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History of Protestantism, vol. 3

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    Chapter 30: Protestantism Mounts the Throne of Great Britain

    The Movement Returns to the Land of its Birth—England Looks to William of Orange—State of Parties in Europe—Preparations in England against Invasion—Alarm and Proclamation of James II—Declaration of William of Orange—The Dutch Fleet Sails?A Storm—The Dutch Fleet Driven Back—William’s Appeals to the English Soldiers and Sailors—The Fleet again Sets Sail—Shifting of the Wind—Landing at Torbay—Prince of Orange’s Address—The Nation Declares for him—King James Deserted—His Flight—The Crown Settled on the Prince and Princess of Orange—Protestantism on the Throne

    Picture: View of the Interior of the Chapel Royal, St. James’s

    Picture: William III.

    After the revolution of three centuries, Protestantism, in its march round the countries of Christendom, had returned to the land from which it had set out. On the very spot where Wicliffe had opened the war in 1360, Protestantism was now fighting one of the most momentous of its many great battles, inasmuch as this conflict would determine what fruit was to remain of all its past labours and contendings, and what position it would hold in the world during the coming centuries?whether one of ever-lessening influence, till finally it should vanish, like some previous premature movements, or whether it was to find for itself a basis so solid that it should spread abroad on the right hand and on the left, continually gathering fresh brightness, and constantly creating new instrumentalities of conquest, till at last it should be accepted as the ruler of a world which it had liberated and regenerated.HOPV3 617.4

    The first part of the alternative seemed at this moment the likelier to be realized. With an affiliated disciple of the Jesuits upon the throne, 1See Burnet, vol. 2. p. 395, 396. with its institutions, one after another, attacked, undermined, and overthrown, England was rapidly sinking into the abyss from which Wicliffe’s spirit had rescued it, and along with it would descend into the same abyss the remains of the once glorious Churches of Geneva, of France, and of Scotland. Help there appeared not in man. No voice was heard in England powerful enough to awaken into life and action that spirit which had given so many martyrs to the stake in the days of Mary. This spirit, though asleep, was not dead. There were a few whose suspicions had been awake ever since the accession of James II; and of those who had sunk into lethargy many were now thoroughly aroused by the violent measures of the king. The imprisonment of the bishops, and the birth of the “Prince of Wales,” were two events which the nation interpreted as sure portents of a coming slavery. The people of England turned their eyes in search of a deliverer beyond the sea, and fixed them upon a prince of the illustrious House of Orange, in whom the virtues, the talents, and the self-sacrificing heroism of the great William lived over again, not indeed with greater splendor, for that was impossible, not even with equal splendor, but still in so pre-eminent a glory as to mark him out as the one man in Europe capable of sustaining the burden of a sinking Christendom. Besides the cardinal qualification of his Protestantism, William, by his marriage with the daughter of James II, was the next heir to the throne, after that mysterious child, at whose christening the Pope, through his nuncio, stood god-father, and on whom it pleased the king to bestow the title of “Prince of Wales.”HOPV3 618.1

    Many had ere this opened correspondence with the Stadtholder, entreating him to interpose and prevent the ruin of England; the number of such was now greatly increased, and among others the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed him from the Tower, and the Bishop of London from his retirement in the country. Others crossed the sea, some on pretext of visiting friends, and some, as they said, to benefit by the German spas. A majority of the nobility favored the intervention of William, and found means of letting their wishes be known at the Hague. Dispatches and messengers were constantly crossing and recrossing the ocean, and James and his Jesuits might have known that great designs were on foot, had not their secure hold on England, as they fancied it, blinded them to their danger. The representatives of most of the historic houses in England were more or less openly supporting the movement. Even so early as the death of Charles II, the Elector of Brandenburg is said to have urged William to undertake the tolerance of English Protestantism, offering to assist him; but the prince answered that he would attempt nothing against his father-in-law without an absolute necessity, “but at the same time he protested that, if he could not otherwise prevent the subversion of the laws and religion of England, he would undertake the voyage, though he should embark in a fishing-boat.” 2Bennet, Memorial, p. 337. In a survey of the case, it appeared to William that an absolute necessity had arisen, and he proceeded to make preparations accordingly.HOPV3 619.1

