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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 24 — Protestantism in Scotland

Chapter 29 — A great crisis in England and Christendom

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Ireland — Duke of Ormond Dismissed from the Lieutenancy — The Army Remodeled — Tyrconnel made Lord Lieutenant — Appoints Popish Judges — Lord Chancellor of Ireland — The Charters of the Corporations Abolished — Civil Rights of the Protestants Confiscated — Their Religious Rights Invaded — Protestant Tithes and Churches Seized — Parliament Dissolved — English Judges give James II a Dispensing Power — A Popish Hierarchy — Clergymen Forbidden to Preach against Popery — Tillotson, Stillingfleet, etc. — Ecclesiastical Commission — Bishop of London and Dr. Sharp Suspended — The Army at Hounslow Heath — A New Indulgence — Seven Bishops sent to the Tower — Birth of the Prince of Wales — Acquittal of the Bishops — Rejoicings — Crisis

Meanwhile the Jesuits' projects were pushed forward with great vigor. A universal toleration was published in Scotland. James had recourse to the not uncommon device of employing toleration to establish intolerance, and the object at which he aimed was perfectly understood in Scotland. But it was in Ireland where the king's design of enslaving his kingdoms, and bowing the necks of his people to the Romish yoke, was most undisguisedly shown, and most audaciously pursued. Within less than two months after he had ascended the throne, the Duke of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a man of sterling uprightness, and of inviolable zeal for the Protestant religion and the English interests, was commanded to deliver up the sword of state. The Privy Council was next changed; nearly all the Protestant members were expelled, and their seats given to Papists.

The army was remodeled by Colonel Talbot. It consisted of 7,000 Protestants who had rendered good service to the crown, but their Protestantism was a huge disqualification in the eyes of the monarch, and accordingly all of them, officers and men, were summarily dismissed to make room for Papists. Talbot robbed them before turning them adrift, by denying to the officers compensation for their commission, and by defrauding the private soldiers of their arrears of pay. Talbot was one of the most infamous of men. Abhorred and detested above all men in the three kingdoms by the English in Ireland, this did not prevent his rising to the highest posts in the State. After revolutionizing the army, he went across to London, where, through the influence of the queen, and Father Petre, now become the intimate and trusted adviser of the king, he was first created Earl of Tyrconnel, and next appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. [1] The news that the government of Ireland had been put into the hands of Tyrconnel fell like a thunderbolt on the poor Protestants of that country. "Perhaps no age," says Bishop King, "can parallel so dreadful a catastrophe among all ages and sexes, as if the clay of doom was come, every one lamenting their condition, and almost all that could abandoning the kingdom." [2] Animated by a furious zeal, Tyrconnel hastened to the coast, eager to cross the channel, and enter on his work of overthrow in Ireland. But the winds were contrary. The Protestants accounted them merciful winds, for while Tyrconnel was chafing and fuming at the delay, the Earl of Clarendon, who meanwhile held the Lord Lieutenancy, was arranging affairs, and providing, so far as he could, for the safety of the Protestants in prospect of the tempest which all saw was sure to burst as soon as Tyrconnel had set foot in Ireland. [3]

Arrived at last, Clarendon put the sword of state into the hand of Tyrconnel, who lost not a moment in beginning the work for which he had been so eager to grasp that symbol of power. The first change effected was in the important department of justice. The Protestant judges were mostly dismissed, and the weakest and most profligate men in the profession were promoted to the bench. We can give but one specimen of these portentous changes. Sir Alexander Fitton was made Lord High Chancellor of Ireland. He was "a man notorious on record, as convicted of forgery both in Westminster Hall and at Chester, and fined for it by the Lords in Parliament." He was taken out of the King's Bench Prison to be keeper of the King's conscience. "He had no other merit to recommend him but being a convert to the Popish religion; and to him were added as masters in Chancery, one Stafford, a Romish priest, and O'Neal, the son of one of the most busy and notorious murderers in the massacre of 1641." [4] Ignorant of law, Fitton gave judgment according to his inclinations, affirming that the Court of Chancery was above all laws; and after hearing a cause between a Protestant and a Papist, he would often declare that before giving judgment he would consult a divine -- that is, his confessor, educated in Spain, and furnished with distinctions — to satisfy his conscience. "In the year 1687 there was not a Protestant sheriff in the whole kingdom, except one, and he put in by mistake for another of the same name that was a Papist. Some few Protestants were continued in the commission of the peace, but they were rendered useless and insignificant, being overpowered in everything by the great number of Roman Catholics joined in commission with them; and those for the most part the very scum of the people, and a great many whose fathers had been executed for theft, robbery, and murder." [5]

