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purpose of enabling the principal gentlemen to be present in their respective counties,' at a time when their services and influence might be so necessary to government. It is said that the House of Commons consisted of members so devoted to James, that he declared there was not forty in it, whom he would not himself have named. But although this may have been true, and though from the new-modelling of the corporations, and the interference of the court in elections, this Parliament, as far as regards the manner of its being chosen, was by no means a fair representative of the legal electors of England, yet there is reason to think that it afforded a tolerably correct sample of the disposition of the nation, and especially of the church party, which was then uppermost.
The general character of the party at this time Character of the appears to have been a high notion of the King's constitutional power, to which was superadded, a kind of religious abhorrence of all resistance to the Monarch, not only in cases where such resistance was directed against the lawful prerogative, but even in opposition to encroachments, which the Monarch might make beyond the extended limits which they assigned to his prerogative. But these tenets, and still more, the principle of conduct naturally resulting from them, were confined to the civil, as contradistinguished from the ecclesiastical, polity of the country. In church
CHAPTER matters, they neither acknowledged any very high au
thority in the Crown, nor were they willing to submit to any royal encroachment on that side ; and a steady attachment to the church of England, with a proportionable aversion to all dissenters from it, whether Catholick or Protestant, was almost universally prevalent among them. A due consideration of these distinct features in the character of a party so powerful in Charles's and James's time, and even when it was lowest, (that is, during the reigns of the two first Princes of the House of Brunswick,) by no means inconsiderable, is exceedingly necessary to the right understanding of English History. It affords a clue to many passages otherwise unintelligible. For want of a proper attention to this circumstance, some historians have considered the conduct of the Tories in promotiog the Revolution, as an instance of great inconsistency. Some have supposed, contrary to the clearest evidence, that their notions of passive obedience, even in civil matters, were limited, and that their support of the government of Charles and James, was founded upon a belief, that those Princes would never abuse their prerogative for the purpose of introducing arbitrary sway. But this hypothesis is contrary to the evidence both of their declaration and their conduct. Obedience without reserve, an abhorrence of all resistance, as contrary to the tenets of their religion, are the principles which they pro
fessed in their addresses, their sermons, and their de. CHAPTER crees at Oxford ; and surely nothing short of such principles, could make men esteem the latter years of Charles the Second, and the opening of the reign of his successour, an era of national happiness, and exemplary government. Yet this is the representation of that period, which is usually made by historians, and other writers of the church party.
66 Never were fairer promises on one side, nor greater' gene“ rosity on the other,” says Mr. Echard. “ The King “ had as yet, in no instance, invaded the rights of his “ subjects,” says the author of the Caveat against the Whigs. Thus, as long as James contented himself with absolute power in civil matters, and did not make use of his authority against the church, every thing went smooth and easy ; nor is it necessary, in order to account for the satisfaction of the parliament and people, to have recourse to any implied compromise, by which the nation was willing to yield its civil liberties as the price of retaining its religious constitution. The truth seems to be, that the King, in asserting his unlimited power, rather fell in with the humour of the prevailing party, than offered any violence to it. Absolute in civil matters, under the specious names of monarchy and prerogative, formed a most essential part of the Tory creed ; but the order in which Church and King are placed in the favourite device of the
party, is not accidental, and is well calculated to show the genuine principles of such among them as are not corrupted by influence. Accordingly, as the sequel of this reign will abundantly show, when they found themselves compelled to make an option, they preferred, without any degree of inconsistency, their first idol to their second, and when they could not preserve both church and King, declared for the former.
Situation of the
It gives certainly no very flattering picture of the country, to describe it as being in some sense fairly represented by this servile Parliament, and not only acquiescing in, but delighted with, the early measures of James's reign ; the contempt of law exhibited in the arbitrary mode of raising his revenue; his insulting menace to the Parliament, that if they did not use him well, he would govern without them ; his furious persecution of the Protestant dissenters, and the spirit of despotism which appeared in all his speeches and actions. But it is to be remembered, that these measures were in no wise contrary to the principles or prejudices of the church party, but rather highly agrecable to them; and that the Whigs, who alone were possessed of any just notions of liberty, were so out-numbered, and discounfited by persecution, that such of them as did not think fit to engage in the rash schemes of Mon
mouth or Argyle, held it to be their interest to interferé as little as possible in publick affairs, and by no means to obtrude upon unwilling hearers, opinions and sentiments, which, ever since the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament in 1681, had been generally discountenanced, and of which the peaceable, or rather triumphant accession of James to the throne, was supposed to seal the condemnation.