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CH AP. JAMES gave hopes on his succession, that he would LXX. hold the balance of power more steadily than his
predecessor ; and that France, instead of rendering 1685.
England subservient to her ambitious projects, would now meet with strong opposition from that kingdom. Besides applying himself to business with industry, he seemed jealous of national honour, and expressed great care, that no more respect should be paid to the French Ambassador at London than his own received at Paris. But these appearances were not sufficiently supported, and he found himself immediately under the necessity of falling into an union with that great monarch, who, by his power as well as his zeal, seemed alone able to assist him in the projects formed for promoting the catholic religion in England.
NOTWITHSTANDING the King's prejudices, all the chief offices of the crown continued still in the hands of protestants. Rochester was treasurer ; his brother Clarendon chamberlain; Godolphin chamberlain to the Queen ; Sunderland secretary of state; Halifax president of the council. This nobleman had stood in opposition to James during the last years of his brother's reign ; and when he attempted, on the accession, to make some apology for his late measures, the King told him, that he would forget every thing past, except his behaviour during the bill of exclusion. On other occasions, however, James appeared not of so forgiving a temper. When the principal exclusionists came to pay their respects to the new sovereign, they either were not admitted, or were received very coldly, sometimes even with frowns. This conduct might suit the character, which the King so much affected, of sincerity : But by shewing, that a King of England could resent the quarrels of a Duke of York, he gave his people no high idea either of his lenity or magnanimity
On all occasions, the King was open in declaring CHAP. that men must now look for a more active and more LXX. vigilant government, and that he would retain no
1685. ministers, who did not practise an unreserved obedience to his commands. We are not indeed to look for the springs of his administration so much in his council and chief officers of state, as in his own temper, and in the character of those persons with whom he secretly consulted. The Queen had great influence over him; a woman of spirit, whose conduct had been popular till she arrived at that high dignity. She was much governed by the priests, especially the Jesuits ; and as these were also the King's favourites, all public measures were taken originally from the suggestion of these men, and bore evident marks of their ignorance in government, and of the violence of their religious zeal.
The King, however, had another attachment, seemingly not very consistent with this devoted regard to his Queen and to his priests : It was to Mrs. Sedley, whom he soon after created Countess of Dorchester, and who expected to govern him with the same authority which the Dutchess of Portsmouth bad possessed during the former reign. But James, who had entertained the ambition of converting his people, was told, that the regularity of his life ought to correspond to the sanctity of his intentions; and he was prevailed with to remove Mrs. Sedley from court : A resolution in which he had not the courage to persevere. Good agreement between the mistress and the confessor of Princes is not commonly a difficult matter to compass : But in the present case these two potent engines of commard were found very incompatible. Mrs. Sedley, who possessed all the wit and ingenuity of her father, Sir Charles, made the priests and their counsels the perpetual objects of her raillery; and it is not to be doubted, but they, on their part, redoubled their
CHA P. exhortations with their penitent to break off so criLXX. minal an attachment:
How little inclination soever the King, as well 1685
as his Queen and priests, might bear to an English parliament, it was absolutely necessary, at the beginning of the reign, to summon that assembly. The low condition, to which the whigs or country-party had fallen during the last years of Charles's reign, the odium under which they laboured on account of the Rye-house conspiracy; these causes made that party meet with little success in the elections. The general resignation too of the charters had made the corporations extremely dependent; and the recommendations of the court, though little assisted,
at that time, by pecuniary influence, were become A parlia- very prevalent. The new house of commons, therement. fore, consisted almost entirely of zealous tories and
churchmen; and were of consequence strongly biassed by their affections, in favour of the measures
of the crown. 19th of The discourse which the King made to the parMay. liament, was more fitted to work on their fears
than their affections. He repeated indeed, and with great solemnity, the promise which he had made before the privy-council, of governing according to the laws, and of preserving the established religion. But at the same time he told them, that he positively expected they would settle his revenue, and during life too, as in the time of his brother. “ I might use many arguments,” said he, “ to enforce this demand; the benefit of trade, “ the support of the navy, the necessities of the
crown, and the well-being of the government " itself, which I must not suffer to be precarious : “ But I am confident, that your own consideration, " and your sense of what is just and reasonable, " will suggest to you whatever on this occasion
might be enlarged upon. There is indeed one
“ popular argument,” added he, “ which may be CHAP.
urged against compliance with my demand : Men LXX. may think, that by feeding me from time to time
1685 “ with such supplies as they think convenient, they “ will better secure frequent meetings of parliament : “ But as this is the first time I speak to you from the “ throne, I must plainly tell you, that such an expe“ dient would be very improper to employ with me, " and that the best way to engage me to meet you “ often, is always to use me well.”
It was easy to interpret this language of the King. He plainly intimated, that he had resources in his prerogative for supporting the government, independently of their supplies ; and that so long as they complied with his demands, he would have recourse to them ; but that any ill usage on their part would set him free from those measures of government, which he seemed to regard more as voluntary than as necessary. It must be confessed, that no parliament in England was ever placed in a more critical situation, nor where more forcible arguments could be urged, either for their opposition to the court, or their compliance with it.
IT, was said on the one hand, that jealousy of royal Reasons power was the very basis of the English constitution, for and and the principle to which the nation was beholden against a
revenue for all that liberty which they enjoy above the sub
during jects of other monarchies. That this jealousy, life. though, at different periods, it may be more or less intense, can never safely be laid asleep, even under the best and wisest Princes. That the character of the present sovereign afforded cause for the highest vigilance, by reason of the arbitrary principles which he had imbibed ; and still more, by reason of his religious zeal, which it is impossible for him ever to gratify, without assuming more authority than the constitution allows him. That power is to be watched in its very first encroachments ; nor is any thing ever gained by timidity and
CHAP. submission. That every concession adds new force LXX.
to usurpation ; and at the same time by discovering 1685.
the dastardly dispositions of the people, inspires it with new courage and enterprise. That as arms were intrusted altogether in the hands of the Prince, no check remained upon him but the dependent condition of his revenue; a security therefore which it would be the most egregious folly to abandon, That all the other barriers, which, of late years, had been erected against arbitrary power, would be found, without this capital article, to be rather pernicious and destructive. That new limitations in the constitution stimulated the monarch's inclination to surmount the laws, and required frequent meetings of parliament, in order to repair all the breaches, which either time or violence may have made upon that complicated fabric. That recent experience during the reign of the late King, a Prince, who wanted neither prudence nor moderation, had sufficiently proved the solidity of all these maxims. That his parliament, having rashly fixed his revenue for life, and at the same time repealed the triennial bill, found that they themselves were no longer of importance, and that liberty, not protected by national assemblies, was ' exposed to every outrage and violation. And that the more openly the King made an unreasonable demand, the more obstinately ought it to be refused ; since it is evident, that his purpose in making it cannot possibly be justifiable.
On the other hand it was urged, that the rule of watching the very first encroachments of power could only have place, where the opposition to it could be regular, peaceful, and legal. That though the refusal of the King's present demand might seem of this nature, yet in reality it involved consequences, which led much farther than at first sight might be apprehended. That the King in his speech had intimated, that he had resources in his prerogative, which, in case of opposition from parliament, he