History of England, Part II From the Accession of Henry VIII to the Revolution of 1689

Tout, T. F. --Powell, F. York

1898

CHAPTER VI. James II., and the Fall of the Stewarts. 1685-1689.

 

1. Despite the Test Act and the Exclusion Bill, James, Duke of York, now became the Catholic king of Protestant England. He was fifty-two years old," some thing above the middle stature, well-shaped, very nervous and strong. His face was rather [1] long, his complexion fair, his countenance engaging; but his outward carriage was a little stiff and constrained. Having something of a hesitation in his speech, his discourse was not so gracious as it was judicious and solid. He was a great lover of exercise, especially walking and hunting, but no diversion made him neglect his business." He had neither the ability nor the insight of his brother. His character rather resembled that of his father, though he lacked his father's external graces. He was slow, patient, and plodding, sticking to his opinions with great obstinacy, and with little noble or generous about him. Yet Whig enemies allowed him to be "naturally a man of truth, fidelity, and justice." But he was ruled by priests and women, and had set his heart on bringing back the Roman Church, and with that object he sought to make the king's power more absolute. He was hard-working, unforgiving, remorseless, treacherous even, in carrying out these great ends.

2. James's very accession was a Tory triumph. Hot Churchmen as they mostly were, the Tories had kept out of sight James's want of Churchmanship because [2]  he was the lineal heir to the throne. The Tory ministers still held office, and Tory writers and preachers still taught that kings ruled by divine right, and that subjects were bound to passive obedience to all their commands. James's first acts did not much alarm the Tory zeal for the Church. He submitted to be crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sancroft, and promised to uphold the Church, for Churchmen, he said, were always loyal subjects. But he at once went to Mass in state, and though professing to regard his religion as a private matter, he did not long remain in that mind. However, for the first few months of his reign, his brother's policy was carried on unchanged.

James felt strong enough not to be afraid of Parliaments.

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Almost at once he summoned the Parliament of , which passed an atrocious law that all who preached in [4]  an indoor " conventicle," and all who were present at an open-air "conventicle" should be punished with death. Claverhouse and his brutal dragoons carried out to the letter this fierce policy, and many martyrs, such as John Brown, the "Christian carrier," and Margaret Wilson, a young girl drowned at a stake in the Solway, laid down their lives for the Covenant. The same stern policy found strangely different victims in England. The victims of the Popish Plot were now avenged by the condemnation of the scoundrels who had sworn away their lives. The informers, Oates and Dangerfield, were tried, condemned, and whipped so severely that Oates barely got over it, and Dangerfield, who was ill-treated by the mob, died of his punishment. Nor were more respectable men spared. Richard Baxter, the venerable leader of the moderate Presbyterians, was put into prison for complaining of the persecution of the Dissenters. He was condemned by Chief Justice Jeferies, a shrewd Welshman, and an able but brutal and foul-tongued OldBailey lawyer, who had got the Chief Justiceship and a peerage as a reward for his clever advocacy and his servile condemnation of the enemies of the Court.

On 19th May the English Parliament met. "Great industry had been used to obtain elections which might [5] promote the Court interest, most of the corporations being now by their new charters empowered to make what returns of members they pleased." The high Tories were in an enormous majority, and voted the king a revenue of I,9oo,ooo a year for life; a sum that almost made him independent of Parliaments. But James wished to play a leading part abroad. He was not content, like his brother, to stand aside while Louis of went on in the career of aggression that was now reaching its climax. "I have a true English heart," he boasted to the assembled Estates, "as jealous of the honour of the nation as ever you can be." The French were in some alarm, for if James and his Parliament continued of one mind, England might, even under a Catholic king, join , the Emperor, and the Pope himself, to bring down the power of. But James was too absorbed in his home plans to do without Louis for the present. He became, like Charles, the French king's pensioner, though he chafed bitterly under his slavery.

