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The time when the prince entered upon his enterprise was just when the people were in a flame from the recent insult offered to their bishops. He had before this made considerable augmentations to the Dutch fleet, and the ships were then lying ready in the harbour. Some additional troops were also levied, and sums of money raised for other purposes were converted to the advancement of this expedition. The Dutch had always reposed an entire confidence in him; and many of the neighbouring princes regarded him as their guardian and protector. He was sure of their protection of his native government, while he should be employed in England; and the troops of some of the German powers were actually marched down to Holland for that purpose. Every place was in motion; all Europe saw and expected the descent, except the unfortunate James himself, who, secure in the piety of his intentions, thought nothing could hinder his schemes, as they were calculated to promote the cause of heaven.
The king of France was the first who apprised him of his danger, and offered to assist him in repelling it. He was willing to join a squadron of French ships to the English fleet, and to send over any number of troops which James should judge requisite for his security. James, however, could not be convinced that his son-inlaw intended an invasion: fully satisfied himself of the sacredness of his authority, he imagined that a like belief prevailed among his subjects. He therefore rejected the French king's proposal; unwilling perhaps to call in foreign aid, when he had an army sufficient at home. When this offer was rejected, Louis again offered to march down his numerous army to the frontiers of the Dutch provinces, and thus to detain their forces at home to defend themselves. This proposal met with no better reception. Still Louis was unwilling to abandon a
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friend and ally, whose interest he regarded as closely •connected with his own. He ventured to remonstrate with the Dutch against the preparations they were making to invade England. They considered his remonstrance as an officious impertinence, and James himself declined his mediation.
James, having thus rejected the assistance of his friends, and being left to face the danger alone, was astonished with an advice from his minister in Holland, that an invasion was not only projected but avowed. When he first read the letter containing this information, he grew pale, and the letter dropped from his hand. He saw the gulf into which he had fallen, and knew not where to seek for protection. His only resource was in retreating from those various precipitate measures into which he had plunged himself. He paid court to the Dutch, and offered to enter into any alliance with them for their common security. He replaced in all the counties the deputy-lieutenants and justices, who had been deprived of their commissions for their adherence to the test and penal laws. He restored the charters of different corporations; annulled the high-commission court; reinstated the president and fellows of Magdalen college; and was even reduced to caress those bishops whom he had so lately persecuted and insulted.
But all his concessions were now too late. They were regarded as the symptoms of fear, not of repentance; as the cowardice of guilt, not the conviction of error. Indeed, he soon showed the people the uncertainty of his reformation; for, hearing that the Dutch fleet was dispersed, he recalled those concessions which he had made in favour of Magdalen college; and to show his attachment to the Romish church, at the baptism of his new-born son, he named the pope as one of the sponsors. In the mean time the declaration of the prince of Orange was industriously dispersed over the kingdom. In this he enumerated all the grievances of which the nation complained; promised his assistance in redressing them; and assured the people that his only aim was to procure the lasting settlement of their liberty and their religion, in a full and free parliament. This declaration was quickly followed by preparations for a vigorous invasion. So well concerted were William's measures, that in three days above four hundred transports were hired; the army fell down the rivers and canals from Nimeguen, with all necessary stores; and the prince set sail from Helvoetsluys with a fleet of near five hundred vessels, and an army of above fourteen thousand men.
Fortune seemed at first every way unfavourable to his enterprise. He encountered a dreadful storm, which put him back; but he soon refitted his fleet, and once more ventured to England. It was given out that this invasion was intended for the coast of France; and many of the English who saw the fleet pass along their coast, little expected to see it land on their own shores. It happened that the same wind which sent them to their destined port, detained the English fleet in the river; so that the Dutch passed the straits of Dover without molestation. Thus, after a voyage of two days, the prince landed his army at the village of Broxholme in Torbay, on the 5th of November, which was the anniversary of the gunpowder treason.
Although the invitation from the English was very general, the prince for some time had the mortification to find himself joined by very few. He marched first to Exeter; but the inhabitants of the western counties had been so lately terrified with the executions which had ensued on Monmouth's rebellion, that they continued
to observe a strict neutrality. Slight repulses, however, were not able to intimidate a general who had, from his early youth, been taught to encounter adversity. He continued for ten days in expectation of being joined by the malcontents, and at last began to despair of success; but just when he began to deliberate about reimbarking his forces, he was joined by several persons of consequence, and the whole country soon after came flocking to his standard. The first person who joined the prince was major Burrington; and he was quickly followed by the gentry of the counties of Devon and Somerset. Sir Edward Seymour made proposals for an association, which every one signed. By degrees the earl of Abingdon, Mr. Russel (son to the earl of Bedford), Wharton, Godfrey, Howe, came to Exeter. All England was in commotion. Lord Delaware took up arms in Cheshire; the earl of Danby seized York; the early of Bath, governor of Plymouth, declared for the prince; the earl of Devonshire made a like declaration in Derby; the nobility and gentry of Nottingham embraced the same cause; and every day there appeared some effect of that general combination into which the nation had entered against the measures of the king. But the most dangerous symptom was the disaffection of the army, which seemed almost universally tinctured with the spirit of the times. Lord Colchester, son of earl Rivers, was the first officer who deserted to the prince. Lord Lovelace was taken in the like attempt by the militia, under the duke of Beaufort. Lord Cornbury, son to the earl of Clarendon, carried off a considerable part of three regiments of cavalry to the prince. Several officers of distinction informed Feversham, in general, that they could not in conscience fight against the prince of Orange. o The defection of the officers was followed by that of the king’s own servants and creatures. Lord Churchill had been raised from the rank of a page, and had been invested with a high command in the army; had been created a peer, and owed his whole fortune to the king's bounty; even he deserted among the rest, and carried with him the duke of Grafton, natural son to the late king, colonel Berkeley, and some others. In this alarming defection, the unfortunate James, not knowing where to turn and on whom to rely, began to think of requesting assistance from France, when it was now too late. He wrote to Leopold, emperor of Germany, but in vain. That monarch only returned for answer, that what he had foreseen had happened. James imagined that he might have some dependence on his fleet; but the officers and seamen in general were disaffected. In a word, his interests were deserted by all; for he had long deserted them himself. He had by this time arrived at Salisbury, the headquarters of his army; and he found that this body amounted to twenty thousand men. It is possible that, had he led these to the combat, without granting them time for deliberation, they might have fought in his favour, and secured him on the throne. But he was involved in a maze of fears and suspicions; the defection of those he most confided in took away his confidence in all, and deprived him even of the power of deliberation. It was no small addition to his present distress, that the prince of Denmark, and Anne, his favourite daughter, perceiving the desperation of his circumstances, resolved to leave him, and take part with the prevailing side. When he was told that the prince and princess had followed the rest of his favourites, he was stung with the most bitter anguish. “God help me,” cried he, in the extremity of his agony, “my own children have forsaken me!”