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James II was forming a big army with Catholic officers so as to impose his religion on the country. He kept a large standing army on Hounslow Heath in order to 'overawe' London, and was building a Catholic army in Ireland so as to threaten England.
1. Charles II inherited the 60,000 strong army, that had served under the republicans ((JH 139)). But the republicans now sought to abolish a peacetime army altogether. They wished to make Charles dependent on local militias for keeping law and order, as these were under the control of the aristocracy. It was with difficulty that Charles was able to retain a small army during his reign.
2. When James became king the English army stood at 9,000 ((JCA 1)), with 7,500 in the Irish army and 2,200 in the Scottish ((JCA 2)). There were a further 3,000 men permanently stationed in Holland.
'These three national armies were pathetically small for all the duties that were demanded of them. As well as the essential military function of securing the coast against a foreign invasion, the late seventeenth century army was also responsible for riot control in both the town and countryside, manning the garrisons and strong-points, providing marines to serve with the fleet, and for executing numerous ceremonial duties connected with the king and court' ((JCA 2)).
3. The English army was quickly increased to 20,000 when Monmouth landed in 1685, although barely 15,700 had received basic training in time to face him ((JCA 2)). James saw the need for a substantial force so as to make Britain secure against both foreign and internal threats. 'James had seen two rebellious armies, those of Cromwell and Monmouth, take the field allegedly in the cause of religion, but in reality with the aim of destroying the Monarchy and establishing a republic, and he suspected there might soon be a third' ((JH 249)).
In November 1685 James asked for additional finance to keep the 20,000 men as a permanent force. Parliament at first refused, preferring the militia to be expanded but, after much debate, grudgingly voted £700,000 without stating a specific purpose. This would provide James with the required money without Parliament formally agreeing to the enlarged army ((JCA 12-14)). As the army came within the responsibility of the king, James was able to retain the 20,000 strong army.
After 1688 the Whigs, in their 'Declaration of Rights', declared that James had acted illegally in having a standing army in time of peace, yet no law existed against this ((GC 145)). '... the armies of England, Ireland and Scotland were not large in comparison with other European peacetime formations' (( JCA 5)).
The numbers in the army hardly grew until the threat of the Dutch invasion of 1688 ((JCA 2)). During that year it became obvious that the 3,000 troops in Holland had come under Dutch control, so 2,100 extra men were raised and divided equally between England, Ireland and Scotland ((JCA 3)). Only in late September was the army further augmented ((JCA 3)).
4. The local militias were so poorly trained that they could hardly be called a police force. They were gradually phased out, and the army superseded them as the provincial police ((JCA 9)). This involved them spreading in small units across the country. 'Whereas the army of Charles II had been concentrated in quarters in London, the Home Counties and the principal strong holds . . . ' ((JCA 9)). So under James the concentration around London was reduced not increased.
5. Each summer just over half the regiments assembled on Hounslow Heath for a training camp ((JCA 9)), which lasted for about six weeks ((JCA 97)), and was based on the example of the Dutch and French armies ((JCA 78)). Much was learned regarding how to operate in battle-sized formations and how to meet the problems of supplies, health and weather ((JCA 98)). Hounslow was convenient to both Windsor and Westminster, being situated at the intersection of the main roads to the north, west and southwest, it was at the hub of England's defensive strategy ((JCA 96)).
The Whigs devoted much money and propaganda in London to building up fear and hatred of James amongst all sections of the population. They were also organising large mobs with which to control the streets. So it is very likely that James was pleased that the demonstration of the royal army's efficiency would also discourage republican plots. Those who were peaceable and tolerant had nothing to fear.
The people who wrote so much about being 'over-awed' were the agitators plotting a revolution. Other writers reported that the army on the Heath was extremely popular with London Society which paid visits to watch the parades and mix with the soldiers.
This does not mean that there were no problems connected with the camp. To have tens of thousands of young men roaming the villages when off duty led to friction and fights with civilians and between different units. ((JCA 95)). Many of the men acted as if they were above the law ((JCA 94)), and the Commanders had great difficulty in maintaining discipline when the soldiers were off duty both within and outside the camp. This friction with local people led to fear of soldiers entering inns, lodging houses or towns. This provided fuel for the Whig anti-army campaign.
6. Catholics formed about 7% of the gentry and aristocracy from where officers were drawn ((JCA 23)). As Parliamentary laws did not apply overseas, Charles II was able to employ Catholics in units normally stationed abroad ((JCA 18)). Being disqualified by their religion from serving in the home army or in any other civic or professional occupation, many Catholics made a career in the overseas army. Large Catholic Irish contingents had fought in Tangier and other places ((JCA 70)). Many of these units had been recently recalled home when James became King, and account for the presence of Catholics in the army stationed in England in 1685.
Catholic officers in the English army formed 5% in February 1685; 10% in December 1685; 8.6% in November 1687 and 11% in October 1688 ((JCA 22)). So the English officer corps contained approximately the same proportion of Catholics in 1688 as in 1685 ((JCA 48)). Their proportion was slightly higher than their percentage of the aristocracy, but this is explained by their being barred from other occupations. In one regiment there were 16 Catholics out of 37 officers, but in all others the distribution was spread evenly. About 30-40 officers governed each regiment, so the 3-4 Catholics would have had minimal influence ((JCA 23)).
It is not possible to estimate the proportion of Catholics amongst the lower ranks, but it would have been under 10% ((JCA 30)). 'There is no indication of any deliberate policy to recruit Catholics . . .' ((JCA 35)). The chief Commanders, the earls Faversham and Dumbarton, were both Protestants ((MA 193)). Organised Catholic life was minimal with officers travelling from Hounslow to London in order to attend Mass ((MA 93)).
'If the English army was not wholly Protestant, it was utterly dominated by Protestants' ((JCA 23)). 'The real question in the reign must be whether James intended to use his Protestant army in a political fashion, not whether he had designs to use a Catholic army to impose a Catholic despotism'((JCA 23)).
