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CHAP. White of Peterborough, and Trelawney of Bristol, LXX. met privately with the primate, and concerted the
form of a petition to the King. They there represent 1688.
in few words, that, though possessed of the highest sense of loyalty, a virtue of which the church of England had given such eminent testimonies; and though desirous of affording ease, in a legal way, to all protestant dissenters; yet, because the declaration of indulgence was founded on a prerogative formerly declared illegal by parliament, they could not, in prudence, honour, or conscience, so far make them. selves parties as the distribution of it all over the kingdom would be interpreted to amount to. They therefore besought the King, that he would not insist upon their reading that declaration".
The King was incapable, not only of yielding to the greatest opposition, but of allowing the slightest and most respectful contradiction to pass uncensured. He immediately embraced a resolu. tion (and his resolutions, when once embraced,
• The words of the petition were : That the great averseness found in themselves to their distributing and publishing in all their churches Your Majesty's late declaration for liberty of conscience, proceeds neither from any want of duty and obedience to Your Majesty, (our holy mother the church of England, being both in her principles and her constant practice unquestionably loyal, and having to her great honour been more than once publicly acknowledged to be so by Your gracious Majesty) nor yet from any want of tenderness to dissenters, in relation to whom we are willing to come to such a temper as shall be thought fit, when the matter shall be considered and settled in parliament and convocation. But among many other considerations, from this especially, because that declaration is founded upon such a dispensing power as hath been often declared illegal in parliament, and particularly in the years 1662 and 1672, and in the beginning of Your Majesty's reign, and is a matter of so great moment and consequence to the whole nation both in church and state, that your petitioners cannot in prudence, honour, or conscience, so far make themselves parties to it as a distribution of it all over the nation, and the solemn publication of it once and again, even in God's house, and in the time of divine service, must amount to in common and easonable construction.
were inflexible) of punishing the Bishops, for a peti- CHAP. tion so popular in its matter, and so prudent and LXX. cautious in the expression. As the petition was
1688. delivered him in private, he summoned them before the council ; and questioned them whether they would acknowledge it. The Bishops saw his intention, and seemed long desirous to decline answering : But being pushed by the chancellor, they at last avowed the petition. On their refusal to give bail, an order was immediately drawn for their commitment to the Tower ; and the crown lawyers received directions to prosecute them for the seditious libel which, it was pretended, they had composed and uttered.
The people were already aware of the danger Imprisoja to which the prelates were exposed ; and were ment, raised to the highest pitch of anxiety and attention with regard to the issue of this extraordinary affair. But when they beheld these fathers of the church brought from court under the custody of a guard, when they saw them embark in vessels on the river, and conveyed towards the Tower, all their affection for liberty, all their zeal for religion, blazed up at once ; and they flew to behold this affecting spectacle. The whole shore was covered with crowds of prostrate spectators, who at once implored the blessing of those holy pastors, and addressed their petitions towards Heaven for protection during this extreme danger to which their country and their religion stood exposed. Even the soldiers, seized with the contagion of the same spirit, flung themselves on their knees before the distressed prelates, and craved the benediction of those criminals whom they were appointed to guard. Some persons ran into the water, that they might participate more nearly in those blessings, which the prelates were distributing on all around them. The Bishops themselves, during this triumphant suffering, augmented the general
CHA P. favour, by the most lowly submissive deportment; LXX. and they still exhorted the people to fear God, hon
our the King, and maintain their loyalty ; expressions 1688.
more animating than the most inflammatory speeches. And no sooner had they entered the precincts of the Tower than they hurried to chapel, in order to return thanks for those afflictions, which Heaven, in defence of its holy cause, had thought them worthy
to endure. trial, Their passage, when conducted to their trial,
was, if possible, attended by greater crowds of anxious spectators.
All men saw the dangerous crisis to which affairs were reduced, and were sensible that the King could not have put the issue on a cause more unfavourable for himself than that in which he had so imprudently engaged. Twentynine temporal peers (for the other prelates kept aloof) attended the prisoners to Westminster-hall; and such crowds of gentry followed the procession, that scarcely was any room left for the populace to enter. The lawyers for the Bishops were Sir Robert Sawyer, Sir Francis Pemberton, Pollexfen, Treby, and Sommers. No cause, even during the prosecution of the popish plot, was ever heard with so much zeal and attention. The popular torrent, which, of itself, ran fierce and strong, was now farther irritated by the opposition of governo ment.
The counsel for the Bishops pleaded, that the law allowed subjects, if they thought themselves aggrieved in any particular, to apply by petition to the King, provided they kept within certain bounds, which the same law prescribed to them, and which, in the present petition, the prelates had strictly observed : That an active obedience, in cases which were contrary to conscience, was never pretended to be due to government; and law was allowed to be the great measure of the compliance and submission of subjects : That when any
person found commands to be imposed upon him CHAP. which he could not obey, it was more respectful LXX. in him to offer his reasons for refusal, than to remain in a sullen and refractory silence: That it was no breach of duty in subjects, even though not called upon, to discover their sense of public measures, in which every one had so intimate a concern: That the Bishops in the present case were called upon, and must either express their approbation by compliance, or their disapprobation by petition : That it could be no sedition to deny the prerogative of suspending the laws; because there really was no such prerogative, nor ever could be, in a legal and limited government: That even if this prerogative were real, it had yet been frequently controverted before the whole nation, both in Westminster-hall, and in both houses of parliament; and no one had ever dreamed of punishing the denial of it as criminal : That the prelates, instead of making an appeal to the people, had applied in private to His Majesty, and had even delivered their petition so secretly, that, except by the confession extorted from them before the council, it was found impossible to prove them the authors : And that though the petition was afterwards printed and dispersed, it was not so much as attempted to be proved that they had the least knowledge of the publication.
These arguments were convincing in themselves, and were heard with a favourable disposition by the audience. Even some of the judges, though their seats were held during pleasure, declared themselves in favour of the prisoners. The jury, however, from what cause is unknown, took several hours to deliberate, and kept, during so long a time, the people in the most anxious expectation. But when the 17th wished-for verdict, not guilty, was at last pro acquittal
June, and nounced, the intelligence was echoed through the of the
CHAP. hall, was conveyed to the crowds without, was cars LXX. ried into the city, and was propagated with infinite joy
throughout the kingdom. 1688.
Ever since Monmouth's rebellion, the King had, every summer, encamped his army on Hounslowheath, that he might both improve their discipline, and by so unusual a spectacle overawe the mutinous people. A popish chapel was openly erected in the midst of the camp, and great pains were taken, though in vain, to bring over the soldiers to that communion. The few converts, whom the priests had made, were treated with such contempt and ignominy, as deterred every one from following the example. Even the Irish officers, whom the King introduced into the army, served rather, from the aversion borne them, to weaken his interest among them. It happened, that the very day on which the trial of the Bishops was finished, James had reviewed the troops, and had retired into the tent of Lord Feversham, the general ; when he was surprised to hear a great uproar in the camp, attended with the most extravagant symptoms of tumultuary joy. He suddenly inquired the cause, and was told by Feversham, “ It was nothing but the rejoicing of the “ soldiers for the acquittal of the Bishops.” “Do you “ call that nothing ?” replied he;. “ but so much the “ worse for them.”
The King was still determined to rush forward in the same course, in which he was already, by his precipitate career, so fatally advanced. Though he knew that every order of men, except a handful of catholics, were enraged at his past measures, and still more terrified with the future prospect; though he saw that the same discontents had reached the army, his sole resource during the general disaffection ; yet he was incapable of changing his measures, or even of remitting his violence in the prosecution of them. He even struck out two of the judges,