CONVOCATION--INNOCENT XI.--KING OF SPAIN--DUKE OF GLOUCESTER--KING JAMES--AT S. GERMAIN--DEATH-APPEARANCE--CHARACTER--DEATH OF WILLIAM--OFFER TO LESLIE OF PREFERMENT--ROBERT LESLIE--BISHOP HUNTINGDON--QUEEN ANNE--OCCASIONAL CONFORMITY.
LESLIE'S attention was diverted now for a while to public affairs in Church and State by events of more than usual concern to all parties in the kingdom, and especially interesting to him. There was first the Convocation question, which, having slept for several years, suddenly revived. That body is the sacred Synod of the nation, and presumed to represent the Church for settlement of all ecclesiastical affairs, except her constitutional principles of doctrine and discipline; much in the same way that Parliament is supposed to represent the nation in political matters. And the uniform custom had been for Convocation to be consulted, and deliberate in those which affected her interest. At the same time, it must be admitted that a practice had existed or grown up gradually in many former reigns of regulating some things without regard to this authority, partly for convenience and partly from neglect, both by the king and the bishops. So these had undertaken to speak and act in the Church's name till a quasi sanction seemed to be established for their acceptance generally as her own proper voice. But this had no real authority nor a validity independent of, much less in opposition to, the priesthood. Very naturally, however, they preferred a system which contributed to magnify their own power and importance as a superior order, and the expression came into use under their auspices of "the inferior clergy," to denote some necessary and inherent difference of the priesthood from themselves. When assemblage in London and York also involved a tedious and expensive journey, it was equally natural that persons of slender income should have easily fallen in with this practice of leaving the bishops supreme control, without stopping to consider what consequences might ultimately ensue from such default. Dr. Tillotson, at the commencement of the usurpation, summoned a meeting of Convocation in the hope of passing a comprehension-scheme for admission of Dissenters into the Church, by levelling down her barriers and alteration of the Prayer-book in conformity with their prejudices, which was a pet project of William. He had no other object in view, for Convocation was really more distasteful to him and the latituclinarian party than to his predecessors on the episcopal bench. Only they hoped thus to gain a great lever of advantage for their project, by committing to it the representative assembly of the whole clergy. The device signally failed, and had to be dropped after a considerable amount of heat and angry discussion, to which reference has already been made by anticipation in connection with the case of the Regale and Pontificate. After that, till his death, Tillotson adopted a different plan. Since he could not make the clergy speak with his voice, they should not speak at all. Since they would not accept his ipse dixit, they should be condemned to an ignominious silence. At the opening of Parliament he went through a form of summoning Convocation, but always immediately proceeded to prorogue it. And his successor, Tenison, a man scarcely more orthodox and still less able than he, selected by William for the post on account of this inferiority of character, as likely to prove a supple instrument for his purpose of keeping the Church in shackles, intended to continue the same artifice. Murmurs at length began to grow louder and louder among the clergy, and a demand for restoration of their ancient and undoubted right of meeting for the dispatch of business. A great impulse was given to the movement by a tract published under the title of a "Letter to a Member of Parliament," authorship of which has been differently ascribed to Sir Bartholomew Shower and Dr. Binks. Wake replied in a pamphlet which surrendered all the rights of the Church altogether to the king happening to be in possession, who was effectively answered by Samuel Hill, and not so forcibly by Atterbury, though with more eloquence and rhetorical power. The only argument of any weight put forward by the obstructionist party, that the meeting of Convocation formerly being only for the purpose of voting subsidies, and therefore unnecessary when this right had been surrendered, had no foundation in fact. That right had never been formally surrendered by the Church or Convocation, and therefore could not be lost to successors, because the archbishop of the day had taken upon himself to yield. Silence might have been a mistake the part of the clergy and imply acquiescence for themselves, but could not be justly pleaded to involve any consent in the future.
Nor was it true that this had been the great business of Convocation, or that discussion had been ever limited to such a subject. All ecclesiastical matters properly belonged to Convocation, the only limit lying in the need of royal licence from the very nature of the case for giving practical effect to any conclusions which might touch upon the temporal rights of the crown or people.
In this contest Leslie was deeply interested, and though his position as a Nonjuror precluded him from direct interference, he threw all the weight of his influence into the scale with the so-called "High Church" party, for preserving their right unimpaired. Many of those who had succumbed to the Revolution had long felt gallingly the weight of the chain they had hung round their own necks, and sighed for relief which could not be obtained without fresh swearing and another revolution. They had, therefore, to rest content with efforts to rescue what little of ancient liberty remained from destruction. To some extent in this they succeeded, for Convocation met again February, 1700, with the well-dissembled reluctance but affectedly cheerful consent of William, upon writs issued by the Bishops of London and Rochester, who thus established their independent rights as Suffragans, and Tenison had to yield a grim acquiescence. Such a temper as both Houses displayed, and such a diversity of sentiment as they professed, boded ill for their harmonious working. So no sooner had the usual formalities of assemblage been performed, than the war of words commenced. The chief subjects of contention were respecting the condemnation of heretical books, and a claim of the Lower House to continue sitting after adjournment of the Upper, both of which the latter resolutely opposed.
