Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF

In 1670 an act against conventicles was passed, seemingly with a design of mitigating the former persecuting laws; though even this was severe enough. By this act, the hearer in a conventicle (that is, in a dissenting meeting, where more than five besides the family were present) was fined 5s. for the first offence, and 10s. for the second; the preacher £20 for the first offence, and £40 for the second. The person in whose house the conventicle met was fined a like sum with the preacher. One remarkable clause was, that, if any dispute should arise with regard to the interpretation of any part of the act, the judges should always explain the doubt in the sense least favorable to conventicles, it being the intention of parliament entirely to suppress them. As the violent methods used by the king were found ineffectual to obtain the purpose in Scotland, a scheme of comprehension was tried in 1678, by which it was proposed to diminish the authority of the bishops, to abolish their negative voice in the ecclesiastical courts, and to leave them little more than the right of precedency among the presbyters: but this too was rejected by the people, who well knew its tendency. The next scheme was an indulgence; by which the most popular of the expelled preachers, without requiring any terms of submission to the established religion, were settled in vacant churches; and small salaries of about £20 a-year were offered to the rest, till they should be otherwise established: but conventicles multiplied, and the covenanters continually met at them in arms. A renewal of the persecutions now therefore commenced under the administration of the duke of Lauderdale and archbishop Sharp. It was an old law, but seldom put in execution, that a man who was accused of any crime, and did not appear to take his trial, might be intercommuned; that is, he might be publicly outlawed; and whoever afterwards, either on account of business, relation, or charity, had the least intercourse with him, was subjected to the same penalties which the law could inflict on the criminal himself. Great numbers of writs of intercommuning were now issued against the covenanters; by which crimes and punishments were vastly multiplied. Application was made to Charles for some redress of these grievances; but he was too much taken up with his pleasures to take any effectual means of putting a stop to them; nay, even while he retracted them, he was persuaded to avow and praise them in a letter to the privy council. The consequence of all this was, that the coveranters were at last so much enraged against Sharp, whom they considered as an apostate, and experienced to be an unrelenting persecutor, that on the 3d of May, 1679, he was waylaid and murdered. See Sha Rp. This gave rise to a persecution still more violent, which at last brought on another insurrection. The covenanters finding themselves obliged to meet in large bodies, and bring arms along with them for their own security, set forth a declaration against prelacy, which they published at Rutherglen, a small borough near Glasgow; and burned in the market place several acts of parliament, which had established that mode of cnurch government. For this purpose they

