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CHAPTER VIII. - Sir James Mackintosh, The Miscellaneous Works 
The Miscellaneous Works. Three Volumes, complete in One. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1871).
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Declaration of Indulgence renewed.—Order that it should be read in Churches.—Deliberations of the Clergy.—Petition of the Bishops to the King.—Their examination before the Privy Council, Committal, Trial, and Acquittal.—Reflections.—Conversion of Sunderland.—Birth of the Prince of Wales.—State of Affairs.
When the changes in the secret councils of the King had rendered them most irreconcilable to the national sentiments, and when the general discontent produced by progressive encroachment had quietly grown into disaffection, nothing was wanting to the least unfortunate result of such an alienation, but that an infatuated Government should exhibit to the public thus disposed one of those tragic spectacles of justice violated, of religion menaced, of innocence oppressed, of unarmed dignity outraged, with all the conspicuous solemnities of abused law, in the persons of men of exalted rank and venerated functions who encounter wrongs and indignities with mild intrepidity. Such scenes, performed before a whole nation, revealed to each man the hidden thoughts of his fellow citizens, added the warmth of personal feeling to the strength of public principle, animated patriotism by the pity and indignation which the sufferings of good men call forth, and warmed every heart by the reflection of the same passions from the hearts of thousands; until at length the enthusiasm of a nation, springing up in the bosoms of the generous and brave, breathed a momentary spirit into the most vulgar souls, and dragged into its service the herd of the selfish, the cold, the mean, and the cowardly. The combustibles were accumulated; a spark was only wanting to kindle the flame. Accidents in themselves trivial, seem on this occasion, as in other times and countries, to have filled up the measure of provocation. In such a government as that of James, formed of adverse parties, more intent on weakening or supplanting each other than on securing their common foundation, every measure was too much estimated by its bearing on these unavowed objects, to allow a calm consideration of its effect on the interest or even on the temper of the public.
On the 27th of April, the King republished his Declaration of the former year for Liberty of Conscience;—a measure, apparently insignificant,* which was probably proposed by Sunderland, to indulge his master in a harmless show of firmness, which might divert him from rasher councils.† To this Declaration a supplement was annexed, declaring, that the King was confirmed in his purpose by the numerous addresses which had assured him of the national concurrence; that he had removed all civil and military officers who had refused to co-operate with him; and that he trusted that the people would do their part, by the choice of fit members to serve in Parliament, which he was resolved to assemble in November “at farthest.” This last, and only important part of the Proclamation, was promoted by the contending parties in the Cabinet with opposite intentions. The moderate Catholics, and Penn, whose fault was only an unseasonable zeal for a noble principle, desired a Parliament from a hope, that if its convocation were not too long delayed, it might produce a compromise, in which the King might for the time be contented with an universal toleration of worship. The Jesuitical party also desired a Parliament; but it was because they hoped that it would produce a final rupture, and a recurrence to those more vigorous means which the age of the King now required, and the safety of which the expected birth of a Prince of Wales appeared to warrant.‡ Sunderland acquiesced in the insertion of this pledge, because he hoped to keep the violent in check by the fear of the Parliament, and partly, also, because he by no means had determined to redeem the pledge. “This language is held,” said he to Barillon (who was alarmed at the sound of a Parliament), “rather to show, that Parliament will not meet for six months, than that it will be then assembled, which must depend on the public temper at that time.”§ For so far, it seems, did this ingenious statesman carry his system of liberal interpretation, that he employed words in the directly opposite sense to that in which they were understood. So jarring were the motives from which this Declaration proceeded, and so opposite the constructions of which its authors represented it to be capable. Had no other step, however, been taken but the publication, it is not probable that it would have been attended by serious consequences.
But in a week afterwards, an Order was made by the King in Council, commanding the Declaration to be read at the usual time of divine service, in all the churches in London on the 20th and 27th of May, and in all those in the country on the 3d and 10th of June.* Who was the adviser of this Order, which has acquired such importance from its immediate effects, has not yet been ascertained. It was publicly disclaimed by Sunderland,† but at a time which would have left no value to his declaration, but what it might derive from being uncontradicted; and it was agreeable to the general tenor of his policy. It now appears, however, that he and other counsellors disavowed it at the time; and they seem to have been believed by keen and watchful observers. Though it was then rumoured that Petre had also disavowed this fatal advice, the concurrent testimony of all contemporary historians ascribe it to him; and it accords well with the policy of that party, which received in some degree from his ascendant over them the unpopular appellation of Jesuits. It must be owned, indeed, that it was one of the numerous cases in which the evil effects of an imprudent measure proved far greater than any foresight could have apprehended. There was considerable reason for expecting submission from the Church.
The clergy had very recently obeyed a similar order in two obnoxious instances. In compliance with an Order made in Council by Charles II. (officiously suggested to him, it is said, by Sancroft himself),‡ they had read from their pulpits that Prince’s apology for the dissolution of his two last Parliaments, severally arraigning various Parliamentary proceedings, and among others a Resolution of the House of Commons against the persecution of the Protestant Dissenters.§ The compliance of the clergy on this occasion was cheerful, though they gave offence by it to many of the people.∥ Now, this seemed to be an open interference of the ecclesiastical order in the fiercest contests of political parties, which the duty of undistinguishing obedience alone could warrant.* The same principle appears still more necessary to justify their reading the Declaration of Charles on the Rye House Plot,† published within a week of the death of Lord Russell; when it was indecent for the ministers of religion to promulgate their approval of bloodshed, and unjust to inflame prejudice against those who remained to be tried. This Declaration had been immediately preceded by the famous decree of the University of Oxford, and had been followed by a persecution of the Nonconformists, on whom it reflected as the authors of the supposed conspiracy.‡ These examples of compliance appeared to be grounded on the undefined authority claimed by the King, as supreme ordinary, on the judicial determinations, which recognised his right in that character to make ordinaries for the outward rule of the Church,§ and on the rubric of the Book of Common Prayer (declared, by the Act of Uniformity,∥ to be a part of that statute), which directs, “that nothing shall be published in church by the minister, but what is prescribed by this book, or enjoined by the King.” These reasonings and examples were at least sufficient to excuse the confidence with which some of the Royal advisers anticipated the obedience either of the whole Church, or of so large a majority as to make it safe and easy to punish the disobedient.
A variation from the precedents of a seemingly slight and formal nature seems to have had some effect on the success of the measure. The bishops were now, for the first time, commanded by the Order published in the Gazette to distribute the Declaration in their dioceses, in order to its being read by the clergy. Whether the insertion of this unusual clause was casual, or intended to humble the bishops, it is now difficult to conjecture: it was naturally received and represented in the most offensive sense.¶ It fixed the eyes of the whole nation on the prelates, rendering the conduct of their clergy visibly dependent solely on their determination, and thus concentrating, on a small number, the dishonour of submission which would have been lost by dispersion among the whole body. So strongly did the belief that insult was intended prevail, that Petre, to whom it was chiefly ascribed, was said to have declared it in the gross and contumelious language used of old, by a barbarous invader, to the deputies of a besieged city.* But though the menace be imputed to him by most of his contemporaries,† yet, as they were all his enemies, and as no ear-witness is quoted, we must be content to be doubtful whether he actually uttered the offensive words, or was only so generally imprudent as to make it easily so believed.
The first effect of this Order was to place the prelates who were then in the capital or its neighbourhood in a situation of no small perplexity. They must have been still more taken by surprise than the more moderate ministers; and, in that age of slow conveyance and rare publication, they were allowed only sixteen days from the Order, and thirteen from its official publication,‡ to ascertain the sentiments of their brethren and of their clergy, without the knowledge of which their determination, whatever it was, might promote that division which it was one of the main objects of their enemies, by this measure, to excite. Resistance could be formidable only if it were general. It is one of the severest tests of human sagacity to call for instantaneous judgment from a few leaders when they have not support enough to be assured of the majority of their adherents. Had the bishops taken a single step without concert, they would have been assailed by charges of a pretension to dictatorship,—equally likely to provoke the proud to desertion, and to furnish the cowardly with a pretext for it. Their difficulties were increased by the character of the most distinguished laymen whom it was fit to consult. Rochester was no longer trusted: Clarendon was zealous, but of small judgment: and both Nottingham, the chief of their party, and Halifax, with whom they were now compelled to coalesce, hesitated at the moment of decision.§
The first body whose judgment was to be ascertained was the clergy of London, among whom were, at that time, the lights and ornaments of the Church. They at first ventured only to converse and correspond privately with each other.∥ A meeting became came necessary, and was hazarded. A diversity of opinions prevailed. It was urged on one side that a refusal was inconsistent with the professions and practice of the Church; that it would provoke the King to desperate extremities, expose the country to civil confusions, and be represented to the Dissenters as a proof of the incorrigible intolerance of the Establishment; that the reading of a Proclamation implied no assent to its contents; and that it would be presumption in the clergy to pronounce a judgment against the legality of the Dispensing Power, which the competent tribunal had already adjudged to be lawful. Those of better spirit answered, or might have answered, that the danger of former examples of obsequiousness was now so visible that they were to be considered as warnings rather than precedents; that compliance would bring on them command after command, till at last another religion would be established; that the reading, unnecessary for the purpose of publication, would be understood as an approval of the Declaration by the contrivers of the Order, and by the body of the people; that the Parliamentary condemnations of the Dispensing Power were a sufficient reason to excuse them from a doubtful and hazardous act; that neither conscience nor the more worldly principle of honour would suffer them to dig the grave of the Protestant Church, and to desert the cause of the nobility, the gentry, and the whole nation; and finally, that in the most unfavourable event, it was better to fall then under the King’s displeasure, when supported by the consolation of having fearlessly performed their duty, than to fall a little later unpitied and despised, amid the curses of that people whom their compliance had ruined. From such a fall they would rise no more.* One of those middle courses was suggested which is very apt to captivate a perplexed assembly:—it was proposed to gain time, and smooth a way to a compromise, by entreating the King to revert to the ancient methods of communicating his commands to the Church. The majority appeared at first to lean towards submission, or evasion, which was only disguised and deferred submission; when, happily, a decisive answer was produced to the most plausible argument of the compliant party. Some of the chief ministers and laymen among the Nonconformists earnestly besought the clergy not to judge them by a handful of their number who had been gained by the Court, but to be assured that, instead of being alienated from the Church, they would be drawn closer to her, by her making a stand for religion and liberty.† A clergyman present read a note of these generous declarations, which he was authorized by the Nonconformists to exhibit to the meeting. The independent portion of the clergy made up, by zeal and activity, for their inferiority in numbers. Fatal concession, however, seemed to be at hand, when the spirit of an individual, manifested at a critical moment, contributed to rescue his order from disgrace, and his country from slavery. This person, whose fortunate virtue has hitherto remained unknown, was Dr. Edward Fowler, then incumbent of a parish in London, who, originally bred a Dissenter, had been slow to conform at the Restoration, was accused of the crime of Whiggism* at so dangerous a period as that of Monmouth’s riot, and, having been promoted to the See of Gloucester, combined so much charity with his unsuspected orthodoxy as to receive the last breath of Firmin, the most celebrated Unitarian of that period.† When Fowler perceived that the courage of his brethren faltered, he addressed them shortly:—“I must be plain. There has been argument enough: more only will heat us. Let every man now say ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay.’ I shall be sorry to give occasion to schism, but I cannot in conscience read the Declaration; for that reading would be an exhortation to my people to obey commands which I deem unlawful.” Stillingfleet declared, on the authority of lawyers, that reading the Declaration would be an offence, as the publication of an unlawful document; but excused himself from being the first subscriber to an agreement not to comply, on the ground that he was already proscribed for the prominent part which he had taken in the controversy against the Romanists. Patrick offered to be the first, if any man would second him; and Fowler answered to the appeal which his own generosity had called forth.‡ They were supported by Tillotson, though only recovering from an attack of apoplexy, and by Sherlock, who then atoned for the slavish doctrines of former times. The opposite party were subdued by this firmness, declaring that they would not divide the Church:§ and the sentiments of more than fourscore of the London clergy∥ were made known to the Metropolitan.