7. There were no Catholic privates in the Scottish army and 'scarce any officers of that persuasion . . .' ((JCA 29)).
8. In February 1685 the Irish army was almost as large as the English. This was because it was responsible for maintaining order in an occupied country. But the Irish had been so utterly crushed by Cromwell, that it had little to do. It had become inefficient and poorly trained, with the bulk of its members working at other occupations during most of the year ((JCA 56)). It was a Protestant army with officers drawn exclusively from the Protestant gentry and aristocracy ((JCA 56)).
FOR THE BACKGROUND TO THE SITUATION IN IRELAND SEE ACCUSATION 7.
James instructed Tyrconnel to reform the force by replacing some officers and improving training and discipline. The Lord justices were told not to administer the Protestant oaths ((JCA 62)), thereby opening the way to non-Protestants. Tyrconnel realised that control of the Irish army was essential if his aim of a semi-independent Ireland, governed by the native Irish, was to be achieved. The order of James to dismiss all 'unfit' persons and "supply their places with others 'fitly qualified' gave Tyrconnel his opportunity" ((JCA 63)).
There is no evidence that James wished to employ the reformed Irish army to overawe the Protestants
((JCA 58)). He wanted a strong army to deter a French invasion and to maintain the English domination of the country.
For this he needed the support of the Protestant upper class. He wanted freedom for the Catholic religion and the
gradual introduction into the army of Irish Catholics loyal to himself as king of Ireland.
Tryconnel asserted that the army was full of republican: 'Cromwell types', so he had to purge them and introduce 'old English Catholics'. But this was not true. The sons and grandsons of Cromwell's officers now formed the 'establishment' and, being mainly concerned with stability, had become Anglican Tories ((JCA 56)). Also, most of the new Catholic officers gave their first loyalty to Ireland.
The purge was rapid, and by 1687, when Tyrconnel met James at Chester, the all Protestant army
had become 90% Catholic and James had to accept the situation. ((JCA 60)). "During this meeting it appears
that James acquiesced to Tyrconnel's plans for establishing a Catholic state which was to be relatively independent
of England" ((JCA 60)).
Tyrconnel's policy was not concerned with England, and he certainly did not envisage building Ireland into a religious and military base from which to interfere in English affairs ((JCA 59)). 'Neither James nor Tyrconnel had any intention of using the Irish army to intervene in English affairs' ((JCA 78)). The only time Irish troops were called to England was during the emergency of 1688 to help repel the Dutch invasion.
9. James' army was not pro-Catholic, but was loyal to him as King. 'The number of active military conspirators was very small, probably not more than twenty or thirty' ((JCA162)). The principal institution in the conspiracy was the ‘Treason Club’, a loose collection of Whiggish officers ((JCA 155)). They met at the Rose Tavern and were certainly not motivated by thoughts of religious rectitude. They gained additional support by the energetic work of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Langston, who was on close terms with officers who had served in Tangier and were bitter because they had been withdrawn. ((JCA 158)).
James asked the officers in one regiment whether they supported freedom of religion ((JCA 158)). Based on this sole incident, Langston spread wild stories about James planning to evict all Protestant officers from the English army ((JCA 158)). James did dismiss some officers for opposing religious freedom, and this was seen as an assault upon the rights of property, as their Commissions had been bought ((JCA 48-9)).
The great majority of their replacements were Protestants and: 'There is no evidence whatever that James did intend to replace all Protestants officers with Catholics. Even if this had been his wish there were insufficient Romanists in England to do so' ((JCA 159)).
But the officers contacted by Langston were professional soldiers who relied upon their sword for their livelihood ((JCA 156)), and the reports from Ireland gave them a feeling of insecurity ((JCA 163)).
So Langton fastened on the twin bogeys of religion and the very real fear,
The army was willing to be used in this way ((JCA 103)). '... the military rebellion in 1688 was not about the use of the army or the rights of the Monarchy but about property' ((JCA 103)). 'Certainly it would have been difficult to enforce toleration through the army, but it was quite possible to create an absolutist style of government with its support and then employ the reformed administration to introduce a toleration' ((JCA 112)).
From all the evidence available it is nonsense to suggest that this Protestant army, although loyal to James, could have been used to forcibly 'convert' the 51 million population to Catholicism, even if James had aimed to do so, which he did not. As well as this, such 'forced conversions' would have been condemned by the Pope.
If James had remained in power for another year or so, it is likely that he would have outmanoeuvred his opponents, been a powerful king with a subservient parliament and would have firmly established religious liberty, while maintaining the Anglican church as the Established Church of the country.
James showed public sympathy for the Huguenot refugees, while secretly supporting the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His financial appeal for the refugees was issued with reluctance and only to please public opinion.
1. The Edict of Nantes guaranteed the Huguenots (Protestants) of
France freedom of worship in those districts and towns where they existed in 1598. After 1666 there were isolated
reports of antagonism against the Huguenots ((RDG 21)), and in 1679 Huguenot churches which had been built outside
the districts stipulated in the Edict were destroyed ((RDG 22)). Commencing in 1681, soldiers (Dragonnades) were
billeted on leading families and terrorised them. This caused many thousands to outwardly conform to the State
It needs to be born in mind that Louis was aiming to build a Gallican [French] Church independent from Rome. He would not allow the Pope to appoint bishops and was misappropriating the name ‘Catholic’ as part of his propaganda to hide his aims. The Pope wished for him to be overthrown and helped those endeavouring to do so. So it is not just to blame the Church for the crimes of Louis
When James became king in 1685, he granted the foreign churches the same protection as Charles had done, and continued to grant naturalizations ((RDG 130)). In October of that year, Louis revoked the Edict and launched a vicious campaign to force conversions to 'Catholicism'.
