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human industry had coTered it were buried under the ocean, all was not lost The Hollanders might survive Holland. Liberty and pure religion, driven by tyrants and bigots from Europe, might take refuge in the farthest isles of Asia. The shipping in the ports of the republic would suffice to carry two hundred thousand emigrants to the Indian Archipelago. There the Dutch commonwealth might ximmence a new and more glorious existence, and might rear, under the Southern Cross, amidst the sugar canes and nutmeg trees, the Exchange of a wealthier Amsterdam, and the schools of a more learned Leyden. The national spirit swelled and rose high. The terms offered by the allies were firmly rejected. The dykes were opened. The whole country was turned into one great lake, from which the cities, with their ramparts and steeples, rose like islands. The invaders were forced to 6ave themselves from destruction by a precipitate retreat Lewis, who, though he sometimes thought it necessary to appear at the head of his troops, greatly preferred a palace to a camp, had already returned to enjoy the adulation of poets and the smiles of ladies in the newly planted alleys of Versailles.
And now the tide turned fast. The event of the maritime war had been doubtful: by land the United Provinces bad obtained a respite; and a respite, though short, was of infinite importance. Alarmed by the vast designs of Lewis, both the branches of the great House of Austria sprang to arms. Spain and Holland, divided by the memory of ancient wrongs and humiliations, were reconciled by the nearness of the common danger. From every part of Germany troops poured towards the Rhine. The English government had already expended all the funds which had been obtained by pillaging the public creditor. No loan could be expected from the City. An attempt to tiiae taxes by the royal authority would have at once produced a rebellion; and Lewis, who had now to maintain a contest against half Europe, was in no condition to furnish the means of coercing the people of England. It
was necessary to convoke the Parliament.
In the spring of 1673, therefore, the Houses reassembled after a „ ,
- , Meeting of
recess of near two years, the ParClifford, now a peer and Lord b*nm"Treasurer, and Ashley, now Earl of Shaftesbury and Lord Chancellor, were the persons on whom the King principally relied as Parliamentary managers. The Country Party instantly began to attack the policy of the Cabal. The attack was made, not in the way of storm, but by slow and scientific approaches. The Commons at first held out hopes that they would give support to the King's foreign policy, but insisted that he should purchase that support by abandoning his whole system of domestic policy. Their chief object was to obtain the revocation of the Declaration of Indulgence. Of n^.— all the many unpopular steps Honor intaken by the Government the "eence' most unpopular was the publishing of this Declaration. The most opposite sentiments had been shocked by an act so liberal, done in a manner so despotic. All the enemies of religious freedom, and all the friends of civil freedom, found themselves on the same side; and these two classes made up nineteen twentieths of the nation. The zealous Churchman exclaimed against the favour which had been shown both to the Papist and to the Puritan. The Puritan, though he might rejoice in the suspension of the persecution by which he had been harassed, felt little gratitude for a toleration which he was to share with Antichrist. And all Englishmen who valued liberty and law, saw with uneasiness the deep inroad which the prerogative had made into the province of the legislature.
It must in candour be admitted that the constitutional question was then not quite free from obscurity. Our ancient Kings had undoubtedly claimed and exercised the right of suspending the operation of penal laws. Tho tribunals had recognised that right. Parliaments had suffered it to pass unchallenged. That some such right was inherent in the crown, few even of the Country Party ventured, in the face of precedent and authority, to deny. Yet it was clear that, if this prerogative ■were without limit, the English government could scarcely be distinguished from a pure despotism. That there was a limit was fully admitted by the King and his ministers. Whether the Declaration of Indulgence lay within or without the limit was the question; and neither party could succeed in tracing any line which would bear examination. Some opponents of the government complained that the Declaration suspended not less than forty statutes. But why not forty as well as one? There was an orator who gave it as his opinion that the King might constitutionally dispense with bad laws, but not with good laws. The absurdity of such a distinction it is needless to expose. The doctrine which seems to have been generally received in the House of Commons was, that the dispensing power was confined to secular matters, and did not extend to laws enacted for the security of the established religion. Yet, as the King was supreme head of the Church, it should seem that, if he possessed the dispensing power at all, he might well possess that power where the Church was concerned. When the courtiers on the other side attempted to point out the bounds of this prerogative, they were not more successful than the opposition had been.