chose the 20th of May, the anniversary of the Restoration; having previously extinguished the bon-fires that had been kindled on that occasion. Count Graham, afterwards viscount Dundee, an active and enterprising officer, attacked at this time a conventicle upon London Hill, but was repulsed with the loss of about thirty men. The covenanters, then finding themselves unwarily engaged in rebellion, were obliged to persevere; and pushed on to Glasgow, which, though repulsed at first, they afterwards made themselves masters of Here they dispossessed the esta. blished clergy, and issued proclamations, in which they declared that they fought against the king's supremacy, against popery and prelacy, and a popish successor. Charles, being now alarmed, despatched against the covenanters a small body of English cavalry under the duke of Monmouth. He joined the Scottish guards, and some regiments of militia levied from the well affected counties; and with great celerity marched in quest of the insurgents. They had taken pcs. at Bothwell-bridge between Hamilton and Glasgow; where there was no access but by the bridge; and where a small body was able to defend is against the king's army. The whole army of the covenanters never exceeded 8000 men, and they had in reality no other generals than their clergymen. Monmouth attacked the bridge, and the covenanters maintained it, as long as their ammunition lasted. When they sent for more, they received orders to quit their post and retire; and this imprudent measure occasioned an immediate defeat. Monmouth passed the bridge without opposition, and drew up his forces opposite the enemy. His cannon alone put them to the rout; about 700 were killed in the pursuit, and 1300 taken prisoners, who were treated with great humanity. Such as promised to live peaceably under the government were dismissed; and about 300 who refused this condition were shipped for Barbadoes, but unfortunately perished by the way. Two of their clergymen were hanged. Soon after, an act of indemnity was passed; but Lauderdale took care that it should afford little protection to the unhappy covenanters; so, though orders were given to connive thencestward at all conventicles, he found means undel * of pretences to elude the execution of them. It is now known, that Charles II. had formed a scheme of overturning the established religion. and substituting Popery in its place; as well as of rendering himself absolute. In this, however, he met with violent opposition from his paro. ments; and, as the one of 1679 even surposed their predecessors in this respect, the kin: do solved them and called another in 1680. By this step, however, he gained nothing. They voted the legality of petitioning the king; and fell with extreme violence on the abhorters, who were seized by their order in all parts of England, and committed to close custody; the liberty." the subject, which had been so carefully guaro by their own recent law, was every day violate by their arbitrary and capricious imprisonments. But one Stowel of Exeter put a stop to their proceedings: he refused to obey the serjeanta arms, and said he knew no law by which * house of commons pretended to commit him. The house, finding it equally dangerous to proceed or recede, now voted that Stowel was indisposed; and a month's time was allowed him for his recovery. The chief point aimed at by this parliament, was to obtain the enactment of the exclusion bill into a law. It passed by a great majority in the commons, but was thrown out by the house of peers; all the bishops except three voting against it. The commons on this, mortified at the rejection of their favorite bill, resolved., That, till the exclusion bill was passed, they could not, consistently with the trust reposed in them, grant the king any manner of supply; and that whoever should hereafter lend, by way of advance, any money upon the branches of the king's revenue, should be responsible to parliament for his conduct. Charles, therefore, finding that there were no hopes of extorting either money or obedience from them, came to a resolution of once more dissolving the parliament. It was for some time a doubt whether the king would ever call another; his necessities, however, surmounted all his fears of their violence; and, in 1681, he summoned a new parliament to meet him at Oxford. In this, as in all former parliaments, the popular party predominated; and they trod exactly in the same paths with their predecessors. The same speaker was chosen, and the exclusion bill urged more fiercely than ever. Ernely, one of the king's ministers, proposed that the duke should be banished 500 miles from England; and that on the king's decease the next heir should be constituted regent with regal power. Yet even this expedient, which left the duke only the bare title of king, could not obtain the attention of the house. Nothing but a total exclusion would satisfy them. Each party had now for some time reviled and ridiculed each other in pamphlets and libels; and this practice at last was attended with an incident that deserves notice. Fitzharris, an Irish papist, employed a Scotchman, named Everhard, to write a libel against the king and the duke of York. Everhard was actually a spy for the contrary party; and, supposing this a trick to entrap him, he discovered the whole to Sir William Waller, a justice of the peace. The libel was replete with the utmost rancour and scurrility; and Waller, having carried the intelligence to the king, seized Fitzharris, with a copy of it in his pocket. Seeing himself in the hands of a party from whom he expected no mercy, the latter now threw the odium of the libel upon the court, who, he said, were desirous to impute it to the exclusioners, to render them hateful to the people. He also enhanced his services to the country party by a new popish plot, in which he charged the duke of York as a principal accomplice. The king imprisoned Fitzharris: the commons avowed his cause. They voted that he should be impeached by themselves, to screen him from the ordinary forms of justice: the lords rejected the impeachment; the commons asserted their right to prosecute it: a commotion was likely to ensue; and the king, to break off the contest, went to the house and dissolved the

parliament, with a fixed resolution never to call another.

