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THE ENGLIST REVOLUTION OF 1688.
DT A STUDENT OY HISTORY
There can be no more worthy undertaking than the defence of good men who have passed from the earth and can no longer defend themselves. There is a liability that as freedom of opinion becomes prevalent, it should be perverted to captious censures of comparatively trivial faults in noble characters. We have lately heard some of the noblest leaders in our own Revolution publicly assailed ; and if these things are done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? If while their forms are hardly mingled with their mother earth; while we can almost see their venerable countenances among us, the voice of disparagement begins to be heard, what must we expect when the fresh remembrance of their poble deeds shall have somewhat faded from the minds of men ? It is becoming the duty of every man who loves his country and the memory of her departed worthies, to maintain in violate the fame of the latter in which is so deeply concerned the honor of the former. With the hope of casting some reflex influence in favor of the founders of our own liberties, we have attempted the defence of a Revolution based upon the same great principles with that which delivered our country from an ignominious oppression. We are not unaware that far abler pens have been employed upon this topic; but our feeble effort may possibly act the part of the ancient pædagogue in conducting the reader to an investigation of higher authorities. Our aim will have been attained if we shall succeed in exciting a new interest in one of the most important eras of English history.
The prime end of government is defined by the best living essayist to be the protection of the persons and property of men. If this be so; if kings do not rule by divine right; if the final cause of all government be not the greatest happiness of those in authority, then is there a certain degree of peril to the public rights and liberties, which will justify a revolution.
This principle will hold good with respect to every possible obligation of obedience, social as well as civil. It is the duty of a child in general to obey his parents. But circumstances may justify him in opposing, nay even taking the life of that parent. It is the duty of a sailor or soldier to obey his captain. But cruelty may, and often does justify resistance. In ecclesiastical affairs, it is probably the duty of suffragans and laymen to obey their primate. Yet some very good churchmen have lately proceeded to the frightful extremity of deposition. Indeed, not the most bigoted stickler for the jure divinum prerogative and passive obedience, can fail to perceive that by certain excesses of tyranny society is virtually resolved into its original elements, and may proceed, on the strength of first principles, to the modification or erection of a government.
The question before us then must depend mainly on this inquiry: Had James so far perilled the liberties of England, as to justify the invitation extended to William and Mary?
It should be remembered at the outset, that the English people had been so shamed and chagrined by the follies and vices of the court of the Second Charles, that in their exultation at delivery from that contemptible libertine, they were ready to endure much from James. It is probable,' says Hume, concerning James, that had be used his dispensing power without declaring it, no inquiries would have been made, and time would have reconciled the nation to this dangerous exercise of his prerogative. Again, he says, 'The nation seemed disposed of themselves to resign their liberties, had he not at the same time made an attempt upon their religion; and he might even have succeeded in surmounting at once both their liberties and their religion, had he proceeded with common prudence and discretion. It was a nation so drunk with loyalty, and debased into such slavish sentiments of passive obedience, that the tyranny of James in four short years succeeded in rousing to madness.
The simple fact of his known religious faith, when we consider the amazingly proselyting spirit of that faith, might well have been considered strong prima-facie evidence of his designs. “Among all the paradoxes in politics which have been advanced by some among us,' says one of Addison's Freeholders, thirty years later, there is none so absurd and shocking to the most ordinary understanding, as that it is possible for Great-Britain to be quietly governed by a Popish sovereign. Again, among the ridiculous credenda which he has put into the mouths of the Tories, is this : “That we may safely rely upon the promises of one whose religion allows him to make them, and at the same time allows him to break them. The second of the two resolutions transmitted by the Commons to the Lords, just after the departure of James to France, expresses their anxiety for the Protestant faith, which every Englishman considered part and parcel of his liberties. The Commons resolve that experience had shown it to be inconsistent with the safety and welfare of the Protestant religion to be governed by a Popish prince.' Experience was their only guide. ‘But,'says De Lingard, (whose bigotted Catholicism enhances the value of his unwilling testimony,) .his (James') was a mind on which the lessons of experience were thrown away.”
The undissembled and violent efforts of James for the establishment of Papacy were so numerous that we are at a loss where to begin the list. It shall however be arranged nearly chronologically. There is no necessity here for Cicero's admonition, · Momento quodam dispensare.' Every outrage would claim the precedence in such an arrangement. First however His Majesty contrived to reap a share of infamy from purely secular matters.
The first object of the king on his accession was money. He thought fit to leave the souls of his heretical subjects in quiet peril, without the pale of the church, until he had bestowed due care upon their worldly goods. The Parliament grant to Charles the Second, of half the excise and the entire customs, had expired at his death.
But James, though dissuaded by his most prudent advisers, chose to take the advice of that imbecile, cowardly savage, George Lord Jefferies, and ordered the levy of the usual duties, till the sitting of the next parliament. “That such a measure was illegal,' says Lingard, did not admit of doubt.' The grant was now expired,' says Hume, 'nor had the successor any right to levy these branches of revenue.' Lingard's Catholicism often biassed his judgment in favor of James. Hume's tory prejudices were such as could lead him to find an apology for Charles' part in the infamous execution of Sidney. Such testimony from such witnesses, Whately tells us, is the strongest that can be offered. We pass by the open and insolent procession of James to the Mass. This transaction, even had it not been a flagrant violation of the laws of England, might still, when his motives for temporizing were considered, have well raised suspicions of the obstinate determination of the king. But he did not long content himself with mere insults.
As if to fill up the measure of these, however, before advancing farther, an ambassador was despatched to Rome to make humble submission to the Pope, and implicitly to offer His Holiness the services of the English people. So fool-hardy did this appear, that Innocent, who had just shown his spirit and courage by an obstinate contest with the most powerful sovereign in Europe, shrank from encouraging James, and 'prudently advised him,' says Hume, ‘not to be too precipitate in his measures, nor rashly attempt what repeated experience might convince him was impracticable.'
