law were not ashamed to betray their trust, and to become the mean tools of arbitrary power. In the trial of the bishops, indeed, there were found two justices of the king’s bench who spoke in favour of the defendants; for which they were immediately deprived of their seats; but this was a question in which the basis of religion, as well as that of the constitution, was now perceived to be at stake; and in which the popular ferment had excited uncommon zeal and spirit.
In the reign of William III. it was enacted, that the judges in the three great courts of common law, should hold their offices during their own life and that of the king; a regulation by which they became nearly as independent as their professional character<472> and their appointment by the crown will admit.
A provision for liberty of conscience in matters of religion was another object of great importance, which the king, much to his honour, endeavoured, however unsuccessfully, to accomplish.12
The long contest between the church and the dissenters, had been productive of narrow prejudices, and of mutual antipathy, inconsistent with that liberality and candour which might have been expected from the rational system of religion professed, at that time, by either of the parties. When roused by the common danger of popery, to which, immediately before the revolution, they were both equally exposed, they had cordially united in defence of the protestant interest; but no sooner had that danger been removed, than their former jealousy recurred, and their mutual dissentions broke out afresh. The apprehension which the church entertained of the dissenters, was encreased by the reflection, that the king had been educated in their principles, and regarded them as that part of the nation<473> which had been the most active in placing him on the throne. But William had too much prudence, and too strong a sense of justice, to make any attempt against the national religion, which had received the sanction of public authority, and was agreeable to the sentiments of a great majority, both in parliament and throughout the nation. In conformity, however, to his enlarged views of religious freedom, he was disposed to remove those hardships to which the protestant sectaries were subjected. His first object was the repeal of the test act, by which the non-conformists were excluded from civil and military offices. Upon the supposition that the dissenters are equally good subjects as those who profess the established religion, it will be difficult to assign a plausible reason for excluding them from the service of their country, or from a share of her public honours and emoluments. The national church has, doubtless, a title to protection from every attack, whether open or concealed, by which her establishment may be endangered; but why should it be feared that the ecclesiastical establish-<474>ment is in danger from the attacks of dissenters, while these last have no assistance from the magistrate, and are allowed to wield no other weapons but those of argument and persuasion? In gaining proselytes, every advantage is on the side of the church, whose doctrines and forms of worship are confirmed by ancient usage, and whose clergy are maintained at the public expence. Those who are indifferent about religion, or who look upon modes of faith as of little consequence, will generally adhere to that system which is already established, and which costs them nothing. The Roman catholics, however, were, at that time, considered, with reason, as in a different situation from protestant dissenters, having adopted political prejudices which rendered them enemies to the civil government.
The puritans, it is true, had, in the reign of Charles I. overthrown the religious establishment; but this was owing to the injudicious interference of the latter in supporting the arbitrary measures of the monarch: while the former zealously defended the rights of the people. The church having<475> embarked in the same cause with despotism, she was overwhelmed, and justly shared the same fate with her ally; whence arose the triumph and exultation of her religious with that of her political enemies.
But however groundless, at this time, the terrors of the high-church party undoubtedly were, they prevailed in parliament; and the measure of repealing the test act was rejected. William afterwards attempted a plan of comprehension; proposing to form, with mutual concessions, a religious establishment, which might include a considerable part at least of the dissenters; but in this he was not more successful. The two parties were too heterogeneous to admit of such a coalition; and, like ingredients of opposite qualities, discovered no less repugnance to a partial, than to a total union. Having failed in these liberal schemes, he suggested a bill of toleration,13 by which the protestant non-conformists, if not admitted to the same political privileges with their brethren of the church, might yet be exempted from all penalties, and authorised by law in the open profession and<476> exercise of their religion. Even this indulgence, which was obtained without opposition, marks, at that period, a considerable enlargement of religious opinions; and may be regarded as forming a conspicuous era in the history of ecclesiastical government.
Notwithstanding the invaluable blessings which this prince had procured to the nation, his administration was never very popular, nor free from disturbance. The two great political factions, which, before he mounted the throne, had almost entirely disappeared, were in a little time revived; and by their intrigues, and party views, he was, in some cases, provoked or deceived.
As the principles of the tories had led them early to retard and oppose the revolution-settlement, so their bad humour and disappointment excited them afterwards to practice every expedient for interrupting and preventing that success and prosperity which might otherwise have resulted from it. The situation of William, upon his first advancement to the English throne, must have naturally disposed him to place his chief confidence in the whigs, by whom<477> his undertaking had been most warmly and heartily promoted. But the subsequent views and measures of this party contributed by degrees to alienate his affections. They betrayed a constant jealousy of the crown. Their parsimony in granting supplies was pushed to an extreme, altogether incompatible with those patriotic, but expensive enterprises, in which he was engaged.14 Their aversion to a standing army, which was carried so far as to require the dismission of his Dutch guards, the old and favourite companions of all his military operations, appears to have been regarded by him as an indication of personal enmity and distrust. Though this prince discovered an invariable attachment to the form of a limited monarchy, it must not thence be concluded, that he willingly submitted to all such restrictions of the prerogative, and to all such extensions of popular privilege, as were aimed at by many of the whigs. He probably entertained higher notions of the regal authority than were found, even in that age, to prevail among this description of the inhabitants. It is not surprising,<478> besides, that a monarch, however moderate in his general principles, should, in the ordinary course of business, be sometimes betrayed, like other men, into an impatience of opposition, that he should be ruffled with contradiction, or vent his displeasure against those who had thwarted his measures. The whigs becoming, on this account, obnoxious to the king, the tories endeavoured to conciliate his favour by their apparent assiduity and solicitude to humour his inclinations. Though it is probable that the sagacity of William penetrated the views of this party, he took advantage of their professed intentions, and made use of their assistance in executing that great system of European policy which he had long meditated. He adopted the hazardous plan of balancing the two parties, either by promoting them jointly to offices, or by alternately employing the one and the other. In pursuing this line of conduct, so far from gaining the friendship of either, he incurred the resentment of both. The whigs, over-rating their merit in accomplishing the revolution, were highly dissatisfied with the<479> return made to their services; while the tories considered the favours bestowed upon them as the effects of interested and temporising politics, which afforded no proof of any real confidence or affection; and both parties being thus, by turns, thrown into opposition, were actuated by the animosity and rancour arising from disappointed ambition, sharpened by the acrimony and agitation, proceeding from the heat of controversy and the triumph of their adversaries. In this situation, many individuals of high rank and consequence became desirous of restoring the exiled family; and, even when employed in the service of government, did not scruple to betray the secrets of their master; to correspond with the court of Versailles and that of St. Germains;15 and to promise their assistance to the late king for the recovery of his crown. What is more surprising, it appears, that some persons of distinction among the whigs were induced to hold a correspondence in the same quarter; but with what views, or from what motives, whether from gross corruption, and the effect of discontent and<480> disgust, or from an opinion of the instability of the present government, which led them to provide for their own safety in case of a counter-revolution, it is not easy to determine.*
While many of the leading men in the kingdom were engaged in such crooked and infamous transactions, the inferior partizans of the late king were attempting a more expeditious way to his restoration, by the assassination of William; but these detestable<481> conspiracies were fortunately disappointed and produced no other consequence than to exhibit fresh instances of the courage and magnanimity so conspicuous in the character of that prince, and to excite in the nation a grateful sense of the dangers which he so cheerfully encountered for the preservation of English liberty.
The extensive enterprises in which the crown was involved immediately after the revolution; the settlement of Britain, the reduction of Ireland, the prosecution of the war with France; all these operations were productive of much greater expence than the nation expected, or than parliament could be persuaded to defray. As ministers, therefore, were unable, by the yearly produce of taxes, to answer the demands of government, they were forced to anticipate the supplies, by borrowing money from individuals. To those creditors they granted securities, both for the interest and capital, on branches of the public revenue, believed to be sufficient, in a few years, to repay the loan, and so clear off the incumbrance. Such were the necessities of the crown, that the national debt, contracted in this manner,<482> had risen, before the peace of Ryswick, to above twenty millions; a burden which, at that period, appeared so enormous, that it was thought to threaten the nation with immediate bankruptcy, and became a topic of much clamour, and of bitter invective against the government.
Some politicians, by an over-refinement, affected to consider this national debt as an advantage to the crown, by creating in the monied interest a dependence upon government for the security of their funds. And hence it was inferred, that the procuring of such effectual support had been the great object of William in contracting those burdens. But it is not likely that a king, any more than a private man, is ever induced to borrow, from the consideration that his creditor may become his protector; especially when he must expect that his creditor, as the price of his protection, will acquire over him the authority of a master and governor. The practice of contracting national debt arose from the same causes in Britain, and in all the other opulent nations of Europe; from the dissipation and extravagance which are the usual effects of wealth and luxury; from an increase of activity<483> and ambition, producing enterprises of greater extent than the ordinary revenues of the state are capable of supporting; and, above all, from the facility of borrowing, occasioned by that great circulation of capitals which is the natural consequence of extensive trade and manufactures.
When we contemplate, in every point of view, the important revolution accomplished by the prince of Orange, the hazardous nature of the undertaking, the prudence and vigour with which it was conducted, the solid advantages which have resulted from it to Britain, and to all Europe, we must ever look up to our great deliverer with admiration and with gratitude. It may be questioned who, among statesmen and heroes, have displayed the greatest genius and abilities. It is yet more difficult, perhaps, to determine, who has been actuated by the most pure and genuine principles of patriotism; but who is the monarch that has conferred the most extensive benefits upon mankind, will hardly be doubted, while the actions of William III. shall hold a place in the annals of the world. Had it not been for the active, the persevering, and the<484> single exertions of this prince, it is more than probable, that Britain would have been subjected both to an ecclesiastical and civil tyranny; that Lewis XIV. would have subdued Holland, and the estates in alliance with the Dutch; that the protestant interest would, in a short time, have been annihilated; and that the greater part of Europe would either have been reduced to a vast, unwieldy despotism, like that of ancient Rome, or parceled out among a few absolute sovereigns, who, in the general struggle for dominion, had been able to retain their independence. But the vigorous defence of the United Provinces, against the attacks of the French king, gave time for opening the eyes of many European princes. The revolution in England broke off at once the connection of the kingdom with France, and with the church of Rome; it not only secured her a free government at home, but united her under the same head with the other great maritime state which had arisen in Europe, and this powerful combination was followed by such alliances, and by such military operations as were sufficient to restore the balance of power, and to frustrate<485> those ambitious designs that were so hostile to the peace and tranquillity of Europe. In fine, the revolution in England kept alive that spark which kindled the flame of liberty in other countries, and is now likely to glide insensibly over the whole habitable globe.
The character of William has been scrutinized and censured with a severity and malignity, corresponding to the rage and disappointment of that royal family, and of their numerous and zealous adherents, whose power and projects he overthrew. From the circumstances however which his enemies have laid hold of, as a handle for detraction, we may discover the worst lights in which his conduct was capable of being represented, and thus obtain the most satisfactory evidence of his real integrity and merit.
He obtained the crown of England by dethroning the person who was at the same time his uncle and his father-in-law. Those who form their ideas from the habits acquired in the inferior walks of society are apt to conceive that the domestic affections should have the same influence in the government of kingdoms as in the scenes of private life; not considering that the situa-<486>tion of princes renders them frequently strangers to their own kindred, and that the cares of the public, in which they are necessarily involved, not only exclude them from those friendships, and from that mutual intercourse of good offices which take place among the rest of mankind, but suggest the consideration of peculiar duties which their station has rendered of superior obligation. How seldom are kings prevented from going to war with each other because they happen to be relations? How absurd would it be to suppose that the public interest should yield to so insignificant a motive?
But if ever an individual, in fulfilling his duty to the public, was called upon to overlook family connections, the prince of Orange was undoubtedly the man. Without dethroning his kinsman it was impossible to preserve the English constitution, or even, perhaps, to attain another object which had long engrossed his mind, the independence and security of his native country. Nor had he ever received such treatment from James as laid claim to any peculiar gratitude or affection. In the behaviour of that<487> monarch he experienced nothing but enmity, dissimulation, and falsehood.
Had William lived in the age of Roman virtue, the sacrifice of a domestic relation, in the cause of public liberty, would have been accounted highly meritorious; or if any part of his conduct had been thought blameable, it would have been the sparing of the tyrant’s life, by which the country was exposed to future danger. But the manners of the age had introduced milder sentiments of patriotism; and in surveying this great revolution, we cannot overlook one pleasing circumstance, that it was hardly stained with a drop of blood. Though the arbitrary and despotical measures of James had rendered him unworthy of the crown, and drawn upon him the indignation of the people, he was treated with uncommon lenity, and in the very critical period when the popular ferment was raised to the highest pitch, instead of suffering an exemplary punishment, he was merely deprived of that sovereignty which he had shewn a fixed resolution to abuse. It appears, at the same time, that William was not destitute of regard to the family of this unfortunate<488> kinsman. There is now sufficient evidence that he was willing to pay the dowry which had been stipulated to James’s queen; and that he even offered to promote the succession of the son, the late prince of Wales, to the throne of England, if proper precautions were taken to secure his education in the protestant religion; a condition which the infatuated bigotry of the father prompted him to reject.*
It has been said, that, in accomplishing the revolution, William was actuated by his ambition, not by motives of public spirit. But such an aspersion, it is evident, may be thrown indiscriminately upon every person who pursues a line of conduct in which his interest happens to coincide with his duty. It would be happy for the world if the ambition of great men was always directed to such actions as tend to the good of society; if the love of power was uniformly exerted in rescuing the human race from slavery and oppression. There can be little doubt, that the prince of Orange, in marrying the eldest daughter of James, who at that time had no sons, considered the eventual succession to the crown as an advantage which<489> might result from the connexion. But that he was guilty of any improper step to hasten or secure the acquisition of this object, cannot with justice be asserted. In the violent political disputes which clouded the reign of his two uncles, he appears to have given some countenance to the party in opposition to the court; but this party was composed of the friends of liberty and the protestant religion, which those two princes, in conjunction with France, had formed a league to destroy. Upon the same account, he favoured the enterprise of the duke of Monmouth; though he knew that this nobleman aspired to the throne, and must therefore have regarded him in the light of a rival.
A late author seems to believe that William artfully suggested to his father in law, those very measures which he afterwards took hold of to ruin that unfortunate monarch. This is a curious hypothesis, requiring no ordinary portion of credulity. One sovereign counsels another to act the part of a tyrant, that this false friend and adviser may have the benefit of deposing him; and the simple king, falling into the snare, is persuaded to forfeit his dominions by a per-<490>son in whom, on no other occasion, he had ever placed any confidence.
To depreciate the military talents of this prince, it has been observed, that in most of his battles he was defeated. But we must remember that he had numberless difficulties to surmount, that originally, with a handful of troops, he was obliged to cope with the powerful and well-disciplined armies of France, and with the able commanders who had been trained up in the most active and flourishing period of that monarchy; that, after he became king of England, he was continually disturbed by the treachery and the factious disputes of the leaders in parliament, and was neither supplied with money nor with men in proportion to the magnitude of his undertakings. When proper allowance is made for the circumstances in which he was placed, instead of reflecting upon his bad success, we cannot help wondering that he was able to maintain his ground; and we must admire the fertility of his resources by which, like the great admiral Coligni,16 he rose more formidable upon every defeat, and appeared to derive from it all the advantages of a victory.<491>
His temper and disposition have been represented as cold, haughty, and morose; rendering him disagreeable in all the relations of private life; and proving an inseperable bar to his popularity with the English nation. In reality, whether from natural constitution, or from his being constantly engaged in serious and important pursuits, he was grave and stately in his deportment, reserved and distant in his ordinary demeanour. But that he was incapable of friendship or affection for those who had obtained his good opinion and favour, there is no ground to suppose. Nor was the severity of his adult complexion without intervals of gaiety and cheerfulness. According to the report of those who knew him intimately, he was fond of relaxing from the cares of government, and of dissipating the solitary gloom of a throne by the pleasures of the table, and the free conversation of a few select friends; in whose company, it is said, he was neither destitute of good humour nor of a turn for pleasantry. There can be no doubt, however, that he was more distinguished by a solid understanding and useful talents than by slight and superficial accomplishments.<492> Plain and simple in his manners, he neither studied to disguise his feelings, nor to practise upon the humours and follies of others; but, though an enemy to dissimulation and falsehood, yet, wherever secrecy was necessary, he was perfectly impenetrable. His success in the cabinet was greater than in the field; because he there depended more upon himself, and was in great measure his own agent in those public negociations which he happily concluded. Through the whole of his life he seems to have adhered invariably to those political principles which, in his early years, he had imbibed; and if he was ambitious, his ambition was entirely subordinate to his public views. To preserve the independence of Holland, and to maintain the balance of Europe, were the great ends which he incessantly pursued, and to which the prosperity of Britain was, perhaps, regarded as a secondary object. It was, in all probability, the suspicion of this, more than his unpopular and forbidding manners, that prevented his gaining the affections of the English. But in the mind of William, and in truth, the interest of the Dutch commonwealth, and that of the British dominions were inseparable; and<493> both were equally promoted, not only by his military exertions before the peace of Ryswick, but also, in the subsequent parts of his reign, by those great alliances and preparations which had led the way to the splendid and successful war of queen Anne, and tended so effectually to diminish the dangerous power of Lewis XIV. 17
In the administration of Britain, the conduct of this prince was no less uniform and consistent with his principles. Though a friend to religious toleration, he supported the church of England as by law established; and though he never disputed those limitations of the prerogative which were agreeable to the old constitution, as explained by the revolution-settlement, he was averse from all political innovation, and tenacious of what he accounted the ancient rights of the crown.
With respect to the nature of the interesting transaction which produced the accession of William III. though all parties are now disposed to speak of it in the language of approbation, politicians of a certain description have been much disposed to magnify the changes introduced by it. They suppose that the ancient government of<494> England was arbitrary and despotical, and that, from the period of the revolution-settlement, we are to date the first establishment of our limited monarchy.18
Were it not for the known influence of party prejudices and passions, it might seem surprising that any one acquainted with the history of the country, should entertain such an opinion, or should expect, by any degree of dexterity or abilities to render it plausible to ordinary readers. The great outlines of the English constitution may be traced back to very remote antiquity. To ascend no higher than the age immediately succeeding the great charters, we find the settled form of a parliament, consisting of a king and two houses; an exclusive power in that assembly to make laws, to impose taxes, and to regulate the order of succession to the crown; an exclusive authority in the house of commons to bring in money bills, and in that of the peers to distribute justice in the last resort. We find also the regular establishment of the chief courts of justice which exist at present; the institution of trials by jury, both in civil and criminal matters; and a specific regulation to prevent the sovereign<495> from the arbitrary imprisonment of individuals. These important branches of the constitution had received the sanction of ancient usage, confirmed by a variety of statutes and public declarations; they had, it is true, been frequently violated by the sovereign, who endeavoured to elude their force by various expedients and evasive practices; but whenever those violations had been so often repeated as to attract the attention of the public, they became the subject of national complaint, and were restrained or punished by new interpositions of the legislature. As new instruments were employed to attack the constitution, a new shield became necessary, and was held out in its defence.
The interposition of greatest importance at the revolution, consisted in deposing the sovereign for his crimes, and in setting aside the lineal heir from considerations of expediency. Though such interpositions of the two houses of parliament were not without example in the English history, they had not occurred in a civilized age; for the trial and execution of Charles I. had been affected without the free determination of the one house, and without any concurrence<496> of the other. The consequence of this deposition was to place the new king in circumstances which prevented him ever after from calling in question those powers of parliament which he had solemnly recognized. Having received the crown by a parliamentary title, he had no pretence to claim it by hereditary right, or to refuse the performance of those conditions under which it was bestowed upon him. Instead of the vice-gerent of heaven, assuming an authority independent of any human controul, he was reduced to be the chief magistrate of a free people, appointed by the community, and possessed of those powers only with which, for the common good, he had been expressly intrusted. The forfeiture, at the same time, which had been incurred by the late king, whatever softening appellation was given to it, proved a formidable precedent to all future sovereigns, proclaiming that they were amenable to public justice, and could not expect, with impunity, to trample upon the laws of their country.
end of vol. iii.
SETTLEMENT OF THE SAXONS IN BRITAIN
THE REVOLUTION IN 1688.
To which are subjoined,
SOME DISSERTATIONS CONNECTED WITH THE
HISTORY OF THE GOVERNMENT,
From the Revolution to the Present Time.
BY JOHN MILLAR ESQ.
Professor of Law in the University of Glasgow
IN FOUR VOLUMES
printed for j. mawman, no 22 in the poultry.
By T. Gillet, Salisbury-Square
of the english government from the reign of william the third to the present time.
Review of the Government of Ireland.
The connection between England and Ireland, which has now subsisted for many centuries, is a circumstance of great importance in the history of these two countries, and cannot, with propriety, be overlooked in a political survey of Great Britain.
The first invasion of Ireland by the English proceeded from the rapacity of private adventurers; and had no other object but<2> the acquisition of possessions in that country. Though Henry II. under whom the first English settlement was made, claimed the whole island as an accession to his crown, and though he had been at the pains to procure a Papal bull, as a foundation for that claim, he appears to have done very little, either to ascertain and extend the conquest, or to civilize the inhabitants, and reduce them under a regular government. The subsequent monarchs of England were equally inattentive to those objects, or from peculiar embarrassments at home, were incapable of pursuing them; so that the private settlers, in that hitherto rude country, were left, by their own efforts, to maintain their possessions, and to guard against the attacks of the natives. In such a situation, it could not be expected that these two sets of people would live in good neighbourhood. The English were, in reality, a band of robbers, who had stripped the natives of a part of their property; and by means of recruits from England, were endeavouring to avail themselves of every opportunity of seizing on the whole. As the avowed purpose of<3> the former was to invade and plunder, so the provocation, suffered by the latter, must have united them, not only to defend their possessions, but to revenge the injuries they had sustained; and considering the uncultivated state of the one people, with the barbarous ferocity of the other, it is not surprising, that by a long course of mutual depredation, they contracted a bitter and rancorous animosity and hatred, and often conducted their hostilities in a manner equally inconsistent with the faith of treaties, and with the feelings of humanity.
The old and the new inhabitants were thus prevented from incorporating; and a line of separation between them was drawn by their mutual contention and hostile passions. The latter were called the Irish within the pale:1 the former the Irish without the pale. The Irish within the pale were accounted subjects of the crown of England; and entitled to receive such protection from the sovereign, as could conveniently be afforded them. The English government considered those without the<4> pale as aliens, from whom it indeed endeavoured to raise a tribute, but whom, in place of protecting, it never failed to treat as enemies, whenever disputes arose between them and the other inhabitants.
