A New History of London Including Westminster and Southwark. Originally published by R Baldwin, London, 1773.
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From the accession of James II. to the Revolution.
Charles died at a very critical time. He was of an indolent disposition, and did not love trouble; he is said to have projected an extraordinary change of government, to call a free parliament, to recal the duke of Monmouth, and to send the duke of York beyond sea: he intimated that if he lived one month longer, he would find a way to make himself easy for the rest of his life (fn. 1). Could he have effectually got rid of his brother, who was his most pernicious counsellor, an amendment was within the compass of possibility; but as he died before any such resolutions were carried into act, he was imagined to have been poisoned (fn. 2) : his brother James duke of York, succeeded him, and ascended the throne February 6th 1685.
For the satisfaction of comparing James's future actions with his first declarations it may be worth while to remark, that as soon as the lords returned from proclaiming him at Whitehall, he assembled a privy-council, and in his speech told them he had been reported to be a man for arbitrary power: but that he should make it his endeavour to preserve the government both in church and state, as it was now by law established. He knew, he said, that the laws of England were sufficient to make the king as great a monarch as he could wish, and that he was determined never to depart from them: that he had often heretofore ventured his life in defence of the nation; and should still go as far as any man in preserving it in all its just rights and privileges (fn. 3).
The king's going to mass in two days after his accession, was agreeable to his former profession of the catholic religion, and would not therefore have deserved notice had he gone privately to his devotion; but when the king of England went publicly to mass, there was sufficient cause for surprize, though Rapin thought otherwise. He even sent Caryl as his agent to Rome to make his submissions to Pope Innocent XI. preparatory to a solemn re-admission of England into the bosom of the catholic church; though both the Pope and the Spanish ambassador admonished him against precipitate measures: when the latter observed how busy the priests were at court, he advised James not to yield with too great facility to their dangerous councils," Is it not the custom of Spain, said "James, for the king to consult with his confessor?" "Yes, replied the ambassador, and it is for that very reason our affairs succeed so ill (fn. 4) "
The king's sullen gloomy revenge was to be gratified; and he had ministers and judges prepared to feed it either with or without the forms of law. Few persons indeed could pity Oates and Dangerfield, the informers of the popish plot, who were now prosecuted for perjury, and condemned to repeated pilloryings, whippings, fines, and imprisonment, far more deliberately cruel, than consisted with strict justice. After the defeat of the duke of Monmouth's invasion, a horrid scene of wanton brutality took place in the west of England, under colonel Kirke and judge Jefferies; who converted the execution of their bloody commissions into meer sport and merriment, far more suitable to agents of an emperor of Morocco, than of a king of England. A shocking specimen of the king's inhumanity was exhibited even in London on this occasion. One of the rebels availing himself of the humane disposition of Mrs. Elizabeth Gaunt, an anabaptist noted for her beneficence; applied to her in his distress, and was concealed by her (fn. 5). But understanding that the king would sooner pardon rebels than those who harboured them; the villain with an unheard of baseness, went and surrendered himself, on the merit of betraying his benefactress; while she was employed in endeavours to convey him safely out of the kingdom! his treachery was rewarded with a pardon, and the unhappy Mrs. Gaunt was burned alive for her misplaced charity! six men were also hanged at Tyburn as traitors for crimes of a like nature; and, what is more strange, without any previous trial (fn. 6).
The prosecution of Cornish who was sheriff of London during the popish plot, and who had been active on that occasion; if not more atrocious than the savage treatment of Mrs. Gaunt, made more noise at the time. Goodenough, undersheriff of London, who had been engaged in the most desperate part of the Rye house conspiracy; and afterward engaging in Monmouth's rebellion, was taken prisoner at the battle of Sedgmoor; resolved to save his own life by an accusation of Cornish, whom he knew to be extreamly obnoxious to the court. Mr. Cornish, whose name had hardly been mentioned in the Rye house affair, had continued quietly in his business without apprehension; when on Tuesday October 13th, he was hurried away to Newgate, and denied the use of pen, ink, and paper. On the next Saturday evening, he had notice that he was indicted for high treason, and that he would be tried on Monday morning: upon which on Sunday he sent a petition to the king for longer time, alleging that he did not know wherein consisted the treason of which he was accused; but James referred his petition to the judges, who refused so reasonable a request. On his trial he was charged with conspiring against king Charles II. with lord Russel and others who had been executed on that account; and was condemned on the depositions of Goodenough and colonel Rumsey (fn. 7). On the 23d he was hanged, drawn and quartered, at the end of King-street Cheapside, fronting his own house.
