A PATH of peculiar difficulty lay before Sancroft on the accession of James II. to the throne of Great Britain. The new sovereign was an avowed member of the Church of Rome, but nominally the defender of the Reformed Faith by law established. Sancroft was at the head of the hierarchy of the Church of England, to which he was fervently attached, and was prepared to maintain it in all its integrity. King James had, however, quieted the apprehensions of his people by a voluntary declaration to his council, on the day of his accession, that it was his intention to protect and cherish the Church of England. Thus assured, Sancroft performed the solemnity of crowning King James and his Queen. No other alteration was made in the service than the omission of the communion. It was, with that exception, the same precisely as the form used by Cranmer at the consecration of Edward VI.
A large fine falling to the archbishop this year, he devoted it to the endowment of the chapelries in the populous parishes of Rochdale, Blackburn, and Whalley, in Lancashire, and providing and paying proper ministers, which were greatly needed. He also founded and endowed an excellent parish school at Harleston, in Norfolk.
The first attempt at providing, in a small degree, for the spiritual wants of the English colonies in America had been made in the reign of Charles II., and apparently under the apostolic care of Sancroft, which facts are to be gathered from the petition of the people of Maryland, that his grace would intercede with James II., to supply them with funds to build a church at Colvert Town, in that province, and to grant them a minister to supply the place of the one sent out by Charles II., whose death was regarded as a great calamity. This petition is backed by a letter to the primate from Mrs. Mary Taney, who gratefully acknowledges the sympathy and aid the colony had received from him.
"To the Most Reverend the Archbishops and the rest of the Right Reverend the Bishops
[Tanner, xxxi. 138.]
"The humble Petition of Mary Taney, on the behalf of herself and others his Majesty's subjects, inhabitants of the Province of Maryland.
"That your Petitioner in her Petition to the king's Majesty, setting forth, That the said Province being without a church or any settled ministry, to the great grief of all his Majesty's loyal subjects there, his late Majesty King Charles the Second (of blessed memory) was graciously pleased to send over thither a minister, and a parcel of Bibles, and other church books of considerable value, in order to the settlement of a church and ministry there.
"That the said Minister dying, and the Inhabitants (who have no other Trade but in Tobacco) being so very poor that they are not able to maintain a Minister, chiefly by reason of his Majesty's Customs here upon Tobacco are so very great, which causes the Inhabitants (who are not able to send it hither) to sell it there to the merchants at their own rates. By means whereof so good a work as was intended by his said late Majesty is like to miscarry, to the utter ruin of many poor souls, unless supplied by his Majesty. Praying his Majesty that a certain parcel of Tobacco (of one hundred hogsheads or thereabouts) of the growth or product of the said Province may be custom free, for and towards the maintenance of an. orthodox Divine at Colvert Town, in the said province, or otherwise allow maintenance for a Minister there.
Your Petitioner, therefore, most humbly prays that your Lordships will be pleased, not only to mediate with his Majesty, and in your petitioner's behalf to request Him to grant her her desire in the said Petition, But likewise that your Lordships will vouchsafe to contribute towards the Building of a Church at Colvert Town aforesaid, as your Lordships in Charity and Goodness shall think meet.
And your Petitioner (as in duty bound) shall ever pray.
"July the 14, 1668.
"MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,
"I am now to repeat my request to your Grace for a church in the place of Maryland, where I live; but first I humbly thank your Grace that you were pleased to hear so favourably and own my desires very reasonable, and to encourage the inhabitants to make a petition to the king. Our want of a minister, and the many blessings our Saviour designed us by them, is a misery which I and a numerous family and many others in Maryland have groaned under. We are seized with extreme horror when we think that for want of the Gospel our Children and Posterity are in danger to be condemned to infidelity or to apostacy. We do not question God's care of us, but think your Grace and the right Reverend your Bishops the proper Instruments of so great a blessing to us. We are not, I hope, so foreign to your Jurisdiction but we may be owned your stray flock; however, the commission to go and baptize and teach all nations is large enough. But I am sure we are, by a late custom upon Tobacco, sufficiently acknowledged subjects of the King of England, and therefore beg his protection, not only of our persons and estates, but of what is more dear to us, our Religion. I question not but that your Grace is sensible that without a temple it will be impracticable, neither can we expect a minister to hold out to ride ten miles in a morning, and before he can dine ten more, and from house to house in
[Tanner, xxxi. 140.]
hot weather will dishearten a minister, if not kill him. Your Grace is so sensible of our sad condition, and for your place and piety's sake have so great an influence on our most Religious and Gracious King, that if I had not your Grace's promise to depend upon I could not question your Grace's intercession and prevailing 500l. or 600l. for a church, with some small encouragement for a minister, will be extremely less charge than honour to his Majesty; and if I may in this case mention his Majesty's Interest, one church settled according to the Church of England, which is the sum of our Bequest, will prove a nursery of Religion and Loyalty through the whole Province. But your Grace needs no arguments from me, but only this,--it is in your power to give us many happy opportunities to praise God for this and other innumerable mercies, and to importune His goodness to bless his Majesty with a long and prosperous Reign over us, and long continue to your Grace the great blessing of being an instrument of good to His church. And now that I may be no more troublesome, I humbly entreat your Pardon to the well-meant zeal of
"Your Grace's most obedient servant,
When King James erected his unpopular Ecclesiastical Court, Archbishop Sancroft was appointed as one of the commissioners, but he prayed to be excused from acting on account of his age and infirmities, having nearly completed his seventieth year. Sancroft's refusal to involve himself with these proceedings displeased the king, who is said to have intimated that his appearance at Court would be unwelcome.
