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Reign of Charles II. (Continued) page 7


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On the reassembling in October they voted three hundred thousand pounds for shipbuilding, perceiving that the French navy was outgrowing our own; but they contended that according to the sum he had received from parliament the year before, and the money from Holland, he ought to have a large surplus. There was a proposal for the dissolution of this parliament, which had now continued sixteen years, and a threatened exposure of bribery and corruption; and then, on the 22nd of November, Charles prorogued parliament for fifteen months.

We may now take a brief glance at proceedings in Scotland and Ireland.

In Scotland archbishop Sharp had pursued his persecuting and coercive system to such an extent, that Charles was obliged to order him not to overstep his proper duties, but to confine himself to spiritual concerns alone. Such was the hatred which this renegade churchman had excited, that in 1668 a young man of the name of Mitchell, who had witnessed the horrible cruelties which followed the battle of Bullion Green, believed himself called upon to put Sharp to death. He therefore posted himself in front of the ardh- bishop's palace, and as the archbishop came out with the bishop of Orkney to get into his carriage, he stepped up and fired at Sharp, who was just seated in the carriage; but at the same moment the bishop of Orkney raised his arm to enter the carriage, and received the ball in his wrist. There was a cry that a man was killed, but some one exclaimed, "It is only a bishop!" and Mitchell, coolly crossing the street, mixed with the crowd, walked away, and changed his coat; and though the council offered a large reward for his apprehension, it was six years before he was discovered.

The earl of Rothes had been removed from the office of royal commissioner, and the earl of Tweeddale, who now occupied that post, endeavoured to soften the spirit of persecution, and granted a certain indulgence. This was to admit such of the ejected ministers to their livings as were vacant, or to appoint them to others, provided they would accept collation from the bishop, and attend the presbyteries and synods. But this was to concede the question of episcopacy, and the king's supremacy in the church. The more complying of the ejected members, to the number of forty-three, accepted the offer; but they found that by so doing they had forfeited the respect of their flocks, who deserted their churches, and crowded to other preachers more stanch to their principles. Lauderdale soon after returned to Scotland, and his very first proceeding was to pass an act to appoint commissioners to co-operate with English commissioners, to endeavour to effect a union of the two kingdoms.

His next was to pass another, converting the act of allegiance into an act of absolute supremacy. This at once annihilated the independence of the kirk; and a third act was to give the king a right to maintain an army, and to march it to any part of the king's dominions. This was so evidently a step towards despotism, that not only in Scotland, but in the English parliament, the indignation was great, and the English commons presented an address to the crown, praying for Lauderdale's removal. The address, however, produced no effect. Lauderdale proceeded, plausibly offering "indulgence" to such easy principled ministers as would accept livings subject to the oath of supremacy and the acknowledgment of bishops, whilst at the same time he passed an act in July, 1070, more rigorously prohibiting conventicles within private houses or in the open air. Any minister preaching or praying at such meetings was to suffer forfeiture of both life and property. The Scotch did not understand this kind of indulgence, which allowed their ministers to enter their churches by the sacrifice of their moral principles, and put them to death if they took the liberty to follow their own consciences. The people took arms and went to their meetings, determined to defend their preachers and themselves. Lauderdale then, with the aid of archbishop Leighton, extended the "indulgence" to all such ministers as would attend presbyteries, where the bishops should have no negative voice; but this did not deceive the people. The rigour against their own choice ministers and places of worship was kept up, and they declared that bishops, even without a negative voice in the presbyteries, were bishops still; that such assemblies had no resemblance to those previous to 1638; they had no power of the keys, no ordination, no jurisdiction; that the whole was but a snare to draw in unwary or self-interested ministers, and after them their flocks. To assent to such terms would be apostacy from the principles of the kirk. Lauderdale made another step in his "indulgence" in 1673. He named eighty ejected ministers, and ordered them to repair to their churches and officiate there, but nowhere else, under severe penalties. This was to lock up the conventicles in which these preachers ministered. About one-fourth of the number refused to obey, and were confined by order of the council to particular places. But this did not diminish the number of conventicles, it only excited a schism betwixt the complying and the non-complying. He next passed an act of grace, pardoning all offences against the conventicle acts committed before the 4th of March, 1674; but this only encouraged the people to fresh freedom in their attendance on conventicles. They regarded his- concessions as certain proofs of his weakness, and the independent meetings, scorning any compliance with episcopacy and royal supremacy, spread and abounded more than ever. They assembled in vacant churches, where they would not have entered to listen to what they called an intrusive minister, or in the open air in glen or mountain, around a lofty pole erected as a signal. "The parish churches of the curates," says Kirton, "came to be like pest-houses, few went into any of them, and none to some; so the doors were kept locked." No policy, however severe or plausibly insinuating, could induce the wary Scots to swallow the hated pill of episcopacy.