The outlines of a prince's government, characterize his political talents, but it is such subordinate acts of domestic administration that mark his private temper; and one more instance belonging to this time and to this history, yet remains to illustrate that of James II. with reference to the citizens of London. Charles Bateman, a noted surgeon, was accused of holding seditious discourses at that time against government; but his chief crime was believed to consist of the compassion he shewed to Titus Oates, whom he constantly attended after his cruel whippings, and used all his skill to cure his wounds. Bateman on his imprisonment grew distracted in mind, and his son was permitted to appear for him in court to make his defence; but his unhappy condition did not prevent his condemnation and execution (fn. 8).
The bigotted James intoxicated with his power, which hitherto had met with no controul, dispensed with the tests, and proceeded to fill every department of state, as fast as possible, with papists; the Jesuits erected colleges and seminaries in all the principal towns; four popish bishops were publicly consecrated in the king's chapel, who were sent to exercise their functions in their respective dioceses under the title of vicars apostolical: their pastoral letters to the lay catholics, had the sanction of being printed at the king's printing-house, and were dispersed through the kingdom. Monks appeared in the habits of their orders at Whitehall and St. James's, and scrupled not to boast to protestants, that they hoped in a little time to walk in procession through Cheapside. The king also sent circular letters to the bishops, for prohibiting the inferior clergy from preaching on controverted points in divinity; and erected a court of ecclesiastical commission, to see his orders obeyed. (fn. 9) It must not be omitted, that to put his intentions past all doubt, James sent the earl of Castlemain publicly ambassador extraordinary to Rome; to reconcile the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, to the holy see, from which for more than an age, they had fallen off by heresy. Never man who came on so important an errand, met with so many neglects and affronts, as did this ambassador. Innocent XI. considered such an open step as rash, since the conversion of the three kingdoms was far from being finished; he therefore resolved to be no actor in a farce that would only render him ridiculous. Whenever his holiness granted him audience, he had always a fit of coughing at command, to disconcert the ambassador's harangue, and oblige him to withdraw; and this happened so often, that at last Castlemaine threatened to be gone: the pope sent him word that if he would go, he advised him to rise early in the morning, that he might rest at noon; for in those countries it was dangerous to travel in the heat of the day. (fn. 10) Other reasons are likewise mentioned for the pope's coolness on this occasion; but had the offer appeared practicable, no collateral motives will appear sufficient for his rejecting it. At last James wearied with the contempt shewn by the pope, recalled his ambassador; and the only instance of complaisance he received of his holiness, was his complying with the king's desire, in sending a nuncio to England, in return for the embassy, (fn. 11) who resided openly in London during the remainder of his reign.
Had James been capable of profiting by experience, he had a lesson brought home to him in the year 1686, that might have taught him not only the absurdity of the scheme he had so much at heart, but also how indisposed his subjects were to concur with him. Louis XIV. having at last revoked the edict of Nantz, enacted by Henry IV. for securing to the French protestants the free exercise of their religion; left them exposed to all the rigors of persecution, and drove them to seek that protection abroad, which was denied them in their own country. Above half a million of his most industrious subjects deserted France; they carried with them, beside their property, those arts and manufactures, which had contributed to enrich that country, and propagated every where the most tragical accounts of the tyranny exercised against them. Nearly fifty thousand of these refugees passed over into England, whose arrival added to the general horror entertained of James's intention to abolish the protestant religion (fn. 12) : relief was given to fifteen thousand five hundred of them this year by a brief, on which the sum of 63,713l. 2s. 3d. was collected. Beside such as stood in need of charitable aid, thirteen thousand five hundred of them settled in and about London, who proved a valuable acquisition; and the citizens exerted themselves with a laudable emulation to assist and support their distressed christian brethren.
Affairs were now drawing toward a crisis, which rendering the year 1688 the most memorable perhaps of any in the British annals; the events of it merit particular attention. To increase the spirits and activity of the popish party by the hopes of a suitable successor to the crown, a proclamation was published on the 2d of January to notify the pregnancy of the queen, and to order public thanksgivings on that occasion. As the queen had remained so many years childless, the protestants entertained great doubts of the fact; and among other pamphlets published concerning it, the story of queen Mary's sham conception as delivered by Fox, was reprinted under the title of "Idem Iterum, or queen Mary's big belly." The papists on the other side were transported at the news, and even started the question, whether a daughter born since the king's advancement to the throne, ought not to take place before the princess of Orange, born while he was duke of York ? The indiscretion of some Jesuits went farther, by publishing that she would certainly be delivered of a prince; and they strengthened the suspicions of the protestants, by representing this conception as miraculous (fn. 13).
At this time a prudent care was taken to secure the poorer sort of people from being inticed to send their children to the popish schools and seminaries set up in and about London; by providing and erecting those noble foundations called charity schools: the first schools of this kind were opened on Lady-day this year at Norton-Falgate, and at St. Margaret Westminster (fn. 14).