Now that Convocation has regained its long withheld powers of deliberation upon ecclesiastical affairs, it is easier to consider these matters calmly than it was then. And it can scarcely be denied that while prelates by no means exhibited that spirit which became them, they had the best of the argument on their side. It could only lead to anarchy and dissension perilous to the Church's welfare, if the Lower House of Convocation were permitted to assume a position of irresponsibility and insubordination to the Upper in the face of the nation. The whole purpose of their joint constitution would be inevitably destroyed; but for this very reason prelates should have been more careful than Tenison and his brethren for the most part were, to adopt a conciliatory attitude, and carefully consider the matter of every grievance submitted to their notice by the representative body of the clergy. Again, though the Lower House was within its province in discussing the character and tendency of books widely circulated, it became evident their intention was rather to censure individuals than their books, and individually strike at prelates with whom these were justly enough presumed to be in too high favour, including Burnet, the author of an "Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles." If, therefore, the bishops, instead of obstinately refusing concurrence, had suggested to the Lower House the propriety of endeavouring to answer these pernicious volumes before condemning them, it would have been a more dignified and speedy method of composing differences. What might be the issue of their continuance none could predict, when happily that was interrupted by the calling of a new Parliament. One or two pamphlets which appeared during the heat of the controversy were ascribed to Leslie's pen, for which a different authorship has since been claimed; nor do they bear the characteristic marks of his style, therefore may be dismissed from consideration. If he did write anything upon the subject, at least it cannot be said that he confined his disapproval of heretical writers to mere declamation, or the fulminating of censures against persons. His method of combat was both a fairer and more successful one--to dispute and disprove their tenets from Reason, Scripture, and the Authority of the primitive Church. Opponents who may deride and deny the powers of Convocation cannot so easily decline to accept the arbitrament of public opinion when their arguments are clearly proved erroneous in this way. A few prominent partisans of the bishops endeavoured to start a fresh cry against Nonjurors and Jacobites, representing the whole thing as a conspiracy of theirs, and protesting against their title to interfere at all. Such an idea was amusing, coming from those who readily accepted support for their own opinions from every quarter, and only wanted a convocation so far as it might be an instrument for opening the Church's gates to a creedless heterogeneous mass. Such an objection was altogether untenable. Nonjurors and Jacobites had never formerly separated themselves from the Church of England; they only claimed to represent her more truly and consistently than others who had been intruded into their offices. They had never been excommunicated, nor had any one ventured to propose such a thing. Therefore they had both a moral and legal right to interfere in any matter which concerned her welfare; nor were Leslie, Hickes, and Wagstaffe in the least deterred from doing so, but rather the contrary, for the complaint showed palpably what an influence opponents felt them to possess in spite of all which had been done to depreciate and disparage them. Least of all did this objection apply to Leslie, because, so far from fanning the flames of dissension, he endeavoured as much as possible, by kindly remonstrance with both parties, to moderate their warmth; and even made a point of attendance at public services in Parish churches with his family, wherever Nonjurors had no chapel of thcir own, rather than seem to sanction schism, or widen the breach unnecessarily. Though this course did not commend itself to any of the party then, there are clear proofs that he did so on several occasions and at different places.
