Изображения страниц

Temple to the Hague, who concluded an alliance which, as Sweden was a party to it, was called the Triple Alliance, and for some time deterred the French king from prosecuting his designs.

Meanwhile the fiercest persecution raged in Scotland against the Covenanters, while the execution of laws passed in England against conventicles outraged every principle of civil liberty; yet in 1670, the affairs of the country were placed in the hands of a worse set of councillors than had ever before appeared. This Council, composed of five persons, obtained the name of the Cabal, from the initial letters of their names, Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, and Lauderdale. Their main design was to make the king absolute; and that he might be able to rule without having recourse to Parliament for supplies, they resolved upon the base expedient of rendering him a pensioner of the French monarch, Louis XIV. Having come to terms with this king, a united attack was planned by land and sea for the plunder and ruin of the Dutch republic. By another scheme the Cabal seized the cash lodged by bankers and merchants for greater security in the national Exchequer.

Charles having determined to exercise supreme power in ecclesiastical affairs, now changed his tactics, and issued a proclamation (declaration of indulgence) suspending the penal laws against Nonconformists. This caused great alarm, even among the Nonconformists themselves; because it was regarded as a concession to Roman Catholics, and especially because, by the King's assuming the power of suspending any statute, the authority of Parliament was superseded.

The Dutch could not believe the sudden change in the English counsels, whereby they were singled out as victims, until it was brought home to them by an attempt to seize their Smyrna fleet laden with rich spoil. After this, Charles formally declared war (17th March 1672). Thus Charles, who had induced the Dutch to join in an alliance against France, by the triple league, now joined France for their destruction. This is the most disgraceful part of English history. The Dutch under De Ruyter, and the English under the Duke of York and Earl of Sandwich, encountered



off Solway Bay (28th May 1672). The French fleet rendered the English as little service as possible, and the result of an obstinate combat was, that though the Dutch withdrew the English could not follow. Meanwhile, the French invaded Holland by land, and the Dutch, maddened by suffering, turned on their rulers, and murdered the two brothers De Witt, men of the highest public virtue, and of the greatest eminence as statesmen.

The king's necessities obliged him to assemble Parliament (4th February 1673) which at once marked its disapprobation of all late proceedings at home and abroad. The king yielded to their remonstrance against his suspension of penal laws, but he still persisted in his hostilities against the Dutch. The Parliament, which met again on the 20th October of the same year, after condemning the alliance with France against Holland, was suddenly prorogued. The Cabal ministry was broken up; Ashley, now Earl of Shaftesbury, perceiving that the king was shrinking from a contest with the Parliament, having deserted to the opposition. The king now hastened to make peace with Holland, to the great joy of the people. Finally, for the sake of disarming public suspicion, he gave his sister Mary in marriage to the Prince of Orange, and aided in obliging France to come to a treaty of peace, which was concluded at Nimeguen (1678.)

This man

The minds of people had been so excited by the designs attributed to the court, of restoring Popery and arbitrary power, as to have rendered them easily credulous on the score of Jesuitical plots. Taking advantage of this disposition, a person called Titus Oates, pretended to have made a discovery of a plot for the murder of the king, and a general massacre of the Protestants. had been a Protestant clergyman, who, to escape an indictment for perjury, had absconded. He subsequently became a chaplain on board of the fleet, and was turned off for bad conduct. Pretending to be converted, he entered the Jesuits' college at St. Omer, from which he was dismissed, and then set about concocting his story of the Popish plot, which, notwithstanding its gross absurdity, was generally credited. Prosecutions of priests and of



THE NEW PARLIAMENT—HABEAS CORPUS ACT. [A.D. 1679. persons of consequence professing the Roman Catholic religion followed, and convictions, procured upon the perjured evidence of Oates and a few other wretches anxious for notoriety and money, were attended by the execution of many victims, amongst whom was the aged Earl of Stafford.

On the 30th December of this year (1678), the king finally dissolved the Parliament, which, elected the year after his accession, was at first filled with loyalty, but became by degrees so disgusted with the Court and the Cabal as to prove no longer manageable.

