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Reign of William III. (Continued.) page 7

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No sooner was this paper transmitted to Loo, than William sent orders to the Spanish ambassador to quit England in eighteen days, and during that period to confine himself to his house. He was informed that no communication whatever would be received from him or any of his servants. Mr. Stanhope was instructed at the court of Madrid to complain of this conduct of Canales as an attempt to excite sedition in the kingdom by appealing to the people and parliament against the king. Mr. Stanhope was then instructed to cease all diplomatic intercourse with the court and to return home. The Spanish court, on its part, justified the act of its minister, and Mr. Stanhope took his leave. The Spanish ambassador at the Hague delivered a similar memorial to that delivered in London, which the States-General refused to read. Under these circumstances William returned to England about the middle of October.

The temper of his people had not improved during his absence. The tories were bent on driving every whig from office. They even now compelled the lately all-powerful Montague to resign his seat at the treasury board as well as the chancellorship of the exchequer. Montague was well aware of the humour of the present house of commons, and anticipated an attack on his two offices by his resignation. Lord Tankerville, formerly lord Grey of Werk, took his place at the treasury, and one Smith, another member of that board, became chancellor. At the same time William gave the office of lord chamberlain to the duke of Shrewsbury, vacant since the retirement of Sunderland. Besides Shrewsbury, there remained no other whig in office except Somers, and the tories were at this moment endeavouring to spring a mine under his feet.

William met his parliament on the 16th of November. He addressed them with much studied care to avoid topics of offence, but he found it impossible. He recommended them to take further measures, both by sea and land, for the safety of the kingdom, to punish unlawful and clandestine trading, and to devise, if possible, measures for the employment of the poor. He expressed his resolution to discourage vice, and declared that he would do anything in his power towards the welfare of the nation. "And to conclude," he said, "since our aims are only for the general good, let us act with confidence in each other; which will not fail, with God's blessing, to make me a happy king, and you a great and flourishing people."

The very words, "let us act with confidence," roused up this captious parliament. They sent him a remonstrance instead of an address of thanks, complaining of there being some who endeavoured to sow distrust and dissension betwixt them and the king. It was in vain that William protested that this supposition was totally unfounded, and that if any should presume to bring to him any calumnies against his faithful commons, he would treat them as his worst enemies, they were unappeased. They wanted, in fact, occasion to drive Somers from his councils, and they soon found a plea.

During the war, piracy had grown to a great height upon the coasts of North America, and the colonists were themselves deep in it. Lord Bellamont, the governor of New York, had recommended that a man-of-war should be sent to clear the pirates away; but the admiralty objected that they had not sailors enough to spare for such a service. It was then determined by the lord-chancellor Somers, the duke of Shrewsbury, the earls of Romney, Orford, and Bellamont, with a few private individuals, to send out a vessel at their own expense. This the king approved of, and promised to contribute one-half of the expense, and stipulated for one-tenth of the profits. Besides the usual letters of marque given to privateers, the captain was furnished with a warrant under the great seal, authorising him to make war on the pirates and the French, both in those and other seas. Unfortunately, this commission was given to a man who was himself a notorious pirate - one captain Kydd, whose fame still lives on the American coasts, and is the theme of popular ballads. He is supposed to have been a native of Greenock, in Scotland, but had been long resident in America, and now happened to be in London. He was a capital sailor, and was probably selected on the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief. He was put in command of the u Adventure Galley," of thirty guns, which was well manned. Kydd was no sooner in possession of this vessel than he acquainted his men with his -design to load it with silver and gold whenever he could lay hands on it, and promised his crew a plentiful share. He sailed from Plymouth in April? 1696, and arrived in New York in July. There he made up his crew to one hundred and fifty-five men, and instead of clearing the coasts, as ordered, sailed away for the East Indies, to lie in wait for the Mocha fleet. On the coast of Malabar he plundered many vessels of various nations, Indians, Moors, and Christians. He practised all the license of the old buccaneers, torturing his prisoners to make them discover their wealth. He landed on the coasts of India, burning the villages and murdering the inhabitants. He was pursued by the Portuguese with two vessels, but he beat them off and escaped. He took the Quedagh merchantman, for the ransom of which the captain offered in vain thirty thousand rupees. For the seizure of this vessel Kydd was tried in 1701 and hanged. At this time, however, he returned to America loaded with wealth, and also with the murder of one of his seamen, William Moore, a circumstance figuring largely in the ballads of the day: -

My name was Captain Kydd;
I murdered William Moore,
And laid him in his gore,
Not many leagues from shore,
When I sailed, when I sailed.