It was at this juncture that the Princess of Orange thought proper to address the following flattering letter to him, by the advice of her clever almoner, Dr. Stanley:--
"The Princess of Orange to Archbishop Sancroft.
"Oct. I, 1687.
"Though I have not the advantage to know you, my Lord of Canterbury, yet the reputation you have makes me resolve not to lose this opportunity of making myself more known to you than I could have been yet. Dr. Stanley can assure you that I take more interest in what concerns the Church of England than (in) myself; and that one of the greatest satisfactions I can have is to hear how that all the clergy show themselves as firm to their religion as they have always been to their King; which makes me confident God will preserve His Church since He has so well provided it with able men. I have nothing more to say, but beg your prayers, and desire you will do me the justice to believe I shall be very glad of any occasion to show the esteem and veneration I have for you.
"To the Archbishop of Canterbury."
The tone of Sancroft's answer, instead of savouring of disaffection, rather pleads apologetically for his misguided sovereign:--
"It hath seemed good to the Infinite Wisdom," wrote the archbishop, "to exercise this poor Church with trials of all sorts and of all degrees. But the greatest calamity that ever befel us was that wicked and ungodly men, who murdered the father (Charles I.), likewise drove out the sons, as if to say to them, 'Go, serve other gods,' the dreadful effects of which we feel every moment."
This was as true as it was reasonable. The youth of the sons of Charles I., spent among Roman Catholics in the places of their expatriation, had predisposed them to the religion with all its enticements of sight and sound that they witnessed around them in early life. The Stuart princes did not seek the Roman religion, but were driven into it.
"And though," Sancroft continues, "this (were it much more) cannot in the least shake or alter our steady loyalty to our Sovereign and the Royal Family, yet it embitters the comforts left us, it blasts our present joys, and makes us sit down with sorrow in dust and ashes. Blessed be God, who hath caused some dawn of light to break from the eastern shore in the constancy of your Royal Highness and the excellent prince."
Sancroft speaks of himself as an old man sinking under the double burden of age and sorrow. He continues with tender and paternal expressions to the princess, who, like Mary, had chosen the better part, and signs himself "her daily orator at the throne of grace."
The next communication between Mary and Sancroft was in the beginning of the year 1688, when the Princess of Orange had received that remarkable letter from her father, describing to her his alteration of religion. He was certainly led by her mother, his first wife, Anne Hyde, into the Roman Catholic profession, and confirmed in it by the long and virulent sermons against it, the only spiritual pasture provided by Dr. Tillotson. The princess was very proud of her skill in controversial argument, and very desirous that the Archbishop of Canterbury should admire it as much as she did herself. But her former letter, pretty and condescending as it was, had not been responded to according to her expectations. The Princess of Orange had, however, at last, an almoner who suited her much better than saintly Ken or apostolic Hooper, or even than quaint simple old Covel. The courtly Dr. Stanley undertook the chaperonage of the private and confidential letters between the father and the daughter, which he hereby offers to the perusal of one whom all circumstances led to be a violent opponent of the father. How could the princess and her present spiritual adviser doubt that showers of praises must fall upon her from the pen of Sancroft?
"Dr. Stanley to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"The Hague, Jan. 24, 1687-8.
"I suppose your Grace hath heard that the King hath not been wanting to press his daughter here to be favourable to popery; but lest you should have heard more than is true, I presume to acquaint your lordship with what hath passed, her Royal Highness being pleased to make me privy to it, and giving me express leave to communicate it to your Grace. Whatever reports have been raised, King James hath scarcely ever either spoken or written to our excellent princess, to persuade her to popery, till our excellent princess," continues Dr. Stanley, "seeing this letter, written with the king's own hand, was resolved to write an answer herself, as her father desired, without consulting any of us (her chaplains), that he might see she was very ready to give an account of herself. The very next day being post day, she made haste, and wrote a letter to King James of two sheets of paper (which she afterwards read to me), which truly I can, without flattery, say was the best letter I ever saw, treating King James with that respect which became her father and her King, and yet speaking her mind freely and openly, as became the cause of religion, and that she hoped that God would give her grace to live and die in that of the Church of England."
Dr. Stanley kindly offered the primate the copy of this letter; indeed he must have sent it to him, for he begs that his grace would be pleased to write his commendations of the princess, and secretly send them to Dr. Tillotson, who would forward them to her Royal Highness; "and if your grace doth take some notice of her carriage in this affair, as I have related it, I believe it will be very acceptable to her." Stanley eulogized the controversial abilities of the princess, and intimated that "she would be highly gratified by Sancroft writing somewhat in commendation of her letter."
