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Reign of William and Mary page 2

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The next great question was that of the revenue. The parliaments of Charles and James had been exceedingly munificent in their grants of income. In the heat of their loyalty on the restoration, the commons forgot all the salutary fears of their predecessors, and gave up every point for which they had contended with Charles I. Tonnage and poundage were granted for life, and afterwards confirmed to James. They settled on these monarchs half of the excise in perpetuity, and half for life. The fixed revenue of Charles and James had been one million two hundred thousand pounds, but the actual revenue had been a great deal more. It was now found by examination of the accounts that James had been in the annual receipt of no less than two millions, of which ninety thousand pounds had been expended in secret service money. William had, since arriving at Whitehall, been in the habit of collecting and applying this magnificent revenue as chief of the state; and seemed to expect that it would be now settled on him. The first question discussed was, whether an income granted to a monarch for life could be received legally by his successor in case of his abdication so long as he lived. Many of the chief lawyers contended that he could; that the revenue was granted to the monarch in his political capacity, and not to the man, and that, therefore, the prince who came to discharge his official duties so long as he lived was rightfully in receipt of it. But the more common-sense opinion prevailed that the prince who superseded another by the call of the nation must receive all his rights as well. as his call from the nation. The house therefore passed to the question of the amount of the revenue, and they did not appear very much disposed to use the same lavish folly towards William as they had done towards the late monarchs. Instead of granting him a life revenue, they granted him one million two hundred thousand pounds, the sum allowed to Charles II., but only for three years, one half of which was to be appropriated to the civil list, the other half to the public defences. William was sensibly chagrined by this caution, and complained much of want of confidence in him, and of unusual parsimony. He presented a claim of seven hundred thousand pounds from the Dutch, the cost of the expedition which had placed him on the throne. If the commons had wholly refused this " little account " from the Dutch, it could not have been much wondered at; for when men attempt a great and profitable enterprise, it is only reasonable that they should pay for it. Had it failed the Dutch could have made no claim on England; and, because it had succeeded, could that be truly said to have established a right to repayment? The act was voluntary, and the result was likely to be especially beneficial in the increased trade with England, and the defences of their swamps by Englishmen and English money. Just as well might England have presented a bill for the far greater sums sent afterwards to Holland in defence of Holland. The commons, however, consented to pay six hundred thousand pounds, and William received the sum for his careful countrymen with a very ill grace. The commons did not the less displease him by reducing his demand for the navy from one million one hundred thousand pounds to seven hundred thousand pounds, and by granting the supply for the army for only six months; Sir Edward Seymour all the time warning them that it was the foolish liberality of Charles II.'s parliament which enabled him to enslave the nation as he had done.

One thing which did William great credit, however, was the recommendation to the commons to abolish the abominable hearth-tax. As he had advanced from Torbay to London, the people had importuned him on all sides to set aside this detestable tax, which had been farmed out to rapacious collectors, who treated the people with every species of insult, cruelty, and violence in enforcing payment of it. It was a most unequal tax, which fell with disproportionate weight on the very poor; for as it was levied, not by the value of the property, but by the number of chimneys, the peasant in many cases paid nearly as much as a man of really great substance; and where the money was not ready when called for, the tax-gatherers forced open even bedrooms, and sold the very bed from beneath the sick, and the table at which the family sat. William was much impressed by its injustice, and, at his special desire, the act was repealed.

Whilst in the midst of the money debates, a circumstance occurred which materially hastened the decision, and no doubt increased the liberality of the commons. William announced to them that James had sailed from Brest, with an armament, for Ireland. At the same time a regiment of Scotch soldiers, whom William had ordered to be embarked at Harwich for the Netherlands, refused to go. They declared that William was king of England, but not yet of Scotland; that they had taken an oath to James as their own monarch, James VII. of Scotland, and were not to be ordered out by a foreign king to fight his wars abroad. Officers and men broke into open mutiny at Ipswich, and resolved to march off into their own country. At this alarming news several regiments of horse and foot were dispatched, under the command of Ginckell, to intercept and, if necessary, to attack and destroy the mutineers. Before he could come up with them they had reached the fens of Lincolnshire near Sleaford, and had drawn up in a posture of defence; but the sight of the overwhelming force brought them to an unconditional surrender, and they were shipped off to the continent without further hesitation.

