Imatges de pÓgina

ferred that dissent should not exist, they were not likely to oppose much resistance to the recognition of its claims.



and the Papacy.

Other causes combined to accelerate the inevitable §8. Antagonism change of feeling. During the years in which the fear to France of Puritanism was gradually diminishing, an alarm of another kind was gradually increasing. The Restoration was almost contemporaneous with the conclusion of the long struggle between France and Spain to the benefit of the former power, and with the assumption of personal authority by Lewis XIV. In his hands the French monarchy became aggressive and domineering. In organisation, in military strength, and in political ability, it held the first place amongst the nations of Europe. It became as dangerous to the independent development of other European States as the monarchy of Philip II. had been in the preceding century. As Lewis grew older, he showed an increasing disposition to stand before the world as the champion of the Roman Catholic religion, though he was by no means inclined to submit his own authority to the authority of the pope. In this way it came about that the fear of the predominance of a religion supported by armed force shifted its ground in England. Everyone who kept his head cool was perfectly aware that neither Puritans nor Catholics were sufficiently numerous in England to dictate the religion of the country by mere force of numbers. But just as a Puritan minority had dictated its will by the strength of its military organisation, so it might be with the Catholic minority. What difference there was, was in favour of the Puritans. Cromwell's Ironsides had at least been Englishmen, and even the heart of a Cavalier might swell with triumph as he heard how his countrymen had driven the choicest legions of Spain in rout before them.


§ 9. The Exclusion Bill.

The troops who alone could put the English Catholics in power were the armies of a foreign king. Once more it was as it had been in the time of Elizabeth. The Catholic was looked upon as an alien from the national brotherhood. He was unlike the Puritan, a member of a society of which the higher organisation had no root on English soil, and he was now suspected of being in close connection with a foreign military power which was suspected of hostile intentions, if not against England itself, at least against the influence of England upon the Continent. It was evident that if ideas of toleration gained ascendancy, the Roman Catholics would be the last to obtain the benefit. If indeed that close union between the king and the nation which had been proclaimed at the Restoration had been maintained, this feeling against the Catholics might not have gathered head. But whilst Charles was luxurious and extravagant, the members even of the parliament which had been chosen in the first fervour of revived loyalty, soon grew parsimonious and suspicious. They believed that he spent upon his pleasures and his vices money which they had destined for the equipment of the fleet. If it was not known that he had taken pay from the king of France, and had declared his readiness at the proper moment to avow himself a Catholic, there was enough in his conduct to show that he was not heart and soul a sharer in the national aspirations and prejudices. He certainly did not keep a watchful eye upon the progress of French ambition abroad, and he did not show himself to be at all imbued with those Protestant ideas which entered more largely than in the time of Laud into the thoughts of English churchmen.

If however the position of the reigning monarch was doubtful, the position of the heir presumptive was perfectly plain. Charles had no legitimate children, and his

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brother the Duke of York declared himself a convert to
the Roman Catholic religion. Then came an excitement
which has no parallel in English history. A charge
invented by wicked men, and adopted by weak or
wicked politicians, was brought against the English
Roman Catholics of being concerned in what was called
the Popish Plot for the murder of the king. Large
numbers of innocent persons were put to death by the
verdicts of ignorant and excited juries under the direction
of unscrupulous judges. In parliament the violence and
suspicion of the nation took a political form in the
demand for an Exclusion Bill, which should deprive the
Duke of York of his right of succession to the throne.
In the struggle which ensued, the two great parties which
have retained their existence to our own days acquired
those names of Whig and Tory which they long pre-
served. There can be little doubt that the Whigs were
in the right in wishing to provide against the accession
of James. All experience shows that the position of a
ruler who takes a different side from his subjects on the
great question of the day, becomes rapidly untenable.
But it does not follow that they were in the right in seek-
ing to avert by legislation the evil which they were suffi-
ciently quick-sighted to foresee. Masses of men are so
constituted as to be slow to take alarm at prospective evils,
and to prefer to deal with each grievance when it arises,
and not before. The idea of hereditary succession had
been adopted by the nation as a guarantee against dis-
order, and as soon as it became clear that the Whigs were
endangering established order as well as hereditary
succession, the nation preferred to accept the future risk
rather than to launch into immediate agitation. The
Whigs suddenly dwindled into a despised minority, and
their leaders paid the penalty of real or supposed treason
on the scaffold.




§ 10. Reign of James II.

Before long those who survived saw their anticipations realised. Charles died, and James ascended the throne. Setting his mind on obtaining liberty of worship and equality of civil rights for his fellow-catholics, he hoped at first to obtain it with the co-operation of the bishops and their supporters. He was too ignorant of the prejudices and feelings of those whom he courted, and too impatient of opposition, to succeed—even if success had been possible. He then tried to obtain his wishes by the exercise of his own prerogative. Every shred of that prerogative which had come down to him from the struggles of the past was magnified till he had created out of it a power which in no respect fell short of absolute sovereignty. He used the right of appointing judges to pack the bench with men who would deliver that to be law which was in accordance with his wishes. He used his supremacy in the Church to strike down those who clearly represented the feelings of the Church. He used his right of granting charters to corporations to modify those charters in such a way as to give him hopes of obtaining a packed House of Commons at the next elections. He issued a Declaration of Indulgence, by which, of his own authority, he set aside the effect of all laws imposing restrictions on religion. In resisting this Declaration the clergy and those who sympathised with them were doubtless not uninfluenced by somewhat questionable motives. But their conduct was such as to commend itself to approbation on higher grounds than they were themselves conscious of. It is doubtless good that no religious belief should stand in the way of admission to political and military offices. A general should be appointed because he understands strategy, and a lord treasurer because he understands finance, not because his opinions coincide with those of the majority on the subject of transubstantiation. But if

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all religious tests imposed by law are to be taken away, it is absolutely necessary that they shall not be succeeded by a religious test unavowedly imposed by the person who has it in his power to dispose of offices. What our ancestors had to face was, not the danger that James would appoint a casual Catholic here and there to command a regiment or to sit upon the bench as justice of the peace, but that he would flood the army, the navy, the judicial bench, and the civil administration with Catholics to the exclusion of Protestants; and that too at a time when the Catholic monarchy of Lewis XIV. had shown itself especially intolerant, had recommenced the persecution of French Protestants, and had at its disposal a fleet and army which might easily be placed at the disposal of an unscrupulous English king to suppress opposition at home.

For a time, even these considerations failed to goad Englishmen to resistance. Whatever James might be, the heir to the throne, his daughter Mary, was a confirmed Protestant. Her husband, William of Orange, was equally a confirmed Protestant, and was the head of the opposition on the Continent to Lewis XIV. James was advanced in life, and it was certain that, whatever he might do, his successor would undo. Suddenly it was announced that the queen was with child, and then it was told that she had borne an heir to the throne. It is no wonder if men received the news with incredulity, and thought that, as James had called into existence a sham bench of judges, and was preparing to call into existence a sham House of Commons, he had now produced a sham heir to the throne. Whether the child was the queen's or not, its very existence made prompt action necessary, unless James's system were to be perpetuated. Hope could no longer be entertained that all would go well as soon as James's life was at an end.



§ 11. The


of 1688.

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