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The period 1687-1702 is unique in the history of England. Such achievements as the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, the foundation of a National Bank and a National Debt, the Toleration Act and the withdrawal of the Press-Licensing Act, would have exercised an influence both deep and wide at any time and among any people. But, as taking place among this people and in this period, they had a peculiar value; for their influence transcended the bounds of one country and had a European significance and effect. The question of the removal of the Tests engaged the attention of Princes and diplomatists in Europe, as well as of Dissenting ministers and Catholic priests in England, Continental statesmen watched the results of divisions in the English House of Commons, knowing that on a casual party vote the fate of a great alliance might depend. The resolutions of the Bank and the state of the currency in England decided the fate of a campaign on the Continent. A native-born King deserted England and tried to reconquer it with the aid of Frenchmen and Irishmen; a foreign potentate defended it with an army of Swedes, Dutchmen, Brandenburgers, and Englishmen. The rule of an English-born King threatened disgrace and humiliation to his country; the rule of a Dutchman brought it power and glory England no longer revolved in an orbit of her own; her course was deflected, and her movements were determined, by the presence of other bodies in the political firmament. International policy is here sub­ordinate to internal history ; but, none the less, the course of domestic policy can often be explained only by reference to continental problems.

The disasters of James II were chiefly due to the fact that he mistook tributary streams for main currents of national thought. Thus, he gathered from the widely different opinions of the clergy that the Establishment was divided in doctrine; he did not perceive that it would unite against Catholicism. And, as he perceived the disunion and was blind to the latent strength of the Establishment, so he saw the superficial unity, and was blind to the underlying divisions, between Dissenters and Catholics. Obstinate and courageous, sincerely believing that concession had ruined his father and his brother, he was the very man to ignore obstacles and attempt impossibilities. He at first thought that the resolute expression of his will would move the Establishment to consent to the toleration of Catholics. When this expectation failed, he turned to the Dissenters, and relied upon their coalescence with the Catholics to secure toleration for both parties. Such were some of the motives which inspired the Declaration of Indulgence (issued April 4, 1687), by which he suspended all penal statutes against Catholics and Dissenters, and admitted them to public office in corporations, army, or civil service.

The Declaration had been issued on the sole ground of the royal prerogative, by which, it was claimed, the laws could be suspended. Unfortunately for James, though opinion veered as to the true limits of royal power, it was steady on the one point on which he elected to challenge it. Parliament had pronounced a similar Declaration of Charles II illegal, and the King had acquiesced and withdrawn it (1672). If precedents counted for anything, James was legally in the wrong; and, if the legal irregularity was clear, so also was the political motive inspiring it. It was obvious that a power which could enforce the doctrines of toleration might eventually also enforce the doctrines of absolutism, in the teeth of Parliament. Hence, by a strange but intelligible paradox, the establishment of liberty in religion would lead to the destruction of it in politics. But, while recognising that political motives inspired James, it is not necessary to assume that they excluded all other considerations. His religious sincerity does not seem to have been questioned by the foreign diplomatists at his Court. His conversion to the principle of toleration was perhaps late; but the influence of the great William Penn upon him may explain much. At any rate, when the conversion was once effected, it remained permanent. Long afterwards, when in exile—and when he had much to lose by his attitude—James continued to profess at least a theoretical zeal for toleration.

An attack upon the Universities accompanied the Declaration, and supplied the mirror in which Englishmen read that toleration meant hostility to the Establishment. The proceedings against Cambridge are particularly important, because resistance was here offered even before the issue of the Declaration. On February 9, 1687, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge (Peachell) received a royal letter, commanding him to confer the degree of M.A. upon Alban Francis, a Benedictine. Nearly the whole Senate at once signed a protest against the proposal, describing their resistance as proceeding not “from any principle of disobedience and stubbornness, but from a conscientious sense of our obligations to laws and oaths.” Eventually the Vice-Chancellor, with eight delegates (including Isaac Newton), was summoned before the Court of High Commission (April and May, 1687). Peachell, after being thoroughly bullied by Jeffreys, was deprived of his office. But the protest succeeded, and Francis was left without a degree. The proceedings at Oxford were different and more violent. Catholic influences had already been introduced into Christ Church and University College without much open protest: In April, 1687, James had sent a letter recommending Anthony Farmer—a man of bad character who was a convert to Catholicism—for the presidency of Magdalen. But the Fellows had already met and elected John Hough to the post. They were hereupon cited before the Commission, and ultimately expelled. They offered a more dignified, if less successful, resistance than the Cambridge Vice-Chancellor and his companions; but the Oxford opposition, being subsequent to the Declaration, was more natural and has therefore less historic significance.

The interference of James with the Universities has more value as an illustration of ecclesiastical and popular resentment than as an instance of royal illegality. For it is hard to say that James had sinned against established custom. Letters mandatory or dispensatory had expelled or appointed Fellows under Charles I and II often enough to create precedents. Professed Lutherans had been admitted to colleges; the ambassador of Morocco had lately received a degree at Cambridge, in direct defiance of statutes and in the absence of loud or general disapproval. But when James tried to leaven the colleges with Roman Catholic Fellows the academic bodies suddenly discovered and denounced the inroad on their privileges. The conviction that the King desired to override the existing law was becoming deep-rooted, and it nowhere found a better expression than in the controversial protests of University officials. But, if James had not violated the statutes or departed from the custom of the Universities, he had certainly broken his word. He had confirmed all the suspicions awakened in the Declaration by an assault upon institutions which every Anglican believed to be nurseries of the learning, the piety, and the steadfastness of his Church. He had attempted to humiliate and degrade, he might actually mean to destroy, the Church which he had repeatedly sworn to defend. Anglicans began to feel that his measures tended, as the Prince of Orange told the English ambassador, “really to sap the foundations of the Protestant religion.”

Meanwhile, the Dissenters were beginning to suspect James as an ally. All the eloquence of the great William Penn, the reputed author of the Declaration, could not win over the Nonconformists. It was significant that he could not even secure the whole body of the Quakers, amongst whom his personal influence had hitherto been boundless. And, apart from them, the majority of the Dissenters looked askance at the Declaration, and their chief divines, Baxter and Howe, actually denounced it. The joint admission of Dissenters and Catholics to office in the corporations was producing extraordinary results. Thus, Newcastle had a Papist Mayor and a Puritan Council, and the corporation vetoed every loyal address put forward by its Catholic head. Such a result was typical and indeed inevitable; and all the suspicions which could possibly arise from so unnatural a union were subtly suggested or emphasised by a pamphlet from the pen of Halifax.

The famous Letter to a Dissenter (published apparently in the middle of August, 1687) dissected the Declaration with inimitable irony. The incongruity of an alliance between liberty and infallibility, between Tiverton weavers and Jesuit priests was skilfully exposed, and well spiced with allusions to the Popish plot and Romish treachery. Halifax then proceeded to point out the danger of affronting the Church of England “from a desire of ease and revenge.” The Declaration depended Solely on the sincerity of the Court, for which there was no guarantee; and the first act of Princess Mary of Orange, on her accession, might be to cancel it. Was it worth while to accept a favour of dubious permanence, from a suspected source, at the certain price of alienating the whole Establishment? The air of detachment and seriousness, which Halifax always preserved even in the wittiest and most prejudiced of his pamphlets, made the effect of this appeal more remarkable. Twenty thousand copies were sold; and twenty-four answers, each excelling the other in violence of abuse and feebleness of argument, vainly endeavoured to counteract the effect of the most successful pamphlet of the age.

It was followed, at an interval of three and a half months, by another communication which was inferior to it in literary grace, but surpassed it in political importance. The document, which put into the shade even a pamphlet by Halifax, was a letter written by Fagel, Grand Pensionary of Holland, authoritatively announcing the views of the Prince and Princess of Orange upon the Declaration. Though their opinions had been known to James and to diplomatists so early as June, 1687, they were not revealed to the English people until the publication of Fagel’s letter in November. Fagel announced that the Prince and Princess desired toleration, and wished no man to be per­secuted for matters of private conscience. But, while several religions might be tolerated in private, the Prince and Princess thought that there could not in one State be two, “public and established.” Hence they could approve nothing “so much against the existing laws,” as removal of the Tests, those necessary safeguards against the Catholics. Such language was admirably chosen. The Prince and Princess disclaimed the right of interference, while clearly condemning the methods of James; they profusely protested their duty and affection to the King, while delicately insinuating that his Declaration was illegal. The success of Fagel’s letter was so extraordinary that, by the beginning of 1688, forty-five thousand copies had actually been sold. From this time the position of the Prince of Orange, as the protector of the public liberties and the Protestant religion, was recognised by most members of the Established Church and by the majority of Dissenters.


James and Parliament.—Mission of Dykvelt. [1687


The ablest of English, and one of the ablest of European, statesmen had thus pronounced against the Declaration of James. But, apart from these weighty commentaries, the facts themselves seemed to the English people to show clearly enough that the royal policy was directed first against the Established Church, and ultimately against the Constitution. James was quite aware of their suspicions, and of the danger of putting himself legally in the, wrong. He accordingly sought to secure the sanction of Parliament for the repeal of the Tests and for the establishment of religious toleration. With this view he made persistent efforts during the summer of 1687 to establish his personal influence over members of Parliament by securing their adhesion to himself. When this system of “closetting” (as it was called) proved a hopeless failure, he dissolved Parliament (July 2). One last resource remained: a new Parliament might be packed, and the public officers turned into electioneering agents. If officials refused to act this part, they could be turned out. In these circumstances, half the Lords Lieutenant and eight hundred Protestant magistrates speedily resigned or were dismissed. James proceeded to fill the corporations, the benches of magistrates and the state departments with his own nominees. Commissions of “Regulators” filled the corporation councils and the commissions of the peace with Catholics and Dissenters, and expelled from the public departments any officials likely to resist the King. Such violent changes could not be accomplished without disorganising the machinery of State and producing universal discontent. The continuance of drastic reforms in the public service, together with a lavish creation of peers, might at any time place both Houses of Parliament at the feet of James. A revolution of this kind, if systematically pursued, must eventually be met by a revolution of another kind; and from this time forward passive constitutional opposition began to develop into active resistance. By the winter of 1687 James might have read the signs, for almost all the nobility had deserted his Court and retired to their country estates. Foreign diplo­matists at least were not deceived, and the sagacious Prince of Orange understood that the time for active interference was approaching.

In spite of some previous disputes the differences between William and James did not become acute till 1687. The beginnings of a real quarrel may be dated from that year, when William sent Dykvelt to England on a mission whose professed object was one of diplomatic compliment to James (February—May). Dykvelt speedily revealed his real purpose by arranging for secret interviews with Devonshire, Halifax, Danby, Shrewsbury, and others, and endeavouring to ascertain their views as to the Declaration and the policy of James. It appears that Dykvelt, repeated the main substance of these conversations to James, and that there is no reason to suspect any direct attempt at conspiracy. But none the less his mission marks an epoch in the history of the time. William concluded from Dykvelt’s report that he must abandon all hope of bringing England into the continental alliance by conciliating James Himself. That this deduction was correct can be seen from the memoirs of James which, though not entirely composed by himself, substantially represent his views. He there explains that, in the war which was seen to be approaching, it seemed to him that France would attack and weaken the Dutch Republic. As the Dutch were our rivals in trade he thought that England might gain and could not lose by neutrality. This account omits one all-important consideration. James, though in his own way a national king, was not wholly swayed by cynical calculation of England’s self-interest. He might perhaps have been willing in certain eventualities to act as the ally of Louis; he would certainly have been delighted to remain neutral. But, as he said on the eve of his downfall in 1688, he never would declare war upon France. To William the safety of Europe and of his own country was bound up with bringing England into the scale against France. The neutrality of James, therefore, compelled William and foreign diplomatists to interfere in England, and turned an internal struggle between King and people into an international event of the greatest magnitude.

