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FROM THE DEATH OF KING CHARLES II. TO KING JAMES II.'s DECLARATION FOR LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE.
1685. When the news of king Charles's decease was spread over the city, a pensive sadness was visible in most countenances for the fate of the kingdom.* His brother James, who succeeded him, told the privy-council at his first meeting them, that “ as he would never depart from any branch of the prerogative, so he would not invade any man's property, but would preserve the government as by law established in church and state.”+ Which gratified the clergy so much, Bishop Barnet
says, that the proclamation of the king " was a heavy solemnity; few lears were shed for the former, nor were there any shouts of joy for the present king." It appears that the bishop, who was then abroad, was misinformed in this matter : for Dr. Calamy, who heard the king proclaimed, assures us, that his beart ached within him at the acclamations made upon the occasion; which, as far as he could observe, were very general: though he never saw so universal a concern as was visible in all men's countenances at that time : for great ngmbers had very terrifying apprehensions of what was to be expected. The doctor observes, that it however very sensibly discovered the changeableness of this world, that king James should so quietly succeed his brother without any thing like a dispute or contest; when, but five years before, a majority of three houses of commons were so bent upon excluding him, that nothing could satisfy them, if this were not compassed. Calamy's Historical Account of his own Life, vol. 1. p. 95. MSS.-Ed.
+ " This speech (bishop Barnet adds) was magnified as a security far greater than any that laws conld give.” The common phrase was, “ We have now the word of a king, and a word never yet broken.” Of this Dr. Calamy gives a confirmation on the autbority of a person of character and worth, who heard Dr. Sharp, afterward archbishop of York, as he was preaching at St. Lawrence Jewry at the time, when king James gave this assurance, break out into language to this effect: “ As to our religion, we bave the word of the king, which (with reverence be it spoken) is as sacred as my text.” This high flight was much noticed then, and often recollected afterward. The doctor bad cause to reflect on it with regret: when be was, for preaching against Popery at bis own parish-church of St. Giles, the first of the clergy that fell under the king's displeasure, and felt the weight and pressure of bis arbitrary power. Historical Account, p. 96. Burnet, p. 620.-Ed.
that the pulpits throughout England resounded with thanksgivings; and a numerous set of addresses flattered his majesty, in the strongest expressions, with assurances of unshaken loyalty and obedience, without limitation or reserve. Among others was the humble address of the university of Oxford; in which, after expressing their sorrow for the death of the late king, they add,* that they can never swerve from the principles of their institution, and their religion by law established, which indispensably binds them to bear faith and true obedience to their sovereign, without any limitation or restriction, and that no consideration whatsoever should shake their loyalty and allegiance. And the university of Cambridge add, that loyalty (or unlimited obedience] is a duty flowing from the very principle of their religion, by which they have been enabled to breed up as true and steady subjects as the world can shew, as well in doctrine as practice, from which they can never depart. The Quakers' address was more simple and honest;t. “We are come (say theyf) to testify our sorrow for the death of our good friend Charles, and our joy for thy being made our governor. We are told thou art not of the persuasion of the church of England no more than we, therefore we hope thou wilt grant us the same liberty which thou allowest thyself; which doing, we wish thee all manner of happiness."
The king began his reign with a frank and open profession of his religion; for the first Sunday after his accession, he went publicly to mass, and obliged father Huddleston, who attended his brother in his last hours, to declare to the world that he died a Roman Catholic. His majesty acted the part * Gazette, no. 2018. + Sewel, p. 594.
