Persecution of the Puritans
Zeal of the Church for Hereditary Monarchy
Change in the Morals of the Community
Profligacy of Politicians
State of Scotland
State of Ireland
The Government become unpopular in England
War with the Dutch
Opposition in the House of Commons
Fall of Clarendon
Then came penal statutes against Nonconformists, statutes for which precedents might too easily be found in the Puritan legislation, but to which the King could not give his assent without a breach of promises publicly made, in the most important crisis of his life, to those on whom his fate depended. The Presbyterians, in extreme distress and terror, fled to the foot of the throne, and pleaded their recent services and the royal faith solemnly and repeatedly plighted. The King wavered. He could not deny his own hand and seal. He could not but be conscious that he owed much to the petitioners. He was little in the habit of resisting importunate solicitation. His temper was not that of a persecutor. He disliked the Puritans indeed; but in him dislike was a languid feeling, very little resembling the energetic hatred which had burned in the heart of Laud. He was, moreover, partial to the Roman Catholic religion; and he knew that it would be impossible to grant liberty of worship to the professors of that religion without extending the same indulgence to Protestant dissenters. He therefore made a feeble attempt to restrain the intolerant zeal of the House of Commons; but that House was under the influence of far deeper convictions and far stronger passions than his own. After a faint struggle he yielded, and passed, with the show of alacrity, a series of odious acts against the separatists. It was made a crime to attend a dissenting place of worship. A single justice of the peace might convict without a jury, and might, for the third offence, pass sentence of transportation beyond sea for seven years. With refined cruelty it was provided that the offender should not be transported to New England, where he was likely to find sympathising friends. If he returned to his own country before the expiration of his term of exile, he was liable to capital punishment. A new and most unreasonable test was imposed on divines who had been deprived of their benefices for nonconformity; and all who refused to take that test were prohibited from coming within five miles of any town which was governed by a corporation, of any town which was represented in Parliament, or of any town where they had themselves resided as ministers. The magistrates, by whom these rigorous statutes were to be enforced, were in general men inflamed by party spirit and by the remembrance of wrongs suffered in the time of the commonwealth. The gaols were therefore soon crowded with dissenters, and, among the sufferers, were some of whose genius and virtue any Christian society might well be proud.
Zeal of the Church for Hereditary Monarchy
The Church of England was not ungrateful for the protection which she received from the government. From the first day of her existence, she had been attached to monarchy. But, during the quarter of a century which followed the Restoration, her zeal for royal authority and hereditary right passed all bounds. She had suffered with the House of Stuart. She had been restored with that House. She was connected with it by common interests, friendships, and enmities. It seemed impossible that a day could ever come when the ties which bound her to the children of her august martyr would be sundered, and when the loyalty in which she gloried would cease to be a pleasing and profitable duty. She accordingly magnified in fulsome phrase that prerogative which was constantly employed to defend and to aggrandise her, and reprobated, much at her ease, the depravity of those whom oppression, from which she was exempt, had goaded to rebellion. Her favourite theme was the doctrine of non-resistance. That doctrine she taught without any qualification, and followed out to all its extreme consequences. Her disciples were never weary of repeating that in no conceivable case, not even if England were cursed with a King resembling Busiris or Phalaris, with a King who, in defiance of law, and without the presence of justice, should daily doom hundreds of innocent victims to torture and death, would all the Estates of the realm united be justified in withstanding his tyranny by physical force. Happily the principles of human nature afford abundant security that such theories will never be more than theories. The day of trial came; and the very men who had most loudly and most sincerely professed this extravagant loyalty were, in every county of England arrayed in arms against the throne.
Property all over the kingdom was now again changing hands. The national sales, not having been confirmed by Act of Parliament, were regarded by the tribunals as nullities. The bishops, the deans, the chapters, the Royalist nobility and gentry, reentered on their confiscated estates, and ejected even purchasers who had given fair prices. The losses which the Cavaliers had sustained during the ascendency of their opponents were thus in part repaired; but in part only. All actions for mesne profits were effectually barred by the general amnesty; and the numerous Royalists, who, in order to discharge fines imposed by the Long Parliament, or in order to purchase the favour of powerful Roundheads, had sold lands for much less than the real value, were not relieved from the legal consequences of their own acts.
