The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 1

Allen, Thomas

1827

History of London during the reign of James the Second.

History of London during the reign of James the Second.

 

On the James, duke of York, was proclaimed king in London, with the accustomed ceremonies, by the title of James the ; and, on the , he was crowned, with his queen, at , the usual cavalcade from the Tower being dispensed with to avoid the charges.

Within days after his accession, James went openly to mass; and notwithstanding his public declaration that he would

make it his endeavour to preserve the government, both in church and state, as now by law established,

he immediately begun to betray his determination to rule arbitrarily, by ordering the continuance of the levies of the customs and additional excise of duties, though, according to the grant of parliament, those duties had expired with his brother's life. The vigour of the nation was at that time depressed, and no Hampden could be then found dauntless enough to risk the hazard of opposing this assumption of illegal authority.

Mr. Brayley justly remarks that James's object was unquestionably the establishment of an absolute monarchy: his , the complete restoration of the Catholic hierarchy; and, to this latter design, the most obnoxious witnesses to the reality of the popish plot, by whose agency, at least, the attempt had been retarded in the late reign, were now to be traduced and punished. On the and , Titus Oates was tried by judge Jefferies, in the court of King's Bench, for perjury on points of his evidence: his conviction had been predetermined, and he was sentenced to be stript of his canonical habits; to be fined ; to stand times a year in the pillory, in different parts of London and ; to be closely imprisoned for life; and as a prelude to the whole, to stand in the pillory at Hall and at the , on successive days; on the day to be whipt from to Newgate; and on the , to be whipt from Newgate to Tyburn. The scourging was executed with merciless severity; Rapin says,

with such cruelty as was unknown to the English nation,

and Oates swooned several times with the excess of the pain, whilst tied to the cart. Dangerfield was twice pilloried and whipped from to Tyburn, for his concern in

463

the discovery of the Meal-tub Plot; and this led to his death, for, when on his return, in a coach, after the whipping, he was insulted near Hatton-garden, by a barrister of Gray's-inn, who being irritated at some reproachful words used in reply, violently thrust the end of a small cane into Dangerfield's eye, which, in hours, put a period to his life. The barrister was condemned to be hanged; and James, who, on this occasion, seems to have felt what was due to justice, refused to pardon him, though strongly solicited for that purpose ; he was therefore executed according to his sentence. The aged and respectable Presbyterian minister, Richard Baxter, was soon after condemned to fine and imprisonment, for his writings against the Catholic bishops.

The attempt to overthrow the despotic authority which James had now assumed, was made by the earl of Argyle and the duke of Monmouth; the former of whom landed in Scotland on the , and the latter, at Lyme, in Dorsetshire, on the . Fatally, however, for themselves and their adherents, they were both unsuccessful: the earl, after having been treated with extreme indignity, was beheaded at Edinburgh; and the duke, who had been attainted by parliament, suffered the like fate on , on the . He fell, highly regretted by the people, with whom he had ever been a great favourite. Many of the duke's partisans were almost immediately proscribed and put to death in various parts of the kingdom, and, particularly in the western counties, under circumstances of extreme cruelty. London was the scene of several executions; and, among others, of Mrs. Elizabeth Gaunt, a benevolent woman, who had given shelter to a person that had been concerned in the late insurrection: and who, with a peculiar degree of base ingratitude, secured his own pardon by betraying his humane benefactress. She suffered with great magnanimity; though, according to the then existing laws of treason, as applicable to women, it was her horrid fate to be burnt alive.

She died,

says Burnet,

rejoicing that God honoured her to be the

first

that suffered by fire in this reign, and that her suffering was a martyrdom for that religion which was all love.