The next step of the Government for crushing the Protestantism of Ireland was to wrest from the Protestants their Parliamentary vote. Their right to choose their own representatives in Parliament was one of the main defenses of the people's liberties in both England and Ireland. The great massacre in 1641 had read a lesson which the Protestants of Ireland did not neglect, on the necessity of fortifying that important privilege. With this view they had founded corporations to which Protestants only were admissible; and

they had built at their own charges many corporate towns from the charters of which Romanists were excluded. This barrier was thrown down by the dissolution of all the corporations in the kingdom. This sweeping change was effected by the threats or promises of Tyrconnel, by the insinuations of his secretary Ellis, and, when these failed, by Quo-warrantos brought into the Exchequer Court. New charters were granted, filled up chiefly with Romanists, or men of desperate or of no fortune; and a clause was inserted in every one of them placing them under the absolute control of the king, so that the Lord Lieutenant could put in or exclude from these corporations whomsoever he would. Thus the barrier of free Parliamentary representation in Ireland was leveled with the dust. [6]

All being now ready — a Popish Lord Lieutenant, a Popish bench of judges, Popish corporations, and a Popish army being set up — the civil rights of Protestants were largely confiscated. Odious and treasonable charges were laid at their door; these were supported by false oaths; fines, imprisonments, and confiscation of estates followed. The Protestant was actually placed beyond law. If a Popish tenant owed his Protestant landlord his rent, he paid him by swearing him into a plot. If a Papist owed his Protestant neighbor any money, he discharged his debt in the same coin. The Protestants were disarmed and left defenseless against the frequent outrages and robberies to which they were subjected. The abstraction of a cow or a sheep from his Protestant neighbor would sometimes be enjoined on the penitent in the confessional in order to absolution. A counterfeit deed would transfer a Protestant estate to a Roman Catholic owner. But at last these petty robberies were deemed too tedious, and a wholesale act of plunder was resolved on. A register was compiled of all the names of Protestants of whatever rank and age who could be discovered, and an Act of Attainder was passed-in the Irish Parliament against all of them as guilty of high treason, and their estates were vested in the king. [7]

Their religious rights were not less grievously invaded. James II professed to be a patron of liberty of conscience, as if the same religion which compelled the King of Spain to set up the Inquisition should require the King of England to practice toleration. There came some curious illustrations of James's understanding of that liberty which he vaunted so much; it seemed to mean an unrestricted right of appropriation on the part of the Romanist, and an equally unrestricted obligation of surrender on the part of the Protestant of whatever the latter possessed and the former coveted. In accordance with this new species of toleration, the priests began to declare openly that the tithes belonged to them, and forbade their people under pain of anathema to pay them to the Protestant incumbents.

An Act of Parliament was next passed, by which not only all tithes payable by Romanists were given to their own priests, but a method was devised of drawing all the tithes, Protestant and Popish, to the Romish clergy. The Protestant clergyman was forbidden by the Act to receive any ecclesiastical dues from Roman Catholics, and as soon as his place became vacant by admission or death, a Popish incumbent was appointed to it, who, as a matter of course, received all the tithes. The University of Dublin, the one great nursery of learning in the kingdom, was closed.

Protestant schools throughout Ireland were shut up, or converted into Popish seminaries. The Protestant churches in many parts of the country were converted into mass-houses. Their seizure was effected with a mixture of violence and devotion. The mayor, accompanied by the priests, would proceed to the edifice, send to the sexton for the keys, and if these were refused, break open the door; the building entered, the pews would be torn up, the floor cleared, mass would be said, and then the church would be declared consecrated, and not to be given back to the Protestants under pain of sacrilege.