While these changes were in progress, a change still more important took place in the morals and manners of the community. Those passions and tastes which, under the rule of the Puritans, had been sternly repressed, and, if gratified at all, had been gratified by stealth, broke forth with ungovernable violence as soon as the check was withdrawn. Men flew to frivolous amusements and to criminal pleasures with the greediness which long and enforced abstinence naturally produces. Little restraint was imposed by public opinion. For the nation, nauseated with cant, suspicious of all pretensions to sanctity and still smarting from the recent tyranny of rulers austere in life and powerful in prayer, looked for a time with complacency on the softer and gayer vices. Still less restraint was imposed by the government. Indeed there was no excess which was not encouraged by the ostentatious profligacy of the King and of his favourite courtiers. A few counsellors of Charles the First, who were now no longer young, retained the decorous gravity which had been thirty years before in fashion at Whitehall. Such were Clarendon himself, and his friends, Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, Lord Treasurer, and James Butler, Duke of Ormond, who, having through many vicissitudes struggled gallantly for the royal cause in Ireland, now governed that kingdom as Lord Lieutenant. But neither the memory of the services of these men, nor their great power in the state, could protect them from the sarcasms which modish vice loves to dart at obsolete virtue. The praise of politeness and vivacity could now scarcely be obtained except by some violation of decorum. Talents great and various assisted to spread the contagion. Ethical philosophy had recently taken a form well suited to please a generation equally devoted to monarchy and to vice. Thomas Hobbes had, in language more precise and luminous than has ever been employed by any other metaphysical writer, maintained that the will of the prince was the standard of right and wrong, and that every subject ought to be ready to profess Popery, Mahometanism, or Paganism, at the royal command. Thousands who were incompetent to appreciate what was really valuable in his speculations, eagerly welcomed a theory which, while it exalted the kingly office, relaxed the obligations of morality, and degraded religion into a mere affair of state. Hobbism soon became an almost essential part of the character of the fine gentleman. All the lighter kinds of literature were deeply tainted by the prevailing licentiousness. Poetry stooped to be the pandar of every low desire. Ridicule, instead of putting guilt and error to the blush, turned her formidable shafts against innocence and truth. The restored Church contended indeed against the prevailing immorality, but contended feebly, and with half a heart. It was necessary to the decorum of her character that she should admonish her erring children: but her admonitions were given in a somewhat perfunctory manner. Her attention was elsewhere engaged. Her whole soul was in the work of crushing the Puritans, and of teaching her disciples to give unto Caesar the things which were Caesar's. She had been pillaged and oppressed by the party which preached an austere morality. She had been restored to opulence and honour by libertines. Little as the men of mirth and fashion were disposed to shape their lives according to her precepts, they were yet ready to fight knee deep in blood for her cathedrals and places, for every line of her rubric and every thread of her vestments. If the debauched Cavalier haunted brothels and gambling houses, he at least avoided conventicles. If he never spoke without uttering ribaldry and blasphemy, he made some amends by his eagerness to send Baxter and Howe to gaol for preaching and praying. Thus the clergy, for a time, made war on schism with so much vigour that they had little leisure to make war on vice. The ribaldry of Etherege and Wycherley was, in the presence and under the special sanction of the head of the Church, publicly recited by female lips in female ears, while the author of the Pilgrim's Progress languished in a dungeon for the crime of proclaiming the gospel to the poor. It is an unquestionable and a most instructive fact that the years during which the political power of the Anglican hierarchy was in the zenith were precisely the years during which national virtue was at the lowest point.