After May, 1687, the relations of William with the Opposition Lords, which up to this time appear to have been quite constitutional, began to develop into a conspiracy against James. If James would not join the coalition against Louis in Europe, William would join the Opposition Lords against James in England. Even during Dykvelt’s mission Danby had let fall some dark hints about a design; and Shrewsbury, who came to Holland in August, may have gone further. But William was determined neither to hazard any rash or premature attempt, nor to appear in England as a foreign invader. Both of these resolutions induced slowness and caution, and deepen the obscurity which hangs over his policy during the winter of 1687. All that can be said with certainty is that, very early in 1688, he made it clear that he would take no action unless he received a definite invitation from leading Englishmen. This was secured to him in June, 1688; and the two events precipitating the crisis were the birth of a son to James, and the trial of the seven Bishops.

It was known that James II’s queen, Mary of Modena, was about to become a mother, and it was believed that the most momentous issues would be determined by the sex of her child. The party of prerogative declared that the birth of a son to James would solve all difficulties, and produce the discomfiture of the “Orangeists.” At least one foreign diplomat had a different opinion. “Such an event,” wrote Hoffmann, the Emperor’s resident in London (April 2), “would only consolidate the union among them, increase their aversion from the King, and make them use every effort to prevent the Catholic succession to the Crown.” The news of the birth of James Edward (the “Old Pretender”) on June 10 speedily proved that Hoffmann was right. The “Orangeists” alleged that the Queen had never been with child, and that the pseudo­prince had been smuggled up the backstairs in a warming-pan. The readiness with which this fable was circulated and believed is a measure of the unpopularity of James. But statesmen were not content with the effects of the warming-pan lie upon popular opinion. They speedily resolved that, since the birth of a son appeared to assure a Catholic successor to James, the only way of preventing this was to invoke the interference of the Prince of Orange.

At this critical moment James succeeded in alienating the one great institution in the State not already hostile to him. The clergy of the Establishment held the doctrine of passive obedience so strongly that they advocated submission even to the decrees of a Nero. In 1687, James had rightly deemed their opposition almost unthinkable; in 1688, he took the only measure which could possibly have produced it. Not content with the establishment of practical toleration, he was determined to make the Establishment acknowledge the justice and wisdom of his policy. On May 4, 1688, he reissued the Declaration of Indulgence, and commanded the Anglican clergy to read it to their congregations. But even the advocates of non-resistance had no intention of becoming personal advocates of a measure which struck at their own supremacy. The Established Church was at length forced to oppose him in self­defence. On May 18, Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, and six other Bishops, petitioned to be excused reading the Declaration. In point of fact, very few of the clergy actually read it on either of the prescribed days (May 20 and 27). James could not attack the whole mass of the clergy; but he promptly indicted his episcopal petitioners for libel. He seems to have meant that they should be tried, condemned, and then released by royal pardon. The plan was clumsy and the error fatal. When the so-called martyrs of the Church passed to the Tower, every eye was fixed upon them; the soldiers at the gates knelt to receive their blessing. Popular enthusiasm penetrated the Law Courts; the judges were not wholly on the side of James, and the jury at length proved to be decisively against him. On June 20 the seven Bishops were acquitted amid indescribable enthusiasm. Halifax waved his hat in the face of the Court like a schoolboy, and the people lit bonfires in the streets and shouted themselves hoarse with exultation.

On the same night seven men assembled at Shrewsbury’s house and signed a letter of invitation to William. This letter, which asked the Prince of Orange to bring over an army and secure the liberties of the people, was carried to Holland by Admiral Herbert in the disguise of a common sailor. The signatories were the Earl of Devonshire, Henry Sydney, and Admiral Russell, who represented the extreme Whig party; Shrewsbury, a moderate Whig; Compton, Bishop of Loudon, a Trimmer; Lumley, an ex-Catholic; and Danby, an ex-champion of prerogative. Two conspicuous Opposition Lords, the Marquis of Halifax and Lord Nottingham, stood aloof, and preferred to rely upon passive constitutional opposition. But the diverse character of the signatories shows how James had contrived to unite against himself almost all parties in the State. Besides the letter of invitation, William soon received assurances from Lord Churchill, Kirke, and Trelawney, leading officers in the army, from Vice-Admiral Herbert, whose influence was great with the navy, and finally from Sunderland, the most influential adviser of James. As Sunderland was at this moment receiving the gold of Louis, it is permissible to doubt whether he earned the gratitude of William. But apart from his assurances, William was confident of strong support in England, and forthwith began to organise his army and fleet for immediate action.

In view of the intrigues above mentioned it can cause no surprise that Hoffmann should have reported in September that King James had against him almost everybody in his kingdom, and that even his soldiers had become “his most dangerous enemies.” To secure himself against disaffection in the army, which had been infected by the “No Popery” riots and Protestant vehemence of the capital, James had introduced some Irish troops into England in August. Their appearance occasioned murmurs, riots, discontent and the publication of the scurrilous ballad Lillibullero. So extraordinary was the popularity of this song that its author, Thomas Wharton, afterwards boasted that he had sung a king out of three kingdoms by it. James did not venture to land any more Irish troops. He was equally afraid to turn for aid to France, for he knew that an open alliance with Louis would be dangerous in the existing state of English feeling, while a secret league was infinitely hazardous. Perhaps he would have risked it, had he realised the extent of his danger. Louis XIV had repeatedly sent warnings of the design of the Prince of Orange; but James, with an excess of cunning, argued that these were only pretexts for entrapping him into an alliance with France. He seems to have believed the assurances of Mary, William, and the Dutch ambassador, that no design against England was afoot. His memoirs relate that Sunderland never failed to ridicule the idea mercilessly when it was discussed in council. As to the motives of this most acute and perfidious of politicians, many conjectures have been offered; but the advantage of his policy to the cause of William remains undeniable.

The task of William had only begun when his naval and military preparations were complete. He had to convince German Princes and Dutch burghers that their safety could only be assured by an expedition which would remove the Dutch army to England, and leave the German lands open to attack from the most powerful military sovereign in the world. The German Princes, with Frederick William of Brandenburg foremost among them, had hitherto remained more or less neutral. Though secretly hostile to Louis, they feared the French armies which had so often triumphed over the German, and doubted whether the Dutch navy would triumph over the English. But the Great Elector’s son, Frederick III, who succeeded him on April 29, 1688, finally brought Brandenburg out of its neutrality., He cooperated heartily with William, and lent him troops for his English expedition under the command of the famous Schomherg,: the Protestant ex-Marshal of France. The Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel and the Brunswick-Lüneburg Duke at Celle speedily con­cluded treaties of alliance with William; the Elector of Hanover intimated approval; and the Elector of Saxony was drawn in. The Spanish Habsburg appears to have regarded with complacency the proposed expedition to dethrone a Catholic King, for his envoy at the Hague subsequently ordered masses to be sung for its success. His Austrian kinsman was more scrupulous, and it was not until William had established relations with the Pope (Innocent XI) that he made any impression on the Emperor. Leopold was at length reconciled to the enterprise by the Papal dispensation, and yielded a reluctant consent. Thus the Prince of Orange was assured of assistance from many foreign Princes, before his own people, through their organ, the States-General, had pronounced in its favour. While the destinies of Europe were suspended on the vote of the States-General, Louis XIV suddenly intervened and took the decision from its hands.


Policy of Louis XIV. [1688


The policy of Louis at this crisis can be best understood on the assumption that his attention was fixed upon Germany rather than upon England or Holland. He presumably thought the establishment of his own power on the Rhine to be easier and more immediately probable than the success of William in any design against England. Yet, during the trial of the Bishops he had vainly offered large sums of money and the loan of his fleet to James, and later had repeatedly warned him of William’s designs. Losing patience, he at last attempted to .force the English King’s hand; but the result of his effort was only to play the game of his rival. On September 2, his ambassador, d’Avaux, made an announcement to the assembled States-General of the Dutch Republic, of which the immediate effect was to secure for William the object at which he had so consistently aimed. D’Avaux pronounced the vast naval and military preparations of William to be a menace to England. Owing to the bonds of “friendship and alliance” existing between England and France, any enterprise undertaken by the Dutch against England would involve an immediate declaration of war from France. The States-General were struck dumb with rage by this haughty and insulting menace. The mighty armaments of William, which had appeared to lay a heavy burden upon his country, were now seen to be the instruments of its salvation. But one difficulty still remained. After the threats of Louis the Dutch were never likely to allow William to go on his apparently quixotic expedition to England. But just as the diplomacy of Louis had won over the Dutch to William’s schemes of an alliance against France, the diplomacy of James was to reconcile them to his plan of an expedition against England.

James received the news of Louis’ friendly intervention in his favour with the utmost embarrassment. Conscious of his weakness at home, he resolved not to compromise his position further by exciting suspicions about a secret engagement with France. At the moment when the aid of the French fleet was of vital importance, since his own fleet was smaller than that of the Dutch, James resolved to pose as the patriotic independent sovereign, secure in his island kingdom. He emphatically denied the existence of any alliance with France, and openly rejected her proffered assistance. By this masterpiece of folly he contrived not only to injure the feelings of the French King, but to awaken his suspicions. Louis was justly indignant and turned to pursue his own most pressing needs, well assured that James would soon find out the need of relying upon France. On September 25, Louis threw the whole of his vast military force, not upon the Dutch frontier, but against the middle Rhine. Thus the continued impolicy of James and the momentary misjudgment of Louis brought about what the ability of William himself could not perhaps have effected. The States-General, fully assured that the Dutch frontier could not be attacked in force before the end of the year, gave the long-desired consent, and bade the Prince of Orange God-speed on his bold venture for the English Crown.

By September a large army and a vast fleet of transports had been collected, and in October all was ready. On October 19, Herbert embarked his squadron at Helvoetsluys, and the Dutch warships sailed from the Texel, only to be driven back by a terrific storm. The enterprise now stood confessed; and even James was aroused to a sense of impending danger, and employed the temporary respite in a desperate effort to restore his popularity. On October 27, he dismissed Sunderland, borrowed money from the French King, and implored his aid. He summoned before him the Bishops, whom he had once treated with such disdain, and begged for their advice. He gave back their privileges to the Universities, replaced many of the dismissed public servants, and restored the charters to London and many other cities. Finally, he dissolved the Ecclesiastical Commission and promised to summon a new Parliament in November. But James was as reckless in his policy of conciliation as he had once been in that of compulsion, and the bewildering suddenness of the changes inspired universal distrust. His concessions were openly attributed to motives of fear and necessity, created by the action of a foreign Prince. And, in truth, at this very moment a proclamation of the Prince of Orange lay in the portfolio of Fagel, demanding the very reforms that James was hurriedly conceding.

In 1688, as in 1588 and 1798, the course of English history was profoundly affected by the chances of wind and weather. William had to wait long, chafing at a delay which seemed infinitely hazardous. But at last on November 1, the “Protestant breeze” bore gaily out to sea the whole vast flotilla of 600 ships, with 15,000 soldiers aboard. Like Henry of Bolingbroke and Edward of York, William had at first thought of landing in Yorkshire. But the unkindly wind forced him to run for the west coast, though it made up for this by binding King James’ fleet in the Thames. As William’s fleet passed the straits of Dover, the assembled crowds on either coast could hear the clash of cymbals and roll of drums, celebrating his birthday. The breeze bore the fleet strongly past Plymouth and then suddenly dropped, allowing it to get back to the harbour of Torbay. The services of the breeze were not yet over, for it revived on the night of the 6th, and dispersed the fleet of King James, which had sailed up in the hope of disturbing the landing. The disembarkation began on the 5th, and was speedily effected. On the 18th William’s cavalry reached Exeter, and on the 19th the inhabitants were cheering the English regiments of Mackay and Talmash, gaping at the Dutch guards and the Swedish horse, and gazing on the stately form of Schomberg and the impassive face of William. The numerical superiority of the foreign troops to the English regiments in William’s army illustrated the proportion between the international and the insular significance of the great enterprise.

On the banner of William were inscribed the words Pro Religione protestante—Pro libero Portamento, and beneath them his own proud motto, Je maintiendrai. His proclamation, published in England on November 5, expanded these sentiments. It declared that there was no attempt at conquest, and that the Prince had only come at the invitation of Lords Temporal and Spiritual. It denounced the dispensing power, the expulsion of the Judges, the establishment of the Court of High Commission, the attack on the corporations, and the raising of an army of Irish Papists. It concluded by hinting, in accordance with the widespread popular rumour, that the Prince of Wales was a supposititious child, and that Parliament must decide on his legitimacy. The proclamation was speedily followed by a supplementary manifesto denouncing “the pretended redressments and concessions” of James as illusory, and declaring that only a settlement by a free Parliament could be final or satisfactory. It is not easy to see how far this proclamation represents William’s real views; but its purpose was to excite popular feeling rather than to propound a definite settlement. In particular it contained no hint of William’s intention of bringing England into the alliance against France. On the still more urgent question of his own designs upon the Crown, the proclamation is equally silent.

