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Reign of Charles II. (Continued) page 2


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This is a melancholy picture of what a weak and profligate government can reduce a great country to in less than six years. "It was said," observes Macaulay, "that the very day of that great humiliation, the king feasted with the ladies of his seraglio, and amused himself with hunting a moth about the supper-room. Then, at length, tardy justice was done to the memory of Oliver. Everywhere men magnified his valour, genius, and patriotism. Everywhere it was remembered how, when he ruled, all foreign powers had trembled at the name of England; how the States-general, now so haughty, had crouched at his feet, and how, when it was known that he was no more, Amsterdam was lighted up for a great deliverance, and children ran along the canals, shouting for joy that the 'Devil' was dead. Even royalists exclaimed that the state could be saved only by calling the old soldiers of the commonwealth to arms. Soon the capital began to feel the miseries of a blockade. Fuel was scarcely to be procured. Tilbury Fort, the place where Elizabeth had, with manly spirit, hurled foul scorn at Parma and Spain, was insulted by the inyaders. The roar of foreign guns was heard for the first and last time by the citizens of London, in the council it was seriously proposed that, if the enemy advanced, the Tower should be abandoned. Great multitudes of people assembled in. the streets, crying out that England was bought and sold. The houses and carriages of ministers were attacked by the populace, and it seemed likely that the government would have to deal at once with an invasion and an insurrection."

Whilst the Dutch had thus been humiliating England, Louis XIV. had been pushing his conquests in Flanders. With an army of seventy thousand men he compelled Binche,. Tournay, Oudenarde, Courtrai, and Douai to surrender; and he was besieging Lisle when the States of Holland hastened to come to terms with France and England to prevent the nearer approach of Louis to their own territories. On the 21st of July peace was signed betwixt England and Holland and England and France, by which the Dutch kept the disputed island of Pulerone, and ceded to the English Albany and New York. France restored Antigua, Monserrat, and part of St. Kitts, and received back Nova Scotia. Denmark, which had sided with the Dutch, also signed a treaty of peace with England.

The peace was immediately succeeded by the fall of Clarendon. He had been the companion and adviser of Charles from the very boyhood of the king, and accordingly the mischief of every measure, and the disgrace which had now fallen on the nation, were all attributed to him. With great talents Clarendon had too much virtue to approve, far less flatter, the vices and follies of the court m which he, lived, and not enough to make him abandon it, and assume the character of a noble and disinterested censor. He had the sternness and gravity of Cato, but he lacked his great and patriotic principles. He began as a liberal, but went over to the royalist cause, and was a rigid advocate of the high prerogatives of the crown, and of the supremacy of the church. The puritans looked on him as a combination of Strafford and Laud. He certainly would not have so far violated public right as to countenance the raising of ship- money, or the violation of the privileges of parliament by the seizure of its members. But the puritans hated him for the support that he gave to the act of uniformity, and for so hotly resisting the king's grant of indulgence, to tender consciences. On the other hand, the royalists hated him because he maintained the inviolability of the bill of indemnity, by which they were restrained from ousting the purchasers from their estates lost during the commonwealth; and they hated him not the less because he had managed to raise his daughter to the rank of duchess of York, and from himself being an insignificant commoner, apparently aiming at being not only father-in-law of the next king, but father of a line of kings. They accused him of having selected the present queen as one not likely to have children, to favour the succession of his own, and probably one of the real causes of Charles's change of feeling towards him resulted from the courtiers having inspired him with this belief. The commons hated him because he had uniformly endeavoured to repress their authority. He never could be brought to see the enlarged influence which the progress of wealth and intelligence had given to the commons; nor had all that had passed under his eyes of their extraordinary power under Charles I., opened them to the knowledge of their real position in the state. In vain did more clear-sighted men point out to him the concessions which were necessary to enable the parliament and the government to move on harmoniously together. The nobility disliked him because he had, by his influence with the king and the marriage of his daughter with the heir-apparent, placed himself above them, and, from the haughtiness of his nature, taken no pains to conceal that invidious position. The people detested him, for they believed that he ruled the king, and therefore was the author of all their miseries and disgraces. They accused him of selling Dunkirk, and therefore called his splendid palace, overlooking and everyway outshining the royal one, Dunkirk House. The chancellor, undoubtedly, had an incurable passion for money and acquisition of wealth, and for displaying it in the grandeur of his house, and the magnificent collection of his pictures. When the Dutch fleet was riding in the Thames, the enraged people turned all their fury on him. They broke his windows, destroyed the trees in his grounds, trod down his garden, and erected a gallows at his door.