Death was not as yet decreed against the Protestants, but they were called to endure every violence and wrong short of it; and in not a few instances this last penalty was actually meted out to them, though not ostensibly for their Protestantism. Many were murdered in their houses, some were killed by the soldiers, some perished by martial law, and others were starved to death in prisons. Things were in train for a general slaughter, and there is some ground to fear that the horrible carnage of 1641 would have been re-enacted had James II returned victorious from the Boyne.

We return to England. Parliament, as has already been said, James prorogued on the 20th of November, 1685, and after repeated promotions, he at last dissolved it on the 2nd of July, 1687. Finding his Parliament intractable, notwithstanding the many methods he had taken to pack it, the king resolved to try another tack. He began to tamper with the judges, in order to procure from them all opinion that the prerogative was above the law. The first with whom he was closeted, Sir Thomas Jones, told the king that twelve judges might be found who were of his mind, but certainly twelve lawyers would not be found who were of that opinion. [8] Jones and all the judges who refused to bend were removed, and others put in their room, who were more at the devotion of the king. The bench, thus remodeled, was willing to fall in with the measures of the court, and to advance the royal prerogative to that extravagant pitch to which some fawning courtiers, and a few equally obsequious prelates and preachers, had exalted it in their fulsome harangues: that "monarchy and hereditary succession were by Divine right;" that "the legislature was vested in the person of the prince;" and that "power in the king to dispense with the

law was law." Accordingly the bench, in a case that was tried on purpose, [9] gave it as judgment, first, "that the Kings of England are sovereign princes;" secondly, "that the laws of England are the king's laws " thirdly, "that therefore it is an incident, inseparable prerogative of the Kings of England, as of all other sovereign princes, to dispense with all penal laws in particular cases, and upon particular necessary reasons " fourthly, "that of those reasons and necessities the king is the sole judge;" and fifthly, "that this is not a trust invested in or granted to the king, but the ancient remains of the sovereign power of the Kings of England, which never was yet taken from them, nor can be." [10] This sapped the liberties of England at their very root: it was an overthrow of the powers of the Constitution as complete as it was sudden: the prerogatives of the three branches of the State the nation, the Parliament, the throne — were all lodged in the king, and swallowed up in the royal prerogative. This destruction of all law was solemnly pronounced to be law; and the very men whose office it was to preserve the law incorrupt, and its administration pure, were the men who, to their eternal reproach, laid the liberties of England at the feet of the monarch.

This mighty attribute James did not permit to he idle. It was not to be worn as a State jewel, but wielded as a sword for the destruction of what yet remained of the liberties of England. The king proceeded to exercise the dispensing power without reserve. Promotions, favors, and smiles were showered all round on the members of the Church of Rome. The Popish community, like the fleece of Gideon, was wet with the dew of the royal beneficence, while the rest of the nation was dry. Popish seminaries and Jesuit schools were erected not only in London, but in all the more considerable towns, and Romish ecclesiastics of every rank and name, and in every variety of costume, multitudinous and cloudy like the swarms of Egypt, began to cover the land. The Roman Church was regularly organized. Four Popish bishops were publicly consecrated, and, under the title of Vicars Apostolic, sent down to the provinces to exercise their functions in the dioceses to which they had been appointed. Their pastoral letters, printed by the king's printer, were openly dispersed over the kingdom. The regular clergy appeared in their habits at Whitehall and St. James's, and openly boasted that "they hoped in a little time to walk in procession through Cheap-side." A mighty harvest of converts was looked for, and that it might not be lost from want of laborers to reap it, regulars and seculars from beyond the sea flocked to England to aid in gathering it in. The Protestant Church of England was rapidly losing her right to the title of "national;" she was gradually disappearing from the land under the operation of the law referred to above, by which her preferments and dignities were being swallowed up by Popish candidates. Preferment there was none, unless one was of the religion of the king and of Edward Petre, Clerk of the Closet, and Father Confessor to his Majesty.

The dispensing power, while daily enlarging the sphere of the Romish Church, was daily contracting that of the Protestant one. A royal order, directed to the bishops, enjoined them "to discharge all the inferior clergy from preaching upon controverted points in divinity." While the Protestant pulpit was lettered, an unbounded license was given to the Popish one. The priests attacked the Protestant faith with all the rigor of which they were capable, and their sermons, printed by authority, were dispersed over the kingdom. This order was modeled on a worthy precedent. One of the first acts of Queen Mary, for the restoration of Popery, was a proclamation forbidding all preaching upon controverted points, for fear, it was said, or awakening animosities among her subjects. The same tender regard for the peace of his kingdom moved James II to issue his edict.