Though the king had already published a declaration of indulgence, and presumed to suspend the penal laws; he thought fit to renew his delusive declaration for liberty of conscience again, and ordered it to be read on certain days in all churches and chapels after divine service. But it generally happened that when it was reading, the congregations immediately left the churches, and one minister before he read it, told his flock that though he could not refuse the order sent him to read the declaration, he knew of no order that obliged them to hear it. It was not read in above four or five churches in all London, nor in above 200 throughout England. (fn. 15)
When the bishops received this order, six of them who were in London, assembled May 18th, at the archbishop's palace at Lambeth, to consult with him how to behave on so nice a point; and the result of the conference was, that as the king could not be obeyed without betraying their own consciences, it was better to obey God than man. Before they parted they drew up a petition to the king, praying him not to insist on their distributing and reading the said declaration; and crossing the river privately, delivered it directly to the king at Whitehall. These prelates, who were Dr. Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Lloyd, bishop of St. Asaph; Dr. Keen, of Bath and Wells; Dr. Turner, of Ely; Dr. Lake, of Chichester; Dr. White, of Peterborough; and Sir Jonathan Trelawney, of Bristol; were summoned to appear before the council on the 8th of June. As they were going, they were advised to remember that no man was by law obliged to accuse himself; therefore when James holding the petition in his hand, strangely demanded whether they had signed that paper, they answered only by a silent bow. "What, said he, do you deny your own hands ?" They bowed again. He then told them, "if they would own it to be their hands, upon his royal word, not a hair of their heads should be touched." On this the archbishop said, "relying on your majesty's word, I confess it to be my hand;" and so said all the rest. Being then ordered to withdraw; when they were called in again, the king was vanished, and the infamous Jefferies being in the chair, he used them very roughly, and they were ordered to be sent to the Tower. (fn. 16)
The court aware of the odiousness of this measure, and fearful of disturbance among the people, had ordered that the bishops should not be carried through London, but be conveyed by water to the Tower. But when the populace beheld these reverend fathers of the church brought from court under a guard, saw them embarked on vessels on the river, and carried toward the Tower; their affection for liberty, and zeal for religion, hurried them in throngs to the banks of the Thames by which they were to pass; where they expressed all the transports that love, compassion, and rage could inspire. They implored their blessing on their knees, extolled their constancy with loud acclamations, and addressed their petitions to Heaven for protection during this extreme danger to which their country stood exposed: the very soldiers of the garrison, melted by the same considerations, flung themselves on their knees also, and sought the benedictions of the prisoners they were appointed to guard (fn. 17).
Two days after the confinement of the bishops, the queen was either delivered, or as some thought, pretended to be delivered, of the child who afterward obtained the name of the pretender. Whether this birth was spurious, as many suspicious circumstances have been brought to prove; or whether the preparatory doubts of the queen's pregnancy, and the opposition of parties, concurred to discredit the fact; are points, which after the expulsion of James, were not worth considering: for had the birth of this doubtful prince of Wales been ever so clearly ascertained, a prince whose religion and principles are flatly contrary to the laws of the people over whom he desires to reign, does not appear to have any natural right whatever to rest his pretensions on.
Great was the public anxiety on the 29th, when the trial of the bishops came on; twenty-nine temporal peers attended them, their brother prelates keeping away; and such crouds of gentry joined the procession to Westminster-hall, that there was scarcely room for the populace to enter: the jury whether from disagreement, or to render their decision more solemn, sat in deliberation all night; but when the long expected verdict of not guilty, was pronounced in the morning, the intelligence was shouted through the hall to those without, and the loudest acclamations propagated the joyful news through Westminster and London, from whence it spread all over the kingdom (fn. 18) !
A sense of the common danger now convinced the moderate whigs and tories that this was no proper time to indulge their private animosities, and that union alone could enable them to withstand the common enemy of the nation; the same prudent sentiments produced a temporary union between the church and dissenters; and the result of these seasonable accommodations was to open a negociation with the prince of Orange, to assist them in opposing the intended subversion of the constitution. The prince was easily engaged to yield to the applications of the English, and to undertake the defence of a distressed nation, who now regarded him as their sole protector; and when the military preparations made in Holland with this intent could no longer be mistaken, the king's terror induced him to retract his fatal measures with a very ill grace, and with much more precipitation than his temerity had carried them into execution. One of the first symptoms of his ill-timed repentance, was to send for the persons who then acted as lord-mayor, aldermen and sheriffs of London, to Whitehall; where he told them, that out of his great concern for the welfare and peace of the city, and as a mark of the great confidence he had in them at this time, when the kingdom was threatened with an invasion by the prince of Orange; he had resolved to restore to them their antient charters and privileges, and put them in the same condition they were in before the Quo Warranto was brought against them; that thereby they might the better be enabled to serve him with that duty and loyalty, which they had given the late king his brother and himself so many testimonies of, and upon which he would now depend.