But the alarm of James's descent on Ireland, and the disaffection in the army, roused the commons from their tone of caution. They passed resolutions of patriotic devotion to the crown, and in an address assured William that their lives and fortunes were at his service in its defence. They went further, and rushed into an extreme which brought additional unpopularity on William's government, and furnished a facile handle to subsequent ones to infringe the liberties of the subject. As there were great numbers of political persons in custody - persons openly disaffected to the present dynasty having been prudently secured during the progress of the revolution - now that the revolution was completed, and authorised judges were once more on the bench, it was feared that these prisoners would demand their habeas corpus, and come forth at the very moment when all the adherents of James were on the alert to watch the effect of his reception in Ireland. The commons, therefore, passed an act to suspend the habeas corpus act for the present. This was the first time that such a suspension had taken place, and it called forth the more violent remark. Was this the act, it was asked, of a government which pretended to have freed us from tyrants who disregarded the safeguards of personal liberty? What had James done worse? He had not suspended this palladium of freedom for a single day; his brother Charles had passed the act itself.

But simultaneously the commons were passing another act of scarcely less significance. Hitherto there had been no military power of controlling and punishing soldiers or officers who offended against discipline or their oath. They were subject only to the civil tribunals, and must be brought there, and tried and punished as any other subjects. James had obtained from his servile judges a decision that he might punish any deserter from his standard summarily; but this was not law, and the commons, now alarmed at the affair of Ipswich, passed an act called the-Mutiny Bill, by which any military offenders might be arrested by military authority, and tried and condemned by court-martial in perfect independence of the civil authority. This bill, which passed without a single dissentient vote, was in itself perhaps the greatest stretch of parliamentary authority which had ever been made, except in the very contest with Charles I. It at once converted the soldiers into a separate class, and in effect founded what all parties disclaimed and affected to dread - a standing army. Like the act for the suspension of the habeas corpus, it was only for a limited period; but the unsettled state of the kingdom at the moment of its expiration caused it to be renewed, and it became a permanent institution, though to this day we annually go through the ceremony of formally renewing the mutiny bill.

The passing these extraordinary measures excited the alarm of many even well disposed to the revolution; but to the adherents of the Stuart dynasty they afforded the opportunity for the most vehement declamations against the new monarch. "What!" they said, "have we denounced king James as a tyrant only to bring in a man under the guise of a deliverer, who, within ten weeks of his accession, has destroyed bulwarks of personal freedom which the discarded family, in their most arbitrary moments, never once dared to touch? " The person, the manners, the spirit and intentions of William were severely criticised. He was undeniably of a still, close, and gloomy temperament, and found it impossible to assume that gaiety and affability of demeanour which to Charles II. were natural. He had the manners and the accent of a foreigner, and chilled all those who approached him at court by his cold and laconic manners. In fact, he knew that he was surrounded by traitors, and could unbend only in the company of his Dutch favourites. He became extremely unpopular, and not all the endeavours and the agreeable and cordial manners of the queen could prevent the serious effect of his own reserved temper. At the same time more was truly to be attributed to the force of circumstances than to any bias of William towards tyranny. In one direction William was anxious to extend the liberties of the nation. He was for establishing the utmost freedom of religious opinion. He would have abolished the test act, and granted free enjoyment of all Christian creeds, and of office to members of all denominations; but though there was no fear of a leaning to popery in him, he found himself stoutly opposed in these intentions by his subjects. The church was, split into high church and low church, jurors and non-jurors; but every party in the church, and almost every body of dissenters, were averse to conceding any liberty of creed or capability of office to the catholics. Again, the church was bent against admission of any one to office who refused to subscribe to the thirty-nine articles, and to take the oaths, not only of allegiance but of supremacy. Under these circumstances William found it impossible to set aside the test act or the corporation act; but he brought in and passed the celebrated toleration act. Yet even this act, from which we still date our enjoyment of religious liberty, was far more circumscribed than what it is now, owing to successive improvements. It did not repeal the obnoxious act of uniformity, the five-mile act, the conventicle act, and those other statutes which so harassed and oppressed the dissenters; but it exempted them from their operation on certain conditions. They must subscribe thirty-four out of the thirty-nine articles, which most of them could do the baptists were excused from professing belief in the efficacy of infant baptism; and the quakers from taking an oath if they professed a general belief in Christianity, promised fidelity to the government, and made a declaration against transubstantiation. This act, therefore, cautious and meagre as it appeared, gave a freedom to the dissenting world which it had hitherto been destitute of.

