The Reigns Of William III. And Anne

Chapter II --The Reigns Of William III. And Anne

While by act of Parliament the Prince of Orange was made joint sovereign with Mary, it was understood that the actual control of affairs should be in his hands. As Mary was supremely devoted to her husband, she accorded a ready assent to the arrangement. Her death near the end of 1694 left William the sole possessor of the regal title. His position was a practical declaration of the ultimate sovereignty of the nation over the crown. The Revolution of 1688 sealed the triumph of the principles of constitutional monarchy.

A covetous desire for the crown was not the principal motive which led William to undertake the expedition to England. Indeed, before the flight of James, there could have been no sure prospect that the nominal possession of the crown would not be continued to him. William's chief motive was borrowed rather from his connection with European affairs at large. He was the soul of the opposition to Louis XIV. He saw in the French monarch the enemy of the liberties of Europe, a man whose first ambition was to make French power dominant on every hand, and whose second ambition was to secure the triumph of the Roman Catholic Church. As an enemy of this threatening despotism, and as a friend of Protestantism, he was ready to hazard the attempt to rescue England from that unseemly vassalage to France into which the Stuarts had brought her, and to array her against the encroachments of Louis.

The circumstances under which the Revolution had been consummated, as well as the ecclesiastical antecedents of the new monarch, who had been trained in the Calvinistic Presbyterianism of the Dutch Republic, naturally dictated that some concessions should be made to the Dissenters. William, on his part, wished both to release them from all civil disabilities, and to ease their entrance into the Establishment by making some acceptable changes in the Anglican ritual and polity. But the temper of Parliament, as also of a large part of the clergy, did not permit either of these ends to be reached. As respects the comprehension scheme, a good share of the Dissenters themselves had little interest in its success. The most that was found practicable was a guarantee of the privilege of separate worship. By the Toleration Act of 1689, all Protestants taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and all Protestant ministers subscribing, in addition, to the articles of faith, were secured against penalties for attending or holding conventicles.

Provision was made for scruples by exempting all from obligation to subscribe to the 34th, 35th, and 36th articles, and a part of the 20th. The Baptists were still further exempted from the 27th article. As for the Quakers, they were only required to sign a general declaration of belief in the Trinity and the Scriptures.

In the subsequent practice, except during an interval of High Church fervor, the privileges of the dissenting bodies were carried somewhat beyond the letter of the statute. The demand for subscription to articles of faith was not pressed. In many instances, also, Dissenters were able to enter upon offices which were legally closed against them, the passage of indemnity bills securing them against liability to the penalties prescribed in law.

As might be inferred from its terms, the Toleration Act gave no immunity to Anti-Trinitarians or to Roman Catholics. Legal inclemency against the latter was in fact aggravated by the passage of a very rigorous statute in 1700. Their supposed friendship for a Romish claimant of the throne naturally acted to their prejudice. William was not personally in favor of a severe policy, as being counter to his relations with Roman Catholic allies on the Continent; but it was no easy matter to resist the pressure of Anti-Romish animosity. According to the new statute, any priests or Jesuits, who should attempt to conduct worship or to teach school in the realm, made themselves liable to perpetual imprisonment. A reward of one hundred pounds was offered for the apprehension of such priests and Jesuits. There were also provisions directly affecting the laity. Any one sending a child abroad to be educated in the Romish religion was to forfeit one hundred pounds; and any person educated in that religion, who should not, after reaching the age of eighteen, subscribe the oaths of allegiance and supremacy and the declaration against transubstantiation, was to be disqualified to inherit real estate in England. Such was the face of the statute-book in 1700, and there was no amelioration before the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

Still the reign of William did not mark the beginning of worse fortunes for English Romanists. Practice was by no means kept up to a level with the rigor of the law.

"The Catholic landholders," says Hallam, "neither renounced their religion nor abandoned their inheritances. The judges put such constructions upon the clause of forfeiture as eluded its efficacy; and, I believe there were scarce any instances of a loss of property under the law. It has been said, and, I doubt not, with justice, that the Catholic gentry, during the greater part of the eighteenth century, were as a separated and half-proscribed class among their equals, their civil exclusion hanging over them in the intercourse of general society; but their notorious, though not unnatural, disaffection to the reigning family, will account for much of this, and their religion was undoubtedly exercised with little disguise or apprehension." (Constitutional History, chap. xv.)