Echard, 1051. Mr. Neal refers, as one authority for giving this address of the Quakers, to Sewel; but it is not to be found there. A modern historian, who censures it for the “ uncouthness and blunt familiarity of expression,” calls it," a fictitious address ;” the members of this society, he observes, “were not in the custom of paying complimentary addresses to any man:" if the sofferings of their friends impelled them to apply to their superiors for relief, “ their addresses, though expressed in their plain manner, were comprised in respectful terms; void of flattery, but not indecent; anceremonious, but not uncivil.” There is no account of their being in the number of the congratulatury addresses on the accession of James. Their first application to him was to recommend their suffering friends to bis clemency. At the death of Charles, notwithstanding that petition upon petition bad been presented to him for relief, one thousand five hundred of this society were in prison on various prosecutions. that a people paying a strict regard to truth could hardly term him their good friend.” The above address was first published by Echard, from whom it should seem Mr. Neal took it, trusting probably to the exactness of his reference; if he did quote Sewel for it. Home and others have since published it. Gough's History of the Quakers, vol. 3. p. 160, 161.--Ed.
of an absolute sovereign from the very first; and though he had declared he would invade no man's property, yet he issued out a proclamation for collecting the duties of tonnage and poundage, &c. which were given to the late king only for life ; and in his letter to the Scots parliament, which met March 28, he says, “ I am resolved to maintain my power in its greatest lustre, that I may be better able to defend your religion against fanatics.”
Before the king had been two months on his throne, he discovered severe resentments against the enemies of his religion, and of his succession to the crown.* Dr. Oates was brought out of prison, and tried for perjury in the affair of the Popish plot, for which he was sentenced to stand in the pillory several times, to be whipped from Aldgate to Newgate, and from thence to Tyburn; which was exercised with a severity unknown to the English nation.t And Dangerfield, who had invented the Meal-tub plot, for which he declared he had received money from the duke of York, was indicted for a libel, and was fined 5001. He was also sentenced to be pilloried, and whipped from Newgate to Tyburn, and in his return home was murdered in the coach by one Frances a barrister at law, who was afterward banged for it. The whigs, who went to court to pay their duty to the king, were received but coldly; some were reproached, and others denied access, especially those who had distinguished themselves for the bill of exclusion.* In the election of a new parliament, all methods of corruption and violence were used to get such members returned as might be supple to the king's arbitrary designs.t When the houses met, May 22, the king repeated what he had declared in council, that he would preserve the government in church and state as by law established. Which, Rapin says, he never intended; for he insinuated in his speech, that he would not depend on the precarious aids of parliament, nor meet them often, if they did not use him well. But the parliament unanimously settled all the revenues of his late majesty upon the king for life, which amounted to more than two millions a year;and presented an address May 27, to desire him to issue forth his royal proclamation, to cause the penal laws to be put in execution against dissenters from the church of England.
* Burnet, vol. 3. p. 29, Edin. edition. + Oates was whipped a second time, while his back was most miserably swelled with his first whipping, and looked as if it had been flayed. He was a man of undaunted resolation, and endured what would have killed a great many others. He was, in his religious profession, a mere Proteus, but appears to have been uniformly capable of villany. His first education was at Merchant-Taylors' school ; from whence be removed to Cambridge. When he left that university he gained orders in the church of England, and after having officiated for a time as curale to his father, he held a vicarage first in Kent and then in Sussex. But previously to this, he was, in his youth, a member of a Baptist church in Virginia-street, Ratcliffe-Highway. In 1677 he reconciled himself to the church of Rome, and is reported to have entered into the society of Jesuits. After having left the whole body of dissenters for thirty years, he applied to be again admitted into the communion of the Baptists, baving first returned to the church of England, and continued in it about sixteen years. The Baptists, through a prudent jealousy of him, spent almost three years in trial of his sincerity, before they received him again: so that he complained it "was keeping him on the rack; is was worse than death in his circumstances to be so long delayed." He was restored to their communion in 1698 or 1699, but in less than a year was again excluded as a disorderly person and a hypocrite. He then became a conformist again. “ He was a man of some cnnning (says Granger), more effrontery, and the most consummate falsehood.” At one time he was a frequent auditor of Mr. Alsop at Westminster, after the Revolation : and moved for leave to come to the Lord's table, but was refused on accourt of his character. Crosby has detailed a long story of a villanous transaction, to ruin a gentleman, to which he was instigaled by the spirit of revenge. Dr. Calamy says, " that he was but a very sorry foul-mouthed wretch, I myself can attest from what I once heard from him, when I was in his com pany.” The parliament, after the Revolution, left him under a brand, and incapacitated him for being a witness in future. But a pension of 4001. a year was given him by king William. “ The era of Oates's plot (remarks Mr. Granger), was the grand era of whig and tory." Whatever infamy rests upon his name, be was, observes Dr. Calamy, the instrument of Providence of good to this nation by awakening it out of sleep, and giving a turn to the national affairs after a lethargy of some years. Calamy's Historical Account of his own Life, vol. 1. p. 98, 99. Granger's History of England, vol. 4. p. 201. 349; and Crosby's History of the Baptists, vol. 3. p. 166–182. -ED.
