Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VII: Of the Revolution-Settlement; and the Reign of William and Mary. - An Historical View of the English Government
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER VII: Of the Revolution-Settlement; and the Reign of William and Mary. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.
[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.