Public sentiment lost erelong something of its asperity, and the theory of religious tolerance found a growing acceptance. Thus, as a representative writer among English Romanists has stated, a foundation was laid for a more indulgent policy.

"The reign of William III.," says Charles Butler, "so far as it particularly affected his Roman Catholic subjects, is remarkable on this account, that, while the attachment which they were supposed to entertain for the exiled family rendered their allegiance to his Majesty suspected, and thus furnished a new pretence for the prosecution of them, the spirit of religious liberty, which had for some time been gaining ground in several parts of Europe, began to operate in their favor, and thus rendered the reign of this monarch, though some new laws were enacted in it against them, the era from which the commencement of their enjoyment of religions toleration may be dated." (Historical Memoirs, iii. 122.)

In sustaining the theory of religious tolerance, no one rendered a more conspicuous service than John Locke, His "Letters concerning Toleration" constitute a plea for religious liberty which has rarely been equalled. The principles laid down therein are essentially identical with those embodied in the Constitution of the American Republic. The State, it is maintained, has no just prerogative to prescribe the faith and worship of the individual. The sphere of belief lies beyond the range of coercion and legal restraint. "Laws are of no force at all without penalties, and penalties in this case are absolutely impertinent; because they are not proper to convince the mind." As for the Church, being but a free and voluntary society within the commonwealth, while it may fix the terms of its fellowship, it has nothing to do with the civil status of its members, and can properly inflict, or require, no further penalty than excommunication. In short, Locke provided in his leading propositions as broad a platform for religious tolerance as could be desired. It is true that in their application he affirmed some restrictions, but they were only such as in his judgment were required by political safety. He deemed that those who were licensed by their creed to break faith with heretics, who confessed a superior allegiance to a foreign potentate, and who could naturally make use of religious freedom for themselves only to destroy it for others, had no claim to toleration. He also thought that atheists had no valid title to toleration, since by denying the existence of God they rob oaths and covenants of the necessary sanction, and accordingly weaken, to a dangerous extent, the bond of civil obligations. In both cases it was rather the necessary safeguards of the perpetuity of the State that he had in mind, than the deserts of mere opinions.

During the reign of William, distinctions within the Established Church which had been quite marked since the closing part of the sixteenth century came to be currently designated by the terms High Church and Low Church. The terms had then nearly the same meaning as now. The High Churchman had no charity for Dissenters, and laid immense stress upon episcopal succession and the Anglican ritual. The Low Churchman, while he considered his own polity the best, was willing to allow the Christian character and standing of those who differed from him, and for the sake of union would not hesitate to sacrifice some matters of form.

As to numbers, the clergy of the Low Church were greatly in the minority. "We should probably overrate their numerical strength, if we were to estimate them at a tenth part of the priesthood. Yet it will scarcely be denied that there were among them as many men of distinguished eloquence and learning as could be found in the other nine tenths. Among the laity who conformed to the established religion, the parties were not unevenly balanced." 1 Macaulay; chap. xi.

As a considerable number of the bishops refused to accept the political settlement of the Revolution, and fell into the ranks of the Nonjurors, or those declining the oath of allegiance, the government had opportunity to fill the bishoprics very largely with men of liberal principles. The result was a peculiar combination of ecclesiastical factors. While the great body of the lower clergy was High Church in principle, the bishops were generally Low Church, a fact distinctly appearing in the complete lack of harmony between the Lower and the Upper House of Convocation.

2 After its prorogation, in 1717 or 1718, Convocation ceased to have any real existence, and did not again resume its proper functions till 1852. (J. W. Joyce, Acts of the Church.)

