JAMES II.'s EARLY HISTORY AND ACCESSION--ROMISH PROCEEDINGS--TYRCONNEL IN IRELAND--CHANCELLORSHIP OF CONNOR--BISHOP RACKET--THE KING AND IRISH CLERGY--HIGH SHERIFF--DISPUTATIONS--ATTACKS ON ENGLISH UNIVERSITIES--THE SEVEN BISHOPS.
THE accession of James II. to the throne of England, on February 6, 1685, was the event which brought Charles Leslie prominently into public notice. It hastened a crisis in national affairs which had long been preparing, and which not even sagacity, moderation, and high principle could have ultimately averted--qualities in which he was conspicuously deficient--though they might have delayed it or altered its course. A man, therefore, of such strong convictions and literary ability as Leslie could not have failed to come to the front, at great risk or advantage to himself, whatever direction political affairs had taken in a period so fraught with the elements of disturbance. James, Duke of York, succeeded apparently with the general good will of the nation, which had been thoroughly tired out by Charles II.'s vice, profligacy, and extravagance, however leniently many were disposed to view his faults after remembrance of the usurpation. Attempts had indeed been made to exclude James from the throne on account of his perversion to the Roman Church by a powerful party, and supported by leading ministers of State. But these had given such intense dissatisfaction to Charles, who was tenderly attached to his brother, as well as devoted to the principle of hereditary right, that sooner than listen to further discussion of the painful subject, he had for several years discontinued the practice of summoning Parliaments. It was a dangerous course, and full of inconvenience immediately to himself; but his sudden death terminated both speculation about its probable consequences, and that opposition which was its cause. At least no open signs were made, if discontent continued to work underground, till the new monarch had time to display his character. At the first it seemed as though the voices of clamour and faction had become effectually silenced by the unexpected turn of affairs, and that all people unanimously-desired to give him at least a fair trial. If his private character could not be termed immaculate, yet it was not stained by the glaring vices and profligacies which had shocked and scandalized the nation ever since the Restoration on his brother's part. He had exhibited much aptitude for business, and administrative capacity in several positions; was conversant with naval and military affairs; had studied the arts of war under such a distinguished general as Turenne, and shown conspicuous bravery in expeditions by sea when commanding the fleet. His economy and prudence had contrasted remarkably with reckless prodigality and carelessness prevailing in several high places during the late reign; and, though not possessed of that easy, graceful manner which had charmed so many friends of all classes to Charles's side, he was not only dignified, but affable in demeanour, with more sincerity of meaning. A change of sovereignty then in itself from Charles to James could not be deplored, when the first emotions of regret had subsided, for an amiable profligate whom men could not help liking while they blamed. The one grave objection of an alien faith which had appeared intolerable at a distance, a majority hoped, upon being brought face to face with it, would lose its terrors by being held under proper restraint from interfering with the established religion, and liberty of his subjects. Nothing could have been more favourable to such expectation than James's first proceedings after Proclamation, nor better calculated to secure confidence and disarm suspicion. No animosity was expressed towards leading persons who had distinguished themselves by support of the Exclusion Bill, as might have naturally been apprehended. Sunderland, Rochester, and Halifax, chief ministers of State, were retained in office. And the first words spoken to the Privy Council, quickly reported throughout the kingdom, elicited a general response of confidence and satisfaction. "I have been reported," said James, "to be a man of arbitrary power, and that is not the only story told of me; but I shall make it my endeavour to preserve this Government, both in Church and State, as it is now established by law. I know the principles of the Church of England are for monarchy, and the members of it have shown themselves good and loyal subjects, therefore I shall take care always to defend and support it. I know also that the laws of England are sufficient to make the king as great a monarch as I can wish; and as I shall never depart from the just rights and prerogatives of the crown, so I shall never invade any man's property."