From this moment the king ruled with despotic power. His temper, which had hitherto been easy and merciful, now became cruel and arbitrary; he entertained spies and informers round the throne, and imprisoned all such as he thought most daring in their designs. Resolving to humble the presbyterians, he divested them of their employments and places; and gave their offices to such as approved the doctrine of nonresistance. The clergy began to testify their zeal and their principles by their writings and sermons; but, though among these the partizans of the king were the most numerous, those of the opposite faction were the most enterprising. The king openly espoused the cause of the former; and, placing himself at the head of a faction, deprived the city of London, which had long headed the popular party, of their charter. Fitzharris was now brought to a trial before a jury, and condemned and executed. The whole gang of spies, witnesses, informers, and suborners, who had long been encouraged and supported by the leading patriots, finding that the king was entirely master, turned short upon their old employers, and offered their evidence against those who first put them in motion. The king's ministers gave them encouragement; and in a short time the same injustice and the same cruelties were practised against presbyterian schemes, that had formerly been practised against Catholic treasons. But the king's chief resentment was levelled against the earl of Shaftesbury. No sums were spared to seek for evidence, or even to suborn witnesses, against this intriguing and formidable peer. A bill of indictment being presented to the grand jury, witnesses were examined, who swore to such incredible circumstances as must in all ordinary cases have invalidated their testimony. Among his papers, indeed, a draught of an association was found, which might have been construed into treason; but it was not in the earl's hand writing, nor could it be proved that he had ever communicated this scheme to any body, or signified his approbation of it. The sheriffs, however, had summoned a jury whose principles coincided with those of the earl; and that probably, more than want of proof, procured his safety. The other corporations of England soon began to fear that they should experience the same treatment as that of London, and were successively induced to surrender their charters to the king. Considerable sums were exacted for restoring these charters; and all the offices of power and profit were left at the disposal of the crown. There was a party, however, in England, that still cherished their former ideas of freedom, and resolved to restore liberty to their country, by dethroning the king who acted in such a despotic manner. The principal conspirators were Monmouth, Shaftesbury, Russel, Essex, Howard, Algernon Sidney, and John Hampden, grandson to the great man of that name. Monmouth engaged in their plans the earl of Macclesfield, lord Brandon, Sir Gilbert Gerard, and other gentlemen in Cheshire. Lord Russel entered into a correspondence with Sir William Courtney, Sir Francis Knowles, and Sir Francis Drake, who promised to raise the west: and Shaftesbury, with one Ferguson, an Independent clergyman, and a restless plotter, managed the city, upon which the confederates chiefly relied. These schemes had been laid in 1681 : but the caution of lord Russel, who induced the duke of Monmouth to put off the enterprise, saved the kingdom from the horrors of a civil war; while Shaftesbury, after some vain efforts to induce the citizens to revolt, retired in disgust to Holland. The remaining formed a council; which corresponded with Argyle and the malcontents in Scotland; but they widely differed in their plans. Monmouth aspired at the crown; Russel and Hampden proposed to exclude the duke of York from the succession, and redress the grievances of the nation; while Sidney and Essex were for restoring the republic. Lord Howard was an abandoned man, who, having no principles, sought to embroil the nation, to gratify his private interests. Besides these, there was a set of subordinate conspirators, who frequently met, and carried on projects quite unknown to Monmouth, and his council. These men undertook the desperate resolution of assassinating the king in his way to Newmarket; Rumbold, one of the party, 1. a farm upon that road, called the Rye-house, whence the conspiracy was called the Rye-house plot. But the house in which the king resided at Newmarket accidentally took fire, and he was obliged to leave that place eight days sooner than he was o a circumstance to which he owed his safety. Soon after this the conspiracy was discovered; Russel, Sidney, and Walcot, were tried on the charge of being connected with it, convicted, and executed; Essex cut his own throat; Hampden was fined £40,000, and scarcely one escaped who had been in any manner concerned, except the duke of Monmouth, the most culpable of all. Severe o however, were inflicted on many who treated the duke of York disrespectfully. The famous Titus Oates was fined £100,000 for calling him a popish traitor; and he was sentenced to be imprisoned till he should pay it. A similar sentence was passed upon Dutton Colt. Sir Samuel Barnardiston was fined £10,000 for having in some private letters reflected on the government. At last, to please his subjects by an act of popularity, the king married the lady Anne, his niece, to prince George brother to the king of Denmark. This was the last remarkable transaction of this extraordinary reign. On February 2d, 1685, about 8 A.M., the king was seized with a fit of apo§. but, being blooded, he was restored perectly to his senses; and there were great hopes of his recovery. On the fourth day, however, the physicians despaired of his life, and sent for the queen. He was in his perfectsenses when she arrived. She threw herself on her knees, and asked his pardon for all her offences. He replied that she nad offended in nothing; but that he had been guilty of offences against her, and asked her pardon. He spoke with great affection to the duke of York, and gave him excellent counsel for his future conduct. He advised him to adhere strictly to the laws, and to support the church of England invariably. The duke seemed anxious to convince him before he died how little he intended to follow his advice. Having re