On reaching New York he found governor Fletcher and the other friends of piracy no longer in power, but lord Bellamont, one of the very persons who had sent him out. He therefore buried his treasures in Gardner's Island and other places - one of them called after him, Kydd's Island, one of the Thimble Islands near Sachem's Head, Long Island. In Kydd's Island the pirates are said to have hidden themselves in a cave still remaining. The crew, however, soon dispersed, and Kydd ventured to show himself in New York, where he sent one Emmet to lord Bellamont, to offer to purchase indemnity from him by a large sum. Bellamont inveigled him into a negotiation, seized him, and sent word to the government in England. The admiralty, by order of the lords-justices, dispatched the ship Rochester to fetch him; but after beating about for some time in tempestuous weather, this vessel, which was in ill condition, was compelled to put back. This circumstance was seized on by the tories to damage Somers and his colleagues. It was declared that, as they were the authors of the piratical enterprise, they did not want the Rochester to reach New York. The old East India Company complained bitterly of Kydd's outrages in the Indian seas, declaring that it would bring them into trouble with the Great Mogul. In the beginning of December a motion was made in the commons that "the letters patent granted to the earl of Bellamont and others of pirates' goods were dishonourable to the king, and contrary to the laws of nations and the laws and statutes of the realm, invasive of property, and destructive of trade and commerce." There was a violent debate, in which the tories contended that the lord-chancellor Somers had knowingly affixed the great seal to the commission to enrich himself, his colleagues, and the king out of the plunder of unfortunate merchants. The motion was rejected by a large majority; the character of Somers stood too high for such a charge to reach him. But the opposition did not rest here; it was determined to wound the king and his government in every possible quarter.

There lay a cause in Ireland much more dangerous to the king and his chancellor than the affairs of captain Kydd. William had promised not to bestow any of the confiscated lands there without consent of parliament. In regardlessness of his word he had conferred immense estates on his Dutch favourites, Portland, Albemarle, Athlone, and his French one, lord Galway (Ruvigny), as well as on his mistress, Mrs. Villiers. The commons, therefore, appointed commissioners to inquire into the royal grants there. These commissioners were the earl of Drogheda, Sir Francis Brewster, Sir Richard Leving, Hamilton, Annesley, Trenchard, and Langford. The four last-named commissioners were earnest supporters of the commons' inquiry; but it was soon perceived by them that the earl of Drogheda, Brewster, and Leving were in the interest of the government. When they came to draw up their report, these three commissioners vehemently dissented, and made an appeal to each house of parliament, declaring that the report had not their concurrence, and that it was not borne out by the evidence laid before them. They complained that the other commissioners had endeavoured to overbear them in a most arbitrary manner, trying to influence them by letters and instructions which they alleged they had received from members of the commons. The commons, however, regarding Drogheda, Brewster, and Leving as tools of the court paid no attention to their remonstrance. They received the report, signed by the other four, who, on their part, complained that, in the prosecution of their inquiry, they had been greatly hindered by the backwardness of the people of Ireland to give information for fear of the vengeance of the grantees, and from reports industriously spread that the inquiry, from the influence of the crown and the new grantees, would come to nothing. The three dissentient commissioners agreed to much of this, but attributed the fear of the people to the grantees at large, and not to those recently favoured by government. They affirmed that John Burke, commonly called lord Bophin, had agreed to pay to my lord Albemarle seven thousand five hundred pounds for procuring from the king letters patent restoring him to his honours and estates. They gave amazing details of the wholesale plunder of cattle, horses, sheep, &c., from the catholics, which had never been accounted for to the crown. The report stated the persons who had been outlawed since the 13th of February, 1689, for participation in the rebellion, amounted in England to fifty-seven, but in Ireland to 3,921, that the lands confiscated in Ireland since that period amounted to 1,060,792 acres, with a rental of 211,623; which, at twenty years' purchase, were of the value of nearly 3,000,000; that some of these lands had been restored to their ancient proprietors, but chiefly by heavy bribes to the persons who had betrayed his majesty's trust in them. They then gave a list of seventy-six grants under the great seal, amongst which stood prominent those to lord Romney, who, as lord Sidney, had been lord-lieutenant of Ireland, consisting of 49,517 acres; two to the king's recent favourite, Keppel of Guilderland, made by William earl of Albemarle, amounting to 106,633 acres; to William Bentinck, lord Woodstock, the son of Portland, 135,820 acres; to Ginckel, earl of Athlone, 26,480 acres; to Ruvigny, the Huguenot, earl of Galway, 36,148 acres; that after all the deductions and allowances, they valued the estates forfeited since the 13th of February, 1689 and not restored, at 1,699,343.