    In weighing the chances of success, William had to take into account the state of parties in Europe, and the forces, both friendly and hostile, that would come into play the moment he should set sail for England. Ranged against him were Austria, Spain, France, and, of course, the monarch to be attacked, James II These powerful kingdoms, if not bound in actual treaty, were all of them leagued together by a common faith and a common interest. Austria had held the balance in Europe for five centuries, and was not prepared to resist it. Spain, fallen from the height on which it stood a century before, was nevertheless ready to devote what strength it still possessed to a cause which it loved as dearly as ever. France, her exchequer full, her armies numerous, and her generals flushed with victory, had never been more formidable than now. Louis XIV might take a diversion in favor of his ally, James II, by attacking Holland as soon as William had withdrawn his troops across the sea. To guard himself on this side, the Prince of Orange sought to detach Austria and Spain from France by representing to them the danger of French ascendancy, and that Louis was not fighting to advance the Roman religion, but to make himself universal monarch. His representations were so far successful that they cooled the zeal of the Courts of Vienna and Madrid for the “Grand Monarch,” and abated somewhat the danger of William’s great enterprise.HOPV3 620.1

    On the other hand, the prince gathered round him what allies he could from the Protestant portion of Europe. It is interesting to find among the confederates around the great Stadtholder the representatives of the men who had been the chief champions of the Protestant movement at its earlier stages.HOPV3 620.2

    The old names once more appear on the stage, and the close of the great drama carries us back as it were to its beginning. At Minden, in Westphalia, William of Orange met the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, and the Princes of the House of Luneburg, who, on a mutual exchange of sentiments, were found to be of one mind, that the balance of Europe as settled at the Peace of Westphalia after the Thirty Years’ War had been grievously disturbed, and that it urgently needed to be redressed by upholding the Protestant Church, restoring the ancient liberties of England, and setting bounds to the growing power of France. 3Bowyer, p. 191. Burnet, vol. 2., p. 456.HOPV3 620.3

    At this moment an event happened which furnished William with a pretext for the warlike preparations he was so busy pushing forward with a view to his English expedition, and also closed the door by which the French might enter Holland in his absence. On the 2nd of June, 1688, the Elector of Cologne died. This principality commanded twenty leagues of the Rhine, and this placed the keys of both the Netherlands and Holland in the hands of its chief. It was therefore a matter of grave importance for the peace and safety of the Dutch States who should fill the vacant electorate. Germany and France brought forward each its candidate. If the French king should succeed in the election, war was inevitable on the Rhine, and for this it behoved William of Orange to be prepared, and so his naval armaments went forward without exciting suspicion. It was the German candidate who was eventually elected, and thus an affair which in its progress had masked the preparations of the Prince of Orange, in its issue extended protection to an undertaking which otherwise would have been attended with far greater difficulty. 4Ibid., p. 191. Burnet, vol. 2., pp.457-462.HOPV3 620.4

    Early in September, however, it began to be strongly suspected that these great preparations in Holland both by sea and land pointed to England. Instantly precautions were taken against a possible invasion. The chief ports, and in particular Portsmouth and Hull, then the two keys of England, were put into Popish hands, and the garrisons so modeled that the majority were Papists. Officers and private soldiers were brought across from Ireland and drafted into the army, but the king lost more than he gained by the offense he thus gave to the Protestant soldiers and their commanders. The rumors from the Hague grew every day more certain, and the fitting out of the fleet went on at redoubled speed. Orders were dispatched to Tyrconnel to send over whole regiments from Ireland; and meanwhile to allay the jealousies of the people another proclamation was published (September 21st), to the effect that his Majesty would call a Parliament, that he would establish a universal liberty of conscience, that he would inviolably uphold the Church of England, that he would exclude Romanists from the Lower House, and that he would repeal all the tests and penalties against. Nonconformity. It had happened so often that while the king’s words breathed only liberty his acts contained nothing but oppression, that this proclamation had little or no effect.HOPV3 620.5

