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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 24 — Protestantism in Scotland

Chapter 23 — Breach of the "Triple League" and war with Holland

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The same Policy pursued in England and Scotland — Scheme for Introducing Popery and Arbitrary Government — Test Acts — Non-resistance — Power of the Militia Given to the King — Humiliation of the Nation — The Queen-mother — Surrender of Dunkirk — Breach of the "Triple League " — The King's Sister — Interview at Dover — M. Colbert — War with Holland resolved on — How the Quarrel was Picked — Piratical Attack on Dutch Merchantmen by the Navy of England — The Exchequer Seized by the King — An Indulgence Proclaimed — War Commenced — Rapid Triumphs of the French — Duplicity of Louis XIV — William, Prince of Orange, made Stadtholder of Holland — The Great Issue

The great project planned and moved by the Jesuits for reconquering England, and through England subjugating Christendom, and restoring the Church of Rome to her former dominance in every country of Europe, was proceeding on parallel lines, stage by stage, in both England and Scotland at once. On the 24th of August, 1662, two thousand ministers, who formed the strength and glory of English Protestantism, were driven out of the Church of England. In the November following, a similar measure was adopted in Scotland. Four hundred men, the flower of the Scottish clergy, were extruded from their churches, and soon thereafter forbidden all exercise of their office under pain of death. The Protestantism of Great Britain was not indeed entirely smitten down by these great blows, but it lay wounded and bleeding, and had scarce spirit or strength left it for continuing the battle with a yet powerful foe. This was an entire reversal of the policy which had been pursued before the Restoration. The policy of the Solemn League was to unite the two kingdoms of Scotland and England on a thoroughly Protestant basis, that they might be able in concert to establish a constitutional throne, maintain the authority of the laws, and fortify the domain of civil and religious liberty. Now the policy of the Government was to break up the concord which had been formed between the two countries, that on the ruins of their Protestantism they might plant arbitrary power and the Popish religion. What Charles mainly aimed at, we grant, was absolute power; what the yet deeper plotters around him sought to compass was the restoration of the Romish faith; but they found it easy to persuade the monarch that he could not gain his own object except by advancing theirs. Thus each put their shoulder to the great task, and the king's prerogative and the usurpation of the tiara advanced by equal steps, while English liberty and national honor sank as the other rose.

The first more manifest step of this national decline was the famous declaration inserted in the Act of Uniformity, and which every ecclesiastical functionary, from the Primate of all England down to the village schoolmaster, was required to subscribe, and in which he declared it to be "unlawful, on any pretense whatever, to take up arms against the king." This test pledged beforehand all who took it to submit to any act of tyranny, however gross, and to any invasion on their property and person, however monstrous. It left to Englishmen a strange measure of liberty, namely that of passive obedience and non-resistance. Soon thereafter, there followed another declaration which all civil and military functionaries were enjoined to make, and which ran thus: "I do swear I will not endeavor any alteration in the government of this kingdom in Church or State, as it is by law established." The nation was thus pledged neither to amend anything that might be wrong, however glaringly so, in the existing state of matters, nor to offer resistance to any aggression, however unjust and oppressive, that might be attempted in future. While it disarmed itself, and stood literally manacled before the throne of Charles, the nation armed him with full means for tyrannizing over itself, by handing over to him the sole power of the militia, which then occupied the place of the army. Thus was arbitrary government set up. To resist the king, said the men of law, is treason; to dissent from his religion, said the divines, is anathema. What was this but an apotheosis of the prerogative? And the only maxim to which Charles now found it needful to have respect in ruling, was to make the yoke press not too heavily at first, lest the nation should break the fetters with which it had bound itself, and resume the powers it had surrendered.

There now opens a chapter in English history which is sad indeed, being a continuous succession of humiliations, disasters, and dishonors. Soon after Charles II ascended the throne, the queen-mother, who had been residing in Paris since the execution of her husband, Charles I, came across to pay her son a visit. The ostensible object of her journey was to congratulate her son, but her true errand was to ripen into an alliance a friendship already formed between Charles II and Louis XIV, termed the Grand Monarch, and truly worthy of the name, if a hideous and colossal combination of dissoluteness, devotion, and tyranny can make any one great. It would mightily expedite the great scheme then in hand that rite King of England should be in thorough accord with the King of France, whose arms were carrying the fame of Louis and the faith of Rome over so many countries of the Continent of Europe.

The first fruits of this interview were the surrender of Dunkirk to the French. This fortress had been deemed of so great importance, that Parliament a little before had it in contemplation to prepare an Act annexing it for ever to the crown of these realms; it was now sold to the French king for 400,000 pounds — a sum not more than sufficient to cover the value of the guns and

other military stores contained in it. The loss of this important place deeply grieved the nation, but what affected the English people most was the deplorable sign which its sale gave of a weak and mercenary court.

The next public proof that the Court of England was being drawn into the scheme for the destruction of the Protestant faith, was the breach of the "Triple League" on the part of Charles II, and his uniting with France to make war upon Holland. This famous Alliance had been formed between England, Holland, and Sweden; and its object was to stem the torrent of Louis XIV's victorious arms, which were then threatening to overrun all Europe and make the Roman sway again universal. This Triple Alliance, which the great minister Sir William Temple had been at great pains to cement, was at that time rite political bulwark of the Protestant roll, on and the liberties of Europe, and its betrayal was a step to the ruin of more than England. Britain was very artfully detached from her Protestant allies and her own true interests. The Duchess of Orleans, King Charles's sister, was dispatched (1670) on a private interview with her brother at Dover, on purpose to break this design to him. Having brought her negotiation a certain length she returned to Paris, leaving behind her a lady of acknowledged charms, Madam Carewell, afterwards Duchess of Portsmouth, and the king's favorite mistress, to prosecute what she had been unable to conclude. Next, M. Colbert, ambassador from the Court of France, came across with 100,000 pistols to lay out to the best advantage.

With so many and so convincing reasons Colbert had little difficulty in persuading the ministry, known as the Cabal, [1] to espouse the French interests, and persuade the king to fall out with the Dutch. Coventry was sent across to Sweden to induce that Government also to withdraw front the League. He succeeded so far that Sweden first grew lukewarm in the cause, and after having armed itself at the expense of the Alliance, and dissembling for a while, it dropped the visor, and drew the sword on the side of France. [2] Thus Protestant Holland was isolated.

A war with Holland having been resolved upon, the next thing was to pick a quarrel. This task required no little invention, for the Dutch had not only behaved with perfect good faith, but had studied not to give offense to England. A new and hitherto untried device was fallen upon. In August, 1671, the Dutch fleet was cruising in the North Sea, in fulfillment of their treaty engagements: a "sorry" yacht carrying the English flag suddenly sailed into the fleet, and singling out the admiral's ship, twice fired into her. The Dutch commander, having regard to the amity existing between the two nations, paid a visit to the captain of the yacht, and inquired his reason for acting as he had done. The admiral was told that he had insulted England by failing to make his whole fleet strike to his little craft. The Dutch commander civilly excused the omission, and the yacht returned to England, bearing as her freight the quarrel she had been sent to open. [3] This, with a few other equally frivolous incidents, furnished the English Court with a pretext for declaring war against Holland.

The Dutch could not believe that England was in earnest. They were conscious of no offense, and pursued their commerce in our seas without suspicion. A rich fleet of merchantmen, on their voyage from Smyrna, were passing through the Channel, with a feeble convoy, when they were set upon by English men-of-war near the Isle of Wight. The king had thought to seize this rich booty, and therewith defray the expenses of the war which he was meditating. His attempt at playing the pirate upon his own coasts did not succeed: the merchantmen defended themselves with spirit, and the king's prize was so meager that it scarce sufficed to pay the surgeons who attended the wounded, and the carpenters who repaired the battered ships. The next attempt of Charles II to put himself in funds for the war' was to seize on the Exchequer, and confiscate all moneys laid up there to the use of the State. To the terror of the whole nation and the ruin of the creditors, the Crown issued a proclamation declaring itself bankrupt, "made prize of the subject, and broke all faith and contract at home in order to the breaking of them abroad with more advantage." [4]

While the king's fleet was in the act of attacking the Dutch merchantmen in the Channel, his printers were busy on a proclamation of Indulgence. On the 15th of March, 1672, a proclamation was issued repealing all the penal laws against Papists and Nonconformists, and granting to both the free exercise of their worship. A gift in itself good only alarmed the nation, by the time at which it was issued, and the ground on which it was placed. The Indulgence was based on the king's inherent supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs, a prerogative in virtue of which he might re-impose the fetters on Nonconformists when he chose, and the end would be that only Papists would be free, and the nation would lose its religion. So did the people reason.

It was now (17th March, 1672) that the stroke fell upon Holland. Charles II and the powerful Louis XIV united in a simultaneous attack on the little Protestant State, the former by sea and the latter by land. The invasion was the more successful that it had been so little expected. The victorious arms of France poured across the frontier of the United Provinces in an irresistible torrent. The towns and fortresses upon the German side opened their gates to the invaders, and the French made themselves masters of the inland cities "in as little time as travelers usually employ to view them." [5] This

rapid advance of the French armies was aided by an extraordinary drought which that summer rendered their rivers and canals easily fordable, and which may be said to have opened the gates of their country to the enemy. [6]

The English had not the success at sea which the French king had on land, nor did this displease Louis XIV. He had declared by his ambassador at Vienna that he had undertaken this war for the extirpation of heresy, and he had instructed his admiral so to arrange the line of battle in the joint fleets as that the English heretics should have a large share of the promised extirpation. "He only studied," says Marvell, "to sound our seas, to spy our ports, to learn our buildings, to contemplate our way of fighting, to consume ours and to preserve his own navy, and to order all so that the two great naval Powers of Europe being crushed together, he might remain sole arbitrator of the ocean, and by consequence master of all the isles and continents." [7]

In truth Louis XIV wanted but little of accomplishing his whole design. In the short space of three months he had, with his army of 150,000 men, overrun Holland, and reduced the States to the brink of ruin. Many of the richest families, believing all to be lost, had fled from the country. The conqueror was refusing to make peace on any other terms than the establishment of the Romish Church in Holland. The French king, prompted by his Jesuit advisers, scorned to accept of toleration for "the Catholic Apostolic Roman religion," and demanded its public exercise throughout all the United Provinces, and that provision should be made from the public revenue for its maintenance. The English Government seconded the French king's demands, and the fall of Holland as a Protestant State seemed imminent. With dragoons hewing down Protestantism in Scotland, with arbitrary edicts and dissolute maxims wasting it in England, with Holland smitten down and Louis XIV standing over it with his great sword, it must have seemed as if the last hour of the Reformation was come, and the triumph of the Jesuits secured. As Innocent X surveyed Europe from the Vatican, what cause he had for exultation and joy! He was nearing the goal of his hopes in the speedy accession of a Popish monarch to the throne of England.

It was out of the great wreck caused by the triumph of the Spanish arms in the preceding century that William the Silent emerged, to achieve his mighty task of rescuing Protestantism from impending destruction. Sinking States, discomfited armies, and despairing Protestants surrounded him on all sides when he stood up to retrieve the mighty ruin. A second time was the grand marvel to be repeated. The motto of his house, Tandem fit surculus arbor, [8] was once more to be verified. Out of this mighty disaster produced by the French arms, was a deliverer, second only in glory to the Great William, to arise to be the champion of a sinking Protestantism, and the upholder of perishing nations. The House of Orange had for some time past been under a cloud. A generation of Dutchmen had arisen who knew not, or did not care to know, the services which that house had rendered to their country. The ambition of burgomasters had eclipsed the splendor of the glorious line of William, and the strife of factions had brought low the country which his patriotism and wisdom had raised so high. The office of Stadtholder had been abolished, and the young Prince of Orange, the heir not only of the name, but of the virtues and abilities of his great ancestor, forbidden access to all offices of the State, was living as a private person.

But the afflictions that now overtook them chastened the Hollanders, and turned their eyes toward the young prince, if haply it might please Providence to save them by his hand. The States-General appointed him Captain and Admiral-General of the United Provinces. [9] From this hour the spirits of the Dutch began to revive, and the tide in their fortunes to turn. The conflict was nearly as arduous as that which his illustrious progenitor had to wage. He dealt Louis XIV several repulses, obliged him in surrender some of his conquests, and by his prudence and success so won upon his countrymen, that their suffrages placed him in the high position of Hereditary Stadtholder. We now behold a champion presenting himself on the Protestant side worthy of the crisis. He must wage his great fight against tremendous odds. He is opposed by all the Jesuits of Europe, by the victorious arms of France, by the treachery and the fleet of Charles II; but he feels the grandeur as well as the gravity of his noble mission, and he addresses himself to it with patience and courage. The question is now who shall occupy the throne of England? Shall it be the Prince of Orange, under the title of William III, or shall it be a protege of the Jesuits, under the title of James II? In other words, shall the resources of Great Britain be wielded for Protestantism, or shall its power be employed to uphold Popery and make its sway again triumphant and universal? Fleets and armies, prayers and faith, must decide this question. The momentous issues of the conflict were felt on both sides. The Kings of France and England pressed William of Orange to accept of a sovereignty under their suzerainty, in the hope of beguiling him from his destined mission. The prince replied that he would never sell the liberties of his country which his ancestors had so long defended: and if he could not prevent the overthrow with which they threatened it, he had one way left of not beholding its ruin and that was "to he in the last ditch."

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Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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