General Election of 1681
Parliament held at Oxford, and dissolved
Persecution of the Whigs
Charter of the City confiscated
Detection of the Whig Conspiracies; Severity of the Government; Seizure of Charters
Influence of the Duke of York
He is opposed by Halifax
Policy of Lewis
State of Factions in the Court of Charles at the time of his Death
General Election of 1681
The King determined to try once more the experiment of a dissolution. A new Parliament was summoned to meet at Oxford, in March, 1681. Since the days of the Plantagenets the Houses had constantly sat at Westminster, except when the plague was raging in the capital: but so extraordinary a conjuncture seemed to require extraordinary precautions. If the Parliament were held in its usual place of assembling, the House of Commons might declare itself permanent, and might call for aid on the magistrates and citizens of London. The trainbands might rise to defend Shaftesbury as they had risen forty years before to defend Pym and Hampden. The Guards might be overpowered, the palace forced, the King a prisoner in the hands of his mutinous subjects. At Oxford there was no such danger. The University was devoted to the crown; and the gentry of the neighbourhood were generally Tories. Here, therefore, the opposition had more reason than the King to apprehend violence.
The elections were sharply contested. The Whigs still composed a majority of the House of Commons: but it was plain that the Tory spirit was fast rising throughout the country. It should seem that the sagacious and versatile Shaftesbury ought to have foreseen the coming change, and to have consented to the compromise which the court offered: but he appears to have forgotten his old tactics. Instead of making dispositions which, in the worst event, would have secured his retreat, he took up a position in which it was necessary that he should either conquer or perish. Perhaps his head, strong as it was, had been turned by popularity, by success, and by the excitement of conflict. Perhaps he had spurred his party till he could no longer curb it, and was really hurried on headlong by those whom he seemed to guide.
Parliament held at Oxford, and dissolved
The eventful day arrived. The meeting at Oxford resembled rather that of a Polish Diet than that of an English Parliament. The Whig members were escorted by great numbers of their armed and mounted tenants and serving men, who exchanged looks of defiance with the royal Guards. The slightest provocation might, under such circumstances, have produced a civil war; but neither side dared to strike the first blow. The King again offered to consent to anything but the Exclusion Bill. The Commons were determined to accept nothing but the Exclusion Bill. In a few days the Parliament was again dissolved.
The King had triumphed. The reaction, which had begun some months before the meeting of the House at Oxford, now went rapidly on. The nation, indeed, was still hostile to Popery: but, when men reviewed the whole history of the plot, they felt that their Protestant zeal had hurried them into folly and crime, and could scarcely believe that they had been induced by nursery tales to clamour for the blood of fellow subjects and fellow Christians. The most loyal, indeed, could not deny that the administration of Charles had often been highly blamable. But men who had not the full information which we possess touching his dealings with France, and who were disgusted by the violence of the Whigs, enumerated the large concessions which, during the last few years he had made to his Parliaments, and the still larger concessions which he had declared himself willing to make. He had consented to the laws which excluded Roman Catholics from the House of Lords, from the Privy Council, and from all civil and military offices. He had passed the Habeas Corpus Act. If securities yet stronger had not been provided against the dangers to which the constitution and the Church might be exposed under a Roman Catholic sovereign, the fault lay, not with Charles who had invited the Parliament to propose such securities, but with those Whigs who had refused to hear of any substitute for the Exclusion Bill. One thing only had the King denied to his people. He had refused to take away his brother's birthright. And was there not good reason to believe that this refusal was prompted by laudable feelings? What selfish motive could faction itself impute to the royal mind? The Exclusion Bill did not curtail the reigning King's prerogatives, or diminish his income. Indeed, by passing it, he might easily have obtained an ample addition to his own revenue. And what was it to him who ruled after him? Nay, if he had personal predilections, they were known to be rather in favour of the Duke of Monmouth than of the Duke of York. The most natural explanation of the King's conduct seemed to be that, careless as was his temper and loose as were his morals, he had, on this occasion, acted from a sense of duty and honour. And, if so, would the nation compel him to do what he thought criminal and disgraceful? To apply, even by strictly constitutional means, a violent pressure to his conscience, seemed to zealous royalists ungenerous and undutiful. But strictly constitutional means were not the only means which the Whigs were disposed to employ. Signs were already discernible which portended the approach of great troubles. Men, who, in the time of the civil war and of the Commonwealth, had acquired an odious notoriety, had emerged from the obscurity in which, after the Restoration, they had hidden themselves from the general hatred. showed their confident and busy faces everywhere, and appeared to anticipate a second reign of the Saints. Another Naseby, another High Court of Justice, another usurper on the throne, the Lords again ejected from their hall by violence, the Universities again purged, the Church again robbed and persecuted, the Puritans again dominant, to such results did the desperate policy of the opposition seem to tend.