But the intensity of aversion to him was felt at court He was from a youth of a grave and decorous character. The lewdness and fooleries of the courtiers excited his undisguised disgust. We have seen that he could stoop to persuade the queen to tolerate the most insufferable indignities, yet he never ceased to speak to Charles of the infamy and extravagance of his mistresses, and the scandalous lives of the courtiers that fluttered around them. The only wonder is, that the malice of Castlemaine and her allies had not long ago driven him from the court; and it speaks volumes for the hold which he had on the regard of the monarch, that he could resist their hatred so long. But now Buckingham, who had quarrelled with Lady Castlemaine, and had done his best to expose her, had made up the feud, and they directed their common enmity against their common foe. Shaftesbury, Monk, Clifford, Lauderdale, Sir William Coventry, Arlington, arid others, now joined them in one determined and concentrated attack. They made their onslaught when all classes were uttering their execrations upon him. He had advised the king, when the Dutch fleet was at Chatham, to dissolve parliament, and maintain ten thousand men that he had raised by forced contribution from the neighbouring counties, to be repaid out of the next supplies; this caught wind, and was regarded as returning to the idea of the king ruling by a standing army and without a parliament. Charles had grown tired of his preachments about the profligacy of his life and court, and allowed the old chancellor to drift before the storm; he was suspected more than all of sacrificing him to his resentment against Clarendon for having brought about the marriage of Miss Stewart with the duke of Richmond, though Clarendon, in a letter to Charles, denied it.

Clarendon, with his characteristic pride, refused at first to resign. He waited on the king and reminded him of his long and faithful services, and told him that he would not consent to appear guilty by surrendering the seals. The king talked of the power of the parliament. Clarendon replied he did not fear parliament, and to]d the king that parliament could do nothing against him without his consent. But unfortunately the spirit of the censor came over him, and, entreating the king not to allow the cabal of the courtiers to prevail against him, he broke out into some severe strictures on "the lady" and her abettors. The king rose and quitted the room without saying a word, and "the lady," quickly informed of the chancellor's disgrace, rushed to a window to watch, with Arlington and May, the fallen minister retire in confusion. Charles sent Sir Orlando Bridgman for the seals, and on the assembling of parliament on the 10th of October, Buckingham and Bristol, who again came out of his hiding-place, urged his impeachment. Accordingly the commons presented seriatim articles of impeachment at the bar of the lords, charging the chancellor with cruelty and venality in his office, an unlawful accumulation of wealth, the sale of Dunkirk, the disclosure of the king's secrets, and the design of ruling by a military force. Still Clarendon stood his ground; but the king let fall an expression in the hearing of one of his friends, that he wondered what Clarendon was still doing in England, and the old man took the hint and got across the channel, though the proposal to imprison him till his trial had been overruled. He did not go, however, without leaving a written vindication of his public conduct, which so offended parliament, that it ordered the paper to be burnt by the common hangman. In this vindication he declared that he had only retired for awhile, and should return at a proper time to prove his innocence, "uncontrolled by the power and malice of men who had sworn Iiis destruction." This caused the commons to pass a bill ordering his trial on the 1st of February, and declaring- him, in default of appearance, banished for life, incapable of ever after holding office, and liable to all the penalties of high treason. Clarendon boldly prepared to face his enemies, but illness stopped him at Calais till it was too late, and he was thus doomed to exile for life. He lost his wife about the time of his fall, which was a great blow to him, for they had lived in great affection. He continued to live chiefly at Montpelier and Moulines,.engaged in writing his history of the- rebellion and of his own life, as well as a reply to Hobbes "Leviathan" and other works; but sighing for recall, and importuning the king to allow him to return to his native country and the society of his children. Charles, however, paid no attention to his prayers, and he died at Rouen in 1674.

