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The British Isles.

Modern History. (a.d. 1492-1898). Peace of Westphalia to French Revolution (1648-1789).
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The period now to be dealt with is one of vast importance in modern history. In France, under the rule of two kings, the length of whose successive reigns amounted to 131 years, a fact unique in all history, we have the age of costly wars and of misrule which led up directly to the great Revolution. In the British Isles we witness the final establishment, with a change of dynasty, of constitutional freedom. Between Great Britain, France, and Spain are waged wars closely connected with national aspirations and ambitions for maritime power, commercial extension, and the command of the New World and the East. We see the rise of the first British colonial empire beyond the Atlantic, and the loss of that dominion in a disastrous conflict, shortly after our acquisition, to the north of that territory, of the nucleus of another great colonial possession still loyal to the British crown. Our country, during this period, acquired the naval and maritime supremacy which, amid all modern changes, she yet retains. In Europe, under the rule of able and energetic sovereigns, two countries advanced from a position of comparative weakness and obscurity to that whereby, as Russia and Prussia, they took rank amongst the great European powers. The application of steam as a driving force for machinery, in the later years of this momentous period, gave Great Britain the wealth derived from manufactures which enabled her to bear, in the succeeding age, the vast expenditure of the greatest contest, for her national existence and her commercial standing, which she has ever waged.

In the British Isles, after the execution of Charles I., the form of government, for the only time in our history, was for n years that of a republic or commonwealth, in which, for nearly 10 years, from January, 1649, to September, 1658, power was chiefly in the hands of the great soldier and statesman, Oliver Cromwell. With his successive parliaments and constitutional experiments we are not here concerned. Backed by a victorious army of unrivalled discipline and valour, and supported on the seas by a fleet commanded by the immortal Blake, the Nelson of his time, Cromwell nobly sustained the honour of his country abroad. The warfare with the Dutch was partly due to support given by Holland to the Stuart cause, but chiefly to English jealousy of the great Dutch carrying-trade, expressed in the Navigation Act forbidding the importation of goods into England except in English vessels. In this conflict, Blake and Monck, commanding our fleets, fought in the Channel, and off the Dutch coast, with general success, against the famous Dutchmen Van Tromp and De Ruyter. Against Spain, Cromwell was impelled partly by hostility to a Catholic power, and probably more by a desire to shake her commercial position in the New World. In pursuit of this policy, Jamaica was captured in May, 1655, and, two years later, Blake had a brilliant success in an attack on ships and powerful forts at Santa Cruz, in the Canaries. The Barbary corsairs of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli were chastised in the first naval successes ever won by our ships in Mediterranean waters. A direct threat of war from Switzerland compelled the duke of Savoy to cease from his cruel persecution of the Protestants called Waldenses or Vaudois. Treasure-ships of Spain were captured off Cadiz, and at the siege of Dunkirk by the English and French in 1658, a Spanish relieving-army was routed in the "Battle of the Dunes," an action in which a brigade of Cromwell's infantry, 6,000 strong, bore a brilliant part. At home, the two great efforts made by Charles II. to obtain his lawful power were utterly discomfited in Cromwell's victories of Dunbar and Worcester. Scotland, which had risen in the Stuart cause, was fairly conquered in the occupation of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness, and other towns. In Ireland, the Irish Catholics and English Protestant royalists, under the duke of Ormond, were thoroughly subdued in campaigns which included the terrible storming of Drogheda and Wexford, Kilkenny and Clonmel. The new conquest of the country was completed in 1652, and, outside Ulster, a new great confiscation of land took place, the Catholic landowners being driven into Connaught. The "Cromwellian settlement," an important feature in the Irish land-question, bestowed the territory on the Puritan conquerors, and many thousands of Irish Catholics left the country for the Continent, to enlist in the French army, and form special brigades which fought against the British, not always without success, on Continental battle-fields.