The eighteenth century, which thus opened with stormy prospects for the Church, ushered in events of a still more portentous character to the world at large. Innocent XI. was dead--the Protestant pope who had signally aided William in robbing his own infatuated devotee of his crown--and no one could expect the newly elected pontiff to walk in his steps. Then followed the death of the King of Spain, indicating a new European war for certain, in which England sooner or later must be involved, with fresh expenditure of blood and treasure without any adequate result to the nation. But the hand of death was to be busier still among royal houses and crowned heads. Its next victim was the only child of the Princess Anne and George of Denmark. He was the last of seventeen children, the rest of whom had scarcely survived their birth. This one had reached his eleventh year, and was taken ill just after celebration of his birthday by great festivities at Windsor. Commonly called the Duke of Gloucester, it is said that, owing to an old and natural prejudice against that title, the patent of creation had never been drawn out, and now the formality was rendered needless. Dr. Burnet says nothing about his moral disposition, of which, indeed, at such a tender age little idea could be hazarded, though generally "the boy is father to the man," and some later historians have taken upon themselves to form sanguine guesses on the point. He, however, formed a high opinion of the young prince's intellectual powers and thirst for knowledge, neither of which he could be presumed to have inherited from his parents. From the doctor's own account of the method of instruction he adopted as his tutor, though no doubt in a conscientious desire to do his duty to the utmost, it is surprising the poor boy lived so long; for his brain was overloaded with lectures for several hours every day on subjects of every possible description, beside elaborate explanations of the bishop's own views about political and ecclesiastical affairs, of which the less he heard then the better and happier he might have been. What made his death so serious was not only sympathy with parents for a loss not likely to be repaired, but the view it presented of fresh complications to the State. The Prince of Wales had been discarded, and this child substituted as heir to the throne after his mother. He had been, therefore, the very hope of the Revolution, and now that hope suddenly was extinguished. Its contrivers began to tremble for the future, some to cast about with Marlborough for ways of providing against all emergencies, and making their peace with the exiled family. Jacobites and Non-jurors looked up and thought they saw the sky clearing for a restoration. Anne bore her loss with patience and resignation, in some measure owing to constitutional impassive-ness, but it may be hoped also under the influence of better motives. She herself despatched a secret messenger with tidings of this bereavement to her father. It was not her first communication since that unfilial desertion which cut him to the heart so deeply, but no response had been made to her professions of submission and penitence, because obviously these could not be sincere so long as she continued to wait upon opportunity in England; though her sister, and "Old Caliban," as she termed William, had given her some bitter pills to swallow. No more notice was taken on this occasion than before of her letters, for their little value appeared only too conspicuously. Even William, in 1697, made an overture of reconciliation through the King of France, on condition that James should formally resign to him the crown for his lifetime, and that then it should revert to the rightful heir, which the king very properly disdained to consider. The fact of such a proposal being made demonstrates beyond question how untrue had been the usurper's pretences for invasion, and how little he had at heart anything but gratification of his own ambition. He and Anne were engaged in similar work, and prompted by similar motives, trying to out-manceuvre one another, their consciences ill at ease, but overpowered by a terrible temptation. The time had arrived for James himself to turn away his sad and wearied eye from this world altogether, and leave its hopes and disappointments behind him. Indeed, after 1697 he had discontinued any efforts, if not abandoned all hopes, for recovery of his throne. Nearly all correspondence too with loyal subjects in England had dropped, and he spent a perfectly uneventful existence at S. Germain, only varied by occasional visits for deeper seclusion and devotion in the monastery of Latrappe. Some show of state was maintained, and several English persons formed part of the royal establishment, but those who had not been brought up in the Roman faith, or apostatized, had a very hard time of it indeed. One after another, chaplains who wished to minister to their spiritual wants had to retire; for while one or two had sacrificed their all for the king's sake, they were not only forbidden to exercise their functions openly, but treated with a contumely and cruelty beyond human nature to endure.
Leslie went over upon two or three occasions for a short period to confer with his Majesty upon the state of affairs, and enjoyed his full confidence as well as that of the Nonjurors and Jacobites in general. Personally, on all such occasions James manifested towards him the utmost favour and condescension, both on his own account, and for the Still greater sacrifices which he could not but remember Leslie's father, the bishop, endured for his. He knew very well his staunch attachment to the Church of England, as steadfast as his own to Rome, and listened very patiently to his urgent entreaties for assurances which might be repeated to English people of protection to her rights in future, as an indispensable condition of restoration. Nevertheless, little tangible security of this kind could be extracted suitable to the extremity; for whatever modifications James himself might be convinced his former headlong policy required, the queen and her priests were as inveterately bent as ever upon insisting that Rome should not only have ascendancy, but supremacy, whether at S. Germain or S. James's. A knowledge of this convinced Leslie of the inexpediency of more decided efforts, and his visits were only such as duty required, when he encountered none of that ungracious and ungrateful treatment of which Dr. Grenville and other clergymen had so much reason to complain.
