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Reign of James II. (Continued) page 11


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The morning of the 18th was miserably wet and stormy, but a barge was brought to Whitehall stairs, and the wretched monarch went on board, attended by the lords Arran, Dumbarton, Dundee, Lichfield, and Aylesbury. The spectators could not behold this melancholy abdication - for such it was - of the last potentate of a most unwise line, who had lost a great empire by his incurable infatuation, without tears. Even Shrewsbury and Delamere showed much emotion, and endeavoured to soothe the Men king; but Halifax, incurably wounded in his diplomatic pride by the hollow mission to the prince at Hungerford, stood coldly apart Boats containing a hundred Dutch soldiers surrounded his barge as it dropped down the river. James, landed and slept at Gravesend, and then proceeded to Rochester, where he remained four days.

If anything was still wanted to prove that James's mind was utterly incapable of conceiving that no king could reign in England who would not conform to its ancient constitution, it was his conduct during these days. He learned that as he issued from London, William marched in; that he had taken up his abode at St. James's palace; that the nobles had flocked thither to congratulate him on his arrival; that the next day the duke of Norfolk, who had secured the eastern counties for him, was received with high honour; that the aldermen and common councilmen of the city had waited on him with a zealous address; and that he was urged by the lawyers to assume the crown and summon a parliament. At the same time he saw himself carefully guarded on all sides except that leading to the river, where vessels were lying ready to convey him away if he so willed. He was openly invited, as it were, to go away, and strictly prevented from going back or into his kingdom. To a man of any intellect, nothing could be clearer than that, because his enemies so anxiously wished him to depart, it was his interest fco stay; and this lord Middleton and his other Mends earnestly impressed upon him. They assured him that still he had only to declare that he submitted himself to his parliament and people, was prepared to enter into the most solemn engagements to rule according to law, and that nothing could prevent him regaining his throne and the love of his people. The catholics themselves sent entreaties for him to yield, for it was clear that his endeavours for their supremacy were hopeless. Middleton supported this view by telling him that if he once quitted England he could never again set foot in it.

But James had now sunk the last manly feeling of a monarch who would dare much and sacrifice more to retain a noble empire for his family. A dastardly fear that if he remained he would be put to death like his father took possession of him. He made a last offer to the bishops, through the bishop of Winchester, as he had done to the city of London, to put himself into their hands for safety, but they also declined the responsibility, and he then gave all over as lost. On the evening of the 22nd of December he sat down before supper, and wrote a declaration of his motives for quitting the kingdom. He declared that his life was in danger from a nephew who had invaded his kingdom, driven him from his palace and his capital, and had blackened his character by representing him as having imposed a supposititious child on the country, and was designing to destroy the constitution of the realm. He declared that he only retired till the country opened its eyes to the false pretences of liberty and religion with which it had been deluded, when he should be ready at its call. About midnight he stole quietly away with the duke of Berwick, his natural son, and after much difficulty, through storm and darkness, reached a fishing smack hired for the purpose, which, on Christmas-day, landed him at Ambleteuse, on the coast of France. Thence he hastened to the castle of St. Germains, which Louis had appointed for his residence, and where, on the 28th, he found his wife and child awaiting him. Louis also was there to receive him, and settled on him a revenue of forty-five thousand pounds sterling yearly, besides giving him ten thousand pounds for immediate wants. The conduct of Louis was truly princely, not only in thus conferring on the fallen monarch a noble and delightful residence, with an ample income, but in making it felt by his courtiers and by all France, that he expected the exiled family to be treated with all the respect due to. the sovereigns of England.

Perhaps the reception of the fallen king was the warmer, because the most determined enemy of Louis was the man who had now occupied his seat. William had not concealed his imperishable hostility to Louis even in his lowest and weakest condition, and he now did not lose a moment in testifying that he still remembered his aggressions and insults in his new pride of place. True, he was not yet king, but exercising a kingly power, and Barillon, the French ambassador, was ordered to quit the kingdom in four-and-twenty hours. It was in vain that the wily Frenchman pretended to rejoice at the success of William, to throw money amongst the populace, and to drink the prince's health; though he begged earnestly for a little delay, it was refused.

