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Reign of William III. (Continued.) page 8


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The commons then addressed the king, declaring that the procuring and passing of those grants had occasioned heavy debts and taxation to the nation, and reflected severely on the king's honour. William bluntly replied that he had consulted both his inclination and his duty in rewarding those brave officers with forfeited lands who had contributed so much to put down the rebellion in Ireland; and as to the debts occasioned by the war, he conceived that they would best be consulting their own honour in taking measures to discharge them. This answer was received with a tempest of indignation, and the house resolved that whoever had suggested such an answer to his majesty was guilty of endeavouring to create a breach betwixt the king and his people.

They instantly set themselves to frame a bill of resumption of all the grants. They ordered the report of the commissioners, the speeches and promises of the king regarding these forfeited estates, and their former resolutions regarding them, to be printed, that the whole country might judge of this matter for itself. And they resolved that any member of the privy council who should procure or be concerned in procuring grants from the crown for their own purposes, should be deemed guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour. As the tories were the means of carrying this resumption bill, the whigs, to avenge themselves, moved by way of amendment, that all grants made since the 6th of February, 1684, should be resumed, and the tories were caught in their own snare, for they could not with a show of consistency oppose a measure of their own originating. Therefore the bill passed, and they were themselves compelled to disgorge all the crown property they had settled on themselves from the accession of James. Ministers proposed to insert a clause to reserve a third part of the forfeited property for the king's own disposal, but the commons would not listen to it, and they resolved not to receive any petition from any person whatever concerning the grants; and that they would consider the services of the commissioners, who had so well discharged their duty in this business. That justice might be done to purchasers and creditors in the act of resumption, they appointed thirteen trustees to hear and determine all claims, to sell to the highest purchasers, and to appropriate the money to pay the arrears of the army. The house of lords introduced some alterations, but the commons unanimously rejected them, and to prevent the bill being lost in the lords they consolidated it with a money-bill for the service of the year. The lords demanded a conference, and the commons, exasperated at their interference in a money-bill, prepared to go greater lengths. They assumed the aspect of the commons in Charles I.'s time. They ordered the doors to be closed, and called for a list of the privy councillors. They then moved that John, lord Somers, should be expelled from the service of the king for ever. The resolution was not carried, but the temper of the house was such as made wise men tremble for an approaching crisis,

The king was disposed to refuse to pass the bill even if the lords did; but when the commons left the bill in the hands of the lords, and that house was warned on all sides that they would have to pass the bill or the consequences might be fatal, he gave way, though with undisguised resentment. The commons were proceeding with a fresh resolution for an address to his majesty, praying that not any foreigner, except prince George of Denmark, should be admitted to his majesty's council in England or Ireland, the resolution being aimed at Portland, Albemarle, and Galway, when the king sent a private message to the peers, desiring them to pass the resumption bill, and on the 11th of April he went down to the house and gave it the royal assent. He then ordered the earl of Bridgewater to prorogue the parliament in the absence of Somers, who was ill, and it was accordingly prorogued to the 23rd of May without any speech.

William vented his chagrin at this just chastisement of the parliament in writing to Ruvigny. "You may judge," he says, "what vexation all these extraordinary proceedings give me; and I assure you, your being deprived of what I gave you with so much pleasure is not the least of my griefs. There have been so many intrigues this last session, that without having been on the spot and well informed of everything, it cannot be conceived. I never had more occasion than at present for persons of your capacity and fidelity. I hope I shall yet find opportunities to give you marks of my esteem and friendship." Had William laid the matter before parliament when the acts of the leaders in the Irish war were fresh, he would readily have procured grants for them in proportion to their services; but no government ought to have passed over these wholesale alienations of hundreds of thousands of acres to individuals, and one of these individuals having only discharged the office of king's mistress.