Persecution of the Whigs
Strongly moved by these apprehensions, the majority of the upper and middle classes hastened to rally round the throne. The situation of the King bore, at this time, a great resemblance to that in which his father stood just after the Remonstrance had been voted. But the reaction of 1641 had not been suffered to run its course. Charles the First, at the very moment when his people, long estranged, were returning to him with hearts disposed to reconciliation, had, by a perfidious violation of the fundamental laws of the realm, forfeited their confidence for ever. Had Charles the Second taken a similar course, had he arrested the Whig leaders in an irregular manner, had he impeached them of high treason before a tribunal which had no legal jurisdiction over them, it is highly probable that they would speedily have regained the ascendancy which they had lost. Fortunately for himself, he was induced, at this crisis, to adopt a policy singularly judicious. He determined to conform to the law, but at the same time to make vigorous and unsparing use of the law against his adversaries. He was not bound to convoke a Parliament till three years should have elapsed. He was not much distressed for money. The produce of the taxes which had been settled on him for life exceeded the estimate. He was at peace with all the world. He could retrench his expenses by giving up the costly and useless settlement of Tangier; and he might hope for pecuniary aid from France. He had, therefore, ample time and means for a systematic attack on the opposition under the forms of the constitution. The Judges were removable at his pleasure: the juries were nominated by the Sheriffs; and, in almost all the counties of England, the Sheriffs were nominated by himself. Witnesses, of the same class with those who had recently sworn away the lives of Papists, were ready to swear away the lives of Whigs.
The first victim was College, a noisy and violent demagogue of mean birth and education. He was by trade a joiner, and was celebrated as the inventor of the Protestant flail.(23) He had been at Oxford when the Parliament sate there, and was accused of having planned a rising and an attack on the King's guards. Evidence was given against him by Dugdale and Turberville, the same infamous men who had, a few months earlier, borne false witness against Stafford. In the sight of a jury of country squires no Exclusionist was likely to find favour. College was convicted. The crowd which filled the court house of Oxford received the verdict with a roar of exultation, as barbarous as that which he and his friends had been in the habit of raising when innocent Papists were doomed to the gallows. His execution was the beginning of a new judicial massacre not less atrocious than that in which he had himself borne a share.
The government, emboldened by this first victory, now aimed a blow at an enemy of a very different class. It was resolved that Shaftesbury should be brought to trial for his life. Evidence was collected which, it was thought, would support a charge of treason. But the facts which it was necessary to prove were alleged to have been committed in London. The Sheriffs of London, chosen by the citizens, were zealous Whigs. They named a Whig grand jury, which threw out the bill. This defeat, far from discouraging those who advised the King, suggested to them a new and daring scheme. Since the charter of the capital was in their way, that charter must be annulled. It was pretended, therefore, that the City had by some irregularities forfeited its municipal privileges; and proceedings were instituted against the corporation in the Court of King's Bench. At the same time those laws which had, soon after the Restoration, been enacted against Nonconformists, and which had remained dormant during the ascendency of the Whigs, were enforced all over the kingdom with extreme rigour.
