« PreviousContinue »
CH A P. LXVIII.
State of Parties. - State of the Ministry. Meal-tubo
Plot. -Wbig and Tory. - A New Parliament. Violence of the Commons. Exclusion Bill. - Ar. guments for and against the Exclusion. - Exclusion Bill rejected. - Trial of Stafford. - His Execution. - Violence of the Commons. -Dissolution of the Parliament. - New Parliament at Oxford.
Fitzbarris's Case. Parliament dissolved. - Victory of
the Royalists. СНАР.
'HE King, observing that the whole nation LXVIII.
concurred at first in the belief and prosecution 1679.
of the popish plot, had found it necessary for his own safety, to pretend, in all public speeches and transactions, an entire belief and acquiescence in that famous absurdity, and by this artifice he had eluded the violent and irresistible torrent of the people. When a little time and recollection, as well as the
execution of the pretended conspirators, had someState of what moderated the general fury, he was now enparties. abled to form a considerable party, devoted to the
interests of the crown, and determined to oppose the pretensions of the malcontents.
In every mixed government, such as that of England, the bulk of the nation will always incline to preserve the entire frame of the constitution ; but according to the various prejudices, interests, and dispositions of men, some will ever attach themselves with more passion to the regal, others to the popular, part of the government. Though the King, after his
119 restoration, had endeavoured to abolish the distinction CHAP. of parties, and had chosen his ministers from among LXVIII. all denominations; no sooner had he lost his popularity,
1679. and exposed himself to general jealousy, than he found it necessary to court the old cavalier party, and to promise them full compensation for that neglect of which they had hitherto complained. The present emergence made it still more necessary for him to apply for their support; and there were many circumstances which determined them, at this time, to fly to the assistance of the crown, and to the protection of the royal family.
A PARTY, strongly attached to monarchy, will naturally be jealous of the right of succession, by which alone they believe stability to be preserved in the government, and a barrier fixed against the encroachments of popular assemblies. The project openly embraced, of excluding the Duke, appeared to that party, a dangerous innovation: And the design, secretly projected, of advancing Monmouth, made them apprehensive lest the inconveniencies of a disputed succession, should be propagated to all posterity. While the jealous lovers of liberty maintained, that a King, whose title depended on the parliament would naturally be more attentive to the interests, at least to the humours, of the people; the passionate admirers of monarchy considered all dependence as a degradation of kingly government, and a great step towards the establishment of a commonwealth of England.
But though his union with the political royalists brought great accession of force to the King, he derived no less support from the confederacy, which he had, at this time, the address to form with the church of England. He represented to the ecclesiastics the great number of presbyterians and other sectaries, who had entered into the popular party; the encouragement and favour which they met with; the loudness of their cries with regard to popery and
CHAP. arbitrary power. And he made the established LXVIII. clergy and their adherents apprehend, that the old
scheme for the abolition of prelacy as well as mo1679
narchy was revived, and that the same miseries and oppressions awaited them, to which, during the civil wars and usurpations, they had so long been exposed.
The memory also of those dismal times united many indifferent and impartial persons to the crown, and begat a dread lest the zeal for liberty should engraft itself on fanaticism, and should once more kindle a civil war in the kingdom. Had not the King still retained the prerogative of dissolving the parliament, there was, indeed, reason to apprehend the renewal of all the pretensions and violences which had ushered in the last commotions. The one period appeared an exact counter-part to the other: But still discerning judges could perceive, both in the spirit of the parties and in the genius of the Prince, a material difference; by means of which Charles was enabled, at last, though with the imminent peril of liberty, to preserve the peace of the nation.
THE cry against popery was loud ; but it proceeded less from religious, than from party zeal, in those who propagated, and even in those who adopted it. The spirit of enthusiasm had occasioned so much mischief, and had been so successfully exploded, that it was not possible, by 'any artifice again to revive and support it. Cant had been ridiculed, hypocrisy detected; the pretensions to a more thorough reformation, and to greater purity, had become suspicious; and instead of denominating themselves the godly party, the appellation affected at the beginning of the civil wars, the present patriots were content with calling themselves the good and the honest party®: A sure prognostic that their measures were not to be so furious, nor their pretensions so exorbitant. • Temple, vol. i. p. 335.
The King too, though not endowed with the inte-CHAP. grity and strict principles of his father, was happy in LXVIII. a more amiable manner, and more popular address.
1679. Far from being distant, stately, or reserved, he had not a grain of pride or vanity in his whole composition, but was the most affable, best bred man alive. He treated his subjects like noblemen, like gentlemen, like freemen; not like vassals or boors. His professions were plausible, his whole behaviour engaging ; so that he won upon the hearts, even while he lost the good opinion of his subjects, and often balanced their judgment of things by their personal inclination. In his public conduct likewise, though he had sometimes embraced measures dangerous to the liberty and religion of his people, he had never been found to persevere obstinately in them, but had always returned into that path, which their united opinion seemed to point out to him. And upon the whole, it appeared to many, cruel and even iniquitous, to remark too rigorously the failings of a Prince, who discovered so much facility in correcting his errors, and so much lenity in pardoning the offences committed against himself
. The general affection borne the King appeared signally about this time. He fell sick at Windsor ; and had two or three fits of a fever, so violent as made his life be thought in danger. A general consternation seized all ranks of men, increased by the apprehensions entertained of his successor. In the present disposition of men's minds, the King's death, to use an expression of Sir William Temple", was regarded as the end of the world. The malcontents, it was feared, would proceed to extremities, and immediately kindle a civil war in the kingdom. Either their entire success, or entire
Temple, vol. i. p. 449. » Vol. i. p. 342.
• Dissertation on Parties, letter vii.
CHAP. failure, or even the balance and contest of parties, LXVIII. seemed all of them events equally fatal. The King's
chief counsellors therefore, Essex, Halifax, and 1679 State of Sunderland, who stood on bad terms with Shaftes. the minis- bury and the popular party, advised him to send setry. cretly for the Duke, that in case of any sinister ac
cident, that Prince might be ready to assert his right against the opposition which he was likely to meet with. When the Duke arrived, he found his
brother out of danger; and it was agreed to conceal 2d Sept. the invitation which he had received. His jour
ney, however, was attended with important consequences. He prevailed on the King to disgrace Monmouth, whose projects were now known and avowed; to deprive him of his command in the army; and to send him beyond sea. He himself returned to Brussels ; but made a short stay in that place. He obtained leave to retire to Scotland, under pretence still of quieting the apprehensions of the English nation; but in reality with a view of securing that kingdom in his interests.
THOUGH Essex and Halifax had concurred in the resolution of inviting over the Duke, they soon found, that they had not obtained his confidence, and that even the King, while he made use of their service, had no sincere regard for their persons. Essex in disgust resigned the treasury: Halifax retired to his country-seat: Temple, despairing of any accommodation among such enraged parties, withdrew almost entirely to his books and his gardens. The King who changed ministers as well as measures with great indifference, bestowed at this time his chief confidence on Hyde, Sunderland, and Godolphin. Hyde succeeded Essex in the treasury.
All the King's ministers, as well as himself, were extremely averse to the meeting of the new parliament, which they expected to find as refractory as any of the preceding. The elections had gone