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Reign of William and Mary page 10


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At the suggestion of the Marlboroughs, therefore, the demand for seventy thousand pounds a year was preferred for Anne - or, as in their own familiar intercourse with her the Marlboroughs would have called her, Mrs. Morley. For a most romantic agreement had been come to amongst these most unromantic friends, Anne and the Marlboroughs, that they should abandon all the stiffness of court etiquette in their intercourse, and call each other by the most simple names. Anne was "Mrs. Morley," the prince of Denmark "Mr. Morley," and the Marlboroughs were "Mr. and Mrs. Freeman." The Marlboroughs, or Mr. and Mrs. Freeman, saw that the tory influence had now risen greatly, and through the tories they hoped to make this splendid conquest of an additional forty thousand pounds, which would have gone in Marlborough's all-capacious moneybag.

William and his wife, Anne's own sister, were deeply mortified that the request had not been made to them, but had come through a hostile influence in the commons. William sent the earl of Shrewsbury to Anne to represent the enormous pecuniary demands on the country, and to offer her fifty thousand pounds on condition that she should cease to press it through a parliament opposition - thus appearing to force it on reluctant relatives. But the countess of Marlborough had the insolence to ask what security she was to have for William keeping his word; and Anne rejected the offer, taking her cue from her dear Mrs. Freeman, and saying, "She could not think herself in the wrong to desire a security for what was to support her, and that the business was now gone so far that she thought it reasonable to see what her friends could do for her." This was as much as to say that she did not number her brother-in-law and sister among her friends. If William was stung by this unsisterly message, Mary was still more deeply wounded when she spoke personally to Anne on the subject. Anne repeated the remark about her friends acting in this matter for her, and Mary replied, " What friends have you except the king and me? " There was a deep breach made which never was closed again. The intercourse of the sisters became stiff and distant; other circumstances widened the alienation, and on her death-bed Mary refused to see Anne.

The tories in the commons exerted themselves to carry the seventy thousand pounds for the princess, but the opposition was strong enough to reduce the grant to fifty thousand pounds - the same sum which William had offered; so that Anne, without getting more, had got that at the expense of a painful quarrel with her nearest relative. The countess of Marlborough obtained her share of the spoil in a settlement of one thousand pounds a year on her by Anne; and the means of drawing a much larger sum was thus obtained, all Anne's affairs being under the control of the Churchills.

The next measure on which the whigs and tories tried their strength was a bill brought in by the whigs to do what was already sufficiently done in the bill of rights - to declare William and Mary the rightful and lawful sovereigns of this realm, and next to declare that all the acts of the late convention should be declared valid as laws. The first part, already sufficiently recognised, was quietly passed over; but the tories made a stout opposition to extending the act beyond the year 1689, on the plea that nothing could convert the self-constituted convention into a legal parliament. But the distinction was a mere party distinction, for, if the convention was not a legal body, nothing could render its acts so. The earl of Nottingham, who headed this movement, entered a strong protest on the journal of the lords against it, and this protest was signed by many peers, and amongst them the whig peers, Bolton, Macclesfield, Stamford, Bedford, Newport, Monmouth, Herbert, Suffolk, Delamere, and Oxford. The bill, however, was carried, and with still more ease in the commons.

The tories, mortified at the triumph of the whigs, now brought in a bill to change the military government of the city of London as the lieutenancy of the counties had been changed. They thanked the king for having by his measures brought in so many churchmen and thrown out so many nonconformists. This bill the whigs managed to impede till the session closed; but not so with another from the tory party, ordering payment of the five hundred pounds fines incurred by all who had taken office or served as magistrates without taking the necessary oaths of allegiance and supremacy, &c. This was carried, and the money ordered to be paid into the exchequer, and a separate account of it to be kept.