King James had been seized with convulsions, from which he appeared to have recovered, when another attack prostrated him; and it is remarkable that each of these occasions was while engaged in Divine Service, just when the plaintive words of Jeremiah were being sung--"Remember, O Lord," etc. When the last hour was at hand he forgave all his enemies, mentioning more particularly the Prince of Orange, the Prince of Denmark, and the Emperor of Austria. To the generous and chivalrous King of France he tendered his hearty and deserved thanks for all his kindnesses, who, deeply moved with emotion, burst into tears, and pledged himself to recognize the young prince, his son, as rightful heir to the throne of England. There ensued a slight rally after that for some hours, but on the next day, September 16, 1701, King James II. breathed his last. His conduct and character have been estimated differently, but the subject need not be pursued further here. His personal appearance and demeanour may interest some readers, as drawn by one who saw him frequently: "Something above the middle height in stature, well shaped, very nervous and strong. His face rather long, and complexion fair, with an engaging expression. His carriage a little stiff and constrained. Not so gracious as courteous and obliging. He offered no formality, and was easy of access, though none knew better what ceremony was becoming, or, when necessary, could be more exact in observance of it. His conversation was rather adapted to the conviction of his hearers by reasoning, than by the use of fine language. He abhorred every sort of duplicity, and proved a sure friend where he professed to be one; nor when he could not serve a man did he hesitate to let him know it. Naturally his temper was hot and fiery, of which in later days he got the better; and even when younger seldom was overpowered so far as to act unbecomingly. A great lover of walking and manly exercises, no diversion made him neglect business; and he had an inveterate aversion to intemperance or gambling."1 Form and features are to some extent emblematic of the mind within, so in the Stuart portraits of the National Gallery any one can easily trace in that of James II. the characteristics which distinguished him from other members of the royal family.
Louis XIV. lost no time in fulfilling his promise to the deceased monarch, of openly proclaiming his son by the title of King of Great Britain, against the advice of his ministers. William's wrath was excited to the highest pitch, and though the French ambassador endeavoured to explain away the proceeding as a mere formal courtesy required by long friendship, not intended to signify any interruption of peaceful relations with him, he was not to be so appeased; but ordered the English ambassador to leave Paris without the customary ceremony of leave-taking, and prepared for an active resumption of hostilities. He also instructed his Government to set about a new Act of Settlement for exclusion of all the Stuart family attached to the Roman faith from succession to the throne. This measure diverted it over the heads of fifty-seven persons in the natural order to a remote branch, the Elcctress Sophia of Hanover and her son, who up to this period had always professed sympathy with the unfortunate Prince of Wales, but of course saw immediate reasons for changing their opinions. The old lady, being asked a question on one occasion concerning the education of her daughters, frankly replied that they were not taught any religion till it should be seen whom they were to have for husbands--a policy which explains a good deal of royal indifference ever since. Curiously enough, the favoured individual selected for introduction of this Act of Settlement into the House of Commons was a Sir John Bowles, whose sole distinction up to that moment had been a disordered intellect. Nevertheless it was carried with little opposition, for the revolutionary and Hanoverian party were strong and resolute, adherents of the Stuarts were weak and irresolute, and funds were abundantly supplied for direction of doubtful votes. The Princess Anne's secret message to her father had not escaped the vigilance of William. A bird had carried the matter from S. Germain; and though he dissembled his displeasure so far as to pay her a ceremonial visit of condolencc, and permit some regal honours which had been withdrawn when they were notoriously at variance, she was meant to feel in due time the weight of his vengeance. A paper lay in his cabinet, which showed that he had studied in the old school of the Tudors how to dispose of women who venture to make themselves distasteful in any respect. When this secret in its turn, as all State secrets do, became a matter of public rumour, it was vainly attempted to be discredited by saying that search had been made and "no such document as described" could be found, which artifice has been repeated since by William's eulogists. True in a certain sense to the letter of these particular words, the denial was in spirit utterly false, and no fact was ever more fully established by evidence of sight and hearsay, than that Anne's head was intended for the block on Tower Hill. [See "Advice of Church of England to her Children."] But man proposes in vain against the will of Providence. William's own course was run out, and his account to be rendered where neither arbitrary power, partisanship, nor society can avail to hinder a sentence of inexorable justice. He had but very lately returned from his native country in shattered health, with a racking cough and a ghastly countenance, in which courtiers could see depicted unmistakably the premonitory symptoms of a speedy death, even if no event occurred to hasten its approach. Himself had strong suspicions of the truth, and since physicians could give no relief, he had, like Saul, recourse to a famous quack affecting occult arts of healing, with the usual result of such applications. The end came in an unexpected manner. A fall when out riding near Hampton Court on a favourite horse, which stumbled in a rabbit-hole, broke his collar-bone; and though this was rightly reset, his system was too far injured to bear the shock.