The archbishop shrank from the impropriety of discussing the private correspondence between the royal father and daughter. With all his caution, it was, however, impossible to avoid a collision with the king. James, who was governing without a parliament, thought proper to reiterate his "declaration for Liberty of Conscience "in the spring of 1688, and, by an order in council, dated May 4, required his bishops to send it to their clergy, with orders for it to be read in all churches on Sunday, the 27th of May. This declaration amounted to an announcement that it was the king's pleasure, by the exercise of his royal prerogative, to dispense with the penal laws and acts of uniformity, leaving every man free to worship God according to his own conscience. But, as it was no part of the duty of the clergy to promulgate the royal declaration, and as the unhappy fact that the sovereign was not a member of the Church of England caused his motives to be regarded with suspicion, Sancroft called a meeting of prelates and eminent churchmen at Lambeth, in which, after long and earnest consultation, they resolved to address a petition to the king, "praying to be excused from reading or distributing his late declaration for Liberty of Conscience," stating "that their objections proceeded neither from want of duty or affection to his service, but from motives of conscience, because it was founded on a dispensing power which had been declared illegal by parliament."
The petition was drawn up and written by Sancroft himself, and signed by him; Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph; Turner, Bishop of Ely; Lake, Bishop of Chichester; Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells; White, Bishop of Peterborough; and Trelawny, Bishop of Bristol.
Late as it was, the last-named six prelates passed over to Whitehall, but without the archbishop, who was in ill-health. The object of the six prelates was to obtain a preliminary conference with the Earl of Sunderland, to acquaint him with their intention of petitioning the king to excuse them from reading the declaration, and to get him to ask his Majesty to appoint the time and place for them to have the honour of presenting it. They earnestly entreated Sunderland to read the petition himself, that he might explain its purport to the king beforehand, to avoid taking his Majesty by surprise. This, if Sunderland had been a faithful minister, he would gladly have done, in the hope of softening matters so as to avert a collision between the king and his hierarchy; but, being a secret-service man of the Prince of Orange, he did his utmost to precipitate the rupture, refused to look at the petition, and induced the king to see the prelates the same evening, though it was ten o'clock. Thus it was that the petition was presented by Lloyd, Bishop of St. Asaph, instead of Archbishop Sancroft.
On being introduced into the royal closet, the six bishops knelt and presented the petition. The king received it with a gracious countenance, and, looking upon it, observed, "This is my lord of Canterbury's handwriting."
"Yes, sir, it is his own hand," replied the bishops.
The king read the paper, and perceiving the intention to resist his order, folded it up, and said, "This is a great surprise to me; here are strange words. I did not expect this from you. This is a standard of rebellion."
"We would lose the last drop of our blood," replied the presenter of the petition, Bishop Lloyd, of St. Asaph, "rather than lift up a finger against your Majesty," and this sentiment was echoed by the rest.
"I tell you this is a standard of rebellion," repeated the king.
Down fell Trelawny, the Bishop of Bristol, on his knees, exclaiming, "Kebellion, sir! I beseech your Majesty not to say so hard a thing of us. For God's sake do not believe we are, or can be, guilty of rebellion. It is impossible that I, or any of my family, should be so."
"We rebel, sir!" exclaimed Turner, Bishop of Ely. "We are ready to die at your feet."
"Do you question my dispensing power?" demanded the king, angrily. "Some of you here have printed and preached for it, when it was for your purpose."
"Sir," replied White, Bishop of Peterborough, "what we say of the dispensing power refers only to what was declared in parliament."
"The dispensing power," observed the king. "was never questioned by the men of the Church of England."
"We are bound," said the Bishop of Bath and Wells, "to fear God and honour the king. We desire to do both. We will honour you; we must fear God."
James, with increasing wrath, exclaimed, "Is this what I have deserved, who have supported the Church of England, and will support it? I will remember you that have signed this paper. I did not expect this from you, especially from some of you. I will be obeyed in publishing my declaration."
He dismissed them in anger, with this haughty speech: "God hath given me this dispensing power, and I will maintain it."
The same night the petition of the bishops, protesting against the dispensing power assumed by the sovereign as illegal, was vociferated by hawkers through the streets of the startled metropolis, in the same way as is now done by the vendors of the evening papers when any remarkable public event has occurred, a practice which was then without precedent.
The king, who was exceedingly offended at this undesirable publicity being given to what had passed in the privacy of his closet, regarded it as an outrage on the part of the prelates. He sent a stern intimation of his displeasure to Sancroft, complaining of it as a treasonable misdemeanour. Sancroft replied with an expression of deep regret and surprise at what had occurred, protesting, at the same time, "ignorance of the matter, and great perplexity as to how the petition could have got abroad, since he had written it out with his own hand to prevent any treachery on the part of a secretary, so that there was no copy, only the original document, and that was in his Majesty's own possession." It was, however, certain that the petition was sent to press immediately the bishops left the royal presence: their audience did not commence till ten, and before twelve their petition was bawled about the streets. There were three persons whose after conduct leads to the conclusion that the copy was supplied by one, of them--Lloyd, Trelawny, or Sunderland; probably the last, to whom the king, though he pocketed the petition, would naturally submit it for consideration on the departure of the bishops. The publication of this document rendered the breach between the king and the bishops irreconcilable, and was in the end the means of depriving him of the throne.
