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CHAPTER II. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. I 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. I.
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It has been my object in the last chapter to show that the triumph of the Whig policy, which was effected by the Revolution, and confirmed by the accession of the House of Brunswick, was the triumph of the party which was naturally the weakest in England. Several isolated political events contributed to the result, but the chief causes were the superiority of the smaller party in energy, intelligence, concentration, and organisation, and the division and partial paralysis of the larger party, arising from the accidental conflict between the cause of legitimacy and the cause of Protestantism. Before proceeding to relate the methods by which the Whig power was consolidated, and the manner in which it was used, it will be necessary to examine the chief elements of which it was composed, and the causes of its political bias. Its strength lay in three quarters—the aristocracy, the commercial classes, and the Nonconformists.
The eminently popular character of the English aristocracy is of a very early date, and it has probably done more than any other single cause to determine the type and ensure the permanence of English freedom. The position of the Norman nobility in England had always been widely different from that of the same nobility at home, William being able to withhold in the one case important privileges he was compelled to recognise in the other; and a long conflict, in which the nobles, in alliance with the Commons, were struggling against the power of the monarchy, contributed, with other causes, to give a popular bias to the former. The great charter had been won by the barons, but, instead of being confined to a demand for new aristocratical privileges, it guaranteed the legal rights of all freemen, and the ancient customs and liberties of cities, prohibited every kiud of arbitrary punishment, compelled barons to grant their subvassals mitigations of feudal burdens similar to those which they themselves obtained from the King, and even accorded special protection to foreign merchants in England. Philip de Comines had noticed as a remarkable fact the singular humanity of the nobles to the people during the civil wars. In these wars the nobility were almost annihilated, and as they were but little increased during the reign of Henry VII., the revival of the order in numbers and wealth dates in a great measure from the innovating and liberal movement of the Reformation. The Puritan rebellion was chiefly democratic, but the Revolution of 1688 was chiefly aristocratic; and while the reforms of the former were soon swept away, and its excesses followed by a long reaction towards despotism, the latter founded on a secure basis the liberties of England. Although Stuart creations had raised the temporal peerage from 59 to about 150, — although the introduction of Scotch peers at the Union, and the simultaneous creation of twelve Tory peers by Harley, had impaired the liberalism of the Upper House, — still from the time of the Revolution to the reign of Greorge III. the Whig party almost always preponderated in it, and contained the families of the greatest influence and dignity. The House of Lords threw its shelter successively over Somers and Walpole when the House of Commons was ready to sacrifice them. By its strenuous opposition to the encroachments of the House of Commons it secured for electors in 1704 the all-important right of defending a disputed qualification before an impartial legal tribunal. It delayed or mitigated the persecuting legislation directed under Anne against the Dissenters. It steadily upheld the Protestant succession at the period of its greatest peril, and during the long Whig rule of Walpole and the Pelhams it not only gave the Government a secure majority in one House, but also, by the influence of the peers over the small boroughs, contributed very largely to the majority in the other.
The causes of the liberal tendencies that have so broadly distinguished the English nobility from those of most other countries are to be found not only in the traditions of its early history, but also in the constitution of the order. In most tinental countries an aristocracy has a tendency to become an isolated and at length an enervated caste, removed from the sympathies and occupations, and opposed to the interests, of the community at large, despising, and, therefore, discrediting, all active occupations except those of a soldier, and thus connecting in the minds of men the idea of social rank with that of an idle and frivolous life. But in England the interests of the nobles as a class, have been carefully and indissolubly interwoven with those of the people. They have never claimed for themselves any immunity from taxation. Their sons, except the eldest, have descended, after one or two generations, into the ranks of the commoners. Their eldest sons, before obtaining their titles, have usually made it a great object of their ambition to sit in the House of Commons, and have there acquired the tastes of popular politics. In the public school system the peers and the lower gentry are united in the closest ties. The intermarriage of peers and commoners has always been legal and common. A constant stream of lawyers of brilliant talents, but often of humble birth, has poured into the Upper House, which is presided over by one of them; and the purely hereditary character of the body has been still further qualified by the introduction of the bishops.
Not less distinctive and remarkable is the influence which the aristocracy in England has exercised on the estimate of labour. One of the chief ends of the whole social organisation is to develop to the highest point and apply to the greatest advantage the sum of talent existing in the community. In its first rudimentary stage Government accomplishes this end chiefly in a negative way, by discharging those police functions without which there can be no peaceful labour; but with the increased elaboration of society it becomes apparent that the Legislature can in two distinct ways directly and very powerfully assist the development. The first of these ways is by supplying opportunities for the exercise of talent which would otherwise be lost. There is at every period latent among poor men a large amount of special talent of the highest value which cannot be elicited without a long and expensive process of cultivation, or which, when elicited, is of a kind that would produce no pecuniary results at all commensurate with its importance, and which would, therefore, in the natural course of things, either remain wholly uncultivated, or be diverted to lower but more lucrative channels. It is one of the most useful functions of government to provide means by which poor men who exhibit some special aptitude may he brought within the reach of an appropriate education; and it is one of the most important advantages of many institutions that they supply requisite spheres for the expansion of certain casts of intellect, and adequate rewards for pursuits which are of great value to the community, but which if left to the unassisted operation of the law of supply and demand would remain wholly, or in a great degree, unremunerative.
The manner in which this function of government has been executed is a subject to which I shall hereafter revert. At present, however, my object is to notice a second way in which legislation may assist intellectual development. If much talent is wasted on account of want of opportunities, much also is unemployed for want of incentives. It is not a natural or in most countries a common thing for those large classes who possess all the means of enjoyment and luxury, who have the world before them to choose from, and who have never known the pressure of want or of necessity, to devote themselves to long, painful, and plodding drudgery, to incur all the responsibilities, anxiety, calumny, ingratitude, and bondage of public life. If in the case of men of extraordinary ability the path of ambition may be itself sufficiently attractive, it is not naturally so to rich men of little more than average talent. On the other hand, the forms of useful labour which are unremunerative to the labourer are so numerous, the force of the example of the higher classes is so great, the advantages of independent circumstances for the prosecution of many kinds of labour are so inestimable, and in public life especially, such circumstances assist men so powerfully in resisting the most fatal temptations, that the existence of laborious tastes and habits among the richer classes is of the utmost value to the community. The legislation which can produce them will not only add directly to the amount of active talent, but will also set the whole current of society aright, and generate in the higher classes a moral influence that sooner or later will permeate all.
The indissoluble connection of the enjoyment and the dignity of property with the discharge of public duties was the pre-eminent merit of feudalism, and it is one of the special excellences of English institutions that they have in a great measure preserved this connection, notwithstanding the necessary dissolution of the feudal system. This achievement has been the result of more than one agency, and of the accumulated traditions of many generations. The formation of an unpaid magistracy, and the great governing duties thrown upon the House of Lords, combined with the vast territorial possessions and the country tastes of the upper classes, have made the gratuitous discharge of judicial, legislative, and administrative functions the natural accompaniment of a considerable social position, while the retrospective habits which an aristocracy creates perpetuate and intensify the feelings of an honourable ambition. The memory of great ancestors, and the desire not to suffer a great name to fade, become an incentive of the most powerful kind. A point of honour conducive to exertion is created, and men learn to associate the idea of active patriotic labour with that of the social condition they deem most desirable. A body of men is thus formed who, with circumstances peculiarly favourable for the successful prosecution of important unremunerative labours, combine dispositions and habits eminently laborious, and who have at the same time an unrivalled power of infusing by their example a love of labour into the whole community.
The importance of the influence thus exercised will scarcely, I think, be overlooked by those who will remember on the one hand, how many great nations and how many long periods have been almost destitute of developed talent, and, on the other hand, how very little evidence we have of the existence of any great difference in respect to innate ability between different nations or ages. The amount of realised talent in a community depends mainly on the circumstances in which it is placed, and, above all, upon the disposition that animates it. It depends upon the force and direction that have been given to its energies, upon the nature of its ambitions, upon its conception and standard of dignity. In all large classes who have great opportunities, and, at the same time, great temptations, there will be innumerable examples of men who neglect the former and yield to the latter; but it can hardly, I think, be denied that in no other country has so large an amount of salutary labour been gratuitously accomplished by the upper classes as in England; and in the present day, at least, aristocratic influence in English legislation is chiefly to be traced in the number of offices that are either not at all or insufficiently paid. The impulse which was first given in the sphere of public life has gradually extended through many others, and in addition to many statesmen, orators, or soldiers,—in addition to many men who have exhibited an admirable administrative skill in the management of vast properties and the improvement of numerous dependants, the English aristocracy has been extremely rich in men who, as poets, historians, art critics, linguists, philologists, antiquaries, or men of science, have attained a great, or, at least, a respectable eminence. The peers in England have been specially connected with two classes. They are the natural representatives of the whole body of country gentlemen, while, from their great wealth and their town lives, they are intimately connected with that important and rapidly increasing class who have amassed or inherited large fortunes from commerce or manufactures, whose politics during the early Hanoverian period they steadily represented. It will be found, I think, that the House of Lords, even when most Tory, has been more liberal than the first class, and has produced in proportion to its numbers more political talent than the latter.
In this manner it appears that the existence of a powerful aristocracy, and the political functions with which it is invested cannot be regarded as isolated facts. They are connected with that whole condition of society which in England has always thrown on the upper classes the chief political leadership of the country, and as such they open out questions of the gravest kind. No maxim in politics is more certain than that, whenever a single class possesses a monopply or an overwhelming preponderance of power, it will end by abusing it. Whatever may be the end of morals, ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ is undoubtedly the rule of politics, and a system of government which throws all power into the hands of one class, of the smallest class, and of the richest class, is assuredly not calculated to promote it. But it is one thing to give a class a monopoly of political power; it is quite another thing to entrust it, under the restrictions of a really popular government, with the chief share of active administration. A structure of society like that of England which brings the upper class into such political prominence that they usually furnish the popular candidates for election, has at least the advantage of saving the nation from that government by speculators, adventurers, and demagogues which is the gravest of all the evils to which representative institutions are liable. When the suffrage is widely extended, a large proportion of electors will always be wholly destitute of political convictions, while every artifice is employed to mislead them. Under such circumstances it is very possible—in many countries it is even very probable—that the supreme management of affairs may pass into the hands of men who are perfectly unprincipled, who seek only for personal aggrandisement or personal notoriety, who have no real stake in the country, and who are perfectly reckless of its future and its permanent interests. It would be difficult to exaggerate the dangers that may result from even a short period of such rule, and they have often driven nations to take refuge from their own representatives in the arms of despotism. The disposal of the national revenue may pass into the hands of mere swindlers, and become the prey of simple malversation. The foreign policy of the country may be directed by men who seek only for notoriety or for the consolidation of their tottering power, and who with these views plunge the nation into wars that lead speedily to national ruin. In home politics institutions which are lost in the twilight of a distant past may, through similar motives, in a few months be recklessly destroyed. Nearly all great institutions are the growth of centuries; their first rise is slow, obscure, undemonstrative, they have been again and again modified, recast, and expanded; their founders leave no reputation, and reap no harvest from their exertions. On the other hand, the destruction of a great and ancient institution is an eminently dramatic thing, and no other political achievement usually produces so much noisy reputation in proportion to the ability it requires. The catastrophe (however long preparing) is concentrated in a short time, and the name of the man who effects it is immortalised. As a great writer1 has finely said, ‘When the oak is felled, the whole forest echoes with its fall, but a hundred acorns are sown in silence by an unnoticed breeze.’ Hence to minds ambitious only of notoriety, careless of the permanent interests of the nation, and destitute of all real feeling of political responsibility, a policy of mere destruction possesses an irresistible attraction.
From these extreme evils a country is for the most part saved by entrusting the management of its affairs chiefly to the upper classes of the community. A government of gentlemen may be and often is extremely deficient in intelligence, in energy, in sympathy with the poorer classes. It may be shamefully biassed by class interests, and guilty of great corruption in the disposal of patronage, but the standard of honour common to the class at least secures it from the grosser forms of malversation, and the interests of its members are indissolubly connected with the permanent well-being of the country. Such men may be guilty of much misgovernment, and they will certainly, if uncontrolled by other classes, display much selfishness, but it is scarcely possible that they should be wholly indifferent to the ultimate consequences of their acts, or should divest themselves of all sense of responsibility or public duty. When other things are equal, the class which has most to lose and least to gain by dishonesty will exhibit the highest level of integrity. When other things are equal, the class whose interests are most permanently and seriously bound up with those of the nation is likely to be the most careful guardian of the national welfare. When other things are equal, the class which has most leisure and most means of instruction will, as a whole, be the most intelligent. Besides this, the tact, the refinement, the reticence, the conciliatory tone of thought and manner characteristic of gentlemen are all peculiarly valuable in public men, whose chief task is to reconcile conflicting pretensions and to harmonise jarring interests. Nor is it a matter of slight importance to the political life of a nation, or to the estimate in which a nation, is held by its neighbours, that its government should he in the hands of men on whom no class can look down. Rightly or wrongly, nations are judged mainly by their politicians and by their political acts, and when these have ceased to command respect, the character of a nation in the world is speedily lowered.
To these advantages, arising indirectly from the intervention of an hereditary aristocracy in government, others may be added. In the first place such an aristocracy exists, and, rightly or wrongly, attracts to itself among great multitudes of men a warm feeling of reverence and even of affection. It is the part of wise statesmen—and it is one of the characteristics by which such men are distinguished from crude theorists—to avail themselves for the purposes of government of all those strong, enduring, and unreasoning attachments which tradition, associations, or other causes have generated. Such are, the sentiment of loyalty, the respect for religion, the homage paid to rank. These feelings endear government to the people, counteract any feeling of repulsion the sacrifices it exacts might produce, give it that permanence, security, and stability which are essential to the well-being of society. Sometimes, no doubt, the reverential, or conservative elements have an excessive force, and form an obstacle to progress; but that they should exist, and under some form be the basis of the national character, is the essential condition of all permanent good government. A state of society in which revolution is always imminent is disastrous alike to moral, political, and material interests, and it is much less a reasoning conviction than unreasoning sentiments of attachment that enable Governments to bear the strain of occasional maladministration, revolutionary panics, and seasons of calamity.1
These considerations may be carried a step farther. All civic virtue, all the heroism and self-sacrifice of patriotism spring ultimately from the habit men acquire of regarding their nation as a great organic whole, identifying themselves with its fortunes in the past as in the present, and looking forward anxiously to its future destinies. When the members of any nation have come to regard their country as nothing more than the plot of ground on which they reside, and their Government as a mere organisation for providing police or contracting treaties; when they have ceased to entertain any warmer feelings for one another than those which private interest, or personal friendship, or a mere general philanthropy, may produce, the moral dissolution of that nation is at hand. Even in the order of material interests the well-being of each generation is in a great degree dependent upon the forbearance, self-sacrifice, and providence of those who have preceded it, and civic virtues can never flourish in a generation which thinks only of itself, ‘Those will not look forward to their posterity who never look backwards to their ancestors.’1 To kindle and sustain the vital flame of national sentiment is the chief moral end of national institutions, and while it cannot be denied that it has been attained under the most various forms of government, it is equally certain that an aristocracy which is at once popular and hereditary, which blends and assimilates itself with the general interests of the present, while it perpetuates and honours the memories of the past, is peculiarly fitted to foster it.
Another advantage which should not be neglected in a review of the effects of aristocratic institutions is their tendency to bring young men into active political life. In politics, as in most other professions, early training is of extreme importance, and in a country where government is conducted mainly through the instrumentality of Parliament, this training, to be really efficient, must include an early practice of parliamentary duties. A young man of energy and industry, possessing the tact and manners of good society, and endowed with abilities slightly superior to those of the average of men, is likely, if brought into parliamentary and official life between 20 and 30, to acquire a skill in the conduct of public business rarely attained even by men of great genius whose minds and characters have been formed in other spheres, and who have come late into the arena of Parliament. The presence in Parliament of a certain number of young politicians, from whom the lower offices of administration may be filled, and who may gradually rise to the foremost places, is an essential condition of the well-being of constitutional government, and it is one of the conditions which, since the abolition of the nomination boroughs, it has become most difficult to attain. Popular election is in this respect exceedingly worthless. It may be trusted to create, with a rough but substantial justice, a representation of public opinion. It may be trusted, but much less perfectly, to secure some recognition of old services and of matured genius, but an extended constituency has neither the capacity nor the desire to discover undeveloped talent, or to recognise the promise of future excellence. Hardly any other feature of our parliamentary system appears so ominous to a thoughtful observer as the growing exclusion of young men from the House of Commons, and if a certain number are still found within its walls, this is mainly due to that aristocratic sentiment which makes the younger members of noble families the favourite candidates with many constituencies.
There are other consequences which it will be sufficient simply to enumerate. The existence of a powerful, independent, and connected class, carrying with it a dignity, and in many respects an influence, fully equal to that of the servants of the Crown, has more than once proved the most formidable obstacle to the encroachments of despotism; while, on the other hand, in democratic times this hierarchy of ranks serves to mitigate the isolation of the throne, and is thus a powerful bulwark to monarchy. A second chamber is so essential to the healthy working of constitutional government that it may almost be pronounced a political necessity; and in times when the position of that chamber is a secondary one, when its leading functions are merely to delay and to revise, it is no small advantage that it should be composed of men possessing, indeed, great local knowledge and influence, but at the same time independent of local intrigues and jealousies, and of the transient bursts of popular passion. A permanent hereditary chamber has at least a tendency to impart to national policy that character of continuity and stability, and to infuse into its discussions that judicial spirit which it is most difficult to preserve amid the rapid fluctuations and the keen contests of popular government. It may even very materially contribute to make legislation a reflex of the popular will. No matter how perfect may be the system of election, an elected body can never represent with complete fidelity the political sentiments of the community. In particular constituencies purely local and personal considerations continually falsify the political verdict. In the country at large a general election usually turns on a single great party issue, or on the comparative popularity of rival statesmen, and hardly a year passes in which the politicians in whom, on the whole, the nation has most confidence do not act on some particular question in a manner opposed to the national sentiment. If the question is a subordinate one, this divergence does not make the country desire a change of ministry; and it is extremely difficult, under the system of party government, to enforce by any less violent means the national will. Under these circumstances a body such as the House of Lords, exempt from the necessity of popular election, representing at the same time most of the forms of public opinion, and exercising in the constitution a kind of revising, judicial, and moderating office, is of great utility; it is able to arrest or retard a particular course of policy, without producing a ministerial crisis, and it may thus be said, without a paradox, to contribute to the representative character of the government. Besides this, the peerage enables the country to avail itself of the talents of statesmen of ability and experience, who are physically incapable of enduring the fatigue inseparable from the position of a minister in the Lower House; it forms a cheap yet highly prized reward for great services to the nation or the Crown; and it exercises in some respects a considerable refining influence upon the manners of society by counteracting the empire of mere wealth, and sustaining that order of feelings and sentiments which constitutes the conception of a gentleman. Nor should we altogether disregard its minor uses in settling doubtful questions of precedence, and marking out the natural leaders for many movements, which would otherwise be weakened by conflicting claims and by personal jealousies.
There are, no doubt, serious drawbacks to these benefits. No human institution is either an unmitigated good or an unmitigated evil; and the main task of every statesman and of every sound political thinker is to weigh with impartiality the good and evil consequences that arise out of each. Considered abstractedly, every institution is an evil which teaches men to estimate their fellows not according to their moral and intellectual worth, but by an unreal and factitious standard. The worship of baubles and phantasms necessarily perverts the moral judgment, nor can anyone who is acquainted with English society doubt that in this respect the evil of aristocratic institutions is deeply felt in every grade. Their moral effects are, on the whole, more doubtful than their political effects, and the servile and sycophantic dispositions, the vulgarity of thought and feeling they tend to foster in the community form the most serious counterpoise to their undoubted advantages. These evils, however, lie far too deep for mere political remedies; and when the worship of rank and the worship of wealth are in competition it may, at least, be said that the existence of the two idols diminishes by dividing the force of each superstition, and that the latter evil is an increasing one, while the former is never again likely to be a danger. The injurious effects of aristocratic influence may, however, be abundantly traced in the desire to aggregate the vast preponderance of family property in a single heir, which is often displayed in England to an extent that is an outrage upon morality; in the frequent spectacle of many children—often daughters, who are almost incapable of earning a livelihood —reduced to penury, in order that the eldest son may gratify the family vanity by an adequate display of ostentatious luxury; in the scandalous injustice of the law relating to intestacy. Although it would be an absurd exaggeration to attribute to the existence of an aristocracy the frightful contrast of extreme opulence and abject misery which is so frequent in England, it is undoubtedly true that the excessive inequality of the distribution of wealth, resulting from laws which were originally intended to secure the preponderance of a class, and from manners which were originally the product of those laws, has most seriously aggravated it. The laws have for the most part passed away, but the habits that grew out of them remain, and they operate over a far larger circle than that of the aristocracy. Great as is the use of the peerage in sustaining public spirit in the nation, it is unquestionable that the passion for founding families which it produces, diminishes largely the flow of private munificence to public objects, and its value in promoting laborious habits is in some degree counteracted by its manifest tendency to depress the purely intellectual classes. Rank is much less local in its influence than wealth, and wherever a powerful aristocracy exists, it overshadows intellectual eminence, and becomes its successful rival in most forms of national competition. The political advantages of an hereditary chamber are very great, but the power of unlimited veto resting in such a chamber is a grave anomaly in a free government. Nor is it one of those anomalies which are merely theoretical. On great questions on which popular passions are violently aroused, the spirit of compromise and political sagacity so general among the upper classes in England, may usually be counted on to prevent serious collisions; and the power of creating an unlimited number of peers provides in the last resort an extreme, dangerous, but efficient remedy. There are, however, many questions on which the national judgment is plainly pronounced, but which from their nature do not appeal to any strong passions, and on these the obstructive power of the House of Lords has sometimes proved very mischievous. More than one measure of reform has thus been rejected through several successive Parliaments, in spite of unbroken and repeated majorities in the Lower House.
Looking again at the question from a purely historical standing-point, it is certain that the politicians of the Upper House were deeply tainted with the treachery and duplicity common to most English statesmen between the Restoration and the American Revolution. Most of the Bills for preventing corrupt influence in the Commons during the administration of Walpole were crushed by the influence of the minister in the House of Lords. The country was long seriously burdened, and some of the professions were systematically degraded, in order to furnish lucrative posts for the younger members of the aristocratic families; and the representative character of the Lower House was so utterly perverted by the multiplication of nomination boroughs in the hands of the peers that a storm of indignation was at last raised which shook the very pillars of the constitution. Still, even in these respects, the English nobility form a marked contrast to those of the Continent. Though rank has in England almost always brought with it a very disproportionate weight, although it is undoubtedly true that in the last years of George II. and in the first years of George III. three or four aristocratic families threatened to control the efficient power in the State, yet, on the whole, no other aristocracy has shown itself so free from the spirit of monopoly. In the great Whig period, from the Revolution till the death of Walpole, there were numerous instances of statesmen who were not of noble birth taking a foremost place in English politics.1 The names of Somers, Montague, Churchill, Addison, Craggs, and many others will at once occur to the reader, and the most powerful leader of this age was a simple country gentleman, a member of the House of Commons, who was so far from allowing himself to be the puppet of anyone, that one of the chief faults of his administration was his extreme reluctance to part with the smallest share of the influence of the Government. The steady support which the Whig House of Lords gave to Walpole during every stage of his career is a decisive proof not only of its enlightenment but also of its moderation. Nor is this less true of the opposite party. No Tory minister has had so absolute an authority as William Pitt, and in the period of the darkest and most bigoted Toryism the House of Lords was governed with an almost absolute sway by the knowledge and the ability of Eldon. If the nomination boroughs were perverted, as they undoubtedly were to a very large extent, to the most selfish purposes, it is also true that there was sufficient public spirit among their proprietors to induce them to bring into the House of Commons a far larger proportion of young men of promise and genius than have ever, under any other system, entered its walls. If the numerous Tory creations of George III. at last altered the spirit of the body, it should at least not be forgotten that the old tradition never was extinct, that in the great struggle of the Reform Bill some of the chief aristocratic borough-owners were among the foremost advocates of the people, and that the large majority of the peers of an older creation than George III. were on the same side,1 while the most obstinate opponents of progress found their leaders in Eldon and Lyndhurst, who had but lately risen from the ranks.
There was, however, one marked exception to the general tenor of aristocratic politics. One attempt was made, which, if it had been successful, would have converted the English nobility into a separate caste. I allude, of course, to the Peerage Bill, which was introduced by the ministry of Sunderland and Stanhope, in 1719, and which was, perhaps, the most dangerous constitutional innovation since the Revolution. It was inspired by the party interest of the Whigs, and it was intended to prevent the son of George I., who was in opposition to his father, from overthrowing, if he came to the throne, the Whig majority in the Upper House by the creation of Tory peers. Had it been carried, it would have made the House of Lords an almost unchangeable body, entirely beyond the control of King or Minister or Commons, It provided that, with the exception of members of the Royal Family, the sovereign should at no time be allowed to add more than six to the number of the English hereditary peers existing when the Bill was passed; though, whenever a peerage became extinct, he might make a creation to replace it; and also that twenty-five Scotch peers, selected in the first instance by the sovereign and afterwards sitting by hereditary right, should be substituted for the sixteen elective peers. It is obvious that such a measure would have given the peerage all the characteristics of a close corporation, would have prevented that influx into its ranks of legal, political, and commercial talent which now constitutes one of its most distinctive merits, would have in consequence destroyed its value as a reward of genius, and its weight as a representative body, and would have abolished the only means which the constitution provides for overcoming, in extreme cases, the opposition of the Lords. Yet this Bill was introduced by the party which is the natural guardian of the popular element in the constitution, and it had at first considerable prospect of success. The King readily relinquished his prerogative of unlimited creation. The indignation excited by the lavish creations of Harley in 1712 was largely made use of. The pen of Addison was enlisted in the cause. The Bill appealed at once to the party spirit of the Whigs, who designed to perpetuate their ascendancy, and to the class feeling of the peers, who desired, by preventing new creations, to increase their consequence; and it was carried without difficulty through the Lords, Fortunately, however, a great storm of indignation was soon aroused. Steele, whose judgment it is the custom of some writers invariably to decry, employed all his talent in exposing the dangers of the scheme, and his essays, though they destroyed his friendship with Addison, and brought down upon his head the prompt vengeance of the Government,1 were of immense service to the real interests of the country. Walpole, who was at this time in opposition, both spoke and wrote against the Bill with consummate power. The jealousy of the country gentry was aroused when they saw the portals of the Upper House about to close for ever against them; and the Bill was lost in the Commons by 269 to 177.
This, however, was but a passing aberration; and it was due much more to party interest than to aristocratic exclusiveness. In general, the services of the peers to the cause of civil and religious liberty, at the time we are considering, were incontestable, and the advantage of an Upper House in this portion of our history can scarcely be questioned by anyone who regards the Revolution, and the principles it established, as good. Its members formed, perhaps, the most important section of the Whig party, for they were at this time almost at the acme of their influence. The overshadowing majesty of the Church had been broken at the Reformation. The monarchy had been seriously restricted by the Revolution, and the great democratic agencies of modern times were still in their infancy. In opulence the nobles were altogether unrivalled. The Indian nabobs, whose great fortunes in some degree competed with them, only came into prominence in the reign of George III., and the great commercial fortunes belong chiefly to a still later period. The numerous sinecures at their disposal secured the nobility a preponderance both of wealth and influence; the tone of manners before the introduction of railways was far more favourable than at present for a display of the pomp and the pretensions of rank; and the borough system gave the great families a commanding influence in the Lower House.
In addition to the aristocracy, the Whigs could usually count upon the warm support of the moneyed classes and of the Dissenters, who in this, as in most other periods, were very closely united. The country, it has been justly said, always represents the element of permanence, and the towns the element of progress. In the former the national spirit is usually the most intense, and the force of tradition, prejudice, and association most supreme. New ideas, on the other hand, appear most quickly, and circulate most easily, in the crowded centres of population; and the habits of industrial speculation, the migratory nature of capital, and the contact with many nations and with many creeds resulting from commercial intercourse, tend to sever, both for good and for ill, the chain of tradition. At the time of the Reformation the towns were the strongholds of Protestantism, at the time of the Commonwealth they were the strongholds of Puritanism, and in the Hanoverian, as in most subsequent periods, of liberal politics. On religious questions this bias has been especially strong. It is an ingenious, and, I believe, a just remark of Sir W. Petty that ‘trade is most vigorously carried on in every state and government by the heterodox part of the same, and such as profess opinions different from what are publicly established.’1 The fact may be ascribed partly, as I have said, to the superior accessibility of the town populations to new and innovating ideas, and partly also to persecuting laws which divorced heretics from the soil, and led them to seek forms of industry of which the fruits in seasons of trial can be easily realised and displaced. The result has been that religious persecution has usually fallen with a peculiar severity upon commercial interests; and in the two centuries that followed the Reformation hardly any other single circumstance affected so powerfully the relative industrial position of nations as the degrees in which they conceded religious toleration. Among the less noticed consequences of the Reformation, perhaps the most important was the dispersion of industry produced by the many thousands of skilled artisans who were driven by persecution beyond their national borders, carrying with them trades which had hitherto been strictly or mainly local, and planting them wherever they settled. Nor was this the only result of the migration. Men who are prepared to abandon friends and country rather than forsake a religion which is not that of their nation are usually superior to the average of their fellow-countrymen in intelligence, and are almost always greatly superior to them in strength and nobility of character. Religious persecution, by steadily weeding out such men from a community, slowly but surely degrades the national type, while a policy of toleration which attracts refugees representing the best moral and industrial qualities of other nations is one of the most efficient of all means of expanding and improving it.
The effect of these influences on the well-being of nations has been very great. The ruin of Spain may be chiefly traced to the expulsion or extirpation of her Moorish, Jewish, and heretical subjects; and French industry, and still more French character, have never recovered the injury they received from the banishment of the most energetic and enlightened portion of the nation. By the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and by the savage persecution which immediately preceded and followed it, France probably lost upwards of a quarter of a million of her most industrious citizens;1 and, amid the enthusiastic applause of the Catholic party, a blow was struck at her true interests, of which some of the effects may be perceived even to the present day. Bossuet, Massillon, and Fléchier, vied with each other in extolling the new Theodosius who had banished heresy from the land. The Chancellor Le Tellier repeated the ecstatic words of Simeon as he affixed the great seal to the Act. The Abbé Tallemand eulogised it in glowing terms in the French Academy. Madame de Sevigné wrote that no other king either had done or could do a nobler act. The brush of Le Sueur was employed to illustrate it on the walls of Versailles, and medals were struck, and a bronze statue was erected in front of the Town Hall, to commemorate the triumph of the Church. The results of that triumph may be soon told. Many of the arts and manufactures which had been for generations most distinctively French passed for ever to Holland, to Germany, or to England. Local liberties in France received their death-blow when those who most strenuously supported them were swept out of the country. The destruction of the most solid, the most modest, the most virtuous, the most generally enlightened element in the French nation prepared the way for the inevitable degradation of the national character, and the last serious bulwark was removed that might have broken the force of that torrent of scepticism and vice, which, a century later, laid prostrate, in merited ruin, both the altar and the throne.1
Not less conspicuous was the benefit derived by nations which pursued an opposite course. Holland, which had suffered so severely, and in so many ways, from religious intolerance under the Spanish domination, made it a main object of her policy to attract by perfect religious liberty the scattered energies of Europe2 ; and Prussia owes to the same cause not a little of her moral and industrial greatness. Twenty thousand Frenchmen, attracted to Brandenburg by the liberal encouragement of the Elector, at the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, laid the foundation of the prosperity of Berlin, and of most of the manufactures of Prussia;1 and the later persecutions of Salzburg and Bohemia drove many thousands of Southern Germans to her soil. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, it was noticed that in Zell and Hanover French was spoken and written as purely as in Paris, and a refinement hitherto unknown began to distinguish the Northern Courts.2 Even Russia sought to attract French energy for the development of her slumbering powers, and at the instance of the Elector of Brandenburg an imperial ukase was issued, offering liberty, settlement, and employment to the refugees.3
But no country owes more to her toleration than England. For nearly two centuries a steady stream of refugees, representing the best Continental types, poured into her population, blending with English life, transmitting their qualities of mind and character to English descendants, and contributing immensely to the perfection and variety of English industry. Elizabeth, though her religious opinions were very inimical to those of the Continental Protestants, with the instinct of true political genius, invariably encouraged the immigration, and, in spite of more than one remonstrance from the French sovereign, of much hatred of foreigners and Dissenters, of much jealousy of local interests and of rival trades, there was always sufficient good sense among the English rulers to maintain the toleration. For a short time, indeed, the persecuting and meddling policy of Laud threatened to overthrow it. That mischievous prelate had hardly obtained the See of Canterbury, when he ordered that those members of the foreign communities who had been born in England should be compelled to attend the Anglican Church, while the English liturgy was to be translated into Dutch and Walloon in the hope of converting the others.1 The civil war, however, restored the liberty of the refugees, and though they were afterwards exposed to much unpopularity and to serious riots, though, as we have seen, the Bill for the general naturalisation of foreign Protestants was repealed, they continued, far into the eighteenth century, to make England their favourite resort.