Grammarians were not supposed to criticize this address, but it was by no means so artless and unpremeditated as it sounded. Half the skill of well-conned sentences consisted in their air of impromptu utterance. Even that slight ring of defiance in assertion of his own rights found a welcome, because nicely balanced against a promise of respect for every one else's. A man who could thus adapt himself to the occasion, and clearly appreciate what his own peculiar position and the temper of the nation alike required, might at least have displayed some reasonable caution in trying to escape from limits acknowledged by himself to an ardent zeal for Romanism. His haste to override them was not owing to intentional duplicity and determination to violate his solemn engagement whenever opportunity should offer, but to an infatuation which saw no inconsistencies and could not wait for opportunities; engendered and inflamed by a few narrow, eager priests at his side, whose recklessness sensible members of their own communion deplored. Thus the reaction in public opinion was not long suffered to continue. Zealots, in their hurry to obtain an apparent triumph over the Church of England at some particular point, lost whatever chance there might have been to cunning and perseverance of restoring gradually and stealthily papal domination in this country--the very policy pursued at the present day by more subtle leaders. Some early proceedings little corresponded to James's assurance of respect for the Church and the law. Refusal of the Blessed Sacrament according to her rites at the coronation could hardly be blamed with justice, since reception could have been on his and the queen's part only a solemn mockery. But that they should on the next Sunday but one commence attendance at the Romish service in full state was a foolish provocation, quickly followed by another step still more alarming to the public--the constitution of a cabinet council of Roman Catholics, including the king's confessor, Father Petre, who set themselves to supersede in various posts of authority by their own religionists men of the highest probity and intelligence who were Protestants. Next, oaths imposed under the Test Acts were dispensed with, and officers admitted to civil and military situations throughout the three kingdoms solely by virtue of the king's prerogative. Such buttresses as Test Acts and oaths were never any benefit, nor desired by the Church of England herself, but only an invention of political and nominal supporters. No just or sensible person can regret in her interest their abolition, their most obvious tendency being the multiplication of time-serving hypocrites and dissemblers with conscience. Nor is it at all clear that James did not possess such a dispensing power; much the same had frequently been exercised by his predecessors. His purpose, however, went far beyond any of theirs, and aimed palpably at a transfer of all situations of authority into the hands of Romanists. This could hardly be witnessed without signs of public indignation, which increased when monks and friars began to parade the streets in great numbers, and ostentatiously exhibit themselves in the habits of their various Orders. Then followed another bold step in revival of the exploded Ecclesiastical High Court, which inaugurated its first proceedings by prohibiting controversial sermons by the clergy, while no similar restraint was imposed upon their rivals. A sermon of Dr. Sharpe, Dean of Norwich and Rector of S. Giles, was made a pretext for essaying the new tribunal's powers; so Compton, Bishop of London, was peremptorily enjoined to suspend him, which he very properly but in most respectful terms declined to do, as beyond his powers without a regular trial and conviction. It was of no avail that Sharpe was sent by the bishop to apologize for his unintentional offence, and to promise more circumspection in future. James owed the bishop himself a grudge; therefore, Sharpe's offence being almost dropped out of sight, he was made the victim, and suspended from performance of his episcopal duties for disobedience to royal authority by this new court.
The encampment of an army on Hounslow Heath was, regarded by many people as intended to over-awe the Protestant population, since there was no foreign army against whom it could be employed. The suspicion was widely strengthened by daily public celebration of mass at head-quarters, attendance at which was urgently pressed, upon the soldiers by Roman missionaries.
Lying in gaol at this time for a scurrilous pamphlet, comparing the king while yet Duke of York to Julian the Apostate, was Samuel Johnson, who now managed to write and have published another of a most mutinous and inflammatory character, entitled, "An Address to English Protestants in the Army." Undoubtedly it called for condemnation from authority; but the punishment far exceeded the offence, and served to heighten popular indignation against James. Johnson was sentenced by the Ecclesiastical Commission as being a clergyman to be degraded from the priesthood, then pilloried and whipped from Newgate to Tyburn, with a fine of five hundred marks, and further imprisonment till it should be paid--cruelties rigorously inflicted, and heroically endured with a spirit worthy of a better cause. As if such things had not been, enough for a twelvemonth, Lord Castlemain was dispatched as ambassador extraordinary to Rome for reconcilement of these kingdoms to the Holy See. Though coldly received there, because the reigning pontiff, Innocent XI., disapproved generally of the policy of the Jesuits, and was deeply embittered against Louis XIV., King of France, with whom James was in close alliance, none the less the fact of such a mission sank deep into the hearts of English people. The pace at which he was proceeding made sensible Romanists throughout the country very uneasy, and they would thankfully have paused to notice the effect produced already in the nation's mind. But such moderation did not suit the impatient sanguine temper of Petre and his party, who were for making hay while the sun shone, and turning present opportunities to account at any risk. This forward policy, advocated at a meeting of the most eminent Romanists in opposition to some moderate counsels, set aside as timorous and unworthy, was endorsed by the king's own special approbation; who added, for the comfort of his monastic counsellors, that he "had provided a sure retreat and sanctuary for them in Ireland, if his endeavours should be blasted in England; but as yet he had no reason to despair." Little he gauged the amount of indignation kindled in ten thousand breasts, or what a frail reed his co-religionists would find Irish support when an hour of trial should arrive. There, so far from affording encouragement, the situation was more embarrassing than in England. For affairs had proceeded since the king's accession with greater rapidity towards the restoration of papal supremacy in Ireland, in hope of obtaining a fresh lever of advantage to the work. Such hope was not without some apparent foundation, for were not the majority of inhabitants Romanists irreconcilably opposed to the Protestant Church? Had not successive confiscations, forfeitures, and evictions, from Elizabeth's to that time, alienated the greater part of the land from possession of its rightful owners to Saxon and Scotch intruders? Only the presence of a common foe kept up any semblance of unity between Presbyterians and members of the Established Church, so that its overthrow did not seem difficult. Accordingly, immediate steps were taken of a still more decided character than those as yet ventured at home, which were the means of calling into action Charles Leslie's: talents and convictions.
