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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

William and Mary (1689—1702)

William and Mary (1689—1702).

The little knot of plotting aristocrats and ecclesiastics who seated William and Mary on the throne in place of James II. saved England from unlimited monarchy and compulsory Romanism. For these evils they substituted unlimited Oligarchy, Continental Wars, Standing Armies, and the National Debt. They sliced down the royal prerogative, but divided the pieces carefully among themselves. Within the last thirty-three years our dukes, earls, and marquises, with their relatives, according to the "Financial Reform Almanack," have looted the Exchequer of more than sixty-six millions sterling! It is for such adequate reasons as these that the calling to the throne of Dutch William in 1688 has been styled "the glorious Revolution." For the aristocracy it was indeed a glorious revolution.

As for Dutch William himself, the praises that have been heaped on him by Whig historians like Macaulay are almost ludicrously overdone. His body was weak and his mind devoid of culture. With a pious, Calvinistic creed, he was as much addicted to wine and women as his feeble health page 83 would permit. His temper was sullen and despotic. If he relinquished any attribute of kingship, it was not his fault. But having no child to succeed him he submitted to successive limitations of his power in exchange for English gold and English blood, which he caused to flow like water in his Grand Alliance and Spanish Succession Wars. The national debt he raised from one million to more than twenty-one millions. As a general he was below mediocrity.

Macaulay has striven to free William's memory from the awful guilt of the massacre of Glencoe, but without success. The extermination warrant was signed by the king at top and bottom, as if purposely to emphasise the inhuman mandate. The chief actors were all promoted.

The East India Company wanted a new charter, and in order to procure it, bribed right and left. £10,000, it was declared, were traced to the king himself.

A commission appointed in 1698 to enquire into the grant of forfeited estates in Ireland reported that 1,060,000 acres, worth £211,623 per annum, had been confiscated since 1689. The grantees were for the most part foreign favourites whom the king loaded with dignities. Bentinck was made Earl of Portland, Zuleisten Earl of Rochford, Schomberg Duke of Schomberg, Auverquerque Earl of Grantham, Keppel Earl of Albermarie, Ginkill Earl of Athlone, and Ruvigny Earl of Galway. But worst of all was the gift by this dutiful nephew and son-in-law of James's private estates, consisting of 95,000 acres, worth £26,000 per annum, to one of his (William's) mistresses, Elizabeth Villiers, Duchess of Orkney. Parliament insisted on resuming these forfeitures, and told the king to his face he was a dishonourable man.

On several occasions he threatened to resign, and it would have been well for England if Parliament had taken him at his word. On the flight of James the country might have become a republic, and saved itself from an endless chain of miseries; but the idea of self-government is always the last that occurs to Englishmen. They never seem to suspect themselves capable of such a thing. Vult populus decipi et decipiatur.

While busy planning on a gigantic scale further waste of English blood and treasure in the War of the Spanish Succession, William died in 1702. Mary had preceded him.