moved the bishops and several of the lords who attended, he sent for Huddleston, a Romish priest, and in the presence of the duke, the earl of Bath, and Trevannion a captain in the guards, Huddleston gave the extreme unction to the king, and administered to him the sacrament according to the rites of the church of Rome. All this was accomplished in the space of half an hour. The doors were then thrown open. Six prelates, who had before attended the king, were sent for to give him the sacrament. Kenn, bishop of Bath and Wells, read the visitation for the sick; and, after he said that he repented of his sins, the absolution. The king assisted with seeming devotion at the service; but his mouth being distorted with fits, and his throat contracted, he could not swallow the elements. He professed, however, his satisfaction in the church of England; and expired on the 6th February between eleven and twelve o'clock; having reigned twenty-five years, and lived fifty-five. The first act of James II.'s reign was to assemble a privy council: where, after some praises bestowed on the memory of his brother, he made professions of his resolution to maintain the established government both in church and state; and, as he had heretofore ventured his life in defence of the nation, he would still go as far as any man in maintaining all its just rights and privileges. This speech was received with great applause, not only by the council, but by the whole nation. Addresses came from all quarters, full of duty, nay of the most servile adulation. The address of the Quakers, however, was remarkable for its good sense and simplicity. “We are come,' said they, “to testify our sorrow for the death of our good friend Charles, and our joy for thy being made our governor. We are told that thou art not of the persuasion of the church of England no more than we ; wherefore we hope that thou wilt grant us the same liberty which thou allowest thyself. Which doing, we wish thee all manner of happiness.’ The king, soon showed, that he either was not sincere in his promises, or that he entertained so lofty an idea of his own regal power, that even his utmost sincerity could tend very little to the security of the people. All the customs, and the greater part of the excise, which had been voted to the late king for his life only, were levied by James without a new act of parliament. He went openly to mass with all the ensigns of his dignity; and even sent one Caryl as his agent to Rome, to make submissions to the pope, and pave the way for the re-admission of England into the bosom of the Catholic church. From the suggestions of these men all his measures were undertaken. One day, when the Spanish ambassador ventured to advise his majesty against putting too much confidence in such kind of people, ‘Is it not the custom in Spain,’ said James, “for the king to consult with his confessor?’ ‘Yes,’ answered the ambassador, “and that is the reason our affairs succeed so ill." James's first parliament, which was composed mostly of zealous Tories, was strongly inclined to comply with the measures of the crown. They voted unanimously, that they should settle on the present king, during life, all the revenue enjoyed

by the late king. For this favor, James assured them that he would secure them in the full enjoyment of their laws; but, with regard to religion, no answer could be extorted, for that he resolved to alter. In every thing, however, religion, excepted, James merited praise. He applied himself to business with unremitting attention. He managed his revenue with the strictest economy. He retrenched superfluous expenses, and showed himself zealous for the glory of the nation. He endeavoured to expel from court the vice which had prevailed so much during the former reign, and to restore decency and morality. , Presiding daily at the council, and at the boards of admiralty and treasury, he entered into the whole detail of the concerns of the state. But his bigotry for the Romish religion sullied all his good qualities, and rendered him feared for his violence, where he was not despised for his weakness; and a storm was now seen gathering

to disturb his repose. The duke of Monmouth,

under the auspices, as it is said, of the prince of Orange, resolved to invade England, from the shores of Holland. He was seconded by the duke of Argyle, who formed the scheme of an insurrection in Scotland; and, while Monmouth attempted a rising in the west, it was resolved that Argyle should also make a descent in the north. The generosity of the prince of Orange, however, did not correspond with the warmth of his professions. The unfortunate duke derived from his own plate and jewels his whole o for the undertaking; and the enthusiasm of a rich widow supplied Argyle with £10,000. Argyle was the first who landed. He appeared in Scotland at the head of 2500 men, and strove to influence the people by various addresses in his favor. But, a formidable body of the king's forces coming against them, his army fell away; and he himself, after being wounded in attempting to escape, was taken prisoner by a peasant. After suffering many indignities, he was tried and publicly executed at Edinburgh. By this time Monmouth had landed in Dorsetshire with scarcely 100 followers. His name, however, was so popular, and so great was the hatred of the people to James on account of his religion, that in four days he had assembled a body of above 2000 men. They were indeed all of them the lowest of the people, and his declarations were suited entirely to their prejudices. He called the king the duke of York; and denominated him a traitor, a tyrant, a murderer, and a popish usurper. He imputed to him the fire of London, and even affirmed that he had poisoned the late king. He soon found himself at the head of 6000 men; and was daily obliged to dismiss great numbers for want of arms. The king was not a little alarmed at his invasion. Six regiments of British troops were called over from Holland; and a body of regulars, to the number of 3000, were sent, under the command of the earl of Feversham and Churchill, to check the progress of the rebels. They took post at Sedgemore, a village near Bridgewater, and were joined by considerable numbers of the country militia. Here Monmouth resolved, by a desperate effort, to gain the kingdom or lose his life. He drove the royal infantry from their ground,