The extent and importance of the successive immigrations have hardly been appreciated by English historians. Those which were due to religious causes appear to have begun in 1567, when the news of the intended entry of Alva into the Netherlands was known, and when, as the Duchess of Parma wrote to Philip, more than 100,000 persons in a few days abandoned their country. Great numbers of them took refuge in England, and they were followed, in 1572, by a crowd of French Huguenots, who had escaped from St. Bartholomew; and in 1585, on the occasion of the sacking of Antwerp, by about a third part of the merchants and workmen of that city. A century later the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes produced a new immigration of French Protestants, variously estimated at from fifty to a hundred thousand. Several thousand Germans, chiefly from the Palatinate, came over in 1709; many others about 1732, after the persecutions in Salzburg; and towards the middle of the century a renewal of persecution in France was followed by a fresh French immigration. In this manner the commercial classes in England were at length thoroughly pervaded by a foreign element. Spitalfields was almost wholly inhabited by French silk manufacturers. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the population of London was probably about 600,000,2 it contained no less than thirty-five French Protestant churches.3 Important refugee settlements were planted at Norwich, Canterbury, Sandwich, Yarmouth, Ipswich, Exeter, Bideford, and Barnstaple; and there is hardly a town in England in which their presence may not be traced. Nor were they confined to England, Great numbers went over to Ireland. French Protestant churches were founded in New York and Charlestown, about 1724, and Salzburg refugees were very prominent in the colonisation of Georgia. About 1732, a colony of French Protestants settled in Edinburgh, where they introduced the manufacture of cambric. Some were incorporated in the British army, but by far the greater number were employed in manufactures, many of them in forms of industry which had been wholly unknown in England. Cloth makers from Antwerp and Bruges, lace makers from Valenciennes, cambric makers from Cambray, glass makers from Paris, stuff weavers from Meaux, potters from Delft, shipwrights from Havre and Dieppe, silk manufacturers from Lyons and Tours, paper manufacturers from Bordeaux and Auvergne, woollen manufacturers from Sedan, and tanners from the Touraine, were all plying their industries in England. The manufactures of silk, damask, velvet, cambric and baize, of the finer kinds of cloth and paper, of pendulum clocks, mathematical instruments, felt hats, toys, crystal and plate glass, all owe their origin in England wholly or chiefly to Protestant refugees, who also laid the foundation of scientific gardening, introduced numerous flowers and vegetables that had before been unknown, and improved almost every industry that was indigenous to the soil.1
It is a significant fact that at the close of the seventeenth century, while the balance of political and military power in Europe was still clearly on the side of Catholicism, the supremacy of industry was as decidedly on the side of Protestantism. It was computed that Great Britain, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Hanseatic towns, and the Protestant parts of Germany, possessed between them three-fourths of the commerce of the world;2 while in France itself, before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, an extraordinary proportion of the national industry was in the hands of the Huguenots. The immigration of these latter into England had the natural effect of strengthening the Whig party both in numbers and in zeal.1 The industrial classes, who formed the bulk of the party, were largely increased. The anti-Gallican and anti-Papal enthusiasms were intensified by great personal wrongs. The Dissenting or Low Church interest obtained a great accession of power from the presence of a large body of men educated in non-episcopal churches; and the great Whig maxim, that a government should accord perfect toleration to all Protestant sects, derived a new strength from the manifest material benefits it produced.
The influence of the industrial classes had for a long time been steadily increasing, with the accumulation of industrial wealth. The reigns of the Stuarts, though in their political aspects they were in many respects chequered or disastrous, formed a period of almost uninterrupted material prosperity, the more striking because it was not due to any of those great mechanical inventions which in the present century have suddenly revolutionised great departments of industry. The progress was strictly normal. It may be ascribed to the reclamation of waste lands, to the extension and development of the colonies, to the freedom of the country for a long period from any serious land war. It was noticed, as a remarkable sign of the democratic spirit that followed the Commonwealth, that country gentlemen in England had begun to bind their sons as apprentices to merchants,2 and also, that about the same time the desire to obtain large portions in marriage led to alliances between the aristocracy and the merchants. Sir W. Temple, writing in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, says:— ‘I think I remember within less than fifty years, the first noble families that married into the city for downright money, and thereby introduced by degrees this public grievance which has since ruined so many estates by the necessity of giving good portions to daughters.’1 The increase of wealth was abundantly attested by all the best authorities. Thus Sir Josiah Child, who published his well-known ‘Discourse on Trade’ in 1670, assures us that both the merchants and shipping in England had doubled in twenty years. Petty, in his ‘Political Arithmetic,’ which was published a few years later, declared that within forty years the value of the houses of London had doubled, while most of the leading provincial towns had largely increased, that the royal navy had tripled or quadrupled, that the coal-shipping of Newcastle had quadrupled, that the value of the customs had tripled, that the postage of letters had multiplied twenty-fold, and that, through the great increase of money, the natural rate of interest had fallen from eight to six per cent. Davenant, who examined with great care the material condition of the country at the time of the Revolution, supplies much evidence to the same effect. He tells us that the tonnage of the merchant shipping in 1688 was nearly double of what it had been in 1666; that the royal navy had increased from 62,594 tons to 101,032 tons; that the customs, which in 1666 were farmed out for 390,000l. a year, had in the last seventeen years yielded on an average 555,752l. In a work published in 1698, he calculated that the general rental of England had risen, since the beginning of the century, from 6,000,000l. to 14,000,000l., and the purchasing value of the land from 72,000,000l. to 252,000,000l.2 The whole income of the country at the time of the Revolution was estimated at about 43,500,000l.3
Of the manufactures, the most important were still those of wool, which had already become famous under the Tudors, and were scattered through the valleys of the Thames and Severn, through East Norfolk, South Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Westmoreland. The iron and hardware manufactures of Sheffield and Birmingham were already in existence, and it was noticed that in the later Stuart reigns industry was not only largely increased, but was also more and more concentrated in a few great centres.1 The prosperity of the country was very seriously retarded by the war that followed the Revolution, but it resumed its progressive march after the Peace of Ryswick, and was accelerated by the foundation of the Bank of England, which greatly assisted credit; by the renovation of the coin, which gave a new stimulus to every branch of industry; and, perhaps, also by the partial abolition of two considerable trade monopolies. The African trade, though it had been largely pursued by interlopers, was from the early Stuart reigns legally a monopoly; but in 1698 all English subjects were allowed to trade, without restriction, in negroes, gold, and silver; and the other branches of the African trade were also opened to them, provided they paid to the Company a duty of five per cent, on redwood, and of ten per cent, on other goods. The Russian trade had been accorded to some London adventurers, who, in the reign of Mary, when seeking for a north-west passage to China, had discovered Archangel, and it had been confirmed to their successors by an Act of Elizabeth. The Company, however, proved too limited and feeble to contend with the rivalry of the Dutch, and it was accordingly enacted, in 1699, that all English subjects might belong to it on the payment of 5l.2 At the close of the reign of William, a return of the mercantile navy of England was drawn up by the Commissioners of Customs, from which it appears that the number of vessels belonging to all the English ports was then 3,281, measuring 261,222 tons, and employing 27,196 men. Of these vessels 560 belonged to London, 165 to Bristol, and 143 to Yarmouth.3 The costly wars of Anne, though they for a time depressed, did not permanently injure, industry. The lowest point in this reign appears to have been in 1705, when the value of the exports was only 5,308,966l.; but in 1713, 1714, and 1715, the three years which immediately followed the peace, the average value was 7,696,573l., which exceeded by nearly a million sterling the amount in the preceding peace.1
Many of these figures can, of course, only pretend to an approximate accuracy. All of them appear very small when compared with the gigantic dimensions of modern commerce, but they are sufficient to show that the condition of England was a healthy and a progressive one, and that the commercial classes were steadily rising in importance. One result of this increasing prosperity must, indeed, be looked upon with very mingled feelings. I mean the rapidly accelerated disappearance of the yeomanry class. The main causes of the destruction of this most useful element of English country life are very evident. The system of primogeniture, settlements, and entails, as well as the maze of expensive intricacies with which English law has encumbered the transfer of land, by diminishing greatly the amount which is brought to market, have given it an unnatural and monopoly price, which is still further increased by the social distinction its possession confers, and by the country tastes which make its acquisition an object of great desire to the rich. Under such circumstances the continued existence of a large class of small proprietors was impossible. Men of narrow means could not afford to purchase land. Small landowners had the strongest inducement to sell. But the impulse was greatly strengthened when the development of commercial and manufacturing industry multiplied the paths to wealth. On the one hand, the number of large fortunes competing in the land market was increased. On the other hand, numerous additional facilities were furnished for investing small capitals in more lucrative employments than agriculture. The enclosure of common land, rendering the position of the small yeoman more difficult, aggravated the tendency, and the result was a very considerable transfer of energy from the country to the towns. The feebler members of the yeomanry sank gradually into tenants or labourers, while the more ambitious and enterprising were rapidly absorbed in industrial life.2
Of the population of the great manufacturing and trading towns, we are, unfortunately, unable to speak with much precision. No official census of the population of England was made till 1801, and the computations that were based on the returns of births and deaths, and of the hearth-money, though far from valueless, are too vague and too conflicting to be positively relied on. According to the estimates we possess, the population of England at the beginning of the eighteenth century appears to have been somewhat under 6,000,000,1 of whom about a tenth part were concentrated in London. Next to London, but next at a great interval, was Bristol, which retained its position as the second city in England till after the middle of the eighteenth century, and owed its wealth chiefly to its large trade with the American colonies. Its population under Charles II. is said to have been 29,000, and in the middle of the eighteenth century rather more than 90,000.2 Norwich, which was an old resort of Flemish refugees, and was famous during many generations for its manufacture of worsted and other woollen works, as well as for its supply of fuller's earth, long ranked third among English cities. Its population in 1693 was between 28,000 and 29,000, and it was believed to have nearly or quite doubled by 1760.3 Manchester had been the seat of a woollen manufacture under the Tudors, and a book published in 1641 mentions that cotton was also worked there, which appears to be the earliest record of that industry in England. It is said to have contained at the end of the seventeenth century less than 6,000 inhabitants, but if so it must have increased with extraordinary rapidity in the first years of the eighteenth century, for Defoe, in his ‘Tour through Great Britain,’ which was published in 1727, estimates the population of the city and suburbs at not less than 50,000. According to another estimate, the town alone contained from 40,000 to 45,000 persons in 1760,1 at which date the population of Birmingham was believed to have been about 30,000, and that of Newcastle, including the suburbs, about 40,000.2 Liverpool was somewhat slower in emerging into greatness. It was a village of much antiquity, consisted in 1565 of 138 houses or cabins, derived some importance from the fire and the plague, which induced many merchants to abandon London, and gradually became a centre of commerce for the new colonies in the West Indies and for America. It was assisted also by the reclamation of great tracts of waste lands, which stimulated the corn trade, and by the growth of Manchester and other manufacturing towns in its neighbourhood. It is curious, however, to notice that it was only in 1699 that it was thought sufficiently important to form a parish to itself, and that its first dock was not built before 1709. Its population in 1700 is believed to have been slightly under 6,000, but to have increased in the course of the next half-century to about 30,000. Liverpool had by this time become indisputably the third port in the kingdom, and it was soon prominent beyond all others in the slave trade.3 The whole population of Lancashire was estimated at 166,200 in 1700, and at 297,400 in 1750.4 At the time of the census of 1871 it exceeded 2,800,000.
In addition to the other causes which united the industrial classes with the Whigs we must reckon the funded system and the creation of the great mercantile companies established after the Revolution. The national debt, which at the accession of William had been very inconsiderable, had increased during his reign and during the reign of his successor with a portentous rapidity. Incurred as it was in a struggle against the Power that was in alliance with the Pretender, it was more than doubtful whether the interest of the debt would be paid if the Government of the Revolution were overthrown, and thus an immense proportion of the capitalists had the strongest personal reasons for supporting the Government. In this manner the national debt, which was in some respects very injurious to the country, was eminently advantageous to the Whigs. Very similar considerations apply to the Bank of England and to the new East India Company. These great corporations exercised an influence which extended to every city in the kingdom, and affected, directly or indirectly, almost every great mercantile fortune. Both of them were created by the Whig Government. Both of them obtained their privileges by the loan of large sums to that Government, and both of them depended for their very existence on the regular payment of the interest.
In this manner a great Whig interest was artificially created, which was attached by the closest ties to the Government of the Revolution and to the House of Brunswick. In 1707, at the news of the intended invasion by the Pretender, the price of stocks at once fell fourteen or fifteen per cent.1 In 1710, when the Queen resolved to dismiss the Whig ministry of Godolphin, the Bank of England sent a formal deputation to her to deprecate the change.2 The accession of the Harley ministry, though it promised a return of peace, was at once followed by a depreciation of the funds, which continued till Harley, following in the steps of his predecessors, created the South Sea Company, on the same principle as the great Whig corporations, by granting important mercantile privileges to a portion of the national creditors.3 As long as Harley retained his ascendancy the national credit was not seriously imperilled, but when Bolingbroke succeeded in displacing him, when the reins of power seemed passing into Jacobite hands, a panic immediately ensued. The funds, as we have seen, rose when the illness of the Queen was followed by a report of her death; they fell at a false rumour of her recovery; they rose again when her sudden death disconcerted the Jacobite intrigues.1 The Jacobites, on the other hand, looked forward to the ruin of the Bank as the most probable of all means of accomplishing their designs.2 Had Bolingbroke continued in power, it is possible that the funds would have been taxed, and probable that measures would have been taken seriously to restrict the powers of the great mercantile companies, and there were great fears that they might be wholly subverted.3 The country gentry looked with feelings of the keenest jealousy on the new political power which was arising, and contrasted bitterly the exemption of the fund-holder from taxation with the burdens imposed upon land. ‘The proprietor of the land,’ it was said, ‘and the merchant who brought riches home by the returns of foreign trade, had during two wars borne the whole immense load of the national expenses; while the lender of money, who added nothing to the common stock, throve by the public calamity, and contributed not a mite to the public charge.’4 Nor was this all. It was a fundamental maxim of the Tory party that ‘Law in a free country is or ought to be the determination of the majority of those who have property in land;’5 that ‘the right strength of this kingdom depends upon the land, which is infinitely superior and ought much more to be regarded than our concerns in trade.’6 The Landed Property Qualification Act of 1712 was intended to assert this principle, and it was elicited by the manifest fact that in the latter days of William, and still more in the reign of Anne, the moneyed was, in a great measure, superseding the landed interest. ‘Power,’ said Swift, ‘which, according to an old maxim, was used to follow land, is now gone over to money.’7 Individual capitalists, and still more the two great corporations, descended into the political arena, wrested boroughs, by sheer corruption, from the landlords who had for generations controlled them, and strained every nerve to acquire the political influence which was essential to the security of their property. In 1701 there had been grave inquiries in Parliament about the lavish sums which the East India Company expended among the Members,1 and the increasing corruption at elections was universally recognised. ‘It is said,’ wrote one high authority, ‘that several persons, utter strangers in the counties to which they went, have made a progress throughout England, endeavouring, by very large sums, to get themselves elected.… It is said that there are known brokers who have tried to stock-job elections upon the Exchange, and that for many boroughs there was a stated price.… Some persons, having considerable stocks in the Bank of England and in the new East India Company, are more particularly charged with these facts.’2 ‘The mischievous consequence,’ wrote Bolingbroke, ‘which had been foreseen and foretold too at the establishment of these corporations, appeared visibly. The country gentlemen were vexed, put to great expenses, and even baffled by them at their elections; and among the Members of every Parliament numbers were immediately or indirectly under their influence.’3 ‘Boroughs,’ said a third writer, ‘are rated in the Royal Exchange like stocks and tallies; the price of a vote is as well known as of an acre of land, and it is no secret who are the moneyed men, and consequently the best customers.’4
Under all these circumstances the political influence of the industrial and moneyed classes was greatly increased by the Revolution. They have been the steady supporters of English liberty, the steady advocates of religious toleration within the limits of the Protestant creed. To them, more than to any other class, may be ascribed the tempered energy, the dislike to abstractions and theories, the eminently practical spirit so characteristic of English political life; and their influence has been especially useful in moderating the love of adventure and extravagance common to pure aristocracies. On the other hand, the mercantile theory, which governed commercial legislation till after the writings of Hume, planted a new and powerful principle of international jealousy in European politics. The narrow spirit of commercial monopoly crushed the rising industry of Ireland, and trammelled the industry of the colonies; and the desire of the moneyed classes to acquire political power at the expense of the country gentlemen was the first and one of the chief causes of that political corruption which soon overspread the whole system of parliamentary government.
The Protestant Nonconformists formed the third considerable branch of the Whig party; but the reaction which followed the Restoration, the persecuting laws of the Stuarts, and the gradual diminution of the yeomanry had reduced both their numbers and their influence. In a very imperfect return made to the Government in 1689 those in England and Wales were estimated at about 110,000,1 and, according to a paper in the possession of William, among the freeholders of the kingdom the proportion of Protestant Nonconformists and Catholics united was not quite 1 to 22.2 The strength of the Dissenters lay among the tradesmen of the towns and among seafaring men;3 they reckoned among their number many rich merchants and capitalists, and some of them, as we have seen, attained the highest municipal dignity. They could also boast of a very considerable intellectual eminence. Baxter, Howe, Calamy, and Bunyan would have done honour to any Church. The writings of Matthew Henry are even now the favourite Scripture commentaries of thousands; and Defoe, if not quite the greatest, was certainly the most versatile and prolific of that brilliant group of political writers who have made the reign of Anne so remarkable in literature. The Catholics, Unitarians, Socinians, and all who, without joining these bodies, spoke against the doctrine of the Trinity, or against the supernatural origin of Christianity, continued after the Revolution subject to penal laws which, if they had been strictly enforced, would have amounted to absolute proscription; but other Dissenters were exempted, on certain conditions, from their provisions by the Toleration Act. They were allowed to attend their own places of worship, and were protected by law from all disturbance, provided they took the oaths of allegiance and supremacy and subscribed the declaration against transubstantiation, provided their congregations were duly registered in the Court of the Bishop or Archdeacon or at the County Sessions, and provided also the doors of their meeting-houses remained unlocked and unbarred. Their ministers, however, were compelled to subscribe the doctrinal portion of the Anglican Articles, with the exception of the Baptists, who were exempted from the article relating to infant baptism. The Quakers, who objected to all oaths, and to all subscriptions to human formularies, were only required to affirm their adhesion to the Government, to abjure transubstantiation, and to profess their belief in the Trinity and in the inspiration of the Bible.
This measure undoubtedly conferred a great practical advantage upon the Nonconformists, though it is hardly, I think, deserving of the enthusiasm that has been bestowed on it. It is, indeed, extremely doubtful whether the cause of religious liberty in England owes anything to the Revolution; for James, stupid and bigoted as he was, had at least quite sufficient intelligence to perceive that he could only relieve the small Catholic minority by associating their cause with that of the much larger body of Protestant dissidents, while those who opposed the royal designs would have been almost inevitably driven to compete by large concessions for the alliance of the Dissenters. As we have already seen, the Act of William was technically described only as ‘an Act of Indulgence,’ suspending in certain cases the operation of laws which still remained upon the Statute Book, and thus leaving the Dissenters, more or less, under the stigma of the law. They were still excluded from the universities, they could be married only according to the Anglican ceremony, and the Corporation and Test Acts prevented them from entering corporations and public offices without receiving the Sacrament according to the Anglican rite. William earnestly desired complete religious toleration, if not equality, among Protestants; but such a policy, when the fear of a Catholic sovereign was removed, was impossible. Measures to abolish the sacramental test, or to make the reception of the Sacrament in any Protestant form a sufficient test, were introduced and defeated. Another measure, which the King was very anxious to carry, was the Comprehension Bill, the object of which was, by slight alterations in the Anglican Liturgy, by making optional the surplice, the practice of kneeling at one Sacrament, the intervention of sponsors and the employment of the sign of the cross in the other, and by substituting for subscription to the Articles a general declaration that the Anglican worship and doctrine contain all things necessary to salvation, to remove the objections of the great majority of the Dissenters, and to reunite them to the Church. According to the first cast of this Bill, Presbyterian ordination was recognised as valid, but only after the imposition of the bishop's hands; and by this restriction the Romish or sacerdotal element which runs through the English Church would have been preserved. Sectarian spirit, however, on both sides was opposed to the measure. Politicians of all shades saw that an alteration in the forms and Liturgy of the Church would give an increased importance to the Nonjuror schism. The great majority of the clergy were violently opposed to all overtures to the Dissenters. Many of the Dissenters dreaded a Bill which, while it would certainly not extinguish Dissent, would as certainly divide and dislocate the Nonconformist body, empoverish many of its ministers, and lower the position of almost all; while many Whigs feared that the transfer of a large portion of the descendants of the Puritans to the Established Church would incline the balance of power still more to the side of despotism. The opposition grew stronger and stronger, and the Bill was at last referred to Convocation and speedily crushed.
One other measure had been carried in this reign which was of considerable importance, as securing the position of the Quakers. This eccentric, but, in many respects, most admirable sect will always be remembered in history for its noble services to the causes of religious tolerance and of the abolition of slavery; and its members, in these latter days, have been chiefly distinguished for their singular benevolence, for the quaint, quiet decorum of their manners, and for their systematic but very harmless defiance, in many small matters of conduct and of belief, of what appear to the outer world to be the dictates of common sense. In spite of much atrocious persecution, they had multiplied greatly in the closing years of the Stuarts, and as soon as the Toleration Act was passed England was studded with their meeting-houses. Between 1688 and 1690, licences were taken out for 131 new temporary and 108 new permanent places of worship for the society, 64 being in Lancashire.1 The fanaticism which had led some of the first apostles of the sect to walk naked, or almost naked, through the streets, to interrupt the services in the churches, and to rebuke the judges and magistrates in the courts, had gradually subsided. An austere morality, and a tone of manners which rendered impossible most of the forms of wasteful, luxurious, and ostentatious expenditure, speedily raised the society to wealth. It had produced a great statesman in Penn, a great writer in Barclay, a considerable scholar in George Keith, and it was now a large and well-organised body. Many of the peculiarities of the Quakers were of a kind which gave little or no trouble to the legislators. Such were their refusal to recognise the gods Tuesco or Woden by speaking of Tuesday or Wednesday, to flatter a single individual by addressing him with a plural pronoun, to take off their hats in salutation, to use the ordinary phrases of deference or courtesy, or to abandon on any occasion their peculiar attire; and such, too, in a country where there were few soldiers, and where there was no conscription, was their objection to bear arms. Their refusal, however, to take oaths, to pay tithes, and to subscribe articles, rendered necessary a considerable amount of special legislation. The first great step, as we have seen, was taken by the Toleration Act. The second was the measure, carried in 1695, which, enacting that the solemn affirmation of a Quaker ‘in presence of Almighty God’ should in legal cases be accepted as equivalent to an oath, gave the sect for the first time a power of protecting their property against fraud, and saved them from a vast amount of petty persecution and annoyance. It was only enacted for a period of seven years, and to the end of the following session. It was then renewed for eleven years, but in the Tory ascendancy in the last days of Queen Anne, it was greatly imperilled. Early in the session of 1713 the Quakers petitioned the House of Commons for a continuance of the Act, but the House would not even permit the petition to be brought up. They then applied to the Lords, who passed a Bill in their favour, but the Commons refused even to give it a first reading.1 Fortunately, however, for the sect, the Tory power was speedily destroyed, and the new Government made the Act of William perpetual. In the matter of tithes the Quakers had also obtained some relief in the reign of William. They were not relieved from the obligation of paying them, but an inexpensive method was provided, under which tithes not exceeding 10l. might be levied before two justices of the peace, thus saving the long, expensive, and oppressive proceedings of the Ecclesiastical or Exchequer Courts. This Bill was first enacted only for three years, but it was afterwards renewed, was extended, in the case of Quakers, to all tithes, and was at last made perpetual.
Such was the position acquired by the Nonconformists at the Revolution. We have seen how seriously it was imperilled in the reign of Anne, and how entirely the legislation against them was the work of the Tory party. It was natural that it should be so, as the Established Church was the especial strong hold of Toryism; but it is not the less true that a certain change had passed over the attitude of parties since James had made overtures to the Dissenting leaders, and, by the promise of toleration, had drawn some of them for a time to his side. The Jacobitism of the reign of Anne was violently hostile to the Dissenters, and it was chiefly the Jacobite wing of the Tories, led by Bolingbroke and Atterbury, which forced the hand of Oxford and carried the Schism Act. As a natural consequence the whole body of Protestant Dissenters were passionately devoted to the Hanoverian succession.1 Their numbers appear by this time to have considerably increased. It appears, by a report drawn up by Neal, the well-known historian of Puritanism, in 1715 and 1716, that at that date there were 1,107 Dissenting congregations in England and 43 in Wales. The Presbyterians were by far the most numerous, and they about equalled the Independents and Baptists united.2 The position of the Nonconformists in the last few months of the reign of Anne was extremely perilous, and they had everything to fear from the ministry of Bolingbroke; but the Queen, by a remarkable coincidence, died on the very day on which the Schism Act was to have come into operation. It is related that on that morning Burnet met Bradbury, the minister of the great Independent Chapel in Fetter Lane, walking through Smithfield with slow steps, and with an absent and dejected air. ‘I was thinking,’ he said, in reply to the greeting of the Bishop, ‘whether I shall have the constancy and resolution of the martyrs who suffered in this spot, for I most assuredly expect to see similar times of violence and persecution.’ The Bishop consoled him by the intelligence that the Queen was dying, and promised, as soon as the event occurred, to send a messenger to inform him, or, if it was the hour of public worship, to drop a handkerchief from the gallery of his chapel. A few hours later, while London was still wholly ignorant of what had happened, the signal was given. Bradbury concluded his sermon with a fervent thanksgiving to God, who had blasted the hopes and designs of wicked men. He announced to his startled hearers the accession of George I., and having implored the Divine blessing on the King and on his family, minister and congregation joined in a psalm3 of triumph, describing the chosen prince, raised up by the Almighty Hand to save His people from their enemies. Some time later the same minister, accompanied by several other leading Nonconformists, was deputed to present an address of congratulation to the new sovereign. In the vestibule of the palace they met Bolingbroke, who asked them sarcastically, as he pointed to their dark robes, which contrasted strangely with the pageantry about them, ‘Is this a funeral?’ ‘No, my Lord,’ was the answer, ‘not a funeral, but a resurrection!’1
These were the chief elements that composed the Whig party which the accession of George I. raised to power. But although a singular combination of skill and good fortune had secured its success, although a dynasty which was once on the throne, and was supported by the army, was able, for a time at least, to command the allegiance of the classes who always rally around order, yet the permanence of the Government seemed more than doubtful. The strongest sympathies and enthusiasms of the nation took other directions, and the balance of classes was decidedly against it. The Whigs directed everything to their own advantage, and entirely discarded the policy of endeavouring to conciliate their opponents. The systematic exclusion of all Tories from the Government; the censure by both Houses of a peace which had been approved by two successive Parliaments; the report of the Secret Committee in which the whole conduct of the late ministers in negotiating the peace was minutely investigated and painted in the blackest colours; and finally the impeachment of Bolingbroke, Oxford, Ormond, and Stafford were sufficient to drive almost the whole party into the arms of Jacobitism. It is remarkable, however, that, even in this season of party violence and party triumph, the Whig leaders shrank from a repetition of the Sacheverell agitation, and abstained very prudently, though very illogically, from impeaching the Bishop of Bristol, who had been one of the plenipotentiaries in negotiating the peace, though they impeached his colleague, Lord Strafford. The violence shown on this occasion was a natural consequence of the measures of the last administration, but few will now question that it was excessive. No conclusive evidence of the Jacobite intrigues of the late Government was at that period accessible to the ministers. The ‘restraining orders’ furnished a ground for impeachment which was unquestionably valid, but they could affect neither Ormond, whose duty as a soldier was simply to obey orders, nor Strafford, who was negotiating in Holland. However inadequate, and even criminal, might have been the terms of the peace, the approbation of the preceding Parliaments should have sheltered its authors from criminal proceedings. The aspect of English politics was now rapidly changed by the disappearance of many leading figures from the scene. Bolingbroke fled to France, and, in a moment of anger or miscalculation, threw himself openly into the service of the Pretender, and thus exposed himself to an Act of Attainder and irretrievably ruined his future career. Ormond, soon after, took the same course, with a similar result; but after a short time he abandoned politics and lived quietly in France. Oxford awaited the storm with his usual calm courage, and he was flung into the Tower, where he remained untried for two years. In 1715 the Whigs lost Wharton, the most skilful and unscrupulous of their party managers, Halifax, the greatest of their financiers, and Burnet, the most brilliant of their churchmen. Somers lingered till 1716, but he was now a helpless paralytic, and, though a few fitful flashes of his old intelligence were occasionally discerned, his mind for many months before his death was profoundly impaired. Marlborough soon experienced the same fate. Though appointed Captain-General and Master of the Ordnance by the new Government, he received no confidence and exercised scarcely any influence, and he viewed with bitter displeasure the course of events. The death of two daughters, in 1714, threw a deep shadow over his life. In 1716 he was reduced by two successive strokes of paralysis to almost complete impotence, and he remained a pitiable wreck till his death in 1722.
In the country the surprised acquiescence and the sense of relief from impending danger, which had greeted the accession of George I, were soon replaced by a general discontent. The University of Oxford testified its sentiments by conferring, on the very day of the King's coronation, an honorary degree on Sir Constantine Phipps, who had just been removed from the Government of Ireland on suspicion of Jacobitism.
On the same day violent riots broke out at Birmingham, Bristol, Chippenham, Norwich, and Reading. Similar scenes soon occurred in almost every considerable town in the kingdom. The birthdays of Anne and of Ormond and the imprisonment of Oxford were the occasions of violent and threatening disturbances. The House of Lords in 1716 strongly censured the University authorities of Oxford for having refused to take any measures for celebrating the birthday of the Prince of Wales. On the other hand, those who attempted to celebrate the King's birthday in London with the usual festivities were insulted by the populace; and on the following day, which happened to be the anniversary of the Restoration, bonfires were lit, the streets were illuminated, a picture of King William was burnt in Smithfield, great crowds patrolled the city, shouting ‘Ormond and High Church for ever!’ and several persons were injured. The Dissenters, in 1714 and 1715, were exposed to violence very similar to that which they had experienced after the impeachment of Sacheverell. In London several of their ministers were burnt in effigy. At Oxford a Quaker meeting-house was utterly destroyed, and in most of the towns of Staffordshire, Shropshire, and Cheshire the Nonconformist chapels were wrecked.1 The Nonjurors now very generally attended the ordinary church service, but they took great pains to show that their antipathy to the Revolution was unabated. Some of them, when the names of the King and royal family were mentioned in the prayers, stood up and faced the congregation. Others less demonstratively glided down on their hassocks, and remained sitting till the prayers were over. Others tried the gravity of the congregation by ostentatiously rustling the pages of their prayer-books in order that they might not hear the obnoxious names.2 A fashion became common of drinking disloyal toasts in disguised forms, such as ‘Kit,’ or King James III.; ‘Job,’ or James, Ormond, and Bolingbroke; ‘three pounds fourteen and fivepence,’ or James III., Lewis XIV., and Philip V. Innumerable ballads and pamphlets circulated through the country, sustaining and representing the prevailing discontent.
The situation was, undoubtedly, very critical. The ministers had secured a large Whig majority in the Parliament, but there was every probability that if a dissolution occurred in three years, the verdict would have been reversed, and another of those great revulsions of power which of late years had been so frequent would have taken place.1 The utter ignorance of the King of the language of his people, and his awkward retiring manners, disgusted the nation all the more because it was the habit of the Whig party to throw many imputations upon the late Queen. It was remarked with bitterness that one of the very first acts of the new Government in foreign policy was to embroil England with a Northern Power in the interests of Hanover. Bremen and Verden, which had been ceded to Sweden by the treaty of Westphalia, had, on account of their situation between Hanover and the sea, been long an object of desire to the Princes of the House of Brunswick. In 1712 these provinces, together with Schleswig and Holstein, had been conquered by Denmark; but the King of Denmark, foreseeing that he would be unable to resist the arms of Sweden, on the return of Charles XII. from Turkey, resolved, by the sacrifice of a portion of his new dominions, to endeavour to secure the remainder. He accordingly sold Bremen and Verden to George, as Elector of Hanover, for 150,000l., on the further condition that Hanover should join in the war against Sweden. No sooner had this step been taken than a British fleet was despatched to the Baltic, ostensibly for the purpose of protecting British trade, really for the purpose of intimidating Sweden into concession. The Whig ministers supported this policy, on the ground that these provinces, which command the navigation of the Elbe and of the Weser, the only inlets from the British seas into Germany, are of essential importance in case of war, as protecting or interrupting the British commerce with Hamburg, and it was therefore a great British interest that they should be in possession of a power which was necessarily friendly to Great Britain. It was answered that a serious risk of war was incurred for the attainment of an old object of Hanoverian ambition, that George would never have entered into the enterprise had it not been for the power he possessed as a British sovereign, and that the English ministers would never have acquiesced in it had they not been anxious by every means to monopolise the favour of the King. A similar disposition, both on the part of the sovereign and his ministers, was shown in the speedy repeal of that clause of the Act of Settlement which prohibited the King from going abroad without the consent of his Parliament. While the tide of discontent in England rose higher and higher, alarming news was reported from Scotland. On September 6, 1715, Lord Mar set up the Jacobite banner at Braemar, and in a few weeks 10,000 men were gathered around it.
The measures of the Government were marked with great energy, promptitude, and severity. The hawkers who cried Tory pamphlets and broadsides through the streets were at once sent to the House of Correction. A reward of 1,000l. was offered for the discovery of the author, a reward of 50l. for that of the printer, of the ‘English Advice to the Freeholders of England,’ the most brilliant and popular of the Tory pamphlets. A schoolmaster named Bournois, who asserted that the King had no right to the British throne, was condemned to be scourged through the city, and the sentence was executed with such ferocity that he died in a few days. The disturbances in the great towns were met by a permanent Act, still in force, providing that any assembly of more than twelve persons who, having been enjoined to disperse by a Justice of the Peace, and having heard the proclamation against riots read, did not separate within an hour, should be esteemed guilty of felony. A royal order was issued strictly forbidding the clergy to introduce any political allusions into their sermons; but when the rebellion broke out, all the bishops except Atterbury and Smalridge signed a joint paper condemning it. On the first news of that event the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended. A reward of 100,000l. was offered for the apprehension of the Pretender, alive or dead. The contingent of 6,000 men, which the Dutch had bound themselves by treaty to furnish whenever the Protestant succession was in danger, was claimed, and orders were given for raising in England thirteen regiments of dragoons and eight of infantry; for keeping the trained bands in readiness to suppress tumults; for dismissing suspected Jacobites from their posts in the army, and even for arresting, with the consent of-the House, some Jacobite Members of Parliament.