The Irish within the pale, from their primitive connection with England, as well as from the influence and authority of her monarchs, fell under a government similar, in every respect, to that of the mother country. They composed, in one view, a sort of English province, over which the sovereign claimed an executive power, and appointed, during pleasure, a governor. These appointments were begun by Henry II. and continued by his successors. The country was divided into districts, and committed to the care of sheriffs. Superior courts of justice were likewise formed, upon the same plan with those at Westminster-hall.
As the Irish inhabitants of the pale, however, were left, in a great measure, to struggle with the natives, and to follow such measures, for their safety and prosperity, as<5> were suggested by their peculiar circumstances, they required a great council to deliberate upon their affairs, and to regulate the conduct of their executive officers. For this purpose an assembly, after the example of the English parliament, was occasionally convened by the governor; but at what period this establishment was completed is uncertain. Sir John Davies thinks it had no place till the reign of Edward II. about an hundred and forty years after the first settlement; but the opinion of Leland is more probable, that its commencement reaches as high as the reign of Henry II. though it was much later before the institution attained a regular form.2
The Irish parliament was early composed of two houses, as in England; the Lords temporal and spiritual having a seat in the one; and the knights of shires, and burgesses, in the other: but for a long time the assembly was far from being numerous. Before the reign of Henry VIII. there were but twelve counties, besides the liberty of Tipperary, and thirty-four boroughs; so<6> that the numbers of the house of commons could not amount to an hundred.*
As this national assembly was called for the same purposes with that of England, it was wont to deliberate upon the same sort of business, and to exercise similar powers. Its interpositions having arisen from a total neglect, or inability, of the English parliament to regulate the government of Ireland, the members of that assembly appear to have early considered themselves, not as acting in any subordinate capacity, but as possessed of an independent authority. In conformity to this idea, we find the states of Ireland as far back as the reign of Edward III. asserting their privilege, according to the ancient custom of holding their own parliaments, and their exemption from the burden of electing and sending any persons to the parliaments, or councils held in England.* <7>
With respect to the native Irish, or to the inhabitants without the pale, they seem to be considered, by many writers, as disgraced by a greater portion of barbarity and ferocity, than the rude inhabitants of other countries. But for this opinion it is difficult to discover any real foundation. By their long continued quarrels and hostilities with the English invaders, they became doubtless, inured to bloodshed, and instead of making progress in refinements and the arts, were confirmed in all the vices natural to a people unacquainted with civility and regular government. It must at the same time be acknowledged, that, from the partiality and prejudices of English historians, those vices have been greatly exaggerated.
Before the reign of Henry II. Ireland had been less exposed to foreign invasion than most other European countries; and though the inhabitants had never attained that civilization, which the ancient Romans communicated to their conquered provinces, they had comparatively, for some centuries, enjoyed a degree of tranquillity, which was likely to become the source of improvement.<8> It appears, accordingly, that under the cloud of thick darkness, which hung over Europe in the seventh century, some faint rays of light were discovered in Ireland, where, under the protection of the Christian clergy, a number of schools had been established, and were then in a flourishing condition. We are informed by an historian, of no less authority than Bede,3 that, about this period, it was usual for persons of distinction, among the Anglo-Saxons, and from the continent of Europe, to retire to that island for the purposes of enjoying the comforts of a sequestered life, and for obtaining the benefit of religious instruction from the Irish clergy, who, at that time, it seems, were distinguished for the purity of their doctrines, and for the strictness of their discipline.
The customs which antiquaries and historians have pointed out and collected, as peculiar to the Irish, are such as indicate no uncommon degree of barbarism and ferocity; but, on the contrary, when compared with those of other nations, exhibit that striking resemblance of lines and features, which may be remarked in the inhabitants of every<9> country before the advancement of arts and civilization.4
The people were divided into septs,5 or tribes, in a great measure independent of one another. Each of these was under a chief, who conducted the members of his tribe in war, and who endeavoured to protect them, either from the attacks of their neighbours, or from the various acts of injustice arising among themselves. In this latter capacity, the chief, agreeably to the general practice of rude nations, committed the administration of justice to a deputy, who received the appellation of Brehon. The Brehons were the ordinary judges in all those parts of the country, where the authority of the English monarch, in judicial matters, had not been established. Their jurisdiction was of a similar nature, and origin, to that of the Stewarts, whom, in the countries under the feudal system, the barons authorised to distribute justice among their tenants and vassals.
Many different septs, inhabiting an extensive territory were frequently associated under a common leader, whose authority<10> over this larger division, though much inferior to that of each inferior chief over his own sept, was gradually, by length of time, as well as by occasional circumstances, confirmed and extended. By the confederation of smaller into larger societies, there had arisen five large provinces, into which the whole island was divided. Mention is even made by historians, that these provinces had been occasionally united under a king; but this union was probably so transient and slight as never to have bestowed much real influence upon the nominal sovereign.
The appropriation of land, that great step in the progress of agriculture, appears, among the ancient inhabitants of Ireland, not to have taken place universally, for long after the English invasion, they retained so much of the pastoral manners, as, without confining themselves to fixed residence, to wander, with their cattle, from place to place. This custom known by the name of boolying, supposes that large commons, or tracts of unappropriated land, were extended through all the divisions of the country; and that the waste grounds bore a great pro-<11>portion to those, which were employed in tillage. In all countries the acquisition of landed property has arisen from agriculture; for the cultivators of a particular spot become entitled to the immediate produce, as the fruit and reward of their labour; and, after a long course of cultivation, having meliorated the soil, were, upon the same principle, entitled to the future possession of the land itself, by which alone they could reap the advantages, derived from their past improvements. Those lands, therefore, in Ireland, which had been employed solely in pasturage, must have remained in an unappropriated state, open to the promiscuous use of the whole community.
The limited and imperfect state of the appropriation of land in Ireland, may be further illustrated from the Irish customs with relation to succession. It appears that property in land was vested in the chiefs only, or leaders of septs; and that the inferior people of the tribe were merely tenants at will. The estates of those chiefs, however, were not transmitted from father to son by hereditary descent, but, upon the death<12> of the proprietor, passed to the eldest of his male relations. This person, by his experience in war, having usually acquired the highest reputation for military skill, was the best qualified to be leader of the tribe, and the most capable of defending that estate, in which they had all a common concern. This is the custom, anciently distinguished, both in Ireland and in Scotland, by the name of Tanistry;6 a name said to be derived from the circumstance, that, in the life time of the predecessor, it was common to ascertain and acknowledge the right of his heir, who, in the Celtic language, received the appellation of the Tanist, that is, the second person in the tribe. Traces of this mode of succession are very universally to be found in the early history of mankind. In that situation where the inhabitants of a country are almost continually engaged in predatory expeditions, it may be expedient that the land, possessed by those little societies of kindred, who reside in the same neighbourhood, should remain undivided under the disposal of the chief; and that, in chusing this leader, more regard should be had to<13> his age, experience, and military qualities, than to his blood-relation with the person who formerly enjoyed that office. The plan of transmitting inheritances, by which children, and even families, in a state of infancy, succeed to estates according to such rules, as are suggested by the inclination of parents, can hardly be made effectual till mankind enjoy a degree of tranquillity, and are, without any exertion of their own, protected by the public, and secured from depredation. The establishment of such a plan therefore, supposes considerable advances in the social intercourse, and a degree of improvement in many of the arts of life.
The inferior tenants, or followers of the chief, appear to have held their lands during his pleasure; though probably these tenants were usually permitted to remain in possession during life; and upon their decease, their estates were divided among the eldest males of the sept.* This has improperly<14> been called, by some writers, succession by gavel-kind.7
In that simple age when landed property is, in some measure, retained in common by a whole tribe, there naturally subsists an intimate connection, and strong attachment among the members of that small society. They live much together, are separated from the rest of the world, and assist one another in all their important transactions. Their affections are strengthened by the habits of intimacy, and by their mutual exertions of kindness in promoting their common interest. The chief is commonly attended by a number of his kindred, and tenants, whom he entertains with rustic hospitality and magnificence, as in return, they are ambitious of displaying their attachment, and their own importance, by entertaining their leader. The custom of visiting his tenants, and of his being maintained, on those occasions, at their expence, to which historians have given the appellation of coshering,8 was probably supported likewise by political considerations; as by making frequent progresses through the territories<15> of his tribe, the chief of the sept was enabled to prevent disturbance among a disorderly people, and according to the demerits of his tenants to proportion the burden of his maintenance.
The members of every sept were not only subject to the burden of maintaining their chief, when he thought proper to visit them, but were also liable to contributions for defraying the expence of his maintenance when he was employed in defence of the community. Hence a foundation was laid for arbitrary exactions, distinguished by the names of coegite and livery, which were originally Irish, but were afterwards adopted by the English settlers, and became the source of great oppression.
The mutual attachment and confidence that subsisted between the chief and the members of his tribe, are most especially remarkable in the practice of what is called fostering. It was common for the chief to give out his children, not only to be suckled, but even to be brought up, in the family of some of his tenants. To maintain such children was not looked upon a burden,<16> but as a mark of distinction; it created a new species of relation with the leader of the tribe; and enabled such fosterers to acquire a peculiar interest in those persons, whom the whole society beheld with admiration and respect. The practice, at the same time, shews the general simplicity of manners, which had introduced no idea that the son of a chief required an education superior to what might be obtained in the house of his tenants.
With regard to the laws enforced by the Brehons in the distribution of justice, they were similar to those of the other early European nations. The weakness of government, in rude states, by disabling the injured party from procuring an adequate punishment, has generally produced a pecuniary compensation even for the most atrocious offences, and the same interested motives, which determined the private sufferer to accept of such compositions, have also rendered them agreeable to the public magistrate, who, on the part of the community, levied the fines drawn on those occasions. Such pecuniary punishments are said to have<17> been inflicted by the Brehons for murder, and for the greater part of crimes.
I had formerly occasion to notice that remarkable institution which took place in Ireland, by which the head of every sept was responsible for the conduct of all his followers, in the same manner as in England, a tything man might be called to account for the offences of every member of his tything. It has been supposed, that this law was copied from the English by the inhabitants of Ireland, but, in all probability, it proceeded independent of imitation, from the similarity of circumstances in both countries; and, in reality, it seems agreeable to the notions of justice and expediency suggested by a state of rudeness and barbarism.9 The estate under the management of a chief, belongs, in some measure, to the whole tribe, and when any member of that society commits a crime, to be expiated by a pecuniary composition, it is not inconsistent with justice, that this penalty should be paid out of the common funds, by the person who represents the community. It is, at the same time, highly expedient, that those who<18> suffer by the injustice of any obscure member of a tribe, should not be under the necessity of prosecuting the particular offenders, but should obtain redress from the person known and distinguished as the head of the community, who could be at no loss to discover the guilty persons, and procure from them an indemnity.
From the reign of Henry II. to the accession of the house of Tudor, the interpositions of the English crown, in the government of Ireland, were feeble and transitory; extending commonly little farther than to the nomination of the chief executive officers. The distresses of King John, and of Henry III.; the schemes of Edward I. for the conquest of Scotland, and for the annexation of that kingdom to his English dominions; the wars carried on by the subsequent princes in France; with the great expence, and the numerous embarrassments of which those imprudent measures were productive; and lastly, the long contention between the rival houses of York and Lancaster, by which England itself became a field of blood, and a continued scene of<19> anarchy and confusion; all this train of vexation, enterprize, disappointment, and disaster, prevented the English monarchs from supporting their authority in Ireland, or taking any vigorous measures for the reduction of that country.*
As the primitive settlers from England derived little or no assistance from the government, they were, on the other hand, subject to no limitation with respect to the extent of their acquisitions. They found no difficulty in obtaining grants of those lands of which they had seized the possession, and even of such territories beyond the pale, as they had formed the project of acquiring. Immense donations were thus<20> nominally made to a few individuals, in so much that while in reality no more than a third part was in possession of the English, the whole kingdom is said to have been parcelled among ten proprietors. Nothing could be more adverse to the cultivation of the country, and the civilization of the inhabitants, than this prodigious extent of property bestowed upon those who had already the chief power in their hands. These great lords not only were incapable of managing the vast estates already in their possession, but were interested to prevent the remainder from being given either to the native Irish, or to such new English planters as might be willing to improve it. In consequence of these grants there came to be in Ireland, at one time, no less than eight counties palatine, each of which was governed by a sort of independent sovereign.*
Notwithstanding these obstacles many desperate English adventurers, at different times, obtained from the crown particular grants of territories beyond the pale, and endeavoured to maintain by force what they had occupied under the colour of a legal<21> sanction. The families of these people, after a long course of war and rapine, degenerated by degrees from the English customs, and by mutual intercourse, were at length so incorporated with their neighbours as to be no longer distinguishable, by any marks of greater civilization. Upon the whole it is observable, that the native Irish, by their power and by their numbers, had more influence in changing the manners of the new inhabitants than the latter, in communicating their improvements to the former; and that the people of English race, whether within or without the pale, were in the course of some centuries, apparently declining to a state of rudeness and barbarism.
The accession of Henry VII. as it restored peace and tranquillity to England, so it enabled the sovereign to plan and execute more effectual measures for the administration of his Irish dominions. It produced, at the same time, an exaltation of the prerogative, the effect of which was distinctly felt in both countries. In Ireland, two objects appear to have been immediately in the view of the crown; to extend a regular policy over the country; and to render the<22> Irish government subordinate to that of England.
To promote the former of these purposes, under the direction of Sir Edward Poynings, the lord-deputy, it was provided by an act of the Irish parliament, that all the statutes lately made in England, of a public nature, should be held effectual and valid in Ireland.10 An extensive improvement was thus introduced at once into the latter country, by assimilating its political system to that of England. It has been justly observed, however, by a late historian, that this adoption of English laws, by the Irish parliament, was not unprecedented, and that in particular, another instance of it occurs in the reign of Edward IV. though it is highly probable that it had proved ineffectual. It has, at the same time, been erroneously supposed by some writers, that this act extended to the whole code of English statutes; whereas, in reality, it refers only to a certain number, which, however inaccurately specified, were under the eye of the Irish legislature.
From this regulation, it may fairly be concluded that the Irish parliament was, at this time, understood to possess an indepen-<23>dent legislative authority. If that assembly was capable of adopting the laws of England, it must have had the power also of rejecting them. And as this act of the legislature sufficiently testifies the exertion of independence upon the part of Ireland, so the assent of the governor, upon the part of the king, leaves no room to doubt of his majesty’s approbation and concurrence.
To secure the dependence of the Irish parliament upon the crown, Henry endeavoured to acquire a negative before debate upon all their determinations. For this purpose he procured from that assembly a regulation, that no parliament should be held in Ireland until the lord-deputy and his council should certify to the king and council in England, the causes for which the meeting was to be called, and the bills which were therein to be enacted; and that unless the king’s leave were previously obtained, the transactions of any future parliament should be void in law.
The interest of the crown required that all debates in parliament, which might inflame the minds of the people, should be suppressed, and that the king should not be<24> put to the disagreeable necessity of rejecting a bill, which, by a previous discussion, had become a popular measure. Even in England such discussions were often attended with troublesome consequences; and they were likely to be more so in Ireland, where from the distance of the sovereign, his private influence could not be so speedily exerted.
In the reign of Queen Mary an extension was made of this law, by requiring that not only the acts in contemplation at the calling of parliament, but those also which might be proposed after the meeting of that assembly, should, in like manner, be certified to the king and council in England, and previously to their becoming the subject of deliberation should obtain the royal approbation.
From the progress of an independent spirit at a later period, an expedient for avoiding this law was easily suggested. Though parliament, without the concurrence of the sovereign, could not introduce a bill for a new law, it was thought they were not restrained from deliberating in any case,<25> whether a proposal for such a bill should be certified to the king and council; and, in this view, under the colour of heads of a bill to be proposed in future, every argument that could be advanced in supporting or in opposing the bill itself, might be introduced and considered. By such a preliminary debate, the public attention to the measure proposed might be excited no less effectually, and their opinions and sentiments with regard to it might be discovered no less clearly, than if the bill, after undergoing all the necessary ceremonials, had been regularly presented to the two houses for their determination.
The religious reformation in the reign of Henry VIII. became the source of new animosities in Ireland, more bitter and rancorous than those which had formerly subsisted. In that country, literature had made too little progress to create a spirit of liberty in matters of religion, and a disposition to pull down that edifice, which, in a course of ages, had been reared by ignorance and superstition. The people content to be guided implicitly by their religious teachers, had no disposition to pry into mysteries, or to<26> call in question the ceremonies and observances which a designing priesthood had established among their forefathers. Warmly attached to the ancient system of religion, they were taught to believe that nothing could be more meritorious than to hazard their lives in its defence. The political circumstances at the same time, which, in some other parts of Europe, had begun to promote the freedom and independence of the great body of the people, had hitherto no place in Ireland. Arts and manufactures had not there made such progress as to produce a degree of luxury, and to multiply tradesmen and artificers. Men of great property had not, by an increase in the expence of living, been induced to discard their idle retainers, and with a view of obtaining an advancement of rent, to grant long leases to their tenants. The peasantry were still absolutely dependent upon their masters; the members of every great family, or sept, were invariably attached to their chief. The great wealth in the possession of churchmen, by which, like the temporal lords, they were enabled to maintain a number of dependents, was not squandered in procur-<27>ing luxuries, but expended, the greater part of it, in acts of hospitality and charity, which commanded universal respect and veneration. Their jurisdiction and authority, as barons, not having as yet suffered any diminution, continued to operate in addition to the influence arising from the reputed piety of their lives, the sacred functions committed to them, and their situation as members of that great system of ecclesiastical power, which the Roman pontiff had established. Thus, in Ireland, the religious reformation might be regarded as an exotic, for which the soil, at that time, was totally unprepared, and which could only be raised by artificial and violent means. If, by the utmost care and culture, it had been made to take root, there was reason to fear that, when left to itself, it would immediately decay, and be overgrown and choked up by the native weeds of the country.
The authority, and the violent temper of Henry VIII. were indeed successful in procuring, from the Irish parliament, a renunciation of the papal jurisdiction, an acknowledgment of the King’s supremacy, and the<28> suppression of religious houses. But, notwithstanding these compliances with the humour of the king, the people in general, and even a great proportion of both houses of parliament, were zealously attached to the ancient faith. These Roman Catholics, it may easily be supposed, were highly enraged at the late innovations, dissatisfied with every measure of a government so hostile to their religion, and ready to embrace every opportunity of creating disturbances. The emissaries of Rome, in the mean time, were not idle, and spared no pains to cherish and inflame these dispositions. To the inhabitants of English race, it was observed, that their title to settle in the country, was entirely founded upon a donation from the pope. To sooth the vanity, and to excite the superstitious and bigoted zeal of the native Irish, this was represented as the favourite island of his holiness; the peculiar seat of the pure catholic religion, upon the fidelity and steadiness of which, according to ancient prophesies, depended the glory and prosperity of the Christian church. That the enemies of the late innovations, however numerous<29> and hostile to each other, might act in concert, the agents of Rome maintained a regular correspondence with the different septs, opened a channel of communication through the remotest parts of the country, and exhorted the leading people to lay aside their private jealousies, and to unite in one great cause, the defence of their common religion.
These dispositions of the Irish gave rise to various combinations and attempts against the government, which, according to circumstances, were more or less formidable; but were uniformly succeeded by forfeitures, calculated to gratify the friends and connections of the ruling party. The reign of Elizabeth produced in Ireland no less than three rebellions; which might be attributed almost entirely to the state of religious differences. The first was excited by John O’Neale, chief of the powerful tribe of that name, who exercised a sort of sovereign power in Ulster.11 This rebellion was suppressed by the vigour and dexterity of Sir Henry Sidney, the lord-deputy;12 and, though it occasioned a public declaration of many forfeitures, these were not carried<30> into execution, but suffered to fall into oblivion. Another insurrection, soon after, was produced in the southern part of the island, by the Earl of Desmond,13 the head of the great family of Fitz-Gerald, a nobleman, whose ancestors had long possessed an authority too great for a subject. The King of Spain, thinking this a proper opportunity for retaliating the assistance given by Queen Elizabeth to his rebellious subjects in the Netherlands, sent a military force to act in concert with the Irish insurgents; but, fortunately, the abilities of Desmond were not equal to such an undertaking, and, after a series of miscarriages, he was deserted by his followers, and lost his life, without the credit of distinguishing himself by any brilliant action. The suppression of this rebellion was attended with forfeitures to a great extent, and drew from England a large colony to settle in Munster. Estates were offered to the settlers at the small rent of three-pence, and, in some cases, of two pence the acre; each purchaser being bound to plant a certain number of families within his domain. Sir Walter<31> Raleigh, Sir Christopher Hatton,14 and many other persons of distinction, obtained grants of estates upon such terms; but, though they occupied the lands, they were not very scrupulous in fulfilling the conditions.
The last rebellion in this reign, and by far the most formidable, was that conducted by Hugh, another branch of the family of O’Neale, who, together with the chief-ship, had now obtained his father’s title, that of Earl of Tirone.15 This leader, in abilities and education, was much superior to the other chiefs of the mere Irish. He had served in the English army; and, as he had become acquainted with the customs of the English, was equally capable of recommending himself to them, and to his own countrymen, by assuming occasionally the manners and deportment of either. With an insinuating address, joined to the most profound dissimulation, he gained the confidence of the English governors, and even of the Queen herself; while, by secret practices, he inflamed the discontents of his countrymen, and prepared them for an insurrection. Even, after he had recourse to<32> arms, he, by various excuses, by affected complaints of injustice, and by repeated pretences of submission, found means to amuse the government, and to procure the delays necessary for bringing his plans to maturity. The King of Spain sent once more a body of troops to support the rebels;16 which gave such encouragement to the malcontents, as to render the insurrection almost universal. An army of twenty thousand men from England was thought necessary to support the government; and even over this force the rebels gained many advantages. At length, however, by the activity and judicious conduct of Lord Mountjoy,17 the governor, their force was broken, and they were completely defeated. Tirone submitted at a very critical period, when the death of Elizabeth was known to the Irish administration, but was still kept a secret from the rest of the inhabitants. Thus the prosperous reign of that princess was terminated by an event of the utmost importance to her subjects, the restoration of peace and tranquillity of Ireland, and the establishment, over all her dominions, of a<33> degree of religious liberty, to which, for many centuries, they had been altogether strangers.
