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of destroying parliaments, was treason; but as they had not yet done so, no declaration of that kind could justly affect Lord Danby. When the impeachment was brought up to the Lords, the Earl made a speech in his own defence; when, instead of vindicating his culpable negotiations, he thought it a sufficient justification to say, that he had the King's order under his own hand: a plea which, if allowed, would make ministerial responsibility a phantom. The Lords refused to commit him upon the charges of the Commons, and the dissolution of the Parliament soon after, interrupted the proceedings. On the 30th December, the King came to the House of Lords, and prorogued Parliament, with these singular expressions: "My Lords and Gentlemen, — It is with great "unwillingness that I come this day to tell you, ** I intend to prorogue you. I think all of you *1 are witnesses that I have been ill used. The ** particulars of it I intend to acquaint you with *« at a more convenient time."
These terms seem to allude to the prosecution of the Popish Plot, and the impeachment of Lord Danby. The Parliament was dissolved Jan. 25. within a month afterwards. The chief 1679. cause of this measure probably was, that the House of Commons was becoming quite unmanageable; and the King had some
reason to fear, that if allowed to hold on their course, they might not only impeach the five Popish Lords, but defeat the succession of his brother. The Duke of York was incensed at their prosecution of the Popish Plot. "Though "it (the Parliament) had concurred, with in"expressible joy, (says James,) to re-establish "injured monarchy, it was broken for endea"vouring with as much ardour tc pull it down "again." He who reads with attention the history of those times, will have little difficulty in deciding, whether he ought to blame the Parliament for fickleness and disloyalty to the King, or the royal brothers, for a conduct ill suited to retain the affection and confidence of the Parliament.
Lord Danby was also quite ready to advise the dissolution of a Parliament, by which he was threatened with impeachment. On the other hand, the Opposition were willing to let him escape, in order to obtain their favourite measure. Lord Hollis, Littleton, Boscawen, and Hampden, when applied to by the King, agreed to let him off with a mild censure, provided he would leave his office, and get the Duke sent out of the way. * A quiet retreat was in
deed, the best he could now hope for. Monmouth, Sunderland, and the Duchess of Portsmouth, had formed an union with Shaftesbury, Halifax, and Essex, for his ruin. The former were to undermine his influence at court, whilst the latter prosecuted him in Parliament. At the same time, the King, and more particularly the Duke, incensed against him for his behaviour on the Popish Plot, were prepared to let him fall.
From the following letter, written from the Marquis of Winchester's house at Basing, it appears, that Lord Russell was engaged in some negociation at this time, but with whom it is not easy to say.
"Basing, Feb. ye 8th, 1679. "I am stole from a great many gentlemen in the drawing-roome at Basing, for a moment, to tell my dearest I have thought of her being here the last time, and wished for her a thousand times; but in vaine, alas! for I am just going now to Stratton, and want the chariot, and my dearest deare in it. I hope to be with you on Saturday. Wee have had a very troublesome journey of it, and insignificant enough by the fairnesse and excesse of civilitie of somebody: but more of that when I see you. I long for the time, and am, more than you can imagine, your
"I am troubled at the weather, for our owne sakes; but much more for my sister's: pray God it may have noe ill effect upon her, and that wee may have a happy meeting on Saturday. — I am Miss's humble servant."
ELECTIONS.—MEETING OF PARLIAMENT. — CHOICL Of A
SPEAKER. IMPEACHMENT OF LORD DANBY. HE
SURRENDERS HIMSELF. QUARREL BETWEEN THE
HOUSES. — CHARACTER OF DANBy's ADMINISTRATION.
NEW COUNCIL. LORD RUSSELL A MEMBER OF IT.
ITS INEFFICACY.— LIMITATIONS ON A POPISH SUCCESSOR PROPOSED BY THE KING. EXCLUSION BILL.
— PROROGATION. — HABEAS CORPUS ACT PASSED.
The elections were carried on, as might be expected, with great heat, and generally speaking, much to the advantage of Opposition. It is said that the practice of splitting freeholds was now introduced, for the first time, by the country party.
Some letters of Lord Shaftesbury and the Marquis of Winchester were intercepted and opened by the court. They were found to contain recommendations to their friends not to choose fanatics, and the King declared he had not heard so much good of them a great while.*
In the new parliament, John Hampden was returned for Buckinghamshire, Henry Booth
* Lady Russell's Letters lately published.