Profligacy of Politicians
Scarcely any rank or profession escaped the infection of the prevailing immorality; but those persons who made politics their business were perhaps the most corrupt part of the corrupt society. For they were exposed, not only to the same noxious influences which affected the nation generally, but also to a taint of a peculiar and of a most malignant kind. Their character had been formed amidst frequent and violent revolutions and counterrevolutions. In the course of a few years they had seen the ecclesiastical and civil polity of their country repeatedly changed. They had seen an Episcopal Church persecuting Puritans, a Puritan Church persecuting Episcopalians, and an Episcopal Church persecuting Puritans again. They had seen hereditary monarchy abolished and restored. They had seen the Long Parliament thrice supreme in the state, and thrice dissolved amidst the curses and laughter of millions. They had seen a new dynasty rapidly rising to the height of power and glory, and then on a sudden hurled down from the chair of state without a struggle. They had seen a new representative system devised, tried and abandoned. They had seen a new House of Lords created and scattered. They had seen great masses of property violently transferred from Cavaliers to Roundheads, and from Roundheads back to Cavaliers. During these events no man could be a stirring and thriving politician who was not prepared to change with every change of fortune. It was only in retirement that any person could long keep the character either of a steady Royalist or of a steady Republican. One who, in such an age, is determined to attain civil greatness must renounce all thoughts of consistency. Instead of affecting immutability in the midst of endless mutation, he must be always on the watch for the indications of a coming reaction. He must seize the exact moment for deserting a falling cause. Having gone all lengths with a faction while it was uppermost, he must suddenly extricate himself from it when its difficulties begin, must assail it, must persecute it, must enter on a new career of power and prosperity in company with new associates. His situation naturally developes in him to the highest degree a peculiar class of abilities and a peculiar class of vices. He becomes quick of observation and fertile of resource. He catches without effort the tone of any sect or party with which he chances to mingle. He discerns the signs of the times with a sagacity which to the multitude appears miraculous, with a sagacity resembling that with which a veteran police officer pursues the faintest indications of crime, or with which a Mohawk warrior follows a track through the woods. But we shell seldom find, in a statesman so trained, integrity, constancy, any of the virtues of the noble family of Truth. He has no faith in any doctrine, no zeal for any cause. He has seen so many old institutions swept away, that he has no reverence for prescription. He has seen so many new institutions, from which much had been expected, produce mere disappointment, that he has no hope of improvement. He sneers alike at those who are anxious to preserve and at those who are eager to reform. There is nothing in the state which he could not, without a scruple or a blush, join in defending or in destroying. Fidelity to opinions and to friends seems to him mere dulness and wrongheadedness. Politics he regards, not as a science of which the object is the happiness of mankind, but as an exciting game of mixed chance and skill, at which a dexterous and lucky player may win an estate, a coronet, perhaps a crown, and at which one rash move may lead to the loss of fortune and of life. Ambition, which, in good times, and in good minds, is half a virtue, now, disjoined from every elevated and philanthropic sentiment, becomes a selfish cupidity scarcely less ignoble than avarice. Among those politicians who, from the Restoration to the accession of the House of Hanover, were at the head of the great parties in the state, very few can be named whose reputation is not stained by what, in our age, would be called gross perfidy and corruption. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the most unprincipled public men who have taken part in affairs within our memory would, if tried by the standard which was in fashion during the latter part of the seventeenth century, deserve to be regarded as scrupulous and disinterested.