At a meeting at Lambeth, on Saturday, the 12th of May, where there were present, besides Sancroft himself, only the Earl of Clarendon, three bishops, Compton, Turner, and White, together with Tenison, it was resolved not to read the Declaration, to petition the King that he would dispense with that act of obedience, and to entreat all the prelates within reach of London, to repair thither to the aid of their brethren.¶ It was fit to wait a short time for the concurrence of these absent bishops. Lloyd of St. Asaph, late of Chichester, Ken of Bath and Wells, and Trelawney, quickly complied with the summons; and were present at another and more decisive meeting at the archiepiscopal palace on Friday, the 18th, where, with the assent of Tillotson. Stillingfleet, Patrick, Tenison, Grove, and Sherlock, it was resolved, that a Petition, prepared and written by Sancroft, should be forthwith presented to His Majesty. It is a calumny against the memory of these prelates to assert, that they postponed their determination till within two days of the Sunday appointed for reading the Declaration, in order to deprive the King of time to retire from his purpose with dignity or decency: for we have seen that the period since the publication of the Order was fully occupied by measures for concert and cooperation; and it would have been treachery to the Church and the kingdom to have sacrificed any portion of time so employed to relieve their most formidable enemy.* The Petition, after setting forth that “their averseness to read the King’s Declaration arose neither from want of the duty and obedience which the Church of England had always practised, nor from want of tenderness to Dissenters, to whom they were willing to come to such a temper as might be thought fit in Parliament and Convocation, but because it was founded in a Dispensing Power declared illegal in Parliament; and that they could not in prudence or conscience make themselves so far parties to it as the publication of it in the church at the time of divine service must amount to in common and reasonable construction,” concludes, by “humbly and earnestly beseeching His Majesty not to insist on their distributing and reading the said Declaration.” It is easy to observe the skill with which the Petition distinguished the case from the two recent examples of submission, in which the Royal declarations, however objectionable, contained no matter of questionable legality. Compton, being suspended, did not subscribe the Petition; and Sancroft, having had the honour to be forbidden the Court nearly two years, took no part in presenting it. Nor was it thought proper that the private divines, who were the most distinguished members of the meeting, should attend the presentation.
With no needless delay, six Bishops proceeded to Whitehall about ten o’clock in the evening,—no unusual hour of audience at the accessible courts of Charles and James. They were remarked, as they came from the landing-place, by the watchful eyes of the Dutch ambassador,* who was not uninformed of their errand. They had remained at the house of Lord Dartmouth, till Lloyd of St. Asaph, the boldest of their number, should ascertain when and where the King would receive them. He requested Lord Sunderland to read the Petition, and to acquaint the King with its contents, that His Majesty might not be surprised at it. The wary minister declined, but informed the King of the attendance of the Bishops, who were then introduced into the bedchamber.† When they had knelt down before the monarch, St. Asaph presented the Petition, purporting to be that “of the Archbishop of Canterbury, with divers suffragan bishops of his province, in behalf of themselves and several of their absent brethren, and of the clergy of their respective dioceses.” The King, having been told by the Bishop of Chester, that they would desire no more than a recurrence to the former practice of sending Declarations to chancellors and archdeacons,‡ desired them to rise, and received them at first graciously, saying, on opening the Petition, “This is my Lord of Canterbury’s handwriting,” but when he read it over, and after he had folded it up, he spoke to them in another tone:§ —“This is a great surprise to me. Here are strange words. I did not expect this from you. This is a standard of rebellion.” St. Asaph replied, “We have adventured our lives for Your Majesty, and would lose the last drop of our blood rather than lift up a finger against you.” The King continued:—“I tell you this is a standard of rebellion. I never saw such an address.” Trelawney of Bristol, falling again on his knees, said, “Rebellion, Sir! I beseech your Majesty not to say any thing so hard of us. For God’s sake, do not believe we are or can be guilty of rebellion.” It deserves remark, that the two who uttered these loud and vehement protestations were the only prelates present who were conscious of having harboured projects of more decisive resistance. The Bishops of Chichester and Ely made professions of unshaken loyalty, which they afterwards exemplified. The Bishop of Bath and Wells pathetically and justly said, “Sir, I hope you will give that liberty to us, which you allow to all mankind.” He piously added, “We will honour the King, but fear God.” James answered at various times, “It tends to rebellion. Is this what I have deserved from the Church of England? I will remember you who have signed this paper. I will keep this paper: I will not part with it. I did not expect this from you, especially from some of you. I will be obeyed.” Ken, in the spirit of a martyr, answered only with a humble voice, “God’s will be done.” The angry monarch called out, “What’s that?” The Bishop, and one of his brethren, repeated what had been said. James dismissed them with the same unseemly, unprovoked, and incoherent language:—“If I think fit to alter my mind, I will send to you. God has given me this Dispensing Power, and I will maintain it. I tell you, there are seven thousand men, and of the Church of England too, that have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Next morning, when on his way to chapel, he said to the Bishop of St. David’s, “My Lord, your brethren presented to me, yesterday, the most seditious paper that ever was penned. It is a trumpet of rebellion.” He frequently repeated what Lord Halifax said to him,—“Your father suffered for the Church, not the Church for him.”*
The Petition was printed and circulated during the night, certainly not by the Bishops, who delivered to the King their only copy, written in the hand of Sancroft, for the express purpose of preventing publication,—probably, therefore, by some attendant of the Court, for lucre or from disaffection. In a few days, six other prelates† had declared their concurrence in the Petition, and the Bishop of Carlisle agreed to its contents, lamenting that he could not subscribe it, because his diocese was not in the province of Canterbury:‡ two others agreed to the measure of not reading.§ The archbishopric of York had now been kept vacant for Petre more than two years; and the vacancy which delivered Oxford from Parker had not yet been filled up. Lloyd of Bangor, who died a few months afterwards, was probably prevented by age and infirmities from taking any part in this transaction. The see of Lichfield, though not vacant, was deserted by Wood, who (having been appointed by the Duchess of Cleveland, in consequence of his bestowing his neice, a rich heiress, of whom he was guardian, on one of her sons,)∥ had openly and perpetually abandoned his diocese: for this he had been suspended by Sancroft, and though restored on submission, had continued to reside at Hackney, without professing to discharge any duty, till his death. Sprat, who would have honoured the episcopal dignity by his talents, if he had not earned it by a prostitution of them,* Cartwright, who had already approved himself the ready instrument of lawless power against his brethren, Crewe, whose servility was rendered more conspi cuously disgraceful by birth and wealth, Watson, who, after a long train of offences, was at length deprived of his see, together with Croft, in extreme old age, and Barlow, who had fallen into second childhood, were, since the death of Parker, the only faithless members of an episcopal body, which in its then incomplete state amounted to twentytwo.
On Sunday, the 20th, the first day appointed for reading the Declaration in London, the Order was generally disobeyed; though the administration of the diocese during the suspension of the bishop, was placed in the perfidious hands of Sprat and Crewe. Out of a hundred, the supposed number of the London clergy at that time, seven were the utmost who are, by the largest account, charged with submission.† Sprat himself chose to officiate as Dean in Westminster Abbey, where, as soon as he gave orders for the reading, so great a murmur arose that nobody could hear it, and, before it was finished, no one was left in the church but a few prebendaries, the choristers, and the Westminster scholars. He, himself, could hardly hold the Proclamation in his hands for trembling.‡ Even in the chapel at Whitehall, it was read by a chorister.§ At Serjeant’s Inn, on the Chief Justice desiring that it should be read, the clerk said that he had forgotten it.∥ The names of four complying clergymen only are preserved,—Elliott, Martin, Thomson, and Hall,—who, obscure as they were, may be enumerated as specimens of so rare a vice as the sinister courage which, for base ends, can brave the most generous feelings of all the spectators of their conduct. The temptation on this occasion seems to have been the bishopric of Oxford; in the pursuit of which, Hall, who had been engaged in negotiations with the Duchess of Portsmouth for the purchase of Hampden’s pardon,¶ by such connections and services prevailed over his competitors. On the following Sunday the disobedience was equally general; and the new reader at the Chapel Royal was so agitated as to be unable to read the Declaration audibly.* In general, the clergy of the country displayed the same spirit. In the dioceses of the faithful bishops, the example of the diocesan was almost universally followed; in that of Norwich, which contains twelve hundred parishes, the Declaration was not read by more than three or four.† In Durham, on the other side, Crewe found so great a number of his poor clergy more independent than a vast revenue could render himself, that he suspended many for disobedience. The other deserters were disobeyed by nineteen twentieths of their clergy; and not more than two hundred in all are said to have complied out of a body of ten thousand.‡ “The whole Church,” says the Nuncio, “espouses the cause of the Bishops There is no reasonable expectation of a division among the Anglicans, and our hopes from the Nonconformists are vanished.”§ Well, indeed, might he despair of the Dissenters, since, on the 20th of May, the venerable Baxter, above sectarian interests, and unmindful of ancient wrongs, from his tolerated pulpit extolled the Bishops for their resistance to the very Declaration to which he now owed the liberty of commending them.∥
It was no wonder that such an appearance of determined resistance should disconcert the Government. No prospect now remained of seducing some, and of punishing other Protestants, and, by this double example, of gaining the greater part of the rest. The King, after so many previous acts of violence, seemed to be reduced to the alternative of either surrendering to exasperated antagonists, or engaging in a mortal combat with all his Protestant subjects. In the most united and vigorous government, the choice would have been among the most difficult which human wisdom is required to make. In the distracted councils of James, where secret advisers thwarted responsible ministers, and fear began to disturb the judgment of some, while anger inflamed the minds of others, a still greater fluctuation and contradiction prevailed, than would have naturally arisen from the great difficulty of the situation. Pride impelled the King to advance; Caution counselled him to retreat; Calm Reason, even at this day, discovers nearly equal dangers in either movement. It is one of the most unfortunate circumstances in human affairs, that the most important questions of practice either perplex the mind so much by their difficulty, as to be always really decided by temper, or excite passions too strong for such an undisturbed exercise of the understanding as alone affords a probability of right judgment. The nearer approach of perils, both political and personal, rendered the counsels of Sunderland more decisively moderate;* in which he was supported by the Catholic lords in office, conformably to their uniform principles,† and by Jeffreys, who, since he had gained the prize of ambition, began more and more to think of safety.‡ It appears, also, that those who recoiled from an irreparable breach with the Church, the nation, and the Protestants of the Royal Family, were now not unwilling that their moderation should be known. Jeffreys spoke to Lord Clarendon of “moderate counsels,” declared, that “some men would drive the King to destruction,” and made professions of “service to the Bishops,” which he went so far as to desire him to communicate to them. William Penn, on a visit, after a very long interval, to Clarendon, betrayed an inquietude, which sometimes prompts men almost instinctively to acquire or renew friendships.§ Sunderland disclosed the nature and grounds of his own counsels, very fully, both to the Nuncio and to the French ambassador.∥ “The great question,” he said, “was how the punishment of the Bishops would affect the probability of accomplishing the King’s purpose through a Parliament. Now, it was not to be expected, that any adequate penalty could be inflicted on them in the ordinary course of law. Recourse must be had to the Ecclesiastical Commission, which was already sufficiently obnoxious. Any legal proceeding would be long enough, in the present temper of men, to agitate all England. The suspension or deprivation by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, which might not exclude the Bishops from their Parliamentary seats, would, in a case of so extensive delinquency raise such a fear and cry of arbitrary power, as to render all prospect of a Parliament desperate, and to drive the King to a reliance on arms alone;—a fearful resolution, not to be entertained without fuller assurance that the army was and would remain untainted.” He therefore advised, that “His Majesty should content himself with publishing a declaration, expressing his high and just resentment at the hardihood of the Bishops, in disobeying the supreme head of their Church, and disputing a Royal prerogative recently recognised by all the judges of England; but stating that, in consideration of the fidelity of the Church of England in past times, from which these prelates had been the first to depart, his Majesty was desirous of treating their offence with clemency, and would refer their conduct to the consideration of the next Parliament, in the hope that their intermediate conduct might warrant entire forgiveness.” It was said, on the other hand, “that the safety of the government depended on an immediate blow; that the impunity of such audacious contumacy would embolden every enemy at home and abroad; that all lenity would be regarded as the effect of weakness and fear; and that the opportunity must now or never be seized, of employing the Ecclesiastical Commission to strike down a Church, which supported the Crown only as long as she dictated to it, and became rebellious at the moment when she was forbidden to be intolerant.” To strengthen these topics, it was urged “that the factions had already boasted that the Court would not dare to proceed juridically against the Bishops.”
