Declaration of King James II, April 20, 1692

A printed version of the text appears on pages 479 to 488 of volume 2 of The Life of James the Second, edited by James Stanier Clarke (London, 1816).

Whereas the Most Christian King, in pursuance of the many obliging promises he had made us of giving us his effectual assistance for the recovering of our kingdoms as soon as the condition of his affairs would permit, has put us in a way of endeavouring it at this time, and in order to it has lent us so many troops as may be abundantly sufficient to untie the hands of our subjects and make it safe for them to return to their duty and repair to our standard, and has notwithstanding for the present, according to our desire (unless there should appear further necessity for it) purposely declined sending out forces so numerous as might raise any jealousy in the minds of our good subjects of his intending to take the work out of our hands or deprive any Englishman of the part he may hope to have in so glorious an action, as that of restoring his lawful king and his ancient government, all which foreign troops as soon as we shall be fully settled in the quiet and peaceable possession of our kingdoms we do hereby promise to send back, and in the mean time to keep them in such exact order and discipline that none of our subjects shall receive the least injury in their persons or possessions by any soldier or officer whatever. Though an affair of this nature speaks for itself, nor do we think ourselves obliged to say anything more on this occasion, than that we come to assert our own just rights and deliver our people from the oppression they lie under, yet when we consider how miserably many of our subjects were cheated into the late Revolution by the arts of ill men, particularly the Prince of Orange's Declaration, which was taken upon trust and easily believed then, but since appears notoriously false in all the parts of it, consisting no less of assertions which have been manifestly disproved, than of promises that were never intended to be performed. To prevent therefore the like delusions for the time to come, and to do as much as lies in our power to open the eyes of all our subjects, we are willing to lay the whole matter before them, in as plain and short a manner as possible, that they may not pretend mistakes or have ignorance to plead for any false steps they shall hereafter make towards the ruin of their own country's happiness.

And therefore to take the matter from the beginning: it cannot be forgotten that as soon as we had certain notice of the Prince of Orange's unnatural design of invading our kingdoms with the whole power of the United Provinces, we first took the best care we could to provide for our defence, which we seemed effectually to have done, when we had put our fleet and army into such a condition, that though His Most Christian Majesty, who well saw the bottom of the design against us, against himself, and indeed against the peace of Europe, offered us considerable succours both by land and sea, we did not think it at all necessary to accept them at that time, as resolving to cast ourselves wholly (next to the divine providence) upon the courage and fidelity of our English army, which had been with so much care and tenderness formed and obliged by us. And having thus prepared to oppose force to force, we did in the next place apply ourselves to give all reasonable satisfaction to the minds of our good subjects, by endeavouring to undeceive them, and to let them see betimes, and whilst the mischief might easily have been prevented, how fatal a ruin they must bring upon their country, if they suffered themselves to be seduced by the vain pretences of the Prince of Orange's invasion. However, so great was the infatuation of that time, that we were not believed until it was too late. But when he was obliged to throw off the mask by degrees, and that it began to appear plainly that it was not the reformation of the government (which yet was a matter that did not at all belong to him to meddle with) but the subversion of it which he aimed at, that so he might build his own ambitious designs upon the ruins of the English nation, and when the poison had insinuated itself into the vital parts of the kingdom, when it had spread over our whole army, and so far got into our Court and family as not only to corrupt some of our servants that were nearest our person and had been most highly obliged by us, but not even to leave our own children at that time uninfected, when our army daily deserted on the one hand, and on the other hand tumults and disorders increased in all parts of the kingdom, and especially, when shortly after the revolution came on so fast, that we found ourselves wholly in our enemy's power, being at first confined by them in our palace, and afterwards rudely forced out of it under a guard of foreigners, we could not then but be admonished by the fate of some of our predecessors in the like circumstances of the danger we were in, and that it was high time to provide for the security of our person (which was happily effected by our getting from the guard that was set upon us at Rochester and our arrival in France, the only part of Europe to which we could retire with safety), that so we might preserve ourselves for better times and for a more happy opportunity, such as is that, which, by the blessing of God, is at present put into our hands. Upon what foundation of justice or common sense the Prince of Orange's faction in England were pleased to treat this escape of ours out of the hands of our enemies, in the style of an abdication, a word, when applied to a sovereign prince's, that was never before used to signify anything but a free and voluntary resignation of a crown, as in the case of the Emperor Charles the First and the late Queen of Sweden; and what a strange superstructure they raised upon this weak foundation, that a company of men illegally met together, who had not power even by their own confession at that time (for it was before they had voted themselves a Parliament) to charge the interest of the meanest subject, should yet take upon them to destroy the whole constitution of the government, to make an ancient hereditary monarchy turn elective, and then assuming to themselves the right of election, should proceed to settle the succession in so odd and extravagant a manner, are transactions that need not to be repeated; they are too well known to the world, and the grounds upon which they are built are too vain and frivolous to deserve a confutation. Every freeholder of England is in this case able to make his own observations, and will no doubt examine a little better than hitherto he has done, what assurance any private man can have of keeping his estate, if the King himself shall hold his crown by no better title.

But since some men, that could not say one word in defence of the justice of these proceedings, would yet take great pains to show the necessity of them, and set forth the extraordinary good effects [which] were to be expected from so very bad a cause, we do not doubt but the nation has by this time cast up the account, and when they shall have well considered what wonders might have been performed with less expense of English blood than that which has been unnecessarily trifled away in this quarrel, that such a number of ships of war have been lost and destroyed in the three years last past as might alone have been sufficient to have made a considerable fleet, that more money has been drained out of the purses of our subjects in the compass of that time than during the whole reign of many of our predecessors put together, and that, not as formerly, spent again, and circulating amongst them, but transported in species into foreign parts and forever lost to the nation, when these and many other particulars of this nature are cast up, it must certainly appear at the foot of the account how much worse the remedy is than the fancied disease, and that at least hitherto the kingdom is no great gainer by the change.

The next consideration is what may reasonably be expected for the time to come, and as to that no better judgement can be made of any future events than by reflecting upon what is past, and doubtless upon the observation of the temper and complexion, the method and maxims of the present usurper, from the steps he has already taken, when it was most necessary for him to give no distrust to the people, as well as from the nature of all usurpations, which can never be supported but by the same ways of fraud and violence, by which it was first set up. There is all the reason in the world to believe that the beginning of this tyranny, like the first years of Nero, is like to prove by much the mildest part of it, and all they have yet suffered is but the beginning of the miseries these very men, who were the great promoters of the revolution, may yet live to see and feel, as the effects of that tyrannical government which they themselves first imposed upon the kingdom.

And yet the consideration must not rest here neither, for all wise men ought, and all good men will take care of their posterity. And therefore it is to be remembered that if it should please Almighty God, as one of the severest judgments upon this kingdom, for the many rebellions and perjuries they have been guilty of, so far to permit the contrivance of this present usurpation, that we should not be restored during our lifetime. Yet an indisputable title to the Crown will survive in the person of our dearest son the Prince of Wales, our present heir apparent, and his issue, and for default of that in the issue of such other sons as we have great reason to hope (the Queen being now with child) we may yet leave behind us. And what the consequence of that is like to be may easily be understood by all who are not strangers to the long and bloody contentions between the houses of York and Lancaster, and whosoever shall read the histories of those times, and there shall have presented to them, as at one view, a scene of all the miseries of an intestine war, the perpetual harassing of the poor commons by plunder and free quarter, the ruin of so many noble families by the frequent executions and attainders, the weakening of the whole kingdom in general at home, and the losing those advantages they might in the mean time have procured for themselves abroad, cannot but conclude that these are the natural effects of those strugglings and convulsions that must necessarily happen in every state where there is a dispute entailed against an injured right and an unjust possession.

There is another consideration which ought to be of weight with all Christians, and that is the calamitous condition of Europe, now almost universally engaged in a war amongst themselves, at a time when there was the greatest hopes of success against a common enemy, and the fairest prospect of enlarging the bounds of the Christian Empire that ever was in any age since the declining of the Roman. And so far from a general peace before our restoration, that no national prospect of a treaty can be formed in order to it. But that once done will be easy, and we shall be ready to offer our meditation, and interpose all the good offices we can with His Most Christian Majesty for the obtaining of it.

Since therefore we come with so good purposes and so good a cause, the justice of which is founded upon the laws both of God and man, since the peace of Europe as well as of all our kingdoms, the prosperity of the present and future ages is concerned in the success of it, we hope we shall meet with little opposition, but that all loving subjects, according to their duty and the oath of their allegiance and as we hereby require and command them to do, will join with us and assist us to the utmost of their power.

