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Reign of William and Mary page 8

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Having transferred the property of the laity back to the Irish, another act made as sweeping a conveyance of that of the church from the protestant to the catholic clergy. Little regard had been had to catholic rights in piling property on the protestant hierarchy, and as little was shown in plucking it back again. The Anglican clergy were left in a condition of utter destitution; and, more than this, they were not safe if they appeared in public. They were hooted, pelted, and sometimes fired at. All colleges and schools from which the protestants had excluded the catholics were now seized and employed as popish seminaries or monasteries. The college of Dublin was turned into a barrack and a prison. No protestants were allowed to appear together in numbers more than three, on pain of death. That was James's notion of the liberty of conscience and a tender regard for "every man's rights and liberties." It was a fine lesson, too, for the clergy and gentry who had welcomed him to Ireland as the friends of passive obedience. They had now enough of that doctrine, and went over pretty rapidly to a different notion. The protestants everywhere were overrun by soldiers and rapparees. Their estates were seized, their houses plundered, their persons insulted and abused, and a more fearful state of things never existed in any country at any time. The officers of the army sold the protestants protections, which were no longer regarded, when fresh marauders wanted more money.

This model parliament voted twenty thousand pounds a year to Tyrconnel for bringing this state of things about, and twenty thousand pounds a month to the king. But the country was so completely desolated, and its trade so completely destroyed by this reign of terror and of licence, that James did not find the taxes come in very copiously; and he resorted to a means of making money plentiful worthy of himself. He collected all the old pots, pans, brass knockers, old cannon, and metal in almost any shape, and coined clumsy money out of them, on which he put about a hundred times their intrinsic value. The consequence was that shopkeepers, refused to receive this base coin. All men to whom debts were due, or who had mortgages on other men's property, were opposed to having this discharged by a heap of metal which in a few weeks might be worth only a few pence a pound. Those who refused such payment were arrested, and menaced with being hung up at their own doors. Many were thrown into prison, and all trade and intercourse were plunged into a condition of the wildest anarchy. The whole of Ireland was one frightful scene of violence, robbery, confusion, and distress. Such was the liberty and right which James conferred upon it in a few months, and which he had before designed to confer on

England. It was as by a special providence that he was permitted thus to exhibit his talents for rendering a people free and happy after he had been expelled from England; for this specimen of his rule completely satisfied those who expelled him, that they had done right, and it completely silenced all the complaints of his partisans of the hardship and injustice with which he had been treated. His victims were continually escaping over into England with their stories of horrors, and his own courtiers were in a condition of mutual discord and hatred which made his court as complete a Pandemonium as the country was. Melfort and Avaux detested each other. Melfort and Tyrconnel were just as violent against each other. The French appeared to have no notion of anything but securing Ireland for their own king; they despised the Irish, and the Irish cursed them. James was compelled to dismiss Melfort, and send him on a mission to the pope, to take him out of the way of Tyrconnel. But this did not restore peace to his court, where every element of envy, hatred, rapacity, and incapacity were in full and direful activity. James saw the scene continually darkening, and was at a loss what course to pursue. At one time he thought of going over into Scotland and uniting with Dundee; the death of Dundee put an end to that scheme. At another he was urged by his evil counsellors to throw himself into England, where, they assured him, he had plenty of adherents, already tired of the Dutch king, who would fly to his standard, and quickly reinstate him. But Avaux, who not only wished to keep him in Ireland, but was also well assured that James was more unpopular in England than ever, exerted all his power to detain him where he was. James himself was restless and miserable; surrounded by perpetual quarrels, and with nothing but disaster to his arms, he grew petulant and morose. When the parliament thwarted him in some measure, he declared angrily that "all parliaments were alike;" and when his Irish friends compelled him to dismiss Melfort, he protested that, if he could have foreseen their unkindness to him, he would never have come amongst them. Such was the state of Ireland and of James's court when Schomberg landed with his army at Carrickfergus on the 23rd of August, and roused both James, his court, and the whole country to a sense of their danger, and of the necessity for one great and universal effort. The Irish felt that the time was come when they must rise as a man to repel the hated Saxons, or that a few months would see them again laid at their feet. All that they had just wrested from them would be resumed with a fierce and retributive arm, and their brief triumph would be succeeded by a deeper and more intolerable slavery. The priests from the pulpits over the whole island painted to them the horrors of their subjection if they failed to expel the foe; and the people flew to arms with a wonderful enthusiasm. They flocked to the standard of James by thousands. A spirit of new life seemed to animate them, and James, receiving fresh hope from the sight, marched from Dublin at the head of his troops to encounter Schomberg.