Nine days were suffered by the king to elapse before he took any decided step tending to demonstrate his displeasure with the bishops. At one time, as he has himself recorded, he had determined to pass the matter over in silence; but his ill-conditioned lord chancellor, Jeffreys, persuaded him that it was incumbent on him to punish them for disobedience and contempt of his royal authority. The minds of the people were so greatly inflamed by the publication of the petition, that the king, regarding the manner in which this had been done as a most unjustifiable breach of confidence, was, in an evil hour, induced to summon the archbishop and the other subscribing prelates to appear before the council on the 8th of June, to answer to such matters of misdemeanour as should be objected against them, then and there.
In the interim, the petition was approved by five other bishops, who had not arrived in time to subscribe with the other prelates, but now added their signatures.
On Friday, June 8th, at five in the afternoon, the appointed time, his Majesty came into the council chamber, and the archbishop and the six bishops were called in.
"The king received them graciously," says Sancroft in his MS. narrative of this eventful scene, and the lord chancellor took a paper then lying on the table, and showing it to the archbishop, demanded of him, "Is this the petition that was written and signed by your grace, and which these bishops presented to his Majesty?" The archbishop received the paper, but without taking any notice of the lord chancellor's query, addressed himself to the king in these words:--"Sir, I am called hither as a criminal, which I never was before in my life, and little thought I ever should be, especially before your Majesty; but since it is my unhappiness to be so at this time, I hope your Majesty will not be offended that I am cautious of answering questions. No man is obliged to answer questions that may tend to the accusing of himself."
Provoked by this implied distrust, James so far departed from his wonted courtesy as to exclaim, "Why this is downright chicanery! I hope you do not deny your own hand."
"Sir," said the archbishop, "though we are not obliged to give any answer to this question, yet, if your Majesty lays your command upon us, we shall answer it in trust upon your Majesty's justice and generosity that we shall not suffer for our obedience, as we must if our answer should be brought in evidence against us."
"No," said James, "I will not command you. If you will deny your own hands, I know not what tb say to you."
The lord chancellor then desired them to withdraw. In a few minutes they were called in again, and after they had acknowledged their respective signatures, the lord chancellor informed them that it was his Majesty's pleasure to have them proceeded against for writing and publishing a seditious libel, but that it should be with all fairness, in Westminster Hall, and required them to enter into recognizances for their appearance. Sancroft refused to do so, claiming their privileges as members of the House of Peers. The king told them it was offered as a favour, and to save them from any imprisonment, for they might return peacefully to their respective places of abode if they would enter into recognizances, and he would accept the very smallest amount, making them merely nominal. They were, however, firm in refusing to give them, and were again ordered to retire.
They were presently joined by the Earl of Berkeley from the Council Chamber, who endeavoured to persuade Sancroft and the other prelates to enter into the recognizances; but finding them immovable, he returned to the council, and in about half an hour the sergeant-at-arms came out with a warrant to arrest them, and take them to the Tower; and with another warrant addressed to the lieutenant of the Tower, commanding him to receive their persons into safe custody till they should be delivered by due course of law.
When the populace, who were in a most excited state, thronging the purlieus of Whitehall to await the event of the summons of the seven bishops before the Privy Council, saw them led out as prisoners under a guard of soldiers, and embarked at Whitehall stairs to be lodged in the Tower, they exhibited the most passionate demonstrations of sympathy and affection. Even the soldiers appointed to guard them knelt and implored their benediction.
The venerable archbishop, whose boundless charities and hospitality, during upwards of ten years' residence at Lambeth, had endeared him to the hearts of the poor, and won the affection and respect of all sorts and conditions of people, endeavoured to calm their passionate indignation at seeing him injuriously treated. He and his companions in durance entreated them "to preserve their loyalty to their sovereign, for they were bound not only to fear God, but to honour the king."
When they entered the barge that was to convey them to the Tower, scarcely could the people be restrained from rushing into the water after them in their enthusiasm. They were cheered from the banks as they proceeded down the river, and when they reached the Tower, and landed at the Traitors' Gate, they were received with -more than royal honours, for all the garrison, officers as well as privates, with a simultaneous burst of feeling, knelt and begged their blessing. Such a scene was never witnessed there before, and probably never will again. Love for the Church of England was the prevailing sentiment, and these seven bishops were regarded as its champions.
It was the hour of evening service, and the captive prelates were permitted by the lieutenant of the Tower the solace of entering the chapel. What a sensation it must have created when these words in the second lesson were read, "I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
The right reverend prisoners were treated with the utmost respect by the lieutenant, and allowed the liberty of the Tower, and to see any one they pleased. They were visited the next day by a concourse of the nobility and persons of distinction, who had free access to them.
Twice had the Princess of Orange and Dr. Stanley laid siege in good earnest to the loyalty of Sancroft. The Tower imprisonment was hailed by them as the best chance in their favour that the rashness of the king had given them. Such treatment they naturally concluded would excite a desire of revenge in the primate's bosom. Dr. Stanley addressed a letter to him by command of the Prince and Princess of Orange, expressive of their admiration of the conduct of himself and his fellow-prisoners, and their sympathy for their sufferings. Sancroft made no response to it.