The king's order had just the opposite effect of that which he intended. It called forth in defense of Protestantism a host of mighty intellects and brilliant writers, who sifted fear, it was said, of awakening animosities among her subjects. The same tender regard the claims of Rome to the foundation, exposed the falsehood of her pretensions, and the tyrannical and immoral tendency of her doctrines, in such a way that Popery came to be better understood by the people of England than it had ever been before. The leaders in this controversial war were Tillotson, Stillingfleet, Tennison, and Patrick. "They examined all the points of Popery," says Burner, "with a solidity of judgment, a clearness of arguing, a depth of learning, and a vivacity of writing far beyond anything that had before that time appeared in our language." [11] Against these powerful and accomplished writers was pitted, perhaps the shallowest race of Popish controversialists that ever put on harness to do battle for their Church. They could do little besides translating a few meager French works into bad English. On their own soil these works had done some service to Rome, backed as they were by Louis XIV and his dragoons; but in England, where they enjoyed no such aids, and where they were exposed to the combined and well-directed assaults of a powerful Protestant phalanx, they were instantly crushed. Hardly a week passed without a Protestant sermon or tract issuing from the press. Written with a searching and incisive logic, a scathing wit, and an overwhelming power of argument, they consumed and burned up the Romanist defenses as fire does stubble. The exposure was complete, the rout total; and the discomfited Romanists could only exclaim, in impotent rage, that it was exceeding bad manners to treat the king's religion with such contempt. Tillotson and his

companions, however, did not aim at playing the courtier; they were in deadly earnest; they saw the Protestantism of England and of Christendom in danger of perishing; they beheld scaffolds and stakes coming fast upon them; they felt assured that the horrors of Mary's reign were about to renew themselves under James; and they resolved to wield voice and pen with all the energy they possessed, before they should be stifled in dungeons and strangled at stakes. The moral courage and dialectic power of these men largely contributed to the saving of England, for, while on the one hand they diffused among the people a clear and full intelligence on the point at issue, on the other they threw the court on measures so desperate by way of defending itself, that they proved in the end its own undoing.

To silence these Protestant champions, a new Court of Inquisition was established, styled a "Commission for Ecclesiastical Affairs." The members nominated were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Chancellor Jeffreys, the Earls of Rochester and Sunderland, the Bishops of Rochester and Durham, and Lord Chief Justice Herbert. All the persons named refused from the first to act upon it, save Jeffreys and the Bishop of Durham, in whose hands was thus left the business of the newly-created court. The members of the commission were empowered to "exercise all manner of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the fullest manner " in other words, to put the Church of England quietly into its grave.

A beginning was made with Dr. Sharp. He was a learned divine, and an eloquent preacher, and had distinguished himself by his able defenses of Protestantism and his vigorous attacks on Romanism in the spirit. This was interpreted into "an attempt to beget an ill opinion in the minds of his hearers of the king and his Government, and to lead the people into schism and rebellion," and consequently a contempt of "the order about preachers." The king sent an order to the Bishop of London to suspend Dr. Sharp. The bishop excused himself on the ground that the order was contrary to law, whereupon both the Bishop of London and Dr. Sharp were suspended by the Court oŁ Ecclesiastical Commission. [12]

This incident convinced the Jesuits that the dispensing power was not safe so long as it rested solely upon the opinion of the judges, The prerogative might be, and indeed was, disputed by the divines of the Church of England. The army would be a much firmer basis for so great a fabric. Accordingly, the Jesuits represented to the king what great things Louis of France was at that hour accomplishing by his dragoons, in the way of converting men to the Romish faith; and James, zealous of rivaling his orthodox brother, and fore-seeing how efficient dragonnades would be for upholding the dispensing power, assembled his army to the number of about 15,000 at Hounslow Heath. Erecting a chapel, he had mass said daily at headquarters, although the great majority of the soldiers were Protestants. The nation saw a cloud gathering above it which might burst upon it any hour in ruin. Its forebodings and alarms found expression in a tract which a learned divine, Mr. Samuel Johnson, addressed to the army.

"Will you be aiding and assisting," asked he, "to set up mass-houses, to erect that kingdom of darkness and desolation amongst us, and to train up all our children to Popery? What service can you do your country by being under the command of French and Irish Papists, and by bringing the nation under a foreign yoke? Will you exchange your birth-right of English laws and liberties for martial and club law, and help to destroy all others, only at last to be eaten up yourselves?" [13] For this patriotic advice, Mr. Johnson was degraded from his office, whipped from Newgate to Tyburn, and made to stand three times in the pillory. He had sown seeds, however, in the army, which bore fruit afterwards.

It was while the king was pursuing this course — trampling down the laws, subjecting some of the most eminent of his subjects to barbarous indignities, and preparing the army to deal the final coup to the Protestant religion and the liberties of England that he published (April 4th, 1687) his "Gracious Declaration for Liberty of Conscience." In this edict his Majesty declared it to be his opinion that "conscience ought not to be constrained," and accordingly he suspended all oaths and tests for office, and all penal laws for nonconformity to the established religion, and in general removed all disabilities from every one, in order that all fit to serve him might be eligible to public employment. All this James granted solely in virtue of his royal prerogative.

To the Nonconformists this Indulgence was the opening of the prison doors. They had been grievously harassed, and having a natural right to their liberty, it does not surprise us that they were willing to part with their fetters. They could now walk the streets without the fear of having their steps dogged by an ecclesiastical bailiff, and could worship in their own houses or in their churches without the terror of incurring the ignominy of the pillory. The change to them was immense; it was freedom after slavery, and their joy being in proportion, the arms in which they thanked James were warm indeed, and in some cases extravagant; though it might be confessed that had this Indulgence been honestly meant, it would have been worthy of all the praises now lavished upon its author. But the gift was not honestly intended. James's Toleration was a sweetened cup holding a deadly poison. The great majority of the Nonconformists perfectly understood the motive and object of the king in granting this Indulgence, and appreciated it at its true worth. It rested solely on the royal prerogative. It did not establish liberty of conscience; it but converted that great principle into a pedestal of

arbitrary power. James had given the English nation a year's liberty, or a month it might be, or a day, to be succeeded by an eternity of servitude.

Having set up the dispensing power, James proceeded to use it for the overturn of all institutions and principles, not excepting that liberty for the sake of which, as he said, he had assumed it. The bolt fell first on the two universals. The king sent his mandate to Cambridge, ordering the admission of one Allan Francis, a Benedictine monk, to the degree of Master of Arts, without taking the usual oaths. The senate replied that they could not do so without breaking their own oaths, and besought the king not to compel them to commit willful perjury. The king insisted that the monk should be admitted, and, the senate still refusing, the vice-chancellor was deprived of his office. The storm next burst over Oxford. The presidency of Magdalen College being vacant, the Romanists coveted exceedingly this noblest and richest of the foundations of learning in Christendom. The king ordered the election of Anthony Farmer, a man of bad reputation, but who had promised to become a Papist. The authorities of Oxford must either violate their oaths or disobey the king. They resolved not to perjure themselves; they refused to admit the king's nominee. James stormed, and threatened to make them feel the weight of his displeasure, which in no long time they did. The president and twenty-five fellows were extruded from the university, and declared incapable of receiving or being admitted into any ecclesiastical dignity, benefice, or promotion The nation looked on with just indignation. "It was accounted," says Burnet, "an open piece of robbery and burglary when men, authorized by no legal commission, came and forcibly turned men out of their profession and freehold." [14] The more tyrannical his measures, the louder James protested that he would uphold the Church of England as by law established, and hence the submission of the nation to these attacks upon its rights. But the next step on which the king ventured threw the people into greater alarm than they had yet felt. This was the imprisoning of seven bishops in the Tower. This bold act grew out of a new Declaration of Liberty of Conscience which the king thought right to issue. This declaration was accompanied with an order enjoining the bishops to distribute it throughout their dioceses, and cause it to be read during Divine service in all the churches of the kingdom. Several of the bishops and vast numbers of the clergy refused to read this paper, not because they were opposed to liberty of conscience, but because they knew that under this phrase was couched a dispensing power, which the king was using for the destruction of the laws and institutions of the kingdom, and to read this paper was to make the Church of England accessory indirectly to her own ruin. Six bishops, [15] with the. archbishop of Canterbury, were summoned before the Ecclesiastical Commission, and, after being hectored by Jeffreys, were sent (June 29, 1688) to the Tower. London was thunderstruck.