State of Scotland
While these political, religious, and moral changes were taking place in England, the Royal authority had been without difficulty reestablished in every other part of the British islands. In Scotland the restoration of the Stuarts had been hailed with delight; for it was regarded as the restoration of national independence. And true it was that the yoke which Cromwell had imposed was, in appearance, taken away, that the Scottish Estates again met in their old hall at Edinburgh, and that the Senators of the College of Justice again administered the Scottish law according to the old forms. Yet was the independence of the little kingdom necessarily rather nominal than real; for, as long as the King had England on his side, he had nothing to apprehend from disaffection in his other dominions. He was now in such a situation that he could renew the attempt which had proved destructive to his father without any danger of his father's fate. Charles the First had tried to force his own religion by his regal power on the Scots at a moment when both his religion and his regal power were unpopular in England; and he had not only failed, but had raised troubles which had ultimately cost him his crown and his head. Times had now changed: England was zealous for monarchy and prelacy; and therefore the scheme which had formerly been in the highest degree imprudent might be resumed with little risk to the throne. The government resolved to set up a prelatical church in Scotland. The design was disapproved by every Scotchman whose judgment was entitled to respect. Some Scottish statesmen who were zealous for the King's prerogative had been bred Presbyterians. Though little troubled with scruples, they retained a preference for the religion of their childhood; and they well knew how strong a hold that religion had on the hearts of their countrymen. They remonstrated strongly: but, when they found that they remonstrated in vain, they had not virtue enough to persist in an opposition which would have given offence to their master; and several of them stooped to the wickedness and baseness of persecuting what in their consciences they believed to be the purest form of Christianity. The Scottish Parliament was so constituted that it had scarcely ever offered any serious opposition even to Kings much weaker than Charles then was. Episcopacy, therefore, was established by law. As to the form of worship, a large discretion was left to the clergy. In some churches the English Liturgy was used. In others, the ministers selected from that Liturgy such prayers and thanksgivings as were likely to be least offensive to the people. But in general the doxology was sung at the close of public worship; and the Apostles' Creed was recited when baptism was administered. By the great body of the Scottish nation the new Church was detested both as superstitious and as foreign; as tainted with the corruptions of Rome, and as a mark of the predominance of England. There was, however, no general insurrection. The country was not what it had been twenty-two years before. Disastrous war and alien domination had tamed the spirit of the people. The aristocracy, which was held in great honour by the middle class and by the populace, had put itself at the head of the movement against Charles the First, but proved obsequious to Charles the Second. From the English Puritans no aid was now to be expected. They were a feeble party, proscribed both by law and by public opinion. The bulk of the Scottish nation, therefore, sullenly submitted, and, with many misgivings of conscience, attended the ministrations of the Episcopal clergy, or of Presbyterian divines who had consented to accept from the government a half toleration, known by the name of the Indulgence. But there were, particularly in the western lowlands, many fierce and resolute men who held that the obligation to observe the Covenant was paramount to the obligation to obey the magistrate. These people, in defiance of the law, persisted in meeting to worship God after their own fashion. The Indulgence they regarded, not as a partial reparation of the wrongs inflicted by the State on the Church, but as a new wrong, the more odious because it was disguised under the appearance of a benefit. Persecution, they said, could only kill the body; but the black Indulgence was deadly to the soul. Driven from the towns, they assembled on heaths and mountains. Attacked by the civil power, they without scruple repelled force by force. At every conventicle they mustered in arms. They repeatedly broke out into open rebellion. They were easily defeated, and mercilessly punished: but neither defeat nor punishment could subdue their spirit. Hunted down like wild beasts, tortured till their bones were beaten flat, imprisoned by hundreds, hanged by scores, exposed at one time to the license of soldiers from England, abandoned at another time to the mercy of troops of marauders from the Highlands, they still stood at bay in a mood so savage that the boldest and mightiest oppressor could not but dread the audacity of their despair.