"All men," wrote Dr. Stanley, "that love the Reformation do rejoice in it and thank God for it, as an act most resolute and every way becoming your places (bishoprics we suppose he means). But especially our excellent prince and princess were well pleased with it (notwithstanding all the king's envoy here could say); they have both vindicated it before him, and given me command in their names to return your grace their hearty thanks for it, and at the same time to express their real concern for your grace and all your brethren, and for the good cause in which your grace is engaged. And your refusing to comply with King James II. is by no means looked upon by them as tending to disparage the monarchy, for they reckon the monarchy to be undervalued by illegal actions. Indeed we have great reason to bless and thank God for their Highnesses steadiness in so good a cause."
No response did all these notes of exultation elicit from the venerable patriarch of the Anglican Church. Bowed down with sorrow, mourning over the wounds that beloved church was receiving from the king, whose duty it was to protect her, he anticipated no very great amelioration of them from a foreigner whose belief varied between deism and fatalism.
The imprisonment of the bishops only lasted seven days. They were removed from the Tower, on Friday, June 15th, by a writ of habeas corpus, to the Court of King's Bench, being brought thither by the lieutenant of the Tower about eleven o'clock. They were received with great respect by the bench, and immediately accommodated with chairs, a civility without precedent in cases where the crown prosecuted. The information against them charged William, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the other six bishops with consulting and conspiring one with another to diminish the royal authority, prerogative, and power, by maliciously and scandalously fabricating and writing, under the pretence of a petition, a pernicious and seditious libel, and causing it to be published, in manifest contempt of the king and against his peace.
The archbishop stood up, and offered a paper to the court, containing a plea in behalf of himself and the other six, that they should not be compelled to answer to the charge at that time, but be allowed sufficient time to prepare their defence. This request, though contrary to the practice of the court, was granted, and the attorney-general gave notice that their trial would come on that day fortnight. The court admitted them to bail on their own recognizances, which they did not then refuse to give. The archbishop was bound to appear under a penalty of 200l., and each of the bishops in 100l. They were then permitted to return to their own homes. They were received by the crowd outside the court with rapturous acclamations, bonfires were made in the streets at night, and enthusiastic demonstrations of popular rejoicing continued till morning.
Short as the imprisonment of Sancroft and the six bishops had been, it was productive of the most disastrous consequences to James II., by producing an irreconcilable feud between him and the Church, at that time so dear to the people of England. It was the more ill-judged on his part because it deprived the birth of his son--which occurred two days after their arrest--of the most important and unquestionable of witnesses, the Archbishop of Canterbury; for if Sancroft had been present on that occasion, and deposed that he was in the chamber when the prince was born, no one would have dared to impugn his testimony. As it was, the Orange faction took occasion to convert his enforced absence into a presumptive evidence that a spurious child had been imposed on the nation.
The trial of the seven bishops came on at the appointed time, June 29th. Westminster Hall and all its approaches were thronged with anxious spectators. The bishops, when they entered, were accompanied by upwards of thirty gentlemen of the highest rank. The trial lasted the whole day. The jury, being unable to agree, were locked up during the night, without fire, candle, or food, to consider their verdict. At six in the morning they sent word to the lord chief-justice they were agreed. He and the other judges accordingly took their places on the bench, and at ten o'clock the aged primate, who with his fellow-prisoners had waited in a state of trying uncertainty all night, were brought into court. When the jury, through their foreman, Sir Roger Langley, returned the verdict of "Not guilty," the Marquis of Halifax, waving his hat over his head, cried "Huzza!" The lords and gentlemen took up the shout from him. In an instant it filled the vast hall, and was repeated by the crowds waiting in Palace Yard and round Westminster Abbey, from whence, like the roll and roar of thunder, it was carried in and through the city of London, and thence, as fast as it could fly, over the whole kingdom.
Surrounded by gratulating friends, and followed by shouting thousands and tens of thousands, the emancipated prelates left Westminster Hall. It was St. Peter's day, and the bells were chiming for morning prayers. The venerable primate extricated himself from the ovations of the excited populace by entering the Chapel Royal at Whitehall, attended by the six bishops who had been imprisoned, tried, and acquitted with him. They now united with him in offering up their prayers, praises, and thanksgivings for the mercies lately accorded to them. The portion of Scripture for the day, substituted for the epistle, was part of the twelfth chapter of Acts, recording St. Peter's miraculous deliverance from prison. The acclamations and rejoicings of the people continued all day, and were prolonged through the night.
Illuminations in those days were chiefly done by vast voluntary bonfires. The lord mayor did all he could to suppress them, but in vain. The window illuminations were generally in the form of seven golden candlesticks, of which the longest, in the middle, represented Archbishop Sancroft, the six, surrounding, the bishops.
A large silver medal was designed and struck on the occasion, having a half-length portrait of Archbishop Sancroft in the centre, and those of the six bishops associated with him in his imprisonment and trial grouped round him.
The original oil painting from which this popular group was taken is in the collection of Walter Strickland, Esq., of Cokethorpe Hall, in Oxfordshire, a most valuable historic relic, as preserving contemporary portraits of these seven distinguished prelates, who were at that time the objects of popular idolatry.
The Prince of Orange failed not to send the most flattering congratulations to the primate and the other six bishops, through Compton, Bishop of London, with whom he was in constant correspondence. They returned a polite answer by the same prelate, but without in the slightest degree forfeiting their duty to their sovereign.