To prevent tumult or insurrection, the bishops were conveyed by water to their prison. But the thing could not be hid, and the people in vast numbers crowded to the banks of the Thames, and by loud demonstrations extolled the constancy of the bishops, while some, falling on their knees, invoked their blessing as their barge passed down the river. When they arrived at the Tower, the bishops ascended the stairs between a double row of officers and soldiers, who, receiving them as confessors, kneeled to receive their blessing. [16]

While armed force was being put forth to extirpate the Protestant faith, Jesuitical craft was busily exerted to propagate the Roman creed. The city and the country were filled with catechisms and manuals, in which the grosser errors of Popery were glossed over with a masterly skill, and the two faiths were made to wear so close a resemblance that a vulgar eye could scarce discern the difference between them. A Popish orphanage was erected; noblemen were closeted with the king and solicited to be converted; Father Petre was designed for the See of York. At last, almost all disguise being thrown off, the Papal Nuncio made his entry into London in open day, passing through the streets in great pomp, preceded by a cross-bearer, and followed by a crowd of priests and monks in the habits of their orders.

To these signs was added another yet more remarkable. The Jesuits had foretold that should the king abolish the penal laws, a work so acceptable to Heaven would not fail to be rewarded with a Prince of Wales. It was now that the prophecy was fulfilled. Rumors had been spread through the nation some time before that the queen was pregnant. On Saturday, the 9th of June, 1688, after playing cards at Whitehall till eleven of the clock at night, [17] the queen made herself be carried to St. James's, where a bed had previously been prepared, and the public were not a little surprised to be told that next morning, between the hours of ten and eleven, she had there given birth to a son. This was the one thing wanted to complete the program of the Jesuit James was growing into years; his two daughters were both married to Protestant princes; and however zealous for Rome, without a son to inherit his crown and his religion, the Papists considered that they but reposed under a gourd, which, like that of sacred story, might wither in a night; but now they were secured against such a catastrophe by a birth which they themselves called miraculous. The king had now been provided with a successor, and the arrangement was complete for securing the perpetuity of that Romish establishment in England which every day was bringing nearer.

There was but one little trouble in

store for the Jesuits. On the 30th of June the bishops were acquitted. The presence of the judges could not restrain the joy of the people, and the roof of Westminster Hall resounded with the shouts that hailed the sentence of the court. The echoes were caught up by the crowd outside, and repeated in louder demonstrations of joy. The great news was speedily communicated to the cities of Westminster and London: "Not guilty!" "Not guilty!" passed from man to man, and from street to street; the enthusiasm of the citizens was awakened as the words flew onwards, and so loudly did the two cities rejoice that their shouts were heard at Hounslow Heath. The soldiers now burst into huzzahs, and the noise of the camp fell on the king's ear as he was being that day entertained in the Earl of Feversham's tent. Wondering what the unusual noise might mean, the king sent the earl to inquire, who, speedily returning, told the king, "nothing but the soldiers shouting upon the acquittal of the bishops." "And do you call that nothing?" replied the king, evidently discomposed. There was cause for agitation. That storm, the first mutterings of which had been heard at the Market Cross at Sanquhar, was rolling darkly up on all sides.

But the king took not warning. He was stead-lastly purposed to pursue to the end those projects which appeared to him and his Jesuit advisers to be rapidly approaching the goal. He had set up the dispensing power: with it he was overturning the laws, filling the judicial bench with his own creatures, remodeling the Church and the universities, and daily swelling the Popish and murderous elements in the army by recruits from Ireland; Parliament he had dissolved, and if it should please him to re-assemble it, the same power which had given him a subservient army could give him a subservient Parliament. The requisite machinery was ready for the destruction of the religion and liberties of England. Is the work of two centuries to be swept away? Has the knell of Protestantism rung out? If not, in what quarter is deliverance to arise? and by whose arm will it please the great Ruler to lift up a sinking Christendom, and restore to stability the cause of liberty and truth?

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