    The king next received, through his envoy at the Hague, certain news of the prince’s design to descend on England. At the same time James learned that numerous lords and gentlemen had crossed the sea, and would return under the banners of the invader. “Upon the reading of this letter,” says Bowyer, “the king remained speechless, and as it were thunder-struck. The airy castle of a dispensing arbitrary power, raised by the magic spells of Jesuitical counsels, vanished in a moment, and the deluded monarch, freed from his enchantment by the approach of the Prince of Orange, found himself on the blink of a precipice, whilst all his intoxicating flatters stood amazed and confounded at a distance, without daring to offer him a supporting hand, lest his greater weight should hurry both him and them into the abyss.” 5Bowyer, p. 204.HOPV3 621.1

    The first device of the court was an attempt to prepossess the nation against their deliverer. A proclamation was issued setting forth that “a great and sudden invasion from Holland, with an armed force of foreigners, would speedily be made,” and that under “some false pretenses relating to liberty, property, and religion, the invasion proposed an absolute conquest of these his Majesty’s kingdoms, and the utter subduing and subjecting them, and all his people, to a foreign Power.” Besides this proclamation other measures were taken to rally the people round the sinking dynasty. The bishops were courted; the Anabaptist Lord Mayor of London was replaced by a member of the Church of England; the Duke of Ormond, who had been dismissed from the Lord-Lieutenancy of Ireland, had the garter bestowed upon him; and a general pardon was issued, from which, however, a score of persons were excepted. These measures availed not their author, for late and forced amnesties are always accepted by the people as signs of a monarch’s weakness and not of his clemency.HOPV3 621.2

    On the 3rd of October, the bishops, at the king’s command, waited on him with their advice. They strongly counseled an entire reversal of his whole policy, and the now docile monarch conceded nearly all their demands. The reforms began to be put in execution, but news arriving in a few days that the Dutch fleet had been driven back by a storm, the king’s concessions were instantly withdrawn. James sank lower than ever in the confidence of the nation. 6Bowyer, pp. 206-210. No stay remained to the king but his fleet and army; the first was sent to sea to watch the Dutch, and the latter was increased to 30,000, by the arrival of regiments from Ireland and Scotland.HOPV3 621.3

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the German Ocean, the Prince of Orange was providing transports and embarking his troops with the utmost diligence. To justify his undertaking to the world, he published, on the 10th of October, a declaration in six-and-twenty articles, comprehending, first, an enumeration of the oppressions under which the English nation groaned; secondly, a statement of the remedies which had been used in vain for the removal of these grievances; and thirdly, a declaration of the reasons that moved him to undertake the deliverance of England. “His expedition,” he said, “was intended for no other design but to have a free and lawful Parliament assembled,” to which all questions might be referred, touching “the establishment of the Protestant religion, and the peace, honour, and happiness of these nations upon lasting foundations.”HOPV3 621.4

    All things being ready, the Prince of Orange took solemn leave of the States. Standing on the threshold of his great enterprise, he again protested that he had no other objects than those set forth in his declaration. Most of the senators were melted into tears, and could only in broken utterances declare their love for their prince, and their wishing for his success. “Only the prince himself,” says Burnet, “continued firm in his usual gravity and phlegm.”HOPV3 621.5

    On the 19th of October, William went on board, and the Dutch fleet, consisting of fifty-two men-of-war, twenty-five frigates, as many fire-ships, with four hundred victuallers, and other vessels for the transportation of 3,660 horse, and 10,692 foot, put to sea from the flats near the Brielle, with a wind at south-west by south. 7Ibid., p. 227. Admiral Herbert led the van, and Vice-Admiral Evertzen brought up the rear. The prince placed himself in the center, carrying an English flag, emblazoned with his arms, surrounded with the legend, “For the Protestant Religion and Liberties of England.” Underneath was the motto of the House of Nassau, Je Maintiendray (I will maintain).HOPV3 621.6

