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with the law to save those who had originated the plot, however lofty in rank or strong in connections. No one questioned the justice of Lord Russell's sentence, but many regretted that a man with so many noble traits had allowed his ambition to seduce him into a plot which, if carried out, would have involved a fearful sacrifice of life. Nothing could prove more clearly the wanton folly of resorting to violence to redress the grievances Lord Russell complained of than the events which ensued in the reign that shortly followed; for the infatuation of James II. was punished without resorting to a bloody revolution.
Algernon Sydney was another of the band of noble conspirators. He had fought against Charles I.; then denounced the usurpation of Cromwell; and, on the return of Charles II., had retired to the continent, refusing the Act of Amnesty. After some years he solicited the King's pardon, and obtained it though his name figured on the list of the Judges of Charles I. He was enthusiastic for a Republic on the ancient model, and was even willing, says Hume, "to seek a second time through all the horrors of civil war for his adored Utopia." Like Russell he was tried by a jury; like him he did not deny his guilt, and was condemned and executed.
Another prominent incident of this reign was the rise of the two great political parties which have so long conducted the public business of England. There can be no more positive proof of the great change in the condition of the country than the advent of these two parties. It was not until the power of the Church and the Monarchy had been overcome by the alliance of the Nobles and the Middle Class so often mentioned,
that the existence of these parties became possible. They were composed of men whose position was wholly different from the Statesmen who had abounded at all epochs in modern Europe, and who were simply the agents of Royal authority commissioned to manage the business of the State. Nor did they at all resemble the public men of ancient Europe, who often aspired to the Sovereign power; for in Greece, as in Rome. during the Consulship, they contended with each other for the supreme magistracy. It was reserved for England, in the seventeenth century, to develop a political sect hitherto unknown. The Church and Monarchy being stripped of that monopoly of power which they had jointly wielded in previous centuries, it fell into the hands of the Nation itself; and then arose a new category of public men who aspired, in the name of their views or principles, to act as Trustees of the National Will.
This new breed of Politicians arrayed themselves in opposite camps--those who considered further innovation dangerous, and those who persisted in new modifications. The first were content with the conquests achieved over Church and King; but the latter demanded more. These antagonistic opinions were professed in the time of Charles II. by two contending parties, who were then christened Tory and Whig.
This was the real distinction between these two sets of rival Politicians, though at the time they seemed merely to differ on the expediency of excluding James, brother of the King, from succeeding to the throne on account of his religion. The Whigs, who professed to be the popular or patriotic party, denounced James as a Catholic, which was consistent, as they were the
authors of the furious crusade against the Catholics that ended in so many executions. They likewise excluded by the Test Act, of which they were the framers, all Protestants from Parliament and office who dissented from the Church of England. This Act of the Whig leaders remained unrepealed till the reign of George IV. Charles and the Tory party resisted this oppression of the Catholics and Dissenters; but the popular rage excited by the Whigs against Popery ran so high that the King as usual gave way and signed the Test Act.
It will thus be seen that the Whig, or so-called patriotic party, blundered fearfully at the start. They first robbed their Catholic and Protestant fellowcountrymen of their equal rights, because they dissented from the National Church. They next sought to throw the country into a Revolution, because they failed by legal means to obtain control of the Government. Such, beyond question, were the motives. of Russell, Essex, and Sydney. The disrepute into which the party fell shows how hateful such designs were to the Nation at large; for the Whig party, after the discovery of the plot against the King, was completely overthrown. "This mighty faction," says Hume, which has shaken the throne and menaced the royal family, was totally subdued, and by their precipitate indiscretion exposed themselves to the rigor of the law and to public hatred."
From that day to this political leaders whether Tory or Whig, Conservative or Liberal, have gone on amicably struggling for the Trusteeship of that power which no longer rests in the hands of a Church or a Monarch, but in those of the Nation. The mistakes of
the Whig Politicians of the time of Charles II. have never been repeated: argument, and not force, is relied on as the only passport to political power.
After this summary of the principal incidents of this reign, it is unnecessary to enter into many details. The first Parliament of Charles II. met in April, 1660, and so overflowed with loyalty that the King would have been sustained in any abuse of his power. He made "the most eminent men of the nation, whether Royalists or Presbyterians, his Ministers," says Rowland. Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards Lord Clarendon, was selected as Prime Minister.* The second Parliament, quite as loyal, assembled in May, 1661, and was not dissolved for nearly seventeen years. The third Parliament assembled in March, 1678. Two other Houses of Commons, elected in 1680 and 1681, being under Whig influence, were refractory, but still in the main loyal.
A large number of highly beneficial laws were passed during this reign, diminishing the privileges of the Clergy and Nobility, and giving additional guarantees to the liberty of the subject. The right of the People to be taxed solely by their Representatives in the Commons was settled at this time, it being enacted that all money Bills should originate in the Lower House. The Feudal System imported by the Normans was wholly abolished; and thus was closed finally in England the régime of the Middle Ages. New laws regulating the liberty of Printing were also passed. It is to this reign also that England owes the Habeas Corpus Act, The writ of Habeas Corpus, which
* This able Minister and upright man became, from various causes, so unpopular that he was stripped of power in 1667, and banished by Act of Parliament. He wrote in his retirement, "The History of the English Rebellion."
requires that cause shall be promptly shown for depriving any subject of his liberty, and which was intended to prevent arbitrary imprisonment, originated with the "Writ of Inquisition" in Magna Charta, and was enlarged by statutes in the reign of Edward III. -1327-77. This law, so ancient in its origin and so necessary a safeguard of individual liberty, was not finally and indisputably settled until the twenty-eighth year, 1679, of Charles II.'s reign.
Charles II. died in February, 1685. In spite of the events of the war with the Dutch, and the cry raised against him that he had sold himself to Louis XIV., Charles was immensely popular at his death. Hume in describing him says: "Far from being stately or reserved, he had not a grain of pride or vanity in his composition, but was the most affable, best-bred man alive. He treated his subjects like noblemen, like gentlemen, like freemen; not like vassals or boors. Upon the whole, it appeared to many cruel, and even iniquitous, to remark too rigorously the failings of a Prince who discovered so much facility in correcting his errors, and so much lenity in pardoning the offences committed against himself."
Charles II. was unfortunate in his marriage with a Portuguese Princess-May, 1662. She was unattractive in person, and proved to be sterile. This, doubtless, encouraged Charles in those habits of libertinism which became so prevalent after the rigid austerity of the
* The well-known statesman Charles James Fox spoke of the Habeas Corpus Act "as the most important barrier against tyranny, and best framed for the liberty of individuals, that has ever existed in any ancient or modern commonwealth." Sir James Mackintosh declared "the writ of Habeas Corpus and trial by jury to be the most effectual securities against oppression which the wisdom of man has hitherto been able to devise."