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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

James II. (1685-1688.)

James II. (1685-1688.)

Charles was succeeded by his brother, James II., the conscientious bigot who "threw away three kingdoms for a mass." James once advised his royal brother to beware of assassins. "They will never kill me," was the caustic reply, "to make you king." Unlike Charles, James II. was neither merry nor naturally humane. He was sullen and cruel. Even John Churchill's adamantine breast heaved with indignation at the mercilessness exhibited by the king after his victory over Monmouth at Sedgemoor. "This marble," he cried, striking a mantelpiece on which he leant, "is not harder than the king's heart!" In "the Bloody Circuit" which succeeded the battle, his thrice infamous instrument, Jeffreys, committed no fewer than three hundred and fifty judicial murders, while eight hundred prisoners were sold into slavery.

James was almost, if not altogether, as great a libertine as his brother, and his taste was much less nice. Lord Chancellor Clarendon's daughter, Anne, whom he first seduced but afterwards married, was no beauty. Her father, the great historian, on being told by King Charles that she was enceinte by the duke, exhibited more than Roman fortitude. "He was ready," he informed the Council, "to give positive judgment, in which he hoped their lordships would concur with him—that the king should immediately cause the woman to be sent to the Tower, and to be cast into a dungeon under so strict a guard that no person living should be admitted to come to her; and then an Act of Parliament should be passed for cutting off her head, to which he would not only give his consent, but would very willingly be the page 80 first man that should propose it." There surely spoke a true friend of the monarchy.

The relatives of plain Arabella Churchill were more philosophically devoted to the throne. "The necessities of the Churchills," says Macaulay, "were pressing; their loyalty was ardent; and their only feeling about Arabella's seduction seems to have been joyful surprise that so plain a girl should have attained such high preferment."

Immediately on his accession James called parliament together, but apologised to Barillon, the French ambassador, for so doing. "Assure your master of my gratitude and attachment. I know that without his protection I can do nothing. I know what trouble my brother brought on himself by not adhering steadily to France. I will take good care not to let the House meddle with foreign affairs. If I see in them any disposition to make mischief I will send them about their business. Explain this to my good brother. I hope he will not take it amiss that I have not consulted him. He has a right to be consulted; and it is my wish to consult him about everything. But in this case the delay even of a week might have produced serious consequences."

Next morning Rochester told Barillon, "It will be well laid out. Your master cannot employ his revenues better. Represent to him strongly how important it is that the king of England should be dependent not on his own people, but on the friendship of France alone-"

Louis at once collected bills of exchange on England to the amount of £37,000, and sent them off. When Barillon came to the king with the money, James shed tears of delight and gratitude. "Nobody but your king does such kind, such noble things. Assure him that my attachment will last to the end of my days."

In recognition of such gratitude £120,000 more were presently forwarded to corrupt indifferently King, Court, and Parliament. It was deemed advisable to send a special messenger to thank Louis. The gentleman selected for this high office was none other than John Churchill, the brother of Arabella, the founder of the unsavoury house of Marlborough. So prudent a financier was he that instead of his mistresses living on him he lived on his mistresses. Such cases still occasionally come to light in our police courts, page 81 among the most degraded of human kind. Macaulay thus describes John Churchill's start in life:—
"He was thrifty in his very vices, and levied ample contributions on ladies enriched by the spoils of more liberal lovers. He was during a short time the object of the violent but fickle fondness of the Duchess of Cleveland. On one occasion he was caught with her by the king, and was forced to leap out of the window. She rewarded this hazardous feat of gallantry with a present of £5,000. With this sum the prudent young man instantly bought an annuity of £500 a year well secured on landed property." Pope puts the case thus:—

"The gallant, too, to whom she paid it down
Lived to refuse his mistress half-a-crown."

After exhausting every other resource of tyranny, the narrow-minded king concluded that he could coerce the Anglican Church. Its prelates had long preached the doctrine of passive obedience, and he foolishly took them at their word. He speedily found, however, that they had only meant passive obedience for dissenters from their own ecclesiastical opinions and emoluments. Not a blow was struck in his defence. Even his daughter Anne, by Churchill's advice, deserted him. His other daughter, Mary, and his nephew, the Prince of Orange, dutifully took his throne. He died in France, in all the odour of monkish sanctity having literally, "thrown away three kingdoms for a mass."