James II - Expedition of Monmouth

Charles II, with all his faults, had conducted himself towards his subjects with so much personal cordiality, and had so well calculated his ground before making any aggressions upon popular liberty, that he might probably have pursued his arbitrary career for many years longer. But his brother James, though much more respectable as a man, more industrious, and more sincere, wanted entirely the easiness of carriage, pleasantry, and penetration, which were the grounds of the late king's popularity and success. He was, moreover, an avowed Catholic, and inspired by an ardent desire of reforming the nation back into that faith. He began his reign by declaring before the privy-council his intention to govern solely by the laws, and to maintain the existing church; and such was the confidence in his sincerity, that he soon became very popular. Addresses poured in upon him from all quarters, professing the most abject devotion to his per son. The Parliament called by him voted an ample revenue, and expressed the greatest servility towards him in all things. The doctrines of passive obedience, and the divine right of the sovereign, were now openly preached. The university of Oxford promulgated an elaborate declaration of passive obedience to rulers, which they declared to be 'clear, absolute, and without any exception of any state or order of men.'

The remains of the Whig party still existed, though in exile, and there were some districts of the country where they were supposed to have considerable influence. The Duke of Monmouth and the Earl of Argyle (the latter of whom had been condemned to death in Scotland, for adding a qualification to the test-oath, but had escaped) met in Holland, and projected two separate invasions, for the purpose of expelling King James, The former soon after landed in the west of England with a small retinue, and quickly found himself at the head of 5000 persons, though irregularly armed. At several places he caused himself to be proclaimed king, which offended many of his principal adherents, as inconsistent with his previous engagements. Upon the whole, his conduct was not energetic enough for the management of such an enterprise. Being attacked by the king's troops near Bridgewater, his infantry fought with some spirit, but being deserted by the cavalry, and by the duke himself, were obliged to give way. Monmouth was taken and executed. Many of his followers were hanged without form of trial by the royal troops, and others were afterwards put to death, with hardly any more formality, by the celebrated Chief-Justice Jefferies, whom the king sent down with a commission to try the offenders. The butchery of several hundred men of low condition, who were unable of themselves to do any harm to the government, was looked upon as a most unjustifiable piece of cruelty, even if it had been legally done and the principal blame was popularly ascribed to the king.

The Earl of Argyle sailed in May with a corresponding expedition, and landed in that part of the West Highlands which owned his authority. Unfortunately for him, the government had received warning, and seized all the gentlemen of his clan upon whom he had chiefly depended. He nevertheless raised between 2000 and 3000 men, and made a timid advance to Glasgow, in the expectation of being joined by the persecuted Presbyterians of that part of the country. Being surrounded on the march by various parties of troops, he dispersed his army, and sought to escape in disguise, but was taken, brought to Edinburg, and executed. Thus terminated the last effort made by the Whig party to ameliorate the despotic sway of the Stuarts.