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ters who really desired to see a parliament, “ was, notwithstanding, quite willing," to use his own words, rather than relinquish his Majesty's service, “ to invent excuses for him, and make the people. easy.” That nobleman was supposed to stand on higher and firmer ground with the country than any of the other ministers; and, therefore, being better able to stand the shock of a parliament, was the more willing that one
John, “ parliaments seemed to be no longer thought of, and to be quite out of doors.” His regret appears to have been partly patriotic, for he, doubtless, loved his country, according to his own ideas of what was patriotism; and partly interested, for the court, being no longer in fear of a House of Commons, had no longer the same necessity for cultivating the good-will of men like himself. So that it is not merely to the “ generous ambition" of high political characters that a free and popular government appeals for support, but we see that it affects even the private interests, consideration, and respectability of simple
Nor was Sir John Reresby the only gentleman in the country who was uneasy under the loss of that influence he was wont to exercise, and that voice he had formerly held in the counsels of the nation. Previous to the calling of the Oxford parliament, when very general alarm was entertained that the king never meant to summon another, and men yet dared to exercise their right, petitions were sent in from all quarters. To that of the city of London, praying that his Majesty would be pleased to call a parliament, he merely answered, “ it was none of their business.” Again, when the gentlemen of Wiltshire, headed by Mr. Thynn, the richest commoner
in the kingdom, and the “ wealthy western friend” of Monmouth, presented a petition, praying that parliament might sit for the redress of grievances, no otherwise to be redressed, his Majesty was pleased to ask them, “Whether they had their directions from the grand jury?” Mr. Thynn answered, No. The king presently replied, “Why say you, then, that you come from the county? You come from a company of loose, disaffected people. What do you take me to be ? and what do you take yourselves to be? I admire that gentlemen of your estates should animate people to mutiny and rebellion. You would not take it well I should meddle with your affairs ; I desire you would not meddle with mine.” To the gentlemen of Essex, he said, “ he was extremely surprised to see them meddle with matters that concerned none but himself;" adding, “ that he was unwilling to call to mind things past; yet, that he could not but remember the act of oblivion, though not as some did: that those who stood in need of that act, would do
well not to take such courses as might need another; and that he very well remembered forty;" and so turned away. As for the Berkshire gentlemen, and their petition, which was presented the same day, he answered in another vein, drolling on them, “ that they would agree that matter over a cup of ale, when they met at Windsor; though he wondered that his neighbours would not let him alone, but must be meddling with his business.” Nor were these rude and threatening replies the mere effusions of resentment-forgotten as soon as uttered; on the contrary, they were publicly inserted in The Gazette, that the whole nation might be aware of their import.
However, in defiance of what the court lawyers had asserted in the proclamations, and Charles himself uttered in discourse, we find it resolved by an unanimous vote of that House of Commons,
" That it is, and ever hath been, the undoubted right of the subjects of England to petition the king for the calling and sitting of parliaments, and redressing of grievances. That to traduce such petitioning, is a violation of duty; and to represent it to his Majesty as tumultuous and seditious, (this was called “ abhorring") is to betray the liberty of the subject; and contributes to the design of subverting the ancient legal constitution of this kingdom, and introducing arbitrary power.”
After the dissolution of this parliament,—when the king, in consequence of his final triumph, had got the reins of the law into his own hands,--men chose to let their “ undoubted rights” lie dormant awhile, rather than risk the danger of incurring such heavy penalties, as the courts of law were now in the habit of dealing out against all acts, however legal, which they were pleased to construe into a breach of his Majesty's peace. Charles's present mode of thinking and speaking of parliaments presents a strange contrast to the fond expressions which he was in the habit of using, whilst the union betwixt him and his parliament was yet in the honey-moon. “ When God brought me hither,” said he, at the close of the first session of his reign, “ I brought with me an extraordinary affection and esteem for parliaments :" Again, “ I deal truly with you.--I shall not propose any other rule to myself, in my actions and counsels, than this: what is a parliament like to think of this action, and this counsel ?” And again, when he reminded his second and pensioned parliament, that they had neglected to repeal the triennial bill, “ I admire,” said he, “ that you have not considered the wonderful clauses in that bill. I pray, Mr. Speaker, and you, gentlemen of the House of Commons, give that triennial bill once a reading in your house; and then, in God's name, do what you think fit for me, and yourselves, and the whole kingdom. I need not tell you how much I love parliaments : never king was so much beholden to parliaments as I have been ; nor do I think the crown can ever be happy without frequent parliaments : but assure yourselves, if I did think otherwise, I would never suffer a parliament to come together by the means prescribed by that bill.” Even after he had dismissed the last he ever intended to call, he persisted in the use of the same honied expressions. “ Let not,” says he, in his famous declaration of 1681, for which he was thanked in loyal addresses from all parts of the kingdom," let not the restless malice of ill men, who are labouring to poison our people, persuade any of our good subjects that we intend to lay aside the use of parliaments: for we do still declare, that no irregularities in parliaments shall ever make us out of love with parliaments, which we look upon as the best method for healing the distempers of the kingdom, and the only means to preserve the monarchy in that due credit and respect, which it ought to have both at home and abroad. And for this cause we are resolved, by the blessing of God, to have frequent parliaments; and, both in and out of parliament, to use our utmost endeavours to extirpate popery, and to redress all the grievances of our good subjects; and, in all things, to govern according to the laws of the kingdom.” Now, not to mention that he himself was secretly a member of the religion he here swears to extirpate *, and, as for governing according to the laws, had, in 1670, concluded a treaty with
* " I dare confidently affirm,” says the Duke of Buckingham, “ his religion to be only that, which is vulgarly (though unjustly) counted none at all: I mean Deism. And this uncommon opinion he . owed more to the liveliness of his parts, and carelessness of his temper, than either to reading or much consideration : for his quickness of apprehension, at first view, could discover through the several cheats of pious pretences; and his natural laziness confirmed him in an equal mistrust of them all, for fear he should be troubled with examining which religion was best." And, he adds, that it was by a kind of accident only he came to embrace Catholic opinions, “ in his weakness.” But Lord Halifax, with more apparent truth and knowledge of man, concludes, “ that when he came into England, he was as certainly a Roman Catholic, as that he was a man of pleasure; both very consistent by visible experience.” “ There were broad peepings out,” he continues, “ glimpses so often repeated, that, to discerning eyes it was glaring. In the very first year there were such suspicions, as produced melancholy shakings of the head, which were very significant."