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3. The peaceful accession of James filled the little knot of Whig exiles in Holland with despair. The more reckless of them, duped by Robert Ferguson the Plotter, and misled by their friends at home, planned an invasion, and despite the efforts of the Prince of Orange, two little expeditions were fitted out. The first was destined for , and was led by the Earl of Argyll, but he was foolishly put under a committee, among whom were two obstinate and ignorant Lowland gentlemen, Hume of Polwarth, and Cochrane, and the brave old Cromwellian Rumbold. They loitered so long upon their journey that when [6]  they reached the coasts of Cantyre, the chiefs of the Campbell clan had been removed to distant prisons. At Campbelltown Argyll issued a proclamation declaring that King James had murdered King Charles, and that Monmouth was the rightful James VII. The faithful clansmen soon began to flock to the Maccallum More's great standard, on which was written, " For God and Religion, against Popery, Tyranny, Arbitrary Power and Erastianism. " But Hume and Cochrane thought meanly of Highlanders, and insisted on dividing the little force, and raising Cameronian Ayrshire. On their shameful failure they again joined Argyll in Bute. English frigates now cut off their retreat, and kept Argyll from attacking Inverary, his old home. In despair the earl agreed to march through Dumbartonshire on Glasgow, but his followers melted away without any real fighting, and he was taken prisoner, and on 20th June led through Edinburgh "bareheaded, and his hands behind his back, the guards with cocked matches, and the hangman walking before him." Ten days later he was executed on the old sentence of I68x, loudly declaring on the scaffold his hatred of " Popery, Prelacy, and all superstition." Rumbold had already suffered the same fate. The brutal devastation of the Campbells' country put out the last embers of the revolt.

4. Monmouth, impatient of exile, and puffed up with vain hopes, put himself at the head of the English expedition. On Ith June he landed at Lyme in Dorsetshire, along with Lord Grey, Ferguson, and the [7]  fiery Scottish republican Andrew Fletcher of Salton. The townsfolk at once gathered round his standard, shouting. "A Monmouth and the Protestant religion." A silly and wicked Declaration, written by Ferguson, was issued, claiming that Monmouth was Charles's lawful son, and rightful king of England, promising a free Parliament,

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and denouncing James as a usurper that had poisoned the late king. The first fight with the royalist militia, near Bridport, was not successful, and Fletcher, having killed a man in a passion, had to return to the Continent. Monmouth then advanced northwards, through Chard, to Taunton, where the sons of the stout townsmen who had defended the town under Blake gave him a hearty welcome. But though the common people received him gladly, the Whig gentry held aloof. In the vain hope of attracting them, Monmouth had himself proclaimed king on that very 20th June on which Argyll was led captive through the long High Street of Edinburgh. Next day he advanced to Bridgwater, where the peasants flocked to him in such numbers that he had to send many away for the lack of arms. He went quickly on through Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet to Keynsham, a little town about five miles east of Bristol, but, fearing to attack that great city, turned off up the Avon. Bath, like Bristol, closed its gates on him. At Phitip5's Norton, a little to the south, he had the best of a sharp skirmish against his half-brother, the Duke of Grafton, a rough, shrewd sailor, and the best of .'s sons. He then reached Frome, but the king's army now gathered against him, and he fell back on his old quarters at Bridgwater, while the regular forces encamped on Sedgnoor, a little to the east of the town. The latter were commanded by Louis Duras, Earl of Feversham, nephew of Turenne, the great French general, and under [9]  him by John, Lord Churchill, the most rising soldier of his time, and powerful at Court from the favour enjoyed by his sister Arabella with the king. Waiting was as useless as more purposeless wandering, so Monmouth resolved to attack at once.