During the four stormy months that succeeded these events, Sancroft carefully avoided entangling himself with politics, and employed all his thoughts and energies in the maintenance of order in the Church, and the extension of education. He was also desirous of effecting a bond of union with all the more moderate grades of Protestant Dissenters, by making such concessions as would remove some of their objections to join in the worship of the Church of England.
He expressed this generous liberality of feeling in a letter to his clergy, dated July 26th, 1688, wherein he exhorts them--
"To have a tender regard to our brethren the Protestant Dissenters, when occasion offered to visit them at their houses, and to receive them kindly in their own, arid warmly and most affectionately to entreat them to join with us in daily fervent prayer to the God of peace for a universal and blessed union of all reformed churches, both at home and abroad."
The hostile preparations of the Prince of Orange interrupted, and indeed prevented, the progress of Sancroft's apostolic project "for a comprehension with the Dissenters." King James became aware too late of the ill-advised course he had been running, and issued a command to Sancroft to come to "Whitehall, accompanied by all the bishops who were in town, and give him their candid advice in the present emergency. The conference took place on the 3rd of October, when Sancroft, having obtained full liberty of speech, entreated his royal master to desist from the unconstitutional acts which had displeased his people and placed him in the present painful predicament. He went on to recite a long list of grievances, which the king promised should be redressed. The archbishop was then requested by his Majesty to prepare a form of public prayer, to be read in all the churches, for averting the dangers which threatened the nation.
The king sent for Sancroft and the bishops on the 2nd of November, to show them a passage in the Prince of Orange's declaration, stating "that he had been invited over by several of the lords spiritual and temporal." "I am fully satisfied of the innocence of my bishops," said the king, "yet I think it only proper to acquaint you with this statement."
Sancroft, after thanking his Majesty for his good opinion so graciously expressed, protested that "the assertion as regarded himself was utterly false, for that he had never held the slightest communication with the Prince of Orange, nor could he believe that any of his episcopal brethren had given him any such invitation. For my part," continued he, "I have but one king, him to whom my allegiance is naturally due, and which I have voluntarily renewed in oaths of homage and supremacy."
The king, on this, pressed Sancroft and the other bishops to draw up and sign a paper expressing their abhorrence of the Prince of Orange and his designs. This they declined doing, though all verbally protested their innocence of having invited him, with the exception of Compton, Bishop of London, who had really done so, and now evasively observed, "I have given his Majesty my answer yesterday." It was couched in these prevaricating words, "I am confident that the rest of the bishops will as readily answer in the negative as myself."
The king requested Sancroft and the other prelates to come to him again on the 6th of November, and eagerly demanded if they had brought the paper he required. Sancroft said, "They had not, for they were men of peace, and would not mix themselves up with politics," and reminded the king how hardly they had been treated only for signing and presenting a petition to himself couched in the most deferential terms. He took, at the same time, the opportunity of complaining of a literary affront they had received on the trial from one of his Majesty's judges, who had endeavoured to expose them to ridicule by criticising the petition as a composition, alleging "that they did not write true English, and it was fit they should be convicted by Dr. Busby of false grammar."
"My lord," rejoined the king, "this is querelle d'Allemand, a matter quite out of the way. I thought this had been all forgotten. For my part I am no lawyer. I am obliged to think what my judges do is according to law. But, if you will still complain on that account, I think I have reason to complain too. I am sure your counsel did not use me civilly."
In conclusion, the bishops said they were ready to serve his Majesty, either in parliament or with their prayers; and so they parted.
That Sancroft was of himself inclined to comply with the king's request, is proved by a document among his papers solemnly denying the allegation of the Prince of Orange in his declaration, but he was probably dissuaded by the Bishop of London and the other secret-service men of the prince from putting it forth. The feebleness of old age rendered him unwilling to act on his own judgment.
The only occasion on which Sancroft united in an address to the Prince of Orange was when the king, having sent the queen and infant Prince of Wales over to France, quitted London secretly to follow them, leaving everything in a state of confusion; and, in consequence of the excited state of the populace, it was considered expedient by the peers and bishops then in town to assemble themselves at Guildhall to deliberate on what was best to be done in this emergency. It was then "agreed, as the king had withdrawn no one knew whither, to request the Prince of Orange to summon a parliament, for the purpose of preserving the public peace and calming all disorders." Sancroft and the other prelates who were at this meeting signed the address, wisely deeming the assumption of the reins of government by the Prince of Orange, when the chariot of state was left without a ruler, would be preferable to anarchy. He manifested, however, his loyal affection to King James, by being one of the first to wait on him and welcome him on his return to Whitehall. This was their last meeting. [The assertion that Sancroft ever joined in inviting the Prince of Orange to assume the reins of government, is satisfactorily disproved by the following letter from Dr. Stanley, Chaplain to the Princess of Orange, to Dr. Hickes, written in 1713, twenty years after Sancroft's death.
["I do not remember that I ever heard that the late good Archbishop Sancroft was thought to have invited the Prince of Orange over into England. If any one did charge him with it, I believe it was without grounds. All that I can say as to the matter is that, Anno 1687, when I came into England from Holland, I confess I did desire the archbishop to write to the Princess of Orange, on whom I had the honour to attend, to encourage her still to give countenance to the Church of England; but he was pleased not to write to her. And afterwards, when we were come over into England, and a report being spread abroad that some of the lords spiritual, as well as temporal, had invited the Prince of Orange into England, in my communing with the archbishop, I remember he said to me, ' I am now glad I did not write to the princess, as you desired, for if I had written to her, they would have said that I had sent to invite them over.' This is true, and this is all I can say of that affair.