Earl Tyrconnel was employed first as governor-general under the Earl of Clarendon, Lord-lieutenant, but with the full intention of superseding him, and under pretence of checking any support to Monmouth's rebellion, at once invested with summary powers for disarming all Protestants. No less than five hundred families among the most peaceable and industrious inhabitants of the sister kingdom were frightened away by this arbitrary and violent proceeding. No scruples of policy any more than justice interfered in the prosecution of his one set purpose to deprive Protestants of every vestige of authority, and reduce them into prostrate subjection to their enemies, who, not without some provocation, had long been thirsting for such a triumph. Even a member of the new cabinet could not refrain from exclaiming, "That fellow is mad enough to ruin ten kingdoms;" for the more reputable Roman Catholics began to entertain serious alarm at the extraordinary ferocity of his conduct. Yet he did but carry out the spirit and letter of his instructions; nor can James be justly excused on the score of ignorance, at least to the extent which Leslie afterwards pleaded, of the outrages committed by this fanatical creature, which he unreservedly condemned. [Answer to King's "State of Protestants."]
In the summer of 1686, his first, last, and sole piece of ecclesiastical preferment was conferred upon Leslie. By the death of Rev. Robert Maxwell several vacancies were occasioned, mostly in the diocese of Down and Connor, amounting to no less than £900 per annum, though he never resided upon any of his benefices. For one of these posts Lord Clarendon applied to the bishop of the diocese, in whose gift it was--the chancellorship of Connor. Its emoluments amounted to very little at that time; probably not £100 per annum, for the living of Rathmoram, annexed in 1603, had again been separated in 1670. It was, however, an office of some dignity, with opportunities of usefulness to the Church for which a man of legal training was specially qualified, whilst it did not involve a change of residence in order adequately to discharge its duties. At the same time, his lordship's recommendation was based upon his merits as a man of "good parts, admirable learning, an excellent preacher, and of an incomparable life," without any allusion to those private circumstances which had brought them into connection with each other. What rendered this request more honourable was the fact that the letter containing it administered also a severe rebuke to the bishop for his continuous absence from his diocese, and neglect of episcopal duties, which of course encouraged clergy to do the same. The consequence was that their cures were "left to mean and ignorant curates such as would serve cheapest, which gave great advantage to the adversaries of our religion." Equally to the bishop's credit, the favour thus solicited was immediately conferred, though how the other vacancies were filled which he was further desired "to consider well how he should dispose of," remains in obscurity. Unfortunately for himself and the Church, the serious warning failed to produce its proper effect. This prelate was Dr. Thomas Hacket, an Englishman by birth, but said to have graduated in the University of Dublin; and who must not be confounded with his namesake, a much worthier and more eminent man, Bishop of Lichfield, who spent £20,000 on the beautiful cathedral there, suffered greatly for his loyalty to King Charles, and wrote, beside several other works, a very interesting life of Archbishop Williams. He died in 1678.
