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Reign of James II. (Continued) page 4


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On the evening of the day appointed, the seven prelates, namely, Sancroft, the archbishop of Canterbury, Lloyd of St. Asaph, Ken of Bath and Wells, Turner of Ely, Lake of Chichester, White of Peterborough, and Trelawney of Bristol, attended the privy council. Jeffreys took up the petition, and, showing it to Sancroft, asked him if that was not the paper which he had written, and the six bishops present had signed. Sancroft and his colleagues had been well instructed by the ablest lawyers in England of the course they should pursue, and the dangers to be avoided. The primate, therefore, instead of acknowledging the paper, turned to the king and said – "Sir, I am sailed hither as a criminal, which I never was before; and, since I have that unhappiness, I trust your majesty will not be offended if I decline answering questions which may tend to criminate me." "This is mere chicanery," said James. "I hope you will not disown your own handwriting." Lloyd of St. Asaph said that it was agreed by all divines that no man in their situation was obliged to answer any such question; but, as James still pressed for an answer, Sancroft observed that, though he were not bound to accuse himself, yet, if the king commanded it, he would answer, taking it for granted that his majesty would not take advantage to bring his admission there in evidence against him. James said he would not command him; but Jeffreys told them to withdraw for awhile, and when they were called back, James commanded the primate, and he acknowledged the writing. They were then again sent out, and, on coming back, were told by Jeffreys that they would be proceeded against, not before the High Commission, but, "with all fairness," before the King's Bench.

They were then called upon to enter into recognisances, but they refused, on the plea that they were peers of parliament, and that no peer of parliament could be required to enter into recognisances in case of libel. Tliis greatly disconcerted James, for it compelled him to send them to prison, and he justly feared the effect of it on the public. But there was no alternative; a warrant was signed for their commitment to the Tower, and they were sent thither in a barge.

The scene which immediately took place showed that James had at length a glimmering of the danger which he had raised. The whole river was crowded with wherries full of people, who crowded round the bishops to entreat their blessings, many rushing breast-high into the water to come near enough. James, in terror, ordered the garrison and guards of the Tower to be doubled; but the same spirit animated the soldiers, who knelt at the approach of the prelates, and also solicited their blessing. Presently the soldiers were found carousing to the health of their prisoners; and when Sir Edward Hales, who had been made lieutenant of the Tower for his going over to popery, desired the officers to put a stop to it, they returned and told him that it was impossible, for the soldiers would drink nobody's health but the bishops'. Every day the gates of the Tower were besieged by the equipages of the chief nobility. The very nonconformists came in bodies to condole with their old persecutors; and Tower Hill was one constant throng of people manifesting their sympathy.

Such were the miracles of resistance and all but revolt which the folly and insane bigotry of James had created out of the most obsequious aristocracy and hierarchy, which had done anything so long as he let alone the national church. Great praise has been heaped on the seven bishops for their conduct on this occasion. It has been represented by the tory writers as if they, indeed, created and effected this mighty revolution. The revolution was the work of the Stuarts themselves, brought to a crisis by this most obstinate and tyrannic creature of the whole breed. It was not the effect of the bishops, or any respect personally for them; it was that James had made them and the existence of their church one and the same thing. The act of the bishops was but the natural instinct of self-preservation - an act in which they were fully supported by the aristocracy. That same aristocracy which had consented to assist in treading down the liberties of Scotland, Ireland, and the people of England, had now refused to go any further, because there was but one step betwixt them and the gulf of popery and a popish despotism, in which no man's person or property would be safe, in which there would be nothing but national and individual dishonour and degradation; and nothing in history is finer than the moral retribution, the poetical justice, of the state church and the state aristocracy being now driven into this cleft stick, and compelled to turn again and drive out the incorrigible tyrants whom they had so long flattered and assisted.