On November 16 tidings of the landing at Torbay arrived, and James at once directed the royal army to concentrate at Salisbury. On the 17th James decided to join his army, of which Lord Churchill was commander-in-chief. When James set out, half-a-dozen noblemen had already joined William; Danby had raised the north and captured York; Devonshire was in arms at Derby, Delamere in Cheshire. The serious moral effect of these defections was such as to leave no resource to James but an immediate battle. But, on the morning of the 23rd, he had already decided to retreat, “as,” wrote Barillon to Louis, “he had intended from the first.” On the night of the 24th, Churchill and the Duke of Grafton fled to William. On the 25th James, as he left Andover, learnt of the defection of Ormond and Prince George of Denmark. On nearing London the unhappy father heard of the flight of his daughter the Princess Anne. He found his capital in a ferment, and his hopes at their lowest ebb. So disastrous had been these last few days to James that the prescient Hoffmann was already able to foretell the result of the struggle. On December 9 he wrote to the Emperor that the English affair would be terminated in two or three months, and that all the forces now in arms would soon march conjointly against France.

When departing for Salisbury, James had refused a petition for a new Parliament, on the ground that the invasion made it impossible. But on November 27 he summoned a presentable substitute in the shape of a great Council of Peers, which thirty or forty attended. At the meeting Clarendon bitterly reproached the King, while Halifax spoke with more delicacy and respect. Their speeches outlined clearly the difference between the two parties represented by them. The High Churchmen were incensed with James because of his attack on the Establishment; the Moderates were less hostile because less fanatical. The upshot was a resolution to send Nottingham, Halifax, and Godolphin as Commissioners to treat with the Prince of Orange. On December 2 they started on their mission, which they appear to have conducted in good faith. In reality they had been completely deceived by the King, who merely wished to gain time for preparing his flight to France. On December 9, James despatched his wife and the Prince of Wales to France by way of Portsmouth, promising to follow them in twenty-four hours. During the night of the 10th-11th, he cancelled the recently prepared writs of the new Parliament, and also wrote a letter to Feversham, who interpreted it as an order to disband the royal army under his command. At three in the morning, taking with him the Great Seal, which was afterwards fished up from the Thames, James secretly fled from Whitehall to Sheemess. On the afternoon of the same day the Commis­sioners returned to London, to find the city in terror and the King gone.

The flight of James has always been regarded as the most fatal of all his mistakes. His avowed intention was to dissolve the Government of the State and to produce confusion by his flight, so as to make it clear to the people that the return pf the King was the sole security pf law and order. But he had taken measures before his departure which were actually instrumental in preventing this result. He had summoned the Peers to assist the Privy Council on the 11th; and it was natural, when they met and heard of his flight, that they should assume provisional authority. The assembly chose Halifax as its president, and drafted a resolution to cooperate with the Prince of Orange in procuring a free Parliament. On the 13th, they received a letter from James with the bewildering news that he had fallen into the hands of the mob at Faversham, in Kent. Assistance was promptly sent, and on the 16th, the Earl of Feversham, amid shouting crowds, escorted the King back to the palace he had deserted. On the same day the Privy Council Registers show that James held a last Privy Council, attended by eight councillors, at which some orders were issued to the Lords Lieutenant and the Secretary of the Admiralty. But neither the Lords Lieutenant nor Samuel Pepys seem to have paid any attention to the last commands which King James ever issued in England.


1689] Effects of James’ flight.—Projects for a Settlement.


The duplicity with which James had deceived not only William but his own Commissioners, his evident desire to produce disorder, his craven flight—all these things provoked general indignation. But his flight brought something more than wrath and humiliation upon James—it revealed his innermost secret. It was now fatally clear that France was the goal on which he had determined for his flight, and that he would trust to French arms for his restoration. France was the Power which had persecuted the Protestants and humiliated England; William, who had always defended the one, was now ready to befriend the other. The Prince of Orange saw his advantage and made prompt use of it. Until the flight of James, it seems certain that he had hoped for no more than a regency. Now—from the moment of the flight—he seems to have conceived the plan of directly assuming the Crown. His obvious policy was to convince England that James was the ally of France, that hereditary enemy of her race and her religion. Hence the second flight of James was, with consummate skill, facilitated by William. At ten on the night of December 17 the Dutch guards invested Whitehall, and carried off King James to Rochester early the next morning. Once there, James found his guards relaxed, and avenues of escape open. The man whom Turenne had declared to be inaccessible to fear was now a prey to almost childish terrors. He declared that there was but one step from the prison to the grave, and the memory of the fate of Richard II and of his own father hovered before his eyes. He therefore eagerly seized his opportunity and, on December 23, 1688, quitted the soil of England for ever. By this second flight, which William had deliberately encouraged, James committed political suicide. When Hoffmann first heard of the intended flight of the Queen and the Prince of Wales, he expressed his opinion to the Emperor that, if they went to France, the son would lose his crown. This far-sighted prediction applied even more strongly to the case of James himself. By remaining in England, James might have retained great influence and caused great difficulties, as his father had contrived to do while discredited and a prisoner. But once in France, however uncontrolled, he seemed the sworn friend, almost the henchman, of England’s traditional foe. When William heard the news of the King’s flight, he bade the French ambassador quit England within twenty-four hours. The action marked the complete immediate harmony between the wishes of the English people and the policy of the Dutch Stadholder. The protector of the public liberties and the Protestant religion of England had, with the applause of the nation, enlisted its resources in the service of that “Great Design” which he so inflexibly pursued, and of that “Grand Alliance” of which he was the recognised head. The English people did not as yet realise that “the Great Deliverer” had, in Halifax’ luminous sentence, merely “taken England on his way to France.”

With the opening of the year 1689 our interest shifts from the affairs of France and the Grand Alliance to the internal problems of England. All parties were agreed that James, as an actually ruling sovereign, was now an impossibility; but all parties differed as to the new settlement. The main lines of division were already shaped in December; but they were blurred and confused by the flight of James. The extreme High Church Tories, headed by Clarendon, advocated a regency, with James as the nominal sovereign; Danby and a small body of Tories argued that James had abdicated by flight, that proofs of his son’s legitimacy were unobtainable, and that judgment therefore going by default, the next legal successor was Mary. The Whigs, under Somers and Maynard, went further and proposed the simple and logical plan of declaring the throne vacant and filling it by election. Halifax headed a fourth party of “Trimmers” or Moderates, who advocated giving the Crown to William and Mary. He objected to the plans both of Somers and Clarendon, wishing the settlement to rest, not upon logical perfection or historic precedent, but simply upon grounds of practical necessity.

On the news of James’ second flight William had, at the request of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, the members of Charles II’s Parliaments and the Common Council of London, assumed the administration. Following their instructions, he issued a circular to constituent bodies, requesting them to elect representatives for a Convention. William made no attempt to interfere with the elections. The secret of his calm is to be found in a momentous interview with Halifax about this time, which Halifax has recorded with his own hand. It shows clearly that William was resolved to retire if James returned to England, and to refuse the Regency if it was offered him. Regarding his succession to full power as practically assured, he awaited the progress of events with imperturbable calm. Perhaps no member of the Convention Parliament, which assembled on January 22, as yet thought that events would end in the way which William already foresaw. The Commons speedily (January 28) resolved that James, “having endeavoured to subvert the constitution by breaking the original contract between King and people, and by the advice of Jesuits and other persons, had violated the fundamental laws and withdrawn himself out of the kingdom, and that the throne had thereby become vacant.” The logic of the resolution was as bad as its grammar; for it was obvious that, though desertion of the kingdom might produce vacancy of the throne, by all precedents misgovernment and acceptance of bad advice could not. Yet all three reasons were alleged as causes of vacancy and abdication. The lack of logic marked in fact the compromise of principles and the blending of views between the moderate Tories and the Whigs.

On January 29 this resolution was sent up to the Lords, together with another, to the effect that a Popish King had been found by experience inconsistent with a Protestant Government. This second resolution excited no dispute, and even no comment; but the first gave rise to the most envenomed controversy. The parties of Clarendon, Danby and Halifax were in conflict in the Lords, with startling results. The Lords threw out the “vacancy” clause; the Commons declined to accept this amendment; and the two Houses were thus at a complete deadlock. A conference took place on February 6, in which the views of all parties were stated with remarkable clearness. Clarendon and Pembroke appealed to the seven disputed successions in English history to prove that the vacancy of the throne had never been assumed, and that the hereditary principle had always theoretically prevailed. But there was a flaw in this argument which the Whigs were not slow to see. Maynard pointed out that if, as even Tories admitted, James had lost the exercise of his power, someone had a right now to that power. Both Houses had agreed to the resolution that no Papist could in future be King, and therefore Clarendon’s faction, while urging that James was the nominal King, could not propose the Prince of Wales as either the actual or eventual ruler. Why not, then, admit the Whig doctrine of the original contract between King and people, with its proviso that the throne became elective when the contract was broken? The Whigs had the worst of the precedents and the best of the arguments; but their doctrine of an elective Crown still appeared too revolutionary for the Lords. At this point Halifax intervened, basing his appeal neither on history nor on logic, but on the grounds of practical common-sense. He argued that the Crown would only be made elective in the way of exception and pro hoc vice, and would then revert to the original hereditary channel. Frankly admitting the need of some break with tradition, he advanced the overwhelming plea of necessity, the defence of revolutionaries as well as of tyrants. When the Lords again debated the question alone, Halifax, to the great wrath of Clarendon, “drove furiously,” and carried the acceptance of the Commons’ resolution intact. It only remained now to settle the succession. William had declared publicly, at the beginning of the month, that he would return to Holland unless he were chosen King regnant conjointly with his wife, with the whole administration vested in himself. On February 6 the Lords resolved, without a division, that the Prince and Princess of Orange should be declared King and Queen of England. William accepted the vote on behalf of Mary and himself, and within a week the pair were proclaimed King and Queen from the steps of Whitehall.

With the settlement of the Crown immediate practical difficulties vanished, anarchy was averted, and a vigorous external policy was continuously pursued. But the great constitutional problems, the sphere of direct royal power, the relations of King to Parliament, to the Courts of Justice, and to the army—all these were still unsettled. A committee, appointed to secure the laws and liberties of the kingdom, with the all-accomplished Somers in the chair, had already drawn up a Declaration of Right (February 12). This resolution was afterwards expanded, renamed the Bill of Rights, and passed as a statute by the new Parliament (October). The Declaration and the Bill were intended as a final summing-up and settlement of the long struggle between King and Parliament, and as a manifesto and defence of the Revolution. The Bill of Rights therefore opens with a lengthy controversial statement as to the misdeeds of James and the virtues of William, before “asserting the ancient rights and liberties of England.” It would be difficult to say that new rights were claimed or old laws infringed. But new precedents were certainly created; for on almost all disputed points the verdict went decisively in favour of Parliament and against the King. The reason why the greatness of the change was not very obvious at the Revolution is to be sought in what took place at the Restoration. By the settlement of 1660 the powers of Parliament were greatly enlarged, and the substantial increase of its powers became apparent long before 1688. The Revolution of 1688, in increasing the power of Parliament, only moved along a path already marked out for it by the political developments of the generation immediately preceding. In this fact lies the chief explanation of the anomaly, on which Macaulay so frequently insisted, that the great changes of the Bill of Rights were accomplished without any positive change in law.

The Bill of Rights denounced as illegal the assumption of a royal power of suspending or dispensing with laws, or of erecting a Court of High Commission or other special Courts. Levying money by prerogative, or keeping a standing army in peace-time without consent of Parliament, are likewise declared to be against the law. Parliament is to be free in its elections, in its subjects of debate, and “ought to be held frequently.” The rights of the people as a whole are secured in the right to petition the King. The rights of the sovereign are restricted by the provision that Papists, and those marrying Papists, are de facto excluded from the throne. On these terms, and with these limitations, William and Mary are acknowledged as joint sovereigns. There were two serious omissions, subsequently removed by the Act of Settlement. No real attempt was made to exempt the judges from undue royal influence, and a clause including Sophia of Brunswick-Luneburg in the succession was struck out by the Lords.