In fulfilment of this promise, the city charter was restored on the 6th of October by a detestable messenger, chancellor Jefferies, who delivered it to the custos and his assistants, then sitting in the council-chamber Guildhall. By virtue of the grant of restoration, Sir John Chapman was constituted lord-mayor until the ensuing feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, and Sir Samuel Thompson, with Sir Humphry Edwin, the present sheriffs were to continue until others were elected. They were immediately sworn into their offices in the great hall, together with the aldermen restored to their respective wards: a short address of thanks was drawn up and presented to the king, wherein the court promised with the utmost hazard of their lives and fortunes to discharge the trust reposed in them, according to the avowed principles of the church of England, in the defence of his majesty and the established government.
Though the next day was Sunday, a special court of aldermen was held, and an order made for restoring the liverymen of the several companies, who were on the livery at the time when judgment was given on the Quo warranto; which order was immediately entered on the books of each company, by direction of the respective masters, wardens and assistants.
Though the king's precarious situation had extorted this act of justice from him to the city of London, yet in baptizing the young prince October 15th, he added a flagrant insult to the whole nation, by appointing the pope to be godfather, who was represented by the nuncio, and the queen dowager godmother; father Saban officiated, and the child was named James-Francis-Edward (fn. 19).
In a pamphlet published in Holland at this time intitled "A Memorial of the English Protestants, presented to their highnesses the Prince and Princess of Orange;" the author, whoever he was, complained among other things of king James obliging his subjects to own a supposititious child. The king had hitherto appeared to be ignorant of, or at least to despise such suspicions; but on so public a challenge, he submitted to the mortifying necessity of endeavouring to satisfy his subjects as to the reality of the birth. He held an extraordinary council the 22d of October, to which were called the queen dowager, all the lords spiritual and temporal then in town, the judges, several of his learned council, with the lord-mayor and aldermen of London. After a speech from the king on the nature of the occasion which for he had called them all together, depositions were taken; first of the queen dowager, who only said she was in the room when the queen was delivered, without any farther particulars. After her followed the testimony of forty witnesses, seventeen of them papists, all to the same amount; some of the ladies deposed that they saw the child soon after in the hands of the midwife, and she affirmed the reality of the birth. Lady Wentworth was the single witness that declared she had felt the child move in the queen's body; but she specified no time, and as many suspicious reports had circulated, these depositions were regarded as ambiguous, and were incapable of removing the doubts in people's minds, no man present daring to put particular questions to the witnesses. The depositions were solemnly enrolled in chancery, and afterward printed and dispersed; but it was observed that when the king and queen had retired to France, neither the midwife, nor those who deposed the most material circumstances, were to be found (fn. 20).
The necessary preparations went forward mean while in Holland, and when the States lent their troops to the prince of Orange, what the king here called an invasion, was in Holland termed, a brotherly assistance lent by the States and the Prince, to the distressed English. The prince's declaration being dispersed over the kingdom met with universal approbation, and he landed at Torbay on the twice memorable 5th of November.
When the news of the prince's landing, arrived and the king declared his intention of marching his army against him, the lord-mayor waited on his majesty to wish him good success: the king earnestly recommended the care of the city to him during his absence; told him he had left a sufficient number of troops for their defence; and that upon any emergency he might apply to the privy-council for assistance and advice; assuring him that if he returned victorious, he would punctually perform all he had promised, for the security of their religion and liberties. On his leaving London, he expressed great confidence of his success, and affected to despise this attempt: for hearing soon after, that the city of London, with the counties of Essex and York, were preparing to address him, for an accommodation with the prince of Orange, he publicly declared that he would look upon all those as his enemies, who should pretend to advise him to treat with the invader of his kingdom (fn. 21). But so many of the nobility and gentry either joined the prince, or declared for him in different parts of the kingdom; and so many even of his own army deserted him and went over to the enemy; that his spirits soon sunk, and he returned with a precipitation that resembled a flight. To add to the mortification of having one son-in-law in arms against him, prince George of Denmark the other, left him at Andover; and James arrived at London only to know that his favourite daughter the princess Anne had followed her husband (fn. 22) : he was now indeed in a situation to be pitied, if compassion could be due to bad men reduced to distress by the failure of schemes injurious to others.
The last acts of regal authority exerted by the king, were, first to call a council of the few temporal and spiritual peers then in London; and by their advice, which was imbittered by an enumeration of all his unwarrantable proceedings, to issue writs for a free parliament; and to appoint commissioners to treat with the prince of Orange. He also displaced Sir Edward Hales a papist and lieutenant of the Tower, who had rendered himself odious to the Londoners by threatening to bombard the city; and appointed colonel Skelton in his room (fn. 23).