The other had been a chaplain to King Charles, then Dean of Cork, Vicar of Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire, and a city rector before his elevation to the see of Down and Connor. His continued neglect, aggravated by a charge of simony, became so great a scandal that in 1693, after the Revolution, he was, upon trial by a commission of three Bishops, formally condemned and deposed. Complaints were made of tardiness in proceeding against him by authorities for two years and a half, which has been termed unaccountable. [Mant's "History of Irish Church," vol. ii. pp. 42-45; Birch's "Life of Tillotson," p. 24; Grainger, v. 10; Clarendon's "Diary," i. 405.] It really admits of an easy explanation by remembering another circumstance. Tillotson, the archbishop concerned to move in the matter, might have felt a natural reluctance to direct such proceedings against one under whom he had commenced his ministry by serving as assistant curate at Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire.
Leslie's duties were not very arduous, as most chancellors can guess, but never or nowhere could have been less so than there at Connor. It is a poor insignificant town, without a cathedral, and the very diocese having a mere nominal existence, connected with Down, though the county of Antrim which it comprises is one of the most flourishing in the north of Ireland. Tyrconnel's proceedings, however, helped to provide work for him. Letters had been dispatched to Lord Clarendon before his removal from office, requiring him to restrain the clergy from preaching on controversial topics, with mention of some particular sermons reported to have given offence to the king in this way. He wrote saying, "I made your brother (Rochester) give a severe reprimand to Dr. Sherlock, and have stopped a pension he had, and pray do you take care to do the like." Clarendon's reluctance to resign, and desire to keep on good terms with his Majesty, cannot be wondered at, considering their connection; but he might have foreseen that dismissal was only a question of time, and ought to have shown less compliance with this arbitrary attempt to muzzle the clergy. Some of them also ought to have displayed more spirit than they did, when summoned to the castle for a lecture on the subject of their preaching. Among others cautioned rather smartly for a sermon in the Vice-Royal Chapel was the Bishop of Meath, who made no remonstrance. Home Secretaries sometimes still presume beyond their province in ecclesiastical matters, but if the most exuberant should venture to dictate to a country priest the topics of discourse now, he would receive an answer which would make both his ears tingle.
Another step for the advancement of Popery was more startling than the preceding ones. A list of persons eligible for the office of High Sheriff was forwarded from England, with reflections upon individuals; and inquiries in the king's own handwriting concerning any reputed to have strong leanings in favour of the Church of England, that they might be excluded from appointment if so, upon which categorical replies were required. At the same time, Roman Catholics were to be exempted from the usual oaths on admission to office; and, accompanying this most unconstitutional and audacious order, was a recommendation to his Excellency's favour of the titular prelates Magee and Patrick Tyrrel. The latter was actually invested with the temporalities of the see of Clogher lately become vacant, where Leslie's own father had presided for ten years within the memory of the present generation. Nor did he lose time in asserting his newly devised authority. He did not venture to seize the palace at Clogher, but set up a residence for himself in the town of Monaghan, and established a large body of monks there. Then, holding a visitation at which were present some of the ablest Roman clergy from other places by special invitation, he challenged all the clergy of the English branch to a public disputation upon points of difference between them. All these were decidedly bold steps; but, coming in such rapid succession, their prudence was quite as questionable as their legality, and opened all men's eyes to the extent of change designed by James. Tyrrel's projected method of destroying heresy was a favourite hobby of James's own inherited from his grandfather, and practised upon every possible occasion in public or private, though with singular ill success in many notable instances. If a dishonourable man like Sunderland could temporarily affect conviction by his arguments, even one of so little piety as Rochester could scorn apostasy as the condition of holding place, with many more courtiers and ministers. By his own admission his champions made a poor figure in debate against divines of the Church of England. Tyrrel, however, who knew his predilection, might reasonably have presumed upon finding no such practised controversialists as London afforded among Irish heretics, and winning an easy victory. He was mistaken. With the fullest confidence and consent of his own brethren in the ministry, Leslie undertook to meet these chosen disputants single-handed; and accordingly, a great field-day for argument was arranged to take place before an assemblage of clergy and laity belonging to the rival, communions.
