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Clarendon* defends the monarch against this charge on three grounds ;—“ The presbyterians, says his lordship, “complained that the king had “ violated his promise made to them in his declara“tion at Breda, which was urged with great unin
genuity and without any shadow of right, for his
majesty had thereby referred the whole settlement “ of all things relating to religion, to the wisdom of
parliament.”—Hume justly replies," It is true " that Charles, in his declaration from Breda, had
expressed his intention of regulating that indul
gence, by the advice and authority of parliament: “ but this limitation could never reasonably be ex“ tended to a total infringement and violation of “ all his engagements.” To the noble historian's two other excuses,--that the indulgence was promised to the scrupulous, not to the factious; and that the sovereign was willing, and sought to perform his promise, but that the decided hostility of parliament put it beyond his power, --no answer is necessary. Lord Clarendon mentions 'frequently the malignity of the sectaries : Hume justly observes, that the chief cause of that malignity was the restraint, under which they laboured : in this, as on all sueh occasions, the removal of the cause would, though perhaps slowly, have removed the effect.
It is observable, that the monarch, in his declaration of indulgence, intimates those pretensions to the dispensing power, which were afterwards openly avowed, both by him and his successor in the throne. From this circumstance, Hume and other respectable historians have suggested, that, even at this time, the monarch had formed a settled plan of affording to the roman-catholics a legal toleration of their religion; and that his severities to the protestant dissenters proceeded from refined policy. He calculated, if we should believe these writers,—that, to avoid the grinding operation of these severities, the protestant dissenters would gladly avail themselves of any exertions of the dispensing power, which the crown should make in their favour; and thus, having themselves profited of them, could not afterwards consistently call in question, either the monarch's title to the prerogative, or the justice of his exercising it in favour of others. A passage in Burnet's History may be thought to render this probable* : but nothing certainly could be more contrary to any views of this nature, than the principles and feelings of Clarendon, by whose counsels his majesty was, at this time, solely guided in all his measures, and particularly in those, which were then taken against the protestant dissenters. The minister's strong and persevering hostility to them, and to the romancatholics, is the greatest blot in his character, otherwise highly estimable.
* Life, vol. ii. p. 156.
One circumstance, of particular hardship, attended the expulsion of the dissenting ministers from their livings. When the monks and nups were expelled from their religious abodes by Henry the eighth, and when the catholic clergy were deprived of their benefices by Elizabeth, some allowances were made to them; and when the presbyterians ejected the established hierarchy, a fifth of each living had been left to the ejected clergymen; but on the expulsion of the non-conformist ministers, no such allowances were made : it was recommended by the peers,
* Vol. i. p. 179.
but was absolutely rejected by the commons.
The several acts of parliament noticed in this chapter, had the effect of changing the name of puritans into that of protestant non-conformists. The acts for suppressing conventicles considerably increased their sufferings. By virtue of them, says Neale *, the gaols in the several counties were quickly filled with dissenting protestants; the houses of the ministers were broken open, their hearers taken into custody, the legal penalties of 20l. upon the minister, 20l. upon the house, and 51. on each hearer, were exacted: if not paid, they were levied by the sale of the cattle and goods of the offenders; and if these did not suffice to answer them, the parties were hurried to prison and kept in close confinement for three or even six months. Several were fined, several excommunicated, for not coming to church, and some were sentenced to abjure the realm. To avoid these severities, several occasionally frequented the churches of the establishment: this was termed Occasional Conformity : it was defended by some presbyterian divines; but the independents, anabaptists, and quakers, universally disclaimed it. The firmness of the quakers, always
* Hist. vol. ii. c. vii. In the present chapter we frequently use his words.
passive but never yielding, was singularly remarkable.
The general sufferings of the non-conformists of every denomination were certainly very great: it has been asserted that eight thousand of them perished in the reign of Charles the second, merely for dissenting from the church *. This persecution of them was attended by one singular circumstance: In every other instance, where one denomination of christians has persecuted another, it has been on the ground, that the errors, which they professed to punish, were impious, and led the maintainers of them to eternal perdition; and therefore rendered these wholesome severities, as the persecutors termed them, salutary to the sufferers. But, when the protestant of the church of England acted in the manner which has been mentioned against the protestant non-conformist, he persecuted a christian, who agreed with him in all, which he himself deemed to be substantial articles of faith, and differed from him only in rites and ceremonies, which he himself allowed to be indifferent t.
A temporary relaxation of these severities was made by the declaration of indulgence which was issued by his majesty soon after his alliance with France against Holland I. By this, in virtue of an authority, which he asserted to be inherent in him, and to have been often recognized by the
• See the preface to De Laune's Plea for Non-conforinists, by the editor of that work.
+ This is Neale's just remark, vol. ii. c. vi. 1 13 March 1672.
nation, he generally suspended the penal laws, both in respect to the protestant non-conformists and the roman-catholic recusants, and granted to the former a public, and to the latter a private exercise of their religion. But, in the following year, the commons having warmly remonstrated against this declaration, as an open and inexcusable violation of the constitution, with an intimation, that its principal, though concealed, object, was to favour the catholics, his majesty recalled it, and with his own hands broke the seals.
ADDRESSES OF THE ENGLISH CATHOLICS ON THE
ACCESSION OF CHARLES THE SECOND. —FIRST PROCEEDINGS IN THEIR REGARD. - FIRE OF LONDON.-OATES'S PLOT.
THE events in this reign, in which the catholics were deeply interested, are numerous.
We shall present the reader, I. With an account of the addresses presented by the English catholics on the restoration of Charles the second : II. Of the proceedings in parliament, which, upon that event, took place in their regard : III. Then mention the fire of London : IV. Then state some facts and offer some observations on Oates's plot: V. Then insert the apology addressed to the peers of England by lord Castlemain, in consequence of the new severities, with which the catholics were then threatened : VI. Then notice the act preventing