About midnight, on the night of the 5th-6th July, Monmouth's army of cloth-workers, ploughmen, and miners marched out of Bridgwater. A dense fog overspread the marshes, but the rebel army marched in long file along the causeways which spanned the two broad rhines (ditches) that separated them from Feversham's headquarters at the village of Weston Zoyland. But they fell into some disorder, were observed, and as they charged forwards to meet the king's troops, found, to their surprise, a new stream, the broad Bussex Rhine between them and the enemy. A fierce musketry fire was exchanged between the two banks. Grey, with his cavalry, fled in alarm, but the raw infantry fought long and gallantly, though soon out-flanked and out-generalled, and with no better weapons than the butt-ends of their muskets and scythes fastened upon long poles. But at last they were overpowered, and broke to rally no more.

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Monmouth had already left the field, and was captured a few days later in the New Forest, skulking in a dry ditch covered with bracken. He was brought to London, where he had already been attainted by Parliament. With cold-blooded cruelty James had an interview with his nephew, but Monmouth's abject entreaties for pardon were all in vain. On i5th July he was beheaded on Tower Hill.

The most bloodthirsty vengeance was wreaked on the wretched rebels. The coarse and brutal Colonel Kirke of the Tangier Regiment slew many by martial [10]  law immediately after the victory. Chief-Justice Jefferies went specially on the Western Circuit, or, as men afterwards called it, the Bloody Assize. " He made all the west an Aceldama; some places quite depopulated, and nothing in them but forsaken walls, unlucky gibbets, and ghostly carcasses. The trees were loaden almost as thick with quarters as leaves, the houses and steeples covered as close with heads as at other times with crows or ravens." More than 300 were hanged; more than 800 transported as white slaves to the planters of Jamaica and Barbados. Among the victims were two aged women, Alice Lisle, widow of one of Cromwell's lords, beheaded at Winchester for affording shelter to two fugitives, and Gaunt, a pious and charitable Baptist, burnt alive at Tyburn on a like charge. On his return, Jefferies was rewarded with the Lord Chancellorship.

5. James was now at the height of his power. The Tories and Churchmen had made him king and had enabled him to put down formidable rebellions. He was so delighted with his successes that he soon formed vast plans for the future. He had hitherto allowed his religion to remain under the disabilities which it had so long suffered from. But he felt that he was now so strong that he might look forward to a time when it would be no longer a penal offence to be of the same religion as the king. Visions of the ultimate triumph of Catholicism now floated before his mind, and, with true Stewart ignorance of human nature, he believed that he could still count upon the support of the Churchmen and Tories, when attacking all that they held most sacred. Side by side with schemes for the restoration of Catholicism, James formed designs for winning back the old power of the crown. He asked Parliament for an increased standing army, and for the repeal of the Test Act. If these measures were obtained, he hoped also to get the Habeas Corpus Act done away with. But his

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very ministers protested. Halifax, who had saved him his throne, was turned out of office. Parliament petitioned [12] the king against breaking the Test Act, and even among the Lords the opposition rose high. In disgust, James got rid of his Parliament in November , and, not deterred by his father's fate, sought to get from servile judges decisions that would avoid the necessity of going again before the indignant Commons. The price of this was a breach with the Tory party. The Lord Treasurer, Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, the king's brother-in-law, who "swore like a sutler and indulged in drinking," but was the head of the Church party, found bit by bit that his influence was gone. Henceforth James was ruled by the subtle Jesuit Petre, the rough and boisterous Irishman, Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnel; and above all by Robert Spencer, Earl of Sunderland. Sunderland, already Secretary of State, was now also made President of the Council. He was a statesman of remarkable foresight and ability, insinuating and attractive in his policy, but cold-hearted, corrupt and unprincipled, and though really a thorough unbeliever, he did not scruple to turn Catholic to please the king. In his zeal for Catholicism and absolutism, James gave up his plans of playing a great part in Europe, and finally accepted his dependence on Louis XIV. This was the more significant as Louis was now execrated throughout the Protestant world as the remorseless persecutor of the French Calvinists. In he had revoked the Edict of Nantcs, that had given Protestantism a right to exist in, and was now perpetrating terrible cruelties on the unhappy Huguenots, so that hundreds of thousands sought refuge in Protestant lands, bringing with them their skill, their trade, and their deep hatred of Popery. They were warmly welcomed in England, where the strongest Churchmen, in their sympathy for brother Protestants, forgot that they were Calvinists and Presbyterians.