His Majesty now turned his attention, despite of admonition, to the favorite scheme of his whole life. The Test Act was in the way, But suddenly the torturing, burning spirit of Popery appeared in the strange garb of toleration. James thought it oppressive that any of his dear people should be excluded from office for so small a matter as their religious belief. He wished for universal liberty of conscience. He had no desire that the Catholic faith should be exalted above that of the National Church; not the least, but only that they might be allowed toleration.
And he proceeded to illustrate his principles, and to prove his sincerity, by introducing four Catholic lords into the privy-council; by taking the privy-seal from Halifax and giving it to one of those lords ; by giving to Bellasis Rochester's place in the treasury; Rochester, against whom his Majesty declared he had no objection but his faith; by forcing Sunderland to choose between his religion and his office; by dismissing Clarendon, the best friend he ever had ; by sending a second solemn embassy to the Pope, and receiving His Holiness' nuncio at Windsor, although by act of Parliament all com: munication with the court of Rome was declared treason ; by the public consecration of four Catholic bishops; by committing the entire government of Ireland to the most bigoted Catholics ; 'by transferring,' to use Hume's words, every great office in England, civil and military, from the hands of the Protestants ;' by reëstablishing the High Commission Court, a monument of the shame of England, even when used in defence of the national faith ; by prosecuting before that court the Bishop of London for refusing to violate his ordination vows; by attempting to force the University of Cambridge to confer degrees on a Benedictine; by violently imposing a Catholic president upon Magdalen College at Oxford; and to cap the climax in this long array of proofs, by the prosecution of the seven bishops.
The superlative insolence as well as the injustice of this last transaction renders it worthy of a particular notice. When the changes in the secret councils of the king,' says Sir James Mackintosh, in the introduction to his vivid account of this affair, had rendered them most irreconcilable to the national sentiments, and the general discontent produced by progressive encroachment had quietly grown into disaffection, nothing was wanting to the most 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. Sir James is not horror-struck without good cause. It was quite enough that a statute, which had been held inviolate till it seemed sacred in the eyes of Englishmen, should be wantonly set aside. It was quite enough, that, after a year's intermission, the obnoxious declaration should be obstinately republished. But, when not content with insult, the king proceeded to injury; when an imperious order was issued for reading the humiliation of the National. Church from her own sacred desks; when the venerable primate and six of his suffragans were sent to ignominious confinement in the Tower; the tide of commotion swelled to the breaking, and the king found reason to rejoice that he might, by the mercy of English vengeance, end his days at St. Germaine, and not like his father, on a scaffold, in front of Whitehall.
Indeed, His Majesty seems to have been possessed with a strange infatuation touching the attachment of the English people to their church. He could remember how, when released from the tyranny of his father, they had quietly compromised the interests of the establishment, under the vigorous but glorious reign of the Protector. He had seen how, when released from that iron rule, they had hooted all of the church but its outward forms from their midst in a national debauch; and he fondly hoped that a people who had quietly surrendered their faith, once to the Roundheads and again to the strumpets, might, by the change of a few articles of belief, and a very few external forins, return to the communion of the venerable Mother Church. But he forgot that transient freaks of caprice, or even of impiety, are no better tests for the character of a nation than for that of an individual; and above all, that men will often willingly grant what they never will surrender to violence. It was to no purpose that the king asseverated his simple design of toleration. The rabble in the streets could not be so imposed upon. All trifling differences lost their interest, and the stern spirit of the yeomen, and
the liberal heart of the tradesmen, and the blunt patriotism of the fox-hunting gentry, who had long stood faithful to the family of the king, and the obstinacy of Cambridge with even the obsequiousness of Oxford, and the loyalty of the Commons, and the pride of the Lords, combined to inform the king in an audible voice that all other ties are gossamer to that of a common peril. This,' says Lingard, (and it little matters whether in earnest or in irony,) filled up the measure of his offences. Had Mr. Fox lived to complete his thrilling Fragment, the eloquence which was warmed by the judicial murder of Sidney should have glowed to an intense flame. The indignation of the amiable Mackintosh was, as we have seen, wrought to its pitch. But no historian has yet done justice to the conduct of James. The patience of even patient Englishmen could endure no longer. Patience was becoming perfidy to themselves and their children. The king had been filling the vials of wrath from his very accession.
We have heard of the inexorable tyranny of the Conqueror. We have read of the iron despotism of Henry the Second and Henry the Eighth, and the imperious rule of Elizabeth, and the fool-hardy aggressions of Charles the First. But never, we believe, has the utmost ingenuity of English kingcraft contrived to pack so many point-blank insults to their constitution into the brief space of fortyfive months.
The heir apparent to the throne had been educated, after the straitest sect of his religion, a Papist. James was known to be on terms of the most suspicious intimacy with Louis of France, a monarch whose practice was first the church, then the people. The English nation knew the temper of Catholic princes. They had heard of the devotedness of Philip the Second ; of Maximilian of Bavaria, whose Jesuit teachers swayed his sceptre as they did their own crosiers ; of Ferdinand the Second, perilling his crown for his faith ; of Sigismund, renouncing his crown for his faith. With such examples staring them in the face, it had been worse than madness to delay. After having, in a crisis which would have justified a radical change in the line of succession, contented themselves with simply passing along that line to the first worthy man in it, it is too much that the authors of the Revolution should be now arraigned for not obviating the most appalling dangers without infringing upon a single feature of the government. i
HOPE: A FRAGMENT.
As the bright sun with cheerful light
Breaks forth upon the glade,
Along the shining blade ;
To all thy bosom's fears,
And sunshine to its tears