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Reign of James II. (Continued) page 12


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This left no doubt as to what must be the result. A second conference was held on the 5th of February betwixt the two houses, where the contest was again renewed as to whether the throne was actually vacant, and they parted without coming to any agreement; but the lords, on returning to their own house, yielded, and sent down to the commons the new oaths, and the resolution that the prince and princess should be declared king and queen. The commons, who had already come to this conclusion, would not, however, formally pass it till they had taken measures for securing the rights of the subject before finally conferring the crown. They therefore drew up what was called the "Declaration of Right," by which, while calling William and Mary to the throne, they enumerated the constitutional principles on which the crown should be held. This declaration was passed on the 12th of February, and about a year afterwards was more formally enacted, under the title of the "Bill of Right," which contains the great charter of our liberties.

The declaration stated that, whereas the late king, James II., had assumed and exercised a power of dispensing with, and suspending laws without consent of parliament, and had committed and prosecuted certain prelates because they had refused to concur in such arbitrary powers; had erected an illegal tribunal to oppress the church and the subject; had levied taxes, and maintained a standing army in time of peace without consent of parliament; had quartered soldiers contrary to law; had armed and employed papists contrary to law; had violated the freedom of election, and prosecuted persons in the King's Bench for causes only cognisable by parliament; and whereas, besides these; the personal acts of the late king, partial and corrupt juries had been returned, excessive fines had been imposed, illegal and cruel punishments inflicted, the estates of persons granted away before forfeiture or judgment; all these practices being utterly contrary to the known laws, statutes, and freedom of the realm.

And whereas the said king, having abdicated the throne, and the prince of Orange, who under God had delivered the realm from this tyranny, had invited the estates of the realm to meet and secure the religion and freedom of the kingdom; therefore, the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons in parliament assembled, did, for the vindication and assertion of their ancient rights, declare - That to suspend the execution of the laws, or to dispense with the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of parliament, that to erect boards of commissioners, and levy money without parliament, to keep a standing army in time of peace without the will of parliament, are all contrary to law. That the election of members of parliament ought to be free, speech in parliament free, and to be impeached nowhere else; no excessive bail, or excessive fines, nor cruel or unjust punishments can be awarded; that jurors ought to be duly impanelled, and, in trials for high treason, be freeholders; that grants and promises of fines before conviction are illegal and void; and that, for redress of grievances and the amendment of laws, parliaments ought to be frequently held. All these things are claimed by the declaration as the undoubted rights and inheritance of Englishmen; and, believing that William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, will preserve from violation all these rights and all other their rights, they resolve and declare them to be king and queen of England, France, and Ireland for their joint and separate lives, the full exercise of the administration being in the prince; and, in default of heirs of the princess Mary, to the princess Anne of Denmark; and, in the default of such issue to the princess Anne of Denmark, the succession to fell to the posterity of William.

On the same 12th of February on which this most important document was passed, the princess Mary landed at Greenwich. She was joyfully welcomed, but soon shocked the public sense of propriety by the light and even giddy manner in which she took possession of her father's house and kingdom. It was expected that a daughter, though looking after her natural right, and obeying the will of the nations would feel the delicacy of, her situation in taking up her abode in the seat of a father who was just expelled from his throne by her husband. But, on the contrary, Mary exhibited an air of thoughtless gaiety and even exultation. On reaching Whitehall, no sense of the exiled father and the ruined dynasty of her paternal race seemed to visit her, but a childish delight in taking possession of a new fortune and a fine house. She hurried about from apartment to apartment, examined inio everything, even the closets and the furniture, and was so, unnaturally merry as to shock even her stanch admirer, Burnet. Afterwards, when she became aware of the unpleasant impression which her conduct had made, she excused herself by saying that her husband had informed her that a large section of the people believed that she was dissatisfied with the share which he had received in the throne, and that if she looked gloomy it would confirm the idea; that she therefore affected to be blithe when her heart was really sad. But, taking a general view of the conduct of Mary and Anne, we can see ho evidence of any deep filial feeling throughout. Their father appears to have won as little of their affections as that of his subjects. Anne was in a hurry to declare her adhesion to the scheme of William's invasion, and to desert her father; and where crowns are concerned, the ties of consanguinity are seldom found to be very tenacious.

The next morning, Wednesday, the 13th of February, 1689, the two houses waited on William and Mary, who received them in the banqueting-room at Whitehall. The prince and princess entered, and stood under the canopy of state side by side. Halifax was speaker on the occasion. He requested their highnesses to hear a resolution of both houses, which the clerk of the house of lords then read. It was the declaration of right. Halifax then, in the name of all the estates of the realm, requested them to accept the crown. William, for himself and his wife, accepted the offer, declaring it the more welcome that it was given in proof of the confidence of the whole nation. He then added for himself, " And as I had no other intention in coming hither than to preserve your religion, laws, said liberties, so you may be sure that I shall endeavour to support them, and be willing to concur in anything that shall be for the good of the kingdom, and to do all that is in my power to advance the welfare and the glory of the nation."

This declaration was no sooner brought to an end than it was received with shouts of satisfaction by the whole assembly, and, being heard by the crowds without, was re-echoed by one universal "Hurrah!" The lords and commons, as in courtesy bound, then retired; and, at the great gate of the palace, the heralds and pursuivants, clad in their quaint tabards, proclaimed William and Mary king and queen of England, at the same time praying for them, according to custom, "a long and happy reign." The dense mass of people, filling the whole street to Charing Cross, answered with a stunning shout; and thus, in three months and eight days from the landing of William at Torbay, the great revolution of 1688 was completed, the nation was finally relieved of the most mischievous and politically-hopeless dynasty that any country was ever cursed with, and the throne fixed on its only rational foundation - the voice and choice of the people. William had already, by his prudence and liberality, saved the kingdom from the anarchy and depression of tyranny, but by his pride he saved it still more. Had he consented to reign in right of his wife, and not, as he insisted, in his own right, the old pernicious fiction of the divine right of kings had still been kept up, with all its host of offensive, irritating, and degrading consequences. But by maintaining the independence of a man, and refusing the throne except as the gift of freemen, he conferred that independence on the whole realm. He snapped asunder a sophism which had, from the beginning of kingship, sown the world with tears, miseries, pitiable idolatries, prostrate meanness, fantastic assumptions, horrible outrages, and moral, slaveries. From that day the eternal struggle of English kings to make themselves demi-gods and their people hereditary puppets, was at an end. The block at Whitehall in 1649. and the heralds at the same place in 1689 proclaiming an elective king and queen, are beacon-lights in history on which the most aspiring monarchs cannot türn their gaze withöut becoming sobered, nor any people, however distant, or trodden down, without feeling in their secret souls that their oppressions are but of human, not divine origin, and that there is a remedy for them when they can gather into the national heart the sprit and the political union of England.

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Pictures for Reign of James II. (Continued) page 12

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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