The activity of the king's enemies gave rise to an odd expedient at this time to depress his party still more. A declaration was dispersed, called the third declaration of the prince of Orange, dated November 28th, by which, the magistrates were ordered to disarm and secure all papists within their respective jurisdictions: this was delivered before witnesses to Sir John Shorter the lord-mayor, with injunctions to see it punctually executed, and the order was readily obeyed. The prince disowned any knowledge of it, and the author of so bold a forgery remained unknown; Maitland charges it upon one Mr. Hugh Speak, of whose vigilance, we shall soon produce another notable instance, on the same authority. That well known ballad of Lilliballero in derision of the papists and the Irish, appeared also at this time, and being sung by all ranks of men, contributed not a little to foment the popular spirit at this crisis (fn. 24).
The general defection of the protestants, left the king no resource but in the papists; the fatal catastrophe of his father, afforded him reason to dread a similar fate; the queen, seeing herself an object of general hatred, apprehended a parliamentary impeachment; the popish courtiers, and above all, the priests, were aware, that they should be the first sacrifice; all these motives of the obnoxious parties, concurred to start the imprudent counsel of the king's deserting the throne, and kingdom; a measure that gratified his enemies beyond their most sanguine expectations.
In the night between the 9th and 10th of December, the queen in disguise crossed the Thames in an open boat, exposed to wind and rain, to Lambeth; where she waited under the wall of the church, till a coach was brought from the next inn to carry her to Gravesend; from thence she embarked with the young prince for Calais, and was kindly received at Versatiles. The following night James, dressed in a plain suit, with a bob wig, after having ordered all the writs for elections that were not sent out, to be burnt, and leaving an order for the earl of Feversham, to disband the army, without taking any care of their payment; took water at Whitehall, attended only by Sir Edward Hales, Mr. Sheldon, with Abbadie, a Frenchman, page of his back stairs, and made the best of his way to the mouth of the river, where a ship was prepared to receive him. As a last effort to distract the nation by his absence, and destroy all legal authority, he when on the Thames, threw the great seal of the kingdom, into the river (fn. 26).
A temporary confusion indeed ensued during the general consternation on the king's flight, and the suspension of government; men beheld the reins of state flung up by the hand that held them, and saw none who had any immediate right or pretension to take possession of them. Though the militia of London and Westminster, were directly up in arms, the populace could not be restrained during the first ferment: they destroyed all the mass-houses, and made bonfires of the materials; they rifled the houses of the Spanish and Florentine ambassadors (fn. 27); the brutal Jefferies, who had disguised himself in a sailor's dress, and was preparing to escape, was discovered, and after many indignities, carried before the lord-mayor; who refusing to meddle with him, he was at his own desire sent to the Tower, where he died of the blows he had received, and of excessive drinking to shown the fear of a death rather more suitable to his iniquities.
In this extraordinary exigence, about thirty of the peers and bishops then in town, being the only remaining authority of the state, (for the privy-council, composed of the king's creatures, were totally disregarded) met at Guildhall; and sending for the lord-mayor and aldermen of London, after a short consultation, resolved to adhere to the prince of Orange, and send deputies to him, as appears by their declaration inserted in the note below (fn. 28). They then sent for colonel Skelton, lieutenant of the Tower, of whom they demanded the keys of that fortress; which he willingly resigning, they were delivered to the lord Lucas: On the same day the lord-mayor and common-council drew up an address to the prince, as below (fn. 29), imploring his protection, and praying him to honour the city with his presence; which was sent to his highness by a deputation of four aldermen and eight commoners. An address from the lieutenancy of the city, was framed to the same import.
In the mean time the earl of Feversham, pursuant to the order he had received, and without consulting the prince, whom all men now regarded as the only acting power; disbanded the forces without pay to prey upon the country (fn. 30). Some of the Irish soldiers, destitute, pennyless, and the objects of general dislike, in their distresses are said to have forcibly entered a country house to procure subsistence: and that a man in the neighbourhood ran directly to London, crying that the Irish were up, and marching to London, firing houses, and putting man, woman and child to the sword. This is the general account of a most extraordinary panic of the people, December 13th, not more remarkable for its suddenness than for its extending all over the kingdom in one day. In an instant all was confusion; the timorous fled they knew not where for safety, the bold flew to arms; and barricading the ends of the streets leading to the fields, put themselves in the best posture of defence, that hurry and perplexity would admit. The women illuminated all their windows in London and Westminster to enlighten the streets and discover their enemies; the trained bands armed and formed themselves with the utmost haste, and the whole night passed in a dreadful suspence for which no certain account was to be given. In the country, alarm bells were rung, and beacons fired; men fancied they saw at a distance the smoak of burning cities, and heard the groans of their slaughtered neighbours; and nothing can be supposed to have preserved the catholics from an actual massacre, but the general apprehensions all men were in for their own safety (fn. 31).