An honored place among the liberal or latitudinarian bishops was held by Tillotson, whom William advanced to the see of Canterbury. Moderate in opinion, gentle and conciliatory in temper, and dowered with a good measure of common sense, he won an extraordinary degree of good will wherever personal considerations were not offset by political or ecclesiastical animosity. In his own time, and for a generation or two later, he was esteemed a prince of sermonizers. The warrant for this reputation, however, is not very apparent in the present. The sermons of Tillotson are indeed lucid and simple in style, and abound in judicious thoughts; but they can boast neither vivacity nor elevation. They move on a uniform plane. While they pay the due regard to natural ethics, they scarcely show an adequate sympathy with the supernatural side of Christianity, and appeal in too large a proportion of instances to merely prudential considerations. Along with Tillotson we may place his friend and eulogist, Bishop Gilbert Burnet, who, if he did not equal him in discretion, was equally broad and tolerant. Ever in the front of affairs, busy with tongue and pen, meddlesome in the view of many, he earned a special share of Jacobite and High Church hatred. But in spite of the broad stream of detraction which pursued his name, he won a secure title to esteem, as an honest patriot, an industrious author, and a faithful shepherd of souls. Burnet died in 1715. About that date a younger contemporary of his, Benjamin Hoadly, who was made Bishop of Banger directly after the accession of George I., was attracting attention as an able champion of Low Church principles. No representative of the Episcopal clergy of that age carried liberal maxims farther, or supported them with a more incisive logic. Like Archbishop Whately and others of the Broad Church in recent times, he resolutely cast overboard the theory of a necessary apostolic succession. "God is just and equal and good," he wrote in 1716, "and as sure as He is so, He cannot put the salvation and happiness of any man upon what He Himself hath put out of the power of any man upon earth to be entirely satisfied in. . . . It hath not pleased God in His Providence to keep up any proof of the least probability, or moral possibility, of a regular uninterrupted succession. But there is great appearance, and, humanly speaking, a certainty of the contrary, that this succession hath been often interrupted."

1 A Preservative against the Principles and Practices of the Nonjurors both in Church and State.

In a sermon before the King the next year he used expressions which seemed equally to limit the dignity and the authority of the hierarchy. "As the Church of Christ," he said, "is the kingdom of Christ, He Himself is King; and in this it is implied that He is Himself the sole Lawgiver to His subjects, and Himself the sole judge of their behavior, in the affairs of conscience and eternal salvation. And in this sense therefore His kingdom is not of this world: that He hath, in those points left behind Him, no visible human authority; no vicegerent, who can be said properly to supply His place; no interpreters upon whom His subjects are absolutely to depend; no judges over the consciences or religion of His people." Sermon on John xviii. 36. This sermon provoked a fury of resentment in the High Church party, and an almost unprecedented war of pamphlets ensued.

The intimate connection between political and ecclesiastical interests which characterized the Revolution continued through the early part of the eighteenth century. Party ascendency in the State depended much upon successful dealing with the affairs of the Church. The zealots in the latter were too powerful to be ignored; it was necessary to consult and to mollify them, if not to follow their behests.

The two great parties in the State were the Whigs and the Tories,

1 Terms of opprobrium originally, the one designed to associate the party to whom it was applied with fanatical Scotch Covenanters, and the other being equivalent to Irish outlaws or bog-trotters.

as the two great divisions of the Church were the Low Church and the High Church. The Low Church in general affiliated with the Whigs, and the High Church with the Tories. The country gentry favored the Tories; the commercial classes and the Dissenters sided with the Whigs. During the interval covered by the last days of William and by the reign of Anne (1702-1714), there was a rapid fluctuation in the fortunes of political parties. But with the accession of George I. there began an era of decided Whig ascendency. This continued with little intermission for forty-five years. On the accession of George III. (1760), the balance turned in favor of the Tories, and the administration was mainly in the hands of that party during the remainder of the century, as well as in the early part of the present century.

One fact which contributed not a little to the political fever during the first decades of the eighteenth century was the insecurity of the settlement effected by the Revolution of 1688. Indeed, that Revolution can hardly be said to have reached a secure tenure until the middle of the next century. The Stuarts, it is true, had been driven out. But they wished to come back; and while one party viewed the prospect of their return with utter dread, there was another party which was little, if at a11, disquieted by the idea of their return, and another party still, and that by no means limited to Romanists, which earnestly desired their return. Great as were the services which William of Orange had rendered to England, he was far from winning the whole nation to a cordial acceptance of the change of dynasty. William himself was aware of this, if we may judge from his bitter remark respecting the two great parties, that all the difference he knew between them was, "that the Tories would cut his throat in the morning, and the Whigs in the afternoon." The antipathy which was felt toward the exiled James could act only with modified force against the son who became heir to his claims in 1701. The Jacobites accordingly were no inconsiderable faction. "The Tory party under Queen Anne was to a great extent, and under George I. was almost exclusively Jacobite." 1 Lecky, History of England in the Eighteenth Century, i. 3. Even some of the Whig party are credited with a prudent attention to the contingency of a Stuart restoration. Many, however, who were implicated in Jacobite negotiations, were unwilling to run any great risk for the dethroned house. Their conduct shows simply that they were not at heart altogether opposed to the return of the Stuarts. In the view of prominent writers, Jacobite scheming in the closing days of Anne stood a fair chance of success, and might have won the day had not the death of the Queen occurred before the plane of those who were plotting a restoration had been matured.

