OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Charles II page 9

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10

II., and that merely for dissenting from the church in some points, for which they were able to bring good reason. That they suffered in their estates to the amount of two millions Within five years. Another writer adds that Mr. Jeremy White had carefully collected a list of the dissenting sufferers, and of their sufferings, and had the names of sixty thousand persons who had suffered on a religious account between the restoration of Charles II. and the revolution of king William. That James, during his reign, heard of this manuscript, and offered a thousand guineas for it, but White refused to part with it, and afterwards committed it to the flames.

And how was "our most religious king" employed whilst his subjects were thus in all quarters harassed, imprisoned, plundered, tortured, shot, or beheaded? He was leading the most lewd and infamous life recorded in history. His court swarmed with mistresses, pimps, procurers, and parasiteğ of every description. We have seen how he forced the lady- Castlemaine - with whom he was living in double adultery, towards his own wife and towards her own husband, Palmer - on his revolting queen. He kept a fellow of. the name of Chiffinch as procurer and master of his harem, who, had his agents out always seeking fresh women for him, whom he introduced into the palace, so that when an act was passed for putting down brothels, the mob cried, "Let us go first and pull down the great one at Whitehall." Some of the offspring of his by Castlemaine, Lucy Walters, Mary Davies, Nell Gwynne, and others, remain to this day, and the country has been especially saddled with three of them, as of Grafton, St. Albans, and Richmond. To support the countless extravagance of all the ladies of his harem, his harem, his pimps, procurers, and their profligate hangers on, he was, as we have seen, and shall see further, compelled to sell himself and country to the French king for money. What a fall from the glorious splendour, the purity and decorum of the commonwealth! What a ghastly and grinning ogre does this very "merry monarch" appear under this statement of most melancholy facts!

And now he was about to plunge into war to serve the purposes of his paymaster, the ambitions French king. Whatever could weaken or embarrass Holland suited exactly the plans of Louis XIV., and to have England contending with Holland whilst he was contemplating an attack on Spain, was extremely convenient. The immediate cause, however, came from the complaints of the merchants, or rather of the duke of York. The duke was governor of an African company, which imported gold dust from the coast of Guinea, and was deeply engaged in the slave trade, supplying the West India planters with negroes. The Dutch complained of the encroachments of the English both there and in the East Indies, and the English replied by similar complaints. The duke advocated hostilities against the Dutch, but found Charles unwilling to be diverted from his pleasures by the anxieties of war. He was worked on, however, by appeals to his resentment against the Louvestein faction in Holland, which had treated him with great indignity whilst he was an exile, and though the differences might have been readily settled by a^ little honest negotiation, the duke was desirous of a plea for further aggression on the Dutch, and his plans were fostered by Downing, the ambassador at the Hague, a most unprincipled man, who under Cromwell had held the same post, and traded most profitably on the fears of the Dutch.

In the spring of 1664, James's admiral, Sir Robert Holmes, arrived on the coast of Africa with a few small ships of war, to recover the castle of Cape Corse, which the Dutch had claimed and seized. He exceeded his commission as an officer of the African Company, and not only reduced the castle of Cape Corse, but the forts of Goree, and then sailed away to America, and cast anchor at the settlement of New Amsterdam, lately taken from the Dutch by Sir Richard Nicholas, and named it after his patron, New York. The Dutch ambassador now presented the strongest remonstrances, and the king, excusing himself on the plea that Holmes had gone out on a private commission, assured the ambassador that he would have him recalled and put upon his trial. Holmes, indeed, was recalled and sent to the Tower, but was soon after liberated. The Dutch were not disposed to sit down with this indignity, and De Ruyter attacked the English settlements on the coast of Guinea, committed great depredations, and then, sailing to the West Indies, captured above twenty sail of English merchantmen. There was now a vehement cry for war, and Charles appealed to parliament, which granted the unprecedented supply of two millions and a half. The city of London also presented several large sums of money, for which they received the thanks of parliament. A very remarkable circumstance attended the act granting this parliamentary supply. The ancient mode of subsidies was abandoned, and a mode of assessment, copied from the plan of the commonwealth, was adopted; the first time that the royalists practically paid homage to the republican superiority of finance. The tax was to be raised by quarterly assessments. Moreover, the clergy, instead of voting their money separately in convocation, were called upon to pay their taxes with the laity, and thus ended the separate jurisdiction of convocation: it became a mere form.