Bill of Rights. Political theorists of the Revolution. Harrington and Locke.  


Perhaps the most striking insertion in the Bill of Rights was the provision declaring standing armies illegal, and placing the power of the sword beneath the control of Parliament. Yet an express law declared the whole power of the militia, and immemorial custom admitted the general control of the army, to lie solely with the King. Hence this provision was an innovation, and a very great one, based on the general repugnance to standing armies, initiated during the Protectorate and expressed in the Parliaments of the Restoration, but nowhere decisively asserted by statute or custom. William, who said he came to England to restore the invaded liberties of the people, not to circumscribe the acknowledged rights of the Crown, was to find the novelty of this particular provision most unpleasing. Incidentally, the parliamentary control over the army tended towards a similar control over foreign policy. Eventually, it was the most important influence in establishing and maintaining one of the fundamental maxims of our modem constitution, that the military power in the State is and must be subordinate to the civil. It is doubtless in the main true that the Bill of Rights makes few positive legal changes, but the provision as to the power of the sword is one of them. Here at least the Bill of Rights breaks with the black-letter of precedent, and asserts new principles of fundamental and far-reaching importance.

To a well-informed contemporary observer the smallness of the actual change effected by the Revolution would hardly have been apparent. He must have noted the triumph of the policy of the Exclusionists in the provision excluding Papists from the Crown. During 1680-1, that party had been utterly broken; its leaders had died upon the scaffold or fled the country in disgrace. Within eight years from that date its main principle had first been championed by Halifax, the greatest of its opponents, and finally accepted by the country as a whole. The cause of this remarkable change is to be found, partly in the accidental circumstances of the Revolution, partly in the slow growth of a political theory which owed far less to Coke and the precedents of the past than to Harrington, Locke, and the philosophy of the future. The main ideas on which the Revolution was based were expressed by Harrington and Locke. Of these, the one may be said to have taught the lessons of forty years of revolution, the Other to have provided the theory by which the change of government was to be defended.

During the years 1610-60 every political theory had received some application and every one in turn had been found wanting. The conviction had gradually been enforced that the old monarchy, with all its practical disadvantages, was superior to the new republic with all its theoretical perfections. Monarchy, though somewhat limited by the increased influence of Parliament, emerged from the welter of anarchy powerful and venerated. Regicide became, in the eyes of the . nation, the most odious of crimes, and this belief was based on reasonable as well as upon sentimental grounds. For Harrington, while advocating fantastic schemes for a republic, had contrived to demonstrate the practical advantages of a monarchy. This was the unforeseen result of his assertion that the sole test and proof of good government was the connection of property with power. To confine the franchise to property-holders would manifestly produce a government based on experience and stability. So argued Harrington, and his readers drew an unexpected inference. The characteristics, of the old monarchy had been inequality of possessions, gradation of classes, the supremacy of rich over poor; of land over capital. What were all these but the reign of property, which produced securities for stable government? It was this tendency in political thought, that largely accounts for the sudden and total disappearance of republicanism, which is so remarkable a phenomenon in 1688. William excluded all regicides from his amnesty; and in the vast flood of pamphlets called forth by the Revolution it is hard to find one of note or importance which may be called republican.

The union of property and power produced a just balance in the State, and for this discovery, though it was also to be found in the later pamphlets of Milton, Harrington was regarded as the Columhus of political science. His ideas permeate the whole Revolution settlement, in which there is but little appeal to absolute or general principle, and hardly a whisper of parliamentary reform. Private property in land is the basis of all authority; power is rigidly confined to an aristocracy of freeholders, and the reign of property is acknowledged and complete. “For the divine right of Kings,” writes Lord Acton, “it [the Revolution] established the divine right of freeholders; and their domination extended for seventy years under the authority of John Locke, the philosopher of government by the gentry.”

It is true to say that there existed few or no republicans in 1688, if that term designates men who desired to abolish the hereditary monarchy. But, if it means men who asserted the doctrine of popular sovereignty, then there were many such, of whom the most eminent was Locke. His “Two Treatises on Government” were not published till the summer of 1689. But he had been the intimate of Shaftesbury, and, as the friend of Somers and other leading Whigs, had first-hand knowledge of the ideas of the Revolution settlement. Indeed the inconsistencies and contradictions, the imperfections,, and the over-emphasis, of his work betray too clearly that his theory was intended to apply to practical political needs. It was in fact chiefly in practical applications that the originality of Locke consisted. There was nothing very new in his doctrines of contract between king and people, of limitations on royal power and extensions of popular sovereignty, and of the justification for the deposition of kings. But ideas which had floated in the brains of solitary thinkers, or had amused the intellects of scholastics, were used by Locke for the practical purpose of glorifying and defending an actual and not an imagined Revolution. 

It must always be regretted that Locke did not directly measure blades with Hobbes. In the Leviathan the latter had written the greatest work on political thought as yet produced in England, and the ablest defence of absolute monarchy ever published in Europe. But his cynical attack on the clergy had alienated the Establishment, and extreme loyalty found its philosopher not in Hobbes but in Filmer. The Patriarcha of Sir Robert Filmer—a popular exposition of the doctrines of Divine Right and passive obedience—had been written in 1642 and published in 1680. It was adopted in all its tenets by the University of Oxford, and became generally popular with the royalist party. Hence Locke set out with the primary intention of destroying “Sir Robert” and “his wonderful system,” rather than of confuting Hobbes. Locke easily disposed of Filmer and “the hereditary jurisdiction of Adam,” and it was only in constructing his own theory in the second part of his treatise that he came indirectly into contact with Hobbes.

The end of all government is the good of the people, and the good of the people Locke defines as “the preservation of (private) property,” to “secure which men enter into society.” On that ground and with that object people meet together and make an Original Contract to submit to a common recognised authority. This contract is broken, and the society dissolved, when private property and personal liberty are endangered. With an absolute Prince the people cannot be assured of this preservation and these rights, for the absolute sovereign, being above law, is not bound to respect it. Hence the people as a whole are the best judge whether the general good is being endangered and whether the social contract is near to breaking. To avoid a reckless sanction of revolution, Locke carefully defines the cases in which resistance is justifiable, in the instance of a hypothetical State, whose constitution is transparently based on the English. These cases are: first, when a single person sets his own arbitrary will in place of the laws which are the will of society; next, interference with the electors or ways of election; then, the delivery of the people into the subjection of a foreign Power; lastly, neglect or abandonment of the government by the supreme executive power. In all these cases government is dissolved, the contract broken, and resistance justifiable. It will not escape notice that all these cases included actions of which James might plausibly be accused. Locke argued for a particular purpose, with practical qualifications; and he fairly pays the penalty of one who binds up a political pamphlet in the cover of a philosophic treatise. He can claim as a recompense that he became the oracle of the Whigs, that he inspired the political ideas of his country for nearly a hundred years, and was for at least fifty the most influential political philosopher in Europe.

The English Revolution, unlike the French, never carried its originating principles to the extreme of logical severity. It showed little idealism and much common-sense, often allowing practical considerations to outweigh consistency or principle. Moreover, its international and diplomatic character rendered personal factors of great importance, and the form which it finally assumed was profoundly affected by the personalities of both William and James. In his exile James was accustomed to ascribe every disaster to his advisers. But it is certain that Mary of Modena, Father Petre, and the extreme Catholics opposed some of his most impolitic measures, and that Penn and Sunderland opposed others. And, even supposing his ordinary counsellors to have been unwise, James had frequently disbelieved the information and disregarded the advice of Louis. His actions and opinions dining and after 1688 exhibit a complete misunderstanding of the limits of the possible, and show that he lived in a world of illusion. If to these considerations is added that of his well-known haughtiness and love of power, it is reasonable to conclude that his worst counsellor was himself, and his neglect of other advice the main cause of his fall. On the other hand, the respect and deference shown by William to his English advisers was one of the main reasons of his success. The firm stand of the seven Bishops, the pen of Burnet, the voice of Clarendon, and the policy of Compton, brought the Established Church for the moment on to the side of William. The calm diplomacy of Shrewsbury and the resolute purpose of Danby brought over the moderate Whigs and Tories; the well-timed desertion of Churchill secured the army. The eloquence of Somers inspired the Commons to settle the Succession, and the arguments of Halifax induced the Lords to agree in it. The influence of Halifax, or of his “trimming” policy, is apparent everywhere—in the moderation, the cautious temporising, the concessions to expediency, and the compromises of principle, in which the Revolution abounded.

The last cause of the moderation and tranquillity of the Revolution is to be found in the personality of William, and in the elements and forces which he controlled. His European outlook enabled him to entertain views of a purely practical kind and to judge the struggle with a calmness which no Englishman could equal. He decided to interfere only when assured of powerful support, and when his own interests would have been endangered by delay. The impolicy of James and the caution of William combined to produce a result very rare in history—namely, a foreign intervention which successfully accomplished a great internal revolution with the minimum of bloodshed and change. Other explanations are to be found in more impersonal forces, especially in the course of events which bewildered contemporaries by their sudden and kaleidoscopic changes. The vigorous minority, which supported William, alone had a clear-cut plan and purpose. Hence it came about that even ardent royalists were surprised into revolt against their King. This is admirably illustrated by two well-known incidents recorded in Clarendon’s Diary. On November 15, 1688, Clarendon hears of the flight of his son, Lord Cornbury, to William, and writes: “ O God, that my son should be a rebel! The Lord in his mercy look upon me, and enable me to support myself under this most grievous calamity!” On November 30 he records calmly and without comment that he has himself decided to fly to the Prince of Orange. His change of front is bewilderingly sudden, but there is no reason to doubt his sincerity. In revolutions events move and men think with unwonted rapidity.

The pressure of events had wrought strange conversions among the Tory landed gentry, but the impression made upon the people as a whole had similar and even more striking effects. The indifference of the people to a revolution is usually the cause of its failure; here it was the reason of its success. “The People,” said Halifax, “can seldom agree to move together against a Government, but they can sit still to see it undone.” Indeed, though at first cold towards William, the people refused to stir a finger for James, and their indifference most powerfully influenced the event. It rendered the Revolution, although aristocratic in appearance and execution, popular in principle and in its eventual result. Hence the religious motive, though, not at first sight the most apparent, is still the deepest cause of the Revolution. In the Exclusion period the people had shown that, if the choice had to be made, they preferred a Protestant sovereign with very large powers to a Catholic with very limited ones. Of 1688 Guizot boldly asserts that “in no country and at no time has the faith of the masses exercised more control over the faith of their government.” There can be little doubt that this view is correct, though the revolution was initiated by the great nobles, effected by the aid of a foreign ruler and a composite army, and consummated by a constitutional settlement made by country gentlemen in the House of Commons. Never, perhaps, have the goodwill of a people, the rebellion of an aristocracy, and the armed interference of a foreigner, had equally striking and beneficent results.

The character of William, though excellently suited to effect, was little calculated to sustain, a successful revolution. Bred a soldier from his boyhood, he had the excellences and defects of his training. He was swift to decide and to execute, calm in judgment, resolute in purpose, serene and immovable in the face of tumult or danger. But he was ready on occasion to sanction acts of ruthless cruelty, and he often showed considerable lack of scruple and some indifference to high principle. His cold, keen nature made him deficient in sympathy, and unable to consider or even to perceive, other views than his own. Able to overawe and to command, he was never able to awaken enthusiasm or inspire affection. Thus it came about that, with many of the qualities of a great general, he could never win victories over Condé or Luxembourg; and, though possessing almost all the essentials of a great diplomatist, he could never bind together a divided alliance with the graceful art of a Marlborough. Though he achieved his real aims, he never struck the popular imagination as forcibly as many a lesser man. He lives in history not as the idol of cheering mobs but as the champion of threatened liberties, not as the darling of one country but as the preserver of many.

