Letter of King James II and VII, December 22, 1688

King James II and VII wrote this letter the day before he withdrew to France, leaving instructions to the Earl of Middleton that the letter be published after his departure. On December 24th, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal who were gathered at Westminster were informed by the Earl of Ailesbury of the existence of the letter. The Earl of Clarendon, seconded by the Earl of Lyndsey, moved that the letter be sent for and read to the assembled lords. After much debate, the lords voted against any such action.

A printed version of the text can be found on page 19 of the Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission on the Manuscripts of the House of Lords, 1688-89.

The world cannot wonder at my withdrawing myself now this second time. I might have expected somewhat better usage after what I wrote to the Prince of Orange by my Lord Feversham and the instructions I gave him. But instead of an answer what was I not to expect after the usage I received by the making the said Earl a prisonner against the practice and law of nations? The sending his own guards at eleven at night to take possession of the Posts at Whitehall without advertising me in the least manner of it. The sending to me at one o'clock after midnight, when I was in bed, a kind of an order by three Lords to be gone out of mine own palace before twelve that same morning. After all this how could I hope to be safe, so long as I was in the power of one who had not only done this to me and invaded my kingdoms without any just occasion given him for it, but that did by his first declaration lay the greatest aspersion upon me that malice could invent in that clause of it which concerns my son. I appeal to all that know me, nay even to himself, that in their consciences neither he nor they can believe me in the least capable of so unnatural a villainy, nor of so little common sense to be imposed on in a thing of such a nature as that. What had I then to expect from one who by all arts has taken such pains to make me appear as black as hell to my own people as well as to all the world besides. What effect that has had at home all mankind have seen by so general a defection in my army, as well as in the nation amongst all sorts of people.

I was born free and desire to continue so, and though I have ventured my life very frankly on several occasions for the good and honour of my country, and am as free to do it again (and which I hope I shall yet do as old as I am) to redeem it from the slavery it is like to fall under. Yet I think it not convenient to expose myself to be secured so as not to be at liberty to effect it, and for that reason do withdraw, but so as to be within call whensoever the nation's eyes shall be opened, so as to see how they have been abused and imposed upon by the specious pretences of religion and property. I hope it will please God to touch the hearts out of His infinite mercy, and to make them sensible of the ill condition they are in, and bring them to such a temper that a legal parliament may be called and that amongst other things which may be necessary to be done they will agree to liberty of conscience for all Protestant dissenters, and that those of my own persuasion may be so far considered and have such a share of it, as they may live peaceably and quietly as Englishmen and Christians ought to do, and not to be obliged to transplant themselves, which would be very grievous especially to such as love their own country; and I appeal to all who are considering men and have had experience, whither anything can make this nation so great and flourishing as liberty of conscience. Some of our neighbours dread it.

I could add much more to confirm all I have said, but now is not the proper time.

Rochester, December 22, 1688

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