James ordered his ambassador to ensure that English Protestants were not maltreated, and to do all in his power to help those English who had become naturalised French ((MAB 63)). He wrote in early 1686 to William of Orange of: "the very hard usage the Huguenots had and still have in France" ((MA 187)). He told the Dutch ambassador: "He detested Louis' conduct as not being politic, much less Christian" ((MA 187)).
Barrillon, in a letter to Louis of 3rd May 1686, reported that after James discovered the truth of what was happening, he disapproved of the revocation of the Edict ((MA 187)). Bonreppaus, a special French envoy who arrived at the beginning of 1686, found that James had been shocked by the persecution.
He tried unsuccessfully to convince James that the reports were exaggerated ((MA 187)). In the summer of 1686 the Spanish ambassador reported how 'His Brittanic Majesty . . . declared that he abhorred the employment of jack-booted missionaries as unpolitic and unchristian: that though he wished to see his own religion embraced he thought it contrary to Holy Writ to force consciences ((MA 187)).
It is now generally agreed by historians, even those who criticise James on other matters, that he condemned the persecution in France. 'As far as persecution is concerned, there is no evidence to suggest that he approved of the Dragonnades and a good deal to show he did not' ((RDGB 821)).
3. James donated £500 of his own money to Huguenot relief, yet did make anti-Huguenot remarks privately. He informed Sir William Trumbel:
"That though he did not like the Huguenots, for he thought they were of anti-Monarchial principles, yet he thought the persecution of them was unchristian and not to be equalled in any history since Christianity. That they might be no good men, yet might be used worse than they deserved, and it was a proceeding he could not approve of" ((RDG 130)).
Whig history has portrayed the arrival of the refugees in England as a purely religious event, ignoring its very important political aspect. James viewed all Protestants (i.e. non-Anglicans and non-Catholics), especially those fleeing from France, as republicans. He certainly didn't like them, and they didn't like him. Jeffreys also saw them as republicans who were against Episcopacy ((RDG 130-133)).
The arrival of thousands of dedicated, well educated, middle class, young ((RDG 23)) and politically conscious republicans, to add to the existing delicate situation in England, was seen by James as a major political threat. The already settled Huguenot community had supported Cromwell in the Civil War ((RDG 123)), and had recently joined the campaign to have James excluded from the Throne ((RDG 123)). Others were very active as Dutch propagandists undermining James' authority ((RDG 140)). So it is not surprising that James was pleased at the efforts of Bonreppaus to persuade the refugees to return home, and at Maremont's attempts to form a corps to fight the Turk ((RDG 131)).
That James was correct to view them as disloyal enemies was confirmed later when they played a significant part in supporting the Dutch invasion of 1688 ((RDG 136)). In 1715, 'it could still be claimed that they formed the single most desperate and disciplined body in England opposed to the restoration of the Stuarts' ((RDG 136)).
4. Three weeks after the revocation, James signed an Order for an Appeal on behalf of the refugees. But it was not issued till 5th March 1686. This delay of four months, together with the uninspired wording, has been criticised. But James realised that the occasion of a national Appeal could be misused for tirades in the pulpits against Louis, France, Catholics, the Pope and James himself. Preachers could depict the dangers of having a 'Catholic' king without mentioning any king by name. They were unlikely to explain that Louis was creating a state church detached from the authority of the Pope, and that his use of the word 'Catholic' was a misnomer. Nor were likely to explain that all Catholic Europe, including the Pope, was condemning Louis.
The difficulty of deciding how to prevent the preaching of the Appeal being used to undermine James' authority is the most likely cause of the delay. The covering letter issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, after consultation with James, stated that sermons were to encourage charity: 'by such motives and inducements only' as contained in this present order ((RDG 135)).
So they were not to include attacks on the king of France or Catholics, nor depict the horrors of the persecution. Emotive words and forceful language, which might heighten hatreds and assist republican agitation, were to be excluded. The clergy were to restrict their words to explaining the needs of the destitute Protestant refugees in England needing relief ((RDG 132)). 'The preachers must not meddle in matters of state' ((MA 190)).
This was part of the government's effort to damp down anti-French and anti-Monarchist emotions. This policy was illustrated by the Official Gazette not reporting events in France ((RDG 135)). An anti-French book by Jean Claud was banned ((MA 187)) and when questioned, considerations of republicanism were uppermost in James' mind. He said: "dogs defend each other when attacked; so do kings" ((MA 187)). Barrillon informed Louis that James: "did not approve of libellous tracts against reigning Monarchys, but the banning of the book did not imply that James endorsed the revocation of the Edict of Nantes" ((MA 188)). The printing of literature in Holland for distribution in England was a serious problem for James ((JPKB 179)). In attempts to persuade the Dutch authorities to restrict this propaganda, he was stressing the principle of non-interference in the affairs of other states. It was therefore essential that he strictly maintained this principle himself.
5. During the first part of his reign, James instructed English
ships not to allow French citizens on board unless they had a passport ((RDG 131)), except where there were humanitarian
considerations. For example: When Algeria was at war with Holland, Huguenot refugees were found on a Dutch ship
when captured by the Algerians. Their situation was desperate. If they claimed to be French citizens they would
be landed in France to face Louis' revenge, but if they claimed to be Dutch they would be taken to Africa as slaves.
The English navy, while checking Algerian ships for English nationals, found a group of these Huguenots. James
was informed and he used his royal authority to grant them British nationality, so they were released to settle
in England ((ABA 55)).
6. To guard against money raised for humanitarian purposes being diverted to political uses ((FCT 315)), he designated a group of Lords, Bishops, officials and clergy to administer the distribution ((RDG 133)). The funds raised were to benefit: 'those who lived in entire conformity and orderly subjection to government established both in church and state'. A similar clause had been added in 1685 to a Parliamentary Bill proposing to permit large scale naturalisation.
