Front Page Titles (by Subject) Number VII.: The Norman Invasion, how sanguinary and fatal to England. The Invader how faithless and barbarous to Englishmen. - The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747)
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Number VII.: The Norman Invasion, how sanguinary and fatal to England. The Invader how faithless and barbarous to Englishmen. - Thomas Gordon, The Independent Whig, vol. 4 (1747) 
The Independent Whig. Being a Collection of Papers All written, some of them published During the Late Rebellion (London: J. Peele, 1747). Vol. 4.
Part of: The Independent Whig, 4 vols.
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The Norman Invasion, how sanguinary and fatal to England. The Invader how faithless and barbarous to Englishmen.
IN the following Extracts from the Reign, or rather the Usurpation and Tyranny of William the Norman, we have a Specimen of what may as reasonably be dreaded from the Pretender (either old or young) who like the other Invader, claims an airy fictitious Right, and would assert it by Force, against Law and Religion; and, to enjoy it, would make three Kingdoms perjur’d Slaves or Victims.
WILLIAM the Norman, improperly call’d Conqueror, invaded England at the Head of Forces mix’d and collected from many Countries, most of them needy Adventurers, allured by Promises of Plunder and Settlements in this Kingdom, which, when subdued, was to be turned into Spoil, and parted amongst the Spoilers, with proper Preference and Allotment to the principal Spoiler. It was an Attempt as desperate as wicked; and they might all have probably perished in it, though they were victorious at first, had not the Clergy deserted the Common Cause, and broken their Engagement to the Nobility and the Londoners, purely to make early Court to the Usurper, and to gain proper Advantages to themselves, whatever became of the rest. The Case, I bless God, is different now, and we have a different Clergy, who being convinced, that they have a Common Interest with the Laity in the Cause of Liberty, join cordially with them, and have borne an illustrious Testimony against unnatural Rebels and barbarous Usurpation.
Yet, with all the Advantage of this fatal Defection, he could never have succeeded, had he not submitted to Conditions. He found himself encompassed with so many Distresses, and still threatened with so many more, that, to prevent Famine, and to divert the continual Demands of his Followers, he agreed to Terms, the more readily, as he intended to keep none. He swore to the English, upon receiving the Crown from them, to preserve all their Laws and Liberties. He added many magnificent Promises, which, with his fair Behaviour, disposed them frankly to trust him.
His Deceit lasted not long, but gave way to his innate Appetite for Power, and to his devouring Avarice. He had another constant Stimulation to rob and oppress, from the restless Discontents and Importunities of his Comrades in the Usurpation, calling upon him for Donatives and Gratifications, boldly pleading their many Wants and many Services, together with his Promises and Treaty with them. To answer all their Demands, and all his own, he had no other Resource but to rob the English, and, by perjuring himself to them, be able to keep his Faith with his Brother Robbers; besides, he took Tyranny to be his best Policy, to disable the Oppressed from avenging their Oppression.
This is the eternal Oversight and false Craft of Tyrants; as if a People wealthy and well protected (Blessings that naturally dispose them to be content) were more to be seared by their Protector, than a People plundered and desperate. The Dread of lawless Power may reduce the Bodies of Men, perhaps their Lips, to acquiesce; but their Spirits will remain the more ulcerated and implacable.
It is plain, that William the Norman came into England a determined Enemy to the English. He was in his own Nature a Tyrant, as almost all that aim at Conquest are, and engaged by Compact to exercise endless Tyranny: Yet he swore and promised, and made fair Professions; talked of his pretended Title, and Kindred to the Throne, and referred all his Pretensions to the Decision of the English, in other Words, to a Free Parliament, who to be sure must act from pure Conviction with Norman Swords at their Throats.
He was obliged to impoverish the whole Nation to gratify those, who, upon that Condition only, joined with him in invading the Nation. His Course of Reigning was therefore naturally a Course of Plunder, and of Cruelty to such as dared to complain of being plundered: Complaint was a Proof of Disaffection, and the Complainers were hanged as Traitors. The first Tax that he raised was oppressive and arbitrary, and levied with all the Excesses of Rigour; the whole contrary to his Oath. The Motives for it were equally odious, as it was for Money to pay his Confederate Spoilers; a doleful Reason to the poor Natives: Yet all this was not the worst: He had such Contempt for his Honour and his Oath, as well as for his Subjects, that not a Farthing of this terrible Tax was paid to the Normans, though for them only he avowed to have raised it. He kept the whole to himself, as a Fund against the miserable People from whom he had squeez’d it; miserable indeed, thus mocked and drained, yet liable to be again equally drained, upon the same Pretence.