The worthless, witty, clever Charles II. reigned from 1660 to 1685. The Episcopalians were triumphant; the Puritans or Nonconformists were depressed, and, along with the Catholics, they were deprived for a long period of full civil and religious freedom by legislation which excluded them from municipal and other offices, and, in the case of Catholics, from sitting in Parliament. In Scotland, the Covenanters, as zealous supporters of Presbyterianism and opponents of episcopacy, were severely persecuted by fine, imprisonment, torture, and death, under two apostates from the Presbyterians, the duke of Lauderdale, and Sharp, archbishop of St. Andrews. Provoked to armed resistance, the Presbyterians, in 1679, murdered the archbishop on Magus Moor, in Fifeshire; defeated the royal dragoons, under Graham of Claverhouse (afterwards Viscount Dundee), at Drumclog, in Lanarkshire; and were then utterly beaten by the duke of Monmouth (one of Charles II.'s natural sons) at Bothwell Bridge, on the Clyde, near Glasgow. In Ireland, some of the confiscated lands were restored to the royalist Catholics, but two-thirds of the arable soil remained in the possession of Protestant landlords, and the coming misery of Ireland was rendered sure in the mingling of religious hostility with the bitterness due to the "land-question." In civil affairs the reign of Charles, soiled by the judicial murders of Lord William Russell and Algernon Sidney, was honourably distinguished by the Habeas Corpus Act securing the personal liberty of the subject against the Crown, and by a decision, in 1670, of Chief-Justice Vaughan, of the Common Pleas, which set jurors free from coercion by judges The British sovereign was a mere pensioner of Louis of France, and naval wars with the Dutch, partly due to a French alliance, included the disgrace of 1667, when the enemy burnt British ships at Chatham, and battles in which our naval commanders, the duke of Albemarle (Monck), Prince Rupert, the earl of Sandwich, and the duke of York (James II.), were not always victorious over Opdam, De Ruyter, and De Witt.

James II. (1685-1688), cruel, faithless, stupid, hard-hearted despot as he was, had a short term of power, according to the prediction of his shrewd brother Charles. The prompt suppression of the wicked and foolish Monmouth rebellion, disgraced as the royal cause was by Jeffreys in the "Bloody Assize," had strengthened the position of a monarch who, from the day of his accession, had broken the laws in levying customs-duties and excise-imposts without consent of Parliament, and in attending openly the Catholic service of the mass. The statutes were then trodden under foot in the admission of Catholics to the army and civil service; the revival of the Court of High Commission in ecclesiastical affairs; the reception of a Papal nuncio; the allowance of Catholic worship, and the appointment of a Jesuit as a member of the Privy-Council. In Scotland, the persecution of the Covenanters was continued by Claverhouse and two renegade Presbyterians, the earl of Perth and Lord Melfort, who had become Catholics to please the king. The insolent and tyrannical treatment of two chief bulwarks of the throne, the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, in the lawless appointment of Catholics to prominent offices; the assumption of absolute power in the issue of two "Declarations of Indulgence," suspending the penal laws against Nonconformists; the fruitless prosecution of the "Seven Bishops" for libel; and, above all, the birth of a son to James by his second wife, Mary d'Este of Modena - a son who would be brought up in the Catholic faith, and would, if he lived, succeed to the throne - caused some leading Whig nobles, in the name of the nation, to summon to their aid William of Orange, the Dutch Stadtholder. His landing at Torbay with an army in November, 1688, led to no conflict save with a few Irish Catholic troops brought over by James. William's wife, Mary, was a Protestant princess, daughter of James by his first wife, Anne Hyde, and the helpless sovereign, for whom none of his English subjects would fight, retired perforce to France.