It soon appeared, after arrival at Kensington, that he was rapidly sinking. His last hours were disturbed by French and English doctors disputing about their favourite theories for delaying the inevitable; statesmen and courtiers bustling in and out with proposals and suggestions, which betokened more concern for themselves than their master; and Drs. Tenison and Burnet to offer such religious consolation as their wisdom and piety deemed suitable. The dying man spoke no words of forgiveness, expressed no contrition for his sins, refused admission to Prince George, who certainly could have afforded little help or comfort on such an occasion, nor did he desire to sec the Princess Anne. He behaved devoutly while prayers were offered in his behalf, and acquiesced in the proposal to administer to him the last sacrament, though he had scarcely strength remaining for its reception. The two prelates present were severely blamed by Leslie and many more among contemporaries for not moving William's conscience to make some confession. It was, indeed, much needed on his part, with the memories of De Witt, Glencoe, and many other crimes beside the Revolution, and "secret vices" which Burnet knew; but those prelates were consciously disqualified for performance of such a duty. The noblest, tenderest act of his life must not be omitted. After entrusting his papers to the care of Lord Albermarle, a favourite whom he had raised from the meanest condition by sudden leaps to the highest rank, he inquired for the Duke of Portland. This other favourite, elevated in the same rapid manner to even greater wealth and distinction, but possessing at least some more title to respect in himself, had almost entirely withdrawn from court, out of jealousy to his rival. His affection for his master had been most faithful and sincere, too deep to bear with any semblance of composure the strain put upon it in seeing the upstart Keppel supersede him. When he responded to the summons and came close to the sick man's ear, it was too late for any intelligible or articulate utterances. But what was intended could be all too fully understood by Bentinck, the oft-repeated assurance of unchanging attachment, which had failed to soothe his wounded spirit, once more. A faint feeble whisper, a tear-dimmed glance of that once eagle eye, then William took his hand and placed it upon his own heart just ere the lamp of life went out. So touching a proof of fond affection sheds a softness on the death-bed scene, and relieves with a solitary gleam of light a dark and terrible career. Another trait of tenderness for the memory of his wife, inferred from her ring found suspended by a ribbon round his neck, is unfortunately shadowed too deeply by some other circumstances to be of much account.
William's funeral was conducted with a scantiness of expense and ceremony which reflected much discredit upon his ministers and Parliament. The need of economy was pleaded, or supposed to be the reason of this neglect, yet no profusion or extravagance had been grudged on far less important occasions, or for purposes far less exceptionable. Beside the burden of an enormous national debt created under their auspices, thirteen millions had been spent during his reign, of which no explanation was furnished in State accounts; and it was a fact too well understood that it went in bribery and corruption among those very officials and members of Parliament who now declined to pay honour to their patron's remains. Although a soldier of surpassing bravery--never so bright or happy as in the midst of a campaign or on the field of battle--he never earned the reputation of a skilful general or great commander, a success of which he was almost more ambitious than the crown of England. Among Dutch friends and favourites he could throw off his constitutional reserve, and show himself a genial, even gay, companion. But his unconquerable aversion to English tastes and habits made him shun their society as much as possible, and adopt a cold dry manner, which gave great offence. Any professions of strong religious feeling would have suited ill with such a career as his, and his creed consisted of little more than a belief in a Supreme Being and the Calvinistic theory of predestination, with a morbid aversion for the Church of Rome. He attended, however, when occasion required, upon the services of the Church of England in a sufficiently reverent and decorous manner; though never confirmed, or pretending to approve of her doctrines or worship, from time to time receiving the Sacrament of the Altar from the hands of his latitudinarian prelates. Dr. Burnet complained that he did not like opposition or reproof; but perhaps William did not deem him the person best fitted to administer it. If also this man had not been allowed to meddle in other concerns they might sometimes have issued more prosperously. For instance, no one could have been more unfortunately selected than he to win over Leslie from the Jacobite and Nonjuring cause by the offer of ecclesiastical preferment, which he essayed to do with characteristic self-confidence and maladroitness. Whether he acted under authority or solely on his own behoof cannot be stated with certainty, but he made the attempt in a manner which only gave pain and offence. Such a proposal as his might have been foreseen to meet a disdainful rejection from a man of the highest conscientiousness, who had already counted the cost of loyalty to his rightful sovereign, and whose honour and reputation were now manifestly bound up with adherence to it. If he had not forsworn himself while yet unknown and under strong inducements from his own kindred, how was it possible he could abandon the cause without burning first every line he had written? The next act had properly been a second retractation, and, like Cranmer, to hold out his guilty hand to the flames. Burnet's failure at negotiation served to whet his hatred; but this reason was one of those things on which he could maintain reticence when necessary-alluding only to "one Leslie" as a mere stranger. Towards Leslie, either before or afterwards, William himself never betrayed any personal animosity, though he could not but have read and felt sorely the exposure of his own part in the massacre of Glencoe. For some reason or other he estimated, beyond its real worth for any impression it could produce in Ireland, the Dean of Dromore's accession to his side, and very liberally rewarded it by grants of land and money on two occasions. [February and April, 1696-97, State Papers.] This brother, a learned man, and no doubt conscientious in his way, possessed none of Charles's talents or mental powers to make his support of great consequence to either side. Shortly before the occurrence of that fatal accident which left the throne vacant, some circumstances occurred showing how honourably men could act together for the interests of their common country, however widely separated by religion and politics. The English Government received an intimation in December, 1699, that French wines were imported from San Sebastian and neighbouring ports in Spain, under pretence of being manufactured in that country. A difficulty was experienced by custom-house officials in detecting the fraud, though tests were several times applied to seizures of consignments. At length a prosecution was ventured against a wine-merchant named Creagh, when Robert Leslie, son of Charles, came forward and gave evidence of what he had witnessed at San Sebastian. He proved that several vessels then under seizure had taken in their loadings there, which had first been shipped from French ports, and this evidence was confirmed by another witness named Bishop. The jury, however, gave the verdict against the king, as was strongly suspected under sinister influences. But when a fresh trial was demanded, another person called Gamell, who had been engaged in these transactions, came forward and made a clean breast. So the merchants were glad, in dread of further exposure, to offer an accommodation and pay a fine of £22,000 to the Crown. For Robert Leslie's conduct on the occasion, he was awarded by the Lords Justices £500, and the same was given to Gamell by the lords of the Treasury under William's orders. Robert, in acknowledging its receipt, styled himself "the most wretched being upon earth," but in what his excessive misery consisted he left no conjecture. [State Papers, 1701.]