The rebellion was from the first almost hopeless. Berwick stated, indeed, with much plausibility, that if supported by a body of regular troops it must have succeeded;1 but everything at this time seemed to conspire against the Stuarts. Between the inception and the execution of the project, Lewis XIV. died, the Regent who succeeded to power leaned towards the English alliance, and thus, while the reigning King could receive succours both from Germany and from Holland, all chance of French assistance to the Jacobites was lost. Hardly less calamitous had been the flight of Ormond. His character, his position, and his great liberality, had made him one of the most popular men in England. Had he been in it when the insurrection broke out, he would have been universally recognised as its chief, and as he had commanded the British army, he had at least some military knowledge, and would probably have drawn a portion of the regular troops to his side. An attempt was made to induce the King of Sweden to join in the enterprise, but it was unsuccessful, and the whole project was undertaken with a recklessness and a fatuity almost incredible. No single step was taken to produce a rebellion in Ireland, and the Government was therefore able to despatch several regiments from that country to crush the Scotch Jacobites. Even in England no general rising appears to have been prepared. The rebellion in Scotland was hurried on by the orders of the Pretender, without the knowledge either of Bolingbroke or of Berwick,2 and there was scarcely a single man of ordinary military knowledge connected with it. Mar, though in other fields he showed considerable ability, was in this respect conspicuously deficient, and he was also wholly without the decision and daring needed for the enterprise. The Jacobites were almost without arms and without organisation. Their secret intelligence was interrupted; their plans were discovered; several of their leaders, before they had time to take arms, were thrown into prison; and, although a large proportion of the nation undoubtedly sympathised with their cause, few men were prepared to risk their lives and properties in an enterprise at once so hazardous and so mismanaged.
A plan for surprising Edinburgh Castle was defeated by the secret information of a woman. The Highland chiefs were summoned by the Government to Edinburgh; and though few of them obeyed, Argyle and Sutherland, who were, perhaps, the most powerful, were on the Hanoverian side, and many of the leading Jacobites in Scotland were put under arrest. Mar, with the bulk of the insurgents, seized on Perth; but he remained there inactive and undecided, waiting, apparently, for an insurrection in England during the critical time that elapsed before the Government could organise its forces. In England the energy of the ministers completely paralysed the rebellion. Oxford, which was a special centre of Jacobitism, was occupied by a large body of cavalry. Ormond, after a very unwise delay, attempted a descent upon Devonshire, and as the western counties were intensely Tory, he expected a general rising, but his plans were betrayed by a Jacobite agent named M'Lean. Windham, Lord Lansdowne, and other prominent gentlemen who were to have organised the movement, were arrested; the garrison of Plymouth was changed, Bristol was defended by a body of infantry, and the success of these measures was so complete that Ormond, finding no prospect of support, returned to France without even landing. In Northumberland a body of Jacobites took up arms under Mr. Forster, one of the Members for the county, supported by Lord Derwentwater and some other leading gentry. They were joined by a small body of Scotch insurgents under Lord Kenmure and the Earls of Carnwath, Nithsdale, and Wintoun, who had taken arms in the south-west of Scotland, and soon after by a brigade of about 2,000 Highlanders under the command of an officer named Mackintosh, who had been despatched by Mar. This officer, who was one of the few men who gained some laurels in the contest, had previously succeeded in crossing the Frith of Forth in the face of three English men-of-war, had taken possession of Leith, and would probably have captured Edinburgh itself had not the royal army under Argyle marched to its assistance. He then succeeded in effecting his retreat unmolested, and joined the Northumberland army, when, however, many of his Highlanders deserted. Instead of marching northwards to attack Argyle in the rear, the insurgents made an unsuccessful attempt upon Newcastle, marched into Lancashire, where they were joined by many of the Roman Catholics who were so numerous in that county, and occupied Preston; but they were soon attacked by General Wills, and, after a short siege, compelled to surrender. On the same day the first considerable encounter in Scotland took place. Mar, after a long delay, having been joined by the northern clans under Lord Seaforth, and by those of the west under General Gordon, marched towards Stirling in hopes of joining the insurgents in the south, and was encountered by Argyle at Sheriffmuir. The battle was indecisive, or, to speak more accurately, the left wing of the army of Argyle was totally defeated by the Highlanders, while the right wing was as completely victorious. Each party claimed the victory, and each party drew off at last without molestation. Nearly at the same time the cause of the Pretender received a fatal blow in the capture of Inverness by Lord Lovat. This sagacious and unprincipled man had now for a short time deserted, through a personal motive, the Jacobite cause, to which he had formerly belonged, and for which he afterwards died, and he rendered an eminent service to the Government. Lord Seaforth and Lord Huntly were compelled to return to defend their own country, where they soon after laid down their arms, and the army of Mar was rapidly disintegrated by desertions and divisions. At last, towards the close of December, the Pretender himself came over to Scotland. He made a public entry into Dundee, reviewed the remnant of his army at Perth, and tried to rekindle its waning spirit. It was, however, too late. The Dutch auxiliaries had already arrived. The Jacobites were almost destitute of money, forage, ammunition, and provisions, and nothing remained but a precipitate retreat. It was effected through the deep snow of a Scotch winter. The Pretender, with Lord Mar and a few other persons of distinction, embarked in a small French vessel from Montrose, and having first sailed to Norway, they succeeded, by a circuitous route, in evading the English cruisers, and arriving in safety at the French coast, while their army rapidly dispersed. Of the prisoners, great numbers were brought to trial. Two peers and thirty-four commoners were executed. Lords Nithsdale and Wintoun, who were reserved for the same fate, succeeded in escaping, and many Jacobites were sentenced by the law courts to less severe punishments, or were deprived of their titles and possessions by Acts of Attainder.
So ended the Rebellion of 1715, which reflected very little credit on any of those concerned in it. How little confidence the most acute observers felt in the stability of the dynasty is curiously illustrated by the fact, which has recently been discovered, that Shrewsbury, who in 1714 had, of all men, done most to bring it on the throne, was deeply engaged in 1715 in Jacobite intrigues, while Marlborough had actually furnished money for the enterprise of the Pretender.1 Had that enterprise ever worn a hopeful aspect, large classes would probably have rallied around it; but in England, at least, scarcely anyone was prepared to make serious sacrifices, or to encounter serious dangers for its success. Dislike to the foreign dynasty was general, but the conflict between the passion of loyalty and the hatred of Catholicism had lowered the English character. The natural political enthusiasm of the time was driven inwards and repressed. Divided sentiments produced weak resolutions, and a material and selfish spirit was creeping over politics. In this, as in the preceding reign, the Whigs showed themselves incomparably superior to their opponents in organisation, in energy, and in skill; but how little they counted upon the national gratitude or support was shown by the fact that one of their first cares, on the termination of the rebellion, was to pass the Septennial Act, in order to adjourn for several years a general election. Much was, indeed, said of the demoralisation of the country, and of the ruin of the country gentry, resulting from triennial elections; of the animosities planted in constituencies which had no time to subside; of the instability of a foreign policy depending on a constantly fluctuating legislature; but the real and governing motive of the change was the conviction that an election in 1717 would be probably fatal to the ministry and, very possibly, to the dynasty. The Bill, though it related specially to the constitution of the Lower House, was first introduced in the House of Lords, and as it was passed without a dissolution, Parliament not only determined the natural duration of future legislatures, but also prolonged the tenure of the existing House of Commons for four years beyond the time for which it was elected.
It was on this side that the great dangers of the dynasty lay. If the character of Parliament continued to fluctuate as rapidly as it had done in the first decade of the century; if the Church and the landed gentry continued to look on the reigning family with hostility or with a sullen indifference, it was inevitable that the normal action of parliamentary government should soon bring the enemies of the dynasty into power. If the House of Brunswick was to continue on the throne, it was absolutely necessary that something should be done to clog the parliamentary machine, to prevent it from responding instantaneously to every breath of popular passion, to strengthen the influence of the executive both over the House and over the constituencies. The first great step towards this end was the Septennial Act, but it would, probably, have proved less successful had not a long series of causes been in action which lowered still more the Tory sentiment in England, and gradually and almost insensibly produced a condition of thought and government very favourable to the policy of the Whigs.
In the first place, it was inevitable that the monarchical sentiment should be materially diminished by the mere fact that the title to the crown was disputed. In this respect the position of England resembled that of a very large part of Europe, for the great multitude of disputed titles forms one of the most remarkable political characteristics of the early years of the eighteenth century. The throne of England was disputed between the House of Hanover and the House of Stuart. The Spanish throne was disputed between Philip V. and the Emperor. In Italy the Houses of Medici and of Farnese became extinct, and the successions of Tuscany and Parma were disputed by the Emperor and the Spanish Queen. In Poland the rival claims of Stanislaus, who was supported by Charles XII., and of Augustus, who was supported by Peter the Great, were during many years contested by arms. In France the title of the young King was, indeed, undisputed, but his fragile constitution made men look forward to his speedy death, and parties were already forming in support of the rival claims of the Regent and of the King of Spain. Among the causes which were lowering the position of monarchy in Europe in the eighteenth century, the multiplication of these disputed titles deserves a prominent place. They shook the reverence for the throne; they destroyed the mystic sanctity that surrounded it; they brought the supreme authority of the nation into the arena of controversy.
In England, since the period of the Restoration, the doctrine of the Divine right of kings and of the absolute criminality of all rebellion, was, as we have seen, a fundamental tenet, not only of the Tory party, but also of the Established Church. But from the accession of George I. it began rapidly to decline. The enthronement of the new dynasty had, for a time at least, solved the doubtful question of the succession according to the principles of the Revolution. The chief offices in the Church were reserved for divines who accepted those principles. The inconsistencies of the clergy during the three preceding reigns had weakened their authority and broken the force of the Anglican tradition; and in the rapid disappearance of doctrinal teaching, and the silent conversion of Christianity into a mere system of elevated morality, a theory of government which based authority upon, a religious dogma appeared peculiarly incongruous. The tendency was assisted by the religious scepticism of the most brilliant of the Tory chiefs. The theory of ‘the Patriot King,’ as far as it can be discerned through the cloud of vague though eloquent verbiage in which it is enveloped, is, that the power and prerogative of the sovereign should be greatly enlarged as the only efficient check upon the corruption of Parliaments; but in this, as in other of his later writings, Bolingbroke spoke of the theological doctrine which had once been the rallying cry of his party with unmitigated contempt.1 It was, of course, impossible that such a tone should have been employed by the Tory leader in the more active portion of his career; but his religious sentiments were, probably, very generally surmised, and there is, I believe, no evidence that he ever employed or countenanced the language of Sacheverell and his school.
There was another consideration which had a very powerful influence in the same direction. The undoubted benefits which England obtained from the events of the Revolution were purchased not only by the evil of a disputed succession, but also by that of a party king. The very politicians who would naturally have been most inclined to magnify the royal authority learned to look upon the reigning sovereign as the head of their opponents, and to make it a main object of their policy to abridge his power. This change had been already foreshadowed in the severe restrictions the Act of Settlement imposed upon the Sovereign, and there were few subjects on which Tory pamphleteers dilated with more indignant eloquence than the facility with which the Whigs afterwards consented to relax its limitations.2 Windham denounced in the strongest terms the unconstitutional conduct of the new king in endeavouring by a proclamation to influence the elections of 1715. The most jealous critics of the civil list were to be found in the Tory ranks. In 1722, when the House of Commons voted an address to the King, promising to enable him to suppress all remaining spirit of rebellion, it was the Tory Shippen who moved that the clause should be added ‘with due regard to the liberty of the subject, the constitution in Church and State, and the laws now in force.’3 Whatever may have been the private sentiments of its leaders, the party which assumed this attitude publicly disclaimed the imputation of Jacobitism. Its members, indeed, well knew that that imputation was the main obstacle to their political success, but at the same time they regarded the royal power with constant jealousy, and their public language was in glaring opposition to that which had so long been the very shibboleth of their school.1
By a similar inversion, the deep English feeling of respect for law and for all duly constituted authority, was now turned against high monarchical views. English political opinion has usually been pre-eminently distinguished for its moderation, and this characteristic has been very largely due to two great events in English history. Democratic excesses had been completely discredited by the Commonwealth, while the Revolution had discredited extreme monarchical doctrines, by associating them with Jacobitism, and therefore with conspiracy against the law.
The influences that were at work, altering the position of the sovereign, were, it is true, not all in the same direction. The large standing armies that were maintained after the Revolution, the Riot Act, the increase of patronage resulting from extended establishments and from the National Debt, and lastly the prolongation of the duration of Parliaments, were all favourable to his power or his influence. Great institutions, however, cannot rest solely upon a material basis, and the causes that were at work lowering the English monarchy were such as no extension of patronage or even of prerogative could compensate. Divested of the moral and imaginative associations that encircled the legitimate line, deprived of the religious doctrine on which it had once been based, and alienated from the party who are the natural exponents of monarchical enthusiasm, it sank at once into a lower plane. The King could lay no claim to a Divine right.2 His title was exclusively parliamentary, and there was nothing either in his person or his surroundings to appeal to the popular imagination. A profound revolution, it was noticed, took place in the etiquette of the Court. The pomp and pageantry of royalty, which had long been dear to Englishmen, and which had reflected, and in some degree sustained, the popular reverence for the King, had almost disappeared.1 George I. brought to England the simple habits of a German Court. His wife was a prisoner in Germany. His favourites were coarse and avaricious German mistresses. He spoke no English; he was in his fifty-fifth year, and he had no grace of manner and no love of display. Under these circumstances his Court assumed a particularly simple and unimposing character, which the parsimony and the tastes of his two successors led them to maintain.
With the Divine right, the ascription of a miraculous power naturally passed away. The service for the miracle of the royal touch was, indeed, reprinted in the first Prayer-book of George I.2 ; but the power was never exercised or claimed by the Hanoverian dynasty, and thus one great source of the popular reverence for the monarchy disappeared. For some time, however, we may trace the faint glimmerings of a supernatural aureole in the exiled line. James II., having lost his crown mainly on account of his religion, and having shown in his latter years a deep and touching piety,3 was naturally regarded with great reverence by the more devoted of his co-religionists, and on his death there were some attempts to invest him with the reputation of a Saint. Worshippers flocked in multitudes to the church where his body was laid, to ask favour by his intercession. A curious letter is still preserved, written by the Bishop of Autun, in the December of 1701, to the widow of James, describing in much detail what the writer believed to have been a miraculous cure, of which he had himself been the object. For more than forty years, he said, he had been afflicted with a tumour beneath the right eye, which, when pressed, emitted matter. In the beginning of the preceding April the fluxion ceased, the tumour rapidly grew larger than a nut, and it became so painful that the patient had not a moment of repose. A surgeon lanced it, and from this time the fluxion re-commenced with such abundance that it was necessary to dress the sore eight or ten times in the twenty-four hours. The bishop came to Paris and consulted several leading physicians, but they told him that there was no remedy, and that he must bear the inconvenience for the remainder of his life. On September 19 and 20, two or three days after the death of James, two nuns, in two different convents, independently announced to him their persuasion that the first miracle of the deceased King would be in his favour, and promised to pray God, by the intercession of James, to effect a cure. A few days after, as the bishop was celebrating mass, in the nunnery of Chaillot, for the soul of the King, his tumour ceased to flow, and all traces of the malady disappeared. Another story was circulated, concerning a young man of Auvergne, who had been afflicted with fits, which were believed to be of a paralytic nature, had lost all use of his limbs, and had tried in vain many remedies, both medical and spiritual. Immediately upon the death of James, a friend, who had a great veneration for that prince, recommended the sufferer to seek help through the intercession of the saintly King. He did so, and vowed, if he recovered, to make a pilgrimage to his tomb. From that day he began to amend. On the ninth day he was completely recovered, and a deposition was drawn up by the priest of his parish, and signed by himself, attesting the miraculous nature of the cure.1 Several other cases were narrated of miracles worked by the intercession of the King, and there is not much doubt that if the Stuarts had been restored, and had continued Catholics, he would have been canonised.2 Occasional rumours of cures of scrofula, effected by the touch of the Pretender, in Paris or in Rome, were long circulated in England,1 and the old ceremony was revived at Edinburgh in 1745.2 The credit that once attached to it, however, had almost passed, though the superstition long lingered, and is, perhaps, even now hardly extinct in some remote districts. In France, the ceremony was performed as recently as the coronation of Charles X., who touched, on that occasion, 121 sick persons.3 As late as 1838, a minister of the Shetland Isles, where scrofulous diseases are very prevalent, tells us that no cure was there believed to be so efficacious as the royal touch; and that, as a substitute for the actual living finger of royalty, a few crowns and half-crowns, bearing the effigy of Charles I., were carefully handed down from generation to generation, and employed as a remedy for the evil.4
Another very important cause of the decline of the power of royalty was the increased development of party government. The formation of a ministry, or homogeneous body of ruling statesmen of the same politics, deliberating in common, and in which each member is responsible to the others, has been justly described by Lord Macaulay as one of the most momentous and least noticed consequences of the Revolution. It was essential to the working of parliamentary government, and it was scarcely less important as a bridging the influence of the Crown. As long as the ministers were selected by the sovereign from the most opposite parties, as long as each was responsible only for his own department, and was perfectly free to vote, speak, or intrigue against his colleagues, it is obvious that the chief efficient power must have resided with the sovereign. When, however, the conduct of affairs was placed in the hands of a body forming a coherent whole, bound together by principle and by honour, and chosen out of the leaders of the dominant party in Parliament, the chief efficient power naturally passed to this body, and to the party it represented. Although, in the reign of William, the advice of Sunderland and the exigencies of public affairs had induced William to fall back upon government by a single party, yet he never renounced his preference for a mixed ministry, composed of moderate Whigs and moderate Tories; during almost the whole of his reign he succeeded, in some degree, in attaining it, and he always held in his own hands the chief direction of foreign affairs. His successor, in this respect at least, steadily pursued the same end, and the moderate and temporising policy, as well as the love of power, of Godolphin and Harley assisted in perpetuating the old system. The first ministry of Anne, to almost the close of its existence, was a chequered one, and although at last the Whig element became completely predominant, the introduction of the Whig junto was distasteful to Godolphin, and bitterly resented by the Queen. Her letters to Godolphin, when the accession of Sunderland to the ministry had become inevitable, express her sentiments on the subject in the strongest and clearest light. She urged that the appointment would be equivalent to throwing herself entirely into the hands of a party; that it was the object of her life to retain the faculty of appointing to her service honourable and useful men on either side; that if she placed the direction of affairs exclusively in the hands either of Whigs or Tories, she would be entirely their slave, the quiet of her life would be at an end, and her sovereignty would be no more than a name.1 On the overthrow of Godolphin, it was the earnest desire both of Harley and of the Queen that a coalition ministry should be formed, in which, though the Tories predominated, they should not possess a monopoly of power. Overtures were made to Somers and Halifax; and Cowper was urgently and repeatedly pressed by the Queen to retain the Great Seal.2 The refusal of the Whig leaders made the Government essentially Tory, but, as we have already seen, it was a bitter complaint of the October Club that several of the less prominent Whigs were retained in office, and the habit of balancing between the parties still continued. ‘I'll tell you one great state secret,’ wrote Swift to Stella, as early as February 1710-11, ‘the Queen, sensible how much she was governed by the late ministry, runs a little into t'other extreme, and is jealous in that point, even of those who got her out of the other's hands.’ ‘Her plan,’ said a well-informed writer, ‘was not to suffer the Tory interest to grow too strong, but to keep such a number of Whigs still in office as should be a constant check upon her ministers.’1 Harley, who dreaded the extreme Tories, fully shared her view; he was always open to overtures from the Whigs, and it was this policy which at last produced the ministerial crisis that was cut short by the death of the Queen.
With the new reign all was changed. In the first anxious month after the accession of George I., it was doubtful whether he would throw himself entirely into the hands of the Whigs, or whether, by bestowing some offices on the Tories, he would make an effort at once to conciliate his opponents, and to retain in his own hands a substantial part of the direction of affairs. Every step in his policy, however, showed that he was resolved to adopt the former alternative, and the Tories soon learnt to realise the pathetic truth of the words which Boling-broke wrote, on the occasion of his own contemptuous dismissal: ‘The grief of my soul is this: I see plainly that the Tory party is gone.’ Halifax appears to have urged the appointment of Sir Thomas Hanmer, Bromley, and some other Tories, to high office under the Crown;2 but Townshend and Cowper, with a zeal that was not purely disinterested, pressed upon the King the impossibility of distributing his favours equally between the parties,1 and, with the exception of Nottingham, who, during the latter days of Queen Anne, had completely identified himself with the Whigs, and who was for a short time President of the Council, all Tories were excluded from the management of affairs. It was urged that, in the very critical moment of accession, it was indispensable that the King should be served only by statesmen on whom he could perfectly rely; that the leaders of the Tory party had in the last reign been deeply implicated in Jacobite intrigues; that it was difficult or impossible to say how far Jacobitism had spread among them; that a division of offices would be sure to create jealousy and disloyalty in the weaker party, and to enfeeble, in a period of great danger, the policy of the Government; that, in the very probable event of the Pretender becoming Protestant, the House of Brunswick could count on no one but the most decided Whigs. On the other hand, it is certain that a very large part of the Stuart sympathies of the Tories was simply due to a fear that the new Government would not recognise the legitimate claims of the party to a fair share of political power, and it is equally certain that the landed gentry and the clergy in England were strongly attached to that party and were bitterly exasperated by its proscription. It was not forgotten that the Act of Settlement, by virtue of which the King sat on the throne, was brought in by a Tory statesman, that the Peace of Utrecht, which was the great measure of the Tory ministry, contained a clause compelling the French sovereign to recognise the Protestant succession, and to expel the Pretender from France, and that one section of the party, under the guidance of Sir Thomas Hanmer, had never wavered in its attachment to the Act of Settlement. On the death of the Queen, they had all, at least passively, accepted the change of dynasty, and there is no reason to question the substantial truth of the assertion of Bolingbroke, that the proscription of the Tories by George I. for the first time made the party entirely Jacobite.2 But, whatever may have been its effect on the stability of the dynasty, there can be no doubt of the effect of the Whig monopoly of office on the authority of the sovereign. He was no longer the moderating power, holding the balance in a heterogeneous and divided Cabinet, able to dismiss a statesman of one policy and to employ a statesman of another, and thus in a great measure to determine the tendency of the Government. He could govern only through a political body which, in its complete union and in its command of the majority in Parliament, was usually able, by the threat of joint resignation, which would make government impossible, to dictate its own terms. The peculiarity of his position added to his dependence. His throne was exceedingly insecure. He enjoyed no popularity, and he was almost wholly ignorant of the language, the customs, and the domestic policy of his people. His predecessors always presided at the deliberations of the Cabinet, but George I., on account of his ignorance of the language, was never present, and his example was in this respect followed by his successors.
In this manner, by the force of events, much more than by any express restrictive legislation, a profound change had passed over the position of the monarchy in England. The chief power fell into the hands of the Whig statesmen. Nottingham, who was the only partial exception, having exerted himself in favour of clemency towards the noblemen who were condemned during the rebellion, was dismissed in the beginning of 1716,1 and the triumphant party made it their main task to consolidate their ascendancy. They did this chiefly in two ways. They steadily laboured to identify the Tory party with Jacobitism, and thus to persuade both the sovereign and the people that a Tory Government meant a subversion of the dynasty. As there was absolutely no enthusiasm for the reigning sovereign, the prospect might not in itself appear very alarming, but it was clearly understood that the downfall of the dynasty meant civil war, revolution, and perhaps national bankruptcy. They also began systematically to build up a vast system of parliamentary influence. The wealth of the great Whig houses, the multitude of small and venal boroughs, the increase of Government patronage, and the Septennial Act, which, by prolonging the duration of Parliament, made it more than ever amenable to ministerial influence, enabled them to carry out their policy with a singular completeness.
The condition of European politics greatly assisted them. The chief external danger to the dynasty lay in the hostility of France, but this hostility was now for a long period removed. The Regent from the first had leaned somewhat towards the English alliance, and after the suppression of the rebellion of 1715 he took decided steps in this direction. He had, indeed, the strongest personal interest in doing so. The young prince, who was his ward, and who was the undoubted heir to the throne, was so weak and sickly that his death might at any time be expected. In that case the crown, according to the provisions of the Peace of Utrecht, devolved upon the Regent, but it was extremely probable that Philip of Spain would claim it, in spite of the act by which he had renounced his title. The succession of the Regent would then be in the utmost danger. It was possible that Philip, inspired by the daring genius of Alberoni, who was now rising rapidly to ascendancy in his councils, would endeavour to unite under one sceptre the dominions both of France and of Spain. In that case a European war was inevitable, but it would be a war in which the whole national sentiment of France would be opposed to the whole national sentiment of France would be opposed to the Regent, who was personally unpopular, and who would be an obstacle to the most cherished dream of French ambition. It was possible also, and perhaps more probable, that Philip would endeavour merely to exchange the throne of Spain for that of France. If he abdicated in favour of a prince who was acceptable to the Powers who had been allied in the last war, the great object of the Whig party in the reign of Anne would be realised; and it was therefore by no means improbable that the allied Powers would favour his attempt. If England could be induced unequivocally to guarantee the succession of the House of Orleans, if the Whig Government of George I. would in this respect at least cordially adopt the policy of the Tory ministry which negotiated the Peace of Utrecht, it was clear that the prospects of the Regent would be immensely improved. On the other hand, the reasons inducing the English Government to seek a French alliance were at least equally strong, France could do more than all other Powers combined to shake the dynasty, and as long as the Jacobite party could look forward to her support it would never cease to be powerful. Besides this, an English guarantee might so strengthen the House of Orleans as to prevent another European war, and avert the danger of the union of the two crowns. Hanoverian politics had also begun to colour all English negotiations, and a great coldness which had sprung up between the Emperor and the Hanoverian Government, on account of the claims of the latter to Bremen and Verden, helped to incline George towards a French rather than an Austrian alliance. There was also a dangerous question pending between England and France, which it might be possible amicably to arrange. The Peace of Utrecht had stipulated that the harbour of Dunkirk should be destroyed, and the injury that had been done to British commerce by the privateers which issued from that harbour was so great that scarcely any provision in the treaty was equally popular. It had been in a great degree fulfilled, but the French had proceeded to nullify it by constructing a new canal on the same coast at Mardyke. The destruction of this incipient harbour became in consequence one of the strongest desires of the English.
These various considerations drew together the Powers which had so long been deadly enemies. The negotiation was chiefly conducted at Hanover by Stanhope on the side of England, and by Dubois on that of France, and it resulted in a treaty which gave an entirely new turn to the foreign policy of England. By this treaty the Regent agreed to break altogether with the Pretender, to compel him to reside beyond the Alps, and to destroy the new port at Mardyke, while both Powers confirmed and guaranteed the Peace of Utrecht and particularly the order of the succession to the crowns of England and France which it established. Thus, by a singular vicissitude of politics, it was the Whig party which was now the most anxious to ally itself with France in the interest of that Protestant succession which Lewis XIV. had so bitterly opposed. The States-General somewhat reluctantly acceded to the treaty, which was finally concluded in January 1716-17.
It would be difficult to overrate the value of this alliance to the new dynasty and to the Whig party. It paralysed the efforts of the Jacobites, and it was especially important as the aspect of Europe was still in many respects disquieting. The Emperor, as we have seen, had prolonged the war unsuccessfully for some months after the Peace of Utrecht, and though hostilities were terminated by the peace which was negotiated at Rastadt, and finally ratified at Baden in September 1714, there were still serious questions to be settled. One of the most important results of the war was the transfer of the Spanish Netherlands to the Emperor. It was a measure which William had regarded as of transcendant importance in securing Holland from the aggression of France, and it was accordingly given a prominent place among the objects of the great treaty of alliance of 1701.1 It was, however, the determination both of the Dutch and of the English that this cession should be conditional upon the Dutch retaining the right of garrisoning a line of border fortresses in Spanish Flanders, and this privilege was very displeasing to the Emperor. The barrier treaty of 1709 had been negotiated between England and Holland without his assent. The Peace of Utrecht had, indeed, restored to France some towns which the earlier treaty had reserved for the Dutch barrier, but, to the great indignation of the Emperor, it provided that such a barrier should be secured. As the war was still going on, France, in accordance with the treaty, surrendered the Spanish Netherlands provisionally to Holland, to be transferred by her to Austria, as soon as peace should have been restored and the conditions and limits of the barrier arranged. A long, tedious, and irritating negotiation ensued between the Dutch and the Emperor, but it was at last, chiefly through English mediation, concluded in November 1715. The treaty which was then signed, and confirmed by England, gave Holland the exclusive right of garrisoning Namur, Tournay, Menin, Furnes, Warneton, Ypres, and the fort of Knocke. The garrison of Dendermonde was to be a joint one. A sum of 500,000 crowns, levied on what were now the Austrian Netherlands, was to be annually paid by the Emperor to the Dutch for the support of the Dutch garrisons in the barrier towns, and several provisions were made regulating the number of the troops to be maintained, the municipal arrangements, and the religious liberty to be conceded. To the Emperor, who claimed an absolute right over the whole Spanish dominions, this arrangement was very irksome, and there was a strong ill-feeling between the Austrians and the Dutch, which by no means subsided on the conclusion of the treaty. A divided sovereignty almost necessarily led to constant difficulties. One of the Powers was despotic, the other was rather notoriously minute and punctilious in its exactions. There were violent disputes between the inhabitants of the newly annexed territory and the Dutch on the question of commercial privileges. There were disputes about the frontiers. There were bitter complaints of the subsidy to the Dutch, and it was found necessary for the three Powers to make another convention, which was executed in December 1718, and which in several small details modified the treaty of 1715.
Another and a much more serious danger arose from the relations between Austria and Spain. We have seen that when the Emperor at the time of the Peace of Utrecht resolved to continue the war, he determined, if possible, to contract its limits to the Rhine; and he accordingly concluded with England and France a treaty of neutrality for Spain, Italy, and the Low Countries, and withdrew the Austrian troops from Catalonia and the islands of Majorca and Ivica. The short war that ensued was a war with France, and the Peace of Baden was negotiated between the Emperor and the French King, but no formal peace had ever been established between the Emperor and the King of Spain. The Emperor still refused to recognise the title of Philip to the Spanish throne. Philip still maintained his claims to the kingdom of Naples, the Milanese, and the Spanish Netherlands, which the Peace of Utrecht had transferred to Austria. War might at any time break out, and the chief pledge of peace lay in the exhaustion of both belligerent parties, in the difficulties in which the Emperor was involved with the Turks, and in the guarantees which England, France, and Holland had given for the maintenance of the chief arrangements of the peace. In May 1716 when the relations between England and France were still uncertain, a defensive alliance had been contracted between England and the Emperor, by which each Power guaranteed the dominions of the other in case of an attack by any Power except the Turks, and, by an additional and secret article subsequently signed, each Power agreed to expel from its territory the rebel subjects of the other. Of the arrangements of the Peace of Utrecht, one of the most obnoxious to the Emperor was that which made the Duke of Savoy King of Sicily, with reversion of the kingdom of Spain in the event of a failure of male issue of Philip. The Austrian statesmen maintained that the kingdom of Naples never would be secure so long as Sicily was in the hands of a foreign and perhaps a hostile Power; and they soon engaged in secret negotiations with England and France to induce or compel the Duke of Savoy to exchange Sicily for Sardinia. The project became known, and both the Duke of Savoy and the King of Spain were determined to resist it. On the other hand, a strange transformation had passed over the spirit and tendency of the Spanish Government. The first wife of Philip, who was a daughter of the Duke of Savoy, died in February 1714-15, and, a few months after, the King married Elizabeth Farnese, the young Princess of Parma-a bold and aspiring woman, who was bitterly hostile to the Austrian dominion in Italy, and who had some claims to the succession of Parma, Placentia, and Tuscany. The sovereign of the first two Duchies had no son. The Queen of Spain was his niece, and she claimed the succession as a family inheritance, but her title was disputed by both the Emperor and the Pope. The Grand Duke of Tuscany had a son, but this son was without issue, and was separated from his wife, and the succession was claimed by Elizabeth Farnese, by the Emperor, and by the wife of the Elector Palatine. The anxiety of the Spanish Queen to claim this inheritance was greatly intensified by the birth of a son. She soon obtained an absolute dominion over the mind of the King, and her own policy was completely governed by an Italian priest, who, probably, only needed somewhat more favourable circumstances to have played a part in the world in no degree inferior to that of Richelieu or Chatham.