Any one who has witnessed a similar disputation knows how thoroughly unprofitable and indecisive it has been; nor would any sensible person pin his faith to the conclusion which such a meeting might adopt. The real merits of the case in dispute can never be supposed to depend upon the ingenuity or learning of an advocate, but an easy victory might be obtained over a far superior man by some superficial but eloquent and accomplished speaker. Generally, however, no such mischief is done nor advantage gained to the cause of truth. Both sides claim to have won! Both are pleased with their favourite's performance; they have had excitement, and return more convinced than ever before that their own view is the right one. So it was at Monaghan. Protestants loudly proclaimed Leslie to be the victor. Romanists were as confident their bishop had the best of the argument. When, shortly afterwards, the discussion was resumed in the parish church of Tynan, near to Glaslough, with a change of combatants in two more acute logicians on the opposite side, the result was the same. Their supporters were satisfied the Roman Church had been proved to a demonstration the sole-depository of the faith. As triumphantly members of the Church of England extolled Leslie's refutation of their errors. It was, indeed, asserted that he made one convert, a Mr. John Stewart, among his audience, who forthwith abandoned the communion to which he had belonged before, and continued steadfast to the end of his life in this attachment to his newly adopted faith. One exception only proves a rule. What remains certain, after all the clash of words and torrents of disputation, is that the subject of this biography acquitted himself creditably on both occasions. If they were drawn battles, yet he confirmed the favourable anticipations previously formed of his ability and theological learning. Nor, if manifestly worsted in the first engagement with the Popish prelate, would his party have been likely to risk another encounter against fresh assailants with the same champion. It is only fair, moreover, to remember that these discussions did not originate from any vanity or eagerness for display on his part. The challenges came from the Romanists. Any naughtiness of heart to see the battle was on their side, and theirs all the cumbrous armour of Goliath. He had but as it were a sling and a stone wherewith to meet the giants.
What seemed to show these weapons had struck home was another peremptory dispatch from James, complaining that "divers of the inferior clergy in Ireland had of late been disobedient to the injunctions of their superiors, and disturbed Roman Catholic clergymen in their functions." To which the Lord-lieutenant briefly replied, that "no application had been made to any of the magistrates concerning such disturbances." As this fresh complaint occurred in direct connection with the name of Dr. Patrick Tyrrel, there could be little doubt to what the king referred, and how foiled he felt in the result of his favourite mode of conviction; but it was rather unreasonable that even defeat should be termed disturbance, when it had issued from his own party throwing down the gauntlet.
The time came for pricking the sheriffs for the new year, and the purpose of the royal inquiries was to be made conspicuously plain in the same county of Monaghan. If argument had not availed in the mouths of ecclesiastics, force might in the hands of civilians more effectually defeat Protestantism. A Roman Catholic, William Barton, was appointed high sheriff, who, in accordance with the dispensing power claimed by the king, and fully relying upon his support, refused to take the oaths required by law.
Magistrates felt this to be a very critical matter on which to determine. It placed them in a dilemma not pleasant to contemplate, either of disobedience to the king's direct mandate, or to the law of the land which they were sworn to administer indifferently and without respect of persons. In their perplexity they resorted to Leslie at Glaslough, since a sharp attack of the gout had prevented his attendance amongst them as usual upon previous days of meeting. His advice was clear and distinct--that no one could be admitted to the office without legal qualification; nor would they be at liberty to permit a Romanist acting, even if he should venture to undertake it. They felt convinced that this argument was sound, nor could any one state it better; therefore he was requested further to be present at the next Quarter Sessions, when the claimant for office should have notice to appear. This was agreed to, and upon the appointed day Leslie took his place as chairman, at what pain and inconvenience to himself can be best appreciated by such as have suffered from the same complaint; the recurrence of which to him in after times afforded a subject of merriment to adversaries of the stamp of Burnet, Hoadley. De Foe, and Tutchin.
When the Castle nominee presented himself, he was respectfully asked by an officer of the court whether he-had qualified for office upon oath; to which he replied abruptly, not because he was taken by surprise at so reasonable an inquiry, for he fully expected to encounter opposition on this ground, but' with what was meant to be a tone of defiance and offended dignity--"I am of the king's religion, and am appointed to be sheriff at the king's pleasure." Under the circumstances of his position it was an ingenious reply, which had been evidently well considered beforehand. He flung the burden of responsibility adroitly from himself to the king, and hoped to quash further inquiry by the fear of his displeasure. So the more complete and happy again was Leslie's answer on behalf of his fellow-magistrates and himself--in a tone of imperturbable composure and courtesy--" We are not here to inquire into the king's religion, but only whether you have qualified yourself according to law to act as an officer of his Majesty. The law is to be deemed the king's will, and nothing else; his subjects have no other way of determining the king's will but as they find it revealed to them in the law; therefore this must be taken to continue so until the contrary shall be signified to them in the same authentic manner."