The pre-disposition of men's minds will at times wonderfully improve on accidents that may coincide with the prevailing apprehension; but the alarm could not be communicated faster than one express on each road could carry it purposely; its instant propagation therefore over the kingdom in one day, exceeds all power of belief. Maltland on the authority of a publication intitled Arcana Anni Memorabilis, attributes it to the contrivance of Hugh Speake, the person already mentioned as having thought proper to forge a declaration for the prince of Orange. This man, we are told, made it his business on the duke of York's accession, to travel twice over the kingdom, to discover the number and interest of the principal whigs and tories in each county. In the last journey, he by letters of recommendation from his friends, concerted a scheme with the principal whigs in every place of note throughout England preparatory to the prince of Orange's landing; that upon the receipt of letters from him in London, they should raise the above mentioned report of the Irish coming to massacre the inhabitants. This account brings the story within probability; though by these instances, Speak appears to have been a man of dangerous talents, however much his zeal in a good cause may apologize for these applications of them.
When king James arrived near Feversham, he was discovered by accident, and even ill used by the populace before he was known; but though he was then protected, they would not let him embark, but conducted him by a kind of violence to an inn. Here he sent for the earl of Winchelsea, lord lieutenant of the county; by whose persuasion he was prevailed on to return to London. On this news, the lords and the magistrates of London, who had made such advances to the prince of Orange, were confounded; and were under some fear left the state of affairs should alter. The prince who was then at Windsor was also disconcerted; at length he sent Mons. Zuylestein to desire the king to remain at Rochester, till it could be agreed on what was to be done: but Zuylestein missing his way, the king came to London December 16th, about four in the afternoon; where the populace either from compassion or levity received him again with acclamations (fn. 32) !
During his abode at Whitehall, very little attention was paid him by the nobility or any persons of distinction; his authority was plainly considered as extinct, though he made an effort to revive it, by issuing an order of council on account of the outrages of the populace during his absence: he also discharged Leybourn a popish bishop who had been sent to Newgate, and as formerly was surrounded with priests, jesuists, and Irishmen. What to do with the king was now the difficult question, and it was determined to push him to his former resolution of retiring to France; for the prince declared against all restraint or violence on his person. The Dutch guards, were ordered to relieve the English guards at Whitehall, and on the 17th at midnight, a message was delivered to James from the prince, desiring him to remove to Ham. He requested that he might rather go to Rochester according to the prince's former intimation, which as it argued a revival of his intention of leaving the kingdom, was readily agreed to. He left London about noon the next day, and lingered for some days at Rochester under a Dutch guard; but finding himself totally neglected, he complied with his unhappy fate, and his queen's earnest letters, and on the 23d embarked privately about three in the morning on board a frigate for France (fn. 33).
The prince of Orange arrived at St. James's, the same day the king left Whitehall, and in his turn was received with the acclamations of the sickle populace, who shouted long live our great deliverer: the lord-mayor being indisposed, the aldermen and common-council attended by the recorder Sir George Treby, congratulated him on his arrival, and on the success of his endeavours in favour of the nation. The nobility also complimented him; and most of those lords who enjoyed places at court, laid down the badges of their offices, as believing they had no longer any right to exercise them. During the rejoicings on his arrival, the licentious populace again broke loose and indulged their resentment against the catholics; and who could effectually restrain them, when no legal magistracy was believed to exist? In singular exigencies however, such seeming defects ought not to be too lightly insisted on, but strictly examined; if the delegated authority of the first magistrate by any means expired, the prime source of his power, the underived majesty of the people always exists, until a new appointment takes place: therefore subordinate magistrates are never without authority for the due exercise of their offices. At last the privy-council ordered that all foreigners should have unmolested liberty to depart the nation; and the prince sent particular passes to the pope's nuncio, and the envoys of Poland, Savoy, and Modena.
The government of England was indeed suspended, by the desertion of the infatuated king that held the sceptre; but could not properly be termed dissolved, as the people had not terminated the constitution by any formal act. The king by the whole tenor of his administration, and by stealing away when he could no longer support it; had sufficiently intimated his resolution not to conform to the laws of the land: it remained therefore for the people to make a new appointment of one who would accept the crown on that stipulation. This appears to be the short state of the case, abstracted from scholastic subtilties contrived only to perplex it. Farther; it could not be said that the prince of Orange had acquired the sovereignty by the part he had acted: he had indeed been invited over, and he had brought with a him body of forces to assist us; but they were, as himself said in his declaration, utterly disproportioned to a design of conquering the nation, if he had intended it. Whether he might not, after the abdication of the king, hope that his merit with the people might plead in his favour; is another question: how he behaved on the occasion, is well known.
There was no parliament in being, nor any regular authority to summon one; but as the kingdom was not to remain in this disjointed situation, the peers on December 25th addressed the prince to take on him the administration of public affairs until a convention of the national bodies assembled; and also by another address to issue missive letters for calling together the protestant peers, and commons. These addresses were signed by about ninety lords then in the house. The same peers published another order, for all papists to depart the city of London and within ten miles thereof; and not to remove above five miles from their habitations: excepting the servants of the queen dowager, the domestics of foreign ministers, and such house keepers within the above limits, who had been traders for three years last past; provided they gave in their names and places of abode, within eight days to the lord-mayor: excepting also, such popish officers as should give bail in six days to appear the first day of the term and to be on their good behaviour in the mean time; but such officers as neglected were to be taken into custody (fn. 34).