Both the prudent ministers, to whom these discussions were imparted, influenced probably by their wishes, expected that moderation would prevail.* But, after a week of discussion, Jeffreys, fearing that the King could not be reconciled to absolute forbearance, and desirous of removing the odium from the Ecclesiastical Commission, of which he was the head,† proposed that the Bishops should be prosecuted in the Court of King’s Bench, and the consideration of mercy or rigour postponed till after judgment;—a compromise probably more impolitic than either of the extremes, inasmuch as it united a conspicuous and solemn mode of proceeding, and a form of trial partly popular, with room for the utmost boldness of defence, some probability of acquittal, and the least punishment in case of conviction. On the evening of the 27th, the second Sunday appointed for reading the Declaration, it was accordingly determined to prosecute them; and they were summoned to appear before the Privy Council on the 8th of June, to answer a charge of misdemeanour.
In obedience to this summons, the Bishops attended at Whitehall on the day appointed, about five o’clock in the afternoon, and being called into the Council Chamber, were graciously received by the King. The Chancellor asked the Archbishop, whether a paper now shown to him was the Petition written by him, and presented by the other Bishops to his Majesty. The Archbishop, addressing himself to the King, answered, “Sir, I am called hither as a criminal, which I never was before: since I have that unhappiness, I hope your Majesty will not be offended that I am cautious of answering questions which may tend to accuse myself.” The King called this chicanery; adding, “I hope you will not deny your own hand.” The Archbishop said, “The only reason for the question is to draw an answer which may be ground of accusation;” and Lloyd, of St. Asaph, added, “All divines of all Christian churches are agreed that no man in our situation is obliged to answer such questions:” but the King impatiently pressing for an answer, the Archbishop said, “Sir, though not obliged to answer, yet, if Your Majesty commands it, we are willing to obey, trusting to your justice and generosity that we shall not suffer for our obedience.” The King said he should not command them, and Jeffreys directed them to withdraw. On their return, being commanded by the King to answer, they owned the Petition. There is some doubt whether they repeated the condition on which they made their first offer of obedience;* but, if they did not, their forbearance must have arisen from a respectful confidence, which disposed them, with reason, to consider the silence of the King as a virtual assent to their unretracted condition. A tacit acceptance of conditional obedience is indeed as distinct a promise to perform the condition as the most express words. They were then again commanded to withdraw; and on their return a third time, they were told by Jeffreys that they would be proceeded against, “but,” he added (alluding to the obnoxious Commismission), “with all fairness, in Westminister Hall.” He desired them to enter into a recognisance (or legal engagement) to appear. They declared their readiness to answer, whenever they were called upon, without it, and, after some conversation, insisted on their privilege as Peers not to be bound by a recognisance in misdemeanour. After several ineffectual attempts to prevail on them to accept the offer of being discharged on their own recognisances, as a favour, they were committed to the Tower by a warrant, which all the Privy Councillors present (except Lord Berkeley and Father Petre) subscribed; of whom it is observable, that nine only were avowed Catholics, and nine professed members of the English Church, besides Sunderland, whose renunciation of that religion was not yet made public.† The Order for the prosecution was, however, sanctioned in the usual manner, by placing the names of all Privy Councillors present at its head.
The people who saw the Bishops as they walked to the barges which were to conduct them to the Tower, were deeply affected by the spectacle, and, for the first time, manifested their emotions in a manner which would have still served as a wholesome admonition to a wise Government. The demeanour of the Prelates is described by eye-witnesses as meek, composed, cheerful, betraying no fear, and untainted by ostentation or defiance, but endowed with a greater power over the fellow-feeling of the beholders by the exhortations to loyalty, which were doubtless uttered with undesigning sincerity by the greater number of the venerable sufferers.* The mode of conveyance, though probably selected for mere convenience, contributed to deepen and prolong the interest of the scene. The soldiers who escorted them to the shore had no need to make any demonstrations of violence; for the people were too much subdued by pity and reverence to vent their feelings otherwise than by tears and prayers. Having never before seen prelates in opposition to the King, and accustomed to look at them only in a state of pacific and inviolate dignity, the spectators regarded their fall to the condition of prisoners and the appearance of culprits with amazement, awe, and compassion. The scene seemed to be a procession of martyrs. “Thousands,” says Van Citters, probably an eye-witness, “begged their blessing.”† Some ran into the water to implore it. Both banks of the Thames were lined with multitudes, who, when they were too distant to be heard, manifested their feelings by falling down on their knees, and raising up their hands, beseeching Heaven to guard the sufferers for religion and liberty. On landing at the Tower, several of the guards knelt down to receive their blessing; while some even of the officers yielded to the general impulse. As the Bishops chanced to land at the accustomed hour of evening prayer, they immediately repaired to the chapel; where they heard, in the ordinary lesson of the day, a remarkable exhortation to the primitive teachers of Christianity, “to approve themselves the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in imprisonments.”‡ The Court ordered the guard to be doubled.
On the following days multitudes crowded to the Tower,§ of whom the majority gazed on the prison with distant awe, while a few entered to offer homage and counsel to the venerable prisoners. “If it be a crime to lament,” said a learned contemporary, in a confidential letter, “innumerable are the transgressors. The nobles of both sexes, as it were, keep their court at the Tower, whither a vast concourse daily go to beg the holy men’s blessing. The very soldiers act as mourners.”∥ The soldiers on guard, indeed, drank their healths, and though reprimanded by Sir Edward Hales, now Lieutenant of the Tower, declared that they would persevere. The amiable Evelyn did not fail to visit them on the day previous to that on which he was to dine with the Chancellor, appearing to distribute his courtesies with the neutrality of Atticus;* but we now know that Jeffreys himself, on the latter of these days, had sent a secret message by Clarendon, assuring the Bishops that he was much troubled at the prosecution, and offering his services to them.† None of their visiters were more remarkable than a deputation of ten Nonconformist ministers, which so incensed the King that he personally reprimanded them; but they answered, that they could not but adhere to the Bishops, as men constant to the Protestant religion,—an example of magnanimity rare in the conflicts of religious animosities. The Dissenting clergy seem, indeed, to have been nearly unanimous in preferring the general interest of religious liberty to the enlargement of their peculiar privileges.‡ Alsop was full of sorrow for his compliances in the former year. Lobb, who was seized with so enthusiastic an attachment to James, that he was long after known by the singular name of the “Jacobite Independent,” alone persevered in devotedness to the Court; and when the King asked his advice respecting the treatment of the Bishops, advised that they should be sent to the Tower.§
No exertion of friendship or of public zeal was wanting to prepare the means of their defence, and to provide for their dignity, in every part of the proceeding. The Bishop of London, Dr. Tennyson, and Johnstone, the secret agent of the Prince of Orange, appear to have been the most active of their friends. Pemberton and Pollexfen, accounted the most learned among the elder lawyers, were engaged in their cause. Sir John Holt, destined to be the chief ornament of a bench purified by liberty, contributed his valuable advice. John Somers, then in the thirty-eight year of his age, was objected to at one of their consultations, as too young and obscure to be one of their counsel; and, if we may believe Johnstone, it was owing to him that this memorable cause afforded the earliest opportunity of making known the superior intellect of that great man. Twenty-eight peers were prepared to bail them, if bail should be required.∥ Stanley, chaplain to the Princess of Orange, had already assured Sancroft that the Prince and Princess approved their firmness, and were deeply interested in their fate.¶ One of them, probably Trelawney, a prelate who had served in the Civil War, had early told Johnstone that if they were sent to the Tower, he hoped the Prince of Orange would take them out, which two regiments and his authority would do,* and, a little later, the Bishop of St. Asaph assured the same trusty agent, who was then collecting the opinions of several eminent persons on the seasonableness of resistance, that “the matter would be easily done.”† This bold Prelate had familiarised himself with extraordinary events, and was probably tempted to daring counsels by an overweening confidence in his own interpretation of mysterious prophecies, which he had long laboured to illustrate by vain efforts of ability and learning. He made no secret of his expectations; but, at his first interview with a chaplain of the Archbishop, exhorted him to be of good courage, and declared that the happiest results were now to be hoped; for that the people, incensed by tyranny, were ready to take up arms to expel the Papists from the kingdom, and to punish the King himself, which was to be deprecated, by banishment or death; adding, that if the Bishops escaped from their present danger, they would reform the Church from the corruptions which had crept into her frame, throw open her gates for the joyful entrance of the sober and pious among Protestant Dissenters, and relieve even those who should continue to be pertinacious in their Nonconformity from the grievous yoke of penal laws.‡ During the imprisonment, Sunderland and the Catholic lords, now supported by Jeffreys, used every means of art and argument to persuade James that the birth of the Prince of Wales (which will presently be related) afforded a most becoming opportunity for signalising that moment of national joy by a general pardon, which would comprehend the Bishops, without involving any apparent concession to them.§ The King, as usual, fluctuated. A Proclamation, couched in the most angry and haughty language, commanding all clergymen, under pain of immediate suspension, to read the Declaration, was several times sent to the press, and as often withdrawn.∥ “The King,” said Jeffreys, “had once resolved to let the proceedings fall; but some men would hurry him to destruction.”¶ The obstinacy of James, inflamed by bigoted advisers, and supported by commendation, with proffered aid from France, prevailed over sober counsels.
On the 15th of June, the prisoners were brought before the Court of King’s Bench by a writ of Habeas Corpus. On leaving the Tower they refused to pay the fees required by Sir Edward Hales as lieutenant, whom they charged with discourtesy. He so far forgot himself as to say that the fees were a compensation for the irons with which he might have loaded them, and the bare walls and floor to which he might have confined their accommodation.* They answered, “We lament the King’s displeasure; but every other man loses his breath who attempts to intimidate us.” On landing from their barge, they were received with increased reverence by a great multitude, who made a lane for them, and followed them into Westminster Hall.† The Nuncio, unused to the slightest breath of popular feeling, was subdued by these manifestations of enthusiasm, which he relates with more warmth than any other contemporary. “Of the immense concourse of people,” says he, “who received them on the bank of the river, the majority in their immediate neighbourhood were on their knees: the Archbishop laid his hands on the heads of such as he could reach, exhorting them to continue stedfast in their faith; they cried aloud that all should kneel, while tears flowed from the eyes of many.‡ In the court they were attended by the twenty-nine Peers who offered to be their sureties; and it was instantly filled by a crowd of gentlemen attached to their cause.
The return of the lieutenant of the Tower to the writ set forth that the Bishops were committed under a warrant signed by certain Privy Councillors for a seditious libel. The Attorney General moved, that the information should be read, and that the Bishops should be called on to plead, or, in common language, either to admit the fact, deny it, or allege some legal justification of it. The counsel for the Bishops objected to reading the information, on the ground that they were not legally before the court, because the warrant, though signed by Privy Councillors, was not stated to be issued by them in that capacity, and because the Bishops, being Peers of Parliament, could not lawfully be committed for a libel. The Court over-ruled these objections;—the first with evident justice, because the warrant of commitment set forth its execution at the Council Chamber, and in the presence of the King, which sufficiently showed it to be the act of the subscribing Privy Councillors acting as such,—the second, with much doubt touching the extent of privilege of Parliament, acknowledged on both sides to exempt from apprehension in all cases but treason, felony, and breach of the peace, which last term was said by the counsel for the Crown to comprehend all such constructive offences against the peace as libels, and argued on behalf of the Bishops, to be confined to those acts or threats of violence which, in common language, are termed “breaches of the peace.” The greatest judicial authority on constitutional law since the accession of the House of Brunswick has pronounced the determination of the Judges in 1688 to be erroneous.* The question depends too much upon irregular usage and technical subtilties to be brought under the cognisance of the historian, who must be content with observing, that the error was not so manifest as to warrant an imputation of bad faith in the Judges. A delay of pleading till the next term, which is called an “imparlance,” was then claimed. The officers usually referred to for the practice of the Court declared such for the last twelve years to have been that the defendants should immediately plead. Sir Robert Sawyer, Mr. Finch, Sir Francis Pemberton, and Mr. Pollexfen, bore a weighty testimony, from their long experience, to the more indulgent practice of the better times which preceded; but Sawyer, covered with the guilt of so many odious proceedings, Finch, who was by no means free from participation in them, and even Pemberton, who had the misfortune to be Chief Justice in evil days, seemed to contend against the practice of their own administration with a bad grace: the veteran Pollexfen alone, without fear of retaliation, appealed to the pure age of Sir Matthew Hale. The Court decided that the Bishops should plead; but their counsel considered themselves as having gained their legitimate object by showing that the Government employed means at least disputable against them.† The Bishops then pleaded “Not guilty,” and were enlarged, on their own undertaking to appear on the trial, which was appointed for the 29th of June.
