THE HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLES
by Winston Churchill
The Revolution of 1688
WILLIAM OF ORANGE watched the King's proceedings with close attention. Soon after the dismissal of the Hydes, Dykevelt, a Dutchman of the highest character, arrived in London as his envoy, partly to exhibit William as pleading with James to moderate his measures, and partly to sound the Opposition leaders? Dykevelt saw all the statesmen opposed to the Court, and made it clear that they could count upon William and Mary for help. For some months past King James and the Catholic party had been toying with a plan to make the Princess Anne next in succession to the Crown on condition that she would turn Catholic. Anne's circle at her house, the Cockpit, was firmly Protestant. Bishop Compton was her spiritual guide, John Churchill her trusted adviser, and his wife Sarah her bosom friend. The mere rumour of such designs locked the whole of this group together, and Anne, convulsed with fear and anger at the suggestion that her faith would be tampered with, roused herself to a mood. of martyrdom. The strong, sincere, and natural attitude of this closely knit group was to play an important part in later events. After Dykevelt's departure Churchill wrote to William on May 17, 1687, giving him assurances "under my own hand, that my places and the King's favour I set at nought, in comparison of being true to my religion. In all things but this, the King may command me; and I call God to witness, that even with joy I should expose my life for his service, so sensible am I of his favours." But he declared that, "although I cannot live the life of a saint, I am resolved if there be ever occasion for it, to show the resolution of a martyr."
The provocations of the royal policy continued. The first Declaration of Indulgence was issued. It did precisely what James's Parliament had objected to in advance: it set aside statutory acts by Royal Prerogative. Meanwhile an attempt to force a Catholic President upon Magdalen College, Oxford, and the expulsion of the Fellows for their resistance, added to the stir. In July James planned the public reception of the Papal Nuncio, d'Adda. The Duke of Somerset, when commanded to conduct the ceremonial, objected on the grou id that the recognition of Papal officials had been declared illegal at the Reformation. "I am above the law," said James. "Your Majesty is so," replied the Duke, "but I am not." He was at once dismissed from all his offices.
The King had, in modern parlance, set up his political platform. The second step was to create a party machine, and the third to secure by its agency a Parliament with a mandate for the repeal of the Tests. The narrow franchise could be manipulated in the country to a very large extent by the Lord-Lieutaaints and by the magistrates, and in the towns and cities by the corporations. Upon these therefore the royal energies were now directed. Lord-Lieutenants, including many of the greatest territorial magnates, who refused to help pack a favourable Parliament, were dismissed, and Catholics or faithful nominees of the Court installed in their places. The municipal corporations and the benches of magistrates were drastically remodelled so as to secure the fullest representation, or even the preponderance, of Papists and Dissenters. The Government tried to extort from all local authorities a pledge to support the King's policy. The process of setting Papists and Dissenters over or in place of Anglicans and Cavaliers ruptured and recast the whole social structure of English life as established at the Restoration. Not only the proudest and wealthiest nobles but the broad strength of the people were equally offended. The rich and powerful, in resisting the Crown, felt themselves upborne by the feelings of the voteless masses.
Defenders of James's conduct are concerned to exaggerate the number of English Catholics. It is even claimed that one eighth of the population still adhered, in spite of generations of persecution, to the Old Faith. The old Catholic families in England however, apart from favoured individuals, were deeply apprehensive of the headlong adventure upon which the King was launching them. The Pope himself, in accordance with the policy of the Holy See, deprecated James's excessive zeal, and his Legate in England urged caution and prudence. But the King hardened his heart and strengthened his Army.
For many months there was still parley. The parsons preached against Popery. Halifax issued his cogent Letter to a Dissenter to offset James's attempt to rally the Nonconformists. Bishop Burnet wrote from The Hague appealing to the Anglicans to stand steadfastly against the King's policy despite their doctrine of nonresistance. William of Orange made no secret of his own sentiments. The national fear and hatred of Catholicism were inflamed by the daily landing on the British shores of miserable victims of Catholic "toleration" as practised in France by the most powerful sovereign in the world. All classes and parties knew the close sympathy and co-operation of the French and the English Courts. They saw all they cared for in this world and the next threatened. They therefore entered, not without many scruples and hesitations, but with inexorable resolve, upon the paths of conspiracy and rebellion.