Cardinal Alberoni is one of the most striking of the many examples of the great value of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical organisation in forming a ladder by which men of genius can climb from the lowest positions to great dignity and influence. The son of a very poor and very illiterate gardener at Placentia, he was born in 1664, was taught to read and write by the charity of a parish priest, and having entered the order of the Barnabites and passed through the lowest forms of ecclesiastical drudgery, he was at length, with considerable difficulty, raised to the priesthood, and became in time chaplain to the bishop of his diocese, and canon in its cathedral. By the friendship of another bishop he was brought to the Court of the reigning Duke of Parma, where he was introduced in 1702 to the Duke of Vendome, who was then commanding the French army in Italy, and whose warm attachment laid the foundation of his future success. Few men without any advantage either of birth or fortune have ever risen to great political eminence without drinking deeply of the cup of moral humiliation; and St. Simon, whose aristocratic leanings made him regard the low-born adventurer with peculiar malevolence, assures us, probably with some truth, that Alberoni first won the favour of Vendome by gross sycophancy and buffoonery. His small round figure, surmounted by a head of wholly disproportioned size, gave him at first sight a burlesque appearance. His language and habits were very coarse, and he possessed to the highest degree the supple and insinuating manners, the astute judgment, the patient, flexible, and intriguing temperament of his country and of his profession. But with these qualities he combined others of a very different order. He was the most skilful, laborious, and devoted of servants. His imagination teemed with grand and daring projects, and in energy of action and genius of organisation very few statesmen have equalled him. For a time everything seemed to smile upon him. He was employed by the Duke of Parma in negotiations with the Emperor. He was presented by Vendome to Lewis XIV. He obtained a French pension; he accompanied Vendome in his brilliant Spanish campaign; he became the envoy of the Duke of Parma at the Spanish Court, and having taken a leading part in negotiating the second marriage of the King, he acquired a complete ascendancy over the Queen and directed Spanish policy for some time before he became ostensibly Prime Minister of Spain. His whole soul was filled with a passionate desire to free his native country from Austrian thraldom, to raise Spain from the chronic decrepitude and debility into which she had sunk, and to make her, once more, the Spain of Isabella and of Charles V. The task was a Herculean one, for the national spirit had been for generations steadily declining. The finances were all but ruined, and corruption, maladministration, and superstition had corroded all the energies of the State. The firm hand of a great statesman was, however, soon felt in every department. Amid a storm of unpopularity, corrupt and ostentatious expenditure was rigidly cut down. The nobles and clergy were compelled to contribute their. share to taxation; the army was completely reorganised; a new and powerful navy was created. Pampeluna, Barcelona, Cadiz, Ferrol, and several minor strongholds were strengthened. The numerous internal custom-houses, which restricted inland trade, were, with some violence to local customs and to provincial privileges, summarily abolished. The lucrative monopoly of tobacco, which had been alienated from the State, and grossly abused, was resumed. Great pains were taken to revive agriculture and extend manufactures; in spite of the national hostility to heretics, Dutch manufacturers, and even English dyers, were brought over to Spain; and the improvement effected was so rapid that Alberoni boasted, with much reason, that five years of peace would be sufficient to raise Spain to an equality with the greatest nations of the earth.
At first he was very favourable to the English alliance, and through his influence an advantageous commercial treaty was negotiated between England and Spain in 1715. Soon, however, the two Governments rapidly diverged. The treaty of mutual defence, made between the Emperor and England in 1716, was a great blow to Spanish policy, and the Triple Alliance in the following year was a still greater one. An attempt to expel the Austrians from Italy without the assistance of France, and in the face of the hostility of England, appeared hopeless. Alberoni would have at least postponed the enterprise, but his hand was forced. He was surrounded with enemies, and could only maintain his position by constant address and audacity. The Queen, on whom he mainly depended, wished for war. The proceedings of the Emperor about Sicily, and the arrest of the Grand Inquisitor of Spain on his journey through Milan, exasperated the Spanish Court; and the Turkish war, which had recently broken out, seemed to furnish a favourable opportunity. In 1715 the Turks, on the most frivolous, pretexts, had broken the Peace of Carlowitz, had declared war with the Venetians, had conquered the Morea, and laid siege to Corfu, and the Emperor, having drawn the sword in defence of his ally, the war was now raging in Hungary. The position of Alberoni at this time became a very difficult one. The Pope was summoning all Catholic Powers to the defence of Christendom, and threatened severe spiritual penalties against all who attacked the Emperor while engaged in the holy war. Alberoni was himself a priest, and he was at the head of a nation which was passionately superstitious, and beyond all others the hereditary enemy of the Mohammedan. He accordingly professed himself ready to assist in the defence of the Christian interests, made great naval preparations ostensibly for that purpose, and obtained his Cardinal's hat chiefly by a show of zeal in the cause, but at the same time there is little doubt that he was secretly both encouraging and aiding Turkish invasion. His hopes, however, were in a great degree disappointed. Schulenburg, one of the ablest of the military adventurers who in the eighteenth century lent their services in succession to many different nations, commanded the Venetians at Corfu, and after a terrible siege, and in spite of prodigies of undisciplined valour,1 the Turks were obliged to abandon their enterprise with the loss of about 17,000 men, of 56 cannon, of all their magazines and tents. Nearly at the same time, Eugene, at the head of an army far inferior in numbers to that of the enemy, completely routed them in the great battle of Peterwardein, drove them beyond the frontier of Hungary, secured the possession of the Banat, and laid siege to Belgrade. The Austrian forces were, however, for a considerable time arrested, and at the time when the Spaniards began their contest, a considerable proportion of them were employed in that quarter. Alberoni at the same time was indefatigable in efforts to raise up allies, or to paralyse the Powers which were hostile to him. He obtained a promise of assistance from the Duke of Savoy by offering him the Milanese instead of Sicily. He intrigued alike with the discontented party in Hungary, in Naples, and in the Cevennes. He met the hostility of the Regent by reviving the claims of Philip to the eventual succession of the French crown, and supporting the party of the Duke of Maine, who was opposed to the Regent and to the English alliance, and who desired to follow the policy of Lewis XIV. He endeavoured to intimidate England into neutrality by suspending the commercial privileges that bad been granted her, and by threatening to support the Jacobite cause with a Spanish army.
Another and still more gigantic project, if it was not originated, was at least warmly supported by him. The North of Europe had long been convulsed by the contest between Charles XII. of Sweden and Peter the Great, the two most ambitious monarchs of the age. Goertz, the minister of the former-a bold, adventurous, and unscrupulous man-now conceived the idea of negotiating a peace and an alliance between these two sovereigns, and of making them the arbiters of the North. In order to make this peace it was necessary for Charles to relinquish to Russia the Baltic provinces which had so long been in dispute, but he could obtain compensations on the side of Denmark, Norway, and Germany, and he could gratify his long-continued resentment against the King of Poland and the Elector of Hanover. His animosity against the latter dates from the time when George, without provocation, had joined the confederation against him, and had annexed to his German dominions Bremen and Verden. On other grounds the Czar fully shared his hatred of the English King. George had watched with great and unconcealed jealousy the incursions of the Czar into Germany, and his growing power on the Baltic. He had prevented, by the threat of war, a Russian expedition against Mecklenburg in 1716, and he had refused to permit a canal, from which the Czar expected great commercial advantages, to pass through a small part of his German dominions. Through combined motives of policy and resentment, the Czar lent a willing ear to the project of the Swedish minister, while Charles threw himself into it with characteristic ardour. His plan was to wrest from Denmark and Hanover the conquests they had made, to ruin the Hanoverian power, to replace Augustus by Stanislaus on the throne of Poland, to invade England or Scotland in person with a Swedish army transported in Russian ships, and to change the whole tenour of English policy by a restoration of the Stuarts. It was a scheme well fitted to fascinate that wild imagination, and it was full of danger to England A very small army of disciplined soldiers would probably have turned the scale against the Government in 1715, and Charles was a great master of the art of war, and he was free from the taint of Catholicism, which in general so fatally weakened the Jacobite cause. The great difficulty lay in the poverty of the two sovereigns; but Alberoni, whose influence was actively employed in promoting the alliance, strained every nerve to supply the funds. Peter, in a journey to France, tried to induce France to join against England, but the Regent was steadily loyal to the English alliance, and it is said to have been through his spies that the English ministers were first informed of the plot that was preparing. Letters were intercepted, which disclosed the design. The Government promptly arrested Gyllenborg, the Swedish ambassador at St. James's, while, at the instigation of England, the Dutch arrested Goertz, who was in Holland concocting the plans of the future expedition. The Spanish ambassador protested against these proceedings as a violation of the laws of nations, but the letters found in the possession of Gyllenborg furnished such decisive evidence that no other Power joined him. The Czar, who was not implicated in the correspondence, protested his friendship to England. The King of Sweden took refuge in a haughty silence, but retaliated by throwing the English envoy into prison. The disclosure of the plot rendered its execution more difficult, but by no means averted the danger which, partly through the intrigues of Alberoni, hung over the fortunes of England.
The arrest of the Swedish ambassador took place on January 29, 1716-17. In the following summer a Spanish fleet sailed from Barcelona. Though its destination was uncertain, it was most generally believed that it was intended to act against the Turks, and all Europe was startled to hear that on August 22 (N.S.) it had swept down upon Sardinia, that a large body of Spanish troops had landed and invested Cagliari, and that they were advancing rapidly in the conquest of the island. After about two months of hard fighting the conquest was achieved, and the Austrian flag had everywhere disappeared. The perplexity of the Great Powers was very serious. Though no peace had been made between the Emperor and the Spanish King, hostilities had been dormant and the act of Alberoni kindled a new war. The Pope strongly denounced the conduct of a statesman who attacked a Christian Power while engaged in wars with Mohammedans. England had guaranteed the Austrian dominions in Italy, and, supported by France and Holland, she laboured earnestly to bring about a definite peace between the Empire and Spain. Alberoni consented to negotiate, but at the same time he actively armed. Statesmen who had looked upon the Spanish power as almost effete, saw with bewilderment the new forces that seemed to start into life, as beneath the enchanter's wand. A fleet such as Spain had hardly equalled since the destruction of the Armada was equipped. Catalonia had been hitherto bitterly hostile to the Bourbon dynasty, but Alberoni boldly threw himself upon the patriotism and the martial ardour of its people, summoned them around the Spanish flag, and formed six new regiments of the Catalonian mountaineers. Many years later the elder Pitt dealt in a precisely similar way with the Jacobite clans in the Highlands of Scotland, and the success of this measure is justly regarded as one of the great proofs of the high quality of his statesmanship. By a skilful and strictly honest management of the finances, by a rigid economy in all the branches of unnecessary expenditure, it was found possible to make the most formidable preparations without imposing any very serious additional burden upon the people, while at the same time Spanish diplomacy was active and powerful from Stockholm to Constantinople.
Hitherto fortune had for the most part favoured Alberoni, but the scale now turned, and a long succession of calamities blasted his prospects. His design was to pass at once from Sardinia into the kingdom of Naples in conjunction with the new sovereign of Sicily; but, within a few days of the landing of the Spaniards in Sardinia, Eugene had completely defeated the Turks in a great battle at Belgrade, and the capture of that town enabled the Emperor to secure Naples by a powerful reinforcement. The defection of the King of Sicily speedily followed. The whole career of Victor Amadeus had been one of sagacious treachery, and, without decisively abandoning the Spaniards or committing himself to the Austrians, he was now secretly negotiating with the Emperor. Alberoni knew or suspected the change, and met it with equal art and with superior energy. He still professed a warm friendship for the Savoy prince. A Spanish fleet of 22 ships of the line with more than 300 transports, and carrying no less than 33,000 men, was now afloat in the Mediterranean; and, at a time when Victor Amadeus imagined it was about to descend upon Naples, it unexpectedly attacked Sicily, which was left almost undefended, and a Spanish army under the command of the Marquis of Lede, captured Palermo, and speedily overran almost the whole island. This, however, was the last gleam of success. In July 1718, the very month in which the Spaniards landed in Sicily, the war between the Austrians and the Turks was concluded, chiefly through English mediation, by the Peace of Passarowitz; the Austrian frontier was extended far into Servia and Wallachia, and the whole Austrian forces were liberated. England had long been negotiating in order to obtain peace in Italy, or, failing in this end, to form an alliance which would overpower the aggressor, and she succeeded in at least attaining the latter end by inducing Austria and France to join her in what, under the expectation of the accession of the Dutch, was called the Quadruple Alliance, for the purpose of maintaining the Peace of Utrecht, and guaranteeing the tranquillity of Europe. It was concluded in the beginning of July but not signed till the beginning of August. By this most important measure, the Emperor at last reluctantly agreed to renounce his pretensions to the kingdom of Spain, and to all other parts of the Spanish dominions recognised as such by the Peace of Utrecht. Tuscany, Parma, and Placentia were acknowledged to be male fiefs of the Empire, but the Emperor engaged that their sovereignty, on the death of the reigning princes, should pass to Don Carlos, the son of the Spanish Queen and to his successors, subject to the reservation of Leghorn as a free port, and also to the condition that the crowns of these Duchies should never pass to the sovereign of Spain. To secure the succession of Don Carlos, Swiss garrisons, paid by the three contracting or mediating Powers, were to be placed in the chief towns. On the other hand, Philip was to be compelled to renounce his pretensions to the Netherlands, to the two Sicilies, and to the Duchy of Milan; Victor Amadeus was to cede Sicily to the Emperor in exchange for Sardinia, while, as a compensation for the sacrifice thus made, the Emperor acknowledged the succession of the House of Savoy to the Spanish throne, in the event of the failure of the issue of Philip. The contracting Powers agreed by separate and secret articles that if in three months the sovereigns of Spain and Sicily did not notify their assent to these conditions, the whole force of the allied potentates was to be employed against them, and that even within this interval they would support the Emperor if any attack was made on his Italian dominions.
The very favourable terms which were offered by this alliance to the Spanish Government show how formidable the situation had become. The English Government, at the advice of Stanhope, even went so far, in their anxiety for peace, as secretly to offer Spain the restoration of Gibraltar. The refusal of these terms was the master error of Alberoni, and the sacrifice of such considerable positive advantages, in pursuit of a policy which could only succeed by a concurrence of many favourable circumstances, showed more the spirit of a daring gambler than of a great statesman. The blame has been thrown exclusively upon Alberoni, though it is probable that part, at least, should fall on these upon whose favour he depended. At the time when the terms were first offered, the expedition against Sicily was prepared, the Spaniards were sanguine of being able to organise such a fleet as would give them the command of the Mediterranean, and there was some reasonable prospect of reestablishing the Spanish dominion in Italy. The Pope was at this time violently hostile to Spain, and the combination of forces against it secured by the Quadruple Alliance appeared at first sight irresistible, but there were many considerations which served to weaken it. Holland was only desirous of peace, and as long as the war was confined to the Mediterranean it was very improbable that she would take any active part in it. The alliance of France with England against the grandson of Lewis XIV. was utterly opposed to French traditions and to French feeling. The health of the young King was very precarious. His death would probably be followed by a disputed succession, and during his lifetime there was a strong party opposed to the Regent. If, as there was some reason to anticipate, this party triumphed, France would immediately disappear from the alliance, and her weight would pass into the Spanish scale. England had taken the most energetic part in the negotiation, and she looked with great jealousy on the formidable navy which had arisen in the Spanish waters; but in this case also everything depended on the continuance of a tottering dynasty, and if the great Northern alliance burst upon her, her resources would be abundantly occupied at home. Such were probably the calculations of the Spanish Court, and the successes in Sicily, and the safe arrival of a fleet of galleons bringing a large supply of gold from the colonies strengthened its determination. The result was the utter ruin of the reviving greatness of Spain. On August 22 the British fleet, commanded by Admiral Byng, attacked, and, after a desperate encounter, almost annihilated, the Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro, in the neighbourhood of Syracuse. The Spaniards complained bitterly that this step had been taken without a declaration of war, when the three months allowed by the Quadruple Alliance had but just begun; but it was answered with reason that the invasion of Sicily clearly endangered the territorial arrangements that had been made by the allied powers, and that Stanhope had fully warned Alberoni that no such act would be permitted by England. In the beginning of November, Victor Amadeus acceded to the Quadruple Alliance, and all hope of assistance in that quarter was at an end. In December a ball fired from the obscure Norwegian fortress of Frederikshall cut down Charles XII., in the very flower of his age, when he was just about to organise his expedition against England. No more terrible blow could have fallen on the Spanish statesman. The Government which followed, at once reversed the policy of Charles. Goertz was brought to the scaffold. The Czar made no attempt to execute the project which his rival had begun, and in the following year a treaty was made between Hanover and Sweden, by which, in consideration of a money payment, the cession of Bremen and Verden to the former was fully recognised.
Nor was this all. Alberoni, with characteristic daring, endeavoured, even after the death of Charles, to strike down the hostile Goverments both in France and England. The strong party in France which was opposed to the English alliance had formed the bold design of seizing the person of the Regent, carrying him prisoner into Spain, and conferring the regency upon Philip, who was content that the power should be actually exercised by the Duke of Maine. The Duke, or rather the Duchess, was at the head of the conspiracy, which comprised several men of great importance and influence. The most conspicuous were the Cardinal de Polignac, the well-known author of the ‘Anti-Lucrèce,’ who had received a Cardinal's hat through the influence of the Pretender, and had represented France in the conferences of Gertruydenberg and of Utrecht; the young Duke of Richelieu, famous alike for his courage and and his intrigues, who promised to place Bayonne, where he was garrisoned, in the hands of the Spaniards, and to head a rising in the South; the Comte de Laval, a man of great energy and influence, who was devotedly attached to the Duchess of Maine; and the Marquis of Pompadour, who was a passionate worshipper of the memory and the policy of the late King. All the more ardent followers of Lewis XIV. had seen with great indignation the accession of France to the Quadruple Alliance negotiated by England against Spain. The complete reversal of French policy was, undoubtedly, distasteful to the whole nation, and the Regent was personally unpopular, both with the nobles and with the people. His authority was of very doubtful legitimacy, for he had completely disregarded the restrictions on the regency imposed by the will of the late King, and had also deprived the Duke of Maine of the position of guardian to the young sovereign, which Lewis had assigned him. He was accused, though, no doubt, untruly, of having poisoned the late Dauphin, and of meditating the death of the feeble boy who stood between him and the throne; and, with much more justice, of having in foreign affairs sacrificed to his own personal interest the national and traditional policy of France. The ascendency of Dubois, and the growing influence of Law, excited many jealousies. Brittany had been brought by fiscal oppression to the verge of revolt, and, if the plot succeeded, there was no doubt that the Parliament of Paris would gladly pronounce the renunciation of Philip to be invalid, and declare him to be the next heir to the French throne. Alberoni threw himself ardently into the conspiracy, and the Spanish ambassador and a Spanish priest named Portocarrero, a relative of the famous cardinal, minister of Charles II., took a leading part in organising it. It was, however, soon discovered. Intercepted letters revealed its nature and extent. The Duke and Duchess of Maine and the other leading conspirators were imprisoned or exiled. A violent rupture had just at this time taken place between the Spanish minister and the French ambassador at Madrid, and the latter had hastily left the capital, and with great difficulty reached the frontier. The Spanish ambassador at Paris was arrested, and papers of the most compromising description having been found in his possession he was conducted speedily under escort to Blois. The revolt in Brittany, which suddenly broke out, was extinguished before the Spanish fleet sent to its assistance could be of any avail, and the Regent and the King of England almost simultaneously declared war against Spain.
The Cardinal was equally unfortunate in his measures against England. The death of Charles XII. seemed to have blasted every hope of, at this time, overthrowing the Hanoverian dynasty; but Alberoni still presented a bold front to his enemies, and his courage only rose the higher as the tempest darkened around his path. Despairing of assistance from the North, he resolved to place himself at the head of English Jacobitism, and to make one more effort to paralyse his most formidable opponent. He invited the Pretender to Madrid. With an energy really wonderful after the events in the Mediterranean, he collected a small fleet of men-of-war, with some twenty transports, at Cadiz, embarked about 5,000 men, and despatched them, with arms for 30,000 more, to raise the Jacobites in Scotland. Ormond was to join the expedition, as commander, at Corunna. But French spies discovered the plan. The French Government sent speedy information to that of England, and the ministers took precautions that showed their sense of the magnitude of the danger. Fearing the inadequacy of their own resources, they invited over Austrian and Dutch troops from the Netherlands for the protection of England. The fleet was hastily equipped, and a reward of 10,000l. was offered for the apprehension of Ormond. But the danger had already passed. A great storm in the Bay of Biscay scattered and ruined the Spanish fleet, and the captains deemed themselves only too happy if they could conduct their dismantled and disabled vessels back to some Spanish port. Two ships, containing 300 Spanish soldiers and a few Scotch nobles, outrode the tempest, and reached Scotland in safety, where they were joined by about 2,000 Highlanders. For a time they evaded pursuit, and even notice, in the mountain fastnesses, but on June. 10 they were attacked in the valley of Glenshiel and easily crushed.
All hope was now over: Spain had not an ally in the world; her navy was annihilated; three of the greatest European Powers were combined against her; her best army was penned up in Sicily, and she could not enroll more than 15,000 men for her own defence when a French army of 40,000 men, under the command of Berwick, had penetrated into her territory. Berwick, by the great victory of Almanza, had formerly contributed largely to place the sceptre in the hand of Philip. He was the illegitimate son of James II., and, therefore, the brother of the prince whom Philip was now endeavouring to place upon the throne of England, and one of his own sons had entered into the Spanish service, and had been rewarded by a Spanish dukedom. He was, however, beyond all things a soldier, and an almost stoical sentiment of military duty subdued every natural affection. He accepted without hesitation the command which had been refused by Villars, invaded Navarre, subdued the whole province of Guipuscoa, burnt the arsenal and the ships of war that were building at Passages, and afterwards attacked Catalonia. The arsenal of Santona was destroyed; an English squadron harrassed the Spanish coast, and a detachment of English soldiers stormed and captured Vigo. The Austrian army drove the now isolated army in Sicily, after a brave, and in one instance, successful, resistance, from all its posts. Nothing remained but submission, and there was one sacrifice which would make it comparatively easy. All classes now turned their resentment against Alberoni. The jealousy of the nobles, the anger of the provinces at his violent reforms and his neglect of provincial privileges, the arrogance which power and overstrained nerves had produced, the patriotic indignation springing from the disasters he had brought upon Spain had made him bitterly unpopular, and numerous intrigues were hastening his inevitable downfall. The influence of the Eegent and of Dubois, the influence of Peterborough, who was then in close communication with the Duke of Parma, the influence of the King's confessor, and the influence of the Queen's nurse, were all made use of, and they soen succeeded. On December 5, 1719 he received an order dismissing him from all his employments, and banishing him from the Spanish soil. Many of the Spanish nobles showed him in this hour of his disgrace a rare consideration, but the King and Queen refused even to see him, and a letter which he wrote remained wholly unnoticed. On his way to the frontier he was arrested, and some important papers which he had appropriated were taken back to Madrid. He was conducted through France, and sailed from thence to Italy, exclaiming bitterly against thè ingratitude of the sovereigns he had so long and so faithfully served.
He intended to proceed to Rome, but Pope Clement XI., whom he had deeply offended, forbade him to enter it, and for some time he lived in complete concealment. A copy of the Imitation of St. Thomas à Kempis, which shows by its marginal notes that it was at this time his constant companion, was long preserved in the Ducal Library of Parma. The hostility of the Spanish Court pursued him, and there were even some steps taken towards depriving him of his cardinal's hat. On the death, however, of Clement XI. he was invited to assist at the conclave, and, after a short period of seclusion in a monastery, he was admitted into warm favour by Innocent XIII. On the death of that Pope he received ten votes in the conclave. He quarrelled with Benedict XIII., and was obliged during his pontificate to leave Rome, but he returned to high favour under Clement XII.; was appointed legate at Ravenna, where he distinguished himself by his great works of drainage, and also by a furious quarrel with the little State of San Marino, and was afterwards removed to the legation of Bologna. He at last retired from affairs, and died in 1752 at the great age of eighty-eight, bequeathing the bulk of his fortune to the foundation of a large institution near Placentia for the education of his needy fellow citizens.1
So ended a career which was certainly one of the most remarkable of the eighteenth century. Had there been more of moral principle and less of the recklessness of a gambler in the nature of Alberoni he would have deserved to rank among the greatest of statesmen. He was, however, singularly unfortunate in the latter part of his public life, and his fall was, with good reason, a matter of rejoicing throughout Europe. Perhaps no part of his history is more curiously significant than its close. We can hardly have a more striking illustration of the decline of the theological spirit in Europe than the fact that the Pope was unable to restrain a Christian nation from attacking the Emperor when engaged in the defence of Christendom against the Turks; that the nation which perpetrated this, which a few generations before would have been deemed the most inexpiable of all crimes, was Spain, under the guidance of a cardinal of the Church, and that that cardinal lived to be the favourite and the legate of the Pope.
With the dismissal of Alberoni the troubles of Europe gradually subsided. Philip, after a short negotiation, acceded to the Quadruple Alliance, and Sicily and Sardinia were speedily evacuated. Many difficulties of detail, however, and many hesitations remained, and the negotiations still dragged slowly on for some years. A congress was held at Cambray in 1724, and several new treaties of alliance were made confirming or elucidating the Quadruple Alliance. The singular good fortune of the Whig ministry during the struggle I have described is very evident. The Hanoverian policy of the King on the question of Bremen and Verden had exposed England to a danger of the most serious kind; and, but for the premature death of Charles XII., and the steady, unwavering loyalty of the French Regent to an alliance which was entirely opposed to the traditions of French policy, it might easily have proved fatal to the dynasty. The general result of the foreign policy of England was undoubtedly very favourable to the Whig cause. The Whig party completed the work which the Peace of Utrecht had left unfulfilled; the commanding position which England occupied in the course of the struggles that have been related, and the very large amount of success she achieved, added to the reputation of the country; the pacification of Europe, and especially the alliance with France, withdrew from the Jacobites all immediate prospect of foreign assistance, and without such assistance it was not likely that Jacobite insurgents could successfully encounter disciplined armies. Several clouds, it is true, still hung upon the horizon. In the North the storm of war raged for some time after it was appeased in the South. An alliance had been made between Sweden and England. By the mediation of the latter, Sweden made in turn treaties of peace with Hanover, Prussia, Denmark, and Poland; but the war with the Czar continued, and the coast, in spite of the presence of a British fleet, was fearfully devastated. Peace was at last made in this quarter at Nystadt in September 1721, on terms extremely favourable to Russia and extremely disastrous to Sweden. A bitter jealousy had arisen between the Empire and the maritime Powers on account of the Ostend Company, established by the former, to trade with the East Indies. The question of the cession of Gibraltar to Spain, which had been imprudently raised during the late war, continued in a very unsatisfactory state. The obscure and secret negotiation which had at that time been carried on, partly through the intervention of the French Regent, led, as might have been expected, to grave misunderstanding. The English Government maintained that the offer had been made only in order to avert war with Spain, and that the hostilities which followed annulled it. The Spanish Government treated the offer as unconditional, and declared that as soon as peace was restored England was bound to cede the fortress. The French Regent, through whose hands some of the negotiations passed, on the whole, supported the Spanish demand. Much negotiation on the subject took place. Propositions were made for an exchange of Gibraltar for Florida, but they found no favour with the Spanish Court. Stanhope, though apparently willing to cede Gibraltar, soon perceived that the English Parliament would never consent, and there was much agitation in the country at the suspicions that such a project had been entertained. But George I., who appears to have been perfectly indifferent to Gibraltar, wrote a letter to the King of Spain in June 1721, which afterwards gave rise to very grave complications. Having spoken of the prospect of a cordial union between the two nations, he added, ‘I do no longer balance to assure your Majesty of my readiness to satisfy you with regard to your demand touching the restitution of Gibraltar, promising you to make use of the first favourable opportunity to regulate this article with the assent of my Parliament.’ This letter, which was for some years kept secret, was very naturally regarded as a full admission of the claims of the Spanish King, and, as we shall see, it hereafter led to serious dangers.1 The temporary abdication of Philip in favour of his son in 1724 gave rise to some new and dangerous complications; and in the same year Ripperda greatly modified the foreign policy of Spain, and brought matters to the verge of a general war. Still for some years the world enjoyed a real though a precarious peace, and the firm alliance between England and France, which gave security to Western Europe, enabled the Whig party in England to consolidate its power, and the Hanoverian dynasty to strike its roots somewhat deeper in the English soil.
The violent hostility of the Church party to the Government was at the same time slowly subsiding, and the influence of the Church itself was diminished. The persistent Catholicism of the Pretender, the Latitudinarian or Low Church appointments of the Government and the great increase of religious scepticism modified the state of Church feeling. The causes of the religious scepticism of the eighteenth century I shall hereafter examine, but it may here be noticed how very different at different times are the effects of scepticism upon the spirit of Churches. When it is not very violent, aggressive, or dogmatic, and when it produces no serious convulsion in society, its usual tendency is to lower enthusiasm and to diminish superstition. Men become half-believers. Strong religious passions of all kinds die away. The more superstitious elements of religious systems are toned down, unrealised, and silently dropped, and there is a tendency to dwell exclusively upon the moral aspects of the faith. On the other hand, when religious scepticism has advanced much farther, has assumed a much more radical and uncompromising form, and governs a much larger proportion of the strongest minds, it frequently, for a time at least, intensifies both the superstition and the fanaticism of Churches. Sensitive and religious natures scared by destructive criticism which threatens the very foundations of their belief, throw themselves, by a natural reaction, into the arms of superstition, and ecclesiastical influence in Churches predominates just in proportion as the more masculine lay intellects cease to take any interest in their concerns. Thus in the present day we find that over a great portion of the Continent the lay intellect is almost divorced from Catholicism. The class of mind that once followed Bossuet or Pascal now follows Voltaire or Comte, and the withdrawal from Church questions of the moderating and qualifying element has been one great cause of the Ultramontane type which Catholicism has generally assumed. Even in England it is, probably, no chance coincidence that, at a time when a religious scepticism far more searching and formidable than any of the eighteenth century is advancing rapidly through the fields of literature, history, and science, a large proportion of the intelligence of the religious teachers of the nation is .expended in magnifying the thaumaturgie powers of Episcopalian clergymen and in discussing the clothes which they should wear.
The effect of the scepticism of the eighteenth century was chiefly of the former kind, and the evanescence of dogmatic zeal was very favourable to the Whig party. They were also, probably, assisted by the great Trinitarian controversy which had arisen under. Anne and which continued far into the eighteenth century. The problem of defining and defending a doctrine of the Trinity which should neither fall into Tritheism on the one side, or into Sabellianism on the other, occupied the attention of ecclesiastics, and contributed with other causes to divert them from speculations about the foundations of government. The writings of Hoadly, however, soon gave a new bent to their energies. This very able man, who possessed all the moral and intellectual qualities of a consummate controversialist, had for some years been rapidly acquiring the position which Burnet had before held in the Low Church ranks. His latitudinarianism, however, was of a more extreme and emphatic character, and he greatly surpassed Burnet in the incisive brilliancy of his controversial writing, though he was far inferior to him in learning and versatility, in depth and beauty of character, and in the discharge of his episcopal duties. He was first brought forward by Sherlock, who afterwards became one of his leading opponents. He had acquired some notoriety during the Sacheverell trial by the power and clearness with which he denounced the doctrine of passive obedience, and he became noted as a trenchant writer against the Tory party. The new Government, in the first year of its accession, promoted him to the bishopric of Bangor; and soon afterwards, in reply to some papers of the Nonjuror Hickes, he published his ‘Preservative against the Principles and Practices of the Nonjurors in Church and State, ‘in which he argued that all political power proceeded from the people, denied both the doctrine of Apostolical Succession and the necessity of being in connection with any particular Church, and asserted that sincerity is the one necessary requirement for the Christian profession. In March 1717 he preached before the King his famous sermon ‘On the Kingdom of Christ,’ in which he enunciated with great clearness and force doctrines subversive of the whole theory of the High Church party. Christ himself, he maintained, is the sole judge and lawgiver of the Christian Church. No human power has a right to impose spiritual tests or spiritual punishments. The true Church of Christ is not a visible organisation, but the sum of all, whether dispersed or united, who trust in Him; and all attempts by temporal rewards or punishments to induce men to believe or discard particular religious opinions are essentially repugnant to the Christian religion.
Probably no other sermon ever produced so voluminous a controversy, or excited in clerical circles so prolonged an agitation, but it is a significant fact that the movement appears to have been purely literary, and it was followed by no recurrence of the Sacheverell riots. The opinions of Hoadly were steadily growing among the educated classes, and Church fanaticism was somewhat subsiding throughout the country. The Government acted with a high hand and with undisguised partiality. Four royal chaplains who had written against Hoadly were deprived of their positions. The Lower House of Convocation, having drawn up a severe and elaborate remonstrance against the sermon of Hoadly, was prorogued, and though it still continued to be formally assembled with every Parliament, it obtained no royal licence enabling it to transact business for more than a century.
A great centre of opposition and a great seedplot of religious intolerance thus passed away. The sympathies of the lower clergy were in violent hostility to both the civil Government and the bishops, and their power over the country districts and over the universities rendered them most formidable. The course of events, however, had been flowing steadily against them. Public opinion was exasperated by the large proportion of Scotch Episcopalians who were concerned in the rebellion of 1715,1 and by the appearance of more than one English Nonjuror clergyman upon the scaffold. The divisions of the clergy and the secularising tendencies of the time had done their work, and the suspension of the synodical action of the Church hardly created a murmur of agitation. Few representative bodies have ever fallen more unhonoured and unlamented. Atterbury, the most brilliant tribune, orator, and pamphleteer of the High Church party was deeply immersed in Jacobite conspiracies and was thrown into prison in 1722. Great efforts were made to raise a storm of enthusiasm in his favour. Pathetic pictures were exposed to view representing him looking through the bars of his prison. The London clergy showed their sympathies by having prayers for him in most of the churches, on the pretext that he was suffering from the gout. He lay for several months in prison, and was then, by the violent measure of a bill of pains and penalties, deprived of his spiritual dignities and sent into exile. Twice before, within the memory of men who were still living, had English Governments attempted to strike down popular representatives of the Church, and on each occasion the blow had recoiled upon themselves. The prosecution of the seven bishops contributed more than any other single cause to shatter the dynasty of the Stuarts, and the impeachment of Sacheverell to ruin the great ministry of Godolphin. Under any circumstances a bill of pains and penalties, by which Parliament assumes the functions of a court of justice and condemns men against whom no sufficient legal evidence can be adduced, is an extreme, unconstitutional, and justly unpopular measure. So rapidly, however, had the ecclesiastical sentiment throughout England declined that the Whig ministry of George I. was able, without serious difficulty, by such a measure to deprive of his dignities and to banish from the country the most brilliant and popular bishop in the English Church.