If we will see the real magnitude of the change which James had now forced on the spirit of the church, we must look back to the hour and from the hour when James the pedant first entered England. What do we see in this long retrospect? - the high church and the aristocracy, its national ally, worshipping absolutism in the person of the monarch; echoing and supporting with all their flattery, might, and influence the doctrines of divine right and passive obedience. There we shall see Bancroft, Whitgift, and others, their brother bishops, telling the modern Solomon, when he rated and spurned for them the puritan divines at Hampton Court, "that his majesty was the breath of their nostrils" and that by the divine inspiration. There we shall see Dr. Cowell, under the patronage of bishop Bancroft, publishing in his " Law Dictionary," that the king was above all law; shall see Mainwaring, Montague, and Sibthorp advanced by Charles I. to bishoprics and stalls for preaching the very doctrine which these bishops are now compelled to repudiate; preaching that if a prince should command anything contrary to the laws of God and nature, they must still obey him as the Lord's anointed - offering no resistance, no railing, but mild and perfect obedience. There we shall find bishop Williams telling Charles "that there was a public conscience and a private conscience." We shall see that, in all the arbitrary measures of these kings for forcing the consciences of their subjects in Scotland and Ireland, as well as in England, the bishops were the unfailing abettors. What torrents of blood of the persecuted had their doctrine and their exhortation poured out on the mountains of Scotland and the wastes of Ireland! What groans of misery and death had arisen, from the same origin, from crowded and dying puritans in the loathsome dungeons of England! We shall find these bishops and clergy supporting Charles in all his illegal and tyrannical intrigues on his subjects in the Star Chamber and High Commission court; Laud, their admired primate, the most fiery and officious actor in promotion of these atrocities. The clippings, and loppings, and brandings, and nose-slittings of Prynne, and Bastwick, and Leighton will testify against them. We shall see Oxford and Cambridge singing the praises of absolutism and non-resistance; and Oxford receiving Charles with open arms when he commenced war on his subjects. We shall find the high churchmen eagerly claiming rewards from Charles II. for having helped to bring him back without any restraint on his absolute principles. When he was brought back and was fairly installed among his pimps and his mistresses, we shall see the convocation hailing him in the liturgy as "our most religious king." We shall find them instigating him against all dissenters, to the passing of those acts - the act of uniformity and the five-mile act - and being within a hair's- breadth of obtaining an oath of non-resistance to be imposed on everybody. This we shall find so late as 1665, whilst the parliament was sitting at Oxford, and the bishops and clergy were preaching before the king and parliament members as if this non-resistance bill was already passed; and the people of England, to use the words of a modern writer, "were now slaves both by act of parliament and the word of God." Their pastoral charges rolled in thunder louder than that of Laud and Mainwaring upon the divine right of kings, the duty of passive obedience in subjects, and the eternal damnation provided for those who should resist "the Lord's anointed, or the ministers of the only true church upon earth." We shall find the convocation and the clergy echoing this in the most vehement style; declaring "that it belongs not to subjects to create or to censure, but to honour and obey their king, whose fundamental law of succession no religion, no law, no fault, no forfeiture could alter or diminish." We shall find that, on the memorable 21st of July, 1683, the day on which lord Russell perished on the scaffold, the university of Oxford again, by "a judgment and decree," publishing and pronouncing this doctrine; nay, both convocations, on the accession of this very James, spite of his notorious popery, hastening to declare" their faith and true obedience to him, without any restrictions or limitations of his power."

Thus, on all occasions, the church had freely and fully surrendered to these arbitrary monarchs, as far as in them lay, the rights and liberties of all England. They had done all that they potüd, for their own selfish aggrandisement, to overturn the constitution of they country; to lay it in eternal thraldom-r-and that in the sacred name of God - at the feet of the church and the king; and it was beautiful that it should come to this at last; it was beautiful that the universities, which had always been the great hotbeds and nurseries of toryism, and had been the most truculently officious in fanning these traitor-kings with the adulation of the non-resistance doctrine, which no religion, no law, no fault, or forfeiture in the monarch himself could alter or. diminish-should be the first to be tested by their divine- right king; and we believe that none would more fully admit the necessity and the salutary effect of the striking punishment of both universities and church than the majority of their ministers Mid sons at the present day.