and was on the point of gaining a complete victory, when the cowardice of Gray, who commanded the horse, brought all to ruin. This nobleman fled at the first onset; and the rebels, being charged in flank, gave way after a contest of three hours. About 300 were killed in the engagement, and 1000 in the pursuit. Monmouth fled about twenty miles from the field of battle, till his horse sunk under him. He then alighted; and, exchanging clothes with a shepherd, fled on foot, attended by a German count who had accompanied him from Holland. Being quite exhausted with hunger and fatigue, they both lay down in a field, and covered themselves with fern. The shepherd being found in Monmouth's clothes by the pursuers, increased the diligence of the search; and by means of bloodhounds he was detected in this miserable situation, with raw peas in his pocket, on which he had lived for some days. He burst into tears when seized by his enemies; and petitioned, with the most abject submission, for his life. On his way to London, he wrote a submissive letter to the king, promising discoveries, should he be admitted into his presence. The curiosity of James being excited by the letter, he sent Sheldon, a gentleman of the bed chamber, to meet Monmouth. In his conversation with Sheldon, he asked who was in chief confidence with the king; and being answered that it was Sunderland, Monmouth knocked his breast in surprise, and said, “Why then, as I hope for salvation, he promised to meet me.’ He desired Sheldon to inform the king, that several of his accomplices in rebellion were in the confidence of his majesty; and he gave him a particular account of the part which the prince of Orange had acted in this whole affair. Sheldon, on his return from the duke of Monmouth, began to give an account to the king of what he had learned from the unhappy prisoner. Sunderland, pretending business, came into the room. Sheldon stopped, and signified his desire to speak in private with the king. James told him that he might say any thing before that lord. Sheldon was in great perplexity; but, being urged, he told all that Monmouth had asserted. Sunderland appeared for some time confused ; at length he said, with a laugh, “If that is all he can discover to save his life, he will derive little good from his information.’ Monmouth himself was soon after brought before the king. Sunderland, to save himself, and the other adherents of the prince of Orange, advised the duke, that, as he could assure him of the certainty of a pardon, he ought to deny what he had said in prejudice of his friends, who could serve him on some other more favorable occasion. The credulous duke, swayed by this advice, suppressed what he had said to Sheldon, when he. was examined by the king. He mentioned ...; of the concern which the prince of Orange ha taken in the invasion; though James was alread sufficiently informed of this. D'Avaux, the French minister to the States, had given a circumstantial account of the whole conduct of the prince to Louis XIV., who had ordered it to be privately communicated to the king of England, The minister who had been sent from Holland, to congratulate James on the suppression of Ar