There was a neat avoidance of religious questions which might have been interpreted into offence or reflection upon the sovereign, with a denial of the claimant's plea as logical as it was appropriate. The rest of the magistrates were emboldened by this example to firmly maintain the law of the land, and resist further encroachment in the king's name. Not only was this person committed to prison for his contempt of court, but some officers of Tyrconnel's also, who presumed upon similar pretences to commit outrages and robberies in the neighbourhood. Thus, again, the advantage resulting from his early training had become apparent in the skill with which his decision had avoided the snare prepared with no little subtlety, and defeated the weak points of an opponent's case. And it ought to be further considered that at that time none but a few knew to what extent pretensions of royal authority for dispensing with the law were founded in fact. It did not appear till the publication of State secrets long afterwards that James had really given such directions, though he repudiated responsibility for much of Tyrconnel's more frantic conduct.
While thus a policy for complete subjugation of Protestants in Ireland to the Roman yoke was being pursued with headlong rapidity, it proceeded not so fast, but by no means slowly, in England. Attacks were made upon the Universities, first at Cambridge, then at Oxford, curiously enough by a mere accidental coincidence at Magdalen College in each. A person devoid of any literary qualifications was ordered to be admitted to the degree of Master of Arts in Cambridge, simply on the ground of the king's recommendation. That degrees had been often conferred upon royal mandate could not admit of any question; nor n would there have been a churlish disposition among College r authorities to stand upon ceremony under ordinary circumstances. But these were just what altered the case. The question was not about conferring an honorary degree; but admitting Alban Francis to the constituent body of university electors because he was a Romanist, thus opening a side door for introduction of many more of the same description, for the express purpose of subverting its character. The Senate and Vice-chancellor proved themselves equal to the occasion; and failing to obtain withdrawal of the king's candidate upon a respectful remonstrance, refused the degree. James was highly incensed; fumed and talked proudly; but did nothing, and let the matter drop. Had he but exercised a similar discretion in the case of the other University it had been well, for there he raised a spirit of resistance to himself where loyalty was wont to be carried to an extreme of enthusiasm. Already some murmurs had been provoked by bestowal of the Deanery of Christ Church upon a pervert, Massey, who had immediately set up a Chapel for celebration of the Roman mass, an example followed by a Dr. Walker, Fellow of University College. The death of Dr. Clarke had made a vacancy in the presidentship of Magdalen, and James was ill advised to assert his prerogative by proposing a stranger of blemished character, named Anthony Farmer. Very respectfully the Fellows protested, but received a curt reply that his Majesty expected to be obeyed. After a solemn celebration of the Blessed Sacrament upon the day of election, a fitting inauguration to their further proceedings, and indicative of the pious spirit which animated them, they proceeded to set aside the royal nomination, and chose for themselves John Hough, a candidate in every respect worthy of their suffrages. When James heard this he was transported with rage, which his immediate surroundings did nothing to cool; so the Ecclesiastical Commission was instructed to revenge the affront he imagined himself to have received. Its members acted with their accustomed imprudence and partiality. But Farmer's moral character rendering his appointment untenable, Dr. Parker was substituted by another royal mandate, to whom there were no such palpable objections, though he was suspected of Romeward proclivities. His position, being Bishop of Oxford, learning and piety would have entitled him to acceptance by the University without protest; but at this stage of the proceedings the Fellows felt bound to stand upon their rights. James had resolved on a royal progress through parts of the kingdom to awaken dormant or waning popularity; and when he reached Oxford, summoned the disobedient authorities before him, and scolded them in terms as undignified as offensive. But his browbeating availed no more than the threats of his Commissioners to shake their resolution. Therefore they were expelled, and their posts filled by Roman perverts. Alas! for the fatuity of the monarch whom evil counsellors were speeding to his ruin, while the approval of their own consciences was heard by those Magdalen worthies echoed in the plaudits of an admiring nation. The memory of that struggle will remain among its noblest and most cherished traditions so long as the University shall continue what it has been, a cynosure for all faithful, loving hearts in the Church of England. These events in the sister island were too nearly paralleled, or even surpassed, in unconstitutional violence by those in which Leslie himself had been compelled to interfere, for him not to feel very keenly their latent connection, and forecast the inevitable end to which they were drifting the ill-starred king. The principles involved in the contests provoked by James were identical in both countries, and among the same sort of persons, upright, honourable, intelligent, and loyal almost to excess. Leslie must have experienced even more pain than a majority of mere spectators outside Oxford, because he was already recognized