« PoprzedniaDalej »
hortations and his example.—A silent reproof of his great ally, Lewis the fourteenth, and his wretched advisers *.
Principal Circumstances which led to the Revolution.
Few circumstances, however, had a greater effect than this measure of Lewis, in increasing the alarm, which already subsisted in a high degree, of the designs which James was then more than suspected to have conceived, for introducing the free exercise of the roman-catholic religion into his kingdoms. If the nation had reasoned justly, it would have occurred to them, that the oppressions, which had driven the French sufferers from their native country, were considerably less than those, to which the English catholics had been subject during more than a century, and which had recently been inflicted on them with extreme rigour. This reflection should have suggested the justice and propriety of an immediate repeal of the most
• In the Life of James the second, written by himself, (Macpherson's State Papers, vol. i. p. 51,) we find this passage: “ The duke of York, at Tunbridge, assured Dr. Owen, that he “ had no bitterness against the non-conformists. " against all persecution, merely for conscience sake, looking “ on it as an unchristian thing and absolutely against his “ conscience."--The same writer observes, (ib. 576.) from the Nairne Papers, “ that notwithstanding the enthusiasm of " the prince and his submissive obedience in spirituals, it “ appears that he never intended to acknowledge the pope's “ supremacy in temporal concerns."
obnoxious of those laws : but the public feeling took a different direction, and dwelt altogether on the alleged persecuting spirit of the religion, which Lewis professed, and a dread of its horrors, if the schemes imputed to James should be realized, and catholics obtain the ascendancy. This naturally increased the jealousies of the monarch's views, and the apprehensions entertained oftheir consequences.
The first step taken by James to carry them into effect, was an attempt to intimidate the parliament. In his speech from the throne to the two houses at the opening of the sessions, he openly avowed his claim to the dispensing power. The house of commons voted an address to him against it: in his answer, he insisted on his right; after it was read by the speaker, a silence of some moments ensued: --at length Coke, the member for Derby, rose in his place and boldly said, “I hope we are all Eng“ lishmen, and not to be frightened by a few hard
words.” He was reproved, and ordered to the Tower; but the sullenness of the house continued. The lords, after voting thanks generally to the king for his speech, appointed a day for taking it into consideration, with an avowed intention of discussing the obnoxious passage.
Thus foiled in his hopes of the subserviency of parliament, the next effort of James was made through the medium of the courts of justice. He gave to sir Edward Hales a commission of colonel : sir Edward accepted it, and entered on the duties of the rank without qualifying himself for it, according to the provisions of the test act: with
these James dispensed : it was contrived, that the coachman of sir Edward should prosecute him for the penalty of 500l, which the test act gave to the informer. Sir Edward pleaded the dispensation ; and thus, by a feigned action, the general question was brought to a direct issue. The decision of the judges was unanimous in its favour : but James had previously displaced four of them, and substituted in their stead, four on whose pliancy he could rely.
· Encouraged by this success, and either unaware that public opinion was against him, or ignorant of its importance, James proceeded to bolder' measures; he brought five catholic lords, Powis, Arundell, Bellasyse and Dover, and father Petre a jesuit, into the privy council. He conferred the office of privy seal on lord Arundell, and putting his treasury into commission, placed lord Bellasyse at its head: he also advanced some catholics in the army
He then sent the earl of Castlemain ambassador extraordinary to Rome: the pope received him very coolly, but sent a nuncio to England: the king gave the nuncio a public and solemn reception at Windsor. Four catholic bishops were publicly consecrated by the nuncio; a pastoral letter, framed by them, and addressed to the lay catholics of England, was published by the king's allowance, and several of the regular clergy were permitted to appear publicly in the habits of their order. «The pastoral letter is intituled, “A Pastoral Letter from the
Catholic Bishops to the Lay Catholies of Eng“ land,” 4to. Holyrood-house, by P. B. engraver: it is comprised in eight pages. They begin it by observing to them, that “ Episcopal authority, to “ which they and their catholic ancestors had long “ been deprived, had been lately, by a merciful
providence of God, and the piety of his majesty, restored to them.”
They exhort the faithful “ to charity, to unity 4. of spirit, to love their protestant neighbours, to “ inoffensiveness, to assiduousness at the divine “ service, in imitation of his majesty, to passive “ obedience.--After observing that his majesty “ had favoured many among them with a share “ in the government, they recommended loyalty, " and an active discharge of duty :--and conclude “ with a blessing. Signed, John, bishop of Adru“mete, v. A. Bonaventure, bishop of Madoura, “ v. A. Philip, bishop of Aureliopolis, v. A. James, bishop of Callipoli, v. A.
James then ventured on the step which made an irreparable breach between him and the established church. Having required the bishop of London to suspend Dr. Sharpe from his clerical functions, for a sermon, in which he had mentioned conversions to the roman-catholic religion in terms of contumely, and the bishop having refused to comply, James issued an ecclesiastical commission, by which seven commissioners were appointed, with unlimited authority over the church of England, and with the same inquisitorial and arbitrary powers, as had been vested in the court of high commission established by queen Elizabeth, and abolished in
the reign of Charles the first. The commissioners instantly proceeded against the bishop and the doctor, and, by a majority of votes, suspended both from their functions.
His majesty then attempted to impose a catholic president on Magdalen college in Oxford, and to procure seven bishops, who had presented a petition to him against some of his measures, to be condemned for the libel supposed to be expressed by the petition. This completed the alienation of the public mind.
Finally, he issued a proclamation, by which he suspended all the penal laws in ecclesiastical affairs, and granted a general liberty of conscience to all his subjects* Hume,--but for this he cites no
* It is idle to contend, that these acts were justifiable in consequence of a dispensing power inherent in the monarch, as part of his legal and constitutional prerogative.
No respectable advocates for the existence of this power ever contended, that the exercise of it was lawful except on extraordinary occasions, when the public welfare rendering such an exercise of it necessary, it was justified by this very necessity, and limited to the occasion: they also admitted, that it could only be exercised in favour of particular persons, in particular instances, and for a particular time. Such a general exercise of it, as amounted to a total repeal of an existing law, they considered inadmissible : it evidently was a violation of the first principle of our constitution, by which powers of legislation cannot be exercised by the king, without the two houses of parliament. Most of its advocates allowed that the king could not dispense with the common law; and most of them also contended that he could dispense with those statutory provisions only, which concerned his own profit and interest. Those who wish to have an accurate notion of this important question, may usefully peruse the case of Thomas VOL. III.