Under the impulse of Tory and High Church zeal there was an outburst of intolerant endeavor in the reign of Anne, which threatened the privileges even of those Dissenters who were under the Toleration Act of 1689. Tokens of the coming storm were apparent immediately after the accession of Anne. "The high party," says the Nonconformist minister Calamy, "soon grew triumphant, and thought of nothing less than carrying all before them. . . . In several parts of the country, they talked of pulling down the meeting-houses, as places not fit to be suffered. In one town (Newcastle-under-Lyne) they actually went to work as soon as ever the tidings of the King's death reached them." 1 Own Life, and Abridgment of Baxter's Life. Sermons and tracts helped to swell the animosity against the intractable schismatics. A hint as to the tone of some of these sermons may be derived from a remark of Jortin, which applies to the reign of Anne, or that immediately following. He says: "I heard Dr. B. say in a sermon, 'If any one denies the uninterrupted succession of bishops, I shall not scruple to call him an atheist.' This, when I was young, was sound, orthodox, and fashionable doctrine." 2 Quoted by Lecky, i. 96. A similar sentiment crops out in one of the Church cries of the era:--

"Join, Churchmen, join, no longer separate,

Lest you repent it when it is too late.
Low Church is no Church."

" Swift humorously declares that even the cats and the dogs were infected with the Whig and Tory animosity. The very ladies were divided into High Church and Low; and 'out of zeal for religion had hardly time to say their prayers.'" 3 Leslie Stephen's Swift. So far were some of the hot-headed carried in their blind zeal, that De Foe's satirical pamphlet, "The Shortest Way with the Dissenters," advising their extirpation from the realm, was taken by them in earnest. At length, matters were brought to a crisis through the Sacheverell fracas. This Sacheverell was a rather clever ecclesiastical demagogue, who delivered some very radical harangues in 1709. A sermon which he preached before the Lord Mayor in St. Paul's contained this gentle description of Dissenters:-- "These false brethren in our government do not singly and in private shed their poison, but, what is lamentable to be spoken, are suffered to combine into bodies and seminaries, wherein atheism, deism, tritheism, Arianism, with all the hellish principles of fanaticism, regicide, and anarchy are openly professed and taught, to corrupt and debauch the youth of the nation in all parts of it down to posterity, to the present reproach and future extirpation of our laws and religion. Certainly the Toleration was never intended to indulge and cherish such monsters and vipers in our bosom, that scatter their pestilence at our doors, and will rend, distract, and confound the best constitution in the world." 1 Waddington, Congregational History, 1700-1800. This sermon, widely circulated, created a great furor. The Whig administration took offense, and unwisely made a hero of the demagogue by bringing him to trial. The light sentence which was secured was looked upon as equivalent to acquittal. A Tory and High Church rally was made, and the Whig party was thrown out of power. Legislation was now sharpened against Dissenters. The Occasional Conformity Bill was passed (1711), designed to abolish the practice of qualifying for office by occasionally receiving the sacrament according to the Anglican ritual. The bill provided that any attendance at a conventicle should disqualify one for holding any place of trust or profit. Another act, the so called Schism Act, was designed to overthrow the seminaries of the Dissenters. With the exception of a narrow field, it closed the teaching vocation against all who should not conform to the Established Church. August 1st, 1714, was fixed upon as the day when the Schism Act should go into effect. "It is related that on that morning Burnet met Bradbury, the minister of the great Independent chapel in Fetter Lane, walking through Smithfield with slow steps, and with an absent and dejected air. 'I was thinking,' he said, in reply to the greeting of the bishop, 'whether I shall have the constancy and resolution of the martyrs who suffered in this spot, for I most assuredly expect to see similar times of violence and persecution." 1 Lecky, i. 224. Such was the prospect for Dissenters, as viewed by a prominent representative. But on that very day the Queen died. Under her successor, George I., High Church zeal had to submit to a curb. It indulged itself, to be sure, with the luxury of pulling down some of the chapels of its foes; but its opportunity was gone, and the persecuting legislation of the preceding reign was soon repealed.

