صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]


F we consider the projects of the
famous cabal, it will appear hard to

Schemes of
determine, whether the end which the cabal.
those ministers pursued were more
blameable and pernicious, or the
means by which they were to effect

it, more impolitic and imprudent. Though they might talk only of recovering or fixing the king's authority, their intention could be no other than that of making him absolute; since it was not possible to regain or maintain, in opposition to the people, any of those powers of the crown abolished by late law or custom, without subduing the people, and rendering the royal prerogative entirely uncontrollable. Against such a scheme they might foresee that every part of the nation would declare themselves; not only the old parliamentary faction, which, though they kept not in a body, were still numerous, but even the greatest royalists, who were indeed attached to monarchy, but desired to see it limited and restrained by law. It had appeared, that the present parliament, though elected during the greatest prevalence of the royal party, was yet tenacious of popular




1674. privileges, and retained a considerable jealousy of the

crown, even before they had received any just ground of suspicion. The guards, therefore, together with small army, new levied, and undisciplined, and composed too of Englishmen, were almost the only domestic resources which the king could depend on in the prosecution of these dangerous counsels.

The assistance of the French king was no doubt deemed by the cabal a considerable support in the schemes which they were forming ; but it is not easily conceived that they could imagine themselves capable of directing and employing an associate of so domineering a character. They ought justly to have suspected, that it would be the sole intention of Lewis, as it evidently was his interest, to raise incurable jealousies between the king and his people; and that he saw how much a steady uniform government in this island, whether free or absolute, would form invincible barriers to his ambition. Should his assistance be demanded; if he sent a small supply, it would serve only to enrage the people, and render the breach altogether irreparable; if he furnished a great force, sufficient to subdue the nation, there was little reason to trust his generosity with regard to the use which he would make of this advantage.

In all its other parts the plan of the cabal, it must be confessed, appears equally absurd and incongruous. If the war with Holland were attended with great success, and involved the subjection of the republic, such an accession of force must fall to Lewis, not to Charles : and what hopes afterwards of resisting by the greatest unanimity so mighty a monarch? How dangerous, or rather how ruinous, to depend upon his assistance against domestic discontents? If the Dutch, by their own vigour, and the assistance of allies, were able to defend themselves, and could bring the war to an equality; the French arms would be so employed abroad, that no considerable reinforcement could thence be expected to second the king's enterprises in England. And might not the project of overawing or subduing the people, be esteemed of


itself sufficiently odious, without the aggravation of sacrificing that state which they regarded as their best ally, and with which, on many accounts, they were desirous of maintaining the greatest concord and strictest confederacy?

Whatever views likewise might be entertained of promoting by these measures the catholic religion, they could only tend to render all the other schemes abortive, and make them fall with inevitable ruin upon the projectors. The catholic religion, indeed, where it is established, is better fitted than the protestant for supporting an absolute monarchy; but would any man have thought of it as the means of acquiring arbitrary authority in England, where it was more detested than even slavery itself?

It must be allowed that the difficulties, and even inconsistencies, attending the schemes of the cabal, are so numerous and obvious, that one feels at first an inclination to deny the reality of those schemes, and to suppose them entirely the chimeras of calumny and faction. But the utter impossibility of accounting, by any other hypothesis, for those strange measures embraced by the court, as well as for the numerous circumstances which accompanied them, obliges us to acknowledge, (though there remains no direct evidence of it",) that a formal plan was

a Since the publication of this history, the author has had occasion to see the most direct and positive evidence of this conspiracy. From the urbanity and candour of the principal of the Scotch college at Paris, he was admitted to peruse James the second's Memoirs, kept there. They amount to several volumes of small folio, all writ with that prince's own hand, and comprehending the remarkable incidents of his life, from his early youth till near the time of his death. His account of the French alliance is as follows: The intention of the king and duke was chiefly to change the religion of England, which they deemed an easy undertaking, because of the great propensity, as they imagined, of the cavaliers and church party to popery: the treaty with Lewis was concluded at Versailles in the end of 1669, or beginning of 1670, by lord Arundel of Wardour, whom no historian mentions as having bad any hand in these transactions. The purport of it was, that Lewis was to give Charles two hundred thousand pounds a year in quarterly payments, in order to enable him to settle the catholic religion in England; and he was also to supply him with an army of six thousand men, in case of any insurrection. When that work was finished, England was to join with France in making war upon Holland. In case of success, Lewis was to have the inland provinces; the prince of Orange, Holland in sovereignty; and Charles, Sluice, the Brille, Walkeren, with the rest of the seaports as far as Mazeland Sluice. The king's project was first to effect the change of religion in England; but the duchess of Orleans, in the interview at Dover, persuaded him to begin with the Dutch war, contrary to the remonstrances of the duke of York, who insisted that Lewis, after serving his own