The prince of Orange, agreeable to the desire of the peers issued the following order.
"Whereas the necessity of affairs does require speedy advice, we do desire all such persons as have served as knights, citizens, or burgesses in any of the parliaments that were held during the reign of the late king Charles the second, to meet us at St. James's, upon Wednesday the twenty-sixth of this instant December, by ten of the clock in the morning: and we do likewise desire, that the lord-mayor and court of aldermen of the city of London would be present at the same time; and that the common-council would appoint fifty of their number to be there likewise. And hereof we desire them not to fail."
When this assembly met, his highness addressed himself to them as follows.
"You, gentlemen, that have been members of the late parliaments, I have desired you to meet me here, to advise the best manner how to pursue the ends of my declaration, in calling a free parliament, for the preservation of the protestant religion, and the restoring the rights and liberties of the kingdom, and settling the same, that they may not be in danger of being again subverted.
"And you, the aldermen and members of the common-council of the city of London, I desire the same of you. And, in regard your numbers are like to be great, you may, if you think fit, divide yourselves, and sit in several places."
The prince who had re-assembled the forces disbanded by the earl of Feversham, found himself in want of money to discharge their arrears. He therefore applied to the lord-mayor and common-council of London for a loan of 200,000l. for six months; explaining the present exigencies, and the great need there was of a supply, beyond what the ordinary revenue could furnish, for paying the army, supporting the navy, and sending immediate relief for the defence of the protestant interest in Ireland. The grateful citizens chearfully voted the money, which was raised in the space of four days: Sir Samuel Dashwood, afterward lord-mayor, subscribing 60,000l. to this loan. He then made a reform in the army, by displacing all papists, filling their places with protestants, and put them under such regulations as to render them serviceable to the state (fn. 35).
In the mean while, the prince's orders being regularly obeyed, with the most profound tranquillity, and the election of members for the convention parliament, proceeding with the most undisturbed freedom; he thought proper to send for the princess: for if, as it was probable, the convention should declare the throne vacant, no person had a more just pretension to fill it than she had (fn. 36).
The convention in debating on the nice situation of the nation, and how to settle government in an exigence without a precedent; were soon involved in disquisitions too curious and refined, to be likely to terminate soon in any positive conclusion. The prince remained at St. James's wholly passive, without attempting to court any party, or to interfere in their debates. At last, with a view to push them to some decision, by declaring his own intentions; he sent for some of the peers, and told them, that as some were for putting the administration of government into the hands of a regent, he had nothing farther to do in the business, than to tell them, he would not be that regent; but should return back to Holland, and meddle no more in their affairs; as he could not resolve to accept a dignity to be held only during the life of another. Others, said he, are for putting the princess singly on the throne, and that he should reign by her courtesy; but though no one could esteem a woman more than he did the princess, yet he was so made that he could not think of holding any thing by apron strings: nor could he think it reasonable to have any share in the government, unless it were put in his person, and for the term of his life (fn. 37).
During the debates, some active persons in the city anxious for the result, were soliciting subscriptions to a petition to the states assembled at Westminster, for settling the prince and princess of Orange on the throne; but when the prince was acquainted with this transaction, he gave direction to the lord-mayor to suppress it: and an order was accordingly made, setting forth that the regular mode of application for the citizens was to the lord-mayor and court of aldermen; tumultuary assemblies were therefore prohibited at peril. Nevertheless all circumstances concurring to point out the prince and princess, the lords at last agreed with the commons in a vote "that king James had abdicated the government, and that the throne was thereby become vacant." This was followed by the settlement of the crown on the prince and princess of Orange; but that the regal power should be in the prince only, in their joint names. In default of their issue the crown was to descend to the princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of her body; and in default of her issue, to the heirs of the body of the prince of Orange.
On February 13th, 1689, the prince and princess of Orange being seated on two chairs under a canopy of state in the Banqueting house Whitehall; both houses of the convention waited on them in a full body, and the clerk of the crown was ordered to read a declaration of rights, in which all the points that had of late years been disputed between the king and his people, were finally determined; and the powers of royal prerogative more narrowly circumscribed, and accurately defined, than in any former period of the English government. Under these limitations the crown was offered to their highnesses and accepted: and they were immediately proclaimed king and queen by their names of William and Mary, to the inexpressible joy of the people (fn. 38).
As by this revolution, a finishing hand may be said to have been put to the present English constitution; it will not be beside our purpose to pause a while, in order to take a retrospective glance over the general causes that operated in the alterations of it, after having thus traced the particular events.
