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Reign of William and Mary. - (Continued.) page 9


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But though disappointed here, the lords immediately fastened on the king's request of advice. They moved that a committee of both houses should be appointed for preparing this advice. The motion, however, was rejected by a majority of twelve. Nevertheless, they determined to give the king advice themselves. They agreed to an address praying his majesty to appoint an Englishman commander of the forces, and that English officers should take precedence of all in the confederate army, except the officers of crowned heads. This was meant to affect the Dutch, who were only the subjects of a stadtholder; and they desired that the forces left in England should be all English, commanded by an English general; that such officers as pressed men for the fleet should be cashiered, and that no foreigner should sit at the board of ordnance. All those matters aimed at the king's favoured countrymen, William received coldly, returning only short and dry answers.

The lords next fell upon Russell for his neglect to make the descent intended on the coast of France. They ordered books and papers concerning that matter to be laid before them. Nottingham plainly charged Russell with being the cause of that gross neglect of the public business. A committee was appointed, and the substance of the charge was communicated to the commons as concerning a member of that house.

The commons on their part took up the charge against Russell as a charge against themselves. They informed the lords that they found that Russell had conducted himself at the head of the fleet with fidelity, courage, and ability. Russell made his defence, and in his turn charged Nottingham with being the cause of the non- descent. He declared that above twenty days had elapsed betwixt his writing to Nottingham and receiving an answer; that therefore the expedition had become abortive from not receiving timely and necessary information and orders. Nottingham's friends in the commons took up his defence; the lords demanded a conference; the commons refused it, and, amid this noise and animosity, the subject was left undecided.

The commons then proceeded to give the king the advice and assistance which he had so unluckily asked. They demanded that books and papers should be laid before them necessary to enable them to inquire into the management of all the government offices; but they soon came to a stand, for, inquiring into the abuses of the admiralty, the merits or demerits of Nottingham and Russell came again into question. One or both of them had been guilty of gross mismanagement, but each house defended its own member, and the only end was a motion in the commons, which, whilst it acquitted Russell, seemed to reflect on Nottingham, but not very clearly. The lords resented, made severe reprisals on the character and conduct of Russell, and then it ended.

The commons were more generally united in condemning the failure of the battle of Steinkirk and the conduct of Solmes. Some officers in the house, however, defended the conduct of the Dutch officers on that occasion, and especially of Auverquerque in bringing the remains of Mackay's troops out of the battle. They said not a word, however, in vindication of Solmes, and William, to his disgrace, still continued this insolent foreigner, who had wilfully sacrificed the fives of the brave English soldiers, in his command.

Whilst both houses were in this bad temper, the commons again took up the bill for regulating trials in case of high treason; but it was strongly opposed, so that it never went up to the lords, who would again have inserted their clause for extending the privileges of their house; and it was not a moment at which the commons were likely to concede any extension of privileges to the peers - a circumstance occurring just then to warn them had they not been sufficiently hostile without. Lord Charles Mohun, a dissolute young nobleman, was engaged, with an acquaintance named Hill, in a quarrel with Mountford, a popular actor, about a handsome actress named Anne Bracegirdle. In the quarrel, Hill killed Mountford and fled. Mohun, who was abetting him, was arrested, but, claiming to be tried by the peers, was, by a most barefaced partiality, acquitted. The commons felt that it was by no means expedient to grant more privileges to an order who thus abused what they already possessed for the frustration of justice.

The commons now went into the question of the supplies. They were fully prepared to support the king in his exertions to check the arms of France, though they protested against a fact which they had discovered by examinations of the treaty betwixt the allies, that the English paid two- thirds of the expense of the war. After grumbling, however, they voted fifty-four thousand men for the army, twenty thousand of them to remain at home. They voted two millions for the support of the army, and two millions for ' the navy, to consist of thirty-three thousand men, besides: seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds to supply the: deficiency of the quarterly poll. Still there was likely to be a deficiency. Notwithstanding the large grants of the: previous year, the expenditure had far outgrown it; it was, therefore, proposed to resort to a land tax - the first imposed since the restoration, and the grand transfer of taxation from the aristocracy to the nation at large. The peers made a violent opposition, not to the tax, but to their estates; being valued and assessed by any but commissioners of their own body. But they finally gave way, and a land-tax of four shillings in the pound was carried. When Louis heard of these unusual supplies, be could not forbear his amazement. "My little cousin, the prince of Orange," he said, "seems to be firm in the saddle; but no matter, the last louisd' or must carry it."

Little did Louis know the condition of England when he said that. If the last piece of gold was to carry it, the chance lay far on the side of England. Whilst France was fast sinking in exhaustion from his enormous wars and lavish luxury - whilst his people were sunk in destitution, and trade and agriculture were languishing, England was fast rising in wealth from commerce, colonies, and internal industry, and was capable of maintaining the struggle for an indefinite period.

Yet it was at this moment that the national debt assumed its determinate shape. It had existed, indeed, ever since the fraud of Charles I. on the London merchants by shutting the exchequer. It was now said to be suggested by Burnet that there were heaps of money hidden away in chests and behind wainscoats for want of safe and convenient public security, and that, by government giving that security at a fixed per-centage, it might command any amount of money by incurring only a slight increase of annual taxation for the interest. The idea was seized with avidity by William's government, and from that moment our continental wars and domestic debt have grown together till they have left us with upwards of eight hundred million pounds of credit. The idea itself, however, was perfectly familiar to William, for the Dutch had long had a debt of five million pounds, which was regarded by the people as the very best security for their money. Accordingly, a bill was passed on the 3rd of January, 1693, for raising a million by loan, and another million by annuities, which were to be paid by a new duty on beer and other liquors; and thus, with a formal establishment of the national debt, closed the year 1692.

The close of the year was also distinguished by one of those extraordinary attempts which whigs frequently make when out of place, but resist to the death when in it. This was no other than that all persons holding office under government should be incapable of sitting in parliament, and any person holding such office who should presume to take his seat as a member should not only be ejected, but declared incapable of any future re-election. Government influence was undoubtedly supported by a whole host of placemen in the commons, but the attempt utterly to exclude ministers was certain to defeat itself. The bill passed the commons, and the lords only threw it out by a majority of two. Against this rejection a strong protest was entered by the prince of Denmark - now duke of Cumberland - Marlborough, Warrington, and others, including the earl of Mulgrave, who made a most eloquent speech on the occasion, and printed it. This was called u a parliamentary reform bill," and, as it failed three days after, Shrewsbury brought into the peers once more the triennial bill, which, after much contest, passed both houses; but William declined to ratify it, because it would have caused a dissolution in the then existing parliament - a matter of much inconvenience to him, as he was anxious to prosecute the war without the necessary interruptions of such a change.

The opening of 1693 was distinguished by a warm debate on the liberty of the press. The licensing, which was about to expire, was proposed for renewal. The eloquent appeal of Milton, in his "Areopagitica," that all books which bore the names of the author or publisher should be exempt from the power of the licensers, had hitherto produced no effect; but now circumstances occurred which drew the subject into notice, and raised many other voices in favour of such exemption. In the lords, Halifax, Mulgrave, and Shrewsbury warmly advocated the principles of Milton; and though the bill passed, it was only by a slight majority, and with a protest against it, signed by eleven peers; nor was it to pass for more than two years. The circumstance which roused this strong feeling were, that Burnet had published a pastoral letter to the clergy of his diocese, recommending them to take the oaths to William and Mary, in which, amongst their claims to the throne, he had unfortunately mentioned that of conquest. This had escaped general attention till the royal licenser, Edmund Bohun, a high tory, who had taken the oaths on that very plea - that the king and queen had won the throne by conquest - fell into the trap of one Blount, whose works he had refused to license. This man wrote an anonymous pamphlet with the title "King William and Queen Mary Conquerors." The unlucky censor fell into the trap, and licensed it. Then the storm of whig indignation broke over his head. He was summoned before parliament and committed to custody. The book was ordered to be burnt by the hangman, and the house unanimously passed a resolution praying his majesty to dismiss him from his office. The unfortunate licenser was then discharged on his own petition, after having been reprimanded on his knees by the speaker. Burnet's pastoral letter was likewise ordered to be burnt by the hangman, much to the bishop's shame and mortification. But the liberty of the press was achieved. When the two years' act maintaining the censorship expired, the commons refused to renew it.

Before the sessions closed, a deputation arrived from Ireland with heavy complaints regarding the administration of affairs in that country. Sir Francis Brewster, Sir William Gore, Sir John Margill, lieutenant Stafford, and others, appeared at the bars of both houses, and deposed that great abuses had been made in disposing of the forfeited estates; that protections had been granted to papists not included in the treaty of Limerick, and, as it was suspected, through gross bribery; that the quarters of the army had not been paid according to the provision made by parliament; that a mayor had been imposed on Dublin two years successively, contrary to its charter; that several people accused of murder had been executed without proof, and one Sweet- man, really guilty, discharged without prosecution. They made extraordinary statements of the embezzlement of military stores, of effects belonging to forfeited estates, and that lords Sidney, Athlone (Ginckell), and Coningsby were deep in these malpractices.

It appeared clearly that Coningsby had shown himself a most greedy and unprincipled man; that he had embezzled stores, sold exemptions to numbers whose estates were forfeited, and extorted enormous sums under threats of confiscation. These proceedings were bad enough, but, in the eyes of the embittered protestants, they were intolerable, because they operated in favour of the Irish, towards whom they felt only vengeance.

William had listened to these complaints against Coningsby, and had removed him, and sent Sidney in his stead. But Sidney was too mild for the fiery protestants, who could not bear to see any clemency shown to the native Irish. He called together the Irish parliament to endeavour to reduce the disordered affairs of the country to some more tolerable condition; but he found it occupy itself chiefly with complaints of the too easy treatment of the natives, and he dismissed it. This, however, only increased the resentment of the protestant party, and William recalled Sidney, and intrusted the government of Ireland to lords-justices, at the head of whom was Sir Henry Copal, a strict whig, and not likely to be too indulgent to papists. But William took no pains to inquire into the peculations of his friend Ginckell, and, therefore, both himself and Coningsby escaped.

William now prorogued parliament on the 14th of March, and prepared to set out for the continental campaign. Before departing, however, he made some considerable changes in his ministry. He appointed Sidney master of the ordnance he removed Russell from the chief command at sea, and gave him a lucrative post in the household. In his place he gave the principal naval command to Delaval and Killigrew - appointments of very doubtful wisdom, for both, though brave officers, were certainly in league with king James. Sir George Rooke, the gallant hero of La Hogue, was made vice-admiral of the red, and Sir Cloudesley Shovel, an honest man, was placed at the head of the admiralty. Equally extraordinary was his appointment of Sir John Trenchard as assistant secretary of state, Nottingham retaining the principal secretaryship. Trenchard had all his life been an extreme whig and agitator. He had voted for the exclusion bill, had turned out with Monmouth in his rebellion, and had fled to France. It now looked as if these were the rewards for his hostility to James; and what was more marked was, that Trenchard was brother-in-law to the unprincipled agitator Hugh Speke, who, by his trumped-up lies, had occasioned the Irish night, and other horrors; and was a close friend of Aaron Smith, the solicitor of the treasury, who was notorious for dirty practices. A very different choice was that of the eloquent and honourable Sir John Somers as lord keeper.

Before going, too, William gave orders that a Scotch parliament should be summoned; but, as it proved a most obsequious one, and distinguished itself by nothing but professions of loyalty and obedience, we may here take all notice of it that it deserves. No mention whatever was made of the massacre of Glencoe. The Macdonalds were, with the highland clans in general, too little accustomed to see justice from southern parliaments to bring their grievances there, and the lowland Scotch were too much accustomed to look on the highlanders as wild caterans and cattle-stealers to trouble themselves about the extermination of a horde of them. In this parliament the noisy Sir Patrick Hume, who had ruined the expedition of Argyll by his wrong-headed pugnacity, now figured as lord Polwarth. The general assembly, before dispersing, showed more spirit than the parliament; declared themselves, as representatives of the church, independent of all secular powers, and appointed their own time for meeting again.

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Pictures for Reign of William and Mary. - (Continued.) page 9

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