The actor who showed the most striking genius in the politico-ecclesiastical strife of this era was undoubtedly Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's after 1713. His genius, however, was not one which ran very deep or high. An aptitude for vivid description and a surprising faculty for satire were its chief characteristics. In his attitude toward the Revolution settlement, Swift was a sufficiently stanch Whig; but his High Church preferences and overmastering hatred of Presbyterianism naturally drove him into co-operation with the Tories.

The outburst of popular fervor, in the reign of Anne, in behalf of the Established Church, was by no means accompanied by an equally warm esteem for the clergy of that Church. The tone of the periodical literature of the time toward clergymen in general was noticeably lacking in genuine friendliness and respect. Many of the clergy, moreover, enjoyed no enviable position as respects temporal support. Hundreds of livings did not yield more than twenty or thirty pounds a year. This defect, however, was in some degree remedied by the bounty of Queen Anne, and as the century went on the condition of the humbler ranks of the clergy was improved.

In Scotland, the Revolution of 1688 at once overturned episcopacy as a feature of the national Establishment. This was due largely to the attitude of the bishops and many of the clergy connected with them toward the Revolution. They were unfriendly to the cause of William of Orange. Only two days before his landing at Torbay, the Scotch bishops were engaged in preparing a letter to James II., in which they addressed him as the "darling of Heaven." But for their evident Jacobitism, William might have been inclined to favor a moderate episcopacy in Scotland, inasmuch as the parishes were manned with Episcopalian incumbents, and a sweeping change would naturally involve special difficulties. As it was, however, he was not slow in making up his mind to gratify the predominant desire of the people for the Presbyterian polity. The clergy who had been settled under the Episcopalian régime were allowed to retain their positions, on condition of acknowledging the existing government in the manner prescribed. Nearly two hundred were immediately displaced as failing to meet this condition, and others were deposed in the ensuing years. Those who conformed were merged more or less completely in the Establishment. So it came about in a short time that Presbyterianism substantially possessed the field.

In 1707, the union of England and Scotland being then consummated, the ecclesiastical affairs of the latter came under the supervision of the Parliament of Great Britain. In 1712, all act of toleration was passed in favor of Scotch Episcopalians, who should take the oaths. As for the bishops and their nonjuring adherents, being regarded as an appendage to the exiled Stuarts, they received but little grace. Laws were enacted prohibiting them from holding service, except before a single household and a very few persons additional. Not till 1788 was the Stuart cause definitely abandoned by the Scotch bishops. The oaths being no longer refused, toleration was enjoyed by Scotch Episcopalians generally, and was distinctly guaranteed by acts of 1792. From this time there was a tendency to drop the special features by which the Episcopal communion had been distinguished in Scotland. Displaced by the Anglican forms and articles, its old simplicity of ritual and Calvinistic creed scarcely claimed recognition even as facts of history.

The settlement effected at the Revolution was not agreeable to all the Presbyterians. The recognition of the Westminster Confession, and the limitations put upon patronage in the settling of ministers, were features that commanded general approbation. But, on the other hand, the neglect to stipulate distinctly the right of the Assembly to call its own meetings involved, in the view of many, a dangerous dependence upon the State. In the opinion of a zealous faction, there was also another serious defect. To the Cameronians, or Covenanters, the failure to insist upon the National Covenant appeared as a criminal sacrifice of principle to a false expediency. They refused to join with those who had so tamely abandoned the ark of their testimony. Though their pastors forsook them to join the Establishment, they continued to assert their principles. Their independent position was maintained till 1876, when they united with the Free Church of Scotland.

The failure of James II. and Tyrconnel in Ireland left the majority of her people under the shadow of civil and religious proscription. The century which followed the battle of the Boyne may have been a century of comparative peace in the island; it was, however, the peace of despair rather than of contentment. The hand of oppression was felt none the less because there was no hope or courage to attempt its removal. But the story of that century may best be given in a continuous outline, and will therefore be taken up from the Revolution settlement in the next period.

1 A like motive has constrained us also to defer two important topics of English history, the Nonjurors and the Deistical Controversy.

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