The duke of York, who, with all his faults, was by no means destitute of courage, took the command of the fleet as lord-admiral against the Dutch, and showed much ability in his command. He divided the fleet into three squadrons, one of which he commanded himself, the second he gave to prince Rupert, who here again appeared in English affairs, and the third to the earl of Sandwich, formerly admiral Montague. The whole fleet consisted of ninety-eight sail of the line and four fire-ships. On the 4th of June he came to an engagement near Lowestoffe, with the Dutch fleet under admiral Opdam, a gallant and experienced seaman, followed by a hundred and thirteen men of war, manned by the most spirited and distinguished youth of Holland. The battle was terrible, but James, discharging all his guns into Opdam's vessel, caused it to blow up, and thus destroyed the admiral with five hundred men. The Dutch having lost their chief commander, drew off towards the Texel, but Yan Tromp collected the scattered vessels, and there was a prospect of a second fight; but the duke went to bed, and lord Brounker, a gentleman of the bedchamber, went on deck and ordered Penn to slacken sail. The consequence was that the Dutch were allowed to retire in safety, and much of the honour won by the duke was lost again by this circumstance. It was said that the duke knew nothing of it, and that Brounker had given the order of his own accord; but.the prevailing opinion was that the duke thought he had got honour enough, and the earl of Montague, who was serving as a volunteer, said the duke had been much impressed by seeing, in the heat of the action, the earl of Falmouth, lord Muskerry, and Boyle, son of the earl of Burlington, killed by his side. Penn, moreover, was said to have told the duke that if they engaged again the fight would be more bloody than ever, for the Dutch would grow desperate with revenge. The fleet, therefore, made homeward, and, says Pepys, the duke and his officers returned from sea "all fat and ruddy with being in the sun." It was given out as a great victory, and the duke received one hundred and twenty thousand pounds for his services; but the public was far from satisfied, and lord Sandwich far less so. He complained to Pepys that he had born the brunt of the battle, and that all the honour was given to the duke in the printed account. That there was much in these statements, was sanctioned by the fact that the duke was removed from the fleet, and the command restored to the brave but unprincipled Sandwich. In the battle the Dutch are said to have lost seven thousand men, and eighteen sail burnt, sunk, or taken. The English are reported to have lost only one ship, and six hundred men in killed and wounded. Amongst the slain were the earls of Marlborough and Portland, and admirals Lawson and Sampson.

Sandwich was scarcely in independent command, when he heard of a most magnificent chance. Two Dutch merchant fleets, one from the East Indies and one from the Levant, to avoid' the English fleet at the Texel, united and sailed round the north of Ireland and Scotland, and took shelter in the neutral harbour of Bergen, in Norway. They were jointly valued at twenty-five millions of livres. Sandwich sailed thither after them, and the king of Denmark, the sovereign of Norway, though at peace with the Dutch, was tempted, by the hope of sharing the booty, to let Sandwich attack them in port. Sandwich, however, was not satisfied to give the king half, as demanded, and in spite of Alefeldt, the governor, who begged him to wait till the terms were finally settled with the monarch, he ordered captain Tyddiman to dash in and cut the ships out and all the Dutch vessels. But Tyddiman found himself betwixt two fires; the Dutch defended themselves resolutely, and the Danes, resenting this lawless proceeding, fired on them from the fort and batteries. Five of Sandwich's commanders were killed, one ship was sunk, much damage was done to the fleet, and it was glad to escape out of the harbour. Sandwich, however, was lucky enough soon after to secure eight men-of-war and about thirty other vessels, including two of the richest Indiamen, which were dispersed by a storm whilst under the convoy of De Witt. The unscrupulous Sandwich made free to appropriate two thousand pounds worth of the booty, and allowed his officers to do the same, which occasioned his dismissal from the fleet; but to soften his disgrace, he was sent as ambassador to Spain. Parliament, to carry on the war, granted the king a fresh supply of one million two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, and at the same time voted the one hundred and twenty thousand pounds to the duke.