During the summer the court of William had not been an enviable place. In the spring the parliament had proceeded to reverse the judgments which had been passed in the last reign against lord Russell, Algernon Sidney, the earl of Devonshire, Cornish, Alice Lisle, and Samuel Johnson. Some of the surviving whigs who had suffered obtained pecuniary compensation, but Johnson obtained none. He was deemed by the whigs to be too violent - in fact, he was a radical of that day. The scoundrel Titus Oates crawled again from his obscurity, and, by help of his old friends the whigs, managed to obtain a pension of three hundred pounds a year. This done, there was an attempt to convert the declaration of rights into a bill of rights - thus giving it all the authority of parliamentary law; and in this bill it was proposed, in case of William, Mary, and Anne all dying without issue, to settle the succession on the duchess Sophia of Brunswick Lunenburg, the daughter of the queen of Bohemia, and granddaughter of James I.; but it failed for the time. A bill of indemnity was also brought in as an act of oblivion of all past offences; but that too was rejected. The triumphant whigs, so far from being willing to forgive the tories who had supported James, and had been their successful opponents during the previous attempts through Titus Oates and company to exclude James from the succession, that they were now clamorous for their blood and ruin. William refused to comply with their truculent desires, and became, in consequence, the object of their undisguised hatred. They declared that he was a true scion of the Stuart house; that he had acted in Holland more like an absolute monarch than a republican stadtholder, and that now he meant to make himself as despotic as the prince whom he had deposed, though he was his own father-in-law; that this was what made him so tender of the tories who had abetted James in all his violations of the constitution. They endeavoured to annoy him to the utmost of their power. Ireland was in a critical state, James was still there; France was preparing to give him strenuous support; and they persuaded themselves that William's seat was uncertain, and that he must yield to their wishes. They particularly directed their combined efforts against Danby, now earl of Caermarthen, and Halifax. They demanded that Caermarthen should be dismissed from the office of president of the council, and Halifax from holding the privy seal, and being speaker of the house of lords. But William steadfastly resisted their demands, and declared that he had done enough for them and their friends, and would do no more, especially in the direction of vengeance against such as were disposed to live quietly and serve the state faithfully.

The clergy were as disaffected to William as his old friends the whigs. William was a presbyterian in principle, and they looked on his disregard of their rites and ceremonies as flat heresy. He at once put a stop to the singing of the service in his private chapel. He refused to touch for the scrofula, treating the practice as a gross superstition. This was a severe reproof to those high churchman who applauded the profligate Charles for a parade of the practice - as if the miraculous powers of the church were likely to be permitted to pass through so unclean a vessel. Charles is said to have touched no less than a hundred thousand persons in his reign, and James quite as many in proportion to the length of his. On one single occasion he had touched no fewer than eight hundred persons in Chester cathedral. William had given mortal offence to a large section of the clergy by requiring them to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the jurors, or those who complied, were little less bitter than the non-jurors, for they had many of them sworn with very ill-will, and some with not very easy consciences. He had proposed a scheme of comprehension, which, if carried, would admit a numerous body of nonconformists to the livings of the church. They were mortified that he had allowed the Scotch to abolish episcopacy, and they saw with alarm the work of the commission which he had appointed to prepare a plan of alterations in the church service to be laid before the convocation, which was to meet simultaneously with the next session of parliament.