["I am, sir, your faithful friend, &c.,
On the arrival of the Prince of Orange in London, Sancroft was urged to wait on him, but firmly declined. Neither would he attend the Convention or take his place in the House of Lords, even when a message was sent to him from the peers requesting him to come.
Notwithstanding the feebleness of his constitution and general delicacy of health, Sancroft regularly attended prayers in the chapel at Lambeth at six in the morning, twelve at noon, three in the afternoon, and nine at night. He was most sparing and abstemious in his diet, and temperate in his way of life, which has been turned to his reproach by his calumniator Burnet, who styles him "a man of monastic strictness and abstraction from the world, dry, peevish, and reserved.;" falsely adding, "so that none loved him, and few esteemed him;" whereas it was scarcely possible for any man to be more deeply venerated and tenderly beloved. In proof of the universal esteem in which he was held, be it recorded that, in the midst of these agitating scenes, Sancroft received the high compliment of being elected Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. He declined this honour, pleading his age and infirmities as an excuse, and recommended the Earl of Clarendon as a more suitable person. The university, however, would have no one but the beloved archbishop, and kept the post vacant for upwards of two months, in the hope of prevailing on him to be installed, but he was inflexible.
He declined the appointment of privy councillor to William, and refused to consecrate Dr. Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, which refusal fully accounts for the false and malicious statements of which that unscrupulous writer has been guilty with regard to him. It must also be remembered that Sancroft had previously incurred Burnet's enmity by declining to sign an order granting him access to the Cottonian collection of historical MSS. John Evelyn's indignant complaints of the loss he had sustained in consequence of having rashly lent some of the autograph letters of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Dr. Burnet, afforded cogent reason to Sancroft for that exclusion.
The very day the Prince and Princess of Orange were proclaimed king and queen, the princess sent Dr. Stanley and another of her chaplains to Lambeth Palace, to solicit the archbishop's blessing for her. "Tell the princess," replied the uncompromising primate, "to ask her father's; without that I doubt mine would not be heard in Heaven:" The chaplains had another errand to perform, that of attending service in the chapel, to report whether prayers were offered there for King James, his queen and son, or for the newly-proclaimed sovereigns. Henry Wharton, the archbishop's chaplain, understanding they were to be present, came to the archbishop and asked him for his instructions. "I have no new instructions to give," replied Sancroft, meaning that no alterations were to be made; but Wharton, who had resolved on taking the oaths of allegiance to William and Mary, and perhaps thought he was rendering the archbishop shrewd political service by affecting to misunderstand him, prayed for King William and Queen Mary in the chapel. After the service the archbishop sent for him in great displeasure, and told him "he must either desist from praying for William and Mary or cease to officiate in the chapel; for as long as King James was alive, no other persons could be sovereigns of the country."
William, anxious to conciliate a person so deservedly high in the esteem of all good men as the archbishop, nominated him one of his privy councillors, but he never acted as such.
Sancroft was earnestly entreated by the Earl of Danby and other members of the new cabinet to officiate at the coronation of William and Mary, but he positively refused either to crown them or take the oaths required. "How can he, who hath sworn that King James II. is the only lawful king of this realm, or that he will bear faith and true allegiance to him, his heirs and successors, take those oaths to an usurper?" wrote Sancroft, in a remarkable paper, entitled "The Present State of the English Government Considered," January, 1688-9.
To those friends and well-wishers who represented the injury that would result to his worldly fortunes if he persisted in this determination, he replied with a smile, "Well, I can live on fifty pounds a year." This was less, in fact, than his patrimony in Suffolk. A man has little to fear whose pecuniary requisitions are limited to so low a scale.
The court, aware of the affection and reverence of the nation for the apostolic primate, hesitated to proceed to extremities with him, and merely suspended him from his office on the 1st of August, 1689; but the queen, finding him. at the end of six months immovable in his determination not to violate his conscience by taking the oaths of allegiance to her and her consort, executed the sentence of deprivation on the 1st of February, 1690, against William, Archbishop of Canterbury. She deprived, at the same time, Turner, Bishop of Ely; White, of Peterborough; Lake of Chichester; Ken, of Bath and Wells; Lloyd, of Norwich; and Frampton, of Gloucester, for the like offence. Lloyd, of St. Asaph, and Trelawny, of Bristol, were the only two of the seven prelates committed by James II. to the Tower who forfeited their oaths of allegiance to him by transferring their fealty to William and Mary. The political conduct of these prelates gave rise to the popular saying, "King James sent seven bishops to be tested at the Tower. [Where the mint and apparatus for the assay of metals for the coinage then was.] Five were proved to be true gold, and two only prince's metal." Lloyd was preferred to the see of Worcester, Trelawny to that of Winchester.
Dr. Beveridge, who was nominated to supply the place of Ken, in the see of Bath and Wells, asked Sancroft's advice how he should act. "Though I should give my advice, I do not believe you will follow it," replied Sancroft. Beveridge assured him that he would. "Wiry, then, when they come to ask, say nolo; and say it from the heart Nothing is easier than to resolve yourself what is to be done in the case," answered the uncompromising primate, drily. Beveridge refused to accept the see.