Well might this report rouse the choler of parliament at this astounding bestowal of the national property on his Dutch favourites. It appeared that they could ask nothing from him, however enormous, that he would not grant, and that he paid no regard to his word solemnly pledged to parliament on that head. What, however, excited, perhaps, more indignation, was the discovery that he had granted to his mistress, Elizabeth Villiers, whom he had made countess of Orkney, all the Irish estates of the late king James, amounting to 95,649 acres, valued at 25,995 a year! and this William had done at the same time that he had been continually urging the nation into most extravagant expenditure for the defence of Holland.

The indignant commons seemed as if they could not sufficiently express their resentment at the conduct of the king, and they attempted, not very honourably, to wound him through Burnet. The lords had taken notice of the conduct of Dr. Watson, bishop of St. David's. The archbishop of Canterbury had convicted him of simony in purchasing his bishopric, and then selling the presentations in his gift to repay himself. The deprived bishop appealed to the lords, who ignored his appeal on the ground of his being no longer a member of their house. The commons thought this a favourable opportunity to demand the dismissal of bishop Burnet from his office of preceptor to the duke of Gloucester, on the ground of his being not suitable, as a Scotchman, to instruct an English prince, and also on the old score of his pastoral letter, which had been burned by order of parliament. Burnet little deserved this attack, for he had discharged his trust most conscientiously. He had begged to decline the office, but had not been permitted, and when it was in a manner forced on him, had offered to resign his bishopric, as not feeling it right to devote any of his time to other objects whilst he held it. When this was also declined, he insisted on the prince residing constantly at Windsor, which was in his bishopric, and devoted the whole salary of the tutorship to the charities of his see. The motion was very properly rejected.

The year 1700 opened amid the combined attacks of the commons on the king and his ministers. Montague, though out of the ministry, made a bold effort to turn the tide against the attacking party. He complained that Mr. Arthur Moore, a member of the house, had by letter urged the commissioners to throw the odium on the king, by making a separate and prominent case of the grant to the countess of Orkney, saying that this case "would reflect upon somebody." There was a vehement call for Montague to name the parties who gave that information. He at first excused himself on the ground that this would be betraying private confidence, but he was forced to speak out, and named Methuen, Chancellor of Ireland. Methuen, thus unexpectedly brought forward, boldly denied having said anything of the kind; and the house hastened to pass a resolution that the charge as to Arthur's Moore's letter was false and scandalous. But Leving and Brewster demanded that their side should be heard, denouncing the resolution as precipitate and unfair till they had been allowed an opportunity of defending themselves. Leving then declared that his opinion was, and he had asserted it before the commissioners, that the estates granted to the countess of Orkney had no right to be brought under their notice; that their jurisdiction extended only to lands forfeited since the 13th of February, 1689, but the lands of James were forfeited on his abdication, and were conferred on William and Mary with the crown. He charged Trenchard and Annesley with having said that they had received such a letter as that mentioned by Mr. Montague, as well as one from Mr. Harcourt, urging them to reflect upon somebody. Brewster confirmed this, and Trenchard not only denied it, but brought Annesley and Langford to deny it. Notwithstanding these stout denials, the letters of Moore and Harcourt were produced and read. There remained no doubt that the commissioners had been urged to reflect on the king; but the commons took no notice of this, but passed a resolution that the charges against the four commissioners, Annesley, Trenchard, Hamilton, and Langford were groundless and malicious, that they had discharged their trust with understanding, courage, and integrity, and that Leving had made false and empty statements against them and should be committed to the Tower, and he was accordingly committed.

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