Had James, indeed, had any deep insight into human nature, he would have known that, on being put to the test, they would act as Satan suggested to the Almighty in the book of Job: - "Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face." - i. 10, 11. James had now, by his insane and, openly- avowed resolve to overthrow both church state, and protestantism together, completely flashed into the faces of the clergy and universities the suicidal folly of their doctrine, and combined all parties in one league of resistance. Whig: and tory, peer and commoner, English, Scotch, and Irish, churchman and dissenter, forgot their differences in the common danger. The old combatants for party powers, the persecutors and the persecuted, coalesced, and showed one bold front to his usurpations. The bishops, who had uniformly hitherto been arrayed on the side of arbitrary power, were now converted into the most honoured of patriots, and elevated in the zeal of the people almost to adoration.

Two days only after the bishops were sent to the Tower, namely, the 10th of June, was announced what, under other circumstances, would have been a most auspicious event for James - the birth of an heir. But the nation was so full of suspicion, both of the monarch and the Jesuits that he had around him, that it would not credit the news that the healthy boy which was born was the actual child of James and his queen. It was certainly of the highest moment that James should have taken every precaution to have the birth verified beyond dispute; but in this respect he had been as singularly maladroit as in all his other affairs. As the protestants were, of course, highly suspicious, he should have had the usual number of protestant witnesses ready. But the queen, who sat playing cards at Whitehall till near midnight, was suddenly taken ill a month before the calculated time, and there was neither the princess Anne present - she was away at Bath - nor the archbishop of Canterbury,, nor the Dutch ambassador - whom it was so necessary to satisfy on behalf of the princess and prince of Orange - nor any of the Hyde family, not even the earl of Clarendon, the uncle of Mary and Anne. On the contrary, there were plenty of Jesuits, and the renegade noblemen, Dover, Peterborough, Murray, Sunderland - who directly after avowed himself a catholic - Mulgrave, "and others. The consequence was that the whole people declared the child spurious; that it had been introduced into the bed in a warming-pan; and when the public announcement was made, and a day of solemn thanksgiving was appointed, there was no rejoicing. Fireworks were let off by order of government; but the night was black and tempestuous, and flashes of lurid lightning paled the artificial fires, and made the people only the more firm in the belief that heaven testified against the imposture. And yet there was no imposture. There were some protestants present - sufficient to prevent any collusion, and particularly Dr. Chunberlain, the eminent accoucheur; but James, by his folly and tyranny, had deprived himself of the public confidence, and fixed on his innocent offspring a brand of disavowment, which clung to him and his fortunes, and has only been removed by the cooler judgment of recent times. William of Orange sent over Zulestein to congratulate James on the birth of an heir; but that minister brought back the account that not one person in ten believed the child to be the queen's.

This fortunate event offered a fine opportunity for James retracing his steps, and winning back the good-will of the nation. He had only to liberate the bishops, and declare himself resolved to govern According to his coronation oath, and the heart of the nation would, have flowed back to him. Such was the advice that his more prescient ministers gave to Mm - but in vain; his nature was capable of nothing so reasonable or politic. On the contrary, he took every little opportunity of further incensing his subjects and strengthening their alarms. He sent word to the chaplain of the Tower to read the Declaration of Indulgence during divine service on Sunday, though the day for its reading was long past; and, on the chaplain's refusal, he dismissed him. He boasted of the conversion of Sunderland, and saw with delight this wretched sycophant, to avoid losing his place, go barefooted, and with a taper in his hand, to the royal chapel, to be there received as a humble penitent into the bosom of the church; and when earnestly exhorted to make some concession, he haughtily replied, "No, I will go on. Concession ruined my father, and I have been only too indulgent."

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Pictures for Reign of James II. (Continued) page 4

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