there as a man of superior attainments, and on terms of personal intimacy with one or two of those immediately concerned in the Magdalen case. Among others with Bishop Parker, whose intrusion into the presidentship he afterwards severely condemned, though he did not share the suspicions erroneously entertained of his infidelity to the Church, and at that very time was in correspondence with him on literary subjects. But of course he had more sense and delicacy than to give public expression at the time to his thoughts upon that question; which many with less claim did not hesitate to do; as if a University could be better or worse for officious interference with its affairs by uninitiated strangers. The story of the Seven Bishops has been told repeatedly by historians, who have vied with each other in depicting in glowing language their noble and intrepid defence of the Church's liberties. None have essayed more brilliantly to extol their courageous consistency of principle upon this one occasion, than writers who have laboured to decry and depreciate them individually, and load their memories with unmerited obloquy. And this alteration of tone only too truly reflects a discreditable change on the part of the nation itself, characteristic of majorities in all ages. The spirit was the same which ostracized Aristides, poisoned Socrates, assassinated Caesar, murdered Laud and King Charles, applauded these Seven Bishops then beggared and disowned them! It is the essential spirit of the world, and if not in antagonism to the spirit of true Christianity, the Church's work and experience must in all ages have been different; whereas they have been always essentially alike. A very brief outline of the main incidents will suffice to connect that interesting episode with this narrative. King James had issued a Declaration of Indulgence for Dissenters from the Established Church in the three kingdoms, which in Ireland produced such consequences as have been stated, owing rather to the illegal and injudicious method employed in its enforcement, than sentimental repugnance to such relief in itself. It evoked considerable dissatisfaction in Scotland, but not active opposition of a serious kind. In England it had remained for some time after its first issue a dead letter. Church-people, a vast majority, took no notice of it, and Dissenters looked askance; their leaders shrewdly divining its purport not to be for their interest, except so far as that might cover the king's own religion, which they hated as intensely as they did the Church of England. Issued, moreover, without the consent of Parliament, because that was utterly hopeless of attainment, this Declaration seemed to most people of no legal validity, either for protection claimed under it or against disobedience to it. The principle of non-recognition affirmed at Monaghan, equally applied to all sorts of cases elsewhere. Besides, Dissenters in England could see that if royal prerogative might properly secure them against law in this reign, in the next it might be exerted for their destruction without law, upon their own admission; therefore the wisest of them were very chary of accepting the proffered boon. Not discouraged by this significant silence, or misreading its meaning, James, in the spring of 1688, reissued his manifesto for tender and diseased consciences, somewhat wider in its scope and more strongly expressed. It asserted a conviction of every man's right to worship God in the manner he deemed best, and declared all laws interfering with that right to be thereby suspended, ordered prisoners on account of religion to be immediately set at liberty, and public offices of every description opened without distinction of creed or sect.
An admirable and righteous declaration, it will be almost unanimously admitted in this country at the present day, even by those who, needing it here for themselves rigidly refuse liberty of conscience where they have ascendancy. Nor need James's sincerity be too closely scanned, for he had tasted the effects of Protestant bigotry, not at the instance of the Church of England, as sometimes most unjustly asserted, but of the Parliament, which held then in prison some three thousand persons for venturing to disagree with its self-satisfied members on one or more-points of belief. Though he overlooked the inconsistency with this Indulgence of bribing or forcing to apostasy his own immediate dependents and ministers of State, he knew by his own case that intolerance and persecution rather deepened than shook conviction; therefore he might calculate upon good results of freedom in others. Nor did he deserve censure for aiming at the advancement of his own religion. Such is the desire of all earnest persons, whether one course or another be adopted for its attainment. Designing hypocritical Sunderland was the real author of this Declaration, who only wanted to ingratiate himself with his master, which he was on the eve of still further attempting by apostasy to Rome, while busily intriguing with the Prince of Orange for an invasion of the kingdom. He cared no more for one religion than another, only intending to secure for himself the unjust steward's reward under either alternative. Having observed some approachment of Dissenters towards the Church to be the result of recent proceedings, he devised this apple of discord to fling between them. For a moment his crafty purpose appeared on the point of realization; for sectarian bodies hailed the new illegal publication with enthusiasm--addresses reeking with flattery and servile adulation poured in profusion from their congregations, and deputations grovelled in the dust before the king with such nauseous extravagance, that his own soul sickened at the sight.