1674. laid for changing the religion, and subverting the consti

tution of England; and that the king and the ministry were in reality conspirators against the people. What is most probable in human affairs, is not always true; and a very minute circumstance overlooked in our speculations, serves often to explain events which may seem the most surprising and unaccountable. Though the king possessed penetration and a sound judgment, his capacity was chiefly fitted for smaller matters ", and the ordinary occurrences of life; nor had he application enough to carry his view to distant consequences, or to digest and adjust any plan of political operations. As he scarcely ever thought twice on any one subject, every appearance of advantage was apt to seduce him; and when he found his way obstructed by unlooked-for difficulties, he readily turned aside into the first path, where he expected more to gratify the natural indolence of his disposition. To this versatility or pliancy of genius, he himself was in

purposes, would no longer trouble himself about England. The duke makes nu mention of any design to render the king absolute ; but that was no doubt implied in the other project, which was to be effected entirely by royal authority. The king was so zealous a papist, that he wept for joy when he saw the prospect of reuniting his kingdom to the catholic church.

Sir John Dalrymple has since published some other curious particulars with regard to this treaty. We find that it was concerted and signed with the privity alone of four popish counsellors of the king's, Arlington, Arundel, Clifford, and sir Richard Bealing. The secret was kept from Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale. In order to engage them to take part in it, a very refined and a very mean artifice was fallen upon by the king. After the secret conclusion and signature of the treaty, the king pretended to these three ministers that he wished to have a treaty and alliance with France for mutual support, and for a Dutch war; and when various pretended obstacles and difficulties were surmounted, a sham treaty was concluded with their consent and approbation, containing every article of the former real treaty, except that of the king's change of religion. However, there was virtually involved even in this treaty, the assuming of absolute government in England; for the support of French troops, and a war with Holland, so contrary to the interests and inclinations of his people, could mean nothing else. One cannot sufficiently admire the absolute want of common sense which appears throughout the whole of this criminal transaction. For if popery was so much the object of national horror, that even the king's three ministers, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale, and such profligate ones too, either would not or durst not receive it; what hopes could he entertain of forcing the nation into that communion ? Considering the state of the kingdom, full of veteran and zealous soldiers, bred during the civil wars, it is probable that he had not kept the crown two months after a declaration so wild and extravagant. This was probably the reason why the king of France and the French ministers always dissuaded him from taking off the mask, till the successes of the Dutch war should render that measure prudent and practicable.

b Duke of Buckingham's character of king Charles the second.


clined to trust; and he thought that, after trying an experiment for enlarging his authority, and altering the national religion, he could easily, if it failed, return into the ordinary channel of government. But the suspicions of the people, though they burst not forth at once, were by this attempt rendered altogether incurable; and the more they reflected on the circumstances attending it, the more resentment and jealousy were they apt to entertain. They observed, that the king never had any favourite; that he was never governed by his ministers, scarcely even by his mistresses; and that he himself was the chief spring of all public counsels. Whatever appearance, therefore, of a change might be assumed, they still suspected that the same project was secretly in agitation; and they deemed no precaution too great to secure them against the pernicious consequences of such measures.

The king, sensible of this jealousy, was inclined thenceforth not to trust his people, of whom he had even before entertained a great diffidence; and though obliged to make a separate peace, he still kept up connexions with the French monarch. He apologized for deserting his ally, by representing to him all the real undissembled difficulties under which he laboured; and Lewis, with the greatest complaisance and good humour, admitted the validity of his excuses. The duke likewise, conscious that his principles and conduct had rendered him still more obnoxious to the people, maintained on his own account a separate correspondence with the French court, and entered into particular connexions with Lewis, which these princes dignified with the name of friendship. The duke had only in view to secure his succession, and favour the catholics; and it must be acknowledged to his praise, that though his schemes were in some particulars dangerous to the people, they gave the king no just ground of jealousy. A dutiful subject, and an affectionate brother, he knew no other rule of conduct than obedience; and the same unlimited submission which afterwards, when king, he exacted of his people, he was ever willing, before he ascended the throne, to pay to his sovereign.

« السابقةمتابعة »