As they left the court they were surrounded by crowds, who begged their blessing. The Bishop of St. Asaph, detained in Palace Yard by a multitude, who kissed his hands and garments, was delivered from their importunate kindness by Lord Clarendon, who, taking him into his carriage, found it necessary to make a circuit through the Park to escape from the bodies of people by whom the streets were obstructed.‡ Shouts and huzzas broke out in the court, and were repeated all around at the moment of the enlargement. The bells of the Abbey Church of Westminster had begun to ring a joyful peal, when they were stopped by Sprat amidst the execrations of the people.* “No one knew,” said the Dutch minister, “what to do for joy.” When the Archbishop landed at Lambeth, the grenadiers of Lord Lichfield’s regiment, though posted there by his enemies, received him with military honours, made a lane for his passage from the river to his palace, and fell on their knees to ask his blessing.† In the evening the premature joy at this temporary liberation displayed itself in bonfires, and in some outrages to Roman Catholics, as the supposed instigators of the prosecution.‡
No doubt was entertained at Court of the result of the trial, which the King himself took measures to secure by a private interview with Sir Samuel Astry, the officer whose province it was to form the jury.§ It was openly said that the Bishops would be condemned to pay large fines, to be imprisoned till payment, and to be suspended from their functions and revenues.∥ A fund would thus be ready for the King’s liberality to Catholic colleges and chapels; while the punishment of the Archbishop would remove the only licenser of the press¶ who was independent of the Crown. Sunderland still contended for the policy of being generous after victory, and of not seeking to destroy those who would be sufficiently degraded; and he believed that he had made a favourable impression on the King.** But the latter spoke of the feebleness which had disturbed the reign of his brother, and brought his father to the scaffold; and Barillon represents him as inflexibly resolved on rigour,†† which opinion seems to have been justified by the uniform result of every previous deliberation. Men of common understanding are much disposed to consider the contrary of the last unfortunate error as being always the sound policy; they are incapable of estimating the various circumstances which may render vigour or caution applicable at different times and in different stages of the same proceedings, and pursue their single maxim, often founded on shallow views, even of one case, with headlong obstinacy. If they be men also of irresolute nature, they are unable to resist the impetuosity of violent counsellors, they are prone to rid themselves of the pain of fluctuation by a sudden determination to appear decisive, and they often take refuge from past fears, and seek security from danger to come, by a rash and violent blow. “Lord Sunderland,” says Barillon, “like a good courtier and an able politician, every where vindicates, with warmth and vigour, the measures which he disapproved and had opposed.”*
The Bishops, on the appointed day, entered the court, surrounded by the lords† and gentlemen who, on this solemn occasion, chose that mode of once more testifying their adherence to the public cause. Some previous incidents inspired courage. Levinz, one of the counsel retained, having endeavoured to excuse himself from an obnoxious duty, was compelled, by the threats of attorneys, to perform it. The venerable Serjeant Maynard, urged to appear for the Crown, in the discharge of his duty as King’s Serjeant, boldly answered, that if he did he was bound also to declare his conscientious opinion of the case to the King’s Judges.‡ The appearance of the bench was not consolatory to the accused. Powell was the only impartial and upright Judge. Allibone, as a Roman Catholic, was, in reality, about to try the question whether he was himself legally qualified for his office. Wright and Holloway were placed there to betray the law. Jeffreys himself, who had appointed the Judges, now loaded them with the coarsest reproaches,§ —more, perhaps, from distrust of their boldness than from apprehension of their independence. Symptoms of the overawing power of national opinion are indeed perceptible in the speech of the Attorney-General, which was not so much the statement of an accusation as an apology for a prosecution. He disclaimed all attack on the Bishops in their episcopal character, and did not now complain of their refusal to read the King’s Declaration; but only charged them with the temporal offence of composing and publishing a seditious libel, under pretence of presenting a humble petition to His Majesty. His doctrine on this head was, indeed, subversive of liberty; but it has often been repeated in better times, though in milder terms, and with some reservations. “The Bishops,” said he, “are accused of censuring the government, and giving their opinion about affairs of State. No man may say of the great officers of the kingdom, far less of the King, that they act unreasonably, for that may beget a desire of reformation, and the last age will abundantly satisfy us whither such a thing does tend.”
The first difficulty arose as to the proof of the handwriting, which seems to have been decisive against Sancroft, sufficient against some others, and altogether wanting in the cases of Ken and Lake. All the witnesses on this subject gave their testimony with the most evident reluctance. The Court was equally divided on the question whether there was sufficient proof of it to warrant the reading of the Petition in evidence against the accused. The objection to its being so read was groundless; but the answers to it were so feeble as to betray a general irresolution and embarrassment. The counsel for the Crown were then driven to the necessity of calling the clerk of the Privy Council to prove the confessions before that body, in obedience to the commands of the King. When they were proved, Pemberton, with considerable dexterity, desired the witness to relate all the circumstances which attended these confessions. Blathwaite, the clerk, long resisted, and evaded the question, of which he evidently felt the importance; but he was at length compelled to acknowledge that the Bishops had accompanied their offer to submit to the Royal command, with an expression of their hope that no advantage would be taken of their confession against them. He could not pretend that they had been previously warned against such a hope; but he eagerly added, that no promise to such an effect had been made,—as if chicanery could be listened to in a matter which concerned the personal honour of a sovereign. Williams, the only one of the counsel for the Crown who was more provoked than intimidated by the public voice, drew the attention of the audience to this breach of faith by the vehemence with which he resisted the admission of the evidence which proved it.
Another subtile question sprung from the principle of English law, that crimes are triable only in the county where they are committed. It was said that the alleged libel was written at Lambeth in Surrey, and not proved to have been published in Middlesex; so that neither of the offences charged could be tried in the latter county. That it could not have been written in Middlesex was proved by the Archbishop, who was the writer, having been confined by illness to his palace for some months. The prosecutor then endeavoured to show by the clerks of the Privy Council,* that the Bishops had owned the delivery of the Petition to the King, which would have been a publication in Middlesex: but the witnesses proved only an admission of the signatures. On every failure, the audience showed their feelings by a triumphant laugh or a shout of joy. The Chief Justice, who at first feebly reprimanded them, soon abandoned the attempt to check them. In a long and irregular altercation, the advocates of the accused spoke with increasing boldness, and those for the prosecution with more palpable depression,—except Williams, who vented the painful consciousness of inconsistency, unvarnished by success, in transports of rage which descended to the coarsest railing. The Court had already, before the examination of the latter witnesses, determined that there was no evidence of publication; notwithstanding which and the failure of these last, the Attorney and Solicitor General proceeded to argue that the case was sufficient,—chiefly, it would seem, to prolong the brawl till the arrival of Lord Sunderland, by whose testimony they expected to prove the delivery of the Petition to the King. But the Chief Justice, who could no longer endure such wearisome confusion, began to sum up the evidence to the Jury, whom, if he had adhered to his previous declarations, he must have instructed to acquit the accused. Finch, either distrusting the Jury, or excused, if not justified, by the Judge’s character, by the suspicious solemnity of his professions of impartiality, and by his own too long familiarity with the darkest mysteries of state trials, suspected some secret design, and respectfully interrupted Wright, in order to ascertain whether he still thought that there was no sufficient proof of writing in Middlesex, or of publication any where. Wright, who seemed to be piqued, said, “he was sorry Mr. Finch should think him capable of not leaving it fairly to the Jury,”—scarcely containing his exultation over his supposed indiscretion.* Pollexfen requested the Judge to proceed; and Finch pressed his interruption no farther. But Williams, who, when Wright had began to sum up, countermanded his request for the attendance of Lord Sunderland as too late, seized the opportunity of this interruption to despatch a second message, urging him to come without delay, and begged the Court to suspend the summing up, as a person of great quality was about to appear who would supply the defects in the evidence,—triumphantly adding, that there was a fatality in this case. Wright then said to the accused’s counsel, “You see what comes of the interruption; now we must stay.” All the bystanders condemned Finch as much as he soon afterwards compelled them to applaud him. An hour was spent in waiting for Sunderland. It appears to have been during this fortunate delay that the Bishops’ counsel determined on a defence founded on the illegality of the Dispensing Power, from which they had before been either deterred from an apprehension that they would not be suffered to question an adjudged point, or diverted at the moment by the prospect that the Chief Justice would sum up for an acquittal.* By this resolution, the verdict, instead of only insuring the escape of the Bishops, became a triumph of the constitution. At length Sunderland was carried through Westminster in a chair, the head of which was down;—no one saluting him, and the multitude hooting and hissing, and crying out “Popish dog!” He was so disordered by this reception that when he came into court he trembled, changed colour, and looked down, as if fearful of the countenances of ancient friends, and unable to bear the contrast between his own disgraceful greatness and the honourable calamity of the Bishops. He only proved that the Bishops came to him with a petition, which he declined to read; and that he introduced them immediately to the King, to whom he had communicated the purpose for which they prayed an audience.
The general defence then began, and the counsel for the Bishops, without relinquishing their minor objections, arraigned the Dispensing Power, and maintained the right of petition with a vigour and boldness which entitles such of them as were only mere advocates to great approbation, and those among them who were actuated by higher principles to the everlasting gratitude of their country. When Sawyer began to question the legality of the Declaration, Wright, speaking aside, said, “I must not suffer them to dispute the King’s power of suspending laws.” Powell answered, “They must touch that point; for if the King had no such power (as clearly he hath not,) the Petition is no attack on the King’s legal power, and therefore no libel.” Wright peevishly replied, “I know you are full of that doctrine, but the Bishops shall have no reason to say I did not hear them. Brother, you shall have your way for once. I will hear them. Let them talk till they are weary.” The substance of the argument was, that a Dispensing Power was unknown to the ancient constitution; that the Commons, in the reign of Richard II., had formally consented that the King should, with the assent of the Lords, exercise such a power respecting a single law till the next Parliament;* that the acceptance of such a trust was a Parliamentary declaration against the existence of such a prerogative; that though there were many cases of dispensations from penalties granted to individuals, there never was an instance of a pretension to dispense with laws before the Restoration; that it was in the reign of Charles II. twice condemned by Parliament, twice relinquished, and once disclaimed by the Crown; that it was declared to be illegal by the House of Commons in their very last session; and finally, that the power to suspend was in effect a power to abrogate; that it was an assumption of the whole legislative authority, and laid the laws and liberties of the kingdom at the mercy of the King. Mr. Somers, whose research had supplied the ancient authorities quoted by his seniors, closed the defence in a speech admirable for a perspicuous brevity well adapted to the stage of the trial at which he spoke; in which, with a mind so unruffled by the passions which raged around him as even to preserve a beautiful simplicity of expression,—rarely reconcilable with anxious condensation,—he conveyed in a few luminous sentences the substance of all that had been dispersed over a rugged, prolix, and disorderly controversy. “My Lord, I would only mention the case respecting a dispensation from a statute of Edward VI., wherein all the judges determined that there never could be an abrogation or suspension (which is a temporary abrogation) of an Act of Parliament but by the legislative power. It was, indeed, disputed how far the King might dispense with the penalties of such a particular law, as to particular persons; but it was agreed by all that the King had no power to suspend any law. Nay, I dare venture to appeal to Mr. Attorney-General, whether, in the late case of Sir Edward Hales, he did not admit that the King could not suspend a law, but only grant a dispensation from its observance to a particular person. My Lord, by the law of all civilized nations, if the prince requires something to be done, which the person who is to do it takes to be unlawful, it is not only lawful, but his duty, rescribere principi,† —to petition the sovereign. This is all that is done here; and that in the most humble manner that could be thought of. Your Lordships will please to observe how far that humble caution went; how careful they were that they might not in any way justly offend the King: they did not interpose by giving advice as peers; they never stirred till it was brought home to themselves as bishops. When they made this Petition, all they asked was, that it might not be so far insisted on by his Majesty as to oblige them to read it. Whatever they thought of it, they do not take it upon them to desire the Declaration to be revoked. My Lord, as to the matters of fact alleged in the Petition, that they are perfectly true we have shown by the Journals of both Houses. In every one of those years which are mentioned in the Petition, this power was considered by Parliament, and upon debate declared to be contrary to law. There could then be no design to diminish the prerogative, for the King has no such prerogative. Seditious, my Lord, it could not be, nor could it possibly stir up sedition in the minds of the people, because it was presented to the King in private and alone; false it could not be, for the matter of it was true; there could be nothing of malice, for the occasion was not sought, but the thing was pressed upon them; and a libel it could not be, because the intent was innocent, and they kept within the bounds set up by the law that gives the subject leave to apply to his prince by petition when he is aggrieved.”