William was not qualified by previous training or character to understand the proud and jealous nation over which it was now his lot to rule. He had spent twenty years of his life in a vain attempt to understand the vagaries of the Council of Amsterdam, and he was too old and too impatient to humour or cajole a new representative assembly. His letters to Heinsius, Grand Pensionary of Holland, are full of complaints about the ruinous delays and the trivialities of Parliament, his strange prejudices and fatal blindness. The impossibility of forecasting the attitude of the Commons from day to day, the cabals which produce such astounding changes and turn people from black to white, the stupidity of individuals, the hateful spirit of party, the intrigues which will finish by destroying the country and himself—all these he confides to his sympathetic correspondent. Les gens” wrote he, January 21, 1698, “ne s’occupent ici que d'une prétendue liberté, tandis qu'ilts sont forcés de reconnaitre qu'ills n'ont jamais étés si libres, el qu'ils n'ont même rien à redouter de mon part”. His people were unable to discern his true character; and he bitterly, but not altogether justly, resented their failure to understand him. He had no ability for finance, and while possessing the energy, he had not the gifts of a great administrator. Though devoid of ostentation, his manners were harsh and repellent, and showed none of the graces to which England was accustomed in her kings. His wretched health seriously affected his temper and disposition. Calm and steady at great crises, he was often peevish and irascible on lesser occasions, chafing at small delays and slight irritations. His fondness for Dutchmen and favourites, though to some extent justified by the untrustworthiness of the most prominent Englishmen, cannot be excused in the cases of Keppel and Lady Orkney. These trivial excuses for the slight esteem in which the English held him, were strengthened by one far deeper and more fundamental, which caused his unpopularity to increase with the advance of years and with the unfolding of his policy.

William’s political ideas were large and grand—those of an international statesman genuinely labouring for the good of Europe as a whole. To his “great design” he really subordinated every particular interest, so far as in him lay. Thus, in 1689 he forced his own country­men into a disadvantageous and humiliating convention with England, and treated their remonstrances with indifference. By looking for the same magnanimity in his new subjects, he showed how fundamentally he misread their temperament. He had declared to the English that he came to restore their Parliament and religion; it became increasingly evident that he had come to engage them in continental war. He did not remember that England had been comparatively free from continent warfare since the death of Elizabeth, and had retained a horror of standing armies since the death of Cromwell. Nor could he see that, after 1692, her interests were far less engaged in the struggle than those of the land Powers. When, on April 6, 1701, he wrote to Heinsius that he had to do with people “whom it is necessary to lead by indirect ways for their own good,” he put into a single sentence both his own defence and the justification of his English subjects.

The defects in William’s character, which obscured its real elements of greatness, were in no small measure disguised by the influence of his wife. Mary was the most popular of women, and her gentle charm did much to counteract the unfavourable personal impression produced by her husbands Though William sometimes added harshness to the crime of infidelity, her devotion towards him never ceased. Her letters breathe a spirit of exquisite sincerity and gentleness, and evince a resigned and touching belief in Providence. Indeed, the whole-hearted religious fervour of Mary did much to incline the Church of England to acquiesce in the new order. The Calvinistic William was not unnaturally or unjustly suspected of lukewarmness towards the Establishment. But the influence of Mary, her unaffected piety and zeal for the Church, and the care with which she watched over the appointment of Bishops; disarmed the resentment of the Tories. Moreover, as Regent in 1690 and 1692 she showed some capacity in civil affairs, and a courage little short of heroic after the appalling news of Beachy Head (1690). William gradually became aware of her devotion and her services and softened towards her in later years. When her death occurred (December 28, 1694), he was so painfully affected that it seemed he would follow her to the grave. The nation mourned with him, and Prior, in touching verse, bade him forget that “grief which hinders Europe being freed.” But the English could not continue to regard the foreign ruler in the same light as when he had been the husband of the warm-hearted English Queen. After her death his popularity, which had never been great, declined so rapidly, as not only to retard the continuance of the war, but even to endanger the throne.


1689] William's first Parliament.


The difficulties which beset William at the beginning of his reign were increased by the natural reaction after the Revolution. A resolute minority had effected a settlement substantially upon its own lines; it was certain that the more traditional and conservative forces, which had yielded to the shock of circumstance, would soon reassert their strength. William formed his first administration with the express view of lessening the effect of this recoil, by balancing between the different parties. He seems in this to have followed the counsel of the famous “Trimmer” Halifax, who himself became Privy Seal and who advised the appointment of the Whig Shrewsbury and the Tory Nottingham as Secretaries of State. In his contemporary account Burnet says, that the inclusion of Nottingham in the Ministry “first preserved the Church, and then the Crown.” As Nottingham, though only a moderate Tory, was a notorious champion of the Church, as religious questions were now specially in the foreground, all devout Churchmen hailed his appointment and that of Caermarthen (Danby), who was made President of the Council, as an earnest of the good intentions of the Calvinistic King.

The religious measures of William’s reign are dealt with elsewhere. The Toleration Act passed in 1689 secured the loyalty of the Dissenters to the existing regime, though various signs hinted at future trouble between Dissent and Establishment. At the same time the imposition of a new oath of allegiance and supremacy produced the deposition of the Archbishop of Canterbury and six other bishops, and caused the famous schism of the Non-jurors within the Established Church itself. Meanwhile, the financial settlement was producing important results by making the King more dependent on Parliament. The Commons granted the King an annual revenue of about £800,000. But the duties and customs, amounting to about four hundred thousand, which had been settled for life on James, were granted to William and Mary for only four years. The principle thus suggested, of creating conditions which enforced on the King the frequent summoning of Parliament, was further developed by the Mutiny Act. This Act, suggested by the mutiny of a regiment in William’s service, passed the conventional condemnation on standing armies unsanctioned by Parliament. It expressly declared illegal the establishment of Courts-martial and military discipline, unless annually reenacted by statute, though such powers had till now always been exercised by royal prerogative. So long as William possessed a standing army, which it was obvious he would always do his utmost to retain, an annual summoning of Parliament would be essential.

In October, 1689, the new Parliament met, legalised the acts of the Convention Parliament, and passed the Bill of Rights. The Whigs, flushed with success and intoxicated by their recent triumph, resolved to make their opponents atone for the sins of the past. Everything was thus thrown into confusion, for it was possible, by reviving the memories of the Rye House Plot, to attack members of the existing Ministry. The Lords appointed a committee, popularly known as the “Murder Committee,” to enquire who were answerable for the deaths of Russell, Sidney, and other Exclusionists. Though John Howe and John Hampden were implacable in the Commons, Shrewsbury managed to repress the most violent outbursts in the Lords, and the proceedings of the murder committee speedily collapsed. But the Whigs had another expedient for persecuting their opponents. They inserted clauses in the Corporation Bill, to render any man, who had been a party to the surrender of his town charter under Charles II, incapable of holding office in his borough for seven years. This clause, which would have resulted in a wholesale disfranchisement of Tories, was brought forward in the absence of many members. But the proposal was too violent; some of the moderate Whigs hesitated; the Tories hurried back to town.

The obnoxious clause was rejected (January, 1690), and the Tories, emboldened by their success, then tried to pass an Indemnity Bill, which provided for a general amnesty for the past. But here they met with a reverse; the moderate Whigs came back to their allegiance, and threw the Bill out in committee. The reunited Whigs were proceeding to engraft upon the original Bill a Bill of pains and penalties against various Tory offenders, when their progress was suddenly interrupted. The King, who had viewed these disputes with the utmost impatience, dissolved Parliament (February, 1690).

William was so disgusted with the violence of the previous Parliament that, in the general election which followed, he for the first time resorted to an unsparing use of political corruption. The result was the triumph of the moderate Tory party. Even before the results of the election were known, William had decided to effect changes in the Ministry. The dismissal of Halifax forms a real landmark in ministerial history (February, 1690). Henceforth the King was without his most '’conciliatory and unprejudiced advisers, and the policy of “trimming” and of compromise was gradually abandoned. The wits said that the King had exchanged the “White Marquis” (Halifax) for the “Black” (Caermarthen), thus implying that, for the moment, Tory influence predominated. On the new Parliament William pressed a measure, which was largely due to his own personal initiative, and which has justly been claimed as one of his chief titles to renown—namely, an Act of Grace (May 20, 1690), exempting only regicides and thirty others from pardon. After very little discussion the House, as if ashamed of its violence in the previous session, accepted the Bill. Past errors and criminals were thus buried in oblivion, and a fruitful cause of bitterness removed. Above all it at last became possible for real energy to be infused into the conduct of the war, and for William to take the field with a united nation at his back.


William's Irish campaign.—La Hogue.


The great campaigns of the period in which the Grand Alliance waged war in Italy and Flanders, in Ireland and Catalonia, on the Danube and the Rhine, in the Channel and in the Mediterranean, can only be noticed here in their more insular aspects. To the continental Powers the most imminent danger was from the land forces of Louis. Unlike them England had most to fear from the predominance of the sea-power of France. Throughout 1689 William seems not to have realised the immense peril threatening from Ireland, so long as the question of naval supremacy hung in the balance. The English in Ireland were confronted by a revolt of three-fourths of the population, and by the more formidable presence of veteran regiments from France. They might well be overmatched, if the French fleet could sweep the seas and blockade the coast of Ireland. Towards the end of 1689 William realised the danger; and henceforth he showed remarkable energy. In June, 1690, he sailed from England to assume command in Ireland, leaving Mary as Regent with a council of nine to assist her. In his absence the Grand Alliance fared ill alike on sea and land. On July 1 Luxembourg won a great victory over the Allied Army at Fleurus; on the previous day Admiral Tourville severely defeated the Allied Fleet off Beachy Head. Disgrace accompanied disaster, for Admiral Herbert (Lord Torrington), by allowing the main brunt of the fighting to be borne by the Dutch, somewhat unjustly incurred the censure most fatal to a sailor. The strategic consequences were not as serious as is sometimes supposed, nor was the Cross of St. George almost banished from the seas. None the less, Tourville triumphantly swept the Channel, threatened the southern coasts, and burnt Teignmouth. In this extremity the spirit of the nation rose; subscriptions poured in; crowds of volunteers rushed to arms; and London took the lead in patriotic ardour. But the hour of suspense was not long, for, on July 4, a courier rode through the City with the news that William had won a great victory in Ireland.

William had come to Ireland only just in time. On the very day that the sea-power of England was temporarily destroyed he was able triumphantly to restore its military renown. By his victory of the Boyne (July 1) William secured the fall of Drogheda and Dublin and the flight of James from Ireland. But as yet William’s power stopped at low-water-mark. Without a fleet he found it impossible to reduce Limerick, though Marlborough was able to capture Cork and Kinsale. In 1691, Russell replaced Torrington in command of the navy, and held in check the sea-power of France. The inevitable result was the fall of the hopes of Louis and James in Ireland. In July the last Irish army was routed at Aughrim, and the appearance of an English squadron in the Shannon decided the fate of Limerick, the last Irish fortress of note which held out (October 3, 1691). On May 19 (O. S.), 1692, the French fleet was utterly defeated by Admiral Russell off Cape La Hogue, under the very eyes of King James, who watched in anguish from the shore. Henceforward the command of the sea was triumphantly restored to England. After this the French could carry on a destructive privateering warfare, and the English were also repelled with great loss from attacks on the French coast at St Malo (August, 1692) and at Brest (1694). But such reverses were irritant rather than dangerous; and, the fighting fleet of France having been once swept from the seas, neither England nor Ireland could be in vital danger of invasion. Not even William’s defeat at Steinkirke (August 3,1692, O.S.) nor the fall of Namur (May) could dash the hopes of England.

Two attempts to restore James had thus failed, the first at the Boyne, the second off Cape La Hogue—a third remained to be planned. The energy and firmness which James had once displayed, alike in the shock of battle and amid civic strife, had deserted him at the end of 1688, and they never returned. In Ireland he showed a vacillation and weakness admitted by his own followers, and openly proclaimed by French generals and statesmen. The inconsistent series of proclamations issued to his rebellious subjects (1689-93) awoke dismay in his supporters and in his opponents. In 1693 (July 29) Luxembourg achieved his last triumph over William by worsting him in the bloody rout of Neerwinden (Landen). The hopes of James now stood high, for in this same year the French privateers destroyed an enormous Anglo-Dutch convoy from Smyrna. But in 1694, though an English expedition to Brest was disastrously repulsed, the English navy swept the seas, and William held his own in Flanders. In 1695 he took the offensive, and, finding the incompetent Villeroi at the head of the French army in the place of Luxembourg, was able to recapture Namur (October, 1695) in the most brilliant and successful campaign which he ever directed. During the last months of 1694 the English fleet had triumphantly wintered in the Bay of Cadiz, and had thus assured England’s command over both Mediterranean and Atlantic. Louis thus found his fleet swept from the seas, and his armies seriously weakened on the land.