Yet the spirit of the Whigs was not subdued. Though in evil plight, they were still a numerous and powerful party; and. as they mustered strong in the large towns, and especially in the capital, they made a noise and a show more than proportioned to their real force. Animated by the recollection of past triumphs, and by the sense of present oppression, they overrated both their strength and their wrongs. It was not in their power to make out that clear and overwhelming case which can alone justify so violent a remedy as resistance to an established government. Whatever they might suspect, they could not prove that their sovereign had entered into a treaty with France against the religion and liberties of England. What was apparent was not sufficient to warrant an appeal to the sword. If the Lords had thrown out the Exclusion Bill, they had thrown it out in the exercise of a right coeval with the constitution. If the King had dissolved the Oxford Parliament, he had done so by virtue of a prerogative which had never been questioned. If he had, since the dissolution, done some harsh things, still those things were in strict conformity with the letter of the law, and with the recent practice of the malecontents themselves. If he had prosecuted his opponents, he had prosecuted them according to the proper forms, and before the proper tribunals. The evidence now produced for the crown was at least as worthy of credit as the evidence on which the noblest blood of England had lately been shed by the opposition. The treatment which an accused Whig had now to expect from judges, advocates, sheriffs, juries and spectators, was no worse than the treatment which had lately been thought by the Whigs good enough for an accused Papist. If the privileges of the City of London were attacked, they were attacked, not by military violence or by any disputable exercise of prerogative, but according to the regular practice of Westminster Hall. No tax was imposed by royal authority. No law was suspended. The Habeas Corpus Act was respected. Even the Test Act was enforced. The opposition, therefore, could not bring home to the King that species of misgovernment which alone could justify insurrection. And, even had his misgovernment been more flagrant than it was, insurrection would still have been criminal, because it was almost certain to be unsuccessful. The situation of the Whigs in 1682 differed widely from that of the Roundheads forty years before. Those who took up arms against Charles the First acted under the authority of a Parliament which had been legally assembled, and which could not, without its own consent, be legally dissolved. The opponents of Charles the Second were private men. Almost all the military and naval resources of the kingdom had been at the disposal of those who resisted Charles the First. All the military and naval resources of the kingdom were at the disposal of Charles the Second. The House of Commons had been supported by at least half the nation against Charles the First. But those who were disposed to levy war against Charles the Second were certainly a minority. It could hardly be doubted, therefore, that, if they attempted a rising, they would fail. Still less could it be doubted that their failure would aggravate every evil of which they complained. The true policy of the Whigs was to submit with patience to adversity which was the natural consequence and the just punishment of their errors, to wait patiently for that turn of public feeling which must inevitably come, to observe the law, and to avail themselves of the protection, imperfect indeed, but by no means nugatory, which the law afforded to innocence. Unhappily they took a very different course. Unscrupulous and hot-headed chiefs of the party formed and discussed schemes of resistance, and were heard, if not with approbation, yet with the show of acquiescence, by much better men than themselves. It was proposed that there should be simultaneous insurrections in London, in Cheshire, at Bristol, and at Newcastle. Communications were opened with the discontented Presbyterians of Scotland, who were suffering under a tyranny such as England, in the worst times, had never known. While the leaders of the opposition thus revolved plans of open rebellion, but were still restrained by fears or scruples from taking any decisive step, a design of a very different kind was meditated by some of their accomplices. To fierce spirits, unrestrained by principle, or maddened by fanaticism, it seemed that to waylay and murder the King and his brother was the shortest and surest way of vindicating the Protestant religion and the liberties of England. A place and a time were named; and the details of the butchery were frequently discussed, if not definitely arranged. This scheme was known but to few, and was concealed with especial care from the upright and humane Russell, and from Monmouth, who, though not a man of delicate conscience, would have recoiled with horror from the guilt of parricide. Thus there were two plots, one within the other. The object of the great Whig plot was to raise the nation in arms against the government. The lesser plot, commonly called the Rye House Plot, in which only a few desperate men were concerned, had for its object the assassination of the King and of the heir presumptive.
Detection of the Whig Conspiracies; Severity of the Government; Seizure of Charters
Both plots were soon discovered. Cowardly traitors hastened to save themselves, by divulging all, and more than all, that had passed in the deliberations of the party. That only a small minority of those who meditated resistance had admitted into their minds the thought of assassination is fully established: but, as the two conspiracies ran into each other, it was not difficult for the government to confound them together. The just indignation excited by the Rye House Plot was extended for a time to the whole Whig body. The King was now at liberty to exact full vengeance for years of restraint and humiliation. Shaftesbury, indeed, had escaped the fate which his manifold perfidy had well deserved. He had seen that the ruin of his party was at hand, had in vain endeavoured to make his peace with the royal brothers, had fled to Holland, and had died there, under the generous protection of a government which he had cruelly wronged. Monmouth threw himself at his father's feet and found mercy, but soon gave new offence, and thought it prudent to go into voluntary exile. Essex perished by his own hand in the Tower. Russell, who appears to have been guilty of no offence falling within the definition of high treason, and Sidney, of whose guilt no legal evidence could be produced, were beheaded in defiance of law and justice. Russell died with the fortitude of a Christian, Sidney with the fortitude of a Stoic. Some active politicians of meaner rank were sent to the gallows. Many quitted the country. Numerous prosecutions for misprision of treason, for libel, and for conspiracy were instituted. Convictions were obtained without difficulty from Tory juries, and rigorous punishments were inflicted by courtly judges. With these criminal proceedings were joined civil proceedings scarcely less formidable. Actions were brought against persons who had defamed the Duke of York and damages tantamount to a sentence of perpetual imprisonment were demanded by the plaintiff, and without difficulty obtained. The Court of King's Bench pronounced that the franchises of the City of London were forfeited to the Crown. Flushed with this great victory, the government proceeded to attack the constitutions of other corporations which were governed by Whig officers, and which had been in the habit of returning Whig members to Parliament. Borough after borough was compelled to surrender its privileges; and new charters were granted which gave the ascendency everywhere to the Tories.
