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THE GREAT FIRE.
Fire. It broke out near the spot where the Monument now stands, on Fish Street Hill; and a tempestuous wind, which was raging at the time, blew the flames from house to house, and from street to street, with frightful rapidity. Four days and four nights the fire burnt furiously, till the ancient cathedral of St. Paul's, eighty-nine churches, thirteen thousand houses, and many noble public buildings had been reduced to ashes. The light of the flames was seen forty miles off, and the clouds of smoke reached still further. At first the people were so astonished and terrified, that they did nothing but run about like distracted creatures; but when they regained their senses, they took the only method of staying the progress of the fire, by blowing up a great many houses, so as to make wide gaps, which the flames could not cross. Two hundred thousand people were burnt out of house and home, and were scattered over the fields for several miles round, lying along by their heaps of what they could save from the fire. Very many were reduced from comfort and wealth to the utmost misery. The king took pains to relieve them, and for a little while this terrible fire seemed quite to have roused him out of his selfish, idle way of living; but he soon returned to it.
The fire was, however, a very good thing for London; it was rebuilt in a far better way, with wider streets, and the houses constructed of bricks instead. of timber; and all remains of infection were so utterly burnt away, that the plague never appeared again. Sir Christopher Wren was charged with the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral. The Monument was raised in memory of this great fire, and it bore for a
very long time an inscription signifying that the papists had set fire to the city; for the people were still so suspicious of the Roman Catholics that they were ready to blame them for every mischief for which they could not account.
REIGN OF CHARLES II.-(continued).
DUTCH FLEET IN THE THAMES, 1667.-BANISHMENT OF CLARENDON.—
(From 1667 to 1676.)
IN the spring after the great fire, Charles began to make peace with Holland. Before it was concluded he was unwise enough to dismantle his fleet and dismiss the seamen. The Dutch Admiral, De Ruyter, heard of it, sailed up the Thames, destroyed the naval arsenal at Sheerness, and hovered about Gravesend for some weeks. Then he appeared off Chatham, and burnt the ships which lay there. The nation was filled with fear and mortification; and even the men who loved Charles for his own sake as well as for his father's, could not help saying, "If Cromwell, or any one else with the spirit of an Englishman, had been on the throne, the Dutch would never have dared so to insult our flag."
The king cared not for it; the great sums of money which the parliament had supplied for the fleet had been wasted, even while the war lasted, on the worthless people about the court, while the ships and sailors were in want of everything, and the poor wounded men were ready to die for hunger and
misery. And now he made peace with Holland just as if nothing had happened. The people, determined to punish some one, fell upon Lord Clarendon, and blamed him very unjustly for all that had gone wrong. And the king was delighted to sacrifice Clarendon, who rebuked his vices, and gave him a great deal of good advice, which he had no will to take.
After sending Clarendon into banishment, Charles took to himself a set of the worst ministers that have ever helped a king to govern. king to govern. The initial letters of their names made up the word Cabal, and ever since the days of those wicked men, that word has been used to signify a number of persons who join together in some mischievous plot. The favourite plot of the Cabal was to enable their master to govern just as he pleased, with or without the consent of his parliament. Though the parliament was made up of men who were loyal to the king, they could not help blaming his misconduct, and they would not allow him to set aside the laws. Charles wanted to do exactly what he pleased, and in particular to spend or waste as much money as he chose without being called to account for it.
He also wanted to favour the Roman Catholics, and give them some power. His brother James had become a bigoted Roman Catholic, and Charles, though he pretended to be a member of the English Church, was at heart a Romanist, like his brother. He began by setting aside, or, as it was called, dispensing with, the laws against the papists and the Protestant nonconformists. Now almost every one felt quite sure that this was done for the sake of
the papists, and not at all out of kindness to the nonconformists; and all Protestant Englishmen feared that it was a beginning of what would be very bad for the country. Charles had no lawful children, and his brother James was heir to the crown.
A great many persons were afraid that James would try to set up popery in England. They would have been still more afraid if his children had been Roman Catholics; but he had no sons, and his two daughters were Protestants. And as James was not young, they thought that they should not have a popish sovereign very long, even if he should outlive his brother. Still, when Charles tried to set aside the laws against the Romanists, they were alarmed and angry, for they thought he would bring many of them to high offices in the state. Besides this, they Isaid it was no more lawful for Charles to set aside the laws without the consent of the parliament, than it would have been for him to make new laws.
The king was obliged to give way, and the parliament, to make sure that no papists should be employed in the government, brought in an Act, called the Test Act, by which it was ordered that every one who held any office in the state should receive the Sacrament of the Holy Communion according to the manner of the Church of England, and deny that he believed in the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation. The Duke of York, who was Lord High Admiral, was obliged now to give up his office, and all other papists who had any post under the government, resigned it. But the people of England little thought that he who held the highest post of all, the king, was himself a papist.
Now there was only one way in which Charles could undo all that the parliament did, and make himself the absolute master of his people, and that was by getting help from a foreign power. So he promised the King of France, that if he would give him a great deal of money, and also send him some soldiers if it should be necessary, he would do nothing to hinder his conquering other countries.
The Cabal joined with Charles in this shameful agreement, and the French king gave money to them as well as to their master. Charles also promised that he would declare himself to be a Roman Catholic, as soon as he could find a good opportunity to do so, for the King of France wished much that England should return to the Church of Rome. All these dis
graceful doings were kept quite secret. But the English history of this period is so mixed up with the affairs of other countries, especially with those of Spain, France, and Holland, that it is necessary to say something about them.
REIGN OF CHARLES II.-(continued).
FRANCE; LOUIS THE FOURTEENTH.-SPAIN.-HOLLAND; THE PRINCE
(From 1676 to 1678.)
FRANCE was the most powerful state in Europe at this time. The king, Louis the Fourteenth, received a much larger revenue, and had a much larger army than any other sovereign. And he was a very ambitious prince,