The accession of James I. produced an era no less remarkable, in the history of Ireland, than in that of England and Scotland. By the union of the English and Scottish crowns, by the cordial acquiescence of the whole nation in the title of their new sovereign, and, above all, by the entire subjection of the Irish chiefs in the late reign, James found himself in a better condition than any of his predecessors, for communicating the English jurisprudence to Ireland, and for extending the advantages of regular government and civilized manners to that hitherto uncultivated and intractable part of his dominions.
The first step, in the course of these improvements, was to reduce the whole country under tribunals modelled upon the English plan. The authority of the Brehons had still continued in force, in most parts of the kingdom; and their decisions, as might be expected, were agreeable to the ancient Irish customs. To these judges,<34> and to their peculiar forms of procedure, the people were zealously attached, and every attempt to overturn this early institution was treated as a dangerous innovation. So late as the reign of Elizabeth, when Fitz-William,18 the governor, informed Mac-Guire, the chieftain of Fermanaugh, that he intended to send a sheriff into his territories, the chief replied, without hesitation, “Your sheriff shall be welcome, but let me know his erie, that, if my people should cut off his head, I may levy it upon the country.” The whole country was now divided into thirty-two counties, which were put under the superintendence of sheriffs, and subjected to the jurisdiction of itinerant courts. By this reformation, people of the lower ranks were protected from those numerous exactions, which their superiors had formerly imposed upon them, and began to taste, in some measure, the blessings of security and freedom. The inhabitants were thus comforted for the loss of their barbarous usages, by the evident advantages resulting from the new regulations; and if they were denied the privilege of plunder-<35>ing their neighbours, had, in return, the satisfaction of being less exposed to theft and robbery, or to personal injury. The change at first, was possibly not relished; but it could not fail in time to become palatable. It resembled the transition from poverty to riches; from hunger and hard fare, to plenty and delicacy.
Another great object, essential to the future tranquillity of Ireland, was the settlement of landed property. From the frequency of rebellions and disorders many forfeitures had occurred; and the same estates had passed through a number of different families. In such a situation, there came to be much room for dispute, concerning the property of estates; while, in some cases, the validity of the forfeitures was called in question; in some, the pretended grants from the crown were liable to challenge; and, in others, the right of the present possessor was confirmed by such a length of time, as might appear to supply the defects of the original titles. For putting an end to the numberless controversies that might arise in such cases, certain com-<36>missioners were appointed by the crown to examine defective titles of such persons as held lands by the English forms; and the possessors were invited to surrender their estates into the hands of the governor, in order to obtain a new and more legal grant. The governor was likewise empowered to accept surrenders from those Irish lords, who held their estates by the ancient precarious tenure usual in Ireland, and, under certain precautions and regulations, to re-invest the possessor according to the common law of England, with a full and complete right of property. Care was taken, at the same time, to limit the new grants to the actual possessions of the claimants; as also to secure the inferior tenants, and to convert their former uncertain services and duties into a fixed pecuniary payment. The old custom of tanistry was thus abolished, and, according to the new grants, estates became universally transmissible to heirs.
A regulation, somewhat similar to this, had been attempted, by an act of parliament in the reign of Elizabeth; but, from the circumstances of the nation at that period,<37> it could not be made effectual.* The extensive disposal of property, which it now occasioned, and the proportionable influence, which it bestowed upon the crown, may easily be conceived. The determination of the commissioners could so little be subjected to any general rules, that every person must have considered himself as indebted to government, for the estate, which he was allowed to obtain or to preserve, and felt himself under the necessity of yielding an implicit submission to such terms as the executive power thought proper to demand.
In this state of the country, Tirone, and his principal adherents, who had formerly submitted to government, were alarmed by the suspicion of some new insurrection, and fled to the Continent; upon which their immense possessions were confiscated. There fell thus into the hands of the crown an extent of territory, in the six northern counties, amounting to about 500,000 acres, in the settlement of which more moderate portions were assigned to individuals, and<38> more effectual precautions were taken to avoid abuses, than had occurred on former occasions.
The city of London became undertakers in this new settlement, and obtained large grants in the county of Derry. Upon pretence of protecting this infant plantation, though, in reality, with a view of raising money, the King instituted the order of Irish baronets, or knights of Ulster, from each of whom, as was then done in Scotland, with respect to the knights of Nova Scotia,19 he exacted a certain sum, in consideration of the dignity to be conferred.
The regulations, for the security of landed possessions, introduced at this period, and those for the extension of law and regular government, were followed, in Ireland, by the enjoyment of peace and tranquillity for near forty years, during which, considerable advances were made in agriculture and even in manufactures. In the reign of Charles I. the vigorous, though somewhat oppressive administration of Sir Thomas Wentworth, contributed much to the progress of these improvements. By his imme-<39>diate encouragement, and even by his example, the linen manufacture was introduced, and has ever since, though with some interruptions, continued in a state of advancement.
The great object of this able but iniquitous governor, was the improvement of the revenue. As the forfeiture of Desmond had given rise to an extensive English settlement in the southern, and that of Tirone and his adherents in the northern part of Ireland, it was now thought expedient that a similar plantation should be effected in Connaught. For this purpose, the validity of titles to estates, in that part of the island, was called in question; various objections to the right of many individuals were started; and these being referred to the commissioners appointed for the trial of such cases, were very generally sustained. Where the juries employed in trying the facts shewed reluctance, recourse was had to promises, threats, and even to severe punishments, for procuring a verdict in favour of the crown. The arbitrary and tyrannical measures of the governor, on these occasions, were car-<40>ried to such a pitch, as excited the highest indignation; but, at the same time, they were prosecuted with such impetuosity and steadiness as bore down all opposition, and, in the counties of this western division, brought an extensive territory under the disposal of government.
In the disputes between Charles I. and his people, the Irish parliament took party with the latter, and entered into similar measures with those pursued in England, for preventing the arbitrary exertions of prerogative. In the year 1640, the commons in Ireland refused the subsidies demanded by government, objected to the modes of taxation hitherto practised, and presented to the lord-deputy a remonstrance, complaining of grievances.
Although the inhabitants of Ireland had not, at this period, carried their improvements in trade and manufactures to such a height, as could raise the great body of the people to the same condition of independence as in England, yet the planters of English race, those adventurers, who, by the favour of government, had obtained<41> estates in Ireland, and had been willing to encounter the hazards of settling in that country, amid the rage and resentment of the former possessors, were in general, we may suppose, men of a bold spirit and of independent principles. These were the people, who, by their opulence, and by their powerful connections in England, possessed the chief influence over the determinations of the Irish legislature; and who, as they had caught the enthusiastic love of freedom, which now pervaded the English nation, were chiefly instrumental in diffusing the same sentiments through the sister kingdom.
The same difference of opinion in religious matters, which had arisen in England, and in Scotland, found their way also into Ireland, and contributed to influence their political sentiments. Among those of the protestant persuasion, the two great sects of Presbyterians and Independents, whom their adversaries distinguished by the contemptuous appellation of Puritans, and of whom, the latter rejected all ecclesiastical authority, the former, all subordination of<42> ranks among churchmen, formed a natural alliance with the friends of civil freedom; and their tenets in religion were even adopted by a great part of those individuals, who obtained an ascendency in parliament.
On the other hand, the supporters of the hierarchy, the Roman Catholics, and the members of the established church, who, though differing in many religious tenets, agreed in their ardent zeal for promoting the power of churchmen, and for placing the management and controul of that power in the hands of a single person; all these, by the tenor of their ecclesiastical system, were hostile to the designs of parliament, and willing to exalt the prerogative. As the King could not fail to discover these dispositions, which prevailed among the different classes of the people, he could hardly avoid shewing favour to such as were subservient to his views; and, in particular, affording protection and relief to the Roman Catholics from the hardships of those penal statutes, to which, by their non-conformity, they were exposed. This partiality, naturally became the source of jealousy and<43> disgust in the one party, of gratitude and attachment in the other.
* Such, in both countries, was the state of the two great political parties; but, in Ireland, there was better ground than in England for entertaining an apprehension and jealousy of the Roman Catholics, as, compared with them, the Protestants, though, in some degree, masters of the government, were no more than a handful of people. Their distance from the chief seat of the executive power, and the subor-<44>dinate authority possessed by a lord-deputy, rendered, at the same time, the prevailing party in parliament, less capable of enforcing their determinations, or of keeping their enemies in subjection.
While the popish recusants in Ireland, were so formidable by their numbers, they were highly provoked and irritated against the ruling party. Many of them had been unjustly deprived of their possessions, to make way for the needy favourites of administration; and even those, who had been allowed to retain their estates, were, in return, subjected to such regulations and conditions, as curtailed their ancient privileges, and rendered them dependent upon government. For continuing to profess the religion of their forefathers, they were exposed to endless prosecution, and reduced under the dominion of heretics, whom they abhorred, and whose damnable errors they detested. Those hardships they imputed, not to the King, whose disposition to relieve them was abundantly manifest; but to that governing party, in the English and Irish<45> parliaments, which opposed and frustrated his benevolent purposes.
From such views and circumstances proceeded, soon after, the Irish rebellion, planned by the abilities of Roger Moore, in which the rage of disappointed bigotry, under the guidance of a senseless barbarian, Sir Phelim O’Neale, perpetrated that horrid massacre, so disgraceful to the annals of Ireland.20 The disorders of England, at that time, were such as to prevent the interference of government for suppressing this alarming insurrection. The chief executive power had been committed to two justices, Borlace and Parsons,21 men totally destitute of the capacity and firmness requisite in the present emergency. There was no military force to stop the progress of the insurgents; who had leisure to collect their whole strength, and to form a regular association over the whole kingdom. Their clergy held a general synod, in which they framed a variety of acts, and declarations, calculated to unite the whole Roman Catholic interest both at home and abroad. They were joined by the nobility and gentry, in con-<46>stituting a permanent national assembly, for the regulation and superintendence of their future concerns.
At the first insurrection, O’Neale pretended, that he was acting by the authority of Charles; and, to gain belief, produced, in writing, an express commission from the King. But the forgery of this deed seems now to be universally admitted. Whether any secret encouragement, however, had been given to this insurrection, by Charles, or by his Queen, a zealous Roman Catholic, it seems more difficult to determine. It is certain, that, in the course of the civil war, the insurgents uniformly professed their intention to support the interest of the crown; and that Charles regarded them as friends, from whom, in his utmost extremity, relief and assistance might be expected. In this view, he employed the Earl of Antrim to raise troops in Ireland; and that nobleman, having taken the oath prescribed by the confederated rebels, procured a body of 3000 men, who were transported into Britain for the King’s service. A commission from Charles, at a later period, was<47> granted to the Earl of Ormond,22 the lord-deputy, with discretionary powers for entering into a treaty with the Irish rebels, that, in return for the privileges to be bestowed upon them by the crown, they should send into Britain a body of 10,000 troops, to be employed in the royal cause. But that the nature of this transaction might be kept more secret, the King soon after employed the Earl of Glamorgan,23 a zealous Roman Catholic, to treat with those confederates, promising, upon the word of a king, to ratify and perform whatever terms that nobleman should think proper to grant. The treaty which took place, in consequence of this commission, had been concealed with care, and having been discovered, by an unforeseen accident, was found to contain such concessions to the Roman Catholics, as afforded great scandal to the friends of Charles. Glamorgan was accused of having exceeded his powers, and thrown into prison. But an accusation so improbable was not likely to remove the impression, which the public received from the whole circumstances of the transaction.<48>
The reduction of Ireland, by Oliver Cromwell,24 and the officers whom he employed, for that purpose, gave rise to new forfeitures, and to a new distribution of lands among English adventurers. By the arrangements attempted on this occasion, it was in view to separate the English from the Irish proprietors; and to confine the latter to the province of Connaught.
In the reign of Charles II. and of James II. the apparent designs of the Monarch, in favour of the Roman Catholics, continued the old prepossession and prejudices among religious parties, and secured the great body of the Irish in the interest of these two princes. The effect of this attachment was evident from the difficulty, with which the nation was reduced under the government of William III.
When the government had been completely settled after the Revolution in 1688, it was to be expected that Ireland, as well as England, would reap the benefit of political freedom, and that it would experience a rapid advancement in the arts. Its advances, however, since that period, though<49> certainly very considerable, have been retarded by a variety of circumstances.
1. The inhabitants of Ireland have been more divided by mutual animosity and discord than those of most other countries. From the invasion of Henry II. to near the end of the last century, the natives were subject to continual depredation from the English government, and from those adventurers of the English race, who had such interest with the government, as enabled them, upon various pretences, to dispossess the ancient proprietors, and to seize their estates. The resentment occasioned by these acts of injustice and oppression, the revenge inflicted by the sufferers, whenever they had an opportunity, the remembrance of past injuries upon either side, and the constant apprehension of the future, could not fail to produce a rooted aversion between the two parties, and to excite the bitterest hatred and rancour.
The religious differences, from the time of Henry VIII. became a fresh ground of dissension, a new source of animosities, which flowed in the same channel with the<50> former. The ruling party in Ireland embraced the doctrines of the reformation. Those, who had little connection with government adhering to the religion of their ancestors, again found themselves, upon this account, oppressed and persecuted, by the same class of people to whom they imputed the loss of their possessions.
As the people, who had thus been subjected to oppression, both in temporal and spiritual matters, were by far the most numerous, they were able to stand their ground, and were always formidable to their adversaries. While the one party were supported by the civil magistrate, the other were superior by their natural strength; whence they maintained a constant struggle, by which their passions were kept awake, and their hopes and fears alternately excited. Their mutual apprehension and distrust, therefore, were too powerful to permit their uniting cordially in any common measures; and their mutual animosity and jealousy rendered them frequently more intent upon distressing and humbling each<51> other, than in prosecuting any scheme of national improvement.
The attention of the Irish was, in this manner, wholly engrossed by political and religious disputes; and their minds embraced those objects with a degree of ardour and vehemence unknown in other countries. The same ardent spirit raised by the continual ferment, which those interesting objects had excited, was, at the same time, diffused through the whole of their constitution, and gave a peculiar direction to the national character. A temper, ardent and vehement, a disposition open, forward, undesigning, and sincere, little corrected by culture, might be expected to produce incorrectness of thought and expression, with a tendency to such inaccuracies and blunders as proceed from speaking without due consideration, and from attempting to convey a first impression, without a full examination of particulars. After all, the strictures of the English upon the character and manners of their neighbours in Ireland, like all other observations tending to gratify national vanity and prejudice, must be<52> received with grains of allowance, and, if not restricted to the lower classes of the people, must be acknowledged, at least, more applicable to the inhabitants of the last century, than to those of the present.
2. At the time when Ireland came to be in a condition to push her trade and manufactures, she was checked by the mercantile regulations of the English government.
The mercantile system of all nations has been built upon the narrow basis of monopoly. Every company, or corporation of merchants or manufacturers, has endeavoured to exclude all their neighbours from their own branches of trade or manufacture. From their situation, living in towns, and capable, with ease, of combining together, they have commonly been enabled, by their own clamours and solicitations, to intimidate or to persuade the government to fall in with their designs, and to make regulations for supporting their interest. When Britain came to have colonies, she endeavoured, by authority, to engross their trade, and to hinder them from trading directly<53> with other nations. With respect to Ireland, she proceeded upon similar principles.
To prevent the Irish from interfering in the woollen manufacture, the great staple of England, the Irish were prohibited from exporting wool or woollen cloth. To the linen trade of Scotland the same attention was not paid, and the exportation of Irish linens was permitted to Britain and her colonies.
By what is called the Navigation Act, made in the reign of Charles II. and varied by subsequent statutes, it is provided, that no goods, except victuals, shall be shipped from Ireland for his Majesty’s plantations, and that no plantation-goods shall be carried to Ireland without being first landed in Britain. By a later statute, this prohibition, as to goods not enumerated, was removed.
3. To enforce regulations of so oppressive a nature, it was necessary that the Irish government should be rendered entirely subordinate to that of England; and accordingly, no efforts for that purpose were wanting. By what is called Poyning’s law, an attempt<54> was made to invest the crown with a power of controuling and directing the deliberations of the Irish parliament. In critical emergencies, however, the operation of this law, was, afterwards, occasionally suspended; and, at length, as has been formerly hinted, a method was divised of entirely evading its effect, by the practice of debating upon the heads of such bills, as were to be transmitted to England for obtaining the consent of the king and council.
How far the inhabitants of Ireland were bound by the acts of the British legislature, was a question, which, from the time of the revolution, came to be much agitated by lawyers and politicians. Those, who maintained the affirmative, among whom we may reckon almost all the English lawyers, appear to have rested their opinion chiefly on what is called the right of conquest. By virtue of his conquest of Ireland, Henry II. and his successors, acquired a dominion over that country, and a right of subjecting its government to that of his own kingdom. Such, in fact, was understood to be<55> the nature of the Irish government. Though the nation was allowed to hold parliaments of its own, the English parliament exercised over those assemblies a permanent authority, and claimed the privilege of making statutes for Ireland. Instances, indeed, in early times, of English statutes being extended expressly to Ireland, are not very frequent; but a few such instances occur upon record; and from the year 1641, their number was much encreased. By long custom, the intention of the charters granted to Ireland, and the form of government in that country, are to be explained, and if we rely upon this most infallible interpreter of the meaning of parties, we must conclude that the Irish legislature was, from the beginning, subordinate to that of England.
The friends of Irish independence argued very differently, and with more solidity. The right of conquest, they considered as a right, which has no existence, it being impossible that superior force can ever of itself bestow any right. On the contrary, the employment of force, unless in support of a previous right, is an injury, which<56> becomes the proper object of punishment. If Henry II. had no previous right to invade Ireland, and to settle in that island, he certainly could acquire none by attacking the inhabitants, and stripping them of their property, but rather merited punishment for the crimes, which he committed against them. It is unnecessary to mention that even this right of conquest, supposing it well founded, would not be applicable to a great part of the inhabitants of Ireland, those, at least, who obtained the greatest wealth, and had the principle share in the legislature; for they, instead of being the conquered people, were his English subjects, who had assisted in the conquest, and derived the chief benefit from it.
The nature of the Irish constitution, therefore, is to be inferred, not from the force used by England, but from the acquiescence of the people after this force was withdrawn, and when they could be supposed to have a free choice. At what period the people came to be in those circumstances, it is not very easy to determine. There are<57> here two particulars, which may seem worthy of notice.
First, with respect to the form of government, to which, from long custom, the nation is understood to have consented, this must be determined from the general usage, not from a few singular exertions made upon extraordinary emergencies. In every rude nation, persons invested with authority, are apt to lay hold of opportunities of indulging themselves in arbitrary proceedings; and these irregular acts frequently pass without animadversion or punishment. But, from such abuses, we must not reason concerning what, in the common apprehensions of the people, is legal and constitutional. What is merely overlooked, or is found too troublesome to redress, we must not suppose to be approved. Thus, while the parliament of Ireland was acknowledged to possess a legislative power, and was applied to by the crown in every branch of legislation concerning that country, it is of little moment, that, in some few cases, we also meet with regulations extending to<58> Ireland, enacted by the English parliament. The independence of the Irish legislature, is to be inferred from the general tenor of proceedings; and it would be absurd to draw an opposite conclusion from a few instances of usurpation or inadvertency.
In the second place, it is to be observed, that the effect of old usage must be limited by considerations of public utility, and that the most universal submission of a people, however long continued, will not give sanction to measures incompatible with the great interests of society. Had the Irish parliament, by general practice, been rendered entirely subordinate to that of England, the pernicious tendency of such a constitution, with respect to Ireland, must appear of such magnitude, as to shock our feelings of justice, and, at any distance of time, to justify the inhabitants in asserting their natural rights.
But this point was not to be determined by abstract reasonings, or by general considerations on the principles of justice. The interest of the more powerful country, as commonly happens, was held a sufficient reason for asserting and extending its authority<59> over the weaker, and the system of regulating the trade of Ireland, in subserviency to the views of the mercantile people in England, rendered that interest more obvious and conspicuous. To accomplish this purpose, it was requisite that England should possess a power of controuling the Irish courts of justice. Without this she might command, but had no power to execute; her acts of legislation could be made effectual only by her indirect influence over the Irish judges.
In the year 1719, a private law-suit in Ireland,* gave rise to a controversy whether there lay an appeal from the Irish tribunals to the house of lords in Britain, and this was followed by an act of the British parliament; calculated for the express purpose of securing the dependency of Ireland, upon the crown of Great Britain; and declaring first, “that the King’s majesty, by and with the consent of the lords, spiritual and temporal, and the commons of Great Britain, in parliament assembled, had, hath, and of<60> right ought to have full power and authority to make statutes, of sufficient force, and validity, to bind the people and kingdom of Ireland.”
Secondly, “that the house of lords of Ireland, have not, nor of right ought to have, any jurisdiction to judge of, affirm or reverse, any judgment, sentence, or decree, given or made in any court within the said kingdom.”†
While Britain was thus eager to oppress her sister kingdom, she could not with-hold from this, and from other parts of her empire, that free spirit, which the example of her own constitution, and the general advancement of commerce and manufactures contributed to inspire. The leading men of Ireland saw, with indignation, this narrow-minded policy, and the invidious marks of bondage with which their country was branded. They complained with bitterness of the hard regulations, by which the Irish nation, while they= profusely shed their blood in the quarrels of Great Britain, were<61> not only excluded from the commerce of the British colonies, but even denied the privilege of trading with foreign nations. They remonstrated with warmth against the injustice, by which they had been deprived of their national rights, in order to rob them of the fruits of their industry, and by which poverty was entailed upon them as an appendage of that slavery, which they were made to inherit.
In one particular the legislature of Ireland had preserved its independence, the article of taxation. It does not appear that the British parliament ever claimed the privilege of imposing taxes upon that country; and as soon as the Irish began to enjoy the advantages of peace, we find their parliaments discovering a jealousy of this branch of authority, and maintaining it with proper spirit. In the year 1690, the commons of Ireland rejected a money bill, because it had not taken its rise in their house. In 1709, a money bill was returned from England with alterations; upon which account it was rejected by the commons. Another instance<62> of a similar exertion occurs in the year 1768.
The exertions of the Irish nation, in favour of liberty and independence, were frequently counteracted and frustrated by the indirect influence of the crown; and nothing contributed more to this abuse, than the duration of their parliament.
According to the early constitution of those assemblies, both in England, and in Ireland, they might be dissolved at the pleasure of the king; but independent of a dissolution by this authority, they remained during the king’s life. The first alteration, in this respect, was made in England, in the reign of King William III. when, from the nation having become jealous of the crown-influence over parliaments, their duration was limited to three years; a period, which, in the reign of George I. was extended to seven. But no such limitation had been introduced in Ireland, and parliaments, according to the ancient plan, continued to endure for the king’s life. In the year 1768, the voice of the nation demanding a reform, in this particular, became irresistible;<63> and a bill for limiting the duration of parliament to eight years, passed the two houses, and obtained the royal assent. The octennial parliaments of Ireland, in place of the septennial parliaments of England, were preferred at the suggestion of the English ministry, and were probably recommended to them from the view of preventing the inconvenience to government of attending, at the same time, to the new elections of both countries. This reform was the forerunner of others, yet more decisive, in the cause of liberty. The members of the house of commons became now, in some measure, dependent upon their constituents; and their determinations were, of course, more affected by the general feelings of the people.