The Crown lawyers, by whom this extensive and bold defence seems to have been unforeseen, manifested in their reply their characteristic faults. Powis was feebly technical, and Williams was offensively violent.* Both evaded the great question of the prerogative by professional common-places of no avail with the Jury or the public. They both relied on the usual topics employed by their predecessors and successors, that the truth of a libel could not be the subject of inquiry; and that the falsehood, as well as the malice and sedition charged by the information, were not matters of fact to be tried by the Jury, but qualifications applied by the law to every writing derogatory to the government. Both triumphantly urged that the Parliamentary proceedings of the last and present reign, being neither acts nor judgments of Parliament, were no proof of the illegality of what they condemned,—without adverting to the very obvious consideration that the Bishops appealed to them only as such manifestations of the sense of Parliament as it would be imprudent in them to disregard. Williams, in illustration of this argument, asked “Whether the name of ‘a declaration in Parliament’ could be given to the Bill of Exclusion, because it had passed the Commons (where he himself had been very active in promoting it)?” This indiscreet allusion was received with a general hiss.† He was driven to the untenable position, that a petition from these prelates was warrantable only to Parliament; and that they were bound to delay it till Parliament should be assembled.
Wright, waiving the question of the Dispensing Power,* instructed the Jury that a delivery to the King was a publication; and that any writing which was adapted to disturb the government, or make a stir among the people, was a libel;—language of fearful import, but not peculiar to him, nor confined to his time. Holloway thought, that if the intention of the Bishops was only to make an innocent provision for their own security, the writing could not be a libel. Powell declared that they were innocent of sedition, or of any other crime, saying, “If such a Dispensing Power be allowed, there will need no Parliament; all the legislature will be in the King. I leave the issue to God and to your consciences.” Allibone overleaped all the fences of decency or prudence so far as to affirm, “that no man can take upon himself to write against the actual exercise of the government, unless he have leave from the government, but he makes a libel, be what he writes true or false. The government ought not to be impeached by argument. This is a libel. No private man can write concerning the government at all, unless his own interest be stirred, and then he must redress himself by law. Every man may petition in what relates to his private interest; but neither the Bishops, nor any other man, has a right to intermeddle in affairs of government.”
After a trial which lasted ten hours, the Jury retired at seven o’clock in the evening to consider their verdict. The friends of the Bishops watched at the door of the juryroom, and heard loud voices at midnight and at three o’clock; so anxious were they about the issue, though delay be in such cases a sure symptom of acquittal. The opposition of one Arnold, the brewer of the King’s house, being at length subdued by the steadiness of the others, the Chief Justice was informed, at six o’clock in the morning, that the Jury were agreed in their verdict.† The Court met at nine o’clock. The nobility and gentry covered the benches; and an immense concourse of people filled the Hall, and blocked up the adjoining streets. Sir Robert Langley, the foreman of the Jury, being, according to established form, asked whether the accused were guilty or not guilty, pronounced the verdict, “Not guilty.” No sooner were these words uttered than a loud huzza arose from the audience in the court. It was instantly echoed from without by a shout of joy, which sounded like a crack of the ancient and massy roof of Westminster Hall.* It passed with electrical rapidity from voice to voice along the infinite multitude who waited in the streets, reaching the Temple in a few minutes. For a short time no man seemed to know where he was. No business was done for hours. The Solicitor-General informed Lord Sunderland, in the presence of the Nuncio, that never within the remembrance of man had there been heard such cries of applause mingled with tears of joy.† “The acclamations,” says Sir John Reresby, “were a very rebellion in noise.” In no long time they ran to the camp at Hounslow, and were repeated with an ominous voice by the soldiers in the hearing of the King, who, on being told that they were for the acquittal of the Bishops, said, with an ambiguity probably arising from confusion, “So much the worse for them.” The Jury were every where received with the loudest acclamations: hundreds, with tears in their eyes, embraced them as deliverers.‡ The Bishops, almost alarmed at their own success, escaped from the huzzas of the people as privately as possible, exhorting them to “fear God and honour the King.” Cartwright, Bishop of Chester, had remained in court during the trial unnoticed by any of the crowd of nobility and gentry, and Sprat met with little more regard.§ The former, in going to his carriage, was called a “wolf in sheep’s clothing;” and as he was very corpulent, the mob cried out, “Room for the man with a pope in his belly!” They bestowed also on Sir William Williams very mortifying proofs of disrespect.∥
Money having been thrown among the populace for that purpose, they in the evening drank the healths of the King, the Bishops, and the Jury together with confusion to the Papists, amidst the ringing of bells, and around bonfires blazing before the windows of the King’s palace;¶ where the Pope was burnt in effigy** by those who were not aware of his lukewarm friendship for their enemies. Bonfires were also kindled before the doors of the most distinguished Roman Catholics, who were required to defray the expense of this annoyance. Lord Arundel, and others, submitted: Lord Salisbury, with the zeal of a new convert, sent his servants to disperse the rabble; but after having fired upon and killed only the parish beadle, who came to quench the bonfire, they were driven back into the house. All parties, Dissenters as well as Churchmen, rejoiced in the acquittal: the Bishops and their friends vainly laboured to temper the extravagance with which their joy was expressed.* The Nuncio, at first touched by the effusion of popular feeling, but now shocked by this boisterous triumph, declared, “that the fires over the whole city, the drinking in every street, accompanied by cries to the health of the Bishops and confusion to the Catholics, with the play of fireworks, and the discharge of fire-arms, and the other demonstrations of furious gladness, mixed with impious outrage against religion, which were continued during the night, formed a scene of unspeakable horror, displaying, in all its rancour, the malignity of this heretical people against the Church.”† The bonfires were kept up during the whole of Saturday; and the disorderly rejoicings of the multitude did not cease till the dawn of Sunday reminded them of the duties of their religion.‡ These same rejoicings spread through the principal towns. The Grand Jury of Middlesex refused to find indictments for a riot against some parties who had tumultuously kindled bonfires, though four times sent out with instructions to do so.§
The Court also manifested its deep feelings on this occasion. In two days after the acquittal, the rank of a baronet was conferred upon Williams; while Powell for his honesty, and Holloway for his hesitation, were removed from the bench. The King betrayed the disturbance of his mind even in his camp;∥ and, though accustomed to unreserved conversation with Barillon, observed a silence on the acquittal which that minister was too prudent to interrupt.¶
In order to form a just estimate of this memorable trial, it is necessary to distinguish its peculiar grievances from the evils which always attend the strict administration of the laws against political libels. The doctrine that every writing which indisposes the people towards the administration of the government, however subversive of all political discussion, is not one of these peculiar grievances, for it has often been held in other cases, and perhaps never distinctly disclaimed; and the position that a libel may be conveyed in the form of a petition is true, though the case must be evident and flagrant which would warrant its application. The extravagances of Williams and Allibone might in strictness be laid out of the case, as peculiar to themselves, and not necessary to support the prosecution, were it not that they pointed out the threatening positions which success in it might encourage and enable the enemy to occupy. It was absolutely necessary for the Crown to contend that the matter of the writing was so inflammatory as to change its character from that of a petition to that of a libel; that the intention in composing it was not to obtain relief, but to excite discontent; and that it was presented to the King to insult him, and to make its contents known to others. But the attempt to extract such conclusions from the evidence against the Bishops was an excess beyond the furthest limits of the law of libel, as it was even then received. The generous feelings of mankind did not, however, so scrupulously weigh the demerits of the prosecution. The effect of this attempt was to throw a strong light on all the odious qualities (hid from the mind in their common state by familiarity) of a jealous and restrictive legislation, directed against the free exercise of reason and the fair examination of the interests of the community. All the vices of that distempered state in which a Government cannot endure a fearless discussion of its principles and measures, appeared in the peculiar evils of a single conspicuous prosecution. The feelings of mankind, in this respect more provident than their judgment, saw, in the loss of every post, the danger to the last entrenchments of public liberty. A multitude of contemporary circumstances, wholly foreign to its character as a judicial proceeding, gave the trial the strongest hold on the hearts of the people. Unused to popular meetings, and little accustomed to political writings, the whole nation looked on this first public discussion of their rights in a high place, surrounded by the majesty of public justice, with that new and intense interest which it is not easy for those who are familiar with such scenes to imagine. It was a prosecution of men of the most venerable character and of manifestly innocent intention, after the success of which no good man could have been secure. It was an experiment, in some measure, to ascertain the means and probabilities of general deliverance. The Government was on its trial; and by the verdict of acquittal, the King was justly convicted of a conspiracy to maintain usurpation by oppression.