le's rebellion, was in great perturbation when ; heard that the king was resolved to see Monmouth. “Though he found that he said nothing of his master,’ said James, “he was never quiet till Monmouth was dead.” The unfortunate duke made various attempts to obtain mercy. He wrote to the queen dowager, and to the queen, as well as to the king himself. When admitted to the royal presence, Monmouth begged his life, with a meanness unsuitable to his rank and pretensions. But all his entreaties and submissions were of no avail. James told him that he was much affected with his misfortunes, but that his crime was too dangerous in its example to be left unpunished. In his last moments he behaved with a magnanimity worthy of his former courage. When he came to the scaffold, he behaved with decency and even with dignity. He spoke little; made no confession; nor did he accuse any of his friends. Circumstances are said to have attended his death that created a horror among the spectators. The executioner missed his blow, and struck him slightly on the shoulder. Monmouth raised his head from the block, and looked him full in the face, as if reproaching him for his mistake. He struck him twice again, but with feeble strokes; and then threw the axe from his hands. The sheriff forced him to renew his attempt; and the head of the duke was at last severed from his body. Those concerned in this conspiracy were punished with the utmost severity. Immediately after the battle of Sedgemore, Feversham hanged up above twenty prisoners; and was [...". in his executions, when the bishop of Bath and Wells informed him, that these unhappy men were now by law entitled to a trial, and that their execution would be deemed a real murder. Nineteen were put to death in the same manner at Bridgewater by colonel Kirk, a man of a savage and bloody disposition. This vile fellow, practised in the arts of slaughter at Tangiers, where he served in garrison, took pleasure in committing instances of wanton barbarity. He ravaged the whole country, without making any distinction fetween friend and foe; and his regiment, for their peculiar barbarity, went under the ironical title of Kirk's lambs. It does not, however, appear, that these cruelties were committed by the direction, or even with the approbation, of James; any more than the legal slaughters that were committed by judge Jefferies, who was sent down to try the delinquents. The brutality of this man's temper was inflamed by continual intoxication. No fewer than eighty were executed by his orders at Dorsetshire; and on the whole, at Exeter, Taunton, and Wells, 251 are computed to have fallen by the hand of justice, as it was

called; nor were women exempted from the ge- .

neral severity, but suffered for harboring their nearest kindred. Jefferies on his return was immediately created a peer, and soon after vested with the dignity of chancellor. In justice to the king, however, it must be owned, that he complains, in his Memoirs, with apparent indignation, of ‘the strange havock made by Jefferies and Kirk in the west;' and that he attributed the unpopularity, which afterwards deprived him of the crown, to the violence and barbarity of those

pretended friends of his authority. He even ascribes their severities, in some degree, to a formed design of rendering his government odious to his subjects. James now began in earnest to endeavour to establish popery. He told the house of commons that the militia were found by experience to be of no use; that it was necessary to augment the standing army; and that he had emo many Catholic officers, in whose favor he ad thought proper to dispense with the test. He found them useful, he said, and he was determined to keep them employed. These stretches of power naturally led the lords and commons into some degree of opposition: but they soon acquiesced in the king's measures, and the parliament was then dissolved. James's next step was to secure a Catholic interest in the privy council. Accordingly four Catholic lords were admitted, viz. Powis, Arundel, Belass, and Dover. Sunderland, who saw that the only way to gain preferment was by popery, became a convert. Rochester, the treasurer, was turned out of his office, because he refused to conform. In Ireland, even the duke of Ormond, who had long supported the royal cause, was displaced as being a protestant; and lord Tyrconnel, a furious Roman Catholic, succeeded him. In his zeal for popery, it is said, that James stooped so low as even to attempt the conversion of the bloody colonel Kirk; but the daring soldier told him that he was pre-engaged ; for he had promised the king of Morocco, when he was quartered at Tangiers, that, if ever he changed his religion, he would turn Mahommedan. At last the clergy of the church of England began to take the alarm, and commenced an opposition to court measures. The pulpits thundered with their warnings against popery; more formidable, it was urged, from the support granted it by the king. It was in vain that James attempted to impose silence on these topics; instead of avoiding the controversy, the Protestant preachers pursued it with greater warmth. To effect his designs, the king determined to revive the high commission court, which had formerly given the nation so much disgust, and which had been abolished by act of parliament for ever. An ecclesiastical commission was issued, by which seven commissioners were invested with a full and unlimited authority over the whole church of England.—The next step was to allow a liberty of conscience to all sectaries; he being taught to believe that the truth of the Catholic religion would then, upon a fair trial, gain the victory. In such a case, the same power that granted liberty of conscience might restrain it, and the Catholic religion alone be allowed to predominate. He therefore issued a declaration of general indulgence, and asserted that nonconformity to the established religion was no longer penal. But in Scotland be ordered the parliament to grant a toleration only to the Catholics, without interceding in the least for the other dissenters, who were much more numerous. In Ireland the Protestants were totally expelled from all offices of trust and profit, and Catholics put in their places. These measures sufficiently disgusted every part of the

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »