The Revolution

In this crisis, some of the principal nobility and gentry, with a few clergymen, united in a secret address to the Prince of Orange, calling upon him to come over with an armed force, and aid them in protecting their faith and liberties. This prince, who feared that England would soon be joined to France against the few remaining Protestant powers, and also that his prospects of the succession in that country, as nephew and son-in-law of the king, were endangered, listened readily to this call, and immediately collected a large fleet and army, comprising many individuals, natives of both Scotland and England, who had fled from the severe government of the Stuart princes. The preparations for the expedition were conducted with great secrecy, and James was partly blinded to them, by a rumor that their only object was to frighten him into a closer connection with France, in order to make him odious to his subjects. When he was at length assured by his minister in Holland that he might immediately expect a formidable invasion, he grew pale, and dropped the letter from his hands. He immediately ordered a fleet and large army to be collected, and, that he might regain the affections of his subjects, he called a parliament, and undid many of his late measures. The people justly suspected his concessions to be insincere, and were confirmed in their belief, when, on a rumor of the Prince of Orange being put back by a storm, he recalled the writs for assembling Parliament.

On the 19th of October, the Prince of Orange set sail with 50 ships of war, 25 frigates, 25 fire-ships, and 500 transports, containing 15,000 land troops. A storm occasioned some damage and delay; but he soon put to sea again, and proceeded with a fair wind along the British Channel, exhibiting from his own vessel a flag on which were inscribed the words ' THE PROTESTANT RELIGION AND THE LIBERTIES OF ENGLAND, ' with the apposite motto of his family, ' Je Maintiendrai' - ‘ I will maintain.' As he passed between Dover and Calais, his armament was visible to crowds of spectators on both shores, whose feelings were much excited at once by its appearance and its well-known purpose. The English fleet being detained at Harwich by the same wind which was so favorable to the prince, he landed (November 5) without opposition at Torbay, and immediately proceeded to circulate a manifesto, declaring the grievances of the kingdom, and promising, with the support of the people, to redress them.

At the first there seemed some reason for fear that the prince would not meet with adequate support. On his march to Exeter, and for eight days after arriving there, he was not joined by any person of consequence. The nation, however, soon became alive to the necessity of giving him encouragement. The gentry of Devon and Somersetshires formed an association in his behalf. The Earls of Bedford and Abingdon, with other persons of distinction, repaired to his quarters at Exeter. Lord Delamere took arms in Cheshire; the city of York was siezed by the Earl of Danby; the Earl of Bath, governor of Plymouth, declared for the prince; and the Earl of Devonshire made a like declaration in Derby. Every day discovered some new instance of that general confederacy into which the nation had entered against the measures of the king. But the most dangerous symptom, and Sat which rendered his affairs desperate, was the spirit which he found to prevail in his army. On his advancing at its head to Salisbury, he learned that some of the principal officers had gone over to the Prince of Orange. Lord Churchill (afterwards famous as Duke of Marlborough), Lord Trelawney, and the king's son-in-law, George, Prince of Denmark, successively followed this example. Even his daughter, the Princess Anne, deserted him. In great perplexity, he summoned a council of peers, by whose ad vice writs were issued for a new Parliament, and commissioners despatched to treat with the prince. A kind of infatuation now took possession of the king; and having sent the queen and infant prince privately to France, he quitted the capital at midnight, almost unattended, for the purpose of following them, leaving orders to recall the writs and disband the army. By this procedure, the peace of the country was imminently endangered; but it only served to hasten the complete triumph of the Prince of Orange, Who had now advanced to Windsor. The supreme authority seemed on the point of falling into his hands, when, to his great disappointment, the king, having been discovered at Feversham, in Kent, was brought back to London, not without some marks of popular sympathy and affection. There was no alternative but to request the unfortunate monarch to retire to a country-house, where lie might await the settlement of affairs. James, finding his palaces taken possession of by Dutch guards, and dreading assassination, took the opportunity to renew his attempt to leave the kingdom. He proceeded on board a vessel in the Medway, and after some obstructions, arrived safely in France, where Louis readily afforded him an asylum.

The same day that the king left Whitehall for the last time, his nephew and son-in-law arrived at St. James'. The public bodies immediately waited on him, to express their zeal for his cause; and such of the members of the late Parliaments as happened to be in town, having met by his invitation, requested him to issue writs for a convention, in order to settle the nation. He was in the same manner, and for the same purpose, requested to call a convention in Scotland. The English convention met on the 22d of January 1689, and during its debates the prince maintained a magnanimous silence and neutrality. The Tory party, though it had joined in calling him over, displayed some scruples respecting the alteration of the succession, and seemed at first inclined to settle the crown on the princess, while William should have only the office of regent; but when this was mentioned to the prince, he calmly replied, that in that event, he should immediately return to Holland. A bill was then passed, declaring that James II, having endeavored to subvert the constitution, by breaking the original contract between the king and the people, and having withdrawn himself from the kingdom, has abdicated the government; and that the throne is thereby become vacant.' To the bill was added a Declaration of Rights namely , an enumeration of the various laws by which the royal prerogative and the popular liberties had formerly been settled, but which had been violated and evaded by the Stuart sovereigns. William and Mary, having expressed their willingness to ratify this declaration, were proclaimed king and queen jointly - the administration to rest in William; and the convention was then converted into a Parliament.

In Scotland, where the Presbyterians had resumed an ascendancy, the convention came to a less timid decision. It declared that James, by the abuse of his power, had forfeited all right to the crown - a decision also affecting his posterity: and William and Mary were immediately after proclaimed. By a bill passed in the English Parliament, the succession was settled upon the survivor of the existing royal pair; next upon the Princess Anne and her children; and finally, upon the children of William by any other consort - an arrangement in which no hereditary principle was overlooked, except that which would have given a preference to James and his infant son.

By the Revolution, as this great event was styled, it might be considered as finally decided that the monarchy was not a divine institution, superior to human challenge, as the late kings had represented it, but one dependent on the people, and established and maintained for their benefit.