State of Ireland
Such was, during the reign of Charles the Second, the state of Scotland. Ireland was not less distracted. In that island existed feuds, compared with which the hottest animosities of English politicians were lukewarm. The enmity between the Irish Cavaliers and the Irish Roundheads was almost forgotten in the fiercer enmity which raged between the English and the Celtic races. The interval between the Episcopalian and the Presbyterian seemed to vanish, when compared with the interval which separated both from the Papist. During the late civil troubles the greater part of the Irish soil had been transferred from the vanquished nation to the victors. To the favour of the Crown few either of the old or of the new occupants had any pretensions. The despoilers and the despoiled had, for the most part, been rebels alike. The government was soon perplexed and wearied by the conflicting claims and mutual accusations of the two incensed factions. Those colonists among whom Cromwell had portioned out the conquered territory, and whose descendants are still called Cromwellians, asserted that the aboriginal inhabitants were deadly enemies of the English nation under every dynasty, and of the Protestant religion in every form. They described and exaggerated the atrocities which had disgraced the insurrection of Ulster: they urged the King to follow up with resolution the policy of the Protector; and they were not ashamed to hint that there would never be peace in Ireland till the old Irish race should be extirpated. The Roman Catholics extenuated their offense as they best might, and expatiated in piteous language on the severity of their punishment, which, in truth, had not been lenient. They implored Charles not to confound the innocent with the guilty, and reminded him that many of the guilty had atoned for their fault by returning to their allegiance, and by defending his rights against the murderers of his father. The court, sick of the importunities of two parties, neither of which it had any reason to love, at length relieved itself from trouble by dictating a compromise. That system, cruel, but most complete and energetic, by which Oliver had proposed to make the island thoroughly English, was abandoned. The Cromwellians were induced to relinquish a third part of their acquisitions. The land thus surrendered was capriciously divided among claimants whom the government chose to favour. But great numbers who protested that they were innocent of all disloyalty, and some persons who boasted that their loyalty had been signally displayed, obtained neither restitution nor compensation, and filled France and Spain with outcries against the injustice and ingratitude of the House of Stuart.
Meantime the government had, even in England, ceased to be popular. The Royalists had begun to quarrel with the court and with each other; and the party which had been vanquished, trampled down, and, as it seemed, annihilated, but which had still retained a strong principle of life, again raised its head, and renewed the interminable war.
Had the administration been faultless, the enthusiasm with which the return of the King and the termination of the military tyranny had been hailed could not have been permanent. For it is the law of our nature that such fits of excitement shall always be followed by remissions. The manner in which the court abused its victory made the remission speedy and complete. Every moderate man was shocked by the insolence, cruelty, and perfidy with which the Nonconformists were treated. The penal laws had effectually purged the oppressed party of those insincere members whose vices had disgraced it, and had made it again an honest and pious body of men. The Puritan, a conqueror, a ruler, a persecutor, a sequestrator, had been detested. The Puritan, betrayed and evil entreated, deserted by all the timeservers who, in his prosperity, had claimed brotherhood with him, hunted from his home, forbidden under severe penalties to pray or receive the sacrament according to his conscience, yet still firm in his resolution to obey God rather than man, was, in spite of some unpleasing recollections, an object of pity and respect to well constituted minds. These feelings became stronger when it was noised abroad that the court was not disposed to treat Papists with the same rigour which had been shown to Presbyterians. A vague suspicion that the King and the Duke were not sincere Protestants sprang up and gathered strength. Many persons too who had been disgusted by the austerity and hypocrisy of the Saints of the Commonwealth began to be still more disgusted by the open profligacy of the court and of the Cavaliers, and were disposed to doubt whether the sullen preciseness of Praise God Barebone might not be preferable to the outrageous profaneness and licentiousness of the Buckinghams and Sedleys. Even immoral men, who were not utterly destitute of sense and public spirit, complained that the government treated the most serious matters as trifles, and made trifles its serious business. A King might be pardoned for amusing his leisure with wine, wit, and beauty. But it was intolerable that he should sink into a mere lounger and voluptuary, that the gravest affairs of state should be neglected, and that the public service should be starved and the finances deranged in order that harlots and parasites might grow rich.
A large body of Royalists joined in these complaints, and added many sharp reflections on the King's ingratitude. His whole revenue, indeed, would not have sufficed to reward them all in proportion to their own consciousness of desert. For to every distressed gentleman who had fought under Rupert or Derby his own services seemed eminently meritorious, and his own sufferings eminently severe. Every one had flattered himself that, whatever became of the rest, he should be largely recompensed for all that he had lost during the civil troubles, and that the restoration of the monarchy would be followed by the restoration of his own dilapidated fortunes. None of these expectants could restrain his indignation, when he found that he was as poor under the King as he had been under the Rump or the Protector. The negligence and extravagance of the court excited the bitter indignation of these loyal veterans. They justly said that one half of what His Majesty squandered on concubines and buffoons would gladden the hearts of hundreds of old Cavaliers who, after cutting down their oaks and melting their plate to help his father, now wandered about in threadbare suits, and did not know where to turn for a meal.