    Gathered beneath the banners of William, now advancing to deliver England and put the crown upon many a previous conflict, was a brilliant assemblage, representative of several nations. Besides the Count of Nassau, and other Dutch and German commanders, there came with the prince those English and Scottish noblemen and gentlemen whom persecution had compelled to flee to Holland. Among these were men of ancient family and historic name, and others distinguished by their learning or their services to the State. The most illustrious of the French exiles joined in this expedition, and contributed by their experience and bravery to its success. With the prince was the renowned Marshal Schomberg and his son, Count Charles Schomberg, and M. la Caillemote, son of the Marquis de Ruvigny. Moreover, 736 officers, mostly veterans, accustomed to conquer under Turenne and Condé, commanded in William’s battalions. Besides these was a chosen body of three regiments of infantry and one squadron of cavalry, composed entirely of French refugees. Each regiment numbered 750 fighting men. 8Weiss, French Protestant Refugees, p. 231. Marshal Schomberg commanded under the orders of the Prince of Orange, and such was the confidence reposed in his character and abilities that the Princess of Orange gave him, it is said, secret instructions to assert her rights and carry out the enterprise, should her husband fall. Two other refugee officers were similarly commissioned, should both the prince and the marshal fall. 9Ibid., p. 232. Thus had his two greatest enemies provided William with an army. Louis of France and James of England had sent the flower of their generals, statesmen, and soldiers to swell this expedition; and Popish tyranny had gathered out of the various countries, and assembled under one avenging banner, a host that burned to fight the great crowning battle of Protestantism.HOPV3 622.1

    The first night the fleet was at sea the wind veered into the north, and settled in the north-west. It soon rose to a violent storm, which continued all next day. The fleet was driven back, some of the ships finding refuge in Helvoetsluys, from which they had sailed, others in the neighboring harbors, but neither ship nor life was lost, save one man who was blown from the shrouds. It was rumored in England that the Dutch armament had gone to the bottom, whereupon the Romanists sang a loud but premature triumph over the fancied disaster, which they regarded as a compensation for the destruction of the Armada exactly a hundred years before. To keep up the delusion, and make the English Court more remiss in their preparations, the Amsterdam and Haarlem gazettes were ordered to make a lamentable relation of the great damage the Dutch fleet and the army had sustained, that nine men-of-war, besides smaller vessels, were lost, Dr. Burner and several English gentlemen drowned, the States out of humor with the expedition, and, in fine, that it was next to impossible for the prince to resume his design till next spring. 10Bowyer, p. 229.HOPV3 622.2

    While waiting for the re-assembling and refitting of his fleet, the Prince of Orange issued a declaration to the army in England, in which he told them, “We are come to preserve your religion, and restore and establish your liberties and properties, and therefore we cannot suffer ourselves to doubt but that all true Englishmen will come and concur with us in our desire to secure these nations from Popery and slavery. You must all plainly see that you are only made use of as instruments to enslave the nation and ruin the Protestant religion, and when that is done, you may judge what you yourselves may expect... We hope that you will not suffer yourselves to be abused by a false notion of honour, but that you will in the first place consider what you owe to Almighty God, and next to your country, yourselves, and your posterity.” Admiral Herbert addressed a similar letter, at the same time, to his Majesty’s navy, exhorting them to join the prince in the common cause. “For,” said he, “should it please God for the sins of the English nation to suffer your arms to prevail, to what can your victory serve you, but to enslave you deeper, and overthrow the true religion in which you have lived and your fathers died?” These appeals had the best effect upon the soldiers and sailors; many of whom resolved not to draw a sword in this quarrel till they had secured a free Parliament, and a guarantee for the laws, the liberties, and the religion of England.HOPV3 622.3