The flight of James had removed the great difficulty of William - that of having recourse to some measure of harshness towards him, as imprisonment, or forcible deposition and banishment, which would have greatly lowered his popularity. The adherents of James felt all this, and were confounded at the advantage which the impolitic monarch had given to his enemies. The joy of William's partisan» was great and unconcealed. In France the success of William was beheld with intense mortification, for it was the death-blow to the ascendancy of Louis in Europe, which had been the great object of all his wars, and the expensive policy of his whole life. In Holland the elevation of their stadtholder to the head of the English realm was beheld as the greatest triumph of their nation; and Dykvelt and Nicholas Witsen were deputed to wait on him in London and congratulate him on his brilliant success. But, notwithstanding all these favourable circumstances, there were many knotty questions to be settled before William could be recognised as sovereign. The country was divided into various parties, one of which, including the tories and the church, contended that no power or law could affect the divine right of kings; and that, although a king by his infamy, imbecility, or open violation of the laws might be restrained from exercising the regal functions personally, those rights remained untouched, and must be-invested for the time in a regent chosen by the united parliament of the nation. Others contended that James's unconstitutional conduct and subsequent flight amounted to an abdication, and that the royal rights had passed on to the next heir; and the only question was, which was the true heir - the daughter of James, the wife of William, or the child called the prince of Wales? The more determined whigs contended that the arbitrary conduct of the house of Stuart, and especially of James, who attempted both to destroy the constitution and the church, had abrogated the original compact betwixt prince and people, and returned the right of electing a new monarch into the hands of the people; and the only question was, who should that choice be? There were not wanting some who advised William boldly to assume the crown by right of conquest; but he was much too wise to adopt this counsel, having already pledged himself to the contrary in his declaration, and also knowing how repugnant such an assumption would be to the proud spirit of the nation.

To settle all these points he called together, on the 23rd of December, the peers, all the members of any parliament summoned in the reign of Charles H. who happened to be in town, and the lord mayor and aldermen, with fifty other citizens of London, at St. James's, to advise him as to the best mode of fulfilling the terms of his declaration. The two houses, thus singularly constituted, proceeded to deliberate on the great question in their own separate apartments^ The lords chose Halifax as their speaker; the commons, Henry Powle. The lords came to the conclusiön that a convention was the only authority which could determine the necessary measures; that in the absence of Charles II. a convention had called him back to the throne and there.

fore a convention in the absence of James might exercise the same legitimate function. When the lords presented an address to this effect on the 25th, William received it, but said it would be necessary to receive the conclusion of the commons before any act could take place. On the 27th the commons came to the same conclusion, and William was requested to exercise the powers of the executive till the, convention should assemble.

In issuing orders for the election of the members of the convention, William displayed a most politic attention to the spirit of the constitution. He gave direction that no compulsion or acts of undue persuasion should be exercised for the return of candidates; no soldiers should be allowed to be present in the boroughs where the elections were proceeding; for, unlike James, William knew that he had the sense of the majority of the people with him. The same measure was adopted with regard to Scotland. There, no sooner had William arrived in England, than the people rose against James's popish ministers, who were glad, to flee or conceal themselves. Perth, the miserable renegade and tyrant, endeavoured to escape by sea; he was overtaken, brought ignominiously back, and flung into the prison of Kirkaldy. The papists were everywhere disarmed, the popish chapels where attacked and ransacked. Holyrood House, which swarmed with Jesuits, and with their printing presses, was not exempt from this summary visitation; and bonfires of all sorts of popish paraphernalia - crosses, books, images, and pictures - were made. William now called together such Scottish noblemen and gentlemen as were in London, who adopted a resolution requesting him to call a convention of the estates of Scotland, to meet on the 14th of March, and in the meantime that he would take on himself the same executive authority as in England. William was, therefore, the elected ruler of the whole kingdom for the time. This power he proceeded to exercise with a prudence and wisdom in striking contrast to the idiotic antagonism of James. All parties and religions were protected as subjects; Feversham was released, and the administration of justice proceeded with a sense of firmness and personal security which gave general confidence.