This defeat of the whigs only aroused to more fierceness the party warfare. They hastened to bring in a bill compelling every person in office, civil, ecclesiastical, or military, to take an oath, to abjure king James and his right to the crown, thence called the Abjuration Oath. This oath might, moreover, be tendered by any magistrate to any subject of their majesties whatever, and whoever refused it was to be committed to prison, and kept there till he complied. It was hoped by the whigs that this bill would greatly embarrass the tories who had taken office under the present monarchy, and accordingly it met with a decided opposition in the commons, and was thrown out by a majority of one hundred and ninety-two to one hundred and seventy-: eight. It was then, with some alteration, introduced as a fresh bill into the lords. William went down to the lords to listen personally to the debate; and several of the peers made very free and pertinent remarks on the uselessness of so many oaths to bind any disloyal or unconscientious person. Lord Wharton, who had fought for the Long Parliament, and, therefore, must have been called on> under the many changes which had since taken place, to swear very contradictory oaths, said he was a very old man, and that he had taken so many oaths in his time, that he was afraid he could not have kept them all; in fact, there were more than he could remember, and that he would be no party to laying fresh snares either for his own soul or those of his neighbour. The earl of Macclesfield, who had come over with William from Holland, as captain of the English volunteers, said he had made very free with his oath to king James, and was loth to be put into the temptation to break more. Marlborough thereupon expressed his surprise to hear lord Macclesfield say what he did, for he was sure no one had done more to effect the revolution than he had, and that it appeared inconsistent to hesitate even to give the revolution all possible strength. Macclesfield, stung by the observation, retorted, that the earl of Marlborough did him too much honour, in ascribing so principal a share in the revolution to him. That there were others who had gone much further than he had done: that he had simply been a rebel, and should always be ready to venture his head whenever the laws or the liberties of his country required it. This was a hard blow for Marlborough, for it implied that he had been something more than a mere rebel, that is, a traitor; and yet such an one as kept his head out of danger by only going over openly when little danger was left. The tone of the house was getting very venomous, when the bishop of London threw it into a convulsion of laughter, by first declaiming on the uselessness of multiplying oaths, and then adding that he was ready to take any the government chose to bring forward.

The bill was defeated in the lords by being committed, but never reported, for on the 20th of May, after king William had given his consent to the bill, which he had recommended, for conferring on the queen full powers to administer the government during his absence in Ireland, and also to that of revising the quo warranto judgment against the City of London, the marquis of Caermarthen appeared in the house with an act of grace ready drawn and signed by the king.

William had tried in vain to curb the deadly animosities of the contending parties by bills of indemnity. They could be discussed and rejected, not so an act of grace: that issued from the sovereign, and came already signed to parliament. It must be at once accepted or rejected by each house, and in such a case as the present, where it was meant as a healing and pacifying act, it could not be rejected without a disloyal and ungracious air. Accordingly it was received with the deference which it deserved, and both houses gave their sanction to it, standing bare-headed, and without one dissenting voice. By this act William achieved a great triumph, and presents a most striking contrast to the two monarchs who had preceded him, who had made the throne swim in the blood of those who had opposed their father or themselves. If we call to mind the sanguinary commencement of the reign of Charles II., dyed in the blood of the regicides, and the horrors committed by James on the adherents of Monmouth, we may award the praise of a fine humanity to William and Mary, who refused not only to avenge any injuries to themselves, but tied up the hands of those who would have exacted retribution for the wrongs done them or their kindred under James. Indeed, if we look back to any former reign, there is not one, not even the commonwealth itself, which so completely exemplified the genuine temper of a truly Christian government.