The progress of the English government may be reviewed in few words. When William the Norman established himself and his followers here, he also more extensively established the feudal frame of government; under which the king had little authority, and the people little or no liberty. The barons not only controuled the king in council, but often opposed him by arms; and at the same time oppressed the people under their territorial jurisdictions. Our insular situation however as it secured us greatly from external hostilities, and confined the barons to their domestic contests; so military subordination gradually relaxed, and gave way at length to trade and civil institutions. Trade gave property, property enabled the people to purchase immunities, which disarming the barons on one side, the regal power took advantages over them on the other: and thus, however paradoxical it may appear, the king grew more absolute as the people grew more free. The feudal frame of government being almost worn out when Henry VII. at the end of a long civil war, obtained the crown; it is under the Tudors that we find the regal power in its largest extent. But an imperious church still remained for both prince and people to subdue, with all its legions of wealthy drones, more haughty and oppressive than the temporal barons; the Romish priests adding gross impositions on the mind, to maintain those on the body. Letters first disposed the people to break loose from this species of slavery; and thirst of power inclined the prince to shut out the bishop of Rome with all his trumpery, and become his own pope: both were gainers by the victory. But letters at length taught the people too much for the prince; they began to understand that tyranny of any species was unjust; and that it was only supported by the sufferers. It is evident these growing powers of prince and people must now interfere, no intermediate object remaining between them. The trading interest was grown formidable, and joined with the landed gentry in disputing the exorbitant powers of the crown when James I. arrived; who endeavoured to intrench himself behind a new doctrine, of the divine right of kings; and united with a willing church, young as yet in point of reformation, for their mutual defence: (the Stuarts were moreover sufficiently inclined to bring in the papal power again, as more favourable to their despotic views, would the spirit of the people have suffered it.) But this doctrine rendered more odious by the alliance which supported it, would not shelter them; and Charles I. was the king with whom the important struggle commenced: it was indeed as natural for him to persist in the retention of those powers which the immediate preceding kings had exercised; as it was for the people, conscious of their strength, to endeavour to reduce the regal power within reasonable limits. Had the general views of either of the parties extended to perceive the nature of this great crisis; a more peaceable settlement had perhaps taken place: but they both acted under the influence of circumstances, that neither of them appeared to understand; at least Charles, unhappily for himself, was the most ignorant in this respect. He continued tenacious and refractory, the commons grew assuming by their success; when the army under a daring chief took the game out of both their hands, and brought the best of the Stuarts to disgraceful death (fn. 39). An usurper succeeded him, and after his death, military tyranny occasioned the sons of Charles to be invited home as the best alternative: but the people soon found that if the father chastised them with whips, the sons chastised them with scorpions. Nor was the English constitution finally settled, till the nation called in a foreigner who assisted in driving out the last tyrant, and accepted the sovereignty on stipulated articles.
Thus it will appear that those who derive the establishment of English liberties from remote antiquity, rest them on a treacherous foundation: that they began early in London and other corporations is true; but it is equally true that it was not till trade had sapped the foundation of the feudal institutions, that they became general (fn. 40) : nor was it until force taught our kings to be just, that the rightful claims of the people were fully admitted and confirmed. Thus though no original compact can be actually produced between king and people (fn. 41), a recent one is to be found at this revolution, as valid as if it had the sanction of ages; when government was at last settled on the broad basis of popular assent and support.
The happy effects of this equitable establishment, were soon seen in the rapid improvement since made in every thing conducive to civil society. The security of personal freedom, and property, gave free scope to human abilities, which the poorest of mankind enjoy equally with the great, all the difference consisting in the cultivation of them; and private interest stimulating every one to labour in their several departments, we arrive at this conclusion, that the freest nation will always be the most rich and powerful. How long a nation thus described, can preserve these characters, is uncertain: riches produce luxury, and however favourable luxury may at first prove to industry and commerce; its tendency to unman the body and vitiate the mind, fatally counteracts this specious temporary advantage. We may already begin to perceive this sad truth, without any comfortable prospect of being able to check it; for when a general depravation of manners takes place, a return to virtue is walking backward, and experience which teaches us that the natural progress of all earthly things is onward, discredits any such retrograde movements. These circumstances appear very unpropitious to the duration of liberty.
All things degenerate in time, and nothing sooner than government: however prudently it may be framed, however accurately its powers may be defined and limited, it is continually encroaching directly or indirectly over the people. Perhaps in some future time, which is hoped to be yet far distant, another convulsion may be needful to reduce it to its first principles, and effect a regeneration: for it is a disagreeable truth that nothing less than the united efforts of the people, are able to effect this indispensable work, when grievances long submitted to, increase beyond sufferance. Whether posterity, enervated by voluptuousness, may think it worth their attention to assert their claim to the invaluable legacies transmitted down to them by their ancestors; is a point that must be left for their consideration.