The truth is that the dispensing power was a great anomaly in politics. It was utterly inconsistent in theory with the principles of mixed government: but it had grown up in times when people troubled themselves little about theories.* It had not been very grossly abused in practice. It had therefore been tolerated, and had gradually acquired a kind of prescription. At length it was employed, after a long interval, in an enlightened age, and at an important conjuncture, to an extent never before known, and for a purpose generally abhorred. It was in
* The most sensible thing said in the House of Commons, on this subject, came from Sir William Coventry:—" Our ancestors never did draw a line to circumscribe prerogative and liberty."
stantly subjected to a severe scrutiny. Men did not, indeed, at first, venture to pronounceitaltogetherunconstitutional. But they began to perceive that it was at direct variance with the spirit of the constitution, and would, if left unchecked, turn the English government from a limited into an absolute monarchy.
Under the influence of such apprehen sions, the Commons denied the .., Jiings right to dispense, not ceiled, indeed with all penal statutes, ?>« Am but with penal statutes in mat- P"*"*1ters ecclesiastical, and gave him plainly to understand that, unless he renounced that right they would grant no supply for the Dutch war. He, for a moment, showed some inclination to put everything to hazard: but he was strongly advised by Lewis to submit to necessity, and to wait for better times, when the French armies, now employed in an arduous struggle on the Continent, might be available for the purpose of suppressing discontent in England. In the Cabal itself the signs of disunion and treachery began to appear. Shaftesbury, with his proverbial sagacity, saw that a violent reaction was at hand, and that all things were tending towards a crisis resembling that of 1640. He was determined that such a crisis should not find him in the situation of Strafford He therefore turned suddenly round, and acknowledged, in the House of Lords, that the Declaration was illegal. The King, thus deserted by his ally and by his ChanceDor, yielded cancelled the Declaration, and solemnly promised that it should never be drawn into precedent.
Even this concession was insufficient. The Commons, not content with having forced their sovereign to annul the Indulgence, next extorted his unwilling assent to a celebrated law, which continued in force down to the reign of George the Fourth. This law, known as the Test Act, provided that all persons holding any office, civil or military, should take the oath of supremacy, should subscribe a declaration against Transubstantiation, and should publiely receive the sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England The preamble expressed hostility only to the Papists: but the enacting clauses were scarcely more unfavourable to the Papists than to the rigid Puritans. The Puritans, however, terrified at the evident leaning of the court towards Popery, and encouraged by some churchmen to hope that, as soon as the Roman Catholics should have been effectually disarmed, relief would be extended to Protestant Nonconformists, made little opposition; nor could the King, who was in extreme want of money, venture to withhold his sanction. The Act was passed; and the Duke of York was consequently under the necessity of resigning the great place of Lord High Admiral
Hitherto the Commons had not deT,„ ct^ clared against the Dutch war. tortrtd ~B\it, when the King had, in return for money cautiously doled out, relinquished his whole plan of domestic policy, they fell impetuously on his foreign policy. They requested him to dismiss Buckingham and Lauderdale from his councils forever, and appointed a committee to consider the propriety of impeaching Arlington. In a short time the Cabal was no more. Clifford, who, alone of the five, had any claim to be regarded as an honest man, refused to take the n ew test, laid down his white staff, and retired to his country seat. Arlington quitted the post of Secretary of State for a quiet and dignified employment in the Royal household. Shaftesbury and Buckingham made their peace with the opposition, and appeared at the head of the stormy democracy of the city. Lauderdale, however, still aratinued to be minister for Scotch affairs, with which the English Parliament could not interfere.