The elections which followed gave further strength to the country party, as the opposition was called. The first act of the new Parliament (1679) was to insist on the impeachment of Earl Danby, the king's minister, who, however, made his escape. They afterwards passed a bill excluding the Duke of York, because of his being a Papist, from the succession; and so jealous were they of the Crown, that they brought in a bill excluding holders of lucrative offices from seats in the House. The standing army of the king's guards was voted to be illegal, and they took security against arbitrary imprisonment by the Habeas Corpus Act. This act, passed the 26th May 1679, was, in point of fact, only a confirmation of the Common Law, and based on Magna Charta.1 It empowered any subject, illegally imprisoned, to sue for the writ of Habeas Corpus, on which he was brought into open court and allowed to show cause for his liberation, and learn the grounds of his imprisonment. Judges, sheriffs, and jailers had contrived to evade the old law. Men could be arbitrarily removed to foreign countries out of the jurisdiction of the courts of justice and it was not till the law, which we are now speaking, was passed, that the power of keeping persons in prison without being heard in their own defence, was extinguished, and the subject secured against unlawful confinement. Hence this act is called the second Magna Charta of the British people. Ecclesiastical courts, too, were deprived of the power of compelling a suspected person to criminate himself, and many of the old barbarous laws connected with the feudal system, by 1 See the provisions of Magna Charta under Kirg John.


A.D. 1679.]



which the subject was oppressed, abolished or improved. Parliament was proceeding with other measures when it was suddenly dissolved (10th July 1679).


It was during this year that the intolerable persecutions inflicted by Lauderdale on the Scotch Nonconformists led to armed resistA body of Covenanters, while looking out for an officer of Archbishop Sharpe named Carmichael, obnoxious for his prosecutions against conventicles, met with the Archbishop himself, whom they regarded as the prime instigator of all cruelties, and their fury becoming ungovernable, they dragged him out of his carriage, and from his daughter's arms, and savagely murdered him. As this act only stimulated the government to greater severities, the Covenanters set forth a declaration against Prelacy. At Rutherglen, near Glasgow, they burned the Acts of Parliament and Council prohibiting conventicles (29th May 1679), the anniversary of the Restoration. After defeating the famous Claverhouse at Loudonhill, they took possession of Glasgow, where they issued proclamations against Popery, Prelacy, and a Popish successor. They were defeated and scattered at Bothwell Bridge by the Duke of Monmouth, the king's natural son, who, to his credit, tried to counteract the brutal vindictiveness of Lauderdale.

In England, a second sort of Titus Oates appeared in the person of a fellow named Dangerfield, who pretended to have discovered a Presbyterian plot by means of papers found in a meal tub, hence called the Meal tub plot. After some clamour the fable was allowed to die away.

Next year (1680) the king assembled Parliament, where, for the first time, the names Whig and Tory distinguished the country party and the friends of the court. The Parliament, hostile as ever to the proceedings of the court, again passed the bill excluding the Duke of York from the succession, which the Lords had thrown out, and which they now again rejected. The Commons, in retaliation, voted a remonstrance, resembling that which ushered in the civil wars, followed by a number of bills for limiting the prerogative and in favour of public liberty, and further resolved

The king

to refuse supplies until the exclusion bill was passed. abruptly dissolved them. A new Parliament being necessary, the king hoped to have it more under control by summoning it to meet at Oxford, where there was no powerful opposition out of doors, as Iwas the case at Westminster. The result was the same, for the Parliament renewed the bill of exclusion, and their dissolution was again pronounced.

In Ireland and Scotland, miserable scenes happened upon discovery of a pretended Popish plot. In the former country the Irish Roman Catholic primate, Oliver Plunket, was executed. In Scotland the Earl of Argyle suffered forfeiture, and had to fly on account of some exceptions to an oath which involved contradiction. Persecution was carried on unremittingly against Covenanters. The Duke of York, who had this year (1682) taken up his abode in Scotland, assisted in person at the torture of criminals. So insecure had the state of the Presbyterians become, that they sent out agents to Carolina to treat for a settlement in that colony. Any officer might, in fact, shoot any man he met if he refused to answer certain questions.

In England, Charles began to imitate his brother's example by pursuing conventicles with the greatest severity. He punished corporations because composed of citizens tenacious of law and liberty, and little disposed to subserviency-by declaring their charters forfeited, and then extorting money for their restoration,—the restoration being accompanied with conditions which put the municipalities under the influence of the crown. The Corporation of London, powerful as it was, was brought into a court of law on what was called a writ of quo warranto. The judge, a servile instrument of the court, gave judgment that their charter was forfeited, and the corporation was glad to have its charter renewed by paying a large fine an example followed by every corporation of the kingdom, because they saw how vain it would be to enter into a contest with an unscrupulous government, obeyed by corrupt ministers of justice. The corrupt spirit of the judges rendered the liberty of unlicensed printing, which nominally existed, of no avail to the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »