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*» His Majesty desires this House, as Well for "the satisfaction of his people, as of himself, «* to expedite such matters as are depending ** before them relating to Popery and the plot; "and would have them rest assured that alt "remedies they can tender to His Majesty con** ducing to these ends, shall be very acceptable "to him, provided they be such as may con"sist with preserving the succession of the *« crown in its legal course of descent."
It is obvious that this message was only a manner of informing the House that the King would never agree to the Bill of Exclusion. But the Commons chose to attend only to the first part of the message. Many took occasion to observe, that it was strange that the King, who had prorogued Parliament for more than a year, should now find fault with them for the delay of d fortnight; and a committee was appointed, of which Sir William Jones (introduced the same day) was chairman, to draw up an answer to that effect. They at the same time resolved on the prosecution of Lord Stafford*, and informed the King that they should soon be ready for the trial. Thus the irregular interference of the King was to little purpose. Indeed, many of his friends thought that it would have been a wiser part in him to have been silent, and have left the odium of rejecting the Bill entirely to the Lords. But it was thought necessary, by some ostensible act, to counteract the misrepresentations of Shaftesbury; and the anxiety of a King in behalf of the succession of his brother, was likely to produce a favourable effect on the minds of his people. . On the debate in Council on this message, Lord Halifax first manifested his zeal against the Bill, and entirely separated himself from Sunderland, Essex, and Godolphin, who were its secret friends, and wished not to throw it out of the House of Lords at the first reading.
The third reading of the Bill occasioned a long debate. Sir Leoline Jenkins again spoke against it; and Mr. L. Hyde, on the same side, said, that if the law was passed, there was a loyal party which would never obey it, but would think themselves bound, by their oath of allegiance and duty, to pay obedience to the Duke! He remarked that the proviso, ordered to be added for the security of the Duke's children, did not include the words "presumptive heir to the Crown." He was answered by Sir William Jones, a profound lawyer, and a man of great eminence, who maintained, as Mr. Booth had done, that the words "presumptive heir to the Crown" were totally unknown to our law-books; and that the succession of the Duke's children was secure without then*.
Nov. 15. The Bill now passed the Commons, 1680. an(j Lord Russell was ordered to carryit up to the House of Lords for their concurrence. He did so four days afterwards. We are told in the Life of James that many members wished the Bill to be kept back for a short time longer, not thinking the Lords sufficiently prepared; but that Lord Russell, carried on by his exceeding ardour on this occasion, and having the Bill in his hand, ran away with it in spite of all opposition. Finding they could not withhold him, many members accompanied him, and, when it was delivered, gave a mighty shout.
In the debate on the first reading, Lord Essex and Lord Shaftesbury were the chief speakers for it, and Lord Halifax against it. The King was present all the time, and the whole House of Commons, having adjourned their proceedings expressly for this purpose, attended the debate. On a division the Bill was lost, 63 being against it, and only 30 for it. The Lord Sunderland, to the great surprise and displeasure of the King, appeared in the minority. The great majority on this occasion is not difficult to account for. Besides the bishops, whose principles and interest were both against the Bill, there were a number of Lords, either attracted by the distinctions and swayed by the pleasures of the Court, or unable to withstand the personal canvass of the King. In the debate, the party against the exclusion derived great advantage from the ready wit and ingenious eloquence of Lord Halifax. For, unhappily, this very able man, though pursuing the same objects as Lord Essex and Lord Shaftesbury, had so great a respect for his own wisdom, that he preferred leaving our religion and liberty without any security, to accepting that which was devised by the judgment of his political friends. *
Lord Halifax proposed, as an expedient to secure the country from the dangers apprehended, that the Duke should be banished for life. The Whigs were totally averse to this proposal, and James himself dreaded it still more than the Exclusion Bill. t
I shall conclude this chapter with the excellent observations of Mr. Fox, on the comparative
* It is more conformable to the character of Lord Halifax to suppose him swayed by the motive I have assigned to him, than by personal animosity against Shaftesbury. Yet he no doubt viewed with apprehension the prospect of Monmouth, succeeding to the throne. It would appear, both from Burnet and Temple, that his quarrel with Shaftesbury was gather an effect of his opposition to the Exclusion Bill, than the cause of it • >• f 'Life, Tol.i. p. 635.
Vol. i. a
merits of the Bill of Exclusion and the plan of limitations.
"To those who acted with good faith, and «« meant that the restrictions should really take "place and be effectual, surely it ought to have "occurred, (and to those who most prized the "prerogatives of the Crown, it ought most «* forcibly to have occurred,) that in consenting "to curtail the powers of the Crown, rather "than to alter the succession, they were adoptM ting the greater, in order to avoid the lesser "evil. The question of what are to be the "powers of the Crown, is surely of superior im"portance to that of who shall wear it? Those, "at least, who consider the royal prerogative as "vested in the King, not for his sake, but for that "of his subjects, must consider the one of these "questions as much above the other in dignity, "as the rights of the public are more valuable "than those of an individual. In this view, the «* prerogatives of the Crown are in substance ** and effect the rights of the people; and these *' rights of the people were not to be sacrificed "to the purpose of preserving the succession to "the most favoured prince, much less to one "who, on account of his religious persuasion, ** was justly feared and suspected. In truth, "the question between the exclusion and "restrictions seems peculiarly calculated to