Page images

ceed peaceably in the redress of the other griev-CHAP.

LXV. ances, of which they had such reason to complain.

1673 No grievance was more alarming, both on account of the secret views from which it proceeded, and the consequences which might attend it, than the declaration of indulgence. A remonstrance was immediately framed against that exercise of prerogative. The king defended his measure. The commons persisted in their opposition to it; and they represented that such a practice, if admitted, might tend to interrupt the free course of the laws, and alter the legislative power, which had always been acknowledged to reside in the king and the two houses. All men were in expectation with regard to the issue of this extraordinary affair. The king seemed engaged in honour to support his measure; and in order to prevent all'opposition, he had positively declared that he would support it. The commons were obliged to persevere, not only because it was dishonourable to be foiled, where they could plead such strong reasons, but also because, if the king prevailed in his pretensions, an end seemed to be put to all the legal limitations of the constitution.

It is evident that Charles was now come to that delicate crisis which he ought at first to have fore. seen, when he embraced those desperate counsels; and his resolutions, in such an event, ought long ago to have been entirely fixed and determined. Besides his usual guards, he had an army encamped at Blackheath, under the command of mareschal Schomberg, a foreigner; and many of the officers were of the catholic religion. His ally, the French king, he might expect, would second him, if force became requisite for restraining his discontented subjects, and supporting the measures which, by common consent, they had agreed to pursue. But


CHA P. the king was startled, when he approached so danLXV.

gerous a precipice as that which lay before him. 1673. Were violence once offered, there could be no re.

turn, he saw, to mutual confidence and trust with his people; the perils attending foreign succours, especially from so mighty a prince, were sufficiently apparent; and the success which his own arms had met with in the war, was not so great as to increase his authority, or terrify the malcontents from opposition. The desire of power, likewise, which had engaged Charles in these precipitate measures, had less proceeded, we may observe, from ambition, than from love of ease. Strict limitations of the constitution rendered the conduct of business complicated and troublesome; and it was impossible for him, without much contrivance and intrigue, to procure the money necessary for his pleasures, or even for the regular support of government. When the prospect, therefore, of such dangerous opposition presented itself, the same love of ease inclined him to retract what it seemed so difficult to maintain; and his turn of mind, naturally pliant and careless, made him find little objection to a measure which a more haughty prince would have embraced with the utmost reluctance. That he might yield with the better grace, he asked the opinion of the house of peers, who advised him to comply with the com

mons. Accordingly the king sent for the declaraDeclara. tion of in- tion, and with his own hands broke the seals. The dulgence

commons expressed the utmost satisfaction with this recalled.

measure, and the most entire duty to his majesty. Charles assured them that he would willingly pass any law offered him, which might tend to give them satisfaction in all their just grievances.'

SHAFTESBURY, when he found the king recede at · once from so capital a point, which he had publicly declared his resolution to maintain, concluded that all schemes for enlarging royal authority were vanished,



and that Charles was utterly incapable of pursuing C'HA P. such difficult and such hazardous measures. The parliament, he foresaw, might push their inquiries into those counsels, which were so generally odious; and the king, from the same facility of disposition, might abandon his ministers to their vengeance. He resolved, therefore, to make his peace in time with that party which was likely to predominate, and to atone for all his violences in favour of monarchy, by like violences in opposition to it. Never turn was more sudden, or less calculated to save appearances. Immediately, he entered into all the cabals of the country party; and discovered to them, perhaps magnified, the arbitrary designs of the court, in which he himself had borne so deep a share. He was received with open arms by that party, who stood in need of so able a leader; and no questions were asked with regard to his late apostacy. The various factions into which the nation had been divided, and the many sudden revolutions to which the public had been exposed, had tended much to debauch the minds of men, and to destroy the sense of honour and decorum in their public conduct.

But the parliament, though satisfied with the king's compliance, had not lost all those apprehensions, to which the measures of the court had given so much foundation. A law passed for imposing a test on all who should enjoy any public office. Besides taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and receiving the sacrament in the established church; they were obliged to abjure all belief in the doctrine of transubstantiation. As the dissent. ers had seconded the efforts of the commons against the king's declaration of indulgence, and seemed resolute lo accept of no toleration in an illegal man'ner, they had acquired great favour with the parliament; and a project was adopted to unite the


of indif the comm the disser

CHA P. whole protestant interest against the common

v enemy, who now began to appear formidable. A 1678. bill passed the commons for the ease and relief of

the protestant non-conformists ; but met with some difficulties, at least delays, in the house of peers.

The resolution for supply was carried into a law; as a recompense to the king for his concessions. An act, likewise, of general pardon and indemnity was passed, which screened the ministers from all farther inquiry. The parliament probably thought, that the best method of reclaiming the criminals was to shew them that their case was not desperate. Even the remonstrance, which the commons voted of their grievances, may be regarded as a proof, that their anger was, for the time, somewhat appeased. None of the capital points are there touched on; the breach of the triple league, the French alliance, or the shutting up of the exchequer. The sole grievances mentioned are, an arbitrary imposition on coals for providing convoys, the exercise of martial law, the quartering and pressing of soldiers; and they prayed, that, after the conclusion of the war, the whole army should be disbanded. The

king gave them a gracious, though an evasive ans9th of

swer. When business was finished, the two houses March.

adjourned themselves.

Though the king had receded from his declaration of indulgence, and thereby had tacitly relinquished the dispensing power, he was still resolved, notwithstanding his bad success both at home and abroad, to persevere in his alliance with France, and in the Dutch war, and consequently in all those secret views, whatever they were, which depended on those fatal measures. The money, granted by parliament, sufficed to equip a fleet, of which prince Rupert was declared admiral : For the duke was set aside by the test. Sir Edward Sprague and the


ined thahe kids and

eart of Ossory commanded under the prince. A CHA P. French squadron joined them, commanded by U d'Etrées. The combined fleets set sail towards the 1673. coast of Holland, and found the enemy, lying at anchor, within the sands at Schonvelt. There is a Sea-fight. natural confusion attending sea-fights, even beyond other military transactions, derived from the precarious operations of winds and tides, as well as from the smoke and darkness in which every thing is there involved. No wonder, therefore, that accounts of those battles are apt to contain uncertain. ties and contradictions ; especially when delivered by writers of the hostile nations, who take pleasure in exalting the advantages of their own countrymen, and depressing those of the enemy. All we can say with certainty of this battle is, that both sides boasted of the victory; and we may thence infer, that the event was not decisive. The Dutch, being near home, retired into their harbours. In a week they were refitted, and presented themselves again to the combined fleets. A new action ensued, not more than decisive than the foregoing. It was not fought with Another great obstinacy on either side ; but whether the seat Duteh or the allies first retired, seems to be a matter of uncertainty. The loss of the former of these actions fell chiefly on the French, whom the Eng. lish, diffident of their intentions, took care to place under their own squadrons; and they thereby exposed them to all the fire of the enemy. There seems not to have been a ship lost on either side in the second engagement.

It was sufficient glory to de Ruyter, that, with a fleet much inferior to the combined squadrons of France and England, he could fight them without any notable disadvantage ; and it was sufficient victory, that he could defeat the project of a descent in Zealand, which, had it taken place, had endangered, in the present cirénmstances, the total overthrow


« PreviousContinue »