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But he had timed all his treacheries so well that, through all revolutions, his fortunes had constantly been rising. The multitude, struck with admiration by a prosperity which, while everything else was constantly changing, remained unchangeable, attributed to him a prescience almost miraculous, and likened him to the Hebrew statesman of whom it is written that his counsel was as if a man had inquired of the oracle of God.
Lauderdale, loud and coarse both in mirth and anger, was perhaps, under the outward show of bois terous frankness, the most dishonest man in the whole Cabal. He had made himself conspicuous among the Scotch insurgents of 1638 by his zeal for the Covenant. He was accused of having been deeply concerned in the sale of Charles the First to the English Parliament, and was therefore, in the estimation of good Cavaliers, a traitor, if possible, of a worse description than those who had sate in the High Court of Justice. He often talked with noisy jocularity of the days when he was a canter and a rebel. He was now the chief instrument employed by the court in the work of forcing episcopacy on his reluctant countrymen; nor did he in that cause shrink from the unsparing use of the sword, the halter, and the boot. Yet those who knew him knew that thirty years had made no change in his real sentiments, that he still hated the memory of Charles the First, and that he still preferred the Presbyterian form of church government to every other.
Unscrupulous as Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale were, it was not thought safe to intrust to them the King’s intention of declaring himself a. Roman Catholic. A false treaty, in which the article concerning religion was omitted, was shown to them. The names and seals of Clifford and Arlington are affixed to the genuine treaty. Both these statesmen had a partiality for the old Church, a partiality which the brave and vehement Clifford in no long time manfully avowed, but which the colder and meaner Arlington concealed, till the near approach of death scared him into sincerity. The three other cabinet ministers, however, were not men to be easily kept in the dark, and probably suspected more than was distinctly avowed to them. They were certainly privy to all the political engagements contracted with France, and were not ashamed to receive large gratifications from Lewis.
The first object of Charles was to obtain from the Commons supplies which might be employed in executing the secret treaty. The Cabal, holding power at a time when our government was in a state of transition, united in itself two different kinds of vices belonging to two different ages and to two different systems. As those five evil counsellors were among the last English statesmen who seriously thought of destroying the Parliament, so they were the first English statesmen who attempted extensively to corrupt it. We find in their policy at once the latest trace of the Thorough of Strafford, and the earliest trace of that methodical bribery which was afterwards practised by Walpole. They soon perceived, however, that, though the House of Commons was chiefly composed of Cavaliers, and though places and French gold had been lavished on the members, there was no chance that even the least odious parts of the scheme arranged at Dover would be supported by a majority. It was necessary to have recourse to fraud. The King accordingly professed great zeal for the principles of the Triple Alliance, and pretended that, in order to hold the ambition of France in check, it would be necessary to augment the fleet. The Commons fell into the snare, and voted a grant of eight hundred thousand pounds. The Parliament was instantly prorogued; and the court, thus emanci
pated from control, proceeded to the execution of the great design.
The financial difficulties however were serious. Bhumnsome A war with Holland could be carried on “chm” only at enormous cost. The ordinary revenue was not more than sufficient to support the government in time of peace. The eight hundred thousand pounds out of which the Commons had just been tricked would not defray the naval and military charge of a single year of hostilities. After the terrible lesson given by the Long Parliament, even the Cabal did not venture to recommend benevolences or shipmoney. In this perplexity Ashley and Clifford proposed a flagitious breach of public faith. The goldsmiths of London were then not only dealers in the precious metals, but also bankers, and were in the habit of advancing large sums of money to the government. In return for these advances they received assignments on the revenue, and were repaid with interest as the taxes came in. About thirteen hundred thousand pounds had been in this way intrusted to the honour of the state. On a sudden it was announced that it was not convenient to pay the principal, and that the lenders must content themselves with interest. They were consequently unable to meet their own engagements. The Exchange was 'in an uproar: several great mercantile houses broke; and dismay and distress spread through all society. Meanwhile rapid strides were made towards despotism. Proclamations, dispensing with Acts of Parliament, or enjoining what only Parliament could lawfully enjoin, appeared in rapid succession. Of these edicts the most important was the Declaration of Indulgence. By this instrument the penal laws against Roman Catholics were set aside; and, that the real Object of the measure might not be perceived, the laws against Protestant Nonconformists were also suspended.
A few days after the appearance of the Declaration of Indulgence, war was proclaimed against w" with“. the United Provinces. By sea the Dutch pug/anammaintained the struggle with honour; but align-gimme on land they were at first borne down by we ' irresistible force. A great French army passed the Rhine. Fortress after fortress opened its gates Three of the seven provinces of the federation were occupied by the invaders. The fires of the hostile camp were seen from the top‘ of the Stadthouse of Amsterdam. The Republic, thus fiercely assailed from without, was torn at the same time by internal dissensions. The government was in the hands of a. close oligarchy of powerful burghers. There were numerous selfelected Town Councils, each of which exercised, within its own sphere, many of the rights of sovereignty. These councils sent delegates to the Provincial States, and the Provincial States again sent delegates to the States General. A hereditary first magistrate was no essential part of this polity. Nevertheless one family, singularly fertile of great men, had gradually obtained a large and somewhat indefinite authority. William, first of the name, Prince of Orange Nassau, and Stadtholder of Holland, had headed the memorable insurrection against Spain. His son Maurice had been Captain General and first minister of the States, had, by eminent abilities and public services, and by some treacherous and cruel actions, raised himself to almost kingly power, and had bequeathed a great part of that power to his family. The influence of the Stadtholders was an object of extreme jealousy to the municipal oligarchy. But the army, and that great body of citizens which was excluded from all share in the government, looked on the Burgomasters and Deputies with a dislike resembling the dislike with which the legions and the common people of Rome regarded the Senate, and were as zealous for the House of Orange as the
VOL. I. Q
legions and the common people of Rome for the House of Caesar. The Stadtholder commanded the forces of the commonwealth, disposed of all military commands, had a large share of the civil patronage, and was surrounded by pomp almost regal.
Prince William the Second had been strongly 0pposed by the oligarchical party. His life had terminated in the year 1650, amidst great civil troubles. He died childless: the adherents of his house were left for a short time without a head; and the pow— ers which he had exercised were divided among the Town Councils, the Provincial States, and the States General.
But, a few days after William’s death, his widow, Mary, daughter of Charles the First, King of Great Britain, gave birth to a son, destined to raise thev glory and authority of the House of Nassau to the highest point, to save the United Provinces from slavery, to curb the power of France, and to establish the English constitution on a lasting foundation.
This Prince, named William Henry, was from his wmhm‘mm birth an object of serious apprehension to "mm" the party now supreme in Holland, and of loyal attachment to the old friends of his line. He enjoyed high consideration as the possessor of a splendid fortune, as the chief of one of the most illustrious houses in Europe, as a Magnate of the German empire, as a prince of the blood royal of England, and, above all, as the descendant of the founders of Batavian liberty. But the high office which had once been considered as hereditary in his family, remained in abeyance; and the intention of the aristocratical party was that there should never be another Stadtholder. The want of a. first magistrate was, to a great extent, supplied by the Grand Pensionary of the Province of Holland, John de Witt, whose abilities, firmness, and integrity had raised him to unrivalled authority in the councils of the mu— nicipal oligarchy.