During this session representations were made by the commons to the king that many men of small fortunes were in the commission of the peace who were very likely to prostitute justice for gain, and prayed that men of inadequate means should neither be put into the commission of the peace, nor such as were in it be kept there, but their places be supplied by gentlemen of fortune and standing, not so much exposed to bribery or undue influences. This had a most fair aspect, and probably had considerable truth in it; but the real gist of the recommendation was to get rid of Somers, who had discharged many disaffected magistrates. William, however, cheerfully agreed with the commons, and promised to issue orders accordingly, which for a moment considerably improved the temper of the house. They proceeded, however, to pass one of the most extraordinary bills which had issued from parliament since James I.'s reign. Complaints were made that in Lancashire the papists were very insolent and mischievous. A committee of inquiry was appointed, and on its report a bill was passed for the more effectual dealing with popish refugees. This bill decreed that no person born after the 25th of the next March being a papist should be capable of inheriting any estate or title of honour in England or Wales, nor of purchasing or holding any lands, tenements, or hereditaments either in his own name or of any other person in trust for him. Fortunately for the catholics, this bill, though passed by both lords and king, was so loosely worded that it became nearly a dead letter.

The old East India Company now also took advantage of their powerful enemy Montague being out of office to renew their claims for authority to trade and exercise all their functions during the remainder of their charter; and though the new company opposed it, they carried their object, and thus there were now two chartered East India Companies. They made use of the affair of captain Kydd again to damage Somers. They called for and examined all the documents connected with his commission, his majesty's warrant for a grant of prizes taken from the pirates to Bellamont, Montague, Shrewsbury, and the rest, and the orders of the lords of the treasury to the governor of New York to send over the property seized in Kydd's ship. They desired that Kydd, who was on the way home for trial, should be reserved till next session, in order to investigate more completely the depths of the case; Bellamont being commanded to send over all the papers connected with it there.

The people of Scotland still remained in a state of intense agitation regarding the treatment of their Darien scheme. They issued a detailed statement of their grievances, which they freely ascribed to the king's conduct. This pamphlet was condemned by the English house of commons to be burnt by the common hangman, as a false and traitorous libel. They prayed his majesty to issue an order for the discovery and apprehension of the author, printer, and publisher, which the king complied with. But the Scots, nothing daunted, sent up lord Basil Hamilton to present a memorial regarding some of the adventurers who were detained prisoners at Carthagena. They requested lord Seafield, the Scottish secretary of state, to introduce him, but Seafield replied that his majesty could not receive lord Basil Hamilton because he had not acknowledged his government, but that he was willing to receive their memorial through other hands. At the same time an official note was addressed to the privy council of Scotland, stating that, though the king could not receive lord Basil Hamilton, he would demand of the Spanish government the release of the prisoners at Carthagena. But this did not satisfy the council of the Darien company. They were anxious to force the subject fully on the attention of the king, and they addressed a second letter to lord Seafield, expressing their regret at the king's refusal to see their deputy, lord Basil Hamilton, who had done nothing contrary to the duty of a loyal subject, so far as they knew, and who was perfectly informed on all that they were desirous to have explained. Lord Hamilton had the impudence, notwithstanding the plain declaration of William, to present himself at court with the memorial; and attempt to put it into the king's hand as he went from his apartment to the council-chamber. The king gave him a stern repulse. But as the Darien company continued undauntedly to press their wrongs on the government, the ministers referred the case to parliament. The house of lords introduced and carried by a small majority a motion that the Darien colony was inconsistent with the plantation trade of England, and it addressed the king, approving of his orders sent to the governors of the West Indian and American colonies regarding it. They declared that, if persisted in, it would produce far greater miseries and loss to those engaged in the scheme than it had done already, and would prove mischievous to the trade and quiet of the kingdom. The king recommended both the English and Scottish parliaments to endeavour after a union of the kingdoms as most likely to end these disputes and to reconcile trade interests, and the lords proposed to entertain the question, but the commons refused.