This brought down the storm, and revived the persecution, which had slackened a little upon the late king's death. His majesty was now encouraged to pursue his brother's measures. The tories, who adhered firmly to the prerogative, were gratified with full licence to distress the dissenters, who were to be sacrificed over again to a bigoted clergy, and an incensed king, zealous for their destruction, says bi. shop Kennet, in order to unite and increase the strength of Popery, which he favoured without reserve. Upon this, all meeting-houses of Protestant dissenters were shut up, the
* Burnet, vol. 3. p. 12, 13. Edin. edition.
+ Dr. Grey quotes here Echard and Carte, to prove that the new parliament consisted of as many worthy and great, rich, and wise men, as ever sat iv the house. -Ed. # Gazette, no. 2036.
“ The commons, charmed with these promises, and bigoted as much to their principles of government as the king was to his religion, in about two bours voted him such an immense revenue for life, as enabled him to maintain a fleet and army without the aid of parliament, and consequently to subdue those who should dare lo oppose bis will. In this manner, and without any farther ceremony, did this house of commods deliver up the liberties of the nation to a Popish arbitrary prince.” Warner's Ecclesiastical History, vol. 2. p. 631.-Ed.
old trade of informing revived and flourished; the spiritual courts were crowded with business : private conventicles were disturbed in all parts of the city and country. If they surprised the minister, he was pulled out of his pulpit by constables or soldiers, and, together with his people, carried before a confiding justice of peace, who obliged them to pay their fines, or dragged them to prison. If the minister escaped, they ransacked the house from top to bottom; tore down hangings, broke open chambers and closets; entered the rooms 'of those who were sick; and offered all kinds of rudeness and incivilities to the family, though they met with no manner of opposition or resistance. Shopkeepers were separated from their trades and business; and sometimes wives from their husbands and children ; several families were obliged to remove to distant places, to avoid the direful effects of an excommunication from the commons; and great sums of money were levied as forfeitures, which had been earned by honest labour. Dissenting ministers could neither travel the road, nor appear in public but in disguise; nay, they were afraid to be seen in the houses of their friends, pursuivants from the spiritual courts being always abroad upon the watch.
One of the first who came into trouble was the reverend Mr. Baxter, who was committed to the King's-bench prison February 28, for some exceptionable passages in his paraphrase on the New Testament, reflecting on the order of diocesan bishops, and the lawfulness of resistance in some possible cases. The passages were in his paraphrase on Matt. v. 19. Mark ix. 39. xi. 31. and xii. 38–40. Luke x. 2. John xi. 57. and Acts xv. 2. They were collected by sir Roger l' Estrange; and a certain eminent clergyman, reported to be Dr. Sh—ck, put into the hands of his enemies, some accusations from Rom. xiii. that might touch his life, but no use was made of them. Mr. Baxter. being ill, moved by his counsel for time; but Jefferies said, he would not give him a minute's time to save his life. “ Yonder stands Oates in the pillory (says he), and if Mr. Baxter stood on the other side, I would say, two of the greatest rogues in England stood there.” He was brought to his trial May 30, but the chief-justice would not admit his counsel to plead for their client. When Mr. Baxter offered to speak for himself, Jefferies called him a snivel