During the ten years which followed the Treaty of Nim-wegen Louis XIV reached his zenith. England, rent by her domestic quarrels, had ceased to be a factor in European affairs. The Habsburg Empire was equally paralysed for action in the West by the Ottoman invasion and Hungarian revolts. Louis, conscious of his dominating power, sought to revive the empire of Charlemagne on a vaster scale. He contemplated himself as a candidate for the Imperial throne. He was deep in schemes which would secure the reversion of Spain and her New World empire to a French prince. His inroads upon his neighbours were unceasing. In 1681 he had swooped across the Rhine and occupied Strasbourg. In 1684 he bombarded Genoa, besieged Luxembourg, massed troops upon the Spanish frontier, and laid claims to large territories in North-West Germany. His neighbours cowered beneath his unrelenting scourge in pain and fear. His flail fell upon the Huguenots, but he also engaged in a most grievous quarrel with the Papacy. He marshalled and disciplined the French clergy with the same thoroughness as his armies. He grasped all ecclesiastical revenues and patronage. He claimed not only temporal but in many direifions spiritual control. The Galilean Church yielded itself with patriotic adulation to his commands. All who diverged fell under the same heavy hand which had destroyed the Huguenots.
The Pope, Innocent XI, stands high in the long line of pontiffs. The virtues of this eminently practical and competent cleric, who began life as a soldier, shine with a modern glow across the generations. In manner gentle, in temper tolerant, in mood humane, in outlook broad and comprehending, he nevertheless possessed and exercised an inflexible will and an imperturbable daring. He understood the political balances of Europe as well as any statesman then alive. He disapproved of French persecution of the Protestants. He condemned conversions effected by such means. Christ had not used armed apostles. "Men must be led to the temple, not dragged into it." He withdrew all spiritual authority from the French episcopacy. He pronounced decrees of interdict and excommunication, and finally he wove himself into the whole European combination which was forming against the predominance of France. While on the one hand he comforted the Catholic Empejor, he also consorted with the Calvinist Prince of Orange. Thus slowly, fitfully, but none the less surely, the sense of a common cause grew across the barriers of class, race, creed, and self-interest in the hearts of millions of men.
In England during the autumn of 1688 everything pointed, as in 1642, to the outbreak of civil war. But now the grouping of the forces was far different from the days when Charles I unfurled his standard at Nottingham. The King had a large, well-equipped regular Army, with a powerful artillery. He believed himself master of the best, if not at the moment the largest, Navy afloat. He could call for powerful armed aid from Ireland and from France. He held the principal seaports and arsenals under trusty Catholic governors. He enjoyed substantial revenues. He assumed that the Church of England was paralysed by its doctrine of nonresistance, and he had been careful not to allow any Parliament to assemble for collective action. Ranged against him on the other hand were not only the Whigs, but almost all the old friends of the Crown. The men who had made the Restoration, the sons of the men who had fought and died for his father at Marston Moor and Naseby, the Church whose bishops and ministers had so long faced persecution for- the principle of Divine Right, the universities which had"'melted their plate for King Charles I's coffers and sent their young scholars to his armies, the nobility and landed gentry whose interests had seemed so bound up with the monarchy—all, with bent heads and burning hearts, must now prepare themselves to outface their King in arms. Never did the aristocracy or the Established Church face a sterner test or serve the nation better than in 1688. They never flinched; they never doubted.
In this wide and secret confederacy there were two main divisions of policy. The moderates, led by Halifax and Nottingham, urged caution and delay. The Ministry, they pleaded, was breaking up. There had been no widespread conversions to Catholicism, as James had hoped, and he would never get a Parliament to support him. No case had yet arisen to warrant actual treason. Remember, they enjoined, how a standing army rallies to its duty once fighting has begun. Remember Sedgemoor. "All is going well, if you do not spoil it." On the other hand stood the party of action, headed by Danby. He was the first man of great position who definitely set himself to bring William and a foreign army into England. With Danby were the Whig leaders—Shrewsbury, Devonshire, and some others. As early as the spring of 1688 they invited William to come over; and William replied that if he received at the right moment a formal request from leading English statesmen he would come, and that he would be ready by September. A nation-wide conspiracy was on foot by the end of May. Detailed plans were made, and the land was full of whisperings and of mysterious comings and goings.
