Imatges de pàgina



Leading men of both the great parties invited the Prince
of Orange to come to defend the liberties of England.
When William landed James found himself helpless. He
had made many enemies and no friends. Those whom he
had favoured deserted him in his hour of need, and he
fled from the country leaving everything, as far as he
was concerned, in disorder and confusion. The two
houses combined to offer the throne to William and

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THE Revolution was more than a change of sovereigns. It was the rejection of the ideas of the minority of 1641, which had been adopted as sufficient at the Restoration, $1. Suin favour of the idea of the supremacy of Parliament. of the House of Pym's political ideas were at last to be realised. The Commons. name and title of the King were to remain as they had been before. But it was to be clearly understood that if a serious difficulty ensued, the king was to give way to parliament, and more especially to the House of Commons, by which the nation was more directly represented. Up to the Revolution, England was under a monarchy surrounded by certain constitutional checks, intended to prevent the will of the monarch from degenerating into arbitrary wilfulness. After the Revolution, England became practically a republic, in which the Crown possessed various constitutional powers, intended to prevent the will of the representatives of the people from degenerating into arbitrary wilfulness. But it is seldom that contemporaries estimate the full importance of changes so great. In this case, at least, they did not. The theory on which they proceeded to build up their conception of the new government was in itself as irrational as the theory of Divine Right which


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preceded it. They held that the relations of ruler and ruled were governed by some undefined social compact entered into before the memory of man, which bound the ruler to some undefined and elastic terms of conformity with the needs of the ruled. Facts were, however, greater than theories, and the main fact was that the king, if he meant to preserve authority, must appeal to some other argument than the claim to hereditary right.

Another consequence of the Revolution was hardly of less importance. Government after government had wrecked itself by attempting to grasp the control of the domain of religion and intelligence. The old claim of Anselm and the medieval churchmen had been set at naught. For a century and a half religion and politics had been strangely mixed. The holders of power had been in the position of a garrison defending all that they counted dear from the most violent attack. In such a position they had used the vantage ground of authority to prevent the spread of principles which were certain to be turned against them in actual combat. Gradually since the first days of the Restoration, all this had changed. The garrison had gathered strength, had marched out into the open country, and had been able to keep the field. The Church of England knew itself to be strong in the reverence of the great majority of the nation. Circumstances, never likely to occur again, had made it possible for a combination between Catholics and Dissenters to be formed under the shadow of James's Declaration of Indulgence. Yet so strong had the Church been, that not only had that combination failed to effect anything against her, but even the greater part of the Dissenters themselves had preferred to trust to her leaders for toleration, rather than risk all by assailing her. Therefore, the concession made to the

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Dissenters by the Toleration Act was made without difficulty. It was easy to permit the assembly of separate congregations for purposes of worship outside the pale of the National Church as soon as it was ascertained that all those congregations, if they chose to combine together, would be too weak to affect the position of that Church which they had resolved to abandon. A few years later, the Toleration Act was supplemented by the withdrawal of the existing censorship over printed A free press and a free pulpit took their places in the new system established by the Revolution.


Like all great changes, the concession of liberty of speech and of writing was accompanied by results of which its authors had no foreknowledge. In the first place, it made government easier by withdrawing a whole sphere of human action from its influence. As long as those who were in authority were able to put to silence those whose opinions were adverse to their own, or at least to visit them with grievous penalties, the power which they possessed was so enormous, as to be liable to the grossest abuse, whilst it was certain to rouse the most determined opposition. Struggles for power under such conditions, resembled the struggles between hostile armies which allow no quarter to one another. Each successive government was anxious to secure not merely the present possession of influence, but the power of stereotyping ideas upon future generations by the suppression of the teaching of principles which it disliked. All this was abandoned by the statesmen of the Revolution. Whig and Tory might differ in their views; but the future was to be left to take care of itself. If the future would be moulded to some extent by Parliamentary action, it would be moulded to a far greater extent by words uttered or printed which were now placed beyond the control of any


$3. The Sphere of Governstricted.

ment re


$ 5. Cabinet Government.

government whatever. In a new shape, the liberty which had been claimed by the heads of the organised medieval church was given over by a triumphant State to the individual conscience.

§ 4. Immeliate

Results of

The two cardinal principles of the Revolution, therefore, were, that the government should be conducted in accordance with the will of the House of Commons, and ance of the that the House of Commons, predominant as it became Commons in the government, should have no authority over the

the Predomin

House of

free expression of political and religious opinion outside its walls. For a long time before, both these principles would have been regarded as likely to lead straight to anarchy. As a matter of fact, they combined to lay the foundations of an order more stable than had yet been seen in England. After all, there was something permanently true in the reasoning of the advocates of monarchical authority. Neither five millions of men nor five hundred men can govern a country. To manage public affairs, even in a single department, requires a familiarity with the course of business and special mental aptitude, combined with a sense of responsibility for success or failure which is only possible for a single individual, whilst the task of keeping the heads of different departments in harmony is also only possible for a single individual. Till this was understood, the growth of parliamentary power brought with it the growth of parliamentary faction. The last years of William were embittered by the meddlesome intervention of the House of Commons in matters which it was unable to understand, and which it discussed with the strong passion of ignorance goaded by personal spite.

Gradually, a better system evolved itself out of the necessity of the circumstances. The Commons, separated as they were into two great parties, divided in opinion on the questions of the day, fell naturally

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