This contrast is very marked, and it is all the more significant because the arrest and exile of Atterbury took place at a time when England seemed peculiarly ripe for agitation. The ruin, the poverty, the indignation which the failure of the South Sea Company had spread through every part of the kingdom had the natural effect of everywhere reviving political discontent. The birth of the Young Pretender in 1720 had rekindled the hopes of the Jacobites. It was noticed that when a gentleman named Stuart was chosen in 1721 Lord Mayor of London, the streets were filled on Lord Mayor's day by enthusiastic crowds shouting ‘High Church and Stuart!’ Soon after, information received from the French Regent, and corroborated by intercepted letters, revealed the existence of a most formidable Jacobite plot. An expedition was to have invaded England under the Duke of Ormond. A plan was made for seizing the Bank and the Tower. The design appeared so serious to the Government that the most stringent measures were taken. A camp was formed in Hyde Park, all military officers were ordered to repair at once to their commands, troops were brought over from Ireland, the King postponed his intended visit to Hanover, the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended for a year. Among those who were arrested, in addition to Atterbury, on suspicion of high treason, were the Duke of Norfolk, the first peer of the realm, Lord North and Grey, Lord Orrery, and Dr. Friend the famous physician, who was also a Member of the House of Commons. A gentleman named Layer, who was tried and found guilty of enlisting soldiers for the Pretender, was hung and quartered; and bills of pains and penalties were carried, though not without much opposition, through both Houses, condemning a Jesuit named Plunket and a Nonjuror clergyman named Kelly to perpetual imprisonment and the forfeiture of their goods.1 It was in this critical and anxious moment that the Government, by a similar method, struck down the prelate who was the special representative of the High Church party, and did so with a perfect impunity.2
These facts are sufficient to show the great change which, in less than a generation, had passed over ecclesiastical sentiment in England, and also, I hope, the means by which that change was effected. We may next proceed to examine the manner in which the dominant Whig party availed themselves of their opportunity to legislate on the subject of religious liberty; and, in order to do so with the greatest clearness, I propose to abandon for the present the strictly chronological order of events, and, adjourning the consideration of all other incidents, to devote the next few pages to exhibiting in a single picture the whole religious legislation in England during the reigns of the first two princes of the House of Brunswick. The class whose claims were most keenly felt by the Whig party were, of course, the ordinary Protestant Nonconformists. They had been, as we have seen, excluded by the Corporation Act of 1661, and by the Test Act of 1673, from all corporations and from all public offices, while the Occasional Conformity Act increased the stringency of the earlier legislation by excluding those moderate Dissenters who, while habitually adhering to the Nonconformist worship, had no scruple in occasionally communicating according to the Anglican rite.
There can be no doubt that the sacramental test, besides its political results, had a very serious influence in lowering the religious sentiment of England. In most great Churches, and especially in Churches which are established by law, and in which liturgical forms are employed, the language of public worship is of a kind which can at most be appropriate to a very small fraction of those who use it. The customs of society draw within the Church men of all grades of piety and of faith. The selfish, the frivolous, the sceptical, the worldly, the indifferent, or at least men whose convictions are but half formed, whose zeal is very languid, and whose religious thoughts are very few, form the bulk of every congregation, and they are taught to employ language expressing the very ecstacy of devotion. The words that pass mechanically from their lips convey in turn the fervour of a martyr, the self-abasement or the rapture of a saint, a passionate confidence in the reality of unseen things, a passionate longing to pass beyond the veil. The effect of this contrast between the habitual language of devotion and the habitual dispositions of the devotees, between the energy of religious expression and the languor of religious conviction, is in some respects extremely deleterious. The sense of truth is dulled. Men come to regard it’ as a natural and scarcely censurable thing to attune their language on the highest of all subjects to a key wholly different from their genuine feelings and beliefs, and that which ought to be the truest of human occupations becomes in fact the most unreal and the most conventional.
In this manner a moral atmosphere is formed which is peculiarly fatal to sincerity and veracity of character, and which is in time so widely diffused that those who live in it are hardly conscious of its existence. But its influence on the religious sentiment would have been much more fetal had there not been an inner circle of devotion, a sanctuary of faith, which is comparatively intact. The reception of the Sacrament has, fortunately, never been, to any great extent, one of the requirements of the social code, and a rite which of all Christian institutions is the most admirable in its touching solemnity, has for the most part been left to sincere and earnest believers. Something of the fervour, something of the deep sincerity of the early Christians may even now be seen around the sacred table, and prayers instinct with the deepest and most solemn emotion may be employed without appearing almost blasphemous by their contrast with the tone and the demeanour of the worshippers. This is not the place to relate how what was originally the simplest and most beautiful of commemorative rites was transformed, in the interests of sacerdotal pretensions, into the most grotesque and monstrous of superstitions, or how an institution intended to be the special symbol of Christian unity and affection was dragged into the arena of politics and controversy, was made the badge of parties, the occasion or the pretext of countless judicial murders. It is sufficient here to notice that the chief barrier against religious formalism in England was removed when the most sacred rite of the Christian religion was degraded into ‘an office key, the picklock to a place,’1 when the libertine, the placehunter, and the worldling were invited to partake in it for purposes wholly unconnected with religion. That this profanation should have been for a long period ardently defended by the clergy, and especially by that section of them whose principles led them to take the most exalted view of the nature of the Sacrament, is one of the most singular illustrations on record of the extent to which, in ecclesiastical bodies, the corporate interest of the Church may sometimes, even with good men, override the interests of religion. One of the most ardent advocates of the test was Swift, and in his ‘Journal to Stella’ he has given a vivid sketch of its practical working. ‘I was early,’ he writes,’ with the Secretary [Bolingbroke] but he was gone to his devotions and to receive the Sacrament. Several rakes did the same. It was not for piety but employment, according to Act of Parliament.’2 It even became the general custom in the Church, for the minister, before celebrating1 the Communion, to desire the legal communicants, if there were any, to separate and divide themselves from those who were come there purely for the sake of devotion.3
In this respect the history of the sacramental test has a Very melancholy interest. Nor is it less remarkable when we consider its origin. The Corporation Act, indeed, was directed against Protestant Dissenters, but the Test Act, as is well known, was aimed exclusively against Catholics. It was enacted in 1673, at a time when the dread of Popery had almost reached its height. The King was gravely suspected. The heir to the throne had recently proclaimed himself a Catholic. The Government had combined with Lewis XIV. in war with Holland, the chief Protestant Power of the Continent. Charles II., by a bold and unconstitutional exercise of authority, had issued a declaration of indulgence suspending all penal laws against Nonconformists and against recusants, and it was clearly understood that the declaration was intended not only to enlarge the sphere of the royal prerogative, but also, and even more signally, to protect the Catholics. This disposition of the sovereign and of the heir to the throne, combined with the aggressive attitude of Catholicism on the Continent, and with several attempts that had been made to tamper with or overawe the constitutional guardians at home, had excited the keenest alarm, and the Test Act was introduced, in order to maintain the exclusion of Catholics from office by imposing a test which they would never take. That this was the object appears not only from the debate, but also from the very title of the Bill, which was described as ‘an Act for preventing Dangers which may happen from Popish Recusants.’ The Dissenters who sat in Parliament exhibited on this occasion a rare and magnanimous disinterestedness. It was observed that the Act would operate against them as well as against the Catholics; but Alderman Love, who was one of their leading representatives, begged the House not to hesitate, through any considerations of this kind, to pass a measure which he believed to be essential to the maintenance of English liberty; and, trusting that special legislation would speedily relieve them from their disabilities, all the Dissenters in the House of Commons voted for the Bill.1 The patriotism of the course which they pursued was then fully recognised, and some attempts were made at the time to relieve them from a part of the burdens to which they were liable, but they were frustrated by the lateness of the session and by certain difficulties which had arisen in the House of Lords.
Such were the circumstances under which the Test Act was carried. That such a law, carried in such a manner, should have continued when the Revolution was firmly established, that it should have survived a period of forty-five years of unbroken Whig ascendancy, that it should have outlived the elder and have been defended by the younger Pitt, and that it should have been reserved for Lord John Russell to procure its repeal, is surely one of the most striking instances of national ingratitude in history. William, in whose reign, as Swift bitterly complained, the maxim had come into fashion ‘that no man ought to be denied the liberty of serving his country upon account of a different belief in matters of speculative opinion,’ had done everything in his power to procure the abolition of the test, but great majorities in Parliament defeated his intention. Stanhope had entertained the same desire, and such a measure actually formed part of a Bill which was carried through its second reading in 1718, but the opposition was so strong that the clauses referring to the Test and Corporation Acts were struck out in Committee; and the premature death of Stanhope prevented their speedy revival. The Dissenters were now organising rapidly with a view to obtaining relief; and Hoadly, Kennett, and several others of the more liberal Anglicans, seconded them; but Walpole, though he was personally favourable to the measure, and though the Dissenters had steadily supported him, shrank to the last from provoking a new ebullition of Church fanaticism. They at last lost patience, and had a measure for the repeal brought forward in 1736; but Walpole, in a very moderate and conciliatory speech, while expressing much sympathy for the Dissenters, pronounced the motion ill-timed, and, through the opposition of the Whig Government, it was thrown out by 251 to 123. The measure was again brought forward in 1739, at a time which seemed peculiarly favourable, for the Tory party had lately seceded from Parliament, leaving the conduct of affairs wholly in the hands of the Whigs. But the Government was still inflexible, and the measure was defeated in an exclusively Whig House by 188 to 89. It was, probably, about this time that a deputation of Nonconformists, headed by Dr. Chandler, had an interview with Walpole, and remonstrated with him on the course he was pursuing in spite of his repeated assurances of good-will and his repeated intimations that he would some day assist in procuring the repeal. The minister, as usual, answered the deputation that, whatever were his private inclinations, the time had not arrived. ‘You have so often returned this answer,’ said Dr. Chandler, ‘that I trust you will give me leave to ask when the time will come?’ ‘If you require a specific answer,’ replied Walpole, with a somewhat imprudent candour,’ I will give it you in a word–never.’1
But although the dread of an ebullition of Church feeling like that which destroyed the great ministry of Godolphin induced the Whigs to maintain the Test Act, yet something was done to remove the reproach of intolerance from the English name. The Schism Act, which restricted the education of the Dissenters, and the Occasional Conformity Act, which was intended to restrict their political power, were both repealed in 1718; but, in order to prevent a repetition of the scandal which had been given by Sir Humphrey Edwin in the preceding reign, a clause was at the same time enacted providing that no mayor or bailiff or other magistrate should attend a meeting-house with the ensigns of office, under pain of being disqualified from holding any public office.2 In the debates on this occasion Hoadly and Kennett were conspicuous in their advocacy of the Dissenters, but the Archbishops of Canterbury and York were both opposed to the repeal of the Acts of Anne. The Government silently favoured the Nonconformist interests by its steady promotion, both in Church and State, of Latitudinarians and Whigs. It secured the Protestant Dissenters in Ireland a Toleration Act considerably more liberal than that of England. It endeavoured, though without success, to free the Irish Dissenters from the Test Act, and it gradually relaxed the administration of the English Act to such a degree that it became almost nugatory. The original Act of Charles II. enjoyed joined that every official should receive the Anglican Sacrament within three months after his admission into office, but the time of grace was extended under George I. to six months. Soon after, the policy was adopted of passing annual bills of indemnity in favour of those who had accepted office but had not taken the Sacrament within the required time. There is something in this device which is curiously characteristic of the course of English legislation, and especially of the policy of Walpole. The broad rule, that no one should hold office under the Crown without taking the Anglican Sacrament within six months of his accession, remained. The stigma upon the Dissenters was unremoved. The Indemnity Acts, on the face of them, had no reference to conscientious scruples, for they purported only to relieve those who ‘through ignorance of the law, absence, or unavoidable accident’ had omitted to qualify, and it was only by a very liberal interpretation that the relief was extended to those who abstained from conscientious motives. The Acts applied only to those who were actually in office or in corporations, and in elections to corporate offices where previous conformity was required it was still open to any individual to object to a Dissenting candidate, and such an objection rendered invalid all votes that were given to him.1 A few scrupulous Nonconformists considered it wrong to avail themselves of the permission of the Legislature to break the law, or to be guilty of what Lord North pronounced to be ‘a mental fraud’ by sheltering their conscientious scruples under a law which professed only to give relief to the careless, the ignorant, or the absent. Many instances were cited in which Dissenting candidates were excluded from corporations, because previous to the election, notice had been given that they had not fulfilled the requirement of the law by receiving the sacrament in an Anglican Church within the preceding year, and those who obtained office enjoyed only a precarious liberty, depending upon, the annual vote of Parliament.2 But when all these qualifications have been made, the fact remains that through the operation of the Indemnity Acts a great number of the Dissenters were admitted to offices and corporations, and were admitted without exciting any ferment in the community. The first Indemnity Act was passed in 1727, and, with a few exceptions, a similar Act was passed every year till the Test Act was repealed in 1828.
Another branch of the religious policy of the Whigs was intended to meet the scruples of the Quakers. When the temporary Act making their solemn affirmation equivalent, in all civil cases, to an oath, was made perpetual in 1715, an amendment was introduced by the Lords, and accepted by the Commons, extending the Act to Scotland and, for a limited period, to the colonies.1 An opinion, however, soon grew up among the Quakers that to affirm ‘in the presence of Almighty God’ was not less sinful than to swear, and a Bid was accordingly introduced by the Government in 1721, providing a new form of affirmation, from which the obnoxious words were omitted.2 A portion of the London clergy petitioned against the Bill, and the two Archbishops opposed it, but it was carried by a large majority. Another measure was less successful. The Acts providing a cheap method of levying tithes were not compulsory, and it was still in the power of the clergy to carry their tithe cases before the Exchequer or Ecclesiastical Courts, and thus to inflict on the Quakers heavy costs and imprisonment. That this course was actually adopted to a very considerable extent appears from the petitions of the Quakers, who stated that not less than 1,180 of their number had, since the passing of the Relief Acts, been prosecuted for tithes in the Exchequer, Ecclesiastical, or other Courts in England and Wales; that 302 of them had been committed to prison, and that nine had died prisoners. They added that ‘these prosecutions, though frequently commenced for trivial sums, from 4s. to 5s., and the greater part of them for sums not exceeding 40s., have been attended with such heavy costs and rigorous exactions that above 800l. have been taken from ten persons when the original demands upon all of them collectively did not amount to 15l.’3 Walpole, who, in his elections, had been brought in much contact with Quakers, warmly supported their demand that the simplest method of levying tithes should be the only method, and a Bill embodying this principle passed easily through the House of Commons. A great agitation, however, then arose among the clergy. They contended that the security of tithes would be diminished, and that it was necessary to deter those who refused to pay them, by the infliction of heavy fines, and it was suggested with whimsical ingenuity that there might be persons who, believing tithes to be of Divine origin, would think it wrong to enforce their claims before any but an Ecclesiastical Court, and would in consequence be persecuted if they were obliged to resort to the magistrates.1 The Bishop of London led the opposition; fourteen other bishops voted against the Bill, and the Chancellor having taken the same side, the measure, to the great indignation of Walpole, was rejected in the Lords.
The next class of questions bearing in some degree upon religious liberty were those relating to the naturalisation of foreign Protestants and of Jews. The proposal to naturalise foreign Protestants upon their taking the oaths and receiving the Sacrament in any Protestant church, which had been carried in 1709, and repealed in 1712, was brought forward by Mr. Nugent in 1745, and again in 1751. An alarm which had at this time been spread about an alleged decrease of population through excessive drinking greatly favoured it,2 and on the latter occasion it was warmly supported by Pelham, who was then at the head of the Government, and it was carried successfully through its earlier stages. It soon, however, appeared that a powerful combination of influences was opposed to it. The City of London, fearing a dangerous rivalry in trade, led the opposition, and although petitions from Liverpool and Bristol, and from some London merchants, were presented in its favour, the balance of mercantile opinion seems to have been against it. The Church dreaded an accession to the forces of Dissent, and the strong popular antipathy to foreigners was speedily aroused. The death of the Prince of Wales led to a slight postponement of the Bill, and the petitions against it were so numerous and so urgent that the minister thought it advisable silently to drop it.
A more remarkable history is the attempt of the Pelhams in 1753 to legalise the naturalisation of Jews. The Jews, as is well known, had been completely banished from England by a Statute of Edward I., and they did not attempt to return till the Commonwealth, and were not formally authorised to establish themselves in England till after the Restoration.1 The first synagogue in London was erected in 1662. It is possible that occasional physicians or merchants may have secretly come over before,2 but their number must have been very few, and it is more than probable that Shakespeare, when he drew his immortal picture of Shylock, had himself never seen a Jew. The hatred, indeed, of that unhappy race in England was peculiarly tenacious and intense. The old calumny that the Jews were accustomed on Good Friday to crucify a Christian boy, which was sedulously circulated on the Continent, and which even now forms the subject of one of the great frescoes around the Cathedral of Toledo, was firmly believed, and the legend of the crucifixion of young Hew of Lincoln sank deeply into the popular imagination. The story was told by Matthew Paris; it was embodied in an early ballad; it was revived, many years after the expulsion of the Jews, by Chaucer, who made the Jewish murder of a Christian child the subject of one of his most graphic tales;3 and in the same spirit Marlowe, towards the close of the sixteenth century, painted his ‘Jew of Malta’ in the darkest colours. There does not appear, however, to have been any legal obstacle to the sovereign and Parliament naturalising a Jew till a law, enacted under James I., and directed against the Catholics, made the sacramental test an essential preliminary to naturalisation. Two subsequent enactments exempted from this necessity all foreigners who were engaged in the hemp and flax manufacture, and all Jews and Protestant foreigners who had lived for seven continuous years in the American plantations.1 In the reign of James II. the Jews were relieved from the payment of the alien duty, but it is a significant fact that it was reimposed after the Revolution at the petition of the London merchants.2 In the reign of Anne some of them are said to have privately negotiated with Godolphin for permission to purchase the town of Brentford, and to settle there with full privileges of trade; but the minister, fearing to arouse the spirit of religious intolerance and of commercial jealousy, refused the application.3 The great development of industrial enterprise which followed the long and prosperous administration of Walpole naturally attracted Jews, who were then as now pre-eminent in commercial matters, and many of them appear at this time to have settled in England; among others a young Venetian Jew, whose son obtained an honourable place in English literature, and whose grandson has been twice Prime Minister of England. The object of the Pelhams was not to naturalise all resident Jews, but simply to enable Parliament to pass special Bills to naturalise those who applied to it, although they had not lived in the colonies or been engaged in the hemp or flax manufacture.
As the principle of naturalisation had been fully conceded by these two Acts, which had been passed without any difficulty, and had continued in operation without exciting any murmur, as the Bill could only apply to a few rich men who were prepared to undertake the expensive process of a parliamentary application, as Jews might be naturalised in any other country in Europe except Spain and Portugal,4 and as they were among the most harmless, industrious, and useful members of the community, it might have been imagined that a Bill of this nature could scarcely offend the most sensitive ecclesiastical conscience. When it was brought forward, however, a general election was not far distant, the opponents of the ministry raised the cry that the Bill was an unchristian one, and England was thrown into paroxysms of excitement scarcely less intense than those which followed the impeachment of Sacheverell. There is no page in the history of the eighteenth century that shows more decisively how low was the intellectual and political condition of English public opinion. According to its opponents, the Jewish Naturalisation Bill sold the birthright of Englishmen for nothing, it was a distinct abandonment of Christianity, it would draw down upon England all the curses which Providence had attached to the Jews. The commercial classes complained that it would fill England with usurers. The landed classes feared that ultimately the greater part of the land of England would pass into the hands of the Jews, who would avail themselves of their power to destroy the Church. One Member of Parliament urged that to give the Jews a resting-place in England would invalidate prophecy and destroy one of the principal reasons for believing in the Christian religion. Another reminded the ministers that after 430 years the Jews in Egypt had mustered 600,000 armed men, and that, according to the ‘Book of Esther,’ they had once, when they got the upper hand in the land where they were living, ‘put to death in two days 76,000 of those whom they were pleased to call their enemies, without either judge or jury.’ The time might come, it was suggested, when, through another Esther, they might govern the destinies of England, or when they might even take their seats as Members of Parliament. It was stated that when Cromwell first extended his protection to the race some Asiatic Jews imagined him to be the promised Messiah, and even sent over deputies to make private inquiries in Huntingdonshire, in order, if possible, to establish his Jewish extraction, and it was argued that through a similar persuasion the Jews would probably support another Cromwell in his attacks upon the Constitution. The Mayor and Corporation of London petitioned against the Bill. The clergy all over England denounced it. The old story of the crucifixion of Christian children by Jews was revived, and the bishops who had voted for the Bill were libelled, and insulted in the streets. The measure had first been introduced into the House of Lords, and was carried through without difficulty, and with the acquiescence of most of the bishops. It passed, after a fierce opposition, through the Commons, and received the royal assent; but as the tide of popular indignation rose higher and higher, the ministers in the next year brought forward and carried its repeal. Had they not done so, it is probable that the election, which was then imminent, would have proved disastrous to their power, and they argued plausibly, and perhaps justly, that in the excited state of popular feeling the Jews could not, if the Act continued in force, live safely in England. An attempt was made by the Church party to carry their victory further and repeal the Act which naturalised dissenters from the Anglican creed who had resided for seven years in the Plantations, in so far as it related to the Jews, but the Government resisted, and succeeded in defeating the attempt.1
The agitation which was excited by this very moderate measure of the Pelham ministry goes far to justify the Whig party for not having done more in the cause of religious liberty during the long period of their ascendancy. The feelings of the country would not allow it, and in spite of the incontestable decline of the theological spirit, there was still no other question on which public opinion was so sensitive. Nor was this intolerance confined to England, or to the Church of England, or to the High Church section of the clergy. In Scotland the hatred of religious liberty ran still higher. The Scotch preachers denounced it with untiring vehemence, and the General Assembly, in 1702, presented a solemn address to the Lord High Commissioner urging that no motion ‘of any legal toleration of those of the prelatical principle might be entertained by the Parliament,’ and declaring that such a toleration would be ‘to establish iniquity by law.’2 In 1697 a deputation of English Dissenting ministers waited upon the King to urge him to interdict the printing of any work advocating Socinian opinions.3 In 1702 a Dissenter named Emlyn, being accused by some Irish Nonconformists, but with the encouragement of the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, was sentenced to pay a fine of 1,000l. and to lie in gaol till it was paid, because he had written against the Trinity.1 Among the clergy of the Church of England one of the most active in fanning the absurd agitation on the Jewish question was Romaine, who was one of the earliest and most prominent leaders of the Evangelical party.2
One very important step, however, was taken without provoking any agitation or opposition. The belief in witchcraft, which has furnished one of the most singular and tragical pages in the history of superstition, had almost disappeared in England among the educated classes at the time of the Revolution, though it was still active in Scotland and the colonies. The law, however, condemning witches to death still remained on the Statute Book, and it was not altogether a dead letter. Three witches had been hung at Exeter in 1682,3 and even after the Revolution there had been occasional trials. Addison—whose judgment was afterwards echoed by Blackstone—speaks on the subject with a curious hesitation. ‘I believe in general,’ he says, ‘that there is and has been such a thing as witchcraft, but at the same time can give no credit to any particular instance of it.’4 The great clerical agitation which followed the Sacheverell impeachment is said to have produced a temporary recrudescence of the superstition,5 and it was observed about this time that there was scarcely a village in England which did not contain a reputed witch.6 At the same time those who were in authority steadily discouraged the superstition. A woman named Jane Wenham having been found guilty of the offence in 1712 received a free pardon at the instance of the judge, in spite of the urgent protest of some of the clergy of the county,7 and in the same year the death of a suspected witch who had been thrown into the water in order to ascertain whether she would sink or swim, and who had perished during the trial, was pronounced by Chief Justice Parker to be murder.1 It is one of the great glories of the early Hanoverian period that it witnessed the abrogation of the sanguinary enactment by which so many innocent victims had perished. Chief Justice Holt did good service to humanity in exposing the imposture which lay at the root of some cases he was obliged to try,2 and in 1736 the law making witchcraft punishable by death was repealed. The superstition long smouldered among the poorer classes; there were several instances of the murder of suspected witches; and Methodism did something to strengthen the belief, but as it had no longer the sanction of the law, and as diseased imaginations were no longer excited by the executions, it sank speedily into insignificance. It is a curious fact that the Irish law against witchcraft, though long wholly obsolete, remained on the Statute Book till 1818.
Another measure of a very different kind, but also in some degree dependent upon the theological temperature, belonging to the period I am considering, was the reform of the calendar. The New Style, as is well known, had been first brought into use by Pope Gregory XIII., in 1582, and had gradually been adopted by all the Continental nations, except Russia and Sweden, but England, partly from natural conservatism, and partly from antipathy to the Pope, still resisted, and had at last got eleven days wrong. The change was carried on the motion of Lord Chesterfield, and with the assistance of the eminent mathematicians, Lord Macclesfield and Mr. Bradley, under the Pelham Ministry in 1751. The year was henceforth to begin on January 1 instead of on March 25; and in order to rectify the errors of the old calendar it was ordered that the day following September 2, 1752, should be denominated the 14th. The old Duke of Newcastle, whose timid and time-serving nature dreaded beyond all things an explosion of popular feeling, entreated Chesterfield not to ‘stir matters that had long been quiet,’ or to meddle with ‘new-fangled things,’ and although the reform was ultimately carried without difficulty, these apprehensions were not wholly groundless. A widespread irritation was for a time aroused. Much was said about the profanity of altering saint-days and immovable feasts. At the next election one of the most popular cries against Lord Macclesfield's son was, ‘Give us back our eleven days!’ When, many years later, Mr. Bradley died of a lingering disease, his sufferings were supposed by the populace to be a judgment due to the part he had taken in the transaction; and the feelings of many were probably expressed in a saying that was quoted during the debate on the naturalisation of the Jews, ‘It is no wonder he should be for naturalising the devil who was one of those that banished old Christmas.’1
There were, however, still two classes of laws upon the Statute Book which were grossly persecuting, and which, during the early Hanoverian period, were entirely unmitigated. I mean, of course, those against the Catholics and the disbelievers in the Trinity. The measures against the former class may no doubt derive a very considerable palliation from the atrocious persecutions of which Catholicism had been guilty in almost every country in which she triumphed, from the incessant plots against the life and power of Elizabeth, and from the intimate connection, both before and after the Revolution, between the Catholicism of the Stuarts and their political conduct and prospects. Catholicism, indeed, never can be looked upon merely as a religion. It is a great and highly organised kingdom, recognising no geographical frontiers, governed by a foreign sovereign, pervading temporal politics with its manifold influence, and attracting to itself much of the enthusiasm which would otherwise flow in national channels. The intimate correspondence between its priests in many lands, the disciplined unity of their political action, the almost absolute authority they exercise over large classes, and their usually almost complete detachment from purely national and patriotic interests have often in critical times proved a most serious political danger, and they have sometimes pursued a temporal policy eminently aggressive, sanguinary, unscrupulous, and ambitious. Nor should it be forgotten that, in the closing years of the seventeenth and in the first half of the eighteenth century, the spirit of Romish persecution, though gradually subsiding, was still far from extinct. Thus we find Stanhope writing from Majorca in 1691: ‘Tuesday last there were burnt here twenty-seven Jews and heretics, and to-morrow I shall see executed above twenty more, and Tuesday next, if I stay here so long, is to be another fiesta, for so they entitle a day dedicated to so execrable an act.’1 In 1706 Wilcox, who was afterwards Bishop of Rochester, but who was at this time minister of the English factory at Lisbon, wrote a letter to Burnet describing an auto-da-fé in that city, in which four persons were burnt in the presence of the King, and of these one woman remained alive for half-an-hour, and one man for more than an hour in the flames, vainly imploring their executioners to heap fresh fagots on the fire in order to terminate their agony.2 Every considerable town in England, Holland, and Protestant Germany, contained a colony of Frenchmen, who, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, had been driven from their homes by a persecution of extreme ferocity; a long course of the most atrocious cruelties had kindled the flame of rebellion in the Cevennes, and at the time of the Peace of Utrecht 188 French Protestants were released by English intercession from the galleys.3 In 1717, an assembly of seventy-four Protestants being surprised at Andure, the men were sent to the galleys and the women to prison.4 In 1724, in the corrupt and generally sceptical period of the Regency, a new law was made against the Protestants of France which aggravated even the atrocious enactments of Lewis XIV. By one clause all who assembled for the exercise of the Protestant worship, even in their own homes, became liable to lifelong servitude in the galleys, and to the confiscation of all their goods. Another condemned to death any Protestant minister exercising any religious function whatever, and to the galleys any witness who failed to denounce him. A third enjoined all physicians to inform the priest of the condition of every dying patient, in order that, whether he desired it or not, a Catholic priest should be present at his deathbed. A fourth, with a rare refinement of ingenious malice, rendered any Protestant who, by his religious exhortations, strengthened a dying relative in his faith, liable to the galleys and to the confiscation of his goods.1 A Protestant pastor was hung at Montpellier in 1728; another would have suffered the same fate in 1732 had he not succeeded in escaping from his prison;2 and 277 Protestants in Dauphiny were condemned to the galleys in 1745 and 1746.3 As late as the Peace of Paris, a Protestant minister at Nismes wrote to the Duke of Bedford imploring the intercession of the English Government in favour of thirty-three men, who were in the galleys of Toulon, and of sixteen women, who were imprisoned in Languedoc, for no other offence than that of having attended Protestant assemblies. Many of them, he added, had remained in captivity for more than thirty years.4
Similar complaints came from Hungary, where the interference of the Emperor with the religious liberty of the Protestants contributed largely to the insurrection of Rákόczy; from Silesia, where the same interference prepared the way for the ultimate severance of the province from the Austrian rule; from Poland, where the persecution fomented in 1724 by the Jesuits at Thorn aroused the indignation of all Protestant Europe, and where the complete exclusion of religious dissidents from political power in 1733 was sowing dissensions that were the sure precursors of the approaching ruin. In the course of 1732 and the two following years about 17,000 German Protestants were compelled by the persecution of the Archbishop of Salzburg to abandon their homes, and to seek a refuge in Prussia or in Georgia. Ten persons were burnt for their religious opinions in Spain between 1746 and 1759. Two persons were executed, and many others condemned to less severe penalties by the Inquisition in Portugal in 1756.5
These things will not be forgotten by a candid judge in estimating the policy of the English Government towards Catholics. On the other hand, he will remember that the English Catholics were so few and so inconsiderable that it was absurd to regard them as a serious danger to the State; that they had in general shown themselves under the most trying circumstances eminently moderate and loyal, and that although the Catholic priests, whenever they were in the ascendant, were then, as ever, a persecuting body, Catholicism, as a whole, had ceased, since the Peace of Westphalia, to divide the interests of Europe. In Switzerland, it is true, a war that was essentially religious broke out between the Protestant and Catholic cantons as late as 1712, but in general theology had very little influence upon the politics of Christendom. They turned mainly on the rivalry between the Catholic Emperor and the Catholic King of France. The Popes, who, as spiritual heads of Christendom, had employed all their temporal and spiritual weapons against Elizabeth, had never acted in this manner against her successors. During the struggle of the Revolution a great part of Catholic Europe was on the side of William, and, as we have seen, the Pope himself was in his favour. It may be added, too, that the persecution of religious opinion and the suppression of any form of religious worship must always appear peculiarly culpable in Protestants, whose whole theory of religion is based upon the assertion of the right of private judgment, and also that religious liberty, though still rare and struggling in Europe, was by no means unknown. In France, it is true, it had been destroyed by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, but in Germany it existed to a considerable extent since the Peace of Westphalia, which placed the Catholic and Protestant States in a position of perfect equality, terminated the long contest for the possession of the ecclesiastical benefices, and in many cases restrained, though it by no means generally annulled, the power of the sovereign to coerce his dissident subjects.1 In Prussia, which was rapidly becoming the most important Protestant Power of Germany, the Elector, Frederick William, who died in 1688, even contributed money for the building of Catholic churches, and under his successor the Catholics had almost every privilege they could have possessed under a ruler of their own creed.1 In Holland a system of absolute religious freedom was established, and its complete success was generally recognised. So perfectly were the different religions in that country blended into a common nationality that it was asserted, though probably with some exaggeration, that there were no less than 4,000 Catholics in the army with which William came over to defend the Protestantism of England.2 Even in Ireland, though the Catholic majority were subject to gross oppression as a conquered race, they were in practice allowed during the latter Stuart reigns full liberty of worship, and no religious disqualification excluded them from the municipalities, from the elective franchise, from the magistracy, or from the Parliament.
