Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

of them I have directed to be forth with communi- CHAPTER

II,

16 cated to you.

1685.

“ I will take the best care I can, that this Declara“ tion of their own faction and rebellion may meet with 66 tbe reward it deserves : and I will not doubt but

you « will be the more zealous to support the government,

, “ and give me my revenue as I have desired it, without

delay."

Speech examin

The repetition of the words made use of in his first The King's speech to the privy council, shows, that in the opinion ed. of the Court at least, they had been well chosen, and had answered their purpose ; and even the haughty language which was added, and was little less than a menace to parliament, if it should not comply with his wishes, was not, as it appears, unpleasing to the party which at that time prevailed, since the revenue enjoyed by his predecessor, was unanimously, and almost inimediately, voted to him for life. It was not remarked, in publick at least, that the King's threat of governing without parliament, was an unequivocal manifestation of his contempt of the law of the country, so distinctly established, though so ineffectually secured, by the statute of the 16th of Charles the Second, for holding triennial parliaments. It is said, Lord Keeper Guildford had prepared a different speech for his Majesty, but that this was preferred, as being the King's own

II.

16856

CHAPTER words ;* and, indeed, that part of it, in which he says

that he must answer once for all, that the Commons' giving such proportions as they might think convenient, would be a very improper way with him, bears, as well as some others, the most evident marks of its royal origin. It is to be observed, however, that in arguing for his demand, as he styles it, of revenue, he says, not that the parliament ought not, but that he must not suffer the well-being of the government depending upon such revenue, to be precarious; whence it is evident, that he intended to have it understood, that, if the parliament did not grant, he purposed to levy a revenue without their consent. It is impossible that any degree of party spirit should so have blinded men, as to prevent them from perceiving, in this speech, a determination on the part of the King, to conduct his government upon the principles of absolute monarchy, and to those who were not so possessed with the love of royalty; which creates a kind of passionate affection for whoever happens to be the wearer of the Crown, the vindictive manner in which he speaks of Argyle's invasion, might afford sufficient evidence of the temper, in which his power would be administered. In that part of his speech he first betrays his personal feelings towards the unfortunate nobleman, whom, in his brother's reign, he had so cruelly and treacherously oppressed, by dwelling

[ocr errors][merged small]

CHAPTER

II.

1685.

upon his being charged by Argyle with tyranny and usurpation, and then declares, that he will take the best care, not according to the usual phrases, to protect the loyal and well disposed, and to restore tranquillity, but that the Declaration of the factious and rebellious may meet with the reward it deserves ; thus marking out revenge and punishment as the consequences of victory, upon which he was most intent.

It is impossible, that in a House of Commons, how- Proceedings of ever composed, there should not have been many members who disapproved the principles of government announced in the speech, and who were justly alarmed at the temper in which it was conceived. But these, overpowered by numbers, and perhaps afraid of the imputation of being concerned in plots and insurrections, (an, imputation which, if they had shown any spirit of liberty, would most infallibly have been thrown on them,) declined expressing their sentiments ; and, in the short session which followed, there was an almost uninterrupted unanimity in granting every demand, and acquiescing in every wish of the Government. The revenue was granted, without any notice being taken of the illegal manner in which the King had levied it upon

his own authority. Argyle was stigmatised as a traitor, nor was any desire expressed to examine his Declarations, one of which seemed to be purposely withheld from parliament. Upon the communication of the Duke of Monmouth's landing in the West, that nobleman was

т

1685.

CHAPTER immediately attainted by Bill. The King's assurance

was recognized as a sufficient security for the national religion ; and the liberty of the press was destroyed by the revival of the statute of the 13th and 14th of Charles the Second. This last circumstance, important as it is, does not seem to have excited much attention at the time, which, considering the general principles then in fashion, is not surprising. That it should have been scarcely noticed by any historian, is more wonderful. It is true, however, that the terror inspired by the late prosecutions for libels, and the violent conduct of the courts upon such occasions, rendered a formal destruction of the liberty of the press a matter of less importance. So little does the magistracy, when it is inclined to act tyrannically, stand in need of tyrannical laws to effect its purpose. The bare silence and acquiescence of the legislature is, in such a case, fully sufficient to annihilate, practically speaking, every right and liberty of the subject.

Misrepresentation of Mr. Hume's.

As the grant of revenue was unanimous, so there does not appear to have been any thing which can justly be styled a debate upon it: though Hume employs several pages in giving the arguments which, he affirms, were actually made use of, and, as he gives us to understand, in the House of Commons, for and against the question ; arguments which, on both sides, seem to imply a considerable love of freedom, and jealousy of royal

CHAPTER

II.

1685.

power, and are not wholly unmixed even with some sentiments disrespectful to the King. Now I cannot find, either from tradition, or from contemporary writers, any ground to think, that, either the reasons which Hume has adduced, or indeed any other, were urged in opposition to the grant. The only speech made upon Mr. Seymour's the occasion, seems to have been that of Mr. (after- in opposition. wards Sir Edward,) Seymour, who, though of the Tory party, a strenuous opposer of the Exclusion Bill, and in general, supposed to have been an approver, if not an adviser, of the tyrannical measures of the late reign, has the merit of having stood forward singly, to remind the House of what they owed to themselves and their constituents. He did not, however, directly oppose the grant, but stated, that the elections had been carried on under so much court influence, and in other respects so illegally, that it was the duty of the House first to ascertain, who were the legal members, before they proceeded to other business of importance ? After having pressed this point, he observed, that, if ever it were necessary to adopt such an order of proceeding, it was more peculiarly so now, when the laws and religion of the nation were in evident peril ; that the aversion of the English people to Popery, and their attachment to the laws, were such, as to secure these blessings from destruction by any other instrumentality than that of parliament itself, which, however, might be easily accomplished, if there were once a parliament entirely de.

« VorigeDoorgaan »