The solicitude of Sunderland for moderation in these proceedings had exposed him to such charges of lukewarmness, that he deemed it necessary no longer to delay the long-promised and decisive proof of his identifying his interest with that of his master. Sacrifices of a purely religious nature cost him little.* Some time before, he had compounded for his own delay by causing his eldest son to abjure Protestantism; “choosing rather,” says Barillon, “to expose his son than himself to future hazard.” The specious excuse of preserving his vote in Parliament had hitherto been deemed sufficient; while the shame of apostasy, and an anxiety not to embroil himself irreparably with a Protestant successor, were the real motives for delay. But nothing less than a public avowal of his conversion would now suffice to shut the mouths of his enemies, who imputed his advice of lenity towards the Bishops to a desire of keeping measures with the adherents of the Prince of Orange.† It was accordingly in the week of the Bishops’ trial that he made public his renunciation of the Protestant religion, but without any solemn abjuration, because he had the year before secretly performed that ceremony to Father Petre.‡ By this measure he completely succeeded in preserving or recovering the favour of the King, who announced it with the warmest commendations to his Catholic counsellors, and told the Nuncio that a resolution so generous and holy would very much contribute to the service of God. “I have, indeed, been informed,” says that minister, “that some of the most fanatical merchants of the city have observed that the Royal party must certainly be the strongest, since, in the midst of the universal exasperation of men’s minds, it is thus embraced by a man so wise, prudent, rich, and well informed.”§ The Catholic courtiers also considered the conversion as an indication of the superior strength and approaching triumph of their religion. Perhaps, indeed, the birth of the Prince of Wales might have somewhat encouraged him to the step; but it chiefly arose from the prevalence of the present fear for his place over the apprehension of remote consequences. Ashamed of his conduct, he employed a friend to communicate his change to his excellent wife, who bitterly deplored it.∥ His uncle, Henry Sidney, the most confidential agent of the Prince of Orange, was incensed at his apostasy, and only expressed the warmest wishes for his downfall.*
Two days after the imprisonment of the Bishops,—as if all the events which were to hasten the catastrophe of this reign, however various in their causes or unlike in their nature, were to be crowded into the same scene,—the Queen had been delivered in the palace of St. James’, of a son, whose birth had been the object of more hopes and fears, and was now the hinge on which greater events turned, than that of any other Royal infant since human affairs have been recorded in authentic history. Never did the dependence of a monarchical government on physical accident more strikingly appear. On Trinity Sunday, the 10th of June, between nine and ten in the morning, the Prince of Wales was born, in the presence of the Queen Dowager, of most of the Privy Council, and of several ladies of quality,—of all, in short, who were the natural witnesses on such an occasion, except the Princess Anne, who was at Bath, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a prisoner in the Tower. The cannons of the Tower were fired; a general thanksgiving was ordered; and the Lord Mayor was enjoined to give directions for bonfires and public rejoicing. Some addresses of congratulation followed; and compliments were received on so happy an occasion from foreign powers. The British ministers abroad, in due time, celebrated the auspicious birth,—with undisturbed magnificence, at Rome,—amidst the loudest manifestations of dissatisfaction and apprehension at Amsterdam. From Jamaica to Madras, the distant dependencies, with which an unfrequent intercourse was then maintained by tedious voyages, continued their prescribed rejoicings long after other feelings openly prevailed in the mother country. The genius of Dryden, which often struggled with the difficulty of a task imposed, commemorated the birth of the “son of prayer” in no ignoble verse, but with prophecies of glory which were speedily clouded, and in the end most signally disappointed.†
The universal belief that the child was supposititious is a fact which illustrates several principles of human nature, and affords a needful and wholesome lesson of scepticism, even in cases where many testimonies seem to combine, and all judgments for a time agree. The historians who wrote while the dispute was still pending enlarge on the particulars: in our age, the only circumstances deserving preservation are those which throw light on the origin and reception of a false opinion which must be owned to have contributed to subsequent events. Few births are so well attested as that of the unfortunate Prince whom almost all English Protestants then believed to be spurious. The Queen had, for months before, alluded to her pregnancy, in the most unaffected manner, to the Princess of Orange.* The delivery took place in the presence of many persons of unsuspected veracity, a considerable number of whom were Protestants. Messengers were early sent to fetch Dr. Chamberlain, an eminent obstetrical practitioner, and a noted Whig, who had been oppressed by the King, and who would have been the last person summoned to be present at a pretended delivery.† But as not one in a thousand had credited the pregnancy, the public now looked at the birth with a strong predisposition to unbelief, which a very natural neglect suffered for some time to grow stronger from being uncontradicted. This prejudice was provoked to greater violence by the triumph of the Catholics; as suspicion had before been awakened by their bold predictions. The importance of the event had, at the earlier period of the pregnancy, produced mystery and reserve,—the frequent attendants of fearful anxiety,—which were eagerly seized on as presumptions of sinister purpose. When a passionate and inexperienced Queen disdained to take any measures to silence malicious rumours, her inaction was imputed to inability; and when she submitted to the use of prudent precautions, they were represented as betraying the fears of conscious guilt. Every act of the Royal Family had some handle by which ingenious hostility could turn it against them. Reason was employed only to discover argument in support of the judgment which passion had pronounced. In spite of the strongest evidence, the Princess Anne honestly persevered in her incredulity.‡ Johnstone, who received minute information of all the particulars of the delivery from one of the Queen’s attendants,§ could not divest himself of suspicions, the good faith of which seems to be proved by his not hazarding a positive judgment on the subject. By these the slightest incidents of a lying-in room were darkly coloured. No incidents in human life could have stood the test of a trial by minds so prejudiced,—especially as long as adverse scrutiny had the advantages of the partial selection and skilful insinuation of facts, undisturbed by that full discussion in which all circumstances are equally sifted. When the before-mentioned attendant of the Queen declared to a large company of gainsayers that “she would swear,” (as she afterwards did “that the Queen had a child,” it was immediately said, “How ambiguous is her expression! the child might have been born dead.” At one moment Johnstone boasts of the universal unbelief: at another he is content with saying that even wise men see no evidence of the birth; that, at all events, there is doubt enough to require a Parliamentary inquiry; and that the general doubt may be lawfully employed as an argument by those who, even if they do not share it, did nothing to produce it. He sometimes endeavours to stifle his own scepticism with the public opinion, and on other occasions has recourse to these very ambiguous maxims of factious casuistry; but the whole tenour of his confidential letters shows the groundless unbelief in the Prince’s legitimacy to have been as spontaneous as it was general. Various, and even contradictory, accounts of the supposed imposture were circulated: it was said that the Queen was never pregnant; that she had miscarried at Easter; that one child, and by some accounts two children in succession, had been substituted in the room of the abortion. That these tales contradicted each other, was a very slight objection in the eye of a national prejudice: the people were very slow in seeing the contradiction; some had heard only one story, and some jumbled parts of more together. The zealous, when beat out of one version, retired upon another: the skilful chose that which, like the abortion (of which there had actually been a danger), had some apparent support from facts. When driven successively from every post, they took refuge in the general remark, that so many stories must have a foundation; that they all coincided in the essential circumstance of a supposititious birth, though they differed in facts of inferior moment; that the King deserved, by his other breaches of faith, the humiliation which he now underwent; and that the natural punishment of those who have often deceived is to be disbelieved when they speak truth. It is the policy of most parties not to discourage zealous partisans. The multitude considered every man who hesitated in thinking the worst of an enemy, as his abettor; and the loudness of the popular cry subdued the remains of candid doubt in those who had at first, from policy, countenanced, though they did not contrive, the delusion. In subsequent times, it was not thought the part of a good citizen to aid in detecting a prevalent error, which enabled the partisans of inviolable succession to adhere to the principles of the Revolution without inconsistency during the reign of Anne,* and through which the House of Hanover itself were brought at least nearer to an hereditary right. Johnstone on the spot, and at the moment, almost worked himself into a belief of it; while Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, honestly adhered to it many years afterwards.† The collection of inconsistent rumours on this subject by Burnet reflects more on his judgment than any other passage of his history; yet, zealous as he was, his conscience would not allow him to profess his own belief in what was still a fundamental article of the creed of his party. Echard, writing under George I., intimates his disbelief, for which he is almost rebuked by Kennet. The upright and judicious Rapin, though a French Protestant, and an officer in the army led by the Prince of Orange into England, yet, in the liberty of his foreign retirement, gave an honest judgment against his prejudices. Both parties, on this subject, so exactly believed what they wished, that perhaps scarcely any individual before him examined it on grounds of reason. The Catholics were right by chance, and by chance the Protestants were wrong. Had it been a case of the temporary success of artful impostures, so common an occurrence would have deserved no notice: but the growth of a general delusion from the prejudice and passion of a nation, and the deep root which enabled it to keep a place in history for half a century, render this transaction worthy to be remembered by posterity.
The triumph of the Bishops did not terminate all proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners against the disobedient clergy. They issued an order‡ requiring the proper officers in each diocese to make a return of the names of those who had not read the Royal Declaration. On the day before that which was fixed for the giving in the return, a meeting of chancellors and archdeacons was held; of whom eight agreed to return that they had no means of procuring the information but at their regular visitation, which did not fall within the appointed time; six declined to make any return at all, and five excused themselves on the plea that the order had not been legally served upon them.§ The Commissioners, now content to shut their eyes on lukewarmness, resistance, or evasion, affected a belief in the reasons assigned for non-compliance, and directed another return to be made on the 6th of December, appointing a previous day for a visitation.* On the day when the Board exhibited these symptoms of debility and decay, it received a letter from Sprat, tendering the resignation of his seat, which was universally regarded as foreboding its speedy dissolution;† and the last dying effort of its usurped authority was to adjourn to a day on which it was destined never to meet. Such, indeed, was the discredit into which these proceedings had fallen, that the Bishop of Chichester had the spirit to suspend one of his clergy for obedience to the King’s order in reading the Declaration.‡
The Court and the Church now contended with each other for the alliance of the Dissenters, but with very unequal success. The last attempt of the King to gain them, was the admission into the Privy Council of three gentlemen, who were either Nonconformists, or well disposed towards that body,—Sir John Trevor, Colonel Titus, and Mr. Vane, the posthumous son of the celebrated Sir Henry Vane.§ The Church took better means to unite all Protestants against a usurpation which clothed itself in the garb of religious liberty; and several consultations were held on the mode of coming to a better understanding with the Dissenters.∥ The Archbishop and clergy of London had several conferences with the principal Dissenting ministers on the measures fit to be proposed about religion in the next Parliament.¶ The Primate himself issued admonitions to his clergy, in which he exhorted them to have a very tender regard towards their Dissenting brethren, and to entreat them to join in prayer for the union of all Reformed churches “at home and abroad, against the common enemy,”** conformably to the late Petition of himself and his brethren, in which they had declared their willingness to come into such a temper as should be thought fit with the Dissenters, whenever that matter should be considered in Parliament and Convocation. He even carried this new-born tenderness so far as to renew those projects for uniting the more moderate to the Church by some concessions in the terms of worship, and for exempting those whose scruples were insurmountable from the severity of penal laws, which had been foiled by his friends, when they were negotiated by Hale and Baxter in the preceding reign, and which were again within a few months afterwards to be resisted, by the same party, and with too much success. Among the instances of the disaffection of the Church the University of Oxford refused so small a compliance as that of conferring the degree of doctor of divinity on their Bishop, according to the royal mandamus,* and hastened to elect the young Duke of Ormonde to be their Chancellor on the death of his grandfather, in order to escape the imposition of Jeffreys, in whose favour they apprehended a recommendation from the Court.
Several symptoms now indicated that the national discontent had infected the armed force. The seamen of the squadron at the Nore received some monks who were sent to officiate among them with boisterous marks of derision and aversion; and, though the tumult was composed by the presence of the King, it left behind dispositions favourable to the purposes of disaffected officers. James’ proceedings respecting the army were uniformly impolitic. He had, very early, boasted of the number of his guards who were converted to his religion; thus disclosing to them the dangerous secret of their importance to his designs.† The sensibility evinced at the Tower and at Lambeth, betokened a proneness to fellow-feeling with the people, which Sunderland had before intimated to the Nuncio, and of which he had probably forewarned his master. After the triumph of the prelates, on which occasion the feelings of the army declared themselves still more loudly, the King had recourse to the very doubtful expedient of paying open court to it. He dined twice a week in the camp,‡ and showed an anxiety to ingratiate himself by a display of affability, of precautions for the comfort, and pride in the discipline and appearance of the troops. Without the boldness which quells a mutinous spirit, or the firmness which, where activity would be injurious, can quietly look at a danger till it disappears or may be surmounted, he yielded to the restless fearfulness which seeks a momentary relief in rash and mischievous efforts, that rouse many rebellious tempers and subdue none. A written test was prepared, which even the privates were required to subscribe, by which they bound themselves to contribute to the repeal of the penal laws.§ It was first to be tendered to the regiments who were most confidentially expected to set a good example to the others. The experiment was first tried on Lord Lichfield’s, and all who hesitated to comply with the King’s commands were ordered to lay down their arms:—the whole regiment, except two captains and a few catholic privates, actually did lay down their arms. The King was thunderstruck; and, after a gloomy moment of silence, ordered them to take up their muskets, saying, “that he should not again do them the honour to consult them.”* When the troops returned from the encampment to their quarters, another plan was attempted for securing their fidelity, by the introduction of trustworthy recruits. With this view, fifty Irish Catholics were ordered to be equally distributed among the ten companies of the Duke of Berwick’s regiment at Portsmouth, which, having already a colonel incapacitated by law, was expected to be better disposed to the reception of recruits liable to the same objection. But the experiment was too late, and was also conducted with a slow formality alien to the genius of soldiers. The officers were now actuated by the same sentiments with their own class in society. Beaumont, the lieutenant-colonel, and the five captains who were present, positively refused to comply. They were brought to Windsor under an escort of cavalry, tried by a council of war, and sentenced to be cashiered. The King now relented, or rather faltered, offering pardon, on condition of obedience,—a fault as great as the original attempt: they all refused. The greater part of the other officers of the regiment threw up their commissions; and, instead of intimidation, a great and general discontent was spread throughout the army. Thus, to the odium incurred by an attempt to recruit it from those who were deemed the most hostile of foreign enemies, was superadded the contempt which feebleness in the execution of obnoxious designs never fails to inspire.†
Thus, in the short space of three years from the death of Monmouth and the destruction of his adherents, when all who were not zealously attached to the Crown seemed to be dependent on its mercy, were all ranks and parties of the English nation, without any previous show of turbulence, and with not much of that cruel oppression of individuals which is usually necessary to awaken the passions of a people, slowly and almost imperceptibly conducted to the brink of a great revolution. The appearance of the Prince of Wales filled the minds of those who believed his legitimacy with terror; while it roused the warmest indignation of those who considered his supposed birth as a flagitious imposture. Instead of the government of a Protestant successor, it presented, after the death of James, both during the regency of the Queen, and the reign of a prince educated under her superintendence, no prospect but an administration certainly not more favourable than his to religion and liberty. These apprehensions had been brought home to the feelings of the people by the trial of the Bishops, and had at last affected even the army, the last resource of power,—a tremendous weapon, which cannot burst without threatening destruction to all around, and which, if it were not sometimes happily so overcharged as to recoil on him who wields it, would rob all the slaves in the world of hope, and all the freemen of safety.
