The Rye-house Plot - Death Of Charles II
A fit of slavishness now befell the English nation, as remarkable in its extent as the late fury against the court and the Catholics. Supported by this mood of the people, Charles caused all the corporations in the king dom to give up their old charters, and accept of new ones, by which he became all-powerful over the elections of magistrates, and consequently, over those of parliamentary representatives should ever another election of that kind take place. The leaders of the late majority in Parliament, comprising the Duke of Monmouth, Lord Russell (son of the Earl of Bed ford), the Earl of Essex, Lord Howard, the famous Algernon Sydney, and John Hampden, grandson of the patriot who first resisted Charles I, being reduced to absolute despair, formed a project for raising an insurrection in London, to be supported by one in the west of England, and another under the Earl of Argyle in Scotland, and the object of which should be confined to a melioration of the government. They were betrayed by an associate named Rumsay, and implicated, by a train of unfortunate circumstances, in a plot for assassinating the king (styled the Rye-house Plot), of which they were perfectly innocent. By the execution of Russell and, Sidney, and some other severities, the triumph of the king might be considered as completed. After having been an absolute sovereign for nearly four years, he died (February 6,1685), professing himself at the last to be a Catholic, and was succeeded by the DUKE OF YORK.
Charles II was a prince of a gay and cheerful disposition, and so noted a sayer of witty things, and so addicted to humorous amusements, that he was called the Merry Monarch.' His wit, shrewdness, and good humor, farm the best side of his character. On the other side, we find a deficiency, of almost every active virtue and of all steady principle. He never allowed any duty of his station, or any claim upon his justice or clemency, to interfere with his own interests, or even to disturb him in his indolent and vicious pleasures. Neglecting his wife, who never had any children, he spent most of his time with his various mistresses, who openly lived at court, and were even received by the queen. Of these ladies, the most remarkable were Louisa Querouaile, whom he created Duchess of Portsmouth, and Barbara Villiers, whom he made Duchess of Cleveland. Six sons of the king by his mistresses were made dukes, and five of these were the progenitors of families in the present English nobility.
During the reign of Charles II, the nation advanced considerably in the arts of navigation and commerce; and the manufactures of brass, glass, silk, hats, and paper, were established. The post-office, set up during the Commonwealth as a means of raising money, was advanced in this reign, and the penny-post was now begun in London by a private person. Roads were greatly improved, and stage-coach traveling was commenced, though not carried to any great extent. During this reign, tea, coffee, and chocolate, which have had a great effect in improving and softening manners, were first introduced. In 1660, the Royal Society was established in London, for the cultivation of natural science, mathematics, and all useful knowledge. The science of astronomy was greatly advanced by the investigations of Flamstead and Halley. But the greatest contribution to science was made by Sir Isaac Newton, whose Principles of Natural Philosophy were published in 1683: in this work, the true theory of planetary motion was first explained, in reference to the principle of gravitation.
Among the literary men of the period, the first place is to be assigned to John Milton, author of the 'Paradise Lost' and other poems: Samuel Butler shines as a humorous and satirical poet, and Edmund Waller as a lyrist. Amongst divines, the highest names connected with the church are those of Jeremy Taylor and Isaac Barrow; while the highest among the Nonconformists are those of Richard Baxter and John Bunyan. The theatre, which had been suppressed during the Commonwealth, was revived in this reign; but the drama exhibited less talent and more licentiousness than it did in the previous reigns. Female characters, which had formerly been acted by men, were now for the first time performed by females.