At the same time a sudden fall of rents took place. The income of every landed proprietor was diminished by five shillings in the pound. The cry of agricultural distress rose from every shire in the kingdom; and for that distress the government was, as usual, held accountable. The gentry, compelled to retrench their expenses for a period, saw with indignation the increasing splendour and profusion of Whitehall, and were immovably fixed in the belief that the money which ought to have supported their households had, by some inexplicable process, gone to the favourites of the King.
The minds of men were now in such a temper that every public act excited discontent. Charles had taken to wife Catharine Princess of Portugal. The marriage was generally disliked; and the murmurs became loud when it appeared that the King was not likely to have any legitimate posterity. Dunkirk, won by Oliver from Spain, was sold to Lewis the Fourteenth, King of France. This bargain excited general indignation. Englishmen were already beginning to observe with uneasiness the progress of the French power, and to regard the House of Bourbon with the same feeling with which their grandfathers had regarded the House of Austria. Was it wise, men asked, at such a time, to make any addition to the strength of a monarchy already too formidable? Dunkirk was, moreover, prized by the people, not merely as a place of arms, and as a key to the Low Countries, but also as a trophy of English valour. It was to the subjects of Charles what Calais had been to an earlier generation, and what the rock of Gibraltar, so manfully defended, through disastrous and perilous years, against the fleets and armies of a mighty coalition, is to ourselves. The plea of economy might have had some weight, if it had been urged by an economical government. But it was notorious that the charges of Dunkirk fell far short of the sums which were wasted at court in vice and folly. It seemed insupportable that a sovereign, profuse beyond example in all that regarded his own pleasures, should be niggardly in all that regarded the safety and honour of the state.
The public discontent was heightened, when it was found that, while Dunkirk was abandoned on the plea of economy, the fortress of Tangier, which was part of the dower of Queen Catharine, was repaired and kept up at an enormous charge. That place was associated with no recollections gratifying to the national pride: it could in no way promote the national interests: it involved us in inglorious, unprofitable, and interminable wars with tribes of half savage Mussulmans and it was situated in a climate singularly unfavourable to the health and vigour of the English race.
War with the Dutch
But the murmurs excited by these errors were faint, when compared with the clamours which soon broke forth. The government engaged in war with the United Provinces. The House of Commons readily voted sums unexampled in our history, sums exceeding those which had supported the fleets and armies of Cromwell at the time when his power was the terror of all the world. But such was the extravagance, dishonesty, and incapacity of those who had succeeded to his authority, that this liberality proved worse than useless. The sycophants of the court, ill qualified to contend against the great men who then directed the arms of Holland, against such a statesman as De Witt, and such a commander as De Ruyter, made fortunes rapidly, while the sailors mutinied from very hunger, while the dockyards were unguarded, while the ships were leaky and without rigging. It was at length determined to abandon all schemes of offensive war; and it soon appeared that even a defensive war was a task too hard for that administration. The Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames, and burned the ships of war which lay at Chatham. It was said that, on the very day of that great humiliation, the King feasted with the ladies of his seraglio, and amused himself with hunting a moth about the supper room. Then, at length, tardy justice was done to the memory of Oliver. Everywhere men magnified his valour, genius, and patriotism. Everywhere it was remembered how, when he ruled, all foreign powers had trembled at the name of England, how the States General, now so haughty, had crouched at his feet, and how, when it was known that he was no more, Amsterdam was lighted up as for a great deliverance, and children ran along the canals, shouting for joy that the Devil was dead. Even Royalists exclaimed that the state could be saved only by calling the old soldiers of the Commonwealth to arms. Soon the capital began to feel the miseries of a blockade. Fuel was scarcely to be procured. Tilbury Fort, the place where Elizabeth had, with manly spirit, hurled foul scorn at Parma and Spain, was insulted by the invaders. The roar of foreign guns was heard, for the first time, by the citizens of London. In the Council it was seriously proposed that, if the enemy advanced, the Tower should be abandoned. Great multitudes of people assembled in the streets crying out that England was bought and sold. The houses and carriages of the ministers were attacked by the populace; and it seemed likely that the government would have to deal at once with an invasion and with an insurrection. The extreme danger, it is true, soon passed by. A treaty was concluded, very different from the treaties which Oliver had been in the habit of signing; and the nation was once more at peace, but was in a mood scarcely less fierce and sullen than in the days of shipmoney.