The state of the other British kingdoms was not such as to abate the alarms of England. In Ireland the government of Tyrconnel was always sufficiently in advance of the English minister to keep the eyes of the nation fixed on the course which their rulers were steering.* Its influence in spreading alarm and disaffection through the other dominions of the King, was confessed by the ablest and most zealous of his apologists.
Scotland was also a mirror in which the English nation might behold their approaching doom. The natural tendency of the Dispensing and Suspending Powers to terminate in the assumption of the whole authority of legislation, was visible in the Declarations of Indulgence issued in that kingdom. They did not, as in England, profess to be founded on limited and peculiar prerogatives of the King, either as the head of the Church or as the fountain of justice, nor on usages and determinations which, if they sanctioned such acts of power, at least confined them within fixed boundaries, but upon what the King himself displayed, in all its amplitude and with all its terrors, as “our sovereign authority, prerogative royal, and absolute power, which all our subjects are bound to obey without reservation.”† In the exercise of this alarming power, not only were all the old oaths taken away, but a new one, professing passive obedience, was proposed as the condition of toleration. A like Declaration in 1688, besides the repetition of so high an act of legislative power as that of “annulling” oaths which the legislature had prescribed, proceeds to dissolve all the courts of justice and bodies of magistracy in that kingdom, in order that by their acceptance of new commissions conformably to the royal pleasure, they might renounce all former oaths;—so that every member of them would hold his office under the Suspending and even Annulling Powers, on the legitimacy of which the whole judicature and administration of the realm would thus exclusively rest.* Blood had now ceased to flow for religion; and the execution of Renwick,† a pious and intrepid minister, who, according to the principles of the Cameronians, openly denied James II. to be his rightful sovereign, is rather an apparent than a real exception: for the offence imputed to him was not of a religious nature, and must have been punished by every established authority; though an impartial observer would rather regret the imprudence than question the justice of such a declaration from the mouths of these persecuted men. Books against the King’s religion were reprehended or repressed by the Privy Council.‡ Barclay, the celebrated Quaker, was at this time in such favour, that he not only received a liberal pension, but had influence enough to procure an indecent, but successful, letter from the King to the Court of Session, in effect annulling a judgment for a large sum of money which had been obtained against Sir Ewen Cameron, a bold and fierce chieftain, the brother-in-law of the accomplished and pacific apologist.§ Though the clergy of the Established Church had two years before resisted an unlimited toleration by prerogative, yet we are assured by a competent witness, that their opposition arose chiefly from the fear that it would encourage the unhappy Presbyterians, then almost entirely ruined and scattered through the world.∥ The deprivation of two prelates, Bruce, Bishop of Dunkeld, for his conduct in Parliament, and Cairncross, Archbishop of Glasgow, in spite of subsequent submission, for not censuring a preacher against the Church of Rome,¶ showed the English clergy that suspensions like that of Compton might be followed by more decisive measures; but seems to have silenced the complaints of the Scottish Church. From that time, at least, their resistance to the Court entirely ceased. It was followed by symptoms of an opposite disposition; among which may probably be reckoned the otherwise inexplicable return, to the office of Lord Advocate, of the eloquent Sir George Mackenzie, their principal instrument in the cruel persecution of the Presbyterians,—who now accepted that station at the moment of the triumph of those principles by opposing which he had forfeited it two years before.* The Primate prevailed on the University of St. Andrews to declare, by an address to the King, their opinion that he might take away the penal laws without the consent of Parliament.† No manifestation of sympathy appears to have been made towards the English Bishops, at the moment of their danger, or of their triumph, by their brethren in Scotland. At a subsequent period, when the prelates of England offered wholesome and honest counsel to their Sovereign, those of Scotland presented an address to him, in which they prayed that “God might give him the hearts of his subjects and the necks of his enemies.”‡ In the awful struggle in which the English nation and Church were about to engage, they had to number the Established Church of Scotland among their enemies.
[* ] “The Declaration, so long spoken of, is published. As nothing is said more than last year, politicians cannot understand the reason of so ill-timed a measure.”—Van Citters, 11th May. (Secret Despatch.) MS.
[† ] Barillon, 6th May.—MS.
[‡ ] Burnett, vol. iii. p. 211.
[§ ] Barillon, 13th May.—MS.
[* ] Letter from the Hague, 28th March, 1689.—MS.
[† ] Johnstone, 23d May.—MS. “Sunderland, Melfont, Penn, and, they say, Petre, deny having advised this Declaration.” But Van Citters. (25th May), says that Petre is believed to have advised the order.
[‡ ] Burnet, vol. iii. p. 212.
[§ ] London Gazette, 7th—11th April, 1681.
[∥ ] Kennet, History, vol. iii. p. 388. Echard, History of England, vol. iii. p. 625.
[* ] It was accompanied by a letter from the King to Sancroft, which seems to imply a previous usage in such cases. “Our will is, that you give such directions as have been usual in such cases for the reading of our said Declaration.”—Kennet, suprà. Note from Lambeth MSS. D’Oyley, Life of Sancroft, vol. i. p. 253. “Now,” says Ralph, (vol. i. p. 590), “the cry of Church and King was echoed from one side of the kingdom to the other.” Immediately after began the periodical libels of L’Estrange, and the invectives against Parliament, under the form of loyal addresses.
[† ] London Gazette, 2d—6th August, 1683. Kennet, vol. iii. p. 408. Echard, vol. iii. p. 695.
[‡ ] This fact is reluctantly admitted by Roger North. Examen. p. 369.
[§ ] Cro. Jac. p. 87.
[∥ ] 14 Car. II. chap. 4.
[¶ ] Van Citters, 15th—25th May.—MS. One of the objections was, that the Order was not transmitted in the usual and less ostentatious manner, through the Primate, as in 1681.
[* ] Rabshekah, the Assyrian general, to the officers of Hezekiah, 2 Kings, xviii. 27.
[† ] Burnet, Echard, Oldmixon, Ralph. The earliest printed statement of this threat is probably in a pamphlet, called, “An Answer from a Country Clergyman to the Letter of his Brother in the City” (Dr. Sherlock), which must have been published in June, 1668.—Baldwin’s Farther State Tracts, p. 314. (London, 1692.)
[‡ ] London Gazette, 7th April.
[§ ] “Halifax and Nottingham wavered at first, which had almost ruined the business.”—Johnstone, 27th May.—MS.
[∥ ] Van Citters, 28th May. (Secret Despatch.)—MS.
[* ] Sherlock’s “Letter from a Gentleman in the City to a Friend in the Country.”—Baldwin, p. 309.
[† ] Johnstone, 18th May.—MS.
[* ] Athenæ Oxonienses, vol. ii. p. 1029.
[† ] Birch, Life of Tillotson, p. 320.
[‡ ] Kennet, vol. iii. p. 570, note. This narrative reconciles Johnstone, Van Citters, and Kennet.
[§ ] Johnstone, 23d May.—MS.
[∥ ] This victory was early communicated to the Dutch ambassador. Van Citters, 25th May.—MS.
[¶ ] Clarendon, 12th May.
[* ] Life of James II., vol. ii. p. 158. But this is the statement, not of the King, but of Mr. Dicconson the compiler, who might have been misled by the angry traditions of his exiled friends. A week is added to the delay, by referring the commencement of it to the Declaration of the 27th of April, instead of the Order of the 4th of May, which alone called on the bishops to deliberate. The same suppression is practised, and the same calumny insinuated, in “An Answer to the Bishops’ Petition,” published at the time.—Somers’ Tracts, vol. ix. p. 119. In the extract made, either by Carte or Macpherson, an insinuation against the bishops is substituted for the bold charge made by Dicconson. “The bishops’ petition on the 18th of May, against what they are to read on the 20th”—(Macpherson, Original Papers, vol. i. p. 151.) But as throughout that inaccurate publication no distinction is made between what was written by James, and what was added by his biographer, the disgrace of the calumnious insinuation is unjustly thrown on the Kings’ memory.
[* ] Van Citters, 28th May.—MS.
[† ] Gutch, Collectanea Curiosa, vol. i. p. 335. Clarendon, State Papers, vol. i. p. 287, and D’Ovley, vol. i. p. 263.
[‡ ] Burnet, iii. 216.
[§ ] “S. M. rispose loro conardezza.”—D’Adda, 30th May; or, as the same circumstance was viewed by another through a different medium,—“The King answered very disdainfully, and with the utmost anger.”—Van Citters, 1st June. The mild Evelyn (Diary, 18th May) says, “the King was so incensed, that, with threatening language he commanded them to obey at their peril.”
[* ] Van Citters, 1st June.—MS.
[† ] London, Norwich, Gloucester, Salisbury, Winchester, and Exeter.—D’Oyley, vol. i. p. 269.
[‡ ] Gutch, vol. i. p. 334.
[§ ] Llandaff and Worcester.—Gutch, vol. i. p. 331.
[∥ ] Kennet in Lansdowne MSS. in the British Museum.—D’Oyley, vol. i. p. 193.
[* ] Narrative of the Rye House Plot.
[† ] “La lettura non se essequi che in pochissimi luoghi.” D’Adda, 30th May.—MS. Clarendon states the number to be four; Kennet and Burnet, seven. Perhaps the smaller number refers to parochial clergy, and the larger to those of every denomination.
[‡ ] Burnet, vol. iii. p. 218, note by Lord Dart mouth, then present as a Westminster scholar.
[§ ] Evelyn, 20th May.
[∥ ] Van Citters, supra.—MS.
[¶ ] Lords’ Journals, 19th Dec. 1689.
[* ] Van Citters.—MS.
[† ] D’Oyley, vol. i. p. 270.
[‡ ] Van Citters, 25th June.—MS.
[§ ] D’Adda, 11th June.—MS.
[∥ ] Johnstone, 23d May.—MS.
[* ] D’Adda and Barillon, 3d June.—MS.
[† ] “Lords Powis, Arundel, Dover, and Bellasis, are very zealous for moderation.”—Van Citters, 11th June.—MS.
[‡ ] Clarendon, 14th and 27th June, 5th July, 13th August.
[§ ] Clarendon, 21st May. “The first time I had seen him for a long time. He professed great kindness.”
[∥ ] D’Adda and Barillon, suprà.
[* ] D’Adda and Barillon, 11th June.—MS.
[† ] Van Citters. 11th June.—MS. The biographer of James II. (Life, vol. ii. p. 158,) tells us that the Chancellor advised the King to prosecute the Bishops for tumultuous petitioning, ignorantly supposing the statute passed at the Restoration against such petitioning to be applicable to their case. The passage in the same page, which quotes the King’s own MSS., is more naturally referable to the secret advisers of the Order in Council. The account of Van Citters, adopted in the text, reconciles the Jacobite tradition followed by Dicconson with the language of Jeffreys to Clarendon, and with the former complaints of Catholics against his lukewarmness mentioned by Barillon.
[* ] D’Oyley, (vol. i. p. 278,) seems on this point to vary from the narrative in Gutch (vol. i. p. 351.) It seems to me more probable that the condition was repeated after the second entrance; for Dr. D’Oyley is certainly right in thinking that the statement of the Archbishop’s words, as having been spoken “after the third or fourth coming in,” must be a mistake. It is evidently at variance with the whole course of the examination.
[† ] Gutch, vol. i. p. 353.
[* ] Reresby, p. 261.
[† ] 18th June.—MS.
[‡ ] 2 Corinthians, vi. 4, 5.
[§ ] Clarendon, 9th, 10th, 12th June.
[∥ ] Dr. Nelson, Gutch, vol. i. p. 360.
[* ] Diary, 13th—14th June.
[† ] Clarendon, 14th June.
[‡ ] Johnstone, 13th June.—MS.
[§ ] Johnstone, 13th June.—MS. “I told the Archbishop of Canterbury,” says Johnstone, “that their fate depended on very mean persons.”—Burnet, vol. iii. p. 217.
[∥ ] Gutch, vol. i. p. 357, where their names appear.
[¶ ] Ibid. p. 307.
[* ] Johnstone, 27th May.—MS.
[† ] Johnstone, 18th June.—MS. The Bishop’s observation is placed between the opinions of Mr. Hampden and Sir J. Lee, both zealous for immediate action.