And now the Commons urged the King to make peace with Holland, and ''xpressly declared that no more supplies should be granted for the war, unless it should appear that the enemy obstinately refused to consent to reasonable terms. Charles found it necessary to postpone to a more convenient season all thought of executing the treaty of Dover, and to cajole the nation by pretending to return to the policy of the Triple Alliance. Temple,
who, during the ascendency of the Cabal, had lived in seclusion among his books and flower beds, was called forth from his hermitage. By his instrumentality a separate peace was concluded Peace with the United Provinces; J1^'" and he again became ambas- Proiiacc sador at the Hague, where his presence was regarded as a sure pledge for the sincerity of his court.
The chief direction of affairs was now entrusted to Sir Thomas . total Osborne, a Yorkshire baronet, tmtion oi who had, in the House of Com- D"bJmons, shown eminent talents for busi ness and debate. Osborne became Lord Treasurer, and was soon created Earl of Danby. He was not a man whose character, if tried by any high standard of morality, would appear to merit approbation. He was greedy of wealth and honours, corrupt himself, and a corrupter of others. The Cabal had bequeathed to him the art of bribing Parliaments, an art. still rude, and giving little promise of the rare perfection to which it was brought in the following century. He improved greatly on the plan of the first inventors. They had merely purchased orators: but every man who had a vote, might sell himself to Danby. Yet the new minister must not. be confounded with the negotiators of Dover. He was not without the feelings of an Englishman and a Protestant; nor did he, in his solicitude for his own interests, ever wholly forget the interests of his country and of his religion. He was desirous, indeed, to exalt the prerogative: but the means by which he proposed to exalt it were widely different from those which had been contemplated by Arlington and Clifford. The thought of establishing arbitrary power, by calling in the aid of foreign arms, and by reducing the kingdom to the rank of a dependent principality, never entered into his mind. His plan was to rally round the monarchy those classes which had been the firm allies of the monarchy during the troubles of the preceding generation, and which had been disgusted by the recent crimes and errors of the court. With the help of the old Cavalier interest, of the nobles, of the country gentlemen, of the clergy, and of the Universities, it might, he conceived, be possible to make Charles, not indeed an absolute sovereign, but a sovereign scarcely less powerful than Elizabeth had been.
Prompted by these feelings, Danby formed the design of securing to the Cavalier party the exclusive possession of all political power, both executive and legislative. In the year 1675, accordingly, a bill was offered to the Lords which provided that no person should hold any office, or should sit in either House of Parliament, without first declaring on oath that he considered resistance to the kingly power as in all cases criminal, and that he would never endeavour to alter the government either in Church or State. During several weeks the debates, divisions, and protests caused by this proposition kept the country in a state of excitement. The opposition in the House of Lords, headed by two members of the Cabal who were desirous to make their peace with the nation, Buckingham and Shaftesbury, was beyond all precedent vehement and pertinacious, and at length proved successful. The bill was not indeed rejected, but was retarded, mutilated, and at length suffered to drop.
So arbitrary and so exclusive was Danby's scheme of domestic policy. His opinions touching foreign policy did him more honour. They were in truth directly opposed to those of the Cabal, and differed little from those of the Country Party. He bitterly lamented the degraded situation to which England was reduced, and declared, with more energy than politeness, that his dearest wish was to cudgel the French into a proper respect for her. So little did he disguise his feelings that, at a great banquet where the most illustrious dignitaries of the State and of the Church were assembled, he not very decorously filled his glass to the confusion of all who were against a war with France. He would indeed most gladly have seen his country united with the powers which were then combined against Lewis, and was for that end bent on placing Temple, the author
of the Triple Alliance, at the head of the department which directed foreign affairs. But the power of the prime minister was limited. In his most confidential letters he complained that the infatuation of his master prevented England from taking her proper place among European nations. Charles was insatiably greedy of French gold: he had by no means relinquished the hope that he might, at some future day, be able to establish absolute monarchy by the help of the French arms; and for both reasons he wished to maintain a good understanding with the Court of Versailles.