6. James was now treading in his father's footsteps. He no longer had a great party at his back, but strove with the help of courtiers and dependents to carry out a policy as purely personal as that of ., and more hated by the mass of Englishmen than the worst of the "innovations" of Laud. He now sought to attain his ends by a lavish use of his Dispensing and Suspending Powers. Chief-Justice Herbert and all the other judges but one decided in the case of Sir Edward Hales, a Catholic colonel, that James

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had the right to dispense with the Test Act or any other statute (June ). The army and Council were now filled with Catholics. James pushed his dispensing power so far as to force Catholics, despite a whole crowd of statutes, into offices in the English Church. He suffered Obadiah Walker, a pervert, to turn University College, Oxford, into a Romanist [13] seminary, and gave the Deanery of Christ-Church to Massey, an avowed Catholic. In , he established a new Court of High Commission, in the teeth of a statute of the Long Parliament, because he wanted to use the royal supremacy to ruin the Church of which he was the supreme governor. This illegal body suspended Bishop Compton of London, a brother of the Earl of Northampton, because he would not prevent his clergy preaching against Popery. James now put men who were secretly Papists into the vacant bishoprics. He gathered together 13,000 troops in a camp on Hounslow Heath to overawe the Londoners. In he replaced his elder brother-in-law Clarendon, a strong Churchman, by the Catholic Tyrconnel, who was pleased to act vigorously against the Protestant English settlers. Rochester, who had long been powerless, was now forced to yield up the White Staff of Treasurer. The Tory Churchmen of England had never supposed the monarchy, which they had tried to make strong, would use its power against them; but they found it hard to eat their own words, and cast off their own doctrine of non-resistance. There were also many time-servers and place-hunters among them, who acquiesced in all James's acts provided their own private interests were let alone. Yet all the Tories were moved to a resistance which was all the steadier because it was slow and faltering at first. James turned for allies to the Dissenters whom he had hitherto so harshly persecuted. He sought now to unite Dissenters and Catholics against the dominant church. In April he issued a Declaration of Indulgence, in which by his own authority he declared that he had suspended all the laws against both Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters, who were henceforth to be allowed to worship publicly. He granted a measure of toleration even in , thus making the Scots Episcopalians as angry as English Churchmen. A few Nonconformists, like the courtly Quaker William Penn, took the bait, but the mass of them proved as staunch as the Churchmen to the Protestant cause, and were not won over by the

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prospect of illegal toleration, offered in the interests of Popery. Nor were James's other acts calculated to reassure Protestant opinion. His new High Commission Court acted with ill-advised vigour. It deprived the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge of his headship of his college for objecting to a monk named Francis proceeding to the degree of M.A. without taking the usual oaths. At Oxford it turned out nearly all the Fellows of Magdalen College because they refused to elect a Popish President at James's dictation.

