Page images
PDF
EPUB

He was

fairest opportunity that ever occurred, to retrench those prerogatives of the crown to which they imputed all the late and former calamities of the kingdom. Their new monarch retained the old regal power over parliaments in its full extent. He was left at liberty to convoke, adjourn, prorogue, and dissolve them at his pleasure. enabled to influence elections, and oppress corporations. He possessed the right of choosing his own council; of nominating all the great officers of the state, and of the household, of the army, the navy, and the church." He reserved the absolute command of the militia: so that he reinained master of all the instruments and engines of corruption and violence, without any other restraint than his own moderation, and prudent regard to the claim of rights, and principle of resistance, on which the revolution was founded. In a word, the settlement was finished with some precipitation, before the plan had been properly digested and matured ; and this will be the case in every establishment formed upon a sudden emergency in the face of opposition. It was observed, that the king, who was made by the people, had it in his power to rule without them; to govern jure divino, though he was created jure humano; and that, though the change proceeded from a republican spirit, the settlement was built upon tory maxims; for the execution of his government continued still independent of his commission, while his own person remained sacred and inviolable. The prince of Orange had been invited to England by a coalition of parties, united by a common sense of danger: but this tie was no sooner broken than they flew asunder, and each resumed its original bias. Their mutual jealousy and rancour revived, and was heated by dispute into intemperate zeal and enthusiasm. Those who at first acted from principles of patriotism were insensibly warmed into partisans ; and king William soon found himself at the head of a faction. As he had been bred a calvinist, and always expressed an abhorrence of spiritual persecution, the presbyterians, and other protestant dissenters, considered him as their peculiar protector, and entered into his interests with the most zealous fervour and assiduity. For the same reasons, the friends of the church became jealous of his proceed.

ings, and employed all their influence, first in opposing his elevation to the throne, and afterwards in thwarting his measures. Their party was espoused by all the friends of the lineal succession ; by the Roman catholics; by those who were personally attached to the late king; and by such as were disgusted by the conduct and personal deportment of William since his arrival in England. They observed, that, contrary to his declaration, he had plainly aspired to the crown; and treated his father-inlaw with insolence and rigour: That his army contained a number of foreign papists, almost equal to that of the English Roman catholics whom James had employed : That the reports so industriously circulated about the birth of the prince of Wales, the treaty with France for enslaving England, and the murder of the earl of Essex, reports countenanced by the prince of Orange, now appeared to be without foundation: That the Dutch troops remained in London, while the English forces were distributed in remote quarters: That the prince declared the first should be kept about his person, and the latter sent to Ireland : That the two houses, out of complaisance to William, had denied their late sovereign the justice of being heard in his own defence; and, that the Dutch had lately interfered with the trade of London, which was already sensibly diminished. These were the sources of discontent, swelled up by the resentment of some noblemen, and other individuals, disappointed in their hopes of profit and preferment.

$ II. William began his reign with a proclamation," for confirming all protestants in the offices which they enjoyed on the first day of December: then he chose the members of his council, who were generally staunch to his interest, except the archbishop of Canterbury and the earl of Nottingham', and these were admitted in complaisance to the church party, which it was not thought advisable to provoke. Nottingham and Shrewsbury were appointed secretaries of state : the privy seal was bestowed upon the marquis of Halifax : the earl of Danby was created president of the council. These two noblemen enjoyed a good share of the king's confidence, and Nottingham was considerable, as head of the church party : but the chief favourite was Bentinck, first commoner on the list of privy counsellors, as well as groom of the stole and privy purse. D'Auverquerque was made master of the horse, Zuylestein of the robes, and Schomberg of the ordnance: the treasury, admiralty, and chancery were put in commission; twelve able judges were chosen ;' and the diocese of Salisbury being vacated by the death of Dr. Ward, the king, of his own free motion, filled it with Burnet, who had been a zealous stickler for his interest; and, in a particular manner, instrumental in effecting the revolution. Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, refused to consecrate this ecclesiastic, though the reasons of his refusal are not specified; but, being afraid of incurring the penalties of a premunire, he granted a commission to the bishop of London, and three other suffragans, to perform that ceremony. Burnet was a prelate of some parts, and great industry; moderate in his notions of church discipline, inquisitive, meddling, vain, and credulous. In consequence of having incurred the displeasure of the late king, he had retired to the continent, and fixed his residence in Holland, where he was naturalized, and attached himself to the interest of the prince of Orange, who consulted him about the affairs of England. He assisted in drawing up the prince's manifesto, and wrote some other papers and pamphlets in defence of his design. He was demanded of the States, by the English ambassador, as a British fugitive, outlawed by king James, and excepted in the act of indemnity: nevertheless, he came over with William, in quality of his chaplain ; and, by his intrigues, contributed in some measure to the success of that expedition. The principal individuals that composed this ministry have been characterized in the history of the preceding reigns. We have had occasion to mention the fine talents, the vivacity, the flexibility of Halifax; the plausibility, the enterprising genius, the obstinacy of Danby; the pompous eloquence, the warmth, and ostentation of Nottingham; the probity and popularity of Shrewsbury. Godolphin, now brought into the treasury, was modest, silent, sagacious, and upright, Mordaunt, appointed first commissioner of that board, and afterwards created earl of Monmouth, was open, generous, and a republican in his principles. Delamere, chancellor of the exchequer, promoted in the sequel to the rank of earl of Warrington, was close and mercenary. Obsequiousness, fidelity, and attachment to his master, composed the character of Benținck, whom the king raised to the dignity of earl of Portland. The English favourite, Sidney, was a man of wit and pleasure, possesed of the most engaging talents for conversation and private friendship, but rendered unfit for public business by indolence and inattention. He was ennobled, and afterwards created earl of Romney; a title which he enjoyed with several successive posts of profit and importance.