To mention this pressure to conform to the Anglican Church, without recognising that a similar pressure had existed for 25 years ((RDG 101)), and was present after 1688, may lead to a distorted image of James' attitude. As Parliament had outlawed non-Anglican churches, it was logical to apply the same laws to immigrants who wished to become British subjects.
With regard to the Huguenots, the government from the beginning of Charles' reign, 'decided to licence new congregations only if they accepted the Anglican liturgy translated into French' ((RDG 57 and 94)). After the 1688 overthrow of James many Huguenot churches were forced to conform due to governmental financial pressure ((RDG 109)). So there was nothing unusual or personal to James in this Parliament inspired pressure to become Anglicans during the first two years of his reign.
7. Although the Huguenots recognised the Anglican Church as a Protestant Church, they would have preferred to continue with the form of service they had used in France. There were no doctrinal problems for them in using the Anglican liturgy ((RDG 95-6)) and their beliefs were nearer to those of the Anglicans than to those of English non-Conformists ((RDG 99)). The main problem was one of authority.
The Huguenots had been used to self-governing communities, whereas they were now expected to come under the administration of Anglican bishops. It was the surrender of their traditional self-governing 'republican' type of administration that caused an extremist section severe heart searching. If this small minority of the refugees were not willing to conform to the Anglican Church then the government, whether of James or of others, was happy to see them re-emigrate to somewhere else such as Holland. It may be noted that James did not at any time attempt to make these refugees accept the authority of his own church.
8. The only time the Huguenots were not required to conform was from April 1687 to November 1688. This was when James was ruling without Parliament and there was wide religious freedom ((RDG 102)). It was during this time that the Huguenots poured into the country ((RDG 101)). As many arrived in these two years as came during 1681-1686 plus 1689-1690 ((RDG36)).
Of the £90,000 raised by Crown Appeals between 1681 and 1694 ((RDG 58)), half was raised by James during the two years of 1686 and 1687((RDG 134)).
9. Historians agree that the skills of the Huguenot refugees were a great commercial asset to those countries, including Britain, in which they settled. Undoubtedly the religious restrictions placed on them in Britain by its Anglican Parliament made many thousands decide to settle elsewhere. The manner in which the refugees poured into England during the eighteen months of religious freedom under James, suggests that if his policy had been followed throughout the whole period, the number of settlers would have been much greater and their contribution to British life and prosperity that much more.
The Whigs blamed James for everything that went wrong between the restoration of the Monarchy and the invasion of William. James was depicted as having no real ability, and of being incompetent and selfish. He was said to have been ignorant of army, naval and commercial affairs, and to have contributed nothing to social progress. Some of the events used to build this picture are considered below:
a. It was said that, by not following up the battle of Lowestoft, he allowed the Dutch fleet to escape in 1655.
As Commander of the fleet preparing for this battle he spent long hours with his captains, not only discussing tactics but also encouraging a team spirit, to enable them to learn each others characters. This was something new, and this tradition in the British navy is directly attributable to him ((HH 158)).
James believed that the example of the Commander had a great effect on morale, so he always stayed where the fighting was hottest. He did this at Lowestoft where his friends were killed by his side ((JH 166)). When it was later realised how close the heir to the throne had come to being killed, Charles insisted that James should not lead the navy into battle again ((JH 166)).
Although outnumbered, James' tactics resulted in a defeat for the Dutch off Lowestoft ((JH 164)), and the remainder of their fleet fled home with the English in pursuit.
Having been on deck for 22 hours, James laid down fully dressed after giving instructions that he was to be called as soon as the Dutch were sighted. Henry Brounker, a Groom of the Bedchamber, informed the captain that James had ordered a slackening of speed, and the captain accepted his word. By morning the Dutch were too far ahead to be overtaken.
James wanted to court-martial Brounker, but as he was an Member of Parliament this was not permitted ((JH 163)). He was expelled from Parliament, but escaped abroad before the reason for his action could be discovered ((JH 164)). So it was not the fault of James that his victory was not followed up.
b. In 1667 the Dutch attacked the fleet at anchor in the Medway with devastating results, and his detractors blamed James.
But there was a reason for the devastation. The Plague and Fire of London in 1666 caused Parliament to be very reluctant to finance the continuance of the war, so money was not voted to keep the larger ships at sea ((JH 171 and MA 86)). James was appalled, but overruled ((JH 171)). While the ships were laid up, James ordered extra land based guns to be installed at Sheerness to protect the ships. But because of lack of money and therefore workmen, the guns were not placed in position ((PGR 51, 164-169)). So the catastrophe was not due to James.
c. In 1682 the, 'Gloucester' was sunk off the east coast while taking James to Scotland. Burnet wrote: 'The Duke got into the boat; and took care of his dogs and some unknown persons who were taken, from the earnest care of his, to be his priests; the long boat went off with very few in her, though she might have carried off about eighty persons more than she did' ((JH 229)). Churchill, who later deserted to William, claimed that if James had not been so obstinate and had abandoned ship quickly, all might have been saved ((MA 143)).
Legge agreed with Churchill, but denied that preference had been given to a dog and priests ((MA 143)). But these accounts come from statements made by their relatives after these witnesses had died, respectively 60 and 42 years later ((JH 229)). They are not therefore to be classed as reliable.
James was also accused of showing callousness in being more upset when he heard that the pilot had swum to safety, than that so many men had lost their lives ((MA 143)).
Burnet was not at the scene of the tragedy, but Samuel Pepys, the well-known Diarist, was on a nearby ship. Sir John Berry was the captain of the Gloucester, and James gave his own account of the incident when he wrote to his daughter Mary, and William, three days later ((FCT 213)). These three accounts give a more reliable picture than that of the absent Burnet.
The ship was one of several sailing together, and the Commanders of the other boats warned the pilot of the Gloucester that he was taking a dangerous route. As the pilot ignored these warnings ((JH 228)), James blamed him for the loss of the ship ((FCT 214)).