Youthful and buoyant natures are liable to occasional fits of depression, but soon recover their wonted elasticity. And this disturbance was only temporary. He was but a very young man then, who afterwards was known for his gay and lively disposition, and whose sparkling powers of conversation attracted admiration from Dean Swift and other eminent persons in society, both at home and abroad. His present good fortune, no doubt, contributed to restore his normal cheerfulness, and the award must be acknowledged a very gracious and generous act on the part of William. What is yet more strange, among the last persons who engaged the latter's favourable intentions again was Robert's father, and the circumstances altogether furnish a curious and interesting episode for relation. Readers may remember that after Bishop Leslie's translation to Clogher at the Restoration the see of Raphoe was conferred on his young friend and kinsman, another Robert Leslie, who succeeded him again in the other. There followed three at Raphoe, the last of whom deserves particular mention--Robert Huntingdon, a distinguished fellow of the University of Oxford. He travelled for eleven years in the East, visiting Jerusalem and the sites of the Seven Churches, during which he acquired great proficiency in languages, and made a valuable collection of manuscripts preserved in the Bodleian Library. Upon returning home he reluctantly accepted the Provostship of Trinity College in the University of Dublin, the duties of which he discharged with eminent success, but retired during disturbances in King James's time to the parish of Hallingbury, in Essex. In 1701 he accepted, at urgent entreaties from the Archbishop of Dublin and other prelates, the See of Raphoe, eight years before having refused Kilmore, owing most apparently to scruples about deprivation of Bishop Sheridan for refusing to take the oaths. Though he may have taken them himself in England, it does not follow that he considered a vacancy properly made on the Episcopal Bench by refusal. However, at the death of Dr. Cairncross, making no further demur, he was consecrated Bishop of Raphoe on August 21, 1701, but within a fortnight was no more in this world.
Then it occurred to many leading personages in Church and State what an admirable success would be achieved if Charles Leslie could be persuaded to accept the vacant mitre, and among these the Duke of Ormond made a strong representation to William. He promised to give it his full consideration, and evidently cast about for the best way of making the offer, when at this very juncture occurred the catastrophe which ended his life. The See remained unoccupied for some months, and eventually was filled by Dr. Pooley, under Queen Anne. She was not likely to have objected to Charles Leslie, for the political importance of such a recruit appeared too obvious for question, and personally she must have been favourably disposed towards him on account of his intimacy with her own family, whom she was anxious to conciliate. It therefore remains for presumption that, on being sounded, he intimated his disinclination, to prevent a formal proffer of the appointment causing embarrassment. His natural delicacy of sentiment would have suggested this consideration for the queen and her advisers in return for their kindly intentions towards himself, while it left him free to act under the very novel and peculiar circumstances of her accession to the throne as his conscience should direct. What his duty should be, or what course he should pursue, it was impossible at once to determine, for it depended materially upon proceedings beyond his ken or control in a newly opened page of history. "Circumstances alter cases" forms the general and ready plea for persons anxious to justify a desertion of principles not coincident with worldly interests. This had been abundantly experienced at the Revolution; but Leslie had shown too clearly his abhorrence of all subterfuges and salves of conscience for any one to suspect that less than the clearest conviction of duty would alter the attitude he had long assumed, or that he could be induced to "sacrifice to his own net."
The Princess Anne of Denmark ascended the throne without opposition, and the apprehension which she and her governess secretly entertained that this apparent tranquillity was only like the calm which precedes and betokens a storm, soon became exchanged for a sense of confidence and security. An amazing opportunity bolder spirits among the Jacobites thought to be lost by not at once making a dash at the crown in the name of James III. And if this had been attempted with energy and determination, supported by an invasion from abroad, the probabilities are it would have been successful, with what ultimate results it is unnecessary to speculate. During the last few years an intense and increasing unpopularity of William had seriously threatened another revolution to terminate his usurpation. But circumstances on the whole conspired in favour of Anne's peaceful accession. Her ministers in the critical emergency acted speedily and determinedly. Before her brother-in-law's death had been reported in three parts of the realm, she had been proclaimed, made a seasonable and felicitous little speech, and active measures had been taken to crush the first symptoms of resistance to her authority in any quarter whatever.
Friends of the Royal Family in exile had been astonished at the suddenness of William's death, and before they had recovered from their first surprise found the ground preoccupied, and a new Sovereign formally if not firmly established in his stead. English people in general stood again waiting to see which way the stream would flow, as they had waited in dubious inaction when the Dutch fleet arrived at Torbay, till the tide carried them forward in the direction wanted by those superior and clever enough to have the management. Anne had in her surreptitious communication to her father requested permission to take the crown, holding it as it were for her brother in reversion, which pretty plainly indicated an intention of taking it whether that permission were accorded or not. Nor did she hesitate when the moment arrived for action.
Another cause operated greatly in her favour. Nonjurors and Jacobites were highly gratified at her early assurance of warm attachment to the Church of England, and thought reasonably enough that nothing would more incline her to restoration of her brother's right than refrain-ing on their part from disturbance of her reign in the mean time. Every one knew that she differed as widely as possible from her predecessor, not only in sentiments, but in character, though she might possess, under a dull placid exterior, some similar dogged determination to push on to an object in spite of all obstacles. Such things could never be said of her as of him by a pope, that "he was master of the world, and commanded Catholic princes like slaves." Her very dulness, domestic nature, and sex combined to make the chances on her side, when the nation needed time at least for consideration before embarking on a perilous experiment of recalling the discarded family with no security for good behaviour but promises, and reported to be as thoroughly ingrained with Romanism as ever--a scare of most portentous efficacy manufactured first by their own infatuated conduct.
Now, it plainly appeared that the next sovereign must be a foreigner, come from what country he might, and whether professing himself a Romanist enamoured of liberty of conscience for his subjects, or a German with only Protestant negations. Nor could Anne expect to be more than a nurse of the throne till then, though actually only thirty-eight years of age at this time, after the loss of all her numerous offspring. Many deemed this a Nemesis for her unfilial conduct, like the melancholy ends of her sister and William. Doggerel of the day unmistakably expressed prevailing popular impressions as to their deserts; but it is presumptuous for fellow-creatures to interpret confidently the meaning of divine dealings. "Some men's sins go before to judgment, some they follow after." Her own ambition or talents never ranged beyond the idea of present possession of royal power, and nothing but experience could convince her how "uneasy may lie the head which wears a crown." Perhaps so commonplace a character was best suited for the crisis, disarming opposition, and leaving scope for contrary expectations concerning the future. Quite as erroneously is she credited with the exclusive merit of restoring to the Church the firstfruits sacrilegiously seized by Henry VIII.; [Stanhope.] for Mary, his daughter, had most nobly and piously renounced all pretension to them. But Elizabeth, inspired by no such scruples, deliberately setting aside her sister's act, reclaimed them for the crown, in which grasp they remained till this time. Nevertheless Anne ought to receive her proper meed of approbation for a righteous intention: Dr. Burnet also for the special efforts he made to persuade her to it, after the disappointment he experienced in pressing the same point upon the attention of William and Mary in vain. That fund, still denominated "Queen Anne's Bounty," has been for a long period alienated again from its original intention of benefiting poorer clergy, to the very great discredit of Episcopal and State rulers, and is now at the present day simply one of several buttresses nominally for the Church's support, but really employed to find salaries for lay officials who desire easy berths. Anne must be further acknowledged to have throughout her whole reign continued steadfast in her attachment to the Church of England, and what she conceived the promotion of the best interests of religion. How well this was understood by the great mass of the people appeared from their conduct on exciting occasions. A recent historian has attributed inaccurately to her the title of "Good Queen Anne." [Stanhope, vol. i. 43.] Most certainly she never was so called during her lifetime by any considerable section of the populace, nor did the title ever properly belong to any occupant of the throne in England but the wife of Richard II., daughter of the Emperor Charles IV., who died at Shene Palace in 1394--the virtuous and affectionate woman to whose sorrows Shakespeare makes the gardener at Langley so touchingly allude. [Act iii. sc. 4.] In no previous reign did Church questions obtain a larger proportion, if not a monopoly, of public attention, by no means to the ultimate benefit of the Church herself. She never has prospered so truly as when let alone, and left to pursue her proper work unfettered or unfostercd by injudicious attempts at State legislation on her behalf.