James at St Germain.—Assassination Plot. [1689-96


Few historic contrasts have more pathos than that which these years presented between the luxurious splendours and the thronging crowds of courtiers which surrounded the omnipotent sovereign at Versailles, and the unreal pageantry, the fast dwindling band of exiles, which clung to the phantom King at St Germain. Like most exiles, James vastly exaggerated the strength of the party in his favour in England. His delusions were fostered by assurances from Godolphin, Marlborough, and Russell, and by correspondence with Anne, Penn, Halifax, Dartmouth, and Shrewsbury. In spite of all his flatterers, Louis had a more real grasp of the English situation than that to which James and his followers attained. He now made it clear that he would not risk sending a French force until a rising offering fair chances of success should have broken out in England. This resolution on the part of Louis determined the form of the third and last serious attempt to reestablish James. In January, 1696, the Duke of Berwick, the natural son of James, came over to England in disguise, and, failing to organise an armed insurrection, hurried back to France to avoid being party to a plot. A plan to assassinate William was at this time being devised by George Porter and a few other Jacobites in England. The plot was not unknown to James, and the exiled monarch came to Calais to await the flash of a beacon fire from Dover cliffs, which was to be the announcement of William’s death. On receiving the signal, James was to step on board a fleet of French transports, and convey an expeditionary force to England. That signal never came, for the “Assassination Plot” was detected (February 24, 1696). Porter turned King’s evidence, with the result that his own life was spared by William, though Sir John Fenwick, who knew nothing of the real nature of the plot, was executed. While he was awaiting the signal James had written pious letters to de Rancé the austere Cistercian Abbot of La Trappe, hinting that “a visible interference of the good God for His greater glory” would soon be manifested in his favour. When this did not appear, his thoughts turned elsewhere; and henceforward he edified divines by his devotion to religion, as much as he enraged statesmen by his indifference to politics. After 1696, when James refused the French offer to support his election to the Crown of Poland, Louis ceased to regard him as an independent political factor, as, indeed, he ceased to consider himself. The influence of de Rancé had transformed him into a mystical recluse, whose garments were touched by pilgrims from afar, whose miracles were attested by bishops, whose holiness was admitted by the Pope.

The progress of the War, from the shame of Beachy Head and Steinkirke to the triumphs of La Hogue and Namur, had been viewed in England with mingled feelings. After 1692, and still more after 1694, the war seemed to be carried on for aggrandisement rather than defence, for gain not for existence. England’s trade interests in the Indies or Mediterranean might indeed be secured or impaired by the progress of the war in Flanders. But many English did not measure the war either by the loss of convoys or ships to Whig merchants, or by gain in security to German Princes and Dutch burghers. The landed gentry, who formed the backbone of the Tory party, simply calculated whether the war in Flanders really gave adequate benefits to England in return for its enormous expense and frequent disasters. This exclusive consideration of insular interests, which made Parliament willing to grant large sums for the navy, but reluctant to increase the army, William could not understand. He speaks contemptuously of “the inconceivable blindness of people here,” and ascribes it to the spirit of party; yet in this matter he was really thwarted on national, not Upon partisan, grounds. But the causes of his irritation were perfectly natural. He could not but be conscious, though his gaze was fixed upon Europe rather than upon the Indies, that the War was exalting beyond measure the maritime and commercial supremacy of England. The Dutch were forced by treaty to supply a larger proportion of troops than of ships to the common cause. Hence their commerce and marine suffered. If William’s conversations with Montanus are to be believed, he had realised long before 1688 that the inclusion of England in the Alliance must advance her shipping and commerce to the detriment of that of his own people. In any case, he had realised this during the war, and was therefore exasperated on finding that, when he had sacrificed so much for the common cause, England did so little to help him. He was giving her the commercial and naval empire of the globe, and she showed her gratitude by cutting down the numbers of the army and starving his military campaigns.

Milton had discovered that war moved by two main nerves, one of iron and the other of gold; and Louis had declared in the midst of his victories that the Power with the last gold piece would win. Hence it is as much to the superiority of organisation and method in developing their economic resources, as to their superiority in naval power, that the English kingdom and the Dutch Republic owed their eventual triumph over France. That England should depend on her own food supplies in time of war, and upon a prosperous landed class in time of peace, had been accepted dogmas for some years before 1688. A series of severe prohibitory Acts, beginning in 1671, had penalised and checked the importation of foreign corn. The Bounty Act of 1689 gave large bounties on the export of corn to foreign countries, and thus increased the home output. The economic result was to produce immense immediate prosperity to English agriculture, though com was encouraged to the detriment of turnip and grass cultivation, and to the retarding of a more scientific system of agriculture. As with the economic effects, so with the political, the result was to give prosperity to what was existent without providing for the future. The new Act favoured the landed gentry at the expense of the merchant, gave an undue preference to the land­lord, who possessed capital, and discouraged the small yeoman who did not. The result was to increase and make permanent the power of the landed gentry and of real property, the confirmation of which was so distinct a mark of the Revolution settlement. The Bounty Act was the economic counterpart of the philosophy of Locke and Harrington. It was by the operation of this Act that the landowners were enabled to hold at bay for so long the rising forces of wealth and commerce. The earlier economic laws of the reign gave security to the landed class, just as the later gave security to the commercial; and these facts, though marking the transition of political power from Tory to Whig, show that the Revolution settlement was likewise national in character and aim.

The general commercial policy of England is perhaps the only department of public life in which the Revolution made no striking or even apparent innovation. Though immense developments of her commerce and shipping took place within the period, England’s trade really increased by means of the sword or diplomacy, and not in the main through any specifically new commercial provisions. For the main lines of mercantilist policy were already laid in the Poor Laws, the Corn Laws, and the Navigation Laws. A broad system of national policy thus existed, which was amended in detail but not disturbed in principle. In 1696 a reorganisation of the committee of the Privy Council dealing with commerce and colonies was necessitated by the persistent criticisms of Parliament. The Board of Trade was constituted with a permanent staff as well as privy councillors, in order to prevent further encroachments of Parliament upon the executive. By these means some order was reintroduced into departments which had been carefully organised by James, and much neglected by William. The chief effect of the new Board, of which Locke was an active member, was the adoption of an exclusive mercantilist policy, which gradually ruined the nascent linen and cloth industries of Ireland, in order to protect the drapers and clothiers of England.

The debts of the Protectorate and the extravagances of the Restoration monarchy had been immense; but the outbreak of the continental war speedily entailed expenditure on a scale unknown to Cromwell or to Charles. The extravagant Charles had maintained an army of less than nine thousand men; for the frugal and thrifty James an annual income of less than fifteen thousand pounds had usually sufficed. Englishmen recalled these days with regret when the Dutch deliverer showed them the cost of freedom by demanding an army of over eighty thousand men and an income of nearly six millions (1693). The first real measures to grapple with the problems of expenditure and revenue were taken in 1692, and the impulse came in the main from the Whig party and their famous financier Montagu. The method of raising subsidies which had prevailed in the first half of the century was now hopelessly obsolete. Under the Commonwealth and the Restoration a new plan had been tried. The sum to be raised was fixed, and then distributed according to assessments based on the reputed wealth of each county. In 1692 a newer and more exact valuation of landed estates was made, and it was decided to fix a rate on the values of the rentals which should vary as necessity demanded. The only serious draw­back was that the new valuation was in many respects inaccurate, and fell with undue severity on the Eastern Counties. Still, the new tax was the most productive yet imposed, and when, as in 1693, the rate of 4s. in the pound was imposed, about two millions annually flowed into the Exchequer.


The National Debt. Projects for a National Bank. [1640-93


Nothing is more obvious to a modern observer than that there must occur crises in the history of every nation, when it can no longer settle all its obligations at the end of each year. Such a crisis had already occurred in the history of France and of Holland, both of which had large debts. It had, in fact, also occurred in England, when Charles II refused to repay to the goldsmiths the sum of £1,300,000 which he had borrowed from them (January, 1672). In 1692 the creditors had received no interest for ten years, and they seemed to have no prospect of repayment of capital. With this unhappy example before him, the average Englishman might well consider the contraction of a debt by Government, which extended beyond the end of the year, to be suggested by the discreditable shifts of a royal spendthrift or the mischievous innovations of a foreigner. All this was very different in Holland, where Sir William Temple had long ago pointed out the advantages of a national debt as a sound investment for private individuals. On every side and in every enterprise stock-jobbing drew on or deluded the individual investor. Watered stock and bogus companies, over-capitalisation and falsification of accounts—none of the expedients or disasters of modem speculation were wanting. The scale was indeed small, but the modern financial world already existed in miniature. Montagu had resolved to divert to the national Exchequer some of that wealth which private enterprise was hiding in cupboards or dissipating in companies. He Could not but perceive the double advantage of providing individuals with good investments on national security and the State with easily-raised loans. Two things were wanting—a national debt and a national bank, the chief agents which impart steadiness and balance to modern finance; and both Montagu was now to provide. The proposal of a Government loan for nine hundred thousand pounds was carried through Parliament (1693). The loan was based on the ordinary principles upon which national debts were then founded. It pledged the existing credit of the State, and it also levied a tax upon posterity; for it was certain that the annuities established by it could not be extinguished for at least half a century. The principles so clearly established were certain to receive a speedy extension.

At the end of 1693, Montagu, face to face with another serious deficit, was ready with a host of expedients, in the shape of a poll-tax, stamp duties, and lottery loans. But, despite all this ingenuity, another million was needed, and supplied by the expedient of a national bank. The idea of a national bank was far less familiar to Englishmen than that of a system of a national credit. Before this time merchants had usually kept their surplus cash in their own houses, buried it like Pepys in their gardens, or deposited it in the Tower or Corporation Treasury. But, from 1640 onwards, the uncertainties of war and distrust of the Government constrained them to place their money in the strong­rooms of the goldsmiths. From these causes the system of banking and exchange received an unprecedented development, and under Charles II private banks became numerous and flourishing. The most famous of early private bankers was Sir Francis Child, who numbered among his customers Cromwell and the Prince of Orange, Churchill and Nell Gwyn. After England had secured her own private banks, she began to examine the national banks of other countries. Those of Venice and Genoa had long been famous; the Bank of Amsterdam was now the most renowned financial institution in the world, and Englishmen were never slow to borrow the methods and the practice of Dutch finance.

Business men generally began to realise that the lowering of interest, the circulation of a paper currency, and the general steadiness of the financial world would all be secured by the establishment of a national bank. The scheme appears to have been first suggested in a reasonable form by Francis Cradock in 1660; and henceforward innumerable pamphlets on the subject were issued, varying in merit from the masterly expositions of Petty to the ridiculous fallacies of Chamberlain and Murray. The commercial necessity for such an institution had been obvious even in the time of the Restoration; the political necessity for it became overwhelming after the Revolution. The goldsmiths, who acted as private bankers, speedily found that the more business they did with the Government the less they did with the public. A contemporary authority tells us that, when King William sought even a small loan from the City of London, Ministers of State went from shop to shop and office to office soliciting it. Even these trivial loans were furnished rather from motives of honour and patriotism than from hope of gain. It was at this moment that William Paterson, a traveller of vast financial experience, genius, and resource, submitted to the Government a pamphlet containing a practical plan for a national bank (1691). The Government was favourable, but Parliament was adverse, and for three years the subject dropped. But in 1694 Montagu planned to raise his loan of £1,200,000 by establishing a bank, and found himself strongly supported by the City. Montagu’s plan, which was an adaptation of Paterson’s, was to raise the loan, with its interest of 8 per cent, secured by a new duty on tonnage. Those who took up the loan were to form a company, with the title of “Governor and Company of the Bank of England.” They were permitted to borrow money at 4 per cent., while lending to the Government at 8. They were allowed to transact private business, but restricted from trading in anything but bills of exchange, bullion, and forfeited pledges. Paterson, in a new pamphlet (1694), demonstrated that the Bank’s action must have beneficial effects, and lower the rate of interest just as the Banks of Amsterdam and Genoa had done. The consequence must be to attract money and trade from abroad, and thus to benefit all borrowers, merchants, and ultimately also landed proprietors.