He wrote "We lost a great many men and considering the little time the ship was above water after she struck first, it was well so many were saved . . ." He reported that 110 out of 250 were drowned, including several of his own servants.
The accusation that James couldn't make up his mind and delayed the evacuation is not born out by the facts. The experience must have been very frightening for Churchill and Legge, who were not sailors, and no doubt they were in a hurry to leave the ship. But James didn't panic but arranged for some important papers in a heavy box to be transferred to the barge. He was also concerned to arrange for some salvage officers to remain on board ((MA 143)). The ship was on a sandbank, and the sailors do not appear to have feared a sudden foundering, as they cheered James when the barge reached a nearby ship safely. But before the barge could return, the Gloucester suddenly slid off the sandbank into deep water ((JH 229)).
It was not a calm sea, as James' detractors claimed. A gale was blowing, which probably explains why the barge was not crowded on its first trip. The gale also made rescue from the water difficult ((JH 230)). There was only one priest on board and James' dog was found sharing a plank with a doctor ((JH 229)).
James did say that if he had realised that the pilot had survived, he would have hanged him in accordance with the custom of the sea ((FCT 214)). But this was a sign of his fury at the pilot's criminal stupidity in causing so many deaths, rather than a sign of his indifference to the fate of his men. James gave eleven months pay to the widow, and a sum of money to each child, of every drowned man ((JH 230)).
d. James' enemies could not deny that the reforms in the navy, during his command, were so fundamental and extensive that England ruled the seas for 250 years. What they did do, however, was to give all the credit to his subordinates and imply that he craftily tried to take all the credit for himself ((JH 144)). Lord Macaulay's History popularised this idea when he wrote that James would: 'have made a respectable clerk in the dockyard at Chatham' ((JH 144)).
James was Admiral of the Fleet during most of the reign of Charles. Samuel Pepys was Secretary to the Navy, a position he retained during James' reign. The system of reorganising the navy adopted by Pepys consisted in making laws and rules for all aspects of its administration. He has truly been called the founder of the Civil Service. Much of his inspiration came from the history of the Monastic Orders ((PTR 48)). James' addiction to order and method led to a happy relationship with Pepys ((JH 133)), who was also a brilliant organiser. "It was Britain's good fortune that at a time when her navy was in desperate straits these two men worked as an enthusiastic team" ((JH 143)). James would have achieved much less without Pepys, but Pepys would have been impotent without James' drive at the highest circles of power.
When Pepys complained of a lack of proper job descriptions and clear definitions of duties, James instructed him to put his ideas on paper. James then placed these before the Privy Council. No one thought that James was claiming credit for having written them himself, and Pepys was delighted with James' action ((JH 145)).
It was Pepys who compiled the: 'Instructions to Commanders', which in essence is still in use today. "The Duke of York's Sailing and Fighting Instructions", was largely the work of Sir William Penn senior, but it may be assumed that it was edited and approved by James, as it bore his name and therefore his reputation ((JH 146)). The two greatest reforms were the founding of a regular naval establishment, and the introduction of midshipmen ((JH 146)). On 15th July 1686 the use of naval vessels for private profit was prohibited, but a high pay scale was established for Commanders. This aimed to place them above temptation and subject to naval discipline.
The 'Press Gangs' were replaced by volunteers, who received a thorough apprenticeship and a small allowance in addition to their keep. A naval hospital was planned for Greenwich ((ABA 18-28)). James, who had been an army commander of international repute, devoted much time to learning about the navy, and visited the ships and dockyards ((JH 145)), although he lacked practical knowledge, such as being able to estimate the weight of anchors ((FCT 74)).
e. When he was Duke of York, James strongly argued for a regular modern army, and the Genadier, Scots, Coldstream, Life-Guards and other famous regiments were formed at this time ((JH 142)). James' work for the army led Fortescue, the greatest army historian, to write regarding James: "It is not too much to say that his expulsion was, in this respect, the greatest misfortune that ever befell the army". ((JH 143)).
f. Overseas trade has always provided an important contribution to British prosperity, with an influential class deeply concerned with its progress. So James' enemies accused him of not taking an interest in Commerce. But this is false. Although much time had to be spent on politics, immediately on his return from exile in 1660 he founded the Royal Africa Company ((FCT 83 and JH 150)), and later invested in and supported several trading companies of the East Indies, Turkey, Hamburg and the Canary Islands. He became Governor of the Hudson Bay Company ((GMT 272)). He was very efficient and quickly sent the navy to recapture trading posts lost during Cromwell's period of rule ((JH 150)).
g. An example of his reformist social policies can be seen in his laws regarding marriage. James issued a decree to regulate wedding procedure, so as to end clandestine marriages especially of minors, and to prevent men committing bigamy. The men who overthrew him annulled this reform, and it was not reintroduced until 1753 in the 'Hardwick Marriage Act' ((FCT 318)).
h. His electoral programme in 1688 included the partial abolition of imprisonment for debt ((JRJ 156)). With his overthrow this reform was not introduced and in 1729 gaolers were still torturing debtors to death ((GMT 346)).
i. Negro slaves in the British colonies were not allowed to receive baptism. This was because baptism would have been a public recognition of their full humanity. As Christians they would have been entitled to Sunday rest, religious education and recognition of the unity of their marriages, thereby preventing the separation of partners when being sold. Religious education would also have led to local church leaders and teachers being taught to read. James stated that he was going to insist Negroes should be baptised and he condemned their masters ((MT 155)). He was deposed before being able to put his policy into law.
It may be noted that William's invading army in 1688 included a battalion of Negro slaves ((HTJY 49)).
King James II was a fool.
COMMENT Accusations against James are made on three levels. Firstly he is accused of being a tyrant in crushing liberty. When it is shown that he was working for greater liberty, he is accused of being insincere. When his sincerity becomes apparent, he is accused of being a stubborn fool. The message of this third accusation is that his aims were praiseworthy, but his failure to obtain them was due to his own stupidity. The implication being that if he had pursued his ideals with moderation and wisdom the leading politicians, being just and tolerant men, would have supported him.