The new sovereign, William III. (1689-1702), reigning jointly with Mary until her death in 1694, but from the first controlling affairs as a constitutional monarch, was one of the greatest statesmen of the age, and an able and heroic commander in war. The main object of his foreign policy was to baffle the. ambitious schemes of Louis of France, and in this he had much success. The "Bill of Rights" (1689) and the Act of Settlement (1701) finally secured British liberties. The House of Commons gained absolute control of taxation and expenditure, and of the standing-army recently established. A Protestant succession to the throne was secured in the assignment of the regal office to the House of Hanover, in default of heirs from Anne, sister-in-law and successor of the childless William. In Scotland, the cause of the Jacobites (or supporters of James II.) was ruined by the death of Dundee at Killiecrankie, and the repulse of the Highlanders at Dunkeld. The Presbyterian system of religion was fully restored. In Ireland, the efforts of the Catholics and of James were baffled in the glorious defence of Londonderry, from April to July, 1689; at the battle of the Boyne, July 1st, 1690; by the defeat of Irish and French troops at Athlone and Aughrim, and by the capture of Limerick in 1691. The victory of the Protestant cause was disgraced by the severe penal laws passed in the Irish Parliament, interfering with the freedom of Catholics in many important functions of life, in the holding of land, the education of children, in marriage, and guardianship. A new great confiscation of land confirmed the "Protestant supremacy" of a minority of the inhabitants, and Irish prosperity from tillage, grazing, and manufactures was rendered impossible by oppressive commercial legislation excluding her products from English and colonial markets. Ireland was at last at peace, under the heel of a conqueror, and had a rest which was the apathy of dumb despair. The reign of William III. is also notable for the establishment of freedom of the press, in relief from the censorship which had existed, in a severe form, in Tudor days, and had been maintained even under the "Long Parliament," in spite of Milton's noble protest in his pamphlet Areopagitica. It was in 1695, with the expiry and non-renewal of the Licensing Act of 1662, that the press became free from a meddling and oppressive control exercised by government-officials. In Scotland, an important system of national elementary education arose in 1696, when an Act required every parish to have its own school with a master paid by the "heritors," or proprietors of land and houses, and supervised by the presbytery. William III. began the practice of choosing his ministers mainly from the party dominant in the House of Commons, and thus arose the "ministry" or executive-government of modern days with its chief members forming the Cabinet, being, in fact, a committee of leading members of the two Houses, selected from the political party which commands a majority in the Commons. It was during the 18th century that the Cabinet became, as it remains, marked by unanimity on chief questions, unity in action, and full responsibility for legislation and administration. Sir Robert Walpole is usually regarded as the first "Prime Minister" or "Premier," in the modern sense, from his having introduced and enforced unanimity in the governing body.

The warfare of Queen Anne's reign (1702-1714) will appear, as will that of William's reign, in the account of Louis of France. The Anglican Church was benefited by the royal generosity which created the fund known as " Queen Anne's Bounty," in surrendering the "first-fruits," or first-year's income of new incumbents of livings, and the "tenths," or a tithe of the annual income of benefices, paid to the Pope before the Reformation, and annexed to the Crown by Henry VIII. The fund thus created is still employed for increasing the incomes of the poorer clergy and in the advance of money for the rebuilding of parsonages. We may note that Queen Anne was the last British sovereign who exercised the right of veto on legislation, in refusing her assent to a Militia Bill for Scotland which had passed both Houses. In 1708 the Act was passed which provides that every member of the House of Commons who accepts any office of profit under the Crown, unless it be a higher army-commission, must resign his seat and offer himself for re-election. The constituencies have thus a check on the corrupt use of offices by the Crown, in their power of rejecting a man whose appointment they may disapprove. The important civil event was the Parliamentary Union of England and Scotland by the Act of 1707. There was much discontent in the northern kingdom, from just jealousy of restrictions on Scottish trade and from other causes, and in 1704 the queen had assented to an Act of the Scottish Parliament for separating the crowns on her decease. In 1705 the English Parliament passed resolutions severely restricting Scottish trade with England and France, and the Border-towns were fortified. The Union Act, passed with much difficulty, and with no small use of bribes judiciously administered to members of the Scottish Parliament, averted civil war, and for the first time brought the two countries into intimate connection. The two united kingdoms became "Great Britain": 16 Scottish peers, elected for each Parliament by the Scottish peers as a body, sat in the House of Lords; 45 members of the Commons were assigned as the representative body of Scotland: the established Presbyterian Church of Scotland was maintained: the northern country kept her own laws and customs relating to property and private rights, and her Court of Session and other tribunals. All rights of trade, free intercourse, and citizenship were henceforth alike for Scottish and English subjects. This great legislative measure was the real beginning of modern Scottish history. It marks the entrance of Scotland into the trade-competition of the age, and it brought her, to her own great profit, into direct contact with the New World. An end was soon made of the proverbial poverty of Scotland, and the energy of her people enabled her to attain a very high position among the nations of the world.

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