These proceedings, however reprehensible, had yet the semblance of legality. They were also accompanied by an act intended to quiet the uneasiness with which many loyal men looked forward to the accession of a Popish sovereign. The Lady Anne, younger daughter of the Duke of York by his first wife, was married to George, a prince of the orthodox House of Denmark. The Tory gentry and clergy might now flatter themselves that the Church of England had been effectually secured without any violation of the order of succession. The King and the heir presumptive were nearly of the same age. Both were approaching the decline of life. The King's health was good. It was therefore probable that James, if he came to the throne, would have but a short reign. Beyond his reign there was the gratifying prospect of a long series of Protestant sovereigns.
The liberty of unlicensed printing was of little or no use to the vanquished party; for the temper of judges and juries was such that no writer whom the government prosecuted for a libel had any chance of escaping. The dread of punishment therefore did all that a censorship could have done. Meanwhile, the pulpits resounded with harangues against the sin of rebellion. The treatises in which Filmer maintained that hereditary despotism was the form of government ordained by God, and that limited monarchy was a pernicious absurdity, had recently appeared, and had been favourably received by a large section of the Tory party. The university of Oxford, on the very day on which Russell was put to death, adopted by a solemn public act these strange doctrines, and ordered the political works of Buchanan, Milton, and Baxter to be publicly burned in the court of the Schools.
Thus emboldened, the King at length ventured to overstep the bounds which he had during some years observed, and to violate the plain letter of the law. The law was that not more than three years should pass between the dissolving of one Parliament and the convoking of another. But, when three years had elapsed after the dissolution of the Parliament which sate at Oxford, no writs were issued for an election. This infraction of the constitution was the more reprehensible, because the King had little reason to fear a meeting with a new House of Commons. The counties were generally on his side; and many boroughs in which the Whigs had lately held sway had been so remodelled that they were certain to return none but courtiers.
Influence of the Duke of York
In a short time the law was again violated in order to gratify the Duke of York. That prince was, partly on account of his religion, and partly on account of the sternness and harshness of his nature, so unpopular that it had been thought necessary to keep him out of sight while the Exclusion Bill was before Parliament, lest his appearance should give an advantage to the party which was struggling to deprive him of his birthright. He had therefore been sent to govern Scotland, where the savage old tyrant Lauderdale was sinking into the grave. Even Lauderdale was now outdone. The administration of James was marked by odious laws, by barbarous punishments, and by judgments to the iniquity of which even that age furnished no parallel. The Scottish Privy Council had power to put state prisoners to the question. But the sight was so dreadful that, as soon as the boots appeared, even the most servile and hardhearted courtiers hastened out of the chamber. The board was sometimes quite deserted: and it was at length found necessary to make an order that the members should keep their seats on such occasions. The Duke of York, it was remarked, seemed to take pleasure in the spectacle which some of the worst men then living were unable to contemplate without pity and horror. He not only came to Council when the torture was to be inflicted, but watched the agonies of the sufferers with that sort of interest and complacency with which men observe a curious experiment in science. Thus he employed himself at Edinburgh, till the event of the conflict between the court and the Whigs was no longer doubtful. He then returned to England: but he was still excluded by the Test Act from all public employment; nor did the King at first think it safe to violate a statute which the great majority of his most loyal subjects regarded as one of the chief securities of their religion and of their civil rights. When, however, it appeared, from a succession of trials, that the nation had patience to endure almost anything that the government had courage to do, Charles ventured to dispense with the law in his brother's favour. The Duke again took his seat in the Council, and resumed the direction of naval affairs.