In England public opinion made such a policy impossible. The laws of Elizabeth against the Catholics remained, though they were but partially enforced, and these laws, among many other provisions, compelled every Catholic to attend the Anglican service, suppressed absolutely, and under crushing penalties, the celebration of the mass, proscribed the whole Catholic priesthood, and made it high treason for any English priest from beyond the sea to come to England, for any Catholic graduate to refuse for the third time the oath of supremacy, for any Protestant to become a Catholic, or for any Catholic to convert a Protestant. Had such laws been rigorously enforced they must have led to a general Catholic emigration or have dyed every scaffold with Popish blood; and, as it was, many Catholics perished in England, to whom it is the merest sophistry to deny the title of martyrs for their faith. The conspiracy of Guy Faux to blow up the Parliament, the fable of the Popish plot which led to the effusion of torrents of innocent blood, and, perhaps, still more, the baseless calumny which attributed the Fire of London to the Papists, sustained the anti-Catholic fanaticism. This last calamity had, in the words of Clarendon, ‘kindled another fire in the breasts of men almost as dangerous as that within their houses.’ Panic-stricken by the rapid progress of the flames, half-maddened by terror and by despair, the people at once attributed it to deliberate incendiarism. The Dutch and French were the first objects of their suspicion, but soon after, the Papists were included, and were dragged in multitudes to prison. A Portuguese who, according to the custom of his country, picked up a piece of bread that was lying on the ground, and laid it on the ledge projecting from the nearest house, was seized on the charge of throwing in fire-balls. Among the crowd of terrified prisoners was a poor Frenchman, whose brain appears to have been turned by the terror and excitement of the scene, and who confessed himself the author of the fire. He appears to have been simply a monomaniac, and the judges openly declared their utter disbelief in his disjointed and unsupported story; but in the temper in which men then were he was condemned, and the King did not dare to arrest his execution. Nor was the panic suffered to pass away. Although a Parliamentary committee, after the strictest enquiry, could find nothing whatever implicating the Catholics (who, indeed, could have gained nothing by the crime), it was determined, in the most solemn and authoritative manner, to brand them as its perpetrators. The Monument, erected in memorial of the catastrophe in one of the most crowded thoroughfares of London, bore two Latin inscriptions, commemorating the rebuilding of the city, and the mayors by whose care the Monument was erected. The third inscription was in English, that all might read it, and it was to the effect that ‘This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of the most dreadful burning of this ancient city, begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the Popish faction in the beginning of September, in the year of our Lord 1666, in order to the carrying on their horrid plot for extirpating the Protestant religion and old English liberty, and introducing Popery and slavery.’ In the reign of James II. this scandalous inscription was taken away, but it was restored at the Revolution, and it was not finally removed till 1831. Another and very similar inscription was placed in Pudding Lane, on the spot where the fire began, and remained there till the middle of the last century, when it was removed on account of the crowds who gathered to read it.1
It would be difficult to conceive a more effectual device for arousing the passions of the people. In the struggle of the Revolution a direct question between Protestantism and Catholicism was at issue, and it is not surprising that considerable attention should have been paid to the legislation on the subject. During the whole period of the Stuarts the sovereigns had been favourable, and the Parliaments bitterly hostile, to the Catholics. The former were actuated partly by the belief that while Puritanism is naturally hostile to the royal prerogative, Catholicism is naturally congenial to it, and partly also by religious sympathy, by Catholic relationships, and by Continental alliances. James I. for a time suspended the laws against recusants, and opened negotiations with the Pope; and, but for the violent spirit then dominating in the Vatican, and the very natural indignation aroused by the Gunpowder Plot, his reign would probably have witnessed considerable mitigations of the penal code. Charles I., when Prince of Wales, had made a secret engagement with France, on the occasion of his French marriage, to obtain toleration for the Catholics, and the non-enforcement of the laws against them was almost the first question that brought him into collision with his Parliament. The attempt of Charles II. to exercise a dispensing power in favour of the Catholics, for the first time aroused the Parliament of the Restoration into opposition; while the ill-timed, ill-directed, and exaggerated efforts of James to remove the disabilities of his co-religionists were the main cause of his downfall. From William also the Catholics had something to hope. He came to England, it is true, as the special representative of Protestantism, but he came from a country where religious liberty was established, and he was himself entirely free from the stain of intolerance. In the negotiations that preceded his expedition he had given the Emperor a distinct assurance that he would do his utmost to procure for the English Catholics a repeal of the penal laws1 ; and the declaration which he issued upon his arrival in England promised freedom of conscience to all who would live peaceably. There can be no doubt that these sentiments expressed his real desire, and friend and foe have admitted that in the early part of his reign his influence was employed to prevent the enforcement of persecuting laws against Catholics.2 It was, however, probably not in his power to induce the Parliament to repeal the penal laws, or to prevent it from passing new laws, and he at least never chose to risk the unpopularity of refusing his assent to the persecuting laws which were enacted during his reign. These laws were maintained and were extended during the first two reigns of the Hanoverian period, and they form, perhaps, the darkest blot upon the history of the Revolution. Thus, to omit minor details, an Act was passed in 1699, by which any Catholic priest convicted of celebrating mass, or discharging any sacerdotal function, in England (except in the house of an ambassador) was made liable to perpetual imprisonment; and, in order that this law might not become a dead letter, a reward of 100l. was offered for conviction. Perpetual imprisonment was likewise the punishment to which any Papist became liable who was found guilty of keeping a school, or otherwise undertaking the education of the young. No parent might send a child abroad to be educated in the Catholic faith, under penalty of a fine of 100l., which was bestowed upon the informer. All persons who did not, within six months of attaining the age of eighteen, take the Oath, not only of Allegiance, but also of Supremacy, and subscribe the declaration against transubstantiation, became incapable of either inheriting or purchasing land, and the property they would otherwise have inherited passed to the next Protestant heir. By a law which was enacted in the first year of George I. all persons in any civil or military office, all members of colleges, teachers, preachers, and lawyers of every grade were compelled to take the Oath of Supremacy, which was distinctly anti-Catholic, as well as the Oath of Allegiance and the declaration against the Stuarts. By the same law any two justices of the peace might at any time tender to any Catholic the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy if they regarded him as disaffected. They might do this without any previous complaint or any evidence of his disaffection, and if he refused to take them he was liable to all the penalties of recusancy, which reduced him to a condition of absolute servitude. A Popish recusant was debarred from appearing at court, or even coming within ten miles of London, from holding any office or employment, from keeping arms in his house, from travelling more than five miles from home, unless by licence, under pain of forfeiting all his goods, and from bringing any action at law, or suit in equity. A married woman recusant forfeited two-thirds of her jointure or dower, was disabled from being executor or administratrix to her husband, or obtaining any part of his goods, and was liable to imprisonment unless her husband redeemed her by a ruinous fine. All Popish recusants within three months of conviction, might be called upon by four justices of the peace to renounce their errors or to abandon the kingdom; and if they did not depart, or if they returned without the King's licence, they were liable to the penalty of death. By this Act the position of the Catholics became one of perpetual insecurity. It furnished a ready handle to private malevolence, and often restrained the Catholics from exercising even their legal rights. Catholics who succeeded in keeping their land were compelled to register their estates, and all future conveyances and wills relating to them. They were subjected by an annual law to a double land-tax, and in 1722 a special tax was levied upon their property.1
A legislation animated by the same spirit extended to other portions of the empire. In the English colonies in North America there existed, in the latter half of the seventeenth century, an amount of religious liberty considerably greater than had yet been established in Europe. The Virginian Episcopalians, it is true, proscribed the Puritans and Catholics, and the New England Puritans proscribed and persecuted the Episcopalians and the Quakers; but the constitutions of the Quaker States, and the constitution of Rhode Island, which was founded by Roger Williams in 1662, laid down, in the most emphatic and unqualified terms, the doctrine of complete religious liberty. It is, however, a remarkable fact that Maryland, which was founded by the Catholic Lord Baltimore, as early as 1632, and which contained a large proportion of Catholics among its earliest colonists, preceded them in this path. It accorded perfect freedom to all Protestant sects, welcomed alike the persecuted Puritans of Virginia and the persecuted Episcopalians of Massachusetts, granted them every privilege which was possessed by the Catholics, and exhibited, for the first time since the Reformation, the spectacle of a Government acting with perfect toleration and a steady and unflinching impartiality towards all sects of Trinitarian Christians. Something, no doubt, has been said with truth to qualify its merit. The measure was a defensive one. The toleration was only extended to the believers in the Trinity. The terms of the charter would have made the suppression of the Anglican worship illegal; but still the fact remains, that, so far as Trinitarian Christians were concerned, the legislators of Maryland, who were in a great measure Catholic, undertook to try the experiment, not only of complete religious toleration, but also of complete religious equality; and that, at a time and in a country where they were almost entirely uncontrolled, they fulfilled their promise with perfect fidelity. In 1649, when the Legislature contained both Protestants and Catholics, a law was made, solemnly enacting that ‘no person within this province, professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall be in any way troubled, molested, or discountenanced for his or her religion, or in the free exercise thereof;’ and by the Catholics, at least, the promise of this law was never broken. The shameful sequel is soon told. The Protestants speedily multiplied in the province. They outnumbered the Catholics, and they enslaved them. The aristocratic constitution of the State, which produced a strong democratic opposition to Lord Baltimore, assisted them, and the Revolution in England gave the signal for the complete destruction of religious liberty in Maryland. The Catholics were excluded from all prominent offices in the State which a Catholic had founded. Anglicanism was made an Established Church, and in 1704 the mass was forbidden, the priesthood were proscribed, and no Catholic was any longer permitted to educate the young. Laws of a very similar character were enacted in New York, and in other American States; and even Rhode Island, which had been still more tolerant than Maryland—for it extended its protection to disbelievers in the Trinity—appears to have followed the example.1
In Ireland also the Revolution was speedily followed by the penal code. The Catholic population had naturally remained faithful to their sovereign, whose too zealous Catholicism was in the eyes of the English his greatest fault; and the triumph of William, which brought many benefits to England, consigned Ireland to the most hopeless and the most degrading servitude. For the third time an immense proportion of the soil was torn from its native owners, and bestowed upon foreigners and enemies, and nearly all the talent, the energy, the ambition of the nation was driven to the Continent. One hope, however, remained. At a time when the war was going decidedly against the Catholics, but was still by no means terminated, when Limerick was still far from captured, when the approach of winter, the prospect of pestilence arising from the heavy floods, the news of succours on the way from France, and the dangers of another insurrection at home made the situation of the besiegers very grave, the Irish generals agreed to surrender the city, and thus terminate the war, if by doing so they could secure for their people religious liberty. The consideration they offered was a very valuable one, for the prolongation of the war till another spring would have been full of danger to the unsettled government of William, and the stipulations of the Irish in favour of religious liberty were given the very first place in the treaty that was signed. The period since the Reforma-tion in which the Irish Catholics were most unmolested in their worship was the reign of Charles II.; and the first article of the Treaty of Limerick stipulated that ‘the Roman Catholics of this kingdom shall enjoy such privileges in the exercise of their religion as are consistent with the laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the reign of Charles II.; and their Majesties, as soon as their affairs will permit them to summon a Parliament in this kingdom, will endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such further security as may preserve them from any disturbance upon the account of their said religion.’ The ninth article determined that ‘the oath to be administered to such Roman Catholics as submit to their Majesties’ government shall be the oath of allegiance, and no other.’ These articles were signed by the Lords Justices of Ireland, and ratified by their Majesties under the Great Seal of England.
Such a treaty was very reasonably regarded as a solemn charter guaranteeing the Irish Catholics against any further penalties or molestation on account of their religion. It is true that the laws of Elizabeth against Catholicism remained un-repealed, but they had become almost wholly obsolete, and as they were not enforced during the reign of Charles II., it was assumed that they could not be enforced after the Treaty of Limerick. It is true also that the sanction of Parliament was required for the legal validity of the treaty, but that sanction could not, without a grave breach of faith, be withheld from an engagement so solemnly entered into by the Government, at a time when Parliament was not sitting, and in order to obtain a great military advantage. The imposition upon the Irish Catholics, without any fresh provocation, of a mass of new and penal legislation intended to restrict or extinguish their worship, to banish their prelates, and to afflict them with every kind of disqualification, disability, and deprivation on account of their religion, was a direct violation of the plain meaning of the treaty. Those who signed it undertook that the Catholics should not be in a worse position, in respect to the exercise of their religion, than they had been in during the reign of Charles II., and they also undertook that the influence of the Government should be promptly exerted to obtain such an amelioration of their condition as would secure them from the possibility of disturbance. Construed in its plain and natural sense, interpreted as every treaty should be by men of honour, the Treaty of Limerick amounted to no less than this.1 The public faith was pledged to its observance, and the well-known sentiments of William appeared an additional guarantee. William was, indeed, a cold and somewhat selfish man, and the admirable courage and tenacity which he invariably displayed when his own designs and ambition were in question were seldom or never manifested in any disinterested cause, but he was at least eminently tolerant and enlightened, and he had actually before the battle of Aghrim offered the Irish Catholics the free exercise of their religion, half the churches in the kingdom, and the moiety of their ancient possessions.1 Such an offer is alone sufficient to stamp him as a great statesman, and should have saved his memory from many eulogies which are in truth the worst of calumnies. It must be observed, however, that William, who repeatedly refused his assent to English Acts which he regarded as inimical to his authority, never offered any serious or determined opposition to the anti-Catholic laws which began in his reign. It must be observed also that the penal code, which began under William, which derived its worst features under Anne, and which was largely extended under George I. and George II., was entirely unprovoked by any active disloyalty on the part of the Catholics. To describe the Irish Catholics as having manifested an incurably rebellious and ungrateful disposition because, in the contest of the Revolution, they took the part of the legitimate and hereditary sovereign, to whom all classes had sworn allegiance, and whose title when they took up arms had not been disputed by any act of the Irish Parliament, is a calumny so grotesque and so transparent that it could only have been resorted to by those advocates of persecution who would stoop to any quibble in their cause.2 And, at all events, after the Treaty of Limerick had been signed, during the long agony of the penal laws no rebellion took place. About 14,000 Irish soldiers had at once passed into the French service, and a steady stream of emigration soon carried off all the Catholic energy from the country. Deprived of their natural leaders, sunk for the most part in the most brutal ignorance and in the most abject poverty, the Irish Catholics at home remained perfectly passive, while both England and Scotland were convulsed by Jacobitism. It is a memorable fact that the ferocious law of 1703, which first reduced the Irish Catholics to a condition of hopeless servitude, does not allege as the reason for its provisions any political crime. It was called ‘An Act to prevent the further growth of Popery.’ It was justified in its preamble on the ground that the Papists still continued in their gross and dangerous errors, that some Protestants had been perverted to Popery, and that some Papists had refused to make provision for their Protestant children. A considerable military force was, indeed, kept in Ireland, but this was chiefly because the ministers desired to keep under arms a more numerous standing army than Parliament would tolerate in England, and also to throw upon the Irish revenue a great part of the burden; and whenever serious danger arose, a large proportion was at once withdrawn. The evidence we possess on this subject is curiously complete. In the great rebellion of 1715 not a single overt act of treason was proved against the Catholics in Ireland, and at a time when civil war was raging both in England and Scotland the country remained so profoundly tranquil that the Government sent over several regiments to Scotland to subdue the Jacobites.1 In 1719, when the alarm of an invasion of England was very great, the Duke of Bolton, who was then Lord Lieutenant, wrote to the Government that if they did not fear a foreign invasion of Ireland they might safely withdraw the greater part of the army for other services; and he only urged that the nation, on account of its extreme poverty, might be relieved from the necessity of paying the troops during their absence. A few weeks later a leading official, writing from Dublin Castle, states that seven Irish regiments were at this time out of the kingdom, that they were still paid from the Irish revenue, and that four more were about to embark.1 The next great Jacobite alarm was in 1722, and in the very beginning of the danger six regiments were sent from Ireland to England.2 The Lord Lieutenant vainly asked that they might be paid, while in England, from the English revenue, and his request being refused he begged that they might return as soon as possible, not on account of any danger in Ireland, but because it was ‘reasonable that the advantages of entertaining those regiments should accrue to that kingdom from which they received their pay.’3 In 1725, Swift, who had no sympathy with the Catholics, declared that in Ireland the Pretender's party was at an end, and that ‘the Papists in general, of any substance or estates, and their priests almost universally, are what we call Whigs in the sense which by that word is generally understood.’4 In the great rebellion of 1745, when Scotland was for a time chiefly in the hands of the Pretender, when the Highland army had marched into the heart of England, and when the Protestant succession was very seriously endangered, there was not a ripple of agitation in Ireland; and soon after the struggle was over, Archbishop Stone, the Protestant Primate, delivered in the House of Lords the most emphatic testimony to the loyalty of the Catholics. He declared ‘that in the year 1747, after that rebellion was entirely suppressed, happening to be in England, he had an opportunity of perusing all the papers of the rebels and their correspondents, which were seized in the custody of Murray, the Pretender's secretary, and that after having spent much time and taken great pains in examining them (not without some share of the then common suspicion that there might be some private understanding and intercourse between them and the Irish Catholics), he could not discover the least trace, hint, or intimation of such intercourse or correspondence in them, or of any of the latter's favouring or abetting, or having been so much as made acquainted with, the designs or proceedings of these rebels.’1 Everything, indeed, connected with this history corroborates the assertion of Burke, that ‘all the penal laws of that unparalleled code of oppression were manifestly the effects of national hatred and scorn towards a conquered people whom the victors delighted to trample upon and were not at all afraid to provoke. They were not the effect of their fears, but of their security.…. Whilst that temper prevailed, and it prevailed in all its force to a time within our memory, every measure was pleasing and popular just in proportion as it tended to harass and ruin a set of people who were looked upon as enemies to God and man, and, indeed, as a race of savages who were a disgrace to human nature itself.’2
Almost all the great persecutions of history, those of the early Christians, of Catholics and Protestants on the Continent, and, after the Revolution, of Catholics in England, were directed against small minorities. It was the distinguishing characteristic of the Irish penal code that its victims constituted at least three-fourths of the nation, and that it was deliberately intended to demoralise as well as degrade. Its enactments may be divided into different groups. One group was intended to deprive the Catholics of all civil life. By an Act of the English Parliament they were forbidden to sit in that of Ireland.3 They were afterwards deprived of the elective suffrage, excluded from the corporations, from the magistracy, from the bar, from the bench, from the grand juries, and from the vestries. They could not be sheriffs or solicitors, or even gamekeepers or constables. They were forbidden to possess any arms; and any two justices, or mayor, or sheriff, might at any time issue a search warrant to break into their houses and ransack them for arms, and if a fowling-piece or a flask of powder was discovered they were liable either to fine or imprisonment or to whipping and the pillory. They were, of course, excluded on the same grounds from the army and navy. They could not even possess a horse of the value of more than 5l., and any Protestant on tendering that sum could appropriate the hunter or the carriage horse of his Catholic neighbour.1 In his own country the Catholic was only recognised by the law, ‘for repression and punishment.’ The Lord Chancellor Bowes and the Chief Justice Robinson both distinctly laid down from the bench ‘that the law does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic.’2
The effect of these measures was to offer the strongest inducements to all men of ability and enterprise to conform outwardly to the dominant creed. If they did not, every path of ambition and almost all means of livelihood were closed to them, and they were at the same time exposed to the most constant, galling, and humiliating tyranny. The events of the Revolution had divided the people into opposing sections bitterly hostile to each other. The most numerous section had no rights, while the whole tendency of the law was to produce in the dominant minority, already flushed with the pride of conquest and with recent confiscations, all the vices of the most insolent aristocracy. Religious animosity, private quarrels, simple rapacity, or that mere love of the tyrannical exercise of despotic power which is so active a principle in human affairs, continually led to acts of the most odious oppression which it was dangerous to resent and impossible to resist. The law gave the Protestant the power of inflicting on the Catholic intolerable annoyance. To avoid it, he readily submitted to illegal tyranny, and even under the most extreme wrong it was hopeless for him to look for legal redress. All the influence of property and office was against him, and every tribunal to which he could appeal was occupied by his enemies. The Parliament and the Government, the corporation which disposed of his city property, the vestry which taxed him, the magistrate before whom he carried his complaint, the solicitor who drew up his case, the barrister who pleaded it, the judge who tried it, the jury who decided it, were all Protestants. Of all tyrannies, a class tyranny has been justly described as the most intolerable, for it is ubiquitous in its operation, and weighs, perhaps, most heavily on those whose obscurity or distance would withdraw them from the notice of a single despot; and of all class tyrannies, perhaps the most odious is that which rests upon religious distinctions and is envenomed by religious animosities.1 To create such a tyranny in Ireland was the first object of the penal laws, and the effect upon the Catholics was what might have been expected. Great numbers, by dishonest and hypocritical compliances, endeavoured to free themselves from a position that was intolerable. The mass of the people gradually acquired the vices of slaves. They were educated through long generations of oppression into an inveterate hostility to the law, and were taught to look for redress in illegal violence or secret combinations.
A second object of the penal laws was to reduce the Catholics to a condition of the most extreme and brutal ignorance. As Burke has justly said: ‘To render men patient under such a deprivation of all the rights of human nature, everything which would give them a knowledge or feeling of those rights was rationally forbidden.’2 The legislation on the subject of Catholic education may be briefly described, for it amounted simply to universal, unqualified, and unlimited proscription. The Catholic was excluded from the University. He was not permitted to be the guardian of a child. It was made penal for him to keep a school, to act as usher or private tutor, or to send his children to be educated abroad; and a reward of 10l. was offered for the discovery of a Popish schoolmaster.1 In 1733, it is true, charter schools were established by Primate Boulter, for the benefit of the Catholics; but these schools—which were supported by public funds—were avowedly intended, by bringing up the young as Protestants, to extirpate the religion of their parents. The alternative offered by law to the Catholics was that of absolute and compulsory ignorance or of an education directly subversive of their faith.
The operation of these laws alone might have been safely trusted to reduce the Catholic population to complete degradation; but there were many other provisions, intended to check any rising spirit of enterprise that might appear among them, and to prevent any ray of hope from animating their lot. In the acquisition of personal property, it is true, there is but little in the way of restriction to be added. By the laws I have described, the immense majority of the Irish people were excluded, in their own country, from almost every profession, and from every Government office, from the highest to the lowest, and they were placed under conditions that made the growth of industrial virtues and the formation of an enterprising and aspiring character wholly impossible. They were excluded from a great part of the benefit of the taxes they paid. They were at the same time compelled to pay double to the militia, and in case of war with a Catholic power, to reimburse the damage done by the enemies’ privateers. They couldnot obtain the freedom of any town corporate, and were only suffered to carry on their trades in their native cities, on condition of paying special and vexatious impositions known by the name of quarterage. They were forbidden, after a certain date, to take up their abodes in the important cities of Limerick and Galway, or to purchase property within their walls; and their progress in many industrial careers was effectually trammelled by the law already referred to, preventing them from possessing any horse of the value of more than 5l.1 The chief branches of Irish commerce and industry had, as we shall see, been deliberately crushed by law in the interests of English manufacturers; but the Catholics were not specially disabled from participating in them, and the legislator contented himself with assigning strict limits to their success by providing that, except in the linen trade, no Catholic could have more than two apprentices.2
In the case of landed property, however, the laws were more severe, for it was the third great object of the penal code to dissociate the Catholics as much as possible from the soil. Of this policy it may be truly said, that unless it was inspired by unmixed malevolence, and intended to make the nation permanently incapable of self-government, it was one of the most infatuated that could be conceived. Land being an irremoveable property, subject to Government control, has always proved the best pledge of the loyalty of its possessor, and its acquisition never fails to diffuse through a disaffected class conservative and orderly habits. One of the first objects of every wise legislator, and, indeed, of every good man, should be to soften the division of classes; and no social condition can be more clearly dangerous or diseased than that in which these divisions coincide with, and are intensified by differences of creed. To make the landlord class almost exclusively Protestant, while the tenant class were almost exclusively Catholic, was to plant in Ireland the seeds of the most permanent and menacing divisions. On the other hand, a class of Catholic landlords connected with one portion of the people by property and with another portion by religion could not fail to soften at once the animosities of class and of creed. They would have become the natural political leaders of their co-religionists, and it is to the absence of such a class that both the revolutionary and sacerdotal extravagances of Irish Catholic politics are mainly to be attributed.
The great confiscations under James I., Cromwell, and William had done much to make the proprietary of Ireland exclusively Protestants. The penal laws continued the work. No Catholic was suffered to buy land, or inherit or receive it as a gift from Protestants, or to hold life annuities, or leases for more than thirty-one years, or any lease on such terms that the profits of the lands exceeded one-third of the rent. If a Catholic leaseholder, by his skill or industry, so increased his profits that they exceeded this proportion, and did not immediately make a corresponding increase in his rent, his farm passed to the first Protestant who made the discovery. If a Catholic secretly purchased either his own forfeited estate, or any other land in the possession of a Protestant, the first Protestant who informed against him became the proprietor. The whole country was soon filled with spies, endeavouring to appropriate the property of Catholics; and Popish discoveries became a main business of the law courts. The few Catholic landlords who remained after the confiscations, were deprived of the liberty of testament, which was possessed by all other subjects of the Crown. Their estates, upon their death, were divided equally among their sons, unless the eldest became a Protestant; in which case the whole was settled upon him.1 In this manner Catholic landlords were gradually but surely impoverished. Their land passed almost universally into the hands of Protestants, and the few who succeeded in retaining large estates did so only by compliances which destroyed the wholesome moral influence that would naturally have attached to their position. The penal code, as it was actually carried out, was inspired much less by fanaticism than by rapacity, and was directed less against the Catholic religion than against the property and industry of its professors. It was intended to make them poor and to keep them poor, to crush in them every germ of enterprise, to degrade them into a servile caste who could never hope to rise to the level of their oppressors. The division of classes was made as deep as possible, and every precaution was taken to perpetuate and to embitter it. Any Protestant who married a Catholid, or who suffered his children to be educated as Catholics, was exposed to all the disabilities of the code. Any Protestant woman who was a landowner, if she married a Catholic, was at once deprived of her inheritance, which passed to the nearest Protestant heir. A later law provided that every marriage celebrated by a Catholic priest between a Catholic and a Protestant should be null, and that the priest who officiated should be hung.1
The creation by law of a gigantic system of bribery intended to induce the Catholics to abandon or disguise their creed, and of an army of spies and informers intended to prey upon their property, had naturally a profoundly demoralising influence, but hardly so much so as the enactments which were designed to sow discord and insubordination in their homes. These measures, which may be looked upon as the fourth branch of the penal code, appear to have rankled more than any others in the minds of the Catholics, and they produced the bitterest and most pathetic complaints. The law I have cited, by which the eldest son of a Catholic, upon apostatising, became the heir-at-law to the whole estate of his father, reduced his father to the position of a mere life tenant, and prevented him from selling, mortgaging, or otherwise disposing of it, is a typical measure of this class. In like manner a wife who apostatised was immediately freed from her husband's control, and the Chancellor was empowered to assign to her a certain proportion of her husband's property. If any child, however young, professed to be a Protestant, it was at once taken from its father's care. The Chancellor, or the child itself, if an adult, might compel the father to produce the title-deeds of his estate, and declare on oath the value of his property; and such a proportion as the Chancellor determined was given to the child.2 Children were thus set against their parents, and wives against their husbands, and jealousies, suspicions, and heart-burnings were introduced into the Catholic home. The undutiful wife, the rebellious and unnatural son, had only to add to their other crimes the guilt of a feigned conversion, in order to secure both impunity and reward, and to deprive those whom they had injured of the management and disposal of their property. The influence of the code appeared, indeed, omnipresent. It blasted the prospects of the Catholic in all the struggles of active life. It cast its shadow over the inmost recesses of his home. It darkened the very last hour of his existence. No Catholic, as I have said, could be guardian to a child; so the dying parent knew that his children must pass under the tutelage of Protestants.
This last provision, indeed, from its influence on property and especially on domestic happiness, was of pre-eminent importance. A Catholic landlord who in those evil days clung to his religion was probably actuated by a deep and fervent conviction. But if he happened to be seized with a mortal illness while his children were minors, he had the inexpressible misery of knowing that he could not leave them to the care of his wife, or of any Catholic friend, but that the Chancellor was bound to provide them with a Protestant guardian, whose first duty was to bring them up in the Protestant creed.1 It would be difficult to conceive an enactment calculated to inflict a keener pang, and it is not surprising that great efforts were made to evade it. It sometimes happened that a Protestant friend of the dying man consented to accept the legal obligation of guardian on the secret understanding that he would leave the actual education of the children in the hands of any Catholic the family might select. The family would then petition that this Protestant might be appointed guardian, and it was probable that their request would be acceded to. A case of this kind came under the cognisance of the Irish House of Commons in 1707. A Catholic gentleman, named Sir John Cotter, died, leaving an estate, in the county of Cork, and three minor children, the eldest being about fifteen years old. The very day of his funeral the eldest son was sent privately to London, with a Catholic gentleman named Galway, to be educated in his own faith. The Protestants at once called the attention of the Chancellor to the evasion, and he appointed a certain Alderman Chartres guardian to the minors, and compelled Galway to surrender the infant. Great efforts were then made to change the guardian, and at last a petition, alleging, it is said, falsely, that the minors were destitute of a guardian, and begging that a Protestant gentleman named Netterville might be appointed, was successful. Netterville became guardian, and he left the actual care of the children in the hands of Galway. The House, however, determined to prevent, if possible, the repetition of such an evasion. It resolved ‘that any Protestant guardian that permits a Papist to educate or dispose of his ward does thereby betray the trust reposed in him, evade the law, and propagate Popery;’ ‘that any Papist who shall take upon him to manage and dispose of the substance and person of any infant committed to a Protestant guardian is guilty of a notorious breach of the law;’ and ‘that it is the indispensable duty of Protestant guardians to take the persons of their wards out of the custody of their Papist relations.’ Netterville was summoned before the House, censured, and bound over to educate the minors as Protestants, and Galway was ordered into custody.1 It is probable that no small amount of property passed in this manner into Protestant hands.2
As regards the celebration of the Catholic worship, the laws, if equally prohibitory, were at least less severely enforced. A law of Elizabeth, prohibiting the Catholic worship, and another law compelling all persons to attend the Anglican service, were unrepealed, and as a matter of fact the Catholic chapels in Ireland were closed during the Scotch rebellion of 1715. In general, however, the hopeless task of preventing some three-fourths of the nation from celebrating the rites which they believed essential to their eternal salvation was not attempted. The conditions of the Catholic worship were determined by the law of 1703, which compelled every Catholic priest, under the penalties of imprisonment and banishment, and of death if he returned, to register his name and parish, and other particulars essential to his identification,1 and these registered priests might celebrate mass without molestation. 1,080 availed themselves of the privilege. It need hardly be said that they derived from the Government no pay, no favour of any description, except the barest toleration, but yet the Government undertook to regulate in the severest manner the conditions of their ministry. The parish priest alone could celebrate mass, and that only in his own parish. He was not permitted to keep a curate. No chapel might have bells or steeple, and no cross might be publicly erected. Pilgrimages to the holy wells were forbidden, and it is a characteristic trait that the penalty in default of the payment of a fine was the degrading one of whipping. If any Catholic induced a Protestant to join his faith, he was liable to the penalties of proemunire. If any priest became a Protestant he became entitled to an annuity, which was at first 20l. but was afterwards raised to 30l., to be levied on the district where he resided.2
But soon another, and a far more serious measure was taken. In the reign of Anne large classes, both in England and in Ireland, who were perfectly innocent of any treasonable designs against the Government, and perfectly prepared to take the oath of allegiance which bound them to obey the existing ruler, and to abstain from all conspiracies against him, considered it distinctly sinful to take the oath of abjuration, which asserted that the son of James II. had ‘no right or title whatsoever’ to the Crown, and pledged the swearer to perpetual loyalty to the Protestant line. The distinction between the King de jure and the King de facto was here of vital importance. It was scarcely conceivable that any sincere and zealous Catholic could look upon the Revolution as a righteous movement, or could believe that James had justly forfeited his crown. The doctrine of passive obedience was not, it is true, taught in the Catholic Church, except among the Gallican divines, as emphatically as among Anglicans, but the belief in a Divine hereditary right of kings was universal, and no Catholic could seriously suppose that as a matter of right, James had forfeited his authority. The Catholics well knew that he had lost his crown mainly on account of his Catholicism, that the last great unconstitutional act with which he was reproached was an attempt to suspend the penal laws against themselves, that the object of the Act of Settlement was to secure that no Catholic should again sit upon the throne. At the same time they were perfectly ready to recognise the result of the war, to take the oath of allegiance to the existing Government, and to abstain from any conspiracy against it. When the priests registered themselves in 1704 no oath was required except the oath of allegiance; and it may be added,—though, indeed, after the recent legislation this consideration could have but little weight,—that it was expressly stipulated in the Treaty of Limerick that the oath of allegiance and ‘no other’ should be imposed upon the Irish Catholics. Yet in the face of these circumstances, and at a time when not a single act of treason or turbulence was proved against the Catholic priests, the Irish Parliament enacted in 1709 that by the March of the following year all the registered priests must take the oath of abjuration, under the penalty of banishment for life, and if they returned, of death.1 At the same time any two magistrates were authorised to summon before them any Irish layman, to tender to him the same oath and to imprison him if he refused to take it. If the oath was tendered three times and he still refused to take it, he was guilty of prcemunire and liable to perpetual imprisonment and the confiscation of all his property.2 The clergy of the Church of England, as we have seen, accepted this oath; but, at the same time, it is not easy to see how any man could honestly take it who believed that doctrine of Divine hereditary right which was equally taught by the Church of Rome and by the Church of England. The Episcopalians in Scotland resolutely refused it, and from the very first the Roman Catholic authorities declared it to be sinful, and imposed penances on those who yielded. A very powerful memorial on the subject, drawn up in 1724 by Dr. Nary, who was probably the ablest Catholic priest then living in Ireland, clearly states their reasons.1 The writer declares his full approval of the oath of allegiance. That oath binds all who take it to have no hand in any plot or conspiracy against the existing Government, and to do all in their power to suppress sedition, and every Catholic may with a perfect good conscience unreservedly take it. The oath of abjuration, on the contrary, contains three clauses which, in the opinion of the writer, must necessarily offend a Catholic conscience. It asserts that the late Prince of Wales, who was now the Pretender, had no right or title whatever to the Crown of England, and thus passes a judgment on the Revolution which cannot be accepted by anyone who believes in the Divine right of hereditary monarchy, and who denies that the measures of James in favour of Catholicism invalidated his title to the throne. It restricts the allegiance of the swearer to the Protestant line, and therefore implies that if the existing sovereign were converted to Catholicism, the Catholic, on that ground alone, would be bound to withdraw his allegiance from him. It contains the assertion that the oath was taken ‘heartily, freely, and willingly,’ which in the case of a sincere Roman Catholic would certainly be untrue.
It is said that not more than thirty-three of the registered priests actually took this oath,2 and its chief result was that the whole system of registration fell rapidly into disuse.