Much now turned upon the Army. If the troops obeyed orders and fought for the King England would be torn by civil war, the end of which no man could foresee. But if the Army refused to fight, or was prevented from fighting by any means, then the great issues at stake would be settied bloodlessly. It seems certain, though there is no actual proof, that the general revolutionary conspiracy had a definite military core; and that this formed itself in the Army, or at least among the high officers of the Army, step by step with the designs of the statesmen. The supreme object of all the conspirators, civil or military, was to coerce the King without using physical force. This was certainly Churchill's long-formed intention. With him in secret consultation were the colonels of the two Tangier regiments, Kirke and Trelawny, the Duke of Grafton, commanding the Guards, the Duke of Ormonde, and a number of other officers. And now events struck their hammer blows.
At the end of April James issued a second Declaration of Indulgence. He ordered that the Declaration should be read in all the churches. On May 18 seven bishops, headed by the Primate, the venerable William Sancroft, protested against this use of the dispensing power. The clergy obeyed their ecclesiastical superiors and the Declaration was left unread. James, furious at disobedience, and apparently scandalised at this departure, by the Church he was seeking to undermine, from its doctrine of nonresistance, demanded that the bishops should be put on trial for seditious libel. His Minister, Sunderland, now thoroughly alarmed, endeavoured to dissuade him from so extreme a step. Even Lord Chancellor Jeffreys told Clarendon that the King was going too far. But James persisted, the trial was ordered, and the bishops, all of whom refused the proffered bail, were committed to the Tower.
Up to this moment there always lived the hope that the stresses which racked the nation would die with the King. The accession of either Mary, the heir-presumptive, or Anne, the next in order, promised an end to the struggle between a Catholic monarch and a Protestant people. Peaceable folk could therefore be patient until the tyranny was past. The doctrine of nonresistance did not seem a principle of despair. But on June 10, while the trial of the bishops was still pending, the Queen gave birth to a son. Thus there lay before the English people the prospect of a Papist line, stretching out indefinitely upon the life of the future.
The bishops, formerly detested, never popular, now became the idols of the nation. As they stepped on board the barge for the Tower they were hailed by immense crowds with greetings in which reverence and political sympathy were combined. Now for the first time the Episcopacy found itself in alliance with the population of London. The same scenes were repeated when they were brought back to Westminster Hall on June 15, and at their trial on June 29. The sitting lasted until late in the evening, and the jurors remained together throughout the night. When on the following day the bishops were declared "Not Guilty" the verdict was acclaimed with universal joy. As they left the court masses of people, including lifelong foes of the Episcopacy, knelt down and asked their blessing. But the attitude of the Army was more important. The King had visitedjthem at Hounslow, and as he departed heard loud cheering. "What is that clamour?" he asked. "Sire, it is nothing; the soldiers are glad that the bishops are acquitted." "Do you call that nothing?" said James.
On the same night, while cannon and tumults proclaimed the public joy, the seven leaders of the party of action met at Shrewsbury's town house, and there and then signed and dispatched their famous letter to William. It was cool and businesslike in tone. "If the circumstances stand so with your Highness," it said, "that you believe you can get here time enough; in a condition to give assistance this year, . . . we, who subscribe this, will not fail to attend your Highness upon your landing." The signatories were Shrewsbury, Danby, Russell, Bishop Compton, Devonshire, Henry Sidney, and Lum-ley. The letter was conveyed to The Hague by Admiral Herbert, disguised as a common sailor, and its signatories spread throughout the Island for the purpose of levying war upon the King. Shrewsbury, a former Catholic, converted Protestant, after mortgaging his estates to raise £40,000, crossed the sea to join William. Danby undertook to raise Yorkshire; Compton toured the North "to see his sisters." Devonshire, who had lain since 1685 in obscurity at Chatsworth, formed his tenantry into a regiment of horse. William, stricken in his ambition,, lfy the birth of a male Stuart heir, exclaimed, "Now or never!" and began to prepare his expedition.