His Majesty went in state to a dissenting Lord Mayor's banquet at the Guildhall, with the queen; and, to complete the picture of fraternization, the pope's Nuncio sat at the same table, returning home to St. James's palace amid the shouts of the populace, which within a year would have as cheerfully tore them all three to pieces. Only the Church of England was left out in the cold, to which was now artfully attributed the blame of all penal statutes whatever. A blunder, however, upset the conspiracy, and caused Dissenters some mistrust about their ill-assorted alliance with the Church of Rome. For, appended to the new Declaration, was an Order in Council requiring it to be read in all churches, and the bishops to see the royal commands obeyed in their dioceses. After the first flutter of surprise at the directness of this assault, came the practical question, What ought to be done? As if to prevent organized resistance, scarce a fortnight had been allowed between publication of the order and the date fixed for general compliance. A few more resolute spirits among the clergy immediately avowed their intention to refuse; others counselled delay and reflection; a majority waited to see what course the bishops would adopt. Had they proved unequal to the crisis, the Church of England must have fallen for ever. What made decision on their part more difficult was the remembrance that themselves had circulated a precisely similar document in the preceding reign which Parliament had refused to sanction--conduct that now suggested an impudent menace by Father Petre couched in the language of Rabshakeh, with a strange forgetfulness how that had recoiled upon its author. Only ten Prelates were in London or within easy reach, of whom two were committed to the court interest. Seven others after prayer and deliberation at Lambeth, drew up a memorial to his Majesty, excusing themselves from obedience to the order because Parliament had pronounce: such a declaration illegal, but respectfully assuring him they were influenced neither by want of loyalty or liberality in their refusal. Sancroft, archbishop, Ken, Lake, Lloyd Trelawney, Turner, and White signed, and carried it themselves to the king, excepting the archbishop, who had been out of favour and forbidden attendance at Court.
Misled by some of his advisers to expect no more than a show of resistance on the part of the bishops, James felt all the more angry at their uncompromising attitude, and expressed his displeasure in no measured terms. Dr. Sherlock simultaneously posted a letter to the clergy in general, pointing out how they would plunge themselves into a pit dug by enemies if they should yield compliance. The result was that only seven in London and about two hundred throughout the kingdom read the Declaration. And thus had arrived the crisis to which events had been tending long before, but more decidedly since the moment of James's accession to the throne. The most unpleasant feature consisted in this circumstance, that either to advance or recede appeared equally perilous. Two dissenting ministers were invited to assist deliberations of his Jesuit council, who only goaded him on to more desperate resolves. Legal proceedings were instituted against the bishops on the score of a seditious libel, and after tedious preliminaries their trial was arranged. Meanwhile, refusing to give bail, they were committed to the Tower, on their way to which countless multitudes lined the banks of the Thames, to testify their sympathy and admiration. [Leslie said Bancroft regretted this deeply afterwards.] The very soldiers kneeled to crave a blessing from their prisoners. On the 15th of June the trial commenced in Westminster Hall and extended over a period of three weeks, but at length the jury were at liberty to consider their verdict; nor would it have occupied a night's consultation but for the king's butcher, who could not square his conscience with his interest. He gave way at last, and upon their return into court their unanimous "Not guilty!" was no sooner pronounced by the foreman's lips, than caught up and repeated with a joyous strength among the crowd, that made the walls of Westminster ring again. The tidings spread like wildfire through the city, till they reached the camp at Hounslow, where the king happened to be dining; so he had the mortification of learning how fully the troops sympathized with the prevailing sentiment in favour of the bishops against himself. A fitting sequel to their conduct was a circular letter to the clergy, inculcating fresh earnestness in the performance of Christian duties, and tenderness in dealing with schismatics. When too late James has been represented to have pathetically confessed that "in the case of the bishops no doubt he had done better in not forcing some wheels, when he found the whole machine stop. But it was his misfortune to give too much ear to the pernicious advice of those who put him upon such dangerous courses with intent to widen the breach between him and his subjects." [Life, written by himself.] If this were only said for him, instead of by him, it represents at least the exact state of the case. If the words were his own, it was the more lamentable that he had not the same sagacity a little sooner. Other remarks more credibly are attributed to him--that his "prepossession against the yielding temper which had proved so dangerous to his brother and fatal to his father, fixed him in a contrary method. And that he had observed failure in four reigns to force uniformity, and that it rather increased dissent." Both considerations were true enough, if he had not omitted their necessary safe guards in practice. Stubbornness is an extreme as perilous as excessive pliability, and an enforced toleration as an intolerant uniformity.