Hitherto he had robbed them but in Part: He next proceeds to strip them to the Skin, upon a Charge against them, founded upon downright Impudence, namely, their Adherence to their late lawful King, Harold the Second, when they had no other to adhere to. Had that brave Prince been alive, the English Throne would not have been defiled by the rough William, who had no Peace whilst the English had any Land: No Argument will do against a naked Sword. He seized a great Number of Estates, with as little Ceremony as Mercy.
When by this, and every furious Oppressions he had made the miserable Nation stark-mad, his next Step was to punish them for being so. He, therefore, besides infinite Vengeance, corporal and capital, at once seized into his own Hands all Baronies, and all Fiefs of the Crown, whatsoever. Thus he reduced all the Nobility and Landholders in England to Nakedness and want of Bread. Their Misery, which seem’d complete, bad yet a heavy Aggravation, and they had another shocking Scene to behold: Their Estates were granted to the Favourites and Champions of the Usurper, desperate Adventurers, and the needy Hunters or Fortune.
TheseUpstarts and Spoilers were incredibly exalted. Some of them rioted in the Revenues of whole Counties; many of them counted their Manors by Hundreds. Others were made Lords of Cities, others Proprietors of great Towns; the rest commanded strong Forts and Castles, now purposely built to insure the everlasting Bondage of the wretched English. All these lofty Upstarts had it now in their Option, to starve, or to seed, the genuine Lords and Owners; I mean, such of them as the cruel Mercy of the Invader had left to live bereft of Dignity and Bread.
These new Lords, governed by the Maxims and Spirit of their Master, admitting none to hold under them but their own Adherents, England was in a direct Way to lose its Name, which was absurdly derived from any Number of Slaves and Beggars.
THIS wonderful Revolution of Ranks and Property, so universal and so sudden, as hardly to be matched in any Country, under any Tyrant, upon any Provocation, contracted fresh Guilt and Horror from the insidious Behaviour of the Usurper just before. It was unusually soft, and even fatherly. He seemed to affect Popularity. He had relaxed the severe Exercise of Power, recalled Exiles, released Prisoners; shewn Tenderness to the English, and punished the insolent Normans. He had again talked of calling a Free Parliament, and even assembled from all Parts of the Kingdom, such Men of Note for Quality and Knowlege as were fittest to acquaint him with the national Customs and Laws.
This Change of Behaviour in him cheated the poor English, and recovered the Tyrant their Hearts. In him it was all a faithless Feint, the Effect of his present Dread from an actual Invasion in the North, from Denmark. As soon as he had bribed away that Peril, by Money to the Danish General, he strait returned to his Rage, heightened by this last Danger. Besides all the human Victims to his Fury, he vented it upon Buildings and the Soil. In the best Part of the North, for Sixty Miles together, he spread Desolation so complete, that in all that Tract not a Tree or Shrub was left; not a House or Church, nor Subsistence for Man or Beast. He was indeed least merciful to such as he did not forthwith destroy, but left to the Pangs of Famine, to seek Relief from Carrion, from the most loathsome Insects and Vermin, and from the Flesh of one another, till they at last expired, bereft of that horrible Food. The whole Region was convered into so absolute a Desert, that for many Years together the Marks of the Plough were not seen in it.
WhenWilliam had as it were extinguished the English Nobility and Landholders, he extended his savage Scheme to the English Clergy, despising their Privileges, trampling upon their Charters, and subjecting them to what Burdens he pleased. Where they submitted, he used them like Slaves, and half-starved them; where they asserted their Rights, he treated them like Traitors, stripped them of their Freeholds, and put Normaus in their room. Most of the Army too was quartered upon them. He caused all religious Houses to be searched, and seized all the Wealth in them; for That was what he wanted, though he pretended to look for concealed Rebels and Traitors. It proved a lucrative Search to him, as he spared nothing that was valuable, the rich Ornaments of their Saints and Shrines, their massy Plate, nor any of their precious Furniture, however consecrated to holy Purposes.