In Ireland, the prohibition of importing Irish cattle into England was followed by a like prohibition from the Scottish parliament, and the Irish parliament retaliated by prohibiting Scotch woollens being imported into Ireland. These illiberal measures only spread mischief and misery on all sides. So long as the duke of Ormond retained the lord-lieutenancy, he endeavoured to mitigate these evils. He procured the liberty of a free trade betwixt Ireland and all foreign countries, whether at war or peace with England; and five hundred families of Walloons were induced to settle in Ireland and to establish the manufactory of woollen and linen clothes. But the many sufferers from the act of settlement, which confirmed the possession of the Irish lands in the hands of the English soldiers and adventurers, complained greatly of Ormond, and his enemies at court procured his removal in 1669. After him succeeded lord Robärtes, and next lord Berkeley; but it mattered little who governed, nothing could induce the natives to sit down quietly under the loss of their estates, and that, too, whilst they had been often firm loyalists and the intruders rebels. In 1671 a commission was appointed to inquire into all alleged grievances, consisting of prince Rupert, Buckingham, Lauderdale, Anglesey, Ashley, and others. This lasted till March 26th, 1673, but ended in nothing. The possessors of the Irish lands were too powerful at court, and no result followed but fresh severities against the catholics, who were expelled from all corporations, and their priests banished the kingdom.

The war between France and the confederates, Holland, Austria, and Spain, had now spread all over Europe, both by land and sea., Louis poured his soldiers in torrents into the Netherlands, and excited insurrections in the dependencies of Spain. He managed to excite sedition against her in Sicily, and against Austria in Hungary. De Ruyter, the famous admiral, was despatched by the prince of Orange to assist the Spaniards in Sicily, and was tilled at Messina. On the other hand, Louis's great general, Turenne, was killed in the battle of Saltzbach, on the Rhine. After his death, the Austrian general, Montecuculli, defeated the French repeatedly, and recovered Alsace. But Vauban, who introduced a new system of fortification, recovered the ascendancy of Louis, by teaching the French how to defend towns. Louis maintained this enormous war at a cost which brought immense burdens on France, and laid the foundation of the great revolution which just preceded our time. On the other hand, William of Orange manfully maintained the conflict under many disadvantages. His authority at home, was often questioned; the governors of the Spanish Netherlands frequently crossed his plans, and his German allies as frequently failed him. Yet reverse after reverse was not able to damp his spirit, or overcome his imperturbable tenacity of purpose. Charles, during this awful struggle of his nephew, was enjoying peace, but a most inglorious peace, purchased by the money of Louis, to allow him to destroy all the independent states of Europe. Not even the interests of his own subjects were protected. In the course of seven months fifty-three sail of merchantmen were captured by the French cruisers. The sufferers made loud complaints, and Charles promised to obtain restoration, but very little was ever obtained. He received his annual pension from Louis, and though he drew it through Chiffinch, his pander and man of the back stairs, the transaction was well known to his ministers Danby and Lauderdale, and his brother the duke of York.

When he reassembled his parliament on the 5th of February, 1677, the country party, headed by Shaftesbury and Buckingham in the lords, contended that the parliament was legally at an end. That, by two statutes of Edward III., it was required that parliaments should be held once a year, or oftener; and this parliament having been prorogued for a period of fifteen months, had ceased to exist. But lord chancellor Finch truly replied, that by the triennial act of Charles I. the vacations were extended to three years. In the commons there was also a motion for a dissolution, but it was postponed. The motion of Buckingham in the lords to vote the present parliament effete was negatived, and he, Salisbury, Shaftesbury, and Wharton, were ordered by the house to retract their illegal opinion, and beg pardon of the house and the king. They refused, and were committed to the Tower. The following day the motion of a dissolution in the commons was lost by a minority of one hundred and forty-two to one hundred and ninety-three. Defeated in the attempt to break up this corrupt pension parliament, the opposition in the lords next endeavoured to secure the succession against a catholic prince. Charles had no children but illegitimate ones, and James, therefore, was heir to the crown. The bill passed the lords, and provided that on the demise of the king, the bishops should tender a declaration against transubstantiation to the heir; and if he refused to take it, they should appoint to all bishoprics and benefices, and take charge of the education of the king's children; but the commons threw out the bill on the ground of the undue power which it conferred on the bishops; and they immediately threw out another bill of the peers for abolishing the punishment of death for popish recusancy. The two houses, however, agreed in abolishing the detestable writ de haeretico comburendo.