Thus the sovereign leaned towards one system of foreign politics, and the minister towards a system diametrically opposite. Neither the sovereign nor the minister, indeed, was of a temper to pursue any object with undeviating constancy. Each occasionally yielded to the importunity of the other; and their jarring inclinations and mutual concessions gave to the whole administration a strangely capricious character. Charles sometimes, from levity and indolence, suffered Danby to take steps which Lewis resented as mortal injuries. Danby, on the other hand, rather than relinquish his great place, sometimes stooped to compliances which caused him bitter pain and shame. The King was brought to consent to a marriage between the Lady Mary, eldest daughter and presumptive heiress of the Duke of York, and William of Orange, the deadly enemy of France, and the hereditary champion of the Reformation. Nay, the brave Earl of Ossory, son of Ormond, was sent to assist the Dutch with some British troops, who, on the most bloody day of the whole war, signally vindicated the national reputation for stubborn courage. The Treasurer, on the other hand, was induced, not only to connive at some scandalous pecuniary transactions which took place between his master and the court of Versailles, but to become, unwillingly indeed and ungraciously, an agent in those transactions.
Meanwhile, the Country Party -was driven by two strong feelings in two opposite directions. The popular loaders were afraid of the greatness of Embir- Lewis, who was not only makS&n iig head against the whole Siidot strengt'1 of the continental Pmj. alliance, but was even gaining ground. Yet they were afraid to entrust their own King with the means of curbing France, lest those means should be used to destroy the liberties of England. The conflict between these apprehensions, both of which were perfectly legitimate, made the policy of the Opposition seem as eccentric and fickle as that of the Court. The Commons called for a war with France, till the King, pressed by Danby to comply with their wish, seemed disposed to yield, and began to raise an army. But, as soon as they saw that the recruiting had commenced, their dread of Lewis gave place to a nearer dread. They began to fear that the new levies might be employed on a service in which Charles took much more interest than in the defence of Flanders. They therefore refused supplies, and clamoured for disbanding as loudly as they had just before clamoured for arming. Those historians who have severely reprehended this inconsistency do not appear to have made sufficient allowance for the embarrassing situation of subjects who have reason to believe that their prince is conspiring with a foreign and hostile power against their liberties. To refuse him military resources is to leave the state defenceless. Yet to give him military resources may be only to arm him against the state. In such circumstances vacillation cannot be considered as a proof of dishonesty or even of weakness.
These jealousies were studiously Dn^p fomented by the French King.
wtr'with ^e ^a^ 'on£ keP' England S t,nlb passive by promising to support """''■ the throne against the Parliament. He now, alarmed at finding that the patriotic counsels of Danby seemed likely to prevail in the closet, began to inflame the Parliament against the throne. Between Lewis and the Country Party there was one thing, and one only, in common, profound distrust of Charles. Could the Country Party have been certain that their sovereign
meant only to make war on France, they would have been eager to support him. Could Lewis have been certain that the new levies were intended only to make war on the constitution of England, he would have made no attempt to stop them. But the unsteadiness and faithlessness of Charles were such that the French government and the English opposition, agreeing in nothing else, agreed in disbelieving his protestations, and were equally desirous to keep him poor and without an army. Communications were opened between Barillon, the Ambassador of Lewis, and those English politicians who had always professed, and who indeed sincerely felt, the greatest dread and dislike of the French ascendency. The most upright member of the Country Party, William Lord Russell, son of the Earl of Bedford, did not scruple to concert with a foreign mission schemes for embarrassing his own sovereign. This was the whole extent of Russell's offence. His principles and his fortune alike raised him above all temptations of a sordid kind: but there is too much reason to believe that some of his associates were less scrupulous. It would be unjust to impute to them the extreme wickedness of taking bribes to injure their country. On the contrary, they meant to serve her: but it is impossible to deny that they were mean and indelicate enough to let a foreign prince pay them for serving her. Among those who cannot be acquitted of this degrading charge was one man who is popularly considered as the personification of public spirit, and who, in spite of some great moral and intellectual faults, has a just claim to be called a hero, a philosopher, and a patriot. It is impossible to see without pain such a name in the list of the pensioners of France. Yet it is some consolation to reflect that, in our time, a public man would be thought lost to all sense of duty and of shame, who should not spurn from him a temptation which conquered the virtue and the pride of Algernon Sidney.
The effect of these intrigues was that England, though she occasionally took a menacing attitude, remained