Letter of King James II to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, January 26, 1689
A printed version of the text can be found on pages 18 to 22 of the Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission on the Manuscripts of the House of Lords, 1688-89.
We think ourselves bound in conscience to do all we can to open our peoples' eyes that they may see the true interest of the nation in this important conjuncture, and therefore do think fit to let you know, that finding we could no longer stay with safety nor act with freedom in what concerned our people, and that it was absolutely necessary for us to retire, we left the reasons of our withdrawing under our own hand, to be communicated to you and our other subjects in the following terms:
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.
But finding that not taken to be ours by some, and that the Prince of Orange and his adherents did maliciously suppress the same, we thought fit some time thereafter to renew it, and likewise to write to such of your number as were of our Privy Council in the terms following.
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
All which we sent with a servant of our own to be delivered as it was directed, but as yet we have no account of it. We likewise directed copies wrote to several of you the peers of our realm, believing that none durst take upon them to intercept or open your letters, but of these likewise we have no account.
When we saw that it was no longer safe for us to remain within our kingdom of England, and that thereupon we had taken our resolutions to withdraw for some time, we left to be communicated to you and to all our subjects the reasons of our withdrawing, and were likewise resolved at the same time to leave such orders behind us to you of our Privy Council as might best suit with the present state of affairs. But that being altogether unsafe for us at that time, we now think fit to let you know that though it has been our constant care since our first accession to the Crown to govern our people with that justice and moderation as to give if possible no occasion of complaint, yet more particularly upon the late invasion seeing how the design was laid, and fearing that our people who could not be destroyed but by themselves, might by little imaginary grievances be cheated into a certain ruin.
To prevent so great mischief and to take away not only all just causes, but even pretences of discontent, we freely and of our own accord redressed all those things that were set forth as the causes of that invasion, and that we might be informed by the counsel and advice of our subjects themselves which way we might give them a further and full satisfaction, we resolved to meet them in a free parliament and in order to it we first laid the foundation of such a free parliament in restoring the City of London and the rest of the Corporations to their ancient charters and privileges, and afterwards actually appointed the writs to be issued out for the parliament's meeting on the 15th of January.
But the Prince of Orange seeing all the ends of his declaration answered, the people beginning to be undeceived, and returning apace to their ancient duty and allegiance, and well forseeing that if the parliament should meet at the time appointed, such a settlement in all probability would be made both in Church and State as would totally defeat his ambitious and unjust designs, resolved by all means possible to prevent the meeting of the parliament; and to do this the most effectual way, he thought fit to lay a restraint on our royal person, for as it were absurd to call that a free parliament where there is any force on either of the houses, so much less can that parliament be said to act freely, where the sovereign by whose authority they meet and sit and from whose royal assent all their acts receive their life and sanction is under actual confinement.
The hurrying of us under a guard from our City of London, whose returning loyalty he could no longer trust, and the other indignities we suffered in the person of the Earl of Feversham when sent to him by us, and in that barbarous confinement of our own person, we shall not here repeat, because they are we doubt not by this time very well known, and may, we hope, if enough considered and reflected upon, together with his other violations and breaches of the laws and liberties of England, which by this invasion he pretended to restore, be sufficient to open the eyes of all our subjects and let them plainly see what every one of them may expect and what treatment they shall find from him, if at any time it may serve to his purpose, from whose hands a sovereign prince, an uncle, and a father could meet with no better entertainment.
However the sense of these indignities and the just apprehension of further attempts against our person by them who already endeavoured to murder our reputation by infamous calumnies (as if we had been capable of supposing a Prince of Wales) which was incomparably more injurious then the destroying of our person itself, together with a serious reflection on a saying of our royal father of blessed memory when he was in the like circumstances, that there is little distance between the prisons and the graves of princes (which afterwards proved too true in his case) could not but persuade us to make use of that right which the law of nature gives to the meanest of our subjects of freeing ourselves by all means possible from that unjust confinement and restraint; and this we did not more for the security of our own person than that thereby we might be in a better capacity of transacting and providing for everything that may contribute to the peace and settlement of our kingdoms; for as on the one hand no change of fortune shall ever make us forget ourselves so far as to condescend to anything unbecoming that high and royal station in which God Almighty by right of succession has placed us, so on the other hand, neither the provocation or ingratitude of our own subjects, nor any other consideration whatsoever shall ever prevail with us to make the least step contrary to the true interest of the English nation which we ever did and ever must look upon as our own.
Our will and pleasure therefore is that you of our Privy Council take the most effectual care to make these our gracious intentions known to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in and about our Cities of London and Westminster, to the Lord Mayor and Commons of our City of London, and to all our subjects in general, and to assure them that we desire nothing more than to return and hold a free parliament wherein we may have the best opportunity of undeceiving our people and showing the sincerity of those protestations we have often made of preserving the liberties and properties of our subjects and the Protestant Religion, more especially the Church of Engalnd as by Law established, with such indulgence for those that dissent from her as we have always thought ourselves in justice and care of the general welfare of our people bound to procure for them. And in the meantime you of our Privy Council (who can judge better by being upon the place) are to send us your advice what is fit to be done by us towards our returning and the accomplishing these good ends. And we do require you in our name and by our authority to endeavour so to suppress all tumults and disorders that the nation in general and every one of our subjects in particular may receive the least prejudice from the present distractions that is possible. So not doubting of your dutiful obedience to these our royal commands, we bid you heartily farewell.
Given at St. Germain en Laye, the 4/14 of January, 1688/9, and of our reign the fourth year.
But we cannot wonder though all arts be used to hinder you from knowing our sentiments, since the Prince of Orange rather chose against all law to imprison the Earl of Feversham, and to drive us away from our palace than to receive our invitation of coming to us, or hearing what we had to propose to him, well knowing that what we had to offer would content all reasonable men, and was what he durst not trust you with the knowledge of. We think fit now to let you know that whatever crimes shall be committed or whose posterity soever shall come to suffer for these crimes, we are resolved to be innocent. And therefore do declare to you that we are ready to return (when safely we may) and to redress all the disorders in our kingdoms in a free parliament called according to law and held without constraint. More particularly we are contented to secure the Church of England as by Law established, and by the advice of that parliament give such indulgence to dissenters as our people may have no reason to be jealous of. We will likewise by the advice of that parliament heal all the divisions, cover with oblivion all the faults, and restore the happiness of our people, which never can be effectually done by any other power, which we expect you will seriously and speedily consider.
Given at St. Germain en Laye, the 26 January/5 February, 1688/9, and of our reign the fourth.
By His Majesty's command, Melfort.
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