[‡ ] Diary of Henry Wharton, 25th June, 1686. D’Oyley, vol. ii. p. 134. The term “ponteficious,” which is rendered in the text by Papists, may perhaps be limited, by a charitable construction, to the more devoted partisans of Papal authority. “The Bishop of St. Asaph was a secret favourer of a foreign interest.”—Life of Kettlewell, p. 175, compiled (London, 1718) from the papers of Hicks and Nelson.
[§ ] Johnstone, 13th June.—MS.
[∥ ] Van Citters, 8th June.—MS.
[¶ ] Clarendon, 14th June.
[* ] Johnstone, 18th June.—MS. See a more general statement to the same effect, in Evelyn’s Diary, 29th June.
[† ] Clarendon, 15th June.
[‡ ] D’Adda, 22d June.—MS.
[* ] Lord Camden in Wilkes’ case, 1763.
[† ] State Trials, vol. xii. p. 183. The general reader may be referred with confidence to the excellent abridgment of the State Trials, by Mr. Phillipps,—a work probably not to be paralleled by the union of discernment, knowledge, impartiality, calmness, clearness, and precision, it exhibits on questions the most angrily contested. It is, indeed, far superior to the huge and most unequal compilation of which it is an abridgment,—to say nothing of the instructive observations on legal questions in which Mr. Phillipps rejudges the determinations of past times.
[‡ ] Clarendon, 15th June.
[* ] Van Citters, 25th June.—MS.
[† ] Johnstone, 18th June.—MS.
[‡ ] Narcissus Luttrell, MS.; and the two last mentioned authorities.
[§ ] Clarendon, 21st—27th June, where an agent of the Court is said to have busied himself in striking the jury.
[∥ ] Barillon, 1st July.—MS. Van Citters, 2d July.—MS.
[¶ ] It appears from Wharton’s Diary, that the chaplains at Lambeth discharged this duty with more regard even then to the feelings of the King than to the rights of Protestant controversialists.
[** ] D’Adda, 9th July.—MS.
[†† ] Barillon, 1st July.—MS.
[* ] Barillon, 1st July.—MS.
[† ] “Thirty-five lords.”—(Johnstone, 2d July. MS.); probably about one half of the legally qualified peers then in England and able to attend. There were eighty-nine temporal lords who were Protestants. Minority, absence from the kingdom, and sickness, may account for nineteen.
[‡ ] Johnstone, 2d July.—MS.
[§ ] “Rogues,” “Knaves,” “Fools.”—Clarendon, 27th June—5th July. He called Wright “a beast;” but this, it must be observed, was after his defeat.
[* ] Pepys, the noted Secretary to the Admiralty, was one of the witnesses examined. He was probably a Privy Councillor.
[* ] “The C. J. said, ‘Gentlemen, you do not know your own business; but since you will be heard, you shall be heard.’ ” Johnstone, 2d July.—MS. He seems to have been present, and, as a Scotchman, was not very likely to have invented so good an illustration of the future tense. It is difficult not to suspect that Wright, after admitting that there was no positive evidence of publication in Middlesex, did not intend to tell the Jury that there were circumstances proved from which they might reasonably infer the fact. The only circumstance, indeed, which could render it doubtful that he would lay down a doctrine so well founded, and so suitable to his purpose, at a time when he could no longer be contradicted, is the confusion which, on this trial, seems to have more than usually clouded nis weak understanding.
[* ] “They waited about an hour for Sunderland, which luckily fell out, for in this time the Bishops’ lawyers recollected themselves, in order to what followed.” A minute examination of the trial explains these words of Johnstone, and remarkably proves his accuracy. From the eagerness of Pollexfen that Wright should proceed with his address to the Jury, it is evident that they did not then intend to make the defence which was afterwards made.
[* ] 15 Ric. II.
[† ] This phrase of the Roman law, which at first sight seems mere pedantry, conveys a delicate and happy allusion to the liberty of petition, which was allowed even under the despotism of the Emperore of Rome.
[* ] “Pollexfen and Finch took no small pains to inveigh against the King’s Dispensing power. The counsel for the Crown waived that point, though Mr. Solicitor was fiercely earnest against the Bishops, and took the management upon himself; Mr. Attorney’s province being to put a smooth question now and then.”—Mr. (afterwards Baron) Price to the Duke of Beaufort.—Macpherson, Original Papers, vol. i. p. 266.
[† ] Van Citters, 9th July.—MS.
[* ] “The Dispensing Power is more effectually knocked on the head than if an Act of Parliament had been made against it. The Judges said nothing about it, except Powell, who declared against it: so it is given up in Westminster Hall. My Lord Chief Justice is much blamed at Court for allowing it to be debated.”—Johnstone, 2d July.—MS.
[† ] Letter of Ince, the solicitor for the Bishops, to Sancroft. Gutch, vol. i. p. 374. From this letter we learn that the perilous practice then prevailed of successful parties giving a dinner and money to the jury. The solicitor proposed that the dinner should be omitted, but that 150 or 200 guineas should be distributed among twenty-two of the panel who attended. “Most of them (i. e. the panel of the Jury) are Church of England men; several are employed by the King in the navy and revenue; and some are or once were of the Dissenters’ party.”—Ellis, Original Letters, 2d series, vol. iv. p. 105. Of this last class we are told by Johnstone, that, “on being sounded by the Court agents, they declared that if they were jurors, they should act according to their conscience.”
[* ] Clarendon, 30th June.
[† ] D’Adda, 16th July.—MS.
[‡ ] Van Citters, 13th July.—MS.
[§ ] Gutch, vol. i. p. 382.
[∥ ] Van Citters, 13th July.—MS.
[¶ ] Ibid.
[** ] Johnstone, 2d July.—MS. Gerard, News Letter, 4th July.
[* ] News Letter, 4th July.
[† ] D’Adda, 16th July.—MS.
[‡ ] Ellis, vol. iv. p. 110.
[§ ] Reresby, p. 265. Gerard, News Letter, 7th July.
[∥ ] Reresby, suprà.
[¶ ] “His Majesty has been pleased to remove Sir Richard Holloway and Sir John Powell from being justices of the King’s Bench.” London Gazette, 6th July. In the Life of James II., (vol. ii. p. 163,) it is said, that “the King gave no marks of his displeasure to the Judges Holloway and Powell.” It is due to the character of James, to say that this falsehood does not proceed from him; and justice requires it to be added, that as Dicconson, the compiler, thus evidently neglected the most accessible means of ascertaining the truth, very little credit is due to those portions of his narrative for which, as in the present case, he cites no authority.
[* ] “On ne scait pas de quelle religion il est.”—Lettre d’un Anonyme (peut-être Bonrepos) sur la Cour de Londres, 1688, MSS. in the Dépôt des Affaires Etrangères, at Paris.
[† ] “Il a voulu fermer la bouche à ses ennemis, et leur ôter toute prétexte de dire qu’il peut entrer dans sa conduite quelque ménagement pour la partie de M. le Prince d’Orange.”—Barillon, 8th July.—MS.
[‡ ] Ibid. suprà. “Father Petre, though it was irregular, was forced to say two masses in one morning, because Lord Sunderland and Lord Mulgrave were not to know of each other’s conversion.”—Halifax MSS. The French ambassador at Constantinople informed Sir William Trumbull of the secret abjuration.—Ibid. “It is now necessary,” says Van Citters (6th July), “to secure the King’s favour; the Queen’s, if she be regent; and his own place in the Council of Regency, if there be one.”
[§ ] D’Adda, 9th July.—MS.
[∥ ] Evelyn, who visited Althorp a fortnight afterwards, thus alludes to it: “I wish from my soul that the Lord her husband, whose parts are otherwise conspicuous, were as worthy of her, as by a fatal apostasy and court ambition he has made himself unworthy.”—Diary, 18th July.
[* ] Johnstone, 2d July.—MS.
[* ] Ellis, Original Letters, 1st series, vol. iii. p. 348. 21st Feb. 15th May, 6th—13th July. The last is decisive.
[† ] Dr. Chamberlain’s Letter to the Princess Sophia. Dalrymple, app. to book v.
[‡ ] Princess Anne to the Princess of Orange. Ibid.
[§ ] Mrs. Dawson, one of the gentlewomen of the Queen’s bedchamber, a Protestant, afterwards examined before the Privy Council, who communicated all the circumstances to her friend, Mrs. Baillie, of Jerviswood, Johnstone’s sister.
[* ] Caveat Against the Whigs, part ii. p. 50,—where the question is left in doubt at the critical period of 1712.
[† ] See his account, adverted to by Burnet and others, published by Oldmixon, vol. i. p. 734. “The Bishop whom your friends know, bids me tell them that he had met with neither man nor woman who were so good as to believe the Prince of Wales to be a lawful child.”—Johnstone, 2d July.—MS. This bold bishop was probably Compton.
[‡ ] London Gazette, 12th July.
[§ ] Sayers’ News-Letter, 18th August.
[* ] London Gazette, 16th August.
[† ] Sayers’ News-Letter, 22d August. “The secretary gave this letter to the Chancellor, who swore that the Bishop was mad. He gave it to the Lord President, but it was never read to the Board.” Such was then the disorder in their minds and in their proceedings.
[‡ ] Ibid. 19th Sept., Kennet, vol. iii. p. 515, note; in both which, the date of Sprat’s letter is 15th August, the day before the last meeting of the Commissioners.
[§ ] London Gazette, 6th July.
[∥ ] Sayers’ News-Letter, 7th July.
[¶ ] Ibid. 21st July. Ellis, vol. iv. p. 117.
[** ] D’Oyley, vol. i. p. 324.
[* ] Sayers’ News-Letter, 25th July.
[† ] D’Adda, 5th Dec. 1687, MS.
[‡ ] Ellis, vol. iv. p. 111.
[§ ] Johnstone, 2d July, MS. Oldmixon, vol. i. p. 796.
[* ] Kennet, vol. iii. p. 516. Ralph speaks doubtfully of this scene, of which, indeed, no writer has mentioned the place or time. The written test is confirmed by Johnstone, and Kennet could hardly have been deceived about the sequel. The place must have been the camp at Hounslow, and the time was probably about the middle of July.
[† ] Reresby, p. 270, who seems to have been a captain in this regiment. Burnet, vol. iii. p. 272.
[* ] “I do not vindicate all that Lord Tyrconnel, and others, did in Ireland before the Revolution; which, most of any thing, brought it on. I am sensible that their carriage gave greater occasion to King James’ enemies than all the other maladministrations charged upon his government.”—Leslie, Answer to King’s State of the Protestants, p. 73. Leslie is the ablest of James’ apologists. He skilfully avoids all the particulars of Tyrconnel’s government before the Revolution. That silence, and this general admission, may be considered as conclusive evidence against it.
[† ] Proclamation, 12th Feb. 1687. Wodrow, vol. ii. app. no. cxxix. “We here in England see what we must look to. A Parliament in Scotland proved a little stubborn; now absolute power comes to set all right: so when the closeting has gone found, we may perhaps see a Parliament here: but if it chance to be untoward, then our reverend judges will copy from Scotland, and will discover to us this new mystery of absolute power, which we are all obliged to obey without reserve.”—Burnet, Reflections on Proclamation for Toleration.
[* ] Proclamation, 15th May. Wodrow, vol. ii. app. no. cxxxviii. Fountainhall, vol. i. p. 504. The latter writer informs us, that “this occasioned several sheriffs to forbear awhile.” Perth, the Scotch Chancellor, who carried this Declaration to Scotland, assured the Nuncio, before leaving London, “that the royal prerogative was then so extensive as not to require the concurrence of Parliament, which was only an useful corroboration.”—D’Adda, 21st May, MS.
[† ] On the 17th Feb. 1688.
[‡ ] A bookseller in Edinburgh was “threatened for publishing an account of the persecution in France.”—Fountainhall, 8th Feb. 1688. Cockburn, a minister, was forbidden to continue a Review, taken chiefly from Le Clerc’s Bibliothèque Universelle, containing some extracts from Mabillon’s Iter Italicum, which were supposed to reflect on the Church of Rome.
[§ ] Fountainhall, 2d June.
[∥ ] Balcarras, Affairs of Scotland, (London, 1714), p. 8.
[¶ ] Skinner, Ecclesiastical History of Scotland vol. ii. pp. 500—504.
[* ] Fountainhall, 23d February.
[† ] Id. 29th March.
[‡ ] Skinner, vol. ii. p. 513.