Whilst these events had been transpiring, the plague had been raging in the city of London, and had thence spread itself to various parts of the country. It raged with a fury almost unexampled in any age or nation. It had shown itself during the previous winter in a few individual cases, and as spring advanced, it terribly extended its devastations. In May it burst forthwith frightful violence in St. Giles, and, spreading, over the adjoining parishes, soon threatened both Whitehall and the city. The nobility fled to the country, the court retreated to Salisbury, and left Monk to represent the government in his own person, and he boldly maintained his ground through the whole deadly time. As the hot weather advanced the mortality became terrible, and the people fled in crowds into the country, till the lord mayor refused to grant fresh bills of health, and the people of the neighbouring towns and villages refused to receive any one from London into them. Those who escaped out of the metropolis had to camp in the fields, whichever way they turned the inhabitants being in arms to drive them away. In June the city authorities put in force an act of James I. They divided the city info districts, and allotted to each a staff of examiners, searchers, nurses, and watchmen. As soon as the plague Was ascertained to be in a house, they made a red cross upon the door a foot in length, and wrote over, "Lord, have mercy upon us!" No one was allowed to issue out of the houses bearing that fatal sign for a month, if they could keep them in. Persons escaping out of these infected houses, and mingling with others, were liable to suffer death as felons. But to remain in these houses was to perish of plague or famine, and numbers broke wildly from them at all hazards, thus carrying the infection on all Many in their frensy jumped naked from the windows, rushed wildly through the streets, and plunged into the river.

It was calculated that forty thousand workpeople and servants were left destitute by the flight of their employers, and large subscriptions were made to prevent their starving, for they were not allowed to leave the city. The king gave one thousand pounds a week; the city, six hundred pounds, the queen dowager, the archbishop of Canterbury, and many noblemen contributed liberally. But the aspect of the place was terrible. The dead carts were going to and fro continually to collect the bodies put out into the streets announced by the tinkling of a bell, and at night by the glare of links. The corpses were cast into pits, and covered up as fast as possible. The most populous and lately busy streets were grass-grown; the people who walked through them kept along the middle, except they were meeting others, and then they got as far from each other as possible. Amid all this horror, the sight of ghastly death, and the ravings of delirium, whilst some brave souls devoted themselves to the assistance of the suffering and dying, crowds of others rushed to taverns, theatres, and places of debauch, and a strange maniacal mirth startled the silence of the night, and added horror to the work of death. The weekly numbers who perished rose from one thousand to eight thousand. The wildest rumours of apparitions and strange omens were afloat. The ghosts of the dead were said to be seen walking round the pits where their bodies lay; a flaming sword was said to stretch across the heavens from Westminster to above the Tower, and men, raised by the awful excitement of the scene into an abnormal state, went about, as was done at the destruction of Jerusalem, announcing the judgments of God. One man cried as, he passed, "Yet forty days and London shall be destroyed;" another stalked nakedly along, bearing on his head a chafing-dish of burning coal, and declaring that the 'Almighty would purge them with fire. Another came suddenly from side streets and alleys in the darkness of the night, or in open day, uttering in a deep and fearful tone, the unvarying exclamation, "Oh, the great and dreadful God!" The confounded people declared that it was a judgment of God on the nation for its sins, and especially the sins of the king arid court, and the dreadful persecution of the religious by the government and clergy. The presbyterian ejected preachers frequently mounted into the pulpits now deserted by their usual occupants, and preached with a Solemn eloquence to audiences who listened to them from amid the shadows of death, and thus gave great cause of offence tp the incumbents, who had fled their own charge, after the danger was over, and was made one plea for passing the five müe act in October of this year. Many other metropolitan clergy stood firm by their flocks, and displayed the noblest characters during the pestilence. This terrible plague swept off upward of one hundred thousand people during the year; and though it ceased with the winter, it raged the following summer in Colchester, Norwich, Cambridge, Salisbury, and even in the Peak of Derbyshire.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10

Pictures for Charles II page 9

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About