Britain was involved in great difficulties, and reduced to the utmost perplexity, by the war with her North American colonies;25 in the prosecution of which Ireland had cheerfully contributed her assistance. Towards the end of that unsuccessful struggle, the interposition of France had exposed the British empire, at home, to the danger of insult and invasion; and afforded to the<64> Irish a plausible pretence for undertaking the defence of their own country. Volunteers, therefore, in the different parts of the kingdom were associated and embodied for this purpose; and to this exertion, apparently so generous and public spirited, the countenance and approbation of government could not well be refused. In a short time, their number became so great, they acquired so much the confidence of the people, and were animated by such resolution, that they could be neither suppressed nor controuled. Some attempts were made by government to obtain an authority over them, but these were easily discovered and evaded. Thus, while Britain was exhausted by a ruinous war, Ireland had procured an armed force, which nothing could resist, commanded by her own citizens, and firmly determined to procure the redress of her grievances. The consequences were such as might be expected. In 1778, a bill had been brought into the British parliament for the removal of all those restraints, which had been imposed upon the trade of Ireland, but the alarm excited in the trading, and<65> manufacturing towns of Britain rendered the measure unsuccessful. The Irish, however, conscious of their internal strength, were not disheartened. In their address to the throne, they declared, “it is not by temporary expedients, but by a free trade only, that the nation is to be saved from impending ruin.” To guard against a prorogation before they should obtain redress, they refused to grant the supply for the usual term of two years, but passed a short money bill, to which the royal assent was obtained. In the English house of commons, the minister, pressed by the difficulties attending his present critical situation, proposed to repeal the restrictive statutes complained of, and to grant the Irish a free trade to the British colonies, as well as to foreign countries. The propositions which he brought into parliament for that purpose were very readily adopted, and obtained the sanction of the legislature.
The joy of the whole people of Ireland, excited by this decisive and important victory, may easily be conceived. It did<66> not, however, prevent them from following the tide of their success, and bearing down every remaining obstacle to their complete independence. They had still the mortifying reflection that they owed this relief to the favour of an English ministry; that it had been procured by the necessity of the times; and that, afterwards, from an alteration of circumstances, it might, very probably, be withdrawn. To secure the permanent enjoyment of present advantages, it was necessary they should depend upon themselves. The volunteers, conscious of having power in their hands, were not negligent in using it to the best advantage. By choosing delegates from different quarters, as a sort of representatives of the whole body, by assembling these delegates on different occasions to act in concert with one another, by publishing resolutions and remonstrances expressing their unalterable purpose to assert their liberties, they spread an universal panic over Great Britain, and a belief that it would be in vain to oppose their demands. In this situation a change of the British<67> ministry took place; and the Marquis of Rockingham,26 who came to the head of administration, found himself at liberty to comply with his own inclination, and that of his party, by removing those oppressive regulations, which rendered the Irish government subordinate to the British. With this view there passed an act of the British legislature, containing a repeal of Poyning’s law; and also a repeal of the statute, by which the parliament of Great Britain is declared to have a power of making laws to bind the Irish nation, and of reviewing the sentences of the Irish tribunals.
At a subsequent period, during the administration of Lord Shelburn,27 it was suggested, that the repeal of the obnoxious statutes above-mentioned was insufficient, and the British parliament was prevailed upon to renounce the principle upon which they had proceeded, by relinquishing, on the part of Great Britain, all similar claims for the future. The former concession was necessary for the security of Ireland; the latter was merely the effect of popular<68> clamour, which produced a juvenile, though, perhaps, a pardonable degree of triumph and exultation.
By these alterations Ireland became an independent kingdom, connected by a federal union with Britain, but possessing within itself a supreme legislative assembly, and supreme courts for the distribution of justice.<69>
Political Consequences of the Revolution—Subsequent Changes in the State of the Nation—Influence of the Crown.
The alterations made in the state of the government by what is called the revolution, in 1688, and by the other public regulations in the reign of William III. were judicious, moderate, and prudent. With a perfect adherence to the spirit, and with as little deviation as possible from the ancient forms of the constitution, they were well calculated to restrain the arbitrary conduct of the sovereign, and appeared to establish a limited monarchy upon a solid and permanent basis.
All the avenues and passes, through which the prerogative had formerly invaded the rights of the people, were now apparently guarded and secured. The king could neither maintain troops, nor obtain the necessary supplies, without the annual interposition of the legislature, and therefore was laid<70> under the inevitable necessity of calling regular and frequent meetings of Parliament. The former disputes upon that subject were consequently at an end. Any future injunction upon the sovereign, to perform his duty in this respect, was now superseded. As he could no longer procure money, or carry on the business of government, without parliamentary aid, it was to be expected that no future complaints of his neglecting to convene that assembly would ever be heard. It was no longer prudent for him to hazard the angry dissolution of a parliament for refusing to comply with his demands; a measure tending to engender enmity and resentment in that class of men, whose good will and cordial affection were become indispensibly requisite. In a word, the executive power was rendered completely subordinate to the legislative; which is agreeable to the natural order of things; and without which there can be no free government.
The legislative power was, by the ancient structure of the constitution, lodged in the assembly composed of king, lords, and commons; so that the king, to whom was committed<71> the province of executing the laws, had also a great share in making them. But this regulation, which is justly considered by political writers, as inconsistent with the perfection of a free government, has been, in a great measure, removed by custom. As every bill must pass through the two houses before it can receive the royal assent, and as the king cannot legally interfere in bills depending before either house, the interposition of his negative would be apt to excite such national clamour as no wise prince would choose to incur, and would be repugnant to the principles of the constitution, by evincing greater confidence in the advice of other persons than of the national council.* For a long time, therefore, the exercise of this branch of power in the crown has been entirely disused, and the legislative has been of course, placed in different hands from the executive.1
Comparing the two houses of parliament with each other, the commons, consisting of<72> national representatives, sustain the popular part of the legislature, while the peers sustain the aristocratical. From circumstances, which I had formerly occasion to observe, the commons acquired the exclusive power of bringing in all money bills, and the peers have only that of assenting, or interposing their negative to the grant. This part of the constitution, which arose from the ancient forms of deliberation, is now supported by considerations of the highest expediency. The commons represent all the property of the kingdom, that of the peerage alone excepted; and therefore it may be supposed, that from a regard to their own interest, as well as that of the community at large, they will be induced to prevent the imposition of unreasonable taxes. The crown, on the other hand, is interested to augment the public revenue; and the peers, who are created by the crown, and have an immediate connection with the higher offices and places in its disposal, may be suspected of adhering invariably to its interest. The house of peers, therefore, in matters of taxation, is allowed to vote in favour of the<73> people, but not in favour of the crown. It cannot grant supplies, but may interpose a negative upon those which have been suggested by the commons.
As it had long been a maxim in the English government, “that the king can do no wrong,” by which is meant, that his ministers are alone responsible for ordinary acts of mal-administration, it was hence inferred, that these ministers must be allowed exclusively to direct and govern the state machine; for it would be the height of injustice to load them with the crimes of another, nor could it be expected that any man of spirit would submit to be a minister upon such terms. Were it even possible to find persons willing to answer for measures which they were not permitted to guide, their nominal administration would not serve the purpose intended; as the responsibility of such mean and servile officers could afford no security to the public, that the abuses of the executive power might be restrained by the terrors of such vicarious punishment.
Thus, by the principles of the constitution, the real exercise of the executive or<74> ministerial power came to be regularly, though tacitly, committed to a set of ministers, appointed by the king during pleasure. Their number, though not accurately fixed, was in some measure circumscribed by that of the chief official situations in the gift of the crown; and the individuals belonging to this body were still more distinctly pointed out, and recognized by the public, from their composing a select, or cabinet council, by whose concurrence and direction the administration was visibly conducted.
These ministers being nominated or displaced at the discretion of the crown, their continuance in office was, of course, brought under the controul of the two houses of parliament, and more especially under that of the commons, upon whom, by their power of granting or withholding supplies, the movements of government ultimately depended. From the nature of the constitution, tending to attract the attention of the public to the conduct of its managers, and from circumstances attending the direction of all political measures, it was to be expected that this controul of the legislature over the ap-<75>pointment of the principal officers of state would be frequently exercised. From the event of a war, not corresponding to the sanguine expectations of the people; from the soliciting and enforcing new= taxes, which are usually paid with reluctance, and productive of bad humour; from the unfortunate issue of hazardous transactions, not to mention the errors and blunders which are unavoidable in difficult emergencies, or even the corrupt designs that may be discovered or suspected, every junto2 of ministers is likely in a course of time, to become, in its turn, unpopular, and even to excite the public indignation and resentment. From the multitude of expectants, compared with those who can possibly enjoy places under government, the number of persons who think themselves not rewarded in proportion to their merits, is apt, at the same time, to be continually encreasing, and to supply the party in opposition with new reinforcements. Thus, in the natural progress of things, it might be expected that the growing clamour and discontent against every ministry which had long remained in power would be such<76> as to clog and obstruct their measures, to entangle them in difficulties more and more inextricable, and at length to produce a parliamentary application for their removal.
By the operation of these combined circumstances the English government seemed, in the executive branch, to possess the anvantages both of a monarchy and a republic, by uniting the dignity and authority of a hereditary monarch, calculated to repress insurrection and disorder, with the joint deliberation of several chief executive officers, and a frequent rotation of their offices, tending to guard against the tyranny of a single person.
In the judicial department, it was the object to give decisions, partly according to the rules of law founded upon long experience and observation, partly upon the feelings of equity and the principles of common sense. In the former view professional judges were appointed by the crown: in the latter, jury-men were selected from among the people. To secure, as far as possible, the independence of judges, they were, for the most part, appointed for life. To hin-<77>der jurymen from acquiring the habits of professional judges, they were chosen for each particular cause. So far as the king had retained the direction of public prosecutions for crimes, various regulations were made to prevent the abuses of this power by arbitrary imprisonment, or other acts of oppression.*
Such were the outlines of that constitution which, through many accidental changes, and by a course of gradual improvements upon the primitive system of the European nations, was finally established in the reign of William III. a mixed form of government, but remarkable for its beautiful simplicity, and in which the powers committed to different orders of men were so modelled and adjusted as to become subservient to one great purpose, the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.<78>
We are not, however, to dream of perfection in any human workmanship. Far less are we to imagine that a government can be so contrived as, for ages, to remain equally suited to a nation whose condition and circumstances are perpetually changing. As the husbandman varies his mode of culture and management, according to the meliorations of the soil, and to the alterations in the state of his farm, or of the markets, the legislator must accommodate his regulations to the progressive changes in the condition of the people for whom they are intended, to their progress in manufactures and commerce, their increase in opulence, and their advances in luxury or in refinement.
In England there were two great changes in the state of society, the remarkable appearance of which may be dated from the revolution, though their commencement was doubtless earlier, and the rapid progress of which may be traced through the whole of the following century. The first is the growing influence of the crown, arising from the patronage which it has acquired, and the<79> correspondent habits of dependence in the people which have thence been produced.
After the government had been settled by the regulations which took place at the revolution, and in the reign of William III. parliament no longer entertained any jealousy of encroachments from the prerogative, and became willing to grant supplies with a liberality of which there was formerly no example. The extensive enterprises in which the crown was engaged, and in which the interest of the nation was deeply involved; the settlement of Britain, the reduction of Ireland, the prosecution of the war with France, were productive of great expence, which the public could not view in any other light than as the price of their liberties, and therefore could not decently, or with any colour of justice, refuse to defray. In a subsequent period, new situations, though less urgent, afforded a plausible pretence for new demands; which, from various reasons, whether of a public or private nature were frequently complied with. England becoming gradually more opulent and powerful, was led, from vanity or am-<80>bition, to take a greater share in the disputes of her neighbours, and to assume a higher rank in the scale of nations. Her civil and military establishments became gradually more extensive; the management and protection of her increasing wealth required a greater variety of regulations; and the number of her officers and magistrates, in all the departments of administration, was, of course, augmented. An augmentation of the public revenue, to supply the growing wants of the state, was thus rendered indispensible.
In a course of time these public burdens became familiar and habitual, both to parliament and to the nation, and the imposition of new taxes, which, in the beginning had often excited alarm and clamour, was at length reduced to an ordinary transaction, requiring little examination or attention, and of which the refusal would betray uncommon suspicion and discontent. It happened in this as it usually happens in cases of private liberality. A donation which has been frequently and regularly bestowed comes, after a length of time, to be regarded as a kind of debt; and to withhold it is looked upon as a<81> species of injury. When parliament had been accustomed to confide in the reports of ministry, and, without much enquiry to acquiesce in their demands, its future confidence and acquiescence were expected; and the money came to be sometimes granted even in cases where the measures of administration, which had occasioned the expence, were condemned and severely censured.
But notwithstanding the readiness of parliament to stretch every nerve in supplying the demands of the executive government, the necessities of administration surpassed, occasionally, what the circumstances of the nation were thought able to afford. Having incurred an expence beyond what the taxes which could be levied within the year were sufficient to repay, the ministry endeavoured to relieve themselves by such an expedient, as in a similar case, has commonly been suggested to individuals. They anticipated the national income, by borrowing the money required, and assigning a particular branch of revenue for the security of the creditor. The funds appropriated to this purpose were not, at first, intended to remain under per-<82>petual mortgage; being sufficient, not only to discharge the yearly interest of the debt, but even to clear the incumbrance in a few years. Successive experiments, however, encouraged ministers to venture upon still more expensive undertakings; the quantity of money in circulation, a consequence of the flourishing state of commerce, enabled them easily to find the sums that were wanted; and by giving to the creditor a high rate of interest, transferrable at pleasure, with other pecuniary emoluments, they had no difficulty in persuading him entirely to sink his capital. In this manner they introduced, what is called, a debt in perpetuity, the amount of which, for obvious reasons, has been continually and rapidly encreasing. By this expedient, a minister, whose interest may lead him to spend the whole public income in time of peace, is enabled to draw upon futurity for the additional expence of maintaining a war; and as in countries advancing rapidly in luxury, dissipation, and extravagance, every succeeding war is likely to be more expensive than the former, his<83> draughts can hardly fail to advance in the same proportion.
The public revenue has thus come to be divided into two great branches; that which is intended to defray the annual expence of government, and that which is levied to discharge the annual interest of the national debt. The former is plainly the source of influence in the crown, in proportion to the patronage resulting from the disposal of the money. All who enjoy, or who expect offices, or places of emolument, in the gift of the crown, and even in some degree their kindred and connections, may be expected to court, and to support that interest upon which they depend; to acquire suitable habits, opinions, and prejudices, and in such disputes or differences as occur between prerogative and privilege, to arrange themselves under the ministerial standard.
In the same class with the patronage derived from this ordinary revenue, we may consider that which arises from various other offices, or places of honour and profit, in the gift, or under the controul and direction of administration, though supported<84> by different funds; such as those proceeding from the government of Ireland, or of the British colonies; the higher dignities in the church; the lucrative places in the service of the East India company,3 and many establishments for education and for charitable purposes. The extent of this patronage cannot easily be calculated; though it is apparently immense, and has been advancing in a highly accelerated ratio, from the revolution to the present time.
The other great branch of the public revenue, what is levied to pay the interest of the national debt, ought to be examined in connection with the money borrowed, by which that debt was contracted.
The money borrowed for the support of a war is the source of influence to the crown in two different ways. First, by its immediate expenditure, which occasions an immense patronage, from the sudden increase of the army and navy, the employment of numerous contractors and other civil officers, the appendages of war, and the various transactions which that active and violent state of the country may pro-<85>duce. Secondly, from the advantages accruing to those rich individuals, who lend the money to government, and who, by availing themselves of the pressing demands of the public, are enabled to reap more profit from the loan, than could be drawn from any other branch of trade.
In this situation the gain of the money-lenders, and of all who are employed in the service of the state, is evidently so much the greater, as the money is commonly spent, and the transactions of government are made, upon the spur of the occasion, amid the hurry and agitation of strong passions, without leisure to deliberate, and without opportunities of practising the ordinary rules of prudence and economy. In such cases, there is unavoidably a negligent waste, a precipitate rashness, in the public expenditure, from which those vermin, who feed upon the necessities of their country, enjoy a plentiful repast.4
Thus a war, though generally hurtful to the community at large, proves often highly beneficial to a portion of its members; to the landed gentlemen, who, by serving in<86> the army and navy, obtain a provision for themselves and their families; and those of the mercantile interest, who, by the extensive loans to government, and by lucrative employments, obtain the means of accumulating princely fortunes. From these private considerations it happens, that so much blood and treasure is frequently consumed in wars, undertaken from trivial causes, and continued without any rational prospect of public advantage.
To be sensible of the extent of this evil we need only consider, that, of the period which has elapsed from the revolution to the present time, between a third and one-half has been employed in wars, prosecuted in this expensive and improvident manner, and producing an incessant and regularly accelerated accumulation of public debt, which now amounts to more than five hundred millions.* It cannot escape observation, that the uncommon influence acquired by the crown, while the nation is in a state of warfare, will not be immediately extin-<87>guished upon the conclusion of a peace, but, from the usual effects of habit, by remembrance of the past, and by anticipation of future emoluments, may in some measure be retained and propagated from one military harvest to another.
With respect to the permanent funds created for paying the interest of the national debt, these give rise to a separate influence of the crown; first, by inducing the holders of stock to promote the popularity of ministers, and to support their measures, in order to raise the value of those funds; secondly, by the number of public officers, in the nomination of the king, who are employed in collecting or managing this branch of the revenue.
Upon the whole, the ordinary public revenue directly at the disposal of the crown, or indirectly contributing to its influence, which, immediately before the revolution, amounted to about two millions yearly, has, by the gradual expansion of the two great branches already mentioned, risen to the prodigious annual sum of above thirty millions; and thus without including the<88> value of those numerous offices and places, in the gift of the crown, which are supported by other funds than the national taxes.
That the secret influence of the crown has been continually encreasing from this change of circumstances will hardly be doubted. But has it encreased in proportion to the rise of the public revenue, and to the encrease in the value of all the offices and emoluments at the disposal of administration? This appears to merit a particular examination.
To have a full view of this question, it is proper to observe, that the augmentation of the public revenue, since the accession of William III. has proceeded from three different causes.
1. It has proceeded, in part, from the encreasing wealth of the nation. The defence of property is one of the great purposes of government; and according as more wealth has been accumulated by any people, its protection and security will cost more trouble; and, by giving rise to a more intricate system of regulations, will<89> require the employment of a greater number of persons in the service of administration. The encrease of riches in a country has, at the same time, a tendency to raise the price of commodities, as well as, from fashion, to introduce more expensive modes of living; and this makes it necessary that the different servants of government, to preserve the same rank as formerly, should obtain a suitable advancement of emoluments. An encrease of taxes, in some shape or other, is thus rendered indispensible.
So far as an augmentation of the revenue has arisen from the greater difficulty in the protection of property, producing a more intricate system of management, it must undoubtedly have encreased the influence of the crown; but so far as this augmentation has proceeded from a rise in the expence of living, there seems no ground for ascribing to it any such tendency. Supposing the expence of living to be trebled or quadrupled since the revolution, and that upon this account, the public revenue has been encreased in the same proportion; this encrease will neither enable ministers to<90> hire more servants, nor to reward them better; nor if it were employed even in the direct operation of bribery, would it produce a greater effect.
2. The augmentation of the public revenue has likewise been partly derived from an enlargement of the empire, and from a multiplication of the inhabitants. The greater the number of people included in one system of government, the management of their public concerns will be rendered the more complex, and of consequence more expensive. That this circumstance has contributed greatly to extend the influence of the sovereign is unquestionable.
The larger and more populous any empire becomes, that is, the greater the number of individuals paying taxes, the influence of the king, who has the disposal of the revenue, will, other circumstances being equal, become so much the greater; because that revenue acquires a greater superiority over the wealth of any one of his subjects, and overbalances more decisively that of any junto of the people, who could possibly associate for opposing and<91> controuling his authority. Suppose, for example, a nation composed of no more than 100,000 men, paying taxes at the rate of forty shillings each person. The revenue, which would thence arise, of 200,000 l. a year, would probably not render the Sovereign much richer than a few of his most opulent subjects, and consequently, after deducting the sum requisite for maintaining his family, would be totally inadequate to the support of his rank.
If the state were so enlarged as that the people, paying taxes at the same rate, amounted to a million, it is evident, that by the revenue of two millions yearly, which would thus be levied, the king would be exalted in a much greater proportion, and would have little reason to fear that his influence might be counterbalanced by any casual accumulation of property in the hands of his refractory subjects. By supposing a state to comprehend twenty or thirty millions, we may conceive that the revenue, according to the same rate of taxation, would bear down all opposition, and become perfectly irresistible.<92>
Lastly, the increase of the public revenue, during the period under consideration, may, perhaps chiefly, be imputed to the negligence and mismanagement incident to all extensive undertakings. Whoever considers the waste and bad economy which commonly take place in managing the private estate of a rich individual; the idleness and embezzlement of servants; the inattention, the fraudulent and collusive practices of stewards and overseers, may easily conceive the still greater abuses that are likely to occur in managing the concerns of a great empire. As there a strict oversight is impossible, all the servants in the various departments of government are left in some measure to their own discretion, and are at liberty to practice innumerable expedients for promoting their own interest. They will endeavour, therefore, we may suppose, to improve their situation in two different ways: first, by laying hold of every pretence, and employing every method to encrease their perquisites and emoluments: secondly, by doing as little as they possibly can, without in-<93>curring either punishment or censure; so that, in order to supply their deficiencies, a variety of assistants and inspectors must be appointed. The expence of administration is thus unnecessarily augmented, both by a needless multiplication of the officers in the service of government, and by bestowing upon them a greater income than the performance of their duty gives them any right to demand. To what a monstrous height has this abuse, which has continued for more than a century, been at length carried! How many officers, in church and state, obtain immense fortunes from the public for doing no work, or next to none! How many are often employed to perform the duty which might easily be performed by a single person! The tendency of this to encrease the patronage, and consequently the influence of the crown, is too obvious to require illustration.