a Somers's Collection. Reresby. Burnet. b The council consisted of the prince of Denmark, the archbishop of Canterbury, the duke of Norfolk, the marquises of Halifax and Winchester, the earls of Danhy, Lindsey, Devonshire, Dorset, Middlesex, Oxford, Shrewshury, Bedford, Bath, Macciesfield, and Nottingham; the viscounts Fauconberg, Mordaunt, Newport Lumley; the lords Wharton, Montagu, Delamere, Churchill; Mr. Bentinck, Mr. Sidney, sir Robert Howard, sir Henry Capcl, Mr. Powie. Mr. Russel, Mr. Hanibden, and Mr. Boscawen.

c Sir John Holt was appointed lord chief justice of the king's bench, and sir Henry Pollexfen of the common pleas; the earl of Devonshire was made lord steward of the household, and the earl of Dorset lord chamberlain. --Ralph.

The stream of honour and preferment ran strong in favour of the whigs, and this appearance of partiality confirmed the suspicion and resentment of the opposite party.

S III. The first resolution taken in the new council was to convert the convention into a parliament, that the new 'settlement might be strengthened by a legal sanction, which was now supposed to be wanting, as the assembly had not been convoked by the king's writ of summons. The experiment of a new election was deemed too hazardous; therefore, the council determined that the king should, by virtue of his own authority, change the convention into a parliament, by going to the house of peers with the usual state of a sovereign, and pronouncing a speech from the throne to both houses. This expedient was accordingly practised."

He assured them he should never take any

d This expedient was attended with an unsurmountable absurdity. If the majority of the convention could not grant a legal sanction to the establishment they had made, they could never invest the prince of Orange with a just right to ascend the throne ; for they could not give what they had no right to bestow; and if he ascended the throne without a just title, he could have no right to sanctify that assembly to which he owed his clevation. When the people are obliged, by tyranny, or other accidents, to have recourse to the first principles of society, Damely, their own preservation, in clecting a new sovereign, it will deserve consideration, whether that choice is to be effected by the majority of a parliament which has been dissolved, indeed by any parliament whatsoever, or by the body of the nation, assembled in communities, corporations, by tribes, or centuries, to sig

step that would diminish the good opinion they had conceived of his integrity. He told them that Holland was in such a situation as required their immediate attention and assistance; that the posture of affairs at home likewise demanded their serious consideration; that a good settlement was necessary, not only for the establishment of domestic peace, but also for the support of the protestant interest abroad: that the affairs of Ireland were too critically situated to admit of the least delay in their deliberations: he, therefore, begged they would be speedy and effectual in concerting such measures as should be judged indispensably necessary for the welfare of the nation. The commons returning to their house, immediately passed

pify their asscnt or dissent with respect to the person proposed as their sovereign. This kind of electiou might be attended with great inconvenience and dificulty, but these cannot possibly be avoided when the constitution is dissolved by setting aside the lineal succession to the throne The constitution of England is founded on a parliament consisting of king, lords, and commons; but when there is no longer a king, the parliament is defective, and the constitution impaired; the members of the lower house are the representatives of the people, expressly chosen to maintain the constitution in church and state, and sworn to support the rights of the crown, as well as the liberties of the nation; but though ihey are elected to maintain, they have no power to alter the constitution. When the king forfeits the allegiance of his subjects, and it becomes necessary to dethrone him, the power of so doing, cannot possibly reside in the representatives who are chosen, under certain limitations, for the purposes of a legislature which no longer exists; their power is of course at an end, and they are reduced to a level with other individu. als that constitute the community. The right of altering the constitution, therefore, or of deviating from the established practice of inheritance in regard to the succession of the crown, is inherent in the body of the people, and every indivi. daal has an equal right to his share in the general determination, whether his opinion be signified viva voce, or by a representative whom he appoints and instructs for the purpose. It may be suggested, that the prince of Orange was raised to the throne without any convulsion, or any such dilliculties and inconveniences as wo have affirmed to be the necessary consequences of a measure of that nature. To this remark we answer, that since the revolution, these kingdoms have been divided and harassed by violent and implacable factions, that eagerly seek the destruction of each other: that they have been exposed to plots, conspiracies, insurrections, civil wars, and successive rebellions, which have not been defeated and quelled without vast effusion of blood, infinite mischief, calamity, and expense to the nation; that they are still subjected to all those alarms and danger's which are engendered by a disputed title to the throne, and the efforts of an aritul pretender; that they are necessarily wedded to the affairs of the continent, and their interest sacrificed to foreign connexions, from which they can never be dis. engaged. Perhaps all these calamities might have been prevented by the interpo. sition of the prince of Orange, King James, without forfeiting the crown, might have been laid under such restrictions that it would not have been in his power to tyrannize over his subjects either in spirituals or temporals. The power of the militia might have been vested in the two houses of parliament, as well as the nomination of persons to fill the great offices of the church and state, and superintend the economy of the administration, in the application of the public money : a law might have passed for annual parliaments, and the king might bave been deprived of his power to convoke, adjourn, prorogue, and dissolve them at liis pleasure. Had these measures been taken, the king must have been absolutely disabled from employing either force or corruption in the prosecution of'arbitrary designs, and the people must have been fairly representer is a rotation of parlia:nents, whose power and influence would hasic been bot of one year's curul,

« PreviousContinue »