Such was the legislation in the case of registered priests who were supposed to enjoy the benefit of toleration. It is, however, obviously absurd to speak of the Catholic religion as tolerated in a country where its bishops were proscribed. In Ireland, all Catholic archbishops, bishops, deans, and vicars-general were ordered by a certain day to leave the country. If after that date they were found in it they were to be first imprisoned and then banished, and if they returned they were pronounced guilty of high treason and were liable to be hung, disembowelled, and quartered. Nor were these idle words. The law of 1709 offered a reward of 50l. to anyone who secured the conviction of any Catholic archbishop, bishop, dean, or vicar-general. In their own dioceses, in the midst of a purely Catholic country, in the performance of religious duties which were absolutely essential to the maintenance of their religion, the Catholic bishops were compelled to live in obscure hovels and under feigned names, moving continually from place to place, meeting their flocks under the shadow of the night, not unfrequently taking refuge from their pursuers in caverns or among the mountains. The position of all friars and unregistered priests was very similar. It was evident that if any strong religious feeling was to be maintained there must be many of them in Ireland. A Government which avowedly made the repression of the Catholic religion one of its main ends would never authorise a sufficient number of priests to maintain any high standard of devotion. The priests were looked upon as necessary evils, to be reduced to the lowest possible numbers. It was not certain that when the existing generation of registered priests died out the Government would suffer them to be replaced, and no licences were to be granted to those who refused the abjuration oath which the Catholic Church pronounced to be unlawful. Very naturally, therefore, numerous unregistered priests and friars laboured among the people. Like the bishops they were liable to banishment if they were discovered, and to death if they returned. It was idle for the prisoner to allege that no political action of any kind was proved against him, that he was employed solely in carrying spiritual consolations to a population who were reduced to a condition of the extremest spiritual as well as temporal destitution. Strenuous measures were taken to enforce the law. It was enacted that every mayor or justice of the peace who neglected to execute its provisions should be liable to a fine of 100l., half of which was to go to the informer, and should also on conviction be disabled from serving as justice of the peace during the remainder of his life. A reward of 20l., offered for the detection of each friar or unregistered priest, called a regular race of priest-hunters into existence. To facilitate their task the-law enabled any two justices of the peace at any time to compel any Catholic of eighteen or upwards to declare when and where he last heard mass, who officiated, and who was present, and if he refused to give evidence he might be imprisoned for twelve months, or until he paid a fine of 20l. Anyone who harboured ecclesiastics from beyond the sea was liable to fines which amounted, for the third offence, to the confiscation of all his goods.1 The Irish House of Commons urged the magistrates on, to greater activity in enforcing the law, and it resolved ‘that the saying or hearing of mass by persons who had not taken the oath of abjuration tended to advance the interests of the Pretender,’ and again, ‘that the prosecuting and informing against Papists was an honourable service to the Government.’2 But perhaps the most curious illustration of the ferocious spirit of the time was furnished by the Irish Privy Council in 1719. In that year an elaborate Bill against Papists was carried, apparently without opposition, through the Irish House of Commons, and among its clauses was one sentencing all unregistered priests who were found in Ireland to be branded with a red-hot iron upon the cheek. The Irish Privy Council, however, actually changed the penalty of branding into that of castration,3 and sent the Bill with this atrocious recommendation to England for ratification. The English ministers unanimously restored the penalty of branding. By the constitution of Ireland a Bill which had been returned from England might be finally rejected but could not be amended by the Irish Parliament; and the Irish House of Lords, objecting to a retrospective clause which invalidated certain leases which Papists had been suffered to make, threw out the Bill.1 It is, however, a memorable fact in the moral history of Europe that as late as 1719 this penalty was seriously proposed by the responsible Government of Ireland. It may be added that a law imposing it upon Jesuits was actually in force in Sweden in the beginning of the century, and that a paper was circulated in 1700 advocating the adoption of a similar atrocity in England.2
One more illustration may be given of the ferocity of the persecuting spirit which at this time prevailed in Ireland, both in the native Legislature and in the English Government. In 1723, when the alarm caused by Atterbury's plot was at its height, the Irish House of Commons, at the express invitation of the Lord Lieutenant, proceeded to pass a new Bill against unregistered priests. It was entitled ‘A Bill for Explaining and Amending the Acts to Prevent the Growth of Popery and for Strengthening the Protestant Interest in Ireland;’ and the heads of the Bill, after passing through both houses, were sent over to England with the warm recommendation of the Irish Privy Council. The bill as it issued from the Commons is still preserved, and it is no exaggeration to say that it deserves to rank with the most infamous edicts in the whole history of persecution. One of its clauses provided that all unregistered priests should depart out of Ireland before March 25, 1724, and that all found after that date should be deemed guilty of high treason, except they have in the meantime taken the oath of abjuration. In this manner it was proposed to make the whole priesthood in a purely Catholic country liable to the most horrible form of death known to British law, unless they took an oath which their Church authoritatively pronounced to be sinful. By another clause it was provided that all bishops, deans, monks, and vicars-general found in the country after the same date should be liable to the same horrible fate, and in their cases, the abjuration oath was not admitted as an alternative. By a third clause it was ordered that any person who was found guilty of affording shelter or protection to a Popish dignitary should suffer death as a felon without benefit of clergy. By a fourth clause a similar penalty was decreed against any Popish schoolmaster or Popish tutor in a private house, and, in order that the law should be fully enforced, large rewards were promised to discoverers of priests, bishops, or harbourers who gave evidence leading to conviction, and these rewards were doubled if they themselves prosecuted the offender to conviction. Happily, this atrocious measure never came into effect. The alarm caused in England by the designs of the Pretender passed away. The excitement caused by Wood's halfpence was at its height, and it is probable that the humane feelings of Walpole were revolted by a law that was worthy of Alva or Torquemada. The Bill was not returned from England, and it was never revived.1
A modern historian, who has displayed rare literary skill in defending many forms of oppression and of cruelty, has lately made the penal code familiar to the public. His great objection to this legislation is that it was not strenuously enforced, and with the exception of the law offering the estate of the Catholic to his eldest son, in the event of his apostacy, he has apparently discovered but little in its provisions repugnant to his sentiments either of justice or of humanity. As regards the system of direct religious repression, it is true that it became, as we shall hereafter see, gradually inoperative. It was impossible, without producing a state of chronic civil war, to enforce such enactments in the midst of a large Catholic population. Rewards were offered for the apprehension of priests, but it needed no small courage to face the hatred of the people. Savage mobs were ever ready to mark out the known priest-hunter, and unjust laws were met by illegal violence. Under the long discipline of the penal laws, the Irish Catholics learnt the lesson which, beyond all others, rulers should dread to teach. They became consummate adepts in the arts of conspiracy and of disguise. Secrets known to hundreds were preserved inviolable from authority. False intelligence baffled and distracted the pursuer, and the dread of some fierce nocturnal vengeance was often sufficient to quell the cupidity of the prosecutor. Bishops came to Ireland in spite of the atrocious penalties to which they were subject, and ordained new priests. What was to be done with them? The savage sentence of the law, if duly executed, might have produced a conflagration in Ireland that would have endangered every Protestant life, and the scandal would have rung through Europe. The ambassadors of Catholic Powers in alliance with England continually remonstrated against the severity of English anti-Catholic legislation, and on the other hand the English ministers felt that the execution of priests in Ireland would indefinitely weaken their power of mitigating by their influence the persecution of Protestants on the Continent. The administration of the law was feeble in all its departments, and it was naturally peculiarly so when it was in opposition to the strongest feelings of the great majority of the people. It was difficult to obtain evidence or even juries.1 It was soon found too that the higher Catholic clergy, if left in peace, were able and willing to render inestimable services to the Government in suppressing sedition and crime, and as it was quite evident that the bulk of the Irish Catholics would not become Protestants, they could not, in the mere interests of order, be left wholly without religious ministration. Besides, there was in reality not much religious fanaticism. Statesmen of the stamp of Walpole and Carteret were quite free from such a motive, and were certainly not disposed to push matters to extremities. The spirit of the eighteenth century was eminently adverse to dogma. The sentiment of nationality, and especially the deep resentment produced by the English restrictions on trade, gradually drew different classes of Irishmen together. The multitude of lukewarm Catholics who abandoned their creed through purely interested motives lowered the religious temperature among the Protestants, while, by removing some of the indifferent, it increased it among the Catholics, and the former grew in time very careless about theological doctrines. The system of registration broke down through the imposition of the abjuration oath, and through the extreme practical difficulty of enforcing the penalties. The policy of extinguishing Catholicism by suppressing its services and banishing its bishops was silently abandoned; before the middle of the eighteenth century the laws against Catholic worship were virtually obsolete,1 and before the close of the eighteenth century the Parliament which in the beginning of the century had been one of the most intolerant had become one of the most tolerant in Europe.
In this respect the penal code was a failure. In others it was more successful. It was intended to degrade and to impoverish, to destroy in its victims the spring and buoyancy of enterprise, to dig a deep chasm between Catholics and Protestants. These ends it fully attained.2 It formed the social condition, it regulated the disposition of property, it exercised a most enduring and pernicious influence upon the character of the people, and some of the worst features of the latter may be distinctly traced to its influence. It may be possible to find in the statute-books both of Protestant and Catholic countries laws corresponding to most parts of the Irish penal code, and in some respects surpassing its most atrocious provisions, but it is not the less true that that code, taken as a whole, has a character entirely distinctive. It was directed, not against the few, but against the many. It was not the persecution of a sect, but the degradation of a nation. It was the instrument employed by a conquering race, supported by a neighbouring Power, to crush to the dust the people among whom they were planted. And, indeed, when we remember that the greater part of it was in force for nearly a century, that the victims of its cruelties formed at least three-fourths of the nation, that its degrading and dividing influence extended to every field of social, political, professional, intellectual, and even domestic life, and that it was enacted without the provocation of any rebellion, in defiance of a treaty which distinctly guaranteed the Irish Catholics from any further oppression on account of their religion, it may be justly regarded as one of the blackest pages in the history of persecution. In the words of Burke, ‘It was a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, and as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.’ The judgment formed of it by one of the noblest representatives of English Toryism was very similar. ‘The Irish,’ said Dr. Johnson, ‘are in a most unnatural state, for we there see the minority prevailing over the majority. There is no instance, even in the Ten Persecutions, of such severity as that which the Protestants of Ireland have exercised against the Catholics.’1
The penal laws against the Roman Catholics, both in England and Ireland, were the immediate consequence of the Revolution, and were mainly the work of the Whig party. In Ireland some of them were carried under William, but by far the greater number of the disabilities were comprised in what Burke has truly described as ‘the ferocious Acts of Anne.’ These laws were carried in 1703–4 and in 1709, and the last of them was brought forward by the Government of Wharton, one of the most conspicuous members of the party. It is somewhat remarkable, markable, however, that the Catholics were not at this time directly deprived of the elective franchise, except so far as the imposition of the oath of abjuration operated as a disqualification. Their extreme poverty, the laws relating to landed property, and their exclusion from the corporations, no doubt, reduced the number of Catholic voters to infinitesimal proportions, but the absolute and formal abolition of the class did not take place till 1727, and appears to have been due to the influence of Primate Boulter, who was also the author of severe laws against nominal converts. In England, as in Ireland, William would gladly have given toleration to the Catholics,1 but he was not prepared to risk any serious unpopularity for their sake. The English Act of 1699 is said to have been brought forward by opponents of the Government in order to embarrass him, but it was accepted by a ministry of which Somers was the leading member, and, in spite of the promises which William, before the Revolution, had made to the Emperor, Bishop Burnet assures us that ‘the Court promoted the Bill.’2
The extent and complication of the Irish penal code, and the great importance of its political consequences, has made it necessary for me to dwell upon it at considerable length, but it will appear evident from the foregoing review that, severe as were the Irish laws, they were exceeded in stringency by those which were imposed upon the English Catholics. In the latter case, however, an evasion was much easier, nor could the Catholics, except under very abnormal circumstances, become a danger to England. In numbers they were probably less than one in fifty of the population.3 Among the freeholders, according to a computation made under William, they were not quite one in 186,4 and the part of the population which was most Protestant was precisely that which was most active, enterprising, and influential. The Catholics abounded chiefly in Lancashire, Staffordshire, and Sussex; but, except in London, they were very rare in the trading towns.1 Their actual condition under the laws I have described is a question of some difficulty and perplexity. Judging by the mere letter of the law we should imagine that their worship was absolutely suppressed, that their children were deprived of all ecclesiastical education, and that their estates must have speedily passed into other hands. Nor is it easy to understand how laws so recent and so explicit could be evaded. Their history, however, is somewhat like that of the anti-Christian laws in the Roman Empire. It is certain that during long periods of time the early Christians professed, taught, and propagated their religion without either concealment or molestation, though by the letter of existing laws they were subject to the most atrocious penalties. It is equally certain that during the greater part of the reigns of Anne, George I., and George II. the Catholic worship in private houses and chapels was undisturbed, that the estates of Catholics were regularly transmitted from father to son, and that they had no serious difficulty in educating their children. The Government refused to put the laws against the priests into execution, and legal evasions were employed and connived at. Most of the more active spirits of English Catholicism took refuge on the Continent, and in the beginning of the eighteenth century British or Irish seminaries, colleges, or monasteries were thickly scattered through Spain, Portugal, Flanders, France, and Italy.2
Of the condition of those at home but few notices remain. In 1700 two letters, written to a Member of Parliament, were published, complaining bitterly of their activity.3 It was stated that there were then three Popish bishops exercising their functions in England—Bishop Leyhorn in London and the surrounding counties, Bishop Gifford in Wales and the western counties, and Bishop Smith in the north; that nearly every Popish lord or gentleman of substance had a priest domesticated in his family; that there were but few parishes in London in which the mass was not celebrated; that Petre, the brother of the well-known councillor of James, and the head of the English Jesuits, was still living under the name of Spencer in Marylebone1 ; and that many converts to Popery were made. One conversion—that of the daughter of Lord Baltimore—appears to have attracted some attention. In 1706 a remarkable petition was presented to Parliament from the gentry and clergy of South Lancashire, containing very similar complaints. The petitioners dilated especially upon the number and missionary activity of the Lancashire priests, upon the open manner in which Catholics thronged to mass, and upon the erection of a building which was believed to be an endowed Popish seminary. The House of Lords considered these statements worthy of serious attention, and presented an address to the Queen, complaining of the growing insolence of the Catholics, and requesting that the Protestant clergy in each diocese and parish should be enjoined to prepare returns stating their number, quality, estates, and places of abode.2 How far these measures proved efficacious it is difficult to say, but in 1711 we find the Lower House of Convocation complaining that the Papists ‘have swarmed in our streets of late years, and have been very busy in making converts,’ and attributing to the mode in which they conducted their controversy a considerable part of the prevailing infidelity.3 The reign of Anne is the period in which the most ferocious of the penal laws in Ireland were enacted, but in England the Catholics were not violently persecuted. The Government was interceding with the Emperor in favour of his persecuted Protestant subjects, and naturally shrank from measures that would impair its influence. The existence of a powerful party attached to the Popish Pretender, the semi-Catholic doctrines of some of the Nonjurors, the formal negotiation opened by Archbishop Wake with a view to a union of the Anglican and Gallican Churches, the dispositions of the Queen, which were not violently anti-Catholic, and perhaps also the fact that a Catholic poet was at the head of English literature, had all tended to improve the position of the sect. The law which determined that any Catholic over eighteen who did not take the oath of supremacy, or make a declaration of Protestantism, should be incapable of inheriting land, and that the estate he would otherwise have inherited should pass to the next Protestant heir, was evaded and made almost nugatory. It was intended to compel all Catholic landlords to sell their property, but it was determined that the burden of proof rested with the Protestant claimant, and that it was for him to prove that the Catholic had not made this declaration; and a Bill which was introduced in 1706 to remedy this defect by making it necessary for the Catholic not only to make the declaration, but also to prove that he had done so, was rejected chiefly on the ground that it would injure the negotiations of England in favour of the persecuted subjects of the Emperor.1 The reward of 100l. offered for the conviction of a Catholic priest might be expected to produce numerous informers; but the judges were very severe in the evidence they required, and it was decided that those who prosecuted in order to obtain the reward must do so at their own expense.1 In the Hanoverian period, as well as in the reign of Anne, the Catholics enjoyed a considerable, though precarious, toleration. An acute observer, whose tour through England and Wales was published in 1722, tells us that ‘to the north of Winchester there was a very large monastery, a handsome part of which still remained, called Hide House, inhabited by Roman Catholics, where they have a private chapel for the service of the gentlemen of that religion thereabouts, of which there are several of note, and who live very quietly and friendly with their neighbours; they have also a private seminary for their children, three miles off, where they prepare them for the colleges abroad.’2 The same traveller visited the holy well of St. Winifred in Wales, and found the Catholic pilgrimages to it undiminished. The Catholic church at the well had, it is true, been converted into a Protestant school, but ‘to supply the loss of this chapel the Roman Catholics have chapels erected almost in every inn for the devotion of the pilgrims that flock hither from all the Popish parts of England.’3 Three years later Defoe's well-known ‘Tour through Great Britain’ appeared. He mentions without comment ‘Popish chapels’ among the religious edifices existing in London,4 and, having visited Durham, he writes of it: ‘The town is well-built but old, full of Roman Catholics, who live peaceably and disturb nobody and nobody them, for we, being there on a holiday, saw them going as publicly to mass as the Dissenters did on other days to their meeting-houses.’5 The Earl of Derwentwater, who was executed for his complicity in the rebellion of 1715, was a Catholic, and it was a popular tradition that his body, on its journey from London to its burial place in Scotland, was moved only by night, and rested every day in a place dedicated to the Catholic worship.6
As the century advanced, the complaints of the growth of Popery became very numerous. The law of England still laid down that ‘when a person is reconciled to the See of Rome, or procures others to be reconciled, the offence amounts to high treason,’1 and the sentence of perpetual imprisonment still hung over every Catholic priest; but yet it appears evident that Catholicism in certain classes was extending. It was asserted in 1735 that there was ‘scarcely a petty coffee-house in London where there is not a Popish lecture read on Sunday evenings.’2 Reports, which appear to have been entirely calumnious, were spread that Bishop Butler had died a Catholic.3 ‘The growth of Popery,’ wrote Doddridge, in 1735, ‘seems to give a general and just alarm. A priest from a neighbouring gentleman's family makes frequent visits hither, and many of the Church people seem Popishly inclined.’4 Secker complained, in 1738, that ‘the emissaries of the Romish Church … have begun to reap great harvests in the field.’5 Sherlock, in the letter which he issued on the occasion of the earthquake of 1750, mentions the ‘great increase of Popery’ among the crying evils of the time.6 Browne, in his ‘Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Time,’ which appeared a few years later, echoes the same complaint. ‘The priests,’ he writes, ‘are assiduous in making proselytes, and in urging their party to make them. There is at present a gentleman in the West of England who openly gives 5l. to every person who becomes a proselyte to the Roman Church; and the additional bribe of a Sunday dinner for every such person that attends mass. Allurements of the same kind are known to prevail in most parts of the kingdom, and among those of the highest rank, though not so openly declared.’7 A fashion which had arisen among ladies of wearing Capuchin cloaks was somewhat absurdly reprehended, on the ground that it was teaching men ‘to view the cowl not only with patience but complacency.’8 The leaders of the Dissenters were so sensible of the danger from the activity of the priests that they established in 1734 and 1735 a course of anti-Popery lectures, in Salters’ Hall; and the laws against priests were so entirely in abeyance that two of these had a formal controversy with two Protestant divines.1 In 1738 Bishop Gibson, with a view of checking the Romish propagandism, collected and republished, under the title of ‘A Preservation against Popery,’ the anti-Papal tracts which had appeared in England between the Restoration and the Revolution.
At the time of the rebellion of 1745, it is true, the laws were more severely enforced. A proclamation was issued, banishing all Catholics from London, and forbidding them to go more than five miles from their homes; and another proclamation offered a reward for the capture of priests and Jesuits, some of whom were actually apprehended. A mass-house was about this time destroyed by the populace, at Stokesley, in Yorkshire, and another burnt by the sailors at Sunderland.2 Resident Catholic ambassadors complained of the severities of the Government against their coreligionists; but these severities do not appear to have been very serious, and they were purely exceptional events produced by the existence of a great public danger, and by the notorious sympathy of the Catholics with the invaders. In general the chief effects of the legislation against the Catholic worship appear to have been that it was carried on unostentatiously in private houses, that proselytism was difficult and somewhat dangerous, and that any Catholic who was suspected of disaffection was absolutely at the mercy of the Government. The unequal and oppressive taxation, however, and the innumerable disqualifications, bringing with them a great social stigma, still continued, and the laws against the priesthood offered such inducements to informers that their position was one of continual danger. As we shall hereafter see, they were occasionally prosecuted at a much later period than that with which we are at present concerned; and in 1729—in the reign of George II. and under the ministry of Townshend and Walpole—a Franciscan friar, named Atkinson, died in Hurst Castle, in the seventy-fourth year of his life and the thirtieth of his imprisonment, having been incarcerated in 1700, for performing the functions of a Catholic priest.1 The only minister who appears to have had any real wish to relieve the Catholics was Stanhope, who had contemplated some mitigations of the penal code. In 1719 negotiations took place between his ministry and some leading Catholics, through the intervention of Strickland, the Bishop of Namur; but difficulties raised on the Catholic side, for a time impeded them, and the disasters of the South Sea Company brought the design to a termination.2 As far as the condition of Catholics was improved under George II., it was only by a milder administration of existing laws, and by the more tolerant maxims which prevailed among the higher clergy. In the days of Cromwell and Milton it had been argued that Catholicism was idolatry, and that it ought therefore to be suppressed, by virtue of the Old Testament decree against that sin. In the teaching of the Latitudinarian divines, and of the classes who adopted the principles of Locke, this doctrine had disappeared, and the measures against Catholicism were defended solely on the ground of the hostility of that religion to the civil government.
In Scotland the Kirk ministers watched it with a fiercer animosity than the English clergy; but even in Scotland it was not extinguished. It found a powerful protector in the ducal family of Gordon. In 1699 the Duke of Gordon had been arrested for holding Popish meetings in his lodging at Edinburgh, but he was liberated after a fortnight's imprisonment. In 1722 a meeting of fifty Catholics was surprised in the house of the Dowager Duchess of Gordon, and the priest for a time imprisoned. He was soon, however, bailed, and not appearing to stand his trial, was outlawed. The Gordon family abandoned Catholicism on the death of the second Duke, in 1728, and from that time we very rarely find traces of Catholicism in the Lowlands. In the Highlands it had still its devoted adherents. A small cottage, called Scalan, at Glenlivat, one of the wildest and most untrodden spots among the mountains of Aberdeenshire, continued during most of the eighteenth century to be a seminary, where eight or ten youths were usually educating for the priesthood. Many of the old superstitions lingered side by side with the new faith, and an occasional priest, or monk, or even Jesuit, celebrated in private houses the worship of his forefathers. In the western islands, in several of the mountain valleys of Moray, and especially on the property of the Dukes of Gordon, the Catholics continued numerous, and they appear to have been but little molested. As late as 1773, when Dr. Johnson visited the Hebrides, there were two small islands, named Egg and Canna, which were still altogether inhabited by Catholics.1
The other class excluded from the benefits of the Toleration Act, and existing only in violation of the law, consisted of all those who impugned either the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity or the supernatural character of Christianity, or the divine authority of Scripture. All such persons, by a law of William, were disabled, upon the first conviction, from holding any ecclesiastical, civil, or military office, and were deprived, upon the second conviction, of the power of suing or prosecuting in any law court, of being guardian or executor, and of receiving any legacy or deed of gift. They were also made liable to imprisonment for three years; but in case they renounced their error publicly, within four months of the first conviction, they were discharged from their disabilities.2 Avowed Unitarianism has never been, and is never likely to be a very important or very aggressive sect, for the great majority of those who hold its fundamental tenet are but little disposed to attach themselves to any definite religious body, or to take any great interest in sectarian strife. The small school which followed Socinus had at first but few disciples in England, and exercised no appreciable influence in the conflict of parties. Under Edward VI., Joan Bocher and a Dutchman named Van Parris had been burnt for their heresies concerning the Trinity; and two other heretics were burnt, on a similar charge, under James I. The term Unitarian, however, appears to have been first adopted by John Biddle, a teacher of some learning and of great zeal and piety, who, during the stormy days of the Commonwealth, defended the doctrines of Socinus with unwearied energy, both in the pulpit and with his pen. A law had recently been passed, making it a capital offence to impugn the received doctrine of the Trinity, and this law would probably have been applied to Biddle, had not the influence of Cromwell and the support of some powerful friends been employed to screen him. As it was, his life was a continual martyrdom. His works were burnt by the hangman, he was banished for a time to the Scilly Islands, fined, and repeatedly imprisoned, and he at last died in prison in 1662.1 He left a small sect behind him, its most remarkable members being Emlyn, to whose long imprisonment I have already referred, and Firmin, a London merchant, of considerable wealth and influence, who was one of the foremost supporters of every leading work of charity in his time, and who was intimately acquainted with Tillotson and several other leading Anglican divines.2 At his expense several anonymous tracts in defence of Socinian views were published. Less advanced heresies about the Trinity are said to have been widely diffused in the seventeenth century. Arianism may be detected in the ‘Paradise Lost.’ It tinged the theology of Newton, and it spread gradually through several dissenting sects. Early in the eighteenth century it rose into great prominence. Whiston, who was one of the most learned theologians of his time, and the professor of mathematics at Cambridge, openly maintained it. Lardner, who occupies so conspicuous a place among the apologists for Christianity, was at one time an Arian, though his opinion seems to have ultimately inclined to Socinianism.3 Views which were at least semi-Arian appeared timidly in the writings of Clarke; and the long Trinitarian controversy, in which Sherlock, Jane, South, Wallis, Burnet, Tillotson, and many others took part, familiarised the whole nation with the difficulties of the question. It was, however, among the Presbyterians that the defections from orthodoxy were most numerous and most grave. In 1719 two Presbyterian ministers were deprived of their pastoral charge on account of their Unitarian opinions, but soon either Arianism or Socinianism became the current sentiments of the Presbyterian seminaries, and by the middle of the eighteenth century most of the principal Presbyterian ministers and congregations had silently discarded the old doctrine of the Trinity.1
When the intention of Whiston and Clarke to stir this question was first known, Godolphin, who was then in power, remonstrated with them, saying to the latter that ‘the affairs of the public were with difficulty then kept in the hands of those that were at all for liberty; that it was therefore an unseasonable time for the publication of a book that would make a great noise and disturbance, and that therefore the ministers desired him to forbear till a surer opportunity should offer itself.’2 The storm of indignation that arose in Convocation upon the appearance of the work of Whiston in some degree justified the judgment, but, on the whole, few things are more remarkable in the eighteenth century than the ease and impunity with which anti-Trinitarian views were propagated. The prosecution of Emlyn called forth an emphatic and noble protest from Hoadly, and though Whiston was deprived of his professorship, and censured by Convocation, he was not otherwise molested. Noisier controversies drew away most of the popular fanaticism, and the suppression of Convocation was eminently favourable to religious liberty. A Bill which was brought forward in 1721, supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and by some other prelates, to increase the stringency of the legislation against anti-Trinitarian writings was rejected,3 and the laws against anti-Trinitarians were silently disused. Works, however, which were directed against the Christian religion were still liable to prosecution, though the measures taken against them were not usually very severe. ‘The Fable of the Bees’ of Mandeville, the ‘Christianity Not Mysterious’ of Toland, the ‘Rights of the Christian Church’ by Tindal, and the ‘Posthumous Works’ of Bolingbroke, were all presented by the Grand Jury of Middlesex. When Collins, in 1713, published his ‘Discourse on Freethinking,’ the outcry was so violent that the author thought it prudent to take refuge for a time in Holland. Woolston—whose mind seems to have been positively disordered—having published, in 1727 and the two following years, some violent discourses impugning the Miracles of Christ, was sentenced to a year's imprisonment, and to a fine of 1,000l.— a sentence against which the apologist Lardner very nobly protested, and which Clarke endeavoured to mitigate. When Toland visited Ireland his book was burnt by order of the Irish Parliament, and he only escaped arrest by a precipitate flight.1 Towards the middle of the century, however, interest in these subjects had almost ceased. The ‘Treatise on Human Nature,’ by Hume, which appeared in 1739, though one of the greatest masterpieces of sceptical genius, fell still-born from the press, and the posthumous works of Bolingbroke, in spite of the noisy reputation of their author, scarcely produced a ripple of emotion.2 A letter written by Montesquieu to Warburton was quoted with much applause, in which that great French thinker somewhat cynically argued that, however false might be the established religion in England, no good man should attack it, as it injured no one, was divested of its worst prejudices, and was the source of many practical advantages.3 An acute observer on the side of orthodoxy noticed that there was at this time little sceptical speculation in England, because there was but little interest in any theological question;4 and a great sceptic described the nation as ‘settled into the most cool indifference with regard to religious matters that is to be found in any nation of the world.’1 Latitudinarianism had spread widely, but almost silently, through all religious bodies, and dogmatic teaching was almost excluded from the pulpit. In spite of occasional outbursts of popular fanaticism, a religious languor fell over England, as it had fallen over the Continent; and if it produced much neglect of duty among clergymen, and much laxity of morals among laymen, it at least in some degree assuaged the bitterness of sectarian animosity and prepared the way for the future triumph of religious liberty.
See on this subject a noble passage, full of profound wisdom, in Lord Russell's Essay on the English Constitution, pp. 271-272.
This has been noticed by Swift, in a very remarkable paper on the Decline of the Political Influence of the Nobility, in the Intelligencer, No, 9. He declares that ‘for above sixty years past the chief conduct of affairs hath been generally placed in new men, with few exceptions.’ He ascribes this chiefly to the defective education of the upper classes. Swift was, I believe, wrong, in imagining that aristocratic influence had declined.
Molesworth's Hist. of England, i. 203.
He had obtained a patent for the theatre of Drury Lane, but as soon as he opposed the Government scheme the Lord Chamberlain revoked his licence for acting plays, and thus reduced him to complete ruin. See Montgomery's Life of Steele, ii. 210-216. Few writers of the eighteenth century have received harder measure from modern critics than Steele. I must except, however, the essay on his life in Forster's Biographical Essays.
Political Arithmetic, p. 118.
The estimates, as might be expected, vary greatly. Voltaire put the number as high as 600,000, and some writers still higher. See a collection of estimates from different writers, in Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, ii. 616-620.
Mr. Pattison, in his admirable Life of Casaubon, has made some striking remarks on the pre-eminence of the French Protestants in the very moral qualities in which the French nation as a whole is now most deficient.
It is remarkable to find the leading English authority on trade as early as 1670, specifying among the causes of the great commercial prosperity of the Dutch, ‘their toleration of different opinions in matters of religion, by reason of which many industrious people of other countries that dissent from the established government of their Church resort to them, with their families and estates, and after a few years’ cohabitation with them become of the same common interest.’—Sir J. Child's Discourse of Trade (5th ed.), p. 4. On the other hand, we find the greatest Tory writer of the next generation denouncing ‘the false politicks of a set of men who… take it into their imagination that trade can never flourish unless the country becomes a common receptacle for all nations, religions, and languages—a system only proper for small, popular States.’—Swift's Examiner, No. 21. See, too, his Sentiments of a Church of England Man.
Frederick the Great (Maeurs et Coutumes), OEuvres de Fréd., tom. i. p. 227, gives a long catalogue of the industries planted in Brandenburg by the refugees. See, too, Weiss's Hist. des Réfugiès Français.
Kemble's State Papers, p. 386.
Ibid. pp. 388-389.
See Southerden Burn's Hist. of Protestant Refugees in England, pp. 15-16.
Petty, in his Political Arithmetic, published in 1687, estimated the population of London at 696,000. Gregory King, ten years later, computed it at only 530,000. See Craik's Hist. of Commerce, ii. 115.
Smiles's Huguenots in England, p. 278.
The fullest account of the refugee settlements and industry is to be found in Southerden Burn's very valuable Hist. of the Protestant Refugees in England. See, too, Weiss's Hist. dés Réfugiès Français, Mr. Smiles’ two interesting volumes on The Huguenots, and the notices of the Refugee Manufactures, in Macpherson's Annals of Commerce.
Petty's Political Arithmetic, p. 118.
Thus Atterbury very bitterly wrote: ‘I scarce ever knew a foreigner settled in England, whether of Dutch, German, French, Italian, or Turkish growth, but became a Whig in a little time after mixing with us.’— ‘English Advice to the Freeholders of England’ (1714), Somers's Tracts, xiii. p. 537.
See Hume's Hist. of England, ch. Ixii.
Child's Discourse on Trade. Petty's Political Arithmetic, pp. 170-171. Davenant's Discourses on the Public Revenue and Trade of England. Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, ii. 629-630.
Gregory King's Conclusions upon the State of England, § vi.
Baines’ Hist. of Liverpool, 253-259.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, ii. 719.
Craik's Hist. of Commerce, ii. 163.
On this subject much valuable evidence has lately been collected in Thornton's Over Population, Cliff Leslie's Land Systems of Ireland, England, and the Continent, Nasse's Essay on Land Tenures, and in some of the papers published by the Cobden Club.
The estimates, as might be expected, are very various. Chief-Justice Hale in 1670 computed the population of England at at least 6,000,000. In 1689 another authority, who reckoned the large number of six persons for every house, fixed the population at 7,380,000. Davenant, adopting the same basis of calculation, estimated it in 1696 at not quite 8,000,000. Gregory King computed it in 1690 at nearly 5,500,000, and Mr. Finlaison, who investigated the subject very minutely in the present century, concluded that at the close of the seventeenth century the population of England was a little under 5,200,000. See the different estimates collected in Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, ii. 68, 634, 674, iii. 134, and in Macaulay's Hist. ch. iii.
Macpherson, iii. 322-323.
Macaulay, ch. iii. Macpherson, iii. 323. Blomefield's Hist. of Norfolk, vol. ii.
Curry's Hist. of Lancashire, i. 276. Macpherson, iii. 136,323. Baines’ Hist. of the Cotton Trade, pp. 99-100. Defoe's Tour, iii. 210. Whittaker's Hist. of Manchester.
Macpherson, iii. 324-325.
Baines’ Hist. of Liverpool. Picton's Memorials of Liverpool. Corry's Hist. of Lancashire. Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 135. Derrick's Letters from Liverpool. See too the voyage of Gonzales (a Portuguese) to England and Scotland, in 1730, Pinkerton's Voyages, ii. 39. It appears from the petition of the liverpool corporation in 1699 for making a new church there, that they already claimed for Liverpool the position of the third port of the trade of England. See Picton, i. 145-146.
Corry's Hist. of Lancashire, i. 265.
Francis’ Hist. of the Bank of England, i. 85.
Parl. Hist. vi. 906-907.
Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, iii. 17-21. Somers’ Tracts, xiii. 35.