He is opposed by Halifax
These breaches of the constitution excited, it is true, some murmurs among the moderate Tories, and were not unanimously approved even by the King's ministers. Halifax in particular, now a Marquess and Lord Privy Seal, had, from the very day on which the Tories had by his help gained the ascendant, begun to turn Whig. As soon as the Exclusion Bill had been thrown out, he had pressed the House of Lords to make provision against the danger to which, in the next reign, the liberties and religion of the nation might be exposed. He now saw with alarm the violence of that reaction which was, in no small measure, his own work. He did not try to conceal the scorn which he felt for the servile doctrines of the University of Oxford. He detested the French alliance. He disapproved of the long intermission of Parliaments. He regretted the severity with which the vanquished party was treated. He who, when the Whigs were predominant, had ventured to pronounce Stafford not guilty, ventured, when they were vanquished and helpless, to intercede for Russell. At one of the last Councils which Charles held a remarkable scene took place. The charter of Massachusetts had been forfeited. A question arose how, for the future, the colony should be governed. The general opinion of the board was that the whole power, legislative as well as executive, should abide in the crown. Halifax took the opposite side, and argued with great energy against absolute monarchy, and in favour of representative government. It was vain, he said, to think that a population, sprung from the English stock, and animated by English feelings, would long bear to be deprived of English institutions. Life, he exclaimed, would not be worth having in a country where liberty and property were at the mercy of one despotic master. The Duke of York was greatly incensed by this language, and represented to his brother the danger of retaining in office a man who appeared to be infected with all the worst notions of Marvell and Sidney.
Some modern writers have blamed Halifax for continuing in the ministry while he disapproved of the manner in which both domestic and foreign affairs were conducted. But this censure is unjust. Indeed it is to be remarked that the word ministry, in the sense in which we use it, was then unknown.(24) The thing itself did not exist; for it belongs to an age in which parliamentary government is fully established. At present the chief servants of the crown form one body. They are understood to be on terms of friendly confidence with each other, and to agree as to the main principles on which the executive administration ought to be conducted. If a slight difference of opinion arises among them, it is easily compromised: but, if one of them differs from the rest on a vital point, it is his duty to resign. While he retains his office, he is held responsible even for steps which he has tried to dissuade his colleagues from taking. In the seventeenth century, the heads of the various branches of the administration were bound together in no such partnership. Each of them was accountable for his own acts, for the use which he made of his own official seal, for the documents which he signed, for the counsel which he gave to the King. No statesman was held answerable for what he had not himself done, or induced others to do. If he took care not to be the agent in what was wrong, and if, when consulted, he recommended what was right, he was blameless. It would have been thought strange scrupulosity in him to quit his post, because his advice as to matters not strictly within his own department was not taken by his master; to leave the Board of Admiralty, for example, because the finances were in disorder, or the Board of Treasury because the foreign relations of the kingdom were in an unsatisfactory state. It was, therefore, by no means unusual to see in high office, at the same time, men who avowedly differed from one another as widely as ever Pulteney differed from Walpole, or Fox from Pitt.
The moderate and constitutional counsels of Halifax were timidly and feebly seconded by Francis North, Lord Guildford who had lately been made Keeper of the Great Seal. The character of Guildford has been drawn at full length by his brother Roger North, a most intolerant Tory, a most affected and pedantic writer, but a vigilant observer of all those minute circumstances which throw light on the dispositions of men. It is remarkable that the biographer, though he was under the influence of the strongest fraternal partiality, and though he was evidently anxious to produce a flattering likeness, was unable to portray the Lord Keeper otherwise than as the most ignoble of mankind. Yet the intellect of Guildford was clear, his industry great, his proficiency in letters and science respectable, and his legal learning more than respectable. His faults were selfishness, cowardice, and meanness. He was not insensible to the power of female beauty, nor averse from excess in wine. Yet neither wine nor beauty could ever seduce the cautious and frugal libertine, even in his earliest youth, into one fit of indiscreet generosity. Though of noble descent, he rose in his profession by paying ignominious homage to all who possessed influence in the courts. He became Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and as such was party to some of the foulest judicial murders recorded in our history. He had sense enough to perceive from the first that Oates and Bedloe were impostors: but the Parliament and the country were greatly excited: the government had yielded to the pressure; and North was not a man to risk a good place for the sake of justice and humanity. Accordingly, while he was in secret drawing up a refutation of the whole romance of the Popish plot, he declared in public that the truth of the story was as plain as the sun in heaven, and was not ashamed to browbeat, from the seat of judgment, the unfortunate Roman Catholics who were arraigned before him for their lives. He had at length reached the highest post in the law. But a lawyer, who, after many years devoted to professional labour, engages in politics for the first time at an advanced period of life, seldom distinguishes himself as a statesman; and Guildford was no exception to the general rule. He was indeed so sensible of his deficiencies that he never attended the meetings of his colleagues on foreign affairs. Even on questions relating to his own profession his opinion had less weight at the Council board than that of any man who has ever held the Great Seal. Such as his influence was, however, he used it, as far as ho dared, on the side of the laws.