The comparative ease with which the Bill passed the two Houses, and the extraordinary readiness with which it was subscribed in the City, appear very surprising in face of the enormous clamour raised outside the walls of Parliament. The objections put forward throw a ray of powerful light upon the economic knowledge and political condition of the age. The economic arguments against it were that the establishment of the Bank would render it hard to borrow money upon mortgage, and thereby diminish the value of land. In addition, the free circulation of money would be impeded, and local centres be denuded of cash. The political arguments against the Bill partook more of prejudice than of weight, except in one instance. The reasonable objection that the Bank might endanger public liberty by its relations with the Crown, was removed by the insertion of a clause preventing the Bank from advancing loans to the Crown save by Act of Parliament. The other political arguments, brought forward as they were by men of both parties, had an agreeable variety. The Whig section argued that the Bank would introduce absolutism, the Tory that it would introduce republicanism. The Tory party saw a more special danger to the landed interest, and declared with some plausibility that a private company of Whig merchants were thus endowed with power in perpetuity. The whole question seems to have been decided less on the merits of the new institution, than from motives of expediency and patriotism. As Caermarthen pointed out in the Lords, there might be objectionable clauses in the Bill, but it was the only means of providing money for the navy to take the sea that summer. This practical argument sufficed, where all others might have failed.

Like so many other measures of the time, the Bill for establishing the Bank, though it bore the Whig stamp, was still the outcome of compromise and was directed to a genuinely national end. It is less clear, than in the case of his other financial measures, how far Montagu understood the real value of his creation— whether he was making shift with an expedient designed to be temporary, or whether he intended his creation to rival the great banks of the Continent, or realised that it might become the greatest of financial institutions. On the whole, it would seem that the Bank in its origin was carefully adjusted to the needs of the time, with due regard to the spirit of individual enterprise and with care to avoid too much dependence on the State. It differed fundamentally from all banks except those of Genoa and Stockholm. Other banks were primarily established as offices of exchange, as places where good coin could he obtained, or as banks of deposit—that is, safes from which in theory at least the original coins could be recovered. But the Bank of England boldly circulated notes, without pretending that its paper currency corresponded exactly to the amount of its bullion. Again, its notes were not legal tender in England, as were the notes of the national banks of Amsterdam, Genoa and Venice. Thirdly, it had in no sense an exclusive monopoly; for the Government reserved the right of discharging the loan and dissolving the organisation in 1705, and raised up a formidable rival to it in 1696. The new Bank was eminently original, and in its originality lay no small part of its danger, for it had many of the burdens and singularly few of the advantages of a connection with the State.

The dangers which so speedily menaced the Bank were partially caused by the inexperience of its promoters, but even more hy the malice of its opponents. The goldsmiths bought up the notes which the Bank issued for circulation and waited their time to inflict a blow on an institution whose success they believed would seriously injure their own private banks. The operation of the Recoinage Act supplied the opportunity in two years. This measure had long been rendered necessary because the clipped or damaged coins of James I or Elizabeth had been treated as of equal value with the good milled coins of Charles II and James II. To the amazement of contemporaries, increased issues of milled crowns did not increase the circulation of good currency. Gresham’s law, that bad money drives out good, was illustrated on a gigantic scale, and bad money circulated, while most of the good coins were melted down, exported, and sold as bullion. Both in town and country the face value of the coins rose on the average to about twice their peal value as metal.

Stringent Acts to prevent exportation and melting proved ineffective, and a drastic recoinage became essential. Singularly enough the remedy eventually adopted was framed by the united counsels of the greatest lawyer, the greatest financier, the greatest political, and the greatest natural philosopher of the age, namely, Somers, Montagu, Locke, and Newton.

The main principles of the settlement were laid down by Locke in his famous currency pamphlets. His views, that the new coinage should follow the established standard in weight and denomination, and that the loss incurred by recoinage should be borne by the State, were accepted by the Ministry. The actual form of the Bill was suggested by Somers and carried by Montagu, whilst the practical measures of recoinage were taken by Sir Isaac Newton as Master of the Mint. By the Recoinage Act (January, 1696), it was provided that the old clipped coins should cease to be legal tender on May 4s, though full equivalents of their face value in the new milled coins were to be issued as fast as possible. The withdrawal from circulation of such large amounts of coin made itself sensibly felt, and it was this very moment of distress that the goldsmiths selected to deliver their long-planned stroke against the Bank.

On May 4 the goldsmiths organised a run on the Bank, at the moment when the Treasury had swallowed all available coin. Ruin and bankruptcy seemed imminent. The Directors refused to cash such notes as they held to have been presented with malicious intent, bidding the goldsmiths seek their remedy at law. But a run on the Bank had begun, and they could not refuse to honour notes presented by ordinary creditors. Yet even here they were able to pay only a percentage. The recoinage went on slowly; the scarcity of coin showed no relaxation for three months, and very little for twelve. In January, 1697, William could still tell Heinsius that he had no money to secure the ratification of the treaty with Denmark and no subsidies to pay his troops—nay, could not even despatch a certain diplomatic agent, being actually unable to defray his travelling expenses. If such were the straits of princes, it may be imagined what were those of the Bank Directors or of still humbler persons. It was only after March, 1697, that the crisis had definitely passed, either for the Bank or the country. The difficulties had been enormous and the sufferings great, while the actual expenses of recoinage involved the Exchequer in a loss of little under three millions. Money and suffering would both have been saved, had the remedy been adopted some years earlier. As it was, it came but just in time. Had it been deferred a year longer, the consequence might have been more serious than the loss of a pitched battle by land or sea. But the settlement was successful, and the most subtle and one of the most serious causes of commercial crises and fluctuation was removed by the establishment of a sound currency system.

Before they had recovered from the attack of the goldsmiths, the Bank Directors had to meet an assault from the landed gentry, thus experiencing at once the united force of the economic and the political opposition to their original establishment. A coalition of Whig and Tory landed gentry, with the support of King William, carried a badly-devised project for the establishment of a Land Bank in spite of Montagu’s opposition (May, 1696). Subscriptions opened in June, and owing to the almost total failure to attract subscribers, the project was entirely abandoned on August 1. But it was one of the ironies of the situation that the Bank of England, which had been so much damaged by the creation of the Land Bank, was even more endangered by its destruction. Hardly were their rivals crushed than Montagu applied to the Directors of the Bank of England for an immediate loan, which the Land Bank had promised but, in consequence of its failure, had not supplied. Montagu pleaded William’s direct statement that nothing short of £200,000 in cash could enable his army to take the field. On August 15 the Directors made a further call of 20 per cent., which the General Court of subscribers accepted from patriotic rather than financial motives. In ten days the bullion was pouring into the King’s coffers, the Allies presented an imposing front in the field, and a decision of the money-market had, not for the last time, exercised a momentous effect upon a military campaign.

Montagu wrote to William, telling him that, as the Bank had risked all for the Government, Government must now risk something for the Bank. William assented, not perhaps perceiving that he entrenched the Whig party in the citadel of the State, by settling the Bank on a firm basis. In view of the scandalous treatment meted out to the Bank by the Government in 1696, the privileges granted in 1697, though immense, were hardly excessive. The Bank was to be guaranteed its position till 1710, when the Government received the right of discharging its obligations. It was allowed authority to issue notes, on condition that they should be payable on demand. Last, and perhaps most important, a monopoly was granted; no society of the nature of a bank was to be authorised by Parliament till 1710. The neglect to establish branch institutions and secure the organisation of local credit was to entail much future distress in the country. To this and other faulty provisions it was due that, during the first century of existence of the Bank, it had to undergo crises more serious than its predecessors at Genoa, Venice or Amsterdam had encountered in the same number of years.

Even now the Bank of England remained only a joint-stock company, pursuing the ends of individual enterprise, under the control and with the encouragement of the State. Though Montagu eventually provided that the Bank should become a national institution, he immediately secured that it should be a partisan one. The failure of the Land Bank had meant the rout of Jacobites and Tories, and the Whig merchants, who had risked their fortunes in the Bank of England, had fought for William as energetically and more successfully than his soldiers in the field. For the moment a Whig policy was imposed on a willing nation. The Bank plumped its weight on the side of Revolution and against the Church, and the bags of Whig money-lenders outweighed the sermons of Jacobite clergymen. Addison’s famous allegory pictures the Stewart rushing into the Grocers’ Hall, turning money-bags into bladders and gold coin into rubbish, and sending the goddess Credit off in a fainting fit. Whether or not James II would really have repudiated the State obligations contracted after 1688, is doubtful. But the belief that he would was a wide-spread and deep-rooted superstition, which contributed immensely to the stability of the new order of things and to the supremacy of the Whig party.


1676-95] The Press.


Before turning to the development of party government, we may deal with the great measure which established the freedom of the Press. For both these changes had eventually international effects, far wider than are usually caused by events of such an apparently domestic character. It is impossible to view any part of the reign of William without perceiving to how great an extent public opinion criticised and influenced political action. Even James himself had showed deference to that supreme tribunal, before it passed its irrevocable sentence upon him. The criticisms of minorities in Parliament had frequently revealed cases of grave injustice, and had prevented the perpetration of scandalous political jobs and maladministration alike under Charles, James and William. But a force stronger than the voices of the Opposition in Parliament was required to extend and to secure the power of public opinion, and that force could only be found in a free press. In the Areopagitica Milton had nobly pleaded that cause; but the great soldier of the Commonwealth had exercised the most rigorous press-censorship ever known. Under Charles and James the Licensing Acts had been renewed; and in 1676 Sunderland had expressed his desire to suppress the “damnable trade” of supplying news-letters to the coffee-houses.

During the turmoil of the Revolution shoals of pamphlets had been unchecked by licensing or censorship. The pamphlets of Burnet, Locke, Somers, Chamberlain, and Paterson most powerfully influenced and moulded religious, political, and economic opinion. Owing to a series of accidents, needless to relate and unimportant in themselves, it was eventually decided (1695) not to renew the Licensing Act. Henceforth, the number of printing presses was not limited and vexatious restrictions were removed. Ministers still reserved the right of prosecuting printers for attacks on the Government, and under Anne, both Godolphin and Bolingbroke showed that serious restrictions could be imposed on the press through this means and by the expedient of a paper-tax. But, apart from these restrictions, the liberty of the Press—with its subtle influences of suggestion, its broad powers of criticism, abuse and exhortation, with all its immeasurable consequences for securing the toleration and freedom of opinion—was at last acknowledged and established.

To understand the political movements of the time, it is needful to grasp the form of the executive Government, as it then existed. The King could check the Lords by a threat of creating peers, and the Commons by the use of his veto and the power of dissolution. In these cases his power was immediate. But in administration also he had a wide and direct influence apart from his Ministers. King James had, with general applause, personally directed the naval administration and written his own speeches for Parliament and Privy Council. The relations of the King and his Council are equally significant. It is certain that before the reign of William, the power of the Privy Council had passed into the hands of a number of committees, which the King directly controlled. Some of these committees were permanent or “standing,” as for Ireland and for trade; others secret, as for foreign affairs and foreign and domestic intelligence; others appointed ad hoc for various special purposes, diplomatic, commercial or judicial. All these bodies were indifferently described as “cabinets,” though the term was more usually applied to the foreign committee and to that for intelligence. These committees dealt with matters in detail, decided upon them, and acquainted the King with their decisions, which, if approved by the King, were presented to the Privy Council. Discussions sometimes took place at that Council; but its consent was not very much more than a formality. The power and authority of the King were really supreme. He alone constituted and selected the committees, and could dismiss recalcitrant committee members or privy councillors with a stroke of his pen. Further, he alone gave authority and legality to the committees. During William’s reign those Ministers, who were members of the most committees and who held the dozen most important offices of State, gradually began to form a kind of general committee. This body is sometimes termed the Cabinet, and to it William often deferred. But he could always set aside its decisions as he did those of other committees, and its authority depended wholly upon his will. This is shown by the admitted fact that the King could take a step of his own in foreign polity on the advice of a single Minister. It is also evident that he could on his own authority, as in 1690 and 1692, constitute a Council or Cabinet, whose numbers varied at his pleasure, as the supreme authority in his absence. The King’s position, therefore, was that he transacted business with a number of different committees, in which he formed the centre of power and union. He had the main direction of foreign affairs, and immense opportunities for influence and control in other directions. He was really his own chief Minister; but, from inexperience in domestic affairs and preoccupation in foreign, William could not attend to administrative details or gauge the shifting currents of popular opinion. It is very evident that, under such conditions, a system of party government, based on a united Ministry, could not easily arise. For the King was the pivot on which everything turned; and till the end of 1692 he refused either to be the instrument of a single party, or to devolve his power upon a single man or group of men.