The next distinguished sufferer in London was Henry Cornish, an alderman of this city, who was singled out as a sacrifice to popery; for, being sheriff of London in the year , he had exerted himself in an uncommon manner in the detection and prosecution of the popish plot, and inquiring into the mystery of Fitz Harris's treason; wherefore the papists deemed this a very proper time to revenge themselves upon him. To which end on the following he was apprehended and committed to Newgate, without the use of pen, ink, or paper, until Saturday noon, when he received notice of an indictment of high treason being prepared against him, on which he was to be tried the Monday following. In the interim, his children humbly petitioned the king

464

for time for their father to prepare for his defence. James, artfully to avoid the imputation of injustice, referred their petition to the judges, who, he well knew, would run all lengths to serve him: answerable to this opinion, they unjustly denied their humble and equitable request, though the unhappy prisoner knew not whether they intended to proceed against him for a crime in this or the preceding reign: besides, his most material evidence then was above an miles from London. And, to exult over the misfortunes of this innocent gentleman, the attorney-general told him, that he had not so well deserved of the government, as to have time allowed him, which, in plain English, is as much as if he had said, that he was to expect neither favour nor justice in the prosecution.

Cornish was on the Monday following indicted for conspiring with other false traitors to raise a rebellion in the kingdom, to destroy the king, and subvert the constitution in the late reign. The only material evidence against him was colonel Rumsey, an infamous and profligate wretch; and Goodenough, the other evidence, an outlaw in the highest degree, was pardoned, and his testimony made legal, for his appearing against Cornish; and though what he deposed did not affect the prisoner, he was nevertheless condemned, and on the of the same month hanged, drawn, and quartered, at the end of , , fronting his own house.

Had the aforesaid iniquitous judges granted the reasonable and moving requests set forth in the petition of Cornish's children, his innocence would soon have appeared, from Rumsey's former depositions, as it was soon after his death clearly evinced, insomuch that it is said, that the king not only regretted his unfortunate end, but likewise restored his estate to his family, and the witnesses were lodged in remote prisons during their lives.

The year became memorable from a measure that threatened destruction to the church of England, this was, the proposed exemption from all penal laws in respect to religion, which James wished the Dissenters to believe was for their benefit, but which, in fact, was intended as the means of rendering Popery paramount to Protestantism. Such an innovation excited the strictures of the most eminent divines, who united their abilities in the endeavour to counteract it; of these none were more assiduous than Dr. John Sharp, rector of St. Giles' in the Fields, and afterwards Archbishop of York. This divine

had a peculiar talent of reading his sermons with much life and zeal.

Such a man, therefore, could not escape the notice and animadversion of James and his courtiers; and a particular sermon which he had preached at his parish church, upon some points of the controversy then existing, gave so much offence, that the king ordered a mandatory letter to be sent to Dr. Compton, bishop of London,

requiring him immediately to suspend Sharp, and examine the matter.

The bishop declined proceeding in such a summary way, but requested Sharp to abstain from

465

officiating till the charge was investigated. By this mild conduct that prelate, who had already rendered himself particularly obnoxious to the court, gave such high offence, that he was now marked as an eminent example for severity; but as there was no law by which he could be punished, the king, by the advice of Jefferies, revived the high commission court, under the new name of a court of delegates for ecclesiastical affairs. Before this court, which was empowered to proceed in a summary and arbitrary way, without any legal rule to govern its proceedings, and constituted as it was, in defiance of the express words of the act of parliament by which the high commission court had been abolished in , bishop Compton was arraigned for contumacy, in not suspending Dr. Sharp, and was himself suspended from exercising his episcopal functions. Dr. Sharp, who had expressed his sorrow for having excited his sovereign's displeasure, was eventually dismissed with a gentle reprimand only, and suffered to return to the exercise of his clerical duties.

The protection given to the papists, at this period, was so undisguised and decided, that the host was carried in procession through the streets of London, and

monks,

says Rapin,

appeared in the habits of their order at

Whitehall

and St. James's, and scrupled not to tell the protestants, that

they hoped, in a little time, to walk in procession through Cheapside.

A camp of men was also formed upon Hounslow-heath, in which the king had a small chapel, wherein mass was daily celebrated. All vacant preferments were likewise given to the papists; and in many instances, protestant incumbents were deprived of their benefices to make room for catholic priests. A premature embassy was also sent to the court of Rome, for the purpose of reconciling

the

three

kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, to the Holy See,

but the pontiff, Innocent XI. having more discrimination than to be the dupe of such a visionary scheme, treated the English ambassador with so much incivility, bordering on rudeness, that the latter, considering himself insulted, returned to England without having accomplished any material object of his mission.

On the d of , the king's declaration of Liberty of Conscience was promulgated; and an order of council was forthwith issued,

enjoining the bishops to cause it to be sent and distributed throughout their dioceses, to be read at the

usual time of divine service, in all churches and chapels on certain days named in the order.

This new attack upon the principles and doctrines of the established church, was considered by some of its principal divines, as a direct violation of its fundamental interests, and several of the bishops held a conference on the subject, at , the result of which was a resolution,

That it was better to obey God than man, and their case being such, that they could not obey the king without betraying their own consciences, they ought, without further consideration, to expose themselves to the approaching storm.

Dr. Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury; Dr. Lloyd, bishop of St. Asaph; Dr. Kenn, bishop of Bath and Wells; Dr. Turner, bishop of Ely; Dr. Lake, bishop of Chichester; Dr. White, bishop of Peterborough; and Drelawney, bishop of Bristol, then drew up a petition to the king, wherein,

after professing their tenderness to all dissenters, they prayed to be relieved from the dispensing power which the declaration professed, and that they could not, in prudence, honour, or conscience, make themselves so far parties to it, as to cause its distribution through the kingdom.

This petition was immediately presented by the bishops to the bigotted James, who was so incensed at its unexpected boldness, that he answered with passion,

he would be obeyed, and that they should be made to feel what it was to disobey him.

All the reply made by the prelates was,

The will of God be done!

and they directly quitted the royal presence.

So great was James' infatuation, that he determined to accomplish his design by uprising the strong arm of power. By way of setting an example which none could mistake, he resolved to proceed with the utmost rigour against the bishops, who were ordered to appear before a privy-council devoted to his will, on the . The proceedings were most extraordinary. On their appearance,

the king, holding the petition in his hand, asked them whether they had signed that paper? They made a low bow, and said nothing.

What,

said the king,

do you deny your own hands?

Upon which they silently bowed again. Then the king told them, if they would

own it to be their hands, upon his royal word not a hair of their heads should be touched.

Whereupon the archbishop said,

Relying upon your majesty's word, I confess it to be my hand,

and so said all the rest. Then being ordered to withdraw, when they were called in again, they found the king vanished, and Jefferies in the chair.

This stern judge immediately required them to give bond for their appearance in the court of King's Bench, to answer for their high misdemeanor. On their steady refusal to comply, they were all committed to the Tower, and the crown lawyers were directed to prosecute them for a seditious libel.

467

 

These proceedings,

says Burnet,

set all the whole city into the highest fermentation that was ever known in the memory of man;

and it not being accounted safe to send the bishops to the Tower by land, they were conveyed thither by water, yet not so privately but that the people, flocking in multitudes to the river side, hailed them as they past with loud acclamations, and on their knees solicited their blessing.

On the , the bishops were discharged from imprisonment on their own recognizance to appear on the at hall, to take their trial; which they accordingly did, amidst of the most crowded courts that had ever assembled. On this occasion, the judges were not unanimous in their charge to the jury, and the latter deliberated on their verdict during the whole night; but, on the next morning, they pronounced the prelates

Not Guilty!

The acclamations of the crowd, at this decision, were loud and incessant, and the whole metropolis rung with repeated shouts of joy.

The decided tone of the public voice at length convinced James of his error; he discovered, when too late, that the small band of papists which surrounded him, could oppose no effectual barrier against the tide of popular resentment. Alarmed at the dangers of his situation, in this dilemma he applied to the venerable prelates whom he had so lately persecuted; and requested their advice conjointly with the other bishops, as to the steps which he should pursue in the present emergency. At the same time, he restored the bishop of London to his functions, and ordered the base Jefferies himself to carry back the charter to the city of London, as though he had been willing to revert to true constitutional principles. He dissolved the new ecclesiastical court, and signified his intention to call a free parliament; but it became evident, from his hypocritical conduct, that no terms could be kept with him; the adherents of the prince of Orange therefore effected the revolution, by which the constitution of the realm was restored to all its fundamental principles, whilst James pusillanimously abdicated the throne which he was unworthy to fill. He quitted , in disguise, with sir Edward Hales, on the night between the and ; and having thrown the great seal into the Thames, crossed the river, and proceeded to Faversham, near which, at Shellness, he embarked in a small vessel that had been hired by sir Edward to convey him to France. The weather being tempestuous, they could not immediately sail, and James being discovered he was obliged to write to the lords of the council, in London, who dispatched the earls of Faversham, Hilsborough, Middleton, and Yarmouth, with a strong guard of horse, to escort him to , if he could be prevailed on to return. On his arrival at the palace, he wrote to the prince of Orange, at Windsor, inviting him to St. James's, that

they might

amicably and personally confer together about the means of redressing the public grievances.