Calamy's Life, ii. 292.
See Macpherson's Original Papers, ii. 211-212.
See a remarkable passage in Bolingbroke's Letter to Windham.
Bolingbroke's Letter to Windham.
Davenant, iii. 328. Thus, too, Defoe said that in case of the dissolution of the Government, power devolves on the freeholders, ‘who are the proper owners of the country.’— Wilson's Life of Defoe, i. 425.
Examiner, No. xiii. In one of his private letters (Jan. 1721), he says, ‘I have ever abominated that scheme of politics, now about thirty years old, of setting up a moneyed interest in opposition to the landed—for I conceived there could not be a truer maxim in our Government than this: that the possessors of the soil are the best judges of what is for the advantage of the kingdom. If others had thought the same way, funds of credit and South Sea projects would neither have been felt nor heard of.’
Burrnet's Onn Times, ii. 258–259.
Davenant on the Balance of Power.
Letter to Windham.
See the very brilliant pamphlet called ‘English Advice to the Freeholders of England.’—Somers’ Tracts, vol. xiii. See, too, Bolingbroke on the Study of History, Letter ii. The History of the Last Four Years of Queen Anne, ascribed to Swift. Wilson's Life of Defoe, i. 340–341.
See Skeats’ Hist. of the Free Churches of England, p. 151. This return reckons the whole population of England and Wales as only 2,600,000, which is certainly far below the truth.
Dalrymple's Memoirs, part ii. book i. append.
Davenant's Works, iv. 411.
Skeats’ Hist. of Free Churches, p. 153.
See the Hist. of the Last Four Years of Queen Anne.
Burgess, the most popular Dissenting minister in London in the reigns of William and Anne, is said to have once explained from the pulpit that the descendants of Jacob were called Israelites ‘because God did not wish his people to be called Jacobites.’—Bogne and Bennett.
Bogue and Bennett, Hist. of the Dissenters, i. 357–359.
The eighty-ninth Psalm.
Or according to another version, ‘The funeral of the Schism Act–the resurrection of liberty.’–Compare Bogue and Bennett's Hist. of Dissenters, ii. pp. 78–79, and Wilson's Hist. of Dissenting Churches, iii. 513–514.
See Wright's England, under the House of Hanover, Tindals’ History, Wilson's Life of Defoe, Rogers’ Protests of the House of Lords, i. 234–236.
Kennett's Life, pp. 161–162. Perry's Hist. of the Church of England, iii. 71.
Marshal Berwick, the truest and most moderate of the Jacobite leaders, declared at this time that five out of six of the English nation were on the side of King James, not, indeed, so much on account of his incontestable right, as from hatred to the House of Hanover, and to prevent the ruin of the Church and of the liberties of the kingdom: and he added that many persons of the greatest consideration, many noblemen, clergy, and gentlemen, had given assurances of their good intentions.–Memories du Marechal de Berwick, ii. 139–140.
Mémoires de Berwick, ii. 148.
Ibid. ii. 142.
This very remarkable fact is established by two letters from Bolingbroke to the Pretender, dated respectively Aug. 20, and Sept. 25, 1715, extracted from the Stuart Papers, and given in the appendix to the 1st vol. of Lord Stanhope's Hist. of England.
‘As kings have found the great effects wrought in government by the empire which priests obtain over the consciences of mankind, so priests have been taught by experience that the best way to preserve their own rank, dignity, wealth, and power, all raised upon a supposed Divine right, is to communicate the same pretension to kings, and, by a fallacy common to both, impose their usurpations on a silly world. This they have done: and in the State as in the Church, these pretensions to a Divine right have been carried highest by those who have had the least pretension to the Divine favour.’–The Idea, of a Patriot King. See also the Dissertation on Parties, letters vi., viii, xiv.
See, for example, Atterbury's ‘English Advice to the Freeholders of England.’–Somers’ Tracts, vol. xiii.
Parl. Hist., viii. 37.
‘The Tories have been so long obliged to talk in the republican style that they seem to have made converts of themselves by their hypocrisy, and to have embraced the sentiments as well as the language of their adversaries.’–Hume's Essay on Parties.
As Bolingbroke said, ‘A notion was entertained by many that the worse title a man had, the better king he was likely to make.’–Dissertation on Parties, letter vi.
A very intelligent traveller who described England about 1720, writes: ‘No prince in the world lives in the state and grandeur of the King and Queen of England … Yet in my own private opinion it savours too much of superstition, being a respect that religion allows only to the King of kings. King George, since his accession to the throne, hath entirely altered this superstitious way of being served on the knee at table. King Charles II., King James, King William, and Queen Anne, whenever they dined in public, received wine upon the knee from a man of the first quality, who was Lord of the Bedchamber in waiting; and even when they washed their hands that lord on the knee held the bason. But King George hath entirely altered that method; he dines at St. James's privately, served by his domestics, and often sups abroad with his nobility.’—A Journey through England (by Macky), 4th ed. 1724, vol. i. pp. 198–199.
Lathbury's Hist. of Convocation, p. 437.
The more amiable aspects of the latter days of James—which Macaulay has completely slurred over—are well given by Ranke in his Hist. of England (Eng. trans.), v. 274-5.
These documents are preserved among the papers of the Cardinal Gualterio. British Museum. Add. MSS. 20311.
See the very curious extracts from the Nairne Papers, in Macpherson's Original Papers, i. 595–599. Bolingbroke noticed in 1717 how James ‘passes already for a saint and reports are encouraged of miracles which they suppose to be wrought at his tomb.’—Letter to Windham.
Thus the Nonjuror historian Carte relates the case of a young man from Bristol named Christopher Lovel, known to himself, who was cured by the Pretender at Paris in 1716 (Carte's Hist. of England, i. 291–292). This anecdote is said to have seriously impaired the success of Carte's history. See, too, a tract called A Letter from a Gentleman in Rome giving an account of some surprising Cures of the King's Earl by the touch, lately effected in the neighbourhood of that city (1721).
Chambers’ Hist. of the Rebellion of 1745, p. 125.
Annuaire Historque, 1825, p. 275.
New Statistical Account of Scotland, xv. p. 85. A seventh son was also believed to have the power of curing scrofula by his touch. See a case in Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, xiv. 210. See too Aubrey's Miscellanies, art. Miranda.
Coxe's Marlborough, ch. li., lii.
See Onslow's note to Burnet's Own Times, ii. 553–554. Campbell's Lines of the Chancellors (5th ed.), v. 274–277.
Sheridan's Life of Swift, pp. 124–125. In a tract called An Enquiry into the behaviour of the Queen's last Ministers, Swift says: ‘She had entertained the notion of forming a moderate or comprehensive scheme, which she maintained with great firmness, nor would ever depart from, until about half a year before her death.’
Coxe's Life of Walpole, vol. i. p. 60 (ed. 1798). It appears that offices, but apparently sinecures, were offered to and refused by Hanmer and Bromley. See some interesting letters on this subject in Sir H. Bunbury's Life of Hanmer, pp. 53–56, 60–61. Lord Anglesey, who, though a Tory, had followed Sir Thomas Hanmer in opposing the Tory ministry, received a place in the Irish treasury.
Campbell's Chancellars, v. 293. It is said that, among his German advisers, Gortz recommended some favour to the Tories, but Bernsdorf was wholly in favour of the Whigs. See a letter of Horace Walpole in Coxe's Walpole, ii. 48.
Letter to Windham. This is strongly corroborated by a letter of Iberville to the French King, written on Oct. 24, 1714 (N.S.). He says,’ Votre Majesté a vu par mes ― précédentes dépéches que plusieurs des Tories qu'on appelle rigides, c'est à dire zélés à l'outrance pour l'Eglise Anglicane et pour le gouvernement monarchique, sont devenus Jacobites, ne voyant d'autre moyen d'empescher l'entiere ruine de leur party que d'appeler le Prétendant; et que laguerre avec V, M. leur paroissoit absolument nécessaire pour y réssir. J'ai vu clairement que ce sentiment devenoit chaque jour plus commun parmy eux et qu'il y a toute apparence que les Tories modérés y entreront aussi par pur zèle de party mais avec plus de retenue.’ Bunbury's Life of Sir T. Hanmer, pp. 60-61.
See, on this dismissal, Bobert Walpole to Horace Walpole, March 6, 1715-16.-Coxe's Walpole, ii. 51.
‘II ne manque à ces gens-là que l'ordre et la discipline militaire et ils nous battroient tous.’-Schulenberg to Leibnitz. Kemble's State Papers, p. 540.
See the Hist. du Cardinal Alberoni (1719) by J. Rousset; the notices of Alberoni in the Memoirs of St. Simon and Duclos, and in the Letters of the President de Brosses; his own apologies printed in the Nowvelle Biographie Generale (art. ‘Alberoni
See on this negotiation Coxe's Life of Walpole, i. 304–309; Ralph's Use and Abuse of Parliaments, 362–365; Lord Stanhope's Hist. of England, i. 306, 310. In 1727 a motion to produce this letter was negatived in the Commons (Jan. 23), but in March, 1729, when George II. was on the throne, it was laid before Parliament. See Parl. Hist. viii. 547, 695.
See the letters which Bishop Nicholson wrote from Carlisle to Archbishop Wake, describing the state of the prisoners collected there. Among them was a son of the Bishop of Edinburgh.— British Museum, Add. MSS. 6116.
Tiadal. The insertion of the forfeiture of goods into the bill against Plunket was believed to be done merely in order to form a precedent, as Plonket had no property. –See the protests of the Lords, in Bogers, i. 331–340.
Tindal, Smollett, Coxe's Walpole, Parl. Hist. vol. viii. The guilt of Atterbury which was doubted by some has been fully proved by the publication of the Stuartpapers.
Journal to Stella.
Hist. of Parliament from the Death of Queen Anne to the Death, of George II., p. 257. It is not surprising that the Speaker Onslow should have written, ‘The sacramental test is made a sad and profane use of by others and many more, I fear, than the Dissenters. It is became a great scandal’ (Note to Burnet, ii. 364).
Burnet's Own Times, i. 347–348.
Coxe's Wolpole, i, 608. See too Doddridge's Diary, iii; 365–6.
5 George Le. 4.
See Parl. Hist. (New Series) xviii. 689, 726.
The fullest information I have met with about the practical operation of the Test Act is in a collection called The Test Act Reporter (3rd ed. 1829).
1 George I. ii. 6. Gough's Hist. of the Quakers, iv. 161.
8 George I. c. 6.
Bogue and Bennett's Hist. of Dissenters, ii. 128. Gough's Hist. of Quakers, iv. 279–302.
Part Hist. ix. 1165–1219.
See Walpole's George II, i. 44–45.
Blunt's Hist. of the Jens in England, p. 72.
The Jews were specially famous for their knowledge of medicine, and a Jewish doctor named Lopez, was one of the physicians of Queen Elizabeth, and was executed for an attempt to poison her. See Hume's Hist. of England, ch. xliii. See too Picciotto's Anglo-Jewish Hist. p. 24.
The Prioress's Tale.
Parl. Hist. xiv. 1373–1374.
Blunt's Hist. of the Jeres in England, p. 72.
This at least was stated in the debate. Parl. Hist. xiv. 1400. One of the pamphleteers against the measure stated that Sweden, Russia, the Republic of Genoa, and a score of the German States also refused to receive Jews. An Answer to a Pamphlet entitled ‘Consideratins for Permitting Persons Professing the Jewish Religion to be Naturalised,’ p. 40.
See the very curious discussions on this Bill. Parl. Hist. xiv. 1366–1430; xv. 92–163; Coxe's Life of Pelkam, ii. 245–253, 290–298.
Lathbury's Hist, of the Nonjurors, pp. 441–451.
Skeat's Hist. of Free Churches, p. 184.
As Hoadly very sarcastically said, ‘The nonconformists accused him, the conformists condemned him, the secular power was called in, and the cause ended in an imprisonment and a very great fine, two methods of conviction about which the Gospel is silent.’—See Hunt's Religious Thought in England, ii. p. 326.
Ryle's Christian Leaders of the Last Century. Cadogan's Life of Romaine.
Hutchinson's Historical Essay on Witchcraft, p. 68. Hutchinson says that these were the last judicially executed in England, but Dr. Parr speaks of two having suffered at Northampton in 1705, and five others at the same place in 1722.—Parr's Works, iv. 182 (1828).
Spectator, No. 117. See too the remarks of Blackstone.—Commentaries, book iv. c. 4.
Since the reign of Dr. Sacheverell, when the clamours against freethinking began to be loudest, the devil has again resumed his empire and appears in the shape of cats, and enters into confederacy with old women; and several have been tryed, and many are accused through all parts of the kingdom for being witches.’—Collin's Discourse on Free-thinking, p. 30.
Spectator, No. 117.
Ibid. pp. 175, 176. Hutchinson, who wrote in 1718, says, ‘Our country people are still as fond of this custom, of swimming as they are of baiting a bear or a bull.’
Campbell's Chief Justices—Life of Holt.
Parl. Hist. xv. 136. So, too, a ballad against the Jew Bill begins—
Lord Stanhope's Hist. of England, i. 107.
See this letter in full in Chandler's Hist. of Persecution (1736), p. 287. See too some curious particulars on persecutions in Portugal in Geddes’ tracts, i. 385–443.
Bolingbroke's Letters, iv. 121. See, too, Burnet's Own Times, ii. 484.
Taine's Ancien Régime, p. 80.
Sismondi's Hist. des Français, xix. 241–244.
Ibid. p. 302.
Taine's Ancien Réqime, p. 80.
Bedford Correspondence, iii. 155.
See Buckle's Hist. ii. 109. Carlyle's Frederich the Great, bk. ix. ch. 3, and the curious collection of lists of Portuguese autos-da-fé in the eighteenth century, in the British Museum. The disturbances at Thorn were made the subject of a speci article in the treaty of Hanover between England and Prussia in 1725.
The rather complicated provisions of the treaty on this subject are explained at length by Coxe's House of Austria, i. 955–957.
Ranke's Hist. of Prussia (Eng. trans.), ii. 57.
Reresby's Memoirs (Ed. 1875), p. 437.
Jesse's London, ii. 227, 311. Seymour's Survey of London, bk. ii. ch. 10. Continuation of the Live of Clarendon. Pope's couplet on the Monument is well known:—
See Ranke's Hist. of England, iv. 437.
See the remarks of Burnet in his Hist. of his Own Times, ii. 12, and the remarkable note of Lord Dartmouth, ii. 229. Butler's Historical Memoirs of the English Catholics, ii. pp. 52–53.
Blackstone, bk. iv. ch. 4. Butler's Hist. Memoirs of the English Catholics, ch. xxxiv. The chief laws were, 11 and 12 Wm. III. c. 4; 1 Geo. I. Stat. 2. c. 13; 1 Geo. I. Stat. 2. c. 55; 3 Geo. I. c. 18.
Bancroft's Hist. of the United States, ch. vii., xix. Recent investigations show that the original tolerance of Maryland was less exclusively the work of Catholics than has been asserted, and that the majority in the Legislature of 1649 which passed the Toleration Act was Protestant.
I may here quote the opinion of Burke. Having quoted the first and ninth articles, which I have noticed above, he proceeds: ‘Compare this latter article with the penal laws as they are stated in the second chapter, and judge whether they seem to be the public acts of the same powers, and observe whether other oaths are tendered to them, and under what penalties. Compare the former with the same laws from the beginning to the end, and judge whether the Roman Catholics have been preserved agreeably to the sense of the article “from any disturbance on account of their religion,” or rather whether on that account there is a single right of nature or benefit of society which has not been either totally taken away or considerably impaired.’—Tracts on the Popery Laws.
See a letter of Sir Charles Wogan (nephew of Tyrconnel, to whom the proposition was made) to Swift. Swift's Works (Scott's ed.), xviii., p. 13.
‘The peculiar situation of that country’ [Ireland], says Macpherson, ‘seems to have been overlooked in the contest. The desertion upon which the deprivation of James had been founded in England had not existed in Ireland. The Lord-Lieutenancy had retained its allegiance. The Government was uniformly continued under the name of the Prince from whom the servants of the Crown had derived their commissions. James himself had for more than seventeen months exercised the royal function in Ireland. He was certainly de facto, if not de jure, king.’—Hist. of Great Britain.
Memoires de Berwick, ii. 159.
See the letters of the Duke of Bolton of July 8 and July 25, and that of Mr. Webster, of August 6, 1719, MSS. English Record-office.
‘We are sending off six regiments to assist you. One would think, considering the number of Papists we have here, that our gentry are for the most part in England, and all our money goes there, that we should rather expect help from you in any distress, than send you forces to protect you. Yet this is the third time we have done so since his Majesty's accession to the throne, and withal preserved the kingdom from any insurrection or rebellion, which is more than can be said for England or Scotland.’ Archbishop King to the Archbishop of Canterbury (May, 1722), British Museum MSS. add. 6117.
The Duke of Grafton to the Lords Justices, November 24, 1722. MS. Irish State Paper Office.
Seventh Drapier's Letter.
Curry's State of the Irish Catholics, ii. p. 261. See also, on the profound tranquillity of Ireland, Horace Wal-pole, Memoirs of George III. p. 278.
Burke's Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe.
William and Mary, ch. 2. English. The other measures of the code were enacted by the Irish parliament and will be found in the Irish Statutes.
7 William III. c. 5; 10 William III. c. 8 and 13; 2 Anne, c. 6; 6 Anne, c. 6; 8 Anne, c. 3; 2 George I. c. 10; 6 George I. c. 10; 1 George II. c. 9; 9 George II. c. 3; 15 and 16 George III. c. 21.
Scully on the Penal Lan's, p. 344.
We have a curious illustration of the operation of the religiuns distinctions in the humblest spheres, in the following notice in the Commons Journals. ‘A petition of one Edward Spragg and others in behalf of themselves and other Protestant porters in and about the city of Dublin, complaining that one Darby Ryan, a captain under the late King James, and a Papist, buys up whole cargoes of coals and employs porters of his own persuasion to carry the same to customers, by which the petitioners are hindered from their small trade and gains.’ The petition was referred to the Committee of Grievances to report upon it to the House.—Commons Journals, v. 2, p. 699.
Letter to a Peer of Ireland on the Penal Laws.
7 William III. c. 4; 2 Anne, c. 6; 8 Anne. c. 3.
7 William III. c. 5; 2 Anne, c. 6; 2 George I. c. 9; 9 George II. c. 6. See too Burke's Tracts on the Popery Laws. The law about horses was found so detrimental to the breed that it was afterwards enacted in Ireland, (8 Anne, c. 3) that Papists might possess ‘stud mares and stallions, and the breed or produce thereof under the age of five years’ of a greater value than 5l. A law similar to the Irish one was enacted against the English Catholics. It is frequently alluded to in the correspondence of Pope. See, too, the Prologue to Dryden's Don Sebastian.
8 Anne, c. 3.
2 Anne, c. 6; 8 Anne, c. 3.
9 William III. c. 3; 7 George II. c. 5 and 6; 13 George II. c. 6. 19 George II. c. 13; 23 George II. c. 10.
Anne, c. 6; 8 Anne, c. 3.
This provision seems so atrociously cruel that it may be well to give the exact words of the law. ‘That care may be taken for the education of children in the communion of the Church of Ireland as by law established; be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no person of the Popish religion shall or may be guardian unto, or have the tuition or custody of any orphan, child, or children, under the age of twenty-one years; but that the same, where the person having or entitled to the guardianship of such orphan, child, or children, is or shall be a Papist, shall be disposed of by the High Court of Chancery to some near relation of such orphan, child, or children, being a Protestant, and conforming himself to the Church of Ireland as by law established, to whom the estate cannot descend, in case there shall be any such Protestant relation fit to have the education of such child; otherwise to some other Protestant conforming himself as aforesaid, who is hereby required to use his utmost care to educate and bring up such child or minor in the Protestant religion until the age of twenty-one years.’—2 Anne, c. 6, sec. 4. Any Papist who took upon himself the guardianship of a child was by the same Act made liable to a fine of 500l., to be given to the Bluecoat Hospital in Dublin.
Irish Commons Journals, iii. 444–447, 454–455.
We have an example of this in the old family of Cavanagh of Borris on the Barrow. The Catholic owner of the property died when his son was a minor, and two English tourists, who visited that part of the country in the middle of the eighteenth century, describe the result. ‘The minor of a Roman Catholic, left so by the death of his father, is accounted the heir of the Crown, and the Lord Chancellor for the time being, is appointed his guardian, in order to bring him up as a Protestant; and this young gentleman is now in Westminster school, for that purpose.’—A Tour through Ireland by Two English Gentlemen (1748), p. 225.
2 Anne, c. 7; 4 Anne, c. 2.
2 Anne, c. 6 and 7; 8 Anne, c. 3.
8 Anne, c. 3.
This very able paper, called ‘The case of the Catholics of Ireland,’ is printed in Hugh Reilly's Genuine Hist. of Ireland. In one of Chesterfield's letters to the Bishop of Waterford, he says: ‘I would only require the priests to take the oath of allegiance simply, and not the subsequent oaths, which in, my opinion no real Papist can take; the consequence of which would be that the least conscientious priests would be registered, and the most conscientious ones excluded’ (Jan. 29, 1755). Miscellaneous Works, iv. 253. Archbishop Synge stated in 1722 that a large proportion of the Catholics were quite willing to take the oath if only the clause relating to the Divine right of the Pretender were omitted. See his Letters to Archbishop Wake, Britsh Museum Add. MSS., 6117, pp. 147–153.
Nary. According to another account, thirty-seven. O'Connor's Hist. of the Irish Catholics, p. 179.
9 William III. c. 1; 2 Anne, c. 3; 4 Anne, c. 2; 8 Anne, c. 3. For the whole subject of the penal laws, I would refer to the most admirable ‘Introduction historique’ to the work of Gustave de Beaumont, L'Irlande politique, sociale, et religieuse. Very few writers have ever studied Irish history so accurately or so minutely as M. de Beaumont, and he brought to it the impartiality of a foreigner, and the political insight and skill which might be expected from the intimate friend and the faithful disciple of De Tocqueville.
Parnell On the Penal Lans, p. 60. See, too, Commons’ Journal, IV. 25.
They write, ‘The common Irish will never become Protestants or well affected to the Crown while they are supplied with priests, friars, & c., who are the fomenters of all rebellions and disturbances here. So that some more effectual remedy to prevent priests and friars coming into this kingdom is perfectly necessary. The Commons proposed the marking of every person who should be convicted of being an unregistered priest, friar, &c., and of remaining in this kingdom after May 1, 1720, with a large P to be made with a red-hot iron on his cheek. The Council generally disliked that punishment, and have altered it to that of castration, which they are persuaded will be the most effectual method that can be found out, to clear this nation of those disturbers of the peace and quiet of the kingdom, and would have been very well pleased to have found out any other punishment which might in their opinion have remedied the evil. If your Excellencies shall not be of the same sentiments, they submit to your consideration whether the punishment of castration may not be altered to that proposed by the Commons, or to some other effectual one which may occur to your Lordships. Signed — Bolton, Middleton, Jo. Meath, John Clogher, Santry, St. George Newton, Oliver St. George, E. Webster, R. Tighe. Lords-Lieutenant and Lords-Justices’ Letters, Dublin State Paper Office (Aug. 17, 1719).
A very erroneous and exaggerated version of this story, based, I believe, on an anonymous Essai sur l'Histoire de VIrlande (see O'Connor's Hist. of the Irish Catholics, p. 190), published about the middle of the last century, has been repeated by Curry, Plowden, and other writers. Mr. Froude (English in Ireland, i. pp. 546–557) has correctly stated the facts, and has devoted some characteristic pages to their apology. I have examined the original letters on the subject in the Record Office. One of these, written by Webster (a leading Government clerk) from Dublin Castle, is dated August 26, 1719. The reply by Craggs is dated September 22, 1719.
Harlevan Miscellany, iv. 415–423. The writer says: ‘Since the same was enacted into a law and practised upon a few of them, that kingdom [Sweden] hath never been infested with Popish clergy or plots.’ In a ‘Collection of Irish Speeches, Trials, &c., from 1711 to 1733,’ in the British Museum, there is an anonymous paper, printed at Dublin in 1723, recommending the castration of ordinary criminals.
‘Heads of a Bill for Explaining and Amending the Acts to Prevent the Growth of Popery,’ &c. There are several other provisions in these heads—among others, one for making marriages between Catholics and Protestants celebrated by priests invalid. The heads of the Bill are in the never-been printed, though they well deserve to be. In the Irish State Paper Office at the Castle (Lords-Lieutenant and Council's Letters, vol. xvi), there is a letter strongly recommending the measure to the English authorities (Dec. 1723), and in Coxe's Life of Walpole, ii. 358, there is a letter from the Duke of Grafton recommending it. Mr. Froude, warmly supports this attempted legislation, but he has suppressed all mention of the penalties contained in the bill, and even uses language which would convey to any ordinary reader the impression that no specific penalties were determined. His assertion that the bill after passing the Commons was unaltered by the Council is doubtful. The Duke of Grafton writes, ‘The House of Commons have much at heart this bill. It has been mended since it came from them, as commonly their bills want to be’ (Coxe's Walpole, ii. 358). It is possible, however, that this may refer to alterations in the Lords. Archbishop Synge mentions in one of his letters that the bill was somewhat moderated there, though it was still left so savage that Synge (though a very strong Protestant) was unable to support it. ‘If,’ he says, ‘any Papist or Popish priest will not solemnly upon oath renounce the Pretender and also the Pope's power of deposing princes and absolving subjects from their allegiance, let him leave the kingdom or be dealt with as a traitor. But if such a man is ready to do all this, and farther to give security to the Government for his good and loyal behaviour, I must own that I cannot come into a law to put him to death, under the name indeed of high treason, yet in reality only for adhering to an erroneous religion and worshipping God according to it.’ Archbishop Synge's Letters British Museum Add. MSS., 6117, p. 169. Mr. Froude strongly (though I hope inaccurately) denies that the failure of the bill was due to the greater tolerance of the English Government. He says: ‘The Wood hurricane was at this moment unfortunately at its height, and absorbed by its violence any other consideration.’—English in Ireland, i. 559–561.
Catholics were not excluded from petty juries in ordinary cases, but they were excluded (6 Anne, c. 6) in all cases relating to the Anti-Catholic laws.
As early as 1715 Archbishop King wrote to Sunderland: ‘By law they [the Roman Catholics] are allowed a priest in every parish, which are registered in pursuance of an Act of Parliament made about ten years ago. All bishops, regulars, &c., and all other priests then not registered, are banished, and none allowed to come into the kingdom under severe penalties. The design was that there should be no succession, and many of those then registered are since dead; yet for want of a due execution of the laws many are come in from foreign parts, and there are in the country Popish bishops concealed, that ordain many. Little inquiry of late has been made into these matters.’—Mant's Hist. of the Church of Ireland, ii. 212. See, too, a very interesting report of the House of Lords in 1731, appointed to consider the state of Popery in this kingdom. O'Connor's Hist. of the Irish Catholics, Append. p. xxiii.
Arthur Young, who was in Ireland between 1776 and 1778, says: ‘I have conversed on the subject with some of the most distinguished characters in the kingdom, and I cannot after all but declare that the scope, purport, and aim of the laws of discovery as executed, are not against the Catholic religion, which increases under them, but against the industry and property of whoever professes that religion.’—Arthur Young's Tour-in Ireland, ii. 141.
Burke's letter to Sir H. Langrishe. Boswell's Life of Johnson, c. xxix. The judgment of Hallam is but little less emphatic. ‘To have exterminated the Catholics by the sword or expelled them like the Moriscoes of Spain would have been little more repugnant to justice and humanity, but incomparably more politic.’—Hist. of England, iii. p. 401. Mr. Gladstone describes the code as ‘that system of penal laws against Roman Catholics at once pettifogging, base, and cruel.’ —The Vatican Decrees, p. 24.
‘That he [William] favoured the Roman Catholics as far as he could, and that he was frequently called upon by the Emperor to do so, is most certain.’—Lord Dartmouth's note to Burnet, ii. 228, 229.
Burnet's Own Times, ii. 228, 229. Burnet (who supported this Bill) appears to think it originated with the Jacobites, who wished to set William in opposition to the national sentiment. Lord Dartmouth in his note says: ‘He [Burnet] does the Jacobites a great deal of wrong; for it was the Whigs gave out that the King was turned Jacobite.’ At all events it seems clear that the Bill originated with the Opposition and was adopted by the Government.
Macaulay's Hist. of England, c. vi.
Dalrymple's Memoirs, vol. ii. pt. 2, appen. to c. i. p. 40.
Chamberlayne's Present State of Great Britain (1710), p. 162. In an able pamphlet called Britain's Just Complaint of her Late Measure, ascribed to Sir J. Montgomery, it is said: ‘The Catholics of Britain are not one of a hundred; they have neither heads, hearts, nor hands enough to force a national conversion. As the Protestants are the most numerous, so the laws and constitution are upon their side.’—Somers’ Tracts, x. 458.
See a list of these establishments in The Present Danger of Popery(1703) pp. 4–6.
Ibid. See also another anonymous tract, called Considerations of the Present State of Popery in England (1723).
Oliver, in his Collections illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Jesuits, states that Spencer was the name taken by Edward Petre himself (the Privy Councillor), in the earlier part of his mission in England. The chapters in Butler's Historical Memoirs of the English Catholics devoted to this period are unfortunately extremely meagre.
Parl. Hist. vi. 516–517. After the rebellion of 1715, when an Act was carried obliging all Catholics and Nonjurors to transmit to Commissioners appointed for the purpose a register of their estates, it appeared that the yearly value of the estates of Lancashire recusants was 13,158l.—a very large sum when we consider the rude state of agriculture and the undeveloped condition of the country.—Picton's Memorials of Liverpool, pt. i. p. 165.
Lathbury's Hist. of Convocation, p. 416. In August 1708, Nicholson, the bishop of Carlisle, writes to the Primate, ‘Popery has advanced by very long strides of late years in this country, and too many of our magistrates love to have it so. At the very time that the French were upon our coasts and our people daily expected the news of their being landed, the wealthier of our Papists instead of being seized were cringed to with all possible tenders of honour and respect, and those very gentlemen who were entrusted with the taking of them into custody seemed rather inclined to list themselves in their service.’ British Museum Add. MSS. 6116. Shortly after this time considerable scandal was caused by the publication of a clever but very scurrilous poem against Protestantism, called England's Reformation from the Time of Henry VIII. to the end of Oates's Plot, by Thomas Ward. It was written in Hudibrastic verse, and professed to be published at Hamburg in 1710.
Parl. Hist. vi. 514–515. Burnet's Own Times, ii. 229, 440. A few English cases relating to property which fell under the code and were tried under Anne and her two successors will be found in Bacon's Abridgment of the Law (7 ed.) vi. 125–132. See too Howard's Popery Cases, pp. 301–324.
A legal opinion to this effect was given July 22, 1714. Domestic Papers, Record Office.
A Journey through England: Familiar Letters from a Gentleman here to his Friend abroad [by Macky], vol. ii. p. 26.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 134. See too, on the pilgrimages to this well, Rush's Hibernia Curiosa (1769), p. 4. St. Winifred was the first stage from Chester to Holyhead.
Defoe's Tour through Great Britain, ii. 156.
Ibid. iii. 189.
Scott's Tales of a Grandfather, c. lxxi.
This was stated in the Free Briton, of January 1735. See a very interesting collection of passages on this subject, chiefly from old newspapers, in Miss Wedgwood's John Wesley, pp. 281–283.
Bartlett's Life of Butler, p. 164.
Doddridge's Diary, iii. p. 182.
Secker's Charges, Charge i. 1738.
Gentleman's Magazine, 1750.
Browne's Estimate, ii. p. 140–141.
See Wedgwood's Wesley, p. 283.
Wilson's Hist. of Dissenting Churches, ii. 368. The debate was published by both sides, and was therefore, I suppose, at least partially public. This book furnishes considerable evidence of the activity of the Popish controversy among the Dissenters.
British Chronologist, Dec. 1745, Jan. 1746.
Historical Register for 1729 (Oct. 15). Butler's Historical Memoirs, ii. 63.
Ibid. ii. 59.
See Lachlan Shaw's Hist. of Moray (1775), p. 380; Chambers’ Domestic Annals of Scotland, iii. 204–205, 466, 554; Martin's Description of the Western Islands. Johnson's Tour in the Hebrides, pp. 162, 196; Burton's Hist. of Scotland, ii. 359–361; Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, xiii. 33, and a few notices of Jesuits in Scotland, in Oliver's Collections illustrating the Biography of Scotch, English, and Irish Members of the Society of Jesus.
9 & 10 William III. c. 32.
See Wallace's Anti-Trinitarian Biography.
Life of Mr. Thomas Firmin, citizen of London. By J. Cornish. 1780.
See Kippis's Life of Lardner, prefixed to Lardner's Works, p. xxxii. His ultimate view is said to have been that ‘Jesus was a man appointed, exalted, loved, and honoured by God beyond all other beings.’
Bogue and Bennett's Hist. of Dissenters, ii. 300–303. See, too, Lindsey's Historical View.
Whiston's Memoirs of Clarke, p. 25.
Parl. Hist. vii. 893–895.
South wrote with great delight: ‘Your Parliament presently sent him packing, and without the help of a faggot soon made the kingdom too hot for him.’ See Disraeli's Calamities of Authors, ii. 133.
Hume's Autobiography. Browne's Estimate, i. 56.
Referring to Bolingbroke's philosophy, he wrote, ‘What motive can there be for attacking revealed religion in England? In that country it is so purged of all destructive prejudices that it can do no harm, but on the contrary is capable of producing numberless good effects. I am sensible that in Spain or Portugal a man who is going to be burnt … hath very good reason to attack it.… But the case is very different in England, where a man that attacks revealed religion does it without the least personal motive, and where this champion if he should succeed—nay, should he be in the right too—would only deprive his country of numberless real benefits for the sake of establishing a merely speculative truth.’—Annual Register, 1760, p. 189.
Browne's Estimate, i. 52–58.
Hume's Essay on National Characters.