With assemblage of a new Parliament there was also a meeting of Convocation, which commenced with renewal of the old dispute. The bishops made a concession about the mode of conducting business more conveniently for the Lower House, which was not deemed sufficient, but they were masters of the situation; and though some of the queen's new ministers evidently sympathized with the clergy, their resistance practically proved of no avail, and she herself looked coldly upon their proceedings as calculated only to do mischief. But a far more generally interesting and exciting contest was that which sprang up in Parliament simultaneously, concerning a Bill against Occasional Conformity arraying the Lords and Commons in violent opposition to each other. By the Test Act in 1673 it had been provided, professedly in defence of the Church of England, that no persons should be entitled to hold certain public offices who did not receive the Blessed Sacrament at her Altar at least once. This measure, which was intended to exclude Dissenters from admission, soon became a door of entrance; for many candidates qualified themselves by a single reception, immediately relapsing into regular attendance at their own conventicles. Thus the intention of the Act was palpably defeated, and a gross profanation involved of the most solemn act of Worship. Accordingly, the new bill was introduced to forbid Occasional Conformity, rendering the Test applicable to a larger number of offices, and requiring reception of the Sacrament three times a year, with severe penalties upon office-holders who should attend places of worship not in connection with the Church. To this the House of Lords, including a majority of the bishops, offered uncompromising resistance, when pressed by the House of Commons, as a violation of the principle of toleration sanctioned at the Revolution. At first the court were in its favour so far that Prince George voted for it, while he privately whispered to Lord Wharton, "Me heart is wid ye," for he customarily attended the Lutheran chapel. But afterwards the Court changed sides and discountenanced the bill. It was a most objectionable proposal, because it provided virtually for a frequent repetition of the very profanation by unscrupulous persons which it condemned, whilst framed in the worst spirit of that religious persecution which its preamble disavowed. Nor had those who volunteered so eagerly to champion the interests of the Church for the most part any higher conception of her character than the low Eras-tian notion of a political institution. If Spiritual and Temporal peers did right in warmly opposing the new intolerant and persecuting measure, unfortunately the grounds on which that opposition was based deserved as little approval, and was as inconsistent with any high spiritual views of the Church as those of opponents. Ultimately the bill was lost, but meanwhile other questions and other issues became involved, in which the original question was obscured and almost forgotten, although the old war-notes continued to be repeated. Pious and earnest Dissenters gravely disapproved of such base tampering with conscience and dishonest compliances for the sake of worldly advantages; but their voice was drowned in the agitation which political parties maintained for their own purposes on both sides under the cover of religion. Even some Dissenters, who were not pious nor recognized by those who were, felt the inconsistency of this occasional conformity too strongly to conceal their dislike. On the other hand, Leslie, with his friends, severely and loudly protested against it, not from entire concurrence in the political aims of the party in Parliament--for Nonjurors would have been exposed to its sweeping persecution--but because they felt shocked at a corrupt and impious abuse, the tendency of which was to degrade the blessed Sacrament to the most secular of all uses, and destroy in people's own minds all sense of reverence and honesty. A shower of hostile comments followed upon some of his utterances, and he was held up to odium as the very incarnation of bigotry; but this was no more than a natural consequence of associating and identifying himself with a political party, which really sympathized with Nonjurors and Jacobites less than with Dissenters, but accepted their assistance for the time. Whilst this agitation proceeded, the party for hereditary right in England refrained from direct efforts in behalf of their exiled sovereign, though an active correspondence was being carried on between S. Germain and some of their supporters in Scotland. Government had forestalled them upon William's death, and they had neither plans ready nor means of putting them in execution if prepared. A rising proposed up there soon proved abortive; and one of the chief agents incautiously trusted to some degree a man of infamous character. Simon Fraser, or Beaufort, also styling himself Lord Lovet, was discovered to be only a spy and traitor in the hands of the Duke of Queensbeny, whose principal design was the ruin of noblemen whom he hated, the Dukes of Hamilton and Athol, and Lord Tarbot, by entangling them in a charge of treasonable conspiracy. Although Leslie did not participate in any of Eraser's proceedings, nor was even suspected of any concert in them, no one doubted he would have approved any open and fair attempt to restore the throne to its rightful owner if a suitable opportunity should offer. Therefore King James III. sent him a paper of instructions authorizing him to assure his English subjects, if they should recall him, that former errors should not be repeated, but the Church and University be maintained in all their ancient privileges, and even the nomination of bishops surrendered to a properly constituted commission, with other pledges for their complete security. [Macpherson's Papers, vol. i.] Meanwhile Leslie threw himself into the arena of political conflict with a fresh vigour, dealing out some severe thrusts, and receiving a full average in return.