William made a resolute effort also to heal the great schism of the church, and admit, by a comprehensive bill, the main body of nonconformists. By this bill as first passed, it was proposed to excuse all ministers of the established church from the necessity of subscribing the thirty- nine articles; they were only to make this declaration: - "I do approve of the doctrine, and worship, and government of the church of England by law established, as containing all things necessary to salvation; and I promise in the exercise of my ministry to preach and practise according thereunto." The same looseness of declaration was extended to the two universities. Presbyterian ministers could be admitted to the pulpits and livings of the church by accepting from a bishop a simple command to preach administer the sacraments, and perform all the ministerial offices of the church. Except in a few churches, the clergyman might wear the surplice or not, as he pleased; might omit the sign of the cross in baptism; might christen children with or without godfathers and godmothers; might administer the sacrament to persons sitting or kneeling, as they pleased. Besides this it proposed a commission to revise the liturgy, the canons, and the constitution of the ecclesiastical courts. But it was soon found that no such sweeping changes could be effected. There was no determined opposition to the revision of the liturgy, but the danger to the rites and ceremonies on which the high church laid so much stress soon called forth a powerful resistance. It was represented that all manner of anomalous and contradictory practices would soon rend to pieces the harmony and decorum of the church. The presbyterian and the puritan would set at defiance the most honoured practices of the establishment. The dissenting body were as much alarmed as the high church. This wide door of admission to the church, it was feared, would draw away a whole host of their ministers and members; and, as the test act was by no means to be removed, they would thus become additionally unable to contend for its future abolition. The bill, after much discussion and many modifications, fell to the ground.

The next attempt was to modify the oaths of allegiance and supremacy so as to accommodate the consciences of the non-jurors; but it was finally agreed that all persons holding ecclesiastical or academical preferment who did not take the oaths before the 1st of August should be suspended, a pecuniary allowance to the deprived in some cases to be at the option of the king, but not to exceed one-third of the income forfeited. This was followed by the passing a new coronation oath, by which their majesties bound themselves to maintain the protestant religion as established by law, and the coronation took place on the 11th of April. The ceremony went off well. Mary, being a queen regnant, was inaugurated with precisely the same ceremonies as the king; she was lifted into the throne, girt with the sword, and presented with the Bible, the orb, and the spear. Burnet, who had exerted himself most laudably, as bishop of Salisbury, to introduce the proposed relief to the nonconformists, preached the coronation sermon with much eloquence and manly dignity. London was all alive with rockets, bonfires, firing of guns, and general rejoicing; but much offence was given by Dutch guards having been selected to do duty on the occasion. Old Saner oft, the primate, did not condescend to crown the new monarchs; but Compton, bishop of London, officiated in his absence, assisted by the bishops of St. Asaph and Rochester. Honours and promotions were liberally dispensed by the sovereigns after the ceremony. Three vacant garters were conferred on Ormond, Devonshire, and Schomberg; the prince of Denmark was made duke of Cumberland, Danby, marquis of Caermarthen; Churchill, earl of Marlborough; Bentinck, earl of Portland; and Mordaunt, earl of Monmouth - the latter not without much dissatisfaction on the part of the admirers of the late duke of that title, who hoped that the title would be extended to his son, the earl of Dalkeith.

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