« VorigeDoorgaan »
CHAPTER of having ventured his life, very manly, and who,
considering the transactions of the last years of Charles's reign, were not much encouraged by the promise of imitating that monarch in clemency and tenderness to his subjects. To these it might appear, that whatever there was of consolatory in the King's disclaimer of arbitrary power, and professed attachment to the laws, was totally done away, as well by the consideration of what his Majesty's notions of power and law were, as by his declaration, that he would follow the example of a predecessor, whose government had not only been marked with the violation, in particular cases, of all the most sacred laws of the realm, but had latterly, by the disuse of parliaments, in defiance of the statute of the sixteenth year of his reign, stood upon a foundation radically and fundamentally illegal. To others it might occur, that even the promise to the Church of England, though express with respect to the condition of it, which was no other than perfect acquiescence in what the King deemed to be the true principles of monarchy, was rather
with regard to the nature, or degree of support to which the royal speaker might conceive himself engaged. The words, although, in any interpretation of them, they conveyed more than he possibly ever intended
to perform, did by no means express the sense which CHAPTER at that time, by his friends, and afterwards by his enemies, wás endeavoured to be fixed on them. There was indeed a promise to support the establishment of the Church, and consequently the laws upon
which that establishment immediately rested; but by no means an engagement to maintain all the collateral provisions which some of its more żealous members might judge necessary for its security.
But whatever doubts or difficulties might be felt, Triumph of few or none were expressed. The Whigs, as a vanquished party, were either silent, or not listened to, and the Tories were in a temper of mind which does not easily admit suspicion. They were not more delighted with the victory they had obtained over their adversaries, than with the additional stability which, as they vainly imagined, the accession of the new monarch was likely to give to their system. The truth is, that, his religion excepted, (and that objection they were sanguine enough to consider as done away by a few gracious words in favour of the Church,) James was every way better suited to their purpose than his brother. They had' entertained continual apprehensions, not perhaps wholly unfounded, of the late King's returning kindness to Monmouth, the consequences of which could not
Chapter easily be calculated; whereas, every occurrence
that had happened, as well as every circumstance in James's situation, seemed to make him utterly irreconcileable with the Whigs. Besides, after the reproach, as well as alarm, which the notoriety of Charles's treacherous character must so often have caused them, the very circumstance of having at their head a Prince, of whom they could with any colour hold out to their adherents, that his word was to be depended upon, was in itself a matter of triumph and exultation. Accordingly the watchword of the party was every where, We have the word of a King, and a word never yet broken ; and to such a length was the spirit of adulation, or perhaps the delusion, carried, that this royal declaration was said to be a better security for the liberty and religion of the nation, than any which the law could devise.*
The King, though much pleased, no doubt, with the popularity which seemed to attend the commencement of his reign, as a powerful medium for establishing the system of absolute power, did not suffer himself, by any shew of affection from his people, to be diverted from his design of rendering his government independent of them. To this
The King's arbitrary de. signs,
design we must look as the main-spring of all his CHAPTER actions at this period; for with regard to the Roman Catholick religion, it is by no means certain that he yet thought of obtaining for it any thing more than a complete toleration. With this view, there- Ministers refore, he could not take a more judicious resolution than that which he had declared in his speech to the privy council, and to which he seems, at this time, to have stedfastly adhered, of making the government of his predecessor the model for his own. He therefore continued in their offices, notwithstanding the personal objections he might have to some of them, those servants of the late King, during whose administration that Prince had been so successful in subduing his subjects, and eradicating almost from the minds of Englishmen every sentiment of liberty.
Even the Marquis of Halifax, who was supposed Halifax. to have remonstrated against many of the late meaa sures, and to have been busy in recommending a change of system to Charles, was continued in high employment by James, who told him, that, of all his past conduct, he should remember only his behaviour upon the Exclusion Bill, to which that nobleman had made a zealous and distinguished opposition; a handsome expression, which has been the
CHAPTER more noticed, as well because it is almost the single
instance of this Prince's shewing any disposition to forget injuries, as on account of a delicacy and propriety in the wording of it by no means familiar to him.
Lawrence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, whom he appointed Lord Treasurer, was in all respects calculated to be a fit instrument for the purposes then in view. Besides being upon the worst terms with Halifax, in whom alone, of all his ministers, James was likely to find any bias in favour of popular principles, he was, both from prejudice of education, and from interest, inasmuch as he had aspired to be the head of the Tories, a great favourer of those servile principles of the Church of England, which had lately been so highly extolled from the throne. His near relation to the Dutchess of York might also be some recommendation, but his privity to the laté pecuniary transactions between the courts of Versailles and London, and the cordiality with which he concurred in them, were by far more powerful titles to his new master's confidence. For it must be observed of this minister, as well as of many others of his party, that his high notions, as they are frequently styled, of power, regarded only the relation between the King and his subjects, and