From the benefit of this act of grace, pardoning all past offences, were it is true, excepted thirty names, prominent amongst whom were the marquis of Powis, the lords Sunderland, Huntingdon, Dover, Melfort, and Castlemaine; the bishops of Durham and St. Davids; the judges Herbert, Jenner, Withers, and Holloway; Roger Lestrange; Lundy, the traitor governor of Londonderry; father Petre; and judge Jeffreys. This last monster of infamy was already deceased in the Tower, and it was well understood that if the others named only kept themselves at peace, and did not thrust themselves on the attention of the government by some fresh acts of annoyance, they would never be inquired after. Neither party, however, thanked William for the constrained peace. The whigs were disappointed of the vengeance they burned to enjoy; the tories, and even those who had the most narrowly escaped the intended mischief, ungenerously said that if William had really anything to avenge, he would not have pardoned it. But they only made the more conspicuous their own base nature: the grand magnanimity of William came in time to be felt and acknowledged by the nation. The day after the passing of this important act he prorogued parliament. The convocation which had been summoned, and met in Henry VII.'s chapel - St. Paul's, its usual meeting-place, having been burnt down in the great fire, was not yet rebuilt - had been prorogued some time before. Its great topic had been the scheme of comprehension, which was warmly advocated by Burnet and the more liberal members, but the High Church was as high and immovable as ever. Nothing could be accomplished, and from this time the nonconformists gave up all hope of any reunion with the church.

William now made active preparations for the Irish campaign. It was time, for Schomberg had, from causes which we partly detailed, effected very little, and the English fleet had done worse than nothing at sea. It was not only in Ireland that the danger of William lay, or whence came his troubles. He had to maintain the contest on the continent against Louis XIV., against James in Ireland, against corruption and imbecility in his fleet, against the most wholesale mismanagement and peculation in every department of the English government, and against the feuds and disaffection of his own courtiers and servants. Whilst the contests which we have just related were agitating parliament, William was vigorously at work exploring the depths of malversation in the government departments all around him. Shales, the commissary-general, was dismissed, and a new spirit was introduced into the commissariat under the vigilant eye of William himself. He soon effected a wonderful change in the government business of supplying the army. Instead of the vile poisons and putrid and abominable meats, excellent provisions were supplied to the army. These villanies, by which the poor soldiers had been robbed of their clothing, and bedding, and tents, terminated, and they were soon well clothed, lodged, and equipped. The road to Chester swarmed with wagons conveying wholesome supplies for the army, and a fleet lay there ready to convey the king over, with additional troops and stores. Before he set out himself, the army in Ireland amounted to thirty thousand effective men.

But the affairs of the channel fleet were in the worst possible condition. William there committed the error of continuing Torrington, better known as admiral Herbert - who had been suspected of a leaning towards James, and who had been already beaten at Bantry Bay - in the chief command, when he removed him from his post of first lord of the admiralty. Herbert was a debauched, effeminate fellow, who had sunk whatever talent or honour he might have had in the company of loose women and in the bottle. He took troops of bad women on board with him, and he staid for months together in London, indulging in all sorts of license and luxury, whilst his sailors were suffering the most atrocious treatment. They had such meat served out to them, that neither they nor even dogs could touch. They were ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-paid; the contractors and the officers were enriching themselves at their expense; and what was worse, they were compelled to bear the disgrace of having our commerce interrupted in all directions by the French cruisers. Whilst they lay inactive in Portsmouth, the French scoured our coasts, and captured trading vessels with their cargoes, to the value of six hundred thousand pounds.

On the continent affairs in general were prosperous. Though the Dutch complained that William inclined to favour the English too much, and the English were jealous of his leaning towards the Dutch, everywhere the arms of the allies had been successful against the general enemy, Louis of France. In Flanders prince Waldeck, under whom served Marlborough and general Talmache, beat the French general Humieres at Walcourt; the duke of Lorraine drove them from the desolated palatinate; the duke of Baden repeatedly routed the Turks beyond the Danube, who were in the pay of France to invade Austria; and the Spaniards repelled the attempts of invasion by the troops of Louis. There was, towards the close of the year 1689, an occurrence which occasioned some anxiety to the allies. The pope, Innocent XI., died, and was succeeded by cardinal Ottobuoni, under the name of Alexander VIII., to whom Louis made instant court, and who seemed for the moment to listen to him. But the interests of the popedom, as well as of protestant Europe, too clearly required the repression of the ambition of Louis: the pope stood firm, and the danger passed away.

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