The birth of the baby prince struck so cruel a blow to the hopes of the nation that it was received with general incredulity, sincere or studiously affected. From the beginning doubts had been thrown upon the belated pregnancy of the Queen. The prayers and intercessions of the Catholics, and their confident predictions that a son would be born as a result, led to a widespread conviction that a trick had been practised. The legend that a child had been smuggled into St James's Palace in a warming pan was afoot even before the ashes of the official bonfires had been cleared from the streets. By the King's improvidence the majority of persons present at the birth were Papists, the wives of Papists, or foreigners. The Archbishop of Canterbury was absent; he had that day been conducted to the Tower. Neither of the Hydes had been summoned, though as Privy Counsellors, brothers-in-law of the King, and uncles to the two princesses, whose rights to the Crown were involved, their presence would have been natural. The Dutch Ambassador, who had a special duty to William, was not invited. It is more important, perhaps, that Princess Anne was not there. She was at Bath with the Churchills. It was vital to the nation to prove that the child was an impostor. Sincerely attached to the principle of legitimacy, the English Protestants had no other means of escape from the intolerable fact of a Papist heir. They enshrined the legend of the warming pan as a fundamental article of political faith. It was not discarded until after many eventful years, and when the question had ceased to have any practical importance.
Churchill in August renewed his pledge to William, given fifteen months before, and wrote in his own handwriting a signed letter, still extant, which if betrayed would have cost him his life. "Mr Sidney will let you know how I intend to behave myself; I think it is what I owe to God and my country. My honour I take leave to put into your Royal Highness's hands, in which I think it safe. If you think there is anything else that I ought to do, you have but to command me, and I shall pay an entire obedience to it, being resolved to die in that religion that it has pleased God to give you both the will and power to protect." Nevertheless this extraordinary man, who at this time played only a subordinate part, continued to hold all his officer and comnMfads in the Army, and no doubt intended to use all his influence with the troops against James when the time came. He hoped in this way either to compel the King to submit or to deprive him of all means of resistance. His sincerity of purpose and duplicity of method were equal. He acted as if he was conducting a military operation. Moreover, deceit is inseparable from conspiracy.
Across the sea, watching from day to day the assembled armies of France, lay William of Orange with the troops and Fleet of Holland. He had in his service six Scottish and English regiments, which formed the core of his expedition. Protestant Europe and England alike looked to him as their champion against the tyrannies and aggression of Louis. But before he could invade England he had to obtain the sanction of the States-General. At a moment when the whole of the French Army was massed and ready for immediate advance it was not easy to persuade the anxious burghers of Holland or the threatened princes of Germany that their best chance of safety lay in sending a Dutch army into England. However, William convinced Frederick III of Brandenburg, and received from him a contingent under Marshal Schomberg. The other German princes acquiesced in the Prussian view. Most of Catholic Spain set political above religious considerations and made no difficulty about attempting to dethrone a Catholic king..The Emperor's religious scruples were removed by the Pope. All these diverse interests and creeds were united in a strategy so far-seeing and broad-minded as is only produced by an overpowering sense of common danger.
All however turned upon the action of France. If the French armies marched against Holland William and the whole Dutch strength would be needed to face them, and England must be left to her fate. If, on the other hand, Louis struck upon the Rhine at Brandenburg and the German coalition, then the expedition could sail. Louis XIV kept all iai suspense till the last moment. Had James been willing to commit himself finally to a French alliance Louis would have invaded Holland. But James had patriotic pride as well as religious bigotry. To the last he wavered so that in Holland they thought he was allied to France, and in France to Holland. Louis therefore decided that the best he could hope for would be an England impotent through civil war. At the end of September he turned his armies towards the middle Rhine, and from that moment William was free to set forth. The States-General granted him authority for his English descent and James's hour was come.
