« ZurückWeiter »
to the writs of election, and that this had alarmed him. Finally, there is exhibited in Dalrymple proof of a very remarkable interference of France, and a letter from the ambassador to Louis, to inform him that he had prevailed with Charles to recall his declaration of indulgence.
"The whole people," says the French ambassador's letter to his court," were alarmed with the expectations of a civil war; bonfires were made on the reconciliation of the king and parliament. The king's speech," he continues, “was followed with cries of acclamation and joy from the whole parliament."
But it was not by such honest effusions, such affecting indications of the wish of the people, if possible, to be on terms of kindness with their sovereign, that the conduct of this detestable monarch was to be influenced; and we see through the remainder of Dalrymple's Memoirs the same base and unprincipled conspiracy carried on against the liberties of mankind, and the same senseless disregard, both in Charles and the renowned Louis, of every thing that could form the proper glory and honour of their reigns.
It is not, however, without the most heartfelt triumph that we observe, in this instance at least, the abominable machinations of the king and his ministers and the French court, dissipated and destroyed by the steady integrity and constitutional proceedings of an English House of Commons; and that we see also the Dutch republic, though astonished, borne down, and evidently now at the last gasp, rescued at length from slavery and annihilation by the generous despair of its citizens, and the heroic patriotism of the Prince of Orange.
This most slight and imperfect sketch of a particular though most important transaction, may serve to give some general intimation of what may be expected from a study of the reign of Charles; and it may give you also some notion of the assistance that may be derived from these papers.
But if any thing can attach us more to the constitution of our country, and explain to us more particularly the value of the rights, and the importance of the duties of the House of Commons, it is this reign, and it is these memoirs of Dalrymple. The king was ready, if necessary, to destroy the
constitution rather than be thwarted; the presumptive heir of the crown had no dearer wish; the people were prepared for subjection by the horrors which they had lately seen result from resistance to the crown; no impediment was opposed but the parliament, or rather the House of Commons; the house itself was suffered to continue for eighteen years; a great portion of its members was practised upon; a large number of them notoriously bribed; still the king neither did, nor could succeed in his nefarious enterprises; and the patriotic leaders never entirely lost the cause of the constitution till, on the dissolution of parliament and on their being left without the means of constitutional resistance, they turned their thoughts to open insurrection-to open insurrection, though the people had taken part against them, and clearly ranged themselves on the side of the sovereign.
I shall conclude this lecture with observing, that through the whole of these memorials, it is quite gratifying to observe the manner in which the French ambassador, and the English negotiators, speak and reason about the parliament. When that enemy is once secured, all is supposed to be safe.
In addition to the passages already mentioned, expressions of this kind occur: "I found (80) the Duke of York," says Barillon," of the same sentiments with Buckingham, that we should be very cautious of assembling it" (the parliament).
(99.) "The king has agreed to prorogue his parliament in consideration of five hundred thousand crowns; and if he convenes it in November, to dissolve it, in case it should refuse to give him money, in consideration for which he is to have one hundred thousand pounds per annum from France." All this, it seems, was to enable France to carry on the war undisturbed by the English parliament.
(105.) "The king of England convened the Duke of York, Lauderdale, and the high treasurer Danby, to confer with them about the paper which your Majesty knows of. In fine, the treasurer has represented to Lauderdale the risk they shall run of losing their heads if they alone were to deliberate upon the treaty, and sign it. Sire, you will see by all this, that the king of England is abandoned by all his ministers, even the most confidential. The treasurer fears the parliament much more than his master.
It is difficult to
conceive that a king should be so abandoned by his subjects, that parliaments are to be feared; it is a kind of miracle to see a king, without arms and money, resist them so long.”
(112.) "The English king insists on eight hundred thousand crowns, in consideration of which he offers to prorogue the parliament."
(235.) "The king of England tells me that it is time your Majesty should determine to assist him with a sum of money, that he might not receive the law from his subjects. I took this occasion to beg his Majesty to explain to me his intentions with regard to the sittings of parliament," &c. &c.
The king, it seems, answered, that he had dissolved the last parliament, and could put off the meeting a new one till he could judge of its dispositions to him; but that he could not entirely dispense with them, because he could not hope that the French king would furnish all the sums necessary to support him long without, their assistance. "I told him," says Barillon, "that the meetings of parliament always appeared to me very dangerous," &c. &c.
In another place, Barillon observes, "What I write to your Majesty will appear no doubt very extraordinary, but England has no resemblance to other countries."
Happy was it for England that this was the case; and long may unprincipled men like these find every thing to surprise them in its virtuous people, and in its free constitution.
IN my last lecture, after calling your attention to the earlier
part of the reign of Charles II., while the measures of his government were directed by Clarendon, I endeavoured to give you some general notion of the second part of the same reign, and more particularly of the information that might be collected respecting it, from different publications, and above all, from the papers of Dalrymple.
This second part of his reign is marked by the constitutional struggle between Charles and the patriotic party, and may itself be divided into two parts.
During this first part of the struggle, that to which I have already referred, not only were the liberties of this country in a state of the most extreme peril, but in consequence of the ambition of Louis XIV., and his connexion with Charles, the liberties also of Holland, and the interests of all Europe.
I must now allude to what I consider as the remaining part of this contest between Charles and the friends of civil freedom, when the patriotic leaders had to contend, not only with the king, but also with the Duke of York, and when, on account of the arbitrary nature of the religion of the latter, they were at last driven to the resolution of endeavouring to exclude him from the throne.
During the first period of their contest with the crown, the patriotic leaders must be considered as successful. The king, we may remember, broke the seals of his declaration and gave
But during this second period, the event was otherwise; the king could neither be persuaded nor intimidated into any compliance with the wishes of his opponents; and the struggle
ended at length in the execution of some of their leaders, and in the ruin of all.
Whatever difference of opinion there may be respecting their intentions and conduct during this later period (during their struggle with the king on the subject of the exclusion of the Duke of York from the throne), there can be none respecting the merit of their exertions during the former period. Had the king then succeeded, the liberties of England might have perished.
On the whole, the contest by which the reign of Charles II. is distinguished, can be considered as inferior in interest and importance only to that which immediately preceded it, during the era of the great rebellion; and such was the necessity of resistance to the son, as well as to the father, that the same Englishmen who have loved and revered the memory of Hampden, have never ceased to venerate the virtue, and respect the patriotism of Sidney and Lord Russel.
The regular historians will give you the detail of the transactions by which this period is rendered so memorable. But you must by all means continue your study of the memoirs of Dalrymple, which contain very curious information, and will give you very important hints respecting the characters and views both of the Duke of York, the king, and the popular leaders. I had originally made large extracts to exemplify what I say, but I omit them, and depend on your consulting such original documents, as I have mentioned, yourselves.
As far as principle is concerned, it is the duke, not Charles, who appears to be the man of principle; it is he who is a bigot to his opinions, religious and political; to popery and arbitrary power. These, with Charles, were rather the instruments than the objects of his designs; but the duke really had opinions that were dear to him; and he thoroughly and from his heart did detest and abjure all men, principles, and parties that presumed to interfere with the powers that be, either in church or state.
When the duke speaks of the proceedings of parliament (174), his expressions are, "his Majesty was forced to prorogue them; I fear they will be very disorderly. They will leave the king nothing but the empty name of king; no more."