    The storm continued for eight days, during which the fleet was re-fitted and re-victualled. When all was ready the wind changed into the east. With this “Protestant wind,” as the sailors called it, the fleet a second time stood out to sea. It was divided into three squadrons. The English and Scottish division of the armament sailed under a red flag; the Brandenburghers and the guards of William under a white; and the Dutch and French, commanded by the Count of Nassau, under a blue. The tack chosen at first was northerly; but the wind being strong and full from the east, the fleet abandoned that course at noon of the second day and steered westward. 11Burnet, vol. 2., p. 497. Had the northerly course been persisted in, the fleet would have encountered the English navy, which was assembled near Harwich, in the belief that the prince would land in the north of England; but happily the wind, rising to a brisk gale, carried them right across to the mouth of the Channel, and at the same time kept the English fleet wind-bound in their roadstead. At noon on the 3rd of November, the Dutch fleet passed between Dover and Calais. It was a brave sight-the armament ranged in a line seven leagues long, sailing proudly onwards between the shores of England and France, its decks crowded with officers and soldiers, while the coast on either hand was lined with crowds which gathered to gaze on the grand spectacle. Before night fell the fleet had sighted the Isle of Wight. The next day was Sunday: the fleet carried but little sail, and bore slowly along before the wind, which still kept in the east. It was the anniversary of the prince’s birth, and also his marriage, and some of his officers, deeming the day auspicious, advised him to land at Portsmouth; but William, choosing rather to give the fleet leisure for the exercises appropriate to the sacred day, forbore to do so. The Bay of Torquay was under their lee, and here William resolved to attempt a landing. The pilot was bidden be careful not to steer past it, but a haze coming on he had great difficulty in measuring his course. When the mist cleared off, it was found that the fleet was considerably farther down-channel than the intended point of debarkation, and as the wind still blew from the east it was impossible to return to it. To go on to Plymouth, the next alternative, involved considerable hazard, for it was uncertain how the Earl of Bath, who commanded there, might receive them. Besides, Plymouth was not nearly so commodious for landing as the Bay of Torquay, which they had passed in the haze. While the prince was deliberating, the wind shifted; there came a calm of a few moments, and then a breeze set in from the south-west: “a soft and happy gale,” says Burnet, who was on board, “which carried in the whole fleet in four hours’ time into Torbay.” Scarcely had the ships dropped their anchors when the wind returned, and blew again from the east. 12Burnet, vol. 2., p. 499. Bowyer, History of King William III, vol. 1., pp. 235, 236.HOPV3 622.4

    The landing was safely effected; the Peasants of Devonshire flocked in crowds to welcome their deliverer and supply his troops with provisions; the mild air refreshed them after their sea-voyage. The landing of the horses, it was feared, would be a matter of great difficulty; but they were shown a place, says Burner, “so happy for our landing, though we came to it by mere accident, that if we had ordered the whole island round to be sounded we could not have found a properer place for it.” There was, moreover, a dead calm all that morning, and a business which they had reckoned would occupy them for days was got through in as many hours. When the prince and Marshal Schomberg had stepped on shore, William, says Bishop Burner, “took me heartily by the hand, and asked me if I would not now believe predestination.” “He was cheerfuller than ordinary,” he adds, “yet he returned soon to his usual gravity.”HOPV3 623.1

    They had no sooner effected the debarkation of men, horses, and stores, than the wind changed again, and setting in from the west, it blew a violent storm. Sheltered by the western arm of the bay, William’s ships suffered no damage from this tempest; not so the king’s fleet, which till now had been wind-bound at Harwich. They had learned that William’s ships had passed down the Channel, and the commander was eager to pursue them. The calm which enabled William to enter Torbay, had also allowed the king’s navy to leave their roadstead, and setting out in pursuit of the enemy they had come as far as the Isle of Wight when they were met by this storm. They were tossed on the rollers of the Channel for some days, and though at last they managed to enter Portsmouth, it was in so shattered a condition that they were unfit for service that year. “By the immediate hand of Heaven,” says Burner, “we were masters of the sea without a blow. I never found a disposition to superstition in my temper; I was rather inclined to be philosophical upon all occasions. Yet I must confess that this strange ordering of the winds and seasons, just to change as our affairs required it, could not but make deep impressions upon me, as well as on all who observed it.” 13Burnet, vol. 2., pp. 499, 500.HOPV3 623.2