To this the prince of Orange replied not, but calling a council of the English lords, who were with him, they resolved that it was expedient that James should remove from his palace to Ham, in Surrey; and, on the same night, the Dutch guards took possession of all the posts about and St. James's. The king, seeing his power thus circumscribed, requested, and obtained permission to retire to Rochester instead of Ham; and from Rochester, days afterwards, , he privately withdrew, and was conveyed in a small frigate to Ambleteuse, in France, never more to revisit the kingdom he had so arbitrarily governed.

When James quitted the metropolis, a meeting of spiritual and temporal lords assembled at , where they sent for the lord mayor and aldermen, to consult with them respecting the state of the realm, and they resolved to depute some of their body to inform the prince of Orange that they had determined to adhere to his protection, and to request him to honour the city with his presence. The possession of the had been previously secured and placed in the custody of lord Lucas.

Though all the precautions imaginable were taken to preserve the peace and safety of the city against the evil designs of papists, and dangerous tumults of others, by keeping the militia of London and continually in arms, till the arrival of the prince of Orange, yet nevertheless a considerable commotion happened for the populace, regarding the papists as the authors of their late misfortunes and present distractions, assaulted the houses of the Spanish and Tuscan ambassadors, which were the asylums of the principal papists, and wherein they had deposited their best and most valuable effects; both of which they pillaged of every thing of value; and what they could not carry off, they burnt; among which was a very valuable library both of printed and manuscript books. But, by the succeeding parliament, the ambassadors received ample satisfaction for their several losses. From those places they hastened to the king's printing-house, where all the papers, printed and unprinted, they committed to the flames.

 
 
Footnotes:

[] Brayley's London, i. 470.

[] Rap. Hist. vol. ii. p. 755.

[] Bur. Hist. vol. i. p. 703.

[] Whenever the earl of Castlemain. James's ambassador, had an audience of the Pope, and had begun to enter upon his mission, the holy father was instantly seized with a fit of coughing, which always broke off the interview. At length, the earl threatened to return home, unless he was permitted to proceed to the business of his embassy; and this being reported to the pontiff, the latter coldly observed, Well, let him go; and tell him it were fit he rise early in the morning that he may rest himself at noon; for in this country it is dangerous to travel in the heat of the day. --Welwood's Mem. p. 186.

[] Bur. Hist vol. i. p. 739.

[] Tindal, from the information of the bishop of Durham; Rap. Hist ii. 763, note.

[] Bur. Hist. i. 741; and Rap. Eng. ii. 763.

[] Brayley's London i. 475.

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 Title Page
 Dedication
 Preface
 Chapter I: History of London and its environs, from the earliest period of authentic record to the defeat of the Britons by Suetonius
Chapter II: Historical account of Roman London, with notices of remains discovered.
 Chapter III: History of London from the departure of the Romans till the time of the Conquest
 Chapter IV: History of London from the Conquest to the reign of Henry the Third
 Chapter V: History of London from the reign of Henry the Third to the reign of Edward the Second
 Chapter VI: History of London from the reign of Edward the Second to the reign of Richard the Second
 Chapter VII: History of London from the reign of Henry the Fourth to the reign of Edward the Fourth
 Chapter VIII: History of London from the reign of Edward the Fourth to the reign of Henry the Eighth
 Chapter IX: History of London during the reign of Henry the Eighth
 Chapter X: History of London from the reign of Edward the Sixth to the accession of Elizabeth
Chapter XI: History of London, during the reign of Elizabeth.
 Chapter XII: History of London during the reign of James the First
Chapter XIII: History of London during the Reign of Charles the First
 Chapter XIV: History of London during the Commonwealth and the reign of Charles the Second
 Chapter XV: History of London during the reign of James the Second