On the 22nd of January, 1689, the contention met. The lords again chose Halifax as speaker, the commons, Powle. The catholic lords had not been summoned, and were not there. In the lords, bishop Sherlock and a small knot of tories were for recalling James, and attempting the impossible thing of binding him to the constitution; another party, of which Sancroft was known to be the head, though he had not the courage to go there and advocate it, were for a regency; whilst Danby contended for proclaiming the princess Mary in her own right; and the whigs were for nominating William as an elective prince. In the commons, similar parties appeared; but the great majority were for declaring the throne vacant, and, on the 28th, they passed a resolution to that effect, and the next day another, that no popish king could possess the throne. These carried up to the lords were, after a debate of two days, also adopted, but only by small majorities.

James now sent a letter to each house, declaring that he had not abdicated, but had been compelled to withdraw by necessity; and he offered to return and redress every grievance. Both houses refused to receive the letters; but in both the question as to who should be the successor to the throne was violently debated. Lord Lovelace and William Killigrew presented a petition to the commons, demanding that the crown should be given to the prince and princess of Orange jointly. A member asked if the petition was signed, and Lovelace replied No, but that he would soon procure signatures enough. In fact, there were great and noisy crowds about the house; and Lovelace was suspected of having brought the mob from the city to intimidate the opponents. His proceedings were strongly protested against, and William himself sent for him and expressed his disapprobation of bringing any such influence to force the deliberations of the convention. The earl of Devonshire then gathered a meeting of the advocates of the prince and princess at his house, where the question was discussed, and where Halifax concluded for William, and Danby for Mary. To obtain, if possible, some idea of the leaning of William, who had preserved the most profound silence during the debates, Danby put the question to a friend and countryman of William's present, what was the real wish of William? He replied that it was not for him to say, but that, if he must give an opinion, he did not believe that the prince would consent to be gentleman-usher to his wife. This opened the eyes of Danby, who said, "Then you all know enough, and I far too much." In fact, blind must all have been who had studied the character of William not to have seen from the first that he came there to be king, and that on equal terms at least with his wife. The man who had for years brooded in jealous secrecy over the idea that his wife would ^ one day be raised over his own head by her claim on the British crown, was not likely to accept less than an equal throne with her.

Whilst this question was still agitating both houses, Mary herself settled it by a letter to Danby, in which she thanked him for his zeal in her behalf; she declared that she was the wife of William, and had long resolved, if the throne fell to her, to surrender her power, by consent of parliament, into his hands. This was decisive, and the enemies of William had only the hope left that the princess Anne might protest against William, and take precedence of her rights and those of her issue. But Anne had long been perfectly accordant with William and Mary on this head, and declared herself entirely willing that William should hold the throne for his life.

Mary and Anne having spoken out, William now sent for Halifax, Danby, Shrewsbury, and the other leaders, and told them that, having come for the good of the nation, he had thought it right to leave the nation to settle its election of a ruler, and that he had still no desire to interfere, except to clear their way so far as he himself was concerned. He wished therefore to say that, if they decided to appoint a regent, he declined to be that man. On the other hand, if they preferred placing the princess, his wife, on the throne,, he had nothing to object; but if they offered to give him during his life the nominal title of king, he could not accept it; that no man respected or esteemed the princess more than he did, but that he could never consent to be tied to the apron-strings of any woman, even the very highest and best of her sex; that if they chose to offer him the crown for life, he would freely accept it; if not, he would return cheerfully to his own country, having done that which he had promised. He added that he thought, in any case, the rights of Anne and her issue should be carefully protected.

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Pictures for Reign of James II. (Continued) page 11

The Earl of Shrewsbury
The Earl of Shrewsbury >>>>
Prince of Orange
Prince of Orange >>>>
The seven bishops
The seven bishops >>>>
William of orange entering Exeter
William of orange entering Exeter >>>>
Queen of James II
Queen of James II >>>>
The flight of the Queen of James II
The flight of the Queen of James II >>>>
Attack on James II
Attack on James II >>>>
The Princess Anne
The Princess Anne >>>>
William of Orange
William of Orange >>>>

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