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THE REIGN OF JAMES II,
II. Remark on the Power of dispensing with the Test.
1685. I. Promises, costing little, and being a convenient mode of conciliating popularity, are often made in profusion by monarchs, on their accession, with small, or soon-forgotten intention of performance. James II. promised to protect the Protestant religion ; and (as if example were not indispensable to protection), on the second Sunday after his accession, went
publicly to mass. He filled the Parliament with men enamoured of the doctrine of passive obedience; and sent an agent to Rome to prepare the re-admission of England within the pale of the Catholic church *. To palliate these actions, sufficiently indicative of his principles, he repeated his assurances of preserving the established government, both ecclesiastical and civil: and the Parliament, in return, voted him so large a sum, as enabled him to maintain his forces, independently of their further assistance.
Parliament wished the laws against Dissenters to be enforced; but were compelled to keep silence, since that object could not be attained without including the Catholic body. James boldly acquainted them, that he had retained officers in his army, who were prevented from qualifying agreeably to the recent tests. For this speech he was thanked by the House of Commons; but opposed by Compton, Bishop of London, in the name of the whole episcopal bench. The King, foreseeing the evils of such opposition, dissolved the Parliament; and during his reign that body assembled no more.
II. By thus dispensing with the tests, in the
* The Pontiff, Innocent XI. more prudent than the Monarch, remonstrated with him on the impropriety of a measure, impracticable in itself, and likely to involve him in difficulties. Thus, Charles II. had too little zeal, and James too much, for an instrument of Romish ambition.
case of Catholic officers, James disgusted and alienated the church, the strongest support
of monarchy; and the army, the means and guards of arbitrary government. Yet this dispensing power was vindicated by a variety of precedents, and by the opinion of eminent lawyers, chiefly of Sir Edward Coke, on the principle of the King's possessing a natural right to command the services of all his subjects. But in the ge: neral sense of the people, the test was properly regarded as the great barrier to secure the Protestant religion under a Catholic monarch.
1686. III. Many members of the Establish-ment now opened their eyes to a consciousness of those evils with which they were threatened, and refused to co-operate with the King in his arbitrary measures; when James, determined to be absolute, began to court the Dissenters, whom he had hitherto treated with harshness *. He encouraged the re-opening of their conventicles; and some among them fondly imagined
* Baxter was arraigned before Judge Jefferies, for some passages against episcopal power, in his Paraphrase on the New Testament. This wretch assailed his prisoner with the most vulgar brutality of abuse. "Yonder," said he, “ stands Titus Oates on the pillory; and if Mr. Baxter were on the other side, I should say that there stood two of the greatest rogues in England." The Dissenters now held their religious meetings in rooms having trap-doors, holes in the partition, and back passages. They locked their doors, they had vedettes in the streets, and, through fear of detection, sang no psalms,
they beheld anew the halcyon days of their prosperity; but the more judicious, discerning in this unwonted favour only a desire to strengthen the Popish party, against the church, by an analogous and embracing toleration, were not detached by the royal coquetry from their affinity with the Established Clergy. In the mean time, many divines of the English church, perceiving the full danger of Popery, defended the cause of Protestantism with much learning and eloquence, both in pamphlets and public discourses. Among these champions of truth we find the respectable names of Tillotson, Patrick, Wake, Whitby, Sharp, Atterbury, Williams, Aldrich, Burnet, and Fowler; who replied to the cheap and mischievous brochures of the Catholics. James, at the instigation of his priests, prohibited the inferior clergy from discussing, in their sermons, the controverted points of Popery. Dr. Sharp was noticed as having infringed this mandate; but he was not punished at the present juncture. IV.
In pursuance of the system of hostility to the Church, Judge Jefferies proposed à revival of the High Commission Court, under the name of an Ecclesiastical Commission ; but the Bishops, with the exception of Carew of Durham, and Spratt of Rochester, absented themselves from its meetings. The Bishop of London was first summoned before this court, for,
having refused to pass a censure on Dr. Sharp, before his conviction. This divine, on making submission, was restored to the exercise of his functions; but the Bishop of London remained under suspension.
1687. V. Another scheme of the court party, that is, of James, governed by the Queen, and by Peters, a privy-counsellor and his confessor, was to introduce into the Universities Jesuits and other Catholics, with the view of influencing elections and statutes, and of poisoning the fountains of education and religion. The refusal of Cambridge to admit, without the oaths, Father Francis, a Benedictine, as a Master of Arts, in compliance with the royal mandate --and the rejection of Farmer, the candidate proposed by the King, as the President of Magdalen College in Oxford are facts well known in the civil histories of the country. Oxford had brought this imposition upon its own head, by a profession of passive obedience: but though Farmer was set aside on account of his infamous character, the King succeeded in placing Parker, another creature of his own, in the vacant dignity.
VI. James still continued courting the Nonconformists, to concur with him in abolishing the penal laws and test*. On the other hand,
Towards the Quakers, at least, another reason has been assigned for James's friendship and protection; namely, his