The discontent engendered by maladministration was heightened by calamities which the best administration could not have averted. While the ignominious war with Holland was raging, London suffered two great disasters, such as never, in so short a space of time, befel one city. A pestilence, surpassing in horror any that during three centuries had visited the island, swept away, in six mouths, more than a hundred thousand human beings. And scarcely had the dead cart ceased to go its rounds, when a fire, such as had not been known in Europe since the conflagration of Rome under Nero, laid in ruins the whole city, from the Tower to the Temple, and from the river to the purlieus of Smithfield.
Opposition in the House of Commons
Had there been a general election while the nation was smarting under so many disgraces and misfortunes, it is probable that the Roundheads would have regained ascendency in the state. But the Parliament was still the Cavalier Parliament, chosen in the transport of loyalty which had followed the Restoration. Nevertheless it soon became evident that no English legislature, however loyal, would now consent to be merely what the legislature had been under the Tudors. From the death of Elizabeth to the eve of the civil war, the Puritans, who predominated in the representative body, had been constantly, by a dexterous use of the power of the purse, encroaching on the province of the executive government. The gentlemen who, after the Restoration, filled the Lower House, though they abhorred the Puritan name, were well pleased to inherit the fruit of the Puritan policy. They were indeed most willing to employ the power which they possessed in the state for the purpose of making their King mighty and honoured, both at home and abroad: but with the power itself they were resolved not to part. The great English revolution of the seventeenth century, that is to say, the transfer of the supreme control of the executive administration from the crown to the House of Commons, was, through the whole long existence of this Parliament, proceeding noiselessly, but rapidly and steadily. Charles, kept poor by his follies and vices, wanted money. The Commons alone could legally grant him money. They could not be prevented from putting their own price on their grants. The price which they put on their grants was this, that they should be allowed to interfere with every one of the King's prerogatives, to wring from him his consent to laws which he disliked, to break up cabinets, to dictate the course of foreign policy, and even to direct the administration of war. To the royal office, and the royal person, they loudly and sincerely professed the strongest attachment. But to Clarendon they owed no allegiance; and they fell on him as furiously as their predecessors had fallen on Strafford. The minister's virtues and vices alike contributed to his ruin. He was the ostensible head of the administration, and was therefore held responsible even for those acts which he had strongly, but vainly, opposed in Council. He was regarded by the Puritans, and by all who pitied them, as an implacable bigot, a second Laud, with much more than Laud's understanding. He had on all occasions maintained that the Act of indemnity ought to be strictly observed; and this part of his conduct, though highly honourable to him, made him hateful to all those Royalists who wished to repair their ruined fortunes by suing the Roundheads for damages and mesne profits. The Presbyterians of Scotland attributed to him the downfall of their Church. The Papists of Ireland attributed to him the loss of their lands. As father of the Duchess of York, he had an obvious motive for wishing that there might be a barren Queen; and he was therefore suspected of having purposely recommended one. The sale of Dunkirk was justly imputed to him. For the war with Holland, he was, with less justice, held accountable. His hot temper, his arrogant deportment, the indelicate eagerness with which he grasped at riches, the ostentation with which he squandered them, his picture gallery, filled with masterpieces of Vandyke which had once been the property of ruined Cavaliers, his palace, which reared its long and stately front right opposite to the humbler residence of our Kings, drew on him much deserved, and some undeserved, censure. When the Dutch fleet was in the Thames, it was against the Chancellor that the rage of the populace was chiefly directed. His windows were broken; the trees of his garden were cut down; and a gibbet was set up before his door. But nowhere was he more detested than in the House of Commons. He was unable to perceive that the time was fast approaching when that House, if it continued to exist at all, must be supreme in the state, when the management of that House would be the most important