    For the first few days it was doubtful what reception England would give its deliverer. The winds were “Protestant,” every one acknowledged, but would the currents of the political and social firmament prove equally so? The terror of the executions which had followed the rising under Monmouth still weighed on the nation. The forces that William had brought with him appeared inadequate, and on these and other grounds many stood in doubt of the issue. But in a few days the tide of Protestant feeling began to flow; first the people declared in favor of William-next the gentry of the neighboring counties gave in their accession to him; and lastly the nobles gathered under his banners. Of soul too magnanimous and strong to be either easily elated or easily cast down, this tardiness of the people of England to assert their liberties, which William had come across the sea to vindicate, drew from the prince a dignified rebuke. Addressing the gentlemen of Somersetshire and Dorsetshire (November 15), we find him saying, “You see we are come according to your invitation and our promise. Our duty to God obliges us to protect the Protestant religion, and our love to mankind your liberties and properties. We expected you that dwelt so near the place of our landing would have joined us sooner; not that it is now too late, nor that we want your military assistance so much as your countenance and presence, to justify our declared pretensions, in order to accomplish our good and gracious design... Therefore, gentlemen, friends, and fellow Protestants, we bid you and all your followers most heartily welcome to our court and camp. Let the whole world now judge if our pretensions are not just, generous, sincere, and above price, since we might have even a bridge of gold to return back; but it is our principle rather to die in a good cause than live in a bad one.” 14Bowyer, History William III, vol. 1., p. 241, 242. Courage is as contagious as fear. The first accessions to the prince were followed by crowds of all ranks. The bishops, the great cities, the nation at large declared on his side. The king made hardly any show of opposition. The tempests of the ocean had disabled his fleet; a spirit of desertion had crept in among his soldiers, and his army could not be relied on. The priests and Jesuits, who had urged him to violent measures, forsook him now, when he was in extremity, and consulted their own safety in flight. The friends on whom formerly he had showered his favors, and whom he believed incapable of ever deserting him, proved false; even his own children forsook him. No one stood by him at this hour but his queen, and she deemed it prudent to retire to France. The man who but a few days before stood at the head of one of the most powerful kingdoms of Europe, who had fleets and armies at his command, who had around him so numerous and powerful an aristocracy, was in a moment, with hardly a sword unsheathed against him, stripped of all, and now stood alone, his friends scattered, his armies in revolt, his kingdom alienated and his power utterly broken. Overwhelmed by the suddenness and greatness of his calamities, he fled, no man pursuing, throwing, in his flight, the great seal into the Thames; and having reached the sea-coast, the once mighty monarch threw himself into a small boat, crossed the Channel, and sought the protection of the man whose equal he had been till this unhappy hour, but on whose bounty he was henceforth content to subsist.HOPV3 623.3

    The throne being thus vacated, a Convention was held, and the crown was settled on the Prince and Princess of Orange. William ascended the throne as the representative of Protestantism. That throne, destined to become the greatest in the world, we behold won for the Reformation. This was the triumph, not of English Protestantism only, it was the triumph of the Protestantism of all Christendom. It was the resurrection of the cause of the French Huguenots, and through them that of Calvin and the Church of Geneva. It was the revival not less of the cause of the Scots Covenanters, whose torn and blood-stained flag, upheld at the latter end of their struggle by only a few laymen, was soon to be crowned with victory. William the Silent lives once more in his great descendant, and in William III fights over again his great battle, and achieves a success more glorious and dazzling than any that was destined to cheer him in his mortal life. Protestantism planting herself at the center of an empire whose circuit goes round the globe, and whose scepter is stretched over men of all kindreds, languages, and nations on the earth, with letters, science, colonies, and organized churches round her as her ministers and propagators, sees in this glorious outcome and issue the harvest of the toils and blood of the hundreds of thousands of heroes, confessors, and martyrs whom she has reared. One sowed, another reaped, and now in the accession of William III both rejoice together.HOPV3 624.1

    We found Protestantism at the bar of the hierarchy in St. Paul’s in the person of John Wicliffe, we leave it on the throne of England in the person of William III. While the throne of England continues to be Protestant, Great Britain will stand; when it ceases to be Protestant, Britain will fall. The endHOPV3 624.2

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