It should seem, therefore, that the augmentation of the public revenue, so far as it has proceeded from any other circumstance, except an augmentation in the ge-<94>neral expence of living, has been attended with a proportional encrease in the patronage and influence of the crown, and has contributed to strengthen the monarchical part of the constitution.
We may further remark, that the influence, arising from the causes already specified, is apt to be the greater, as it operates upon the manners and habits of a mercantile people: a people engrossed by lucrative trades; and professions, whose great object is gain, and whose ruling principle is avarice: a people whose distinguishing feature, as a great author observes, is justice; equally opposed to dishonesty on the one hand, and to generosity on the other; not that nice and delicate justice, the offspring of refined humanity, but that coarse, though useful virtue, the guardian of contracts and promises, whose guide is the square and the compass, and whose protector is the gallows. By a people of this description, no opportunity of earning a penny is to be lost; and whatever holds out a view of interest, without violating any<95> municipal law, or incurring any hazard, is to be warmly embraced. Quaerenda pecunia primum.5
From the time of the revolution, accordingly, we may trace, in some measure, a new order of things; a new principle of authority, which is worthy the attention of all who speculate upon political subjects. Before that period, the friends of liberty dreaded only the direct encroachments of the prerogative: they have since learnt to entertain stronger apprehensions of the secret motives of interest which the crown may hold up to individuals, and by which it may seduce them from the duty which they owe to the public. To what a height, in fact, has this influence been raised in all the departments of government, and how extensively has it pervaded all ranks and descriptions of the inhabitants. In the army, in the church, at the bar, in the republic of letters, in finance, in mercantile and manufacturing corporations. Not to mention pensioners and placemen; together with the various officers connected with the distribution of justice, and the execution of<96> the laws, the corps diplomatique, and the members of the king’s confidential council. With what a powerful charm does it operate in regulating opinions, in healing grievances, in stifling clamours, in quieting the noisy patriot, in extinguishing the most furious opposition! It is the great opiate which inspires political courage, and lulls reflection; which animates the statesman to despise the resentment of the people; which drowns the memory of his former professions, and deadens, perhaps, the shame and remorse of pulling down the edifice which he had formerly reared.
Nor is the influence, founded on the numerous offices in the gift of the crown, confined to those who are in possession and in expectation of such offices, or even to their numerous relations and friends. In every country, a great majority of the people immersed in pursuits of gain, devoted to pleasure, unaccustomed to political speculation, or destitute of that firmness of character, which enables a man to assert the truth through good report, and through bad, are apt to take their opinions, in a great<97> measure from those around them. Such people are always to be found in the party prevailing for the time, whether the current may run in the channel of prerogative or of freedom; like those who are indifferent in religion, they are always supposed to hold the ruling faith, and counted as members of the established church. It is therefore of infinite consequence to have a number of partisans scattered through the nation, at all times zealous to support the administration, and ready to extol their measures. In this way, placemen, pensioners and expectants are of the most essential service to their employers. Like people stationed in different parts of a theatre to support a new play, they set up such an enthusiastic and noisy applause, as by giving an appearance of general approbation, drowns all opposition, confounds the timid, and secures the concurrence of that immense class of persons who either want leisure or talents to judge for themselves. In this manner it frequently happens that good and bad administrations have nearly an equal appearance of<98> popularity, and that ruinous measures seem to be sanctioned by the opinion of the nation.
The progressive advancement of influence in the crown, has gradually been productive of changes in the methods of conducting the business of the legislature. It was early an essential maxim in the English government, as I formerly observed, that every proposal for a new statute should originate in either house of parliament; and that, it could not come under the consideration of the king, until it had passed through the two houses. The crown, therefore, had merely a negative upon the resolutions of parliament, a power of preventing the state vessel from wandering into a new tract, not that of putting it in motion, or of directing its course. From the circumstances which have been mentioned, this order of proceeding is, in a good measure, inverted. Though the king had no right to interfere in the deliberations of parliament; yet his ministers, as members of either house, might suggest any bill to its consideration; and, from the secret influence of the crown,<99> the bills introduced in this manner were likely to obtain a favourable hearing, and to be most successful. At present almost all bills of importance are thus indirectly brought into parliament by the crown, and in all ordinary cases, are supported and passed by a great majority. Thus while the king no longer exercises his original prerogative of with-holding the royal assent from the determinations of parliament, he has in reality acquired the more important power of proposing the laws, and the privilege of debate which remains in the two houses, is reduced to a mere passive power of controul; that is, to be little more than a negative; a negative too, which, in the ordinary state of political controversy, can rarely be exercised.
Has there occurred nothing on the other side to counterbalance the effect of this growing patronage, and its correspondent influence? Have the progressive changes in the state of society, since the time of the revolution-settlement, contributed uniformly to support the authority of the monarch,<100> and can we discover no circumstances of an opposite nature tending to preserve the former equilibrium, by supporting the popular part of our constitution? The rapid improvements of arts and manufactures, and the correspondent extension of commerce, which followed the clear and accurate limitation of the prerogative, produced a degree of wealth and affluence, which diffused a feeling of independence and a high spirit of liberty, through the great body of the people; while the advancement of science and literature dissipated the narrow political prejudices which had prevailed, and introduced such principles as were more favourable to the equal rights of mankind. This is the other great change in the state of society, to which I alluded in the beginning of this chapter, and of which I shall now proceed to give an account.
In a review of the different reigns, from that of William III. to the present time, I shall afterwards endeavour to trace the struggles between those two opposite principles, of regal influence and popular inde-<101>pendence, and to point out the chief incidents of a constitutional history, lying in a good measure beneath that common surface of events which occupies the details of the vulgar historian.<102>
The Advancement of Manufactures, Commerce, and the Arts, since the Reign of William III.; and the Tendency of this Advancement to diffuse a Spirit of Liberty and Independence.
The natural advantages of England, in the cultivation of wool, having promoted her woollen manufacture, it was to be expected that her industry, and her capitals, derived from that source, would be communicated to other branches of labour, in which they might be employed with similar success. Her maritime situation, by extending the benefit of water-carriage over a great part of the island, and by rendering many of the inhabitants acquainted with navigation, was calculated to produce a suitable extension of commerce, and to open a foreign market for such of her commodities as exceeded her internal consumption. The full establishment of a regular and free constitution was alone wanting to improve these favourable<103> circumstances, by exciting that energy and vigour which political liberty, and the secure possession and enjoyment of property are wont to inspire. This was obtained by the memorable Revolution in 1688, which completed, and reduced into practice, a government of a more popular nature, and better fitted to secure the natural rights of mankind, than had ever taken place in a great nation. From this happy period, therefore, commerce and manufactures assumed a new aspect, and, continuing to advance with rapidity, produced innumerable changes in the state of society, and in the character and manners of the people.
It would be superfluous to observe, that these improvements have been attended with correspondent advances in agriculture, and in the arts connected with it. Commerce and manufactures, by encreasing wealth and population, must enhance the demand for provisions; and consequently, by augmenting the profits of the farmer, cannot fail to stimulate his industry and activity. It will be found, accordingly, from the general history of the world, that, in all countries<104> where there is no trade, the cultivation of the ground, if at all known, is performed in a rude and slovenly manner; and that a considerable progress of mercantile improvements has generally preceded an equal degree of skill and dexterity in the several branches of husbandry. The cultivation of the ground, as Dr. Smith justly observes, can never, in any country, approach to perfection, until the price of butcher-meat has, from the diffusion of wealth, risen to such a pitch as will induce the farmer to employ his best grounds, at least occasionally, in the pasturing of cattle; by which he may obtain a constant supply of manure, sufficient to repair that part of his land which has been exhausted by tillage. As England has been long in that situation, her best land is frequently retained for the sole purpose of feeding cattle, or in what is called meadow; while in Scotland, whose mercantile and agricultural improvements have been much later, there is no such general practice; and the appellation of meadow, is only given to those marshy<105> grounds, which, for want of draining, are unfit for the plough.
The same circumstances, which thus promoted the internal trade of England, were no less favourable to her commercial intercourse with other nations. The encouragement of her foreign trade became a great object as far back as the reign of James I. and of Elizabeth; when trading companies were erected by public authority, and colonies, under the protection of government, were formed in distant parts of the globe. Those great companies were, at the same time, invested with exclusive privileges, calculated to secure them in the monopoly of the several branches of trade for which they had been incorporated. In the infancy of commerce, such regulations were, perhaps, requisite for the encouragement of new and hazardous undertakings; and their apparent equity, inasmuch as they bestowed upon the adventurers the fruit of their own spirited activity, could hardly be disputed. But in a subsequent period, when the progress of commercial improvements had produced large capitals,<106> and a numerous body of merchants, ready to engage in every enterprise which promised an adequate, though, perhaps, a distant return of profit, it began to be perceived that these monopolies were, in every view, inconvenient and pernicious. They contributed to check any competition among the workmen engaged in producing those commodities, which were the subject of the monopoly trade; and, consequently, tended to diminish the quantity, as well as to degrade the quality, of those commodities.1 They also prevented all competition in the sale of such commodities, and enabled the monopolists, by starving the market, to advance their price in proportion. Thus the community at large became a sufferer in two respects; first, by procuring goods of an inferior quality to what might otherwise have been expected; secondly, by being obliged to purchase them above their natural rate. Since the Revolution, therefore, these exclusive trading companies have been gradually abolished; and their trade laid open to the whole nation. The monopoly of the East India company has alone<107> been excepted, and continues to be enforced with the utmost rigour. Some authors have endeavoured, from the distance of the country, and from the extent and other peculiarities of the Indian trade, to justify this exception; but, after all, there is little room to doubt, that it has proceeded from political, more than from commercial considerations, and that the strength, not the weakness of this company, is the real ground of the support which it has of late received from government.
The system of imposing restrictions upon commerce has not been directed solely to the purpose of encouraging particular trading companies. Politicians have conceived that individuals, in prosecuting schemes of private interest, were it not for the watchful inspection and controul of government, might be tempted to employ their labour, and their capitals, upon such branches of trade as are less beneficial to the public than others; and that they ought to be restrained and diverted from so doing by numerous regulations; by taxes, prohibitions, and bounties. In particular, the view<108> of preserving a balance of our trade with foreign nations, ought to drive us out of every market in which our imports exceed our exports. Our trade with every foreign country was regarded as profitable, if we sent to it more goods than we received, and, consequently, obtained a surplus in money. If the contrary, it was considered as unprofitable and hurtful. This maxim which runs through the older writers on trade, appears now to be almost universally exploded. When we give to our neighbours money for useful and marketable commodities, we obtain a real value, and an adequate mercantile profit, no less than when we give commodities for their money. To carry on the trade of our country with advantage, and to supply the wants of the inhabitants, it may often be requisite that we should purchase the goods of particular nations, who have not an equal demand for our manufactures; but this will be compensated by our trade with others, who are in opposite circumstances, and who give to us a surplus in money. If our consumption be not greater than our productions; that<109> is, if we are an industrious people; the balance of our trade with all the world, taken complexly, whatever may be the case with particular nations, can never be against us; and, if we have commodities for which there is a general demand, we can seldom remain long without an opportunity of turning them into money.
The quantity of the current species upon the face of the globe is naturally, and without any artificial direction, adjusted to the extent of the circulation in each particular country; for its occasional scarcity, in any one quarter, would raise its value in that place, and make it constantly flow thither until the equilibrium should be restored.
Upon the whole, there is good reason to conclude, that the mercantile people are the best judges of their own interest; and that, by pursuing those lines of trade which they find most beneficial to themselves, they are likely to produce, in most cases, the greatest benefit to the public. The administrators of government can seldom, from their own knowledge, be sufficiently qualified to judge in matters of this kind; and<110> they are likely to be directed by persons who have an interest to mislead them. They have, therefore, frequently contributed more to hurt, than to improve the commercial machine, by their tampering; and their interpositions, besides loading the public with immediate expence, from the bounties bestowed upon the favourite branches of trade, have diverted the mercantile capitals of the nation into channels, very different from their natural course, in which they have been productive of less profit, than they would otherwise have yielded.
For inculcating this truth, and placing it in a great variety of lights, the world is much indebted to the philosophers of a neighbouring country;2 and still more to the ingenious and profound author of “The Causes of the Wealth of Nations”; by whom the subject is explained and illustrated in a manner that affords the fullest conviction. The universal approbation which this new doctrine has met with in the higher classes of mercantile people, in opposition to a rooted prejudice, connected with the<111> private interests of a numerous body of men, is, of itself, a decisive proof of the high advances of commercial improvement, and of the enlarged views of political economy, by which the present age has become so eminently distinguished.
The great extension of those means, which have been devised to promote and facilitate the circulation of commodities, affords another satisfactory illustration of the great extent, and the rapid encrease, of our commercial dealings.
The introduction of money was a necessary contrivance for producing an exchange between persons, who had no reciprocal demand for the goods of each other. By this expedient, any person, provided with a sufficient quantity of the current species, was in a condition to purchase from every one who had goods to dispose of. But when, in the progress of commerce, merchants came to be engaged in a multiplicity of transactions, the quantity of money which they were obliged, at all times, to keep in their possession, for satisfying their occasional demands, became proportionably<112> large; and the retaining so much dead stock, which yielded no profit, was an inconvenience, from which, we may easily suppose, they endeavoured, by every possible means, to relieve themselves. If they had the reputation of wealth, they might sometimes persuade a creditor to accept of their personal obligation in place of immediate payment; and their promissory note, properly authenticated, might even be regarded as nearly equivalent to ready money, and might therefore pass from hand to hand in the purchase of goods. From an extension of this practice proceeded the establishment of banks, or mercantile companies, possessed of sufficient wealth to ensure their good credit, who made it a regular business, upon receiving an equivalent, to issue promissory notes payable on demand; and even, upon a suitable premium, to advance money upon the personal obligation of others. These institutions were introduced into the mercantile countries of Europe, from the interposition of public authority, by which the members of each banking company were incorporated, and exempted from being<113> liable to their creditors beyond the extent of a certain specified capital. Upon this footing, the Bank of England was erected, soon after the accession of William III.; and at a subsequent period, two smaller companies, of a similar nature, were established in the northern part of the island.3 But the advantages derived from this branch of trade, have since produced innumerable private adventurers over the country, who, without any aid from government, and consequently becoming liable to the amount of their whole fortunes, have engaged in the banking business, and appear to have pushed all its branches to their utmost extent. By the assistance of these banks, whether public or private, the nation has obtained a variety of resources for procuring money upon a sudden demand, and for turning it to an immediate account as soon as the demand is over; so that the quantity of current specie, which must ever lie unemployed in the hands of an individual, has been rendered more and more insignificant.
The same effect has flowed indirectly from the establishment of the funds belong-<114>ing to some great mercantile corporations, and of those created by the public for paying the interest of the national debt; the nature of which I shall have occasion hereafter to consider. As every one is permitted to buy or sell, at his conveniency, greater or smaller shares in those funds, he has thus the command of money for any lucrative undertaking, and may replace it with profit whenever it ceases to be better employed.
In these progressive improvements of our commercial policy, without entering farther into particulars, we cannot fail to recognize the appearances of a nation which has long enjoyed all the advantages of high prosperity in trade and manufactures; and it remains to enquire, how far the uninterrupted possession, and daily encrease of these blessings, have contributed to inspire the people with higher notions of liberty, and more ardent zeal in defence of their privileges.
The spirit of liberty appears, in commercial countries, to depend chiefly upon two circumstances: first, the condition of the people relative to the distribution of pro-<115>perty, and the means of subsistence; secondly, the facility with which the several members of society are enabled to associate and to act in concert with one another.
1. With respect to the former circumstance, the whole property of such a country, and the subsistence of all the inhabitants, may, according to the phraseology of late writers upon political economy, be derived from three different sources; from the rent of land or water; from the profits of stock or capital; and from the wages of labour: and, in conformity to this arrangement, the inhabitants may be divided into landlords, capitalists, and labourers.
Of labourers, who form the lowest class, the situation and way of life must, in every country, render them in some degree dependent upon the person who gives them employment. Having little or no property, and earning a bare subsistence by their daily labour, they are placed in a state of inferiority which commonly disposes them to feel some respect for their master; they have an interest to avoid any difference with him; and in the execution of their work,<116> being constantly required to follow his directions, they are apt, in some degree, to acquire habits of submission to his will.
The relative condition of the labouring people, however, must vary considerably according to the differences which occur in the general state of society. In rude countries, even where domestic slavery is excluded, the chief labourers are either menial servants, or such as cultivate the ground; and, as they generally continue for life in the service of the same person, his influence over them is naturally very great. But, in commercial countries, the bond of union between the workmen and their employer is gradually loosened. There, the most numerous class of labourers are those employed in subserviency to trade or manufactures; and they are so indiscriminately engaged in the service of different persons, that they feel but little the loss of a particular master, with whom they have formed but a slight connection. When a country, at the same time, is rapidly advancing in trade, the demand for labourers is proportionably great; their wages are continually<117> rising; instead of soliciting employment, they are courted to accept of it; and they enjoy a degree of affluence and of importance, which is frequently productive of insolence and licentiousness.
That the labouring people in Britain have, for some time, been raised to this enviable situation, is evident from a variety of circumstances; from the high price of labour, and the difficulty of procuring workmen; from the absurd attempts of the legislature to regulate their wages, and to prevent them from deserting particular employments; from the zeal displayed by the lower orders in the vindication of their political, as well as of their private rights; and, above all, from the jealousy and alarm with which this disposition has, of late, so universally impressed their superiors.
When a labourer has acquired so much property as will enable him, without wages, to subsist until he has manufactured a particular commodity, he may then gain, upon the sale of it, a profit over and above the ordinary value of his labour. In proportion to the enlargement of his capital, his<118> productions, by the employment of subordinate hands will be multiplied, and his profits, of course, extended. Thus, according as the business of producing and disposing of commodities becomes more extensive and complicated, it is gradually subdivided into various departments, and gives rise to the several classes, of manufacturers, tradesmen, and merchants.
To discover the different sources of mercantile profit, we may distinguish two sorts of stock, or capital, belonging to a manufacturer or merchant; the circulating, and the permanent stock; the former comprehending the goods which he brings to the market; the latter, the houses, the machinery, and the various accommodations which he requires for the manufacture or sale of his goods.
To a manufacturer, the circulating stock affords a profit, by enabling him to unite many different branches of labour upon the same commodity, and, consequently, to save that expence of carriage, which would be incurred if those branches were separately performed in different places, and the<119> amount afterwards collected. If, for example, the several operations requisite in the woollen manufacture were to be performed separately, by workmen at a distance from each other, there would be an expence of carriage necessary to unite the effect of their several productions, which is totally avoided by collecting the different hands in the same neighbourhood, and accumulating their labour upon the same commodity. The manufacturer, therefore, draws a return for his capital, inasmuch as it has been the means of shortening the labour, and consequently of diminishing the expence of his manufacture.
It is unnecessary to observe, that by the saving of carriage there is also a saving of time, which is no less valuable; and the manufacturer obtains an additional profit, according as, with the same labour, he can sooner bring his goods to market.
As by collecting many hands in the same manufacture, the undertaker saves an actual expence, he also obtains a direct advantage by having it in his power to divide minutely, the several branches of labour among different<120> workmen, so that each acquires more skill and dexterity in the single branch allotted to him, and is prevented from idling, and losing time, as commonly happens, in passing from one branch to another. The prodigious effect of this division of labour, by increasing the quantity of work done in a given time, as well as by improving its quality, becomes also, like every other circumstance tending to facilitate labour, a separate source of profit to the manufacturer.*
To the merchant, or tradesman, the circulating stock is the source of profit<121> upon similar principles. It enables him to save the purchasers from the trouble and expence of bespeaking the goods before they stand in need of them, and of providing themselves at once with more than they immediately want; while the quantity which he has collected, and the number of his customers, ensure to him the disposal of the whole within a reasonable time. The larger the stock of the merchant, provided it does not exceed the general demand, the saving which he thus procures to his customers, without loss to himself, will be the more complete and certain.
With respect to permanent mercantile stock, consisting of the machinery, the houses, and the various accommodations employed by manufacturers or traders, in the course of their business, it is intended for the sole purpose of assisting and promoting the operations upon circulating stock; and having therefore, still further a tendency to shorten and facilitate labour, it must, upon that account, be also productive of a suitable profit.<122>
It should seem, therefore, an evident conclusion from these observations, that the benefit resulting from every species of trade or manufacture, is ultimately derived from labour; and that the profit arising from every branch of mercantile stock, whether permanent or circulating, is derived from its enabling the merchant, or manufacturer, to produce the same effect with less labour, and consequently with less expence than would otherwise have been required.
It merits attention, however, that the whole revenue drawn by a merchant, or manufacturer, though in a loose way commonly called his profit, does not with propriety come under this description. Besides the value of his capital, from its effect in shortening, facilitating, and superseding labour, he draws an adequate compensation for his own efforts in putting that capital in motion, for his attention and skill in conducting the several parts of the business, and for the inconvenience he may sustain in waiting a distant, and in some degree, an uncertain return. The former is properly<123> the rent of capital: the latter may be called the wages of mercantile exertion. These two branches of revenue are frequently separated, inasmuch as the merchant, or manufacturer, borrows a part of the capital with which he trades, and pays for it a regular interest, or as the acting partners of the commercial company draw salaries for their personal attendance.
Those who obtain a revenue from capital, therefore, are either monied men who live upon the interest of their money, or mercantile adventurers, who draw, either a profit from their own capital, or a sort of wages from trading with the capital of others. Both of these orders are much more independent in their circumstances than the common labourer: but the former according to the extent of his revenue, is more independent than the latter. The mercantile adventurer draws his revenue from a multiplicity of customers, with whom he is commonly upon equal terms of affluence, and to each of whom he is but little obliged; but the monied man lives entirely upon his<124> property, and is obliged to nobody for any part of his maintenance.
When we consider the changes in this respect, which have taken place in Britain since the period of the revolution; in what proportion both of these orders of capitalists have been multiplied; when we observe the number of common labourers who are daily converted into artificers, frequently vending their own productions; what crowds of people are continually rising from the lower ranks, and disposed of in the various branches of trade; how many have acquired, and how many more are in the high road of acquiring opulent fortunes; how universally mutual emulation, and mutual intercourse, have diffused habits of industry, have banished idleness, which is the parent of indigence, and have put it into the power of almost every individual, by the exertion of his own talents, to earn a comfortable subsistence; when, I say, we attend to the extent of these improvements, which affect the whole mercantile part of the inhabitants, we cannot entertain a doubt of their powerful<125> efficacy to propagate corresponding sentiments, of personal independence, and to instil higher notions of general liberty.