These proceedings only added to the exasperation of the Scots. In March the marquis of Tweeddale presented an address to the king in the name of the whole Scottish nation, and signed by a vast number of persons of all ranks, praying for a speedy session of the Scotch parliament, in order to the settlement of this vital question, on which so much depended to that nation. This was conceded, and the Scottish parliament met on the 21st of May. No sooner was it opened than it was presented with a memorial from the Darien company, and was deluged with petitions from all parts of the country, calling for redress of the national wrongs. Within and without the house the public spirit was in a fever of indignation at the treatment received from both king and parliament in England. A resolution was immediately put and carried that the colony of Darien was a rightful and legal settlement according to the act of 1695, and that the parliament would maintain that right. The duke of Queensberry, the royal commissioner, saw that the Scotch parliament was hastening to an awkward collision with the English one, and he adjourned it for three days. But at the end of that time, finding the spirit of the estates unabated, he adjourned for twenty days more. This arbitrary proceeding only the more exasperated the members. They met in a private house, and the majority signed an address to the king, demanding that this irritating system of adjournment should be put an end to, and that the estates might sit uninterruptedly to transact the national business. Lord Ross presented this address, and William replied that he would let the parliament have his answer in Scotland. The king was in a greater strait than the Scots or the English themselves were aware of. He had entered into the partition treaty, and dared not for his life offend Louis or Spain by the least sanction of the Scotch company. The king's answer when it came was a fresh adjournment by proclamation. The people now lost all restraint; they burst forth in riot and menaces of war. They were drawing up a fresh address in higher terms, when the king thought it necessary to appease them by smooth words. He addressed a letter to the duke of Queensberry and the privy council, in which he excused the last adjournment by his absence; he was now in Holland, but expressed great sorrow for the sufferings of the nation. He said that, if it had been possible for him to have supported the claims of the association on Darien, he would have done it with the greatest pleasure; but that he would consult the interests and advance the prosperity of Scotland by all means in his power, and he begged them not to suffer themselves to be misled by evil-disposed persons. It has been strongly asserted that this letter was accompanied by substantial persuasives to a number of the leading agitators, but this did not allay the storm. It was loudly asserted that the opposition which William gave to their colony resulted neither from regard to the interests of England nor the treaties with Spain, but from favour to the Dutch, who from Curacoa drove a coasting trade amongst the Spanish plantations with great advantage, which, they said, the Scotch colony, if once settled, would draw from them. Another warm address was voted to the king, but nothing came of it or the promises of the imperturbable Dutch king. Meantime the money which had been judiciously employed amongst the leaders in parliament was left to do its work.

William left England in the beginning of July, but before his departure he endeavoured to persuade Somers to give way to the rancour of the commons, and resign the seals. Somers refused to resign voluntarily, arguing that it would imply a fear of his enemies, or a consciousness of guilt; but William, who felt the necessity of leaving a better feeling behind him if possible, sent lord Jersey to Somers for the seals, and offered them successively to chief justice Holt, and to Treby, the attorney-general; both declined, however, what would have turned the enmity of parliament on them, and William was eventually obliged to bestow them on Nathan Wright, one of the serjeants-at-law, a man of no mark, and very indifferent qualifications for the office. William offered the government of Ireland to Shrewsbury; but he, too, declined the office, and set out for Italy. Every one seemed afraid of engaging in his government, so bitter was the parliament against him. Even his trusty Portland, now absolutely groaning under the weight of riches which William had heaped upon him, retired from his place in his household, and lord Jersey was appointed chamberlain, and lord Romney groom of the stole. William had never left the kingdom under circumstances of so much unpopularity, and scarcely was he gone when the duke of Gloucester, the only child of the princess Anne, now seventeen years old, died. This gave new hopes to the Jacobites. They dispatched a messenger to St. Germains with the news, and began to stir themselves all over the kingdom. In truth, the state of things was very gloomy for the protestant succession. No such successor was as yet appointed. The health and spirits of William were fast sinking. His person and government were extremely unpopular. The house of Brunswick had treated his advances with marked contempt; but they now came forward, urged by the critical state of things, and made their first visit of acknowledgment to the king. The princess Sophia, electress dowager of Hanover, was the person on whom the eyes of the protestants were now turned; but the nation was in a state of much uncertainty. It was rumoured that even Anne had sent a conciliatory letter to her father, and the public mind was disturbed by fears of a disputed succession, and of the reviving chances of a Stuart king.

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Pictures for Reign of William III. (Continued.) page 8

Defeat of the Turks by prince Eugene
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Old palace at Madrid
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William III. and duke of Gloucester
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Capitan Kydd
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Charles XII
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King James II
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Queen Anne
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