As the autumn weeks slipped by excitement and tension grew throughout the Island, and the vast conspiracy which now comprised the main strength of the nation heaved beneath the strain of affairs. The King's attempt to bring in some of the Irish Roman Catholic regiments which Tyrconnel had raised for him produced symptoms so menacing that the project was abandoned. The hatred and fears of all classes found expression in an insulting, derisive ballad against the Irish and the Papists. Lilliburlero, like Tipperary in our own times, was on all lips, in all ears, and carried a cryptic message of war to all hearts. The doggerel lines, written by Lord Wharton, with deep knowledge of the common folk and their modes of thought and expression, had no provable relation to William, nor to invasion or revolt. But the jingle of the chorus made an impression upon the Army "that cannot," said Bishop Burnet, "be imagined by those that saw it not." Everyone watched the weathercock. All turned on the wind. Rumour ran riot. The Irish were coming. The French were coming. The Papists were planning a general massacre of Protestants. The kingdom was sold to Louis. Nothing was safe, and no one could be trusted, fne laws, the Constitution, the Church—all were in jeopardy. But a deliverer would appear. He would come clad with power from over the seas to rescue England from Popery and slavery—if only the wind would blow from the east. And here one of Wharton's couplets, which nominally applied to Tyrconnel, gained a new and indeed an opposite significance:
O, why does he stay so long behind? Ho! by my shoul, 'tis a Protestant wind.
The Protestant wind was blowing in the hearts of men, rising in fierce gusts to gale fury. Soon it would blow across the North Sea!
The scale and reality of William's preparations and the alarming state of feeling throughout England had terrified Sunderland and Jeffreys. These two Ministers induced the King to reverse his whole policy. Parliament must be called without delay. All further aggressive Catholic measures must be stopped and a reconciliation made with the Episcopal Church. On Octobei 3 James agreed to abolish the Ecclesiastical Commission, to close the Roman Catholic schools, to restore the Protestant Fellows of Magdalen College, to put the Act of Uniformity into force against Catholics and Dissenters. The dismissed Lord-Lieutenants were invited to resume their functions in the counties. Their charters were restored to the recalcitrant municipalities. The bishops were begged to let bygones be bygones. The Tory squires were urged to take their old places in the magistracy. In the last few months of his reign James was compelled to desert the standard he had himself set up and try in vain by the sacrifice of all his objectives to placate the furies he had aroused. But it was too late.
On October 19 William set out upon the seas. His small army was a microcosm of Protestant Europe—Dutch, Swedes, Danes, Prussians, English, and Scotch, together with a forlorn, devoted band of French Huguenots, to the number of fourteen thousand, embarked upon about five hundred vessels, escorted by sixty warships. William had planned to land in the North, where Danby and other nobles were in readiness to join him. But after he had been once driven back by a gale the wind carried him through the Straits of Dover, which he passed in full view of the crowded coasts of England and France. On November 5 he landed at Torbay, on the coast of Devon. Reminded that it was the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, he remarked to Burnet, "What do you think of Predestination now?"
James was not at first greatly alarmed at the news. He hoped to pen William in the West and to hamper his communications by sea. The troops which had been sent to Yorkshire were recalled to the South, and Salisbury was fixed as the point of assembly for the royal Army. At this crisis the King could marshal as large an army as Oliver Cromwell at his height. Nearly forty thousand regular soldiers were in the royal pay. The Scottish troops, about four thousand strong, had only reached Carlisle, the bulk of the three thousand Irish were still beyond Chester, and at least seven thousand men must be left to hold down London. Still, twenty-five thousand men, or nearly double the number of William's expedition, were around Salisbury when the King arrived on November 19. This was the largest concentration of trained full-time troops that England had ever seen.
But now successive desertions smote the unhappy prince. Lord Cornbury, eldest son of the Earl of Clarendon, an officer of the Royal Dragoons, endeavoured to carry three regiments of horse to William's camp. James, warned from many quarters, meditated Churchill's arrest. On the night of November 23, having failed tb carry any large part of the Army with them, Churchill and the Duke of Grafton, with about four hundred officers and troopers, quitted the royal camp. At the same time the Princess Anne, attended by Sarah Churchill, and guided by Bishop Compton, fled from Whitehall and hastened northwards. And now revolt broke out all over the country. Danby was in arms in Yorkshire, Devonshire in Derbyshire, Delamere in Cheshire. Lord Bath delivered Plymouth to William. Byng, later an admiral, representing the captains of the Fleet, arrived at his headquarters to inform him that the Navy and Portsmouth were at his disposal. City after city rose in rebellion. By one spontaneous, tremendous convulsion the English nation repudiated James.