The observations which have been made, with respect to the trader and capitalist, are, in a great measure, applicable to the cultivator and proprietor of land. The farmer, who by his labour and skill, and by the employment of stock, draws a revenue from the cultivation of land, is in circumstances similar to those of the manufacturer. From his cattle, from his tools and instruments of husbandry, and from the money expended in the management of his farm, he derives a profit suitable to their effect, in shortening and facilitating his labour; and the ground itself may be regarded as a part of his permanent stock, contributing, like a loom, or other piece of machinery, to the result of his operations. But as the ground has greater stability, as it appears of much greater importance than all the remaining stock of the farmer, and as in many cases it belongs to a different person, the profit arising from it, which is regularly payable to the landlord, has been commonly<126> distinguished under the name of rent, while that which arises from the other part of agricultural stock, is viewed in the same light with mercantile profit. There is, however, no essential difference between those two branches of revenue; they both depend upon the same principles, and bear a regular proportion to the value of the respective funds from which they are drawn.
There is, indeed, one particular in which they require to be distinguished; I mean, with respect to the degree of independence which, in different situations, they bestow upon the possessor. In poor countries, where agriculture is in a low state, the great value of land, compared with the other parts of agricultural stock, renders the employment of the latter in a great measure subordinate to that of the former; and reduces the people who cultivate the ground to be a sort of servants or dependents of the proprietor. But the improvement of husbandry gives more dignity to this useful profession, and raises the condition of those who exercise it. As the operations of the<127> farmer become extensive, his capital must be enlarged; and as he lays out greater expence in improvement, he must obtain a longer lease to afford him the prospect of a return from the lands. He is thus totally emancipated from his former dependence; becomes more enterprising in proportion to his opulence; and upon the expiration of his lease, he finds that it is not more his object to obtain a good farm, than it is the interest of every landlord to obtain a good tenant. This has, for some time, been the general condition of the farmers in England; and to this independent state they are quickly advancing in the more improvable parts of Scotland.
Such are the changes which, in the course of the present century, have taken place, and are still rapidly advancing in Britain, with relation to the different branches of revenue, arising from the wages of labour, and from the employment of stock, either in trade, or in the cultivation of the earth; and with relation to the condition of the respective orders of men by whom those branches of revenue are enjoyed.<128> The tendency of improvement in all the arts of life, and in every trade or profession, has been uniformly the same; to enable mankind more easily to gain a livelihood by the exercise of their talents, without being subject to the caprice, or caring for the displeasure of others; that is, to render the lower classes of the people less dependent upon their superiors.
It must not, however, be imagined, that this independent situation of mankind, with respect to the means of subsistence, will always prevent such inequalities of fortune, as may create in some of the members of society an influence over others. The unequal distribution of property, is a necessary consequence of the different degrees of application or abilities, co-operating with numberless accidents, which retard or promote the pecuniary pursuits of individuals; and the poor will often find their account in courting the favour of the rich. Any attempt, upon the part of the public, to limit the free accumulation of wealth, would be fatal to that industry or exertion which is the foundation of national pros-<129>perity. Sound policy requires that every man should feel a continual spur to his activity from the prospect of enjoying at pleasure, and disposing of the fruits of his labour. But the circumstances of a country, highly advanced in commerce and manufactures, are such as, naturally, and without any interposition of government, have a tendency to moderate those great differences of fortune, which, in a rude age, are usually the source of tyranny and oppression.4 Where a multitude of people are engaged in lucrative trades and professions, it must commonly happen that a number of competitors, placed in similar circumstances, will meet with nearly equal success; and that their several acquisitions will counterbalance each other, so as to prevent, in any one quarter, the growth of an influence that might be dangerous to the community. The same spirit, being universally, and in some measure equally diffused, and being subject to no obstruction, either from the state of society, or from the injudicious regulations of the public, is likely to form such a gradation of opulence, as leaving no<130> chasm from the top to the bottom of the scale, will occasion a continual approximation of the different ranks, and will frequently enable the inferior orders to press upon the superior. “The toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, that it galls his kibe.”
The effect of superiority in wealth, as I had occasion to shew in a former part of this discourse, is further diminished in commercial countries, by the frequent alienation of estates. As persons of low rank are incited by their situation to better their circumstances, and commonly acquire such habits of industry and frugality, as enable them to accumulate; those who are born to great fortunes, are apt, on the other hand, to become idle and dissipated, and living in all the expence which opulence renders fashionable, are frequently tempted to squander their estates. Hence, opulent families are quickly reduced to indigence; and their place is supplied by professional people from the lower orders; who, by the purchase of land, endeavour to procure that distinction which was the end of their<131> labours. The descendants of these upstarts, in a generation or two, usually go the same round of luxury and extravagance, and finally experience the same reverse of fortune. Property is thus commonly subjected to a constant rotation, which prevents it from conferring upon the owner the habitual respect and consideration, derived from a long continued intercourse between the poor and the rich.
To preserve old families from this destruction became a great object in Britain, and in the other countries of Europe, as soon as commerce began to threaten the dissolution of estates. Entails were invented to arrest and secure the estate; titles of nobility, to preserve the personal dignity of the possessor. But these contrivances were of little avail. When such restrictions became inconsistent with the manners of the age, they could no longer be enforced. In England the fetters of an entail were, by the ingenuity of lawyers, gradually lightened, and at length easily struck off; though in Scotland, a country in which aristocratic government was more firmly rooted, they still remain in full force.<132> The rank of nobility being connected with political distinction, has hitherto maintained its ground, and continues to be the object of ambition; but when separated from the estate which gave it support, so far from being of service to the owner, it operates as an exclusion from almost all the paths of industry, and seems to confer a mock-dignity upon real and hopeless indigence and servility.
The opulence of Britain, in the present century, it is evident, has greatly surpassed that of the preceding ages, in facilitating to the poor the means of accumulation, in multiplying to the rich those artificial wants which produce a rapid circulation of estates, and consequently, in subverting that permanent state of property which is the foundation of all hereditary influence.5
2. As the advancement of commerce and manufactures in Britain, has produced a state of property highly favourable to liberty, so it has contributed to collect and arrange the inhabitants in a manner which enables them, with great facility to combine in asserting their privileges.<133>
When government has been so far established as to maintain the general tranquillity, and to introduce peaceable manners; and when a set of magistrates, and rulers, are invested with an authority, confirmed by ancient usage, and supported, perhaps, by an armed force, it cannot be expected that the people, single and unconnected, will be able to resist the oppression of their governors: and their power of combining for this purpose, must depend very much upon their peculiar circumstances. In small states, consisting merely of a capital city, with a narrow adjacent country, like those of ancient Greece and Rome, the inhabitants were necessarily led to an intimate union and correspondence; which appears to have been the chief cause of their being able, at an early period, to expel their petty princes, and establish a popular government. But in large kingdoms, the people being dispersed over a wide country, have seldom been capable of such vigorous exertions. Living in petty villages, at a distance from one another, and having very imperfect means of communication, they are often<134> but little affected by the hardships which many of their countrymen may sustain from the tyranny of government; and a rebellion may be quelled in one quarter before it has time to break out in another. The efforts, which are occasionally made, in different parts of the country, to limit the prerogative, being without union or concert, are commonly unsuccessful; and therefore, instead of producing the effect intended, usually terminate in the exultation of the crown. The unlucky insurgents are obliged to make their peace with the sovereign, by submitting to new encroachments; and to wipe off their former demerits by assisting to reduce their fellow-citizens to obedience. To this want of concert in the members of a wide country, we may ascribe the rise of the greater part of rude monarchies; and more especially those of the great Asiatic nations.
From the progress, however, of trade and manufactures, the state of a country, in this respect, is gradually changed. As the inhabitants multiply from the facility of procuring subsistence, they are collected in<135> large bodies for the convenient exercise of their employments. Villages are enlarged into towns; and these are often swelled into populous cities. In all those places of resort, there arises large bands of labourers or artificers, who, by following the same employment, and by constant intercourse, are enabled, with great rapidity, to communicate all their sentiments and passions. Among these there spring up leaders, who give a tone and direction to their companions. The strong encourage the feeble; the bold animate the timid; the resolute confirm the wavering; and the movements of the whole mass proceed with the uniformity of a machine, and with a force that is often irresistible.
In this situation, a great proportion of the people are easily roused by every popular discontent, and can unite with no less facility in demanding a redress of grievances. The least ground of complaint, in a town, becomes the occasion of a riot; and the flames of sedition, spreading from one city to another, are blown up into a general insurrection.
Neither does this union arise merely from local situations; nor is it confined to the<136> lower class of those who are subservient to commerce and manufactures. By a constant attention to professional objects, the superior orders of mercantile people become quick-sighted in discerning their common interest, and, at all times, indefatigable in pursuing it. While the farmer, employed in the separate cultivation of his land, considers only his own individual profit; while the landed gentleman seeks only to procure a revenue sufficient for the supply of his wants, and is often unmindful of his own interest as well as of every other; the merchant, though he never overlooks his private advantage, is accustomed to connect his own gain with that of his brethren, and, is therefore, always ready to join with those of the same profession, in soliciting the aid of government, and in promoting general measures for the benefit of their trade.
The prevalence of this great mercantile association in Britain, has, in the course of the present century, become gradually more and more conspicuous. The clamour and tumultuary proceedings of the populace in the great towns are capable of penetrating<137> the inmost recesses of administration, of intimidating the boldest minister, and of displacing the most presumptuous favourite of the back-stairs. The voice of the mercantile interest, never fails to command the attention of government, and when firm and unanimous, is even able to controul and direct the deliberations of the national councils. The methods which are sometimes practised by ministry to divide this mercantile interest, and to divert its opposition to the measures of the crown, will fall more properly to be considered hereafter.
So much with regard to the progress of trade and manufactures in Britain, since the period of the revolution, and its consequences in rendering the people opulent, as well as independent in their circumstances. I shall now proceed to examine the tendency of this independence and opulence, to promote the cultivation of the liberal arts and sciences, to extend knowledge and literature over the great body of a people, and to introduce opinions and sentiments which may affect the nature of government.<138>
How far the Advancement of Commerce and Manufactures has contributed to the Extension and Diffusion of Knowledge and Literature.
It is natural to suppose that a proficiency in those practical arts, which multiply the necessaries and conveniencies of life will produce corresponding advances in general knowledge, and in the capacity of exercising the intellectual powers. Every practical art proceeds upon certain principles, discovered by experience and observation; and in the process of different arts there are numberless analogies and resemblances, which give rise to various deductions and conclusions, and thus, by a chain of reasoning, lead to new inventions and discoveries. The inexhaustible varieties of analogy and resemblance which occur in the objects around us, whether of art or nature, constitute the great<139> fund of general knowledge; and the faculty of discovering, and of arranging them, is justly regarded as the chief prerogative of the human understanding.
As the great wealth introduced by commerce and manufactures is, at the same time, very unequally divided, there springs up, of course, a numerous class of people, who, being born to affluent fortunes, are exempted from bodily labour, and who choosing to throw aside, in a great measure, the cares of business, indulge themselves in what is called pleasure. Being often destitute of that occupation which is necessary to preserve a relish for enjoyment, and without which the mind sinks into listless apathy and dejection. They seek amusement by artificial modes of occupying their imagination, in sports and diversions, in the collection and embellishment of those objects which are agreeable to the senses, and in those imitations and representations of nature which are calculated to excite admiration, wonder and surprise.1 Hence the introduction and improvement of the elegant and fine arts, which entertain us by the exhibition of what is grand, new<140> or beautiful, and which afford a delightful exercise to our taste, or a pleasing agitation of our passions.
The pursuits of mankind, however, are not limited to the objects of the common and mechanical, or of the elegant and fine arts. The first aim of every people is to procure subsistence; their next is to defend and secure their acquisitions. Men who live in the same society, or who have any intercourse with one another, are often linked together by the ties of sympathy and affection; as, on the other hand, they are apt, from opposite interests and passions, to dispute and quarrel, and to commit mutual injuries. From these different situations, they become sensible of the duties they owe to each other, and of the rights which belong to them in their various relations and capacities. A system of rules for enforcing those rights is gradually introduced, and the sciences of morality, of law, and of government, being more and more cultivated, give rise to a prodigious diversity of speculations and opinions. From the belief and the sentiments of mankind, in matters of<141> religion, there arises another science, not less intricate than the former, and which has proved even more fertile in disquisition and controversy. The remarkable appearances in the material world, the great changes in nature, the qualities and uses of the several productions of the earth; all these become in like manner, the subjects of attention and inquiry, and afford copious sources of knowledge and speculation.
While arts and sciences are thus advancing, they are gradually separated into different branches, each of which occupies the attention, and becomes the peculiar province of some individuals. The great branches of mechanical labour afford occupation to separate classes of workmen and artificers, who gain a livelihood by their peculiar employments; and according as every species of labour becomes more complicated, the separate classes of the people who derive a maintenance from it, are further subdivided. A similar division follows of course in those elegant and fine arts which become the subject of lucrative employments; as in painting, sculpture, and music.<142> Even in the cultivation of the sciences, the circumstances of society have commonly occasioned a separation of certain learned professions; and directed, in some measure, the attention of numerous classes of men to particular departments of knowledge. The diseases and accidents by which health is impaired have given rise to the medical profession, with its respective divisions, connected with various branches of natural science. The disputes and quarrels among mankind, with the modes which have been found expedient for settling their contentions without having recourse to arms, the execution of the various deeds requisite for the security and transmission of property, and the direction of those observances and forms which, in most countries, are established for ascertaining and confirming pecuniary transactions; these branches of business have given employment to attornies and lawyers, whose profession leads them to become acquainted with the rules of justice, and with the whole system of legal proceedings. From the belief of a Deity, and the corresponding sentiments which it inspires, has<143> arisen the profession of the clergy; whose business it is to preside over the public acts of religious worship, and who are naturally entrusted with the office of instructing the people in the great duties of morality.
But even in those cases where particular sciences are not immediately connected with any profession, the progress of study and speculation will dispose individuals, according to their peculiar talents or disposition, to give different directions to their inquiries, and to separate the objects of their speculative pursuits.
There can be no doubt that this division in the labours, both of art and of science, is calculated for promoting their improvement.2 From the limited powers both of the mind and the body, the exertions of an individual are likely to be more vigorous and successful when confined to a particular channel, than when diffused over a boundless expanse. The athlete who limited his application to one of the gymnastic exercises, was commonly enabled to practise it with<144> more dexterity than he who studied to become a proficient in them all.
But though the separation of different trades and professions, together with the consequent division of labour and application in the exercise of them, has a tendency to improve every art or science, it has frequently an opposite effect upon the personal qualities of those individuals who are engaged in such employments. In the sciences, indeed, and even in the liberal arts, the application of those who follow particular professions can seldom be so much limited as to prove destructive to general knowledge. In all liberal occupations or scientific professions, there are certain principles to be studied by every person engaged in the practice; principles which admit of an extensive application to a variety of objects, and which, in many cases, cannot be properly applied without exercising the united powers of imagination and judgment. The practitioner, therefore, who is in such cases, engrossed by the objects of his profession, may have an air of pedantry to those who<145> are occupied in different pursuits, but can seldom with justice be regarded as destitute of knowledge or of intellectual exertion. But the mechanical arts admit of such minute divisions of labour, that the workmen belonging to a manufacture are each of them employed, for the most part, in a single manual operation, and have no concern in the result of their several productions. It is hardly possible that these mechanics should acquire extensive information or intelligence. In proportion as the operation which they perform is narrow, it will supply them with few ideas; and according as the necessity of obtaining a livelihood obliges them to double their industry, they have the less opportunity or leisure to procure the means of observation, or to find topics of reflection from other quarters. As their employment requires constant attention to an object which can afford no variety of occupation to their minds, they are apt to acquire an habitual vacancy of thought, unenlivened by any prospects, but such as are derived from the future wages of their labour, or from the<146> grateful returns of bodily repose and sleep. They become, like machines, actuated by a regular weight, and performing certain movements with great celerity and exactness, but of small compass, and unfitted for any other use. In the intervals of their work, they can draw but little improvement from the society of companions, bred to similar employments, with whom, if they have much intercourse, they are most likely to seek amusement in drinking and dissipation.
It should seem, therefore, that in countries highly advanced in commerce and manufactures, the abilities and character of the labouring people, who form the great body of a nation, are liable to be affected by circumstances of an opposite nature. Their continual attention to the objects of their profession, together with the narrowness of those objects, has a powerful tendency to render them ignorant and stupid. But the progress of science and literature and of the liberal arts, among the higher classes, must on the other hand contribute to enlighten the common people, and to spread a degree of the same improvements over the whole<147> community. There is in all mankind a disposition to admire and to imitate their superiors; and the fashions, opinions, and ways of thinking, adopted by men of high rank, are apt to descend very quickly to persons of inferior station. Whenever any branch of learning becomes extensively useful, those who have a common interest in attaining it, are enabled, by joining together, to hire an instructor at an expence moderate to individuals. Schools and seminaries of education are thus introduced, and they are sometimes promoted by the well-meant encouragement and protection of the public. By their industry, different sorts of instruction are brought into a common market, are gradually cheapened by mutual competition, and, being more and more accommodated to the demands of society, become, as far as it is necessary, accessible even to the poor. Thus, in commercial countries, the important accomplishments of reading, writing, and accounting, are usually communicated at such easy rates, as to be within the reach of the lower orders.<148>
The publication of books affords another medium for the circulation of knowledge, the benefit of which must extend, in some degree, to every member of the community. When, among persons in affluent circumstances, who are exempted from bodily labour, reading becomes a common amusement, it is to be expected that their example in this, as in other things, will have an influence upon their inferiors; and, although the publications likely to fall into the hands of the common people will be such as are suited to their taste, and therefore, probably, not the best calculated for conveying instruction, they cannot fail to enlarge the imagination of the readers beyond mere professional objects, and even to communicate, perhaps, something of the opinions which prevail among the higher classes, upon the great popular topics of religion, morality, and government.
The effect of the cultivation proceeding from these different sources, is probably as remarkable at present, in Great Britain, as it has ever been in any commercial country, ancient or modern; but whether, upon the<149> whole, the artificial education thus communicated to the lower orders of the people, be sufficient to counterbalance the disadvantages of their natural situation, there may be good reason to doubt.
In ruder and more simple times, before labour is much subdivided, the whole stock of knowledge existing in a country will be scanty, but it will be more equally diffused over the different ranks, and each individual of the lower orders will have nearly the same opportunities and motives with his superiors, for exerting the different powers of his mind. The rude mechanic, residing in a small town, is forced to bestow his attention, successively, on many objects very different from each other. Not finding constant employment in one branch of manufacture, he exercises several, and furnishes himself with many of the tools requisite for each; he probably makes part of his own clothes, assists in building his own house and those of his neighbours, and cultivates, or directs his wife and children in cultivating, a small patch of ground, on which he raises part of his provisions. As he must<150> buy the materials, and sell or barter the produce of his labour, he is also, in some respects, a merchant; and, in this capacity, he is led to the observation of character, as well as to some speculation respecting the most advantageous times and places, for making his little bargains. When we add, that he is likewise trained to arms, for the purpose of assisting in defending the town of which he is a citizen, we must see that his situation, and consequently, his character, will be very different from that of a mechanic, in a more advanced society.
In this manner, all the members of a rude nation, being forced to exercise a great number of unconnected professions, and individually to provide for themselves, what each stands in need of, their attention is directed to a variety of objects; and their knowledge is extended in proportion. No man relies upon the exertions of his neighbour; but each employs, for the relief of his wants, or in defence of what belongs to him, either the strength of his body or the ingenuity of his mind, all the talents which he has been able to acquire, all the faculties<151> with which nature has endowed him. By experience, therefore, he learns to conduct himself in many different situations, to guard against the dangers to which he is exposed, and to extricate himself from the difficulties and embarrassments in which he may be involved. Unlike the mechanics of a commercial nation, who have each permitted all their talents, except in single and peculiar branches, to lie dormant and useless; but who combine, like the wheels of a machine, in producing a complicated system of operations, the inhabitants of a rude country have separately preserved, and kept in action, all the original powers of man; but in their united capacity, and as members of a community, they have added very little to the independent efforts of every individual.
If we compare the mechanics of different commercial states, we shall probably find that the respective degrees of their knowledge and intellectual attainments correspond with the foregoing observation. In England, and in= the other mercantile countries of Europe, it is believed, that, in pro-<152>portion to the advancement of manufactures, the common people have less information, and less curiosity upon general topics; less capacity, beyond the limits of their own employment, of entering into conversation, or of conducting, with propriety and dexterity, the petty transactions which accident may throw in their way.
This is perhaps the chief foundation of the common remark, which is made by the English, concerning the superior sagacity and cunning of their neighbours in the northern part of the island. As in Scotland commerce and manufactures have made less progress than in England, the great body of the people have not acquired the same habits of industry, nor are they so much engrossed by narrow mechanical employments. The man, therefore, has not been so entirely stripped of his mental powers, and converted into the mere instrument of labour. As the same individual often follows a greater variety of occupations, his understanding is more exercised, and his wits are more sharpened, by such different attentions. He is more capable of turning his hand to all<153> kinds of work, but he is much less a proficient in any. In the lower orders of society, where there are fewer restraints from education, it may be expected, that, in proportion as the people are more intelligent and quick-sighted, they will be more apt, in their mutual intercourse, to have their private interest in view, as well as to be more artful and subtle in pursuing it.*
Even in the same country, there is a sensible difference between different professions; and, according as every separate employment gives rise to a greater subdivision of workmen and artificers, it has a greater tendency to withdraw from them the means of intellectual improvement. The business of agriculture, for example, is less capable of a minute subdivision of labour than the greater part of mechanical employments. The same workman has often occasion to plough,<154> to sow, and to reap; to cultivate the ground for different purposes, and to prepare its various productions for the market. He is obliged alternately to handle very opposite tools and instruments; to repair, and even sometimes, to make them for his own use; and always to accommodate the different parts of his labour to the change of the seasons, and to the variations of the weather. He is employed in the management and rearing of cattle, becomes frequently a grazier and a corn-merchant, and is unavoidably initiated in the mysteries of the horse-jockey. What an extent of knowledge, therefore, must he possess! What a diversity of talents must he exercise, in comparison with the mechanic, who employs his whole labour in sharpening the point, or in putting on the head of a pin!3 How different the education of those two persons! The pin-maker, who commonly lives in a town, will have more of the fashionable improvements of society than the peasant; he will undoubtedly be better dressed; he will, in all probability, have more book-learning, as well as less coarseness in the<155> tone of his voice, and less uncouthness in his appearance and deportment. Should they both be enamoured of the same female, it is natural to suppose, that he would make the better figure in the eyes of his mistress, and that he would be most likely to carry the prize. But in a bargain, he would, assuredly, be no match for his rival. He would be greatly inferior in real intelligence and acuteness; much less qualified to converse with his superiors, to take advantage of their foibles, to give a plausible account of his measures, or to adapt his behaviour to any peculiar and unexpected emergency.