department of politics, and when, without the help of men possessing the ear of that House, it would be impossible to carry on the government. He obstinately persisted in considering the Parliament as a body in no respect differing from the Parliament which had been sitting when, forty years before, he first began to study law at the Temple. He did not wish to deprive the legislature of those powers which were inherent in it by the old constitution of the realm: but the new development of those powers, though a development natural, inevitable, and to be prevented only by utterly destroying the powers themselves, disgusted and alarmed him. Nothing would have induced him to put the great seal to a writ for raising shipmoney, or to give his voice in Council for committing a member of Parliament to the Tower, on account of words spoken in debate: but, when the Commons began to inquire in what manner the money voted for the war had been wasted, and to examine into the maladministration of the navy, he flamed with indignation. Such inquiry, according to him, was out of their province. He admitted that the House was a most loyal assembly, that it had done good service to the crown, and that its intentions were excellent. But, both in public and in the closet, he, on every occasion, expressed his concern that gentlemen so sincerely attached to monarchy should unadvisedly encroach on the prerogative of the monarch. Widely as they differed in spirit from the members of the Long Parliament, they yet, he said, imitated that Parliament in meddling with matters which lay beyond the sphere of the Estates of the realm, and which were subject to the authority of the crown alone. The country, he maintained, would never be well governed till the knights of shires and the burgesses were content to be what their predecessors had been in the days of Elizabeth. All the plans which men more observant than himself of the signs of that time proposed, for the purpose of maintaining a good understanding between the Court and the Commons, he disdainfully rejected as crude projects, inconsistent with the old polity of England. Towards the young orators, who were rising to distinction and authority in the Lower House, his deportment was ungracious: and he succeeded in making them, with scarcely an exception, his deadly enemies. Indeed one of his most serious faults was an inordinate contempt for youth: and this contempt was the more unjustifiable, because his own experience in English politics was by no means proportioned to his age. For so great a part of his life had been passed abroad that he knew less of that world in which he found himself on his return than many who might have been his sons.
Fall of Clarendon
For these reasons he was disliked by the Commons. For very different reasons he was equally disliked by the Court. His morals as well as his polities were those of an earlier generation. Even when he was a young law student, living much with men of wit and pleasure, his natural gravity and his religious principles had to a great extent preserved him from the contagion of fashionable debauchery; and he was by no means likely, in advanced years and in declining health, to turn libertine. On the vices of the young and gay he looked with an aversion almost as bitter and contemptuous as that which he felt for the theological errors of the sectaries. He missed no opportunity of showing his scorn of the mimics, revellers, and courtesans who crowded the palace; and the admonitions which he addressed to the King himself were very sharp, and, what Charles disliked still more, very long. Scarcely any voice was raised in favour of a minister loaded with the double odium of faults which roused the fury of the people, and of virtues which annoyed and importuned the sovereign. Southampton was no more. Ormond performed the duties of friendship manfully and faithfully, but in vain. The Chancellor fell with a great ruin. The seal was taken from him: the Commons impeached him: his head was not safe: he fled from the country: an act was passed which doomed him to perpetual exile; and those who had assailed and undermined him began to struggle for the fragments of his power.
The sacrifice of Clarendon in some degree took off the edge of the public appetite for revenge. Yet was the anger excited by the profusion and negligence of the government, and by the miscarriages of the late war, by no means extinguished. The counsellors of Charles, with the fate of the Chancellor before their eyes, were anxious for their own safety. They accordingly advised their master to soothe the irritation which prevailed both in the Parliament and throughout the country, and for that end, to take a step which has no parallel in the history of the House of Stuart, and which was worthy of the prudence and magnanimity of Oliver.