Clarendon being removed, the whole of the ministry established at the restoration was broken up. Ormond was absent on his government in Ireland, Southampton was dead, Monk was grown incapacitated from drink and years, and Nicholas had retired. The new ministry acquired the notorious and appropriate name of the cabal, from the initials of their names. Sir Thomas Clifford, first commissioner of the treasury, afterwards lord Clifford; the earl of Arlington, secretary of state; the duke of Buckingham, master of the horse, which office he purchased from Monk; lord Ashley, chancellor of the exchequer, afterwards earl of Shaftesbury and lord chancellor; and the duke of Lauderdale. Secretary Morrice, the creature of Monk, gave way to Sir John Trevor, a creature of Buckingham's. Sir Orlando Bridgman was lord keeper, and therefore the word properly would have two B's, but Bridgman was only consulted according to convenience. Before this time the word cabal merely meant a cabinet. It is so used by Whitelock, Pepys, and Evelyn, from the year 1650. The present cabinet was styled by D'Estrades, "la cabal d'Espagne" The word became infamous from the conduct of these men, who were soon concerned in the king's sale of himself to Louis of France, and most of them received large sums from France for their most treasonable and unpatriotic services. Clifford was the most honest and honourable, but he had the knack of quarrelling with his colleagues, being of a hot and overbearing temper. Bennet, lord Arlington, was a mere courtier, had spent much time on the continent, and picked up its frivolity and vices. He could divert the king by his lively sallies in conversation, please the ladies, and assume an imposing gravity in public debate that deceived, the public. He was at heart a Romanist, but took care to conceal it. As for Buckingham, he was a most thoroughly debauched and unprincipled character, not without certain talents and literary tastes. He had written farces, and was a connoisseur in music and architecture. But he was a jaded man of pleasure, and having been out of favour with the king, was now all the more, bent on complying with his humour to win his favour. He and Arlington were bitter enemies, but put on an appearance, of friendship now they were in office together. Ashley was a man who could change sides, but always with an eye to the main chance. He had been a zealous republican, and now was as zealous a royalist; and as for Lauderdale, he, too, had been ah out and out covenanter, but was now a coarse, brutal persecutor of those of his old faith, and by his diabolical cruelties has acquired a name in history amongst the most odious of inquisitors.

One of the earliest acts of the cabal gave fairer promise of sound and good policy than their after proceedings. They sent Sir William Temple to the Hague to endeavour to heal the difference with Holland, which had inflicted such incalculable evils on both countries. Not the least of those evils was the opportunity, which was afforded Louis of pushing his ambitious designs on Flanders, and ultimately on Holland and Spain. Both England and Holland saw so clearly the gross folly which they had displayed, that Sir William soon was enabled to effect terms with the States, and by the 25th of April, 1668, he had got definite treaties signed betwixt Holland and England, and of these countries with Sweden, to make common cause for checking the further advance of the French, and to induce France to make peace with Spain. There was also a secret treaty, binding each other to make war on France for the defence of Spain. This league became known as the Triple Alliance. Louis, who made pretences to the crown of Spain, was hoping, from the infirm health of its young monarch, Charles II., to obtain that kingdom, or to partition it betwixt himself and Leopold, the German emperor, with whom there was a secret treaty for that very purpose. So far, therefore, from opposing the plans of the new allies, he fell into them on certain conditions - namely, that he should retain the bulk of his conquests in the Netherlands. Holland beheld this arrangement with alarm, and refused to sanction it, upon which it was concluded without her approbation, and to punish the States, Castel-Rodrigo, the Spanish governor of the Netherlands, gave up instead of Franche Comte, Lille, Tournay, Douai, Charleroi, and other places in Flanders, so that the French king advanced his frontier into the very face of Holland. This was settled by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.

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Pictures for Reign of Charles II. (Continued) page 2

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