The circumstance now mentioned affords a view not very pleasant in the history of human society. It were to be wished that wealth and knowledge should go hand in hand, and that the acquisition of the former should lead to the possession of the latter. Considering the state of nations at large, it will, perhaps, be found that opulence and intellectual improvements are pretty well balanced, and that the same progress in commerce and manufactures which occa-<156>sions an encrease of the one, creates a proportional accession of the other. But, among individuals, this distribution of things is far from being so uniformly established; and, in the lower orders of the people, it appears to be completely reversed. The class of mechanics and labourers, by far the most numerous in a commercial nation, are apt, according as they attain more affluent and independent circumstances, to be more withdrawn and debarred from extensive information; and are likely, in proportion as the rest of the community advance in knowledge and literature, to be involved in a thicker cloud of ignorance and prejudice. Is there not reason to apprehend, that the common people, instead of sharing the advantages of national prosperity, are thus in danger of losing their importance, of becoming the dupes of their superiors, and of being degraded from the rank which they held in the scale of society?
The separation of a whole people into two great classes, of which the one was distinguished by knowledge and intelligence,<157> the other by the opposite qualities, occurred very remarkably over a great part of Europe, in what are called the dark-ages. A very numerous clergy, who had engrossed all the learning of the times, and whose understandings were whetted by an interested and incessant activity, formed the one class. The laiety, comprehending the military people, continually engaged in war and depredation, and the peasantry, reduced to the state of villainage, both equally sunk in ignorance and superstition, composed the other. In consequence of this unfortunate arrangement, the ministers of a religion which taught men to renounce all considerations of worldly interest, taking advantage of their superior talents, and uniting in a system of deep-laid fraud and deception, persuaded their simple flock to resign so great a proportion of their possessions, and to submit to a series of such extensive encroachments, as at length established an ecclesiastical tyranny, which the efforts of more than two centuries of diffusive science and philosophy, have hardly been able to overturn.<158>
But although commerce and manufactures, have, in like manner, a tendency to form two distinct and separate classes of the learned and the ignorant, there is no reason to suspect that the former will abuse their superiority, by perverting it to the hurt or detriment of the latter. It is plainly the interest of the higher ranks to assist in cultivating the minds of the common people, and in restoring to them that knowledge which they may be said to have sacrificed to the general prosperity. A certain degree of information and intelligence, of acquaintance with the good or bad consequences which flow from different actions, and systems of behaviour, is necessary for suggesting proper motives to the practice of virtue, and for deterring mankind from the commission of crimes. It surely is of the utmost consequence to the public, that men in the lower orders should be sober and industrious, honest and faithful, affectionate and conscientious in their domestic concerns, peaceable in their manners, and averse from riot and disorder. But how can it be expected that they will persevere in the<159> practice of the various duties incumbent upon them, unless they have acquired habits of observation and reflection; unless they have been taught to set a high value upon character and reputation, and are able to discover that such a conduct is no less conducive to their own interest, than to that of others. To render them useful in their several relations, either as men or citizens, it is requisite that they should be in a condition to form a proper estimate of the objects which will promote their true happiness, to detect those false appearances which might frequently mislead them, and to guard against the errors in religion, morality, or government, which designing men may endeavour to propagate. The doctrine maintained by some politicians, that the ignorance of the labouring people is of advantage, by securing their patience and submission under the yoke which their unequal fortune has imposed upon them, is no less absurd, than it is revolting to all the feelings of humanity. The security derived from so mean a source is temporary and fallacious. It is liable to be undermined by the intrigues<160> of any plausible projector, or suddenly overthrown by the casual breath of popular opinion.
As the circumstances of commercial society are unfavourable to the mental improvements of the populace, it ought to be the great aim of the public to counteract, in this respect, the natural tendency of mechanical employments, and by the institution of schools and seminaries of education, to communicate, as far as possible, to the most useful, but humble class of citizens, that knowledge which their way of life has, in some degree, prevented them from acquiring. It is needless to observe how imperfect such institutions have hitherto been. The principal schools and colleges of Europe have been intended for the benefit merely of the higher orders; and even for this purpose, the greater part of them are not very judiciously modelled. But men of rank and fortune, and in general those who are exempted from bodily labour, have little occasion, in this respect, for the aid of the public, and perhaps would be better supplied, if left, in a great measure, to their own<161> exertions. The execution, however, of a liberal plan for the instruction of the lower orders, would be a valuable addition to those efforts, for the maintenance of the poor, for the relief of the diseased and infirm, and for the correction of the malefactor, which have proceeded from the humanity and public spirit of the present age. The parish schools in Scotland, are the only extensive provisions of that nature hitherto known in the island; and though it must be confessed that they are but ill calculated for the purposes of general education, the advantages resulting from them, even in their present state, have been distinctly felt, and very universally acknowledged.<162>
The Separation of the different Branches of Knowledge; and the Division of the liberal Arts and of the Sciences.
To explain the political changes, arising in commercial countries, from the progress of liberal education, it may be proper that we should examine more particularly the principal branches of knowledge which are likely to be cultivated, and to consider how far they will probably influence the opinions, the character, and manners of society.
Without entering into any speculation concerning the separate existence of spiritual and corporeal substances, we may observe, that all the objects of knowledge appear naturally to reduce themselves into two great classes; the one relating to the operations of thought and intelligence; the other, to the qualities and operations of inanimate matter.<163>
Men are disposed more easily and readily to survey the corporeal objects around them than to direct their attention to the operations of their own thinking faculties. The study of inanimate nature, or physics, was accordingly the first branch of philosophy, upon which the sages of antiquity employed themselves, and upon which, after the revival of letters, any considerable progress was made. It extended to the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and to the most remarkable changes produced upon this earth; and it led to an examination of all such natural objects as are calculated to excite admiration or peculiar attention; of the winds and the tides, of thunder and= lightening; of the properties of air, of water, of fire, of electricity, of magnetism.
While mere curiosity excited mankind to an examination of the most remarkable changes and appearances upon the great theatre of the universe, an application to the practical arts of life, called them to a more minute investigation of particular objects. The employment of curing diseases and wounds, produced an attentive enquiry into<164> the medical virtues of plants and minerals. The progress of manufactures led to the discovery of the mechanical powers, and to the combination of these in the construction of machines. The vain attempts of an ignorant age to accomplish the transmutation of metals, and the prolongation of life beyond its natural boundaries, gradually suggested many wonderful effects of heat and mixture, and at length produced the modern science of chemistry, which after incurring the ridicule that might be expected from its original pretensions, has made such progress in compounding and analysing the different parts of matter as to be rendered equally subservient to the improvement of the arts, and to the progress of agreeable speculation.
As the several bodies, which were thus to be examined in a variety of lights, became gradually more numerous and complex, the advantage of arranging and reducing them into classes, was proportionally more apparent, and gave rise to the science of natural history with its different subdivisions.
In the investigation of all the general laws of nature, and in many of the practical<165> arts, it is often requisite to enumerate and compare the number, the magnitude, and the figure of different bodies; whence the sciences of geometry and calculation, which contain the conclusions deducible from such relations, were introduced, and applied to all the branches of natural and mechanical knowledge.
Such are the principal branches of science relating to corporeal objects. The sciences founded upon the operation of our mental faculties may be divided into three great classes, in each of which there is room for many subdivisions.
The good or bad behaviour of those who live in society with us, their virtues and vices, cannot fail very early to excite our attention, and to interest our feelings; while we soon perceive that these persons exercise a similar judgment upon us; and this leads us to reflect upon our own conduct, and to regard our own actions in the light in which they appear to others. The speculations, together with the practical rules and observations, arising from this important view of<166> society, form the science of ethics, or morality.
To account for the uncommon events which occur in the affairs of this world, or for the revolutions which happen in the state of natural objects, mankind, in reasoning by analogy, from experience of the movements and changes produced by themselves, have had recourse, almost universally, to the agency of superior beings, possessed of intelligence and powers resembling, but superior in degree to the human. From a belief in the existence of such beings, and from the consideration of their peculiar relations to ourselves, together with that of their capacity or disposition of doing us good or harm, has arisen the science of religion, comprehending a system of religious opinions and duties.
Beside those emotions and passions which lay a foundation for morality and religion, and which appear essential to the comfortable existence of man in the social state, there are other mental operations which contribute to adorn and embellish human society by encreasing its elegant enjoyments. These<167> are the effects of what is beautiful or sublime, either in art or nature;1 from which are derived the pleasures of taste, and what are called the fine arts. In all these arts, the practical rules give rise to an investigation of the principles upon which they are founded, and to a scientific deduction of the pleasures which are produced from their different sources, and thus the art and the science are made, in each case, to accompany one another; and the pleasure derived from the senses is heightened by an agreeable exercise of the understanding.
As, in these different views, the powers exerted by intelligent beings are highly interesting, as they are numerous, and wonderfully diversified, separated from each other by slender and almost imperceptible boundaries, and frequently combined in producing results which cannot easily be traced to their respective causes, it soon became an important object, to enumerate and to arrange the various operations of our thinking principle, to analyze them, to compare them together, and to discover their several relations. These investigations have been ap-<168>plied, though perhaps with little success, not only to man, but also to superior, and even to inferior orders of intelligence. Hence, the science of metaphysics, which may be regarded as auxiliary and subordinate to morality, religion, and the fine arts, and which, in the sciences founded upon the effects of our various mental exertions, appears to hold the same place that is held by natural history, in the sciences relating to corporeal objects.
With respect to the two great branches of science, of which an outline has been suggested, it must be admitted that natural philosophy and the several sciences connected with it, have no immediate effect in extending or improving our ideas with relation to government; further than as all the different branches of knowledge co-operate in dispelling prejudices, in strengthening the intellectual powers, and in promoting an ardent zeal in the discovery of truth. It merits attention, however, that the advancement of natural knowledge, in all its branches, is highly subservient to the improvement of the common arts of life, and consequently, by promoting opu-<169>lence and independence in the great body of a people, must contribute, in proportion, to inspire them with sentiments of liberty. To enable the inferior ranks to gain an easy subsistence by their labour is to lay the best foundation of popular government.
The exercise of the practical arts can hardly fail to suggest an investigation of the general principles upon which they are founded, and to produce discoveries which may be useful, in facilitating the different kinds of labour, or in penetrating the secret operations of nature. It seems reasonable to suppose, therefore, that such improvements as take their origin from the higher class of artizans, or from professional men who have had the advantage of a liberal education, would meet with the greatest encouragement in Britain, where manufactures have, for a century past, been more successfully cultivated than in any other part of Europe, and where, of course, a more extensive market has been provided for every profitable invention. Whether this market has been occasionally supplied by natives, or by foreigners,<170> invited into the country by the prospect of emolument, is of little importance.
Those improvements, on the contrary, which are the fruits of mere leisure and curiosity, and which afford occupation to the speculative philosopher, have perhaps, of late, been more successfully cultivated in some other European countries. The great genius of Newton,2 indeed, about a century ago, produced in this island a rapid advancement of true philosophy; while the high reputation of Des Cartes,3 in France, gave an unlucky bias to his countrymen, and disposed them to adopt his erroneous and chimerical doctrines. But though natural philosophy was thus retarded, it came at length to be more cultivated in France, and in some other parts of Europe, than in Britain; because, from the despotical government in those countries, the inhabitants were, in some measure, debarred from the more generally interesting inquiries upon religion, morality, and politics, and were confined in their speculations, either to matters of taste, and abstracted speculation, or to those de-<171>pending on the nature and operations of corporeal objects. Their exertions, therefore, have been the more conspicuous in that particular sphere to which they were limited; and in mathematical learning, in the several branches of physics, in chemistry, and in natural history, it should seem that their superior proficiency can hardly be disputed.
It cannot, however, escape the observation of those who attend to the history of literature, that, in most countries, after philosophical researches have made a certain progress, they commonly verge more and more to the pursuits of natural knowledge. To be satisfied of this, we need only consult the memoirs of those literary societies, in the different parts of Europe, which have been lately published, as that species of philosophy excited the earliest attention of mankind, so it appears calculated to arrest the curiosity of the most numerous class, in those ages when learning has arrived at full maturity. In our inquiries concerning the faculties and operations of the human mind, it soon becomes difficult to add to the stock of knowledge already acquired, or to exhibit such<172> views and reasonings as will contain much novelty or entertainment. It even requires peculiar acuteness and discernment in treating of those intricate subjects, to attain clear and distinct conceptions of what is already known, and to explain, in a manner sufficiently intelligible, the opinions of preceding philosophers. But the study of external nature, at least in many of its branches, requires no more than common understanding, with an ardent curiosity and perseverance of application. Every man who with the power of divising new experiments can submit to the patient examination of the contents of a crucible; he who can observe the several parts of a plant and assign it its proper place in a general system of classification, or who having made new and accurate inquiries into the economy of animals, can faithfully report and clearly explain the result of his inquiries; every such person is capable of increasing our knowledge of nature, and of acquiring some degree of a literary reputation. We need not be surprised, therefore, that these branches of science, which are adapted to the capacity of the greatest num-<173>ber, and in which the labours of mankind are most likely to be requited with suitable proficiency and information, should be most universally pursued, and become the most popular.
In our present inquiry it would be improper to enter into any further detail concerning the divisions of natural knowledge, which are so remotely connected with the political state of the nation. But in exhibiting a view of the changes in the tide of popular opinions which have taken place during the present century, it seems requisite to examine more particularly the sciences which immediately relate to the faculties and operations of the mind, and to consider how far the progress of speculation, and discussion, in matters of morality, religion, or taste, have influenced the sentiments of the people with relation to government.<174>
The Effects of Commerce and Manufactures, and of Opulence and Civilization, upon the Morals of a People.
That the dispositions and behaviour of man are liable to be influenced by the circumstances in which he is placed, and by his peculiar education and habits of life, is a proposition which few persons will be inclined to controvert. But how far this influence reaches, and what differences are to be found between the morals of rude and of civilized nations, it is not so easy to determine. The fact, I believe, has been seldom examined with that impartiality and deliberation which its importance requires. Moral and religious writers have usually thought proper to treat the subject in the style of satire and invective, and in declaiming against the vices of their own times, have been led to exalt the merit of distant<175> ages. A late celebrated author,* possessed of uncommon powers of eloquence, has gone so far as to maintain, first in a popular discourse, and afterwards in a long serious dissertation, that the rude and savage life is the parent of all the virtues, the vices of mankind being the proper and peculiar offspring of opulence and civilization.1
Instead of combating, or of criticising such paradoxical opinions, it is proposed to examine the effects of poverty and riches, of simplicity and refinement, upon practical morality; and to compare the predominant virtues and vices of the different periods of society. We shall thence be enabled to discover the influence which the commercial improvements of Great Britain have produced upon the moral character of the nation, and how far this influence has affected the political state of the people.
It should seem that the most remarkable differences, exhibited in the manners of polished and of barbarous nations, relate to<176> the virtues of courage and fortitude, of sobriety and temperance, of justice and generosity.2
[34. ]John Milton (1608–74) became Latin secretary to the Council of State after the execution of Charles I in 1649. Briefly imprisoned at the Restoration, he used his years of political disgrace to write Paradise Lost (1667), Paradise Regained (1671), and Samson Agonistes (1671). His chief politico-historical works were the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649) and the History of Britain (1669).
[35. ]James Harrington (1611–77): political theorist and author of The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656). He formed the Rota Club for political discussion in 1659–60.
[36. ]Lucius Cary, second Viscount Falkland (1610?–1643): served in the Long Parliament (1640) and spoke against Laud and Strafford in 1641. After 1642 he supported Charles I. On Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon, see note 15 in this chapter.
[37. ]Hampden died 18 June 1643 at Chalgrove Field, fighting royalist forces led by Prince Rupert, the nephew of Charles I.
[38. ]On Pym, see note 10 in this chapter.
[39. ]Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658): English statesman who superintended the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649. From late 1653 he was Lord Protector, a title that gave him supreme legislative and executive power in association with Parliament and the Council of State.
[† ]It must excite amazement to find, in opposition to every other account, that Oliver Cromwell is taxed with cowardice, in the most pointed terms, by no less a personage than Denzil Hollis, a zealous presbyterian, and eminent leader of the commons. If any credit could be given to this charge, it would rather increase than diminish our admiration of this extraordinary man; since it would lay us under the necessity of supposing that Cromwell, by his dexterity, judgment, and political firmness, was capable of concealing and counteracting the effect of a personal weakness, apparently, of all others, the most adverse to a military reputation. See Hollis’s Memoirs, pub. 1699.
[40. ]Eighteenth-century accounts, such as Hume’s, generally agree in considering Cromwell a fanatic and a hypocrite. It was only later in the nineteenth century that a new, more heroic image emerged, principally in the works of Thomas Carlyle.
[41. ]Robert Devereux, third earl of Essex (1591–1646), commanded the parliamentary forces at Edgehill (1642) and took Reading (1643) before he was forced to relinquish his command in 1645; Sir William Waller (1597?–1668), a parliamentary general who held joint commands with Essex and Cromwell, and was also forced to step down by the Self-Denying Ordinance (see note 43 in this chapter).
[42. ]Thomas Fairfax, third baron (1612–71): English soldier and statesman, was given command of the New Model Army in 1645 and crushed the royalist forces at Naseby. Later he was instrumental in restoring Charles II in 1660.
[43. ]A bill passed by the Commons on 19 December 1644 stipulating that no member of the House of Commons or Lords could hold any military command. Only Cromwell was exempt.
[44. ]Charles I was given over to Parliament on 30 January 1647.
[45. ]Charles I fled to the Isle of Wight on 11 November 1647.
[46. ]On 6 December 1648, troops commanded by Colonel Thomas Pride arrested 45 members of Parliament and prevented another 186 from taking their seats in the House of Commons. The excluded members were mostly Presbyterians who were regarded as antagonistic to the army and favored a settlement with Charles I. The event became known as Pride’s Purge.
[47. ]The trial opened on 20 January 1649, and Charles was executed 30 January.
[48. ]To compare Millar and Hume on the character of Charles I, see Hume’s assessment in HE, 5:542–46.
[49. ]The reference here is to Hume, who lies in the background of this entire account. Millar represents Hume as producing a narrative favorable to the king by seeming to stand at a distance from both the views of the Whigs and Tories.
[50. ]See Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England, vol. 2 (London, 1806).
[51. ]The lines are from John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667), I, ii, 595ff.
[52. ]See Hume’s remarks in “Whether the British Government Inclines More to Absolute Monarchy or to a Republic”: “It may farther be said, that, though men be much governed by interest; yet even interest itself, and all human affairs, are entirely governed by opinion.”Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. Eugene F. Miller (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985), 51.
[1. ]Traditionally called the Rump Parliament or Purged Parliament, after the 1648 purging of (mostly Presbyterian) members who favored further negotiations with Charles. The remaining members were almost exclusively Independents.
[2. ]Cromwell, at the head of the New Model Army, forcibly dissolved the Rump Parliament in 1653.
[3. ]See Cobbett’s Parliamentary History of England, vol. 3 (London, 1806).
[4. ]The Barebone’s Parliament, comprising members selected by Cromwell, was called in 1653, only to be dissolved later that same year.
[5. ]Cromwell’s written constitution, the Instrument of Government, was issued in late 1653. Under it, Cromwell took the title of Protector.
[* ]Of those who actually sat in consequence of such nomination sixty-five are specified in Memoirs of Cromwell, vol. I.—The greater part collected from Thurlowe’s list.
[6. ]In March 1655, Colonel John Penruddock raised a royalist insurrection in Wiltshire which led to severe repression.
[7. ]Compare Hume’s remark that the first principle of “the right of magistracy, is that which gives authority to almost all the establish’d governments of the world: I mean, long possession in any one form of government, or succession of princes. ’Tis certain, that if we remount to the first origin of every nation, we shall find, that there scarce is a race of kings, or form of a commonwealth, that is not primarily founded on usurpation and rebellion. ... Time alone gives solidity to their right.” A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 356.
[8. ]This was drawn up by Parliament and issued in 1657.
[* ]“The Protector,” says Thurloe, in a letter to Henry Cromwell, “has great difficulties in his mind, although he hath had the clearest call that ever man had; and for ought I see, the parliament will not be persuaded, that there can be any settlement any other way. The title is not in the question; but is the office that is known to the laws and this people. They know their duty to the king, and his to them. Whatever else there is will be wholly new, and will be nothing else but a probationer, and upon the next occasion will be changed again. Besides, they say, the name Protector came in by the sword, out of parliament, and will never be the ground of any settlement; nor will there be a free parliament so long as that continues; and as it favours of the sword now, so it will at last bring all things to be military. These, and other considerations, make men, who are for settlement, steady in their resolutions as to this government now in hand; not that they lust after a king, or are peevish upon any account of opposition; but they would lay foundations of liberty and freedom, which they judge this the next way to. My Lord Deputy [Fleetwood] and General Desbrowe, oppose themselves with all earnestness against this title, but think the other things in the petition and advice very honest.”
[9. ]Edmund Ludlow (ca. 1617–92), English republican politician and member of Parliament. Ludlow’s Memoirs, first published in 1698–99, were a major source for Whig historiography of the Civil War. Recently, the Memoirs have been revealed to be a “semiforgery.” Though based on a text by Ludlow, the work was “fundamentally rewritten” to support a radical Whig point of view. See Blair Worden, Roundhead Reputations (London: Penguin, 2002), 12.
[10. ]Charles Fleetwood (d. 1692), politician and major-general of the eastern district after 1655, later appointed to Cromwell’s House of Lords; John Desborough (1608–80) was an officer in Cromwell’s army, attaining the rank of colonel in 1648 and major-general in 1651.
[* ]Ludlow’s Memoirs.
[11. ]See Edmund Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. C. H. Firth (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894), 2:24.
[† ]On the 12th of May, 1657.
[12. ]Cavaliers was the name given to the royalist forces loyal to Charles I.
[13. ]John Thurloe (1616–68): secretary to the Council of State of the Commonwealth. His correspondence (1742), cited here, is preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and in the British Museum. Part of it was published in 1742 by Thomas Birch.
[14. ]The attempted emigration of the Puritan leaders is treated with considerable irony by Hume, who writes that they “had resolved for ever to abandon their native country, and fly to the other extremity of the globe, where they might enjoy lectures and discourses of any length or form which pleased them. The king had afterwards full leisure to repent this exercise of his authority.” HE, 5:241–42.