With all this Outrage upon Clergymen, he had no Aversion to the Clergy. For, like many other cruel Men, he was a great Bigot, full of Reverence, and even of Liberality, to Monks. William hated the English Clergy because they were Englishmen (just as any Popish Tyrant will always hate English Protestants). His Hatred and Mistrust of them was so excessive, that by Juggling with the Pope (the Father and Encourager of all Mischief and Impiety) he procured his Consent to deprive all the obnoxious Dignitaries at a Blow. Some he banished, others he imprisoned, and supplied all the Vacancies with Strangers, Creatures of his own, or of the Pope.
Such was the Return which he made to the English Clergy, for their early Submission to him and their Treachery to their Country. A different Spirit, because a different Religion, actuates our modern Clergy, who oppose the Advances of a Foreign Yoke and Foreign Superstition, with true English Courage and true Protestant Zeal.
His whole Reign was a Series of Robbery and Cruelty. He was so singularly abhorred, that when a whole Army of Conspirators was formed to destroy him, not a single Conspirator was found to inform him of his Danger. He saw it before be heard of it, and had no Resource but to offer them their own Terms, and implicitly submitted to the Meanest. He owned all their Reproaches to be just, condemned himself and all his barbarous, faithless Tyranny, solemnly promised a thorough Reformation, and gave them his Soul for a Pledge. He took an awful Oath, upon the Holy Gospel, and expresly submitted to be damned, if he failed, for the future, to rule according to the known Laws of England.
Thus he stripped them of their Fears, as he did the credulous Fools their Followers of their Weapons; the only avenging Devils that he dreaded. The Leaders broke their Army, against all Sense, and he his Oath, against all Conscience and Shame. Nay, his Oath did but whet his Vengeance. They who had been the Witnesses and Depositaries of his sacramental Engagement, first felt his Perjury and Revenge, and he pursued the Slaughter with profuse Barbarity, which was more bitterly felt by such whom he starved in Dungeons and Exile, than by those whom he only butchered. The Massacre was extensive and unrelenting. This was rash Rage against true Policy. A Prince who acts like a Destroyer, is in perpetual Danger of being destroyed. William had one constant Encouragement to the blackest Perjury and Tyranny, the Pope’s Warrant and Absolution: A Consideration worthy of the Thoughts and Abhorrence of all Englishmen at this Day!
His constant Perfidy, Oppression and Cruelty, begot more Conspiracies, and these fresh Barbarity and Carnage. Suspicion was a Proof of Guilt, and whomsoever he disliked, he suspected; so that having Criminals without Number, he made Victims without Mercy. Hanging was the gentlest Punishment: To be banished and starved was accounted a Favour. Numbers perished in loathsome Dungeons: Many had their Eyes pulled out; many had their Feet and Hands lopped off, and both Sorts were left with the Burden of Life and Carcasses, without Organs to guide and support Life.
After he had long waded in Blood, shed all the best, and thinned the Nation, at least of its English Inhabitants, he set himself to accumulate Money, and spared no Oppression, nor Device to oppress. It was a Course not of Taxing and Collecting, but of Rapine and Grinding. He had got a Kingdom by Robbery and Slaugh ter, and afterwards intensly and eagerly pursued the Trade. He came to the Kingdom by Force and Treachery, and he ruled it as he got it. Neither did the consuming Tyranny cease with him: His Son Rufus was rather worse than he; indeed, a wolfish Tyrant. Several of the same Line were as bad. They claimed the Kingdom as their Property, and a Right to it from Conquest. It had been much the same thing to the Nation, had they claimed it by Divine Right, only the latter must be owned better calculated for Delusion and Tyranny, as it carries a more awful Sound, and derives itself from Heaven. We know what dreadful Conclusions were forged for unlimited Servitude, during the arbitrary Times when it was in Fashion here.
God and his Majesty defend us from such Times, and from all such as would revive them!
P. S.In this Character of William, called the Conqueror, I have taken the Facts and Circumstances as I found them in History; so far am I from inventing either, to serve any Purpose of my own. That he is not generally seen in so black a Light, I conceive to be owing to the favourable Account given of him by Sir William Temple; a Performance unworthy of so able and candid a Writer.