In his relations with Parliament, William, his Ministers, and the House of Commons, were alike dominated by a most mischievous theory, to which the great authority of Locke had recently lent renewed life. This was the theory that legislature and executive were and ought to remain separate, that the King’s Ministers were the executive, the two Houses the critical body. There was no doubt a sense in which this was true, in that Parliament and the Ministry ought to some extent to be independent of each other. But it was madness to assert this theory in its full completeness just after the Revolution had placed new and great powers in the hands of the Commons. In the event of an absolute exclusion of Crown officials from the Lower House, one of two results must have followed. Either the King would have drawn his Ministers exclusively from the peers—in which case administration would have been entirely in the hands of the aristocracy; or he would have trained a staff of clerks—in which case administration would have been in the hands of a bureaucracy. In either case the Commons would have been a body which could check, criticise and harass, but not actively direct the Government. The strength of the popular House must therefore have been weakened and endangered.

The insight of men of William’s day did not pierce into the future; it was governed by remembrance of the past. Men were oppressed with the fear of the Crown and of the undue influence exercised by Charles and James upon members of Parliament, upon corporations, and electors. This was the real cause of the vigour of Locke’s theory and the real origin of the Place-Bills, of which the earliest was brought before the Commons at Christmas, 1692. It actually provided for the entire and absolute exclusion from the Commons of all holding office under the Crown. When it was known that existing place-holders would not be disturbed till the dissolution of the existing Parliament, the Bill passed the Commons with marvellous rapidity. It was thrown out by the narrowest majorities in the Lords. After various adventures the Place-Bill was finally rejected in the Commons in 1694. Thus was averted for the time being the danger of an absolute separation between executive and legislature, while the regular session of the latter was assured by the passing of a Bill providing for Triennial Parliaments (1694).


The Whig “Junto”. [1692-9


The extraordinary conduct of Parliament was largely due to imperfect harmony not only between King, Ministers, and legislature, but between party-leaders and their followers. This the Whigs were the first to realise, in a dim, imperfect fashion, through the agency of the discredited Sunderland. That ex-Minister’s career had been such as to disgrace him even in that age of loose political conscience and easy public virtue. But his past did not prevent him from giving, not only the Whigs, but William himself, some valuable lessons in the art of government. In 1693 Sunderland counselled William to favour the Whigs and admit them to office, first because their political theory favoured the Revolution, next because they favoured the war, and last because they were the stronger party in the Lower House. The fact that the majority of the Commons, which in 1690 was certainly Tory, was in 1693 uncertain or inclining to be Whig, marks the lack of cohesion and the presence of chaos in the parties. This indeed is the explanation of the extraordinary vicissitudes that befell the various Place and Triennial Bills. After 1692 the Tories were gradually beginning to oppose the war, and the immense power of Crown influence over parliamentary placemen was naturally thrown against them. In addition to this a small knot or junto of statesmen was gradually imparting to the Whigs an organisation and discipline, such as Shaftesbury had given to the Exclusionists. Somers, already the first among the lawyers, Montagu, destined to prove the first of the financiers, Wharton, the first of the wire-pullers, and Russell, the naval hero of the day, formed the famous Whig Junto, soon to be the ruling force in politics. It is certain that William did not appreciate the full import of Sunderland’s advice; but he gradually and almost unconsciously began to act upon it. Somers had been made a peer and Lord Keeper so early as March, 1693; the Tory Nottingham was courteously dismissed; the Whig Shrewsbury resumed the seals of Secretary. The situation then became curious; for William’s chief confidence was not yet given to the Whigs, though they formed the bulk of his Ministry. He still relied in the main upon the Tory Caermarthen and upon Sunderland, who was not a Minister at all.

In 1695 Caermarthen was implicated in the scandals of the East India Company, and was obliged to resign. His withdrawal was followed in 1697 by that of Godolphin, the last of the Tory Ministers. The Ministry became exclusively Whig, just at the moment when the Peace of Ryswyk was carried to a successful conclusion amid general rejoicings. With peace the old hatred of standing armies reasserted itself, and the forces were immediately cut down to 10,000 men in the face of William’s intense disapproval. It was in vain that Somers wrote the famous “Balancing Letter,” to calm the national hatred of militarism. The feeling may not have been justified, yet it was at least not partisan, but genuinely national. For, though, the majority of the Commons was Whig, it united with the Tories against its own leaders; and in 1699 a hostile House forced William to dismiss his famous “Blues,” his dearly-loved regiments of Dutch Guards. In 1699 Parliament severely attacked the grants of Irish lands, made by the King to his Dutch favourites and to Lady Orkney, and in the next year actually passed a Bill for their resumption. William in despair at length summoned the Tories Rochester and Godolphin to the Ministry. They succeeded in checking the attacks on the King, by giving a free rein to attacks upon the former Ministers; Bentinck (now Earl of Portland), Russell (now Lord Orford), Montagu (now Earl of Halifax), and Somers, were all impeached. But it was not for nothing that William had filled the Upper House with Whig Bishops and peers. The impeachments eventually failed; but their effect had been to remove from office and to discredit the intended victims.


1699-1701] The Act of Settlement.—Death of James II.


In the midst of all the turmoil and party intrigue of 1701, the Ministry contrived to add the keystone to the arch of the Revolution by passing the Act of Settlement. This famous Act had been necessitated by the death of the Duke of Gloucester—the only surviving son of Anne. The Act supplied two important omissions in the Bill of Rights. In the first place judges were to receive fixed salaries, and to be removable only after being convicted in the law-courts or on address from both Houses of Parliament. In other words the judge, though appointed, could not be removed, by the King. A long step was thus taken towards that separation of the powers, which Locke declared essential to liberty, and which Montesquieu was actually to regard as the characteristic excellence of the English constitution. The other important provision of the Act of Settlement decided that the Crown should pass on the death of Anne to the Electress Sophia and her Protestant descendants. It is often said that this provision established the elective character of the English Crown. This was not the opinion of contemporaries, nor was it that of Burke. Mary and William had been acknowledged Queen and King, because the Prince of Wales was already excluded by the resolution that no Papist could reign, and the Act of Settlement merely confirmed this principle. Expediency had rendered it needful to alter the succession, and to make the Crown elective pro hoc vice, but the case was not intended to form a precedent. In this, as in every other instance, the Revolution settlement rested upon compromise rather than upon the general principles, which, however, the particular action went far towards establishing in each case.

The Act of Settlement had not been passed before the international situation began to dwarf the importance of internal events. The accession of Louis’ grandson, Philip, to the whole inheritance of Spain destroyed the balance of power and endangered the existence of Holland. England, secure on the other side of the Channel, remained unmoved, and William wrote to Heinsius that he would secretly engage her in the coming war. But he did not find it easy to attain this object. At length the pride of Louis and the Whig merchants’ evident apprehension of being entirely excluded from the commerce of the New World, began to stir the pulse of the nation. This resentment was inflamed to the highest pitch by Louis’ action on the death of James (September 6, 1701), in recognising his son as James III of England. In a moment, the country was wild with rage, and William, riding on the wave of popular anger, was able to include England in his “Great Alliance.”

But just when a new and vaster struggle than he had yet waged was opening—at the moment of all others when he wished to live—it was ordained that he should die. He had fractured his collar-bone, and a chill, which followed on the accident, was too much for his enfeebled frame. He died at Kensington on March 8, 1702.

On a survey of the whole period of the Revolution and reign, the imagination is struck by the comparatively small part played by William upon the English stage, and the immense figure which he made upon the European. By a tragic irony, he spent his life in opposing in England the very tendencies which he was promoting abroad. On the Continent William stood for the principle that the too great predominance of one Power, being dangerous to all the others, must be checked by their union. Yet it was right that there should be a balance of power in the Constitution as well as in diplomacy, in England as well as in Europe. By apportioning the balance of power between King and Parliament, by separating the judicial from the executive powers, the Act of Settlement did much to further the theory of checks and balances. According to this theory no power is absolute and uncontrolled in the State, and where there are limitations on power the rights of minorities are secured. The checks upon uncontrolled executive power imposed by the existence of a quasi-independent legislature and judicature were strengthened by the growth of party government, the development of political, and the beginning of religious, toleration, and the establishment of a free press. Such theoretical views and such practical checks had not been unknown in Holland even before their adoption in England. But, speaking generally, nothing was more opposed to contemporary political thought than Locke’s view that different powers in the State should move in independent spheres, and that none should be uncontrolled or supreme. Nothing has therefore exercised more influence upon the future than this view, and its effect is revealed in the framing of the constitution of the United States, and in any other constitution which has taken the English polity for its model.

In England William was too anxious to retain the great privileges of the Crown, unable to see that, by this policy, he invited all other powers in the State in resistance to the predominance of one—the Executive. Hence he sometimes had to face in England a coalition of both parties or even of Parliament and people. Judgment or his fortune always enabled him to avert a crisis which would, have been disastrous, but many of the great reforms of the age were undertaken in his despite or without his decided approval. In the constitutional and legislative problems, whose settlement so profoundly affected the destiny of political institutions, William exercised an influence which was actually small and not always beneficial. The immense development of the national power and resources, the foundation of what were to be the most renowned system of national credit and the most famous financial institution in the world—all these he viewed with indifference or even hostility. In commercial and colonial policy he had no active interest, though he was careful to secure England’s rights in the diplomatic treaties of the time. On the other hand, it is only fair to say that in urging forward the need of political amnesty in the Act of Grace, and the cause of religious liberty in the Toleration Act, he was at once more enlightened and more disinterested than any Englishman of the time. James or Halifax desired religious liberty, Nottingham and Somers political toleration, perhaps more earnestly than William. But no single Englishman so sincerely desired and so simultaneously and consistently forwarded both causes.

The constitutional principles introduced by the Revolution can hardly be said to be new, and the curiously concrete method of their application only rendered probable, and did not finally determine, their development and triumph. The Bill of Rights expressed the idea that resistance to tyranny was justifiable, and the Act of Settlement did much to forward the imperfectly apprehended view that government finally rested on consent of the majority, and that the gift of the crown lay ultimately with the people. Thus were foreshadowed for a particular end the principles, which eventually became general and absolute, which enabled Jefferson to overthrow the sway of England’s constitutional Parliament over America, and Rousseau to assail the rule of absolute kings in Europe.

While veneration is paid to Locke, to Halifax, and to Somers, for devising the theory and creating the practice of a constitution which has been the model to so many others in the world, something must be allowed to the great man who defended it from external assault, and who accomplished as great a work for the good of Europe as any of these achieved for the institutions of England. William did for the continental polity what Locke and Halifax did for the English. He asserted and maintained, in the name of the allied States of Europe, the right of confining within due bounds the aggressive and predomi­nating spirit of one nation or element which endangered the liberty of all others. It is possible to suppose that, if Locke and Halifax had never lived, England might have still preserved her freedom; but it is impossible to hold that, if William had never lived, the States of western Europe might not have lost theirs. And, in securing the one object, William really secured the other, for by arresting the progress of despotic France he assured the triumph of constitutional England. It was in this final sense that the interests of England and of Europe, the policies of Halifax and of William, were inseparable. And though Englishmen persist in regarding William as a ruler often unsympathetic or indifferent to their special interests, Europe cannot fail to see in him one who laboriously and triumphantly toiled, amid infinite difficulties, for the general interests of a continent.