7. Public feeling now rose so high that James was afraid to call a new Parliament. The crisis came when he issued a second Declaration of Indulgence and gave orders that it [15] should be read in all churches on the first two Sundays in June . Archbishop Sancroft, a pious but narrow-minded man, and an extreme churchman, with high Tory views about non-resistance, was much concerned at the proclamation. He took council with six of his brethren-Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells (the holiest and most upright of all the bishops and the writer of the Morning and Evening Hymns), White of Peterborough, Trelawney of Bristol (a straightforward and vigorous Cornish baronet of large estate), Lloyd of St. Asaph, Turner of Ely, and Lake of Chichester. The Seven Bishops agreed to petition the king not to force the clergy to break the law. While Sancroft remained at Lambeth, the other six visited James at Whitehall and presented their petition. James rebuked them for raising a standard of rebellion. "Did ever," he asked, "a good Churchman question the Dispensing Power before?" Angry on finding that their petition had been printed and widely circulated, and that, in consequence, hardly any of the clergy read the Declaration, James sent the Bishops to the Tower on a charge of publishing a seditious libel. On June 3oth they were acquitted, amidst the wild joy of Whigs and Tories, Churchmen and Dissenters. But on the Ioth of June a son had been born to James, whose second marriage with Mary of Modena had for many years been childless. The mob believed that this new Prince of was a mere changeling brought in to prevent the succession going to the Princess of Orange. Grave men took counsel together, fearing that "the Popish tyranny" would not now be limited to the life of an elderly man. On the very day of the acquittal of the Seven Bishops, seven leading Whigs and Tories united in a letter inviting William

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of Orange to bring a Dutch army into England to save the nation from Popery and arbitrary power. The seven signers of the invitation were the Earl of Devonshire, a great Whig nobleman, the Earl of Shrewsbury, a rising young statesman on the same side, Danby, staunchest of Churchmen and Tories, the injured and indignant Bishop Compton, Admiral Edward Russell, cousin of the Whig martyr Lord Russell, Henry Sidney, brother of Algernon, and Lord Lumley

8. A great European war was just breaking out, for Louis XIV.'s aggressions had become more barefaced than ever after his triumph at Nijmegen. Since ., still leader of the Anti-French party in Europe, had formed the League of Augsburg against Louis, and lately fresh causes of dispute had arisen which forced on the war. The Dutch frontiers had to be defended, but the Great Elector sent enough Brandenburg troops for this purpose, and Louis made the great mistake of beginning the war by attacking the Palatinate far away from Holland. After this ., who thought he could never beat the French if England ceased to be Protestant, [16]  hesitated no longer. On Ioth October he issued a declaration that he would come to England to secure a free Parliament. The first time he set sail bad weather drove him back, but his second attempt succeeded. A "Protestant wind" blew his ships down the Channel, while it kept James's fleet in the Thames. On 5th November he landed at Brixham in Torbay, and marched to Exeter, where Mary's Whig chaplain Dr. Burnet read the prince's declaration in the cathedral, and many whose friends had suffered at the Bloody Assizes began to flock to his flag. The gentry and nobility of the west soon followed them. All over England men rose for William, Danby joining Devonshire in organising revolt in the north.

When tidings arrived of his son-in-law's threatened invasion, James strove to win back some of his angry subjects by giving up the Ecclesiastical Commission, and by some other concessions. But it was too late, and nothing was left but fighting, if he wished to hold his own. Feversham now marched westwards as far as Salisbury with James's army, where, on 19th November, he was joined by the king. Thereupon William left Exeter and pushed eastwards. At Wincanton a skirmish was fought between William's advanced guard of English troops under Mackay, and James's hated Irish soldiers under Sarsfield, in which the

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latter were beaten. The faithless and selfish Churchill, though he owed everything to his master, deserted to the Dutch, taking with him the Duke of Grafton. Churchill's patroness, the Princess Anne, James's second daughter, joined the northern insurgents, being escorted by her old tutor Bishop Compton, in a buff coat and jack boots. The royal army had no heart for the cause, and melted away without fighting before William's steady advance through Salisbury to Hungerford. James fled to London, thinking to make terms with his nephew, but the negotiations at Hungerford broke down, and the king, losing heart, tried to fly in disguise. Riots broke out in London. The Catholic chapels were plundered or burnt by the furious Protestants, and mob rule was to be feared. The Lords now took the government into their own hands, to prevent anarchy. Meanwhile James had been stopped by some Kentish fishermen near Sheerness, and slunk back to London. But William with his army was now at hand, and on 18th December James fled a second time to Rochester, whence he reached safely.