Systematic attempts were made by the base pamphleteers of the period to inflame the passions of the mob against the archbishop and his nonjuring brethren. They styled them "the Holy Lambeth Club," and accused them of designs to bring in popery, of inviting the King of France to invade the realm, holding a correspondence with M. de Croissy for that object, and composing prayers for the success of King James in Ireland. Sancroft and the other nonjuring bishops determined to treat these calumnies with silent contempt, but the dissemination of a pamphlet of a decidedly murderous tendency, entitled, "A Modest Enquiry into the Causes of the Present Disasters," convinced them that if they regarded the safety of their persons, they must no longer permit such calumnious imputations ' to remain unnoticed. They accordingly published a vindication, in which, after mentioning the charges that had been put forth against them, they deny the whole in these words:--
"We do here solemnly, as in the presence of God, protest and declare that these accusations cast upon us are all of them malicious calumnies and diabolical inventions; that we are innocent of them all, and we defy the libeller to produce if he can any legal proof of our guiltiness therein. . . . Who the author of this libel is we know not; but whoever he is, we desire, as our Lord hath taught us, to return him good for evil. He barbarously endeavours to raise in the whole English nation such a fury as may end in De-Witting us (a bloody word, but too well understood). But we recommend him to the Divine mercy, humbly beseeching God to forgive him."
This allusion to the ferocious massacre of those great and good men, the pensionary De Witt, and his brother the admiral, in Amsterdam, by the Orange mob, who had been incited to its perpetration by a false and incendiary accusation, points too plainly at the Dutch king, as the suborner of the pamphlet, to be misunderstood in those days when that dark tragedy was fresh in the minds of men.
Sancroft did not acknowledge the authority of William and Mary, and paid no heed to their sentence, but continued at the palace, exercising his accustomed hospitality and charity, merely observing, "that he had committed no crime that could justly cause his degradation; so if the Queen wanted his 'house at Lambeth, she must either come, or send, and thrust him out of it by personal violence; for leave it in obedience to her mandate he would not."
His see was filled up by the appointment of Dr. Tillotson, April, 1691, to the primacy; but Sancroft continued to keep possession of Lambeth Palace. On the administration of the holy communion in the chapel after the appointment of his successor, Sancroft performed the office of consecrating the bread and wine himself, one nonjuring clergyman reading the prayers, and another preaching before him. Feeling, however, that it would be necessary for him soon to withdraw from the palace, he sent for his two chaplains, Needham and Wharton, into his chamber, and after thanking them for their faithful services, told them "the time was now come when they must part."
Needham respectfully inquired, "Why his grace said so?" He replied, "A successor to my benefice is now appointed, and I can do you no more good, while it may be both prejudicial and dangerous to yourselves if you remain in my service."
They had taken the oaths to the existing government, and he wished not to be a barrier to the preferment which would doubtless reward their compliance; but with a burst of affectionate feeling, Needham exclaimed, "I differ, indeed, from your grace in matters of opinion concerning the state, but I fear no danger from attending on your person, and shall only be too happy if I may be permitted under any circumstances to serve you, and I believe my brother Wharton is of the like mind." To this Wharton assented.
"Will ye so?" replied Sancroft. "Then go on in God's name!" And both remained as long afterwards as he would allow them, and paid him the most dutiful attention.
The archbishop, on the 20th of May, received a peremptory order from the queen to quit the palace within ten days. To this order he paid no sort of regard, and the process of ejectment by law was begun without delay. He was cited to appear before the Barons of the Exchequer on the first day of Trinity Term, June 12th, to answer a writ of intrusion brought against him in the king's name, in which he was accused of "having entered vi et armis into Lambeth House, part of the king's possessions, in the vacancy of the see, and forcibly taken and held possession of it." He appeared by his attorney several times, but always avoided putting in any plea in which the names of the present sovereigns were mentioned, or their title acknowledged. Judgment, of course, passed against the nonjuring archbishop, and he retired from Lambeth Palace the same evening, June 23rd, attended by his nephew, Mr. Sancroft, who was the steward of his household, Dr. Paman, the friend of his youth, Mr. Nicholls, and Mr. Jacob, not having so much as acquainted his chaplains with his intention. He took a boat at Lambeth-stairs, and crossed over to the Temple, where he went to a private house, called the Palsgrave's Head, in Palsgrave Court, near Temple Bar, to which he had previously sent his books and papers.
The next morning his two chaplains, Needham and Wharton, came to wait upon him. He received them affectionately, and asked them to read the service of the day, which they did, and continued to officiate daily before him for some time. He remained in that house, of which he only occupied the second floor, about six weeks. While there, the loyal Earl of Aylesbury coming to visit him, he opened the door of the apartment himself to admit him. Struck with this token of the reverse of fortune that had befallen the deprived primate, and the contrast between his present humble abode and its mean furniture, from the state with which he was accustomed to see him surrounded at Lambeth, the noble visitor burst into tears; and as soon as he had conquered his emotion enough to speak, he told Sancroft how deeply he was affected at the change he saw, and how unable he was to repress his grief.
"Oh, my good lord," replied the deprived archbishop, "rather rejoice with me, for now I live again."