The chief opponent of Halifax was Lawrence Hyde, who had recently been created Earl of Rochester. Of all Tories, Rochester was the most intolerant and uncompromising. The moderate members of his party complained that the whole patronage of the Treasury, while he was First Commissioner there, went to noisy zealots, whose only claim to promotion was that they were always drinking confusion to Whiggery, and lighting bonfires to burn the Exclusion Bill. The Duke of York, pleased with a spirit which so much resembled his own supported his brother in law passionately and obstinately.
The attempts of the rival ministers to surmount and supplant each other kept the court in incessant agitation. Halifax pressed the King to summon a Parliament, to grant a general amnesty, to deprive the Duke of York of all share in the government, to recall Monmouth from banishment, to break with Lewis, and to form a close union with Holland on the principles of the Triple Alliance. The Duke of York, on the other hand, dreaded the meeting of a Parliament, regarded the vanquished Whigs with undiminished hatred, still flattered himself that the design formed fourteen years before at Dover might be accomplished, daily represented to his brother the impropriety of suffering one who was at heart a Republican to hold the Privy Seal, and strongly recommended Rochester for the great place of Lord Treasurer.
While the two factions were struggling, Godolphin, cautious, silent, and laborious, observed a neutrality between them. Sunderland, with his usual restless perfidy, intrigued against them both. He had been turned out of office in disgrace for having voted in favour of the Exclusion Bill, but had made his peace by employing the good offices of the Duchess of Portsmouth and by cringing to the Duke of York, and was once more Secretary of State.
Policy of Lewis
Nor was Lewis negligent or inactive. Everything at that moment favoured his designs. He had nothing to apprehend from the German empire, which was then contending against the Turks on the Danube. Holland could not, unsupported venture to oppose him. He was therefore at liberty to indulge his ambition and insolence without restraint. He seized Strasburg,, Courtray, Luxemburg. He exacted from the republic of Genoa the most humiliating submissions. The power of France at that time reached a higher point than it ever before or ever after attained, during the ten centuries which separated the reign of Charlemagne from the reign of Napoleon. It was not easy to say where her acquisitions would stop, if only England could be kept in a state of vassalage. The first object of the court of Versailles was therefore to prevent the calling of a Parliament and the reconciliation of English parties. For this end bribes, promises, and menaces were unsparingly employed. Charles was sometimes allured by the hope of a subsidy, and sometimes frightened by being told that, if he convoked the Houses, the secret articles of the treaty of Dover should be published. Several Privy Councillors were bought; and attempts were made to buy Halifax, but in vain. When he had been found incorruptible, all the art and influence of the French embassy were employed to drive him from office: but his polished wit and his various accomplishments had made him so agreeable to his master, that the design failed.(25)
Halifax was not content with standing on the defensive. He openly accused Rochester of malversation. An inquiry took place. It appeared that forty thousand pounds had been lost to the public by the mismanagement of the First Lord of the Treasury. In consequence of this discovery he was not only forced to relinquish his hopes of the white staff, but was removed from the direction of the finances to the more dignified but less lucrative and important post of Lord President. "I have seen people kicked down stairs," said Halifax; "but my Lord Rochester is the first person that I ever saw kicked up stairs." Godolphin, now a peer, became First Commissioner of the Treasury.
State of Factions in the Court of Charles at the time of his Death
Still, however, the contest continued. The event depended wholly on the will of Charles; and Charles could not come to a decision. In his perplexity he promised everything to everybody. He would stand by France: he would break with France: he would never meet another Parliament: he would order writs for a Parliament to be issued without delay. He assured the Duke of York that Halifax should be dismissed from office, and Halifax that the Duke should be sent to Scotland. In public he affected implacable resentment against Monmouth, and in private conveyed to Monmouth assurances of unalterable affection. How long, if the King's life had been protracted, his hesitation would have lasted, and what would have been his resolve, can only be conjectured. Early in the year 1685, while hostile parties were anxiously awaiting his determination, he died, and a new scene opened. In a few mouths the excesses of the government obliterated the impression which had been made on the public mind by the excesses of the opposition. The violent reaction which had laid the Whig party prostrate was followed by a still more violent reaction in the opposite direction; and signs not to be mistaken indicated that the great conflict between the prerogatives of the Crown and the privileges of the Parliament, was about to be brought to a final issue.