[15. ]For the incidents mentioned here, see HE, 6:53, 6:90.
[16. ]William Shakespeare (1564–1616), English dramatist and poet. Millar compares Cromwell to Shakespeare’s study of a tyrant and “machiavel,” Richard III. The play was first performed 1592–93, and printed 1597. Below, he extends the comparison to the contemporary French Revolutionary leader, Robespierre.
[* ]The same disposition to sarcastic humour has been exhibited in our day, in a political character, resembling that of Cromwell in many respects; I mean the famous Robespiere; an enthusiast, though of a different species; of a temper more gloomy, and marked with deeper lines of cruelty; not more scrupulous in betraying his friends; but steady in supporting that system which he originally professed to adopt, and as far as appears, uncorrupted by motives of pecuniary interest.—Dr. Moore’s Journal.
[[These are the final lines of Edmund Waller’s Panegyric, addressed to Cromwell (1656).]]
[17. ]Richard Cromwell (1626–1712), Lord Protector (1658–59).
[18. ]John Lambert (1619–83): parliamentarian soldier and, after 1655, one of Cromwell’s major-generals.
[19. ]George Monk (1608–70), a professional soldier, was initially a royalist during the Civil War, but was on the parliamentary side later in Ireland, Scotland, and during the Dutch Wars. He played a decisive role in the restoration of Charles II by marching on London in 1660, forming the Convention Parliament, and advising Parliament to invite Charles to return.
[1. ]Charles II (r. 1660–85).
[2. ]Under the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion (1660), a free pardon was granted to everyone who had supported the Commonwealth and Protectorate, except for those who had directly participated in the trial and execution of Charles I.
[* ]See Life of Charles II. by Wm. Harris.
[† ]Dalrymples Memoirs.
[3. ]James II, king of England (1685–88).
[* ]See Harris’s Life of Charles II.
[4. ]The Corporations Act (1661) excluded Nonconformists from holding municipal office. The Act of Uniformity (1662) imposed the use of the Book of Common Prayer and insisted that clergy subscribe to Anglican doctrine.
[5. ]Millar is referring to two parts of the so-called Clarendon Code passed by Parliament during the early years of Charles’s reign: the Conventicle Act (1664) and the Five Mile Act (1665).
[* ]Hume’s Hist. of England.
[* ]Hume’s Hist. of England. [[A rebellion in 1679, culminating at Bothwell Bridge, was harshly suppressed.]]
[6. ]Louis XIV: “The Sun King” (1643–1715). The secret Treaty of Dover was reached in 1670.
[† ]See Dalrymple’s Appendix to his Memoirs.—Hume’s Hist. of England.
[7. ]The Cabal was named for the initials of its members, Lords Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale, of whom Henry Bennett, earl of Arlington, emerged as the most important of Charles’s advisors.
[8. ]Charles issued the Second Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, then repealed it the next year.
[* ]Hume’s Hist. of England.
[9. ]The reference is to Blood’s Plot of 1663.
[10. ]The “Popish Plot” to establish a papist Catholic autocracy under Charles’s brother James was a false rumor spread by Titus Oates (1649–1705) and William Bedloe (1650–80). Though the plot was a complete fabrication, the backlash was swift, and more than thirty-five English Catholics were executed for treason.
[11. ]Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705).
[12. ]Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey (1621–78).
[13. ]Edward Coleman (d. 1678), secretary to Mary of Modena, duchess of York; Father François d’Aix LaChaise (1624–1709), confessor to King Louis XIV.
[14. ]William Howard Stafford, first Viscount Stafford (1614–80).
[* ]See the State Trials relating to this subject.—Also Burnet’s History of his own Time; in which there is an impartial account of the particulars in this remarkable event, with a candid picture of the impression which they made upon the author and some of his friends.
[15. ]Thomas Dangerfield (ca. 1650–85): The “Meal Tub Plot” of 1679 was a supposed Presbyterian plot to assassinate both Charles II and James. When the ruse was discovered and Dangerfield claimed that he was in service to one of the Catholics implicated in the Popish Plot, anti-Catholic opinion was revived.
[16. ]The Exclusion Bill effort ultimately failed in 1681 when Charles dissolved Parliament.
[* ]See Coleman’s Papers; from which the designs of the Duke of York, and of the Roman Catholic powers, to establish popery and despotism in England are sufficiently manifest.
[17. ]The writ of quo warranto (“by which warrant”) was issued in 1684.
[18. ]The Rye House Plot of 1683 was a plan to assassinate both Charles II and James. Implicated in the plot were several parliamentary opposition Whigs involved in the exclusion effort, including William Russell (1639–83) and Algernon Sidney (1622–83), the author of Discourses on Government (1698), a justification for tyrannicide.
[* ]Hume—Burnet—The State Trials.
[† ]See Hume.
[† ]See the Trials of Russel and Sidney—Burnet’s Hist. of his own Time—Harris’s Life of Charles II.—See also, Secret History of Ryehouse Plot. With respect to the narrative of Lord Gray, contained in this publication, it can have little weight, if we consider the bad character of the author, and that it was written under a sentence of condemnation, with a view to justify the illegal measures of the court.
[* ]See the histories of Dalrymple and M’Pherson, with the papers referred to.
[19. ]The future William III, king of England and Scotland, and Mary II (r. 1689–1702).
[20. ]Paul Barillon, marquis de Branges (ca. 1630–91), French ambassador to England.
[* ]See Dalrymple.
[† ]Dalrymple’s Appendix, p. 262.
[† ]Ibid. p. 287.
[§ ]See Lady Russel’s Letters.
[21. ]See Gilbert Burnet, History of His Own Time (London, 1724), 1:604–5.
[22. ]James II (r. 1685–89).
[* ]Dalrymple’s Appendix.
[† ]Dalrymple’s Appendix.
[† ]Dalrymple’s Appendix, p. 147, &c.
[23. ]Habeas corpus (“you shall have the body”): a writ requiring the body of a person accused to be brought before a judge or into court for the purpose of the writ.
[* ]Dalrymple’s Appendix.
[24. ]James Scott, duke of Monmouth (1649–85) and nephew of James II, was executed shortly after the battle of Sedgemoor in 1685; Archibald Campbell, ninth earl of Argyle (d. 1685), led an unsuccessful insurrection in support of Monmouth in the Scottish highlands.
[25. ]Bishop Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715): Scottish theologian and historian, the author of the History of His Own Time (1724–34; 1733–34) and the History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1679–1715).
[26. ]George “Judge” Jeffreys (1648–89) was used by Charles II, and more extensively by James II, in pressing the crown’s legal interests. Jeffreys is notorious for presiding over the “Bloody Assizes” after Monmouth’s rebellion.
[† ]See Dalrymple’s Appendix.
[27. ]The Statute of Provisors (1390) reinforced the earlier Statute of Provisors (1351), which claimed the right of English monarchs to exclude papal provisions to English benefices.
[28. ]James II’s Declaration of Indulgence (1687) restored rights to Catholic and Protestant Nonconformists, in effect repealing the Test Acts of 1677.
[29. ]See p. 527, note 16.
[30. ]The Edict of Nantes (1598) provided freedom of conscience and private worship for Huguenots. The edict was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685.
[31. ]The Irish Act of Settlement was passed in 1662.
[* ]Hume. Rapin.
[32. ]An oath of passive obedience, or nonresistance, was required for members of the Church of England by the Corporation Act of 1661.
[* ]See Dalrymple. Appendix.
[† ]Hume. Rapin.
[33. ]Presumably the Second Declaration of Indulgence in 1688.
[* ]Dalrymple. State Trials.
[34. ]William’s effort to drive the French from the Netherlands resulted in the formation of the League of Augsburg in 1688 to combat Louis XIV.
[* ]Hume. Rapin.
[35. ]Millar is referring to James Macpherson’s Original Papers; containing the secret history of Great Britain, from the Restoration, to the accession of the House of Hanover; to which are prefixed, extracts from the life of James II, as written by himself (London, 1775).
[* ]See his Letters. Dalrymple’s Appendix.
[1. ]Compare Millar’s judgment with Hume’s: “By deciding many important questions in favour of liberty, and still more, by that great precedent of deposing one king, and establishing a new family, it gave such an ascendant to popular principles, as has put the nature of the English constitution beyond all controversy. And it may justly be affirmed, without any danger of exaggeration, that we, in this island, have ever since enjoyed, if not the best system of government, at least the most entire system of liberty, that ever was known amongst mankind.” HE, 6:531.
[2. ]The Declaration of Rights was a condition of William and Mary’s ascent to the throne. It contained an indictment of James II and his transgressions, a declaration of the rights of the people of Britain, and a declaration of the accession of William and Mary.
[3. ]James escaped to arrive in France in late December 1688.
[4. ]The Convention met in January 1689. In February of that year, the Parliament Act transformed the convention into a regular Parliament.
[5. ]James Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766).
[* ]See continuation of Rapin, by Tindal, vol. 16. [[Nicholas Tindal, The Continuation of Mr. Rapin de Thoyras’s History of England, from the Revolution to the Accession of King George II, 2nd ed. (London, 1787). This declaration was made with only twelve dissentient voices; a great number of the party in opposition having previously retired from the meeting. Declaration of the Scottish Convention, 11 April 1689.]]
[* ]Tindal. By a subsequent act in 1690, the crown, failing the king and queen, and their issue, and failing the issue of Ann, and of the king, was settled upon the family of Hanover.—Burn.
[6. ]See Carl Stephenson and Frederick George Marcham, eds., Sources of English Constitutional History (London: Harper and Row, 1972), 2:601.
[9. ]Ibid., 2:602–3.
[10. ]Ibid., 2:601.
[* ]See Burnet.
[11. ]Sir William Scroggs (ca. 1623–83), lord chief justice of England, was instrumental in the trials of the alleged Popish Plot conspirators. On Jeffreys see p. 629, note 26.
[12. ]The Act of Settlement of 1701 was intended to secure Protestant succession to the throne and to entrench parliamentary supremacy and constitutionalism.
[13. ]The Act of Toleration of 1689.
[14. ]The War of the Grand Alliance (1688–97), between France and a coalition of European powers (in which William was a major participant), was concluded with the Treaty of Ryswick, whereby William was recognized by Europe as the rightful king of England and Scotland.
[15. ]Versailles was the home of Louis XIV’s court; St. Germains-en-Laye was the French royal residence from the time of Francis I to Louis XIII before becoming the home of the exiled Stuarts.
[* ]The evidence upon this point, adduced by Mr. M’Pherson, in his collection of original papers, is not very distinct. He rests, in a great measure, upon the memoirs of James, and the reports of persons whom he employed in the management of his affairs. But this prince, and his agents, were so credulous and sanguine, as to over-rate and magnify every circumstance in their own favour, and to become the dupes of every impostor. According to their accounts, it is a miracle that the government of King William could subsist for a moment, since both whigs and tories were equally zealous in overturning it, and were only vying with one another in the execution of that enterprise. It is the privilege of every unfortunate adventurer, to weary all his hearers with endless proofs that he has met with uncommonly bad usage, and that his undertaking, in the natural course of things, should have been successful.
[* ]Dalrymple’s Memoirs, vol. ii.
[16. ]Admiral Gaspard de Coligny (1519–72): Huguenot leader in the French Wars of Religion and, like William, a hero of Protestant historiography.
[17. ]Queen Anne (r. 1702–14) continued English participation in the War of the Spanish Succession.
[18. ]Here, and in what follows, Millar attacks Hume’s views. Compare Hume’s view of earlier Whig historians: “The Whig party, for a course of near seventy years, has, almost without interruption, enjoyed the whole authority of government, and no honours or offices could be obtained but by their countenance and protection. But this event, which, in some particulars, has been advantageous to the state, has proved destructive to the truth of history, and has established many gross falsehoods, which it is unaccountable how any civilized nation could have embraced with regard to its domestic occurrences. Compositions the most despicable, both for style and matter, have been extolled, and propagated, and read; as if they had equalled the most celebrated remains of antiquity.” HE, 6:533.
[1. ]“Within the pale” referred to the region around Dublin, and the name reflected its character as a fortified area of English rule. After 1400 it was broadened to include the lowland region and the medieval counties of Dublin, Meath, Louth, and Kildare.
[2. ]Sir John Davies (1569–1626): English poet and politician; attorney general for Ireland 1606–19; author of A Discovery of the True Causes Why Ireland Was Never Entirely Subdued; Thomas Leland (1722–85): historian and vicar of St. Anne’s, Dublin; author of the History of Ireland from the Invasion of Henry II., with a Preliminary Discourse on the Antient State of That Kingdom (1773).
[* ]See Sir John Davies’s speech to the House of Commons, in 1613.
[* ]See the curious record, entitled Memoranda de Hibernia Veriment, referred to by Dr. Leland, and published in the Calendar of Ancient Charters.
[3. ]Bede (673–735), often known as the Venerable Bede: English priest and author of the Historia Ecclesiastica, finished in 731.
[4. ]Advancement of arts and civilization: The stadial view of the development of society—an important feature of Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence and Ferguson’s Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767), as well as of the Distinction of Ranks—is deployed here to correct the anti-Irish bias of English historiography.
[5. ]A term used by English and Anglo-Irish writers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for the extended ruling families of Gaelic Ireland.
[6. ]English writers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used the term to mean the whole system of hereditary succession in Ireland.
[* ]See Davies’s Discovery, 1747. p. 169.
[7. ]Legal term used to describe the regionally varied forms of partible inheritance in Ireland before these were abolished in 1606.
[8. ]A custom whereby tenants had to entertain the lord and retinue to a feast periodically throughout the year. Possibly derived from a pre-Norman custom.
[9. ]For Smith’s views on the collective character of justice in rude nations, see for example LJ, 201.
[* ]So little were the Irish apprehensive of incurring the displeasure of England, that when Richard, Duke of York, with his followers, had been declared rebels, and attainted by the English parliament, they were treated in Ireland with the utmost hospitality; by an express act of parliament, they were taken under the public protection; and some of them being attached, in consequence of the English attainder, the person, who had ventured to execute the king’s writ, was condemned and put to death. The same parliament afterwards declared, that Ireland is governed by its own legislature only; and that the inhabitants of that country are not subject to the jurisdiction of any foreign tribunal.—See Leland’s History of Ireland.
[* ]See John Davies’s Discovery.
[10. ]Sir Edward Poynings (1459–1521): As lord deputy of Ireland (1494–95), he passed numerous acts restricting Irish independence, especially what became known as Poynings’s Law, which required the permission of the lord deputy to summon an Irish parliament.
[11. ]Shane O’Neill (ca. 1530–67): Ulster leader of clan O’Neill and leader of the 1562–67 rebellion.
[12. ]Sir Henry Sidney (1529–86): lord deputy from 1566, he put down the O’Neill rebellion.
[13. ]Rebellions under the fourteenth earl of Desmond (ca. 1533–83) took place 1569–73 and again 1579–83.
[14. ]Sir Christopher Hatton (1540–91): lord chancellor 1587–91.
[15. ]Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone (ca. 1550–1616), son of Matthew O’Neill, who was murdered by his rival Shane in 1558. Tyrone’s Rebellion was part of the Nine Years’ War (1593–1603).
[16. ]Phillip II sent Spanish ships with arms and munitions to county Donegal in September 1596; and the “second armada” set sail in October 1597, only to be dispersed by gales four days later.
[17. ]Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy (1563–1606), put down Tyrone’s Rebellion; he was made lord deputy in 1600.
[18. ]Sir William Fitzwilliam (1526–99), lord deputy of Ireland (1571–75; 1588–94), recalled in 1594 after he sparked the Nine Years’ War/Tyrone’s Rebellion by sending a sheriff into Fermanaugh County.
[19. ]The Canadian province of Nova Scotia originated as a chartered colony in 1621. James I offered baronetcies to reputable investors, as he later did to investors in Ulster.
[* ]It was the object of Charles to remove, by degrees, the differences that subsisted between the system of the established church and that of the Roman Catholics, and to bestow upon the former that authority, and that influence over the people, which were enjoyed by the latter. For this purpose, with the advice and assistance of Laud, he had introduced in England a new set of ecclesiastical canons, intended to new-model the discipline of the church; and a new liturgy, calculated, by a number of external ceremonies, to impress the multitude with superstitious awe and veneration, and to produce a blind submission to their spiritual guides. The same innovations were extended to Ireland, with a few variations accommodated to the circumstances of the country; and, to render the King absolute in ecclesiastical matters, the convocation was armed with the same powers as in England.
[20. ]Sir Phelim O’Neill (ca. 1604–53), member of Parliament for Dungannon, was executed as a traitor in 1653. Irish risings took place 1641–53, with “massacres” of Protestants at Portadwonown Bridge and Armagh in 1641, as well as Drogheda in 1649; Rory O’More (d. ca. 1652–53).
[21. ]Sir John Borlase (1576–1648), lord justice of Ireland (1640–44); Sir William Parsons (1570–1650), lord justice in partnership with Borlase (1640–43). In conjunction, they virtually ruled Ireland after the departure of Strafford in 1640.
[22. ]James Butler, twelfth earl of Ormonde (1610–88), Protestant loyalist and three times the lord lieutenant of Ireland.
[23. ]Edward Somerset, earl of Glamorgan (1601–67), Catholic royalist who from 1644 worked in Ireland on behalf of Charles I, and independently from Ormonde. He was arrested by Ormonde in 1645 and fled to France in 1648.
[24. ]In 1649–50, Cromwell crushed the Catholic and royalist forces in Ireland with the capture of Drogheda, a fortified town on the mouth of the Boyne River.
[* ]Between Sherlock and Annesly.
[† ]6 Geo. I. chap. 5.
[25. ]The American War of Independence took place 1775–83.
[26. ]Charles Watson-Wentworth, second marquis of Rockingham (1730–82): opposition Whig statesman, briefly a member of a coalition ministry (1765–66), and prime minister in 1782. He supported American independence and internal autonomy for Ireland.
[27. ]Sir William Petty, second earl of Shelburne (1737–1805), led a ministry from July 1782 to April 1783.
[* ]See the debates upon this subject soon after the revolution. Hatsell’s Proceedings of Parliament.
[1. ]Compare Smith’s view of the balance of powers in the English Constitution in LJ, 269 and 421–22.
[2. ]From Spanish junta, a cabal, council, or committee. The term was applied by contemporaries to a small group of aristocratic Whig politicians who wielded great influence in a series of ministries at the turn of the eighteenth century.
[* ]The most remarkable of those regulations, which is called the habeas corpus, by which any person imprisoned on pretence of a crime, may require that his trial should be commenced and finished within a certain time, originated in the great charters, and was rendered more specific in the reigns of Charles I. and Charles II.
[3. ]Chartered by Elizabeth I in 1600 to challenge the Dutch-Portuguese monopoly of the spice trade, the East India Company became the dominant force in the extension of indirect imperial control of India. From the mid-eighteenth century, the company extended its power in India as a result of wars among Indian powers and with other European nations. The impeachment trial of Warren Hastings (1732–1818), led by Edmund Burke, focused public attention on the alleged corruptions of the company.
[4. ]Compare Smith’s view of public finance and its implications for Britain’s “mixed” constitution, LJ, 267–69.
[* ]See resolution of the House of Commons, 5th Jan. and 1st Feb. 1801.
[5. ]“In the first place, money ought to be sought” (Horace, Epistles, I, 1, 53).
[1. ]The negative effects of monopolies is a major theme in Smith. See, for example, LJ, 363–64, 497–98.
[2. ]The reference here is to France, most notably the work of the Physiocrats, a school of writers on political and economic subjects that flourished in the second half of the eighteenth century. They attacked the monopolies, exclusive corporations, vexatious taxes, and various other abuses which had grown up under the mercantile system. François Quesnay (1694–1774), physician to Mme de Pompadour and Louis XV, founded the school (1758).
[3. ]The national reserve bank was founded in 1694 to support the public debt in the expensive wars of William III. Its notes began to circulate as tender in the eighteenth century. The Bank of Scotland was established in 1695, followed by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1727.
[* ]Perhaps part of the profit of a manufacturer may also be drawn from the workman, who, however, will have a full equivalent for what he thus resigns. By working to a master he is sure of constant employment, is saved the trouble of seeking out those who may have occasion for his labour, and avoids the anxiety arising from the danger of being thrown occasionally idle. In return for these advantages, he willingly relinquishes to his master some part of what he can earn while employed. Accordingly in Scotland, where it is still very common for good housewives to manufacture linens for the use of their families, the weavers whom they employ, usually demand wages somewhat higher than the ordinary rates paid by the manufacturers.
[4. ]“It is to be observed,” said Smith, “that this inequality of fortune in a nation of shepherds occasioned greater influence than in any period after that. Even at present, a man may spend a great estate and yet acquire no dependents. Arts and manufactures are increased by it, but it may make very few persons dependent. In a nation of shepherds it is quite otherwise.” LJ, 405.
[5. ]Both Hume and Smith drew upon similar explanations to explain how the taste for luxury among the aristocracy led to the decline of nobiliar power in the later Middle Ages.
[1. ]Millar echoes the opening of Smith’s essay “The History of Astronomy,” where admiration, wonder, and surprise are presented as general categories of human response to intellectual challenge. See Smith, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. W. P. D. Wightman and J. C. Bryce (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982), 33–34.
[2. ]Smith remarks that the sciences too benefit from the division of labor. See WN, bk. 1, chap. 1, 21.
[* ]The inhabitants of the southern counties in Scotland have applied the same remark to those parts of the country which are still further behind in commercial improvements; and they have introduced a proverbial expression to that purpose: they say, “a person is too far north, that we should venture to have dealings with him.”
[3. ]Millar makes use of Smith’s famous analysis (itself reflective of a similar discussion in the Encyclopedie, Paris, 1751–80) of the division of labor in pin making. See WN, bk.= 1, chap. 1, 14.
[1. ]One of the most important discussions of the sublime and beautiful in aesthetics was Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756).
[2. ]Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727): English scientist, mathematician, and chronologist. His principal works include the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687) and Opticks (1703).
[3. ]René Descartes (1596–1650): French philosopher and mathematician. His works include Discours de la méthode (1637), Meditationes de Prima Philosophia (1641), and the Principia Philosophiae (1644).
[1. ]Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78): French political philosopher, educationist, and novelist. Established himself with his Discours sur les sciences et les arts (1750), which argued that civilization had corrupted our natural goodness and decreased our freedom. Other important works include the Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (1754), Du contrat social (1762), and Emile, ou de l’éducation (1762).
[2. ]In what follows, the same general themes of sympathy and self-command are to be found in Smith’s moral philosophy. See TMS, 22–26, 238.