The King, finding resistance impossible, assembled such peers and Privy Counsellors as were still in London, and on their advice entered into negotiations with the Prince of Orange. Meanwhile the invading army moved steadily forward towards London. James sent his wife and son out of the kingdom, and on the night of December 11 stole from the palace at Whitehall, crossed the river, and rode to the coast He endeavoured to plunge his realm into anarchy. He threw the Great Seal into the Thames, and sent orders to Feversham to disband the Army, and to Dartmouth to sail to Ireland with what ships he could. The wildest rumours of Irish massacres spread through the land. The London mob sacked the foreign embassies, and a panic and terror, known as "Irish Night," swept the capital. Undoubtedly a complete collapse of order would have occurred but for the resolute action of the Council, which was still sitting in London. With some difficulty, they suppressed the storm, and, acknowledging William's authority, besought him to hasten his marches to London.
James in his flight had actually got on board a ship, but, missing the tide, was caught and dragged ashore by the fishermen and townsfolk. He was brought back to London, and after some days of painful suspense was allowed to escape again. This time he succeeded and left English soil for ever. But though the downfall and flight of this impolitic monarch were at the time ignominious, his dignity has been restored to him by history. His sacrifice for religion gained for him the lasting respect of the Catholic Church, and he carried with him into lifelong exile an air of royalty and honour.
TO BE CONTINUED
WHAT HAVE WE NOTICED IN THIS HISTORICAL STUDY. WE HAVE SEEN ALL THE WARS AND FIGHTING, ALL THE BLOOD SPILT, FROM INDIVIDUALS PUT TO DEATH, SOMETIMES IN HORRIBLE WAYS, TO WHOLE BATTLES BETWEEN PEOPLES. UP TO THE COMING OF THE ROMANS TO BRITAIN THERE WAS RELATIVE PEACE AMONG THE TRIBES OF BRITAIN. THERE WERE MANY BATTLES BETWEEN THE BRITISH AGAINST ROME IN THE FIRST CENTURY A.D. THEN RELATIVE PEACE FOR THE DURATION OF ROME IN BRITAIN. THE COMING OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS TO BRITISH SOIL BROUGHT BACK THE BATTLES BETWEEN THE ANCIENT BRITISH AND THE NEW ARRIVALS OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS. FROM THEN ON OUT WE HAD A FEW PEACEFUL INTERLUDES, BUT MAINLY IT WAS WARS AND BATTLES, BETWEEN BRITAIN AND SOME NORTH-WESTERN NATIONS LIKE FRANCE AND SPAIN. WE HAD INTERNAL BATTLES OF THE ENGLISH AMONG THEMSELVES, AND BETWEEN SCOTLAND AND IRELAND.
OVERALL IT WAS MANY CENTURIES OF TURMOIL, FIGHTING, BLOOD-SPILING, AND THEN A CONTEST BETWEEN PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC FORCES.
WE HAVE SEEN A LITTLE OF THE SETTLEMENT OF THE NEW WORLD - AMERICA - WE SHALL SEE MUCH MORE TO COME. IT ALSO WILL BE A BLOODY CONTEST; A NEW WORLD BUILT UPON STRIFE, AND FINALLY WARS. AND WE SHALL YET HAVE MORE CONTESTS AND WARS BETWEEN THE FORCES OF BRITAIN AND EUROPE, WELL CERTAIN NATIONS OF EUROPE.
WHILE MANY GOOD GAINS WERE MADE FOR A DEMOCRACY OF THE WEST, IT WAS WITHIN THE BACKDROP OF WARS AND KILLING, EVEN UP TO THE 20TH CENTURY WITH WORLD WARS OF A MAGNITUDE NEVER BEFORE SEEN ON EARTH.