In this manner the blame, for the failure to make Britain a tolerant society, is placed on James, rather than on those who so bitterly and treacherously opposed him.
As to whether James was a fool is a matter of opinion not of fact. But in forming an opinion the following aspects should be considered.
a. James knew very well that by becoming a Catholic he was putting his three crowns of - England - Scotland - Ireland at risk. Was he a fool to follow his conscience?
b. If he had been willing to live in subservience to an intolerant Parliament, sign the death warrants of innocent men; see the work and property of non-conforming Protestants, Catholics, Quakers and others being destroyed; and watch honest men of good will living in fear, he would have had few problems. He could have lived as a wealthy king for the rest of his life and been called a wise and great king. Was he a fool to reject that role?
c. For 25 years his brother had struggled to implement the Declaration
of Breda. But, despite his astute political brain, the repression of all who would not conform to the State Church
was worse at his death than when he had been crowned. Was James a fool to attempt another method?
d. To have aimed at achieving freedom of worship, without obtaining civil rights for non-Anglicans, may be judged in retrospect to have been a more achievable policy. All reformers hear the argument that: 'half a loaf is better than none'. This can be an attractive and intelligent point of view. But James believed that the only way to ensure that his reforms would not be rescinded after his death, was to change the whole spirit of the times by breaking down prejudices, hatreds and fears. On the evidence available to him at the time, was it foolish of him to judge that it was possible to gain: 'the whole loaf'?
e. James lacked a broad and firm power base upon which he could rely for support. His only authority was his kingship and his only weapons were those of argument and 'browbeating'. His options for manoeuvre in policies, tactics and manpower were narrowly circumscribed. Most Catholics were politically inept, due to having been excluded from public life for generations ((JRJ 81)). Many of his assistants were third rate politicians, taking advantage of his needs to gain a high civic position. So it was difficult for him to pick a dynamic, tactful and popular team.
f. James' last minute negotiations and changes of plans before escaping to France were depicted as actions of a dithering old man. But this was part of the propaganda war to win over the waverers to William's side. Once James had decided that his army was not able to defeat William's superior force, (he was a very experienced general), he informed the Admiral of the Fleet that he did not expect him to resist ((MAB 171)). When urged by an officer to regroup a loyal army in the north, he answered: "It would cause a civil war; he would not do such mischief to the English nation, which he loved, and which would soon come to their senses again" ((MA 262)).
A self-seeking man, wanting power for its own sake, would have fought on regardless of the cost to the nation. He hoped that the constitutional problems arising due to his overthrow, and the unpopularity of a foreign army of occupation, would lead to his recall. It may be remembered that the republicans had executed his father 1649, yet nine years later a disorganised nation called for the return of the Monarchy. He threw the Great Seal into the river Thames; depicted by the Whigs as an act of purposeless spite. But he did it to prevent a legal Parliament being called in his name. ((MAB 172)).
The compromise solution suggested by the Anglican bishops would have made James a prisoner of the Whigs for the rest of his life. His father had warned him that for a king it was never far from the prison to the grave ((PTR 173)). William of Orange justified his invasion by claiming that the son of James was an impostor. As the Prince had a greater right to the throne than William or his wife Mary, the baby's life was in danger.
James wrote to Admiral Dartmouth: "Tis my son they aim at and `tis my son I must endeavour
to preserve whatever becomes of me". James told the French ambassador that negotiations with the bishops were
a feint while he got his wife and child out of the country ((PRT 166)).
g. There is a tendency to judge those who gamble and win as being wise but those who gamble and lose as being foolish. When William sent his whole fleet to sea, heavily laden with men, horses and munitions, in the treacherous English Channel weather of November, he was gambling.
A sudden storm could have destroyed the whole of his army and navy in less than an hour, and seen the end of Holland as a separate nation. If this had occurred, he would have gone down in history as a fool rather than as a clever general.
James was gambling his throne in an effort to achieve reform. If king Louis of France had not removed his troops from the Dutch frontier, thereby enabling William to invade England, James would most likely have won his gamble and the elections. He would now be honoured as a wise king who had founded British religious liberty.
h. During a lifetime, every leader makes mistakes. This is especially true when he is under great pressure. Some of James' acts could be seen as lacking in tact to the point of being foolish. His treatment of the Oxford Dons and the bishops shows a lack of flexibility, even when we allow that 'bullying' was the only weapon he possessed. But these would not justify summing up his whole life and policy as being foolish.
i. It is consistent with the evidence to view James as neither a brilliant man nor a simpleton, but of average intelligence and ability. He undertook practically single-handedly to challenge the prejudices and fears of a whole nation in the cause of a worthy ideal. This he did at a time when France was persecuting in the name of 'Catholicism', Ireland was taking advantage of his policies to obtain independence, and William wished to gain control of the British armed forces. A genius was required, and James was not a genius. But this does not mean he was a fool. "It was everybody's loss that in succeeding to the throne, he had taken over a task that was beyond his capabilities" ((JH 259)).
MYTHOLOGY REGARDING LOUIS XIV AND WILLIAM OF ORANGE
Whig mythology portrayed Louis XIV as a devout, zealous Catholic, loyally obeying the urgings of the Catholic French clergy to promote the Catholic Faith by stamping out heresy. William of Orange was pictured as a man of high principle, who unselfishly answered the call to save Protestant England from a tyrannical Catholic king.
THE REALITY OF LOUIS XIV
a. Louis aimed to establish himself as head of a Gallican (i.e.
French) State Church in France. As a first step Louis XIV demanded that the Pope appoint his nominees as bishops
regardless of their qualities. Louis and his clerical supporters were willing to deny the Catholic doctrine of
'The Real Presence' in order to make it easier for Protestants to join his Gallican Church ((VC 265)).