And we do hereby strictly forewarn and prohibit any of our own subjects whatsoever, either by collecting or paying any of the illegal taxes lately imposed upon the nation, or any part of our revenue, or by any other ways to abet or support the present usurpation, and that we may do all that can be thought of to win over all our subjects to our service, that so if it be possible we may have none but the usurper and his foreign troops to deal with. And that none may be forced to continue in their rebellion by despair of our mercy for what they have already done, we do hereby declare and promise on the word of a king, that all persons whatsoever, how guilty soever they may have been (except the persons following, viz: the Duke of Ormonde; Marquess of Winchester; Earl of Sunderland; Earl of Danby; Earl of Nottingham; Lord Newport; Bishop of St. Asaph; Lord Delamere; Lord Wiltshire; Lord Colchester; Lord Cornbury; Lord Dunblain; John, Lord Churchill; Sir Robert Howard; Sir John Worden; Sir Samuel Grimston; Sir Stephen Fox; Sir George Treby; Sir Basil Dixwell; Sir James Oxenden; Dr. Tillotson, Dean of Canterbury; Dr. Gilbert Burnet; Frances Russel; Richard Levison; John Trenchard, Esq.; Charles Duncomb, citizen of London; Edwards, Napleton, Hunt, fishermen; and all others who offered personal indignities to us at Feversham; except also all persons who as judges, or jury men, or otherwise had a hand in the barbarous murder of Mr. John Ashton and of Mr. Cross, or of any others who have been illegally condemned and executed for their loyalty to us, and all spies and such as have betrayed our councils during our late absence from England) that by an early return to their duties and by any signal mark of it, as by seizing to our use, or delivering into our hands any of our forts, or by bringing over to us any ships of war or troops in the usurper's army, or any new raised and armed by themselves or by any other eminent good service, according to the several opportunities and capacities, shall manifest the sincerity of their repentance, shall not only have their respective pardons immediately passed under the Great Seals of England, but shall otherwise be considered and rewarded by us as the merit of the case shall require. And for all others who after the time of our landing shall not appear in arms against us, nor do any act or thing in opposition to our restoration (the persons before mentioned only excepted) we shall provide for in our first Parliament (which we intend to call with all convenient speed) by a general act of indemnity, that so the minds of all our subjects may be at quiet and as much at ease as their persons and properties will be secure and inviolable under our government.

Provided always that all magistrates that expect any benefit by our gracious pardon shall immediately after notice of our landing make such public manifestation of their loyalty to us and of their submission to our authority, and also publish and cause to be proclaimed this our Declaration as soon as it shall come to their hands, and also that all keepers of prisons do immediately set at liberty all persons committed to their custody upon account of their allegiance and affection to us, or be excluded from any benefit of our pardon.

And we hereby further declare and promise that we will protect and maintain the Church of England as it is now by law established in all their rights, privileges and possessions, and that upon vacancies of bishoprics and other dignities or benefices within our disposal, care shall be taken to have them filled with the most worthy of their own Communion.

And whereas more tumults and rebellions have been raised in all nations upon the account of religion than on all other pretences put together, and more in England than in all the rest of the world besides, that therefore men of all opinions in matter of religion may be reconciled to the government and that they may no longer look upon it as their enemy, but may therefore look upon themselves as equally concerned in its preservation with the rest of their fellow subjects, because they are equally well treated by it, and being convinced in our judgment that liberty of conscience is most agreeable to the laws and spirit of the Christian religion, and most conducing to the wealth and prosperity of our kingdoms, by encouraging men of all countries and persuasions to come and trade with us and settle amongst us, for these reasons we are resolved most earnestly to recommend to our Parliament the settling liberty of conscience in so beneficial a manner that it may remain a lasting blessing to the kingdom.

Lastly it shall be our great care, by the advice and assistance of our Parliament, to repair the breaches and heal the wounds of the late distractions, to restore the trade by putting the acts of navigation in effectual execution, which has been so much violated of late in favour of strangers, to put our navy and stores into as good a condition as we left them, to find the best ways of bringing back wealth and bullion into the kingdom which of late has been so much exhausted; and generally we shall delight to spend the remainder of our reign (as we always designed since our first coming to the Crown) in studying to do everything that may contribute to the re-establishment of the greatness of the English monarchy upon its old foundation, the united interest and affection of our people.

Thus having endeavoured to answer all objections and give all the satisfaction we can think of to all parties and degrees of men, we cannot want ourselves the satisfaction of having done all that can be done on our part, whatever the event shall be, the disposal of which we commit with great resignation and dependence to that God that judges right. And, of the other side, if any of our subjects shall after all this remain so obstinate as to appear in arms against us, as they must need fall unpitied under the severity of our justice after having refused such gracious offers of mercy, so they must be answerable to Almighty God for all the blood that shall be spilt and all the miseries and confusion in which the kingdoms may happen to be involved by their desperate and unreasonable opposition.

Given &c, the 20th of April, 1692, in the 8th year of our reign.

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