On the 19th of October the second session of William's first parliament met. The commons were liberal in voting supplies; they granted at once two million pounds, and declared that they would support the king to the utmost of their ability in reducing Ireland to his authority, and in prosecuting the war with France. Part of the required sum was to be levied partly by a poll-tax, partly by new duties on tea, coffee, and chocolate, partly by an assessment of one hundred thousand pounds on the Jews, but chiefly by a tax on real property. The Jews, however, protested that they would sooner quit the kingdom than submit to the imposition, and that source was abandoned. They next took up the bill of rights, and passed it, omitting the clause respecting the succession of the house of Brunswick, which measure was not brought forward again for eleven years. They however took care, at the suggestion of Burnet, to insert a clause that no person who should marry a papist should be capable of ascending the throne; and if any one on the throne so married, the subjects should be absolved from their allegiance. This clause, however, has become inoperative in our time, or George IV., who married a catholic, Mrs. Fitzherbert, would have been deposed,

After thus demonstrating their zeal for maintaining the throne in affluence and power, the commons next proceeded to display it in a careful scrutiny of the mode in which the last supplies had been spent. The conduct of both army and navy had not been such as to satisfy the public. The commons had, indeed, not only excused the defeat of Herbert at Bantry Bay, but even thanked him for it as though it had been a victory. But neither had Schomberg effected anything in Ireland; and he loudly complained that it was impossible to fight with an army that was neither supplied with necessary food, clothing, nor ammunition. This led to a searching scrutiny into the commissariat department, William himself being the foremost in the inquiry, and the most frightful peculation and abuses were brought to light. Though enormous sums had been voted, the army was found in as destitute a condition as that in the Crimea in our own day; the same villany in defrauding the unhappy soldiers of shoes, clothes, ammunition, and even tents. Whole cargoes of these had been paid for by government, but had never been delivered, and could nowhere be found. The muskets and other arms, like those in the Crimea, fell to pieces in the soldiers' hands; and, when fever and pestilence were decimating the camp, there was not a drug to be found, though one thousand seven hundred pounds had been charged government for medicines. What baggage and supplies there were could not be got to the army for want of horses to draw the wagons; and the very cavalry went afoot, because Shales, the commissary-general, had let out the horses destined for this service to the farmers of Cheshire to do their work. The meat for the men stank, the brandy was so foully adulterated that it produced sickness and severe pains. In the navy the case was the same; and Herbert, now lord Torrington, was severely blamed for not being personally at the fleet to see into the condition of his sailors, but was screened from deserved punishment by his connections. A more complete parallel betwixt the villanies of heads of departments, commissaries, and contractors of that time and of ours could not exist. The king was empowered by parliament at length to appoint a commission of inquiry to discover the whole extent of the evil, and to take remedies against its recurrence.

Then the commons reverted again to their fierce party warfare. Whigs and tories manifested an equal desire to crush their opponents if they had the power, and they kept William in a constant state of uneasiness by their mutual ferocity, and their alternate eagerness to force him into persecutions and blood. Edmund Ludlow, one of the regicides, who had managed to escape the murderous vengeance of Charles and James, but whose companion, John Lisle, had fallen by the hands of Charles's assassins at Lausanne, had been persuaded that he might now return to England unmolested. But he soon found that he was mistaken. The tories vehemently demanded his arrest of the king, and William was obliged to promise compliance; but he appeared in no haste in issuing the warrant; and probably a hint was given to Ludlow, for he escaped again to the continent, and there remained till his death.

On the other hand, the whigs were as unrelaxing in their desire of persecuting the tories. They refused to proceed with the indemnity bill, which William was anxious to get passed as a final preventive of their deadly intentions. They arrested and sent to the Tower the earls of Peterborough and Salisbury for going over from their party to that of James in the last reign, in order to impeach them of high treason. The same was done to Sir Edward Hales and Obadiah Walker. They appointed a committee to inquire into the concern of various individuals in the deaths of lord Russell, Algernon Sidney, and others of the whig party. The committee was termed "the committee of murder," and they called before them such of the judges, law officers of the crown, and others who had taken part in these prosecutions. Sir Dudley North and Halifax were called before them, and underwent a severe examination; but they did not succeed in establishing a charge sufficient to commit them upon. Halifax had already resigned the speakership of the house of lords, and they sought to bring William to deprive him of the privy seal. In these proceedings of the commons, John Hampden, the grandson of the great patriot, and John Howe, were the most violent. Hampden went the length of saying that William ought to dismiss every man who had gone over to him from the late king, and ought not to employ any one who entertained republican principles. This declaration, from a man who had himself been a full-length republican and the friend of Sidney, threw the house into a roar of laughter; but that did not abash Hampden. He drew up an address to the king, on the part of a committee of the commons, calling on him to cause the authors of the late malversations and the consequent failures of the army and navy, so violent that it was altogether dropped.

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