It was this near schismatic Assembly of Clergy which urged Louis to revoke the Edict of Nantes. Yet its revocation was depicted in Whig propaganda as being the result of a true Catholic spirit. Those French clergy loyal to the Pope had been excluded from positions of influence.
b. The greatest threat to Christendom at that time was the advance of Moslem Turkish armies to the gates of Vienna. The Pope called on all Catholics and Protestants to unite in defence of Europe. Nearly all responded positively, including the northern German Protestant Princes and William of Orange. But Louis not only refused, he tried to persuade Poland not to assist. He gave financial help to pro-Turkish Hungarian rebels, and increased pressure on western Germany at a time when it was of most help to the Turks.
Louis demanded the right to make the final choice in selecting the bishop of Cologne, which was close to the border of France. When the Pope refused ((JRJ 276)), Louis sent his army to occupy the town, knowing that the armies of the Catholic princes were fighting the Turks in the south. Protestant Brandenburg troops, led by the Huguenot general, Schonberg, moved to the city to protect it and its Catholic bishop ((JRJ207)).
d. So as to put pressure on the Pope, Louis invaded Avignon in southern France, which was a possession of the Holy See ((JRJ 276)).
e. The foreign embassies in Rome had extended their right of sanctuary to all their properties, which often involved whole streets. The Pope gave instructions to end this abuse and all countries, except France, complied. When the Pope therefore refused to recognise the French ambassador, Louis despatched 500 soldiers and 200 supporters to try to enforce recognition. The ambassador and the priests with him were excommunicated. In retaliation the Papal Nuncio in Paris was imprisoned ((VC 201)). It was nine months before the French withdrew from Rome.
So whatever judgements may be made regarding Louis' reign, and he is admired by many for his positive achievements in education, technology and art, it is false to depict his religious and political policies, including that of persecution of Protestants, as springing from loyalty to the Catholic Church and the Pope.
THE REALITY OF WILLIAM OF ORANGE
a. The primary reason for William's invasion of England was to establish in power men who would place Britain's armed forces at his disposal in the coming war with France ((JRJ 189, 329)).
b. The second reason was based on his fear that the Whigs would overthrow James on their own and establish a Republic, thereby denying his wife any hope of succeeding to the throne in the future ((MAB 195)). Alternatively they might establish a Constitutional Monarchy that would relegate his wife to a figurehead without power.
c. He took a great risk in sending his navy and army to sea during the time of winter storms ((JRJ 260)). He didn't gamble his whole future in order to reinstate a few Dons to an Oxford College, and to restore laws for the persecution of non-Anglicans. He was a Calvinist himself and if resident in England would have been included amongst those being persecuted. He was also well aware that the Church of England was not in the slightest danger of being suppressed by a handful of peaceable Catholics.
When on 7th May 1689 Britain declared war on France, with William in command of the British army and navy, he had achieved the primary aim of his invasion. When he and Mary were made king and queen, he had achieved his secondary objective.
d. Another assessment of William's aims stresses his third motive. `He invaded England in 1688 to prevent her being dragged into a circle of alliances drawn by France, and to secure her financial, commercial, colonial, naval and military power for the Protestant forces of Western Europe, in their fight against the imperialism of LouisXIV'. ((JCA 206)).
So the story of William coming: 'to save Protestantism' is a myth. One modern historian has commented, "1688-9 marks the great discovery that a revolution is as effective a myth about the origins of political institutions as a sun-god or a Tojan hero". ((JC 237)).
It is impossible to understand the history of the reigns of Charles II and James II without appreciating the extent of the hatred for, and fear of, Catholics and the Pope.
a). IN GENERAL
'Anti-Popery was the strongest, most widespread and most persistent ideology in the life and thought of 17th Century Britain . . . Fear of, and hostility to, Catholicism was to be found in every section and class . . . Constant use, and abuse and exploitation of anti-Catholic sentiment did not appreciably diminish its potency. ... in a pre-industrial society it was considered safe to direct popular hostility, and even mass violence, against the Catholics. They were so isolated and uniquely execrated that there was little danger of such attacks getting out of hand, as they did in 1780, and turning into anti-social disturbances endangering all order and property. The reverse was true. Anti-Popery was one of the forces making for national unity' ((JRJ 76)).
Catholics were accused of causing The Plague, The Fire of London, and practically every mishap that befell England during those years. Pope-burning processions were excellent shows, ending in bonfires where effigies of the Pope and his cardinals were thrown on the flames. An observer described one held on 17th November 1677. There were:
'Mighty bonfires and the burning of a most costly Pope carried by four persons in divers habits, and the effigies of two devils whispering in his ears, his belly filled full of live cats who squawled most hideously as soon as they felt the fire: the common people saying all the while it was the language of the Pope and the Devil in a dialogue betwixt them. A tierce of claret was set out before the Temple Gate for the common people. Mr. Langhorne saith he is very confident the pageantry cost forty pounds.' ((MDRL 98)).
These bonfires were not spontaneous outbreaks of popular feeling. They were expensive affairs paid for by the politicians ((MDRL 98)).
Anglicans were frequently worried because it was not always made clear whether it was only Catholic bishops who were being burnt in effigy. When James banned bonfires and fireworks in November 1685 ((MA 183)), it was not due to a killjoy attitude, but because they were a major means of inflaming religious and political hatreds.
c). A CENSUS
In the official summary of the Ecclesiastical Census of 1676, there is an exact calculation of how many 'Papists' were of the age to 'bear arms' ((DCDA 414)). This indicates how the neurotic fear of a Catholic military danger prevailed, within the highest circles of administration, during the reign of Charles II.
d). THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON
When the fire broke out, it was not long before the 'Papists' were blamed. Stories of 4,000 French Catholics roaming the streets throwing firebombs were widely accepted as true ((JL 199)). It was believed that the Papists intended to burn all England town by town ((JL 217)). Such rumours may be excusable in times of panic and tragedy amongst the uneducated, but the political leaders in Parliament joined in. By blaming the Catholics, the republican revolutionary movement against Charles II could be strengthened. 'It was increased hatred of Rome which was perhaps the most important result of the disaster' ((SR 132)).