The present parliament has been accused of singular inconsistency in calling upon the king to declare war against France, in order to check it in its ominous progress against Holland and the Netherlands, and yet refusing him money. A very valid plea for their anxiously desiring the declaration of war, and yet shrinking from putting money into Charles's hands, might have been advanced had they been an honest parliament. The nation saw with great discontent and humiliation the growing ascendancy of France, the increase of Louis's navy, the expansion of his ambitious plans, the danger of protestant Holland, and the despicable position into which England had fallen. It had fears of popery, fears of absolutism, through a standing army. There were dark rumours, though no direct proofs, of the king's secret league with France. Whilst they, therefore would have willingly granted him money for a war with France, they dreaded to do it, knowing how it would go in folly, and believing how it would go to strengthen despotism. They did not leave him destitute; he had the excise, and they now granted six hundred thousand pounds for the building of new ships; but they took care to tie it up by proper securities to its legitimate purpose. How well they were justified, was shown by the first use which the king made of the money now received from France. The bulk of it went to purchase votes in the house of commons.

Unfortunately, this parliament was little more honest than the king himself; it was receiving bribes on all sides. Dalrymple shows that Spanish, Dutch, German, and French money was freely distributed amongst the members. In 1673 three leaders of the opposition in the commons were bribed with six thousand pounds, to induce them freely to vote unusually large supplies, and they did it. They were now in the pay of all the chief contending countries in Europe. When they raised the cry of war on this occasion, the king expressed his readiness, but demanded six hundred thousand pounds at the least for the necessary expenditure. Thereupon Spain bribed the patriots to vote for it with twenty thousand pounds, and the king of France bribed them with a still larger sum. The proposal for the war was thrown out, Louis having feed not only the parliament, but the ministers and the king. On receiving about two hundred thousand pounds from Louis, Charles adjourned parliament on the 16th of April, and did not call it together again till the next January. Never, surely, had everything like principle or patriotism so thoroughly, abandoned the nation. Soon after the adjournment Buckingham, Salisbury, and Wharton, made their submission to the king, and were released'; Shaftesbury held out seven months longer, and then followed their example.

During the recess the prince of Orange came to England. He had reflected on his former refusal to marry Mary, the daughter of the duke of York. Though William could place very little dependence on the alliance of his uncle Charles, yet lie could not be insensible that a marriage with Mary opened up a prospect towards the throne of England, and that an alliance betwixt the two protestant nations must mutually strengthen their position in Europe. He therefore began to cultivate the friendship of Danby, the prime minister, and then solicited the union which he had before declined. The overture was received with a coldness that the more sensibly impressed the prince with the political blunder which he had committed. He therefore humbled himself, and requested permission to make a visit to London and apologise for his past conduct and explain his future views. Charles not only resented William's refusal of his former offer, but he was jealous of his intrigues with the popular leaders; and though he did not forbid his coming, he stipulated that he should return before the meeting of parliament. On the 9th of October he joined his uncle at Newmarket, and, having the services of Danby and Temple, Charles was soon persuaded to his marriage with the princess. James appeared at first averse to the connection, but he soon acquiesced; and whilst Charles boasted of having made this alliance to secure the religion of the nation, James took credit to himself from his consent, of proving how false were the suspicions which had been expressed of his intention to make changes in both the religion and the state. The marriage gave universal satisfaction, and during the festivities with which it was celebrated at court, William sought to engage the king in the project of a general peace. The following were the proposals ultimately arrived at by them, to be submitted to the different powers: That Holland and France should mutually restore the conquests that they had made; that the duchy of Lorraine should be restored to the duke, its rightful sovereign; and that France should keep possession of the places won from Spain, except Ath, Charleroi, Oudenarde, Courtrai, Tournai, Conde, and Valenciennes, which should be restored and form a chain of fortresses betwixt the new frontier of France and the old ones of Holland. Charles despatched lord Feversham to lay the proposals before Louis; but the French king would not listen to them, and tidings reached William which caused him immediately to hasten home.

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