A law was passed making it penal to affirm, that the king was a papist; and yet, in his correspondence with France, he affected so deep
nexe Charles hould have perd measure raphat to say.
Louis XIV. for the express purpose of establishing absolute monarchy in England; in that other particular of “ frequent parliaments,” he attests God's blessing in the very utterance of à gross and palpable lie! For, at the dismissal of the Oxford parliament, he not only never intended, but was absolutely bound by treaty with Louis, as the condition on which he was to receive his pension, never to call another. And yet this solemn and egregious falsehood was ordered by his Majesty in council, on the motion of Archbishop Sancroft,* to be read in all churches and chapels throughout the kingdom! We have never called to mind that saying of Junius, respecting this king, --" Charles II. was a hypocrite of a deeper dye, (than his father) and should have perished on the same scaffold”-without wincing at it, as beyond measure rancorous and vindictive. But really, at present, we hardly know what to say.
In the present emergency, it is scarcely possible to say what should have been the conduct of the popular leaders, and all the friends of the constitution and religion of the land. From the beginning of the year 1681 O.S. to the month of June 1683, when the nation was alarmed by the report of the Rye-house plot, an interval crowded with acts of atrocious violence, perpetrated under the form of law, England had been without a parliament, and the king had ruled more despotically than any of his predecessors had ever done, even in ages the most remote and barbarous. That by these tyrannical aggressions on the liberty of the subject, he had broken his coronation oath, and forfeited all right to the allegiance of the people, no one, at this day, will for a moment dispute. But those who attempt opposition by force of arms to the violence of even an usurping government, must not only have strict justice on their side, but also a fair and rational probability of success. If this be wanting, the justice of the cause will be but a weak apology for the rashness of the undertaking; resistance, however legal, if not justified by circumstances, is little else than sedition, and the patriot hardly better than a mere insurgent. If, therefore, the popular leaders embarked,
á conviction of the truth of that religion, as to represent himself as uneasy at not being able to make a public avowal of his faith. This was urged by him, frequently, as an argument to increase the pension and hasten the supplies he was to receive from France.
* It is much to be regretted that this exemplary prelate should have lent his name and authority to a piece of mummery, so false and
reign, when James was for obliging him to cause his declaration for liberty of conscience--designed as the death-blow to the church of England--to be read in all the churches, in time of divine service,
at a time so unpropitious to the undertaking, in any actual combination against the government, their conduct was not only indiscreet, but highly blameable. But as far as any thing was ever proved against the persons of higher rank implicated in that medley of all sorts of plots, called the Rye-house plot, their conduct appears to have been not only justifiable, but praiseworthy. What were they to do? — The only regular mode of obtaining redress of grievances by parliamentary remonstrance was not within their reach—for the disuse of parliament was one of the grievances to be redressed. To petition, in the customary way, the power that committed these violations of law to forbear violence, would have been absurd-and even if not absurd, would have been punished as “ mutiny and rebellion.” The people, in general, regarded with supine indifference the wanton outrages committed by the government upon the constitution of the country. From a change of monarchs little good was to be expected; -and besides, Charles might live long to oppress the land. The dictations of the courts of law, pronounced in perfect coincidence with his tyrannical views, and which now superseded the laws, would, in the lapse of time, become laws themselves. In these arduous circumstances, some of the popular leaders, particularly Shaftesbury, appear to have thought, that no remedy but absolute force could be applied to evils so intolerable. But the conduct of that statesman, at this eventful crisis, was little consistent with that character for deep sagacity, which he had earned in a long course of subtle and artful policy. However, in his counsels, or those of the other“ hot men,” as Monmouth termed them, neither Sidney nor Lord Russel, it is clear, had any participation, though common connexions and former intimacy might occasionally bring them together. In what they appear to have actually done -meeting together to consult about the means they either possessed or could devise, to avert the impending destruction of all that was glorious or free in the institutions of the land, they deserve the thanks of every one who duly appreciates the inestimable benefit he derives from our free constitution. And for this, and this only, were those two illustrious patriots called to seal with their blood the principles they had ever been wont to assert. Even if we believe, in its full'extent, the evidence of the witnesses against Lord Russel, his crime went no farther than bare misprision of treason: “ and yet," said he, in the paper he delivered to the sheriffs on the scaffold, “ I am condemned as guilty of a design of killing the king.' I pray God, lay not this to the charge either of the judges, or sheriffs, or jury.I shall not reckon up the particulars wherein they did me wrong, I had rather their own consciences should do that.”—