James took command of fire-fighting because the mayor was indolent. All eye-witness reports show him bravely organising the blowing up of houses to form fire-breaks, and being in the centre of danger. He moved from section to section encouraging his men, making key decisions, and using his own bare hands at times. This was all deliberately forgotten when the Whigs were engendering blind religious bigotry in Parliament.
A Parliamentary Committee could come to no conclusion as to how the fire was started ((JL 256)). But when, 'The Monument' was erected in 1681 to: 'Preserve the Memory' of the fire, an inscription was carved:
'This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of the most dreadful burning of the Protestant city, begun and carried out by the treachery and malice of the Popish faction, in the beginning of September, in the year of Our Lord 1666, in order to the carrying on their horrid plot for extirpating the Protestant religion and old English liberty, and introducing Popery and slavery.' ((JL 258)).
Rioting ignorant fanatics immediately after the fire were not responsible. It was ordered by Parliament fifteen years later, when their own committee had stated that the fire's origin was unknown.
When James became king he had the words erased. But in 1689 Parliament had them restored. In the 19th Century the inscription was permanently removed ((JL 258)).
During James' reign, anti-Catholic riots took place in Oxford, Worcester, Warwickshire, Bristol and Scotland ((MAB 66)). The ignorance of the mobs, regarding the true religious and political situation, may be judged by their attack on the Spanish Embassy in 1688 ((MAB 172)). Spain formed part of the anti-French alliance hoping William's invasion would be a success.
The chapel of the Elector Palatine in the city was attacked, although its Catholic Elector allowed Protestants full liberty of conscience, worship and civil rights. At the time he was desperately looking for help to throw out the French forces persecuting both his Protestant subjects and those loyal to the Pope.
f). THE POPISH PLOT
Titus Oates was born in 1649. He went to Cambridge but left in deep disgrace without taking a degree. He managed to receive ordination by the Church of England, but could not obtain a living for he antagonised all who came into contact with him.
In 1677 he became the Protestant chaplain to the household of the Duke of Norfolk, but was soon sacked and sank into poverty. Claiming a wish to become a Catholic, he was received into the Church and at his request sent to Valladolid in Spain to join the Jesuits. He was soon expelled for outrageous behaviour and then lived in London with Israel Tonge, a notorious anti-Jesuit. He then attended a Jesuit school for six months at St. Omer in France, but was expelled for unnatural vice ((GWK 86)).
Although Oates had failed to learn anything with which to incriminate the Jesuits, he did obtain the names of many priests. Returning to England, Oates and Tonge wrote a story claiming that Oates had discovered an elaborate plot for overthrowing Charles II and establishing Catholic domination. A large French and Irish army was to be enrolled, and the names of prominent English Catholics were given as the designated holders of various offices. Their tale was so full of inconsistencies and improbabilities, it was ignored by all responsible citizens. But in 1678 Oates and Tonge made a formal deposition to a justice, who was murdered soon afterwards in mysterious circumstances.
This publicity enabled the King's enemies to place the narrative before the Privy Council. Oates was reported as saying: "That murder happen'd well for me . . . my Plot had come to nothing without it". Charles was persuaded to attend the second meeting of the Council at which the answers of Oates, on matters of simple fact, showed him to be a liar. But after the king had left the meeting, it was agreed to publish the story.
Lord Shaftesbury and friends, who were fighting to have James excluded from succeeding to the throne, grasped this opportunity to spread the narrative. This story plus a stream of additional pamphlets caused excitement and panic. In the wave of anti-Catholic hysteria that followed, 16 priests and 5 laymen were executed. About 2,000 were imprisoned (i.e. 40% of the known fit adult Catholic males between 16 and 60 years of age), and many others suffered from mob violence.
So blind was the bigotry that the king dared not intervene for fear of the cleverly stimulated emotions being turned against himself and the Crown. The trials were a mockery of justice, with no counsel allowed to argue for the accused, the defence not permitted to cross-examine 'witnesses', and the accused not shown the precise crimes with which he was charged until he was in the dock. The judges were determined to convict and the juries, mishandled by mobs surrounding the Court, were terrified lest they too should be arrested.
When the House of Lords 'tried' Lord Stafford, the diarist John Evelyn was present and wrote that Oates' testimony: "Should not be taken against the life of a dog", and that it was not likely that: "The Jesuits should trust him with so high and dangerous secrets". Yet Stafford was found guilty and beheaded. A man sent to 'find' seditious letters hidden in a convent in Cork, which would incriminate the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, was exposed with the 'letters' before he set sail from Bristol. But this did not prevent the prosecutor obtaining a guilty verdict and the Archbishop's death.
Reputable opinion was not able to bring the situation under control for some time. Eventually, in May 1685, Titus Oates was sentenced to life imprisonment for perjury. But after James' overthrow the government released Oates, and awarded him a pension for life ((JH 247)). During the next few months he concentrated on producing pamphlets purporting to give the history of what he called 'The Bloody Assizes" as presided over by judge Jeffreys. He invented 'martyrologies' (stories of heroic deaths) of individuals caught following the Monmouth rebellion, who had not in fact been executed [See Chapter VII Accusation 5]. As the Church of England still refused to provide him with a position, he joined the Baptists, but was expelled as a disorderly person and a hypocrite. He died in 1705.
The ease with which an unsubstantiated and wild accusation by such an unreliable figure was accepted
by nearly the whole nation, including the judiciary and the House of Lords, is a measure of the all pervading irrational
abhorrence and fear of Catholics at the time.