9. William now entered London amid much rejoicing, but with his triumph his real difficulties began. As there was no king to issue the writs for a Parliament, a Convention, like that which brought back ., was called. This was in all but name a real Parliament. It met on 22nd January , and proved strongly Whig. The debates were long and keen. Now that the flight of James had removed the fear of Popery, many of the Tories went back to their old notions of Divine Right, and scrupled to deprive James of his throne. Sancroft and the High Tories shrank from laying violent hands on the " Lord's Anointed," [18] and wished to make William regent, and still call James king. Danby and the moderate Tories insisted that James had ended his own reign by his own act, and that Mary became as next heir Queen of England, but this course required some proof that the infant was a changeling. William's friends advised him to take upon himself the throne by right of conquest, but wiser counsels prevailed. At last the Convention voted that James had violated the original contract between king and people by breaking the fundamental laws, had abdicated by withdrawing himself from the realm, and that the throne was therefore vacant. They also drew [19]  up a Declaration of Right, which gave a list of the chief illegal acts of James. On William and Mary ratifying this, they were offered and accepted the

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throne as joint sovereigns, the real power of course resting in William.

10. Thus was the "Glorious Revolution" completed almost without bloodshed. It was so easily accomplished, because the foolish attack of James on Protestantism had left him without a party. In the Civil War the attack of the Parliament on the Church had complicated the political struggle with a religious one, and had thus given the throne a strength which, on its own merits, it would not have had. But now the whole nation was united, save for a handful of Catholics, as it had never been united before. The Church was now on the side of the Constitution as much as the Puritans had ever been. The short reign of . had proved the impossibility of the Tory policy of furthering their party ends by magnifying the royal power. Successful to some extent under a shrewd king like ., the plan failed completely under an obstinate bigot like James I I. The Tories saw that the king, whose favours they had felt sure of, might do as much harm to Church and State as an Oliver or a Shaftesbury. They dropped their unworkable views, and the acts of the Convention established the Whig teaching that the king is an official who may be removed, if he does ill the work be is appointed to perform. The resolution of the Convention had sought to please both Whigs and Tories, by dwelling first upon James's abdication as resulting from his bad government, and then by pretending that he had withdrawn from the throne, from which the Tories were unwilling to drive him. But it was essentially a triumph of the Whig ideal ofgoverment. In effect it destroyed the Tory doctrine that kings had an "indefeasible hereditary divine right," and cut at the [20]  root the ideas which had set the king apart from his people, as "God's special deputy, to resist whom were wicked and unchristian." When Church and State were really in danger, all Englishmen, Whig and Tory, Churchmen and Dissenter, banded themselves together in a great national party to save Church and Constitution from Popery and despotism. James had failed even more completely than his father. His successors mounted the throne with a Parliamentary title. With the triumph of the Constitution came the final triumph of Protestantism. Now that Protestants of all sorts had joined together against the Papists, the policy of the Restoration had to be reversed by granting religious liberty to all Protestants. The troublous seventeenth century had ended with the victory of the Parliament and the Protestant Religion.

 
 
 
Footnotes:

[1] Accession and Character of James II, 1685

[2] The Tory rule continued.

[3] 1685-1685

[4] Persecution in Scotland, 1685.

[5] The Parliament of 1685.

[6] Argyll's Rebellion, 1685.

[7] Monmouth'sRebellion, 1685.

[8] 1685-1685

[9] The Battle of Sedgmoor,6 July.

[10] The Bloody Assize.

[11] 1688--1687

[12] Breach between James and the Parliament.

[13] James's attempt to bring in Popery,1686-1688.

[14] 1688--1688

[15] The Declaration of Indulgence and the Seven Bishops, 1688.

[16] wiliamm.'s Invasion and Triumph, 1688.

[17] 1688--1689

[18] The Convention,1689.

[19] The Declarationof Right.

[20] The Revolution Settlement.